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.


The fish rots from the head

the fish rots from the head

I am often asked by client leadership what to do first when there is a sense that the culture and behaviours of the organisation need to be focussed upon. In fact, I am often brought in by open and brave leaders who are humble enough to turn the focus upon themselves and truly look to see what is needed, and culture is often the gap they see.

Often the organisation has taken their attention off their culture and focussed almost exclusively on financial and other strategic goals, with the result that “culture gaps” are appearing throughout. I therefore often respond to their question on what to do first with the line:

The fish rots from the head

This is deliberately emotive and pointed, with the point being that culture must be addressed at the top of the organisation first.

People observe their leaders, so no matter how much money is invested by HR and LnD in people, if the leadership are not, well, leading in their behaviours, all of that money invested is wasted. Change must come from the top as well as from all levels within. (more…)

Be the type of person you want to meet

be the type of person you wish to meet

My writing is around leadership and is often focussed on how business leaders can “be more”. Perhaps some may find this post title a little “woo woo” for them, but hey, to model the title, those aren’t the audience I’m seeking.

The people I want to meet, to reach, to support, they understand that beyond their skills, tools, experience, who they are and how they show up are key to who they will meet.

Take this up a level and the same is true for any business or organisation. How anybody in that organisation behaves, how they “show up”, can at any time have a major impact on what other businesses will want to connect and do business with them.

As often happens, I’m spurred to write once again about this by several recent meetings and calls that reminded me of the truth, not only of “be the type of person you want to meet”, but also that the type of person you are being will dictate the type of person you do meet.

Today then, I’ll muse a bit and then simply link back to various posts I’ve made on this theme from the archives. (more…)

Beautiful Leadership – Purpose and Herb Kelleher

Herb Kelleher

Yesterday I wrote: “Purpose and the Corporation” and wrote:

“I ask businesses I work with to consider a different type of triple bottom line:

  • Purpose
  • People
  • Planet

Yes, I always ask them to focus on the Profit they will make, yet Profit, to me, is the outcome of a corporation, a business focussing first and always on their Purpose, their People and our Planet.”

On January 3rd this year we lost Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines. Ever since flying with them in the early 90s, I have studied this airline and how Herb led it.

A true example of putting Purpose first, then the People of the airline. As to Planet, well, as I wrote about in “Being More“: the word more “takes away specific targets or goals, it simply creates space to be, to do more. More is an invitation. An invitation creates space for opportunities.

I studied and learned so much about leadership from Herb Kelleher, today I’ll muse on this to share some of what I learned. (more…)

Beautiful Leadership – Purpose and the Corporation

people planet profit

Graphic highlighting the “triple bottom line” concept of People, Planet, Profit

As regular readers of my daily posts know, I am focussed on #BeautifulLeadership, asking leaders:

“how can your leadership, your business, be more beautiful?”

This immediately brings up the question: “what do you mean by more beautiful?”

My response ?: “great question, what do you think?”

It certainly is an invitation, a provocation to consider how you can do and be more.

Today I will muse on the following statement, one that has already resulted in multiple carefully considered articles in and letters to the FT, and one that I would ask of any leader considering my provocation around being more beautiful in their leadership and with their business.

“Why should the citizens of this world keep companies around whose sole purpose is the enrichment of a few people?”

~ Paul Polman, outgoing CEO of Unilever, asked in Feb 2018 (more…)

Top 5 Posts and searching for themes

top 5

Daily posting here now means there are well over 450 posts on the site.

Each post is already tagged and categorised, but with so many posts, the easiest way to search for terms and themes will be via the search bar, so we’ve upgraded this to a custom google search as this is more effective at mining the over 278,000 words written. (I also notice that my average post is now up from under 500 words to approaching 700.)

We also put a widget on the right-hand side of the page showing the Top 5 posts of all time on the site for you. This widget is a bit “buggy”, so today I’ll share the true top 5 and a couple of personal thoughts around each one.

First, though, muse a little on searching for themes. (more…)

Give handwritten thank you notes

thank you note

In 1989, when I was 24, I moved to the Cayman Islands. Sending faxes and making phones calls was still eye-wateringly expensive, so I sent aerogrammes, short, handwritten letters, to stay in touch with family and friends.

These days the art of a handwritten letter or even note seems very rare, so today a reflection both on the power of receiving a handwritten thank you note, as well as the perhaps surprising power this has for the giver. (more…)

Give people the gift of listening

gift of listening

Recently I wrote: “What is your one-word theme for 2019?“. After writing this, I instinctively offered to a few groups the opportunity for them to have me support individuals with a one hour call to get to their theme, and have since had a number of such calls.

I work as a sounding board for leaders, yet even though a large part of that is about listening and reflecting, somehow these recent calls were a strong reminder to me of the value of truly listening.

Or, as Ed Percival, my greatest mentor, used to say, I give people a “jolly good listening to”. For more on what I’ve learned about what it means to really listen, see my earlier post.

Who could you give the gift of listening to today?

Comfortable in your own skin

Steph Curry Underrated

Just over a month ago I wrote first about Steph Curry and his actions to empower girls.

Today I find myself sharing another example of leadership off the court from this athlete, and again from an article he wrote in The Players Tribune, a quite remarkable publication that gives athletes a platform to share, in-depth, their stories.

I’ll share today his most recent example of leadership voiced in the article “Underrated”, but I dug deeper and the phrase I want to highlight from him today is from an earlier article: “I’m a person who is comfortable in his own skin”


Charles Dickens and income inequality


On 10th January I wrote “CEO Pay and Ugly Leadership“, referencing wise thinkers past and present and noting:

“Leadership where CEO pay keeps climbing to ever higher heights while average workers real pay has been dropping in the modern world for some time. Not beautiful. Ugly in fact.”

So a friend who read that post recently sent me show notes from an Old Vic production of  Christmas Carol, so today I share thoughts from Charles Dickens on “fat cat” inequality. Oh, and these date from when? 1843. 175 years ago.

Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose, or the more it changes, the more it is the same thing. (more…)

Billy Connolly – Lessons from a Master

billy connolly made in scotland

BBC just put out two one hour shows called “Billy Connolly Made in Scotland” (link here for those in the UK).

Billy Connolly represents a line in the sand. Comedy in the UK was either before Billy or after Billy. He is, simply, the “Big Yin”.

Today sharing one particular lesson from his mastery that can be applied by leaders managing the energy of their people. (more…)

All things come to those who wait

Today, on a quiet and grey winter Sunday morning, I am taking a “slow day”.

I know myself to be someone instinctive and intuitive, who often moves fast from decision to action, that when I “light the blue touch paper” I move fast and people move fast and act fast in concert with me.

At the same time, lesson after lesson presents to me and to all of us through history that sometimes the truest and best course of action is to be patient.

The trick, then, is to know when to “light the blue touch paper” and when to pause or simply move patiently. (more…)