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…

Small adjustments

Bicycles - Small Adjustments

This picture was taken earlier this week at a favourite “coffee and bacon roll” stop on a bike ride with my regular riding buddy. Yes, though both bikes date to 2011, the photo is from this week.

We could both ride newer bikes, but hey, we like these ones. Could we get greater performance from the radical change of spending £££$$$ on brand new bikes to replace these already high quality machines?

Yes, we could. However, we choose to ensure we get the most out of what we have by both making sure they are well maintained, and also making sure we “fit” them. “Fit”? Yes, bikes must first be the right size for the rider, then be “fit” to them, the most important element of which is the height of the saddle.

Am sure you can sense an analogy coming, and for this I take you to the masterful Seth Godin, as well as an idea or two of my own

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#BeMoreYou – A tree gives glory to god by being a tree

As I write this, Wednesday, I had planned to spend much of the day writing multiple posts for this site for the coming days. However, something slowed me down, and it was a quote shared with me on Monday this week during a highly nourishing meeting with Julian Summerhayes. That quote was:

A tree gives glory to god by being a tree

Thomas Merton, from his book “New Seeds of Contemplation”

On Tuesday this week, I then had David McLean as my guest on the weekly #WhatComesNext.Live show, where we mused on, among other things, self-leadership and I mentioned the distilled wisdom of my mentor Ed Percival, captured in three words and honoured in the page on this website that highlights my top four qualities of #OpenLeadership, those words being #BeMoreYou.

So, today much contemplation, then I found myself crystallising that into a thought on leadership.

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Ubuntu – I am because we are

Ubuntu Story

Ubuntu is an African philosophy captured in the story above as “I am because we are”, about valuing community above self-interest.

I love this, not least because it is also an easy way for readers to understand my philosophy around business. To add a layer, though, valuing community leaves a big gap if we fail to do it at scale when we have the opportunity and ability to do this.

What do I mean?

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I’m to blame

Fouls and accepting blame
A foul in an NBA game.
Couldn’t find any pictures of an NBA player raising their hand to acknowledge a foul though!

I played a LOT of Basketball for about six years through university and directly afterwards. When I played, the rule was that you raised your hand to acknowledge when you had committed a foul. It was part of a sense of self-responsibility in that team sport.

I also played a lot of golf in my teens growing up in the Scottish Borders. Golf is the only game where you call your own “fouls”, often taking place where nobody else would see them. Again self-responsibility.

I then picked up golf again in my 30s in Cayman, only to find that this sense of honesty was not present anywhere near consistently among people who took up golf later in life.

In fact, I nearly fell out with a dear friend at one point as an employee in his firm (where I was a board director) tried to argue his way around a clear rule infraction in a golf match I played in. it was a real affront to my sense of integrity, it really shook me.

I do believe you can learn a lot about someone by playing golf with them. What I learned was that I would not trust the integrity of that individual in any space, as “how you do anything is how you do everything“, so I wanted my fellow director to, at the very least, discuss this with the employee, yet they thought it was “no big deal”. Hmm.

These memories and thoughts were spurred from a blog recently from my dear friend Jeff Raker, published below, in which he encourages us all to take ownership for our mistakes.

I do write around this topic often, of accountability, self-responsibility, accepting fault, apologising.

Take a moment to introspect and ask yourself how you treat such moments, as well as what it says about you as a leader.

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Shifting perspective

Shifting perspective
A bent house in Lavenham

This weekend I took a few days away out of London for the first time in over five months due to lockdown. Part of that is to change perspective, to experience and view life from a different angle.

In photography, an ultra-wide-angle lens is called a “fisheye”, as, like the eye of a fish, in seeing a picture from a really wide angle, the edges of the picture become distorted. The photo above is one I took the other day in Lavenham in Suffolk. I am amused by how much it looks like a fisheye lens photo as if the house is distorted by the camera lens.

However, the reality is that it really is a “bent house”. Lavenham is full of “crooked houses“. It was a pleasure to unexpectedly come across these sights in Lavenham, almost every street had multiple crooked houses, visually shifting my perspective over and over.

Seeing things from different perspectives is a recurring theme for my writing as with my own lifelong learnings as coach and sounding board.

As I write this, am about to return to London after a few days in the country. Fresh sea air, gorgeous sunsets unblemished by summer smog and air pollution, dark nights without light pollution and more.

I love London, but I also really love the country. As we all so commonly do when we take a break like this, right now I’m musing on moving to the country. Now that would be a shift in perspective 🙂

Amplify your strengths

Amplify

I’m on a break out of London for a few days. The change in scenery and, literally, breathing different air, both are making a real different and charging the batteries.

Of course, I still commit to write every day, but sometimes feel to be brief in my posts. Now, the person who most inspired me, well over 1,000 days ago, to post daily, was Seth Godin. I’ve followed his daily posts for many years, but some time ago set an email filter to move them, unread, into a “Seth” folder.

This morning I opened my laptop and, for the first time in months, looked in that folder. What I noticed immediately is that Seth has, for the last week or so, published very short daily posts. My guess is that he, too, is on vacation.

Today then, curating one of those concise posts, as this one leapt out at me from those I scanned this morning. Between now and tomorrow I will muse on this.

Amplify your strengths

People don’t hire you, buy from you or recommend you because you’re indifferently average and well rounded.

They do it because you’re exceptional at something.

What if you invested the energy to be even more exceptional at it?

~ Seth Godin

Why do people set “out of office” emails?

out of office
One of my favourite funny out of office emails, this one must truly torture some senders!

I’ve always found the idea of an “out of office” email pretty absurd, particularly since around fifteen years ago when it seemed by then everyone had, first, a blackberry, then later, a smartphone. In other words, we are all able to check our emails on our phones anytime, so the idea of being “out of office” and so uncontactable is, well, daft. So, why do we still set an “out of office” email message at all?

Is it because our colleagues and clients have unreasonable expectations of us? That we are expected to be available 24/7 365 by the culture of the business we work for? Or perhaps it is to show we are actually taking a break? Who knows, all I can tell you is that I don’t ever set an out of office email. Here’s my background to that.

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Distinguish between Hope and Expectation

Expectation and hope

Many years ago, as a young Accountant taking up a new job, the chief executive guided me to, in my forecasting, to be careful to:

“Avoid turning wishes into projections”

This was one of the most important business lessons I was every taught, and one I have shared widely over the years.

Now, this week my friend Chip Conley wrote a blog based on one of his Emotional Equations (for more, see this post):

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

In his blog, Chip writes brilliantly (as always) around the disappointments so many are facing in this pandemic life as our reality doesn’t match up to our expectation. He then writes:

To tame your disappointment, you need to distinguish between Expectation and Hope.

The image above is his “cheat sheet”. I encourage you to consider that table, to read the full blog, then to consider subscribing to Chip’s own daily blog, Wisdom Well.

Thinking fast.. or (very) slow

Thinking fast and slow

“Thinking Fast and Slow” is one of the bestselling books on behaviour, capturing the essence of the work that won Daniel Kahneman his Nobel prize for Economics (for more on his work on heuristics and biases, this long read has some depth on it: “You cannot eliminate your biases

However, recently I was given something that really made me stop and think. I was emailing with Derek Sivers after writing about his latest book in my blog last week: “Say Yes to Less“. I then asked him to be a future guest on my weekly show WhatComesNextLive, then he asked me of the format.

I explained that I like to keep it simple and spontaneous for the guests to simply bring whatever comes to mind for them around the themes of What Comes Next and, in general, Leadership.

Derek confirmed he will be happy to be on the show later this year, then added: “P.S. I actually prefer to prepare 🙂 See: https://sive.rs/slow“.

This is a link to a chapter from his book “Hell Yeah or No”, and it is a reminder that we all process information differently and there is value to both thinking fast and to thinking slow. Do read that page, I found it very thought-provoking. One snippet:

“People say that your first reaction is the most honest, but I disagree. Your first reaction is usually outdated. Either it’s an answer you came up with long ago and now use instead of thinking, or it’s a knee-jerk emotional response to something in your past.”

It is a powerful reminder of a few things I’d been taught years ago about leading meetings, including a) give those who like time to think a day or two to cogitate, don’t press them for an answer, and b) always make sure to go to those who are taking their time and ask if they have any thoughts, don’t just go to those who answer fast and from instinct.

There is a richness in all styles of how we think.

August when you can’t unplug

unplug

In the Northern Hemisphere typically August is a month for slowing down at work, taking vacations, generally recharging the batteries, even “unplugging” completely.

Of course, this year in a pandemic so much is not as before, yet I am finding most people are seeking to still look to maintain that balance, even if they can’t take a long vacation and really can’t unplug as before.

In working with clients over many years, a key element of our work is always around performance, starting with awareness, then conscious choices around balance, whether physically, mentally, emotionally.

As this is for the individual it is also, in leading a business, the same for the team (and important the leader supports the team with their own balance too) and the business itself (if the business operations slow down in summer, I always encourage leaders to make time to look ahead and more long term and truly strategically).

Now, I am not taking a vacation this summer due to the pandemic, but I am consciously acting to find balance in the summer and particularly in August.

I’ll now share a few as they may support you placing some focus on your own balance. Even when we can’t fully “unplug”, we can take conscious action to find balance in August.

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Saudade – what do you long for?

Saudade  - a nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost. The love that remains.

Writing this on a quiet Sunday, happy in the knowledge that my three sons in Cayman are safe and well in a country that has done a spectacular job of leading through the pandemic. However, I also miss them greatly and, with Cayman “closed” (borders closed, no flights), I have no idea when I will see them again. I am very privileged to have my life relatively normal even in the pandemic, but sometimes I do feel strongly how much I miss my boys.

Regular readers know how much I love language, including words from different languages, particularly those that are untranslatable. Examples I’ve written about include Ikigai, Kintsukoroi and more.

So, I was recently reminded of a powerful word for this sense of longing, defined in the image above, but what really struck me around the feeling of missing my boys, and then of wanting to “matar saudade” or “kill the saudade” by finally seeing them in person again.

Saudade for a brother who lives far off.
Saudade for a childhood waterfall.
Saudade for the flavour of a fruit never to be found again.
Saudade for the father who died, for the imaginary friend who never existed
.

Saudade for a city.
Saudade for ourselves, when we see that time doesn’t forgive us. All these saudades hurt.
But the saudade that hurts the most is the one for someone beloved

~ Miguel Falabella

What do you have Saudade for?

Be aware of how your environment shapes you

Shaped by your environment
The parched common near me in another heatwave, summer 2018,
from : Petrichor – How our environment can impact us

As I write this, it is a grey and cool day in London, yet only two days ago we had a record-breaking and stifling heatwave. Now that I sit in more typical and cool conditions, It is difficult to even recall, two days ago, how hot it was, yet during that hot period, I was shaping my behaviour and decisions hugely based on the heat.

Our environment does shape us, whether that is weather or people.

For a longer take on this and also a musing on the beauty of Petrichor, view the blog linked above.

In terms of being shaped by people creating our environment, this week I had a regular mentoring call with a brilliant young individual who was feeling challenged by pressure to conform in terms of spending the vast majority of time doing urgent and short term work.

To me it was clear that part of this was that they are surrounded in their work and their industry, their environment, by people who all do the same.

So, despite their instinct to focus more on longer-term and higher-value work, their environment had shaped them to go against what they knew to be right.

So, be aware how your environment shapes you.

Being in Flow

Michael Jordan's expression after a flow moment
MJ’s expression after an inexplicable “flow moment”

Today I share with you one of the ultimate flow moments in my life so far, one, where I was so deep in “the zone” for hours that astonishing things happened.

Through this, I hope this helps you reflect on when and how you experience both “flow moments” and being “in the zone”

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Innovation and Inspiration

innovation and inspiration
(c) Gaping Void

“Innovation is simply doing things differently and doing different things”

Today a story about an artist and a simple innovation inspired by us all being on Zoom in lockdown.

Oh, and some reflections on setting up an office back in 2013 that was, in hindsight an early example of a “remote first” business choosing a place to come together to meet and collaborate.

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