In my experience, operational leaders and visionary leaders are two different types of people. You want both types on a senior leadership team. Too many of the first and the team gets bogged down in the detail. Too many of the second and the team ends up in LALA land.
The thing that can balance up either one is a shared purpose (or strategy). I particularly like using Amazon’s Narrative approach as a way to find this for common ground. More at:
As we pass Midsummer’s Day 2021, it is a good time to reflect on what we have achieved so far this year, be honest about we are now, and set some stretching goals and objectives for what we are aiming to achieve for the rest of the year.
For many, the past eighteen months have been very different from anything that has happened to us in the past. Some of us have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs. Yet others have been forced to take really tough business decisions that we never expected we would have to make.
In contrast, for some lucky folks, these times of change have presented new opportunities to change direction and grow. I have often found in life that the greatest opportunities present themselves in the times when things seem darkest. Just as the dawn precedes the coldest part of the night.
Through all these ups and downs in life, the one thing that I have found most useful throughout any period of change is to take one week out every 3 months to reflect and re-orientate myself. To give me (and those close to me) an opportunity to a complete a frank and honest self-assessment of what’s I’ve done that has worked, what I want to celebrate, what I want to change so that I can focus my precious time, energy and effort over the next 12 weeks into the things that I love.
It sounds a bit “corporate” , I suppose, but IT REALLY WORKS!
I have three broad areas that I create new agreements on where I want to focus. I take one sheet of A4 paper for each. The three areas of objectives and agreements that I have are:
The well-being of myself and my close family
The wider community
For each of the three areas, I pick one (or a maximum of three) objectives that I want to focus on in the next three months. The trick then is to write them down! It is well known that one of the major factors that separate successful people from less successful people is that the former write down their goals and objectives and are crystal clear on what they want to achieve. I would suggest that success is impossible without a clear set of written objectives which are time-bound and specific and meaningful to you as the ultimate designer.
Further, given that we live in such an interconnected world, most of these objectives will require the energy, input and skills of others to achieve them. So another key factor is creating agreements with yourself and others as to how you will achieve those objectives.
This all sounds simple, but many people find loads of excuses not to do this type of exercise on a regular basis. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Personally, I’ve tried loads of apps and pieces of software – but at the end of the day, I always seem to come back to pencil and paper – which I then type up into a final draft which I print out and refer to daily.
Like any discipline, it requires practice, practice, practice. However, if you take these ideas and adapt them for your own needs, I’m sure they will give you a more successful three months ahead, where you find more meaning and purpose for yourself and those around you – whatever challenges present themselves.
In future articles, I will outline how I define these objectives and agreements in more detail and how I’ve created a personal support network of “circles” which help me achieve my objectives. I would love to extend an invitation to you to join one of these circles. Please message me if you are interested or leave a comment below if you have other tips and tricks you would like to share on how you set and achieve your objectives.
It is August and the holidays are here! For many, July and August are the months for rest and recuperation and spending time with family on holiday. For those that live in the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere, it is a time for getting some sun on our skins before the longer winter months kick in again.
For many, it is also a time of reflection. For although the calendar year starts in January, September is the start of the academic year and August is the gap before the start of the new year. I have found that many businesses are tuned to the academic calendar – either directly (like a University or School) or indirectly (because many of their employees have children who set a cycle in the family geared around their academic needs).
So it got me thinking. Most of my great ideas have come from a time when I am not thinking about day-to-day stuff. Those magic, “Eureka!” moments when a problem you have been working on suddenly becomes solvable.
By not being hampered by the grind of meetings, actions and to-do lists, we can solve old problems and creating new ideas. Finding a gap in the year’s day-to-day grind to think big, think outside the box or just not think at all and let nature take its course often relaxes you in ways you can’t achieve at other times of the year.
There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as long as we speak. And so it is with the summer break. There is a gap in proceedings where we can listen. Not just listen to those who we work with. But listen to ourselves. Our inner mind. Our inner bodies. Our inner spirit. We can refresh each other with the rest and easy living that we often over-ride in the rest of the year.
So, back the Art of Business Conversation. For my own part, I have been working on a new way to look at businesses through the conversations we have. The Art of Business Conversation, if you like. As simple as ABC. Except it isn’t, is it? It is quite complicated.
There are several different types of business conversation (which I aim to explore more in future posts). The most intense are often wrapped up in emotional outbursts or things unsaid.
The key is to find space within the conversation to reflect. On an annual cycle, this time of the year gives us time to reflect on the longer-term relationships we all have with the businesses and people we work with. Either as employees; business owners; customers; suppliers; that funny, over-used word “partners”; or simply the friends and relations that weave in and out of those conversations.
And that is where the idea of Zen comes in. Zen is the space between. Zen is the effortless flow. Zen is the silent, observant onlooker onto our busy world of nothingness. Zen is the state to get into before returning to the ABC of business, academia and all those things where we sequence stuff and continue our practice of the art of business conversation.
So, enjoy the break. Listen to the silence. Observe the subtle messages coming from the conversation with yourself. Say nothing and say everything. Come back refreshed and energised to take on the new challenges that you discover in the hidden moments of this August recess.
I’ve always been fascinated by colour and believed that men and women see colours differently. So I was both interested – and not surprised to see what researchers have found on the subject. It proves that men and women not only prefer different colours, they also see more hues of colour than men. Men, on the other hand, prefer shades. Perhaps it goes back to our ancestors, where women were more attuned to gathering different types of fruit and men were looking for subtle shadows of beasts behind a bush. Who knows? Makes you think, though!
By the way, my favourite colour is blue! But I was surprised that no men liked purple! It was my favourite colour once as a teenager. Before I turned to red – and eventually to blue. I wonder if others have changed their preferences through their lives?
Oh, and just for fun, why not put down your favourite colour in the comments box below – and we’ll see if the research is borne out by those who read the blog.
Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague. We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us. Conversation flowed. Ideas bubbled to the surface. Creative spirit abounded.
During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition. I had forgotten this – but it is something I have recently become very interested in. In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart. I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.
And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:
I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals. It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.
Today, the Parish of Goudhurst and Kilndown in rural Kent (which is where we live) came one step closer to achieving what most others in the UK have access to…..
It wasn’t fresh water. That has been flowing freely from boreholes and the local reservoir at Bewl Water for quite a while.
It wasn’t gas. Goudhurst used to have gas – but the Gas Works blew up in the 1948 – a few weeks before all gas works were nationalized. Coincidence or dodgy insurance claims, no one quite knows.
It wasn’t electricity. That has been delivered to all of the Parish since about 2006 when the folk in Bedgebury Forest came onto the Grid.
It wasn’t being connected to the mains sewage. Our house still has a septic tank at the bottom of the garden.
What it was that we came one step closer to getting half of the Parish – perhaps more – onto Superfast Broadband.
The next stage of the scheme is due to go live next week – in time for the end of June go-live for four of the cabinets in the village to be fibred-up to Superfast Broadband. And the spectacle today was watching the fibre being blown down the plastic ducts that have been laid under all the key roads in the village.
The event went off without an audience – large or small. Simply two engineers diligently waiting whilst the meter showed how far the end of the fibre had been blown. The fibre wrapped over the right arm to give it control as it entered the plastic duct pipe.
Looking forward to the fibre being lit next week. Come on, light my fibre – or something like that!
As we come to the end of the summer break, for most of us, school, university or work starts afresh. I say, for most because, like with all generalisations, there are always those who break the rule. An increasing number of friends seem to be moving into “retirement” or “semi-retirement” – breaking the pattern of a life-time by taking more time off. Two of my children are starting University – a break from the long years of study at school to the less structured, more fun time at Uni.
And the little word “break” got me thinking. It seems to have so many meanings. It runs to many definitions in the dictionary – both as a verb and as a noun. It can be:
destructive (as in – “break a glass”)
illegal (as in “breaking the speed limit”)
liberating (as in “break out of old patterns”)
exciting (as in “breaking news”)
disappointing (as in “break my heart”)
the point of profit (as in “break-even”)
time to eat (as in “breakfast”)
very confusing for someone not fluent in English (as in “break a leg”)
For such a little word, it has so many different subtle meanings and so many different ways to combine itself with other words to mean so many different things!
Yet, with all of this, I always see the start of September as the opportunity to break from the past and focus on the future. For some reason, even more so than with Christmas or Easter. Perhaps we are all subconsciously programmed by the school year – whether as students, former students or parents. Yet there are those who will always break the mould and find other beginnings and endings in their year and not agree with me.
Last month, one quiet Sunday evening, I was driving into Tunbridge Wells. My normal route had roadworks, so I had to carry a bit further on – and passed one of those small yellow boxes in a 30mph speed limit zone. I was doing 38 mph. I got flashed by the camera and a week later, got a notice from the Police to say I had been done for speeding.
I was given two options by the Kent Police. Pay a fine of £60 and get three points on my licence. Or pay £85 and go on a speed awareness course. I had heard positive things about the latter – and so decided to go for the course as it would keep my licence clean.
And so it was, last Friday afternoon, I sat for four and a half hours in a small hotel conference room listening to two lecturers about the highway code, reaction times and the laws of physics.
Having filled-out a brief questionnaire at the start on what I thought the meaning of various road-signs were, it became apparent that I probably thought I knew a lot more than I actually did! I worked out that I hadn’t actually been tested on the highway code since taking my driving test in 1978! A sobering thought.
The turning point came for me when I was told that 38mph is the speed at which, if you are a pedestrian and you are hit by an oncoming car, you will almost certainly die. Until then, I though it was a bit daft being done for speeding for so little over the speed limit. After that point, it made me sober-up. Added to that, it became clear that the speed limit is just that – a speed limit – not a “got away with it again” sign. Just because half the population or more see it is the latter, the course was designed to get you into thinking sensibly.
We saw several very effective videos and learnt about reaction times and stopping distances. Reaction times are when, as a driver, you are in control and have choices. Stopping distance is the bit where you have decided to stop your pile of metal careering into something – and, here, the laws of physics and the speed you are traveling is the main defining factor as to whether or not you will succeed in stopping in your desired distance.
The stopping distances are in the highway code (a copy of which we were given for our £85) – see diagram below:
These are distances a car travels, over the time it takes for you to bring the vehicle to a full stop. These distances are for a well maintained car, with good brakes and tyres, an alert driver, and a dry road, in daylight. We were told that if you are going at 70 mph down a motorway in good conditions the combined thinking distance plus stopping distance is about 96 metres or 24 car lengths.
What was not on the diagram was the fact that if you are going 80 mph down a motorway in similar conditions, you will still be going 38mph after 24 car lengths. Spooky how that 38mph keeps coming up! Oh, and if you are going 100mph down the motorway (who hasn’t, at some stage, gone for a “burn”even if just to see what it feels like?) – then you will still be going at 70mph after 24 car lengths!
So, at the end of this speed awareness course, I came away quite humbled. On my way home from the course, I felt like a learner driver again. A lot more aware of traffic signs – and – oh, yes – those lamp-posts which mean that you are in a 30mph zone – even if there are no signs. I never knew that – or if I did learn it once, I had forgotten the fact.
So, if you get the chance to pay a fine and get 3 points on your licence – or go for a slightly more expensive Speed Awareness Course, then I’d definitely go for the latter. You will learn a lot – and hopefully become a safer driver. Most importantly, I really did learn that you’re never too old to learn!
This week three events happened that highlighted to me that the way that the world owns, controls and governs the 7bn people on the planet is under extreme pressure. Yet signs that the new world is responding in sensible and more conscious ways are encouraging.
As the old-world sovereign-states governments try to balance their own budgets and wrestle with their own, unique, local problems, multinational companies increasingly put two fingers up to them to avoid paying corporation tax. Apple is a good example which, this week, apparently saved over $9bn in tax with a “bond manouever”. If you were Tim Cook, you’d probably have done the same. Yet the countries that need the tax revenue to help get themselves out of the debt that they have are being out-manouevered by the multinational tax avoidance network that serve the corporate giants that belong to no country and are accountable to, well, their shareholders, of course. Big companies seem to get it all their own way.
In the middle east, even after all the investigations over the justification of the Gulf War and whether or not Saddam Hussein did or did not have weapons of mass destruction, we are fed confusing news that civilians are being sprayed with nerve gas in Syria – and that West military intervention is, once again, becoming more intellectually justifiable. Soil samples have degraded and there is not enough evidence for going to war. So we have to wait.
Yet there are interesting counter-pressures. As a beekeeper, I have been keenly following developments on the EU which, this week, voted for a two-year restrictions on the nerve-agent pesticides (called neonicotinoids) blamed for the dramatic decline global bee populations. The EU decided on a narrow majority of 15/27 votes. The UK was one of eight countries that voted against the ban in spite of a petition signed by 300,000 people presented to Downing Street last week by fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett. The Independent has also campaigned to save Britain’s bee population. The British government’s choice to vote against the ban was based on the fact that “there was not enough evidence” that bees were being affected – and that the samples in various tests had been contaminated. The uncanny similarity between degraded soil samples from Syria and contaminated samples that voided tests for the bees made me think: how convenient! How convenient it is for a government or a leader to ignore evidence when “tests are inconclusive” or when the “evidence is not clear”. No decision is better than a decision that you could be held accountable for!
However, we beekeepers must thank the internet protest networks – led by Avaaz.org – who managed to get enough support in countries (other than the UK) to swing the vote against the vested interests of Bayer and others who have, until now dominated the decisions taken in our food chain – from the seeds we plant, the agricultural methods we adopt through to the quality of foods we eat.
The bees have a short respite and Avaaz is now pursuing the real Dark Lord in the battle for Mother Earth. Go on. Vote. It can only help a growing wave of public opinion to counter the madness of global corporate arrogance that they are accountable to no one.
I believe that there is hope for us all with this new type of democracy emerging. The vote to ban neonicotinoids was a turning point for me. It would appear that these online campaigns really are starting to get policy makers in multinationals to think again and change their minds. They have a new body that they need to recognise – and a protest can come from nowhere and expose issues is uncontrollable ways. PR companies and even newspapers are becoming less and less effective in this new world of informed internet politics and political activism. Even governments must be encouraged as it gives them a new reason to act, not just sit on the fence because “there is no evidence”. After all, most of them want to get voted back into power.
Interested to know what you think – please do leave a comment below.
The ability to seek and identify structures, patterns and designs below the apparent surface of experience is the secret to success in communication, relationships, accelerated learning, languages, and many other things besides.
Someone asked me the other day why I chose to call myself a designer, rather than a consultant and I told them the story of the Tinsmith. The story originally came from an order of the Sufi’s called the Naqshbandi Order. Naqushbandi quite literally means “designer”.
“Once upon a time in a city far far away in a time long gone, a tinsmith was falsely accused of a crime he had not committed. Being poor and without any powerful friends to influence the judge, he was imprisoned.
He was given a wish before being sent to the cells and he asked that he be allowed to receive a rug which should be woven by his wife. In due course, the rug was made and delivered to the prison. Upon receiving the rug, the tinsmith prostrated himself upon the rug, day after day, to say his prayers.
After some time, he said to his jailers: “I am poor and without hope and you are wretchedly paid. But I am a tinsmith. Bring me some tin and tools to work with and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market – and we will both benefit.”
The guards agreed to this and presently they and the tinsmith were both making a profit from which they bought food and comforts for themselves.
Then, one day, when the guards awoke to find that the cell door was open and the tinsmith was gone. Some spoke of magic or perhaps a miracle because no prison in this kingdom had ever been escaped from.
Many years later, a convicted thief confessed to the crime that the tinsmith had been accused of. As a result, the tinsmith was pardoned and two weeks later the tinsmith and his family reappeared in the city. The governor of the province heard of the tinsmith’s return and summoned him to his palace.
The governor asked the tinsmith what magic he had used to make such an impossible escape.
The tinsmith replied “My wife is a weaver. She designs rugs, mats and carpets. She weaves patterns into the wefts and warps of her fabric.”
“By design, she found the man who had made the locks of the cell door and got it from him, by design.”
“She wove the design into the rug at the spot where my head touched in prayer five times a day. I am a metal-worker and this design looked to me like the inside of a lock. But I lacked the materials to make a key, so I made a business proposition to the guards, by design. I then used the materials that the guards provided me to make many small artifacts, including a key that would unlock the cell door.”
So, by design, I escaped.”
“We are all born with a brain”, said the tinsmith. “When we begin to understand the patterns and structures of our thinking, we can start to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of our limitations.”
Story adapted from the book: Sufis: The People of the Path: The Royal Way by Osho – Chapter 5 – Design within Design