Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What is REALLY important?

Last night I went to a meeting of 14 local people who have formed a committee and they are trying to raise money to take a young man with a terminal illness to Lourdes before his final demise.

It made me think very seriously about

  • business
  • management
  • leadership
  • simplicity

Real life is not about high flying business executives, management jargon and complex language invented to preserve the reputation of the people who designed the language.

Real life is about well meaning and dedicated people who give up their own precious time to do something to help another human being at times of need.

This committee worked hard as a team for a couple of hours, planning their fund raising event and I was proud to listen and admire the commitment and determination of these people.

Business as a whole; Managers; and Leaders can learn an awful lot from attending such meetings.

If they did - maybe, just maybe, some meetings in business settings will finally use language that is understood by everyone in the room rather than the elite few who seem to glory in confusing others with crazy ineligible words.

Phew ....I really enjoyed that rant!!! - Give me Simplicity every time

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Embrace 'Eccentric' People

'Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.' - Bertrand Russell

I like this quote from Mr Russell - a wise man.

How many of us have been told in our career? - 'That won't work - we tried it before and it failed'

That is a sure fire way to put someone down in my book!

People always come at problems and issues with a different pair of eyes than mine - a fresh pair of eyes and a new mindset toward an old problem.

I must not have the audacity to 'judge' someone for that!

Never, ever, discourage someone who wants to sort something in their own way; don't question their methods; providing, of course, the methods are legal!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Forgive the self-indulgence but I thought it would be good to share this with you. Annie and I competed today in our first charity run.

This was for the 'British Lung Foundation' and it was only 5 Km, which is not an earth-shattering event but as a couple of 'old' ex-smokers, we were both well pleased.

Setting achievable targets is a good management technique and our next target is to run 7 marathons in 7 continents in 7 days in 7 days time!

I'm jesting of course - a 10Km race is our next objective!
Posted by Hello

Friday, April 22, 2005

Difference is good but you might lose your bike!

On Tom Peters blog today is an interesting question
Did you take a freak out to lunch today?
The point being made is that people who challenge your thinking are likely to make things happen in your organisation.
Nothing radical about that and it reminded me of a story so I posted this story on Tom Peters Blog in reponse .
I recall Dave a colleague manager I worked with in healthcare here in the UK 15 years ago who was a keen cyclist and proud owner of an expensive racing bike.

In his first week with us he chained his bike to a radiator in the corridor outside the office of the Chief Executive where we were all gathered for a meeting.

He came into the meeting in his track suit, trainers and sweat band and was carrying a 'Tesco' supermarket bag that contained his paperwork for the meeting.

The rest of us in our smart but boring corporate black suits and ties and immaculate brief cases looked on with interest as you can imagine.

He created quite an impression and stayed with us two years or so till he got fed up with 'stuffiness and rules' and not surprisingly he left.

In those two years however he changed things dramatically and made a real impression. Always challenging the status quo - he made work an intreresting palce to be. The staff generally loved his 'eccentricity' as they called it - to me it was simply 'pushing the edges.'

I liked Dave - sadly I lost track of him and I sometimes wonder where he is now - probably back packing at 60 years of age across Australia or simething similarly interesting whilst most of the 'black suits' are still 'enjoying' writing their boring reports and still towing the corporate line.

By the way ... the Chief Executive was not amused and got the hospital porter to cut the chain and remove the bike .... SAD DON'T YOU THINK?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Be Proud of Who You Are

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession...

Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It took me a while to get my brain around this quotation but in a nutshell I think it simply means 'be yourself.'

There is another old saying 'Imitation is the greatest form of flattery'

I see many people trying to copy others and yet Emerson is telling us 'just be yourself.'

Be proud of who you are and what you have done in your life and work.

I have always felt the work that you invent, love and own will always be more satisfying than work that is allocated to you by someone else. That work just never feels the same as that which you created.

Anyway ...interesting thought - thank you Ralph!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And they say it's good to Talk?

Peter Colclough, Chief Executive, is a good boss and a good leader.

He was also my last boss in my National Health Service (NHS) career that ended in November 2004.

I well remember Peter one day said (no doubt lamenting the lack of progress on a particular project):

"When all is said and done ..more is said than done"

I like that!

Thank you Peter I use it regularly and many people nod approvingly with a sort of sad resignation expression of the reality in 'large organisation culture!'

Since leaving the NHS I appreciate Peter's wise comments even more - there is absolutely no doubt there is more talk than necessary in the NHS

Maybe we need to remember two mantras of a friend of mine John MackMersh;

1 Meetings are work!
2 Let's reclaim meetings!

What do you think?

Aim for Success Not Perfection

I have always believed we should strive for excellence in everything we do.

I realise it is not always possible to achieve our aspirations but that does not prevent us from aiming high.

There is surely no excitment in achieving targets that are too easy to reach.

I am not suggesting that we set targets that are out of reach but I remember the 'No gain without pain' quote from Prime Minister John Major a few years ago - I think it was him.

There is clearly something in that quote. Just think about an excercise campaign or a diet. Annie and I are doing both and having some 'pain' but we are winning.
I remember listening to a talk from an experienced Doctor 10 years ago. In a conference about excellence in heathcare he talked about his concept of "GOOD ENOUGHNESS" ... I rather like that .... it is not about poor standards is about being good enough. Personally, I prefer excellence as an aspiration but I can see where the Doctor is coming from.

The following quote hit my desk this morning... I like it

"Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person."

Dr. David M. Burns

Thank you Tom and thank you Ted

My friend Tom Asacker in America sent me this lovely poem that I would like to share with you.
I have been in touch with the author Ted Yahraus and thanked him for his wonderful words.
A Circle I Walk... (On becoming a Grandfather)

By Ted Yahraus.

How does it go, this curvaceous path, so many call life?In yesterday's moments, we do arrive, proudly, loudly squalling,A young mom's dream, or quite unplanned, often dressed in strife...Memories dim, of long-ago's world ....time's pace so appalling!

Our spankings and giggles, transform into degrees,Crushes and heartbreaks, finally walking down aisles,Solemn vows, snow-white lace, newlyweds on their knees,Adrift in life's details, our ship rides the swells, triggering both tears and smiles.

How could it be? News is so strange... A baby has found its way here,A boy, once I was called a dad, having a child of my own?That wiley imp called "time", with magician's wand, transformances seeming so queer...With brutal shove, kids do grow up, seeking those college loans.

Time's shutter clicks on a now-empty nest, my little girl having dashing suitors,Just who am I? I stand replaced, my blurry world's turned so upside down!I shuffle along, mid aches and pains, numbly in a stupor,Yesterday, a ringleader ....that I was! Transformed into staggering clown...

Just sit me down! I heard, I swear, ANOTHER little one's first squall,The child of my child? How strange the words, so darned crossways to my ears,That prankster called "time" has sure done it now... A trick to beat 'em all!A title of "Grandpa", once reserved for infirm, now sounds strangely dear...

A circular tale, I'm sure of it ... myriads have walked down this path,God's hand at work, His face is seen in all that is spinning, evolving...That boy, I STILL am, in this vessel yet just do the math!Time's reach, quite unable to dull the spark, as 'round the sun I'm revolving...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Call me Grandad

I'm really proud to announce that my first grandchild, Sebastian, was born around 10.45pm, Saturday 16th April.

My "little" girl, Nadine, her fiancé, Laurie, and young Sebastian are all doing well but knackered after a 47-hour labour!

I've ordered Seb's first Manchester United shirt and I look forward to seeing him play at Old Trafford in 16 years time! (Like all good managers, I've already set his objectives!)

I have to say, Annie has been particularly patient and tolerant of me, the anxious expectant grandfather, for the last 47 and three quarter hours.

All this makes me realise that the things that matter most are actually nothing to do with our work and careers, but to do with those closest to us.

Favourite Slogans

Seen yesterday on the side of a white van of our local fresh fish company;

"Our fish is so fresh the next of kin haven't yet been informed"

I love that.

What is the funniest slogan you have seen?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Powerpoint will not hide a poor presentation

I wanted to share this story …

Ten years ago I went to a very important healthcare conference in London about advances in healthcare.

Part of the day was a series of six short presentations from doctors who had been leading cutting edge new initiatives.

I sat in the audience with 200 other delegates and listened to five very slick and professional PowerPoint presentations by dynamic doctors - obviously very skilled in using the new technology …they had slides that almost spoke to the audience … darting bullet points, dazzling visual impact …… the whole nine yards as the saying goes!

The other doctor was a very quiet inoffensive man who initially looked nervous. He walked on to the stage armed with two ‘old fashioned’ hand written slides – it looked like he had probably written them on the train journey to the conference – neatly written but in simple black ink with a marker pen. He proceeded to tell us all the 'story' of his project.It was clear his project this was 'his baby' and he loved it!

The only one of the six presentations I remember – ten years later – is the one from the hand writing doctor!! I even remember very well some of the detail of his excellent talk.

I cannot remember a single thing about any of the other five ‘slick’ presentations or what any of the five doctors looked like. They were all more or less the same - very good in their own right - but very 'same'

Yet I can still picture the doctor with the handwritten slides.

I am a great user of PowerPoint and I think it is a wonderful aid to a good presentation.


PowerPoint is only an aid and not the content of your talk.

You must ‘grip’ your audience with a picture through your words or alternatively from your personal style or appearance.

PowerPoint will not automatically give you a good presentation – you must do your homework and most of all speak from the heart – showing your audience you really mean what you say.

What is my point?

PowerPoint is wonderful ..... but it is 'the cart before the horse'

Nothing ...let me repeat NOTHING doing your homework and then delivering your talk with belief, passion, humility and feeling!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Studies indicate that the one quality all successful people have is persistence. They're willing to spend more time accomplishing a task and to perservere in the face of many difficult odds. There's a very positive relationship between people's ability to accomplish any task and the time they're willing to spend on it.

Dr. Joyce (Diane Bauer) Brothers

I love this quotation.

I have never beleived in 'overnight success' - success usually comes from years of hard work, dedication and practice.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.

- William James

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What is your Epitaph?

Greetings on a wonderful bright and fresh English Spring morning!

I have been thinking about what epitaph I would want.

I came across the following from my great Australian friend Brian Galbraith. I hope it will make you smile.

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming …....

"F*#@, what a trip!"

I would love my own epitaph to read something like this;

"He always listened and never judged (P.S. He never grew up!)"

What would you like as your Epitaph?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Delegate, Delegate Delegate

I have been thinking about delegation .

In my experience in healthcare management the culture was something like

'Hold on to information to justify your position in the pecking order.'

The ownership of information was power.

As I got older I realised what absolute rubbish that is and I invented a motto;

'The best way to gain power is to let go of power"

In other words give away as much as you can - let other people do bits of your job - they usually do it better.

This frees you up to get on with things you should be doing - looking at the wider picture - the direction - the vision.

I always felt like this when I worked in the large organisation but I could only change the little bit I worked in.

Now I am working for myself and looking 'in' - I realise even more vividly that old control concept is simply folly.

Here's to delegation - celebrate it

Work to make yourself redundant and there's a real chance you will never be redundant.

I know that is a paradox but I firmly believe you will always be a marketable product if you work to make yourself 'not required.'

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Customer Care - Two Extremes

Just in the last few days we have experienced extremes of customer care and it got me thinking.

Annie and I were hungry on a shopping expedition - so we could not resist the well known small and homely sandwich bar.

We licked our lips in anticipation of the wonderful wholemeal sandwiches of brie and plum sauce and another of cheddar cheese and onion salad.

They were prepared perfectly in front of our eyes and we loved the meal.

The girl serving us however was surly, made little eye contact and was generally curt in her speaking. In fact - saying anything seemed a real effort.

The product was excellent ... the customer service was less than impressive

The following day we wanted to purchase some new trainers for our upcoming charity runs ... so we visited a large sports retailer.

We tried on at least three pairs each and were superbly looked after by a young man who obviously knew his stuff and had a wonderfully helpful manner ... sadly we did not buy a pair of trainers from him and we almost felt guilty leaving the shop without buying some but the lad had a smile on his face - even when we left him without a sale!

Food for thought

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The joy of proving that you were right all along!

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.

The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

- Albert Einstein

The older I get the more I relate to this wonderful Einstein quote.

So many times in my early years at work I was influenced and even led down a path by other people's prejudices, opinions or views.

Maybe that was a weakness in me.

Or was it just I had not yet formed my own views?

As I became more confident about my own values and beliefs I realised that following my own instincts - informed by my own values - is always the best way to live and work.

And there is no feeling on earth like proving negative cynics wrong is there?

All of this is not to be confused with arrogance - I am simply talking about having beliefs that matter to you.

Personal and professional accountability is best measured by the person you see when you look in the mirror - not by hereditary prejudices as Einstein puts it.

Amen Albert!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The 'silly season' has started

With the announcement today from Tony Blair that there is to be a General Election on 5 May we can prepare ourselves for a few weeks of silliness as politicians tell us why the other party is bad for us and their party is good for us.

We can also look forward yawn,yawn, yawn to.....

  • Promises of making things better
  • Pictures of middle aged white middle class politicians kissing babies
  • Entertainment Icons nailing their colours to the mast of one party or another
  • Constant news about why my vote is important

And yet ... it is likely that less than 40% of the UK public who are eligible to vote will exercise that right ...

How can we really consider ourselves to have legitimate government when more than half the population cannot even be bothered to take up the opportunity to vote?

I suspect the British public are smarter than the politicians think - they want inspiration and excitement - not boring traditional monologue speak.

Nothing about politics inspires the 60% non voters to get out and vote - why don't politicians look at why that is rather than bask in glory of being elected by the minority.

That is not a statement about the Labour Party - it is a statement regardless of which lot are elected.

I happen to believe Labour have done a very good job for the last 7 years.

I may or may not vote - I will make up my mind on the day - I guess it will depend on my mood on May 5th and what is on the television!!

Happy Election!! - Welcome to the UK Silly Season

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Simplicity and Serendipity

Life is spooky sometimes .....

Quite by accident I recently discovered a kindred spirit thousands of miles away in the United States.

Bill Jensen from Washington, USA has written extensively about Simplicity and shares many of my passions about how we can make the world of organisations, management and leadership less cumbersome.

We both believe that there is far too much 'clutter' around organisations that prevents people doing great work. We both see Simplicity as a modern way forward.

Please visit Bill's Web site - you will find it entertaining and informative;

Bill's latest book - which promises to be hugely successul - is called
’What Is Your Life’s Work?'

It will be on the market from May 2005 and the book will be valuable in both your professional and family life.

You can download a free advance copy of Bill's new book by visiting;

Bill and I are talking about doing some joint projects on both sides of the pond around the Simplicity theme.

As I have often said 'the basics are the new cutting edge'

Simplicity Rules!!

Passion with a Side Salad of Process

“All humanity is passion; without passion, religion, history, novels, art would be ineffectual.”

Honore De Balzac

Over thirty years experience in administration and management in the National Health Service, has led me to believe that the right mixture of passion and process is the way to get things done.

I believe passion, with a “side salad” of process, is the way – process being another word for effective action plan.

Some would argue a meal, without a side salad, is incomplete. If an outcome is a destination then three-quarters of the journey is not the final destination. A balance of passion and process can ensure we get the whole way ….. or, put another way ….. makes the meal complete.

Too much process or too much passion will often ensure non-arrival at your intended destination. But remember, individuals differ in their preferred learning styles and I do not find generalisations helpful. “She is a process person”… “He is too evangelical” ….. You have heard them all.

Sometimes situations call for more passion and sometimes for more process. I would say “single bullet” solutions are rarely achievable in complex organisations.

Passion can take us a long way down the road but without process, I believe we are more likely to fail. That is not to say one is more important – simply that both are needed.

The writing, publishing and marketing of Simplicity is the Key is a great example. I was totally naïve about formal processes of writing books so I wrote this book, fired only by passion to do it.

I feel too much process would have stifled me.

I would have stagnated and drowned in plans and process. The manuscript would probably have been on the shelf gathering dust for years.

As it was the book was produced from nothing to retail outlets in less than six months which I was pleased with.

The wonderful connections made though various accidental routes that led me to Anand the publisher definitely owed more to luck and networks than any formal plan. What a fabulous stroke of luck that turned out to be. Interestingly I did approach a publisher early on in the traditional (“correct“) way - submitting a formal manuscript for consideration. I never received a reply to my letter.

The rapid production of my book was probably due, in no small measure, to my innocence of rules and regulations. I tended to simply ring people to ask simple questions and found I was pushing at open doors.

People seemed to want to help me and they did. I hope I retain that simplistic and innocent approach to future writing - it seems to work.

Take a moment to reflect

Have you ever thought how strange it is that we live through historic events and only in the future do we realise how important and indeed seminal that certain events were.

In my lifetime I remember Neil Armstrong - the first man to walk on the moon - I remember the death of Winston Churchill - England winning the world cup - the assassination of John Kennedy.

Today the world mourns the loss of Pope John Paul and we should feel happy that we have lived through his time as Pope.

I am not a Catholic but one cannot help but be touched by the affection shown to this man regardless of one's religious beliefs - or indeed if you do not have religious beliefs.