Thursday, January 31, 2008

Best quote I've heard so far this year

'Minds are like parachutes they only function when they are open'- James Dewar, Scottish physicist 1842 –1923

I love that quote - we heard it from the Minister on Sunday at Chruch.

Two Questions:

How many of us in business and management keep an open mind all the time?

What is your favourite quote?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ronaldo just keeps getting better!

Cristiano Ronaldo is proving week after week that he must be regarded as the best footballer in the world. Tonight he scored two more goals to send my team Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League.

Jamie Redknapp the ex Liverpool and England player called Ronaldo’s second goal the best ever free kick in the history of the Premiership and that is some compliment.

The ‘Guvnor’ Sir Alex Ferguson has built a squad of young players at Manchester United that are the most exciting I can remember since the great days of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law in the late 1960’s.

Come on the Reds!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Make up your own mind

A few years ago I was appointed to a fairly senior management position and I was told by several of my peers that our Chief Executive was not exactly the most approachable person in the world and not the most tolerant.

Urban Myths abounded about this man. He was allegedly well known for shouting at people and all in all not a pleasant person.

Although I was not directly responsible to him I was intrigued about this image that was projected. My natural curiosity – some would say naivety – got the better of me. I knew the tone of the organisation was set from the top and I wanted to find time in my induction to ask for an audience with this man to get a feel for what he expects of senior managers.

I rang him in my first week and explained that if he had time I would like to meet him as part of my induction to hear directly from him what expectation he has of people working in the organisation.

I was pleasantly surprised at his reaction. Firstly he was very pleasant as a person and second he was surprised that I had done this. He willingly made an appointment in his diary for me to have 30 minutes with him the following week.

Come the appointed time I walked in to his office and he asked me what I wanted to know.

I told him that I simply wanted a steer from him as the top manager in the organisation about expectations. I was not asking for any detail simply an overview ‘from the top.’

He gave me some views about his own style and what he expects from managers in the organisation and those views were very helpful to me. As I left, thanking him for his time, he said that I was the first person that had ever asked for an audience as part of their induction and that he felt this was a good thing to do.

Although I am not arrogant enough to suggest it helped him, I feel that it did give him food for thought.

As I grew into my job I kept on hearing the urban myths about the behaviour of this Chief Executive but speaking personally I never had a problem with him. He was always polite and concerned about what I did. He was supportive where needed and he also made it absolutely clear what he expected of me if ever there was a job to be done for him.

I am sure that like all myths there was an element of truth in the reputation ‘enjoyed’ by this man but from my perspective he was fair but firm and that is ok as far as I am concerned.

Leadership Lesson

Don’t always believe what you hear about your bosses. Make your mind up based on how they treat you

Monday, January 21, 2008

'Integrity' - Get some FREE advice for business leaders from Nicky Gumbel

We visited Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London to hear another fascinating talk by Nicky Gumbel. This time the subject was integrity.

Nicky’s words of wisdom are well worth listening to. You can download yesterday’s talk at this link

If you want 40 minutes of free advice that you would pay a fortune for from a management consultant please have a listen.

I’ve always argued that integrity and humility are two of the greatest qualities of a leader. In yesterday's talk Nicky gave numerous examples of what integrity actually means in practical terms if you are a manager or leader in business.

One story that sticks in my head is about 'Gibbo' who shared an office with his boss Gordon Selfridge owner of the world famous store Selfridges.

The phone rang and the Gibbo answered. The caller wanted to speak to Gordon Selfridge. Gibbo asked the caller to hold on and told Gordon who was calling. Gordon said ‘Tell him I’m not here'

Gibbo handed the phone to Gordon and said ‘You tell him you are not here’

Gordon was furious and Gibbo said to his boss ‘I refused because if I can lie FOR you I can lie TO you and I will NEVER lie to you’

From that moment Gibbo was taken into the confidence of the boss and considered a trusted source. That is integrity.

Question - how many of us would have done the same as Gibbo?

I admit to not acting in that way at times in my career.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Countdown to The Eagles - 23rd March

We’ve just bought two tickets for The Eagles at the O2 Arena, London on Sunday March 23rd!!

The Eagles are launching their world tour with four dates in London in March and tickets went on sale today. Judging by The Eagles last tour in Britain in 2006 tickets will be sold out within a couple of days.

After a heart to heart with my darling Annie, convincing her that it will be a good idea to part with £159, I did the deed, went online and hey presto the tickets are on their way!!!

Having waited over 30 years to see The Eagles perform live I will now have seen them twice in two years!!

Thank you darling … I promise you will enjoy it … really you will ….

Question Time feedback

Question Time summary from my own selfish perspective:

Jacquie Smith – The Home Secretary did herself no favours. She waffled through many answers and rarely gave it straight. Mind you that qualification seems to be the way to advance in modern day politics. I have been a proud Labour supporter all my voting life, and I’m so sorry to say this, but people like her put doubts in my mind!

Liam Fox – Conservative Shadow Defence Minister – he was even less decisive and the line he walked reminded me of the line walked by a drunk in the early hours of a Saturday morning in Coventry City centre. I ask myself, would I want him to be in charge of defence if Britain is ever invaded? …. Maybe ‘de’ garden fence but that’s about all!

Kevin Maguire - Daily Mirror Political editor. At least he was honest and the closest to reality of the five panel members by a mile. He kept it simple and was persuasive. He was far and away the best of the bunch.

Chris Huhne - Liberal Democrat deputy leader. I thought he was the best of the four politicians and I was impressed. I knew very little of him before last night but he has definitely made an impression on me

Louise Bagshawe – Author and Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Corby. She was right of Genghis Kahn in respect of ‘sorting out’ children who step out of line at school - kids that sound pretty normal to me actually. If she stood as the only candidate in Britain I would vote for someone else. She seems to think the solution to any child misbehaving at school is instant expulsion. Maybe she could just perhaps ask some of the children excluded why it happened rather than make statements about what 'punishment' they deserve.

Overall feeling – Annie and I both enjoyed the experience of being audience member on Question Time and David Dimbleby as Chairman was excellent – 10 out of 10 for him.

As for three of the four politicians (Chris Huhne excluded) … what a dull zero-charisma lot they are.

If only someone like Tony Benn could have been there to rattle a few cages and tell a few truths … at least there would have been some raw emotion and passion.

If this three are among the elite, or up and coming, of our current politicians in Britain then I say God help us.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Question Time

We are looking forward to taking part in tonight’s Question Time on BBC1 from Coventry. Annie and I are both going to be members of the audience having gone through the BBC recruitment process. We had to submit a question in advance by email and take another question with us tonight.

Should be good fun.

here to see more about tonight’s programme and details of the panel.

The programme is to be broadcast on BBC1 at 10.30 tonight

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Good boss Bad boss - Again!

Just to continue for a little while the nice feeling for getting a mention in the New York Times I am re-producing today my original posting from back in November. There have already been terrific comments but maybe some people haven’t seen this. I would love more comments.

My completely random thought for today has been about the features of the best and worst bosses I had during my long healthcare management career. So here goes ......

My best bosses
  • inspired confidence
  • were humble
  • had integrity
  • knew what they were talking about
  • let me get on with things
  • were always there when I needed help
  • usually said ‘yes, try it’
My worst bosses
  • never seemed to be around when I needed them
  • always asked me to justify what I wanted to do
  • always wanted to know what I was doing
  • often said ‘no, we can’t do that'
  • gave the impression of being distrustful
  • didn’t smile much
  • talked about themselves a lot

What features can you add to either list?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New York Times and Simplicity!

I was delighted to see that the world renowned New York Times featured my work and my book on January 8th as part of an article called ‘Good Boss Bad Boss’

Regular Simplicity Blog readers will remember I 'Blogged' about that back on 15th November 2007.

I am thrilled, needless to say.

here to read the article

You don't have to shout to be 'heard'

Picture the scene …

Late afternoon Friday - crowded rail carriage - a mixture of business people and families.

I was enjoying a nice peaceful journey and settling down to read my book on the two and a half hour journey home.

From four or five rows back I could hear the voice of an awfully well spoken English business man type. I guessed his profession to be something like solicitor or senior doctor. He was very precise in his use of words and the language had a kind of officialdom sound to it. He was clearly knowledgeable about the subject he was talking about. It happened to be various forms of discrimination gender, race, age etc.

His friend sitting next to him was presumably engaged in this discussion with him but I could not hear his voice.

I am an easy going sort but the clue is in the last paragraph about why I got increasingly frustrated.

It was perfectly fine for this man to have his conversation – after all - we live in a country where we can celebrate free speech.

My point is ... his conversation was not with the whole bloody carriage .... just the man he was sitting next to.

Come on – be honest – you’ve met these types on the train too haven't you?

These are the sort I describe as loving the sound of their own voice. They create enough volume for everyone within earshot (and well beyond in this case) to hear the wisdom of this great ego driven oratory expert.

Contrast that with the young family opposite me.

Mum and Dad probably in their early 20’s and their little girl of about 2. The child was immaculately behaved and entertained us with charming giggles every now and then. Her young parents managed to occupy their little girl so she did not cause any inconvenience to other passengers with the noise level. It was pretty obvious that this lovely family unit was not blessed with the oratory skills of the passenger from 5 rows back. To me their limited vocabulary, their warmth, and their obvious love for their child was a sight and sound far more noteworthy than the arrogant antics of ‘gobbie' from five sets back!

Oh Trevor – you really must stop being so judgmental!

Just needed to share that with you ….

A rant on a Sunday is great don’t you think?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

You're NEVER too old!

When I was 16 years old and just starting out on my career in healthcare I thought anyone who had reached 30 was pretty old; people of 40 were well past it and their ambition must have gone; if they were 50 they were old and looking forward to retirement therefore they were slowing down; anyone beyond 60 and still working was ancient, eccentric and needed to be pushed out.

Although now I feel pretty awful about it, those very discriminatory statements were fairly typical of me and my fellow teenagers.


Most of you will jump to the obvious conclusion that as I am now in my 55th year ‘He would say that wouldn’t he?’

You are right - Of course I have a personal interest in saying that people of my generation are ‘younger’ (emotionally if not chronologically) than when I was 16,


I genuinely believe they (we) are!!

I see absolutely no reason why I cannot be working productively and enthusiastically for many years to come. OK, I will probably be more selective about what work I actually do but I see no reason to suppose I won’t have the energy and mindset to try and make a difference in business, leadership and management well into my 70’s.

People who have worked in management positions for a few years offer terrific experience.


I think as we get older we must resist the temptation to rest on our laurels, because we have been round the block a few times, and simply say – ‘We have experience to offer’

Experience is not enough.

In addition we have to offer passion, enthusiasm, optimism, integrity, leadership and role-model behaviour. We also still need to retain within us a small bit of that rebellious teenager who wants to make a difference.

I love the quote generously given to me by one of my heroes 82 years young, Tony Benn;

“Having left Parliament to devote more time to politics I am free: Lots of experience and no personal ambition. I can't wait for April 3 2025 when I shall have completed my first hundred years and a new century of work begins” - Tony Benn

I’ll drink to that Tony!

By the way – The Tony Benn Diaries 2001–2007 that I am currently reading is a wonderful book.

Its title is ‘More Time for Politics’– loads of common sense, simplicity, integrity and passion from an inspiring man.

The book also reveals a lot about Tony Benn, the person, with many honest and intimate expressions of his feelings about his life and his family of which he is justifiably proud.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The same old, same old .....

And so a new year back at work starts in earnest today.

Have you noticed that when the pressure is on politicians in Britain they always fall back on the good old NHS to score them a few points with the public?

Anyone with an IQ above freezing point will realise it’s not a co-incidence that as Gordon Brown struggles to establish himself with voters he turns to the NHS to boost his popularity with voters.

Today Mr Brown tells us that patients will be given the opportunity to have screening if they are concerned about any aspect of their health - for instance heart disease.

Don’t get me wrong I welcome such initiatives because I have argued for over 20 years the government must spend more money on ill-health prevention and promotion of good health.

And this not a slur on Gordon Brown – I like the man and I am life long supporter of the Labour Party.

What irritates me is the blatant use of the NHS for political ends when it suits politicians. It’s the same old stale politics I’m afraid.

Where are the new exciting politicians in Britain - or even just someone with a personality?!!

I don’t see a single MP who makes me feel that 2008 will be any different than the same old drab, stale politics?

I hope I am wrong.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Managing in a crisis

I received a postive comment today from a posting I made in August 2007 on this subject so I have decided to re-post something similar.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned through managing in crisis situations.

*Always have a plan B even if you are confident plan A is going to work
*Ask the employees most directly affected what they think
*Employees are usually 'ahead' of the Board
*Don’t listen to gossip – talk to people direct
*Be aware there are political games going on at every level
*Try to ensure there are no ‘camps’ even though there will be
*Be open and up front about bad news
*Tell people quickly and tell everyone affected at the same time
*Walk away for a few hours and leave it – you need refreshing
*Don’t make assumptions and if you do … change them every hour
*Be ready to be surprised with reactions
*Admit you were wrong when you make a mistake – as you inevitably will
*Just when you thought things were getting better they get worse and you have to keep going
*Never give up
*Have an understanding wife/husband/partner/family
*Remember you have a life too.


You will make mistakes along the way and if you think you have finally ‘cracked it’ you will be wrong. If you think you can write a policy to deal with this sort of thing and then simply pull it out of a filing cabinet and implement it in a cold clinical way then forget it – the world just doesn't operate that way. We are talking about people.

Wake up and smell the coffee if you think this practical leadership stuff can be taught in a business school classroom.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mr Obama - Winning hearts and minds?

I don’t have much knowledge of American politics and I suppose it is none of my business but I wanted to make a comment about the Presidential race.

How refreshing it is to see a young man like Barack Obama talking with optimism and passion. I have read in the American media how he has won hearts and minds and that to me is more important than any criticism of lack of depth or experience. When hearts and minds are 'up for grabs' it often means people are desperate for change.

I am sure many critics will say he is not experienced enough but I love this quote;

“Yes I know I am young and inexperienced but it is a fault I am remedying every day.” William Pitt on becoming Prime Minister at age 25 in 1783

Media opposition and political opponents will find other reasons to argue against Mr Obama - because that is what politics is all about it seems to me. How much can I smear my opponent?

In the 37 years I have been old enough to vote I have noticed that there is far more emphasis on knocking your opponent than putting forward your own ideas for change.

It is a long race to the White House and there will be many twists and turns before the final decision is reached by US voters in November this year.

For now I want to enjoy the feeling of having someone in the world spotlight that exudes energy, enthusiasm and passion the like of which we have not seen for the last few years on the world stage.

Most leaders in world politics in the last 10 years have been males who are charisma-challenged, boring, white, middle-aged, middle-class, out of the same mass produced mould.

Mr Obama seems different – I hope he is different and I wish him well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I say NOBODY likes criticism!

My non-academic theory is that no one likes criticism - even though we may say we welcome criticism.

The only time in my career I can remember being impressed with criticism of me was when my boss had to tell me I did not get a job I thought I would get.

I felt I had a good interview and I was pretty disappointed if I am honest. I went into my de-brief interview with the Chief Executive not in a good frame of mind. I was in a nutshell pretty angry. I felt I had done really well and I felt I had done enough to get the job.

The CEO asked me how I thought it had gone and after a long discussion I left his office thanking him for the feedback and my anger had gone.

I think he was a master at giving feedback. I had changed from angry man to philosophical man. How did he do that? I honestly don’t know. He just had a gift for feedback!

Actually that is the only time in my entire 35 year career I can honestly say that I appreciated what some would describe as negative feedback. Most of the time when I made mistakes it was either not dealt with well or not dealt with at all – i.e. ignored.

Have you any examples of excellence in giving or receiving criticism?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Are you a good delegator?

One of the attributes of any really good leader (or manager) is the art of delegation. I genuinely believe delegation is an art.

Let's be honest, most of us struggle with delegation. I will admit that during my corporate career in healthcare I was not always good at it. I used to think I was better than many of my peers at delegation but I recognise now that too often I didn’t really ‘let go’

We ‘half hold on’ to the job and that’s clearly not real delegation. It is not fair to the leader or the follower.

Before I became self employed the bosses I enjoyed working for most were those who just ‘left me alone’ to get on with my job and did not ‘interfere.’

‘Interference’ should not be confused with ‘support.’

Those best bosses somehow managed to create a relationship that implicitly said;

‘I’m here if you need me but otherwise I trust you entirely to just get on with the job.’

All employees are different of course and some may not like to be ‘left alone’ by their boss. Some employees like re-assurance and regular contact with the boss. That is fine and my style is not one that I would suggest is universal.

I’ve always taken the view that I have been selected by my boss to do a job and there will be a fair expectation that I am capable of getting on with the job. The boss will have no need to worry that I will constantly check out whether I am doing OK.

I see the relationship between leader and follower as 'an understanding' something on these lines:

A good boss:

*Will not tell me what to do
*Will not be breathing down my neck
*Will not be constantly checking my progress
*Will ‘be there’ when I need support

A good follower:

*Will ask when needing help
*Will not constantly ask permission of the boss
*Will tell the leader only what he/she needs to know
*Will be loyal to the leader ‘in public’ but challenge the leader privately

Are you a good delegator?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008




Happy New Year!