Roots of Teamwork

Papercut people

Practical activities from Mapping Motivation

Welcome back for the third instalment of a new series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. You can find the first article, which explores Roots of Motivation,  here. In the previous article, we discussed the Roots of Leadership. Today, we’re looking at teamwork. Of course, Motivation, Leadership, and Teamwork are all interconnected (or to continue the metaphor, we might say their roots are intertwined). In many respects, Motivation is the mediator between Teams and Leaders, for Leaders need to motivate their Teams, but likewise motivated Teams can buoy up their Leaders.

But before we can examine this interconnected triangle or trinity, we have to know what a team is! And the answer is not so simple as one might think. At Motivational Maps, we draw a distinction between a mere “group”—a bunch of people trying to do something—and a fully committed and effective team. Let’s take a look at a practical exercise from Mapping Motivation to get a sense of what the distinguishing factors might be between groups and teams.

This activity comes from Chapter 6, Activity 2, page 103.

“If a ‘group’ of people in a department, say, are effectively just a random collection of people who happen to have been put together ostensibly to work on some project or objective, what do you think might be the defining characteristics of a real team? List the core characteristics in your opinion. What do you notice about how real teams work?”

As mentioned in previous entries in this article series: it’s important to physically write down your answers, as it engages a different part of the brain.

Now, those of you who have read the Roots of Leadership article and participated in the activity will know that there were four (plus one!) important skills that a leader needed to possess to be successful and efficacious. Four was a significant number because it connects to the four principle domains of business: Finance, Marketing & Sales, Operations, and People (more information about this can be found on pages 19-20 of Mapping Motivation). It will therefore come as no surprise to you that there are four factors that distinguish teams from groups and that point toward the likely success of a team in any endeavour they undertake.

In considering your answer to the question of what these four factors might be, then, it’s important to contemplate how these factors or traits (we might also use the term “qualities”) intersect with the four domains. As always, the name of the game is balance here. For example, viewing the situation through the lens of the People domain may prompt you to say, “Teams need to be socially cohesive”. It brings to mind images of team away-days (paintballing and quad biking anyone?) or drinks after work. But as wonderful as these can be, a team that is only about the social cohesion and bonding is not likely to get much work done. Sociability can prove deleterious to productivity, not just because people feel more inclined to chat around the water cooler, but also because friendship can fuzzy the hierarchical structures upon which most businesses still lay their foundations. If your manager is your best mate, are they likely to insist you deliver a project on time?

Similarly, a team that is mandated only by the bottom-line results (which we might consider to be aligned with the Finance domain of business) is unlikely to be a place where cooperation thrives; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, to quote a famous writer. Some may think invoking Stephen King’s The Shining is a little bit extreme—but Jack will go crazy and become alienated if his life’s meaning is defined only by material results. Just as too much sociability can create problems of complacency, too little can create friction which is ironically even more deleterious to productivity. Will Jack do what his manager tells him to do as quickly and efficiently as possible if Jack’s manager is always on his back about numbers, numbers, numbers and never stops to consider Jack as a rounded human being with loves, hopes, desires, and physical limits? I highly doubt it. How then to strike this fine balance between a productive and effective “workforce”, to use an old-fashioned term, and a socially cohesive and cooperative “team”?

Many would argue that no discussion of teams and teamwork is complete without also discussing leadership, and they are right in many respects, for teams require leaders. Though the topic is far too rich and detailed to discuss here (indeed, I have not one but two books dedicated to this very topic: Mapping Motivation for Leadership and Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams), we can say with certainty that the nature of a team’s leadership is another factor that distinguishes it from a simple “group”. But this raises more important questions. To what extent should a leader be integrated with their team or stand apart from it? To what extent should a team report to their leader? To what extent should a leader define the objectives of the team?

Now we have set your mind a-whirr with questions, it might be best we look at our answer to the question of what characteristics constitute and define a great team. You’ll be pleased to know this time round we have not cheated: there are four components.

(note - images from Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams)

So, these are the four traits of a real team: a clear Remit, Interdependency on one another, a Belief in the efficacy of teams, and Accountability. Each one of these is worthy of a chapter in itself. However, as you can see from our next simple diagram, each of these factors transforms a potential obstacle into a positive and progressive outcome.

To pick one example, Interdependency solves the dichotomy of “too much” or “too little” sociability. Instead of trying to build social ties outside of work and hoping they translate into effective collaboration in the workplace, you build them within the framework of the work itself and the desired objective, creating a team of people who need each other’s skills to achieve their end goal. Interdependency fosters collaboration and respect for one another’s skillsets, especially if those roles and skillsets are clearly defined at the outset. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t also throw your employees a barbeque once in a while, of course, but as you can see building collaboration into the very fabric of the team’s identity is a far more powerful way of achieving this cohesion than simply plying people with drinks or experiences that may be totally unrelated to their everyday experience of working together.

A lot more can be said about each of these factors, but we have run out of space. As a final thought, you may want to consider how these four factors intersect with the four domains of business, and how they underpin one another!

For more information, consult chapter 6 of Mapping Motivation.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.

The Roots of Top Performance

Tree arch

Practical activities from the Mapping Motivation books.

Welcome back for the final instalment of this series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. Over the course of this series, we have explored the Roots of Motivation, Coaching, Teamwork, Leadership, and Engagement. In this final article, we shall explore the Roots of Top Performance, which is of course interrelated with all of the previous topics, but in particular Motivation and Teamwork.

In Mapping Motivation For Top Performing Teams, we return to the idea of how a true team is distinct from a mere group (for more information on this, please read the article The Roots of Teamwork) but also take it one step further.

The basic concept is that teams have four distinctive factors that distinguish them from groups:

  • teams have REMIT
  • they practice INTERDEPENDENCY
  • they have a strong BELIEF about the power and importance of teams
  • and they are ACCOUNTABLE

These four pillars create the foundation for truly great team performance. However, they are not the whole story, because whilst we may build our house with these four pillars, we then have to live in it! Many teams (like any venture) start strong, but soon waver. It is easy to perform well at the start of a venture when the energy is high. But what do we do when performance begins to decline? Organisational leaders need a strategy. Let’s turn to the practical exercise.

This activity comes from Chapter 1, Activity 1.8, page 22 of Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams.

“I discussed earlier about addressing issues and we now come to that point. What would you recommend as activities that this team/company might do to strengthen its teamwork… and to become more successful?”

As we have mentioned in previous articles, it helps to write the answers down physically, rather than just thinking about them. This engages a different part of the brain and helps concretises the link between ideation and action. And taking action is what this series is all about!

Before we reveal our answer to this question, it is worth bearing in mind a few points. These may or may not guide your own responses.

In our article on The Roots of Engagement we shared the not-so-secret formula for Performance, which is:

Performance = (Skills + Motivation) x Commitment

Where Commitment = The Value of a Goal + Likelihood of Success.

Chapter 1 fig 6 Performance Formula Number 2 (2018_05_02 14_50_02 UTC)

from Mapping Motivation for Engagement

Already, this gives us a lot to think about when it comes to measuring and predicting performance in our employees. At a basic level, all the skills in the world are worthless if the employee has no motivation, aka, no energy. Similarly, if the employee is highly motivated and energetic, but has no commitment to what they are doing, then this will result in a deteriorating performance over the long haul!

Measuring Commitment is complex, but two key indicators are derived from the Value of a Goal (to that individual person, bear in mind) plus the Likelihood of Success (consider that if you give your employee a goal that is absolutely impossible, then their Commitment to said goal is likely to waver dramatically). So, if Commitment is 0, then even having both Skills and Motivation will not help achieve high performance in – an important qualification – the long run! The issue in this case is neither energy nor competence but the how that energy is deployed. If Skills and Motivation constitute the engineering and fuel of a car (respectively), then Commitment reflects its quality, its sustainability, its resistance to break-downs.

Let’s look at a basic example: If I am a skilled and highly motivated programmer, but you ask me to do a week’s worth of administrative data-entry in a single day, then you can expect very poor performance despite the fact I have lots of skills and high energy levels. This is because:

  • I am highly unlikely to value the goal (it’s not relevant to my interests or skills)
  • and, the likelihood of me succeeding given the amount of work is next to zero

Of course, this is what some organisations do all the time: we erode high performing individuals’ skill and energy levels by undermining their commitment – via valueless work (as perceived by them) and unachievable targets (usually through absurd and restricted time frames)! We have perhaps laboured the point, but it is worth exploring the nuances of this model as fully as possible in this brief space because of what it reveals about the way businesses are run. You can likely already see how so many organisations completely miss one element or other when it comes to considering their employees’ performance.

So, how might a strategy designed to improve performance in a team (or indeed an individual) in decline relate to the equation of Performance? The answer is startlingly simple, and yet, it is often the simple and obvious things we miss. Rewards.

Since our earliest childhoods, most of us were conditioned to perform via rewards. When we take our first steps, our parents clap and praise us. When we do well in school, we are given a gold star. When we behave well, we get treats from family. There may be some people reading this who reject this methodology on principle, and they are welcome to challenge the status quo (indeed, the status quo needs to be regularly challenged and questioned for society to remain healthy). However, this does not change the fact that the majority of us, bar some tragic or specific exceptions, were raised with this simple formula: perform well and get rewards.

Therefore, any business or organisation looking to get the best out of its people must formulate a reward strategy. But what we find is that even the organisations that do use reward strategies fail spectacularly in implementing them. We even see many instances where the rewards actually begin to demotivate the staff, having the reverse of the desired effect. Why is this? Well, one reason is that generally organisations take a “one size fits all approach”. The majority of organisations offer rewards that align only with one of the nine motivators of human behaviour, aka The Builder, which is focused on material gain and tangible rewards. In other words, they offer financial bonuses.

But our studies show that only about one in seven people have Builder in their top three motivators. One might argue that extra money never hurt anyone, but we beg to differ. For a start, these financial rewards usually are not rewards in the true sense, because they come with a whole load of strings attached: expectations of additional responsibilities or hours to work. This can mean many employees actively seek to avoid being noticed, cultivating mediocrity so they don’t stand out from the crowd! We need not explain the deleterious effect this has on productivity!

Secondly, we find that when financial bonuses are administered without sensitivity and care, they can often breed resentment and conflict. For example, if everyone in the organisation receives a bonus based on organisational performance, it can seem unfair to those exceptional individuals who really do go the extra mile. Should Sally in HR really get that extra money when she slacked off two days a week? Conversely, if only the stars get huge, grandiose bonuses, it can lead people to question by what metric performance is assessed and bonuses deemed appropriate.

A friend of mine once told me a harrowing story that illustrates this latter point. He (we shall call him Damon) and a colleague (we shall call him Billy) essentially possessed the same level of responsibility as financial directors in an insurance organisation; they had parity in all but a single word in their job title, which indicated Billy was senior. By the end of the financial year, Billy had taken a whopping twenty weeks of the year off in order to resolve various issues with his house, spend time with his kids, and also through recurring illness. Damon resented none of this—he had no children himself and thought it was great to see a dad spending so much time with his kids despite a demanding corporate job. Damon was happy to take up the majority of the slack at work as he loved his job. Though at times it was gruelling and difficult doing two people’s work, Damon not only kept the company going but also proactively started several cost-saving initiatives, such as improving the organisation’s customer experience (specifically around their online checkout experience), with the end result of saving the company in excess of 1.5 million pounds. Damon arrived at the end of the year exhausted but feeling positive about having made a massive contribution to the organisation and shown himself to be an exceptional employee.

Then came the bonuses. Damon discovered—he had no choice or agency in the matter—what bonus Billy had been paid versus himself. Damon told me quietly, “If I had received half of what Billy got, I would now be a millionaire. I worked myself half to death this year.” The company had completed disregarded his contribution and minimized him for the sake of appeasing Billy, who had worked at the company longer than Damon, and was technically senior. It is also perhaps relevant that Damon suspected the powers that be at the organisation believed he would be satisfied with a smaller amount because of his age, that he was not yet mature enough to roll in the “big leagues”. Needless to say, Damon tendered his resignation shortly afterwards, and the company lost one of its most competent and hardest working members of staff.

This is obviously an extreme example, but it serves to show just how badly organisations can get rewards wrong. So, how do we get it right? It goes without saying we need to find out what is really driving our people, what motivates them, and then customise our rewards in line with those motivations. In Damon’s case, he actually was a Builder motivator, which makes the shortcomings of his “reward” for a year of monumental work all the more staggering.

In Mapping Motivation For Top Performing Teams we include, in the Resources at the back of the book, a comprehensive list of Reward Strategies for all nine motivators. This is too exhaustive to reprint here, so instead we shall simply give you a sample of five Reward Strategies that apply to the Spirit motivator, the motivator driven by the need for autonomy, independence, and freedom.

Chapter 1 figure 8 Team Map Reward Strategies for Spirit as top motivator (2019_11_16 13_25_17 UTC)from Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams

As you can see, these rewards are geared around the employee’s specific needs—which is the true secret to unlocking top performance!

For more information on this topic, consult Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams as well as the Resources on page 165.

Visit the Mapping Motivation Books website for more information about Mapping Motivation For Top Performing Teams and the other books in the series.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners

The Roots of Coaching

Hands holding plant

Practical activities from Mapping Motivation

Welcome back for the fourth instalment of a new series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. You can find the first article, which explores Roots of Motivation,  here. In the previous article, we discussed the Roots of Engagement. Today, we’re shifting the focus back to the individual and examining how Coaching is interrelated with Motivation. Unlike the previous three articles, rather than beginning with an exercise, we’ll instead lay down the foundations of context and then guide you towards a powerful practical exercise at the end that might just help you discover your inner coach.

As stated in the introduction to Mapping Motivation for Coaching, “[coaching] now has become a mainstay process for developing people in business and in their personal lives. Indeed, coaching and coaches have become ubiquitous.” However, despite the significant growth of coaching in the last 25 years, the idea of a coach is nothing new, and has ancient origins in the concept of a “mentor” or “tutor”.

The word “mentor” is derived from Homer’s Odyssey: Mentor is the wise friend of Odysseus who acts as a guide and teacher to Odysseus’s son, Telemachos, though in actuality Mentor is the goddess Pallas Athene in disguise. Many of the Greek mythological heroes possessed a guide or teacher of some kind, often with divine or magical lineage, whose role was to educate them not only in the ways of war but also wisdom and courtesy. This role of the mentor, however, was not merely the province of myth. In ancient Rome, tutors (the Latin word meaning “a watcher, protector, guardian”) were so highly esteemed, despite often being slaves, that noble families left their children’s care and education entirely in the tutor’s hands. The modern coach, of course, is rarely responsible for children, but the principle of acting as a dedicated “guide” to an individual remains. The roots of coaching, therefore, run very deep, and carry with them great responsibility for shaping a person and facilitating them to reach their highest potential.

But how do coaches achieve this? And why is a coach different from, for example, a teacher or a therapist? In our view, coaching describes a very specific dynamic (we have adapted our definition from Professor Nigel MacLennon’s powerful one):

Coaching is a planned intervention(s) by one person (the coach) for another (the client) in which the central purpose is either to motivate, enable, and improve the performance of the client in a specific area or for a particular task, or similarly to motivate, enable, and improve their capacity for sustained and progressive personal development.” —Mapping Motivation for Coaching, “Coaching Questions”, p12.

The key word, here, as you have probably guessed, is motivate. That is the difference between a coach and these similar but distinct roles. Indeed, though the ancients did not possess the word “motivate”—it’s a relatively new construction—Gregory Nagy observed, “a mentor is someone who instills a heroic mentality in somebody.”What could more accurately describe the effect of high motivation than that? We see this “heroic mentality” reflected in the modern day in those who are extremely highly motivated. All things become possible to those who are fired up and fully energised, and their physical and mental resources seem limitless to the point they appear like demigods or heroes to those without the same level of motivation.

Of course, we discussed how Leaders also have a responsibility to motivate their Teams in articles. However, the role of a Coach is different in that their attention is focused on the development of a particular individual. Thus, whereas the Leader looks to guiding the flock, the Coach acts as a personal guardian angel, divine emissary, and wise counsellor to a single person. There is overlap between these two skillsets, but they are not the same.

The Leader required four (plus one!) skills to be effective. Teams required four traits to distinguish them from an ordinary “group”. The coach, however, operates on a different basis, instead positioning themselves upon a cruciform pair of continuums that encompass the four major dimensions of the coach. Note, we still have the magic number four! However, we arrive this number via an entirely different route.

The continuums are support versus challenge.

New chaper 1 fig 1 support v challenge (2017_05_31 10_05_10 UTC)Support v Challenge from Mapping Motivation for Coaching

And empathy versus objectivity.

New chaper 1 fig 2 empathy v objectivity (2017_08_02 10_18_52 UTC)Empathy v Objectivity from Mapping Motivation for Coaching

New chaper 1 fig 3 4 dimensions of coaching (2017_05_31 10_05_10 UTC)

The 4 Dimensions of Coaching from Mapping Motivation for Coaching

If you overlay these in the cruciform, then you get the four dimensions of coaching.

These four dimensions: support, challenge, empathy, and objectivity create four roles: The Motivator, The Goal-Setter, The Friend, and The Observer. There is insufficient space here to unpack each of these roles in great detail, but no doubt you can already take a guess how they apply to coaching. A coach must, after all, motivate, as we have already discussed. They must help their clients set and reach goals. They must offer comfort and support. And they must remain an objective observer who can, at times, bring their client back to reality, and cut through the subjective fog.

But now, at last, we come to the practical exercise—and maybe a moment of self-discovery!

This activity comes from Chapter 1, Activity 1.3, page 14.

Give yourself a score out of 10 in each of the four dimensions. A score of 1 means that you barely have that element whereas 10 indicates that you have a superabundance of it. Do this quickly and without too much premeditation. Once you have done it, look at your scores. Which of the four roles do you think is your particular strength – Motivator, Goal-Setter, Friend, or Observer? Which is your weakest link? How does this process of reflection help inform the development of your coaching in the future and with which friends/colleagues/clients?

Hopefully, you have found this article and exercise useful. For more information, consult Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Coaching by James Sale and Bevis Moynan.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.


The Roots of Engagement

Engagement trees

Practical activities from Mapping Motivation for Engagement (James Sale and Steve Jones, Routledge, 2019) 

Welcome back to the next instalment of a series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. You can find the first article, which explores Roots of Motivation, here. In previous articles, we discussed the Roots of Teamwork and Leadership.

Today, we’re taking the ideas explored in previous articles onto a broader canvas and discussing the critically important—but still relatively new—concept of Engagement.

As observed in the Preface of Mapping Motivation for Engagement, “Whereas it has always been obvious that leadership is of critical importance in the success of any organisation, or endeavour for that matter, engagement and its significance has been a relatively recent phenomenon…” (Mapping Motivation for Engagement, p. xii). It is easy to see why. Engagement is essentially an employee-centric idea. It is a “bottom-up” approach rather than “top-down”. This runs antithetical to traditional notions of how to run a business.

It is easy to forget in the Twenty-First Century in the West, where we take our rights and democracy for granted, that throughout the majority of human history all leadership and governance has been predicated on “command-and-control” principles: I am the King, I am in charge, and you must do what I say and when. There are many parts of the world where this is still the case. What’s more, the very civilised model for western democracy, aka ancient Greece, was only able to support its people’s freedoms via slavery. So, only a partial democracy, if truth be told. Business has naturally followed the suit of politics in its organisational models; therefore, most businesses deploy command-and-control, hierarchical management styles.

And yet, there is a growing body of evidence that shows just how costly and ineffective this old-fashioned methodology is. Indeed, to pick two simple statistics that tell a grand story: the cost of employee disengagement to the UK economy in 2008 was between £59.4—64.7 billion per annum! A sobering figure if ever there was one! But now, according to Perkbox, the figure is “a staggering £340 billion a year. This is an accumulation of productivity, recruitment spend and much more.” The figure is staggering AND the situation is not getting any better. As Perkbox add, “Poor engagement can impact employee productivity, cause you to lose your best talent, and stop you from attracting new candidates.”

So, engagement is not a mere buzz-word, though it may seem that way, but is a relatively radical concept when taken seriously and not as a tick-box exercise, and clearly vital to the very survival of most modern organisations! As we shall see, there are massive benefits and rewards for those prepared to engage their employees (and, as we have already seen: titanic losses for those who do not).

But how does engagement work? The MacLeod Report sheds some light on this bidirectional and symbiotic concept: “We believe it is most helpful to see employee engagement as a workplace approach designed to ensure employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.”  (MacLeod, 2009)

There are many important ideas to unpack from this—too many for the space of a single article! However, I want to zoom in on one in particular, and it will come as no surprise to those who have been following this series: MacLeod highlights the importance of motivation. Employees, when engaged, are motivated to contribute to organisational success. This is a more revolutionary concept than it may appear on the surface. This is essentially an act of transcendence (if I may be grand!), for the employee puts the organisational success on par with their own needs, desires, and wants. MacLeod says that engaged employees “are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being”, but what this truly means is that organisational success becomes a means by which well-being might be achieved. Now that is another staggering concept!

The way that this process works is, of course, complex and necessarily ambiguous (as all things concerning human emotion and beliefs must be), but one can grasp the essence of it via this relatively simple formula:

Chapter 1 fig 6 Performance Formula Number 2 (2018_05_02 14_50_02 UTC)

Figure 1.6 – from Chapter 1

We will break this down in detail, but first, it’s important to mention this equation is a development of a simple model for understanding performance which is given in Mapping Motivation (Routledge 2016, page 87). This (abridged) model is: Performance = Skills x Motivation. Employee performance is really what we’re talking about when we discuss “organisational success”. High-performing employees will deliver results, and results—even in domains that are not traditionally associated with revenue—will always positively impact the bottom line. Highly motivated administrators, for example, will save everyone time, which will reduce costs. Highly motivated HR professionals will be better at recruitment and retention, which means less overheads to acquire talent. The list goes on. So, performance is what we desire, and the simplest way to understand this is our motivation multiplied by our skillset. If you have no motivation, then even the best skills in the world will achieve nothing (think of a sports car with no fuel in the tank)! Likewise, all the motivation in the world will not help the employee who knows absolutely nothing about what they need to do (think of a sports car with plenty of fuel but no steering wheel)!

However, the “P = S x M” model is incomplete when it comes to engagement, which is where the more advanced model detailed in Figure 1.6 comes in. This equation factors in that other critical word identified in the MacLeod report: “commitment”. Commitment is the mediator between the organisation’s goals and values and the employee. Without commitment, the employee may be high performing in the general sense, but only when pursuing activities aligned with their own values and goals, not those of the organisation. Commitment is what creates synergy (we dislike this word, but sometimes it has to be used) between the employee and the organisation, and we formulate this commitment as being the sum of the Value of a Goal plus the Likelihood of Success in achieving.

Now it’s time for our practical exercise to understand this in pragmatic terms.

This activity comes from Mapping Motivation for Engagement, Chapter 1, Activity 1.5, page 22.

Let’s re-consider this data… Skills and motivation are now to be scored out of 5:

         My current skill (S) level out of 5 is:

         My current motivation (M) level out of 5 is:

         Add these two numbers together (S + M) = a score out of 10.

Consider now the biggest or most important or consequential work-related goal that you are trying to achieve? Write it down.      

         My biggest work goal is:

Score yourself out of 5 of how valuable that goal is to you. Then do the same for how likely it is that you perceive you can achieve that goal.

         The value of this goal (V) to me out of 5 is:

         The likelihood (L) of my achieving this goal out of 5 is: 

Add these two numbers together (V + L) = a score out of 10.

Finally, to get your probability of performance success multiply your two numbers (S + M) x (V + L), to get your % score.

As stated in Mapping Motivation for Engagement: “Having done this, you will be in a much better position to begin to understand that this means for any employees you are managing. These variables are critical for you to understand and utilise if you are going to overcome barriers and get employee engagement.” (p.23).

Hopefully, you have found this article and exercise useful. Please let me know what you have discovered in using this, either on yourself alone or in considering others within a team. For more information, read Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Engagement.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.

Roots of Motivation

Practical activities from Mapping Motivation...

As many wise men and women have observed: “You are what you think.” However, this is only true when that thinking is not merely rumination, but intentional thought that in turn leads to action, to changing behaviours and habits, and eventually to a profound alteration in consciousness. As trainers, coaches, and consultants (trainers+ for short!), or indeed as business leaders and employers, we can often encounter situations where our clients or colleagues are locked in a negative loop (or indeed, we might find ourselves in such a loop). We know we need to change, but we can’t quite figure out how to break the cycle. This is where practical exercises come in. By moving from the mind to the body (and note, this doesn’t necessarily mean exercise or anything strenuous, it could be as simple as writing something by hand) we engage different parts of the brain and move away from cyclic rumination into action—which in turn creates the change we want to see.

In the light of this, I thought it would be a good idea to share some practical activities with you that might help you, your clients, or your employees catalyst the change they are looking for. I’ll be sharing a number of activities over a series of articles, and they’ll cover a wide range of topics, with the central beam uniting all of them being, of course, motivation!

To put the ‘activities’ in context: they are all drawn from my book, Mapping Motivation, which is the first volume in the Mapping Motivation series. The book contains some 75 Activity boxes, so I’ll be handpicking a few! These activities range in scope from the simple to the complex, but of course the reader always has the choice of those they might want to use. And here’s the point: I started off some 27 years ago as a trainer+ and it was a steep learning curve to get up to speed so that I could compete with other trainers+ in the market place. What I loved was going on courses where I not only received information, but also picked up handy, practical tools that I could use with clients and clients I wanted to acquire in the various ‘pitches’ that one made.

Indeed, it could be said that the practical toolkit was what made all the difference to the success of my business. I ‘d sometimes go to business network meetings and listen to a trainer+ give bullet-point after bullet-point of information, PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide of information – yes, much of it true and accurate – but the audience, along with me, falling asleep. There is only so much information we can find interesting and even retain after a while; but once we engage in some relevant activity, things change!

Therefore, in the next few articles, I’d like to share with you some of my favourite activities from Mapping Motivation. Perhaps these ideas could enter your toolkit? Or maybe, as a manager or leader, you could use them in your workplace? If you find they work, perhaps you might want to consider looking at the whole book to mine it for more ideas:

Now, onto the activity! This one comes from Chapter 2: The Roots of Motivation, Activity 2, on page 26 of the book.  It is simple, yet profound:

Picture 1a

Motivation is generally considered some sort of nebulous quality that we all want, all know what it is, but we never go further than this. Imagine now you are a trainer+: making a presentation at a network meeting, running a training session for staff, coaching a manager/ HR professional on their views on motivation. Get them to write down their ideas or opinions; in other words, make it physical, make them commit to something. And after they have, examine their ideas in turn: how accurate are they? How close to the real answers to the question?

The correct answers are to be found in the Figure 2.1 in chapter 2:

Picture 1
Personality, Self-Concept and Expectations are the three sources of motivation. This may well produce a “wow” moment. Now begin to unpack this illustration for them – and point out what it means. One very important thing it means is that about 70% of motivation is down to factors that we can influence and sometimes even control. How is that?...

You can find out more about 'The Roots of Motivation' and further activities in Mapping Motivation by James Sale published by Routledge. (There is currently a mid-year sale with 20% off all titles)

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.



3 Motivational Book Recommendations

Reading a book

As the great writer Alan Moore once said, “Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.” Therefore, there are few things more inspiring and motivational than a truly good book. We asked some of our experienced Motivational Map practitioners to select their “most motivational book” and explain to us why they made their choice. So, here are three book recommendations by deep experts in motivation!

Susannah Brade-Waring – Senior Practitioner

My current favourite motivational book is NOT for everyone.  Indeed, I hope very few people need to read it.  But it’s my current favourite for 3 main reasons which all link to motivation.  It’s called, Somebody I Used to Know, by Wendy Mitchell. The first reason is that, unlike virtually every book and ‘helpful’ leaflet about dementia, this book offers hope. In my opinion, HOPE is the no. 1 driver of motivation.  When we have hope, we can believe and when we believe, we take action. When that action produces results, we gain a sense of achievement and confidence, and that reinforces and boosts our motivation.

The book is beautifully written by Wendy, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia aged just 58. She describes, in detail, the tactics she uses to maintain her independence. It touches the reader’s heart because it’s so relevant, real, and empowering. That’s the second and third reason. Motivation is emotional, and highly motivated people defy logic, statistics and naysayers. They relish the challenge, and have their ‘eyes on the prize’ because they believe it will be worth it.  And that’s why (unlike most other ‘helpful’ guides) it’s a book that I’ve given to my parents to give us all hope, to motivate us all to take action towards being the best we can be.

Queen Ramotsehoa – Business Practitioner

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

These agreements remained a north-star for me especially during the pandemic and as we came out of the pandemic. Life happened, and I realised that when people kept saying ‘be resilient’, I could follow and practice these agreements to stay clear, creative, and on track.

It might sound crazy that I am even talking about staying on track, and with these agreements the following were possible for me:

  1. As soon as I appreciated that everyone was impacted, I pulled myself towards myself and started preparing for beyond the pandemic. Nothing was personal so I choose to take life in my stride.
  2. I went back to the drawing board and reviewed all my plans. I acknowledged everything that was derailed. I confirmed the damage. I recommitted to the goals that stayed relevant and discarded or tweaked those goals that I needed to attend to. This means I was sitting with revised goals. Once those were in place, I put together an implementation plan and stayed impeccable with my word. I spoke life into everything that I did. 2022 has provided evidence of the integrity that drove my execution.
  3. No matter how difficult those days were, especially the unpredictability and the heaviness of loss of lives around us, I demanded the best from myself. This carried me. The more I did my best, the more I generated hope that kept me going.
  4. I did not allow myself to assume anything. I stayed focused on what I saw and was very selective with what I listened to. I took precautions and thanked God I survived with what I did, because I acknowledge that others did not, despite doing their best. I focused on facts. I resisted nuances and stories that were added that impacted clarity. So at all cost I avoided assumptions.

The Four Agreements have become my formula for resilience. Simple yet impactful as a template to deal with curveballs in life.

Kate Turner – Senior Practitioner

I’ve been wracking my brain to think which of the scores of books I’ve read on motivation over the years is my favourite. When first asked the question, it triggered my ‘Expert’ Motivator into thinking which one I’ve learnt the most from; or which one, if others were inspired to read, would give them the 1-2-3 of motivation. Having sat with the question for some time, I realised, the book I am compelled to write about is the one which set me off on a different trajectory in life. The one which helped me see the choices I had at my fingertips, rather than accepting the hand I felt I had been dealt. It’s from an author which divides the audience for he is a ‘marmite’ character. Indeed, for years, it is he who I have had in my head when I’ve distanced myself from the ‘rah rah’, ‘walking on hot coals’ type of motivational training. And yet, it is this author who intrigues me enough to vote one of his books my favourite on motivation. Have you guessed who it is yet? Yes, Anthony Robbins and Awaken the Giant Within.

Having dusted the book down off my shelf, why am I so keen to read it again over 20 years later?  In a word – congruence. As I thumb through the pages today, I am struck by how many practices, ideas, quotes and theories align with who I am today and the life I am keen to lead. I recognise the influence the book has had on my own teachings, including my own book. It reminds me that the words it contains are easy to read yet take a life time to practice. I so wish I had taken notes on my first reading to compare my thinking now to then. How have I changed? How am I different today? In one part of the book it invites you to score yourself in ten critical areas – including one of spirituality. In the margin, I wrote ‘not sure what this even means’. How different to my perspective today!

Links to purchase these books here:

Somebody I Used to Know, by Wendy Mitchell

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

My 9 favourite motivational books


This is the time of year where resolutions and intentions are being set, goals are being defined, and in general one is looking to get a sense of what the year might hold. For many, this is a time to set personal development goals, which might include training courses but also reading a few well-chosen books! So, for those who still have spaces on their reading list and are looking for motivational suggestions, I have selected my 9 favourite motivational books. These are organised into three sets of three: Management, for the business-minded of you. Personal development, for those looking to go deeper into the Self. And finally Poetry, for those who are a bit creative and like a narrative dimension to their reading. All of these books share two things: deep insight and actionable points (yes, even the poetry—perhaps especially the poetry!). So, if you’re looking to make your 2023 more motivational, look no further!


The Future of Management: Gary Hamel

As a management book, it is so well written; you know? Paragraphs, not bullet points, argument and thought, not simplistic solutions and memes, subtlety, not black and white. Written by an academic but still great to read: “Scholars have repeatedly found that religious faith enhances self-esteem, improves physical health, and enlarges the capacity of individuals to cope with the traumas of life”. Read that again – yep, Hamel reads widely too and so connects all sorts of ideas outside of business and management with … business and management. Marvellous. Consider this: “Without a narrative that creates drama and meaning, we are listless and rudderless. That’s why meaning is a critical design rule for creating adaptable organisations.” In Biblical terms, without vision the people perish! There is nothing new under the sun, but Hamel has a great way of expressing these truths (backed up with lots of evidence that makes it compelling for today). Alongside all this, there are some wonderful case studies in this book too.

Coherence, The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership: Dr Alan Watkins

This book is a wonderful and yet practical read. It knocks on the head the idea that reason or rationality, or data and facts, are going to solve our problems, especially our leadership problems. As he says, “The trouble is, we think we are pulling the strings based on rational, verifiable data – we’re not.” Unless we address the emotional elephant in the room, we are bound, or doomed even, never to get close to solving how leadership and how people work. That said, there is a relentless logic or rationality in his arguments: “And people have emotions, so to ask them to leave their emotions at the door is like asking them to stop their heart beating while they are in the office because the noise is a little distracting.” Precisely! Coherent leadership, then, not only recognises “that the troops are in an emotionally different place from them, which is itself a skill, but will have sufficient emotional flexibility to offer different emotional input depending on where the team is on the roller-coaster of change.” This book provides a great toolkit of ideas and techniques by which you can become yourself a more coherent leader.

Motivational Interviewing: William Miller and Stephen Rollnick.

This is a brilliant book, though it is heavily academic, and not so easy for anyone in business to grasp, much less understand or use. But delving into it is really worthwhile, particularly if we are having to deal on a 1-2-1 basis with individuals who need motivating! The essence of it, is what they call mastering ‘change talk’. Change talk is how to persuade ourselves to think and act difficulty. There are four key issues surrounding it: the disadvantages of the status quo, the advantages of change, creating optimism for change, and enabling an intention to change. They provide 7 insightful questions which enable the conversation to take place that – if done properly (a big proviso) – will facilitate the shift in someone’s thinking. Essentially, it is a methodology for ‘re-framing’ how someone sees and interprets the world and their own place in it, and what is possible for them. A strongly recommended book, then – a modern classic.


The Enneagram: Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

I have probably got and read some 50+ books on the Enneagram, and anyone who knows Motivational Maps will know that the Enneagram was a major influence on their development; indeed, so many ideas that inform Motivational Maps derive from the Enneagram. To mention only two: the three-by-three matrix, and the correspondence between the Relationship-Achievement-Growth and the notion of the Heart-Head-Gut centres of the body. Perhaps my favourite book is Rohr’s one, which also was one of the first I read. It is unashamedly Christian in its perspective, and that won’t suit everyone, especially those wanting a more ‘new age’ feel to their texts. But Rohr’s account is quite brilliant and insightful: loads of nuggets of spiritual and psychological insights pack its pages. Some of you may know my articles on The Enneagram for New York’s The Epoch Times (the first one can be found at: In this I identify the 9 types of personality as characters Odysseus meets on his journey; we all find it easier to understand character when it can be personified. So, for example, in Rohr’s book we find each of the nine numbers typified by Biblical characters. Fascinating.

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really, Grow up: James Hollis

As I am well into the second half of my life, this book is especially resonant and meaningful. Hollis is a Jungian analyst with many profound and penetrating observations to make on the life we lead and how to cope when things aren’t turning out the way we expected. Picking up on Jung’s work, he notes, “Jung disturbingly observed that what we have ignored or denied inwardly will then more likely come to us as outer fate.” In other words, what we have denied in ourselves or become within, is going to meet us in the external world that most consider to be the only ‘real’ world there is. The book challenges us: “And who among us is strong enough, or ethical enough, to say that we are our own problem?” Who, indeed; it is easier to  blame others. Do you think you are in charge of your life?  “We who prize our conscious autonomy are dismayed to learn that there is a shadow government at work within us.” There is just so much in this book that is a revelation. Let me leave you with a quotation that all coaches might want to reflect on: “In fact, it is virtually impossible to do therapy with a person ‘in love’, just as one cannot work with a drunk.” Right!

A Complete Guide to the Soul: Patrick Harpur

Soul is not a popular word these days, except in the sense of ‘soul music’. We much prefer using the word ‘self’ or ‘Self’ to allude to some intangible aspect of who we are, aside from our bodies, when we talk about the mystery being a human being. But the self is not the soul; the soul is a much richer, deeper concept, and Harpur’s book explains it in fascinating detail. I especially love how he draws in ancient myths to illustrate his points. Of course, one reason why soul is an unpopular word is that it is not ‘scientific’; but as Harpur observes, “We know a thing by imaginatively participating in its unique quality rather than by objectively measuring its quantity.” And another reason the secular world dislikes it, is because it has religious connotations. But as Harpur correctly notes: “Even if we are not specifically religious, we can all still resonate with the notion that there is some part of us which should not be sold, betrayed or lost at any cost.” Yes, to lose one’s soul – the worst thing, bar none, that could happen to a human being. Read this book and find out more.


Paradise Lost: John Milton

The most sublime poem in the English language - barring none. And what is sublimity? The ancient Greek Longinus defined it this way: “the Sublime lifts him [the reader or observer] near to the great spirit of the Deity” and “gains a complete mastery over our minds”, so we enter a state of total absorption and for a while – for the duration of the reading or performance – we are lost to ourselves. The great English critic, Dr Johnson, said “his [Milton’s] work is not the greatest of heroic poems, only because it is not the first.” In other words, this poem stands just a notch below Homer. Secondly, “ ...for what other author ever soared so high or sustained his flight so long?” And here we have the essence of sublimity: the soaring so high and for so long; it’s the sustained performance that is so impressive and this of course depends on the elevation of language. For more information on sublimity and Milton, you can check out my Epoch Times article:

The Divine Comedy: Dante Alighieri

What can I say about this work that I haven’t already extensively said in major articles for the St Austin Review and The Epoch Times: ? Suffice to say, this is the greatest poem ever written, and it more or less has everything: narrative pace, incredible characters, astonishing and supernatural wonders, profound psychological depth, and complete linguistic control and expressiveness. It is poetry of the greatest order, and only one work I know of exceeds it – and that work is not ‘technically’ called poetry. But to give one astonishing fact about The Divine Comedy: many years back I attended a lecture in which the lecturer informed us that Dante’s three-part structure exactly mirrored Jung’s three levels: unconscious, aware, and integrated. It was like a pat on the back that Dante was a good Jungian. I raised my hand: “Excuse me, didn’t Dante come first by about 700 years? Isn’t Jung a good Dantean?” Nuff said!

The Gospel of St John: St John, The New Testament

Here for me is ultimately the greatest read of all, and it is pure poetry, though not normally accredited as such; after all, it is ‘scripture’. But scriptures are full of poetry and poems: the Bhagavad Gita is poetry and so are the Psalms; however, John’s gospel is in a different class altogether that would require a book for me to explain fully. At this point, the key thing to get is that to appreciate the poetry acquire a great translation (this applies to Dante as well – as a starting point try Dorothy L. Sayers or J. Simon Harris for the Inferno). The standard New International Version of the Bible is, in my view, a pretty useless translation: it destroys the language rather than enhances it. No, go for the New American Standard Bible, that is awesome throughout. To ‘feel’ the difference, take these two sentences from John Chapter 18 verse 1:

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.   New International Version

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden into which He Himself entered, and His disciples.  New American Standard Bible (Lockman Foundation)

The former is prose, but the latter quotation is poetry. How much more dramatic is “over the ravine” to “crossed the Kidron”. But more important still is: the reflexive pronoun, ‘He Himself’ doubly affirming his determination AND simultaneously alluding to another garden which another Adam was once in; also, note the priority given to Jesus entering, and the verb attaching to him, and then the disciples follow, compared with “he and his disciples entered” which gives them parity. The co-ordinated subjects weaken the force of the sentence, and in my view its theological significance. If you don’t like Christianity, read John’s gospel at least for the poetry!


I hope you find these 9 books as illuminating and motivational as I did. If there are any books you consider to be deeply motivational, please share them in the comments below.

I hope you have an amazing 2023, full of triumphs, joys, love, and good books.



The Future of Management: Gary Hamel

Coherence: Dr Alan Watkins

Motivational Interviewing: William R Miller & Stephen Rollnick

Personal Development

The Enneagram: Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: James Hollis

A Complete Guide to the Soul: Patrick Harpur


Paradise Lost: John Milton

The Divine Comedy: Dante Alighieri

The Gospel of St John: St John

Motivational Maps and Continuous Learning


Open book

How can Motivational Maps foster a continuous learning culture?

One phrase I have seen getting a lot of attention recently is “continuous learning” or alternatively “lifelong learning”. This is, in my view, a very good thing, because it goes some way towards rectifying one of the great errors of modern education: the idea that learning stops at twenty-one save for the rare few people who go on to do Masters or PHDs.

It’s a common truism that often the end of formal learning is the beginning of true learning; yet, we often don’t live our lives that way. For example, we all know that once you pass your driving test, one’s learning is only just beginning! But in the world of work and careers, the “system”, for lack of a better term, inculcates the idea that we learn until we are sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, or maybe twenty five, and at that point we stop learning and then go and get a job. It’s the idea that what we picked up in school is sufficient to carry us through the rest of our lives!

Of course, good jobs provide challenges which are learning opportunities in themselves. And some employers will offer training to their staff. But the reality is for most people the challenges at work are few compared to the routine, and the training opportunities are likewise rare—more often than not, they are merely refresher courses, more like exams to check the employees can do their jobs than a real learning opportunity.

But now the idea of continuous or lifelong learning is beginning to catch on. So, what is it?

Continuous learning is defined by the Department of Education and Science (2000) as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge. You can imagine we are very interested in this last phrase, because motivation is our business and passion!

Continuous learning is very powerful and empowering for individuals and organisations alike. So many organisations come to ruin because they are unable to serve the needs of an ever-changing market, because they fail to adapt, or because they completely fall out of touch with their customers. Continuous learning is therefore less a “nice to have” than pretty essential, especially as the pace of change is only increasing, and exponentially at that. When we are continuously learning we change with time and circumstance, and, to use another buzz-phrase, “future proof” our business.

We all know individuals who, at a certain point, give up taking on any new information or ideas. They give up staying up to date, give up learning how to use social media or other technologies, fail to acknowledge that industries and professions have changed, or more worrying still: fail to acknowledge how the people around them have changed. This isn’t just the elderly. We see middle-aged and even young people who believe they know it all—and this becomes a kind of premature death, whereby the individual completely stagnates. Relationships can only be kept alive through being sensitive to another person’s needs, which may change over time, so we have to be continuous learners in this realm too. Continuous learning is therefore not just a business principle, it’s a life principle.


Needless to say, one of the big drivers of change in our modern times is the explosion of technological advancement, particularly in the digital realm. This is transforming many industries, and so now, more than ever, it’s pertinent for us to admit we can’t know everything, and that we have much to learn.

But whilst the idea of everyone becoming “voluntary” and “self-motivated” learners is a very nice one, there is a snag: not everyone is motivated by learning.

In Motivational Maps we have identified nine motivators that drive human behaviour. Of the nine, The Expert motivator embodies the drive to learn new things and demonstrate that knowledge. This is, appropriately, in the “Achievement” cluster of motivators (motivators that are more work or career focused). The Expert can never get enough learning and is really energised by the prospect of reading books, going on training courses, harnessing data points or learning opportunities, and then analysing all of this and generously relaying it to those in their circle. For Experts, thriving in a time of change, keeping up to date, and embodying the idea of lifelong learning is second nature. In fact, it excites and motivates them.

But what about the rest of us?

If Expert is not in your top three motivators, what then?

The power of Motivational Maps is that it allows us to make the invisible visible. When you discover what motivates you, so many aspects of your life become clearer. Likewise, from the organisational perspective, the previously hidden causes of blockages and problems may come to light. Discovering your motivators is itself a continuous learning process, of course, because unlike a personality profiling tool, your motivators change over time. This is an overly simplistic summation, but often when we find our motivators are being met, they drop down the priority scale. For example, if we were struggling financially, we might find The Builder motivator, which is concerned with material success, rising into our top three motivators. But, if we were to then secure a large deal that took off the financial pressure, it may well drop down again. Of course, some motivators do remain fixed over longer periods of time. We often find these motivators are ones that have become incorporated into the personality and identity of the individual.

Knowing what energises you, what motivates you, what “turns you on”, is an extremely useful tool when it comes to approaching continuous learning, because although the learning itself may not be our cup of tea, we can find ways around that by figuring out what does drive us. For example, if Builder was in your top three motivators, then you are likely to be partly driven by sales, success, and material reward—to word this more esoterically and archetypally: the physical manifestation of your inner success, be that a sports car, a house, or a leather-bound book on the shelf (and does your room also smell of rich mahogany?). How then could this correlate to learning or going on a training course? Well, now, you can make a “deal” with your inner psyche: “Learning this new information is going to help us become more successful.” Bargaining, in other words. Some short term pain for ultimately greater motivational fulfilment. In addition, you can re-frame the narrative so that it becomes more exciting to your existing motivators, “Because I have Builder in my top three motivators, I like having material things—therefore, I’m going to approach this learning differently by buying lots of beautiful books that I can put on my shelf afterwards.”

Of course, these principles also apply at an organisational level. If you know what motivates your people, then you can “sell” them the training or course far more easily. Likewise, if you are delivering difficult messages to colleagues as a result of new learning—for example, you feel the organisation needs to change direction in order to stay ahead of the curve—you can speak to people in the language that is most comfortable for them. To continue the previous example, let’s say you want to obsolete a product and replace it with a new, better offering that will be more appropriate for the current market. Rather than saying “Our old product wasn’t good enough” we can instead reframe this in accordance with the motivators in the room. Let’s look at two examples:

EXAMPLE 1: “John, as a Defender motivator I know you have this organisation’s safety and security covered. However, the data is showing that long-term this product is not going to stay the course. So, it’s best that we change now, before we need to, before there’s a problem, to ensure the company’s longevity.”

EXAMPLE 2: “Sarah, I know you have the Creator motivator in your top three, and there’s an opportunity I think to improve on your existing offering even further. Maybe I could leave it with you to come up with some ideas on how we could improve our current product offering?”

As you can see, these are totally different approaches, despite delivering the same message! Continuous learning is not always easy. By necessity, it requires us to let go of old ideas and re-write our processes and thinking, which can be painful if not handled delicately.

I truly believe the Motivational Map is one of the best tools for fostering a mindset of continuous learning in any organisation. And continuous learning is clearly one of the keys to not just business and organisational success, but long and healthy lives.

For more information about Motivational Maps follow this LINK

Create Motivation – Kate Turner


Our last article took a close look at what Mark Terrell had to say about motivation in his book Motivated. Today we will be looking at another recent book on motivation: Create Motivation by Motivational Maps Senior Practitioner, Kate Turner.

Kate Turner expertly sets the scene for us at the start of her book, establishing where we are now and how we got here. She draws a parallel between Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (one of the foundational elements of the Motivational Map) and the progression of each generation’s changing needs in the workplace. Whilst clarifying that these are only broad definitions and that each individual is uniquely motivated, Kate Turner outlines:

“For ‘traditionalists’ (those born between 1928 and 1945) loyalty, job titles and money were the focus. With ‘baby boomers’ (born between 1946 and 1964) ambition and goal-orientation arrived. Status, expertise and ‘perks of the job’ were, and still are, valued by this generation. Then Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) came along with their entrepreneurial spirit, demand for greater independence and work-life balance. For them, promotion on merit, not on years served, are important. Flexibility, recognition from bosses and financial gain all became important work-based rewards. Then came the Millennials (born after 1980), our most tech-savvy generation, along with opportunities for collaboration, flexibility and continuous learning. Millennials regularly seek feedback and need to know how they make a difference. This generation is the first to consistently seek self-actualisation (the process of realising one’s full potential) in the workplace, whereas previous generations probably saw this as something that would only be achieved outside of work. Next, we have Generation Z (born from the late 1990’s onwards), who are pushing the boundaries even further of what they want work to provide for them.”

She then explains:

“As each ‘lower order’ need was expressed, businesses adopted policies and practices to accommodate many of them. Self-actualisation, therefore, was inevitably going to be the next challenge that businesses needed to satisfy.”

Of course, this creates a massive challenge for businesses, because up until this point they have been “more focused on profit and targets than on purpose and meaning”. In addition, there are now potentially five generations working alongside each other, which almost certainly means a diversely motivated workforce!

“Now, more than ever, businesses need to get to grips with the individual motivations of its people and not just offer blanket reward packages and opportunities.”

Part of tackling this problem is challenging the traditional notion that employees are paid, and that is their reward for work. Kate Turner highlights how this attitude creates a vicious cycle (she terms it “the depletion cycle”).

  • We are unfulfilled by our work,
  • this drains and depletes our energy,
  • we then buy “things” to get a small dopamine hit
  • and then need to keep working to afford the things we buy!

“Not only does this meaningless consumption numb our souls, it is killing the planet.”

Kate Turner continually draws parallels between the individual arena and the wider picture. Our actions affect the wider whole and interrelate with bigger cultural movements. In esoteric philosophy this would be described as the interrelationship of the microcosm and macrocosm. To quote Gladiator, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Not necessarily in the sense of an “after-life”, though it’s a perfectly valid interpretation, but in the eternity of the here and now. Our decisions day to day actually do have an impact on the world, on every level of reality, from the emotional to the material.

Kate Turner talks about reaching a place of inner stillness in which we may finally hear “what makes us truly happy at a soul level”. This correlates with the ancient wisdom of Hindu, Zen, and Buddhist teaching (and esoteric Christian teachings as well) in which through meditation and prayer we may quite the noise of the world and hear the truth instead by getting in touch with the inner self.

This process will also lead us to becoming leaders. Rather than having a view of leaders being a rare minority, Kate Turner recognises that all of us can be leaders if we commit to, “the daily practice of taking responsibility for oneself, showing up fully and continuing to grow while enabling others to do the same.”

Rather than debating organisational structures (“top down” or “bottom up”), she advocates for a system whereby each person reclaims their own individual power.

To do this, we have to “align our actions and intentions with our motivations”, proving once again the vital importance of motivation in our lives!

This book makes an important contribution to the wellness and workplace debate; on top of which it provides practical tools and ideas to help implement what needs to be done if we are to have a thriving work environment. Strongly recommended as a great read.

To find out more follow this link...

Why Nine Motivators? What The Lord of the Rings has to tell us about Motivational Maps!


There is a common perception nowadays that movies or novels – fiction – is just light entertainment designed to distract us from the boring mundanity of everyday lives. But of course the ancients understood differently, that fictional narratives could contain great wisdom and understanding, with the greatest of them going on to become mythology – another level altogether! So, we often see wisdom cropping up in surprising places, even the Hollywood blockbuster. Having said that, it should be no surprise that Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, which is so richly steeped in mythology, has some interesting things to tell us about personal development and even motivation!

Before we look at this intriguing parallel, however, it is worth briefly examining the history of personality profiling, psychometric tests, and the boom of diagnostic tools that allow us to measure unseen aspects of the human psyche. We can see a surprising degree of variation in terms of (1) what people are looking for in a diagnostic, (2) the output of the diagnostic, (3) and whether the diagnostic reflects an unchangeable element, or something that does evolve and change over time. It’s clear the academically-minded prefer diagnostics such as Myers Briggs and the 4-Colours precisely because they measure aspects of the self that are fixed and cannot change; they are therefore “repeatable” under study conditions. Interestingly, both of these systems are based on the multiples of “4” (16 types of personality in the case of Myers Briggs, 4 in the case of Colours).

Maps, on the other hand, is based on 9 motivators, which correlate to the Enneagram and the wisdom of the ancient tradition. There are many further reasons for this difference. One is due to the fact that the Map is not a personality profile but rather self-perception inventory that measures the circa-80% of human nature that is experientially evolved, or, in other words, malleable. Our motivations shift over time. Not only that, but our motivation levels increase and decrease. Rather than putting people in a limited box and saying, “This is who you are” we say, “At this moment in time, these things are driving you and doing more of them will give you more energy.” Motivation is directly correlated with energy (for more information on this, it is worth reading Mapping Motivation

However, this doesn’t fully answer the question of “why 9 motivators?”. Why not 7, or 8, or 16? Why are there 9? There are many answers to the question, including some highly esoteric ones about the mystical properties of the number 9 itself, but a surprising and perhaps more helpful answer can be found in The Lords of the Rings!

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, then you will probably have already put two and two together and worked out that there are 9 members of the Fellowship of the Ring, which are diametrically opposed to the 9 evil Ringwraiths. 9 is deemed the optimum number by the wise elven Lord Elrond to provide enough strength to fight off attackers, but also to pass unnoticed if need be. But deeper than this plot-driven reason, we see that the Fellowship is a perfectly balanced unit. Together, the Fellowship lacks nothing.

If we examine the Fellowship members, we will see that each of them resembles a motivational driver. Remember, we each have all nine motivators within us, but we tend to prioritise one or more (and can also have an aversion to some). However, we do need all nine, otherwise we begin to wilt energetically. We might view the motivators as nine energies that, when synergised, provide balance. The Fellowship exemplifies this.

  • We have Frodo, who represents the Searcher motivator – the desire to make a difference;
  • Samwise, who is the Friend motivator – who wants to belong and have meaningful connection;
  • Gandalf, the wizard, who is a Creator motivator – he desires change and to bring new things into the world (and note when we meet him he shows off his homemade fireworks);
  • Aragorn, the ranger, who is a Spirit motivator – he desires independence and freedom (ironically, his character arc is to move towards accepting more responsibility);
  • and speaking of responsibility, we have Director-motivator Merry, who is constantly giving orders “We have to fight”, who asks for the responsibility of serving King Theoden in battle, and ends up rallying the Ents for their last heroic march;
  • Pippin, on the other hand, is the Star – he wants to be the centre of attention, he wants recognition (and often does slapstick things in order to get it!);
  • Gimli, the dwarf warrior, is a Builder – he values material possessions which embody his progress (note how he asks the Lady Galadriel for a lock of her golden hair: the memory is not enough, he needs the physical talisman of the experience!);
  • Legolas is an Expert motivator, constantly giving advice: “A red sun rises: blood has been spilled this night” and “The elves began it [the process of waking up the trees]” – he wants to share his expertise;
  • And lastly we have Boromir, who is a Defender motivator, constantly concerned with the security of his nation and city, “We should strike out from a place of strength!”.

Of course, Tolkien died before the creation of Motivational Maps, and I do not believe he would have much interest in such a tool, but I do believe that he tapped into a universal truth about these nine energies, just as Motivational Maps has done in the process of extensively researching motivation. You may think I am reading too much into The Lord of the Rings, but note how the tensions that we often see in a workplace arising between certain motivators are reflected in the dynamics between the Fellowship members!

For example, Gandalf is eternally frustrated with Boromir, and the two argue on a regular basis. The Creator motivator (Gandalf) seeks change, but the Defender (Boromir) wants things to stay the same, and wants everything to be safe. This split priority creates conflict. Note as well that although Boromir is often viewed as the “bad one” or the runt of the litter, there are many instances where Boromir’s strength and ox-like stubbornness, derived from his grounded motivator, see the Fellowship through difficult scenarios (and of course, he heroically sacrifices himself at the end to save Merry and Pippin).

To view another example, Aragorn and Boromir are often at loggerheads. Aragorn’s Spirit, to be independent and free, clashes with Boromir who is constantly insisting that they do the logical and safe thing and return to the city of Minas Tirith. We also see tensions arise between Legolas and Aragorn in The Two Towers. Legolas, as an Expert, cannot see why Aragorn is allowing himself to be dragged into the battle of Helm’s Deep with such hopeless odds. He looks around at the warriors who have either “seen too many winters” or “too few” (i.e. they are too old or too young for true combat), and is disdainful. The Expert is a critical eye who can always see a better way to do something. Aragorn, however, recognises that there is no process or knowledge that can help them at this desperate stage, only action!

So, when you next do a Motivational Map, ask yourself: which member of the Fellowship am I most like! As stated before, the Maps are not prescriptive. We all have all nine motivators, but it might be that one or more of the motivators is leading the pack (in charge of the Fellowship) at a particular stage in your life. If you then consider that character’s wider arc and journey, it might surprise you what insight this can offer to help you in your current predicament!



One of the reasons why I especially wanted to write Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams for Routledge was because of the productivity problem that afflicts the UK in particular, but the Western world in general. Indeed, productivity is a concern for everybody everywhere; ultimately, if we are not productive we wither, and then we die. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Furthermore, there are several ways in which productivity can be raised, and the simplest of these – the easiest too – is through new technology. However, because this is simple it is also simplistic.

No-one would deny that being able to use computers or access the internet or develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more beside has not profoundly useful and productive in many instances; but who could also deny that each technological advance inevitably creates a new set of problems too? The thing is, technology is a ‘thing’ – inanimate, inert, and highly biddable. Which is why it is the go-to solution for most organisations. In other words, it is a convenient way of avoiding the people issue. Real and sustained productivity comes from people: highly motivated, highly skilled and highly directed people. But creating or forming such people is really complex – not like installing a new computer system.

And here’s where we come to my book: the optimum configuration of highly productive people is called … a team!

If we look at productivity in the UK, what do we find? It is estimated that productivity grew by 2% from 2008 to 2019, whereas before the financial crisis of 2008 it had grown by 2% per year! High productivity is a by-product of top performing teams; and the thing about it to consider is that productivity is simply leveraged performance(s). Each individual is enabled to perform at a high level – to reach their personal best – but wonderfully, over and above their individual performance being itself productive, the collective performances (the team’s) has an amazing synergistic effect out of all proportion to the numbers.

At this point we might also recall Peter Drucker who observed that, ‘No institution can survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it’. Actionable ideas will be, by their nature of being actionable, practical, useful, easy to understand and swift. The promise of building top performing teams is that whilst we do need intelligence, insight, knowledge and skills, yet we do not need to be geniuses or super-people; we need to be honest, diligent learners who seek to help achieve results and also to develop their fellow human beings whom we call our co-workers or colleagues. And we need these honest, diligent learners to be motivated and so highly motivating in everything they do. This, then, is a study about creating motivational teams through having motivational managers who fully understand motivation and how it works.

This issue of approaching top performing teams via motivation has never been more important, since we are going through a new revolution in the work place. We have had, about 150 years ago, the Industrial Revolution, and now we are experiencing the Digital Revolution which is almost certainly going to have as dramatic an effect on the future as the Industrial Revolution did before. A recent report by Deloitte talks about the disruptors to the world of work: increasing automation and AI technologies, workplace relocation and the move away from traditional places of work, and finally the work force itself becoming more heterogeneous, as in less mere employees, but more a combination of, and interaction between, different worker/talent types (e.g. employees, gig workers, contractors, crowds).

All of this leads to some fundamental shifts. Deloitte instances six major shifts that its research indicates need to happen. First, they head up the whole thing as being about organisations which are ‘adaptable’ in future; and to do this, organisations will have to switch from being:

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They also comment that organisations will have to consider ‘Employees are your first customers’ and that ‘high performing teams’ will be enabled ‘by adopting connected ways of working and an adaptable culture’.

As you can presuppose from my account above, I am extremely impressed by Deloitte’s research, but equally I am also disappointed. For in a 40-page document there is one word missing: motivation! Every buzz-word is used, except the one word that would really make a difference – motivation is not mentioned once in Deloitte’s report. It’s as if they think that by their analytics and data alone they can re-shape an organisation. Indeed, they talk of ‘…reshaping culture and behaviour to act with agility & collaboration’. And this is exactly what the psychometrics do: it’s a top-down approach which paradoxically claims to empower the work force. It means we are going to coerce ‘right’ behaviours and it is, therefore, staggeringly misconceived. At the beginning of the report we learn that ‘92% of organizations are not correctly structured to operate in this new environment [of the future]’ and my estimate would be that in another 10 years’ time another 92% will not be correctly structured either, because the whole approach is wrong.

In not addressing the bottom-up motivational approach organisations will never solve their people issues, although that may be good news for big consultancies in the same way that regional wars across the world are great news for various defence industries and corporations. Everyone has their job for life - their profits - and there is no change. And that is a real issue; there is an appearance of doing something about the rate of change, about change itself, and there is whole new line of jargon appearing that majors on this theme – the word ‘adaptability’ for example being just such a one. Carl Frey and Michael Osbourne recently observed that ‘Resistance to technological change does not just come from workers fearful of their jobs but from conservative elites who fear disruption to existing hierarchies’. How brilliant, then, to appear to be championing change but never addressing the real motivational issue underpinning it.

From these deliberations, then, it should be clear as to why I had to write Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams for Routledge for this is literally the antidote to all such thinking and pretence. For motivation is at the heart of building strong teams: teams that produce and are effective. In my next blog I shall explore this further, but for the full exploration of this topic go to my book, also available on Amazon



Teamwork is seemingly more important than ever in our current climate. Those who are at work, such as our frontline health workers and supermarket employees, need to band together to combat the challenges and demands that COVID-19 and the general populace pose (though they may already be experienced with the latter one!). For those who are working from home, and communicating with their colleagues remotely, we need to discover new ways of capturing some of the magic, energy, and dynamism of being in the same room together with teammates. It’s difficult to collaborate with people remotely, and even harder to remain a “team” in the process, yet the problems our modern world is throwing at us demand teamwork!


In my last article, we explored the four characteristics of real teams and how teams can achieve exponentially more than just a group of individuals. In this article, I want to give you a helpful way to measure just how strong your team is, as well as identify any potential weaknesses.


In my book, Mapping Motivation, there is an activity which asks you to write down answers to the following questions:


How important is teamwork in your work?


How often do you conduct training programmes to ensure your team is effective, or how often do you experience such programmes?


How is the effectiveness of your team(s) reviewed?


How directly have you been involved in training programmes run by your direct line manager to ensure team building?


How many of your line managers review the effectiveness of their team(s)?


These questions are extremely useful to answer in and of themselves, and can give you some idea as to how your team is getting on, and areas to work on. You can also ask your clients these questions to build a clearer picture of their teams. Each question follows on from the next. So, for example, one might ask a manager or team-leader “How important is teamwork in your work?”. If they say “It’s vitally important”, then that might spur us to ask the second question, “How often do you conduct training programmes to ensure your team is effective, or how often do you experience such programmes?” If teamwork is vitally important, then surely they will be investing in developing their teams! Each question follows the proceeding one in a logical train.


To take this one step further, even more powerful than simply looking for an answer such as “yes” or “very important”, would be to score these each out of 10. To provide an example, “How is the effectiveness of your team reviewed?” - an answer of 1 might mean, “not at all”, whereas an answer of 10 might mean that “you are regularly reviewed to a high standard and get lots of feedback”. Add the scores of all five questions up, and multiply the total by 2, to get a percentage score (%). You now have a percentage that indicates to what extent you are functioning as a team!


You can take this one step further by applying what we would call the “four quadrant” methodology to your percentage. The quadrants are as follows:


1 – 35% – Action Zone

This means that the “team” is not really a team at all, but really a group that is likely to fall apart. Urgent attention is required, or there is a risk of the “team” collapsing into complete anarchy. This is called the Action Zone because one needs to take immediate action!


36 – 60% – Risk Zone

If this were a motivational profile, or what we call a PMA (Personal Motivation Audit), it would mean that motivation levels are extremely low, and likely to fall further unless we shift our focus. Similarly, with this team review, it means that there is little sense of being a team here, and this is only likely to diminish further unless we take proper steps towards improving aspects of the team dynamic. What scores can we increase? What is the most urgent one to address (for example, a score below 3)?


61% - 80% - Boost Zone

This means that the team is, in general, working well together. They are a team in most senses. However, there is room for further improvement! Maybe look at the lowest question score and work on boosting it.


81% - 100% - Optimal Zone

This would be a team performing optimally, totally in sync, regularly reviewing what they’re doing, going on training courses, and feeling like a team. The only danger here is complacency and “taking the hands off the wheel”. On the contrary, when a team reaches optimal level, as with optimal levels of motivation, the key becomes maintaining this with careful, nurturing attention.


You now have a very easy way of assessing to what extent your team is a team. Whilst not 100% accurate, there is a lot to be said for asking people to put a number on things (in fact, Likert scales and the like are built on this principle); unless one is engaged in active and wilful deception, the subconscious tends to supply a pretty accurate rating. Now that you can measure where you’re at, and identify potential weaknesses, you’re on your way to creating a truly fabulous and collaborative team, whether in lockdown or otherwise!




If you wish to find out more about teams, my book Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams is coming out December 2020. You can pre-order it here.



The Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch is almost upon us! Next week, authors Steve Jones and James Sale will be hosting the launch at The Judge’s Court in Brown’s Covent Garden, London, on the 29th November. James and Steve welcome you warmly to this event and will be present to answer your burning questions about engagement, motivation, book-writing and much more.


Engagement is an important topic, and becoming increasingly more important as a greater portion of the world becomes part of the province of big business. Mapping Motivation for Engagement promotes a new model for engaging and motivating employees which takes a bottom-up, people-centric approach. In this extract, James Sale and Steve Jones explain where most people go wrong with engagement:


“It is our considered view that the more intangible, invisible and ‘airy-fairy’ an element of organisational development is (and specifically in relation to employee engagement), the more likely it is to be of paramount importance. In a way it is easy to see how ‘enabling managers’ contribute – almost by definition – to employee engagement; but a strategic narrative? Isn’t this just something for boffins at head office who love producing pages of paperwork and who simultaneously like to consider this ‘real’ work? Sadly, it would be easy to become cynical, but the reality is that even the engaging managers will in the end run out of steam if there is no ‘strategic narrative’ underpinning their efforts, strengthening their resolve and fortifying their motivations.


“The truth is that the seriously important things in life all tend to be intangibles, and invisibles – like values, beliefs, emotions, motivations, dreams – precede, and so drive, the outcomes in the concrete world we experience. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to them, and not, as so many executives do, just consider the tangibles: the revenues, the profits, the assets and all the ‘things’ we can list on or deduce from a balance sheet. It is the lack of attention – and so respect – paid to people generally that is at the root of so much disengagement and disaffection in the work place.”


There is a famous line from 2 Corinthians 4:18 which is: “What is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal”. Regardless of the religious connotations, this is part of the ethos of Motivational Maps, unveiling the unseen and invisible emotions, desires, drives and dreams that lie within us. The Maps are just that, a way to chart and observe the unseen landscape of the psyche. If this sounds ‘airy-fairy’, to use words from the book itself, it should in one sense. But the genius of the Maps is that it is also a business tool that provides metrics: motivational scores, ways to gauge motivation levels and satisfaction in the nine key areas.


One of the key ways in which engagement can slip, and employees (or managers or business owners for that matter) become de-motivated, is via a conflict of values. The nine motivators, whilst they represent ‘drives’ that fuel us, also correspond to things that we value. For example, the Defender is the need for security, therefore they value stability and order in the workplace (and indeed at home too). However, this value might conflict with someone who is a Creator motivator, who has a need to innovate, and who therefore values what is new and dynamic. A Creator motivator is much more likely to value risk-tasking and bold ambitious ideas, because it can lead to creative reward. These two values, Defender and Creator, can be in conflict, and it’s easy to see how two people might lock-horns over them. Or, indeed, how a company that is laden with bureaucratic safety measures (Defender) might totally wear down an employee motivated by creativity. Mapping Motivation for Engagement aims to put this knowledge and toolkit into the hands of those who are looking to make a difference!


To learn more about engagement, motivation, and to hear directly from James and Steve, please join us at The Judge’s Court in London. There will be food and drink, inspiring talks, Q&A, and opportunities to network, including with our four incredible sponsors: Evolve, Liberating Leadership, Ellis Jones Solicitors, and Peer2Peer Boards. All of them are passionate about motivation and will be featured at the event. If you wish to find out more about them, please check out our article introducing them.

4 sponsors

An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!



Time is flying by us as we draw ever closer to the Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch, with authors Steve Jones and James Sale! This book, and the launch itself, marks a key evolution of thought on employee engagement, as is described in this extract from Mapping Motivation for Engagement:

“Whereas it has always been obvious that leadership is of critical importance in the success of any organisation, or endeavour for that matter, engagement, and its significance, has been a relatively recent phenomenon even as a management concept. William Kahn was one of the first researchers to allude to its crucial role, and it has arisen almost certainly as a failure of ‘scientific management’ approaches that had held sway in the USA and UK for at least a century.

“It is to be hoped, then, that with the advent of the new twenty-first century, there will also be a new paradigm, or perhaps shift in paradigm, away from what can only be called ‘old-school’ thinking and behaving, towards a more necessary and effective methodology. In one sense the creation of Motivational Maps is one aspect of this ‘newness’. Our own view would be that the personality tests and tools that arose after World War 2 were generation one of the serious attempts to get inside what makes an employee tick, but they had limitations. So subsequently, generation two, a wave a psychometric tools developed that enabled a wider sweep (but which still included personality) of qualities to be assessed. But the advantage of the psychometric was its arduous validation process whereby its measures were compared to a representative sample of the population at least twice. This was and is all well and good, except the net effect of it has been to disempower leadership in two ways: first, the very fact that the psychometric requires (in the second testing) for the subject to be consistent actually tends to hypostatise the person – or put another way, ‘fix’ or stereotype them. Which leads to the second problem: leaders, instead of employing engaging managers and able leaders based on a range of criteria – critically motivation should be one of them – tend to look for the simple and simplistic solution of the ‘right’ psychometric profile.


“And that is why Motivational Maps as a third generation tool is really the right idea at the right time, for in yet another important way it does what the other tools do not: it reverses the flow of management focus. What do we mean by that exactly? Well, personality and psychometric tools operate on a top-down approach: it invariably seems to be about finding out whether the employee fits the manager’s box. Top-down or command and control in other words. Motivational Maps cannot and do not work like that: the essence of doing a Motivational Map is to understand the employee in order for the management to accommodate the employee, not the other way round. In short, it is a bottom-up approach, a people-centric approach, an engagement approach.”

“People-centric” is the core strength of Motivational Maps, but it isn’t just about saying the right things. The only way to improve success in business is to improve the energy levels of staff. There is a direct correlation between motivation levels and performance; performance, of course, leading to results, results which in turn lead to profit. It’s so much more likely to see good performance in employees who actively care about the company, who feel valued by their employer, and are emotionally invested in the organisation’s ideals and beliefs. While this sounds obvious, it’s surprising how many companies seem to miss it. Where many organisations deliberate over creating a set of core company ‘values’ and telling the world about them, it is surprisingly rare to find instances where all the employees feel connected and aligned with those values (or, sadly, who feel the organisation itself ‘practices what it preaches’). Motivational Maps hopes to change this, and Mapping Motivation for Engagement is a significant step towards allowing anybody to achieve it!

People-centric is what we will be all about at the launch too! There’ll be snacks, beverages, motivational talks, and a chance to present your burning questions to Steve Jones and James Sale, the authors. The book launch will be held at The Judge’s Court in Brown’s Covent Garden, London, on the 29th November. James and Steve welcome you warmly to this event!

There will be opportunities for networking at the launch with a bright, vital community. Our last event, launching Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-authored with Bevis Moynan, had over 120 people present, and this year promises to be even bigger! There will be thought-leaders and creators and experts present across the range of the personal development field as well as many other business fields.

This includes our four incredible sponsors: Evolve, Liberating Leadership, Ellis Jones Solicitors, and Peer2Peer Boards. All of them are passionate about motivation and will be featured at the event. If you wish to find out more about them, please check out our article introducing them.

4 sponsors

An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!


On the 24th October, we announced the Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch at The Judge’s Court, Brown’s Covent Garden, in London, on the 29th November. We also introduced our two authors Steve Jones and James Sale. This launch promises to be a galvanising event: full of ideas, energy and expertise, opening up the wider discussions of how we solve the problems of engagement, employee morale, and motivation in our modern world.

As we draw closer to this auspicious occasion, we would like to introduce you to our four incredible sponsors for this event, who are champions of engagement and motivation:

4 sponsors

Warren Munson, Founder of Evolve, will be hosting the Q&A session with James and Steve. Evolve is an exclusive membership community of ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders. Their purpose is to bring like-minded, innovative individuals together so that they can realise their personal and business ambitions in an environment of shared learning, exploration and evolution. Through their unique eco-system of inspirational events, insights and coaching and development programmes, they help people discover the knowledge and connections they need to lead a fulfilling and rewarding life – both personally and professionally.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP is a leading regional law firm in the South of England, with offices in Bournemouth, Poole, Ringwood, Swanage, Wimborne and London. They are a full service law firm able to advise upon any legal issue for companies and individuals. They have a number of specialist areas, and many of their teams are recognised as leaders in their fields by the industry experts (Chambers & Partners/Legal 500). To find out more about their services please visit

We’d also like to welcome back sponsor Ali Stewart, whose work with Liberating Leadership is mentioned in the book. Liberating Leadership, first published as Leading & Developing High Performance, is based on the extensive research and work carried out by leading change management expert, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and HR professional, Dr Derek Biddle. Ali worked alongside Derek for more than 20 years. She is especially delighted to support the launch, since Steve Jones is one of her most experienced Liberating Leadership practitioners. She says: “It is wonderful he has joined forces with James to bring leadership and motivation together. This is a powerful resource for leaders!”

Peer 2 Peer Boards is a challenging, motivational and supportive peer group for enlightening CEOs & business owners, meeting monthly at a venue local to you. They are all about helping you to run your business by providing a feedback group for when you have to make tough decisions and problem-solve issues with your business. They will help you gain: clarity, direction, and inspiration in your business, and they will also hold you to account on any objectives or goals that you want to meet. Each meeting starts with an up-skill workshop, focusing on important topics, such as how to improve company culture, how to transform your proposition, or even how to transform your business model. Meet like-minded business entrepreneurs, move your business forward, and fast track profit growth.

Engagement is such an important topic for anyone serious about their business or staff. As James Sale and Steve Jones outline in chapter four of Mapping Motivation for Engagement:


“One of the reasons why engagement is popular with HR and in organisational literature is that it is, allegedly, ‘measurable’. Indeed, the Macleod Report makes that very point. But whilst being measurable is a good thing, because then we can view the effects of our actions to improve things, one still has to ask the question: given its measurability, why hasn’t employee engagement significantly improved in the 20 or so years since this concept went mainstream?


“Perhaps the reason is that what is being measured is not really the right determinant, and the way in which it is being measured – invariably through a ‘staff survey’ – is also not the optimum way to do the measuring. This latter point – how it is being measured – is relevant here because we are going to address the issue of ‘employee voice’, the third strand, according to Macleod, of employee engagement. It would seem obvious that by having a staff survey – inviting staff to comment on their impressions of the organisation – we are at the very heart of employee engagement: what could be more engaging than listening to the employee’s voice? And we would agree that it is better to have a staff survey – at least one that is well constructed – than not to have one. But our point is, it’s probably not optimum, and there is a much better way to get at whether or not staff are engaged, via Motivational Maps. Naturally, it requires a little more thought, a little more understanding, than simply distributing a staff survey and reading off the results, but the extra care and attention – and the insight it thus generates – is worth it, as we hope to show.


“Unlike a staff survey, Motivational Maps are relatively inexpensive to implement; one reason for this of course is that they never need to be bespoke. They are what they are and their use and usefulness is universal. That’s quite different from having to create a staff survey and agonise over the wording to ensure it covers all the bases, and is in a language suitable for the espoused values of the organisation. So, a corollary benefit of this point is that Maps are far faster to implement and understand; there is therefore a time saving too.


“Second, and paradoxically, Maps are subtle, and reveal both specifics and trends, despite the fact that the language of the diagnostic tool is actually simple to understand, and is standardised (via sentence stems) in very specific ways that make it easy to grasp. Thus, what is revealed is not obvious. We talk of making the ‘invisible’ visible. But although not obvious, the information can be readily understood and can be immediately acted upon. It also has a direct bearing on the staff and the teams in a way that no staff survey can – for the Map knows what people really want! And this must always be a matter of serious interest to the effective leader. Indeed, we have found in fact that it is only effective leaders who want to embrace this technology; weak, ineffective leaders are frightened of it, because actually finding out what your employees really want – as opposed to ticking boxes – is really letting the genie out of the bottle! So, this is not a form of management disempowerment either, because what the Maps reveal no-one could reasonably expect a manager to know, though once known, it becomes extremely actionable and practical. Finally, the individual Map tells us what the individual wants; the Motivational Team Map tells us what the team collectively wants, and it also points towards potential conflicts (conflicting energy directions) within the team that might derail it from its remit. The more recent organisational Map takes mapping to another level: it tells us what each team wants, and also what collectively the whole organisation wants. One needs to grasp at this point that when a large number of people are profiled the collective effect of the motivators is more or less now equivalent to measuring the ‘values’ within the organisation. Why is this significant? Because we can now begin to see whether the espoused values – and its translation into mission and vision statements – are really reflected in the aspirations of the staff. If they are not, then a major problem looms ahead, and one which needs immediate attention.


“And further, that immediate attention can itself be addressed through the Maps’ own reward strategies, which is to say, giving employees what they are likely to want.”


Want to read more? You can purchase the book at a significant discount from the Routledge website here. Simply enter the code: SOC19 at checkout to get 20% off!


There will be opportunities for networking at the launch with a bright, vital community. Our last event, launching Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-authored with Bevis Moynan, had over 120 people present, and this year promises to be even bigger! There will be thought-leaders and creators and experts present across the range of the personal development field as well as many other business fields.

An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!

Mapping Motivation for Engagement: Book Launch!

Employee engagement is undeniably a crucial focus point for organisations in the twenty-first century, with motivation comprising the often missing, but vital, component of the developmental mix. A reliable method of keeping employees happy and motivated has long eluded managers and senior executives due to the difficulty of measuring motivation levels. Therefore, profits and turnover, the traditional metrics of business, have always taken precedence while the people at the heart of any business suffer as a consequence. But if staff and people thrive, the business itself will thrive, because success and ‘performance’ is directly correlated to energy levels, which in turn is driven by motivation. Revealing what people truly want and giving it to them is a powerful way to supercharge your organisation. This is the ethos of Motivational Maps and what the Maps diagnostic tool uncovers.

Mapping Motivation for Engagement, a new book by James Sale and Steve Jones, advocates a new paradigm for the twenty-first century: away from hierarchies and command-and-control management styles, towards a bottom-up approach in which the needs and motivators of the employees take centre stage.

But who are James Sale and Steve Jones? In brief:

James Sale is the Creative Director of Motivational Maps Ltd, a training company which he co-founded in 2006, and the creator of the Motivational Maps online diagnostic tool used by over 400 consultants across 14 countries.

Steve Jones is MD of Skills for Business Training Ltd and as a result of over 20 years’ experience in management and business, was invited in 2010 to serve on the Government Task Force Team looking at employee engagement, Engage for Success, which he also co-chaired for a while.

This is the third in a series of books that are all linked to the author James Sale’s Motivational Map diagnostic tool. Each book builds on a different aspect of personal, team and organisational development. This book is a practical guide to the complexities of understanding and dealing with engagement in modern organisational life. Along with clear diagrams, reflective points, activities and a comprehensive index, the book provides free access to the online Motivational Map tool to facilitate a greater understanding of the contents. Drawing on copious amounts of the latest research, as well as models like the Macleod Report for the UK government, this book shows how Mapping Motivation can play a significant and crucial role in making engagement a reality, instead of a dream.

Mapping Motivation for Engagement is a stimulating and thought-provoking read for a wide audience including, but not limited to, trainers and coaches working in management and motivation, experts in human resources, internal learning and development and organisational development as well as change and engagement consultants and specialists.

In order to celebrate the recent publication of this forward-thinking work, we will be hosting a book launch at The Judge’s Court in Brown’s Covent Garden, London, on the 29th November. James and Steve welcome you warmly to this event and will be present to answer your burning questions about their extensive experience, the book, and of course: motivation!

There will be opportunities for networking at the launch with a bright, vital community. Our last event, launching Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-authored with Bevis Moynan, had over 120 people present, and this year promises to be even bigger! There will be thought-leaders and creators and experts present across the range of the personal development field as well as many other business fields. We’d especially like to welcome back sponsor Ali Stewart, whose work with Liberating Leadership is mentioned in the book. Liberating Leadership, first published as Leading & Developing High Performance, is based on the extensive research and work carried out by leading change management expert, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and HR professional, Dr Derek Biddle. Ali worked alongside Derek for more than 20 years.

An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!

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Coaching cover

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.


Chapter 3_Diagram_Fig.01



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.



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!



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.


Chapter 2_Diagram_Fig.04



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.”




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!



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.”


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:; the Ken Blanchard Organisation puts productivity gains from coaching at 57%:


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.

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.

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


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.

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


“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.

Review: The Parliament of Poets by Frederick Glaysher, Earthrise Press, 2012

Parliament of poets cover 0116
Frederick Glaysher claims to be an epic poet, and furthermore to have written an epic poem, The Parliament of Poets. This is a huge claim and an astonishing ambition. Is he? Has he? Before responding to these two important questions by reviewing his book, let me outline why I think this is such a big deal. The word epic is used very loosely, but usefully, nowadays. We might say that the film, Ben Hur, was an epic, or that some highly dangerous expedition across Antartica was epic, and this is useful because the word conveys a sense of scale and importance; but that is not what we mean when we talk of an epic poem.

To put this in context, in my view the last complete and true epic poem in the English Language was Paradise Lost written by John Milton in the C17th, and apart from that poem there are only two others: the anonymous Beowulf from old English, and the unfinished Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser from the C16th. Don Juan, by Byron, is perhaps a true mock epic and apart from that the only poet since Milton who has come remotely close to writing in the epic style is Keats with his two sublime, but unfinished and maybe unfinishable (even had he lived), Hyperion fragments. Yeats was an epic poet by nature and impulse, but did not write an actual epic. This brings us to the C20th and all the phoney poets (Brits and Americans alike) claiming to write epics, ‘modern epics’, but doing no such thing. The most egregious example of this would be Ezra Pound and his Cantos: unreadable and undecipherable tosh masquerading as a work of genius in the manner we are nowadays too familiar with in conceptual art and music. Indeed, only two types of people ever read the Cantos: university professors who make a career out of untangling it; and wannabe poets who write just like that (except of course completely differently – solipsism smears the pane in its own way: there’s a brown smudge, but here’s a green stain) and naturally vote for models justifying their own inanities. (As for modern epics of the ‘human mind’ - beginning Wordsworth, Whitman et al – these, despite their odd purple patches, seem extended and tedious forms of narcissism).

It would take me too far from this review to define epic poetry, but if it means anything the clue to its essence is in the word ‘style’: there is an elevation of style, the sublime is never far away despite all of man’s in humanity to man, some value system that is profoundly important to us as people informs the epic poem’s journey; epic poems never trash what it means to be human – they raise us up. That is why Pound’s Cantos are not epic (or even poetry): they are a form of Gnosticism, and they imply a higher learning that plebs cannot access, only those ‘in the know’. In short, The Cantos are anti-democratic, just as Pound was. The true epics delight all intelligent peoples throughout the ages because they speak to them in a language they can understand even when that language is ‘elevated’.

So Glaysher has structured his epic in twelve books, like Milton, but the actual model for how the work progresses is The Divine Comedy of Dante. As Dante is guided through the three levels of existence of his Catholic model, so now Glaysher in a fine conceit imagines – or envisions – himself on the Moon and being led by an assortment of poets and writers (not just Virgil) from every continent, country and clime back to the Earth some four times in order to learn lessons that prepare him to become an epic poet and actually write the poem. Indeed the poem ends like Dante’s poem does; he leaves us with the ‘love that moves the sun and stars’; compare with Glaysher who ends his supernal vision with ‘dancing/across an endless field of space and stars’. The poem is at least 9000 lines long, and in true epic simulation has a ‘prefatory ode’ and, imitating Milton, a note on the versification; there is a claim in this that the verse approximates to blank verse, but I cannot agree that it does, although that is not necessarily a criticism.

What is extraordinary, however, is the language, and so the style. There is a curious mixture of archaicisms, ordinary language, inversions, and modern colloquial slang. A surprising number of lines actually end with either the indefinite or definite article, which I find difficult to fathom why. But the opening address in Book 1, Homeric or Miltonic in scope, gives a flavour of the archaic:

“O Muse, O Maid of Heaven, O Circling Moon,

O lunar glory of the midnight sky,

I call upon thee to bless they servant’s tongue,

descend upon thy pillar of light,

moonbeam blessings, that from my mouth

may pour at least a fraction of the love

I hold for thee, sweet blessings, for service

to God’s creation, and His Creative Word,

the Bible’s thundering verses, Brahma

of the Upanishads, Allah, the Compassionate,

Bhudda’s meditative mystery,

Confucius and the Dao. O Great Spirit”

But actually, this is really good writing, moving even, and the surprising thing is: Glaysher sustains the momentum of the poem for all Twelve Books! So although I do not think the versification is regular or recurrent even in any metrical sense, he has somehow shaped a line which successfully drives the narrative forward. Further, because his vocabulary is enormous, and because he does switch so frequently from one style to another, one is never bored – the poetry stimulates. In fact is almost whacky! For example in Book 3 we get a discourse on the Greek heroes from “Bob” (Robert Hayden, Glaysher’s mentor), which is pretty classical, but followed by Glaysher’s persona reflecting:

“I thought who needs warp drive when I’ve got Queen Mab”.

It’s a strange collocation (warp drive/Queen Mab), but it works; and there are literally hundreds of these intersections between then and now, and words that bring them into focus and juxtaposition.

Thus, although Glaysher seems archaic in places, because the poetry is about such current issues that concern us – namely, the fate of planet Earth and humanity more specifically – and because the linguistics are so varied and skilful, we realise that this is a poet working for deliberate effects, and not one who has only read poetry from three hundred years ago. One fabulous quality of this poem is its clarity and luminous quality. I love the fact that despite the wide ranging topographical and lexical references this poem is easy to understand and follow: it is a poet writing for people, not one trying to be clever, and not one concealing their lack of poetry in obfuscation.

I take the view, therefore, and surprisingly to myself, that Glaysher is really an epic poet and this is an epic poem! One can hardly congratulate him enough, then, on this achievement, since it has been so long awaited. Of special interest to members of The Society of Classical Poets is Book 6. Keep in mind, the journey of the poet from Earth to Moon and back again involves visiting all the continents on Earth and engaging in dialogue with all the poets across all time. Book 6 covers China and much of its sentiments will ring a very pleasant note with supporters and followers of Falun Gong: there is a fabulous expose of political corruption in China, with lines like:

“The Marxists have proved the worst in all

of human history. Insatiable lust for blood.

Only university professors in my country

continue to worship at their sanguine shrines.

They always claim it’s ‘for the people’.

but never get around to asking them

what they want. Duty and heaven forgotten.”

Please note too the arch humour against the US university professors who still argue for Marxism; there is actually a lot of humour in the poem. Thematically, too, it is epic: it is about the survival of the human race, despite – Dantean-like – facing the full horrors of human history. It could be argued that in places the language is clichéd, but given the length of the poem the idea that every line and image could be ‘fresh’ and concrete is as absurd as FR Leavis, the famous English critic, seventy years ago slating Milton because his language wasn’t ‘concrete’ like John  Donne’s; in other words, Leavis completely missed the point of epic and how to write one: if every line had to be imaginatively engaged with, then we’d never get beyond Book 1. Homer knew the dawn was rosy, so no need for a fresh metaphor every time the dawn was introduced.

Finally, then, having accorded Glaysher what I conceive to be the highest honour in poetry (to be an epic poet), I ought to point out what I perceive to be two shortcomings in this amazing work. One is aesthetic and one is theological.

First, aesthetically, whilst the work kept my interest from beginning to end, and is full of curious and inventive situations, I think it does suffer from a lack of dramatic tension. Although the poet suffers (indeed is mutilated at least twice: losing his head at one point, and having his heart ripped out by Octavio Paz at another!), there is never a sense that he can actually die or lose everything, apart from the laurel of being a poet. It is one dialogue after another – interesting yes, but not really dramatic in the way that Homer, Virgil and Milton are dramatic. Of course, as Dante is the model, then perhaps that is not surprising: even Dante can hardly keep up the tension in his endless dialogues as he ascends. I personally have yet to meet anyone who thinks the Purgatory and the Paradise superior to the Inferno; and of course Dante’s poem benefits from the tighter topography of three imaginary locations. There is a gain but also a dilution in having the Glaysher’s persona visit all the continents – a sort of dissipation of effect.

More seriously, perhaps, as a weakness of the poem is my theological objection to it. In Book 8 he says:

“Milton shall guide you from here on your

pilgrimage through ancient and modern times,

many peoples, revealing their creeds as One.”

Tennyson then challenges him with:

“What are you doing for the Federation

of the World?”

So what we have is the problem of the world’s sufferings to be solved via federation (great in the USA but try the European Union for starters!) and through what the persona clearly believes is the ‘oneness’ of all religious beliefs. There are of course no practical solutions as to how this might be achieved, but in this fervent hope there is a strange paradox: basically, Glaysher offers a sweeping critique of modernism and the modern world, which I largely agree with. Further, I love the fact that he invokes and even believes in the Muse – how antiquated can you get? But at the same time he seems to swallow one of their most pernicious falsehoods, one so dear to so many liberals and bleeding hearts: namely, that all religions are one and teach the same thing when you get down to it. Syncretism in other words. Yes, there is a sense in which one can track similar ethical and moral principles across some religions, but any deeper acquaintance really produces the opposite impression. And common sense tells us that one doesn’t become a Bhuddist because one thinks it’s the same as being a Catholic; one becomes a Bhuddist (or any religious type) because one believes it to be a superior path or way to the truth of reality, else why would one convert at all?

Given this superficial understanding of religion, I think there is a failure to address the deep philosophical issues that derive from them and drive human behaviour for good or ill. To mention two specific areas that are glossed over within the poem, but are core dramatic points, say, in Milton: can human beings save themselves (there seems to be an underlying assumption that they can in Glaysher’s poem) or is salvation (or to use another religion’s term for this: nirvana, for example) bestowed as an act of grace? Religions, indeed sects, really do differ on this question and it is fundamental to how we behave. Or take another one: predestination and free will. These questions are really superficially covered in Glaysher’s poem, but in Milton the whole power of the narrative comes from understanding the freedom of Adam’s (and Eve’s) will and exploring every avenue of what freedom of the will means; there is that wonderful prelude in hell where even the devils are debating the issue – fruitlessly!

Thus, Glaysher has written a masterpiece, but a flawed one. He should take heart, however, as most critics seem to think Paradise Lost is a flawed masterpiece. You just can’t please everyone. I strongly recommend Frederick Glaysher’s poem and hope he will find a larger readership for it. It is real poetry and we need to support real poets wherever we find them. I only wish he could be English – but there you go – he’s an American, and he’s written the new epic. Congratulations, Frederick Glaysher. I look forward to reading more of his work. His book can be found at 

Why I Wrote the Book Mapping Motivation

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It would be a great thing to be able to review one’s own book, in my case, Mapping Motivation,  but it would of course be entirely invalid; I am, as they say, biased! On the other hand, though, I can answer the question: why did you write this book? And there is a perfect storm of two opposite and contradictory reasons. One reason is altruistic, the good reason; and the other reason is entirely selfish! Let me explain.

My product, The Motivational Map, has been around since 2006, and I was developing it for at least five years before then. Indeed, developing ideas for it really go back to 1995 when I left education and struck out on my own as a coach and trainer. I studied in the evenings at Bournemouth University and achieved a postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies (with Distinction) and so began a journey of learning: reading all I could, practising what I had learnt, finding masters and gurus who could show me more and emulating them where it fitted my style (and maybe sometimes when it didn’t!), and going on as many courses as I could to pack my mind with knowledge and skills that I could deploy. And over that time as we move towards 2006 and the launch of Motivational Maps I found increasingly that not only was I absorbing ideas from everywhere, especially America, the home really of personal development, but I was changing and transforming them. In short, Motivational Maps became not just a diagnostic tool, but around it I produced a whole load of intellectual property that was original and different: the tool kit that makes up the primary equipment of licensees of Motivational Maps.

This is where the altruism comes in: these ideas are so powerful and useful that it would be wrong to keep them tightly under wraps within the Motivational Maps system itself. On the contrary, they need to come out into the fresh air, be exposed to scrutiny, and given their strength, be used and adopted by people way beyond the Motivational Maps’ community. For example, I hope one day that the model of motivation that we use will become standard teaching in business and MBA courses across the world – and the book will cited as the source and authority for the teachings. I see myself the personality tests as Generation 1 of the diagnostic tools; the psychometrics as Generation 2; and of course the needs of the twenty-first century are different again, and so Motivational Maps are Generation 3 – they fit in with the new ethos of the new century, and in this in two important ways. First, the realisation that engagement is critical to organisational productivity, and that motivation is core to engagement. Second, and even more widely, the growing understanding, as for example demonstrated in Professor Gary Hamel’s brilliant book, The Future of Management, that top-down management, command and control, just doesn’t cut it anymore. We need a bottom-up approach and that is exactly what the most successful organisations have. And that is exactly what Motivational Maps makes possible: the Maps can only work with a bottom-up approach. Scary, or what? Yes, and deeply empowering too.

So much then for the altruism: sharing great ideas with the world so that we can improve how management and leadership works. But what about the selfishness? Ah – you have me there! I am writing the book because … I wish to demonstrate that I am pre-eminent in the field of motivation. To be more specific: not academically pre-eminent, but practically pre-eminent, usefully pre-eminent, not just jaw-jawing about motivation and writing one tome after another on the topic (contradicting that wise Sage of the Saharan Sub-Tropical University, my life long rival), but producing something that all the best people and organisations in the world start using to improve motivation, and so performance, productivity and ultimately profitability. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Yes, it would, and I am not seeking either to be a star; in fact my own motivational profile puts public recognition pretty low on my driver list. No, the pre-eminence is a means to an end: I want to use the credibility that a book brings to build the Motivational Maps business and brand worldwide. Currently, we have over 240 licensees in 14 countries – we are scratching the surface of what we and the product could potentially do. Maybe that’s selfish, but it’s what I feel impelled to do.

So if you want to find out what this is all about then go to  -  Hope you enjoy the book – be sure to review it, and join the motivation revolution if it’s for you.

Outside In or Inside Out Poetry?

I read a poem recently that was written by a well known - famous even - English poet. The poem had been specially commissioned for a leading charitable organisation that was dealing with poverty and homelessness. To be fair, the poem was interesting - on its own terms. What he had done was artfully construct it around 'found' conversations that he had taped from the very people the charity sought to help. A certain pathos emerged as well as a strength too. But I have to say, for all its 'goodness', to me it was not a poem. Rather, it was symptomatic all those poems we keep reading which are about 'things'; as words about 'things', then, it was perfectly acceptable, but a poem?

Of course, every poem needs to be about some 'thing', but the problem is poems - real poems - are not written in that way: constructed as if by Lego. It's what I call the Outside-In method. The world presses in on us - a social problem, our love problems, somebody dies, global warming - and the pressure of these truths forces us to write something about it.

The worst thing is the kind of drivelly lines that some many 'poets' think is poetry: ideas with lineation and voila, there is a poem. Better than this is when some real poetic form is attempted and the subtleties of rhythm and sound are employed; yet still, the poem is Outside In.

Martin Heidegger made the distinction between good and bad art. Bad art, he said, simply tries to represent things or obviously attempts to express truths. There is presumed to be a linear relationship between reality and the words. This of course produces superficiality and shallowness. We only have to consider a poem like Kubla Khan by Coleridge to realise there is no linearity - and that is a truly great poem!

Good art, Heidegger said, does not tell the facts but reveals truth or truths, and is aware that words themselves are not that truth. It re-inteprets reality and in so doing becomes genuinely creative. That is why true poetry is always Inside-Out. And that is also why the Greeks were right when they talked about the Muse or the nine Muses: the sources of inspiration without which the poetry - or any other form of creativity - is stillborn. One has to wait on the Muse - and then allow her to take over.

As a poetic practitioner myself, I nearly always wait on the Muse and most of my poems are written in one sitting, one take, sometimes without even a correction subsequently. This does not prove that I am a poet - let the reader be the judge - but it does tell me I am on the right track. And strangely in comparing my own work with itself, I frequently find that what I consider my best work is often written in that instant way.

Clearly, there are fine poets who don't write like this, and who labour more assiduously than I do - yes, not one size fits everybody. But I would still contend that if they true poets then they will still be Inside-Out poets, for only Inside-Out poetry has poetic value and will last.

The great 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 . . .’ This isn't popular in the modern, technological world where we like to imagine that we are in control, even of the imaginative processes; but popular or not, it's true. And we need to be encouraging poets who are inspired by the Muse of poetry - and who are not just simply 'messaging' us with words about some linear ideology.