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…

Movies with Meaning – Movies that make you FEEL !

Weekly series. Please send in your movies via email, twitter etc. Our format  :

  • Three movies with meaning (and movies you love and recommend!)
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

Recently I wrote “Be Brave, Own It ! – Keala’s “This is Me” Moment” about bravery and “owning it” and centred around the beautiful video where Keala Settle announced herself to the world through a video at a movie workshop.

Every time I watch that video, I first get goosebumps, then cry, then jump up and feel like dancing.

So, I got to thinking two things. First, I HAD to go and watch the movie that the song was in.  Secondly, I reflected on the post I wrote (with three video clips, of course) around “Cogito Ergo Sum, or Sentio Ergo Sum ?“. Is it our thinking or our feelings that makes us human ? through which we make decisions ?

I put it to you that, as leaders, we pay far too little attention to the power of moving people through feelings. Considering the power of movies to move us through feelings is a great reminder !

So three movies that MOVE me ! Ok, three movies that make me cry. Yup, feelings, people have them, including at work and with those you lead !

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Writing I Love – The Big Leap

big leap

The writings on this site are all around #OpenLeadership. Having worked for many years as a leader and with leaders in all kinds of ways, I endeavour to look beyond typical writing and thinking on the topic, and often for me that means looking within, to self-leadership.

This week’s writing I love is an eminently readable book full of relatable stories and case studies that support self-leadership. A little on the book, then some thoughts and tips from me around the lessons given.

So…

What limits do you place on yourself?

Take a moment please over this question.

….

I said take a moment, quietly.

….

I hear you.. “I don’t place limits on myself !”

Yes, you do… we all do, to at least some extent.

Gay Hendricks captures this as the “Upper Limit Problem” in his book The Big Leap.

We all have one or more of the four hidden barriers.

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#MentorHer – Be the Change

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“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a wonderful sentiment attributed to the Mahatma (sanskrit for “Great Soul”) that was Gandhi.

What he actually said was “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. ”

Similar, yet even more powerful.

How often are we dissonant with ourselves? Do we say one thing but do another?

For me, what am I doing about that? What is the change I am being in order to make a change ?

As a privileged white male, one area I have taken on for years is in promoting diversity? So many words, yet so little tangible results in our world. As I wrote recently :

I am simply all about change and being the change I wish to see in the world. I am purposeful and passionate about diversity of thought, as well as helping others #BeMoreYou.

What am I doing about it?

One of the areas I focus on is in mentoring women. This is something I have always done, added to which the majority of my coaching clients over the years have been women leaders.

Despite decades of talk, we are still a very long way away from diversity of thought being present where decisions are made in our world, whether that be in the workplace, in board rooms, in politics, in community action. Wherever you look, women are almost always under-represented.

One of my favourite books of recent years is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. She clearly is someone who has a life purpose around empowering women, and she lives this wherever she finds an avenue.

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Recently she launched #MentorHer through the LeanIn site. Please take a look at the site and consider what you may choose to commit to.

For women reading, ask yourself what you can do to lean into this, what men could you ask to mentor you? If you would like to talk to an inspiring confidence coach, Patrycja Skurzak approached me a few year ago via Linked In as she started her journey as a confidence coach. I’ve mentored her for years and she has inspired me. It all started with her leaning in, having the confidence to ask to talk to me. Talk to Patrycja about leaning into this, having the confidence to ask for what you need in all spaces!

For men reading, ask yourself what you can do to focus upon mentoring women. I’m also happy to talk to you, first listening to what drives you and what you feel you can do, then, where it resonates, share my thoughts and advice from my own experience.

For now,  a few thoughts from me based on that experience.

First, we need radical positive discrimination to really effect change in diversity of all forms (and, as per the “My Work” page, this goes beyond gender diversity, though this post today has that focus). Yes, I get and agree with the argument that one should always look for the best person, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, orientation… and yet we are failing to represent adequately beyond the “pale, male and stale” stereotype, so we need discrimination in a positive sense to effect change!

A few real examples as ideas. I’ve used and still do use these for positive discrimination.

  1. If you are facilitating a Q&A, always take the first question from a woman. Always.
  2. If you are asked to be on a panel discussion, ask them who the other speakers are. Note to the organiser that you won’t be on any panel without a woman speaker.
  3. If you have the chance to select from a group of qualified candidates for a key internship, filter it to choose a woman.
  4. Make your first hire a woman (edited to note a caveat from feedback from a woman leader, “if you are only hiring one person then that woman you have hired first had better be the best person for the job. Lots of women wouldn’t want to be that person otherwise.”)
  5. If forming a peer group and setting up meetings through connecting with contacts, focus on women and other diverse groups for your initial members so as to create diversity of thought consciously.
  6. Create and launch a women’s leadership group. Yes, I did this, though at the time felt I couldn’t be part of it, I just conceived it and made the launch happen.

Finally, be part of groups supporting women in leadership. See point 6 above, where my own discomfort used to make me shy away from this. However, women themselves kept asking me to participate, so as the Mahatma said: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Also, the #MentorHer site notes that men are increasingly uncomfortable working with (and mentoring) women. Step out, lean in, get comfortable being uncomfortable, change the conversation.

#BeTheChange

#MentorHer

Be Brave, Own It! – Keala’s “This is Me” Moment

Yes, #itsyourfault Keala….

An oh so powerful story of owning your genius, of being brave, of stepping up, of inspiring others and yourself.

The story of one woman, one song. Read my words, then watch the video. You WILL laugh, you will cry (lots!), you will jump up and dance!

So, living in the UK, I find so much “deflection” of our genius. People are complimented and say “oh, it was nothing”. As Nick Hussey noted (I agree!)

What do I mean #itsyourfault?

Well, (plot spoiler alert!) the Oscar for best song this year will go to “This is Me”. Ok, so I’m predicting the future, but it is the surest thing in the history of surest things!

The success of this song is down to the woman who sings it, the amazing Keala Settle.

The thing is, in every interview, she starts out by saying “its your fault, Hugh Jackman”, giving the lead in the movie the credit for supporting her.

In response, Hugh has held the mirror up to her consistently, acknowledging her brilliance, and on Twitter he does it with the hashtag #itsyourfault.

Watch the video of the first time he heard the song at the workshop that gave the movie the “green light”. Watch Keala hide her brilliance, then let it shine. Watch the moment where she holds Hugh’s hands and he gives up fighting back the tears of joy.

#itsyourfault @Kealasettle, #thisisme #andtheoscargoesto

 

Unthinkable, unforeseeable leadership

Today I’m writing about the possibility that the most intractable and irrational issue in US politics may finally see change. That issue ? Gun Control.

I wrote yesterday about the power of saying “I was wrong” and why I feel that the “command and control” leaders in the USA and around the world simply need bravery, the bravery to stand up and say “I was wrong“, and gun control.

Imagine true and radical change happens in this issue, then it could be what makes the dam break on the intractable tribal nature of politics in the USA, and where the USA leads, other follow. Radical means banning guns like the UK and Australia did.

Unthinkable ? Unforeseeable ? Perhaps, but we live in the era of unthinkable change. Time for it to be positive change now.

Unthinkable

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Smashing Paradigms – “I was wrong”

{latest in a developing series on Smashing Paradigms}

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

One way of defining a paradigm is “an unconsciously held belief that limits us from fresh thinking” or “we’ve always done it this way”

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(c) smasherofficial.com

 

The world we know is based on the “command and control” method of leadership that leveraged the post Second World War return to the work force of millions of men used to following orders without question.

Out of this paradigm of omniscient and all powerful leadership came the orthodoxy of the MBA and Business School training that to some level still persists, and certainly has formed much of the understanding, knowledge and beliefs of many of the CEOs, Politicians and other 40+, 50+, 60+ leaders that guide our world now.

In the last week we have seen yet another school shooting in the USA, yet all around the world the sadness is amplified by the sense that nothing will change (though let us hope that the likes of Emma Gonzalez will change that. More on that tomorrow in a positive and life affirming post.. I am an eternal optimist who believes love will triumph over fear!).

I thought about what needs to change in leadership in the USA for gun control to really happen in the way it did in the UK and Australia in recent decades. My simple conclusion ? Our “command and control” leaders in the USA and around the world simply need bravery, the bravery to stand up and say “I was wrong“.

i was wrong

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Purpose, Passion, Makers, Utopias

**A friend recently reminded me of the power of walking the walk in supporting entrepreneurs. After all, I’m one myself and always have been in different ways. I do support entrepreneurs through my work, through mentoring, through speaking and many other ways. One additional way is to publicise entrepreneurs who offer products and services I love !**

Recently, through joining the Academy for Chief Executives, I’ve got to know Matt Bagwell, an Academy member, and a Maker.

A Maker of shoes, really, really comfortable and stylish shoes. Really stylish too. I love my “Sevens”!

seven feet apart

Matt and his partner Ian are building a shoe business called Seven Feet Apart. Why that name?  Read this fascinating page on the site about what drove Matt, and his really cool discovery around his ancestry from the amazing engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

In reading that page, please pay close attention to Matt’s Purpose and Passion. These two traits, in that order of priority, are what I have found are essential for entrepreneurial business success. What is your Purpose in leading your business? What keeps you Passionate about it?

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Movies with Meaning – The Flying Scotsman and inspiring leaders

Weekly series. Please send in your movies via email, twitter etc. Our format:

  • Three movies with meaning (and movies you love and recommend!)
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

First of all this week.. come on folks, send me your favourites.. join in!

Anyway, the other day I wrote about a favourite watch I have that was inspired by the importance of valuing each hour, and it itself inspired by the amazing Graeme Obree, aka “The Flying Scotsman”.

So, this week, three movies of and around inspirational sporting leaders and heroes.

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Supporting Entrepreneurs – Mr Jones Watches

**A friend recently reminded me of the power of walking the walk in supporting entrepreneurs. After all, I’m one myself and always have been in different ways. I do support entrepreneurs through my work, through mentoring, through speaking and many other ways. One additional way is to publicise entrepreneurs who offer products and services I love !**

Several years ago I came across a wonderful concept watch from Mr Jones Watches, an homage to the remarkable Graeme Obree, who smashed the one hour record for cycling in a stunning way captured in the film The Flying Scotsman.

That watch, pictured below, was a limited edition, and every hour revealed a fresh word, a context for that hour, a way to remind us to be present to life, to value each hour. (more…)

How you do anything…a Leaders angle

I was reminded by Gaping Void today of this :

GV how you do anything

“How you do anything… is how you do everything”

Or, as a way to observe this in yourself and others, watch how people treat those who they feel don’t matter to them.

When you are in busy public places? do they act in a considerate way to others or just push past in a single-minded fashion?

In a restaurant, how do they treat the staff?

Do they thank the bus driver when they get off the bus?

In general, are they present, observant to other human beings, no matter their station or status?

Now, for leaders, be very wary. (more…)

Voracious learning and #OpenLeadership

Nature-of-Prosperity-small-e1467399845782

As a leader, where do you go for alternative learnings, ideas, thoughts to stretch yourself ? Where do you go beyond your known knowns and known unknowns ?

As for me, I’m intensely curious, a voracious learner.

An example was that yesterday I went to an event hosted by the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, otherwise known as CUSPThe event was an afternoon of panel discussions plus a keynote, titled :

NATURE OF PROSPERITY: ETHICS AND UTOPIAS

Last November I went to the Kilkenomics Economics and Comedy Festival (written about often on this blog, I loved it.. and the “craic” !).

Both featured brilliant thinkers and both events could not have been more different.

Kilkenomics, at the core, is centred around traditional economic theory and principles, about how can we do capitalism better (to wildly simplify).

The Ethics and Utopias event was, again to simplify, about Sustainable Prosperity, which, as the event notes define: “involves a more wholesale rethinking of the nature of value, human flourishing and our conception of the future“.

In my experience as a leader and working with leaders, I see value in all the arguments made, which for regular readers is unsurprising. I am a ‘recovering’ Chartered Accountant, so get the numbers and economic principles, although on the flipside, I do have some esoteric thoughts, and one note I made during the event was :

“Fascinating conversation about poetic language to express ideas. Sentio ergo sum. Rational language cannot create transcendent shifts of belief.”

I do believe that we need both a foundation of understanding of numbers and core principles, but also that our world has moved to a point of “progress” (quotes intentional) that alternative models are the future.

Oh, and perhaps other than me, the only bridge between these events is Kate Raworth, who also lectured for CUSP recently on her alternative model, Doughnut Economics.

To develop new models for sustainable prosperity not based on “groupthink”, we need really open and brave dialogue. I applaud CUSP for creating this through their “nature of prosperity dialogue” series.

My key learning from this event ? From one of the speakers, Ruth Levitas :

“Utopias give you a space in which you can imagine radically different systems”

Smashing Paradigms – What is Bravery?

Latest in a developing series on Smashing Paradigms. For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. One way of defining a paradigm is “an unconsciously held belief that limits us from fresh thinking” or “we’ve always done it this way”

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(c) smasherofficial.com

bravery iain jamaica pool

We often think of bravery as the stuff of myth and legend, passed down through the ages.

What if, instead, we simply considered bravery to be relative to how it feels to the individual. Take a look at the picture above. Does that boy look brave to you?

More on that later on, but first some stories on bravery in different forms, from leading to rebuilding, to reframing mental health conversations. (more…)

Know Thyself – the story of Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever

KnowThyself

Thanks to my friend and Creative Visionary, Maeve Gillies, for sharing this article with me from the NY Times: “Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness

My writing on this site is all focussed to some degree around Leadership. In leading and in working with leaders, I truly believe that among the keys to being an effective leader are attributes such as curiosity, humility, and being on a lifelong quest for self-knowledge.

In the modern world, so much of our time is dedicated to being busy, working hard, and yet no matter how hard we work, it often feels to so many that is is never enough. This from one of the Yale students taking the course :

“In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” said Alannah Maynez, 19, a freshman taking the course. “The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions — both positive and negative — so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

Powerful words and such energy and drive was enough for this to be the most subscribed course in the 316-year history of that august institution.

Leaders who choose to work with me quickly get used to me challenging them to do less and be more. To take time out of their busy-ness to create space. Browse this site and you’ll see so many posts around these themes in different ways

.. and yet… for those leading businesses, it may seem counter-intuitive, but the most world-class of leaders have the presence, the empathy, the understanding, that can come only from taking time to, as the ancients in Delphi put it “know thyself”.

Still, don’t take my word for it, trust in the wisdom of the great Calvin & Hobbes.

Movies with Meaning – Eclectic selection

Weekly series. Please send in your movies via email, twitter etc. Our format  :

  • Three movies with meaning (and movies you love and recommend!)
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

The last few posts in this series were themed, this one an eclectic variety !

One a repeat favourite but with a meaning from the master of daily posts, Seth Godin.

The next a hysterically funny clip that also makes a serious point about going beyond limits.

Finally, our third clip this week one of the most powerful and wonderfully constructed movie speeches of all time.

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