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.


Bravery: I couldn’t not do it


Regular readers know that I continue to muse on the theme of bravery in leadership, planning to write a “long read” on the topic. One current focus is the idea of an action being perceived by others as brave, but not feeling brave or courageous at all by the person taking that action.

In the case of entrepreneurs, almost every time I have asked an entrepreneur “why did you start your business?”, the answer has been, word for word:

I couldn’t not do it

Other words they simply felt compelled to act, and as Entrepreneurs this typically follows seeing a gap or opportunity in the market.

Have you ever felt so compelled to do something that you “couldn’t not do it?”

I took the one less travelled by

Etive Restaurant - the road less travelled
one of the stunning courses at Etive Restaurant in Oban

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

So last night I took a wee tour of the West Highlands after a family wedding and found myself in Oban where I had one of the best meals of my life, a tasting menu at the tiny Etive Restaurant.

For multiple reasons, a perfect little “chef/patron” restaurant like this could not exist in a big city like London.

Am reminded of one of my favourite Robert Frost poems and the power of taking the road less travelled.

David and John have created a very special place, am already planning to make it an annual pilgrimage!

Be back soon

Sometimes time to take time out. At a family wedding this weekend so taking time.

Be back soon 😉

Insights and Coaching

One of the most valued contributions clients gain from coaching is a simple and profound one. Insights. So, in the space of coaching, where do insights come from?

Over many years of coaching, my beliefs around this have evolved. I believe that insights come from the client, not the coach. Yes, time after time clients have told me they value my insights, but here I am saying the insights are theirs! Why is this?

The role of the coach is to create a space from which insights emerge through and by the client. Coaches do this through what I often call “full-body listening”, i.e. listening deeply, listening for what sits behind the words the client is speaking.

What a client often hears as an insight from the coach is, when the insight is the most meaningful and valuable, simply the reflection by the coach of the truth the client speaks, even and in fact particularly when the client cannot listen deeply enough to themselves.

When plans go awry

Robert Burns Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

Robert Burns, from “To a Mouse”

As my most recent two daily posts shared, I have a minor injury to my left ring finger which finds me dictating my daily writing, as well as struggling with all typing of emails sending messages et cetera.

I admit freely to some frustration with this state of affairs! Like most (if we are honest with ourselves), I like to be in control of the path of my life as well as the day-to-day. As to the quote from Robert Burns, this inability to type has prevented me from my plan to write a long and considered piece on “Bravery is essential to Leadership”. In other words, my best-laid plans have gone awry!


Being forced to learn something new

forced to learn something new by the finger splint

I’m dictating this entire post rather than typing it. As I noted in yesterday’s post, I have a strange injury to my left ring finger, which leaves me with difficulty in typing at any reasonable speed. Luckily, all that it takes to heal this is eight weeks with a splint on the affected finger.

However, my first thought after the splint had been put on was; “how am I going to type my daily posts?”. It then occurred to me that I may be able to find an option to change speech into text.

Lo and behold, the option readily exists with my Mac! It took me no longer than five minutes to work out how to do this and I’m now dictating faster than I could type even prior to the injury, and I touch type fast!

Amused and excited as I am by this new discovery, I never would’ve discovered it if I had not been forced to learn something new by the clumsy splint rendering my left hand almost unusable to type with.

I wonder what else I could learn that feels totally new if I was forced into learning a new skill? Perhaps sometimes we do things the way we’ve always done them because we still can, and not because they’re actually the best way to do that then anymore?

An enforced pause

enforced pause broken finger

So. Just before I flew to Cayman I somehow jammed a finger on my left hand and so the last joint won’t straighten.

I can’t type on my laptop and I’m waiting to see an orthopaedist to see if it needs an urgent operation.

Sometimes I’m not the most patient person and struggle to pause.

Am writing this exactly where I took this photo and doing it on my phone.

Pondering why a freak injury occurred. Perhaps this enforced pause was something I needed.

Do I pause often enough? Do any of us?

Create a small group of expert people

small group of expert people

Create a small group of expert people with a diverse range of skills and experiences and high levels of peer trust to challenge the status quo and each others ideas.

Thanks once again today to my brilliant friend Ian Armiger, who is, like me, obsessed with elite leadership. In Ian’s case, his focus is on elite sports. One of Ian’s contacts is Dave Reddin, an elite Performance Director and who recently wrote a piece called: “Building “What It Takes To Win” for International Football” from his recent experience writing the “What it takes to Win” strategy for English Football looking towards the Men’s Football World Cup in 2022. In a deep and full article, one of his ten “lessons and success factors” leapt out at me, as I quoted above.

So many CEOs and senior leaders I work with (as their Sounding Board) have very little or nothing in the way of such a peer group.

I love to be part of forming and facilitating such groups whether formally or informally, connecting the dots with and for the right people is an activity I love. Could you benefit from such a group? What could you bring to others as a peer? If this intrigues you, book a call and let’s talk.

Let’s talk

Book your 30-minute meeting here.

Trust yourself

Trust yourself

The most-read post on this site so far in 2020 is: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”. It begins with these thoughts:

Learn from the past, analyse it, study it all you will so you can learn more about yourself, others, your business, your leadership.

When it comes to the future, however, trust yourself.

Sometimes in order to trust ourselves, it can both ease and accelerate the process to have a sounding board, a trusted and knowledgeable confidante. This is my role. In addition to client work, I am always open to take time to have a video call and listen. Book yours:

Let’s talk

Book your 30-minute meeting here.

To Share learnings, my WHY for writing

When the why is clear, the how is easy.

Yesterday I wrote: “You cannot not communicate” and tweeted out:

Jason then retweeted it, bringing lots of additional visitors to read the post. This really energised me as my writing is from my passion to “share learnings”.

I am often asked how I continue to write every single day, year after year. The reason is simple, to share learnings. That is my WHY for writing, and as I often say: “when you get clear on your WHY, the HOW is easy”.

If you really want to do something, my advice is to get clear on your WHY as well as looking at your HOW. Everything is easier when your WHY is your true driver.

It is said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Whether it is as profound as that, or simply the WHY for a project, a meeting, a team. Take time to find your WHY.

You cannot not communicate

basecamp communicate

Today sharing some gems from the Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication. Regular readers know I am a HUGE fan of Basecamp founders @DHH and @JasonFried, founders of Basecamp and passionate about sharing what they learn on the journey. This guide has 30 rules of thumb and many more gems and nuggets. I’ll pick out only three today, referencing my own writings along similar lines.

You can not not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating.

Rule of Thumb 1

So much that, as a coach, I could unpack here, but they’ve been very concise. Communicate, always. Say what needs to be said. This entire guide from Basecamp reminds me of teachings from Carrie Bedingfield on Clean Communications, see: “How clean are your communications?

If you have to repeat yourself, you weren’t clear enough the first time.

Rule of Thumb 10

From: Repeat after me. Repeat your message : “If you feel sure you have over-communicated your message to your people to the point where they are bored of hearing it from you…. you are probably about halfway there.”. Also, see: “Repetition, repetition, repetition” 🙂

The end of the day has a way of convincing you what you’ve done is good, but the next morning has a way of telling you the truth. If you aren’t sure, sleep on it before saying it.

Rule of Thumb 18

So many times I have suggested to clients to “sleep on it”. This very much applies to communication, and also to solving problems, as the mind has a way of solving problems as you sleep. See: “Allow time before deciding” on how fixing a broken car taught me to “sleep on it”

To have fewer conflicts, disagree more

Disagree to have fewer conflicts

To have fewer conflicts, disagree more. Yes, really.

So many organisations talk about “Conflict Resolution” around issues and relationships in the workplace. The thing is, conflict is such a strong word, with synonyms such as “war”, “battle”, “struggle”, “clash”, “combat”. Even the words sound exhausting and difficult.

A recent piece I read on methods of Conflict Resolution brought me back to this definition of a team that thrives and gets results:

“a group of disagreeable people aligned around a common intention”

Travis Carson of Market Force

Market Force has a wonderful model called the Breakdown recovery model (see image) that I wrote about in depth in: “Teams of disagreeable people“.

At the heart of this, if we call each disagreement a breakdown, each one is an opportunity for a breakthrough. The counter-intuitive key to this is that “successful teams have frequent breakdowns”, hence a team is a group of people willing to disagree and then learn and move forward, hence “disagreeable people”.

If we look at disagreeing and breakdowns as issues rather than opportunities, our human tendency will be to avoid addressing them. Do that enough and what you end up with is, you got it, conflicts. Far easier to address a breakdown right away than wait until it escalates into a conflict that then has to be resolved.

Have you ever run out of Inspiration?

My favourite “virtuous circle” from Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void

I’ve run out of inspiration. As I write this, I’ve posted a daily article on this site for over 850 days straight. I’m also lacking inspiration on what to write today. I’ve got lots of things listed in my “Writing Ideas” Evernote, but am feeling stuck when it comes to actually writing.

I find myself frustrated and observing myself in this “stuck” place. Perhaps, I ask myself, I’ve run out of inspiration? Perhaps there are no new ideas for me to consider, to muse on. Perhaps I am simply too comfortable and need some new impetus, some new drive?

I then pause and tell myself that, as the legend says: “This too shall pass“. We all have moments where things aren’t “in Flow“, sharing mine today with you. I wonder what I shall write tomorrow?