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.


Your playing small does not serve the world


This week has been rich with 1:1 meetings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London with amazing people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

These meetings, and one in particular, reminded me of three things:

  1. We have far more in common than we allow ourselves to recognise
  2. Profound Beauty can create a shift
  3. Repetition, repetition, repetition

Let me explain, and I hope you can take your own leadership learnings from my experience. (more…)

Leadership lessons – from an orchestra conductor

dressage orchestra

Yes, that photo is of a horse and rider doing dressage being conducted along with a chamber orchestra. My friend Steven Roth, a conductor of many years experience, has even conducted dancing horses !!

Steven is Executive Director of Scottish Ballet and I love meeting up with him when we can to exchange ideas on leadership.

We met recently for breakfast in Glasgow and afterwards he sent me this hysterical clip of Mr Bean as a conductor, then later shared some leadership lessons he takes from it.

Thank you for giving me permission to share, Steven ! (more…)

What do your people need? Lessons from natural disasters


Recently I read an article on how Starbucks responded to Hurricane Irma hitting the USA. In the piece, it referenced Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This catapulted me back 14 years to one of the most powerful leadership and personal experiences of my life, the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan decimating the Cayman Islands.

Today let me share some of what I learned, referencing the work of Abraham Maslow and also how Chip Conley, shortly after Hurricane Ivan hit Grand Cayman, developed Peak, which became a book where he took Maslow’s hierarchy into business, which is how I first came across someone I am privileged to now call a friend. (more…)

Managing Energy – learning from comedians

kevin bridges

One of the simplest and most powerful tools I’ve learned for leaders is to focus on the “three tenets of leadership”

  • Set (and Hold) the Context
  • Manage the Energy
  • Coach, Don’t Play

Recently one of my brothers came down to London and we watched Kevin Bridges do a comedy show to 3,500 people at one of my favourite venues, the Apollo in Hammersmith.

It was a master class in Managing the Energy, so today I’ll share what I’ve learned from comedians about this, as well as the concept of these three tenets and what they mean for leaders. (more…)

Ferguson and Cantona – Vulnerability and Strength

cantona celebration

Eric Cantona’s famous pose of celebration after his greatest goal

Eric Cantona played for Manchester United from 1992-1997. One of the greatest football players I have ever seen. Majestic, commanding, sublimely skilled. A leader, a talisman, a game-changer.

He was also, when he joined, thought to be mercurial, a maverick, unmanageable, yet in Sir Alex Ferguson he met the greatest football manager of all time and someone who worked with him brilliantly.

Alex Ferguson was known to be one of the very toughest football managers, yet the letter he wrote to Cantona after he retired from football displayed open-ness and vulnerability, giving an inside view as to what truly powered Ferguson’s management of his team. Or, should I say, his leadership. After all, a football “manager” can’t be on the pitch to play and inspire, can’t score the goals to win the matches. Cantona certainly did both.

Today, that letter, my thoughts on what leaders can learn from it, as well as some background on Sir Alex Ferguson and videos showcasing the sublime Eric Cantona.


Noticing beauty

noticing beauty

A theme building on this site is the power of Beauty.

Today, a contribution from Kay Scorah, which has me musing on beauty and how it links with the power of noticing. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – Running a two-hour marathon

Berlin Marathon

For the first months of daily writing on this site, I wrote around the theme of “Smashing Paradigms” each Friday, with many written on that theme you can now explore.  I began each one with;

For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. 

One way of defining a paradigm is “we’ve always done it this way”

Today I’m inspired by Eliud Kipchoge, who on September 17, 2018 utterly obliterated the marathon world record, so have come back to the theme of Smashing Paradigms and will share some ideas and thoughts for leaders. (more…)

Looking for a coach? Questions to ask them first


Are you considering investing in a coach for yourself, and/or for members of your team?

If so, how are you going about selecting them? Are you thinking beyond simply going to a large coaching company or association and hiring one of their qualified coaches?

After all, as they used to say in the 80s around buying computing systems, “nobody gets fired for buying “Big Blue” {IBM}”, and, more currently, it seems that the safe option on the external audit is (almost) always to hire one of the Big4.

Coaching is very personal, so I’d recommend you look beyond “ticking the box” with the “safe option” in that way.

Interestingly, recently I was pointed towards a great article that was actually written by a coach training company on “15 signs a coach can deliver what they claim“.

As one might expect such a company, the article was prefaced with: “In theory, the first sign should be a qualification”, However, they then they go on to note how, though they offer three different formal qualifications, the secret is in their method for training. After that, they then finish the preface to their article with:  “So if qualifications aren’t the clearest indicator of an effective coach, what should you look for?”.

“So if qualifications aren’t the clearest indicator of an effective coach,

what should you look for?”

Great question.

Today, then, I’ll discuss that. Then, before reposting their article (which is full of excellent qualitative measures to consider), I will offer you a few questions to ask of a prospective coach that way cut to the chase for you. (more…)

Salve Corpus Amanti – what does inspire leaders?

salve corpus amanti mitchell

Vision is not Leadership and Leadership is not Vision, but they are linked. Leadership is about taking people with you on a journey, and it requires commitment, bravery and belief in the vision.

As I write this today, someone I know is being attacked via the national media in the UK by a minority group within their organisation. As I see it, this leader is taking people with them on a journey to achieve a powerful vision not only for their organisation but, through achieving that vision, for society. That minority are fearful of such a transformative change.

I don’t know this leader that well, however, a) I believe this will simply have them be ever more dedicated to their sense of purpose, and b) it set me to pondering what creates such drive, passion, commitment to such a level of visionary change?

After I messaged with this friend I then picked up Alan Moore’s exquisite book “Do/Design – Why beauty is key to everything” (see here for my post) and opened the page to learn about the term Salva Corpus Amanti.

This opened up themes for me around what inspires leaders, taken from learnings from the profound shifts experienced by astronauts when they first saw the Earth from space. (more…)

Masters practice incessantly, then improvise

oscar peterson

This week I was at my favourite recurring learning experience, a “Facilitation Shindig” led by the amazing Julie Drybrough.

This experience inspired today’s post, about Mastery being about the ability to improvise and that ability coming from incessant practice.

Though hesitant to call me or anyone else a “master”, the common ground for all present is that we are experienced coaches/mentors/facilitators and come together for a full day to deepen our practice, or, as Julie has put it, “rattle our foundations”.

At our latest shindig, one thing we talked about was about how little or how much we plan and structure before we run a session for a group. What came forth from this for me was that, though we all have different styles, what we had in common was that in fact, we learn, prepare, plan, structure in detail (in our own way), so that we can then “flow”, we can improvise.

As Debussy said (and I reflected on in “Less is more – leave space“:

“Music is the space between the notes”

In your leadership, when the critical, key moments occur, the “moments of truth”, do you need to think about what to do? Do you need to plan, to structure, or do you simply “flow”, as if everything in all your experience readied you for the moment.

Today, then, let me reflect on “Flow”, on my favourite athlete, and finally on my all-time favourite jazz moment.  (more…)

Leadership, vulnerability and how to apologise


In “Good to Great“, Jim Collins talks of five levels of leadership, the highest being Level 5.

Level 5 leaders have all that it takes to be at the first four levels, but in addition, have a unique blend of humility and indomitable will.

My writing at this site is aimed at leaders either at Level 5 and seeking to keep growing, or truly hungry for being at or beyond Level 5 and committed to the path.

You’ll, therefore, see post after post talking about self-leadership, vulnerability, awareness, empathy, listening and more.

As Socrates said “Know Yourself”, or, more humorously “Be yourself..everyone else is already taken!”

So, today some simple tips on apologies from leaders. (more…)

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