Tag: Elite Lessons

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…)

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…)

Organisational Transformations – dropping pebbles

pebble pond

The #BeMoreYou page on this site is there to help leaders assess if I am the right person to support them and if they are the right person too. Words like bravery and transformation are peppered through the site, and this phrase from the page is apposite to today’s post: “My commitment is that our work together will facilitate the greatest possible impact for you, your business, and the world.”.

In my work, many of my clients over the years have been leaders of large organisations and they bring me in to support them with transformational change, to amplify their own already high impact, to put an even greater dent in the universe, so to speak.

Today I’ll share an excerpt from a recent article on transformational change I found valuable in an understanding of just what it takes to move from idea to execution of transformation.

In this, I’ll also distil some of my thoughts around the themes in the article, including how you can create a conversation around “dropping pebbles” to create an effective strategy to effect “complex contagion” and so real transformation throughout the organisation. (more…)

Don’t be more than one hilltop ahead


What can Don Quixote teach us about leadership?

Today I saw this post from a leader in the UK I respect and am frequently inspired by, and it had me recall a leadership parable I have often found of value with clients, so will share it now. Who would have thought Don Quixote could teach us about leadership? (more…)

When will you next recharge..yourself?

Bak to nature device

Thanks to Monique Valcour for sharing this, with the tagline:

Recharge yourself with nature

The thing is, here in the Northern Hemisphere, there is a real “back to school” energy which means that for those who were able to slow down over the summer and recharge themselves in nature, now only a very few will consciously and with awareness plan to take time to recharge themselves with nature in the coming months up until the end of the year.

In terms of leadership performance, sometimes with clients, I find some of the biggest shifts are the easiest and simplest to propose and support them in implementing.

The most obvious and most overlooked? (more…)

The compass matters more than the calendar


Image credit : Lewis Howes – Leadership Compass

Today a guest post from my friend Jeff Raker of Level Up Leadership.

Jeff is a wonderful guy and a top swimming official in the USA. We met a number of years ago through world of international swim officials. When not volunteering in swimming, Jeff is a certified executive coach who develops leaders at all levels in business and in sports. Regular readers know that I am passionate about seeing the linkages between elite sports and elite business. Jeff and I therefore often exchange ideas and thoughts.

When I saw his latest post, and given that one of my phrases when helping clients set direction is “if you don’t know where you are going, all roads will take you there”, he kindly accepted my request to make this a guest post today.

Oh, and when I made the request, he shared this.

“The inspiration for the article comes from a phrase I either created or picked up somewhere (I know not where if I did). My wife, calligraphied it and I sit it in front of an actual compass on my desk:

“The compass matters more than the calendar. The direction you’re heading matters more than the speed with which you are getting there.”

So many applications of that thought.”

So, to Jeff’s post (more…)

Elite Lessons – Making failure possible


In order to make failure possible, you first have to try, to commit, to go where it may scare or even terrify you, to be vulnerable, to say “this might not work” and do it anyway.

Very recently I was disappointed to witness this first hand in someone. They were presented with a real opportunity, yet my sense is that it felt too scary to them to try, so instead, they creating a rationale for them to choose to back away and shut down. Rather than risk failure, they chose not to commit, to make the effort, to try.

By making the choice not to try, as Cate Campbell notes (see letter below) that person “let the fear of failure destroy the possibility of success”. We all have our own journey to go on, our own choices to make, and reflecting on that experience, today I’ll riff on this with lessons from two leaders. (more…)

Inigo Montoya – Masterclass on introducing yourself

inigo networking

Such a fun meme going viral right now!

Hmm, let me try this out, using the example of introducing myself to someone I am being referred to by an existing client, where they are making the introduction as they feel that person may be someone who could benefit from working with me.

“Hello. {polite greeting} My name is Tom McCallum. {name}

My client and your friend suggested we meet up as they feel you are an amazing leader who is hungry to get to the next level. {relevant personal link}

I only work with such people. Let’s talk bravery. {manage expectations}”

Challenging, perhaps, though a little less so than” you killed my father, prepare to die!

Hey, it is Friday and I’ll take any excuse to gratuitously reference one of my all-time favourite movies 🙂

There is a serious point here though, I love the simplicity of the four-step process.

How do you introduce yourself?

Elite Lessons – Consistency over Innovation

ride as much eddie merckx

This photo of and quote from the great Eddy Merckx hangs in a frame behind the spinning instructor’s bike at Revolutions in the Cayman Islands.

As I sit writing on a wet Sunday morning nursing a sore Achilles tendon, I’m missing my regular Sunday morning ride and would love to have got out on the bike, even on a wet day. After all, cyclists say “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing!”.

I’m also reminded of this Merckx quote, and, quite sometime after I left Cayman for London, today I will reflect on the lessons I learned from spinning at Revolutions and from that thought from Merckx and distil this to one thought on the value (in the right circumstances) of consistency over innovation.


Can Business be Beautiful and Profitable?


This image was embedded in the award given to each member of a seminal Leadership Growth Programme. More in this article. Business can be Beautiful.

Today I share an excerpt from a post from Alan Moore of beautiful.business, featured recently in “Is yours, could yours be a Beautiful Business?“. In Alan’s post I share today he asks a question and gives wonderful examples to show that businesses can indeed be both beautiful and profitable. (more…)

Be the CEO of your own Time and Energy

high performance

CEOs are responsible for the performance (and, one would hope they recognise) and the wellbeing of all the people in their team. Often, though, they do a poor job of supporting one key member of that team. Themselves.

So, as you are the CEO of your own time and energy, how often do you consider how well you support yourself and your own performance?

Today let me share with you some ideas and a story about the power of managing time and energy. I hope it has value for you for your own performance and personal happiness and fulfilment, it certainly did for the client in the story. (more…)

What if you could never fire anyone?

you are fired

Now, what if you could never fire anybody in your organisation, every, under any circumstances?

What would you do differently?

This is more than a thought experiment, I am seriously asking you to consider this question.

More and more organisations are fully or at least mostly adopting a “no fire” policy. They each have sound reasoning for this and have underpinned this with well thought out philosophies, strategies and implementation.

From my own experience, a few years ago I was asked to take on the role of CEO of an international business coaching organisation that, from day one, had never fired anyone. I learned much from that time.

Let us explore this idea, then, and I will highlight and elaborate on three key points that are key for leaders considering this question.

Culture is Paramount

Hire Slowly

(Self-)Responsibility and Response-ability


Leadership, Maria Callas, Meraki

maria callas

Meraki is the modern greek term that translates to:

“to do something with soul, creativity, or love;

when you leave a piece of yourself in the work.”

Maria Callas, also Greek, is my favourite opera singer of all time, and one would call her a Meraklis.

A Meraklis is someone who loves life, lives it to the hilt, does everything with zeal, someone who lives for the moment, the now. Every single thing they do, every day, is done with Meraki.

To what extent do you see this in yourself? Could you bring more of yourself to life in this way, or perhaps do you feel sometimes you do this too much?

You see, Maria Callas brought Merkai to her opera singing, and she also lived this in her absolute passion for the love of her life, Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon. When he abandoned her and married Jackie Kennedy, it is said that she never recovered, her singing career rapidly faded and she died suddenly and mysteriously at only 55 years of age. Of a broken heart, perhaps?

What then, can we learn from the concept of Meraki and the example of Maria Callas for ourselves and for leadership ? (more…)

Learning from The Beatles – “Mixing” your Leadership

In supporting leaders over many years, I love to distil to simplicity, to allow them to focus on their priorities, their message, their context. As Da Vinci said:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

At the same time, sometimes we need to consider more than ultimate simplicity, we need to consider several dimensions to give depth to our context. By dimensions, I like to envisage sliders on a studio production mixing desk.

Imagine moving them up and down based on what is appropriate for your leadership and what your organisation need. This gives you the choice of moving beyond “either/or”, “yes/no” binary choices, to give some richness and depth to focal areas.

In doing this, to use only one or two “sliders” may be too much, but to have more than (I find) three or four leads to confusion both for the leader and the organisation.

A few examples of dimensions/sliders then I’ll use the story of the Beatles and how they added more and more dimensions to their recordings as technology changed. I leave it to you to decide for yourself whether you preferred the simple or the complex in their music.

Oh, and the last video contains one of my favourite musical moments of all time..