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.

Enjoy…

Not all those who wander are lost

A few days ago it was Halloween and I found myself on a long walk home from a meeting somewhere new to me. I was on a long call with a friend and so didn’t check google maps on my phone.

I found myself a little off with my innate compass, ending up walking through a park, then down by the river, across a beautifully lit bridge, and finally, as it was early evening on Halloween, through a residential area with loads of parents and young children in costume wandering around having a great time.

It reminded me of the line from a poem :

“Not all those who wander are lost” ~ JRR Tolkien

(more…)

To burn out or to fade away ?

In a recent post Ok is not ok, I noted that Neil Young said : “It’s better to burn out, Than to fade away” and Kurt Cobain included that in his suicide note.

Today I was reminded of the late, great Bill Hicks. Absolutely not politically correct (so be warned if you google him), he was a genius of a comedian and thinker, who died at 32 and, over 20 years later, the memory of his work is etched into the memories of so many.

As Tom Waits described him : “Bill Hicks – blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer, and brain specialist. He will correct your vision. Other will drive on the road he built”

Others will drive on the road he built. Amen. (more…)

Keeper of the Vision

I’m about to give you the sum total of all my learning on leadership from many decades of devoted work, research, curiousity etc

Want the secret to great leadership ?

The role of a leader is a one line job description :

Keeper of the Vision

That is it. Simple.

Nothing you do is more important. Everything else is meaningless without this. (more…)

Take time to think

Take time to think.

“Easy to say, harder to do”, is, I am sure, the response many will give.

Why is that, though ? Logically, the vast majority of the returns in any business or organisation come from the big thinking, not the execution,.

How is, then, that this quote comes flying forward from the “Think Unthinkable” report :

Leaders of industry [are] extremely bad at thinking, and they don’t get challenged very much either”

I encourage reading that report, in which there is much about both parts of that statement.

So, how about taking time to think ? (more…)

What happens when we find silence ?

I recently read Silence in the age of noise by Erling Kagge, and a couple of themes came out for me.

One was that while yes, we can find near absolute silence by heading out into the wilderness, silence is available to us at any time, in any place. The key is to still our mind.

There are many ways to do this, and each of us may have our own method. For me, sometimes it is in getting into a rhythm of doing easy and relatively “mindless” tasks that slow down the mental chatter and create space. I can then often connect in a “flow” and thoughts “join up” for me as if from nowhere if I simply go for a walk, stop and have a cup of tea, or even listen to music.

Silence can open up creativity, innovation, and simply being in the present. (more…)

Power of Silence

I’m exploring the concept of silence, including reading this book :

Silence in the age of noise

The author once spent fifty days walking solo across Antarctica with no radio and I’m fascinated by his observations on silence.

To me it is far deeper than being in nature, it is about silence within silence. We all have the ability to be silent, be still at any time, to be totally present to each moment. Within such silence there is real power.

So, why don’t we seek silence as the gift that it is ? (more…)

Pesky Humans and Kilkenomics

In workshops, leadership offsites, retreats etc , a few themes typically emerge when wrestling with the toughest of issues. One of those is around people. I often lighten the tone when leading these by saying something like :

“wouldn’t your business be simple if it weren’t for all those pesky humans ?”

Always gets a laugh. Seriously, though, most accomplished businesses and their leaders are great with numbers, process, logic. What keeps leaders up at night are almost always issues linked to understanding people.

Why, then, is our education at all levels so skewed towards understanding numbers, logic, rationale etc rather than behaviours and what drive them ? (more…)

Pendulum Leadership

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A pendulum is a favourite device for me as a coach. So often I find people beating themselves up around their behaviour, and, more particularly, how when they choose to change a behaviour they often “over correct”. (more…)

Ok is not ok

ok is not ok.jpgThank you to Alton Byrd for posting this online. Alton was one of my first sporting heroes, the greatest player I ever saw in British Basketball.

He and I were both fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of the late, great Ed Percival, who Alton calls his rabbi, I call simply “Yoda”. I consider Ed my greatest guide and mentor, as does Roger Philby, who wrote this eulogy:  “My Hero – Ed Percival”.

My first significant interaction with Ed was when I’d said something in a group that had overpowered the conversation. In a break, I apologised and told him I’d “dial it back”. Ed was furious. He rose up to his considerable height, stepped in towards me, and said : “don’t you EVER{expletive deleted} do that ! This world needs your full self !”. Ed’s famous phrase was “Be More You”, and that simple phrase can be life-changing.

So, the phrase “ok.. is not ok” comes to mind when I read what Alton posted. (more…)

Realising Potential

realising potential LKJ.jpg

Seth Godin recently wrote :

“It’s tempting to enter a field where mastery is assured, where you have a very good shot of being as good at it as everyone else.

It turns out, though, that the most exciting and productive fields are those where there’s a huge gap between those that are perceived to be the very best and everyone else.

The wider the gap, the more it’s worth to push through it.

My purpose in life is #MakingPotentialPossible. Like any such intention in life, there is a strong element of service to others, and also a mirroring reference to what we seek for ourselves. (more…)

What a Fool Believes about Bitcoin

“But what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away” 

Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers has one of the most exquisite voices and this is an almost perfect pop song. It also contains the powerful lyric above.

As I write this, it seems everybody is talking about investing in BitCoin.

I do actually believe that Blockchain in 2017 is at just such a moment as Netscape and the “WWW” was in 1994. Distributed trust is going to change our world, and at such a speed we cannot even imagine. (more…)

Try something new

Recently I ran a workshop in Edinburgh called UNTHINKABLE. From this, I was inspired to write a series of articles on Linked In on the theme of #Open Leadership, which at the time of writing this post has taken me some time to consider and I’ve written six of probably around a dozen articles from the workshop.

So, probably at least 10 hours of work into those articles. At the workshop itself, I ran over the allotted time (sorry to the attendees!) and took about 2 hours.

A few days later, Rebecca Bonnington , who had been at the workshop, asked me if I could capture the workshop essence for a series she had called “1 minute wisdom”.

10 hours ? 2 hours ? Sure, but 1 minute ? (more…)

Presence…and Vulnerability

One of my favourite TED talks of all time is this one from Amy Cuddy.

I recalled this as I was going to write about the power of self-awareness of the body, hormonal responses (testosterone, cortisol) and the power of the body for presence.

Yes, this talk is amazing for that, so please do watch it all from the link in the image above.

That said, I won’t be writing about all of that today. Instead, as I watched the talk again in preparation for writing this, once again by far the most powerful part of the talk was when Amy Cuddy told us WHY this was so important to her. Every single time I watch this segment of the talk, I am moved to tears. Every. Single. Time.

Yes, watch the whole talk, but please watch the segment starting at 15:39

I believe strongly that the new paradigm of #OpenLeadership has Vulnerability as a core foundational attribute. As Amy tells her very personal story of feeling like an imposter, she then transforms that experience into leadership, power, creativity.

I share here the first nascent iteration of the #OpenLeadership model. For more, see the series of articles posted to Linked In called Unthinkable.

Unthinkable model

No longer will leaders serve their people and their vision by seeking to be all knowing, all powerful and invulnerable. To the contrary, knowing our fears, having that self-knowledge, ability to manage our energy (and those of others), being reponse-able rather than reactive in moments of stress and crisis… these and more are attributes of #OpenLeadership… and from these “Let Go” attributes, leaders can then attract their people to them and realise their highest potential through humbly collaborating while being the “keeper of the vision”.

Much more on these themes in future articles, but for now, marvel at the vulnerable presence of Ms Amy Cuddy !