Monthly Archives: March 2014


How to kidnap someone

How much of what you do did you learn in a classroom? This is not meant to run down formal education, in fact completely the opposite. We need education to form us into useful, interesting and creative people. But there are some things that are important to know that can never be taught in the classroom.

In the University of Life we experience the ‘why’ of what we see and do; we learn the specialist knowledge that enables us to earn our income. The trick is to learn as quickly as possible which means having to adopt a contradictory status of being: on the one hand, to keep an open mind while at the same time, focusing our mind down to form what we learn into theories that can last and be re-applied in differing situations and applications.

It is hard to imagine that top business executives of multi-nationals could ever have expected to need to learn about being kidnapped while they were working their way up through their organizations. Yet this sadly is a very needed lesson for them and is a good example of one not really suited to a classroom setting. The legendary Kevin Mitnick runs a training program to teach executives how to kidnap someone. The idea is that by studying the topic from the mindset of the perpetrator that, learning becomes, more real, more pragmatic and indeed quicker.

Likewise, I try to help executives guide their companies through change by encouraging them to get into the heads and mindset of the people their plans are going to impact. This technique helps to anticipate ‘resistance’ and thereby allow the formulation of powerful strategies to ensure success. It helps them work and think on both an emotional and tactical level at the same time.

I was wondering how many topics are best learned from the ‘other side’ so to speak. This week my Mother is staying with my wife and me in Belgium. A painter and teacher throughout her life she has learned to look at paintings to a level that most of us are simply unable to do. However to understand how paintings were created she knows that there is only sure fire way of finding out and that is to forge them (not for illicit re-sale you understand). By attempting to literally copy every detail she learns not only the brush and paint techniques, she also finds herself having to overcome the physical and emotional challenges that the painter endured during the original creation process.  This is why top forgers make the best judges for deciding if a painting is genuine or not. Similarly a computer hacker can easily appreciate great computer code or a sophisticated security system. They see the ‘problem’ from the other side…

I am on holiday this week, spending sometime seeing things from the other side and relaxing with family and friends…

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:24:13+00:000 Comments

I know what I want

When people come to me for advice they often begin their session by telling me that they know what they want to do with their career, however, the strange thing is that, nine times out of ten, they almost never really know why they want it.

Let’s take a ticket conductor on an intercity train… Imagine that they love their job and imagine that they know why they love it – well, if we were to ask them why they love it, then logically, the answer should come out something like this:

“I love my job, I love being surrounded by people; I like helping them, giving advice as to what time or on what platform a connecting train leaves. I like the study that the job entails; learning the timetables and other important information. I like helping distressed people who have missed their stop or find themselves on the wrong train. I like making sure that everyone gets on and off safely and that we are ready to leave the station on time. And I like to make sure that the isles in the carriages are kept clear. I like taking the pressure off the driver for all the logistical matters so that she can focus on driving the train. I like knowing that, without me, the train cannot run and that the passengers will not reach their destination. In short, I like the responsibility my job entails and I like the feeling of being needed. Oh yes and I quite like checking the tickets and making sure everyone has paid and is sitting in the correct compartment”.   

Tonight I have been watching the UK version of ‘The Voice’. The hopes and dreams and aspirations of the singers desperately wanting something more than they possibly are capable of delivering is heart breaking. To see the not chosen standing on the stage like lost children with nowhere to go and to contrast them with the selected few who are shaking with relief, scared and yet happy to face what is in front of them – knowing too that they are only through to the next round. It’s real life drama but amplified and turned into entertainment. I wonder if you were to ask them why they were on that stage and not at home watching – what their reasons would be. But in fact, that is what that program is good at – it quickly takes the viewer down the road of understanding why the contestant want to be there and it is that understanding that makes the whole experience so powerful.

I believe that because so many of us spend so much of our lives blindly trying to fit our dreams into line with our ambitions of youth, or even of those that our loved ones and influencers, that when we find ourselves questioning the road we are on - we discover that it is hard to re connect with the deep emotions inside us that once upon a time we instinctively understood. Even harder can be admitting to ourselves, and to others, just why we really want the things that are not yet in our grasp.

It’s been a long day, I have had to face the emotions of experienced professionals facing disappointment and frustration, and I have listened with interest to the clear ambitions of a young man with so much to discover and learn. I found myself testing the strength of conviction of a professional who has finally discovered what he hopes is a new path forward in his career. And all this while my trusty IT systems have been restored and rebuilt after a momentous crash.

It’s late – maybe in the morning, I’ll have a new topic for this blog but for now and for those of us who find ourselves standing on solid ground, we need to be there for those who find themselves questioning the things they once took for granted.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:24:13+00:002 Comments

Never been done before!

There are times in your life when you decide to push yourself beyond perceived barriers, you do it because you believe you’ll succeed - but there is always a tiny element of doubt that remains. However, when you come across a company that has ‘Never been done before’ as their company motto – you just know that now is the perfect moment to go for it.

I was sitting inconspicuously at the back of the hall waiting my turn to speak when a young lady came up to me and said, “Hi I just wanted to introduce myself, I have been the one supporting you with your travel arrangements and I would like to say how much I am looking forward to your presentation.” Moments later I am standing in front of ninety eight HR executives delivering my views on  ‘ The five essential elements of inspirational leadership’.  I don’t know why but I am really buzzing, I am improvising left and right and the audience seem to be appreciating every nuance of what I am saying.

In the back of my mind is the fact that, in a few minutes time, when my speech is over I am going to give these people the biggest challenge I have ever given a group this size before. Sure I have spoken in front of much bigger groups but never conducted a workshop like the one I have in mind.

Twelve tables, eight people to a table, twelve different topics and thirty minutes for each group to come up with a set of key arguments, an illustrative poster, some tips and tricks and a five minute informative and entertaining presentation that will convince their audience of the importance of their topic!

The members of the Emerson Process Management HR team were superb, their focus was electric, their discipline amazing – they followed my instructions to the letter and then delivered with incredible creativity balanced with a sense of seriousness and fun.  What a bunch of people!  Professional doesn’t begin to cover it.  Perhaps it was a freak one off electric moment?  I don’t know. But what I do know is, I have proven that by using simple but sophisticated workshop techniques companies can tackle highly complex and challenging subjects in depth, making sure that no one’s views are overlooked, and yet in a fraction of the time they would normally need.  But, even I, never knew for sure that it could ever work on a scale like this.

But what’s the moral of the story I hear you ask?  Well it’s hidden within my inspirational element number 1. ‘Confidence’. If you believe that anything thinkable is possible – then it is. Confidence gives us the ability to delegate and to delegate on a grand scale. As long as you really trust others, they can (and will) take the task you are offering them off your shoulders and deliver results in return that will may not only surprise you, but maybe even inspire you too!

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:24:14+00:003 Comments

Wanted: A caring boss with inner confidence

What kind of boss do you have? Do they care about you or only about themselves? Some people think that they have no boss, I call them the ‘no one tells me what to do’ types, but I believe that we all have a boss of some kind or other. Give me a boss who cares and I will repay her or him in loyalty and hard work one hundred times over. Caring bosses are rare but when you find them, especially if they have the added ingredient of inner confidence, then you’ll discover just what is so special about them.

A caring boss is someone who generally cares about everything, in no particular order: They care about themselves and their career; they care about their personnel about them as people and as suppliers of service. They care about their bosses and whether they are getting from them what they need. They care about the team they are in; they care about what people think and what they say. They care about how people act, about the conditions they work in; they care about the take home pay that they and their people earn.

Now I know for sure that many of you will be thinking that I have gone too far and that caring is a sign of weakness but let me assure you, anything is further than the truth. If you genuinely care about someone you will be prepared to stand up to them, to remind them when they are right or wrong; to insist on respect and discipline, to want the best for them for their own sake.

Bosses that care are not over possessive; they give those around them the space they need and are quite prepared to let their staff go especially when the time is right. Bosses who care are genuinely interested in their people and therefore will give their employees several chances, understanding that it is not necessarily the employee at fault but those around them not giving them enough support or the right environment to shine in. Bosses that care are not afraid to put their people forward for new opportunities and challenges, and because they have inner confidence, bosses that care can be the toughest bosses of all because they will do what is right and not what is easiest.

However, I have one caveat here: If you have a boss that cares and shows you the attention that others failed to do, remember that you are one of the privileged few and while you should enjoy it while it lasts you must not lean on them too much, they are people too. At one point it will be time to leave safety of your workplace and branch out to pastures new and to search for the next opportunity and your next boss.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:24:14+00:001 Comment