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.  As your humble librarian I invite you to check out a new idea every day. No late fees ever.


Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

At the top of the My Writing page where these daily posts are hosted, I say:

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

As we move through the Covid-19 crisis I am focussing on what I hear on calls around the world each day and looking to capture some learnings and look to share in the moment each day what feels most relevant.

Right now, on many zoom calls, people are asking for expert advice more and more, so where I have the relevant expertise (yes, including being a “recovering Chartered Accountant” and past business owner and investor) I give that advice. For these posts, though, I focus most supporting leaders and around behaviour and communications.

So, this week a theme is people owning that they are struggling as humans and asking what to do, hence I wrote two days ago “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer” and yesterday “Control the Controllables“. Linking these two together with an Emotional Equation from the first from Chip Conley from the first of the two posts:

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

We are all, to some degree, finding ourselves in moments of mental struggle at this time. I find this equation powerful and simple. My advice is to minimise watching the news (limit yourself to checking news updates online once a day), as there is so much uncertainty right now an in the coming weeks in most countries that is is of no service to our mental health to check in on this much. Instead, focus on what you can do, what you have power over, whether that be for yourself, those you lead, your business, family, friends.

As an equation, focus on being empowered and empowering others to see where they can help your business and themselves.

Empower yourself so that you, as a leader, can empower others.

Control the Controllables

Control the Controllables

Yesterday I led a group zoom meeting for the #ESMomentum series being created with true entrepreneurial spirit by Entrepreneurial Scotland for and with their members. So many great tools, tips and learning shared, including this one, shared by Dave Stewart and one he learned from “Will it make the boat go faster“.

My key learning from that one hour call with a group of leaders: “the power of abundantly sharing“.

My favourite tip from the above was: “Control the Controllables“. What is yours?

Be a thermostat, not a thermometer

Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Respond, don't react.

At times of crisis, a key role for a leader is to set the tone. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

Yesterday I shared a press conference by Governor Andrew Cuomo in: “Love Wins“. Today a video from my friend and business hero Chip Conley from a blog he wrote yesterday with five pieces of wisdom for surviving the economic downturn now and that will continue from this crisis.

The one that stood out most for me from this was: “Leaders are the emotional thermostats of those they lead.”

See Chip talk about this from 1:47 to 3:10 in the video included in the blog, (and lots more of value if you wish to watch the full seven-minute clip):

Key takeaways for Leaders :

  • Be aware that: Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness
  • Focus on Radical Transparency
  • Help people understand what they can to to help the business
  • If authentic to you, be a Vulnerable Visionary (see my earlier post), express your feelings and vulnerabilities, but also key to ally that to confidence in moving forwards, aligned to the vision, the North Star.

Crisis Leadership – Andrew Cuomo – Love Wins

Andrew Cuomo

“At the end of the day my friends, even if it is a long day, and this is a long day, love wins. Always. And it will win again, through this virus”

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, Saturday March 28, 2020

This morning, at the start of another week, simply sharing a quiet beautiful closing to a press conference by the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

One minute and twenty-two seconds of #BeautifulLeadership.

People Say Nothing Is Impossible

People Say Nothing Is Impossible, But I Do Nothing Every Day
People Say Nothing Is Impossible, But I Do Nothing Every Day

Over the last two weeks of acting on instinct and flipping to opening the diary to offer crisis leadership support, somehow I had over sixty zoom meetings.

It has been “purpose-full”, fulfilling, energising and inspiring. It also then left me struggling at the weekend to slow down. On Saturday I kept busying myself, only this time with cleaning my apartment, training indoors on my bike, plus any number of “life admin” things.

Today, Sunday, and before launching into another full week, I am taking inspiration from that great sage, Pooh bear.

I shall think of and be grateful for all those around the world on the front line. For the rest of us doing our part in staying at home, we may all have lists of things to do, and sometimes it is absolutely ok to “be like “Pooh”.

I shall do nothing today.

For when you are ready to change your perspective

change your perspective

For when you may feel ready to change your perspective, today I share with you a piece of beautiful and soothing wisdom from the wonderful Alan Watts.

As I have been writing about and also advising others to do, at this time many of us remain focussed on the present and moving forwards with what’s next, keeping a narrow focus on the near term future. I’m also advising to “put the oxygen mask on” ourselves so we can then look after others, find your moments of zen, and give yourself permission to pause.

Now, as we pause, we can predict that, at some time soon, we can start to look to the future, to ask ourselves “what good may come from this?”.


Crisis Leadership: Focus forwards

Tolkien. Crisis Leadership. Focus forwards.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

JRR Tolkien

Today’s thought. As Gandalf’s wisdom imparted to young Frodo Baggins, keep your focus forwards.

Crisis Leadership: Focus on what’s next

what's next

At times of crisis, a simple piece of advice is to focus on what’s next. One day at a time, one step at a time. Focus simply on what’s next.

We are in a time of uncertainty, so focus on what’s next as none of us know the answer to “how long will this last?”. Now I curate a blog this week from Rob Poynton of that title that begins:

I wonder how long this is going to last?

I imagine we all do.

Which is understandable, but absurd.

Not only do we have no idea, but being home for a few weeks (or months?) is the least of it. In some ways what is happening now will never leave us. It would be remarkable, disappointing even, if this experience didn’t change us, one way or another.

How long will this last? ~ Rob Poynton

Here it is, your moment of Zen

Moment of Zen

For years I loved to watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, which for year after year skewered political idiocy, making serious points with great humour. Every show then finished with Jon saying “here it is, your moment of zen”, followed by a short random funny clip.

That phrase stuck with me. So, yesterday, in the middle of another intense day of zoom meetings, I felt I needed a break. I stepped out and sat on my terrace, put my head back, closed my eyes and soaked up the sun for a few minutes, clearing my mind entirely. My moment of zen.

At this stage of the Covid crisis, it is easy to get consumed by work supporting others. Always remember, though, to “first put the oxygen mask yourself”. For me that is to sleep and eat properly, and also to find moments of zen in the day. Find your own moments of zen, and, in closing, “here it is, your moment of zen”:

Crisis Leadership – Narrow your Focus

The power of a narrow focus

In supporting CEOs I have always encouraged being disciplined to have a “one-line job description” of “Keeper of the Vision“. That means allowing others to run the business, with the focus of the CEO is purely on ensuring everyone is moving in the right direction towards the Vision and also, crucially, living the Purpose and Values.

Typically this means they are looking at “what’s next” over time frames in the 1,3,5 year range, being Strategic rather than Operational.

However, this has to change now for the Covid-19 crisis. Leaders must narrow their focus in order to lead with confidence.


Own your feelings so that you can act from a place of choice

the power of choice
Viktor Frankl’s wisdom, from “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Over the last week and more, in response to our new global VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment, I have shifted my time to give to the community by supporting leaders through zoom meetings, listening to them “sound out” their thoughts and then looking to add value to their Crisis Leadership from my own experience, tools, methods.

One overarching theme has been the power of simply acknowledging where we are and how we feel.


Crisis Leaders Rise to the Occasion

Lincoln Rise to the Occasion

Leaders look at a crisis as an opportunity to rise to the occasion.

When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back at this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us.

We want to look back this time and remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency.

We want to look back on this time and remember how, in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort – and we stood together.

It’s on all of us.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, March 20th, 2020 (full speech)

At the daily press briefing around 5pm on Friday March 20th, after the Prime Minister spoke, it was the turn of Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer. His speech unveiled an utterly massive stimulus and safeguard for people’s earnings, like nothing ever seen outside wartime in any country, ever. Beyond the content, though, this was a massively impressive statesman. Like many watching, I immediately felt that this was not only the type of leadership we needed, but also that this was a Prime Minister in waiting.

The quote above was the closing of his speech. I feel already that it will go down as one of the great leadership quotes, as with the quote pictured from one of the great crisis leaders, Lincoln.

At times of great crisis, some rise to the occasion and can be relied up to lead. Rishi Sunak, an almost complete unknown only a few weeks ago in his new role, has risen to this occasion of occasions.

Commanding…when things are going well is a pleasure … but rarely remembered. Commanding during a crisis is an opportunity of a lifetime …to rise to the occasion 

General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, March 19, 2020

Now, for me, as I saw this crisis emerging, I shifted everything to be here to support leaders around the world to rise to this occasion for themselves and those they lead.

I continue to do so. My calendar is open. Book your zoom meeting with me, I am here to support you as a Sounding Board for your own Crisis Leadership at all levels.

As Rishi Sunak said, we will stand together, it is on all of us.

Let’s talk

Book your 30-minute meeting here.

Create your future story now

On a Zoom Meeting yesterday morning with a brilliant and valued friend in Scotland, we both agreed that this is a time for businesses to focus on simply being there for their clients and customers, and to do this from the power of coming from their Purpose and Values. As he put it, this is a time to “create your future story now”.

This reminded me of an absolute favourite quote I often use when coaching leaders, one that has never felt more relevant.

People will never forget how you made them feel, so create your future story now.

Maya Angelou Future Story

Social Distancing – keep up Social Connection

Social Distancing, Social Connection

The image above is from a blog last week from the amazing Maff Potts of Camerados, who wrote on: “When hugs are banned – when the world finally noticed social distancing“.

I saw Maff speak at Meaning Conference last year and love what he does. The Camerados movement is all about human contact, about removing true social distance in the form of human connection. They do this by setting up “public living rooms” all over where we can just sit with other humans and avoid isolation by being present to each other, simply being there to listen and talk.

So, we all now know the term “Social Distancing” and, I hope, are being responsible to others by doing this assiduously.

With that, let us ensure that, in “Social Distancing”, we absolutely maintain our physical distancing, but let us also find and commit to ways to maintain and build our social connection…..


Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Get zoomin'! Talk to people. Zoom Etiquette

In my daily writing right now I am very much focussed on how I can help my audience of leaders in this current crisis.

First a reminder to book a call with me anytime through the button on my site, I’m here to listen!

I’m also now giving some granular tips, such as yesterday’s: “Make time for a “Brady Bunch” Zoom“. Today I’m sharing a blog from my friend Chip Conley with his top five tips on “Zoom etiquette”. These are simple and important.

Get zoomin’! Talk to people.