Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sacrifice for communal good!

Quite amazing solutions to a downturn in demand in the car industry.

IN OCTOBER 2008, some 2,500 members of staff at JCB’s factories in England and Wales made a ground-breaking decision. With the recession beginning to bite and demand for the iconic yellow diggers slumping, workers agreed to move to a four-day week and take a pay cut to save around 350 jobs. It was a seminal moment in the crisis.

Within six months, Honda and Toyota had followed suit. In January 2009, Honda shut down its vast Swindon production line for four months. Staff were paid and all the hours banked as “overtime in advance” – to be earned once the factory fired up again. Then, for 10 months after they returned in May, they agreed to 3pc less pay, and management agreed to 5pc less. No jobs were lost.

In March that year, Toyota cut wages and working time by about 10pc “to maintain employment”. In every case, the unions were on side.

Britain had never seen anything quite like it. On the one hand, it was a socialist paradigm, with staff making personal sacrifices for the communal good. On the other, it was testimony to the UK’s deregulated and remarkably flexible labour market. What was good for the individual was good for the economy, too, as skills were preserved.

I'm impressed!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Curiosity learning

One of the key drivers of happiness is curiosity learning. That is learning that doesn't necessarily go towards what you do as a job. Something that just tickles your fancy and that you give enough time to learn something. It's a fun thing but it is also valuable to you.

I never learned to cook and yes growing up in Africa I did a lot of BBQ cooking and then learned how to use the wok when we came to live in the UK which lacked the guaranteed sunshine of Africa. My curiosity was that I wanted to learn how to cook ordinary tasty food but really didn't want to go to cooking lessons. So this year I set myself the task of learning to cook 50 new dishes and tonight I will get to 46.

Its been fabulous fun, I'm slow, I follow recipes to the letter, I just cook for my wife and I and I'm a one dish guy BUT I'm getting a whole lot better.

I would like to share two discoveries from this week that anyone could do.

  1. Caramel - my challenge this week was to make caramel swirl ice cream. After a lot of research I found and even for an amateur like me it worked. What an awesome experience to see the raw ingredients turn into something very tasty. Having made it I cooled it down, then refrigerated it and finally having made Ben and Jerry French vanilla ice cream I swirled it in and yes it is very yummy.
  2. Whole meal bread - everyone should make a loaf of bread and I can't start to describe how satisfying it is to hand make a loaf of bread. We yearned for a loaf of bread we used to enjoy in our Cape Town days - a Cape Seed Loaf. I found and its easy to make and it's delicious.

So if you can find the time during the holidays give them a go, especially to make a loaf of bread. Do something completely different and feel a lot happier in the process.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Getting a good nights sleep

We are in the middle of a heatwave and after 26 years of living in England my ability to thrive in tropical weather has all but gone and I do find it tough going. Somehow heading off to South Africa or the Caribbean to enjoy these temperatures is superb but experiencing them at home doesn't seem to work out.

This brings me to my subject of getting a good nights sleep to recharge your energy banks. Right now I am feeling the lack of a good nights restful sleep and the consequences of low energy and its not a good feeling. I don't sleep long but I am a good sleeper and learned many years ago how to shut down my mind.

So ignoring the very short term effect of the hot weather if you are a poor sleeper what can you do to improve on your sleep patterns.

  1. Learn to shut down your work day so that you don't carry all the unfinished tasks and problems in your mind
  2. Get some relaxation in before bed time have a hot tub or warm bath to just relax your whole body
  3. Exercise during the day but not within an hour of going to sleep
  4. Avoid falling asleep in front of the TV
  5. If you are tired during the day have a power nap of no more than 15 minutes
  6. Keep cool
  7. Limit your caffeine intake
  8. Have a light evening meal
  9. Limit the distractions in your bedroom and make the main focus on sleep
  10. Understand your sleep patterns and here you could try out a gadget



Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The key to EI Leadership is???

I'm into the second day of running the workshop on 'Leading & Coaching with EI' and it's very clear that it's those pesky listening skills that really make the difference.




Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Defining the Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Following on from my previous post .....

A personal strength or annoying trait, but I have always got to create the 'big picture' before I can do anything, so I had to create a model for the EI Leader.

So let me share my model of the leaders that (i think) will succeed in today's crazy world.




Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Power of Emotional Intelligence

I have been aware of EI since buying Daniel Golemans book on new leaders back in 2002. I remember thinking this is the way to go, and subtly building EI into leadership and team events.

Well next week we are running a 2 day workshop called 'Leading & Coaching with Emotional Intelligence' so I have had to get a lot more in depth knowledge.

Let me share my initial findings.


Friday, 19 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher R.I.P.

It's quite fascinating to witness how divided the UK is on the contribution Margaret Thatcher made to GB. I was living in South Africa during her rise to power, and to me she was undoubtedly the saviour of the UK. Around this time the UK was a basket case to do business with. We were importing frozen peas into SA and we were never sure if and when we would get them. Unions and strikes were the order of the day and this uncertainty eventually drove us away from our natural trading partner to find alternative sources which included France and Germany. Also we had a constant and increasing stream of Brits emigrating to escape the high taxes and frustrations of working in GB, so we learnt that hard work certainly didn't get any recognition!

Then along came Thatcher and step by step, change by change GB came alive again. So I would say that for those who grew up outside of the UK, she really did put the GREAT back into GREAT BRITAIN.

To sum up I have quoted extracts from a lecture in 1999.

What We Can Learn from Margaret Thatcher


Sir Rhodes Boyson

Margaret Thatcher has her place in world as well as British history. Her very name is used to denote a way of thinking: Thatcherism. She herself was not an original thinker, and on her resignation the editor of the Daily Telegraph described Thatcherism as a powerful collection of beliefs about the capacities of human beings in a political society. The ideas were not new but were put into operation by a very remarkable woman. It was the happy coincidence of the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

When she became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Britain was on the brink of disaster, threatened by total collapse. The weak Labour government with a small majority presided over a bankrupt economy in hock to the IMF and threatened from within by a challenge to law and order itself. When she was forced from power in 1990, she left a sound economy and a confident and well-ordered society. The lessons are writ large.

The achievement was remarkable, starting with the fact of being the only woman Prime Minister in British history -- something America has yet to emulate. She enjoyed 11 and a half years in office, longer than any other 20th century politician (in fact, the longest since Lord Liverpool in the 19th century). She won three successive general elections, two of them being landslide majorities, and lost none. The secret of her success lies in a combination of qualities, which both saw her into leadership and were the essence of her period in power:

  • Courage to see an opportunity and take it.
  • Decisiveness in times of crisis.
  • Clear beliefs held with an evangelical zeal. During the 1979 election, she ridiculed the Socialist Prime Minister Callaghan saying, "The Old Testament prophets did not say `Brothers, I want a consensus.' They said, `This is my faith; this is what I passionately believe; if you believe it too, then come with me.'" Her crusading qualities were embedded in her Methodist background, which gave a moral purpose to all she did.
  • Physical strength. She needed little sleep and would certainly have been killed by the IRA bomb in Brighton if she had not been working on her conference speech at 2:00 a.m.
  • Intellectual capacity. She entered Oxford at 17 reading chemistry.

She was a slight, pretty, feminine woman in a man's world. She turned what could have been a disadvantage into a useful weapon, and she had luck.

The "British Disease"

In the 1970s, Britain's economy was in a sorry state: Many people were regularly referring to the "British disease." This was not an exaggeration: "during the nineteenth century and the first three fifths of the twentieth century the United Kingdom remained ahead [in terms of output per head] of nearly all the main European countries."13 "Since 1960, however, an absolute gap emerged...[and] by 1973 most European Economic Community countries were 30 to 40 per cent ahead of Britain."14

Productivity was much lower than in continental Europe: According to studies by international corporations, at the end of the 1970s net output per head was over 50 percent higher in German and French plants than in corresponding plants in the United Kingdom.15 To top this all, Britain experienced rampant inflation -- from 1972 to 1977, while the OECD price level rose by 60 percent, the British level rose by 120 percent -- and high unemployment -- by 1977, the British unemployment rate was 7 percent, or 2.5 percent above the OECD average.

This appalling record seemed paradoxical to the late Mancur Olson: "Britain has had more giants of economic thought than any other country," and "[m]ost of the great early economists, and certainly men like David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, were classical liberals." Their work had a definite impact on British public opinion: "classical liberalism was more popular in 19th-century Britain most countries of continental Europe." And yet, "Britain has suffered from the `British disease' of slow growth." He concluded: "[W]e need something besides the level of economic understanding to explain economic performance."16

It seems to me that Olson makes a mistake in lumping together the British economic thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries with those of the 20th. First of all, while it is hard to dispute British supremacy in economic thought in the 18th and 19th centuries, I very much doubt that the same can be said of British economists in the 20th century. There have been notable exceptions, no doubt, but it seems to me that, compared to the previous centuries, the 20th century has been one of mediocrity as far as British economic thinkers are concerned.

Nor am I impressed by John Maynard Keynes -- whom Olson quotes as evidence that British supremacy in economic theory continued in the 20th century -- because his influence, in my view, has been disastrous. Britain and the world would have definitely been better off had Keynes devoted his tremendous intellectual powers to some other subject.

Finally, the majority of the Economics profession in Britain after Keynes' death in 1946 has been notable for its mediocrity and its contempt for the free market: Let's not forget the manifesto of 364 British economists against Mrs. Thatcher's policies. Contrary to what Olson thought, the "British disease" was another example of the power of ideas, of wrong ideas: The anti-capitalistic consensus among British economists has undoubtedly contributed to Britain's decline.17 In particular, let us see why Britain's stagflation in the 1970s and her relative economic decline did not take place despite the influence of John Maynard Keynes, but because of it.

Ideas and Interests: The Case of Britain

To put it bluntly, by the 1970s Britain was a basket case. Many economists agree that the excessive power of labor unions was responsible for the sorry state of Britain's economy.24 For example, according to Samuel Brittan:

[M]any of the particular perversities of British economic policy stem from the belief that inflation must be fought by regulation of specific pay settlements. To create a climate in which the unions will tolerate such intervention has been the object of much government activity. This has involved price controls, high marginal tax rates, and a special sensitivity to union leaders' views on many aspects of policy. The post-1972 period of especially perverse intervention began, not with a change of government, but with the conversion of the Heath Conservative government to pay and price controls.25

Brittan is referring to the disastrous economic policies uniformly pursued by Conservative and Labour governments in Britain during the 1970s.26 In particular, the Conservative government to which Brittan is referring started with admirable intentions. In the Conservative manifesto for the 1970 election, one reads:

[W]e reject the detailed intervention of socialism, which usurps the function of management, and seeks to dictate prices and earnings in industry.... Our aim is to identify and remove obstacles that prevent effective competition and restrict initiative.27

These admirable intentions were not followed by equally commendable policies. In fact,

[T]he Conservative government of 1970-74 was the most corporatist of the post-war years. Its economic policies ended in disaster and the Conservative party lost two elections in succession. Not surprisingly, Mr. Heath lost the leadership of the party....28

According to Brittan, the excessive power of organized labor also influenced the tax code, with devastating consequences:

For most of the postwar period the real trouble has been...not average tax rates but the very high marginal rates of tax, both at the top and at the bottom of the income scale. The top marginal rates are not only higher than in other industrial countries, but reached at a much lower level of income. These are entirely political taxes. The revenue collected at the top is trivial in statistical terms; and the real effect is certainly to lower revenue.... As the diversion of scarce energy and talent into trying to convert income into capital, or into benefits in kind not taxable at these rates.29

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hire for attitude, train for skill

We are on our last day at Sandals Halcyon in St Lucia and have had a super holiday. This is our second visit and during our 10 days here we have met so many people who just keep returning to this resort. when asked the biggest reason why quoted is 'the staff are great!'.

Yesterday I asked one veteran returned what the secret was and he told me they hire for attitude and train for skill. He told me that the genuine emotional bond they build up with the guests could never be faked, or would soon fall apart if it wasn't sincere.

Great stuff Sandals Halcyon you are an example to us all.



Thursday, 14 March 2013

Leadership Romney vs Clinton

Interesting article in today's Times which highlights the different leadership styles of Mitt Romney and Bill Clinton.

Man behind 47 per cent video ‘was inspired by Clinton’

The barman who filmed Mitt Romney rubbishing half the US electorate and who's video was a turning point for Mr Romney’s campaign, as millions of Americans saw the republican candidate deriding nearly half the US electorate as “victims” who did not take “personal responsibility and care for their lives”. 
"According to The Huffington Post, which has interviewed the man, who tweets as AnneOnymous, he works for a company that caters to upmarket parties. At a previous fundraiser where he had also been bartender, he had been impressed by the former president who addressed that gathering.
After his speech, Mr Clinton went into the kitchen and personally thanked the staff, waiters and bartenders, signing autographs and having pictures taken with them.
When the bartender was asked to serve at the Romney fundraiser, he saw his chance to get a photograph with the Republican presidential candidate and took along his Canon camera.
Mr Romney told the assembled guests that the event was off the record but the message did not filter down to the staff and the bartender set his camera on the bar and hit the record button.
In the event, he never got his picture taken with Mr Romney who left without speaking to any of the staff.
But by then the speech was on film and after listening to the inflammatory words, the film-maker said he felt he had no choice but to distribute it.
“I felt it was a civic duty. I couldn’t sleep after I watched it,” he toldHuffPost. “I felt like I had a duty to expose it.”
The lesson for any leader is that if you want to engage with people surprise surprise you do need to treat them like human beings!!! 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Doing thinking

I read a primary school newsletter this morning and was really taken with the reference to learning.

To quote

Design Technology is not a subject Mr Gove rates highly. It didn’t figure in his EBAC plans and I doubt it will be the lynch pin of the new Primary curriculum still in the design stage. However I for one have always believed that children learn best by doing. Let’s face it most of us are kinaesthetic learners. We are designed to do. The old Chinese proverb comes to mind; I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. There has been a lot of doing this week and I am sure a lot of understanding. It is DT Week and the children have been designing, making and evaluating a range of artefacts. I have seen some super sock puppets, marvellous moon buggies and lots of lovely levers and perfect pop ups. What is more I have seen fully engaged and motivated children, inventing, creating, solving problems and above all doing thinking! That’s what one Year 3 child said when I asked what DT stood for! DT is literally Doing Thinking.

There is a strong link between hand and brain. I am told we have more memory in our muscles. (It’s how we learn to drive.) The act of doing not only makes learning more memorable but also strengthens the connections in the brain. It is the problem solving aspect that is the key as brains and fingers combine in trial and error; model makingmodelling cognitive development and the way our brains have evolved. Problem solving reinforces the learningin a way that a paper exercise does not. But of course the beauty of this brain friendly approach is that itenhances the paper work as well. Doing Thinking Week has been full of English and Maths too. Making a sockpuppet makes you want to write about it. Planning a moon buggy provokes careful calculations. DoingThinking in a practical and meaningful context is what Education is all about. DT rules OK. TB

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Microsoft Office 2013 subscription?

I am amazed at Microsoft because their latest offer on Office 2013 seems too good to be true! 

What's the catch? For a small home based business the Office 365 Home Premium looks like a dream solution.

I will investigate and make a decision next week.

What the heck is happiness at work?

Really interesting little video with some key messages on taking responsibility for being happy at work, and why it's important to the bottom line.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

How much of your energy do you squander on internal politics?

Thanks Trimmy for great HBR article and there is a lot that I take from that article.

Last week I was brought in at short notice to be the 'team builder' for a kick off meeting on a major IT project. There were limitations on how much I could do with them as there was a lot of information sharing that had to be done, but when I left them they seemed to be in a good place.

My final messages to them was that they need to be positive and think how they can make it work, not why it can't. To work as one team caring enough about one another to challenge what they don't believe will work, and to do this in the spirit of openness and trust.

To end with a quote from Tony Schwartz ....

I'm convinced that it's the strength of our community at The Energy Project which has allowed us to become a truly high-performing team. The safety and trust we feel with one another has freed us to focus our efforts on our mission. We have a small full-time staff — 14 of us, along with another dozen working part-time — but we've been able to work at senior levels in some of the world's largest companies. One reason is that we squander almost no energy on internal politics. We're in this together, including when one or another of us is struggling and needs help.

I've always thought of our core team as a living laboratory for the practices we teach our clients — whether it's the power of renewal, or focusing on one thing at a time, or learning to deal more skillfully with conflict. What I now realize is that I've been overlooking one of the most powerful elements of our work.

Each of us is far less likely to succeed by forever pushing to stand out from the pack than by building communities of care and trust committed to raising the bar for everyone.

Transformation takes a village. None of us can truly do it alone.



Monday, 21 January 2013

Visual Leaders book

Amazon delivered my copy of David Sibbet's latest book 'Visual Leaders' and it looks great, all in full colour. I really look forward to reading it over the coming days.



My Belly-Basement

I'm reading 'Gone Girl' on my iPad on a train journey from Geneva Airport to Vevey and have just read a few great lines that sum up the issues so many people suffer from.

The words are:-

"I wanted them to go out and search for my fucking wife. I didn't say this out loud, though: I often don't say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and I compartmentalise to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are 100s of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you'd never guess from looking at me."

The guy obviously needs a coach!


Sunday, 20 January 2013

My Fitness Pal

I was introduced to My Fitness Pal by my son and his wife. If you want to take control of your weight and fitness in a gentle non invasive way, then this is the app for you.

I started to use it at the beginning if the year, and apart from losing the excess of three weeks holiday in South Africa before Christmas plus Christmas it has given me a real insight into the importance of exercise and eating sensibly.

S U P E R B !

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Another good article in today's Times is on Stuart Lancaster the England Rugby Union Head Coach. The article starts :-

"This is an interview about coaching. It is about leadership and smart practice and how on earth someone with no international experience, who hardly anyone had heard of, managed to rescue an England rugby team at their lowest point in decades."

Well worth a read about a down to earth modest 43 year old coach is making a real difference.

The bit that really came home to me was:-

"This brings us to the essentials of what Lancaster is good at: getting people to do stuff.

He is too modest to sing his own praises, but he does mention his changing-room speech before the third international against South Africa last summer, when England were fatigued, 2-0 down in the series and all portents were bad. “I said to them: ‘There is no way we are coming off this pitch having lost, you’ve all worked too hard.’ I felt they deserved it.” They drew 14-14.

“Emotional intelligence is the key requirement to get the best out of people,” he says. “I was never academically straight As, but being self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, I am pretty good at that. I can sense how people are feeling and see through their eyes, have empathy for their position, all those softer skills.”

Here is an interesting video where Daniel Goleman explain Emotional Intelligence.


How to improve your memory

There is a great article in the Times today entitled 'How to improve you memory in 5 minutes' which is well worth a read.

As a trainer I take away a few key messages that reinforce my approach to adult learning.

There are three tricks of memorisation:

  • The brain remembers visuals better than anything else
  • It remembers the bizarre better than the ordinary
  • It remembers stories better than lists.

So lets get rid of those boring wordy PowerPoint slides and replace them with great visuals. Let the words come from you, and let them take the form of stories that capture the imagination of the learner.



Sunday, 13 January 2013


Carrying on with the theme of focussing on people's strengths I was introduced to this video this week.

I found it quite an emotional watch!


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Picture your Future

Happy New Year and may 2013 be a special year for you.

What do you have planned? Perhaps you haven't got around to it, or when you do make New Years resolutions they don't seem to work out. In that case I would like to share a very simple idea I learnt from someone many years ago.

I was on an advanced coaching course and met Martin and he shared his family 'objective setting' technique with me. Every year Martin and his wife sit down with their kids and say what do we want to do / achieve in the coming year. This generated a mixture of places they wanted to visit, things they wanted to do, school and work things they wanted to achieve. Now the really clever bit that prevented it becoming the usual old boring list, was they turned their ambition into a picture. They harvested pictures from old magazines and created a montage which they framed and hung in their kitchen.

I said to Martin that I thought it was a great idea, but how successful was it in terms of achievement. His answer was that it was amazing as every year they achieved almost 100% of their goals. This really impressed me and years later when I was developing a team programme I got in touch with Martin to get his permission to use his goal setting tool. He told me they still used it, it still worked for them and the only difference was that as his kids got older they had become increasingly ambitious in their ambitions particularly for holidays.

I called the tool 'Picture my Future' and introduced it as a very powerful coaching tool as I realised that the more people visualise what they are setting out to achieve, the more the goal resides in their subconscious mind. Somehow they then strive subconsciously to achieve their goals, and true enough the results flow. I have used this tool every year for the last six years and I know it works very well. Just before Christmas I received an email from someone who I had introduced the tool to years ago. She too had continued to use it and confirmed that it had 'made her dreams come true'.

Why don't you try it and picture how you want your 2013 to look like.