Recruitment and Motivation

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Recruitment is a serious business. Indeed, it could and can be argued that the number one skill of an effective leader is their ability to be able to recruit effectively. Leadership itself is the primary cause of success in any organisation; how often do we observe the sad demise of so many organisations who have basked in the sunlight of one particular leader’s skill and ability, but this has not been replicated in depth throughout the whole organisation. Thus, when the leader departs chaos and indiscipline, in-fighting breaks out, and the game is lost. The organisation, once top in its field, now goes to the wall.

More even than that, however, appointing poor and/or weak staff to an organisation has enormous implications that are financial, reputational, motivational and productivity-linked. In pure financial terms and at the lower levels of an organisation, the costs start at about £10,000 and can easily rise to six figure sums at the senior end if the person appointed has to leave within six months of starting. Naturally, this outflow of embittered staff leaving so soon can become – if it’s a pattern – reputationally damaging to our organisation. Certainly, it will affect in its wake the levels of customer service upon which the whole organisation depends.

Further, according to the Pareto Principle, we can recruit people who are some sixteen times less productive than their more able counterparts! Sixteen times less productive!! Never let the impact of one person (whether positively or negatively) be underestimated! Imagine what it might mean if even an average member of your team were to be four times more productive – what would happen to your business? And that is the ‘promise’ of good recruitment: it is about increasing the odds that we will make a fantastic appointment.

Finally, we come back to the central issue of motivation, for it is motivated staff who are the most productive, the most engaged, and the happiest. Motivated staff have no need to complain, because they feel valued, take pride in what they do, and want to contribute. On that basis, then, yes, we as managers have a responsibility to motivate our staff; but before we get there, surely, it would be good to recruit highly motivated people in the first place? For it is a truth that the highly motivated are more likely to have the energy that all success depends upon.

The benefits, then, of effective recruitment should be very clear: higher productivity, greater customer satisfaction, higher staff retention, lower costs, enhanced reputation, less wastage generally and fewer errors, happier staff and greater profitability.

The following guide is toolkit to help you select and recruit staff more effectively into your organisation. It draws upon standard best practice, which should never be ignored, but adds something extra too: the Motivational Map. And this is important – you are now reading something that is on the one hand obvious, and on the other profound and difficult to do. For we all know that motivation is critical – heavens above, athletes and sports people swear by it – it is, above skill set, usually the difference that makes the difference.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: ‘First is courage, second is strength, and third is Kung Fu.’ What this means is that skill and strength, whilst they are important factors, are still subordinate to courage – your mindset and attitude. Time again we see the technically superior athlete or business-person outmaneuvered by the courageous and motivated one. I would actually use the recent World Cup as an example of this. England was certainly not the most technically excellent team within the competition by any stretch, nor the most experienced, fielding one of the youngest teams; but their motivation and attitude (supplemented by meditation and team-building and steered by exceptional leadership) carried them all the way to the semi-finals, a staggering result.

How much do you want it? Why should it be any different for those in employment: how much do you want to make a success of your job, your role? And how much you want it will determine how successful you are in any normal playing field.

But here comes the odd bit. Traditionally, most companies know motivation is important, but have no way of establishing whether somebody is motivated or not except through three elements. What are those three elements? Testimonial, interview, and achievement. But here’s the other odd bit: none of these three elements are especially reliable. Testimonials? Well, they can glow but how glad is the one writing the testimonial to be rid of this particular person?

Interviews can be effective, but usually aren’t because we all have a bias to recruit in our own likeness, and we are not even aware of it. For example, ideas people are often excited by other ideas people, when in actuality, their skills might be better balanced by a hardy implementer.

Finally, achievement seems solid, doesn’t it? Look what they’ve achieved, surely we need them? But here’s where the financial industry helps us with that famous strapline: ‘past performance is no guide to future …’ Indeed! How often do we find high achievers now moving out, now looking for a more comfortable and relaxed existence somewhere else – going to pasture, as they say? Or alternatively, their achievements are a sort of fetishization of success, which is all about me, me, me and not about the good of the whole, the company.

And this is why the Motivational Maps are so important: they describe, they measure, they monitor and maximise motivation for the first time. For the purpose of recruitment we need the first two qualities: they describe and measure motivation in a way that is understandable and metric. In fact, they make what is invisible visible. In describing motivation, they also give us a language to talk about it that is nuanced and empathetic, as opposed to the drill-sergeant effect of most motivational efforts. With these two factors in our understanding, we can make seriously better judgements about the suitability of anyone for a given role.



Weird and Wonderful for Business!

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According to Martin Davidson, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, business culture can tend to weed out the weird! This can be a big mistake because it is ‘weird’ people, or certain kinds of weird people, that create potency and innovation which enable businesses to thrive. This can be expressed in a variety of ways, but the most obvious is perhaps in the need to avoid cloning people into the culture they join; a situation in which they have to adapt (and adopt to) the mores and social norms of what passes for normal or even acceptable behaviour. As I’ve said before, like attracts like, and companies that like certainties (particularly financial certainties), will always draw people who like certainties. We are not talking here about table manners, but modes of thinking, aspects of deference (so readily leading into the dead-end called ‘group-think’), and business as usual, meaning ‘not invented here’ and ‘this is how we’ve always done it’. These ‘norms’ invariably cost businesses, and ultimately lead to their demise.

 

So business leaders should not see diversity as being some sort of distraction imposed on them by HR or legislation! Rather diversity within the workforce can provide competitive advantage; we need people who can be constructively disruptive, who can consistently challenge group-think, and who’re not addicted to conflict avoidance. People who, in short, pre-empt the devastating fate of those organizations who are little more than a comfortable country club where received opinion is indeed received. We need challenge, at a deep level, if only because 70% of the decisions we make are wrong. With challenge, with weirdness, that figure might reduce. Without it, then it is almost certainly going to increase. Can we afford that level of error? In this way, we must overcome our resistance to change in order to improve.

 

One of the most powerful tools to assist us in this area is Motivational Maps. The reason this is so powerful is because the maps establish what people really want. In other words, in selecting the new member of the team we have the opportunity to review what we really want in the team member and compliment the current team dynamic. We get to ask ourselves the question: is this kind of selection criteria really in the best interests of the team achieving its remit? All too often people are selected on the basis of their qualifications, skills and ‘fit’ where fit means fitting in – not rocking the boat. But what if not fitting, rocking the boat, is really what the team needs?

 

This is not a decision to be made lightly, but it is a decision to be made where appropriate, and it requires skill and insight to do it. For in talking about rocking the boat, we don’t mean a rough and ready character who is always taking on everyone and generating conflict wherever they go; we mean the kind of person whose energies are directed in ways that ‘conflict’ with the team, but in such a way that they throw light on an overarching problem the team has.

 

Suppose, for example, that we have a team that is extremely risk-friendly (e.g.. A sales team) – excessively so, and this has created a series of impulsive deals that the organisation as a whole has had a chance to repent of at leisure. In that situation, installing a suitably qualified candidate in every way, including risk-aversion, would be ideal. And the reverse too: suppose we have a fuddy-duddy team who are extremely change-averse (e.g. a finance team), then we might want to appoint a suitable candidate who is also risk-friendly as a maverick in the pack. It is precisely in these areas that Motivational Maps can direct with authority – given a fully trained and experienced practitioner.

 

Of course, to other team members, to the management itself, somebody with different energies, different motivators, is going to appear ‘weird’, an ‘odd one out’ as it were, but that is the challenge we face all the time – accepting difference and building on it.

 

Martin Orridge gives five reasons why there is poor creativity – or innovation – within an organisation. They are: looking for logical solutions, basing solutions on the past, too analytical, approach too formal, and liking to focus on detail. All these are classic organisational traits. They are what we expect people to do: be logical, son! Today is the like the past, dear daughter! Analyse, analyse, analyse; and don’t let your hair down! It’s all in the details …

 

But the paradigm is shifting now. We’re recognising that working more doesn’t necessary equate to greater productivity. We’re beginning (ever so slowly) to recognise it’s not possible to create a business that endlessly grows, like clockwork, year after year. That’s not how the universe works. Things go up, then they go down. Life is a sine wave. Our analytical brains have created a cult around numbers and percentages, but we’re realising these are not sure metrics of success, or longevity. Other, less easily measured traits, such as customer-satisfaction and loyalty, and team-motivation, just might be. We need weirdos who are focused on these invisible measures and outcomes.

 

We want people who are ‘thinking outside the box’, to use a cliche, but only when this creativity is applied morally, and is balanced by others who are anchored in reality. I must stress: thinking outside the box is not thinking of quirky ways to rip people off, because that gets exposed pretty quickly. In video-games, at the launch of Microsoft’s new XboxOne console, they announced that it would no longer be possible to share games (aka, to take a disc around a friend’s house and lend them the game). The discs would be coded to prevent this. The uproar quickly made Microsoft change their mind, and quite rightly. Imagine thinking you could kill the second-hand market overnight? Imagine if they tried to do that with cars? Ridiculous, right? Someone had a weird idea, an idea that could secure them money, but that weirdness was not tempered with integrity.

 

To compare this with a positive example, think of how the weirdness is making a come-back in cinema. With the turn of 2010, it seemed nobody wanted to take a risk on a radical movie anymore. Think back to the 70s, 80s, 90s, even the early 2000s, and how diverse and strange the filmography was. David Fincher was writing disturbing and unusual masterpieces such as Fight Club, Seven, and The Fall. Post 2010, he was forced to do movies such as The Social Network (about Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook [2010]) and Gone Girl (the movie based on a popular thriller [2014]). These weren’t necessarily bad movies, but they didn’t feel particularly different to the rest of it. Now, weird films are coming back. Innovative directors such as Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Guillermo del Toro are giving us very different movies: The Shape of Water, Get Out, Hereditary. Whether you like them is a matter of personal taste. But the fact is these films are drawing people in droves. Why? Because they are different, so utterly distinct from what we’ve had for the last few years.

 

We need to innovate, to be weird, but in the right way. We need to break free from our constrictions.

 

What if we could find and use a tool that would help us do this? That valued intuition whilst at the same time understood the power of logic, yet too knew that relationships are key.

 

And yes, the tool exists – it’s called Motivational Maps and so invites you to enter its weird and wonderful world!

 

 

 


Building Unshakeable Optimism To Stop the End of the World

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Every culture, at almost every stage of history, has believed that theirs is the last civilisation, that they are living in the end times. We think, often, of the endless re-worked predictions about the date of the world’s end as being a modern and Christian thing, but in actual fact, human beings have always been this way. The Anglo Saxons thought that the world was old, and could not go on much longer. That was some 1100 years ago! The Romans marvelled at the ‘ancients’, who they felt they ‘hardly understood’. This was some 1600 years ago. The ancient Nordic peoples told tales of Ragnarok, the inevitable world-ending event where the Wolf would be freed.

 

The same is true in Asia, surprisingly. Buddhism teaches a descent from a golden age of the True Law (Shoho) – just as in Africa the Ancient Egyptians taught that originally there was an era called the Zed Teppi, the golden era in which the gods walked amongst us, after which all things declined. The Buddhist narrative culminates in an apocalyptic age called Mappo — the Latter Days of the Law. A ninth-century Japanese cleric wrote that “In the Latter Days of the Law there will be none to keep the Buddha’s commandments. If there should be such, they will be as rare as a tiger in a market place.” A terrifying vision of a world without morality, much similar to the latter days of Revelations where we live our lives in worship to the Beast. Science contradicts itself, at once telling us that it will solve all our problems with new technology, and revealing, within its only laws of Entropy and Thermodynamics (The 2nd Law), that all things will inevitably peter out. Even progress is not forever. 

 

Why all the morbid thinking, you might ask?

 

Well, one cannot help but be inspired, if that is the right word, by current events. We are living in an era of great uncertainty, where so many things seem to be going irrevocably wrong. It’s easy, when we’re surrounded by such madness, to lose sight of who we are, to abandon any hope of making a positive difference. But we must not abandon hope. Things get bad, but then they change for the better. We’ve seen it time and time again. Tragic events often lead to periods of prosperity. Empires end, which is usually a good thing for most people.

 

In order to turn calamity into success, we need a very special force: optimism. Optimism is one of those prerequisites for a successful life. Why? Because fundamentally it is about our belief system: the belief that things will turn out well. To those who believe, as Jesus himself said, all things are possible. And the well known law of attraction also informs us that what we don't want will come our way if we spend most of our time thinking about it.

 

How, then, can we get more optimism in our life? Belief is not something static – a sort of, we have it, that's it. It grows – like the mustard seed; it needs exercise and constant handling to ensure it reaches its full potential. We need to differentiate in our minds between real belief that is organic, and that static kind of dogmatism that embraces 'propositions of faith' and then proceeds to build a wall around all mental activity. That isn't really faith or belief; it's a kind of deadwood rigidity that derives from the termites of fear that corrode our being. Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that propositions of faith are valueless – we need these things to understand what we do think – but unless they can 'grow' we are shut off from life.

 

So to return to the central idea of optimism: how do we get more of it in our life? Here is a five step process for generating more optimism in your life:

 

Step 1 is to question frustrations. Can our frustrations be changed? Are we just accepting situations and problems. A good starting here is to write down exactly what the frustration is. When we see it in print we can begin to become more ‘objective’ about it – we can more literally ‘handle’ it. Is your boss causing frustration – who, when, why? The more specific you are, the more you will be able to see specific avenues that may remove you from the impasse. This will make you feel more in control; this will make you feel more optimistic.

 

Step 2 is to affirm that I can work this out. Affirmations are incredibly powerful. Feed your subconscious mind a continual diet of positive thoughts. Affirmations need to be: personal (‘I’ am/have/do something), present tense (avoid the future and past as the subconscious mind does not recognise them), and positive (again, do not say ‘not’ as the subconscious mind can’t read it – ‘I do not think of pink elephants’ – damn! Foiled again.)

 

Step 3 is to recall past achievements and better performances. Many people have problems recalling good events and high achievements. I once coached a young man whose only recollection of success was being able to recall winning a swimming race when he was ten! Clearly, this is wholly debilitating. One secret to overcoming this handicap is to remember that small things are an achievement. For example, your ability to make someone smile is a great achievement – ultimately, 85% of the satisfaction we are ever going to achieve in life will come through relationships. In other words, by serving and helping others we achieve wonderful things. Small things can be highly significant. See Step 5 to help you further with this.

 

Step 4 is to detect patterns – and having done so to break bad patterns. This is easier said than done – but the first thing is to notice the pattern. Most people don’t get that far, so cannot possibly destroy bad habits or increase their optimism. For example, it’s easy to snack on chocolate bars all day long without realising they are responsible for our weight increase! We have not noticed the insidious pattern. Similarly, it’s easy to spoil a relationship because one habitually says the wrong and thoughtless thing without seeing our action for what it is. KEEP A DIARY - keeping a diary is invaluable for spotting a pattern - log stuff.

 

Step 5 is to record good events and achievements. Our self-talk tends to be 75% negative, so we need to consciously reverse this. Keeping a diary and looking to log at least 3 achievements a day is wonderful in this regard and helps step 3 as well – go back over your diary and start ‘dwelling’ on high achievement moments. Re-create them in your mind – re-live them – can you ‘feel’ how you felt then? Can you see it? Hear it? Even taste or smell it? For example, that swimming race he (at Step 3) won, can he smell the chlorine on that day as he recreates it in his mind? Can he hear the cheers? See the applause? If you can do this, then you can ‘anchor’ these experiences into your conscious mind and call them up whenever you want. This is important.

 

Imagine you are going for a job interview. You feel nervous. You have made a deal with yourself. Every time you say the words ‘swim win’ you flash the images of that glorious winning day. You do this just before you go in to the interview. How differently do you think this will make you feel walking into the room? Try it (using your formula to re-create the high achieving moment).

 

One final comment to make here is on being persistent. People become more enthusiastic and energetic when they can go for goals that are quickly obtained; however, persistence isn’t about the ‘quick’, but the long haul. To develop resolute optimism requires persistent application in the same way that running a marathon requires constant training. So you can start with the affirmation of step 2: I can do it! From there, press on. It’s the only way we can stop the end of the world.


What the World Cup 2018 Can Teach Us About Motivation

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I’m not normally much interest in football, but I have to say that even I was drawn in to the kind of intoxicating idea that England might, for the first time in 52 years, win the World Cup. It took hold of us, a bit like a creeping spell cast by an unseen magician, and had us all on tenterhooks. Sadly, last night, the spell broke, and it seems England will be going home without the trophy. However, what they will be going home with is, hopefully, a newfound sense of self-respect, determination and focus.

 

What impressed me immensely about this World Cup was that there were hardly a whiff of tantrums, or debauchery behind the scenes, or entitlement. This was an entirely different England. After the humiliations of our government, the debacles of Brexit, and the many instances we have lost face with our friends abroad, it was a delightful relief to be fronted internationally by a team that seemed to prioritise respect and camaraderie over winning at all costs. The team looked focused. They played dynamically. They didn’t play just to score a goal then conserve energy, they played to please the crowd, to score as many goals as possible (against Panama, albeit a newer less experienced team, they scored 6). Whilst the players are to be commended for their heroic efforts and dazzling technical displays, particularly from the aptly named Harry Kane (fear the lash of his free-kick), I believe the success of the team in reaching the semi-finals, along with the psychological paradigm shift and complete transformation of attitude, is down to their coach and leader: Gareth Southgate.

 

He was cool, calm, and, to quote many of the footballers on the team, kind. His motto was “Strength through kindness”, and he conducted himself with patient dignity at all times. During the nerve-wracking penalty shootout with Colombia, in which England scraped a win 4-3, he chose, rather than celebrating with the others, to console the Colombian player that had missed his shot. Gareth Southgate himself failed to score a penalty in the 1996 UEFA Euro semifinal against Germany – which led to their defeat. This incredible display of empathy for a distraught player on the opposing team shows true leadership qualities. Intriguingly, Southgate picked the England penalty shooters based on psychological tests indicating who would best keep their cool.

 

Clearly, the England coach understands the number one rule of leadership, that the primary role of a leader is to motivate a team, not necessarily to have the best knowledge, ability, or strategies. The same applies for his team. He did not pick the strikers with the best and most accurate kicks, he picked the people who would remain calm in a highly pressured situation. He recognised internal qualities, sought to understand the internal landscape of his team, and based his decisions around this information. By inspiring the team, getting them to believe that they could break the curse of England’s poor performance, they went further than they could have ever dreamed two years ago.

 

The word “inspire” comes from the ancient Greek, and means to literally “breathe life”. It is a divine act, there is something sacred about it. Gareth Southgate has breathed life into a game I had little interest in to begin with, but lost all hope of some time ago with the abysmal antics and attitudes of previous England teams; he gave people something to believe in. And yes, whilst football is just a game, it holds symbolic significance for many people, and therefore is not to be dismissed. Football can be used for good, to make positive influences on the world. It’s already happening. Fans are behaving in ways they never would have done two years ago, raising a cheerful glass to Croatia and congratulating them, intervening when crowds get rough. Their attitude is transforming along with the team. And it all seems to be rippling out from one person. That is the amazing thing about real motivation, it’s infectious, it wants to be found.

 

There were calls for Gareth Southgate to take Theresa May’s job at the close of the England versus Croatia game last night. Though a joke, it hits the nail on the head. A leader, especially the leader of a country, isn’t successful purely in relation to technical proficiency or knowhow. They need to have integrity, empathy, strength, courage and vision; aka, invisible, less easily measured qualities. The England coach showed us what that looked like for four weeks. It’s a blessing to see true motivation in action, and to know that there are still those who recognise its power and value.


Overcoming Resistance to Change

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Carl Jung observed that "All true things must change and only that which changes remains true". This is a profound paradox, especially when you consider that for all the talk of change there is today, the reality is that most people and most organisations don’t want it. Why would they? Only yesterday, Tesco and Apple were at the top of their game; they were unbeatable superstar companies that the world admired and wanted to emulate; today – after change – they are less on top, less precious, threatened by radicals and upstarts as well as public perception about their integrity. So the process goes on. We do not want to relinquish what we have achieved, but change necessitates that we have to let go. Jung’s point makes it clear that once we embrace stasis, we ossify, and what was a winning formula no longer works. “Every dog has its day”, as the saying goes, and even Muhammed Ali cannot be the greatest forever.

 

The need for security, then, means we have an inbuilt resistance to change, yet we know we must change if we are to become all that we might be, as individuals and as organisations. After all, who wants to remain a child indefinitely? What are the factors that enable us or our organisation more specifically to overcome resistance to change? I think there are three.

 

First, in order for organisations (but think individuals too) to want to embrace change they need a compelling vision; a vision is promissory note on the future. It creates an expectation – a belief in an unborn outcome, and belief is amazingly powerful. It’s emotional for one thing and this is important. As Donald Calne said, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions”. The vision then galvanises action – we move towards it; and the stronger and more constant the vision the more powerfully and consistently we move towards it.

 

Second, it’s all well having a vision, but we all know about what we call ‘unrealistic’ visions: people and organisations pitching ludicrously high, way above any possibility of fulfilment. For any vision to be really strong, it needs strong foundations, and these can be summed up in the word, resources. Have we the resources necessary to achieve the vision? If we do, the excitement is palpable; if we do not, the self-delusion is crushing. But what are these resources?

 

I think there are nine key resources we need to consider and these are in three groups of three. First, and most obviously, there are the tangible resources we need to complete the vision: Money, Equipment, Space (or the Environment). Next there are intangible resources we need: Time, Knowledge, Information. Finally, we need people and we need people development factors: People Skills, Right Attitude or Motivation, and Agreed Co-operation. On this last point, so often overlooked, we must bear in mind that sometimes even with all the money and time in the world we still cannot get what we want unless we can get cooperation from others.

 

It might be thought that if we had the vision and the resources, then bingo! we’re home and dried, but alas, certainly from an organisational point of view, this is not the case. Vision and Resources are not enough in themselves to compel people to want to change; remember, they are safe and secure where they are. As Philip Crosby put it: “Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty in being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way”. The last factor in overcoming resistance to change may surprise you.

 

For people, and so for organisations, to want to change they need to be dissatisfied with the status quo! That’s right – they need to be unhappy with the way things are. Hence the formula:

 

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Or, Vision x Resources x Dissatisfaction with Status Quo Overcomes Resistance to Change

 

Thus, a weird corollary of this can be that staff are too happy, too contented, too well paid, too secure and this leads to a dreadful stagnation in terms of organisational development. The old Mystery Plays in England had a character, the devil, who had a great line which said: “mankind’s chiefest enemy was security” because the devil knew that once complacency stuck in mankind was vulnerable to all forms of temptation – forgetting the way and losing sight of the vision. Sometimes management simply has to create a constructive discontent if things are going to move on at all.

 

Also, clearly, I hope, is the idea of knowing just how contented or discontented your staff are, and apart from them bellowing directly in your ear, or simply quitting, the most effective way of knowing, and certainly the most accurate, is via Motivational Maps.

 

But apart from using Maps strategically, there are four things you can do anyway to ease a change management program and overcome resistance. First, remember to go at pace staff can move at. You are in a hurry, but they may not see the urgency – assess their capabilities first and recall the tortoise – slow and steady wins the race. Second, target objectives which inform activities; in other make their work purposeful and point in the direction of the vision. Third, protect areas of professionalism (e.g. process, strategies) but always give clear objectives. Change programs which undermine the professional standing of the players always incur the most bitter resistance. Finally, encourage individuals to see how their area contributes to the whole organisational objectives – the big picture, the vision. We all want to make a difference at some level – let’s help people do it.

 

 


Six Ways to Boost Your Career

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Last month, we looked at the Six Problems with Success Syndrome, highlighting the dangers of complacent thinking in businesses and possible ways to counteract them. Today, we’ll be looking at six positive ways you can make an impact on your career

 

In running training sessions and going into companies, I frequently find myself in conversation with staff and management. At some point, the issue turns from the specific training to more personal matters – their professional development. Unsurprisingly, this topic never fails to interest. How do we develop professionally?

 

This is a big question. Briefly, let me give you six thoughts that can seriously help you accelerate your career.

 

First, seek more training. Training is the key. Do we have the knowledge, the skills, the motivations to cope with the accelerating rate of change? Moreover, are you in the top 10% of people doing what you do? This should be your ambition. Ongoing training is one vehicle to drive you there. Remember, the person who is in the top 10% never lacks opportunities for work! This is so much better, incidentally, than desperately trying to be number 1 at everything – being number 1 is an exhausting, arduous and perilous process – you can never quite be sure. Being in the top 10% is certain – if you put in the effort and sustain it, you will arrive. Of course, make sure to begin with that you are on the right career path!

 

Second, review your commitment to your job every month. It’s strange how nearly everyone has 100% commitment when they first get a job. Suddenly, four years or four months later, somebody notices that Eddy or Angie only has 40% commitment or less. But it didn’t suddenly drop from 100 to 40 in one fell swoop – it happened gradually. If you find yourself regularly thinking your commitment is below 80%, then it might be time to consider your options. Don’t wait till everyone else knows your heart’s not in it.

 

Third, update your CV every 6 months. It’s surprising how easily we forget what we’ve done and learnt. This is preparedness. It also feels good – we establish, visually, a record of what we’ve done, and we feel ready to fly. This increases our sense of control – which boosts our self-esteem, which – in turn – boosts our actual performance levels.

 

Fourth, start a diary. If that sounds too much hassle, then at least log daily what you’ve achieved. It’s estimated that some 75% of our self-talk is negative. Concentrate on your achievements. Make a point of listing at least three major achievements a day. And if you are saying, ‘I don’t have three major achievements a day – on any day’, then you seriously need to review what your life is about. Remember, every time you satisfy a human need, then you are engaged in a major activity. We need to see the world with the eyes of a child to appreciate how miraculous it is – and how much we can be contributing to other people’s lives.

 

Fifthly, and this takes some swallowing, but … actively request new tasks from your boss! Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t, in fact, be passive – like most people. Many people think that bosses want highly intelligent and highly qualified people around them. Perhaps. But faced with an interesting debate with Jones, with all the qualifications: PHD, MBA, BA (Hons) Oxon, and Smith, whose motto is: ‘I get things done immediately’, they usually prefer Smith.

 

Which leads nicely to my final point, six.

 

Imagine you are the boss. Put yourself in his or her shoes. They have problems to solve – who can solve these problems for them – can you solve them now? Ask yourself these questions: what does your organisation need now? What steps need to be taken now? And you, following point 5, take those steps! Remember, the whole reason to be at work (and life for that matter) is to solve problems. The more problems you solve for your boss, the more they like, recommend, depend on, and are likely to advance and reward you. It’s obvious – but how many people do you think actively follow this through?

 

If you take these six points on board, watch your career develop! And watch the flood of inspiration you will undoubtedly feel.

 


EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING” PART 3

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been posting extracts from my new book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, to celebrate it being published by Routledge. To recap for those who don’t know, this text is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. You can find the extract from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 via the provided links. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

 

Today I’ll be sharing my third and final extract from the book. This extract is from Chapter 3: “Pareto, Performance and Motivational Maps”

We are happy when we are in harmony; according to the Tao Te Chingi, in harmony with the Tao. The Tao is the Way - essentially, the natural flow of the universe and how it operates. It is an impersonal force according to the Tao Te Ching, but there is no problem in calling this 'God' if one wishes to. The point is that the universe conforms and complies with certain rules and principles and when we violate these we suffer. A simple and obvious example would be committing murder: all human societies have condemned the practice since the beginning of recorded time; and that murderers suffer is not only because if they get caught they are punished, but even if they are not caught history and literature provide ample testimony to the torments of the mind that they become prey toii. With this in mind, then, are there any natural laws of the universe that we inadvertently fail to respect or act upon? Laws whose existence we do not acknowledge or ignore, or whose tenets we flatly contradict or believe the opposite of?

 

There may be severaliii but there is certainly one which has huge ramifications on our everyday life, and on coaching practice in particular. One of the major issues affecting nearly everybody as a negative subconscious belief is that the universe works in a 50-50 way. Put another way, this means that all causes and inputs are more or less equal in terms of their symptoms and outputs. Again, a simple example illustrates the point: say, we get 100 (or 1000!) emails in our inbox and we wade through them as though they were all equally important, each one gets more or less the same amount of our time and attention. If that happens, then we are working on a 50/50 assumption about the nature of reality! We say IF it happens but in truth that is exactly what is happening all the time, since most of the time we are unless we are incredibly disciplined on some sort of automatic pilot or habitual mode of working whereby we deal with things as they turn up. In short, we may have heard of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule as it is sometimes called, but very few people (surely less than 20%?) do anything about it. Some emails are much more important than others, and often that some is about 20% of the total. So the universe works in an asymmetrical or 80/20 way, not a 50/50, all-things-equal way. Things are not equally important. If we wish to be effective, we have to identify the 20% of activities that cause or create 80% of our overall results; and if we go further and 80/20 the 80/20 we realise that 4% of inputs will generate 64%iv of outputs. If we are going to coach effectively this is an astonishing statistic to get our head round for the client.

 

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But from a performance, and so from a coaching perspective, this principle, like Motivational Maps, is a key pillar of effective coaching. Because we cannot do everything, there is an ongoing necessity to prioritise, and this prioritisation requires that we think; and particularly that, as Richard Kochv puts it, we think 80/20.

 

To be clear about this now: 80/20 is not an exact figure. The percentage of inputs may vary, and indeed it is a primary purpose of coaches to skew this ratio. (And they do this by the intervention of coaching). But the starting point might be not 80/20 but 70/30 or 60/40 or 90/10 or 95/5, but whatever it is, it is not 50/50. It also needs to be said that whilst the Pareto Principle holds true in most life and business situations, there can be exceptions. So it is generally true, for example, that for most businesses 20% of the customers generate 80% of the revenues; but that probably doesnt work in, say, the supermarket modelvi where 20% of customers probably do not account for 80% of revenues. But so far as coaching, consultancy, training and other service industries are concerned, it is uncannily accurate, as it will be for most sectors and most non-commodity businesses.

 

REFERENCES

i. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu, Richard Wilhelm Edition, Penguin, (1985)

ii. ‘O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!’– Macbeth, William Shakespeare

iii. For an overview take a look at Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Principle and 92 Other Powerful Laws of Nature, Nicolas Brealey, (2014), a worthy sequel to his original book on Pareto and which explains ‘92’ other laws that operate in life.

iv. 80/20 Sales and Marketing, Perry Marshall, Entrepreneur Press, (2013)

v. The 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch, Nicolas Brealey Publishing, (1997)

vi. Pareto’s Principle, Antoine Delers, Lemaitre Publishing, 2015

 

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. Enjoy!


EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING” - PART 2

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Last week, I posted an extract from Chapter 1 of my new book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, to celebrate it being published by Routledge. To recap for those who don’t know, this text is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

 

Today I’ll be sharing more insights with you from the book. This extract is from Chapter 2: “Coaching for Higher Performance”

 

Coaching starts with considering the issue of self-awareness for the simple reason that the person who is not self-aware has – by definition – no awareness, or consciousness, that there is anything on which to work within one self. This applies as much to self-development as it does to coaching a client. If a cat scratches its fur going through a barbed wire fence, we know it has become ‘aware’ of the injury because it will start to lick the wound relentlessly in its efforts to heal the scratch. So even animals become highly self-aware of the issues that concern them; although in human beings, with their powerful intellects and advanced emotional apparatus, this is a far more complex activity.

 

Coaching, then, in simplistic terms might be said to be a 3-step process:


1. Enabling the client to become more self-aware

2. Facilitating their decision to change

3. Helping the client generate actions to support and achieve the change – new rituals and habits

 

But what, we may ask, is it that humans become self-aware about? As a starting point we might say, the Self. The Self is the modern psychological term used to describe what in the past we called the soul. What this Self or soul is lies beyond the scope of this book, but one does not need to be specifically religious to resonate with the idea, common all over the world, “that there is some part of us which should not be sold, betrayed or lost at any cost”i. It is who we are at a root level; and one only needs to reflect that everybody – yes, everybody – at some point in their life talks to themselves; indeed, many people do it all the time. But who are we speaking to when we talk to ourselves? It is as if there are two people present in this self-dialogue. The intellect or the mind or the ego, perhaps talking to the deeper Self, the soul, and if it waits long enough, getting answers back.

 

This is a fascinating topic: the human person is one, but already we find ‘two’ dialoguing within. If we take this a stage further, one clear model that is useful from a coaching perspective is to see a human being as having four interrelated, yet distinct, strands, rather like four strands in a rope that weave around each other to form one cable, which as a result of the interweaving is immeasurably stronger.

 

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These four strandsii are: the body (physical - doing), the mind (mental - thinking), the emotions (emotional - feeling) and the spirit (spiritual – knowing/being). Well-being is critical in all four areas, and a prolonged or sustained problem in one area will inevitably spill over and contaminate another. For example, there is now a well-known medical discipline called Psycho-immunology, which is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. In other words, ‘mere’ emotional stress can cause life threatening illnesses in the body. And so it is with all four areas interacting; and for the sake of clarity, the spiritual strand is not necessarily about religion or being religious. It is about man’s search for meaningiii; and to show how this can affect the whole person we need only to contemplate that there have been many examples of people who, regrettably, have lost all meaning in their lives, and this has led to negative thoughts, leading to emotional depressions, and in some instance to suicide, the death of the body.”

 

REFERENCES

 

i. A Complete Guide to the Soul, Patrick Harpur, Rider: Ebury Publishing, (2010).

ii. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey, Simon and Schuster, (1989).

iii. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, (1946).

 

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. Enjoy!


COACHING QUESTIONS: EXTRACT FROM MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING

EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING”

As some of you know, my book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, was published by Routledge earlier this year. This is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

This extract is from Chapter 1: “Coaching Questions”

“Underpinning coaching, and great coaching especially, is the issue of asking useful, relevant and sometimes intuitive questions. In later chapters we consider in more detail other core skills that make up the tool-kit, as it were, of the effective coach. But keep in mind that it is not the function of the coach to provide answers for the client; mentorsi may do that; however, coaches enable the client to find the answers for themselves. In fact, the coach is always acting as a mirror to the client, reflecting back to the client what they have just said because:

a. In the pause between saying what the client says and the coach restating it – reflecting it – back to the client, the client’s own deeper mind, their subconscious mind, has more chance of kicking in and providing a new insight which had not occurred before;

b. And in the re-statement the perceptive coach has a chance to not only re-state what has been said, but also to draw out its true significance. Re-statement is not always exactly the right term for what the coach is doing; paraphrasing would perhaps be more correct. The essence of paraphrase is summarising the essential aspects of what is said;

c. By reflecting back to source the issue, the client is hearing it again, though with a slightly enhanced or nuanced emphasis (where the coach is being effective) and what this does is reinforce the client’s own ownership of the issue. This increased ownership intensifies the desire to solve the problemii - it motivates.

People want to use a coach because they have an ‘issue’ or a ‘problem’; in a perfect world they would not need a coach since they would know what to do. But it mustn’t be thought that coaching is for ‘problem’ people; on the contrary, coaching is possibly the number one technique (alongside its cousin, mentoring) for enhancing just about anybody’s performance. Recent research in business indicates that coaching has dramatic effects on performance outcomesiii and this sort of effect is felt in all areas of coaching. Thus coaching, as has emerged over the last 20 years in the Western world, is a standard process that can help not only the performance of individuals and the productivity of organisations, but also anybody and everybody in facing the ‘issues’ they have in their private and personal lives. These range from improving health and fitness, raising the level of sporting achievements, coping with relationship, emotional and stress issues, and helping break addictive tendencies.”

REFERENCES

The distinction between a coach and a mentor or between the two processes is subtle and sometimes blurred, but generally it is thought that the mentor tends to be more directive towards, more experienced and knowledgeable than, more senior than, the client; whereas the coach tends to be more exploratory, more outside the immediate domain of the client, and ‘more’ equal in terms of status.

ii Nigel MacLennan, Coaching and Mentoring, Gower, (1999). MacLennan puts it this way: “If you own a problem – if that problem is inside you, if it has become part of your soul – finding the energy, commitment and persistence to solve it is easy”. For ‘energy’ we might substitute the word ‘motivation’.

iii “Organizations where senior leaders “very frequently” coach had 21% higher business results.” – 2017 from Bersin: http://bit.ly/2sRdMfv; the Ken Blanchard Organisation puts productivity gains from coaching at 57%: http://bit.ly/2tdmP6j

***

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. In the next few weeks, I'll be posting more extracts from Mapping Motivation for Coaching, so be sure to stay tuned to get more insights into coaching, mapping and mentoring. Thank you.


Getting to Grips with Work Life Balance

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People today talk of their Work-Life Balance, which is good, but not entirely accurate; it suggests a split between work and life, a choice between the two which can be remedied by information or techniques that will enable them to co-exist in harmony: you can have work and life! However, work is part of life and the split is not two ways, but three, and it is the invisible 'third' element that makes all the difference in the world to the other two.

 

As we think about it, for all our lives, there are three core elements: there is work, in which we struggle to achieve something, or impose our signature on the external environment; there are relationships, in which we yearn to love and be loved by others, and gain their respect and co-operation; and finally, there is Self – our Self, our real Self – in which we seek to grow through self-awareness and self-development, and this imposes some sort of order on our internal environment.

 

These elements are dynamically interacting all the time. The most obvious example of this is when a colleague at work, known for their commitment and skills and quality output, suddenly loses interest in what they are doing, or becomes positively obstructive. Nobody can understand why this has happened, but upon investigation the root problem turns out to be nothing to do with work – turns out to be, for example, their partner has left them, or a parent has suddenly died. Thus, relationships outside work affect the work.

 

If this is true, it stands to reason that the Self, too, will also affect both work and relationships, just as they affect the Self. The problem is: very few people seem to understand that they have a 'Self' and that therefore they need to tend it! And tend it as you would a garden. The exception to this general stricture would the physical self and physical health. Because they can see and feel their physical bodies, people will take action to promote its well-being – join the gym, do yoga, eat well and so on. Far fewer pay attention to their mental self, their emotional self, and their spiritual Self. This is a tragedy because it is the Self that primarily fuels work and relationships as we shall see.

 

However, before we discuss this in more detail, let's briefly look at how the three life elements express themselves in our lives. If we were to sum up their content in one question, then it would be:

 

Work asks: what do I do?

 

Relationship asks: how do I get strokes*?

(*'Strokes' here is a technical word as used in Transactional Analysis = initially repetitious physical contact on which the infant depends to live; but subsequently not only physical but emotional 'contact'.)

 

Self asks: what does this mean?

 

All three questions are vital to us as human beings, but it should be clear that if we consider anybody, including ourselves, then we all have predilections. Some people regard the question, what do I do, as far more important than the other two. And what we see is how this manifests itself in the world: in fact this question is particularly pertinent to men and can lead to the often observed work-life imbalance that is so characteristic of them. A form of workaholic-ism emerges, whereby work becomes the be all and end all of their existence – and of some women's too.

 

Again, some people, and probably more women than men here, regard, how do I get strokes round here, as the core issue of their lives. Relationships are everything, and in a way they are right. There is a familiar adage, 'all for love', and another which says that ‘nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time in the office’. No, they wish they'd spent more time with the people they allegedly loved. But for all the power of love, the need for 'strokes' can have a dangerous sting in its tail: it can lead to compliance, co-dependence, and a loss of personal identity in the mad desire to have strokes come whatever may. There are many people out there who seem to have obliterated their Self, identifying only as a ‘mother’ or ‘father’ or ‘guardian’ and not having any attributes or talents they can call their own. This is, of course, a false self-perception, but for many it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In some instances, the object of their affection – often a child – becomes smothered, because the carer cannot bear spending time by themselves.

 

Finally, then, the third question, which seems cerebral and academic, but upon which so much depends: what does this mean? In his book Man's Search for Meaning the noted psychologist, Vicktor Frankel, concluded that the meaning question was at the core of our existence. Humanity simply could not live without it, but with it, could endure almost anything. This is fine and philosophical, but so many of us are too busy to pay any attention to the question, and so to ourselves, until it is too late. We mistake the customs, habits and values of civilisation as a given font of meaning, and then do not have the internal equipment to deal with pressure when the cracks appear, as they always do to a greater or lesser extent. Another way to look at it, is how many people actually really carefully think about who they are, what their place in the universe might be, or what their life must mean? These are big questions, and many will find them too scary to answer, but without them, our lives become simulacrum, ant-colony lives where we merely obey, eat, marry, reproduce and die.

 

So, to return to an earlier point, it is knowing the Self, it is allowing for personal growth, that is the key to both success at work and in relationships; further, it is the fuel that provides 'energy', motivation if you will, to these other two elements. Ultimately, the person who is either so busy working or so busy in a relationship or both burns out because there is no 'time for myself'. Time for the Self is critical, but using it wisely is a different matter, for it is in those spaces between the work and the relationships that many find being on their own, with their Self, unbearable, requiring narcotics and stimulants of one sort of another to cope.

 

So, the solution is to find more time to develop the Self. Read that book you’ve always wanted to challenge yourself with. Go on that training course you’ve been thinking about. Go off and have a weekend to yourself, even, because as fantastic as your relationship with your partner may be, sometimes time alone can re-charge you in ways that spending time with someone else, even someone so close, cannot. Work and relationship time is almost default programmed in to our societal existence, but time for the Self is not. We have to manage and claim that time for ourselves.

Thanks stopping by. Tune in in a couple of week's time for our next post, which includes an extract from my upcoming book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan! Until then! 

 

 

 

 


Why Motivation Is Not In The Work Place

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It is not an original observation to say that in most work places we look we find that most people are not highly motivated. In many cases they are not motivated at all. They need to work and their commitment to and engagement with their employer extends no further than the next pay cheque. This is not a desirable state of affairs, and there are many reasons for it, but perhaps the most unnoticed aspect of the whole business is how little attention employers pay to the issue. It’s as if most of them live in a world where motivation of staff - and of themselves - is the least important thing, and having the least impact of all on the bottom line. Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong, but if we look deeper matters are much worse.

 

The decision not to consider motivation as part of the business bottom line has profound psychological roots. It’s not just that business owners, directors and executives don’t think about motivation - much - it’s that they can’t. This becomes clear when we look at the four major pillars that underpin any business or organisation for that matter.

 

First, there is finance - the money! The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive the business: return on equity, profit, turnover, cash flow and so on. This is a yes-no situation: either we have the cash flow or turnover or relevant metric, or we don’t. Accountants, usually, supply us with this information. And when the worst occurs, we know that.

 

This principle also applies to the second pillar, sales and marketing, and also to the third: production and operations. Managers, for example, check on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis - how many leads, how many prospects, how many conversions, how many sales and so how much revenue has been generated. Ditto for marketing: the advertising campaign, the web strategy, produces how many enquiries or clicks? And ditto for production: we ask how many widgets this month or how many service calls?

 

The point being that even when times are bad, we know how we are doing. This is because we have Finance, Sales & Marketing, and Operations directors keeping tabs on all this productivity and information.

 

But put another way, when we think about companies, we have these types of directors in the main precisely because they attract the kind of people who are drawn to certainties: the spread sheet full of numbers that tell us where we are. And if we invest in inputs we can measure the outputs, which are usually fairly predictable: for example, for every hundred leads that our marketing produces we convert about five on average into an actual sale.

 

Notice in this that whether the business or organisation is doing well or badly one thing remains constant in the three dominant areas/pillars of the business: namely, the psychological certainty of knowing where we are, of having the numbers which become our compass through the changing environment. This need for psychological certainty is compelling, it produces emotional security, but has a disastrous side effect in the fourth area/pillar: the people category (in which leadership, culture, morale and motivation are included). Put simply, it doesn’t work. As the British scientist Denis Burkitt put it: “Not everything that counts can be counted.”

 

Specifically, in the areas of people motivation, leadership and culture we find that given in-puts do not necessarily produce predictable outputs. The most frequent and outstanding example of this occurs with money: pay increases often demote staff despite the fact that a wage increase is precisely what they say they want.

 

The reasons for this are complex; but all MDs, CEOs, and executives will have stories not just of the failure of money to motivate, but the failure of dozens of other initiatives too: be they re-structured flexi-time, increased time off, more training, better social events, environmental improvements, and so on – what would seem obviously a 'good thing' becomes for some reason a cause for disgruntlement.

 

Thus in the people domain the certainties of numbers give way to uncertainty, and with that there are the two corresponding phenomena: the rise of ambiguity, and the erosion of control. Most managers – exactly because they have sought to be managers – resent and resist these two tendencies. In fact, the best way of dealing with them is ignoring them altogether.

 

We 'contract' with people – don't we? - to do the work; so, we're paying them, so they should work, shouldn't they? A kind of blind eye approach is adopted in principle, and only when things go seriously wrong – by which I mean the numbers all start going negative – is some attention paid to staff motivation. And usually, in a fairly simplistic way: let's send them on a course!

 

So what we have, then, are 4 pillars of an organisation, three of which – Finance, Marketing/Sales, and Operations – produce emotional security in the way they are set up and constructed to be measured. This means that directors and senior managers, by and large, have a massive disposition to want to deal with these areas and, correspondingly, subconsciously or otherwise, an aversion to actually dealing with the fourth and final pillar on which the other three really depend: the People.

 

The people pillar, then, concerns itself with all that is not secure! With all that is ambivalent and difficult to quantify. What is it about people which makes them so intractable?

 

If we think about it, it is because life is really like that. To live is always to be aware of inherent difficulties (including death) whereas human civilisation and mankind's intellect tends to want to mask over that with its certainties and constructions. Thus, profoundly, in dealing with the people pillar, ‘management’ is never enough. Leadership is required with all that that entails. Leaders – who motivate – are the only ones who can create real value.

 

How can we define leadership as opposed to management? Well, there is too much to say on the matter in just one blog. For more information about good (and not so good) leadership, you might want to check out my article on Motivation & Psychopathology. But in essence, the difference between a leader and a manager is that a leader recognises that their number one priority is to motivate staff. In fact, all their other duties, such as administration, assessing KPIs, in some cases keeping track of shifts or holiday, etc etc, are all secondary to this primary objective, which is to keep people motivated. Another way to look at this is to think about the great military leaders of the world. There is a famous story about Alexander the Great, who, having crossed the Gedrosian desert, found that his army was short of water. Scouts were sent ahead, to search for a water supply, before the army dehydrated in the midst of the vast, barren wastes. They returned with a helmet full of water. ‘I’m sorry,’ they said. ‘But we only found this much in a small pool. Please, we need your mind to get us out of the desert, you take the water, Alexander. There’s not enough to feed all of us.’ Alexander is purported to have taken the helmet and poured the water out. ‘I will not drink while my men suffer and thirst,’ he said. ‘We must find enough for all of us.’

 

There’s a joke in the masterful David Fincher film The Fall that this was a waste of water, but the profound psychological effect this had on his men is clear. The fact this legend has been passed down, for millennia, goes to show the impact it had. In fact, Alexander did best the Gedrosian desert, and went on to fight a battle directly afterwards, which he won. The key word here is “inspire”. The word “inspire” comes from the Old English “enspire”, or the Latin “inspirare”, both of which meant “to blow/breathe into”. God is said to breathe life into us, and hence, when we inspire others, we breathe life into them. This is an incredibly powerful mode of being, and true leaders are inspiring all the time. So, to fix the de-motivation of our workplace, we must recruit more leaders!

 

 


Six Problems with the Success Syndrome

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The Medieval Period had a concept called the Wheel of Fortune; it was the basic idea that what went up must come down, and we as humans ought to know that and take cognizance of the fact at all times. More recently, it seems analogous to the Chinese idea of yin and yang: the sunshine of yang indicates we are experiencing success and prosperity, but the darker side of yin reminds us that success is not forever, and that there may be a dark valley we have to enter. This is something that many people in the West seem not to be able to grasp.

 

One need only examine the utopianism of the last few decades to see what I mean. There is an idea, at the moment, that technology will solve all our problems, and what’s more, that society is just going to keep getting better the more technology we have. I’m not disputing the importance of advancement, particularly medical and ecological advancement – our planet’s certainly wounded – but technology can become a kind of idol which we falsely worship. Need we be reminded of the military horrors technology makes possible? And now, too, technology brings into question all kinds of moral laws and debates. Cloning is on the imminent horizon – perhaps not of people, but of animals certainly – artificial eugenics, artificial intelligence, the list goes on and on. And yet we never seem to entertain the idea that all of this could go horribly wrong, or give credence to those warning against it. Ironically, we have made science into a kind of god that can break the natural laws of the universe: that things come in cycles. Science itself teaches us this – everlasting progress is impossible – but as a society we seem unable to internalise this message.

 

And business can be like this too. We all want success; we plan and work for it; and then it comes along and we think it will be forever. At an organizational level, as well as at a personal, this can be very dangerous. Indeed, the value of yin can be salutary, for success can have dreadful pitfalls. To bring in Greek mythology: success can be a kind of hubris, a sense that we are gods and can completely determine our own outcomes forever. This may sound extreme, but Thomas Merton expressed it perhaps too extremely this way: “Avoid at all costs one thing: success… if you are too obsessed with success you will forget to live. If you have only learned how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted”.

 

Here are six things that seem to happen when success becomes an organizational liability, and one should say too that this can happen at the individual level. The first thing is codification, or the way in which informal procedures that once proved successful now become rigid policies. In short, the erosion of flexibility and responsiveness occurs. With that, next, a growing internal focus develops which ignores outside threats; this is the beginning of all those internal politics whereby people are more concerned about their position within the ‘successful’ organization than they are about their customers. In fact, thirdly, the complexity of internal politics emerges full-blown and with it the preservation of power – or at least maintaining their position - becomes the primary objective of everybody within the organization.

 

Fourth, a mindset of arrogance and complacency takes root: problems, then, especially competitive problems, are rationalized and viewed as only temporary, mere blips, and the full seriousness of the situation is not properly assessed or apprised. The whole thrust of this momentum – the rigidity, internal focus, politicking and mindset – fifthly, starts disabling the learning process. The organization stops learning and incorporating new insights into its organizational memory; leaders – everybody – keeps trying to solve today’s issues and challenges with the skills and expertise of yesterday.

 

Finally, a deep conservatism takes hold and the organization becomes entirely risk averse; risk-averse in the worst sense of that phrase – not realizing that not changing is more risky than staying where they are. In a sense this is likely being in Dante’s Hell: where the people going on repeating formulaic activities that are ineffective, but they somehow and seemingly forever cannot break those habits. At least they cannot break them until reality intrudes and the organization goes bust, is acquired, or is broken up into smaller pieces, and so on.

 

These, then, are six major problems that develop when organizations become successful. There is no easy antidote to countering these sclerotic tendencies, but by way of general advice there are three things that can help us avoid these terrible rocks. The first is thinking about things more! "If everybody is thinking alike then somebody isn't thinking" said George S Patton, and that is a profound observation. The thing about success is that it tends to shut down the need to ‘think’ – one goes on automatic pilot. This is especially true with those businesses and organizations which major on ‘systems’ and processes’ and turn-key operations. They build themselves – having done the initial thinking – on not thinking; the system works. For evidence of how limited this might be, think McDonalds: an incredibly ‘successful’ franchise, but one now realizing that even their turn-key operation needs to re-think its market and its products as consumers become more health conscious and aware. How is thinking done, then, in your organization? What space is made available for it to occur, as opposed to business as usual?

 

Second, in order to get a permanent reality check, ask your customers and clients what they think, what they feel, how they experience you and your organization; there can scarcely be a better antidote to complacency and arrogance than this one simple test – yet doing this effectively is no simple thing, or indeed accepting the validity of the feedback.

 

Finally, take the pulse of your own employees, especially their emotional pulse. The best, most cost-efficient and result-effective way of doing this is not via staff surveys, but using the Motivational Maps profiling tool at individual, team and organizational level. This always produces a ton of surprising and unexpected data regarding what employees are thinking individually and en masse; the results of which can lead to deeper strategic thinking and planning.

 

So go for success, but be aware of its dangerous pitfalls and plan to ensure that you do not fall into one or more of them.

 

Next week, we will be looking at motivation in the workplace.


10 Strategies for Relieving Negative Self Talk

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Everyone at some time or another experiences negative self talk. As sapient creatures, aware of ourselves, unlike most animals we have immense capacity for self criticism. But it is not just our awareness of ourselves – and our flaws – that creates this self talk. It is also our ability to compare and contrast. Our grasp of time. If an animal suffers a horribly injury, such as losing a limb, it does not spend its days moping around for very long. It gets on with it. This is not to say that animals do not “feel” or possess emotions, for there is strong evidence to suggest that they do, but they are not able to bemoan their fate, or look back on halcyon days. Nor does the animal reprimand itself for its mistakes – it does not blame itself for the loss of limb, this is simply something that has happened. So, our intelligence as human beings is at once a blessing – empowering us to do amazing things – but can also be a curse, crippling us with self doubt and negativity.

 

The first character who speaks in the Bible is God. At Genesis 1:3 God says, “Let there be light”, and just as He speaks, the reality manifests. This is a pattern of God's language: he frequently speaks in imperatives, or what we might call commands. That's hardly surprising as He is God.

 

The first question in the Bible, however, is spoken by another character: the serpent – the Devil – who says, “Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?” And there we have it, the first question, the first, doubt, expressed by the Devil. Whether you want to believe in this literally is irrelevant to my purposes in this article; what is clear is that psychologically this is profoundly true. There is a Devil, a Satan, within all of us, and this being questions us, pokes holes in our arguments, mocks our sense of self importance. There is a reason we so often associate the “nasty little voice” in our heads with the demonic powers. In the case of the Garden of Eden, the Devil is casting doubt on the need for Adam and Eve to restrain themselves, and not eat the forbidden fruit.

 

Asking questions is all too often threatening to others, and all too often symptomatic of doubt in us. Whether that be doubt about our political institutions and their validity, or doubts about our partner or colleagues or bosses, once the questioning mode starts we all too frequently lose faith in someone or something, and our feelings about them become divided.

 

Nowhere is this more important than in our thoughts about ourself. Once we start serially questioning our own motives, our own talents and abilities, our own – and this is deepest of all – self worth, then we are in serious trouble: we cannot succeed at anything. To use the New Testament psychological insight: the house divided against itself cannot stand. We call this deep questioning of ourself 'negative self talk', and for some people it a permanent condition of torture.

 

How, then, can we lessen or even remove this thorn in our flesh? because every one at some time or another experiences this problem. Here are ten great ideas to help you relieve negative self-talk.

 

One, move, or more accurately, break the body set. What this means is that once we start being negative about ourself we find that a certain rigidity or tension creeps into our body and its posture. Thus, at its simplest level, going for a brisk walk is a good idea. Take those strides, feel those arms swinging purposefully side to side.

 

Second, be in the here and now. In other words, stop regretting the past or worrying about the future. Easier said than done? Yes. The key technique for being in the now is meditation and focusing on your breath. This can be aligned to point number one if we consider disciplines like yoga, chi gung or tai chi: in these the breath is central, as is breaking the body set, all the while slowing down and enjoying the moment.

 

Third, exaggerate the problem – yes, you heard right: exaggerate the problem! So, you are telling yourself that you are an unattractive person, that nobody would like you? Dead right – you're Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein’s monster, or whoever – and as the picture, the cartoon almost, forms in your mind, its very exaggeration starts becoming comical. If we can laugh at ourself, then we can offset the sting of the negativity.

 

Fourth, undertake physical exertion. This is slightly different from point one, because here we are talking about more serious and heavy physical exertion: some serious gardening, for example, is quite different from going for a brisk walk. And so might be a serious house clean. It will be different for every one of us depending on our age and fitness and health; nevertheless, physical exertion always takes our mind away from the negative ramblings of our mind.

 

Fifth, create your own safe place, or haven, or as I like to call it, my den. Where can you go where you feel at peace, at one, and safe? This may be a room in your house or flat. It may be, as it often is for people, a spot in nature – a park, a beach, a forest. Beauty always heals.

 

Sixth, review the sounds that surround you. Do you have music that is beautiful, that is healing, that restores you? Not to put to fine a point upon it, there are some musical styles which are ugly, discordant, aggressive and manufactured to maximise unhappiness in your soul. Avoid these. Instead, listen to the opposite; that may include some popular and modern music; but do not forget the wonders of JS Bach. As Roberto Assagioli put it in his marvellous book, Psychosynthesis: “The music which can especially produce this kind of healing influence is that of JS Bach ...” and he cites Albert Schweitzer who calls a composition by Bach, “an expression of the Primal Power which manifests itself in the infinite rotating worlds”. Bach is “a song of love, unfolding itself in the light of intelligence, and impelled by will. That is why it enriches so much.”

 

Seventh, talk with someone. A good friend can correct our erroneous views of ourself, can restore the correct balance to our thoughts, can enable us to see the good when all we can grasp is the bad. This is especially important for men who have a tendency to bottle things in, regard 'sharing feelings' as unmanly, which is clearly a mistaken and negative thought in itself.

 

Eighth, consider other people. One of the problems with negative self talk is its tendency to promote self-obsession at the expense of true self love. Who can you help? Who needs your assistance or support? Once we think like this we begin to realise too that whatever we were thinking our shortcomings were, there may be somebody else who has it far worse than we do. This, bizarrely, though not good in itself, relying as it does on comparison, yet can get us to re-evaluate our own position.

 

Ninth, take a nap, and indeed sleep more. Sleep is nature's healing balm, and we need more of it. In our pressurised Western life styles some people do not get enough sleep – which should be at least seven hours a day. If you know you are only getting five or six hours, ensure you steal naps during the course of the day. You'll feel a lot better and negative thinking will recede.

 

Finally, and possibly controversially, learn to pray. If meditation is listening in the silence to the voice of the universe, then prayer is asking and focusing with intention on the universe to help. There are no atheists in fox-holes, as the saying goes, and developing humility through prayer is paradoxically one of the single most powerful things you can do to feel better about yourself. It's counter-intuitive, but it's true, as many testify. Pray – for as it says in the First Epistle of John 3: 19-20: “We set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” Surely, that is a staggering thought that silences doubt even as we begin to contemplate its majesty?

 

Even if we do not accept prayer in the denominational sense, or a higher power, we can all do with asking for help. Sometimes, we cannot talk to people, because people are so subjectively predisposed. We can feel like we already know exactly what words and advice will pour from their lips before we’ve even asked them. In addition, we can sometimes feel too self-conscious about our negative self talk and feelings to adequately put it into words. We Brits, in particular, downplay ourselves, including our problems, leading to people assuming we are “okay”. Speaking to the universe, however, the unified cosmos, can be far more liberating. And if you believe, in your heart, that there is something out there listening with “Sublime Compassion”, then to quote the Buddhists, you are all the better for relieving your negative state.

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This motivational webseries will continue in two weeks' time, with an article on Six Problems with the "Success Syndrome". Thanks, as always, for dropping by! And if you have any thoughts or strategies for relieving negative self talk, be sure to leave them in the comments. 

 


The Need for Productivity

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Why do we want to be motivated? So far, in this web series, we’ve discussed numerous ways in which we can get motivated, and maintain our motivation levels through stressful experiences, but it’s worth also pausing and considering why we want to attain motivation in the first place. There are so many reasons, but one key one – at least from a business standpoint, as opposed to the personal and spiritual sphere – is performance and productivity; the two go hand in hand.

 

Performance is about being on top of one’s work, of being able to achieve things both for oneself and for the organization, and inevitably, as night follows day, if we perform at a high level for any length of time we start becoming extremely productive. So being productive means that we produce ‘stuff’: products, services, ideas, innovations, value and profit. Possibly, then, being productive is the number one thing that employers want from their employees; it’s self-evidently mission critical.

 

What makes a highly productive employee? Who are the highly productive employees? If we remember the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, we will be clear that these highly productive individuals can be up to 16 times more productive than their less successful counterparts. Sixteen times! That is a staggering achievement especially if we are dealing with, as we frequently are, people being paid the same standard salary. Further, and awfully, the Pareto Principle also clearly means that 20% of our employees produce 80% of our profit (or value-add), and sadly, 80% produce only 20%. The challenge, then, is to skew this law so that it works more in our favour: imagine how much more productivity and profit would be possible if instead of 80-20, we had 70-30 or even 60-40. In other words, imagine what would happen for our organization if we doubled the number of employees who are seriously productive?

 

But how do we find these 'productive' individuals? Productivity is a people issue. People make things happen - or not. This seems to be a revelation to some managers, as if merely pushing people around and simply paying them a wage leads to high productivity. The reality is that this approach leads to subtle sabotage and non-vocal resistance: lip-service to the organizations and its goals, but at root a deep dislike and resentment. Eventually, of course, it leads to outright hostility and then we go down the line of cost: somebody quits and we have to start all over again. Alternatively, bad managers take the view that they can discount their people because technology will do it all – how misguided can one be?

 

People are in one sense like bees: they like being productive, they like being in a well-tuned hive where everyone and everything has its place and all is purposeful. It produces honey and sweetness, and the sense of a life well spent. But what is productivity and where is it in the scheme of things? Now that’s the interesting thing; that’s the thing which if all managers understood they might get real about leading their employees instead of just paying them.

 

Productivity is what it says it is: it is the ability of the individual (and teams) to produce something – to create: be that a product (a thing), a service, or value. In short, productivity is about adding to the sum of existence: something that wasn’t there before is now there, and as a direct result of the individual’s efforts. You’d think everybody would want to be productive, not least because it boosts one’s own self-esteem; but if you think so, you’d be wrong. That said, however, the important thing to grasp is the position of productivity in the scheme of organizational activities.

 

For productivity sits midway between the two other vital ‘P’s: performance and profit! Productivity is the bridge to profits! As Dr. Alex Krauer said, “When people grow, profits grow”. We need high performing people to start with. We need therefore to focus on recruitment in the first instance and how we go about that. But clearly, productivity must involve employee performance too; there is no way round it. We have to go back to first principles. Yes, we want the profits and we can anticipate and plan for them, but we can’t just kick people into being productive; they need to be high performing individuals and teams. So if we are not happy with our current levels of productivity, then how are we going to change the situation? By doing some serious thinking about the performance of our individuals!

 

This can be done on an individual level, team level, and on the organizational level. But here is a quick, personal aide-memoir to ask yourself, and then to ask yourself about your employees: what one skill, if you had it now, would make the greatest impact on your own productivity? This could be anything - a technical, or interpersonal, or strategic skill. Whatever it is, now you’ve identified it, how are you going to bridge the gap? 

 

Similarly, what one skill if your employees had it now would make the biggest difference to the productivity of the whole? Remember that the whole point about the ‘one skill’ that would have the greatest impact is that we are invoking the Pareto Principle – a small number of things, one even, can have a disproportionate influence on everything else.

 

Skills are one necessary thing; the other is motivation – what’s your plan to increase your own and your employees’ motivation? Without it, even the skills will wither: there is no alternative!

 


Three Tools for Personal Development

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In the modern world, there is, more than there ever was before, a drive to constantly achieve new things and get to the next stage of ‘life’ and ‘success’. This can manifest in all kinds of ways: sometimes it is material, in that we want the next car or promotion or house; sometimes it is creative, in that we rush from one project to the next without pausing to reflect on the achievement of having completed the first one. Creative people are especially vulnerable to this. They disregard their own back catalogue of triumphs. How many times have you heard a creative person say: ‘Oh, that’s my old stuff. You should check out my new projects, they’re much better!’

Stephen King once joked that ‘As far as my fans are concerned, I might as well have died after I wrote The Stand.’ But the thing is, that book was and remains a remarkable achievement, and while he has gone on to complete 0ther, arguably equally remarkable works, it’s not shameful to be associated with an iconic former triumph. Of course, the other side of this are the ‘has-beens’, people who live off of former achievements without feeling the need to contribute anything new. Many creative people are paranoid about morphing into these parasitical individuals, and hence push themselves even harder to get to their next endeavour.

So, in the light of this and the upcoming release of my second motivation book: Mapping: Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, and now available from here (and for a 20% discount enter the code: FLR40 at checkout), I decided to revisit some all important lessons from my previous book, Mapping Motivation. Here are three personal development tools, explored in detail in the book, that you can use to inform your motivational practice. The thing about revisiting old material is that, hopefully, good things remain relevant for a long time, sometimes even forever. The bad stuff, you can leave behind.

Mapping Motivation has a chapter on Leadership which provides a new model that has, at the heart of it, the surprising fact that motivation and the ability to motivate others is at least 50% of what a leader is required to do. This is counter-intuitive and not what we expect; and not what most other models claim is the essence of effective leadership. The model is called the '4+1 Model' and I direct you to Chapter 8 of the book to get a full account of it, but for now trust me if I say that the '1' of the '4+1' model is all about personal development and growth, and that without this growth, the leader cannot function well even if they have the other necessary skills (the '4'). So how do we grow as people, as leaders?

All growth and personal development begins with self-awareness: the self being aware of itself, becoming aware of dissatisfaction with its self, and projecting, therefore, changes that will enable it to ‘improve’. In other words, to engage in a creative process with itself. There are three primary and creative tools of personal development that follow from this self-awareness.

One, desire itself: seeing our own condition we desire to improve, rectify, and enhance it. Desire is not motivation but it precedes it. The consequence of this, then, is that our emotions are vital to our development, and are not playing some subordinate role to our thought and logical processes. It is desire at its intensest level that leads in most situations to the solving of the most pressing problems that we encounter, including our own problem!

Two, imagination: the self produces images that begin a process of manifestation. The etymology of the word manifestation is from the Latin for “hand” - we can ‘handle’ thoughts via manifestation. Manifestation, then, is the process by which material reality comes into existence as a concretization of what the mind has ‘seen’, or, if you will, 'pre-seen'. (There is a wonderful story about Roy Disney, who after his father's death, and the opening of Disney Land, had some sympathiser murmuring: 'If only your father had lived to see this'. To which he replied: 'But he did see it and that's why you’re seeing it now'.) Hence, it is too that we find that the visible things depend upon the invisible things for their existence. There is a wonderful line from the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead which expresses this: “All the world which lies below has been set in order and filled in contents by the things which are placed above; for the things below have not the power to set in order the world above”.

Three, expectations: our beliefs in future outcomes, or in short, faith. What we believe, especially about the future, has an inordinate effect upon that future and upon the outcomes (of life) for us. So much so, our belief – faith – may be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Meditation is the process and the objective by which self-awareness is maximized. This leads to the interesting reflection that altered brain wave patterns – not the everyday beta brain way patterns (which are in the range of about 13-40 Hz) - are intimately connected with developing self-awareness. Deepak Chopra made the profound observation that: “It is possible to spend a lifetime listening to the inventory of the mind without ever dipping into its source”. Clearly, any leader in this non-creative state is likely to be (a) highly ineffective, and (b) ego-driven, with all the terrible consequences that implies.

Two corollaries, then, of this are: first, relaxation is therefore essential not only to human development but human happiness too. Secondly, the ultimate relaxation is in sleep, and sleep itself requires both the non-being (as it were) state of non-consciousness AND the dream state. In fact, the dream state is every bit as essential as the non-conscious state. Why? Possibly because dreams themselves, remembered or otherwise, are primary agents shaping our desires, imagination and expectations. Bizarrely, then, the real changes we want in our life, and even the fact we want them, derive from the invisible, intangible, insubstantial and nebulous world within us.

If we want to be leaders, then, we need to pay attention - much like Sherlock Holmes - not to the obvious details of everyday life, but more intently to the small creative things that have in the longer term such a huge impact on reality.

Tune in next week for another webseries blog on the need for productivity.


Motivation and Psychopathology

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One of the truly difficult things to come to terms with is the failure of the ‘system’. By which I mean your system, my system, anybody’s system. It’s as if we invest so much time and effort and creativity into inventing systems that we cannot accept when they fail or crash. The financial crash of 2008 is a classic example. Of course, when we look at it now, it seemed obvious that it had to happen, but as it unfolded at the time there was a general incredulity as to how it could have occurred. Wasn’t the financial sector employing the best brains in the country? Wasn’t the regulation quality assured? Didn’t the politicians and Government actively promote and endorse what was going on? Hm.

All systems fail; just when we think we’ve cracked ‘it’, it cracks! For example, there are many things we can do to improve our recruitment processes, including using psychometrics, systematic interviewing processes, CV checks and so on. Yet, still the duff candidate gets the job and upends the ‘systematic’ procedures.

My own product, Motivational Maps, is a wonderful and systematic device for discovering what motivates and how motivated people are; further, its Reward Strategies package can help managers and directors really identify how to get their teams energized and moving. But there’s always one person for whom the Map doesn’t apply. Strangely, this is not because the Map is inaccurate, but because the Map cannot measure what some people carry around with them: psychopathology!

For these people, whatever their personality traits or their motivational profile, there is a bigger agenda that must be followed. Perhaps a good word for this would be obsession – an obsession that destroys reason, logic and all internal coherence.

Norman F. Dixon’s wonderful book on the Psychology of Military Incompetence has a useful section on the difference between the autocratic (which can sometimes be justified) and the authoritarian leader, which is psychopathological (and cannot be justified).

The behavioural characteristics of the authoritarian personality, he says, are:

 

(1) Conventionality: a rigid adherence to middle-class values. We all know this person. They always do things ‘by the rules’, to the point at which it becomes almost impossible to be spontaneous or to create anything new. Often, when asked why a certain process is the way it is, or why the company follows certain procedures, the reply will be ‘Because we’ve always done it this way’.

 

(2) Submissiveness: to the idealized moral authority of the group with which s/he identifies self, and to higher authority. As far as the authoritarian is concerned, hierarchy is all, regardless of hypocrisy, corruption or abuse. If the CEO has ordered that all employees are no longer allowed to drink tea during office hours, then it must be right, regardless of the patent negative impact, and frankly dehumanising ideology behind such a move. You might think that example is far-fetched, but I have seen it in more than one company, where a CEO (or ‘Company President’ where they adopt the American vernacular) is so determined to control his/her workforce, that they are prepared to infringe on the most basic pleasures – making a good cuppa after a tough morning.

 

(3) Aggressiveness: towards those who violate conventional values. These authoritarian individuals often will behave aggressively towards those who challenge convention, shutting them down, cutting across them while they are mid-way through making a point. Picture the scene, if you will: a team is having a meeting with their middle-manager. One of the team is highly respected by his fellows because of his positive attitude. This respected team member is ‘whacky’, often talking about subjects which are not traditionally work-appropriate, but it is this whackiness which really lifts the spirits of the team on a hard day’s shift. The authoritarian middle-manager opens up the floor at the end of the meeting, asking the team for suggestions. The ‘whacky’ team member takes the opportunity to put up his hand and offer a suggestion. Begrudgingly, the manager let’s them talk, but the others can already sense the hostility. After thirty seconds, the manager interrupts, shutting down the suggestion and deriding it as unworkable, unrealistic, and unhelpful. This behaviour not only reinforces the ‘control’ model of management (talked about in an earlier article), thereby making any attempt to ask for suggestions frankly redundant, but also humiliates one of the colleagues, ostracizing them, and cautionioning the others against befriending them. Of course, often these tactics backfire, as picking out a respected colleague normally only unifies the team against the manager.

 

(4) Anti-intraceptive: opposes the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded. God forbid, that someone use their imagination at work. Authoritarians actively fear those who are creative, because creativity poses a threat to established order. It is ironic that we, as a society, are deeply critical of the rigid inflexibility of medieval thinking (where they quite literally destroyed anything or anyone that opposed the Christian model of understanding) and yet much of the modern business landscape persists with this mode. We attack that which questions, or raises concern, or offers solution.

 

(5) Stereotypy: disposition to stereotype and think in rigid categories. Have you ever heard your manager talking about an employee that irritates them in broad, borderline offensive terms? It is probably because they are authoritarian and therefore may have a tendency to stereotype (irony intended). For example, how many managers insist their employees are ‘lazy’ or ‘greedy’ when in fact they are worked to death and do not even make a third of what their manager makes? Studies have revealed that only 65% of people are paid for their overtime. The average person loses £4,500 a year from not accurately claiming their overtime. How, then, can so many employees be ‘greedy’ or ‘lazy’ if in fact the majority work more than they are supposed to and get paid less than they have earned? Stereotypy does not permit these facts, however, because they challenge an ordered world. You will often find sexism is a huge part of stereotypy. Women are not paid as much as men, and managers justify this with excuses such as: ‘They’re just going to get pregnant and leave us’ or ‘They don’t work as hard: they spend more time talking’. We must move away from this mode of reductionism, and embrace that all people are unique, as much as possible.

 

(6) Power: preoccupation with 'strong' leadership, exaggerated assertions of toughness. It is strange that in an increasingly ‘civilised’ world, in which disputes are not settled with our swords or fists but with reason and law, many managers and employees – both male, female and otherwise – feel the need to play up to cave-era standards of machismo. I find this manifests in several ways: the ludicrously loud voice, wielded almost like a sledgehammer; the braggadocio and less-than-friendly banter; the insistent on unhealthy drinking culture on at corporate events. A friend of mine told me about a colleague of his. This colleague, during his qualification period to become a lawyer, made friends with a senior Judge. Despite their age difference, the two had a real affinity. The lawyer was very mature for a young guy in his twenties, the Judge in his late fifties, and the two spoke often of the ills of modern binge-culture, obsessive self-destructive party-going, and the societal damage caused by this behaviour. The Judge was something of a mentor. Needless to say, the lawyer-to-be was therefore very surprised when, on a corporate do, the Judge set a line of ten vodka shots before him and said: ‘If you want to get your training contract, you’re going to have to drink all of these.’ Even the Judge, though in the rational light of day he could offer critique, was unable to escape the authoritarian illusion that people must undergo ‘initiation’ rituals, and prove their ‘toughness’, in order to succeed in life.

 

(7) Cynical: frequent vilification of others. Always seeing the worst in people, always assuming that they are trying to ‘play the system’ or ‘get as much as they can out of the company’. A salesman I know was once called into an official ‘hearing’ because he had made a mistake on his overtime sheets. He had claimed an extra half-hour than he had actually worked, and his manager had spotted this error. In the meeting, he explained, in a measured fashion, that it was merely an error on his part, because he normally did work those hours, but this week he had left half an hour early for a chiropractor appointment. Effectively, he had filled in the sheet on auto-pilot. He apologised and said he would make up the hours the next week. The managers, however, did not accept this explanation. They continued to grill him, and say that he was trying to ‘extort’ the company and abuse their generosity. At this point, my friend, normally a mild-mannered and wonderfully humourous, a gentle guy, flew off the handle completely. ‘You’re seriously going to do all this for the sake of £5.00?’ he said. Even on overtime, he was being paid only £10.00 an hour. The meanness of this is beyond satire or parody, for the company he works for turns over something like 22 million a year. This kind of behaviour finds its roots in deep cynicism.

 

(8) Projectivity: the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses, so that the world is constantly interpreted as being a dangerous place. For some people, everything is ‘risk’ and nothing is ‘opportunity’. We all know those corporate environments where people spend more time covering their backs (getting everything triple-confirmed via email, for example, because to accept someone’s word on something is too dangerous) than actually working. This is also linked a deep repression, which is particularly prevalent in our society.

 

(9) 'Puritanical' prurience: exaggerated concern with sexual 'goings-on'. There is a tendency to treat working adults as children. The fact is, it really should not be the concern of upper management what the personal and private relations of two adults are; surely there are more direct concerns to be dealing with!

This is a list which is useful precisely to the degree to which we can measure ourselves along the nine axes. The point is: when we encounter these behaviours in force, few systems of support and explanation are going to help us deal with them. Better to move on if we can, or practise quiet resilience.

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Next week, we discuss tools for personal development! Stay tuned to the series coming to a webpage near you!


The Difference Between Quiet and Loud Motivation

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Welcome again to the third installment in this webseries on motivation. If you missed the first or second episode, don’t fret, everything here on the internet is eternal (so long as modernity endures, which, in the current state of things, is slightly precarious). This week, we’re going to be looking at the differences between ‘quiet’ and ‘loud’ motivation.

 

Is it me or is it just a faddish whim I am experiencing when I say I wish to have some quiet motivation? Apparently, we need motivation to get us out of our comfort zone - that area of un-achievement familiar to most people at some period of their life. In that sense, I think motivation is good. But when I talk about quiet motivation I am rebelling against that Animal Farm bleat of ‘comfort zone baaaad, risk-taking gooood’.

 

A while ago, some ten years or more, I saw a news item on National TV news about a couple whose big idea for marriage was getting hitched on a plane. That image has stuck with me, become a kind of emblem of our time. Yes, that's right, getting hitched on a plane. To be more precise, 3 small bi-planes: they trained so that the minister (who was selected on the basis of having no fear of heights) and couple could all stand on their respective planes a thousand feet up in the air where, using a comms system, they exchanged vows. Again, to be more specific, their standing involved being strapped on the outside of the plane. They were keen to do something different. It certainly was that - as I'm sure their guests observed as they roared overhead.

 

They were certainly motivated, in one sense, to do something different and highly risky. But performance includes three key ingredients: motivation - they had that; skill - yes, that too, as they didn't fall off; and direction - ah yes, here surely there is something wrong.

 

What could conceivably be the point of such a performance except to attract publicity - and for what? If it's balanced with the risk to life and limb, what purpose could it serve? Now, ten years on, social media is bigger than it ever was. The majority of young people claim they want to be YouTube stars when they grow up, a recent study revealed. More and more, we are becoming infatuated with the idea of spectacle, public display, and public image. Once, that was the province of kings and emperors – those with the wealth and means to flaunt their immense power – but now everyday people, too, wish to be seen to be doing ‘great’ or ‘daring’ things above all else. And that is the operative word: ‘seen’. Nevermind that so many young people, with the most vibrant and creative social media profiles, commit suicide because the reality of their lives is miserable. Increasingly, our perception of how people are – the seeming joy of their lives reflected in photo-shopped images, doctored videos, and pithy statements of world-affinity – is divorced from the reality.

 

Of course, the examples I am talking about are very extreme, but it does seem as if that is the way of it: people feeling under tremendous pressure to be different, not to conform, and to take enormous risks over pretty meaningless activities. The irony is that in striving not to conform they become part of the amalgamated flock, because this is the zeitgeist of the times.

 

The world of motivation is also full of this sort of stuff. Companies book ludicrously expensive trips for their employees, at the behest of motivational gurus, to walk on fire, bungee-jump, or trek up mountains. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, there must be a reason for it. There must be ‘direction’. I am reminded of a story my son once told me. My son, in his spare time, is an avid tabletop wargamer. He collects miniatures, paints them, and sends them to battle on 4’ x 4’ boards lavishly decorated with miniature scenery. Contrary to the view that wargamers are isolated, anti-social people, the wargaming community is extremely active, some gamers meeting up two or three times a week to socialize, play games, and talk about their shared passion. How much healthier is this than the Friday-night drinking sessions that most people need to get through the week?

 

But this aside, a few years ago my son was talking to one of the staff members working at Games Workshop, who said that, as they had some new staff in, they had been sent on a paintballing day by management. You might think that this fits the bill of what I was discussing about earlier: something extreme without a real point. But, it is different, because of course paintballing ties in with the wargaming hobby the staff so love, and is a game where people must bond, and work together, in order to overcome an obstacle. ‘Team-building’ is the oft-dreaded phrase for it.

 

The Games Workshop staff-member, who my son idolized at the time, said that, unbeknownst to them, the paintballing marshals had pitted the ‘nerds’ against an assortment of navy, infantry, and paratroopers on their off-season. Expecting a massacre, it transpired that the Games Workshop staff had a few tricks up their sleeves. Years of devoting every spare moment to customizing armies, enacting military strategies, and visualizing warfare from a bird’s eye view, meant that they were much more tactically fluid than the infantry they were up against, who were used to following orders from higher-ups. The ‘nerds’ from Games Workshop beat them handily, to the utter astonishment of all parties involved. Imagine the joy, the sense of achievement and bonding, they experienced at the end of the day. That is ‘team building’ and ‘loud’ motivation done right.

 

The Games Workshop day worked because of the type of staff the company was dealing with, the type of company and products and experiences they were offering, and the fact that they were introducing a new member of staff to the team. It’s not for everyone. In fact, for many people, a day of paintballing, squatting in smelly, mud-slick trenches, would be their idea of hell. To pull off ‘loud’ motivation, you have to tap into the unique feeling and wants of your staff at a specific moment in time. ‘Quiet’ motivation, however, is far more universal, far less expensive, and doesn’t lead to a thirst for always getting bigger and bigger (once you take your employees on a trip, most will expect a bigger trip next year). The fact is that many of us are worked half to death, and the endless pressure to ‘keep up appearances’ and go to parties and social events in our personal life is exhausting enough, let alone socialising extensively with our work colleagues.

 

So, we must find ways to recharge our batteries, recuperate, re-align. For many people, the idea of relaxing is synonymous with watching TV (particularly with the advent of systems like Netflix, wonderful though they are). But the problem with this is screens in general – computer screens, monitors, TV screens, even Kindle screens – are very draining, and tend to numb us rather than charge us up. What’s the solution? Well, it might surprise you in its simplicity. My challenge to all these restless types who seem to want to go beyond their comfort zone is to do as Voltaire said: cultivate your own back garden. Now, that would really be stretching it a bit, wouldn't it? If that seems too staid, then I suggest a week away on a silent, religious retreat - vegetarian fare only. Time for meditation and quiet motivation to re-charge those exhausted adrenals.

 

Next week, we discuss psychopathology in motivation, and the dangers of an ‘authoritarian’ regime! Stay tuned to the series coming to a webpage near you!

 

 


The Language of Motivation

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Hello, and welcome back to this continuing series on motivation. Last week, we looked at how to get motivated by going back to basics. This week, we are now going to be looking at how we can motivate others.

 

In 2008, Shankar Vedantam wrote a fascinating article for the Washington Post, in which he made the profound observation that rewards and punishments have replaced people’s intrinsic motivations. Correspondingly, the effect has been counterproductive: namely, people become less motivated as a result of these rewards and punishments.

 

I believe this observation is as true now as it was ten years ago. And although there has been an incremental paradigm shift from top-down, militaristic approaches of corporate governance (discussed in more detail in my book Mapping Motivation), to something more bottom-top, the widely used model is still that of control. In most cases, this control is leveraged via twofold financial means: you will be made redundant if you do not perform exactly as you are instructed (putting you in a financial strait) and you will be given a monetary bonus if you do (you will have cash to spare).

 

Coupled with this, there is also a commonly held belief that people are not ‘fired’ on the spot in the same way they used to be, or that employees are no longer at the mercy of a tyrannical manager’s whim in the ways they were in the early 20th Century. I would ask anyone who maintains this belief to spend a single day working in a service centre. The 1950s is alive and well in modern Britain. Businesses will always find a way, sad though that is, to control.

 

The other, more insidious, problem is that contrary to popular belief, not everyone is motivated by money. In fact, the majority of people are not motivated by money, strange as it may sound. Of course, we all like the idea of money, but in actuality it does not bring happiness, nor allows us to maintain it.

 

So, what does a bottom-top approach look like? To me, this is typified by managers working to discover the needs of employees and helping to meet them. Because this is beneficial not only to the employee but the manager and company as a whole. To lift an extract from Mapping Motivation: a primary aspect of any manager’s job is ensuring that they understand what their employees actually want and take the steps that guarantee they get it. So a second and far-reaching implication of this work is that the role of the manager is subtly changing: it is not just about content, content, content – ‘what are our goals, let’s do it’. It is now about process: how do we get the people on board, so they want to do it?”

 

So we have cultures that major on rewarding by money or by status, or alternatively gain acquiescence through fear of punishment. The basic and possibly unexamined assumption must be that anyone joining such an organisation or culture seeks precisely that carrot or stick option to maintain their motivation. The reality of course – in terms of outcomes – is very different.

 

The truth is: motivation is like a language – if you go to France the best way of getting on with the French is to speak their language. And they are not alone – the Spanish like Spanish, the Welsh like Welsh, and every culture prefers its own dialect. Alas, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ English speakers are notorious for expecting every tribe on Earth to speak English, and perhaps this attitude infects their management styles too.

 

Therefore, the real question is: how do we discover what motivates each individual? One way would be to listen to the flatulent harpings on of managers who’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and will tell you unequivocally: they know their people. Interestingly, over 90% of these same managers fail to actually predict their own top three motivators! Equally, parents claim the same about their kids – we know what motivates our children! But you wouldn’t think so, would you, when you speak to those same employees and kids once they have left the influence zone?

 

Just as we have a language(s) to measure personality, we need a language and a metric to measure motivation, so that managers and parents need no longer guess. Such a language has been created – Motivational Maps®. But the thing is, motivation isn’t easy. For one thing, it changes over time, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. This means that unlike personality profiles, which tend to be constant, motivation needs to be monitored.

 

If before we said it was like a language, now we claim it is like a muscle: you exercise it and it can grow and change. Of course, exercise can be hard work – and we all want to avoid that. It is enough for most of us that we are focused on organisational goals; the idea that we have to discover and speak the appropriate motivational ‘language’ for all our colleagues is too exhausting to contemplate. We pay them enough, don’t we?

 

However, for those who wish to be really effective, as well as gifted communicators, this is the route to go down – the new route – the route that a new language of motivation opens up.

 

Next week, we discuss 'loud' versus 'quiet' motivation. Stay tuned for more blogs about how to get motivated, how to get back to basics, and how you can improve your work-life. A series coming to a webpage near you! 

 

 

 


My Ten Year Anniversary of Blogging: What We Learn By Going Back to Basics

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This year marks the ten year anniversary of my first blog! Happy Tin Anniversary to me! When you reach ‘landmark’ or ‘significant’ anniversaries, it gives you pause to reflect. In some ways, it’s why we have them. After ten years of being married, for example, it’s good to reflect on your relationship with your partner: is it as good as it has always been, are there ways we can improve even further, is there anything we would change? Appraisal is important.

 

Whilst the modern world moves at the speed of light, abandoning trends and technology no sooner than they are created, reading back through this first blog, published in 2008 (what feels like a world away), has caused me to reflect on something very important. However expert you become, however dominant in your chosen field, and however much technology advances or changes the working environment, we can all benefit from being reminded of the basics. Sometimes, even maestro pianists must perform scales. Even world-champion martial-artists have to jog and train to increase their fitness. We all need, at times, to get back in touch with the grassroots level of the skill.

 

So, here it is, my first ever blog, which talks about where motivation comes from, and how we can more easily achieve it. I hope it helps you, and to all those struggling to be motivated to do the thing you love, or even to get out of bed, just remember that it helps to go back to the roots of the thing.

 

Motivation comes from three major sources within us. First, there is a sort of historical or genetic component of motivation that we understand or classify as our personality. Different personalities are motivated differently - no revelation there; and when we break the personality down to the four major types that underpin most systems we find there is a specific motivation at the heart of each one.

 

One take on this would be: four motivations - control, recognition, belonging, and accuracy. Not much to change since personality tends to stay the constant, but then again if I focus on my profile and consider 'recognition' is what my type wants, then maybe if this blog could achieve that I would feel more motivated to do it.

 

Second, in driving motivation, is our self-concept. This has three components including self esteem, self image and the ideal self. Fundamentally, how we think and feel about ourselves either produces or stifles our energy and desire to do anything. What am I thinking and feeling about blogging? Fear - new technology - what fear? That I cannot handle it in the way I handle a book? Is that it?

 

Finally, third, is expectations: what I believe about future outcomes. of course, if I believe that blogging is going to create a wonderful result for me, then my motivation increases. So, my best bet might be to do my searches on line, and find excellent examples of those people who have blogged and got results. This would encourage me to blog - to write this blog now. Are there such examples?

 

Who then has achieved recognition and other good outcomes from blogging and gone on to be even more motivated to blog? Let me have your stories and recommendations please, so that I can continue - motivated!

 

May the One be with you. Stay tuned for more blogs about how to get motivated, how to get back to basics, and how you can improve your work-life. A series coming to a webpage near you!


Poetry and the Muses Part 3

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It has long been observed that whilst the ego is useful in making daily and ordinary decisions in our life, it is less effective when it comes to more important issues; it is by nature competitive, and it tends to subordinate the greater good for more immediate gains and self-gratification.  We know as well that the ego is largely driven by the left hemisphere of the brain, which is rational and analytic; again, rationality and analysis are good, but taken to extremes, have unfortunate side-effects: namely, a craving for certainty, a rejection of ambiguity, a need to be right, a lack of openness, and a foreclosure of intuition and the mystical dimension of being human.

We learn from research in this that techniques like meditation, for example, have a profoundly positive effect on the human psyche and even life span, and that one aspect of meditating is the re-balancing of the left and right brain hemispheres. So, as the left hemisphere is correlated with reason, logic, numbers and more practical applications, the right brain is more concerned with images, feelings, intuitions and the mystical. Indeed, as Lee Pulos puts it: “the right hemisphere is the decompression chamber into the subconscious”. It is important to say, however, that both are vital to healthy functioning of the human being; but it is equally true to say that in the West especially there has developed an over-reliance on left brain activity and dominance.

What has this to do with poetry? Everything! For it was Maggie Ross who said: “The importance of poetry in restoring the balance of the mind cannot be overestimated as it draws on both aspects of knowing simultaneously”. In other words, being in the ‘poetic’ state, that is the condition in which one can write poetry – hear the Muse – means that the left and right brains are becoming more balanced – more coherent. We could almost say – but probably wouldn’t – that writing poetry can be an alternative to practising meditation! I wouldn’t say it myself, but I do observe people for whom I think this is very true.

But, whatever, the benefits are clear. Meditation and poetry (and certain other disciplines too) balance and co-ordinate the two brains, gets them in sync, and so provide a kind of harmony in which a deeper level of awareness, understanding and expression is possible. In fact, if we consider some elementary examples of how writing helps us, we might then begin to guess at just how powerful poetry is.

Most of us write shopping lists, for example; and it is remarkable when we think about it, just how powerful a simple shopping list is: it means we stop worrying about whether we are going to remember everything, it enables us to do the shopping in the most efficient way possible, and the act of writing also stimulates us to take a wider overview – not just what do we need now, but what might we need in the next few days. More powerful still is when we start writing down our plans for the future: this ‘authoring’ means we start manipulating our own futures, and exercising a kind of control that is usually impossible without the act of writing. But clearly, shopping lists and life or business plans are invariably left brain activities. But when we step up to write poetry, then we get that extra benefit that comes from the right brain being activated: how much more powerful when the words are not lists or just aide-memoires but active interpretations of our experiences and the meanings inherent in them? Moreover, these meanings may be ones you are fully aware of, or alternatively of which the process of writing may uncover or discover.

And this balance requires that we enter a peculiar mind-set: one of relaxation, yet total clarity and focus at the same time; and as I said before the right hemisphere is the decompression chamber into our subconscious where we can access images and dreams – all that propels all our desires, which are, of course, the issues of the heart with which poetry is and should be most concerned.

Once, then, the hemispheres are balanced the magic begins. The magic of words. The God-given power to Adam and Eve of naming the animals – all the beasts we encounter, real and metaphorical. The magic? Ah, the magic of poetry – when poetry truly intoxicates. Here is a question: what is the most magical word in the English language? Think about it before you answer! We will all have our own views, and for some of us it will be about personal association, and there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps the word ‘rose’ is magical for you; or perhaps the word ‘love’, or maybe even someone’s name: Linda my wife’s name is magical for me, or perhaps a son or daughter’s name always makes you light up as you hear that sound.

But here perhaps is the most purely magical word in the English language: abracadabra! Truly a magical word, and truly magical too in that it invokes the whole naming process of Adam via the letters (originally Hebrew) of the alphabet: A B C D. There is one point to understand about alphabets (notice, too, the A and B even in the word alphabet): and this is that in magical words the internal sound reflects external reality: there is a consistency, and no jarring. In poetical jargon, this is onomatopoeia, or what we might call mimesis. The words are ‘true’ – which is why children love them, why they love nursery rhymes and all forms of word play, and when we are uncorrupted, we love them too as adults. The sheer fun of it; the sheer truth of it.

For me the greatest example in the English language of a 'magical' poem, and one which perfectly exemplifies the whole condition I have outlined of how poetry comes to be written (though with one important caveat I needs must mention shortly) is Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'.  The final part of this poem reads:

A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision once I saw:

It was an Abyssinian maid,

And on her dulcimer she played,

Singing of Mount Abora.

Could I revive within me

Her symphony and song,

To such a deep delight 'twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

This verse is intoxicating; almost childish - the almost over-emphatic alliteration of damsel/dulcimer - yet sublime. Of what is she singing?  Mount Abora - A and B again, the alphabet - and she is 'Abyssinian' (A and B again!) and she is the Muse of course, because Mount Helikon was sacred to the Muses, and one proposed etymology of 'muse' is from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning either to 'think' or 'tower/mountain'. All the important cult centres of the Muses were on mountains or hills: in other words, a height, somewhere above, celestial, where the gods – the Muses – abide.

But she is elusive. 'Could I revive within me ...' How in those simple words one feels the agony of wanting to get back to her - to the good life - to 'such a deep delight' (those delicious Ds again, picked up like a refrain) - and how difficult it is. But - hey - no good repining; immediately Coleridge suddenly conjures up the methodology to get there, and the verb has the force of an imperative:

'Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes in holy dread'

The poet is a prophet (honeydew) - the external eyes are closed (as often in prayer or meditation) so that the inner faculty can be harnessed, and there is deep reverence - 'holy' - which allows the magic to overwhelm the poet. And in that state we experience the 'milk of paradise'. The word 'drunk' here has a double connotation - meaning in the first instance that one has literally drunk milk, but with the added suggestion that one is 'drunk' on this milk. In other words, that the mind itself is changed, is transformed. We are truly in another place.

Now my caveat about Coleridge's experience derives from the fact that he was on opium when he wrote the poem, and that opium did for him creatively (picking up my note about debauchery made in Part 1 of this article). There is with nearly all the Romantics the danger of 'excess', but conceding that point and the danger, the wider one is still true: that the Romantics explored more fully than before the sources of inspiration and creativity.

A poem I like to set alongside Kubla Khan is the first few lines of John Keats's Revised Hyperion poem: The Fall of Hyperion.

Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave

A paradise for a sect; the savage too

From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep

Guesses at Heaven; pity these have not

Trac'd upon vellum or wild Indian leaf

The shadows of melodious utterance.

But bare of laurel they live, dream, and die;

For Poesy alone can tell her dreams,

With the fine spell of words alone can save

Imagination from the sable charm

And dumb enchantment. Who alive can say,

'Thou art no Poet may'st not tell thy dreams?'

Since every man whose soul is not a clod

Hath visions, and would speak, if he had loved

And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.

Whether the dream now purpos'd to rehearse

Be poet's or fanatic's will be known

When this warm scribe my hand is in the grave.

The genius of this unfinished epic - and epic it is - is inexhaustible, but for now simply notice four words in this short extract:  dreams, weave, paradise and enchantment. Ring a bell? Coleridge talks of 'vision' but here Keats has 'dreams'; but then the ‘weaving’ - the profound metaphor I see as combining the left and write sides of the brain - lead to 'paradise'. It is a false paradise in the opening of Keats, but nonetheless the imagery is instructive - for poesy alone can make the real jump that crosses the chasm that is 'dumb enchantment' - our speechlessness in the face of existence, or our stupefaction as we freeze before the hollow of time.

Poetry, then, comes from the Muses, and is a form of enchantment; we must be in a 'holy' state of mind to receive and process it. If we do, the result is transformational; we find our way back (and forward), albeit briefly, to paradise - a living harmony of the mind where the 'milk' of living nurtures us. We can get into that state artificially via narcotics and other means, but these approaches ultimately desecrate the Muses' temple (and incidentally, temple refers to their sacred building, which is also the two sides of our brain), and there are consequences, as Coleridge discovered.

In Part 4 of this series of articles we will consider the language of poetry and enchantment, language before the Fall of Mankind or in the Golden Age, what being a 'living soul' means and how this is related to writing poetry. Finally, I will explore what this means for our contemporary poetry scene.

 


Poetry and the Muses Part 2

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The Muses we understand from Part 1 of this article are the daughters of the future and the past, and more specifically of memory, light, truth and beauty; they are essential for the ‘good life’, and we understand as well that because they are goddesses, they cannot be summoned by human will, but they can be invoked by supplications, by readiness, by the human spirit or soul that is aligned with their purpose.

This takes us to a new and key observation: that everyone can be a poet if - IF - they can speak from their own true, authentic self, or what we used to call their soul; their core being. In her book ‘Poetry and Story Therapy’, Geri Giebel Chavis writes, “This experience left me with the strong belief that we are all poets when the true self finds its voice”. It is not easy to do this, and goes way beyond understanding or using the skills and techniques of poetry that poets so typically deploy. The reason it is so difficult is because, sadly, for most of us, most of the time, we speak as our false self-dictates. ‘Persona’ is a word meaning ‘mask’; it was used in Greek drama and from it we derive our concept of ‘personality’. But personality is too simple a word really, for we all seem to have, more accurately, personalities: multiple ‘persona’ or masks that we exhibit – or hide behind – to present our false or ego selves to the world.

We see this clearly when we consider how differently we act and behave in the different environments in which we find ourselves: as a son or daughter, as a sibling, as a parent, as a friend, as a co-worker, as a subordinate, as a boss, or down at the ‘club’, or in a sport’s situation, and so on. The mature personality can manage some consistency of being, but even in the best of us there is a mask – we project who we are rather than allowing our essential self, or soul, to manifest its own unique properties – unique, and thus original.

 

And this contaminates our language; nowhere more so than in writing poetry itself. Every generation seems to produce a ‘top fifty’ list of poets whom the media raves about, but which the next generation comes to realise are no poets at all, just clever versifiers, free versifiers, who tapped into the zeitgeist of contemporary values and ideas, and so were popular and seemed important. Occasionally 1 or 2 of that 50 get read 100 years hence, and often too, alarmingly often, 1 or 2 who nobody heard of at the time – e.g. Emily Dickinson or Gerard Manley Hopkins – get the recognition they were denied in their life time. Because – why? Because they spoke from the Muse and their poetry lives.

 

For the Muse - the poet’s Muse – if she can be invoked – in that timeless and abnormal present moment – transforms the soul of the poet so that he or she can speak directly from their soul, bypassing the masks, the ego. And here is the truth of the matter: the human soul itself is inherently pure, beautiful, truthful and eternal. Whatever the subject matter – no matter, as with Dante, if one is in the very pit of hell, or with Shakespeare in Macbeth’s castle – yet the soul speaking will render it beautiful and true (and we know post-modern poetry is not poetry since it confronts ‘reality’ and renders it uglier still – then pats itself on the back for being ‘realistic’!).

 

Such words as these, then, live forever; for they are inspired – breathed in – by a goddess. And I need a word here from Jung, lest I be thought to be some half-baked literalist in discussing these gods and goddesses: “We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed today by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world.” So, how different this is in every way from the negative, structure-less, formless, ego-centric ideologies that inform poetry now – and have done so for about the last 100 years. But the results of these various ideologies are what is most notable: contemporary poetry which is not only mostly ugly, formless, ego-centric, self-referential, but critically, and most of all, mendacious. Mendacious in the sense that it wholly misrepresents the cosmos and creation; it relishes evil, absurdity, nihilism and pointlessness, and promotes these ideas and attitudes as sophisticated and good; and when stuck, facing all the massive evidence to the contrary, retreats into a total subjectivism, which shrugs its shoulders with as much as to say, ‘Well, that’s just your opinion’. They, of course, know better, and cannot see that such a position equally undermines their opinion. But the simplest anonymous folk song or some lyrics by Bob Dylan have more poetry in them than the combined weight of all the post-modernist poems of the last 30 years. How do we know? Because we’ll all go on reading and enjoying the former as long as our culture lasts; whereas the post-modern poetry is largely unread even now by the post-moderns – it contributes nothing to the ‘good life’.

It is, then, relatively easy to write such poetry and to fool oneself into thinking it is poetry. But it is much more difficult to speak from one’s authentic self. Most people at some point in their lives have tried to write poetry (and even still secretly do) but finally give up (or hide it in a desk or on a computer somewhere) because they realise or think that it’s no good. What they fail to realise (or wantonly don’t want to realise if they have gone over to the post-modernistic modes of writing) is that one doesn’t have to try to write poetry if one is speaking authentically – that is, from one’s self or soul. As GK Chesterton expressed it: “For I am one of those who think that the poet stands separate and supreme among men, in that simple fact that the poet can say exactly what he means, and that most men cannot”.

This is a paradox because, of course, the poet does say exactly what he or she means, but what that is he or she may not know in advance of saying it; for poetry is like ‘being’ – mysterious, wonderful, unlimited. Aldous Huxley noted: “The world is poetical intrinsically and what it means is simply itself. Its significance is the enormous mystery of its existence and of our awareness of its existence.” To speak, then, authentically requires submission, openness, and capacity – qualities which allow the Muse to enter, to generate the abnormal ‘present’ in which the words dance and a new cosmos of consciousness is created. Yes, a new cosmos of consciousness is created; the intrinsic likeness of mankind to God is in their creativity. The poet continues the creative act of God that began at the beginning; all humans do – or should – of course, and not only in the discipline of words; but that is the tragedy of humanity – the failure to be creative and to resort to destruction instead.

The theologian H.A. Williams expressed it thus: “There can be no Joy where there is no creativity because the absence of creativity is a denial of Joy at its source, that is, a denial of God the Creator. That means that we must all be poets if we are to be what God intends us to be – not, of course, poets as we now understand the word (very few of us can be that), but in its original sense of makers.”

In part 3 we will look at how poetry balances the mind, helps us heal, and leads to the magic of words. What is the most magical word in the English language? And why? Find out in Part 3. Learn, too, about the holy state we must enter to be poets.


Wolfe and Other Poems by Donald Mace Williams

Wolfe and Other Poems is an extraordinarily good collection of poems, clearly written by a veteran writer. The underlying credo of the collection is very aptly summed up in the opening poem called, appropriately, 'Credo':

Step out under the stars on a dark night

Or open Rilke, Frost, or Dickinson.

Like that, all poems (mine too) should invite

Small breaths, quick nods, and ninety at the bone.

That last line is surely wonderful, surely anti-modern and anti-postmodern as it invites us into a coherent narrative, and there is also surely a sense of irony too about the 'ninety at the bone', since Williams is himself nearly 90 years old! This collection, then, could be seen to be an example of that late flowering of true poetry which sometimes accompanies masters of the art, most famously, Yeats.

The collection is actually quite brief and in two parts: there are 21 short lyric poems followed by 1 long narrative poem, Wolfe, which is a 'Western' re-telling of the Beowulf story. In a way they are quite separate things, and so in reviewing this collection I would like to consider them separately.

So far as the 21 lyrics are concerned, we have a master poet at work. At least 8 of the poems are sonnets, a definitive form in which to display skill, and here we see someone wrestling with his landscape, his heritage and history, and his feelings, and from all these particulars great and universal themes emerge. For example, The Canal, 1942 says, in its understated way, and as soldiers march past, 'how water that had just been green was red' - the disturbance of the water a prolepsis of the blood to come. Or, The Oak That Stayed, in which finally, the poet asks:

Soon now, dear friend, I thought, you're down for good.

I almost think it thought the same of me.

That the Credo poem cites Frost as an influence should be very clear from these two lines; but I think Williams, whilst influenced, as has his own unique voice. And this leads on to the truly ambitious part of his collection, the narrative poem, Wolfe.

I certainly would say, 'Buy this book; it's excellent poetry', but I almost must say that the Wolfe poem leaves me with more mixed feelings. It is in one sense a triumph, for what do we want a narrative poem primarily to do? Well, we want it to engage us and keep us reading on; so, I found myself wanting to read it. And as far as a homage to the original Beowulf poem is concerned, it is extremely good. The narrative flows, there are some wonderful lines of pure poetry in it:

To ride out when the moon sat round

And dark on the far rim and sound

A sadness he could not explain,

As if pity and guilt had lain

Unknown through the long interval

Since the last moon had hung that full

Of melancholy, even fear.

And the transposition for Beowulf from Anglo-Saxon times to the American Wild West is extremely well done - I almost think a film could be made of it. So what is my problem with it?

The problem is a technical one. Williams has chosen his form to represent as closely as possible the original Anglo-Saxon. But he has substituted rhyming for alliteration, and opted for a tetrameter line, occasionally broken up with hexameters. Strangely, moments of brilliance occur often at these interfaces, these cross-over points:

Even him, and for just a breath

He felt a touch of pity at that great thing's death.

That's marvellous, but the trouble is, a long poem in iambic tetrameter, and rhyming tetrameter at that, invariably leads us to less than optimal sense, because it becomes more driven by rhyme. The fact is that the rhyming couplet form is really difficult to tell a compelling narrative in, and the best examples - like Crabbe's Peter Grimes for example - tended to use the pentameter line; in other words, the more extended line, which opens up far more syntactical and semantic possibilities. Of course, combine a tetrameter with a succeeding hexameter as in the example I quoted above, then you effectively have two pentameter lines. So because Williams is such a fine poet, he came to realise this - perhaps subconsciously - as he wrote the poem; for the incidence of hexameters increases as we progress. 

But here's another thing: one needs to buy the collection anyway just so that one can have one's own debate with Williams' poetry, for it is a mark of how good it is that I am wrestling with my thoughts on its technical aspects now! So I invite all readers of The Society of Classical Poets to get their copies: there’s a lifetime’s wisdom and insight contained in Williams’ poetry, there are some truly beautiful lines and images, and finally there is also much that can be gleaned technically in the writing of poetry. If you love Frost, I think you will love this.


Poetry and the Muses Part 1

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We live in a post-modernist world and its values are everywhere around us; and everywhere these values are almost largely unexamined, and because we have little to contrast our present state with we fail to see how lamentable and poor we are. There is a deep materialism running through society which deprives people of the hope, the creativity and the deep mystery of life. Indeed, on this latter point, we see this being hammered home all the time on the news; for when it is not going on about the latest wars, plagues and famines, is always emphasising how the frontiers of science are expanding, and how soon – someday, one day – all our problems, especially diseases and even mortality, will be solved as the next medical advance is posited as something we all might confidently place our faith in. If ‘making progress’ actually made progress, then there might be some grounds for optimism; but as, after nearly two centuries of science and technology, we seem to be on the verge of world destruction, this seems fanciful at best.

Of course, this phenomenon of materialism/progress is ubiquitous, but also encompasses that tiny domain which we call poetry. I say ‘tiny’ because that is what materialism, and associated atheism, has reduced the mighty empire of the poets to.  Compared with, say, science or technology, or even medicine, poetry has become largely irrelevant to most people’s lives. The best it can possible muster is either verse on a Valentine’s card or insincere worship at the shrine of William Shakespeare, one indisputably great poet. Naturally, we have to worship Shakespeare in England because he generates so much revenue for the UK economy – but, hush, no, don’t say it like that!

There is an important sense, then, that we have to return to basics and once more see the object for what it truly is. “The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation”, said Goethe, which is a serious matter; and we need to address it because as he also said, "Reality is that which is effective". Whatever else, we need to be effective, which is to be real.

What, then, is the starting point? The starting point is the Muse, the source of all sublime inspiration, and a living reality, as well as a potent metaphor and symbol of divinity. We need to understand from the myths of the past where the Muse comes from and how she operates. The Greek myths give various accounts of this, so I am not wedded to one literal interpretation of this phenomenon, but here is my best shot so far at it. 

In the beginning the sky god Zeus, the thunderbolt, the male principle of living and active energy, the yang, and the one who shapes the future, for by the will of Zeus all things are allowed – or not – and who defeated the Titans and the forces of chaos, this great god in some present moment coupled with Mnemosyne, the undefeated Titaness, the female principle, the yin, and goddess memory, who in her vast and capacious mind conserves all things, for in her womb nothing is lost, for the past is remembered, which is re-membered. This coupling  (effectively of the male principle of strength and the female principle of beauty) gives birth to the nine Muses, who are the key to the good life: prosperity, friendship and beauty. Notice of course that they are female, and thus incarnations of  beauty and so desirability, and this seduces us or we surrender to them. And we see, regarding the good life, this even etymologically in our language when we refer to various aspects of the ‘good life’: we love muse-ums, which are shrines to the Muse; we love friends who a-muse us, because laughter makes us glad; and we love mus-ic, because it speaks to our souls.

Each of the nine Muses has a special function, but the queen of them is Kalliope, she of the epic poem and ‘lovely voice’; she it is who inspires such undertakings. And there is my favourite, Erato, meaning ‘loveliness, who inspires lyric poetry; and let’s not forget Polyhymnia – she of many songs, especially of a spiritual nature. The other six are well worth exploring too.

But it should be clear from this that the Muse operates in some special place positioned exactly midway between the future that is to be and the past that was; we call this place the present. And it is why true creativity, true poetry, is always written in a semi-tranced out state, for one is abnormally in the present moment. What this means is that – as with deep meditators and hypnogogic states – time either stops or is slowed down and we enter another reality. Hence, too, why prophets and poets are often seen as synonymous: because time has slowed to a crawl it is possible to anticipate the future and redefine the past. It is not that poets are seeking to be prophets or historians (incidentally, Kleio is the  Muse of history or ‘Renown”) but that it is entirely possible and even probable for the future or the past to leak into their work.

This state we enter is so powerful, so desirable, so creative that we all long to be able to switch it on at will, but in this world that is not possible. Because it is not possible, we have a history of poets (and other artists) who try to short-circuit the process and get there illegitimately through substance abuse. The most famous collective example in English literature were probably a handful of the Romantics; but this view that, basically debauching the mind, is necessary for creativity is unfortunately still with us in the lives of so many Twentieth century poets: for example, Dylan Thomas, who the New York coroner recorded as dying of ‘a severe insult to the brain’ (alcohol). The point is that it is not by and through the will that creativity – poetry – comes to be written, which is as much as to say that it is not through the ego. Socrates put it this way: “I soon realised that poets do not compose their poems with real knowledge, but by inborn talent and inspiration, like seers and prophets who also say many things without any understanding of what they say”. And his last point here, too, is important: creativity involves not knowing necessarily what one is going to say. We have intentions to write – and that is good – and we have skills, knowledge and experience – and that is good too, but how will the Muse, if we allow her, inform the work? Poets often record their astonishment at what the final draft of the poem turned out to be; there is in true creativity a certain unpredictability (if ‘certain unpredictability’ isn’t an oxymoron!).  As Natalie Rogers says, "Creativity is not a tool. It is a mystery that you enter; an unfolding; an opening process".

But the myth does not end here. Yes, the Muses are the embodiments and sponsors of metrical speech and verse; and also Kalliope, their queen, is the mother of Orpheus, the greatest poet. And the father? Various legends here, but my preferred one is that the god Apollo fathered Orpheus. Indeed, it needs to be said that Apollo, the son of Zeus, increasingly became the surrogate god who often replaced him. So that many claim that it was he who fathered the Muses, and so would be father and grandfather both to Orpheus; but this is a small technicality and even if true does not affect the power of the lineage, since gods do not experience the genetic weakness of humans. What’s important to understand is that Apollo was the god of the sun, of light, of prophecy –and so of truth (as in his Oracle at Pythia or Delphi) – and of beauty. All the statues of Apollo show him young and perfectly proportioned. He also fathered Aesculapius whose powers of healing were so effective that even the dead could be resurrected by him; and so, after Hades complained, was struck dead by a thunderbolt from Zeus to prevent the undoing of the triple structure of the cosmos (the bargain the three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades had struck when they defeated their father, Kronos).

But here’s the thing: Orpheus the poet demonstrated what poetry can do. His poetry, his music, made even the rocks – who obviously have stony hearts! – weep. Two incidents especially spring to mind. First, his visit to hell and Hades in order to reclaim his love, Eurydice. This ended in failure in that he did not manage to obtain her; but poetry and music charmed all of hell, and even the damned were relieved from their suffering as he sang his poem. It is said that Hades himself shed, for the first and only time, tears as he listened to Orpheus sing: tears that seemed like liquid tar. And then, of course, he was one of the Argonauts who sailed with Jason.  There, where even the strength of the greatest hero of Greek mythology, Herakles, could not prevail – against the Sirens’ song, which no force in the universe could break – there he sang in direct combat against them and drowned out their false addictive charm. What we have here is the beauty of poetry that can heal and save, even from the worst and most intense addictions; for that is what the Sirens’ song represents – that dreadful, yet beguiling sound, that so draws us on to our own destruction, though we know it is false, yet still we crave it. This, then, is the healing power of beauty, of poetry, when poetry is beautiful, as once it was, and as it will be, for it cannot long be other than it is.

Thus we come to the present moment and its learning for us. Part 2 of this article will continue this narrative.

 

 


The Healing Moment: Towards Wholeness

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Just over five years ago, aged 58, I suddenly, after a lifetime of being in pretty good health, mysteriously and suddenly collapsed; I was rushed to hospital where after a week's tests I discovered there was a small, dark 'shadow' in my small intestines. They didn't know what it was, but they did know it shouldn't be there, so they advised an operation. The morning after a five hour and extremely dangerous operation - as it proved to be - I woke to find the surgeon informing me that he had removed two malignant sarcomas (a very rare form of cancer effectively), one the size of a grapefruit, the other the size of an avocado; the latter pressed against an artery and threatened to split it. Which would have meant instant death. So much for ‘small’.

Unfortunately, the operation wasn't successful and two weeks later I had another five-hour operation and by this time some 30% of my small intestines had been removed: that's about 6-7 feet of internal tubing. Then they waited, for my system to kick in and work, which it didn't. So I went on to Nil by Mouth for nearly 5 weeks. For those who don't know Nil by Mouth it means that I couldn't eat or drink anything; all nutrition came, belatedly, via an IV Drip. Personally, I found the hunger easy to deal with, but the thirst - the unending desire to drink water, the dryness of the throat - is a torture almost beyond bearing. And I say belatedly because they took a while to realise that I needed the drip, and so I was wasting away. I read in America that 40% of cancer patients die of malnutrition, and I lost about 4.5 stone in that period, and looked like somebody from Auschwitz or Belsen. Indeed, I looked like somebody who was soon to die.

I should say at this point that my parents were atheists, and I was myself, but I had become a Christian in my mid-twenties, and a Quaker when I was about 50. And by the time I was taken ill had no previous experience of strange or mystical experiences.

Thus it was that during my 3 month stay in the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, lying in the hospital bed, early one evening, practising meditative breathing in order to control the pain, psychological and physical, and resisting - which I did consistently - the urge to activate the morphine drip that I was supplied and that they were eager that I used - I had a healing experience which changed my life.

I was staring at the blank ceiling above my bed. Without warning, effortlessly, I suddenly found that my consciousness was leaving my body and heading up and out into deep space. It was not alarming; I was curious. Ahead of me in the deep black I saw a light. Aware my body was far behind me on Earth, I willed my consciousness to head towards the light. As I approached I saw what looked like a huge, white, translucent index finger wrapping white - what appeared to be - candy floss round in a spiral, shell-like pattern. Intrigued, I willed myself closer. The finger casually flexed itself and just flicked the candy floss which spun off into space; as it did so, equally casually, the finger seemed to trail lightly behind.

Then I realised with total astonishment that this wasn't candy floss but an enormous white star that the finger had created and set off into its orbit in the cosmos. I realised that God - the mere finger of God - was about what it was always about: creation, and a star had been born. And as this sunk into my consciousness I became critically aware of the disparity between myself - helpless in pain, consigned to death on a hospital bed - and the Lord of all Glory, serene above the clouds, in deep space, creating a star. My whole consciousness was swept by an anguish that shook me to the roots of my being, and I cannot claim that I willed it, but almost involuntarily, as if I had been taken over by the Power who enabled me to do the only proper thing: my consciousness cried out in deep despair, 'God help me'. It was the simplest and profoundest of prayers.

And there in deep space as I made the cry, the finger instantly, broke from its casual sauntering, and like a gun turned and aimed itself at me. Before I could think what did it mean, the finger rushed straight at me - faster than light itself - and I simultaneously recoiled backwards and in one consummate movement I was abruptly back in my body as the finger went straight into me: straight into the point where the operation had opened up my intestines. It was like some pulverising shock, and I felt as if my whole body bolted upwards in the bed some six inches or more - though probably only less than an inch -  and then thudded backwards, relapsing as it were, on the bed.

There I was: my whole being suddenly and immediately was immersed, was saturated, in joy, sheer joy. The physical and psychological pain had all vanished, all gone. I felt the presence of God - which even to recall now fills me with awe and fear and trembling, like nothing else - and I wept. Not tears of pain; I wept tears of joy. And I became aware that I could die now; and thoughts of my wife and children came to my mind, and I saw the pain of leaving them, especially their pain in not having me. But selfish as it sounds, it didn't matter - dying was better, to be with God. Because, anyway, this power, just as it had looked after me, would look after them; in His hand, everything was possible. So I wept more, and more, and became aware too of the deepest thing of all: the one word for me that described this God who held me now. The 'purity' of God. I struggle to convey my sense of it. How unworthy I felt in myself, and yet God held me: the disparity between my unworthiness and His purity; my weakness and His strength; between my mortality and His unquenchable life.

 I wept yet I was in perfect peace, and in a perfect place where I never wanted to leave. My body curled up into a foetal position, and like some baby being rocked, slowly, slowly, I drifted into sleep. How long had the experience been? I do not know - maybe 30 mins - but it may have been 2 minutes or 2 hours.

But here's the thing: in all my 3 months in hospital I never got one night's sleep. The maximum was 2 hours before one was awoken by something or other. Yet on this night, for some reason, I slept till the new nurse shift at 6.00 the following morning. A perfect and profound night's sleep of at least 6 if not 7 hours. I woke feeling as if I had had pleasant dreams, which I could not remember, and feeling so refreshed. But more than that I woke knowing one other thing: that I wasn't going to die from this cancer now, that I was going to leave the hospital, and that I was going to re-create my life.

Curiously, too, my youngest son came to visit me from his university sometime after, and he told me. Dad, he said, I had a dream. In the dream I was crying and crying. Suddenly a man - a woman? -  a being of light stood before me and said, 'Why are you crying?'

And I said, 'Because my father is dying'.

And he said, 'Stop crying, your father is not going to die. He has not finished his mission yet'. The being disappeared and my son instantly woke with the scene fresh in his mind.

So I have come to believe that what happened to me - the healing that has allowed me to re-enter life - that has re-claimed me for a mission - is not unique to me or even to do with my being special in some way. No, as I contemplate that finger, and those words, I realise that every single human being is precious to God, and everyone has a mission - that their words and actions count. When we abandon these beliefs we are no better than atheists, and just as hopeless. True healing is from God - the Spirit - the Light - the Christ and I feel blessed to have directly experienced it. For this is the strange reality it has led me to: I am glad that I had the cancer - still have the cancer - I am glad that my pain and suffering enabled me to have the opportunity to experience the mercy, the compassion, and the healing of the Lord. And as a result I feel unafraid of death in a way that would have been impossible before this illness overtook me.


Review: The Naked God – Wrestling for a Grace-ful Humanity by Vincent Strudwick

Rowan Williams describes The Naked God as a “tremendously engaging and positive book”, and indeed it is just that. The author, Vincent Strudwick, must be at least 84 years old but he writes with the fire, passion and conviction of a man half his age. And the book is a strange amalgam of autobiography, Twentieth Century church history, radical polemic, and cri de coeur for a better world, a better church, and a better outcome for all, especially the dispossessed, the poor and the suffering.

What is his book about then? Essentially, it is about the re-imagining of the role of the church, specifically the Anglican community (but his principles extend to all churches), in the modern world. Citing the ideas of Christopher Dawson that the church has had six different and distinctive ages – the Apostolic, the Fathers, the Carolingian, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and the Enlightenment – but that a seventh and very different age is now upon us. And, Strudwick argues, this new age is revealing the very real inadequacies of contemporary Anglican practises and beliefs both during the Twentieth Century and in the present. In the final part of the book Strudwick does present some glimmers of hope, although I must say I did not personally find them very hopeful, as they appeared to me patchy: patchy in that he describes small, isolated activities and also patchy in that commendably they cover a problem, but sadly only in a piecemeal way.

The essence of what is wrong with the Church is summed up in diagram in the chapter, Towards A Very Odd Church Indeed. Here we have three types of response to Christianity: the traditional, the liberal and the radical. There is little doubt where Strudwick’s loyalties are: the radical. So, for example, in the series of contrasts he draws, under the heading ‘Power’, the traditional wants ‘authority ...mediated through a hierarchy’; whereas the liberal position is ‘about management’; and finally the radical wants ‘all contribute through participation and challenge’. Or take the topic of Ideology: the traditional want ‘Divine right: it is all ordained’; whereas the liberal sees ‘the market leads’; and the radical says, ‘conflict must be recognised and worked at’.

It is all very admirable and I especially like his exhaustive and extremely interesting notes that consistently punctuate the text. Strudwick is well-versed in not only the history and traditions of the Anglican church, but also of other denominations, especially Catholics, too. Even the Quakers get a mention (though not in the Index, bizarrely). When near the end of his very long – and life time - tether with the Anglican church and its intransigent refusal to embrace radicalism, it is to the Quakers that he, via Richard Holloway, turns: “Quakers believed in the authority of the inner light … and if the Bible said otherwise, then the Bible was wrong”. On top of that Strudwick likes and cites frequently too the poets and literature. Wonderful – a small cornucopia of heaven for someone like me.

But that said, there are some less pleasing aspects of this narrative. The autobiographical weave reveals someone who has been at the centre of things for a long time, but possibly too obsessed with the centre. First, there is a slightly wearisome sense of name-dropping, especially of all the Archbishops of Canterbury over the decades but of other luminaries too. Then he also seems to think that re-hashing his notes or ideas from conferences held decades ago is going to prove useful or interesting. In his mind, clearly, he is still fighting those fights, but what I think we need is more core summaries and moving on to where we are now. A good example of this is where he repeats the ‘guidelines’ for the 1997 Quebec Conference where the ‘Anglican Bishop of Quebec, the Rt Rev. Bruce Stavert invited’ him to lead with the title ‘Models for a Changing Church’ – and then half a page of guidelines. The whole thing is too micro-orientated and the big picture is somewhat blurred by all this detail; though, I do not doubt Strudwick was very pleased to be invited to speak, as is clear in other examples.

Perhaps my biggest criticism, however, would be that for all his energy and enthusiasm for his Church, I am not sure he really empathises with those who disagree, or sees accurately the nature of what he is debunking. As the book progresses, we sense more and more how in tune with John Robinson’s ‘Honest to God’ position he is, and this position, of course, de-mythologises Christianity. It becomes apparent that Strudwick does not believe in miracles or in other core aspects of the Creeds as traditionally understood, and there are consequences of this which I think are important.

First, whilst he genuinely wants to help the poor, he seems not to realise that the de-mythologised version of Christianity he is advocating is not something the under-educated – often the poor – often readily ‘understand’ or ‘get’; and what – despite his assertion about the personhood of Christ being central – this comes down to is that why bother with Christianity at all? We just need to love people and have plenty of soup-kitchens? But the problem with that, it seems for Strudwick, is that he’d miss his cathedrals! Behind the radical, perhaps, a traditionalist in some profound and uneasy ways.

Moreover, he writes, “Many were horrified by the sight of the bishops lining up in the House of Lords to vote against equal marriage, which had so much support in society at large, especially amongst the younger population that the church so desperately wanted to attract.” This is a complex issue, but one thing I think is certainly true: Christianity, and no other religion I know of, has its policies and beliefs dictated by popular vote or plebiscite. Indeed, the Bible wisely advises us not to conform to the thinking of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. For all the analysis and learning, I suspect Strudwick is simply a partisan: even his phrase ‘equal marriage’ begs the question in advance of determining if such a thing is right or wrong, or good or bad. The early Christians went to their deaths because they did not conform with what society thought right and proper, but that doesn’t seem to have occurred to Strudwick as even a spiritual possibility, so fixated is he on getting people into church and thereby re-vitalising it.

There is a lot to commend in this book, and it is certainly an interesting read: I did not want to put it down, although I found plenty in it which I thought undigested, naïve and – yes – desperate. But for an overview of the Anglican church in the Twentieth Century this is a useful and gripping story., despite getting overloaded at times with finicky details.


Review: Unbelievable? Why, after 10 years of Talking with Atheists, I’m Still a Christian

Quakers like words, and they produce enough of them, but if there is one form of words they are perhaps sceptical about, it is probably that type that is called ‘Apologetics’. Apologetics have been with Christianity since the very beginning; Christ himself engaged in them with his disputes against the Pharisees and Sadducees, and St Peter himself, as Justin Brierley notes, advises Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks of you the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3.15). Indeed, Christianity has been arguing with the world ever since its foundation; and whereas in the first century AD the opponents were either, mainly, the Jewish legalists or the pagans, now the enemy on the doorstep tends to be the atheists with their assault on Christianity in particular and religions in general. But as I say, Quakers tend to be apologetics-averse and for two very good reasons: first, because they are not a credal-type of religion, and so just as this makes them trickier to attack, so they have less reason to rebut and dispute; and this leads to the second reason, which is that the lack of creeds is quite deliberate in that early on Quakers realised that words, and forms of words, led to ceaseless wrangling – and even actual violence – that contradicted the spirit of Christ and what His inner meaning is: namely, peace and love. For these reasons, then, Quakerism does not much engage in apologetics, and prefers to be more experiential than intellectual in its approach to true religion.

I am a Quaker myself, so obviously I think this is a good thing. But I can also see its danger; and one such danger that I frequently encounter and is directly attributable to the lack of apologetics – or ‘think-through’ – is that acceptance of a wishy-washy kind of love that accepts everybody and so proclaims that all religions are equal, we are all on the same path, and we are all – eventually - going to the same destination. To me this (not the acceptance of all people but the belief consequent from it) is self-evident tosh because, were it true, there would be no reason to become a Quaker; indeed, why adopt any religion at all if all roads lead to the same place? The answer that one simply prefers being a Quaker is so weak because it leads one into the wilderness of entire subjectivism, and all that that entails, which includes deep atheism and the undermining of all true morality (which Quakers, wishing to emphasise the power of love, are most keen to sustain).

Thus, a book like Justin Brierley’s “Unbelievable”, on the face of it, is not a book that many Quakers are going to like. It is published by SPCK, so has an evangelical flavour anyway; it is overtly argumentative (though in a deeply respectful way – more anon on this); and it explicitly supports traditional and credal Christianity (an anathema to many Quakers). So, should you buy or read it?

Well, in my opinion, absolutely yes: I loved the book, and I think all fair-minded Quakers will. I wasn’t aware before I read it that there is a radio station in Oxford called Premier Christian Radio (available in podcasts, so you don’t need to be in Oxford) whose flagship programme is called, Unbelievable?, and on a weekly basis for the last ten years or more Justin Brierley invites two guests (it started with one atheist and one Christian, but expanded to include other religions) to debate their beliefs, and he hosts/referees this. It has led to some phenomenal guests either appearing in the show or in his being able to contact and interview; for example, famous types like Derren Brown and Richard Dawkins on behalf of atheists, and people of the stature of Alister McGrath and William Lane Craig on behalf of Christianity. The thing is, and what is so refreshing, is the respect and devotion almost, that Brierley pays to the ‘opposition’. There is no doubt he is a Christian and where his loyalties rest, but it is clear too that the best arguments for atheism have seriously challenged his position, his beliefs, and he has had to do some very heavy wrestling to be able to remain standing in his faith.

What we get in this book is a wonderfully respectful account of the very best arguments for atheism, often using the words from the ‘expert’ atheists themselves; and we get some of their adversaries’ ripostes and gems of wisdom too; and we get Brierley in the middle trying to make sense of it and, critically, truly anxious to avoid trivialising the matters or ever appearing smug about them. Towards the end of the book he observes, perhaps ruefully, but accurately: “In the end, nobody gets argued into the kingdom of heaven”.

Because he starts from this respectful, opening, and listening base, the net result is that I think this is one of the best books on apologetics I have read – and I have read a lot. There is a clarity here which is a joy to read, and especially to follow his thinking as it emerges. It would be too much to describe all that he covers, but in my view there are 4 main (‘main’ in the sense that ordinary people can get it – not just philosophers and theologians) arguments for the existence of God and subsequently of Christianity: one, the argument from design and the structure of the cosmos; two, the argument from the existence of objective morality; three, the historical argument, which includes discussion of the Bible and other related historical documents; and four, the one that Quakers especially like, the argument from personal experience. The pros and cons of each of these arguments are superbly covered in this book, and I found myself gaining new insights and perspectives from reading it.

For example, he quotes Os Guinness tellingly: “The Christian faith is not true because it works; it works because it is true”. Or, take the surprising riposte to atheism’s most effective argument against God, the problem of pain and suffering. Brierley, whilst exhibiting due compassion and humility in the face of what often appears to be its full enormity, then turns its cutting edge wholly against the atheists themselves: “Within Christian belief, suffering is at least a mystery we can hope to make sense of. In atheism, it is simply meaningless.” That – that – is perfectly put. It’s all very well atheists going on about ‘How can a loving God allow …” but what do they offer by way of exchange? Absolutely nothing at all, except we die, we rot. A more hopeless and useless position, it seems to me, cannot be imagined. If the situation of human life is bad with Christianity, then, Brierley is suggesting, atheism only makes it far worse.

There are nuggets of insight and information everywhere in the book. I was amused towards the end by a statistic that Brierley quotes that, despite the disproportionate noise that atheism makes, on a global level atheism is shrinking as a proportion of the world’s population: “In 1970, atheists made up 4.5% of the world’s population. That figure shrank to 2% in 2010 and is projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020”.  However, Brierley certainly doesn’t wish for them not to exist! Au contraire, he fully acknowledges what he has learnt from them, and how their existence how sharpened his own Christianity; for the truth is, it is so easy to become complacent about religion and dismissive of other people’s perspectives, and to retire into private spiritual ghettos. The Dawkins of this world, then, provide – despite their intentions – a salutary wake-up call to Christianity to get its act together, and to get its thinking right.

Finally, there is a lot in this book – since I have already mentioned Dawkins – about science and its supposed incompatibility with God. Clearly, Brierley rejects this notion and adduces a lot of authorities and ideas which also reject it too. But there is a wonderful quotation which he uses as an epigraph to Chapter 2 that is worth quoting in full: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you”. This is attributed to Werner Heisenberg. How wonderful, how appropriate!

If you are interested at all in strengthening the intellectual basis of your Christian faith, then I strongly recommend you read this book.


Sonnets for Christ the King, Joseph Charles Mackenzie: Review

Christ-Enthroned-Hagia-Sophia

It was Stephen Fry who said of the sonnet: “The ability to write them fluently was, and to some extent still is, considered the true mark of the poet”. How true; to expect each poet to write an epic is too much; and to be able to write a haiku is too trivial; and to write free verse is nothing; but in the strange and seemingly limitless flexibility of the sonnet form poets can demonstrate the most complex – and, contrariwise, most simple - thoughts and emotions, as well as delineating almost every shade of human experience. Looking back over the last five hundred years of the English language almost all the truly great poets have produced memorable sonnets whose impact has been lasting and profound. And as well as the sonnet speaking in its own individual voice, we have whole collections of them, most notably Shakespeare’s 154 (although if we include sonnets appearing in his plays, there are more), wherein the work begins to assume epic proportions as a kind of narrative emerges in which topics and themes are explored in relentless precision and beauty. Certainly, I regard the ability to construct a sonnet of beauty as second only to writing epic poetry in the canon of English literature.

We have, then, Sonnets for Christ the King by Joseph Charles Mackenzie, a name familiar to readers of The Society of Classical Poets. Currently the work is in audio book form, although I have been privileged to see an advance electronic copy; it comprises 77 sonnets in all. What to make of this? How good are they? Where does Joseph Charles Mackenzie stand in the pantheon of poets?

First, a digression. The number – 77 – is important. Indeed, every detail is important to true poets. Those of a quick disposition will have noticed that the number 77 is half that of the number Shakespeare wrote: 154. And Mackenzie uses the Shakespearean structure rather than the Petrarchan. Albeit obliquely then, there is already a vaunting claim to be heard. But more than that, for the spiritual poet numbers always assume massive significance. The sonnet in its two most important incarnations in the English language – the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean forms – is always 14 lines long (ignoring for the matter of this analysis aberrant forms such as the Meredithian sonnet – 16 – and the Curtal (Hopkins) – 7, and such like). 14 is 2 x 7 and 7 is the perfect number. Being the perfect number is no accident, but why is 7 the perfect number? It is the perfect number because it is the sum of 4, which represents the Earth and all that is in it, the four corners, the four cardinal points, and Heaven, the divine Trinity. It is the harmony and addition of the two, representing completion. (And for those left wondering, why is there 8 and 9, then 8 is an upside sign for mathematical infinity and represents the Resurrection – the new life beyond the current Heaven and Earth. Jesus is usually described as being resurrected on the third day on which he rose again, but the third day considered from the beginning of the week in which the Passover occurred is also the 8th day. The number 9 represents the re-harmonisation of all things as symbolised in the Ascension of Christ).

Moreover, numerologically speaking, 14 and 77 are both, reduced to their single digit, 1+4 = 5 and 7+7 = 14 = 1 + 4 = 5. The sonnet structure and the number within the sequence are represented by the number 5. This, theologically, represents ‘grace’ – hence the day of Pentecost: 5. When the Spirit descends. What Mackenzie is doing is revealing the descent of the Muse as an act of grace within the structure of the poem. He is also referring to an older tradition, too, whereby the Spirit of God is feminine: as in Wisdom (Proverbs Chapter 8) who was “at the beginning of His way, Before his works of old”. In other words, so far as we can use human language to describe the inexpressible, Wisdom – the Spirit of God – was no created ‘thing’, but She was with Him “from everlasting I was established, From the beginning ...” and She it is who is the Christian equivalent of the Muse. These numbers are important, then, and we see them in various structural ways within the poem; too much to explore in detail now, but for example, the last 14 sonnets (Sonnets 64-77) are all entitled ‘First [then 1-14] Station’ followed by a brief description of what each station entails. So there is in Mackenzie’s work not a random rag-bag of poems but an architecture – a cosmos if you will – that attempts to reflect the bigger cosmos of which we are all a part.

The collection, Sonnets for Christ the King, contains, I think, some of the best sonnets, and so poetry, published since World War 2, that I have read. His work is actually quite, quite brilliant, yet quirky and strange too! Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that he is able to write poetry which is entirely discursive, and yet it still be poetry.  We are so used to post-modern poets writing cryptogrammatic verse with obscure imagery, recondite diction, and indulgent, complacent solipsism that we can hardly believe it when someone says clearly what they want to say and tells it like it is - at least like it is for them. But the beauty of this great poetry is, even if we don't agree, don't share his theology, the poet in him gets to us emotionally. There is simply so many wonderful lines and ideas in this collection.

The first thing to get, then, is that this poetry is highly devotional; Mackenzie is clearly a devout Christian and Catholic, and the fundamentals of these two highly interrelated positions permeate the whole collection. If this were purely a fundamentalist text - banging a simplistic drum as it were - that would be off-putting to the casual reader. But this is not: this is true poetry because bound up in it is the emotional resonance by which real poetry disarms the critical intellect. A good example would be in Sonnet 6, one of my favourite 7 of the 77 we have. Called ‘El Castillo Interior’, the poem explores the inward, spiritual journey in a series of bold Images, beginning with a castle with ‘seven rooms … lit’. Each room provides its own challenge: ‘In one room serpents, in another wars,’ until finally we come to a room of prayer, and there at the centre he concludes with this amazing couplet:

And there in the center, where I lie dead,

To Love my very being says, 'I Thee wed'.

That - that - is so simple, so paradoxical, so profound; a cri de coeur when all human resource fails, and the soul cries out. And what it cries, of course, entirely justifies the archaic 'Thee', as it invokes the language of the wedding service. This is a poem that repays many, many re-readings.

And on the subject of ‘many’, many poets disappoint with their endings; they start well, have something interesting to say, but somehow can't get to a satisfying conclusion. Not Shakespeare's sonnets, though, and not Joseph Mackenzie’s: his sonnets specialise in superb concluding couplets that could almost be standalones, so aphoristic and powerful are they. Here are three good examples:

Sonnet 11: Song of the Magi

We followed in the fullness of the night,

And found the fragile Origin of light.

Sonnet 35: Adventus 3

And you shall understand that all along,

The cries I filled the desert with were song

Sonnet 58: Ego Sum – and here I must give the preceding quatrain because – frankly – it is too exciting to omit:

I do not know why some men cannot see,

Or why they kill what they pretend to love;

I only know that this great verb, ‘to be,’

Can only enter thought but from above,

And pray, with sorrow’s cloth upon my head,

That I shall not be found among the dead.

This leads on to a consideration of Mackenzie's attitude to the Christian story; and it is one that I consider the nearest approximation we can get to the 'truth'. Namely, that the whole narrative is both literal and mythical at the same time. To be literal but not mythical is to limit its application; to be mythical but not literal is to circumscribe its power. We see this plainly in not just the specifically Christ-bits of the narrative, but in all the other Biblical and theological allusions he makes.

Take Sonnet 62: Ennui. 

Had Adam never turned his mind away

From Life, or genuflected to mere dust ...

This clearly treats the Garden of Eden story as both literal and mythical: it recognises what virtually all early cultures recognised, that at the beginning humanity was involved in some aboriginal calamity which is why, unlike the gods, we die. It's why the early civilisations believed not in progress but regress; that the Golden Age was long gone and now we lived in an age of iron. Religion - religions - is the only, and necessary, appropriate response to that calamity. But Mackenzie see the Eden story as only a poet can: instead of the ‘fruit’, now we have Adam turning 'his mind away' (and notice the brilliant line break which mimics the turning) from 'Life' - not stuffy old God. And then the genius word 'genuflecting' - Latinate, obscure, perfect - by way of contrast with all the other simple words: Adam effectively genuflected his own thinking - distorted it in other words - and the choice of diction here precisely mirrors that dire choice he made back then. In our choice of words - since they express or represent our choice of thought - we live or die. This level of writing is onomatopoeic or mimetic not only in diction but in structure and cast of thought, which is why it is so compelling.

And to elaborate just a moment on that fact, the choice of Shakespearean sonnet form is perfect for dialectics: thesis, antithesis, with a structural concluding couplet often providing the explosive, unexpected and illuminating synthesis. From the big architecture to the sonnet form, down to each loving line Mackenzie has crafted.

So, on the topic of lines, here are some beauties that I must share:

Sonnet 25: Ode to Autumn

“O rich intoner of our Mother’s grief”

Sonnet 28: Regnum Meun Non Est De Hoc Mundo

“And maggots stop the purchased mouth of praise”

Sonnet 38: The Adoration of the Shepherds

“The barn was warm though human hearts were cold”

I could go on, but I think my drift is clear: this is major poetry by a major poet, although it is so un-mainstream, so anti-secular, so purely devotional. Alas, one cannot see the chattering mainstream media ever embracing it. But what of its faults?

No whole work of poetry is perfect in its entirety; as Pope commented, 'even Homer nods'. And to put this in context, Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of my favourite poets, and I regard some of his lines and complete poems as some of the greatest in the English language; but there are passages in Hopkins where he gets carried away by his own metrical theories, by his super-ingenious cleverness, and by the sheer infelicity of lexical choice. So, in case I am thought to be too uncritical of Joseph Mackenzie's collection there a number of small - not for me important - elements that slightly jar. One, is the occasional penchant for archaic diction: mayst, 'tis, etc., which, in the case of ‘I Thee Wed’ is brilliantly deployed, but which I would not myself generally recommend. Also, his use and sprinkling of foreign languages, especially, but not only, Latin, tends to make his work appear more highbrow and elitist than it really is. Others may complain of his use of big abstractions, signified with capital letters, like Love, Beauty, and Truth. Plato has indeed returned, and the modern world won’t like it, for like Pontius Pilate they prefer the question ‘What is truth?’ more. But these are minor caveats to my way of thinking; the poetry is a gold mine of multiple treasures, and anyone studying what Mackenzie is doing will learn a massive amount, quite apart from experiencing some absolutely beautiful poetry.

Finally, let me urge Mackenzie to get this book out as a hardback! I know he likes the oral tradition, but I cannot be alone in preferring to read a good-feel hardback book. And so that only leaves me to say, please go and access your version of this great work. It took forty years at least after Hopkins’ death for his work to be appreciated, so let’s hope Mackenzie gets due recognition long before that due date whenever it is.


New Product, New Skills, New Consultants Part 1

Late in 2016, after 18 months of testing, we finally released the new Motivational Organisation Map. What is it? What can it do? And why should that concern you? Or, put more accurately, What’s In It for Me? Perhaps before looking at these questions, vital as they are, one might also consider how does this affect the users and licensees of Motivational Maps generally? Indeed, does it affect them?

Yes, it affects them – or some of them – profoundly, but to understand how we need to go back to the beginning. The original Motivational Map is clearly a personal or a one-2-one product; ideal, in other words, for either personal development and growth, or for coaching and managing. Its focus, then, is on enabling the individual to develop themselves, and so in a sense it is about self-coaching – or for a coach to coach a client, or a manager to coach an employee. In short, the Motivational Map, whether you use it for personal growth or use it in a 1-2-1 situation is at root a tool to enable coaching.

But if we scale the Motivational Map up to a Motivational Team Map, then coaching is still possible, but another key skill is also relevant: training. Now the focus can shift from an individual’s motivational profile and what that might mean, to what the combined profiles of the whole team look like, and how the motivators interact with each other, not just internally, but between people. This is a fascinating area. As I have often observed in the past, we frequently find that many team problems that have been ascribed to one simple factor or another, for example, personality clashes, are not that at all. Instead, they are at root competing motivators, rival energies, that drive in opposite directions. As a result of these competing energies, naturally, people do come to dislike their opposition too – but the core of the dislike may not be personality at all. But motivation. So, faced with a Motivational Team Map, a team may well want the expert trainer in to draw out all the threads of team dynamics that the ‘team Map’ can do.

So, what I am saying, but without being dogmatic or insistent upon it, is that coaching is really suited to the individual map, and as we move towards the team map we find training enters the frame. It should come as no surprise, then, if I say that another key skill comes to the fore when we come to the Motivational Organisational Map.

Just as the team map scales up the individual maps, so too now does the organisation map scale up the team map. In its report on the Data Analysis Table, instead of having the individual scores listed, as we do in the team map, we now have the team scores listed. And this scaling up has some incredible effects.

Before, however, talking about these effects, let’s get on the table what the new skill set is which is crucial to the Organisation Map. From coaching to training and finally, at level three, we need to be consultants. Now don’t get me wrong: of this triumvirate of skills – coaching, training, consulting – we can use any set of them at any stage, and I should know because I have done so. But the fact remains that at the organisation map level, consultancy is where the game is; indeed, where the serious bread is, and where the big difference also resides. It is also true to say that whilst most service providers can easily shift between all three modalities (and don’t we all have to nimble to win business?), it is also true to say that we all have a dominant mode, with a strong secondary bow, and the third skill that may well be average. Speaking for myself, by way of mea culpa, I think my dominant strength as a service provider is in training. So I, too, have to up-skill if I want to utilise the Organisational Map fully! But that said, then, why is consultancy so crucial to the organisation map? It is really because of three key ideas. 

Part 2 of this article will cover the 3 key ideas and also reveal 3 'incredible effects' of scaling up the data. IMG_2383


Review: Apocalypse by Frederick Turner

There are nine Muses of poetry, daughters of Zeus or some say Apollo, and the Titaness, Mnenosyne, goddess of memory, past and future. And of these nine the most important is Kalliope, she of the Lovely Voice, and the muse of epic poetry; and she is considered by Hesiod and others, rightly in my opinion, to be the most important Muse. Put another way, epic poetry is the greatest expression of poetry that we can attain to. It is so great and it is so difficult, and the proof of that assertion lies in absence of any great number of epics that we return to. In the Western tradition there is Homer, Virgil, Dante and Milton; there may be a few more. Spenser perhaps qualifies; perhaps Goethe and a few others. But really, not many. As we reach modern times, however, we suddenly find a surfeit of poets claiming to be epic poets; it’s a very large claim. Speaking personally, I feel like Moses might have felt before the Burning Bush – it is too big, too holy, too much for me to think, or even claim, that I could be in that exalted and select company. To say one is a poet is a big enough assertion, but to be an epic poet, then that is something of a different order.

Keen readers of reviews on this website may remember that I reviewed Frederick Glaysher’s ‘The Parliament of Poets’, which claimed to be an epic (which, with severe caveats, I considered just) not that long ago. Now Frederick Turner appears with his ‘Apocalypse’ claiming to be an epic poet, and ‘Apocalypse’ an epic poem. Is it? And is it possible, too, that we are in a golden age of poetry where 2 epics appear within two years of each other, whereas before we had to wait a millennium to nominate two reasonable candidates worthy of the name?

There are many things to praise in Turner’s ‘Apocalypse’. First, the sheer erudition that informs the writing. If one were a visitor from Mars and wanted some sort of overview of human history combined with a rap on what is current and techy now – and also projected 50 years into the future – this would be your book. It is full of arcane facts, demotic languages, and brands that give a very strong flavour as to what is going down now and whither these trends might lead in 50 to 100 years’ time. In fact, this leads me to saying that the book is prophetic: an epic Sci-Fi, set on Earth about to be destroyed by rising tides and then Wormwood, a black star on course to destroy us, and how humanity copes with these crises. The sheer sweep of information, then, could be considered Turner’s way of deploying our available resources.

Second, and even more impressively, Turner’s epic – unlike Glaysher’s (whose meter was all over the place) – writes in quite amazing blank verse. This leads to wonderful, aphoristic phrases that are eminently quotable, and seasoned too with wisdom, sometimes wit. For example:

“Is brain a robot with a muse in charge?”

“A crisis is a dreadful thing to waste”, or

“The poet is the linchpin of it all”

Note the strong iambic beat. And this extends to great couplets as well:

“Democracy is now irrelevant:

A beauty contest for celebrity.”

But more than this Turner, at his best, create some beautiful and exquisite lyrical outbursts:

“I took him by the elbow and withdrew him

Into the lovely still electric night

Where overhead the Milky Way rotated

In blackest hollows all shot through with light”

Isn’t that fabulous writing? Reminds me of Dante’s fascination with the stars and their significance in his writing.

Third, Turner writes consistently and with a consistent tone. He doesn’t seem to flag, which is an effect you get in many long poems: the poets seem bored even before you do with their efforts!  So this work has been nurtured and grown a long time, and lovingly, there is much of the poet in it; and this poet is erudite, highly skilled in a technical sense, and possessed of a clear vision and visionary apprehension of the future of humanity.

Is it then a great epic?

Unfortunately, not. Whilst there are many felicities that I can enumerate, and whilst I fully consider Turner to be a good poet, I cannot consider him an epic poet because the faults of the work far outweigh the beauties.

First up, this is not an epic because there is no hero. Yes, there are dozens of characters, not one of which we care one jot about; and the only one I think the author actually ‘feels’ for is Kalodendron, an advanced computer program. I have to say that personally I find the author’s attitude to technology somewhat creepy – as if there has been some transference from the normal love for people to actually loving a machine. But that is not the key point here. All the great epics are about one person: Gilgamesh, Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneas, the Pilgrim – Dante, and Milton almost gets away with two, Adam and the antagonist, Satan. But the point is: the epic is about the individual’s regeneration, salvation, destiny (or some such word) and we care passionately about that person. We follow them at every twist and turn and without that focus, what is there?

Well, as it happens, Turner answers that very point, late in book 9 (of the 10 books of his epic), when he says:

“No time for saving of your precious soul;

We have a planet that we’d like to save”

And that is what is so wrong. The great epic poets would never have been mistaken in thinking that saving a planet was more important than saving the individual soul; the soul’s the thing; we can do without collective souls, as paradoxical as that sounds. For even Stalin observed, one death is a tragedy but a million deaths are a statistic (quoting from memory here!). In a way Turner’s enterprise should not have been to attempt epic with his raw materials but a great Sci-Fi novel; and there still could be one from these amazing ideas he has put together.

But this leads to my second point: the absence of real transcendence means this is a purely humanist or secular epic. It’s value, therefore, are entirely solipsistic, albeit they chime in with much of what the scientific community think and believes these days. But let’s be clear: they are entirely subjective; there is no science which proves or validates ‘values’. Indeed, logic itself is not provable from logic; we all start from axioms and faith. The great epics wrestle with the gods or God: one man (and I say that as an historical point) on whom we focus takes on the gods or some cruel destiny they struggle with, and in that struggle greatness is borne – and the whole of human potential is realised whilst simultaneously being capped. Thus far, the gods say, and no further. As the Eagles sang long ago in California: one man takes it to the limit!

The trouble with Turner’s secular vision is that it’s going to excite Google, Apple and NASA employees; they will recognise their fabulous self-importance in the epic. They will be at the cutting edge – saving the world – in their own deluded and delusional technological ‘soap’, but really none of this speaks for anybody else. The people being saved are simply a bunch of ciphers that give the VIP’s a moral boost of self-congratulation: look what we’ve done for everybody.

On a sidebar issue, I don’t actually think either that the vision of the future that Turner paints (the world seems to have become a fragmented extension of the European Union, incidentally, where the ‘good’ encourage co-operation, and the oligarchs and plutocrats rule – hmm, strange parallels to the current situation) likely to be remotely prophetic. Keep in mind, the two great prophets of what was to happen in the Twentieth Century, HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw, shared three things in common: one, they were deep secularists, they were both spectacularly wrong on nearly all important questions, and they shared a common friendship with the Catholic convert, GK Chesterton. Bizarrely, Chesterton refused to described himself even as a writer, much less a prophet, and always referred to himself as a mere ‘journalist’; but he accurately predicted many of the key trends of the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries. So much for what we think we know.  As John Gray put it, in his brilliant book, ‘Heresies’: “For many, the promises of religion lack credibility; but the fear that inspires them has not gone away, and secular thinkers have turned to a belief in progress that is further removed from the basic facts of human life than any religious myth”. Such is Turner’s epic – “removed from the basic facts of human life”.

And that leads on to my third criticism of this epic, which for me is the most decisive of all. There is a great contrast in Charles Williams’ writings between our response to Milton’s Paradise Lost and his subsequent poem, Paradise Regained. Williams says, “We put down Paradise Regained but cannot put down Paradise Lost”. That is so right; the narrative of Paradise Lost is so compelling that it is difficult to stop reading it. Why is this? From memory, it was Dr Johnson (though disliking Milton intensely) who observed that ‘whoever flew so high for so long?” The word I am looking for here, which I expect as a default position in any poem worthy of the name ‘epic’, is the word sublime. It is the sublime that makes the hairs go up on the backs of our necks. It is not only epic poems that produce the sublime: read Hamlet, Macbeth or King Lear, and you will find plenty of the sublime. Or, take Longinus at his word and read the opening verses of Genesis Chapter 1, and there - ‘And there was light’, we have more sublimity.

Sublimity completely arrests motion; we stand in awe of it. Awe is what it creates and we hold our breath as we reach that passage in the text where it is revealed. This in an epic poem is essential.; it is an effect more than any technique. I suspect poets as fine as Tennyson, Idylls of the King, or Longfellow with Hiawatha, thought they were writing epics. I like these poems and read them a lot when I was young, but they do not achieve sublimity for all their interest and for all the skill in their compositions.

Part of this creation of sublimity is to do with the underlying value system, which I have commented on already; the lack of transcendence and confronting the transcendental in Turner is fatal. But one other aspect is the language: one needs an elevated style of writing. At the same time, this elevated style must not seem archaic, precious or stuffy. Despite, then, Turner’s magisterial handling of blank verse – which I deeply appreciate – the diction is frequently lack lustre or even inane. There is not that sure sense of style that marks the epic. A few example will demonstrate what I mean.

Epics typically have roll calls of names, but names have sounds, they evoke emotions and associations. One therefore has to be careful in one’s choice. Turner seems keen to promote his multicultural pretensions and all-inclusiveness at the expense of anyone being able to make sense of what these names signify. At the end of book 2 we run into a roll call of:

Lucy Wu, Chandra and Gopal, Zhang Baojia,  Firushan Koi, Noah, Miland Khodayar, Sahadeva, Manny Dandolo (“in a pink suit” – epic? – a Byronic one maybe), Ellie Tranh, Avi Bromberg, Costas Jack Barsoomian, Barfield Gates (probably an in-joke here, as I suspect this is a fourth generation descendant of a more famous Gates), Peter Frobisher RN, Joed van Heemskerck and Anneliese Grotius. Cartoonish? Almost. Multicultural? Yes, and possibly a work team pulled together at Apple or Google or even Microsoft; but actually a spurious pickle of un-god-like individuals working in a modern, corporate ant-hill kind of way. Roll calls invoke heroes, not geeks. And it’s not just the names, it’s the technologies and philosophies too and the way they are concatenated into blocks of verse which are sometimes slangy, sometimes abstruse, but never that interesting:

“Lucy’s been working on a techie problem:

To make a Turing-founded internet

Emulate in its freedom quantum qubits,

And thus let Kalodendron’s consciousness

Become non-local, founded everywhere.” From Book 6

Or,

“Not even nothingness is absolute:

Zero is just one possibility

Among others, so its likelihood

Is infinitely small upon the spectrum

Of Cantor cardinalities, themselves

Infinite and yet further multiplied

Upon the hybrid Hamiltonian plane.” From Book 9

It will come as no surprise that there are – post TS Eliot – plenty of notes at the end to help explain difficult concepts! But this last quotation, of which there are plenty more like it, is not only not epic writing, it seems to be far more insidious; it is part of the mutual and ‘knowing’ compact that the poet wants to strike between himself and the reader. This compact is an ‘understanding’, and what that understanding is seems simple. For what do the 7 lines add up to? They are a sophisticated way of saying – without being that direct – that God does not exist! That ‘nothing’ existing is unlikely in the scale of all possible numbers; so existence exists, voila, because there is no improbability that it couldn’t. Using poetry – epic poetry at that – for this kind of fallacious and humanist ‘logic’ I find wearing at best, and trivial at worst. I’d prefer an overt atheistic hero/anti-hero attempting – a la Stalin – to root God straight out of the universe rather than these effete, because intellectual, feints. Really, there is no feeling in intellectualisations, and the want of feeling reverberates through the whole work, passionate as it appears to be.

Ultimately, this epic comes down to the proposition that human beings will save the planet, resurrect themselves, and make all things well through their own intelligence and ingenuity, including the ingenuity to create an all-embracing computer program superior to themselves. It takes some swallowing in an epic (but not, as I said, in a sci-fi novel) and in any case is just so redolent of what the Greeks called hubris, which has the reverse effect: namely, it is in believing and acting on this kind of stuff that we destroy ourselves by earning the enmity of the gods, and so pay a dreadful penalty. A penalty we see all about us now. So, whereas Turner might position his epic as a great hope for humanity, I see it as a symptom of the dead-end of our current predicament worldwide: the nuclear threat, the biological contamination, the global warming, the oceanic pollutants, the polarisation of the peoples of the world, do not seem to me be issues solvable via science and technology as these twin Furies are largely responsible for the problems. You can’t solve problems at the level at which they were created is, I believe, an Einsteinian observation.

Thus, I conclude by saying that for all its cleverness, technique, erudition, moments of great lyrical beauty, deep insights into certain aspects of human life, this poem is not an epic in any true sense of the word. Towards the very end of the poem Turner possibly anticipates these objections to his work when he says, “The work of epic is to blaze new trails’, which indeed is true. However, you recognise a lion has certain very distinctive features, and although post-modernism likes to have it all ways, we don’t have to accept that a Chihuahua is a lion because, as postmodernism would have it, ‘it’s blazing a new trail’: if we hypnotise ourselves long enough that little yap will really sound like a deep, reverberant roar! Yea, right – we have had one hundred years of being fooled and hoodwinked by this kind of logic, so let’s not accept it now. Turner is a good poet; but epic he ain’t.


Reviewing 2016 in 12 Easy Steps

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Self-awareness, self-examination, are the foundations of the spiritual life, and so unsurprisingly of personal and self-development in all its forms. We instinctively know that the end of the year marks, albeit arbitrarily in some ways, a turning point in which it is highly appropriate to review that chronological unit. I'd like to give you all my top ten experiences or achievements of my year, but then again I found in reviewing what has happened to me and putting it in rank order would be like comparing apples and oranges; all things are good to the healthy mind, but our preferences must necessarily seem somewhat idiosyncratic.

Thus, I am not going to labour on about three things that may obsess some people from 2016: namely, politics and whether or not Brexit or Trump are significant; my very personal good stuff, which is inevitably about my relationship with wife and family; and finally I don't want to go on about bad stuff that happens either. Partly because focusing on the negative drains energy, but more importantly, what is the bad stuff anyway? In 2011 I developed a malignant tumour that nearly killed me. Bad year? Not really; it led directly to the greatest experience of my life, so that I think, from the spiritual perspective everything has meaning, and everything can be good.

Given all these caveats, then, if I review the year it will be best to consider it month by month. A high point of January was an email from Evan Mantyk, the President and founder of The Society of Classical Poets, based in New York, and inviting me to join its Advisory Board. This was a great honour, and important for and to me because I have spent my life advocating real poetry, and form in poetry, and all the time have found myself swimming against the tide. There is so much non-poetry out there masquerading as poetry that it is important to find allies in the quest for the real ‘thing’.

No question here: in early February Linda and I put on a special launch for my new book, Mapping Motivation, published the month before by Gower. We put on a splendid do at the Radisson Blu 5-star hotel in Leicester Square, and to add to the pizzazz Ben Stiller and Jennifer Cruz decided to patrol outside to promote their new film, Zoolander 2. Some of our guests probably trod over their red carpet thinking it was for them!! And what fabulous guests we had, including our great editor, Kristina Abbotts. She, of course, was now a senior editor at Routledge, which had purchased Gower just as my book was being printed.  Clearly, the real reason for Routledge’s acquisition was my book! The place was buzzing; we had booked the Penthouse Suite, which curiously was not on the 5th floor but the 8th, and so we had this marvellous view over London while all the merriment was going on. Food was great; sold lots of books; what was not to like? Before leaving February, though an honorary mention must be made of late February when my good friend Tony Henderson invited me to give a talk on motivation at the Oxford Technology and Media event. This was a tremendous event – wonderful people present, curious, engaged, and challenging. Thanks Tony.

Then March: well, early on we were given a conducted tour of Parliament by my friend, Robert Oulds, who runs the Bruges Group, and were given an insight both into Parliament (from an insider perspective) and into the forthcoming Brexit campaign from someone at the centre. Enough of that, though. The great event of March for us was getting away on holiday to Cannes and in particular to the Lerin Isles, especially St Honorat. What a place of peace and tranquillity – centuries of it. We bought the monk’s honey, only alas to have it confiscated at the airport on the way back. The sweetness, then, we never tasted.

April, too, was jam-packed with incidents, but what stays in my mind happened at the end: meeting up with Frank Chambers in the Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Field in London. I taught Frank Chambers English at Secondary school, and he had been my star “Macbeth” in the school production I had directed. But I hadn’t seen him in 32 years. What an amazing thing to meet him, catch up on 32 years of absence, and reminisce over old times. I gave him a special gift: a digitised recording of the whole play from 32 years ago! Nobody, apart from myself, had seen that recording in 32 years; I had the only copy. I understand Frank’s children were pretty amazed to see their dad in action all that time ago!

Mid-May a wonderful article on Motivational Maps, courtesy of our friend Carole Gaskill, appeared in The Guardian. This was a welcome recognition of the product.  Near the end of the month Linda and I travelled to Taunton and to the classic Castle Hotel where we had a meal and a working session with our two fellow shareholders in the Maps company, James Watson and Rob Breeds. They are such great, upbeat, positive and creative people; it was a tonic spending time with them.

In June my poetry appeared on the Yellow Bus, circulating Bournemouth, as it were forever, with no escape! A prelude, perhaps, to a Dante moment. And I attended my niece’s, Samantha Williams’, wedding in my old Alma Mater, St David’s University College. She actually got married in the university chapel. We stayed a week in the area too and had an amazing time. But also that month I went on a 3-day retreat at Ammerdown, near Bath, to study Dante and his poem, The Divine Comedy. This was totally inspirational and I have been returning to Dante ever since. Indeed, my next collection of poetry will be based on my reading of him.

So after all these highs, it is pleasing to record that in July Linda and I managed something we had failed to do in 2015: we went swimming in the sea in Bournemouth. Heck, we live there. We managed 7 trips for a sea swim and each one was joy. On one visit down we ran into my dear friend, Chrissie Laban, and joined her for an oven-baked pizza. Chrissie, of course, was one of the surgeons who operated on my tumour in 2011. We caught her in time: she was leaving the Royal Bournemouth and about to serve in Southampton General. (Spoiler alert: and she is now in Royal Bath hospital – a wonderful surgeon).

August continues the holiday theme. The end of July saw us reading a 70th birthday poem in honour of my friend, Bob Sutton, in Bedfordshire; what a party that was! On to Durham, discovering Bill’s Restaurant, and finally ending up in Lichfield where we had even more great experiences. Then, curiously, Linda and I had a day out in Swanage. It was a perfect day. We used the chain ferry, the weather was fine, and the beach was packed, but somehow Linda found a wholly secluded spot and from it we went into the sea again. Like being re-born!

In September two very different highlights occur. First, I am a keynote speaker at the Dominion Theatre in London, which is a great opportunity. Second, my laptop blows up and I have had it, I am done with Microsoft, so I buy an iMac. Oh, heavens – what have I missed all these years? Why did I not believe the hype? Yes, they are that much better – no going back, as I type this now on my … iMac!!

And if 2016 hasn’t already been a fabulous year – yes, fabulous, as in a fable – then October steps it up further: I do a day’s training on our new product, The Organisation Motivational Map, to 8 colleagues. My first training in 10 months, since I am effectively retired from doing it, but I felt like an old Yoda going back to train the Obi-Wan- Kenobi masters, and yes, I still had the Force with me! Linda and I go to Avignon, and inadvertently I step into a live drama performance in the nave of Chartreuse Cathedral, and improvise in it. The audience applaud. The actress, after it is done, comes up to me and congratulates me: “You are very confident”, she says and smiles. I don’t want to disabuse her and tell her the truth: ‘No, I am just bl**dy old and don’t phase easy, baby’! My wife, of course, comments truly: ‘I can’t take you anywhere!’

My son Joseph Sale’s book, The Meaning of the Dark, comes out in November. It is a masterpiece in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he is well on his way to becoming a great writer. We meet our friends Ross Thornley and Karen Rayner at the Ancient Technology Centre and listen to a live re-telling of the Gilgamesh epic, one of my great favourites. The story is nearly 2 hours long – there is a real log fire burning on a dark winter night – and the story teller does it without notes and without faltering once.

In December Routledge ask me to review a book for them and address me as “Professor Sale” – the absurdity, but it tickled my funny bone. And then later they agreed a 6 book deal with me to write The Complete Guide to Mapping Motivation. Phew! Awesome. And Christmas was on us – relax, reflect, and rejoice. So much omitted from this story; but so much covered too.

Let’s all focus on what we can do in 2017 – how we can make a difference, how we can be on mission, and how we can get joy from every aspect of our lives, even when we receive what we haven’t planned for! God’s blessing to everyone for 2017 – peace and joy be yours.


The Incredible Transformation of Mark Terrell from Super-Shopper to Super-Coach!

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Finally, then, we reach Chapter 9, the last chapter of the book, ‘Mapping Motivation’, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq - last, excluding the Resources section and Index etc.) and a chapter very different from the rest in that it is the proof of the pudding: it contains two case studies of the Maps in action in actual organisations. One case study is one I did myself with the Ordnance Survey, involving nearly 200 employees in their sales and marketing divisions; the second was undertaken with The John Lewis Partnership by Aspirin Business Solutions who are advanced Motivational Map users and practitioners (we call them Senior Practitioners, but not because of their age!).

The prelude to the case studies goes something like this:

 

The first comment I would like to make about the case studies and about Mapping Motivation more generally is that this process is always about, and highly geared towards, change management. When we think of change management in an organizational sense, then we have a pretty clear idea of what is entailed in this; but change management also affects teams and individuals. We are all changing all the time; sometimes in small, barely noticeable steps, but other times in huge, perceptible strides. And the point that has been made many times in this book is that energy is underpinning all change; energy, or motivation, is enabling all change to occur. If that is the case, how can ignoring motivation be a sensible strategy for an organization, team or individual to adopt? ." [from Chapter Nine of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge,[  http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

 

This point – that motivation is really about change is a fundamental point. It must be about change because energy is constantly moving, constantly shifting, always alternating between the poles of positivity and negativity or yin and yang. So if we want to understand what is going on and what is likely to happen, then studying motivation is critical. Now the book in the case studies deal with whole organisations – or large sections of them – because that is the most spectacular example. But it is equally true of individuals. Indeed, there will be a complementary book out soon precisely about mapping and coaching; and as it happens, just one such example has occurred recently that I’d like to finish this series on.

By pure accident – or synchronicity! – I recently migrated from Windows 10 to an iMac and have decided to go all Apple. The consequence of this, of course, is that I have 20 years’ worth of Microsoft stuff, so some sorting has been in order. Thus I came across a file dated 25/8/04 and it was a Motivational Map that I had manually calculated for an MD called Mark Terrell (http://1stclasscoachingsolutions.com ). Keep in mind, the electronic version of the Map only came in March 2006. So this really was at the coal face where it started. Mark, then, was MD of a retail store which was part of a well-known, national licensing franchise. He was very successful, and I had helped his business achieve Investors in People status and along the way had trialled the Map on him.

This first Map revealed that he was motivated by – in order of importance – creativity, belonging, and money. But his least important motivator was controlling or managing people. Which of course was strange: since he had a large shop with a significant number of people to manage, including part-timers and all the fiddlesome stuff that that required. I pointed out to him that being an MD, then, would be stressful in the long term, since although he had the knowledge and skills to do it (and he was very successful), ultimately managing a shop was never going to satisfy him because he didn’t ‘want’ to manage; he could manage, but he didn’t want to. He wryly acknowledged my point, could see and feel the stress points in himself, but knew too that this was he had to do for now.

Roll forward 11 years to 6/11/15 and we find Mark Terrell doing another Map. This time his top three motivators are, in order: making a difference, expertise, and belonging. Wow – what a change! Only belonging remains in the top three. But – wait for it – managing and controlling is still lowest. In fact, has scores even more negatively than it did in 2005. And what has happened to Mark in that intervening period?

He has successfully sold his business – perhaps that is why money is no longer a key driver for him; and he has re-invented himself as a coach, someone who can really help – make a big difference to – other SME business leaders like himself through his coaching expertise and advanced developmental toolkit. That toolkit – yes, it’s true, also contains Motivational Maps. Twelve years on from being one of the first people ever to do a Motivational Map – in the days when I manually calculated and trialled it – Mark Terrell has become one of the big advocates of its power, is an expert in it, and uses it himself with all his clients.

Change or what? Possible or what? Only the other day in the Times, the famous Lucy Kellaway, one of the Financial Times most brilliant columnist (I love her work), who has been a columnist for 31 years at the FT, and is now 57 years old, announced she was giving it up in order to re-invent herself as a Maths teacher in inner-city London schools. She clearly knows her motivators without having done a Map. But most of us aren’t so lucky. As Mark Terrell found, the Map helped guide him to his change destination in a most remarkable way.

If you are the MD of an SME, why not contact Mark to see if he can help you grow your business or even re-invent yourself if you are feeling that you want a change?

Finally, I hope you have found these blogs on my book, Mapping Motivation, interesting and useful. I have to believe they are relevant because we all need motivation!

 

 


A New Model of Leadership

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As we approach Chapter 8 and getting near the end of my book, ‘Mapping Motivation’, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq ) we find the topics become ever more serious and vital. Motivation has this tendency to become ever more involved in key aspects of human life and work. We have dealt with things like performance, teams and appraisal already, but now we shift up a gear and start considering how motivation impacts leadership and engagement. It should be obvious that with only one chapter devoted to leadership AND engagement that there must be more books in the pipeline – and there are – because these topics are so big one chapter can scarcely cover any ground at all! That said, however, I believe the chapter is absolutely crammed with insights and useful activities that can get anybody started on better leadership and more engagement in the work place. A clue is given early on in the chapter when Eisenhower’s definition of leadership is quoted: “Leadership is the ability to get a man to do what you want him to do, when you want it done, in a way you want it done, because he wants to do it”. The most difficult clause in that sentence is the last one: ‘because he wants to do it’. And that is all about motivation.

So from Chapter 8, we find:

“If we then consider all this together it might successfully be argued that a full 50% of leadership comes down to motivation: the leader being motivated, motivating others, ensuring new recruits are motivated, sustaining motivation, motivating teams and so on. Thus contrary to what we expect, or what we typically experience, motivation is at the core of leadership; there is scarcely a more important area for the leader to master. But as we discussed in Chapter 1, its ambiguity is why it gets less attention and more avoidance than it should. The creation of Motivational Maps with its language and metrics is a step forward in reversing this trend.” ." [from Chapter Eight of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge,[  http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

This paragraph appears after Motivational Maps own model of leadership is unveiled and discussed; it is called the ‘4+1’ model and what it does is identify and analyse the four key skills of leadership plus the one personal quality that underpins their reality. I will say what this ‘4+1’ is in a moment, but the point to emphasise here is the fact that the analysis comes up with the astonishing fact that at least 50% of effective leadership is done to motivation. Indeed, it could be argued that some 60% of leadership is about motivation: motivating individuals, motivating teams, and ultimately motivating the whole organisation to move in a specific direction that correlates with the strategy. I have to emphasise this point because it is so counter-intuitive and so not what we read about in most of the literature. The conventional view is that the primary skill of a leader relates to clarity of vision – and I do not in any way wish undermine the importance of that fact, as the ‘4+1’ model makes clear – or related to the ability to implement systems. But the reality is, doing all things is good yet without motivation the engine – like the absence of fuel in a car – is simply not going to fire, not going to move.

And to add to the complexity of this situation: the book discusses in detail the psychological reasons – mainly to do with the avoidance of ambiguity – why leaders do not address issue. Why, instead, they pour over spreadsheets and forecasts and strategic plans, without actually contemplating getting a handle on the motivation issue. Well, the book outlines a brilliant solution to this, which I cannot cover in a brief blog. But as I promised, what about the ‘4+1” model?

The ‘4+1’ model puts forward the idea that there are four absolutely key skills a leader must master: one, Thinking skills which include vision and strategy; two, Doing skills, time management, recruitment and implementation; three, team building skills, which overtly involve motivational aspects; four, motivating skills, which involve communicating and engagement. In fact, all four skills are given a much deeper breakdown, and whereas the role of motivation in the process is evident in the team building and motivating components, there is also a hidden motivational component hidden in the Doing skill. But the ‘+1” is also key, for without it the other three wither on the vine: it is not a skill but is an ongoing commitment to Personal or Self-development. This is crucial for without it we are constantly, as leaders, trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s learning; we simply have to current.

For more on all this, take a look at the book. If you like this blog, you’ll love the book!


How Mapping Motivation Helps Performance Appraisals

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Chapter 7 of my book, ‘Mapping Motivation’, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq ) is about Performance Appraisal and, though I say it myself, is one of the most fascinating and original chapters in the book. Indeed, I think Motivational Maps provides one of the most ingenious solutions ever to the problems that beset Performance Appraisal in the modern world; problems so serious that the credibility of the whole process is under threat. Many organisations now have abandoned even doing a review of and for their employees. Before quoting an early passage in the chapter I would just like to say, however, why this is so important to me.

First, because how we perform always impacts our self-esteem, our self-concept, and so our overall well-being. If we do not have mechanisms that support that, what then do we have that can produce any goodness in our working lives? Second, the benefits of performance appraisal are not merely confined to the employee: the improvement in performance of any individual can directly lead to increased productivity for the company. And thirdly, and on a more personal note: performance appraisal was where I really started my management consultancy journey long ago in 1990! I was selected as one of a small and unique team of senior leaders to be trained for 3-plus days to be a County-wide trainer for other senior teachers in the educational authority in which I was based; after the training I spent five years going round the county delivering what I had learnt – and adding to it. So when I left teaching in 1995, and switched to the commercial and business sector, it was natural to build upon my appraisal expertise and become a trainer. In short, I believe I developed a deep understanding of the process, its benefits, and certainly its flaws.

We learn from Chapter 7, then, that:

“The purpose of Performance Appraisal is really one thing and one thing only: to improve the employee’s performance; all other purposes dilute this central mission, and are correspondingly responsible for many of the reasons why Performance Appraisal fails to deliver. Gerry Randall describes it this way: "Employee Appraisal can be seen as the formal process for collecting information from and about the staff of an organization for decision-making purposes... one overriding purpose of this decision making emerged, improving people's performance in their existing job." [from Chapter Seven of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge,[  http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

The rest of the chapter goes into a lot of detail as to the how Motivational Maps can provide the solution to the central problem of appraisal: namely, that it has become a tick-boxing exercise. But failure to understand this point about purpose has led so many managers and leaders into a bewildering wilderness of confusion and despair; why doesn’t appraisal ‘work’? Because they are falling victim to what I called in an earlier blog ‘The Stalingrad Principle’. What is the Stalingrad Principle? It is my way of describing what in terms of military principles is sometimes called ‘the principle of focus’. You will recall that in 1941 Hitler’s army reached the gates of Moscow and his army could have taken the city. But before they could do so Hitler issued an order, which his generals disagreed with but had to implement anyway, to divide his forces into three: one to take Moscow, the other to march towards and take Leningrad, and the other to go south and take Stalingrad. The net result of this order was an attack on three major cities over nearly an 18-month siege, but in which Hitler ended up winning none of the battles; and in particular at Stalingrad he suffered a devastating reversal – losing the whole of his 6th Army – which was truly the beginning of the end for him. In other words, dividing our attention, our focus, our forces, our resources in order to achieve too many goals or objectives is a sure way to achieve none of them, even though the objectives themselves may be extremely commendable in terms of our overall, envisioned end-state.

In the book I point out that the one, overriding purpose of appraisal is “to improve performance”; all other uses of the process are abuses of the process and will undermine its core effectiveness. Because of constraints of space I do not go into much detail about these other ‘purposes’ and I would like to now. What are they? And why are they so attractive?

Given that appraisal happens, takes up employee and the manager’s time, and is not directly productive or usually part of anyone’s job description, it’s natural that managers would want to make every second of the interview count, so that as much as possible can be done. Thus the central purpose – improving performance – can easily become answering the question of: evaluation, or how well is he or she doing the job? As a focal point, this is a critical mistake since it engenders fear, the number one thing, according to W.E. Deming, that we need to drive out if we want a highly productive workforce.

But evaluation leads almost imperceptibly into another process that the quest for certainty engenders: the appraisal become an auditing of the employees. Finally, we discover what jobs are being done?! Wow – that really can lead to lots of ticks in boxes! Once we have these boxes ticked, we can go even further and seek validation: we can know the right things are being done. So we have here in evaluation, auditing and validation almost a beautiful transformation of appraisal into an accountancy model.

Then again, we know – because this is in our management job description – that we need to do something about training next year. So the focus shifts to training and what do people need to do the job? Of course this is a good question, but it must never be the focus; alas, too often it can be because in a way it makes the manager seem like a good guy/gal – you are supporting the employee. However, it’s not the hard love of performance. And neither is another soft love option: development, or the ‘we’ are looking forward to plan.  Development is good, but it has to be massively subordinated to performance or else the organization is going to be in deep trouble. And as much as I regret saying it, motivation too must be subordinated and is not the central purpose: yes, by all means constructive and useful feedback is good and motivating, but this must not be an end in itself. It’s a feature, not the benefit: the benefit of performance as focus and purpose.

 Lastly, some are not seduced by soft love. Appraisal for them is all about controlling employees. In other words, I am telling you what to do. It’s the old top-down, command and control methodology that totally violates all we know about effective leadership (excepting in extreme, often military situations) in modern organizations. And allied to this, in terms of overt manipulation, we have the appraisal really determining succession planning, a very specific form of evaluation. Who should be promoted in the next season? A good question but not one appraisal should be answering because when it does it will again create fear and trembling in the majority of one’s employees.

Thus, we have here a lot of focuses that appraisal needs to avoid if it is going to deliver. It needs to avoid emphasis on evaluation, auditing, validating, training, development, motivation, controlling and succession planning; and performance needs to be at the forefront of its concern at all times. How to do that? Well, I would say this, but chapter 7 is a good starting place to find out!

             


Teams Multiplying Motivation

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At last – after five fascinating chapters (in my book, ‘Mapping Motivation’, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq ) on motivation and then performance, we go in chapter six into the one of the crux issues – conundrums even – for all businesses and organisations: the issue of teams. Indeed, managing and leveraging the power of teams is one of the key skills of true leaders, an issue we deal with in more detail in chapter 8. But for now let us consider just one aspect of ‘teams’ that is important. The chapter contrasts the difference between a ‘group’ of people and a team. Groups may have names like ‘finance’ or ‘HR’ but having a shared name does not make one a team. So, as it says in chapter six:

“There are at least four characteristics that are vital to creating effective teams. First, the team has to have a clear remit, or mission. It is effectively what in military terms is called the Principle of the Objective. It asks overtly, what do we exist to do or to achieve? This principle or question enables the focusing of all the energies in the team towards accomplishing the thing that is the most important, namely, the mission.” [from Chapter Six of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge,[  http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

So let’s consider just this one thing, the remit, and how it relates to motivation. First, it is important to understand at a deeper level what a remit, or mission, is. Simon Sinek’s wonderful book, ‘Start with Why’, sheds some great light on this. For Sinek mission most usually means (in Corporates-ville) the WHAT we do. But as he points out, the WHAT can easily become mere manipulation; the great organizations provide a powerful WHY as well. This WHY is compelling when we clearly see our values are aligned with it; for WHY always reveals some aspect of our value system. Of course what Sinek is saying here is vitally important to motivation too, because as he observes it is highly motivational for individuals (and teams) to share the WHY.

Why is this? Because WHY is about values and values are essentially beliefs that we especially hold dear or important. In short, values are critical beliefs. But we know – and chapter 2 of ‘Mapping Motivation’ makes this abundantly clear – that the roots of motivation itself, or about 70% of the roots, derive from our beliefs. So that if mission is value-driven, there is a high probability that the remit itself creates motivation and engagement with the employees! Wow, that is a big plus factor; and it comes down to being clear, and letting everyone know, WHY we are doing what we are doing, and WHAT that big objective is ahead of us that we need – we want – to achieve. You’d think, then, that this was a no-brainer, but we have to keep beating the drum.

There are two further consequences of this sharing the WHY of the remit or mission. The first is that it is cohesive in itself: it, in other words, binds people together, so that a group is more likely to be a team. Why is that? Because trying to achieve a large and worthwhile objective that realizes important values frequently means that people will subordinate their own agendas in order to collaborate. Which means being a team: Together Each Achieves More. They get together so that they get focused on the HOW they will work towards the goal.

Second, and to return to the quotation from chapter 6, values and beliefs unleash energies in us, and the important thing is enabling ‘the focusing of all the energies’. In fact, it’s not just the energies – or the motivations as we call them – that need focusing. When a team is really in play, the energies first and foremost become focused into a laser like intensity, but so do the intentions, skills and knowledge of the members. All these start producing synergistic effects.

The chapter of course goes on to discuss the other three key factors in building a successful team, how groups have arithmetic, whereas teams have geometrical, strength, and to provide a whole raft of practical ideas, including reading Team Motivational Maps, that enable managers and organizations to get a stronger handle on how to build an effective team. Why not try the book for yourself? It’s a small investment with a big payoff.


Retaining High Performers

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One of the weirdest things about my book, Mapping Motivation, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq), is the fact that in a 9 chapter book it is not until we get to Chapter 5, that is half way through the book, that we get to the real meat that businesses and organisations want. What do I mean by this? That the first four chapters are irrelevant? No! On the contrary they need to be studied extremely well because they are the foundation of what is about to come. However, the fact that is most people, businesses and organisations as much as they talk about motivation do not really take it seriously; for it is a feature. What they want is to go straight into the benefits of motivation. Hence the title of Chapter five is ‘Motivation and Performance’. We all want to perform; businesses want to perform; and performance can lead to higher productivity, and so to profit. Still, we need to consider things in their correct order: motivation precedes performance as performance precedes productivity; and only then and afterwards we reach the real fruit that is profit (or, in a non-profit organisation, value) that is the true goal. So we find these words from the chapter:

This point of ongoing inputs is all the more important for two other fundamental reasons. The first is to do with relationships. If we employ people (and the same is true, incidentally of taking on external contractors or consultants), then whether we like it or not we have established a relationship with them. We can either develop that relationship and make it meaningful, or we can become utterly transactional about it. If we choose the latter course we will never get commitment, engagement or the highest levels of productivity; never. But if we choose the former, then we need to consider the obvious fact that arises from our own important relationships – be it husband, wife, partner or friend. For example, I do not tell my wife ‘once’, on the day I marry her, that I love her and think that that is satisfactory and enough, and when she complains twenty years later that I never say I love her, ‘Well, I told you when I married you, nothing has changed’! That would be both fatuous and inept. No, the relationship to be a relationship that is real must be renewed on an almost daily basis. And so it is with our employees and their development: there needs to be mechanisms in place to ensure learning and productivity if only because the rate of change is so high and so real.

But second, if we only consider the generational gaps and what they mean we know we must take action. We are told that there are the Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials, and each has specific characteristics. What are these characteristics? Well, Baby Boomers (my generation) apparently are less adaptable and less collaborative; whereas Generation X are less cost-effective and have less executive presence; and the Millennials are lazy, unproductive and self-obsessed (UXC professional solutions)! These are stereotypes and of course they have strengths too; but if we take the Millennials these strengths are: enthusiastic, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, opportunistic. Hmm – these are the people born 1980-1995 – the up and coming work force of the future. Does it sound like they want to stay anywhere for very long? Not really!

That is why, if organizations want to be productive in the long-term, they need to commit to people development, especially on a relationship basis, but also in terms of knowledge and skills, and – fundamentally if we are going to retain them – on a motivational (which is a subset of that relationship) basis. Hence the need for regular and ongoing Motivational Map audits.

Chapter 5 of the book contains loads of practical examples, questions, ideas to get you, your organization, seriously addressing these issues; and don’t forget that every purchase of the book also includes a free opportunity to do a Motivational Map and see for yourself how your motivators stack up. I recommend you try it!


The Hygiene Factors of Motivation

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We come to chapter 4 of Mapping Motivation, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq). One vital aspect of this chapter is the exploration of what we call ‘Hygiene Factors’ in Motivational Maps’ jargon. 

“Your lowest motivational score can be very revealing. The top three scores are more exciting, but noting our lowest motivator can also give useful clues about improving our motivation and our life. First, ask the question: is my lowest motivator causing me a problem? We sometimes call this a hygiene factor, which means that the motivator does not motivate us, but its absence can lead to de-motivation.”  [from Chapter Four of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge, [ http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

One of the really fascinating aspect of motivation that Mapping Motivation explores is the idea of hygiene factors. It would be very easy to focus on someone's top three motivators - or a team's or whole organisation's - and think one had the job done. But we must constantly be aware that all nine motivators are related in the psyche and so effect each other, whatever their rank order is. Indeed, the least important motivator in terms of its effect on our motivation is - paradoxically - vitally important for our overall welfare. Thus, the phrase 'hygiene factor’ comes from the work of Hertzberg and is used in mapping to refer to - though not exclusively - the lowest motivator in our profile.

What Hertzberg meant by a hygiene factor was some aspect of the work that did not motivate the individual, but its absence might become extremely de-motivating. So, for example, people in an organisation, may not be motivated by tea/coffee or canteen refreshments, but the absence of their availability over time in the work place may seriously begin to demotivate the staff and lead them to take a negative view of management. This idea is taken a stage further in Mapping Motivation and Motivational Maps. Perhaps the synonym for 'hygiene factors' that would best convey what exactly extra we mean is: 'Achilles' Heel'. That the absence of some motivators - in a given context, not in an absolute sense - may prove to be extremely detrimental to the performance (and so work well-being) of an individual (and also read team and organisation).

Some examples here might best illustrate what I mean. Take the Searcher motivator: the desire to make a difference. Making a difference is always for someone or some group. The essence of making difference means having a customer/client focus. Suppose then that one is appointed to a role where customer focus is the very essence of the role, AND suppose that the Searcher motivator is the lowest drive in your profile. Problem? Well, the person may have the skill set, the qualifications, the previous experience to fulfil a customer service role, BUT - deep down - they don't really get a buzz out of it. Hmm! Long term that will definitely prove to be a problem; and it may even be an issue short to medium term, depending on the severity of the scoring.

Or take the Director motivator - the desire to control and manage - and imagine this being lowest in the profile of somebody applying for a management job? Or take Builder - the competitive desire for more money - and this being lowest in someone in a commission-led sales role? Or take the Spirit - the desire for freedom and autonomy - and the applicant applying for a desk job where every 10 minutes of their time has to be accounted for and charged out to a client? I could go through all 9 motivators and position them as number 9, the least important in someone's profile, and then provide a job or role context in which that lack of drive might clearly be seen to have important implications for overall performance.

In this sense, then, it should be clear what I mean by an Achilles Heel; it is a weakness that can quite literally trip you up in the job you are doing, because ultimately you lose the desire, you lose the internal energy - the fire - that makes doing the role satisfying. One of the tragedies of work is that so few individuals understand this; if they did then they'd stop applying for jobs that can never satisfy them.

But Mapping Motivation isn't just about analysing problems; it's about providing solutions, and there are two solutions here that are extremely useful. One is to head off the problem before it arises: in other words, use the Motivational Maps in the recruitment process. Select more people to work in your organisation whose motivators match the roles you have available. Motivational Maps has a wonderful and cost-effective process to help businesses do just that.

The second solution is what we call Reward Strategies. Licensees of Motivational Maps are all trained to provide creative and pointed ideas to compensate for the hygiene factor, and to enable managers to do the same. So, to take one example from above - and perhaps the most common - Director motivator as the lowest for someone in a management position? The key reward strategy here is to get the manager to accept that managing is not what they want to do and as a result to increase their knowledge and skill set in the one area that could compensate for ineffective or negligent management: namely, delegation skills. Even though one does not especially want to manage, if one has effective delegation skills one can become super-competent in this area. So that becomes the positive area to focus on.

For more information on hygiene factors and how they work, do take a look at chapter 4 of Mapping Motivation. As Sam says, That's a real eye-opener for sure!


Lowest Motivators that Can Trip You UP

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We come to chapter 4 of Mapping Motivation, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq). One vital aspect of this chapter is the exploration of what we call ‘Hygiene Factors’ in Motivational Maps’ jargon. 

“Your lowest motivational score can be very revealing. The top three scores are more exciting, but noting our lowest motivator can also give useful clues about improving our motivation and our life. First, ask the question: is my lowest motivator causing me a problem? We sometimes call this a hygiene factor, which means that the motivator does not motivate us, but its absence can lead to de-motivation.”  [from Chapter Four of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge, [ http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

One of the really fascinating aspect of motivation that Mapping Motivation explores is the idea of hygiene factors. It would be very easy to focus on someone's top three motivators - or a team's or whole organisation's - and think one had the job done. But we must constantly be aware that all nine motivators are related in the psyche and so effect each other, whatever their rank order is. Indeed, the least important motivator in terms of its effect on our motivation is - paradoxically - vitally important for our overall welfare. Thus, the phrase 'hygiene factor’ comes from the work of Hertzberg and is used in mapping to refer to - though not exclusively - the lowest motivator in our profile.

What Hertzberg meant by a hygiene factor was some aspect of the work that did not motivate the individual, but its absence might become extremely de-motivating. So, for example, people in an organisation, may not be motivated by tea/coffee or canteen refreshments, but the absence of their availability over time in the work place may seriously begin to demotivate the staff and lead them to take a negative view of management. This idea is taken a stage further in Mapping Motivation and Motivational Maps. Perhaps the synonym for 'hygiene factors' that would best convey what exactly extra we mean is: 'Achilles' Heel'. That the absence of some motivators - in a given context, not in an absolute sense - may prove to be extremely detrimental to the performance (and so work well-being) of an individual (and also read team and organisation).

Some examples here might best illustrate what I mean. Take the Searcher motivator: the desire to make a difference. Making a difference is always for someone or some group. The essence of making difference means having a customer/client focus. Suppose then that one is appointed to a role where customer focus is the very essence of the role, AND suppose that the Searcher motivator is the lowest drive in your profile. Problem? Well, the person may have the skill set, the qualifications, the previous experience to fulfil a customer service role, BUT - deep down - they don't really get a buzz out of it. Hmm! Long term that will definitely prove to be a problem; and it may even be an issue short to medium term, depending on the severity of the scoring.

Or take the Director motivator - the desire to control and manage - and imagine this being lowest in the profile of somebody applying for a management job? Or take Builder - the competitive desire for more money - and this being lowest in someone in a commission-led sales role? Or take the Spirit - the desire for freedom and autonomy - and the applicant applying for a desk job where every 10 minutes of their time has to be accounted for and charged out to a client? I could go through all 9 motivators and position them as number 9, the least important in someone's profile, and then provide a job or role context in which that lack of drive might clearly be seen to have important implications for overall performance.

In this sense, then, it should be clear what I mean by an Achilles Heel; it is a weakness that can quite literally trip you up in the job you are doing, because ultimately you lose the desire, you lose the internal energy - the fire - that makes doing the role satisfying. One of the tragedies of work is that so few individuals understand this; if they did then they'd stop applying for jobs that can never satisfy them.

But Mapping Motivation isn't just about analysing problems; it's about providing solutions, and there are two solutions here that are extremely useful. One is to head off the problem before it arises: in other words, use the Motivational Maps in the recruitment process. Select more people to work in your organisation whose motivators match the roles you have available. Motivational Maps has a wonderful and cost-effective process to help businesses do just that.

The second solution is what we call Reward Strategies. Licensees of Motivational Maps are all trained to provide creative and pointed ideas to compensate for the hygiene factor, and to enable managers to do the same. So, to take one example from above - and perhaps the most common - Director motivator as the lowest for someone in a management position? The key reward strategy here is to get the manager to accept that managing is not what they want to do and as a result to increase their knowledge and skill set in the one area that could compensate for ineffective or negligent management: namely, delegation skills. Even though one does not especially want to manage, if one has effective delegation skills one can become super-competent in this area. So that becomes the positive area to focus on.

For more information on hygiene factors and how they work, do take a look at chapter 4 of Mapping Motivation. As Sam says, That's a real eye-opener for sure!


Emotions, Risk, Change, Feel, Think and Know: geddit?

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In my third blog based on, Mapping Motivation, from Routledge (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq) I'd like to look at one fascinating aspect of Chapter 3. The nine-point summary at the end of the chapter says:

"Speed of decision-making, attitude to risk, and desire for change are also aligned with the nine motivators - as are our orientation to people, things and ideas".  [from Chapter Three of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge, [ http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

I need to spell this out in more detail, because it is quite staggering what I am saying; and then having spelt it out I'll add some more detail.

We talk about the Motivational Maps ‘making the invisible visible’, by which we mean that like emotions themselves, our motivators are invisible to us most of the time. In some way we mostly feel them operating in the background and rarely draw our awareness to the foreground where we see them clearly. In that sense our motivators are like a fan operating on a hot day: we are glad of the coolness but pay no attention to – hardly notice even - the persistent humming of the blades. But emotions are not like thoughts; they are much more powerful than that; they literally drive us. But just as thoughts – ideas – can be connected, so emotions are connected (or perhaps more strongly, intertwined), not only with each other, but also with other aspects of our lives that we consider vital.

So, in the first instance, and given the quotation from the book, we realise that when we start mapping motivation, then we are also mapping our attitude to risk, whether that be risk-aversion or risk-friendliness. That’s significant, isn’t it? Hey, the whole financial service industry, for one area alone, has now to note what the clients’ attitude to risk is before one can professionally advise them on relevant investments. They tell you what they ‘think’ their attitude is, and based on their thoughts, the IFA, or whoever, advises them. But as we often say in Maps, what we think is often not what we feel. The Maps actually can tell you with great certainty what the client feels about risk. And that’s not just important for financial services: it’s important for every employer to know about every employee, given the context of certain roles. Would too much risk-friendliness create risks and liabilities for the company? Or, would too much risk-aversion lead to underachievement in certain contexts? Can you see how important this issue is?

And no less important is the issue of change; for just as Motivational Maps measure risk, they also calculate attitudes to change. This is vital in all team and organisational initiatives: it means that where we have large change programmes but we know – because we have done the Maps – that the employees are change-averse, or even strongly change –averse, then more resources must be deployed if we are to stand any chance of getting a result from the change process.

If we add to risk and change, the fact that the Maps also measure speed of decision-making too: wow! Isn’t that something? And if it seems almost too much, consider this: of course it will measure speed of decision-making because there must be a direct correlation between being, say, risk or change averse and making a decision. The risk-averse will be slow to make a decision because they will, first, want to defer it, and secondly, they will want to be more sure, and that requires more evidence.

 Then there is the question of ‘orientation’. Now keep in mind that most people are a blend of motivators, and this can be especially true of the top 3 motivators: we can find a mix of all three types of Relationship, Achievement and Growth motivators. But where we find a strong dominance of one type, then we also find an ‘orientation’. So, for example, it should be no surprise to find that Relationship type motivators (and motivators change over time so there is no stereotyping here) are people-orientated. This means not only is their interest in other people and their relationship to them, but that their communications too will primarily be about ‘people’. This can be positively in seeing the best in people and supporting them, or it can be negative: critical – projecting and blaming. Whereas if we consider the Achievement motivators we find that talking about people is much less important: results and ‘things’ are important. There will be much more emphasis on the material side of life and how things work, technically. Finally, at the top end of the hierarchy the Growth motivators. Here people like talking about not other people, not things, but ideas. Ideas have an exciting and visionary quality for the Growth motivator types and you hear it in their conversation.

Now all of this is an awful lot to get one from one little Motivational Map. But I said there was more, which the chapter explores further! This is learning styles. We are all familiar with the Kolb learning styles, probably the best known example of this kind of analysis; we all have preferred ways of wanting to learn. In Kolb there are 4 types of learners; in Maps there are 3. And these three are often associated with the phrase Think-Feel-Know, or as we call it: Feel-Think-Know. For us it is important that the order follows the three power centres of the body: Feel, the heart, Think, the head, and Know, the gut or Dan Tien (in Chinese medicine). In practical terms if we know someone’s Map we can be sure then that we know the best way to present data to them. So, in brief: if we are dealing with a predominantly Relationship person or team, then we need to ensure that there are plenty of examples, descriptions, stories and anecdotes; if we are dealing with a predominantly Achievement person or team, then we need to ensure that there is plenty of hard data, information, evidence and statistics; and if we are dealing with a predominantly Growth person or team, then we need to ensure that there are plenty of bullet points, simple facts, and summaries.

I am sure you will agree that this is a very rich cocktail of information to find out any one person or team, or indeed a whole organisation. If you want to learn more about it, read chapter 3 of my book – there’s a lot more there. This is all about getting on top of a whole load of ‘ambiguous’ information; or heretofore ambiguous – now the Maps put some numbers around this and draw these concepts into the light. We are entering a new age of understanding people, teams and organisations through Motivational Maps.


Review: The Meaning of the Dark – Novel by Joseph Sale

I have just read The Meaning of the Dark, a sci-fi thriller by Joseph Sale, that perhaps most recalls '2001: A Space Odyssey' in its situational tropes - man alone in space with a human-like computer on a voyage of discovery - but which in other respects is entirely original. In truth the book is really a psychological thriller; an exploration of the mind of man, as much as an exploration of space itself; and in the mind of man, as we know from Gerard Manley Hopkins, the 'mind has mountains; cliffs of fall/ Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed'.

The story, apart from the final chapter, Discovery 71, is told in the first person and this is entirely appropriate for the effects that Sale is trying to achieve: a concentration of one man's will, thoughts, emotions faced not only with the prospect of his own personal death alone in space, but also, as a consequence of his failure, the probable demise of the whole human race - or what remains of it, as Earth has long since been vacated. For this story, then, to work the central character - indeed the only character we encounter in real time until the final chapter - has to be resourceful, interesting, intriguing and maybe even symbolic. Symbolic, perhaps, of every man, so that we can identify and be interested in his fate.

A personal side note here: before 1995 I avariciously read novels, but since then my tastes have strayed to non-fiction and I find it difficult to get excited by fiction (excepting poetry). That said, this novel is a total page-turner: I found myself unable to put the book down; I was completely absorbed in this one, lead character. And without labouring the point, symbolically, the character is called Adam. Sale turns on effortlessly the mythological references without at any point drawing attention to the fact. Not only that I suspect that whilst he is 'loading every vein with ore' in terms of deeper mythology and symbolism, he is simultaneously aligning the story with his own life and psyche, so that the story has - as bizarre as that might seem - a personal resonance. 'Style most shows a man' as Ben Jonson once observed, and it is here in Sale's writing. A small, tell-tale example of what I mean - and so understated - might be the number of the Pilot: Adam is Pilot 93, which only becomes significant if we realise that the author himself was born in 1993!  Every man, finally, boils down to one man, one representative.

But the power of the story does not depend just on the power of Adam's thoughts and feelings and responses to deep space - as fascinating and profound as some of these insights are. No, the drama is built round a triangle. After Adam, there is the spaceship's computer, Penny. We learn that she has been imbued with a personality 'upload'; a fact that Adam finds difficult to accept or believe, except to say that Penny is a fascinating 'character' who is constantly interacting with the hero, Adam. And of course on a symbolic level, Penny is actually Penelope: the mythical wife who draws Odysseus home through all his trials and tribulations. Penny seems to be on Adam's side, but is she? Then, with that drama running, we have the black box from the wreck of an earlier space craft, Columbus (yes, also trying to find that brave new world where humans can live!). The audio-video, or Logs, that can Adam can play from this wreck become almost embodiments of the meaning of all human history, and although what Adam sees and hears has happened long ago, yet their presence becomes entirely 'present' to him on the journey. Will the load of human history ultimately destroy or empower him?

It would be wrong to give away the resolution of this wonderful novel: suffice to say it is gripping until to the very last sentence. And in case it sounds all so high falutin  and symbolic, you do need to know that the descriptive ability of Joseph Sale is truly remarkable. You feel the claustrophobia on the space ship; you can almost smell the vomit; and you see what can be seen in deep space in a remarkable series of descriptions. In short, Sale creates a fully-imagined world, which is why the whole story so believable.  

Thus, I strongly recommend this novel to anyone who wants a gripping read, to anyone who wants to escape the Earth and explore new worlds, and to anyone who wants to find out what happens to the mind when the pressure of space threatens to bend it into dreadful, delusional states. This is a five-star novel and I do believe that Joseph Sale is a major writer in the making. Go https://josephsale.wordpress.com for his website and blogs.


Book Review: Leading for a Change by Paul Canon Harris

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This new book,  Leading for a Change, by Paul Canon Harris is a worthy addition to the ever-growing literature on change and leadership. Indeed, one of its strengths is precisely that it makes so strong a connection between leadership and change; some leadership books seem to regard leadership as merely the possession of certain abstract virtues that exist in a vacuum. Not so Canon Harris: he depicts time and time again just how ubiquitous change is, and how potentially destabilising; and so without effective leadership where would we be? The stakes could not be higher. But before I go any further I ought to tell readers by way of transparency that I know Paul personally via the fact that I admire him as a poet and performer.

But to return to his book, as the subtitle of his book makes clear, this is leadership exercised in a specific situation and capacity: to wit, the Churches and Christian leadership. To his credit Canon Harris is not insular in any way, drawing upon the best research he can find from business and other leadership scenarios, but importantly never being overwhelmed by their authority. There is always in Harris' thinking that wider, deeper, more spiritual source from which to draw. In fact, Harris is a master of evangelism without in any way seeming fundamentalist or simplistic. He does this in the carefully understated way he refers to God, Jesus and the Bible: they never seem like 'laws' in his writing but more as examples from which various messages and interpretations are possible and relevant. A great example, showing his lightness of touch, is when he says: "The perennial questions about what constitutes being 'in the world but not of it' are ones which the leader should return to regularly."  That is so well expressed and at the same time seems to me to possess nuggets of wisdom even an atheist might accept. Another way of saying it (and taking out the God-dimension) might be: that leaders need to be more objective, more outside the current zeitgeist, fads and fashions of the day, so that they can see things as they truly are, and not be be-fogged by too deep an involvement in contemporary trivia. But that subtle quotation from John's gospel gets all that across effortlessly.

Thus, I have to say by way of reviewing this book that I like it a great deal: it is full of fascinating detail and research, it has just enough personal anecdote in it to make it seem non-academic, there is wit and humour, and above all Canon Harris writes extremely well. Some of his lines - as we have seen - are extremely potent and so quotable: "A thousand distractions will intervene but once a priest loses his or her fascination with what God is doing throughout history and throughout the world, all that remains to the priest is the detail of ecclesiastical machinery". That is beautifully put, and also a searing indictment of what can so easily happen.

And it reflects one of the wider themes of the book: namely, the important distinction between managing and leading. As Canon Harris points out: this is not an either-or, we need both, but currently we are sorely in need of more leadership. Approvingly quoting Field Marshall Lord Slim here: "Managers are necessary. Leaders are essential.” Again, although not his words, the quotation has that pithiness and strength that Canon Harris’ own sentences possess. So reading the book is a joy, aesthetically as well semantically.

Another important theme is about the need to be open and admit mistakes, yet at the same time it is essential that leaders love themselves, for if they fail to do this they will never have energy in their batteries for the long haul. Harris explains exactly what this means and how to go about achieving it; and needless to say, loving oneself is not some ego-trip or self-indulgence.

There are many handy and practical checklists in the book that would enable any leader to diagnose how they are doing. Perhaps the final one before the useful appendix is the most fascinating: ‘Hallmarks of Godly change’. Yea! Exactly – if you are not a theist or a Christian (and bear in mind the book is written for them, so don’t complain!) it’s a little off-putting, but consider these Hallmarks: Honesty and openness, avoiding artificial experiments and spurious reasons for change, communication, advocates, using outsiders, prayer. Harris gives some telling advice in each of these categories and with the possible exception of the last one, prayer (which I consider essential whether one believes in God or not) which atheists may demur at, aren’t these all great things for a leader to consider when contemplating a change initiative?

All in all, then, a fabulous book I strongly recommend, full of practical wisdom, insights derived from a life lived fully in the ‘inferno’ of events, and yet also infused with a compassion and love for people, and a longing for his old, ex-employer (the good ol’ Church of England) to thrive and prosper in the future when he acknowledges that the spirit of these times is working against them. Go out and read this book – it’ll do you good! Available from: http://amzn.to/2fFmBlb  


Mapping Motivation and Freedom

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Recently I published a blog based in my Gower/Routledge book, Mapping Motivation (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq) which was published earlier this year. The idea was to take an extract from the first chapter and expand it; the book provides much more detail and analysis, but given that the kind of people who follow me and read my stuff are the kind who like deep expertise, I wanted to add even more to the book content, so that it would drive more people to read the book and talk about its ideas. On that principle then I’d like to repeat that exercise but now to address a paragraph in chapter 2.

“Arvey (Arvey, R. D., Bouchard, T. J., Segal, N. L., & Abraham, L. M.. Job satisfaction: Environmental and genetic components. Journal Of Applied Psychology) put job satisfaction (which is effectively motivational satisfaction) down to 70% environmental factors, and so only 30% to genetic influences; these are approximate figures but it would seem reasonable, therefore, to assume that the personality probably accounts for about 30% of an individual’s motivation, and the self-concept and their expectations the remaining 70%. This is a good working assumption to make (and not least because it means we are not determined wholly by our genes – a belief itself that has important ramifications) but it needs also to be borne in mind that for some people these numbers will look wildly different. For example, the kind of person who has never engaged in any personal development or serious introspection, who has hardly been exposed to positive life experiences and success, is likely to be far more motivated by the raw components of their personality than by their developing self-concept and their advancing expectations. In such a situation the attitudes as well as the motivations of the individual are likely to be ‘locked’, or fixed, and they will experience change as threatening and difficult.” [from Chapter Two of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge, [ http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

This is in my view a fascinating paragraph simply in terms of the concepts that it addresses, or even touches on and fails to address further. The ‘good working assumption’, for example, has, as the content in brackets suggests, ‘important ramifications’. That is a profound understatement; it would have gone way beyond the scope of the book to explore this issue in detail, but I am of the opinion that the well-being of the world hinges on this ‘working assumption’, and that this assumption is always under threat one way or another. Indeed, it is a critical philosophical issue.

What, then, am I saying? The book, Mapping Motivation, makes the case that motivation derives from three primary sources in the human psyche: one, personality; two, the self-concept; and three, our expectations. It outlines briefly what these three sources are, and notes that whereas personality is a ‘given’ – something determined at birth, in the genetic code as it were – the other two areas are primarily forms of belief, which are malleable. Human beings can change their beliefs; this is not always easy but it is possible. Further, citing the similarity of Arvey’s research to the motivational situation, the proportion of the ‘fixed’ to the ‘fluid’ aspect of motivation is probably about 30:70. And what this means is that people are not determined by their personality – or even their genes for that matter. That there is a sort of built-in indeterminacy; that people can choose their futures. For here is the important point: if people are ‘determined’, then the net result is to become ‘pre-determined’. In other words, ‘we can’t help it – it’s just the way I am’; and ultimately this leads to a weakening of personal self-responsibility and accountability.

Why is this important? Because we note in history that the rise of such a philosophy (in politics and religion) always leads to extremism, oppression, and the destruction of democracy as oligarchs and fascists scramble for control. Two examples of this will suffice: the rise of Calvinism in the Sixteenth Century and its notion of the Elect. God had predestined some to salvation and others to hell, and there was nothing one – you – could do it about it. The doom and gloom and devastating oppression of having a belief system like this still haunts us to the present day where there are residual cult groups still practising it. Incidentally, of course, believing you are one of the Elect inevitably leads to a personal sense of superiority, and the ‘club’ effect: are you one of us or not?

In the political field one is spoilt for choice. But a great one would be communism in the whole of the Twentieth Century. A core communist belief is that history is some sort of inevitable ‘progress’ to some workers’ utopia: determinism completely underwrites the whole project and of course can be attractive to the weak-minded since it would appear – if oe believes it – that one must be on the winning side, since the destruction of capitalism is inevitable.

Another word for this, then, is fatalism. It’s like believing in the kind of astrology that says it’s all in the stars and nothing you can do can prevent or affect the final result. It can start off with something small – like thinking that as you are a Scorpio only a Piscean partner will do – and before you know where you are you have embraced fatalism lock, stock and barrel. And the problem is the more we become fatalistic, the more we devalue life and its opportunities; the more we box ourselves into our limited beliefs; the more we become less in fact.

Thus, and if for no another reason, the chapter on the origins of motivation is important because it is flying the flag for human freedom, which is always under assault.  Don’t you just hate it when – given that as business people we all like marketing – some marketer thinks that using their formulaic presentation you are bound to buy the product. At those moments don’t you just want to be free? It was William James, the great American psychologist, who said: “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will”. This is the paradox: we are free but our own beliefs can subtract our own freedom from us. So what we believe is of vital importance and we must be constantly vigilant to ensure that we are.

Motivational Maps – and by implication my book, Mapping Motivation – are then on the side of freedom; and the fact that we insist motivation changes over time means that we do not fall into the stereotyping trap of so many psychometrics. The trap in which you hear people justifying their bad behavior on the basis that it is ‘who they are’, their personality,  which is fixed. It’s a great thought to think that in its own small way our product is fighting for freedom in this world!


Motif and Motivation

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Gower/Routledge recently published my book, Mapping Motivation (http://amzn.to/2eqdSQq) earlier this year. It has sold extremely well and doubtless will continue to do so; for there is a hunger to know more about motivation: what it really is, how it works and how we can optimise motivation in our work, for our teams, and in our whole organisations.

Here is a key quotation from one chapter of the book and what I’d like to do in this blog is explore this in a little more detail; clearly there is plenty more in the chapter about it, but as always there is yet more to be said than can be said completely in any chapter or any book! From Chapter one then:

“But if motivation is like electricity, it can flow both ways, its power and intensity can wax and wane, and although its effects are felt, it is itself, as we said, invisible. So the best parallel of all – and the one most frequently used in motivational literature - is with energy; the flow of energy within us. And this fits with the word’s etymology – from the Anglo-Norman term, ‘motif’, which is often translated as ‘drive’. So, drive and energy are two powerful synonyms for motivation. But we need to remember that energy is energy, or put another way, as Hilgard and Marquis put it: “The motivation of behaviour comes about through the existence of conditions (drive-establishing operations) which release energy originating in the organism’s metabolic processes. This energy, in and of itself, is directionless and may serve any of a variety of motivational objectives.” [from Chapter One of Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge, [ http://bit.ly/2ep0dxJ ]

The first extra point to make is etymological. I have already commented on the origins of the word ‘motif’ as meaning drive, but of course there is a subsidiary meaning to the word motif, which is less apparent: a motif also means ‘a distinctive constituent feature of an artistic composition’. We hear it in music – like a pattern of notes that keep recurring, sometimes in the background, and sometimes to the fore, but always there. In fact, these patterns, these motifs, eventually become thematic. The best way of grasping this is to use a contemporary example: great TV serials – for example – Game of Thrones – always have these motifs in their opening credits, and often as some exciting event occurs in the drama, the motif reappears. In some way – Pavlovian almost – the association of the notes with the meaning or theme of the drama starts becoming automatic; we hear the notes, and we – like the Pavlovian dogs hearing the bell ring – salivate with the anticipation of the ‘meat’ we are about to devour.

In this way, then, the nine motivations can be understood as motifs – patterns – within us that play out our destiny. Just as with our favourite TV programme, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, 24, or whatever – the playing of the music sets up the expectation, so the motivators set up expectations within us. And when the music is played – when the motif is realised – boom! We are so happy, so fulfilled, so complete.

It should be obvious, then, how powerful this is: because the motifs lead to patterns of behaviour as we seek to gain more fulfilment. As the process is emotional, so it is pleasurable; and thus it is what we want, and so will override what we need to do every time! The only caveat to that observation is where the self-esteem of the subject is so low that they no longer experience ‘hope’, and so in a state of despair can only address ‘needs’ issues. Clearly, hope is closely allied with the word we used earlier: expectations. For expectations are our beliefs in future outcomes, just as desire is our wish for certain, specific future outcomes. Both are lodged in our heart – that is, are emotional – and centre on the future. The motifs – as they recur – excite our expectations for a fulfilled future.

We have, then, in the human psyche all nine motivators playing their notes like instruments in an orchestra; but the motivational profile of each individual is based on the cluster of notes which become dominant and start informing themes and patterns and behaviours. They are more powerful than just individual notes; perhaps they are like chords. Listen, that person wants to make a difference and to combine that with deep learning; but that other, her motifs are for independence and security. As our symphonies progress, the notes change, and so do the motifs. It is a very dynamic model.

I hope you have enjoyed this little detour and expansion of my ideas on Mapping Motivation, the book. If you haven’t read it, please do and review it on Amazon for me. And if you would like me to do further and deeper work about the book on my Linkedin Blog page, then please say so and I will get some more ideas out to you shortly. Stay motivated – and work with your motifs!!


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.


9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #5

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I am now exactly half way through my nine reasons to attend the leadership Showcase: Astounding Leadership Insights on the 8th September at the Dominion Theatre (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/), and so, as you can imagine, it seems a bit of a slog. Which is why the 5th reason – five, incidentally, signifying the number of grace – must be because it is fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! And fun is so important. Fun arises when we play and it is when we play that creativity emerges, slowly like a tortoise’s head protruding from its shell, or suddenly like a blast of lightning across a darkened sky.

Without fun the event at the Dominion would never have taken place anyway. I am of a certain age whereby I no longer want to put up with over-serious, over self-important people, even if they might be potential clients. Who can be bothered? You know the sort? Here are some general, though not infallible symptoms: always on a mobile phone having loud, meaningful conversations, no matter how inappropriately (eg. in a crowded train, or on a 90 C sunny beach, or parading and strutting round a £100M yacht; or banging on and barraging endlessly about results, the bottom line, winning, oblivious to other people’s situation, circumstances or feelings; or always putting you and everybody else they come into contact with down, and never giving credit to anyone else apart from themselves. How these people make time drag; how they make the heart heavy. They have no humour, no wit, no perspective on anything else and they destroy camaraderie and all good fellow feeling.

So as I say, without fun the event at the Dominion Theatre would never taken place. I am sure my co-conspirators, consciously or otherwise, made the same decision. When we all met up for the first time, we were all thinking, ‘I wonder what he/she is like; are they going to be easy to work with; is this going to be work – or fun?’ And the great thing was: we all found each other fun and so decided to work together and commit to putting on this event at the Dominion. Yes, within seconds of being together Ali Stewart (http://alistewartandco.com/blog/) and I were laughing, having a ball, about this, about that – Bird (http://birdonabike.co.uk/about/) hadn’t arrived, so we had some fun at her expense (in the gentlest possible way: she had come to Hampshire from Kent) – and then Bird added to the mixed of 101 preposterous things to say before breakfast. We were all killing ourselves laughing and then Kate Turner (http://www.motivationalleadership.co.uk/) turned up and paid for all our breakfasts: wow! You can imagine how funny we found that too – and so we’d do it all again. It was a no-brainer to be involved – because it was fun.

Fun is a precursor to all great achievement, especially team achievements. Sometimes they speak of ‘high morale’ and sometimes of ‘esprit de corps’ and sometimes, more prosaically, of ‘team dynamics’. But whatever the language, when you get down to it, there is an indefinable something invariable accompanying all great achievement. We see it now in Team GB: yes, they have achieved, but is it not visible to all that they are also having a huge amount of fun? Fun isn’t a waste of time; it is an essential pre-condition for most great things we want to do. For one thing, when we are having fun we are never in a state of stress; instead, we are relaxed but also ready, energised, as laughter releases all the positive and healing endorphins within us.

This sense of fun has run through the whole organisation of the The Dominion event – heck, even our sponsors took it on the chin, were fun to deal with! Garry Mumford, even though he is an accountant (www.insightassociates.co.uk) didn’t look stern and say, ‘How much???!!!’ as I outlined the cost to him; on the contrary, he chuckled as he joined in the game. And Gary Crouch, our other sponsor ((http://www.spectrumserversafe.com/), didn’t blink when asked to sponsor; on the contrary, he expressed the view that he knew he was going to have some fun as I was involved (thank you Gary)! So, on the day, one thing you can be assured of if you attend this event: there is going to be massive amounts of fun. To qualify this: we are not comedians, we are not working on our joke sketches – no, I mean the kind of fun and wit that arise spontaneously and naturally from the interplay between all creative peoples. And this kind of fun truly enhances learning, deepens creativity, and as a sidebar, ultimately leads to the results we want without directly aiming for them. The difference in this case being, though, we get there with fun along the way instead of having to shout at the top of our voices down a mobile phone in a packed railway carriage. No wot i meen?

My next blog will deal with reason #6.