Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A walk in the English countryside

What a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend - we had everything in England - scorching hot weather - damp and cold weather - in fact a typical English Bank Holiday.

The Blogs around the world were all quiet as the Bank Holiday made us all take time to re-charge our batteries no doubt.

Yesterday Annie and I spent a wonderful afternoon in Broadway!!!! (Worcestershire not America!)

The Cotswolds are a lovely part of England and we enjoyed a four mile walk surrounded only by the sounds, sights and smells of the English countryside.

It was lovely - we found a commemorative plaque at a point where five English RAF servicemen lost their lives during World War Two when their plane crashed on a bombing training mission.

We only have to search very briefly in this wonderful country of ours to find moments of history that make us gulp and realise how fortunate we are to live in a relatively peaceful era of history.

The other thing a walk in the countryside does is to make one realise that although to work hard is terrific, our leisure time and enjoying a cheap and very cheerful walk in the English countryside is hard to beat.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Phew - what a match!!!

What can I say?

Liverpool were awesome - that must be the comeback to end all comebacks.

When half time arrived and Liverpool were 3-0 I thought it was all over - like everyone I'm sure - and if Liverpool could have escaped with a 4 or 5 goal beating that would have been the best they could expect.

Three goals in six minutes early in the second half and from that point on Liverpool always looked the more likely winners.

How brilliant that they won the penalty shoot out after that comeback - it would have been an injustice to have lost after that.

Don't forget AC Milan too - they helped make this a great advert for the 'wonderful game' and typified all that is good about our national game - long live football.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Good Luck Liverpool

The media often portrays Manchester United fans as arrogant, bigoted and self centered.

Just to dispel that crazy myth ...

I am a life long supporter of the wonderful Man United and I would like to wish Liverpool all the best tonight in the final of the European Champions League against AC Milan. I sincerely hope Liverpool come home to England with the trophy as champions of Europe.

When an English team is in the final of any major competition we should forget our club rivalries and get behind the English team.

So I will be rooting for the scousers tonight ....

Tomorrow of course is a different story ... just joking :-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Trust your Staff

I have always believed we should have complete trust in staff at the front end of the organisation.

I remember reading the extract below from Liberation Management in the mid 1990's and shouting to myself words to the effect;

"EUREKA!! - at last we are going to see staff shown the respect they deserve - we can trust them - it does work - look at this company – it really works!!"

Sadly, 10 years later, the company Ovation Marketing is probably still the exception rather than the rule.

Most large organisations do not allow staff to sign their own traveling expenses without a counter signature from the next-in-line manager.

This is particularly true I suspect in government organisations that are
audit obsessed.

We all know that many managers sign travel claim forms without really knowing -for a fact - they are signing an accurate claim from the member of staff.

The signature is simply a 'cover my back' process designed to protect public money but in fact it does nothing of the kind.

The evidence from Ovation after 18 months of ‘freeing up’ the process was that travel expenses went down 70%

The stark reality is that we are all more responsible when given responsibility.

It would be interesting to hear views on this one ... here is the story anyway.... I love this!

Extract from:

“Liberation Management” (1992)
Tom Peters

Pages 462/463

The Boss Will Not Approve Travel

Don't show any purchase orders to Ralph S. Heath III. He just might set them on fire. The president of Ovation Marketing, Inc. in La Crosse (Wisconsin) already has done that once, and the message apparently has been burned into the minds of his employees.

Purchases and travel budgets had to be approved by middle management and Heath until the end of last year. Then Heath issued an order. Employees were told to approve their own expenses. Heath found out it was easier to issue the order than make it work. A couple of weeks later, he was still being swamped with purchase orders. “They weren't quite comfortable with the new responsibility,” he recalled. “ So I decided it was time for a meeting”

He explained again that requisitions were now an individual responsibility. Then he set fire to his stack of purchase orders. The demonstration was effective. He hasn't received a purchase order since. The change has been effective in more important areas, too. Six months after the beginning of the experiment, Heath has found:

· Ovation's travel expenses are down 70 percent
· Entertainment expenses have dropped 39 percent
· Car mileage costs have declined 46 percent
· Office supply expenses were reduced by 18 percent

Better yet Ovation's business is up 16 percent in this same period, compared with the first half of 1990.

“It's an interesting phenomenon,” Heath said “We clearly demonstrated that by giving control to the associates, they are actually more careful with spending than I was because now it's their responsibility.” Heath added that Ovation Marketing, which was founded in 1978, uses the same concept in generating its advertising programs. Individuals charged with designing a creative marketing program are responsible for the final product, not middle management or Heath.

Monday, May 23, 2005

7 Neat Characteristics

I like this

I came across this list on a Web site recommended to me by my friend Rocky Noe from Kentucky USA.

The link to the site is http://www.unstoppable.net/

I love lists as Annie will testify.

To me this is a nice simple list of characteristics we could all develop to enable us to keep going despite obstacles and setbacks that are bound to challenge us.

  1. Devote yourself to your true purpose
  2. Follow your heart's passion
  3. Believe in yourself and your ideas
  4. Prepare for challenges
  5. Ask for help and build a support team
  6. Seek creative solutions
  7. Persevere, no matter what the challenges

Maybe after the weekend disappointment of Manchester United losing to Arsenal I could dedicate this to Sir Alex Ferguson, Manager of Manchester United.

However one of the reasons Sir Alex - one of my leadership icons - has been the most successful football manager for the last 20 years is that he has always done all seven!!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

In Mourning

I am in mourning as Manchester United lost the F A Cup final against Arsenal today despite dominating the entire match.

United lost 5-4 on penalties and although people will say the best team always wins, even the most ardent Arsenal fan would say Manchester United were easily the better team today and should have won the match.

But of course if you do not convert you chances then you do not win the match.

Oh well .. never mind .... there is always next seaon

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Good Old Days?

One thing about getting older is we probably reflect a little more.

I recently heard a media discussion about the National Health Service and how staff morale is at an all time low.

The discussion also concluded that things are not as good now for patients as they were in the 'good old days' when 'Matron' ruled with an iron fist.

Mmmmmm interesting says me … …..

I remember my long NHS career that started in 1969. I guess that is within the time frame of 'the good old days.'

Here are a few memories - most of my memories are good about the NHS - but these bullet points make me question those alleged ‘good old days’;

  • I remember in 1986 working in a hospital for people with a learning disability. The toilets had no doors on a long stay ward of about 30 patients with profound physical disabilities. Patients were totally exposed to all the staff and fellow patients when going to the toilet – GOOD OLD DAYS?
  • I remember in 1976 walking through a 25 bed ward of old and very frail patients - their beds were within two feet of each other - some had the luxury of bed curtains - most didn't – GOOD OLD DAYS?
  • I remember the awesome, tall and terrifying Matron shouting loudly down the corridor to humiliate - in public - an 18 year old female student nurse whose 'grave error' was that she did not have her hat straight - GOOD OLD DAYS?
  • I remember meeting a 58 year old woman when I started in the NHS on January 6th 1969. She had worked at the hospital in admin for 30 years. She told me ‘Morale isn’t like it used to be years ago – I have never known it so bad’ - GOOD OLD DAYS?

My two points in summary.

  1. THESE ARE the good old days
  2. We tend to look back with 'ROSE TINTED SPECTACLES'

Thursday, May 19, 2005

BREAKING NEWS - 'New' wisdom on Leadership

Who is the greatest management/leadership Guru?

My favourite is Tom Peters by a country mile.

For me the others in the running include Warren Bennis, Charles Handy and Stephen Covey.

That was until ten years ago when I came across someone to surpass all of them.

This author has not published a best selling management blockbuster but he wins the race for me with his wonderful use of these simple profound words;

Go to the people

Live with them, learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build with what they have

But with the best leaders
When the work is done
The task accomplished
The people will say
"We have done this ourselves.”

This management guru was saying this in 700 BC - his name? - Lao Tsu

An afterthought from personal observation.

I once knew a leader who quoted the second verse only. For me, effective leadership is in fact summed up best in the first verse - it says it all.

The second verse is an outcome - on condition you 'do' the first verse!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Trust Me I'm a Patient

I came across some numbers that put things into perspective about the balance of power and knowledge in the patient/professional relationship in healthcare.

People who suffer from Diabetes - one of the fastest growing diseases in the UK - spend on average 3 hours per year with a professional.

According to my maths - and remember, numbers are not my strong point - that means people suffering from Diabetes spend on average 8763 hours per year not with a professional.

This is not to under-estimate or devalue the role of the professional - the professional is there for knowledge, support, re-assurance and high level technical input.

But ..... My point is simply this;

Effective healthcare is about a partnership between the patient and the clinician - we must make sure that the patient is regarded as at least an equal partner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Manchester United - sport or business or both?

The sports news and business news have both been dominated for the last few weeks with stories about my beloved Manchester United.

American tycoon Malcolm Glazer has bought the majority share holding in Manchester United and is now apparently the owner of my club.

I am not familiar with the complex financial intricacies of all this but one thing is very clear. Thousands of Man United fans are very worried about this take over and yesterday Eric Cantona - one of the icons of Manchester United - came out in support of the fans protests about Glazer's take over.
Eric said it was a sad day for the club.

It seems to me there is nothing but animosity towards Mr Glazer

The heritage of Manchester United football club is wonderful and most fans have a real affinity to the club. There are real concerns about the future of the club as a result of this take over. I even heard there are worries that the historic and majestic stadium Old Trafford, with all it's wonderful history might be re-named the Nike Stadium or something similar.

I advocate change on my blog all the time and breaking free of the comfort blanket is a regular statement to come out of my mouth, but there is just something about this take over that bugs me.

I have yet to read any reports or see any interviews on the TV or radio where someone supports this move - everyone seems to be against it!!

Am I missing something important? ... Or ..... Are we Man United fans just too settled in our comfort blanket?

Maybe some of my friends from America can throw some light on this guy Glazer and let me know if you think we Manchester United fans are right to be feeling nervous about his intentions.

Monday, May 16, 2005

It is ok to have fun at work

My friend Felix Gerena has a Blog I recommend http://www.felixgerena.com/

Today Felix has posted a very interesting comment about 'branding' which seems to be the flavour of the month in management speak.

Felix mentions the need for fun to be present in the workplace.

I say thank you and Amen to that Felix - I have always found the best workplaces in my career to be those where people smile. We also liked to have the odd practical joke that made work a more interesting place to be.

The serious side to fun is that if you have a happy workforce the bottom line is more likely to be achieved.

  • I am not advocating lack of professionalism.
  • I am saying we are all adults and know where to draw the line between having a good laugh and taking liberties or showing a lack of professionalism.
  • I am simply saying it is not compulsory to be serious and miserable at work!!!

Have a good laugh this week at work you will probably find it is infectious.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Of course it is just a silly superstition ... Isn't it?!!

Yesterday was Friday the 13th.

The hot water system broke down so we called the gas engineer - £87.

I 'lost' for ever 125 very important files on a corrupted CD.

We took delivery of a new PC (£430) that 'froze' repeatedly and has to go back.

Interesting .... simply a coincidence .. he says uncertainly!

Have a great weekend - don't walk under any ladders !!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Walk your Talk

I came across this wonderful short piece of prose that sums up life pretty well as far as I can see.

I am sure most of us would love to think we pass the test on these six measurements where action speaks louder than words.

If we all pass the six tests, why the hell is there so much strife in the world is my question.

Enjoy reading it anyway .... thank you Mr Gordon

To appear wise, one must talk;
To be wise, one must listen.

To appear to do good, one must be busy;
To do good, one must know when to stand aside.

To appear to lead, one must put oneself first;
To lead, one must put oneself last.

To appear caring, one must give advice;
To be caring, one must give space.

To appear to love, one must know how to give;
To love, one must know also how to receive.

To appear happy, one must smile;
To be happy, one must be free with tears.

Nicholas Gordon

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Amen Elbert Hubbard!

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
- Elbert Hubbard

I remember an old boss of mine about 25 years ago taking me aside and telling me ‘we must not put ourselves in a position where we might be criticised.’

I was young and perhaps your ‘average corporate person’ I suppose and the language seemed appropriate.

I often think about that exchange and realise that his position was one which illustrated the culture of that part of my career quite well.

Nowadays as an older, more experienced manager and human being, I would not sign up to his words.

I would rather look at this Elbert Hubbard quote and commend it as the mission statement of any organisation that wants to see things improve.

Monday, May 09, 2005

When is it time to go?

The news this morning in Britain is dominated by suggestions that Tony Blair should resign.

Mr Blair led the revolution of the Labour Party since 1994 - and won three successive General Elections - the only Labour Party leader to do that - is now under pressure to resign from his own back bench MP's.

There are lessons in this for management and leadership at all levels.

The question is - can people stay around too long as a leader and when is the right time to resign before you are sacked?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Dull and Bright

I am about a quarter of the way through an interesting book "48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene.

I have just finished a fascinating Chapter called Infection: Avoid the unhappy and unlucky.

Here is a snippet

‘You can die from someone else's misery - emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.’

This might look mean and uncaring at first glance but when read in context of the whole chapter you will understand the relevance of the author’s argument.

People who are genuinely sad - even depressed need our help and support - we would all sign up to that.

It is argued in this chapter that some people are unhappy as a state of mind and those people can drag you down if you let them. Conversely if we spend time in the company of people who are generally optimistic we feel better.

I can sign up that philosophy from personal experience - what do you think?

I once heard it described as follows;

'Spend time with dullards and thou shalt become dull'

I repeat however I am not talking here about people who are not well - I am talking about that type of person we all know who is just always always looking on the miserable side of life

Friday, May 06, 2005

Seek advice from your boss second

'Getting ahead in a difficult profession ... singing, acting, writing, whatever ... requires avid faith in yourself. You must be able to sustain yourself against staggering blows and unfair reversals. When I think back to those first couple of years in Rome, those endless rejections, without a glimmer of encouragement from anyone, all those failed screen tests, and yet I never let my desire slide away from me, my belief in myself and what I felt I could achieve.'

Sophia Loren

This is yet another example of looking for management inspiration from the most unexpected sources.

I suspect very few managers would look to a film actress for advice – even though the words of Ms Loren ring very true to me about my long management career in the NHS.

Ms Loren is absolutely right - one must never, ever give up and never lose faith in one’s own ability.

I suggest all managers - wherever they work - whoever they are - should be required as a condition of their employment, to actively seek out advice - let's say once a week- from someone outside their own organisation, their own colleagues or their bosses.

People who are successful in any walk of life can offer advice to those in any other walk of life. It really is as simple as that.

It is just that our mindset is to 'think traditional' and ask questions only within the place we work.

So here are some practical steps;

What about making it a requirement that everyone in a job asks for a weekly tip from someone in a totally different job?

The person you ask must be from a different organisation and a different job type.

For instance;

  • The Chief Executive of the local NHS organisation asks the Head Chef of the best Hotel in the town for advice about meeting deadlines.
  • The Director of Finance asks the 44 year old woman who is a single parent with two teenagers for advice about running a budget.

And so it goes on ..... what suggestions do you have?

In case you thought this was a joke - I AM DEADLY SERIOUS!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Two Very Different but Important Issues

Listening to the 7 am news this morning gave me food for thought.

First ..... IBM is to shed 13000 white collar jobs worldwide.

If ever there was a warning that white collar folks need to be thinking seriously about their future then this is surely it.

Tom Peters has been warning for years that people in white collar positions need to be awake to this threat.

Their jobs are going to be replaced with technology. It really is as simple as that.

This latest IBM news is a stark reminder that we all need to be looking at our CV and thinking creatively about where our future lies outside the large institution.

There is fantastic talent in all large organisations. This talent just needs to be liberated and given the opportunity to spread its wings and be allowed to fly.

The upside of the IBM news is hopefully many people who leave will start up their own business in the services world and creativity will flourish.

After IBM – who will be next?

Are you ready with a CV showing your achievements clearly and concisely right up to yesterday (or preferably today!) if the axe falls?

Do you know what you can offer?

My best advice if you are someone in a white collar position in a large or even medium sized organisation is:

  • Keep a positive mindset about all this and never lose faith in your own ability – retain your integrity and professionalism
  • Look outside now and making your connection and networks. They will be priceless when (not if!) the axe falls in the next few years.
  • Look ahead and decide your own future before circumstances decide your future

The second thing on my mind is far more important to all of us

There is news today that the National Institute of Clinical Excellence has announced their findings about discrimination in healthcare.

Apparently, their advice is that their can be discrimination when treating older people given certain conditions.

Such discrimination will not be permissible on any other grounds such as race, gender, or self-induced illness.

This has major implications for every one of us in the UK.

Like most people I trust UK healthcare professionals - most of the time - to make the right decisions – we still have a healthcare system that is envied by many other countries.

I am very sympathetic to the situation of a person who is beyond medical help and has reached a grand old age, being allowed to drift comfortably off to wherever we go at the end of our lives. Keeping someone of a great old age in that situation alive, when all hope has gone, seems pointless although part of me has concerns about even that situation.

I do not feel qualified to make such decisions and I am pleased I do not have to. I hope I am never faced by that dilemma in my family.

What really worries me is this ruling has made the following fictitious scenario potentially real and I for one have serious ethical concerns about this.

Case number one – an old person – let us say someone who is 85 years of age - with a life threatening condition where treatment is not considered an ‘effective’ route. Does this new ruling allow health professionals to choose
to withhold treatment or drugs?

Case number two
– a young person say 45 years of age who has smoked heavily, drunk heavily and generally not looked after their health, resulting in a life threatening illness. In this situation will the same professionals be required
under this new ruling to treat the patient?

This sounds like discrimination against older people to me …..

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Treat us voters as adults - PLEASE!

It is General Election day in Britain tomorrow (Thursday) and I, for one, say thank God it will be over in 48 hours.

Actually that's not really true.

Just between you and me I do secretly love the night of the election when I will be watching television as the results come in.

This is always exciting viewing - even if the result is pretty well a formality according to the polls today with Tony Blair looking likely to enjoy another term in Downing Street.

The sort of thing that really irritates me about the election build up are photo shots of white, middle aged, overweight, black suited, male politicians holding and kissing babies.

This stereotype fixed photo opportunity really is an insult to the intelligence of the average British citizen and is something we can really do without next time PLEASE!!!!

The average voter in Britain can see through this childish, patronising, silliness!


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Rattle the Cage

Here we are back again after another Public Holiday weekend.

I would like to promote Rattle the Cage Web site

A group of us have got together 'virtually' to create a community of like-minded folks on the subjects of leadership and management.

We are truly 'global' - we come from various parts of the globe as you will see if you visit the site. We share a determination to 'make a difference' and provide a forum to discuss important issues about organisations and work.

We all share a passion for creating change in the world of leadership and management and we believe Rattle the Cage will develop over the next couple years into an international leader in the field.

Perhaps the most important thing we all share is that integrity, professionalism and outcomes must always underpin our work whilst also having the mindset that says we can enjoy ourselves and make work an interesting and fun place to be.

I hope many of you will visit Rattle the Cage site
http://www.rattle-the-cage.com/ and post your comments in our Forum.

I would love to hear what you think.