Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Special Day

A wee bit of self indulgence today I am afraid as it is my birthday.

Annie and I are going into Birmingham for a stroll this afternoon and maybe we could be persuaded to sample the odd glass of chilled French White .... ahhhh!!! … The joys of an English summer.

Two months ago Sebastian - my first Grandchild - arrived in this world and today the first birthday card I have received as a Grandad arrived ... magic :-)

Birthdays are great and simply being with someone who makes me feel like the most special person in the world is the best present I could ever receive. Thank you darling Annie. Here's to the next 50 birthdays together.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A simply 'thank you' is really not that hard is it?

Today I sent an e mail to Central Trains Limited naming and complimenting a member of staff in the ticket office at the local railway station for his kindness and efficiency and the way he personifies excellence in customer care.

I cannot describe it, but some people in front line customer care positions have that little’ extra’ and it shines through. This man has that intangible quality.

It made me think that maybe we should do more complimenting staff for delivering excellent customer care.

Customers often complain when things go wrong and that is fine – in fact I encourage people all the time to complain if they do not get the service they expected.

What we probably don’t do enough of is offering praise and compliments when we receive good customer care.

A simple e mail, a phone call, or even better, a short, handwritten note is worth its weight in gold to the recipient when a customer feeds back their gratitude.

I can see the cynics saying – ‘People are just doing their job and we should not thank people for doing something they are being paid to do.’

I don’t agree with the cynics.

So many people - day in and day out - do a great job and never receive thanks - surely it is not too much to ask that we as customers just occasionally take time to express and record our thanks for the way we are looked after.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Humility and Strength – are they compatible?

We heard an interesting lecture at church on Sunday about whether vulnerability and strength are compatible in our lives.

This started me thinking about discussing this in leadership and management.

Annie and I both prefer the term humility to vulnerability.

In my experience the leaders and managers I have respected most in my career have always been able to show humility as well as strength.

I think those who rule with an 'iron fist' through strength and never illustrate humility are missing a trick.

To admit one’s own fragility in my opinion is a great strength. Hiding that fragility behind an impression of hardness is only storing up trouble for a later day in my view.

I would be really interested to hear views abut this.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Where is Africa?

Annie and I heard an interesting interview on TV today with Harvey Goldsmith – the person who is responsible for booking all the Bands for the Live 8 concert next weekend.

Mr Goldsmith made an interesting comment as follows:

“The average American does not even know where Africa is”

I feel this is a generalisation from Mr Goldsmith that cannot possibly be true.

The wonderful links I have built up with my many new Blogging friends in America leads me to believe that many Americans are indeed very aware of current world issues.

According to Mr Goldsmith maybe I am mistaken.

I have often heard it said that Americans are rather insular and this comment from Mr Goldsmith seems to promote that view. I am not convinced!

I would be very interested in comments from my American friends about this.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Something for the weekend :-)

With the weekend approaching and Tim Henman losing yet again at Wimbledon yesterday I thought we best have something a little lighter today.

Having said that, wasn’t it a marvelous performance from 18 year old Andrew Murray to reach the third round?

At last we have a young Brit who looks very promising. Let us just hope the press do not build him up too much too early.

Anyway … back to my lighter subject ....

I came across this recently and despite being a manager all my life I feel there is some truth in this little story.
Please enjoy it and even if you are a manager have a good laugh.

Talk About Real Life

Once upon a time, in a nice little forest, there lived an orphaned bunny and an orphaned snake. By a surprising coincidence, both were blind from birth.

One day, the bunny was hopping through the forest, and the snake was slithering ahead of him, when the bunny tripped over the snake and fell down.

This, of course, knocked the snake about quite a bit. "Oh, my," said the bunny, "I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I've been blind since birth, so, I can't see where I'm going. In fact, since I'm also an orphan, I don't even know what I am."

"It's quite ok," replied the snake. "Actually, my story is the same as yours. I too have been blind since birth, and also never knew my mother. Tell you what, maybe I could slither all over you, and work out what you are so at least you'll have that going for you."

"Oh, that would be wonderful" replied the bunny. So the snake slithered all over the bunny, and said, "Well, you're covered with soft fur, you have really long ears, your nose twitches, and you have a soft cottony tail. I'd say that you must be a bunny rabbit."

"Oh, thank you, thank you," cried the bunny, in obvious excitement.

The bunny suggested to the snake, "Maybe I could feel you all over with my paw, and help you the same way that you've helped me." So the bunny felt the snake all over, and remarked,

"Well, you're smooth and slippery, and you have a forked tongue, no backbone and no balls. I'd say you must be a team leader, a supervisor or possibly someone in senior management."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

I am indebted to my Australian friend Keith Ready for today's wonderful words of wisdom. Keith sent me this story from his terrific web site A Gift of Inspiration

I simply adore this story and I am sure we all know both types of people described here.

Making the best of what you get!

This is a story of identical twin boys. One was a hope-filled optimist. 'Everything is coming up roses!' he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist.

The worried parents of the boys took them to the local psychologist.

He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins' personalities.

'On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure.'

The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.

When they peeked in on their pessimistic son, they heard him audibly complaining, 'I don't like the colour of this computer. . I'll bet this calculator will break . . . I don't like this game . . . I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this . . .'

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their optimistic son gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. 'You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there has to be a pony!'

Author Unknown

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Less REALLY IS more!!

Paddi Lund is an unusual Australian Dentist who:
  • Pulled down all his signs
  • Locked his front door
  • Took his name out of the phone book
  • And “fired” half his customers

Yet now …

Works 22 hours per week; earns 3½ times as much money; and loves going to work!

Quite simply, Paddi’s approach is to love his customers and make them feel special.

Though I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Paddi all the things I have read about Paddi confirm the things I have been saying and writing for the last 20 years about the world of healthcare.

Paddi is visiting the UK in September to talk about his experience and hopefully the culture and approach he has adopted so successfully will be taken on board in every healthcare facility in the UK. I hope to meet him then.

Paddi's approach is rooted simplicity and the things we all know make sense.

I do hope you will visit Paddi’s Website at this link and take on board his ideas.

Forget complicated process and just adopt this pragmatic and person sensitive approach. love your customers, make them feel special and everything else will follow

Monday, June 20, 2005

A mission statement for every hospital?

I would be interested to hear from those of you unfortunate enough to have been a patient in hospital, whether you felt – as a patient – you were treated like this statement from Mahatma Gandhi which was found decades ago in a Bombay Hospital.

After 35 years in management in the UK National Health Service I have never seen anything so simple and yet so profound and meaningful.

Why not send this to your local hospital Chief Executive and ask him or her whether their hospital passes the Gandhi challenge?

By the way ….. political correctness was not around when Gandhi wrote this so forgive the male emphasis :-)

Bombay Hospital Motto

A patient is the most important person in our Hospital. He is not an interruption to our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our Hospital, he is a part of it. We are not doing a favour by serving him, he is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.

Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, June 18, 2005

15 Things to do in the supermarket, if bored.

As we enjoy the hottest day of the year in England the sun has made me realise it is time to 'loosen up a bit' and take the seriousness out of life.

So here is a break from all that serious and profound management and leadership stuff ...some light relief - I hope you enjoy it.

15 Things to do in the supermarket, if bored….

1. Get 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in peoples' trolley when they aren't looking.

2. Set all the alarm clocks in houseware to go off at 5 minute intervals.

3. Make a trail of tomato juice on the floor to the toilet.

4. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in an official tone, "Code 10 at Pharmacy" ... and see what happens.

5. Go to the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M&M's on hold.

6. Move a "CAUTION - WET FLOOR" sign to a carpeted area.

7. Set up a tent in the houseware and tell other shoppers you'll only invite them in if they bring pillows from the bedding department.

8. When an assistant asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask, "Why can't you people just leave me alone?"

9. Look right into the security camera and use it as a mirror while you pick your nose.

10. While handling knives in the kitchen ware department ask the clerk if he knows where the anti-depressants are.

11. Dart around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the theme from Mission Impossible.

12. In the car accessory department practice your Madonna look using different size funnels.

13. Hide in the clothing rack and when people browse through shout, "PICK ME! PICK ME!!!!"

14. When an announcement comes over the loud speaker assume the foetal position and scream, "NO! NO! It's those voices again!"

15. Go into a fitting room and yell real loudly...."Hey! We're out of toilet paper in here!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Team Effort?

"A team is a lot of people doing what I say"- Michael Winner

I will 'nail my colours to the mast.' I am a believer in teams 'self managing.' I want to see all teams given the freedom to do things how they want within some overall guideline. Something my dad would have called 'touchy feely' stuff!

But then …. I was intrigued to see this quote from Film Director Michael Winner. I have to say it does not suit my personal preferred style as a team member or as a team coach or as a team leader.

But then again ..... I think of my beloved Manchester United who clearly perform better on the field under the inspirational leadership of the club captain, Roy Keane, than when Roy is not playing. Roy Keane expects everyone to do as he says - you can see that in his eyes and certainly in the other 10 player’s eyes!

So now I am really confused!!

Maybe like everything else in work and life - there is no one right answer.

I think different circumstances and settings require different team approaches and thereby different leadership styles. The Michael Winner approach would be great if the house is on fire and we have to get out I guess.

On balance I think teams function most effectively when they are allowed to plan their own destiny within broad leadership guidelines.

By the way ... I do think all teams need a captain.

Would be fascinating to have your views on this.

When you are in trouble INCREASE the training budget!!

I have just had a brilliant 'virtual' discussion with my nephew who is a senior manager in a major organisation about their training budget that has been cut.

In my experience this is a typical reaction when companies or organisations are struggling to balance the books.

In 35 years in the National Health Service (NHS) - sad to say - this was a regular tactic to try to achieve balance financially

'Lets' cut the training budget - it is a nice soft option - no one will notice'

My reaction to that - ABSOLUTELY CRAZY.

The time to seek new ideas, new energy is surely at times of crisis or impending crisis just as much as it is when things are going well.

If motivated staff are already concerned about their own future the last thing they want to hear is that training opportunities have been blocked.

It feels to me like a mission statement that reads

"If moral does not improve in this organisation the sackings will continue"

I am a realist.

Financial balance is of course the bottom line so I am not being idealistic here, but if the leaders are really serious about recovery then surely you need a motivated workforce who can and will save you.

To tell people 'We are in trouble' and then say 'By the way, you can help by working harder but we are not prepared to help you develop' seem to be me to be completely opposite positions.

Then we wonder why the company goes to the wall or the organisation continues to be overspent.

Phew - that feels better - thanks James - you made my grey matter work early this Wednesday morning

Monday, June 13, 2005

Love your customers

The wonderful love of my life - and always very observant Annie - noticed this brilliant poster while we were driving around this past weekend;

"A customer ignored is like a Unicorn - it doesn't exist"


Why can't every company have this as a mission statement instead of some rambling sentence dreamed up by a management consultant that no one in the company can even remember, never mind live up to!!!

Phew !!! ..... I feel so much better after that!!!

Happy Monday

Saturday, June 11, 2005

And now for something completely different

No apologies but todays posting has nothing to do with management, leadership or hectic 'rat-race' corporate life.

This posting is just to remind us all about the really important things in life.

I have just finished a wonderful short book.

It is called "I will lie down in peace" written by
Usha Jesudasan.

It is the story of a family coming to terms with the terminal illness of a young father.

Usha Jesudasan is the wife of Dr Kumar Jesudasan who was diagnosed with a terminal illness when he was 40 years of age.

His wife and three children discussed openly with Kumar his illness and his inevitable death.

Throughout the remaining few short years of his life they faced the challenge very much together as a family.

The book captures very powerfully the pain, the anger, the resentment, the love, the support and most of all the faith that they all had as individuals and as a family.

Dr Kumar had dedicated much of his career to the care of those suffering from Leprosy and all the sale proceeds of the book go to the Leprosy Mission – a very worthy cause.

I could not find the book on Amazon which is a great shame in my view.

I am sure the book could be obtained through The Leprosy Mission based in Peterborough, England.

The Publisher is EastWest Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.,

The ISBN Number is; 81-86852-21-2

Friday, June 10, 2005

A consistent minority can change the world

I have always believed a few passionate people can make huge changes - whether it is in the local childrens drama group or Microsoft Corporation and anything between those extremes

In my experience anything that has really had a lasting impact and genuinely changed things can always be traced back to an individual - or maybe a couple of people - who then find a like minded folks to work with.

'Twas ever thus as well.......

I believe Christopher Columbus was called an eccentric, mad person for suggesting the world was round.

I stumbled across this wonderful summary recently and I think it sums things up very neatly

What do you think? .... and what are the implications for leaders in 2005?

Richard Koch (1998) presented an analysis of Pareto Principle as it applies to leadership and management. Koch argues this 80:20 rule is found in almost every part of modern life from stock investment to time management. He suggests that leaders and managers should find the highly leveraged 20% elements in an organization and pour their energy into these highly-productive people and activities that have influence beyond their apparent size. Thus, the 80:20 rule has been expanded far beyond its first economic use. Leaders soon learn that a minority of people produce the majority of results.

While one might quibble about the 80 percent or 20 percent (it is sometimes 60:40 or 90:10), the insight is broadly applied to leadership and management. The "80:20 rule" has become one of the best known leadership shorthand terms reflecting the notion that most of the results (of a life, of a program, of a financial campaign) come from a minority of effort (or people, or input).

Some applications of the 80:20 rule in church leadership are:

  • 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the people.
  • 80% of the problems are usually caused by 20% of the people.
  • 80% of the value of my day is often produced by 20% of the activity.
  • 80% of my mentoring multiplication will likely come from 20% of the mentees.
  • 80% of our new converts will probably come from 20% of the programs.
  • 80% of the giving in a capital campaign often comes from 20% of the gifts.
  • 80% of the quality can be achieved in 20% of the time -- perfection takes 5 times longer.

    Taken from;

    LEADERSHIP THEORY FOR PASTORS by Sharon Drury PhD, Organizational Leadership.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Annie in her Race for Life outfitPosted by Hello

'Race for Life' - Help fight Cancer!

My wonderful partner Annie is running in the 5 Km ‘Race for Life’ - dedicated to raising funds for Cancer Research - on June 15th in Birmingham, England as part of the national 'Race for Life' event.

Sadly, Cancer touches many families and t
his event - for women only - is growing each year as a fund raiser and an important part of the battle against the disease.

If you visit this Web Page you can sponsor Annie in a secure site - but please do not feel obliged to do so.
Some of my 'Blogging' friends from all corners of the the world have already sponsored Annie but there is still time before next week to sponsor her efforts toward this fantastic national cause.

Annie - like me - was a heavy smoker for 30 years until 2004 and since we both quit last year we have supported each other in getting fit and staying fit by joining our local gym and eating a healthy diet.
We both want to live longer is our simple motivation.

Annie could not run up the stairs this time last year without getting breathless so she has done brilliantly to be able to now run 5 Km non stop.
We both want to run a full marathon one day

Once again please do not feel obliged to sponsor Annie but even if you have simply read this you will have done something for the fight against Cancer.

So on behalf of Annie, thank you.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Making the best of what you get!

If you do nothing else today please visit the website of my friend Keith Ready in New South Wales, Australia at the following link;

Keith sent me this wonderful story in his regular e mail bulletin.

This is a story of identical twin boys.

One was a hope-filled optimist. 'Everything is coming up roses!' he would say.

The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist.

The worried parents of the boys took them to the local psychologist. He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins' personalities. 'On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure.'

The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.

When they peeked in on their pessimistic son, they heard him audibly complaining, 'I don't like the colour of this computer. . I'll bet this calculator will break . . . I don't like this game . . . I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this . . .'

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their optimistic son gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. 'You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there has to be a pony!'

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The courtesy of acknowledgement - is it too much to ask?

I have published this George Bernard Shaw quote before on my Blog but no apologies from me for repeating it. As an 'ex' communications professional - it is one of my all time favourite quotes about communication;

'The problem with communication is the ILLUSION that it has been accomplished'

I am probably (sorry …. definitely!) obsessive about effective communication.

I nearly always respond immediately to e mails.

Not everyone has my obsessive traits - thank God, I hear you say - but often I am very disappointed that acknowledgements or replies just never happen.

What happens to that question I posed?

Does it just disappear into a black hole - never to rise again to the surface?

Did the e-mail not arrive? - I send a chaser just to check the person received the original - a reply sometimes arrives – more often a reply still doesn’t come.

Now I realise everyone is busy and not everyone feels need to respond immediately like me. In fact it is often more effective to consider one's response carefully and not jump in with an instant reply. I have occasionally found that out to my cost!

What really does irritate me though is the complete lack of response.

As I get older I should concern myself less with such things - and concentrate instead on really important issues in life - but to me it is just basic good manners for someone to - at the very least - acknowledge you have contacted them.

There can be few busier people in the world than Tom Peters.

I am privileged that Tom has kindly responded personally a few times to me - even if it is only a couple of words or a short sentence - he ‘finds’ time.

The feeling that your voice has been heard is wonderful and surely it is not too much to ask in these days of instant communication to receive at least an acknowledgment.

Obviously not everyone thinks this is important.... am I expecting too much?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Silence is Golden

'In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.'

Mahatma Gandhi

I just love this Gandhi quote.

During 2004 I had a month of almost total 'silence' that enabled me to make some life changing decisions.

I shared my innermost thoughts with myself and spent much of the month alone.

Some will think that was self-indulgence in the extreme - and I accept their point of view - but, with the support of Annie, it helped me find a path forward.

During that month I wouldn't say things became crystal clear but it did provide me with a direction to follow.

Some say 'A problem shared is a problem doubled' and whilst I don't sign up to that, I can see the relevance of the remark.

I would rather say 'Seek your counsel wisely.'

On a lighter note ....

Not quite as profound as Gandhi perhaps ....but a 1960's Liverpool band called The Merseys (I think it was - someone will correct me if I'm wrong I'm sure)) had a hit record called Silence is Golden and that says the same thing!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Trust your staff

Since becoming self employed six months ago I have realised many things about the ‘office’ situation.

One of the things I now advocate - even more than I used to – is that staff working in areas where they are not in direct contact with customers, and who are office-desk based, should be allowed to work the hours they want.

The accountability they have is simply to do the work required in as many hours as it takes.

Yes I know that might sound crazy. But I genuinely do not think it is crazy.

I sometime work now until midnight. Sometimes I don’t start until mid day. Other times I will start at 7 am and then at 2 pm on another day.

My point is that I do not have to ‘report to’ a certain place to be able to do my work in a certain ‘shift.’ Frankly, all I need is a phone and a PC.

I realise, of course, there are other reasons people go into the office such as the personal inter-action but surely if people were allowed to work when they like their inter-action would more likely be of their own choosing rather than being required to sit in the same room as the people they work with – and maybe don’t actually like!

This may seem pie in the sky to those of you reading this who like the discipline of regular hours and times. For me it would be easy to allow people the freedom to choose the hours they work as long as they are fully aware that the buck stops with them for the outcomes.

To me this is another way of proving to our staff that we trust them.

I guess there will be few advocates of this approach.

By the way, I am talking of something here far more radical than good old ‘flexi time’. I am talking about staff making the rules about their own hours completely.

People should not be judged by how many hours they sit at their desk – they should be judged by the outcome of their efforts.

Just a thought

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sir Bob - cage rattler extraordinary

When Sir Bob Geldof starts asking the questions that most caring human beings want to ask - demanding, for instance, that the world takes notice of poverty - how come the 'doom sayers', the 'spoilers, the 'negatives' and the 'cynics' are immediately having a go at him?

Luckily and thankfully for the rest of us Sir Bob will ignore them and keep asking the right question - thank God he never takes things personally – he would have given up years ago.

He remains focused on simplicity – challenging things he sees as simply unfair and morally unjustified.

It seems to me that some people see the world as a place where change is not welcome and we should carry on ignoring matters that are not immediately in our own back yard.

Regardless of the personal motives for Geldof doing something like this - and I happen to believe the man is genuine - surely he needs our total support on the crusade to re-assess the priorities of the worlds 8 richest economies.

Who in their right mind can argue with re-distributing some of that wealth to our fellow human beings?

Sir Bob is a genuine cage rattler, a rocker of boats and fits perfectly into the Tom Peters description of someone wanting to see change;

'Nearly 100% of innovation – from business to politics – is inspired not by ‘market analysis’ but by people who are supremely pissed off by the way things are.'

I hope Sir Bob keeps asking directly the difficult questions to the worlds 8 leaders and I hope they give him the right answers.

More power to Sir Bob I say