Friday, March 30, 2007

Pretentious leaders please read ...then again ...then again.

I love this extract from the book I have just started reading ‘Why should anyone be led by you?’ by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.

This is the extract (Page 43):

........ Authentic leaders are not imitations. To remain real in their relationships with followers, they also take constant reality checks. As Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Burns told us, “You have to keep your feet on the ground when others want to put you on a pedestal. After a while on a pedestal, you stop hearing the truth. It’s filtered by the henchmen, and they read you so well, they know what you want to hear. You end up as the queen bee in the hive, with no relationship with the worker bees. My wife and secretary are fully empowered if they ever see me getting a bit uppity to give me a thumping great hit over the head!’ .....................

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Amazing Grace - The Movie

Annie and I went to the cinema last night to watch the recently released film Amazing Grace

It is the story of William Wilberforce and his supporters fight to abolish the slave trade which was finally achieved in 1807 through an Act of Parliament.

I mentioned in an earlier Blog posting that the current Archbishop of Canterbury has described William Wilberforce as the most important Briton of the last 1000 years.

The film is wonderful.

The focus, determination and single-mindedness of Wilberforce and his followers to a great cause is inspirational and portrayed brilliantly by many talented actors.

There is also an important message in this film for any leader or manager. Wilberforce started off in a minority of 1 against over 300 MP’s who did not want to see the slave trade abolished for commercial reasons. Over the next 25 years he recruited allies among MP’s on both sides of the house.

He was assisted quietly by his close personal friend William Pitt who was Prime Minister. Pitt could not be seen to explicitly support the abolition for other political reasons.

Wilberforce was constantly defeated and even ridiculed in debates in the House of Commons but refused to lose the will to carry on and eventually achieved his dream in 1807.

Please go and watch this film – it give me a great understanding of how – inhumane our ancestors were (very recently) even though in fairness to them, they knew no better.

Wilberforce’s story also reminds me we should never give up. As I have said many times on my Blog – I don’t believe in overnight success.

The superb Amazing Grace website (click here) gives you the opportunity to see some clips from the film and I would recommend the video clip entitled The Story of Amazing Grace – it is very moving.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Scandal of Hospital Car Parking Charges

I can remember in the early 1980’s when I was a young hospital manager and car parking charges were introduced.

All those nice accountants in my hospital said … ‘This is only a nominal sum and merely a gesture. It will never become income we rely on in the NHS’

How times have changed …

I recently read the exclusive BBC news report (click here ) about hospital car parking - here is an extract

'Hospitals in England are each charging their patients up to £1.5m a year for car parking, the BBC has learned. Twelve hospital trusts each raised over £1m in charges, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.'

My lesson - Confucius he say:

‘Beware he of the numbers game called NHS accountant who brings promises of jam tomorrow’

At the time in the early 80's as an outspoken young rebellious manager I complained long and hard to my bosses about my abhorrence at charging patients to park.

I was accused of being a socialist extremist.

Without being arrogant I was right and it still riles me today 20 plus years later.

It is scandalous that patients and relatives pay for being ill or visiting someone who is ill.

I have spoken to people who pay £35 per week to visit their sick next of kin in a hospital bed.

Mr Bevan will be turning in his grave.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rose Tinted Glasses

This weeks Audio Blog is about seeing the past with rose tinted spectacles. I am reflecting on morale in the 'good old days' in the NHS compared with morale nowadays ... This Audio Blog is 2 minutes and 46 seconds

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Virgin NHS????

For the next financial starting 1 April 2007 the budget to run the National Health Service will be £100 billion pounds. The number of staff in the NHS is around 1.3 million people.

I am not one of the many people who knock this government about the state of the NHS.

People have short memories. When Tony Blair first came to power in 1997 there was a massive listening exercise when professionals and managers in the NHS were asked to tell the government about the problems faced. The message went back to the Government that there was a desperate need for more money in the NHS.

This government- true to its word - has ploughed more money into the NHS than any government in history but when the money was given it was conditional that having listened to the professionals the government would expect delivery for the massive extra investment. That sounds fair to me.

And yet we still hear the NHS is in danger of falling apart. I don’t believe that and I still think existing money can be used far more effectively in the NHS with some brave leadership.

I have seen huge improvements in the NHS in the last 10 years. OK it is still far from perfect but before leaping to blame the government I think the NHS needs to have a good look at itself and ask how the additional money has been managed in the last 10 years.

Imagine now just for moment that Richard Branson was running the NHS with £100 billion pounds turnover and a sales force of 1.3 million people - do you think it would be a more efficient organisation than the current NHS? – I do

My question is – is this simply about leadership?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Good on you Tony Blair

Here is the hilarious sketch featuring Tony Blair last Friday evening on Comic Relief

The Desert

One of the best things that has happened to me since I left the corporate world of healthcare and became independent is that I have made many 'virtual friends' all over the world.

One such person from the United States is Dan Ward with whom I regularly exchange thoughts on all matters!

Dan and I share a passion for simplicity.

He has written a number of short books in the last couple of years.

Dan recently sent me the manuscript of his latest book
The Desert which is a great read. I read it on a train journey so in an afternoon you can sit and read this little masterpiece while enjoying a glass (or two) of wine sitting in the sun in the garden.

I hope Simplicity readers will take a look and maybe consider buying it - you will not be disappointed and I’m sure you will enjoy Dan’s engaging writing style.

This what Dan says:

‘I just wanted to let you know that my latest book The Desert is finished. It is a happy little collection of stories and reflections about grace, difficulty, faith, joy and love. It offers an optimistic perspective of life, based on the reality of God's goodness. You can read more about it at by clicking here'

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tony Blair and Comic Relief

An Audio Blog on whether Tony Blair was right or not to appear on Comic Relief on BBC TV last Friday evening in a comedy sketch given the war in Iraq. This one is a tricky call – I would be interested in comments.

This Audio Blog is 3 minutes and 47 seconds long.

MP3 File

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mmmmm ........

Intrigued by these silly pictures? - Click here to read more

Saturday, March 17, 2007

'That's Just the Way It Is' - WRONG!

My latest thinking about another book has entered my head.

I am interested why I often hear the expression ‘That's just the way it is’

I don’t like that expression.

By implication it means we accept that nothing can be done to change things that are not acceptable and if we say those words we actually condone poor standards.

It seems to me many times people give up because 'the system' has beaten them. It just seems too hard to challenge unacceptable practice and so we take the line of least resistance by shrugging our shoulders and muttering those dreadful words 'Well I guess I just have to accept that's just the way it is’ ...... or variations of that.

I say 'NO!! - we don't have to accept that'

We should challenge what we judge to be poor standards. I believe the best way to raise standards is to apply our own standards rather than passively accept standards that we personally believe are not good enough.

Anyway .. That's what is in my head and I hope to write something soon.

I would love your comments on this one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Some Tom Peters simplicity

A brilliant slide from one of Tom Peters recent presentations simply read as follows:

So you’re a ‘people person’? – Prove it

I love that

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What makes an effective leader?

Martin Luther King - one of the greatest leaders of our time.

In the last week I have become involved in discussions about one of my favourite subjects - What makes an effective leader?

The discussion had me scurrying back to my reference books and to my 20,000 word dissertation Leadership in Practice (1997) when I researched leadership for three years as part of my MA Management (Healthcare) in Plymouth University

I was inspired by the leadership writings of Americans Warren Bennis and Tom Peters but the book that made the most impact on me was 'The Business of Leadership' by British authors Alan Hooper and John Potter. Sadly their book is no longer in print.

They suggest effective leadership is made up of the following competencies – what I like most is the simplicity of this approach of course.

*Setting direction - (my emphasis – this is vision)
*Setting an example - ( my emphasis – doing what you say)
*Effective communication - (my emphasis - listening as well as telling)
*Creating alignment - (my emphasis – getting people to work together to common objectives)
*Bringing the best out of people - ( my emphasis - valuing others, empowering)
*Leader as a change agent - (my emphasis - sustaining change)
*Decisions and actions in crisis or emergency - (my emphasis – offering calm yet decisive leadership in difficult situations)

Do you think there are other competencies missing from this list?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Photos from the Theatre of Dreams

Five photos (not brilliant quality) from my trip last Wednesday to Old Trafford to see Manchester United progress to the last 8 of the European Champions League.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I'm not happy today!

I've spent many years working in communications.

I was always taught the importance of good communication; how one needs to have empathy when listening; how one should give encouragement to someone who may be in a stressful situation; how one should be supportive.

Today I had an unfortunate experience where none of those qualities were displayed by a person in a very important position and in my opinion should know better.

The person is in a very significant position of influence and I was very much on the receiving end of their appalling communication skills.

I have been thinking about it and have decided that the problem is theirs and not mine. I have summed up that person’s attitude and skills as follows:

Their arrogance is only exceeded by their ignorance.

I am afraid I cannot name names or positions but suffice to say I am not a happy bunny today! If ever I treat anyone like that permission is herby given to shoot me - please!!!

Nevertheless …. The sun is shining brightly – I am in love with Annie - the most precious and beautiful wife any man could ever be blessed to have as a life partner.

And therefore …. Idiots like the person I mention earlier do not really deserve me wasting my precious time typing words - but hey – it helped to get that off my chest!!

Sorry to moan - Have a great weekend

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What a Night!!

Henrik Larsson in spectacular action at Old Trafford

Well what a wonderful trip it was yesterday (Wednesday) to Old Trafford, Manchester - The 'Theatre of Dreams'

This was the first time I had been to see Manchester United play at Old Trafford since April 17th 1990 when I took my Manchester United mad son Duncan on his 14th birthday as a surprise.

In the words of the old song .. ‘Ah yes I remember well.’ United won that night 17 years ago 2-0 against Aston Villa.

Last night United beat the French team Lille 1-0 to reach the last 8 of the European Champions League with a great goal from Henrik Larsson.

It was a magnificent occasion with 75,000 fans inside Old Trafford creating a marvelous atmosphere. I couldn’t help thinking how much better the stadium is now since it became all seater. The view was breathtaking from our high seat overlooking the pitch.

We travelled by car up the notorious M6 motorway from Birmingham allowing plenty of time to get to Manchester but with various delays it was only 5 minutes before kick off when we finally sat down.

Then we had to walk four miles back to our car but it was all worth it to see United in action and to sample once more that unique Old Trafford atmosphere!! – But then again … I am perhaps just a wee bit biased!!

Come on you Reds!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Football and Work!

Old Trafford - 'Theatre of Dreams' - home of Manchester United

St James Park - home of Newcastle United

This coming week I am visiting two Premiership Football Stadiums. One for work and one definitely for pleasure!

Tomorrow (Monday) I am working as one of six facilitators at a major National Health Service consultation with Chief Executives and other Senior Managers in the North East Region of England. It will mean a long trip for me up to Newcastle and the meeting is being held at St James Park - home of Newcastle United Football Club. It is reckoned to be one of the best stadiums in Britain and I am looking forward to seeing the stadium. .... Oh .. nearly forgot ... and the work looks interesting too.

Then on Wednesday evening it is the big one.

I am going to the Theatre of Dreams - Old Trafford, Manchester – home of my beloved Manchester United.

I am going along with my son Duncan - also a Man United fan - and a couple of his friends.

The last time I actually watched a match at Old Trafford was 17th April 1990 – I remember it so well because it was his 14th birthday present and we stood on the Stretford End among a crowd of 63,000 fans.

Nowadays Old Trafford holds about 78,000 fans and it is an ‘all seater’ stadium. It is considered the best football stadium in Britain and it is the biggest although when the new Wembley Stadium in London opens later this year that will become the biggest stadium in Britain.

One of the trends of the last few years has been the 'opening up' of football stadiums for business meetings, conferences etc. and that is a marvellous use of stadiums that would otherwise be standing idle all week apart from one or two matches per week which last 90 minutes each.

But of course the main purpose of football stadiums is to watch our favourite team 'do the business.'

Manchester United will be playing the French club Lille on Wednesday evening and I am excited about being one of the 78,000 people inside the stadium, to enjoy the atmosphere.

Come on United!!!

Friday, March 02, 2007

NO!! It’s not acceptable to say ‘That’s just the way it is'

This Audio Blog is a bit of a rant about what I see as poor customer care. It runs for 4 minutes and 27 seconds

MP3 File

What if?

What if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?
What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we flipped through it several times a day?
What if we used it to receive messages?
What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it as we travelled?
What if we used it in case of an emergency?
What if we upgraded to include 24/7 tech service from the Holy Spirit?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phones, we don't ever have to worry about our bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Apologies for lack of Blog Posts this week – I’ve been busy!!

As a self employed person, being busy means I can afford to eat in March after all.

On Tuesday I was speaking at a big healthcare conference in Swindon and today (Thursday) I had the joy of speaking at another healthcare conference near Belfast. A joy because this was the first time I had visited Northern Ireland.

Trying to fit in some telephone coaching for a client and generally keeping on top of an increasing workload meant that something had to give this week. Sadly it was Simplicity Blog.

It feels like I have withdrawal pains when I miss out on reading the rich comments I receive from Simplicity readers so I will try to get back on course this coming week with more regular postings.

Three pictures from the Northern Ireland conference are included in this posting.

Annie and I travelled over to Belfast on the 6.50 am flight from Birmingham International Airport to Belfast International and we were back in our house by 6.30 pm.

One of the greatest joys of being self employed and working from home is that Annie and I get to go places together in my work. Being with someone I love when I am working makes me feel great, boosts my confidence and makes work an absolute pleasure. Thank you darling Annie for your support and your love x