My Writing

My Writing

I get my best ideas from listening to people. Fortunately, that’s my job. I like to say that people are my library, and my daily writing practice is a way to discover what’s in it: new ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little whimsy for good measure, all centred around the ideas of #OpenLeadership. Enjoy…

Positive Uncertainty

Image from the VUCA2.0 blog of Gideon Chen Zhiyuan

We live in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous, as originated from the United States War College). The Leadership we need is VUCA2.0, with Vision. Understanding, Courage and Adaptability. (Bill George and his article here).

This week’s #WhatComesNextLive show featured Ben Brabyn, a past Royal Marines officer (who therefore knows all about VUCA!) and the driving force behind GenieShares.

In our conversation, Ben and I talked about GenieShares, about Uncertainty and Risk (and the difference between them), then about how the element of randomness in the gifting of 1% of the equity in GenieShares companies introduces something that I had never heard framed the way he did:

Positive Uncertainty

The positive energy behind Genieshares is wonderful and all positive. I loved the term Ben used, I sense that in the coming months we can all benefit from some “Positive Uncertainty”, so let’s think about ways we can contribute to that!

Writing I Love: In madness lies sanity

artwork available from Redbubble

Today, simply, the beautiful thoughts of Alan Watts, first in writing, then in a video created of him speaking the words.

Whether this makes you think of falling in love, or of making choices in business or your leadership, I hope the philosophical musings of Alan Watts bring you awareness and help you with choosing whether and when to play it safe and when to fully commit.

Well now really when we go back into falling in love. And say, it’s crazy. Falling. You see? We don’t say “rising into love”. There is in it, the idea of the fall.

And it goes back, as a matter of fact, to extremely fundamental things. That there is always a curious tie at some point between the fall and the creation. Taking this ghastly risk is the condition of there being life.

You see, for all life is an act of faith and an act of gamble. The moment you take a step, you do so on an act of faith because you don’t really know that the floor’s not going to give under your feet. The moment you take a journey, what an act of faith. The moment that you enter into any kind of human undertaking in relationship, what an act of faith.

See, you’ve given yourself up. But this is the most powerful thing that can be done: surrender. See. And love is an act of surrender to another person. Total abandonment. I give myself to you. Take me. Do anything you like with me. See.

So, that’s quite mad because you see, it’s letting things get out of control. All sensible people keep things in control. Watch it, watch it, watch it. Security? Vigilance Watch it. Police? Watch it. Guards? Watch it. Who’s going to watch the guards?

So, actually, therefore, the course of wisdom, what is really sensible, is to let go, is to commit oneself, to give oneself up and that’s quite mad.

So we come to the strange conclusion that in madness lies sanity.

Alan Watts

Give attention to yourself

"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity." - Simone Weil.

I love this Simone Weil quote, one shared on a group call of “We are Liminal” last week, a bi-weekly/fortnightly connection call for that group.

My experience of the group was that each person did take that time to give each other attention and to give attention to where the collective could collaborate to have greater impact.

At this moment, though, I pause to reflect on the generosity we can offer by giving attention to and for ourselves.

I write this daily post at 14:30 on the day before. I’ve been at my desk for over six hours already today with barely a break and it has been a time of deep attention.

I have focussed on several pieces of concentrated work, one for a client, one for a “coach the coaches” session I am leading on Zoom later this week, the third being work on the new design and copy for this website.

Each of these was on my list to do this week, but as I tend to keep Monday’s largely free for focussed work, I chose to give them attention on this first day of the week.

Each piece needed deep and focussed attention, something I sometimes struggle with, allowing myself to have “shallow attention” to do “busy work” and focus on the urgent rather than important.

Today, though, I am now feeling most grateful I chose to give that attention and to have created quality and meaningful work in a relatively short time.

Now? The sun is out and it is mild, so, having also now written tomorrow’s post today (you’ve watched Tenet by now, you get what I mean!), I am going to be generous with myself in a different way and go for a long walk.

The Perfect 10-Year Plan

The Perfect 10-Year Plan
Limited edition print available from Steve Chapman

As I noted in: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist“, one of my favourite wisdom quotes is:

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present”

In my mind, then, this is the perfect 10-year plan, as it reminds us to be present to each day, each moment.

As soon as I saw this from the amazing Steve Chapman, I bought one of the early limited edition prints then joked with him that it will go up in value if, one day, the artist answers “no” to the third flow chart point.

I’m happy to report that, each day since then, Steve gets up then goes down the garden path to his world headquarters to “do more stuff”.

As we start another week, may you too follow Steve’s lead and adopt the perfect 10-year plan for yourself today and every day.

Predictable delays

Predictable delays
Still from the famous scene in “On the Beach“, as Australia waits…

Over 10 days ago I went to a lovely trattoria for lunch, where a heavy piece of artwork fell off the wall and bounced off the top of my head. Though a glancing blow, I could feel it had jolted a weak mid-back joint (from a very old injury) out of alignment. However, despite knowing in that moment that this would need chiropractic alignment, as it wasn’t immediately painful, I just forgot about it until, over a week later, the pain has started to emanate from that mid-back vertebra up to my neck and shoulders, to the point where I’m popping painkillers just to take the edge off the pain.

In short, this happens with spinal alignment, when you get a subluxation (alignment) jolt to your spine, there can be predictable delays to when you feel the impact in terms of muscle pain and inflammation.

Of course, now I can’t get an appointment for a chiropractic adjustment for another few days, by which time the muscle knots and other inflammation will mean it will take several adjustments over a least a week in order to correct the issue.

If I’d booked an appointment right away, one quick adjustment would have corrected it, but despite knowing what was coming, with that “predictable delay”, I first ignored then forgot about it.

Yes, the parallel I draw is to the UK Government’s (mis)handling of the pandemic. They knew from their scientific advisors as far back as February that a) suppression via lockdown would be needed, repeatedly, until the spread could be controlled, and b) that in order to control the spread after a lockdown they would need a fully functioning TTI (Test, Trace, Isolate) system in place.

As I publish this, London (where I live) is now in “Tier 2” lockdown, but this won’t be enough to address the “predictable delay” spread, so I forecast that, within 1-3 weeks, all of the UK will be back into full lockdown (the current Tier 3, or even more strict).

More devastating to consider is that there is no clear path out of this. The UK has not got anywhere close to a fully functioning TTI system, even given the predictability of this and now 8+ months to set it up.

I take no pleasure in predicting that the UK will be in Tier 3 for well beyond any 2-3 week circuit breaker. This could have been avoided, but at this stage I simply share my prediction to help us prepare ourselves.

Being unconsciously competent

Michael Jordan: unconsciously competent
MJ in flow, gesturing “no, I’ve no idea how I just did that either”

Do you know how to drive? I imagine you do. However, if I asked you how often you check your rear view mirror when you are driving, would you have any idea how often you do that?

I was reminded of this question this week when talking to a past client who I had introduced to the idea of “unconscious competence” at a group strategy offsite nearly six years ago and who noted how the concept had stuck with him over the years and he had taught it to others.

So, how often do you check your mirrors? When I’ve run this as part of an exercise in teaching the “Competence Model” typically people radically underestimate it, often saying “every 30 seconds or so”. In reality, most experienced drivers check their mirrors every 5-8 seconds.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my writing daily posts on this site. My purpose in writing is to share what I learn. So, with that in mind, today I re-share a longer post in which I share the way I teach the competence model through story-telling.

I hope it is of value to you and you then teach it to others. My post starts with my father looking to teach me to drive, the problem being he was a racing driver and to teach a beginner was way too big a gap to bridge: “Zen and teaching your son to drive“.

My key learning after three years of writing daily

Key learning: be open

When I meet with clients, at the end of each meeting I ask them for a Key Learning. Typically what pops out is a concise and “knowing” statement.

Today, October 15th, marks the three year anniversary of daily writing on this site, over 600,00 words and 1,000 posts. What, then, is my “Key Learning” today?

Well, yesterday I went for a long random urban walk before dark. As I started my walk, I was conscious that I had no idea what to right for today’s anniversary post, yet I sensed something would come to me as I walked.

As I walked, I listened to the new podcast series from the actor David Tennant. He is a great interviewer, simply follows the lead of his guests. As he interviewed his fellow Scot, the great actor Brian Cox, Brian (who has recently written his biography) meandered through his life story.

When Brian reached the point in his life where he felt he had grown into himself (around his 50s, he is now in his mid-70s), Brian said: “I always maintain an open-ness. I try not to judge.”

When I heard those words I knew to write this blog, and also what my key learning is from these first three years of daily writing:

Be Open

PS I smile, as this is also one of the four qualities of Open Leadership (see this page)

Resilience? Ask an Entrepreneur.

While it is certain that we will live with Covid restrictions over the winter, the entire environment is unique and full of uncertainties. As I have written about in recent days and weeks, we will all therefore have to be resilient for months on end as Covid will greatly restrict normal life and business.

We will each need to do whatever we can to be resilient, and that includes making sure we have in our network of close connections those who can support us, as well as those we can support.

My thought for today is to be sure to talk to Entrepreneurs when you think of Resilience.

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Endurance

Endurance

This morning my beautiful, wonderful friend Julie Drybrough was walking her dog at 6:30am and she then wrote an exquisite blog musing on what we need to take us through this winter of Covid. She simply called it: “Endurance“. Today I give you an excerpt, then a few thoughts of my own on what we need to endure:

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Carpe Diem and No Ordinary Moments

carpe diem

As the UK drifts and slides, inexorably and through incompetence of national leadership, back to another full lockdown, I have moments of negativity.

What to do? I have no power or influence around this, so I focus on what I do have power over. As Frankl would advise, I always have a choice around how I respond to anything external to me.

Today I am travelling up to the City of London for a client meeting. I have chosen to arrive early and appreciate the views at Tower Hill before walking up to their office.

As I stood and absorbed the contrast of the Tower of London then The Shard, enjoying the quiet due to lack of vehicle and foot traffic, I felt inspired to write today’s post on my phone.

Carpe Diem: Seize the Day (and watch Dead Poet’s Society again, extraordinary film, Robin Williams at his very best).

No Ordinary Moments. A phrase taught to me my Morgan DaCosta as his own way of expressing what we both learned from the mighty Ed Percival. #BeMoreYou.

Be Intentional with Time

Daniel Ek, by Eleanor Taylor, for The Observer Effect

Thanks today to Ian Sanders for sharing this wonderful and rich interview with Daniel Ek, Founder and CEO of Spotify. Once again the richness of the links and conversations I find through Twitter adds to my learning and life.

It is a long read, filled with everything about how he starts his day (note, he does not start “work” until 10:30), to taking vacations, what makes effective meetings, delegation, leadership and more.

My concise summary of his approach to leadership comes down to this:

Be Intentional with Time

One of the “secret weapons” of the greatest leaders is this. First comes awareness, then clarity of purpose, vision then context, then being intentional, from that place of how you spend your time, as well as where those you lead spend theirs.

I’ve written endlessly and repeatedly about this, but this distils it.

Be Intentional with Time

Oh, and the article or even just this simple thought (as if you are really busy, you won’t click and read the whole article) resonates, then be intentional by booking a forty-minute meeting with me here.

As for me, I am truly intentional with my own time. I consciously curate my life and work, part of which is to be “always active, never busy” and that I “don’t do deadline-based work”, so there is always room in my diary to “met interesting people doing interesting things” and, through such serendipitous connections, to learn and grow continually.

Walk and Talk

Walk and Talk

Way before the Pandemic, I always loved to go for meetings outside, walking and talking. Being outside literally and metaphorically brings new and fresh perspectives when compared to being in a meeting room.

Now that face to face meetings and travelling any distance are so restricted, more and more people are meeting in different ways. Yes, we often live on Zoom (and can get fatigued with that!), but I’ve also found it great that more and more “walk and talk” meetings are happening, in two main ways.

First, “virtual walk and talks”, where both people go for a walk close to their home, then talk on the phone as they walk. Tip. Take a notebook and pen with you to stop and capture key thoughts as you go.

Second, simply meeting up to walk and talk. Tip. Find somewhere new and different for all of you. Fresh perspectives, remember?

The photo above is from a two-hour walk and talk with clients yesterday morning. Yes, we had a gorgeous crisp and sunny Autumn morning, but even if it had rained, remember, as any cyclist would tell you, “there is no bad weather, only the wrong clothing”, so you can walk and talk any time of year.

So, an offer. If you’d like to meet up with me to talk through anything, book a time to do so here. Yes, it will automatically book a Zoom for you, but simply make a note when booking that you’d like to shift it to a phone “virtual walk and talk” with me. Also, if you’d like to meet in person and you live in or around London, happy to find a fresh and new place to meet in person to “walk and talk”, so email me.

Think Global

Think Global

A term used in attracting investment via national or regional development agencies is “FDI” or Foreign Direct Investment. Also commonly used is “Inward” Investment. A third term I’ve heard used is “indigenous” with reference to industries., businesses etc from that country or region. Indigenous is also often used commonly refer to as “native”.

One thing all of these have in common is to create a conscious and unconscious sense of “them” and “us”, when surely the secret to attracting any form of investment is to create connections?

So, I give you a simple suggestion.

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Focus on only three things

Focus on 3 things

Past and current clients will smile at the title, as I love the “rule of three” and always look to get them to distil their focus down to three things, no matter the size of the company, the complexity of the challenges, opportunities, issues they face. However, what is this based on? As I like to joke, I’m “wide but shallow”, knowing a little about a lot of subjects, but (in all seriousness) there is at least some depth to what I have learned and share to teach.

This week’s guest on #WhatComesNextLive was the sage Alan Dean, who dispensed wisdom and “nuggets” including some concise takeaways at the end of the half-hour show that can help every leader.

After the show, we got into a great conversation around applying neuroscience to leadership and communications. This is a field I’ve studied over the years but do not profess to be an expert, so happy to hear Alan Dean recommend someone for me to follow, David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute. I then smiled at seeing find validation for my “rule of three” thinking in a piece David Rock wrote for HBR, where he noted a project where he had supported Microsoft. An excerpt:

After about a year of thinking things through, we went from over 100 competencies to three big ideas: Create clarity, generate energy, deliver success.

This is what you might call a radical departure, especially for a company that put a personal computer on every desk through painstaking thoroughness. “There is a dramatic leap of faith needed to agree that you don’t need to be complex to be complete,” Whittinghill says.

Today those leadership principles, which premiered in mid-2016, have spread across the company. “Clarity,” “energy,” and “success” have become part of the way Microsoft talks to itself about itself.

Tell Employees What You Want Them to Strive for (in as Few Words as Possible)

Oh, and in that piece, David Rock also referred to a famous paper from 1955 on “chunking” which notes that the average human can only retain a limited amount of information. What is that magic number? read on, and again my clients will smile as I so often raise this when helping them to keep the focus on distilling to “three”. Well, that and the Da Vinci quote: “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication” 🙂