Learning – one by one

I was ready and prepared for 15 participants in the virtual classroom, yet only one person had joined. We waited a few more minutes for any late comers, but alas, no one else joined.
“Now what?” I thought to myself.
I suggested to the participant if they’d like to continue or postpone their attendance to the next session of the workshop in January. After a moment, she responded, “I’m happy to go ahead on my own.” So off we went into our session together.
Our content for the 90 minute session was all about the importance of storytelling in the workplace. After brief introductions, I started into my delivery routine, with a short story of my own. Quickly it became very apparent how powerful a 1-1 virtual learning session can be.
Together we discussed each of the slides one by one, along with current research and virtual activities. We considered several of our own stories, how powerful they can be in the workplace and in our own lives, when shared in the right way. So much so that we dissected some of our own stories even further, eking out simple principles to bring greater clarity and meaning to experiences that life had brought us.
On reflection, it was an insightful 90 minutes, filled with a richness, wonder and powerful 1 on 1 learning.
Key learning takeaway… Never dismiss the one!

Becoming a somebody

Have you reached that point in life where you can afford to allow yourself to stop growing or to stop improving?

Do you remember the old adage “If you consider yourself a nobody and do nothing to improve yourself to become a somebody, you truly will end up being a nobody.”

Every single one of us can choose to improve ourselves daily.

Self improvement begins with self-awareness and the ability to transform our personal habits. There is no one size fits all in our unique and individual journey through life. Yet, I believe that there is a need for constant improvement in all of our lives if we are to become a somebody.

“None of us will become perfect in a day or a month or a year. We will not accomplish it in a lifetime, but we can begin now, starting with our more obvious weaknesses and gradually converting them into strengths.” – Gordon B. Hinckley.

Over time, as we choose to make small adjustments in our life routines, they can bring greater balance, direction and peace to each of our lives. Remember, one step at a time.

Every leader can be a better leader than he or she is today.

Every father, mother, daughter or son can be a better father, mother, daughter or son than he or she is today.

Are you a somebody?

Never dissemble

A few years ago, I sat listening to Brad Agle, co-author of “The Business Ethics Field Guide” on a 2 day programme of workshops in London.   Frequently I recall the lesson of those 2 days.

In his keynote address, Brad asked the audience “what does dissemble mean?” Like many others in the room, I kind of thought I knew what it meant, but wasn’t exactly certain.  There were a number of suggestions from the audience, before a few definitions were given that went something like this:

  • to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of:
  • to put on the appearance of; feign
  • to conceal one’s true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically

In that moment, for me then, it simply meant to conceal the truth or to deceive.  Brad then shared some stories to bring further meaning to the point he was making which was simply this….“Never dissemble”.  

So, have you ever been party to a dissemblance?  Have you ever thought that misrepresenting or concealing the truth could create a better outcome?  Is it your natural tendency to push the limits of honesty to the very edge?

I have shared this story before, but it illustrates the point I want to make today.

A childhood story

Growing up in Scotland in the late 1960’s had its ups and downs. As a wee laddie, my mum would often have me run around to the shops to get a loaf of bread (plain – with thick ends), or some square sausage for the dinner. There weren’t any big supermarkets in those days!. I recall, one day however coming back home and eating a toffee dainty. Mum asked, “what are you eating”. I responded, “oh, its just a dainty!”. Little did I know the impact of that question.

Mum had given me a thruppence (three old pence), the exact money in those days for a loaf of bread. I came home eating a toffee dainty! How could that be?!  No sooner had I admitted what had happened, when she promptly marched me back around to the corner shop to confess my guilt to the shop keeper, for stealing the toffee dainty! I hadn’t overtly lied per say, but indeed it was a childhood lesson on dissemblance that has stuck with me for nearly 50 years.

To quote from the “Business Ethics Field Guide”… “often people dissemble just by keeping their motives to themselves – usually to look better or protect their interests. In fact, the Dissemblance dilemma occurs whenever misrepresenting or concealing the truth could create a better outcome. p128”

Niccolo Machiavelli in “The Prince” encouraged clever lies, tricks, cunning, duplicitous, controlling and manipulative behaviour  in order to get things done accordingly to his will.  Sadly in my professional career, I have been witness to behaviour of that type, which ultimately ends in failure, disappointment and pain.  We often see this type of behaviour on the global stage too.

Challenges of today

So what moral and ethical dilemmas are you facing today, at home, at work or in your social circles?  Do you frequently dissemble?  Are you even aware that you are doing it?

I believe that all human beings are innately honest. In the business world of today, we have seen too many examples of personal ethics and values being overridden by professional standards. I believe the value of honesty to be one of a number of ethical pillars that we must all resolve to live by, in every aspect of our personal, family and professional lives……. every single day. It can make a change to everything and to everyone.

As a professional coach, I have found over the last few years, that those of us who work in this profession, have an uncanny knack of being able to help.

My invitation today, to you, is to stop, reflect on what is happening all around you, consider what matters most – and then choose to do the right thing. The honest and truthful thing. It will, I promise pay many dividends over the long term.  And incidentally, if you are looking for a good coach to help you on your journey, I’d be happy to help you along the way.


“What is the best way to express appreciation to a team member?” asked a course participant. “There are many ways, but let me tell you about my favourite” I responded.
Some context, this week, I have been busy delivering some global virtual workshops on employee engagement.
My story is a simple one.
As a coach, when a series of coaching conversations come to their ultimate conclusion, I frequently receive a note of thanks, sometimes even a little gift and occasionally both. I do not seek after them, these things simply arrive in the post. The thank you notes are always filled with beautiful heartfelt words of gratitude. Each card is carefully written and filled with expressions of appreciation and kindness for the time I’ve given to an individual to help them along in their personal journey. The result, usually a warm fuzzy!
Cards and gifts are always nice to receive, but the key part of my story is this, we simply need to genuinely express our appreciation. We start by saying 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖.
It seems like an extremely obvious thing to do, yet we need to become much more accustomed to saying thank you more often, by making it personal and real.
Please don’t let the next opportunity to express your appreciation for a job well done pass by, say thank you!


ooh, ouch, Ouch! OUCH! 𝗢𝗨𝗖𝗛!

Maybe I’m just a little adverse to Dentist and Doctor surgeries. I’m not a great fan of either, getting prodded and poked isn’t high on my list of favourite things to do. A wimp, I hear you say!

I had to have blood taken for a medical test last week. As instructed I’d come fasting and hadn’t eaten or drank anything for about 15 hours. After some pleasant introductions, it was time to take the blood. I wasn’t anxious about it as I’d given blood for tests a few times before at a Doctors surgery. This time was to be a little different.

He started in my left arm. The first attempt, no joy. Then to my right arm, again no success. Back to my left arm, once again, it was fruitless! Back to my right arm, another attempt – still nothing. “Bone dry” he said! By this time, I was starting to feel like a pin cushion. “I’ll have to take it from the back of your hand” the Doctor said (5th attempt). A little more painful for sure, but finally, at last, the blood started to flow! What a relief!

There are many challenges in life…

Sometimes we all just have to endure some pretty painful experiences for a little while, before the results start to flow!

What painful moments have you had to endure?

The parable of the bicycle, dad and leadership models

As a facilitator and a learning protagonist, over many years, I have lost count of the number of leadership models shared in workshops. I have probably forgotten more than I have remembered!

Which model?

There are my favourites such as situational leadership, servant leadership, values-based leadership, action centred leadership, adaptive leadership and a whole list of styles and 4 box grids that I have used and am very familiar with. Recently however, towards the end of a workshop a curious thoughtful participant asked, “So, which leadership model is best?” A very direct question indeed. My response was a simple one, “well……that depends”

While most of us can recognise good leadership when we experience or observe it, oftentimes it is hard for us to determine the best model to use in a difficult situation, subsequently blending leadership models as needed is a popular fix. But then it struck me. As I reflected upon the many leadership experiences I’ve had in life, a clear analogy came to mind.

The parable of the bicycle and toolbox

As a child, I recall one day that I wanted to go out on my bicycle for a ride. Forlornly, there were several issues with my bicycle, including a wobbly seat, a flat tyre, a loose wheel, poor brakes, and handle bars that were more than just a little squint. I’d not been out for a ride in a while and sadly my bicycle had fallen into disrepair. I called my dad down to the shed in the garden. He came and looked at the bicycle commenting upon the amount of work it needed to get it back into shape.

After a long pause, I recall that he set to work immediately and pulled out a big box of tools. The box was a little higgledy piggledy, and as I learned throughout his life – that that was my dad! No matter, one small spanner was used to tighten the wobbly seat. Another set of tools were used to remove the wheel, repair the puncture and blow up the tyre again and tighten it into position. Dad then got out a set of pliers to fix the brakes. Finally, another wrench was used to straighten the handlebars. All in all, using a variety of tools, after a short time, the bicycle was fixed and off I went on my ride with a gleeful smile. “Dads are great” I thought!

So, it is with leadership. Oftentimes, whilst managing and leading others we are faced with a vast array of different problems, challenges and issues. Yet, just like the multitude of tools in my dad’s box, so we too have a broad range of different leadership models to help us resolve/fix/repair/manage/lead even the most mind-boggling obstacles at times.

Tools equip us with solutions. What new shiny model do you have in your leadership toolbox, or maybe that old well-worn rusty model, over there in the corner is the best solution perhaps.

“It depends” is indeed the correct answer after all.

  • Do you have a favourite leadership model?
  • How do you apply the “tools” in your day to day responsibilities?


Why is 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭 so important in building relationships of trust?

Years ago, whilst attending an annual sales conference gala dinner, to celebrate our successes, I recall an experience which has had a long lasting impact upon me. This is a short story of respect in the workplace.

In all of the usual jubilee, back slapping, festivity and party atmosphere, my boss of the time approached me (he’d been directed by his boss, the sponsor of the evening to speak to me). Alistair quietly asked me if I would offer grace to commence dinner. It was an unexpected honour and a request that I’ve never forgotten. Both leaders knew of my strong christian values and beliefs. I said “Yes, of course.”

A few moments later, when invited to do so, I stood and a quiet reverent hush was felt in the large conference room. I offered a simple prayer of thanksgiving and blessing upon the food, then the gala dinner commenced.

I’ll never forget that all evening long, I answered questions on faith & belief! Not quite what I had expected.

Thank you Bruce Ginnever, for teaching all of us a powerful lesson about respect that evening. It was a simple, little thing, yet it had a big impact on many, a lesson that I have never forgotten as I do my best to respect others too.

How can you be more respectful to others?

Eye contact – connections!

Why is making eye contact so important?

Yesterday, I recorded a video for the British Heart Foundation with tips for audience engagement and presentations. I shared a few ideas, but it struck me how really valuable eye contact is!

In every instance and often unwittingly we use our eyes as a means of communication with other people. It’s a very important form of body language. In fact, when you have good eye contact with another person, it demonstrates that you are paying attention and listening.

Using your eyes is a powerful way to really connect with another person, whether with members of an audience as you scan their faces one by one, or in our virtual world by actually looking into the camera! Sharing yourself openly with an audience, builds trust and is literally the window to your soul and theirs!

As you maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to, it denotes your interest and expresses that “You are important and I am listening.” When you don’t look people in the eye, they are much less likely to engage with you. Conversely, when you look someone in the eye, they are more likely to engage with you and much more likely to listen!

Making eye contact builds rapport and always helps to connect. Give it a go today!

Why would anyone want to be led by you?

Why would anyone want to be led by you?

Yesterday, I was busy redesigning a virtual workshop on leadership and management. After some initial contextual positioning on the topic, this forceful reflective question is asked to each participant. It’s posed deliberately, to literally stop participants in their tracks and give them some time to think.

The question arose from a Harvard Business Review some 20 years ago, and has been further developed in their book of a similar name by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.

My experience of leadership has been three fold:
– By academic study
– Through first hand experience over many years
– In my own consultancy practice.

My discovery is this simple – ultimately, leadership is all about one thing – 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐬!

Today is a supremely important day in the USA, that comes around every 4 years. It is election day. For months, we have all been witness to a flood of exaggerations, claims, counter claims, fake news and hyperbole. Today is judgement day.

Both candidates have outlined their answer to the question many times over, outlining what they stand for.  Hopefully, we’ll know the result in the next few days.

So, how about you? Are you clear yet?
What do you stand for?
Why would anyone want to be led by you?

Emotional Triggers

You’re having a lovely civil conversation, then BOOM! Suddenly your blood pressure surges, you get agitated, you gasp for air, you raise your voice and you have a noticeable urge to throttle the other person…

What just happened?

Emotions kicked in, that’s what happened.

On two occasions this week, my “hot buttons” have been triggered.

So what are emotional triggers?

They can be almost anything. People, situations, words, opinions, can all provoke extreme and disproportionate emotional reactions within all of us, usually resulting in some kind of unhelpful behaviour. Often, the triggers can unconsciously remind us of past life events or maybe even long established beliefs from childhood.

So, what can you do?

In my case, I took some time to question why I was being triggered. Then I took even more time to pause, breathe, reflect. Then I chose to write down what actually happened in my journal. Capturing what emotions surfaced and what my reaction to the events were, actually helped me to have that inner dialogue with myself and understand what happened.

Another learning experience for sure, pausing, recognising the trigger and being able to change the response is key.

What are you emotional triggers and how do you control them?