Monthly Archives: January 2010


Working with the team you are given

I don’t personally know anyone that is not under pressure to deliver more, in less time, of a higher quality and with the team they have been given. When you think of it logically, at a certain time it becomes impossible?

Every year all the political parties in the UK talk about getting more out of the National Health Service (NHS). Every year they say they will reduce inefficiency. If any, or all, of them were ever successful: Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, you would expect the NHS to be so efficient by now that there would be absolutely no room for improvement at all? But still, here we are, being constantly told the opposite.

I was reviewing the structure of a project team this week, following my own advice of trying to match the talent to the needs of the project. On paper, you could be forgiven for thinking that the situation was hopeless. There were simply not enough profiles with the right experience and quality to deliver the results required. And yet, out of the most unlikely teams, truly amazing results can come. It’s all a question of recognizing the hidden talent that lies within.

By creating a strong team dynamic, talent almost naturally comes to the surface. After that it is simply a question of careful delegation, combined with handing over complete responsibility (ownership) to those that are keen to take on the challenge you offer them. When people feel responsible (and believe they can handle the tasks they are given) the results are often far better than ever imagined, it’s as if shackles have been released from their inner confidence and pride.

Too often we damp out the fires of willingness and creativity even without realizing it. I am reminded of a ‘Simpsons’ episode where Lisa has invented a perpetual machine and Homer and Marge are upset because their kids are not ‘normal’:

Homer: “Lisa!  Get in here.  (Lisa walks in, chuckling nervously),   in this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”

Have a good week!


2016-11-17T08:25:24+00:001 Comment

“You’re not listening”

Last week I went to see my publisher to tell them about my next book. However they were not happy with what they heard and instead of understanding that it was going to be very different from ‘Making a Difference’ and indeed most of their other titles, they kept trying to impress on me what they wanted, what I should do and what sells best.

At a certain point, when my patience had run out and my temper was on the point of breaking, I said very bluntly “You’re not listening!” Silence filled the room. After a short pause I tried again, this time more calmly and in much more detail. I told them about my approach, my vision my long term objectives and eventually it began to sink in.

Slowly, ever so slowly the review panel came around to the point of understanding what I wanted to achieve and why. However, it was only later in the evening that I started thinking about what they had been saying, before I interrupted them, and what it might mean on the potential sales of the new book.

I had not gone to my publisher to listen to their views, I had only the intention of telling them my plans in the naive expectancy that they would say “great, how soon can we have the manuscript?” The result of the heated debate could have so easily been a disaster. Luckily for everyone we all kept our cool and remained polite and continued to work at finding a creative solution.

Listening is not passive, it is engaging.
Listening is allowing your mind and soul to empathize with the person that is speaking. 
Listening is not about agreement or disagreement, it is not about what you think or believe in - that is a lecture.  
Listening is about understanding where the message is coming from and the circumstances that surround it.
In everything we do, perhaps listening is the hardest of them all?

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:25+00:000 Comments

Company Politics: How would you describe it?

I was 27 years old when the communications and marketing company I had formed three years earlier had grown to the extent where I needed to take on a third employee.  Soon afterwards, I re-lived the nightmare that I thought I had escaped from during my short career as an employee.  Namely: Company politics!

Competing against other companies to win a new order is still the adrenaline rush that fires me up twenty five years later. Whereas competing against another employee for the attention of someone with influence, within one’s own company, simply bores me.  The waste of company time and money, only to serve the purpose of one’s own career, is abhorrent to me. And yet it is the life blood that sadly runs through far too many companies, eating away at the attention that should be focused on the outside world.

I was working on my new book this weekend, trying to come up with a short description to headline my chapter on ‘Company Politics’, the result was this:

“There is a difference between playing politics and active self promotion: Politics is the hollow game to obtain something more than you truly deserve, whereas self promotion is the open display of one’s natural talents and achievements”.

I wonder if this is how you would describe it? And I also wonder whether anyone, anywhere, has ever experienced a company without it?

Have a good week,


2010-01-11T16:00:00+00:001 Comment

“I am sorry, what did you say you do for a living?”

Someone was telling me last week how cross he was when a friend of his, that should have known better, incorrectly introduced him to a potentially very interesting contact at a New Years reception. “it was obvious that he had not understood at all what I did for a living”. And so this got me wondering, if his friend did not know what he did for a living, then who did?

I find it amazing that most of us spend thousands of hours a year working at what we do but when it comes down to explaining it to someone else we simply cannot do it adequately. Most often we either try and skip the question completely or bore our enquirer into instantly forgetting by going into long and totally unnecessary detail. But yet, it can’t be that difficult can it?

A Doctor: ‘I attempt to make sick people better’

A Project Manager: ‘I make my client’s ideas reality’

A Financial Director: ‘I manage the flow of money throughout the business and ensure that it is accurately documented’

A Change Manager: ‘I attempt to bring about the changes my client requires, as smoothly as possible, within the given constraints’

If after our short description our enquirer is still interested in us they will probably ask either a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question: “that’s interesting, how do you do that?” or “Why on earth did you choose that for a living?”.

At this stage all you have to decide is either to engage more deeply or try and make an excuse and get away as fast as possible. The problem that most of us have with receptions is that we are forced into the role either to entertain or indeed be entertained, by listening with intent to whatever nonsense we are hearing, asking polite and enquiring questions along the way. But the importance of this exercise goes far beyond its use at a New Year’s reception.

In order for people to remember us they need to have a clear picture of who we are and what we do. The ‘who we are’, is mostly handled by our appearance and our mannerisms, but the ‘what we do’ is completely down to us to rehearse over and over again, until we have got it right to the various different levels of detail the circumstances require, for example: When being introduced to a new boss at work, or, during a telephone interview, or in a detailed interview in front of a panel of assessors. Whatever the situation, we need our explanation ready. I know mine, is yours?

Happy New Year,


2016-11-17T08:25:25+00:000 Comments