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September 2016

Connecting creativity and leadership

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In my last blog, which derived from my recent talk at the Dominion Theatre, we observed three ways in which people were not things, and we discussed why that was important. We concluded that being authentic was important and that one consequence of authenticity was that it enabled one to be creative; creativity and authenticity in fact go hand in hand. The more creative we are, the more authentic we become; and the more authentic we are in ourselves, the deeper the roots of creativity grow within us. And I said this was important for two very big reasons concerning leadership.

The first reason comes down to a favourite quotation that I often use from Peter Drucker: namely, that only two things make money for a business and everything else is a cost! The two things are marketing – no surprise there – and innovation. Yes, innovation, which of course derives from creativity, is the key element that enables us to maintain a real competitive advantage. Innovation enables us to develop value by either making products, processes, systems, services faster or cheaper or better than they were before; or beyond mere innovation and incrementally improving things we can go straight to pure creativity whereby we generate something – product, service, process, system – that is entirely new; that is ground-breaking in its field. That kind of change is game-changing and we know recently that it is the kind of creativity that we associate with a company like Apple whose technology entirely transformed the music industry.

But if this is important – critical indeed – then to say that the second reason may be even more important than the first sounds a little overblown! However, it probably is even more important! Dr Alan Watkins in his important book, Coherence, said: “Many executives are very skilled in operational thinking, but creating difference, setting the business apart – that is a completely separate ability”. Effectively, it is applying creativity not just to the operational stuff but to the strategic direction itself. When leaders become strategic they have to be creative, and only then can they start addressing the issue of organisational longevity.

Research from the German Savings Bank Association found four key factors in organisational longevity. First, that there is a dedication to customer service. We have of course the old-fashioned sort of customer service that still continues to astound: Heidelberger Druckmaschinen continues to supply replacement parts for a 100-year old printing machine! And then there is the new sort, a sort of customer service that has to be re-invented from the bottom up, from seriously imagining and empathising with the customer. A true case indeed of new and more innovation.

Second, focusing on long-term value rather than quarterly results. But to focus on long-term value is again an act of creativity, for value itself is a creation. Third, caring for employees so that trust and sharing are possible and actively encouraged. And finally, fourth, setting ambitious goals and enabling collaboration. These are the things that true leadership will aspire and inspire to do. Of course, it’s not easy, but then achievement never is, for if it was then it wouldn’t be an achievement: it would happenstance or a silver spoon in the mouth, or magic, or something else that effortlessly produced results without any of the focus, hard work and perseverance that is necessary to make reality become something else – something imagined first and then realised.

Finally, then, as I sail away from the Dominion Theatre, I must remind you all that we had two sponsors at the event – two leaders – two imagineers: say it then for Garry Mumford of www.insightassociates.co.uk and Gary Crouch of www.spectrumoa.co.uk : thanks guys, you are creative, innovative and may you be around for a long time!


How Understanding People are not Things helps promote effective Leadership

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In my last blog, which derived from my talk at the Dominion Theatre last week, I discussed the most difficult thing to deal with in business, the most difficult thing being people. I suggested that three problems typically beset managers about this and that in the next blog I would tackle what the differences between things and people actually are. Of course, put like that, it sounds obvious, but is it? Hardly, for what we need to do is press for a deeper level of understanding.

There are three key differences between people and things that help us understand why clarity is so important here. First, ‘things’ are eternal, but people are temporal, or inhabit time. Wow! That’s a really significant point for effective leadership. When I say that things are eternal what I mean is that in their nature they are: they have taken 3000 year old honey out of a pyramid and found it still edible; and the mummies within could remain mummies forever, only the living person inside the wrappings has perished. No environment could or would make a human being immortal, but things – objects – could exist indefinitely. So, with that in mind, the consequences are that being temporal means some humans - and a significant number – (like lost souls) are locked into the past and all the mental baggage that that entails; they rarely move beyond nostalgia and regret. And then there are many people who are living in the present; they have to, as they have to make ends meet, and there is no thought for tomorrow. Indeed many business managers and leaders live almost entirely in the present, despite having been on personal development courses or been involved in strategic review. But for them, really, it’s all about getting the job done now – exercising control, making money, demonstrating expertise. So, we come to the few, the rarer sort, the leaders: they must be somebody with a long-term and future perspective. This is their defining characteristic; and that sense of the future is visionary. In other words, the leader has created the future, believes in the future before it has arrived; put even more strongly, the leader has faith. Somebody once said: How can you lead somebody through a desert if you have never been there yourself? But everybody as a leader is faced with never having done it before: Odysseus when he set sail from the ruins of Troy, or Ernest Shackleton when he arrived at the Antartic, or Nelson Mandela when he stepped out of prison in South Africa, or Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, had never been in those deserts before; yet they led others to freedom, empowerment and life. Things stay in an eternal present, but people can project into the future, and it is where the leader needs to be in their mind and imagination; and we might call that visioning. Apparently, Roy Disney was invited to the opening of Disney Land in Florida and a Disney executive said to him that it was a shame that his father had not lived to see this event. To which Roy replied that ‘he had seen it and because he had seen it we were seeing it now’. That perfectly encapsulates what being temporal, what being a leader, what a future perspective is all about.

A second key difference is that things are solid: there they are, what you see is what you get, and a consequence is we can define them, these things, relatively easily. But people are not solid; people are - and we are not looking for words like liquid or gaseous or flatulent here! - people are, in contradistinction to solid, ambiguous. And ambiguity has all sorts of implications. It means Risk, it means Change and it means Uncertainty. These qualities are ones leaders should love, but we have special reasons in the UK at the moment to know that most senior leaders inside (and outside too!) the country actually hate risk, detest change and can’t abide uncertainty, don’t we? But here’s the thing for leadership. Faced with risk, our most important response has to be courage; faced with change our response needs to include resourcefulness; and faced with uncertainty we need endurance and positive expectations (that faith and long term perspective again). If we think about Odysseus, Shackleton, Mandela, and Mother Teresa, surely, that is exactly what we find?

The third key difference between a thing and a person is identity, or individuality, or what might be called tautologically, personality. Things just don’t have personality or individuality, although sometimes we like to attribute these qualities to them. I myself go to bed with a fluffy baby duck and I talk to it, but I know it’s a thing! But individuality has consequences too for leadership. The first consequence is authenticity. Things are always authentic, even when they are ersatz products, because they are what they are, although marketeers - people - can try to fool us with the packaging, as when, for example, we learn that a soft drink is the ‘real thing’! People, however, have to strive to be authentic; it scarcely ever happens accidentally or through a genetic gift of birth. Like acting, the most authentic people are those who have trained the hardest. What? Those who have committed to the discipline, the learning, prove to be most authentic. One aspect of this which is particularly dear to me is summed up in one sentence from one of my great heroes, Dr Johnson: ‘Clear your mind of cant’ - in other words, engage in the discipline of challenging the clichés, the jargon, the stereotypes that people, like sheep (that is, in-authentically), bleat and repeat as if they were thinking, when what they are doing is simply re-arranging their prejudices (to quote William James). To be authentic has another awesome quality about it that grows the nearer we approach true authenticity: namely, creativity. Just as people are individuals, and no two people are the same, so as we go deeper into our own true self, so the capacity to create develops, and this is really important to true leadership for two reasons.

Two reasons? Yes, let’s look at them in my next blog. Co-incidentally, we had two sponsors at the Dominion – two leaders – two visionaries for the future: say it then for Garry Mumford of www.insightassociates.co.uk and Gary Crouch of www.spectrumoa.co.uk : thanks guys, you are temporal, ambiguous and individual and we all love you for it!


How in Management People Become Things

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Speaking at the Dominion Theatre last week I talked about the most difficult thing to deal with in business. The most difficult thing is of course people. Indeed I added by way of a sidebar that people were also the most difficult thing to deal with in life (whilst also acknowledging that they are paradoxically our greatest source of potential pleasure); and that if we extended the phrase from 'most difficult thing in life' to 'most difficult thing ...' then the answer was still people, although in this case it was quite specific, since the most difficult thing of all to deal with is 'me', a person! We all know as we grow up that we are always self-sabotaging, revealing addictive and co-dependent behaviours and attitudes, and experiencing a smorgasbord of the emotional cocktails called guilt, fear and anger to mention only three. Dealing with that 'thing' is the most arduous aspect of our passage through life.

But to return to my talk, the main problem leaders have is the thing that we call people. And as a result of this three less obvious problems arise. The first is that leaders secretly wish that people were things. Why? Because if they were business and organisational life would be a lot easier. In fact the word that springs to mind is that business would be so much more manageable! It is relatively easy managing 'things', but people? Yes, they have to be led, a far more complex and ambiguous operation.

This secret wish - that people were things – however, leads directly into a second problem for the leader: subconsciously if we keep wishing for something, then, like rubbing the genie's lamp, lo! It magically appears. In the mind of the leader the person, the people, become things; by reverse alchemy they are transmuted into things. The gold that was a person, now becomes the lead that is more useful. After all, lead is practical: we can make gutters and piping with lead and put it up everywhere; gold, on the other hand, is valuable and we need to think very carefully about how we deploy and use it, and we certainly must ensure that no gold is wasted, for it is precious. See how the reverse alchemy effects a whole attitudinal change?

And if you thought that was bad enough, the third problem then emerges from the second: namely, having mentally and emotionally transmuted people to things in their own dark recesses - keeping in mind that the process is subconscious, so they are not even aware they have done it - they then 'thing-ise' people at work. Technically, the word for it might be they reify them. What was a person is only now a thing and so the imagination imagines they can now be managed. Easy? Yes, except for the kickback that happens when you do it; the inevitable and irreversible kickback that is so detrimental to business when they lose the commitment and engagement of their people. But what exactly happens in 'thing-ising' people?

Instead of respect, we find we have systems; in place of autonomy we have processes; procedures replace empowerment; and policies stand for engagement. Instead of reality, there are substitutions - doubtless well meaning - at all levels for what we really want as humans, as people.

I then went on at the Dominion Theatre to explore what the difference was between things and people - fascinating. So my next blog will cover that. But talking of people and before I leave this one, who could not mention our great sponsors at the Dominion who made the day so possible? A cheer then for Garry Mumford of
www.insightassociates.co.uk and Gary Crouch of www.spectrumoa.co.uk : thanks guys, you were great and truly people, not things!!


9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #9

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At last: we have arrived at the 9th and the final reason to attend the Leadership Showcase at the Dominion Theatre on the 8th September (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/); and also check out: https://youtu.be/dHl02RgiNug. It’s been a long haul, and in case you have not been following this epic let me remind you of the 8 reasons we have covered so far. Come to the Dominion Theatre next week because you want to be near and around people who are energetic, charismatic and insightful and this is going to help you at work and at play! Come because the people attending and presenting are great people to network with – want some new, great contacts? Then be there and join us: meet our sponsor Gary Crouch of www.spectrumoa.co.uk for one! I love Gary – he’s been my friend for 20 years. Thirdly, come along because the overt topic, leadership, is one that will certainly benefit you at all levels. Fourthly, given what we have already said, given that an accountant is another of our sponsors, Garry Mumford (www.insightassociates.co.uk ), then any rational cost-benefit analysis will show that you are approximately over £14,000 up on the event!!! Bargain, or what? Garry thinks so. And fifth, the centre point between 1 and 9, you need to come because this is going to be great fun – we love fun at Motivational Maps – come, see. Sixth, returning to the themes of the Showcase, and remembering that accountants like Garry Mumford always follow the money, this Showcase will be exploring business development – how we get more business! Yum-yum. Then at 7, and magisterially, if none of these reasons yet appeal to you, perhaps it is because you are not motivated; you know, that just happens to be my and Steve Jones (http://www.skillsforbusinesstraining.co.uk/) and Kate Turner (http://www.motivationalleadership.co.uk/)’s expertise. We have so much to share on motivation – a whole new world, new language and new metric. Don’t miss that. And at 8, you need to attend out of sheer curiosity: surely, you want to learn about these cutting-edge insights in all these fields? I am sure you do: join Ali Stewart (http://alistewartandco.com/ ), Bird on a Bike (http://birdonabike.co.uk/ ) and Harry Singha (http://www.youthcoachingacademy.com/ ) in a jamboree, an explosion of knowledge and expertise.

Finally, then, what is reason number 9 why you should, you need, you want to attend? Well, it is because you need to hang on in there; you need to be a true leader; and one of the recently identified and critical elements of being a leader means developing resilience. Yes, for resilience – your own and your employees – come along to learn from all of us (I am pretty resilient, having nearly died of cancer five years ago) but especially Bird-on-Bike who is going to share her special expertise in this area: what to think, what to do – and this is something we all need and also need to replenish. It is so easy in life to go on automatic pilot and when you do you soon find your results deteriorate.

One definition of resilience I like is: ‘the strength and flexibility to produce your best results in challenging times’. Isn’t that good? Is anyone not living in challenging times? Is this relevant to you as a person, as a leader? I think so. Just like motivation. My own view of developing resilience is three fold: we need to develop self-awareness and self-esteem, focus on optimism and motivation, and then translate that into performance. And this at three levels: individual, team and organisation! Phew – a lot then? Let’s remember what Anna Harrington said: “Problem solving and emotions have a symbiotic relationship”. Profound, or what? Get more into this whole debate – get there on the 8th – get your ticket now.

I am so looking forward to seeing you all, meeting you all, interacting with you all at the big event. So, have you got a big enough reason to be there? I hope so.


9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #8

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We come now to the penultimate reason why you should attend the Leadership Showcase at the Dominion Theatre on the 8th September (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/). The 8th reason for the 8th! If motivation, as our previous reason, weren’t enough, and was too obvious, then this is a subtler reason: curiosity. One of the things that I have discovered in life is the importance of curiosity and the appalling consequences of its absence. Naturally, if you feel you have no curiosity, then I must suggest in the jargon of our time: fake it till you make it! But first, before considering why curiosity is so important to business and organisations, let’s take a moment to understand why its absence is so detrimental.

The absence of curiosity invariably signifies one thing: a know-it-all mentality either manifesting as a smug complacency or in a busy-busy attitude that prides itself on the fact that it has no time to ‘stand and stare’. What this leads to is an absence of openness and – at its deepest level – an inability to learn. So here we are in the C21st, surrounded by my knowledge and more data than has ever existed in the history of the world, and we can’t learn anything from it because we already ‘know-it-all’. Further, we spend a fortune on OD – Organisational Development – or L&D – Learning and Development – departments and staff and find that we have employees but that not a lot really changes in terms of the big picture. We need to be clear here: having people whose fancy title is something to do with learning is no guarantee that it will. In fact I have a great story about exactly that. Some years ago I did Motivational Maps with a large organisation and found that the head of the department had the Expert motivator as her lowest score. When she came for her one-to-one feedback she sensed herself that ‘That’s not good is it?’ I said, ‘No, not really: you may have the skills to be head of L&D but actually you are not really interested in learning, are you? Looking at your profile, you like organising people’s learning, like being in charge, but others will almost certainly perceive you as not walking the talk. When was the last time you booked on a training session for yourself?’ And so it all came out! Of course, the point is more general here: if leaders aren’t curious about new knowledge, new learning, how can they expect their employees to be so?

But what about its presence? Well, its presence is absolutely essential. Why? Because without it, one of the two, and core, ‘things’ that one has to do is much less likely to happen. What is that? Those regular readers of my blogs will know that one of my all-time favourite observations comes from Peter Drucker: only two things make money for a business and everything else is a cost. What two things? Marketing and innovation. And it is this latter requirement, the need to innovate within a business or organisation, that is so crucial for its success. Indeed, even our marketing strategy too can – and maybe ought to - depend on innovation. When we say, for example, that we need to ‘niche’ our offering to the prospect, we are really talking about noticing that if we say that we are a ‘coach’ then that is one thing; we have a million competitors. But if we notice that there are far fewer ‘business coaches’ or ‘relationship coaches’ and our curiosity enables us to review exactly what is going on in these ‘niches’ and craft our offering accordingly, then we find we are far more likely to achieve positive business results.

Indeed, speaking for myself, the whole issue of curiosity led me15 years ago to notice that whilst everyone talked about motivation, yet there was no real language to describe it, no metric to measure it; and furthermore, I noticed too that in all successful businesses, especially deriving from the USA there was a processing and systematising that enabled scalability. That if one could create a language, a whole new area might open up. Curiosity, then, was at the root of my discovery for the business. But it went even deeper than that: I took to reading round the literature and diagnostics such as they were and then noticing – note that word noticing! - curious overlaps between ideas and systems. From this I was able to construct Motivational Maps.

There is a wonderful line from a Thomas Hardy poem called ‘Afterwards’. It’s highly appropriate because Hardy was a Dorset poet first and foremost and I live in Dorset. The line is: “will the neighbours say,/
“He was a man who used to notice such things”? Are we people who notice such things? Will people say that of you, that you notice such things? We need to start if nowhere else then by associating with people who do – who are curious!

Coming, then, to the Dominion Theatre gives you a chance to notice such things, to expand your curiosity, to investigate the new! You will find not only new knowledge from the brilliant speakers we have on offer: Steve Jones (http://www.skillsforbusinesstraining.co.uk/), Kate Turner (http://www.motivationalleadership.co.uk/), Ali Stewart (http://alistewartandco.com/), Bird on a Bike (http://birdonabike.co.uk/) and Harry Singha (http://www.youthcoachingacademy.com/) and of course myself. But knowledge is dry; we learn from people. It’s not just the speakers: our sponsors too are dying to meet you – curious to meet you – and they have deep knowledge in their fields: Garry Mumford (www.insightassociates.co.uk ) and Gary Crouch ((www.spectrumoa.co.uk ). So there is so much there to satisfy your curiosity!

My next blog will deal with the final reason #9. Expect it soon!


9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #7

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I have reached blog 7 in my reasons why you should attend the Leadership Showcase at the Dominion Theatre on the 8th September (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/). Clearly, after 6 blogs already this needs to be a special blog if for no other reason than that it is the number 7. 7 is generally considered to be the most magical and lucky number of all, even outranking 3! Before revealing the topic of blog 7, I must tell you why 7 is such a magical number; it is magical because it is perfect. The perfection derives from the fact that it is the sum of heaven and Earth. Heaven is, numerologically speaking, always represented by the number 3: hence in Greek mythology the gods were ruled by the three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, and this pattern in various variants runs through many religions, including Christianity with its specialised theory of the Trinity. But if heaven - the godhead - is 3, then Earth is 4. Hence the four corners of the Earth, the four points of the compass, the four cardinal virtues, and so on. Thus total completion - total harmony - is the sum of 3 + 4, which is 7.

And my 7th reason why you should come to the Dominion is motivation; truly a topic that involves heaven and Earth: the gods are motivated and we humans need to be so too. How do I know the gods are motivated? Because they have energy. What is energy? Energy is all but motivation. In Motivational Maps we talk about the three Es. First, there is energy - a basic driving force or fuel. But second, when that energy finds an appropriate vehicle to propel, and goes in the direction it wants to go, then the energy changes into a rarer gas called enthusiasm: another E. Once that is blowing awhile, the organism becomes totally engaged, the third E. You will unsurprised to learn that often when the Greek gods came to Earth they disguised themselves as humans and the only give-away sign that they were really gods was the eyes: their eyes shone with a strange fire or sparkle - a sparkle from which the word enthusiasm is etymologically derived: it comes from the Greek: enthousiasmos (Plato), meaning inspired, or ‘breathed, or possessed by the god, or meaning 'the god in us'. Energy - enthusiasm - are really all divine qualities, and we know this anyway since when we experience these qualities we feel truly alive.

Now some of you might be saying: 'This James Sale, he's a bit of a nut job - rabbiting on about gods and Greeks, but I'm a business man or I'm a coach woman and what I want is real tools to help me get my staff engaged or motivate my clients'. Great! Then coming to the Dominion is exactly what you need, for the same nut job James Sale who is deeply interested in gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece is also the entirely practical James Sale who has invented the language and the metrics of motivation, The Motivational Map, by which and through which you can really understand both yourself and your employees in a way that has never been done before. And not only will James Sale - me - be talking about this, and allowing you access to his Map and also to his new e-learning package, but two other leading experts, Steve Jones of Skills for Business (http://www.skillsforbusinesstraining.co.uk/), and Kate Turner of Motivational Leadership (http://www.motivationalleadership.co.uk/), will also be presenting information, ideas and case studies on how this works in the real world.

So if you want motivating because you are not yet a god (or goddess), or if you simply want to find out the latest cutting-edge ideas about motivation, then you need to be there, because in the course of a day we are going to cover a lot – and inspire you along the way! Be there.

My next blog will deal with reason #8.


9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #6

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We now return our reasons based on the topics themselves for our 6th reason to attend. You will remember leadership I rated such an important issue for us, not only in business but in life, so that for that reason alone the conference (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/) was worth attending. But there is also another prominent topic that the day is about. True, this is much less generic than leadership, but if you are in business or even in a not-for-profit organisation it is still vital; I mean business development.

Business development and its associate, selling, is the life blood of any organisation and without it nothing happens. I heard on social media recently some report outlining the number one reason businesses fail: poor cash flow! Almost sounds like a tautology, doesn’t it? But it’s not if I think that poor cash flow results from poor sales, and poor sales inevitably stem from a lack of business development. Without in any way undermining marketing, which should go hand in glove with business development and selling, I can truly say that often times I have encountered situations where organisations have failed because they have marketed and relied solely on that or those marketing channels, and there has been no effective business development or corresponding sales strategy to realise the power inherent in the marketing. At the end of the day – certainly in service businesses – one cannot overestimate the importance of people in the business development and selling spheres. Certainly in the SME arena, I would always err on the side of committing to business development rather than more money in a marketing budget, since I know the results would be far more immediate and tangible (a generalisation, but I hope an acceptable one, as I would accept that longer term the absence of sufficient marketing would make business development increasingly problematic).

If we are going to develop a business we need – in simple terms – to think of three areas where we focus our efforts: where can we find more prospects for the products and services that we currently have? Or, how can we develop further products and services for the clients we already have? Or, how can we create new products and services for entirely new markets? Usually, one might work on one area at a time, since any one area is substantial in itself, and we all wish to avoid the Stalingrad effect: namely, dividing our forces when we reach Moscow and trying to capture Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow at the same time and thereby wholly losing the war and capturing none of them.

One noticeable thing about all these three areas is: they require innovation and creativity. It’s not easy to acquire clients when there are so many other people in the market place. One of the experts speaking at the event is my good friend, Steve Jones (http://www.skillsforbusinesstraining.co.uk/). I have known Steve for 12 years and been consistently impressed by his business development skills; he is like a kung fu master at selling and business development! He will doubtless provide many insights into business development and selling when he speaks, but I strongly recommend anyone attending to speak and connect with him during the breaks, since one will learn a lot just speaking directly with him; indeed, you can learn a lot watching Steve Jones perform too – which is true of course of all high performers.

For myself I shall also be offering insights into business development based on my 21 years in the game. Here are two points for starters that I shall doubtless be enlarging upon on the day: one, that everything gets tired and weary after a time, including products and especially services; there is a need for constant re-invention because prospects need re-stimulation. And, two, the strongest way forward of all is through IP or intellectual property. We need to take far more seriously the need to innovate and then ask ourselves how we can protect and develop that innovation. As we develop our innovations, so we develop our business and our potential markets. On the one hand, this can seem intimidatingly difficult, but on the other it is actually what you, as a human being, are born to do: to create. If you haven’t done it already, it is either because of a deficiency in your awareness or a limitation in your self-belief system. To find out more join me on the 8th September. If you are not there, how will you grow?

My next blog will deal with reason #7.