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…

Shoshin – Innocent Mind

Shoshin - Innocent Mind

This Saturday morning I am musing on the power of Shoshin

I was recently on a mentoring call and the mentee is an accomplished actor looking to grown and learn in a particular business space. At one point I asked them, from their experience as an actor, what was key for them to be at their best. They answered: “to have an innocent mind”

This made me think of the term “Shoshin”, a Zen Buddhist term roughly translating as “Beginner’s Mind”. I wrote a piece on this well over 2.5 years ago around some thoughts in that moment for me, sharing it again here.

Whether we call it Shoshin, innocent mind, beginner’s mind, to me one essential part of this is to be present and allow “flow”.

On a personal level, I am at the moment introspecting on a strength of mine that is also a gap, a lifelong conflict, to be honest, something to which applying the concept of Shoshin is an answer.

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Relating the pandemic to being on a long voyage

Relating the pandemic to being on a long voyage

As we move through September, nearly six months into our lives being changed by Covid-19, here in the UK (and many other countries) we have this sense that the easing we had in the summer is as good (or better) than we will experience through Autumn, Winter and beyond.

We live day to day as we can, sometimes feeling things are quite normal, other times feeling the impact. Underneath it all, though, there is this underlying uncertainty and a deep sense of awareness that things are not as settled as they should be.

Yesterday I was on my weekly circle call with my April 2018 cohort from the Modern Elder Academy and several of us mused on this in different ways.

What came to my mind was the analogy of being on a large and stable ship (such as a cruise ship), feeling everything is normal and stable, then realising when you step off the ship onto land that only then do you truly feel grounded and centred.

Living through this pandemic really is like being on a ship. Much of what we do as we eat, sleep, work, live, interact is (as far as possible) normal, yet under our feet, despite the stabilisers (aka governments and institutions) balancing the ship as it moves forwards, we are not truly stable, we are not grounded.

As we prepare ourselves for the continuation of this long journey, I encourage each of us to focus on what we need to maintain our balance, our equilibrium, our equanimity, our alignment.

I like the term “proactive resilience”, do whatever you can to give yourself more than you think you will need to stay resilient for this long journey. You can never be too resilient, but you will feel it if you lose your balance.

Please help me be less stale

stale senior leadership team

Pale, male and stale” is often how the makeup of senior teams, boards and committees are described. I myself am white, male, nearly 55. Hmm.

The photo above was tweeted out by Christine Lagarde when she, as new President of the ECB (European Central Bank) held a retreat for her governing council. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you:

  • Male: 25 people around the table, 24 are men.
  • Pale: Yes, every single person around the table is white
  • Stale: Age is just a number, but I’d hazard a guess that the average age of that group is at least mid-50s or higher.

I can’t do anything about being Pale and Male, but my request today is for you to help me be less Stale! My specific request is for introductions of new guests for my weekly show, #WhatComesNext.Live.

Since I started this, of the 10 guests so far, 7 are men, 3 are women. Delving further, all are white, all are native English speakers, even the fact that 3 are fellow Scots shows that those I have brought onto the show so far are not as diverse as they could be.

I note that each of them is brilliant and full of unique thoughts (you can watch or listen to all of the past shows on the show page), however, the stats above show I am being “stale” in truly bringing forward diverse ideas from diverse people.

I really want to bring in people beyond my network in all areas and from all backgrounds. In fact, a recent guest, Jerry Frentsos, was someone introduced to me and our show was my first conversation with him and it was full of brilliant thoughts from him (despite him being white, male, and, “cough”, 55!).

So, please refer new people as guests for the show to me, and particularly those who are from varied and different backgrounds to those that have come on before. Thank you!

Your behaviours are a form of communication

Communication

In yesterday’s post, I highlighted how the announcement of a top fund management firm that they will pay for their worldwide staff to commute by taxi (and that they must all avoid public transport) was in conflict with their professed leadership on ethical and impact investing.

In that post, I also reference an earlier post (one of the shortest I have written, also one of the most read): “how you do anything is how you do everything“, and yesterday I received the latest subscriber email from my friend Jeff Raker, that I share below. Succinct and powerful.

Jeff will be my guest on #WhatComesNextLive on November 10th. I look forward to our conversation and his wisdom. For now, his succinct thoughts on behaviour and communication:

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What’s good for the business is good for the individual

individual taxi business
This week some firms have offered to pay for London staff to commute by taxi. Really?

“What’s good for the business is good for the individual, not the other way around”

I use this phrase often with business leaders, though the context is vital, as we can look at this as being a negative or, with a different context, as a major positive for employees, clients/customers, even society as a whole.

Let me share some glaring negative use of this from the last week as some employers push for their employees to come back to work “voluntarily”, then I’ll look at this phrase through the positive lens of #OpenLeadership.

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Thank your Mentors

This is a PSA. Make a list of your mentors. The people who took chances on you. The people who saw something in you that you didn’t necessarily see in yourself. The people who gave you the big breaks.

Call them. Text them. Email them. Don’t wait. Tell them plainly, directly, what they meant to you. How they altered your trajectory. Or you’ll wonder if they knew. You’ll wonder if you could have said it better. Don’t count on having years to do it. Trust me on this.

I just found out I lost another one. I’ll compose a lovely tribute on social media, and people may read it. They may be moved. But it won’t matter in the same way it would have mattered if I’d said it in time.

I have the privilege to do what I do thanks to a few people who believed in me at critical junctures. I earned those breaks. But someone still had to be on the other side of the door. So don’t wait.

Bonnie Ford on Twitter, Sep 4, 2020

The photo above is of Ed Percival. The page on my site for you to look at and see if we may be a fit for me to support you as a leader is called #BeMoreYou in homage to Ed’s radically concise maxim, the distillation of his 50+ years of coaching. Ed was taken from us suddenly on June 25th, 2015. I think of him every day and reference him and his wisdom almost as often with others. I was lucky, Ed knew how much he meant to me, I had told him often before his sudden passing.

The note above is from one of the most respected sports journalists I know, Bonnie Ford. I have never met Bonnie, but followed her from afar as one of the sports she knows deeply is pro cycling, a sport I was involved with around a decade ago. Bonnie herself, I am sure, is a mentor to many, which makes her thoughts on Twitter the other day even more powerful.

As for me, I have had a number of mentors throughout my life, some of whom I haven’t taken the opportunity to thank in the way Bonnie strongly recommends. Whilst I absolutely hope they are all with us for decades to come, I will take time to call them all in the next week or so and thank them expressly for what they mean and have meant to me.

Stop telling people about yourself. Be Yourself.

Be Yourself
Image from my phone wallpaper, (c) Visualise Value

My Mentor Ed Percival often reminded me to #BeMoreYou, yet part of who I am is a frequent struggle to find a balance between telling and showing, between doing and being. Put another way, and ironic for someone who has been told he is a pretty good listener, sometimes I talk too much, I can sometimes tell people who I am too much instead of simply being me.

When I feel out of balance with this, I find visual references and anchors are powerful.

I love lots of different concise visualisations of thoughts, such as the work of Hugh Mcleod at Gaping Void and Carl Richards at Behaviour Gap. More recently I’ve also grown to love the work of Jack Butcher at Visualize Value.

So, I love this image (above) from Visualize Value as a reminder and anchor to “be” and to stop telling.

In closing this Sunday musing, I also was recently gifted a set of Truth Cards and decided to ask a question of the cards along the lines of “what do I need to focus on to find that balance and be more and tell less”. I cut the deck and this card came up.

Goosebumps moment.

Be Yourself: You are truly unique; Let this shine through.

Angrynomics and seeking to understand

Angrynomics

One of my favourite podcasts is from David McWilliams, who looks to take economics and make it both understandable and practical for all of us.

This week I caught up with his interview with the authors of the recently publised Angrynomics, Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth. I hope we do get to all go to Kilkenomics this year, I’d love a Guinness with these guys!

I haven’t read the book yet, but it is, essentially, a dialogue between the two authors, so I am pretty sure I got the essence of it by listening to them in conversation with “Macca”, and encourage you to listen to the podcast interview.

My key takeaways were:

  1. Their approach to the anger in society is to seek to understand what drive it, particularly through the lens of economics and how economic policy amplifies the things that drive tribal polarisation and anger, such as growing inequality. I note they seek to understand, they don’t label anything, they seek to understand the drivers
  2. They offer potential solutions that are as simple as they are brilliant. IN particular, their ideas of a National Wealth Fund and of Dual Interest rates could make massive differences in a very short time.
  3. They speak in plain English. Yes, I am pretty well versed in Economics, but I also feel that I could have anyone at all listen to this podcast and they would quickly get the power of their deductions around anger (again, from the understanding they sought and gained), then their proposed solutions.

Kudos, Eric and Mark, and thanks to David for interviewing them!

Let’s get #WFA trending – Work From Anywhere

We heard endlessly during lockdown of #WFH or Work From Home. About a week ago we were threatened by the UK Government (via a national newspaper) to ‘Go back to work or risk losing your job”, as if millions of people working from home were not working.

This Ad then appeared a few days ago from a leading disinfectant brand. They want us all to go “back to the office” so we can buy more of their product and tried to “sell this” with the messages above. Not inspiring.

Now, instead of any of this, please help get a new idea trending:

#WFA : Work From Anywhere

To start a conversation, back in May 2019 I wrote: ““WorkAnywhere”. Going beyond “Remote”“, noting that we can choose to:

..consciously operate a “WorkAnywhere” model, going beyond the idea that we can work remotely from a central office or HQ. For us to WorkAnywhere, we then leverage both the power of remote working with online tools as well as recognising the power of actually being in the same room as people and so investing in that time (and travel to do so) as a core element of WorkAnywhere life.

Yesterday I then wrote “The Future is Hybrid“, noting:

I have been dismayed at the lack of imagination of so many in making the idea of going back to the place of work or office as a binary choice, an “either/or“, you either go “back to work” or you don’t, with some even blithely ignoring how many millions of people have been working the whole time, simply doing it from home rather than a central office location.

and then

The move “back to work” will not be an either/or, it will not be going back to work all the time in an office, nor will be it be working remotely exclusively. Instead, the future will be “both/and“, it will be a mix of both. In other words, “the future is hybrid“.

Let us engage in some brave and new thinking to both do what is best for our economy and businesses as well as best for each of us to our own needs. Let’s #WFA !

Edit: Adding a note from feedback. #WFA absolutely includes working “at the office” as well as at home, “anywhere” includes those places. The distinction I seek to make is that once employers and employees fully embrace the concept of empowering and enabling working where we do our best work (wherever that is and whether with human face to face contact or not), then entire paradigms of work and place will change.

The future is hybrid

hybrid

I strongly believe in remote working. However, today let me take it a level further. For now let’s call it “WorkAnywhere”, as the idea of remote working still implies a paradigm where there is a central point of focus for a business, an office or “head office”.

We don’t need that paradigm anymore, it does not serve our thinking and so our practices. Technology has shrunk the world and enabled many of us to be able to work almost anywhere, anytime and with even more effectiveness than if we had to travel to an office or even place our focus around such a place.

That said, I also believe that it is a “both/and” conversation, that often we miss the huge value of creating and building meaningful relationships by being “offline”, by being face to face with people.

From: “WorkAnywhere”. Going beyond “Remote”“, a post dated 18th May 2019

The quote above is taken from a piece I wrote in May 2019, though feels very current for the world of work we are looking to now. I have highlighted in bold the phrase “both/and“.

Two days ago I wrote about the energy of this “back to school” period, as well as going “back to the office”. Around this, I have been dismayed at the lack of imagination of so many in making the idea of going back to the place of work or office as a binary choice, an “either/or“, you either go “back to work” or you don’t, with some even blithely ignoring how many millions of people have been working the whole time, simply doing it from home rather than a central office location.

My article from May 2019 has, in the social media parlance, “aged well”, so let me now make another prediction. The move “back to work” will not be an either/or, it will not be going back to work all the time in an office, nor will be it be working remotely exclusively.

Instead, the future will be “both/and“, it will be a mix of both. In other words, “the future is hybrid“.

I already have clients who are looking to reconfigure their office space and working practices accordingly, to use the physical offices and spaces they have to be spaces for meaningful face to face connections, not (as they often are) bland individual workstations for work people can easily do working from anywhere at all.

What does your hybrid future look like? If you have not thought about it yet, I recommend you start now.

Are you exhausted by uncertainty?

exhausted by uncertainty

Yesterday my weekly #WhatComesNext.Live show guest was Jerry Frentsos, an inspiring masters swimmer (20 world records and counting) whose mantra is his website LiveIntentionallyWell.com. Jerry had so many brilliant ideas, including the idea of getting to the pool for a training session, then, depending on how he feels, deciding whether to make it a “physical” or “mental” workout.

In listening to him it occurred to me that I am more physically tired than I rationally ought to be right now, given I am eating, resting and exercising well this summer.

I’m a little exhausted by uncertainty

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Who is excited about “back to school”?

back to school

So, today where I live (London) there is a definite “back to school” energy, as the symbolic public/bank holiday yesterday, Monday Aug 31st marked the end of the summer holiday/vacation period.

I even saw a queue of at least 15 people mid morning today outside a shop of a brand of children’s shoes, parents shopping at the last minute before primary schools head back. I Imagine some tend to wait until the last minute, others have that rhythm as part of their annual “back to school routine”.

What are different people actually feeling right now, though?

As a leader, whether that be as a parent of a student or as a leader in the workplace, as well as (critically) leading self, it is key to be aware of how those we have a leadership role with are actually feeling.

It might not be what you are feeling and it might not be what you expect them to feel.

Seeking to understand others is a key leadership attribute, so let’s explore a little so we can seek to listen to understand others and ourselves at this time.

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Exist loudly. We only get one life.

Chadwick Boseman – died August 28th 2020 #WakandaForever

From Alexandra Wilson, inspirational young black woman barrister and author of ‘In Black and White’, on the passing of Chadwick Boseman this weekend.

My definition of wisdom is “something concise, that, when you hear it, you feel like you always knew it“.

Exist loudly. We only get one life.

Truth.

Wakanda Forever

Some of us share and process openly and outwardly what is happening with us, what we are going through. Others of us are much more private and may never share other than with those the closest to them.

While we may learn a lot from those who process outwardly, we may never know what is really happening for those who process more inwardly.

This weekend when I learned of the passing of Chadwick Boseman, along with so many millions of others, I also learned that for the past four years he had been suffering from colon cancer, undoubtedly knowing for quite some time that it would most likely be terminal.

He had kept this information very close throughout, so the shock at his passing is so strong.

At this moment, I am reminded of an adage I learned from coaching mentors, taught to encourage to listen more before forming a thought or opinion: “one more piece of information can change everything”. I will redouble my focus on, as Stephen Covey put it, “listening with the intent to understand, not to reply“.

Now, I share with you two videos which, with the “one more piece of information” around Chadwick Boseman, well, as they say: “I’m not crying, you’re crying”.

#WakandaForever

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Make the existing model obsolete

Make the Existing Model Obsolete
Radical changes are happening to encourage more cycling in the City of London

Today I want to use the example of shifting journeys in London away from private motor vehicle use to cycling and pedestrians to illustrate the opportunities and challenges inherent in human behaviour, as illustrated by this quote:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Buckminster Fuller

As a society we are gradually recognising the need for radical change in how we look at transportation, driven by the climate crisis. As Kathryn Sheridan pointed noted on a recent #WhatComesNext.Live show, what comes next is “we fry”. Incremental change isn’t enough, yet change has been incremental over the last decade as the modern world is so wedded to the car.

In London, the pandemic has forced rapid acceleration of this shift in transportation and due to necessity. Before the pandemic and lockdown London was still a city with massive amounts of private cars driving in and through it. As a resident of the centre of London, it was such a pleasure to breathe cleaner air and have more quiet during lockdown, but what comes next now we seek for people to go back to something close to normal, including travelling to work and otherwise around the city?

What comes next when we need to not just make incremental changes, but to “make the existing model obsolete”?

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