Saturday, December 31, 2005

Calling all Hillbillies!!

Another new Blog to report as we end 2005.

This time it is run by my friend Rocky Noe in Kentucky, USA.

Please visit Hillbilly PhD and give Rocky your support


Friday, December 30, 2005

Two New Links

I am pleased to promote two new links.

Car Hunt is a new small business here in the West Midlands. You can visit the Web site at this link

‘Great Leaders’ - is a new Blog started by my friend Brian Ward in Edmonton, Canada. – see link

Please visit both and tell your friends.

Both the people involved in setting up these sites are trying to make a real difference though their own hard work. I hope you can help them by spreading the word.

I have added both sites to my ‘Links’ on the right hand side of Simplicity Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time to Reflect

In my experience the time between Christmas and the New Year is usually quiet and can offer us time to reflect about the previous year.

The last 12 months has been an incredible time given events like the Tsunami, the London Bombings, the Earthquake in Pakistan, the floods in New Orleans. England won the Ashes against Australia. London won the right to host the Olympic Games in 2012. George Best died.

These are just a few big news stories of the year. World headlines I suppose you would say.

Equally important have been individual events for all of us that make no real impact on the world stage but nevertheless they have massive effects on the individual.

For instance many people will have lost a loved one during 2005. This is perhaps therefore a good time to remember those who have just spent their first Christmas without the person they loved. The New Year celebrations that are about to happen will not have quite the same excitement for such people.

Maybe in the midst of our celebrations we can say a short prayer for those people who will be missing someone they loved.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

And so this is christmas

Best wishes to all who
visit Simplicity Blog

A love filled Christmas
to you all. Relax and

Thank you all for your brilliant support to my Simplicity Blog during 2005.

I started the Blog nervously in January 2005 with little idea whether or not it would be popular but thanks to the fantastic support of regular contributors and new visitors I have been staggered by the links my Blog has created all over the world.

I have watched Simplicity Blog develop well from its early stumbling beginning and I look forward to keeping in contact with the many new virtual friends I have made in far away places as well as those folks closer to home in good old Britain.

2005 has been a fabulous learning year and I look forward to 2006 with optimism and plenty more communication through Simplicity Blog.

Here’s to a Blogging New Year Says I

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Manchester United's
Park Ji-Sung scores his
first goal for the club
with a sweet strike to
make it 2-0
Sir Alex Ferguson showing
his delight as his side make
the semi-finals

There's only one Man United!!

Last night (Tuesday) I had the great pleasure to watch my beloved Manchester United play for the first time in over 10 years. United played Birmingham City and won 3-1 in the quarter final of the Carling Cup competition.

A Report of the match can be seen at this link;

The last time I saw United live was at Wembley Stadium in the early 1990's and they lost that League Cup Final to Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.

Last night was wonderful. It was freezing but Annie and I had both wrapped up well with many layers of clothes and even a hot water bottle. The coffee from the flask at half time was very welcome and I resisted the temptation to buy a burger.

We sat among the Birmingham City fans and therefore I had to control my great desire to stand up and scream with joy as United scored three goals in the first 20 minutes of the second half.

There were 20,500 fans watching and it was fabulous to see United select many of their younger players - less well known maybe than some of the big stars but youngsters are always hungry for success.

The United travelling fans were tremendous and recited songs about George Best and Eric Cantona - two great heroes of Manchester United's past. The fans were good humoured and it made for a cracking atmosphere which seemed to be enjoyed by both sets of fans. All in all a great testimony to English football.

Some media people and supposed experts are writing off Sir Alex Ferguson the United Manager because the team have struggled earlier this season. I think Sir Alex is successfully building a new team and the youngsters who played last night were skilful, professional, hungry, competitive and they played some lovely one touch football.

I say never under-estimate Sir Alex.

Thank you Annie for coming to the match with me – that made it even more special.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Soft is Hard

I have become involved in a fascinating Blog discussion with my friend Sriram in Hong Kong about the merits of ’soft’ and 'hard' approaches to leadership and management. Sriram's excellent Blog is at this link

It made me think about this subject quite a lot. It is an interesting topic that is very close to my heart. I have always believed ‘Soft’ can definitely be ‘Hard.’ I worked in the NHS for 35 years and at various times in my career;

  • I was told I was too soft as a manager - I should be harder
  • I was told my heart ruled my head too often
  • I was told I did not have the ruthlessness needed to reach the top
  • I was told I was too close to the staff I manage
  • I was told I was too close to patients and their carers
  • I was told I was too easy going
  • I was told that I was idealistic
  • I was told I was too trusting of people.

I would probably agree with all those things said about me.

However with time to now reflect about that list I would rather be remembered for those 8 qualities then a list of the opposite 8 qualities;

  • Too hard
  • Head always rules heart
  • Ruthless
  • Distant and removed from staff
  • Distant and removed from customers
  • Inflexible
  • Pessimistic
  • Miss trusting of people
I have never accepted one has to be ruthless and hard to be successful. Just because one is concerned about other people; fairness; integrity; and the other ‘softer’ stuff does not mean one cannot at the same time, be decisive and consistent. There is a balance to be found.

I also think the qualities in the first list do not mean that you cannot be ‘tough when the going gets tough’. I am happy to receive counter arguments on this. I will carry on being driven by the items on list one – it has stood me in good stead for my life so far.

We all have strengths and preferred styles – mine happens to be more on the softer side. There is always a risk that people will take advantage of good nature but I remain optimistic and trusting.

The greatest leader I have ever met is also the most humble and ‘soft’ person I have ever met. His concern is always for people.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Dr Alan Merson

How old!!!?????

Dr Alan Merson is 83 years old and he is still working as a GP (Family Doctor) after 57 years at the same practice.

In these days when we are led to believe the retirement age may be raised to 67 this story creates a refreshing view of the older person. Older people are often portrayed as helpless and in need of support. Dr Merson is doing his bit to dispel the myth that as we get older it is time to slow down; curl up; and prepare for our final farewell!

Good on you Dr Merson - I hope you will go on for a few more years yet.

Using him as a role model I have another 30 years of work to look forward to and that should be enough time to finish the six books I have started reading in the last month or two!

Leadership - An Art or a Science?

I have always been interested in the different views of leadership.

Some people believe leadership is a science and some believe it is an art. My view has always been that it is a balance of the two though I believe it is more of an art than a science.

Over the weekend whilst reading the excellent ‘Searching Issues’ by Nicky Gumbel I came across a nice and simple rule of thumb to help us differentiate between the objective (the science) and the subjective (the art). Although the book is not about leadership I think this rule can be applied to the leadership debate.

He says the scientific (objective) is about; The How? and the When?

He says the art (subjective) is about; The Why? and the Who?

I like it and if you think about it this says it all really in four words.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thinking about Carers at Christmas

One of my passions is to increase awareness of and support to informal carers.

Carers are family members (or friends) who provide care to someone suffering from an illness or disability. They are unpaid. Carers do this from a sense of duty and obligation but more importantly from a sense of love for the person they look after.

Although awareness of the needs of carers has increased in the last 30 years there is still a great deal of ignorance about how much care is provided by carers and how little support they receive.
The word ‘carer’ did not even appear in English dictionaries before 1970.

It is estimated that unpaid Carers in the UK save the Government about £57 billion per year. I have often said that if carers withdrew their labour today the Government would be bankrupt immediately. At this emotional time of the year I hope we can all stop and think for a moment about carers.

It would be great if readers of Simplicity Blog would point friends and colleagues to the Carers UK Web Site and spend a little time reading some of the information.

These words were written by a carer in a newsletter I received recently - pretty powerful I think;

Carers Wish List

I wish:

I could watch a television programme all the way through
I could go to bed when I want to and sleep through the night
I could get up when I want to
I could do something on the spur of the moment
I didn’t have to watch the clock for tablets and toileting
I didn’t have to worry all the time about the person I care for
I wish things could be as they were.

Thanks to Chris Young, caring for her husband.

Your next station is .. or words to that effect!!

I know I should really get out more when minor things get me irritated.

One such thing is having an announcer on a train who speaks in a muffled voice and very quickly so that - despite having perfect hearing - I cannot understand a word.

Two questions:

Am I the only one who notices these things?
Is there a language that I did not learn at school but everyone else knows?

We have surely reached a point when it is not beyond the wit of man (or woman) to simply have someone from the train staff team to listen to the announcer and tell that person - in the kindest way possible - that they cannot be understood! This is not rocket science.

It just seems absolutely pointless having a passenger announcement service on a train that the passengers can’t hear or understand. Maybe I am missing something.

Simple really – so why can it not be sorted out?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Keep Fit Granny

Sorry not to have posted anything for a few days on my Simplicity Blog.

Christmas beckons and like everyone else our life has been busy.

Annie and I have been on some retail therpay trips and the plastic is taking a pounding.

I will be 'up and running again' in a day or so but in the meantime enjoy this little light relief....

It's important to keep fit as you get older; my granny started walking 5 kilometres a day when she was 60. Today she's 97 and we don't know where the hell she is!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Corporate Social Responsibility – I hope we are serious!

I have just started reading about something called Corporate Social Responsibility. It seems I am a bit behind many people on this.

My limited understanding is that the ‘penny has finally dropped’ that running a business is NOT JUST ABOUT PROFITS. The best definition of Corporate Social Responsibility I have found was in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph;

‘The acknowledgement by companies that they should be accountable not only for their financial performance, but also for the impact of their activities on society and/or the environment. Striking a balance is all important.’

I think it is a wonderful aspiration that we should all aim for. I look forward to see what money is ploughed back into society by all the big companies. I have detected in the last few years a much more responsible position being taken by Tesco for instance with their continuing support to cause such as Cancer and there are many examples such as the Body Shop and Virgin of massive companies who plough millions of pounds back into good causes in the UK as well as overseas.

There is something very good about this initiative and the inter-dependence between society and business underpins it. It is perhaps appropriate that I post something about this at the time of the year too.

I love the idea and my biggest concern is that managers, academics and management consultants will turn this wonderful idea into an unnecessarily complicated process – lets keep it simple and then we all win.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Survey Failure

Many jokes and chain e-mails in my Inbox end up in the trash can.

This was received from Karen - one of Annie's friends and was worth keeping and sharing methinks. I hope you find it as interesting and amusing as we did. Thank you Karen.

Last month, the U.N. conducted a worldwide survey.

The only question asked was:"Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to World Food shortages?"

The survey was a huge failure:

  • In Eastern Europe they didn't know what 'honest' meant.
  • In Western Europe they didn't know what 'shortage' meant.
  • In Africa they didn't know what 'food' meant.
  • In Eastern China they didn't know what 'opinion' meant.
  • In the Middle East they didn't know what 'solution' meant.
  • In South America they didn't know what 'please' meant.
  • And of course, In the USA, they didn't know what 'rest of the world' meant.

Monday, December 05, 2005

John Lennon on love

Annie and I listened on BBC Radio Four, to an interview recorded in 1970 featuring John Lennon.

It was a terrific programme with some remarkable insights into the genius that was Lennon. Below is an extract about his description of the love between himself and Yoko Ono. There can surely be no more powerful way of expressing love for someone else;

“She (Yoko) can turn me on to a million things. I can be alone without Yoko – I just have no wish to be. There is no reason on earth why I should be alone. There is nothing more important than our relationship. Nothing. We dig being together all the time and both of us could survive apart but what for? I’m not going to sacrifice love, real love, for any whore, or any friend, or any business, because in the end you are alone at night and neither of us want to be. You can’t fill the bed with groupies – it doesn’t work. I don’t want to be a swinger. I’ve been through it all and nothing works better than having someone you love hold you.” - John Lennon

Extract from Jann Wenner's seminal 1970 New York interview with Lennon

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Final Farewell to George

I hope regular visitors to my Simplicity Blog can tolerate just one final reference from me to my soccer hero George Best.

Today was a very sad day for me as the funeral took place – it was an amazing service – televised live by the BBC.

Anyone watching the coverage will - I guarantee - have had at least one moment in the service when a tear appeared. I cried at two points – one when George’s son Callum read a poem and then when George’s sister gave a touching and very moving tribute to George, her brother.

We tend to forget that although George was a sporting superstar known all over the world, he was also a member of a broken hearted family.

The great news is George is now at peace with God and soccer stadiums in Heaven will be full from now on.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Nicky Gumbel
Author of the book
'Searching Issues'


I got involved recently in a discussion with a friend about imitation of Management Gurus. Tom Peters is the best Management Guru as far as I am concerned and there are some poor imitations who are just that – imitations.

Tom Peters has worked for over 25 years to establish his reputation as the worlds leading Management Guru - he is no 'overnight flash in the pan.' It has been hard work with a lot of metaphorical blood, sweat and tears!

I prefer to listen to or read the original person but sad to say there are those who make a living and something of a reputation by copying the original. I guess that is sadly true in all walks of life.

Of course we all know there are very few genuinely original thinkers. Indeed most progress has come about in our development by building on the ideas of others and I have no problem with that. We all do it.

What really annoys me is when someone’s original work is not only copied but the person copying it does so blatantly without even crediting the originator of that work.

I am reading a wonderful book at the moment called Searching Issues by Nicky Gumbel and Nicky uses a wonderful analogy to illustrate the difference between the New Age Movement and Christianity.

I suggest we can use this example in the world of business, management or indeed any walk of life when discussing counterfeits. My opinion is we should try to be ourselves whilst of course learning from the people we admire most and even take 'bits of them' for yourself - but always remain your own person and make your own unique mark on the world.

Anyway .. Enough of my ramblings ..This is what Nicky says in the book …I hope you like it;

The way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real thing really well. Caryl Matrisciana uses a helpful analogy

‘Mum’s been working at the bank for over a year’ my friend Chris told me ‘and she’s been getting the most amazing education.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘She’s been learning all about money.’

‘I guess she’d have to know about money if she’s going to work in a bank’ I laughed.

Chris smiled. ‘I mean she’s really learning about money. They are teaching her to know the colour of each bill, the size of it, even the way its water marked. They are showing her the details of the inks and papers.’

‘How do they teach her?’

‘Well they just keep having her handle it. They point out all the various things they want her to remember. But they figure the more she works with money, feels it, counts it, and stacks it, the more familiar it’ll be to her.’

‘That makes sense I suppose. But what’s the point?’

‘Here’s the point. Yesterday they blindfolded her. They slipped a couple of counterfeit bills in her stack of money. She picked them out by touch.’

‘So she’s studying counterfeit money too then?’

'No … that’s just it. The people at the bank know that a person doesn’t need to study the counterfeits.’

‘I see. But it seems as if they’re going to a lot of trouble. Doesn’t it?’

‘Not really. The bank knows that the counterfeits are getting better and better, more and more sophisticated. And it’s been proved a thousand times over that if a bank teller knows the real money extremely well, he can’t be fooled by the counterfeit.’