Wolfe and Other Poems by Donald Mace Williams

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

Step out under the stars on a dark night

Or open Rilke, Frost, or Dickinson.

Like that, all poems (mine too) should invite

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

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

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

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

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

I almost think it thought the same of me.

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

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

To ride out when the moon sat round

And dark on the far rim and sound

A sadness he could not explain,

As if pity and guilt had lain

Unknown through the long interval

Since the last moon had hung that full

Of melancholy, even fear.

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

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

Even him, and for just a breath

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

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

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

Poetry and the Muses Part 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Healing Moment: Towards Wholeness

Photo on 08-10-2016 at 10.51

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonnets for Christ the King, Joseph Charles Mackenzie: Review


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

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

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

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

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

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

And there in the center, where I lie dead,

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

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

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

Sonnet 11: Song of the Magi

We followed in the fullness of the night,

And found the fragile Origin of light.

Sonnet 35: Adventus 3

And you shall understand that all along,

The cries I filled the desert with were song

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

I do not know why some men cannot see,

Or why they kill what they pretend to love;

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

Can only enter thought but from above,

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

That I shall not be found among the dead.

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

Take Sonnet 62: Ennui. 

Had Adam never turned his mind away

From Life, or genuflected to mere dust ...

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

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

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

Sonnet 25: Ode to Autumn

“O rich intoner of our Mother’s grief”

Sonnet 28: Regnum Meun Non Est De Hoc Mundo

“And maggots stop the purchased mouth of praise”

Sonnet 38: The Adoration of the Shepherds

“The barn was warm though human hearts were cold”

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

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

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

New Product, New Skills, New Consultants Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Apocalypse by Frederick Turner

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The poet is the linchpin of it all”

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

“Democracy is now irrelevant:

A beauty contest for celebrity.”

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

“I took him by the elbow and withdrew him

Into the lovely still electric night

Where overhead the Milky Way rotated

In blackest hollows all shot through with light”

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

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

Is it then a great epic?

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

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

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

“No time for saving of your precious soul;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lucy’s been working on a techie problem:

To make a Turing-founded internet

Emulate in its freedom quantum qubits,

And thus let Kalodendron’s consciousness

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


“Not even nothingness is absolute:

Zero is just one possibility

Among others, so its likelihood

Is infinitely small upon the spectrum

Of Cantor cardinalities, themselves

Infinite and yet further multiplied

Upon the hybrid Hamiltonian plane.” From Book 9

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

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

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

Reviewing 2016 in 12 Easy Steps


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark terrell and james at launch 0216

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

The prelude to the case studies goes something like this:


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



A New Model of Leadership

Carole gaskell with james 1216

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

So from Chapter 8, we find:

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

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

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

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

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

How Mapping Motivation Helps Performance Appraisals


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

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

We learn from Chapter 7, then, that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Teams Multiplying Motivation

Akeela plus 2 with maps book 0816

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retaining High Performers


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

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

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

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

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

The Hygiene Factors of Motivation

James and sgt pepper T shirt 1016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lowest Motivators that Can Trip You UP


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Leading for a Change by Paul Canon Harris

Paul canon harris 1116

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mapping Motivation and Freedom

Bevis moynan with mapping book 0116

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motif and Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting creativity and leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Understanding People are not Things helps promote effective Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

How in Management People Become Things


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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #9


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

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

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

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

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #7


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

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

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

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

My next blog will deal with reason #8.

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #6

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

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

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

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

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

My next blog will deal with reason #7.

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #5


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

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

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

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

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

My next blog will deal with reason #6.

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #4

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My third reason for attending the leadership Showcase: Astounding Leadership Insights on the 8th September at the Dominion Theatre (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/) was the topic itself, leadership, which I pitched as being of incomparable importance for all of us. As it happens, there is a second topic which the conference will cover that I consider to be almost equally important, namely business development. So I shall write a blog on this as a reason to attend, but not sequentially now (to avoid the boredom of similarity), for in blog #4 I want to discuss a completely different of reason why one might attend this Conference: cost-benefit analysis!

Sometimes you have to force yourself to do something that is not your natural strength, but it is necessary. I am sure one of our sponsors, Garry Mumford of Insight Associates (www.insightassociates.co.uk), an accountant, lives and breathes cost-benefit analysis; possibly wouldn’t make a decision without it. When you meet him at the Conference, he’ll tell you. I, of course, make decisions without it all the time – it’s called intuition, but it can be scary and, frankly, sometimes it really is better to do a bit of homework.

So here is James Sale doing a very un-James Sale type of thing (except that I do like arguments against myself): giving you a cost-benefit analysis of why you should attend this event.

What are the costs? Well, the first and most obvious is the cost of the ticket. There were early bird discounts, but if you came in latterly it’s £97+VAT for the day conference. But then there are other costs: travelling to London and possibly in some cases staying overnight. That said, most people will be from the London area, so I don’t imagine that the average cost would be more than £30. And then there is the invisible cost: the cost of not doing work and being there. The client work you didn’t do or couldn’t do. How much is that worth? I can’t possibly average that, can I? For some it is significant, for others negligible because of how they structure time. But let’s allow a low consultancy day rate – say, £500+VAT – as our figure, and then we reach a total of £627+VAT for the total cost. Seems high? Seems expensive?

What, then, are the benefits? What do you get? What could possibly compensate for a certain £627+VAT loss?

First, we have the ostensible reason for the event: delegates will hear 6 expert speakers talk about leadership, business, business development, motivation and a host of related topics as they emerge. Is that worth anything? Speaking for myself, it could be worth a fortune! I have been in this game for 21 years and I came from a teaching background. Truly, I knew very little about business, had negative views on leadership based on various headteachers I had known, and my views on what made performance tick were extremely impressionistic. So what did I do? Three things: I studied in the evenings at Bournemouth University for a Diploma in Management Studies, which I acquired with ‘Distinction, I read voraciously, and – and critically – I went on every course going. And it was those courses that really opened my mind to what was possible. Indeed, it was through the courses that I was able to innovate myself and create new things because I understand what some of the ‘old’ things were. Put another way, one good idea can be worth a million pounds or more. There are so many people who encounter or even discover great ideas everyday, but who simply fail to act on them because they have a limited view of what is possible, certainly for them, and so remained trapped in less than optimal circumstances for themselves. But it is going on a course just such as this that introduces new ideas and explodes possibilities in the mind.

So, if you could get three great ideas either for your existing business or work, or for your new business or role, what might that be worth? Shall we say a million pounds because that’s what it’s worth to me? I exaggerate? OK, £100,000? Still too much. Alright - £10,000, but that’s the lowest I would ever concede.

Second, we have the non-ostensible reason for being there; though for some, it is THE reason: the network. I can tell you now that there are some absolutely fabulous people, aside from the speakers, who are going to be there. And I also need to tell you this: everything you want in life, everything, depends upon somebody, somewhere, opening a door for you. Thus two conditions appertain for that door to open: first, that you have met that person somewhere; and second, that they like you. But if you don’t meet them, they will never like you. So be there – so you can be liked, and doors can open. How much is that worth? To meet the right person for your business and for your job, well – could be everything. One of my fellow speakers on the stage I introduced some years back to a friend of mine, they hit it off, and they have been equal partners in business ever since. What is that worth? Literally, hundred of thousands of pounds! But if we consider just a simple introduction leading to consultancy work with a typical SME, then we are probably going to make about £5K.

Third, and I’d better make this finally – we have the goody bag all delegates get. All the speakers (6 of us) and sponsors, Garry Mumford (whom I’ve mentioned) and Gary Crouch of Spectrum Office Automation (http://www.spectrumserversafe.com/) are all contributing to the goody bag to enrich the experience. Now it would be wrong of me to tell you what they have for you, but I can tell you that my company’s contribution to this bag is worth exactly £175! Even if my fellow speakers and sponsors are meanies relative to me (but not to the general population; I just happen to be excessively generous – and modest), we could still say £25 per contribution and that would give, a £200 goody bag!

Let’s tally then:

Costs (ignoring VAT)





Benefits (ignoring VAT)





I rest my case except to point out that the value of the benefits are over 24 times greater than the costs to you the delegate. A no-brainer or what? The risk of actual ‘loss’ therefore is marginal. Come along and have a great fun day. Ooops – fun? How much is that worth? Did I add that? See you there.

My next blog will deal with reason #5.

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #3


For those of you who know your Motivational Maps you will know that if your number one motivator were Expert, then the primary reason for attending the Showcase: Astounding Leadership Insights on the 8th September at the Dominion Theatre (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/) would be the topic of the learning itself: namely, leadership. Of course, Expert is not everybody’s number one motivator, but as it happens, everybody should be interested in the topic of leadership because it is of vital importance to all of us – at all times and at all stages of our life.

We can barely not remember a time, even if we go right back to our experiences in pre-play school, when we became distinctly aware either that we were taking the lead or somebody else – to our chagrin or delight, usually depending on whether we regarded them as friend or foe – was. Indeed, like fish being unaware that they thrive in the medium of water, we lived our lives assuming it was entirely natural from the beginning that our parents or carers led us. And even if later on we discover their leadership – or ‘parenting’ as it might be called – was defective or inadequate the effect on us remains profound and indelible.

This reminds me of the great Bob Dylan song from the late ‘70s, ‘You Gotta Serve Somebody’. The reality is that nobody is self-raised any more than they are self-generated; we are all contingent beings, and to follow is as natural as to lead.

But leadership is particularly important for human beings, and for one reason I want especially to point to here (do come to my talk at the Dominion to discover my take on 3 qualities of leadership you won’t find in most text books or courses on the subject). The reason is this: humans build civilisations for one primary purpose (though there are other reasons too) – to increase security, and thereby to remove doubt and uncertainty. The essence of civilisation is predictability; and the essence of life is that it is not.

So psychologically speaking people crave leadership, they intensely desire follower-ship, because strong leadership removes nagging doubts. The doubt that says in the first place: am I really secure here? And, in the second place, answers the question: why am I doing this? In other words, leadership has to confront head-on the meaning question.

Thus the third reason to attend the Showcase on the 8th September is to come and hear 6 eloquent speakers with long track records in this field provide some serious fuel to the fire of what leadership is, how it works, and how to improve it – at an individual, team and organisational level.

In the days when I was a trainer and a coach – 20 years’ worth of days in fact – I used to say to clients at the end of a session one small thing: if after today you can identify 3 learning points (from the 99 I have covered) and then focus and action those three, you will change your performance, your productivity, and possibly your life. And that is still true. There is so much to learn about leadership but I guarantee that if you attend with an open mind you will gain at least 3 actionable points that can transform your situation. Try it!

My next blog will deal with reason #4.

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #2

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You will remember the first reason to attend the Astounding Leadership Insights on the 8th September at the Dominion Theatre (http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/) is people. Well, the second reason to attend is – wait for it! - people too. This time, however, in a very different capacity. The first reason was for people as energisers, as models for charisma, and for deep insights. In short, all that we can learn from other people. Now, though, I think the second reason to attend is because of people and the networking opportunities that they represent. Indeed, we all know of people who attend events for no other reasons than to meet the ‘right’ people; forget what the famous guest speaker has to say about vital world events, that is all background noise, for they are all there to meet that special someone.

Since all the speakers are business people, and if we confine ourselves to business (although many of the applications of the day will apply well beyond business – more anon), then the most obvious reason to network is to meet prospects. Of course, one needs to know who is a good prospect for one’s business. But at this event we have some truly diverse people attending; in a blog like this it would be wrong to mention names (with two exceptions: the sponsors!) but I can say from the list to date we have top people from several fields: CEOs and MDs from marketing, coaching, training, consultancy, IT, accountancy and more beside. Indeed, we have the newly appointed – on the day before the conference! – CEO of one of the most significant leadership organisations in the country along with 5 of his staff attending. Wonderful. Effectively, if you are in the services sector you are going to find someone here who will purchase something from you if ...

But let’s be clear: I personally regard turning up for events to ‘sell’ as pretty low-grade. Selling is a by-product of something much more important: in the first instance, a great relationship between two people. We need to know, like and trust someone before we do any deal of any significance. And we need to understand the important thing is adding value to somebody else’s business or life.

This leads, then, to other reasons for networking. What is important is not to attend any event with a closed mind, but to be open to all the opportunities and surprises that people invariably represent. We all can become so closed and narrow in our thinking; if only one thing – one sale – were to happen then all our problems would be solved. But true networking goes way beyond this kind of thinking.

A good example would be now to invoke the names of our two sponsors for the event who are massively relevant to any small to medium sized business owner, especially but not only if they are relatively new. We have Garry Mumford of Insight Associates (www.insightassociates.co.uk): accountants!!! What do we need them for – we’re coaches?! But Garry and his business really take accountancy to a new level; they understand that book-keeping is merely level 1, down in the shallows, and that accounting itself is merely level 2, whereby we report and analyse, but that financial management and control itself is the real deal at level 3 where finance can really support informed business decision making. If we are running a business, then the sooner we get that clear, the better. And one of the great pieces of advice for always is: get great financial, legal and IT advisers set up right from the beginning of your business – don’t wait.

Or take my friend Gary Crouch of Spectrum Office Automation (www.spectrumoa.co.uk). What does he provide? Something the older I get the more I realise is essential for the long term health of my business! As with accountancy, it is easy to stay in the shallows and fail to grow because of a limited strategic view. Well, we now are in a world where data is strategic, massively so. In fact my own company, Motivational Maps Ltd, depends for its entire existence on IP or Intellectual Property, which IP in the 11 years we have been in business has grown geometrically: from one small map, we now have 4 large ones plus an e-learning package and more stuff on the drawing boards. The question is: where is all this information/data backed-up and how secure is it? And by the way, IP is not only diagnostic formulae and algorithms, it also means at a fundamental level even client data. Backing up data is a b***er and all research indicates that most companies don’t do it well if at all. Thus, if you meet Gary at our event, although it may have been the last thing on your mind as something you needed, you will discover how he can certainly, absolutely guarantee to back-up and recover your data, usually within a very short window of time. In other words, he can get your business back on track even after the most appalling catastrophe. In reality, then, IT has become a kind of insurance, with Gary Crouch your insurer!

So networking, then, is important – for prospecting but also for exposure to new ideas and people who can be incredibly useful – indeed, life saving – for your business. That’s my second reason. Are you persuaded yet to sign up yet?

My next blog will deal with reason #3.

9 Reasons to Attend the Leadership Showcase #1

On the 8th September this year I am giving a key note talk at the Dominion Theatre. The Showcase event is called Astounding Leadership Insights – so clearly, modesty was never a quality of the organisers of the event! But that aside, and also the fact of my involvement, this seems to me – in one easy day - a great opportunity for many coaches, consultants and business leaders because the benefits are so enormous. Thus, in true Motivational Maps style, what are the 9 major benefits of attending this event:

http://www.astoundingleadershipinsights.com/ ?

The first reason is always the same: the people. We always need to be around people who have these three qualities in abundance: energy, charisma and insight. And this is because every one of us needs to work on something we do not naturally have by the time we are adults: the well-springs of energy come from the presence of those who have found out how to tap it, access it and share it.

Energy is motivation and this day is choc-a-block with the energised, or should I say, The Energised! Learn about your energy and how to harness it more effectively. All six speakers will be covering this issue directly or indirectly most of the time. Let’s face it: it’s what our life is about. No energy, no quality of life, so we need to get real about it.

But then charisma, which is essentially the same as talking about influence; this can scarcely be taught. In fact the most effective way of becoming charismatic is by modelling oneself on someone who is charismatic. That’s the start, and the challenge is then to incorporate what one learns from modelling into one’s own unique personality and style, so that one is not a clone. You will see at the Dominion Theatre – hint, the name gives something away: theatre, drama, engagement with the stage – plenty of charisma to emulate and model. There’s Ali Stewart, the liberating leader, and Bird-on-a-Bike who will transform you. It’s a commonplace of the literature, but one I have to say that I have encountered all the time in my 30+ years of speaking in public that most people, including business people, have a dread of public speaking and that’s often because they sense that they are not charismatic: would anyone want to listen to them? One reason to be at this event is to see what charisma looks like. I remember back in the late 90s or early Millenium going to see Tony Robbins at Wembley for precisely this reason, and I was not disappointed. What I learnt then – not from what he said but what he did – has stayed with me ever since.

And then there’s the real key of people: insight. In all my 21 years of consulting and coaching I noticed two things beyond all others that my clients wanted from me: to be energised, which we’ve discussed, and for insights. Yes, insights into the nature of reality, insights into how relationships work, insights into organisations and their mechanisms, and insights into business and how to make it thrive. Insights, insights, insights – yes, and not cliches, not jargon, not stereotypes and the commonplace, but insights. The kind of sight that sees ‘in’ to the nature of things and whose view, or in-view, is transformative: the client gets that a-ha moment (sorry, that is a bit of cliché!). But you get the drift of what I am saying. As a result of coaching, consultancy, training or facilitation, you end up seeing more than you did before, and this seeing enables you to envision more. Imagine that: envision more! isn’t that what leaders do?

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Ooops! Leaders – I said it – that’s the word. So, you have my first reason for being on this day with us. My next blog will deal with reason #2.

The Organisational Map and 4 Change Stoppers: # 4 Blame

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Blame is one of the triumvirate of psycho-pathologies that worst afflict human beings. If we consider briefly for a moment the story of Adam and Eve in the garden at the beginning, when they were perfect, we find in the Fall of mankind all three psycho-pathologies there in virulent form. First, they attempt to deny their guilt by hiding: denial. Second, they project their guilt onto the serpent: projection. But third, and most critically of all, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent: blame. Indeed, blame may be said to be the most endemic, the most pernicious, and the most destructive of all the psychological vices that beset mankind; it is the kingpin of all that is negative within us. Small wonder, then, it wreaks such havoc around us; and it is very difficult to counter.

One crucial aspect of why blame is such a bad thing is that - in the jargon of the personal development movement of the last 50 years - it avoids taking responsibility for what happens to us: somebody else made us do it, somebody else caused it to happen, we are not responsible for what happened because somebody or something else is to blame. It is little understood but every time we blame we are quite literally killing ourselves; there is self-death involved in blaming others, and this is for a very good reason. For when we blame others or some other factor we are denying a part of reality that has been created, and saying we are not part of that. Essentially, we are denying ourselves as co-creators of reality and denying that we accept things as they are; this is why blame is a kind of blasphemy: we are denying our god-like powers to co-create; we are foreshortening ourselves, which is a kind of death, the ultimate foreshortening. In short, we are exiting and isolating ourselves from the Consciousness that drives the universe and of which we are a part. In theological parlance: we are heading for hell; but writing in this secular state now one needs to understand hell not as a place beyond life, but as a state of mind we enter in the here and now.

Organisations, of course, because they are made up of people, blame others too. In the UK at the moment we have the unedifying spectacle of a major High Street brand, British Home Stores, going bankrupt and all the players at senior level blaming each other, and staff at lower levels blaming the senior levels, and media and politicians joining in the fun too. Noticeably we find, when blame starts, there is never any solution to the real problem, just punishment(s) which may or may not be 'just', and a trail of lessons never learnt! And this goes to the heart of what happens within organisations, especially within teams: blame destroys trust, lack of trust produces fear, fear creates paralysis, and paralysis depresses motivation, performance and productivity. And all the while this 'depression' is going on, something else is being elevated: people learn to play games, political games, and particularly the blame game. The whole organisation becomes centred around surviving the game, avoiding blame becomes the central preoccupation of every worker, every manager; while customers, sales, products and services are left floating adrift as blame stays centre stage; at least until death strikes and it's over; by which I mean, of course, from an organisational perspective, bankruptcy.

Thus, it is important to say, as we reach this 4th organisational change stopper, that as far as motivation and the nine motivators are concerned, all are equally culpable and susceptible to blaming. There is no one motivator where we can say that this is the one where blaming occurs. We can see that for the one who wants security, their own may be apparently enhanced if others are to blame; that for the one who wishes to belong, that those who do not are to blame; that for one seeking recognition, then those who withhold it must be culpable; that for the one who wants control, their failure to have enough of it, or somebody else's misuse of it, is to blame; that for one seeking money, their failure to be rewarded sufficiently is to blame; and for one wanting expertise, their teachers, coaches, trainers, mentors were simply not good enough; and then for one seeking innovation and creativity, the bores around them and the dull environment is to blame; and for those seeking freedom it is not their fault they are in a 9 to 5 job, but their merits were overlooked; and finally for those wanting to make a difference, it is obviously others failure to support them that caused the mission to fail. In all cases there is a sad litany of excuses which constitutes blaming others. As a curious sidebar to this exploration of blame, I would like to point out one of the most anomalous things I constantly encounter: atheists who blame God for their condition of non-belief! My point here being that we seem to be so constituted that we need to blame someone even when we don't believe they exist: that's how endemic, that's how deep-rooted, blame is in our psyches. If Father Christmas had only delivered that special present down the chimney in 1999, then I would not be a serial killer today!

Blame, then, is all too familiar and corrosive. By definition, considering all that has gone before, blame is something all effective leaders avoid and never use. Sidney Dekker put it this way: “Blaming people may in fact make them [people/employees] less accountable: they will tell fewer accounts, they may feel less compelled to have their voice heard, to participate in improvement efforts”. Great leaders always take personal responsibility for what has happened 'under their watch'. They also are mindful to root it out in their subordinates through training, coaching, mentoring, and most importantly of all, through example: walking the talk. Blame destroys a creative, risk-taking culture, as people people conform, lay low and play it safe; so this is especially relevant where we are dealing with Relationship type motivator organisations. Here there is already risk-aversion and a procedural mentality, so the addition of blame would destroy irreparably any chance of creative change if it were the cultural norm. So with Relationship motivators the key is a leadership style that impacts the culture, and where blame has no grip.

As I said before, blame reduces the effectiveness of the individual; subordinates harbour grudges even when blame is justified. Thus as we consider the Achievement motivators we need to realise that the focus here may be more managerial than leadership driven: the relentless focus of managers and employees needs to be on what needs to be done to attain organisational objectives, and how this needs to be done despite whatever setbacks seem poised and in the way. In short, it is a problem solving mentality within the culture that regards spending time on attributing blame as just so much a waste of time, bringing us no nearer to the results we want. Notice the difference in the potential approach to the blame problem organisationally from a dominantly Relationship motivator culture to an Achievement driven one: one has to have decisive and strong leadership, whereas the other can benefit from determined and relentless managerial focus. This is not to say of course that either motivator triad could not find the other’s approach effective; clearly, as always with Motivational Maps, context is everything.

For the third triad of motivators, the Growth motivators, and perhaps the Expert motivator might also feature here too, there needs to be a deep commitment to making mistakes because making mistakes is the most effective form of learning. The well-known cartoonist Scott Adams expressed it this way: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep". This can only happen when two things are true: first, that people, especially management, actually believe that proposition, and second when there are systems or controls in place which ensure that no catastrophic damage is done in the process. On this second point, Harvard Business School Professor, Amy Edmondson said it this way: “Small failures are the early warning signs that are vital to avoiding catastrophic failure in future”. Blame is invariably attributed because somebody has 'made a mistake', but what if we live in a culture where making a mistake is the norm, is what we expect, and indeed what we want: that the boat of exploration is truly being launched on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. So, curiously, systems in place with that end in mind is a potential antidote to this blame issue where this triad of motivators is involved. Curious, perhaps, because of course the kind of systems we are talking about here most readily appeal to the Defender or Relationship motivator at the other end of the motivational spectrum. But the same is true of the Relationship motivators requiring truly dynamic leadership (when usually they are managerially handled!), which one might tend to associate with the maverick types at the Growth end of the spectrum. Clearly, then, there is a balancing going on here at the organisational level whereby the yin of low risk motivators needs the counterbalance of the yang of high risk, and vice versa.

The account above is part of an ongoing exploration of how we understand motivation in the organisational setting; it is not definitive, and I am hoping others, as they use the Maps and experiment with the Organisational Motivational Map in real life organisations, will be able to contribute more ideas and data so that we can refine this model and so achieve the result we all want worldwide: namely, organisations which are unblocked, which can effectively change and respond to developments and events, and where, as a result of using Maps, issues such as cultural dependency, busy-busy management, isolation and blame are correctly identified and their effects mitigated if not altogether abolished. Amen to that.

Organisational Change Blocker #3: Isolation

If the first change stopper, dependency culture, is heavily related to Relationship type motivators, and the second change stopper, busy-busy management, is more relevant to Achievement motivators, then it may come as no surprise to Motivational Mappers that the third change stopper, isolation, is deeply connected to the third of the motivational triad, Growth motivators. This, when you think about it, is obvious. The central motivator sandwiched between the inner and outer limits of the Growth trio is the Spirit motivator; in other words, the desire for autonomy, and of course this is hardly a team-orientated motivator; on the contrary, it tends to produce mavericks who by their own desire sometimes want to be isolated to get on with what they wish to do. But further than this, when we consider the Creator motivator, the desire to innovate, and the Searcher motivator, the desire to be on mission, one can easily see what whilst these desires can be met collectively, there is plenty of scope for isolation: often innovation and creativity comes down to an isolated individual’s breakthrough, and oftentimes too we find that our own mission leads us away from others and we become isolated on our own path. Thus from a motivational point of view we need to consider what motivators are dominant motivators throughout the organisation, for although the Growth motivators are themselves pro-risk and pro-change, the fact that the individuals with these motivators may well be fragmented in a number of ways means that the aptitude for change may well be dissipated - the individual fragments of glass, separated and discrete, not forming one, whole unit. What I am saying here is that the very strength of the Growth motivators has the potential to become a hygiene factor, or an Achilles’ heel, to the whole organisation and the remedy for this will have to be in considering motivators that aren’t so motivating for such a group: the Relationship motivators.

There are four types of isolation: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, and each needs a separate comment. Physical isolation is easy to understand as it commonly refers to geographical isolation. Within an organisation this frequently occurs when team members are in different offices, or varying locations, which may even include being in different countries and on different continents. Modern technology seemingly does a lot to obviate this problem, but no video conferencing and webinaring - nothing really - can get over the fact that physical proximity is essential for many aspects of effective functioning, especially effective team functioning. Naturally, although I am treating them individually, it’s clear that physical isolation is a precursor for emotional, intellectual and spiritual isolation and indeed may trigger these too. But in motivational terms the physical proximity provides security, Defender motivator, and more directly, recognition, Star motivator. The need, then, that is triggered by this is to ensure if people are geographically isolated that the communication systems are in place to obviate at least some of its effects, and alongside that sufficient recognition as well. On this latter point: keep in mind, that even when people are physically working close together, it is difficult enough for anyone to feel that they get enough recognition for what they are doing. What then needs to happen when they are far apart? Thus, while it is easy for leaders to ignore implications of simple geographical layout in terms of effective communications, this is something they need to periodically do, alongside considering Reward Strategies for the Defender, Friend and Star.

Emotional isolation is, of course, even worse than physical isolation. As I said before, it can arise from physical isolation, but it can also be present in packed offices too where 10 other employees are no more than 10 feet away from you! Its causes can be many and various, including personality clashes and motivational conflicts; on the wider scale, values and culture are immensely significant. If we don’t feel we fit for any length of time, then this begins to stress us, doubts occur - is it me? - guilt arises, and the individual starts withdrawing inwardly. Clearly, the Friend motivator, the desire to belong is an antidote to this state of affairs within an organisation, except when it is the cause: the individual wants to belong, has a strong Friend motivator, but this is simply the lowest motivator of the whole organisation and this is reflected in the value statements whereby, for example, only lip-service, if any, is paid to the importance of effective teams. If Friend is the lowest motivator of the whole organisation, and strongly so, and the organisation is of sufficient size, then it will be almost certain that emotional isolation is occurring, and therefore training managers on Reward Strategies for the Friend motivator may well be a way forward.

More briefly, intellectual isolation is mission critical for an organisation - or rather impeding its mission! - when we consider what it means: it means that employees are without access to others' ideas, and this lack of ideas further means that progress is difficult and individuals become more resistant to change. The free flow and exchange of ideas is absolutely essential for any organisation that wishes to stay on top if its game and dominate its market through innovations in products, services, processes, systems and the like. The lack of interchange especially hits two motivators: the Expert and the Star. We become experts by learning from each other; if there is intellectual isolation, then this cannot happen. Further, there is a curious symbiosis in the teacher and the taught. In some way the teacher gets recognition (Star) when they teach, and in yet another way nobody has ever fully understood anything until they can teach it. Indeed, many teachers (for which read: coaches, trainers, consultants, counsellors, therapists et al) freely admit that they deliver what they deliver for it is the only way that they could learn what they needed to learn! Bizarrely, then, there is in the exchange of learning a deep and satisfying sense of recognition. We have all the experience of explaining something important to someone only to be told by them, ‘I know that already’, and the crushing sense of non-recognition that that produces. So it is that we counter intellectual isolation - and the change stopper it is - through the Expert motivator and its Reward Strategies.

Finally, spiritual isolation sounds a little recherche, and it is important to stress here that I am not talking about religious beliefs. But all psychologically healthy human beings are spiritual in the sense that they seek meaning: we are meaning machines and we interpret reality and what it means all the time. All of us, one way or another, have a paradigm explanation as to how the universe works and what our place in it is. That includes people who say, ‘Life means nothing and then you die’. That too is a spiritual belief, albeit an extremely bleak one. But my central point here is: within an organisation change stops when people are isolated from the meaning of what the organisation stands for - its core values and mission; or when they sense a misstep between what the organisation preaches and what it does; or when the key leaders don’t walk the talk. Then - spiritual isolation occurs and its effects long-term are devastating. For those familiar with Maps you will clearly see where this is going: the motivator par excellent relevant to this issue is the Searcher, the desire to make a difference, the passion for purpose, the motivator that stands for why? Why are we doing this? And the motivator that most stands for the interests of your clients and customers, and sometimes your number one customer has to be your employees. So here we have to look at the Reward Strategies for the Searcher and build into our organisational work life the big why: and the starting point is reviewing the mission and its relevance, and secondly, asking where does our quality feedback come from and how can we improve it?


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Organisational Change Blocker #2: Busy-Busy Management

I looked last time at the first major change stopper within an organisation - dependency culture - and how this related to Motivational Maps and how Maps can help unravel this problem. The second major change blocker is similar: it’s the Busy-Busy Management style that is so prevalent within organisations, including the organisation of the home, the family. Indeed, Petronius Arbiter commented some two thousand years ago on this phenomenon, or rather one of its classic effects: “We trained hard … But it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up in teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation”. If the dependency culture creates self-importance through being needed, the busy-busy management style generates self-importance by the process of forever being in charge, forever changing things, and forever never asking why! The Busy-Busy style is symptomatic of authoritarian types, especially those of a basically insecure type who need to prove themselves and be seen to be doing something. That is why the perennially busy leader or manager is so receptive to new fads and the latest ideas, as their adoption may just show them in a positive and progressive light; unfortunately, because no ‘why’ ever informs their thinking, the fads, even if they are good ones, are never followed through properly, but soon replaced by another one, and so a process goes on in which nothing ever seems accomplished, although every one is always being required to work flat out. As Petronius observed, this creates profound ‘demoralisation’ and, as I would say, demotivation.

From a motivational perspective, and given that this is what Norman Dixon would call a psychopathology, the dominant perversion of motivators is likely to be in the Achievement cluster of motivators (as dependency culture tended to the Relationship cluster), and especially the Director and Builder motivators. To be clear here: all motivators are equal, and we need them all. We need people who want to manage (Director motivator) and who want to make money (Builder motivator), but the psychopathology starts when managing becomes an end in itself, as opposed to being a means to a higher purpose or mission, or when the ‘bottomline’ and their quest to improve it also becomes the be all and end all of existence, and the rationale for every ill-advised and ill-considered irrationality.

In working in this situation, then, what are the best counterweights to check this tendency? First, from the perspective of the busy-busy manager gripped by this managerial obsession, self-awareness has to be the starting point. The two most likely sources of this self-awareness will have to be external, since clearly the busy-busy manager never has time to reflect or self-reflect on what they are doing. Thus, quality feedback from above or from peers is essential, and if this is not possible, then one has to consider reviewing mission: the why are we doing what we do? If this sounds motivationally familiar, then it should: both feedback and mission are aspects of the Searcher motivator. Ultimately, both the feedback and the mission come under the purview of the customer, or client: what do they think? We need to get the busy-busy person to accept that we need quality feedback from the customer, and that that feedback needs to shape our future actions. Of course, where the psychopathology is too strong, the busy-busy manager never will accept the actual feedback, but there is a strong likelihood that they will accept the process. Why? Because it is a new distracting fad, just like the others (indeed, they may well accept 360 degree appraisals for the same reason), but the challenge is - in these cases - to get the findings to stick in terms of action plans.

Secondly, there are at least three key skills that the busy-busy manager needs to be introduced to. I mention the motivators these are most associated with because as we know no-one has one motivator, but a range, and it may be possible to ‘sell’ the busy-busy manager a skill or concept on the back end of its position in his or her profile. So, one skill is delegation; the more effective delegation is diffused through an organisation, the more the downside of busy-busyness is blunted. And the beauty of this idea is of course that the busy-busy manager may well have Director motivator in their top three, so appealing to their upskilling of their management capability is intrinsically attractive to them.

Also, listening is a core skill, some might say the number skill of an effective leader. To accept this they will be far from comfortable, because this is typically a skill associated with the Friend motivator (and Searcher too), the need to belong. This is unlikely - but not impossibly - to be in the top three, and there is often a big incompatibility between the Director and Friend motivator. It does seem unlikely that the busy-busy manager will accept this, but if they do make sure that this is really a full-on and extensive listening skills course, not just a one-day introduction. Ideally, it would have follow-up components weeks or months after the main training. The reason I say this is because it is obvious so many people go on listening skills, and then practice a technique of listening but actually are not listening! This will be especially true of the busy-busy type. In fact, combining listening with meditation techniques - so driving more deeply into their personal development - is really necessary here.

Finally, the third skill is planning, planning as a detailed activity, which is very much related to the Defender motivator. Planning in this sense is the antidote to the latest fads acquisition that the busy-busy leader is drawn to: a long term plan that the organisation is committed to and is not going to deviate much from (unless there is a significant market shift) is stabilising, and creates a ‘cage’ that contains the busy-busy managers’ range of interference. Naturally, it won’t block it completely, as there will doubtless be operational things that can be stop-started-re-aranged and so on. But some big planning markers laid down and adhered to make things more awkward to shift. Keep in mind, the busy-busy type wants to be perceived to be effective, and so any evidence that seems to contradict that reality for them must be avoided at all costs. As a sidebar to that point, of course, it is why the busy-busy manager often moves on within 3 years, as the ineffectiveness of what they are doing finally begins to unravel. In planning here, we can also draw upon their tendency to the Achievement motivator, the Builder, who likes goals. But the goals must be subsumed under a bigger structure of mission, vision and values.

How Dependency Culture Blocks Change in your Organisation

Three years ago I did a blog in which I explained why change was so difficult to effect organisationally, giving four reasons, and citing the great Philip Crosby when he said, "Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty in being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way". But the four ideas I briefly covered in that blog, then, gripped my mind and I included them in the new Organisational Motivational Map which is now available for any organisation to use to find out what is really going on at an emotional level within their company. However, the ideas, whilst simple, do require more unpacking and unpicking, and so in that spirit of enquiry I would like now to revisit these ideas and specifically relate them to Motivational Maps.

First, one major block to organisational change is what has been called ‘dependency culture’. We are familiar with this term from psychotherapy and individuals who are dependent and co-dependent; but since organisations are made up of individuals it should not surprise us that they exhibit the same tendencies collectively that individuals do. One aspect of this is that just as individuals in the grip of dependencies do not act in their own self-interest, but in reality harm themselves, so too organisations do the same. So despite the fact that the leadership may bang on about the bottom-line, what they are really doing is making success in the bottom line ever more difficult to achieve - at least in the middle to long-term. Dependency culture is associated with hierarchical management, and is where people depend because they are lacking information, skills, confidence, or power and are deliberately kept that way by management; and if there were one magic bullet or cure for the situation it would be the widespread adoption of the delegation skill. When we think of this issue from a motivational perspective a number of things become clearer.

First, that whereas motivators are in one sense ‘pure’: pure energy that we all have, that drive us to achieve things, yet in dependent or co-dependent people these energies can be mis-directed. Thus, dependency culture is going to be associated most with three relationship motivators, which most wish to resist change and avoid risk: namely, Defender, Friend and Star. In particular here, hierarchical management - often felt to be ‘stable’ (a flipside perhaps to ‘rigid’) is mostly likely to be Defender (security) and Star (recognition) orientated; in this scenario not rocking the boat is crucial as is everyone knowing their place in the scheme of things. And in its outcome of depriving employees of information, skills, confidence, or power, there will also be a concentration of either Expert or Director motivators. To explain that: senior people, who are Expert motivator, will withhold sharing their expertise; and senior people who are Director motivator, will withhold power and responsibility and retain it for themselves. So, these four motivators, rather than the other five - although this is a generalisation not an absolute law - will tend to be present where dependency cultures are revealed, and knowing this provides a way in which Motivational Maps can help breakdown this block.

Here are some ideas from the Maps’ tookit: one, recruitment at senior level is an issue. Stop recruiting more in the same image! Diversity, then? Yes, but not as traditionally understood, although that may be relevant too. But motivational diversity! In particular, if we want the kind of people at senior level who have little time for rigid structures and dependency culture, we need Spirit and Creator motivated people. Two, we need deeper leadership expertise; but the kind of leadership training that is not the old command and control model, or a disguised variant of it, but one that has as central a personal development component, realising that the leader who is not personally developing is not developing leadership. The Maps’ programme has its unique ’4 + 1’ leadership model described in some detail in my book, Mapping Motivation, http://amzn.to/1XoxiqQ, which is ideal for this purpose. Third, and finally, and simply as a more tactical approach in the short-term: focus on delegation skills at a senior level. Even if attitudes are not profoundly changed, then if senior staff at least go through some motions of delegating, there will be improvements. In my next installment I’ll consider what to do with Changer Stoppers 2: the Busy-Busy Management style.

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

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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 http://amzn.to/1XkmMOI 

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 

https://www.gowerpublishing.com/isbn/9781472459275  -  Hope you enjoy the book – be sure to review it, and join the motivation revolution if it’s for you.

Motivation, Performance and Proof

I sometimes get asked what the evidence is for various statements or ideas that Motivational Maps believes or asserts. Usually I reply that the best evidence is the outcome or results we get when we use the Maps; in other words, they work! But that is not enough for some people, a very small number; they press further with a request not for evidence, which clearly working in the real world is, or testimonials are, but ‘proof’, yes, proof, by which they invariably mean academic proof. Somebody somewhere needs to have written a university level ‘paper’ on the topic, or conducted some research, that ‘proves’ that what we maintain as part of our intellectual currency is true, is tenable, is credible. This over-reliance on academics is understandable if somewhat wearisome. 

The best example of this is the case of motivation and performance and the link (ah! But is there, academically speaking?) between them. Motivational Maps asserts as a matter of plain fact that motivation and performance are intimately connected and that one, motivation, is a major contributory factor to the other, performance. Further, we have a formula that links them. But what is the proof of this? At best it may seem academically dubious?

My view is that this is a completely inappropriate and wrong-headed question. Why? Because the link between motivation and performance does not require proof, in fact cannot be proved because it is axiomatic! Now there’s a great word. Axioms are principles or values which have to be assumed before a proof can be made, and this is true of science as well as mathematics. Much of the modern world seems so hypnotized by ‘proofs’ of science and mathematics that they forget that they also depend on axioms or assumptions that themselves cannot be proved.

To take the most famous example (over two thousand years old) might be Euclid; his famous geometric theorems depended upon assumptions (or axioms and postulates) that could not themselves be proved; they were self-evident. So, for example, his first axiom is: “Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another”. This is a very important principle and it clearly shows that not everything can be proved, but something has to be assumed first.

Now in the case of motivation and performance we have a strong reason for thinking axiomatically that they are connected, and the best way of putting this is by expressing it through the terms of how we define them. If, for example, we think of motivation as being ‘energy seeking an outlet of fulfilment’, which whilst not being an elegant definition certainly conveys what I believe to be the gist of motivation, and we consider performance as ‘energy effectively deployed to produce outcome’, then it clearly suggests, as ‘energy’ is innate to both definitions, that they are two forms of the same thing: motivation being the invisible energy whilst becomes the manifest and visible, behavourial, aspect of that same energy. The analogy is not exact, of course, as few analogies are, but what I am saying here is that as one thing partially defines and is implicated in the existence of another, then there can be no ‘proof’ here as the definitions too mean it is axiomatic that they are connected.

This accounts for why so few people have a problem accepting or understanding the theories of motivation and performance that Motivational Maps habitually presents to thousands of people in all kinds of organizations and businesses. Because it is axiomatic, they sense that it is right, and so scarcely ever, at a live event for example, request ‘proof’. And if we take Euclid’s first axiom - “Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another”- and express it symbolically, we find that we also no longer want Euclid or anybody else to prove it. For what does it say? If A=B, and B=C, then also A=C. This is the power of the axiom, and we need to be clear about it when we talk to skeptics who say, ‘Where’s the proof?’ It doesn’t need proof: it’s axiomatic. Motivation, you see, is core to performance.





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Motivation and Emotions

There are many reasons why individuals, teams and organisations should use Motivational Maps; in describing these reasons we most frequently refer to the close link there is between motivation and performance, and alongside that goes productivity and even profitability. Why wouldn’t we say these things, for after all Motivational Maps Ltd is a commercial organization and we need to sell our products, our services and our unique solutions to the wide world of people?

But having said that, sometimes we need to take a closer look at why Motivational Maps is so useful and so powerful. Yes, providing solutions for organisations and businesses is good, but for the real enthusiasts there is something much deeper. And what this something deeper is goes to the root of who we are as people. I have been struck recently by a phenomenon I have spent my life encountering, and yet it is so easy to forget it, and to ignore its consequences. It is this: that people do not make logical decisions, but rather they make emotional ones and they do this all the time. Indeed, they make emotional decisions and then hide the fact by tracing their footsteps backwards in order to provide rational and logical justifications for their actions. There is often psychopathology about it, and frequently there is a madness too.

Of course, at a healthy level we can enjoy the oddness of making emotional decisions and pretending they are logical. A good example would be buying a house or a car. If we take the latter example, why do we want a car? To get us from A to B in a convenient and timely fashion. So we could all buy a Reliant Robin three-wheeler (if they still exist!), but most of us don’t; we could all buy a high quality, second hand car rather than a brand new one off the forecourt where we certainly know that 30% of its value is lost immediately we drive it, but many of us don’t; and we could buy an economical little number that is cheap and easy to run, but an increasing number seem to want gas-guzzling, Four-wheel drives to get 2 people on average four miles down the road! Why? Well, as I say, these examples can be construed as ‘fun’: the triumph of our emotions over logic, and our identification of ourselves with a certain image that has potency for us.

But there is a darker, more sinister side to people and their emotions. Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know about”. In other words, there is an internal logic that each of us is capable of and which is blind to logic or rationality itself; in fact its ultimate origin stems from our dreams, from which come our desires and our emotions. Anybody who has ever had a dream knows that dreams do not obey logic and reason, and a good ‘reason’ for this is that if they did then we could control them or predict them – all the things humans like to do to gain control. But dreams are out of our control, although they can be utilized and influenced through indirect means. And here’s the point, the dreams, the desires, the emotions are much more powerful than the logic, which is why Einstein is reported to have said that “imagination is more important than knowledge” because of course imagination is the shaping power that our emotions are always driving, and which actually constructs our reality. Besides this power, facts and logic - are nothing much; they are almost incidental. As Dr Johnson observed: "The mind of man is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it.” The facts, the logic, the things are never enough.

Thus what I have in mind and have seen a lot of recently is that phenomenon in which people do things entirely against their own real self interests, and under some dire internal compulsion which is clearly invisible to them. To use Spock’s phrase, ‘It’s illogical Captain”, but can they see it? No.

Emotions and desires are invisible by their very nature; it is only our actions which reveal what we really want. So another important word leaks out: ‘want’. I see it this way: people ‘need’ to do things for logical reasons, but they invariably ‘want’ to do something else, something that addresses their internal dreams, desires and emotional hot-spots. The ‘invisible’ necessity triumphs over the visible contingency, the world of facts and logic and reasons (which are all very palpable).

Here, of course, is where Motivational Maps come in. They are not a cure or a solution to the fact that we are emotional beings, or that we make irrational decisions, but what they do do is map the terrain of what we really want. They make visible the invisible desires that are prompting our actions and behaviours. This means that Maps can be used by individuals to help them understand some of the patterns in their behavior by using the map language to detect when this is evident in what they are doing; equally, it can and should be used by coaches in the same way. To know, for example, that somebody has, say, security as their dominant motivator means that we can begin to track this in what they are doing; perhaps pick-up instances where the want for security has actually made them less secure because they have foregone what was a good opportunity; and similarly for all the nine motivators.  IMG_0902

As Motivational Maps becomes more widespread, there will be far more stories surrounding these interventions and their significance, because in doing this kind of work we get to the very heart of helping people truly understand themselves and perhaps – perhaps – get a grip on the compulsions themselves and thereby assist in loosening them.


Why and Motivational Maps

I am currently reading a really interesting bestseller called ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. Despite not understanding motivation much, and having a rather simplistic and dualistic view that motivation is somehow the poor relation of inspiration, and despite the fact that this is yet another of those interminable hagiographies which worship – you’ve guessed it – Apple and Steve Jobs, Disney and Walt Disney, Herb Kelleher and South West Airlines, Bill Gates and Microsoft, and Martin Luther King (the usual heroes from the American ‘success pantheon of gods’) there is, as I say despite all this, a core nugget which makes it instructive. For Sinek does make a compelling case for the ‘why’ of business (or any type of enterprise) as opposed to the ‘what’ or ‘how’, and furthermore his analysis is very much in terms of marketing and longevity, which means that one can run his idea through one’s own business.


To be clear, he argues that the ‘what’ of what we do, and ‘how’ we do it, is very much a part of the usual standard of features, benefits and quality that we offer our clients. Ultimately, he says, if that is all we offer, then clients will always drift somewhere else where there is a lower price or higher quality or a better deal. There is no loyalty in features and benefits, or in the ‘what’ or ‘how’. But when people understand ‘why’ you do what you do, and that ‘why’ represents a bigger idea than merely yourself or your business self-interest, then … you inspire loyalty, you command premium prices, and you create game-changing businesses. IMG-20140811-00305

As a sidebar issue on this matter of ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’, however, Motivational Maps itself does have an intrinsic angle; for there are three kinds of motivators: Relationship, Achievement and Growth. Respectively, they ask: how we relate with others, what can we do or achieve, and why is this important to me? So, with that in mind, let us ask the question, applying Sinek’s model to my business, Why Motivational maps?

We could talk about how innovative they are, intuitive to use, or speak about their accuracy or results-orientation, but if we did then I guess all I’d be doing is talking about the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of Motivational Maps. Clearly, the ‘why’ is something much bigger.

It’s been brewing for a while, long before I read Sinek’s book, but I do think – feel and know – what the true ‘why’ of Motivational Maps is. We exist to transform how management works in the workplace by empowering everyone across the world. There! I’ve said it. What has been very clear to me for a long time, going right back to my days as an Investors in People consultant, and before that when I was a manager myself, is that so much management is wrong, plain wrong, because it is all top-down, or command and control, or – not to put too fine a point on it – too hierarchical. Now it is true that a command and control style of management – essentially a military style – does have its place in the world of management: usually in life and death situations and THEN we really do want to follow a leader who knows what they are doing. But in the commercial, international, interconnected world in which we now live and operate this is so wrong, so ineffective, so expensive in terms of time, money, lack of innovation and wasted morale.

No: Motivational Maps can ONLY work with a bottom-up approach. Attempts to understand employee motivators and then to subsequently manipulate employees are doomed to failure because essentially motivation cannot work that way. So any organization seeking to use Motivational Maps is tacitly admitting that they are seeking a bottom-up approach, a new way of understanding themselves and their employees, and for that to achieve a win-win result; for enhanced motivation will lead to happier employees AND increased productivity.

So why are we doing Motivational Maps? Because we’re transforming management and transforming people, in order that they and their organisations can become truly productive and a lot happier too. Indeed, as the Blues Brothers put it, we are on a mission God – to make the world a better place!

Motivation and various Job Types!

My friend, Akeela Davies, asked me an interesting question recently. What would be the ideal Motivational Map profile for the following roles – always keeping in mind that motivators are always contextual, which means there will always be exceptions on the ground to any ideal profile we might generate. The roles she had in mind were the:

Disturbance Handler
Resource Allocator

Hmm, a tough bunch of cookies then!

To answer the question we must always ask ourselves: what does that person in the position really want. Why do they desire that position? If we consider the Figurehead, our first role, then clearly the Star must be prominent, for a Figurehead by definition is someone we look to and notice; but alongside this motivator two others perhaps creep in. First, maybe the Defender, the need for security, for Figureheads tend to be non-threatening, a-political and secure sinecures – ideal niches for those who also want recognition. And I think, too, Director, whilst not the most important element, is an aspect of wanting to a Figurehead because whilst not having executive power they tend to have a big influence in an indirect sort of way.

For the Leader, of course, the Director is much more likely to be prominent, if not the dominant motivator. But equally motivators such as the Expert or the Creator or the Spirit or the Star can drive the Leader, and each of these motivators produce a different flavor of leadership: the Expert produces the ‘geek’ leadership where knowledge is king (possibly the Bill Gates position); the Creator produce the innovative type of leadership, very solution-orientated (more Steve Jobs and Walt Disney); whereas the Spirit motivator will produce the maverick and charismatic type of leader that you follow till the ends of Earth (think Horatio Nelson! Or Richard Branson); and the Star motivator will produce the ubiquitous type of leader who seems to be in fashion all the time (think Alan Sugar, who rarely seems to be off the TV these days). And then to add to the mix there is the Searcher leader – the servant leader who wants to make a difference for the customer and the employees: wow! Do read Bo Burlingham’s marvelous book, “Small Giants”, for some great examples of this. Finally, Leadership is such a big and universal concept that all motivators can ‘lead’ here: the Builder motivator for the commercially, competitive leader versus the Friend motivator for the all-inclusive, values-driven type.

What about the Liaison role? Perhaps the dominant motivator preference here might be the Friend, creating strong relationship across a communication web. Back up might be the Expert, knowledgeable and informed, and Star, prominent and necessary.

One more for now: the Monitor role, what motivators suit that? First, perhaps, would be the Defender, for monitoring implies security and predictability. Add to this the Director motivator because monitoring invariably implies the need to control or to ensure something persists within existing parameters. Finally, the Expert since usually monitoring requires a fair degree of specialization and insight.

These, I say, represent typical profiles that might well suit the roles that Akeela challenged with me; but it is not say that other profiles are not possible, for a law with Motivational Maps is that motivators are not skill or knowledge sets. People can perform at a high level for quite a while – till they burn out – with motivators not aligned with their role. But what about the other six roles, you cry?

Well, here’s your homework: what do you think their most likely motivators are? I’ll give you a chance to comment and have your say before I post again on the subject.

9 Fabulous Tips to Produce Great Teams

The person who has experienced real teamwork and been part of a team is always aware that something bigger than one self is being achieved, which is why it feels so great. Indeed, being part of a real team can be considered one of life’s greatest experiences: just under falling in love, great friendship (of which it can be a material part) and having children. Great teams create success in life as well as in achieving objectives, which is why Virgil observed, “Success nourished them; they seemed to be able, and so they were able”. Some core part of our self is re-enforced by effective teamwork and our self-efficacy rises, which is tantamount to saying that our self-esteem is boosted.

We need to constantly tune our teams because the law of entropy means they will run down without inputs. Here are nine tips then that will tune them or get you thinking about what you need to do to improve teamwork.

Firstly, consistently and persistently talk to the team about what a team is, why it is not a group, and how it has geometric, not just arithmetic power! Raise your and their expectations of what is possible.

Second, motivate yourself more to believe in teams. Here is a good reason: teams are important because you are not immortal: you will die, or retire, or resign, or transfer, or at some point leave the team/group of which you are member. At that point who takes over? Who succeeds? Teams ensure some genuine form of succession planning, and thus secure a legacy to the work that you have done. That’s important isn’t it? Groups on the contrary have little or no structure and so little of value can be perpetuated or transmitted to the future.

Three, be certain that the remit or mission or objective is bold, big, clear and compelling; be, like the Blues Brothers, on a ‘mission from God’! People want to be important and what can be more important than doing something important with like-minded friends? For most people (and groups) work is an activity of which 80% or more is wasted time; buy-in to clear, specific objectives is the antidote to this waste and the foundation of strong team performance.

Four, understand that the two words ‘team’ and ‘hierarchy’ are mutually exclusive. You’ll know that there’s too much hierarchy in your organisation when you find everyone agrees with your views and deference is the norm. Group-think beckons! It’s not rank that decides what we do and how we do it, but relevance and contribution to the mission.

Five, just as we speak of clarifying the objective, so we need to spend time negotiating roles in order to maximise each member’s contribution, particularly by playing to their strengths and motivators. One good question is: ‘how DO I contribute to the objective?’ And here’s an even better one for the superior team: ‘how CAN I contribute to the team?’

Six, ensure you oil the machine. This follows from tip five: a too rigid pursuit of objectives, of what I call the ‘content’, always leads to disintegration, as even the most powerful engine will burst apart if it is not oiled properly. ‘Oiling’, in team terms, is paying attention not just to the objectives but to the process. A favourite question I have for teams is: ‘how do you interact with each other?’ The answer speaks volumes, especially when it’s something like: ‘We don’t’!

Seven, avoid blame and drive out fear. The driving out of fear is Point 8 of W.E. Deming’s famous Fourteen Point programme for the transformation of management; and it was essential for him in terms of the whole organisational drive to achieve quality. People will not give their best, or be creative, or solve pressing business problems, if they feel that making a mistake is going to have dire consequences. Blame is always destructive. We need therefore to stop doing it. If you are not sure whether you do it, ask – get feedback and act it on it rather than blaming the messengers! Be consistent in word and deed.

Eight, ensure accountability to the wider organisation. So far the tips have largely focused on getting the team in the right – the peak – condition to perform. But there is a danger: the silo effect, the fiefdom and empire building scenarios, wherein successful teams become detached from the wider organisation and exist to promote only themselves. This needs to be prevented at source by proper accountability, controls and incentives.

Finally, nine, make sure you have fun – this can be easily overlooked or easily over-indulged in. In the latter case, everything is fun but not much is being achieved, but this is the rarer phenomenon. The simple antidote to it is ensuring that fun follows achievement and becomes a form of ongoing celebration. But overlooking its importance and relevance is much more common: employees, sometimes even in good teams, sometimes have to find ways to amuse themselves at work because they are bored – there is little fun to be had, and work is deathly serious. This is a mistake and needs to be reversed.

If you take some of these ideas and run with them you will find they have a major impact on your teams and thus on your productivity and profitability. Team work means teams work!


Motivation and Ambiguity

The most wonderful thing about Motivational Maps is, surely, that it has created a language to describe, and a metric to measure motivation. In the past motivation was at the mercy and the vagaries of whichever speaker was speaking; it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean. Great, if you were or are a motivational speaker, but less great if you are an organisation trying to seriously manage de-motivation with your employees and turn it round to get their engagement. And so in this sense the language and the metric have removed all the inherent ambiguity out of motivation, right? Alas, wrong, or at least partially wrong!

Sure, we have a lot more certainty now in tackling motivation, but ambiguity still remains, and in a big way.

Recently one of my best map practitioners sent me a two hour webinar recording of one of their training sessions on maps with a client, and asked for feedback. First, one needs to say that it was a tremendous performance: they covered so much ground in an interesting and informative way. The client certainly went away far more knowledgeable and enthused about motivation than before the training; but there was a problem, one not confined to this practitioner alone; one I have encountered with other top practitioners, and one which is so subtle to get at and which goes to the very heart of motivation and its concomitant ambiguity.

The best way of describing the problem is by giving the example that came up in the training session. They had gone on to a point in the training where each of the properties of the nine motivators were being discussed and analysed; they had got as far as the Expert motivator. As the Practitioner explained the features of the Expert motivator, the delegate immediately got the idea of someone wanting to be motivated by learning, by knowledge, by expertise, and cut in with a comment about some people who so readily want to appear ‘experts’ but a short while into their expositions you realise that they are not experts at all, and that their knowledge is shallow, superficial or commonplace.

Indeed, haven’t we all met these people at one time or another in our lives? But the Practitioner immediately riposted with a remark to the effect that, ‘Yes, but …’ Yes, but the Expert, you see, because they want – really want – learning tends to become expert, and so because they want learning they acquire it. Or desire, in other words, becomes our reality. And of course in the high powered world where this Practitioner lives, coaching senior executives, who are committed to improving, that makes a lot of sense. Most of the time, for most of the people who have a strong Expert motivator, they will acquire the learning and skills that make them experts! Yes, most of the time.

But what the Practitioner was forgetting in ‘absolutizing’ this tendency of the motivator is that everybody has a motivational profile, and when we say everybody we mean the co-dependent, game player types, we mean the plain stupid types, we mean the types too who are confused about every single aspect of their lives because none of it makes sense. In fact, we mean every shade of problematic person. So, when we consider it, there is going to be a significant number of people who have Expert as their number one motivator but whose actual grasp of real expertise is delusional, self-delusional. Let’s not forget what William James, the father of American psychology, said: “Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.”  There is a gap, in other words. So the motivational profile works, is accurate, but because of the limitation of the person the result is not what they think it is – or what they or we want it to be.

What, then, we are dealing with here is the clear fact that motivation leads to performance and also to behaviours, but that just having the motivation may not be enough; the motivation may be compromised by other factors – like, in the case of Expert, stupidity. But more importantly, this means that we cannot just assign ‘certainty’ to any motivational profile, and say it means this or that; because, of course, it may not and we need to look at the context, especially in the above example, the personal context.

Hypostatisation is a technical word that means the process by which we accord ‘reality’ to something; and it seems to me that that process is what it is so easy to do to the maps: we hypostatise the meaning, we make the desire ‘fixed, we want the fly, the living fly, to stay in amber so we can observe it with very little fuss, or very little ambiguity; it’s much harder to observe the fly in flight or as it moves on the green leaf of the human soul. But that is what is required of the great Map Practitioners: never to assume that any motivator (the Expert is just one example, but the principle applies to all nine) is static – like some psychometric profile:  it means you are ‘this’ – but rather to see the desire, the energy, moving and responding to the internal and external environments it finds itself located in. IMG_0441

If this is done, then the Practitioner can go beyond providing a good and competent service to the client about their motivation and their life; if this is done, they can achieve truly amazing insights and ideas that will astound their clients and change their very self-concepts and beliefs in what is possible.



Finding your Real Friends

The relatively IMG-20141225-00638
New Year is a good time to reflect on the important things in life, things like friendship. Indeed, friendship is up there with love and having children as being one of the greatest experiences of being human and alive. Friendship can produce such joy, laughter, intimacy and wonder when it is at its best; and similarly, and surely, we have all had that experience where we come to feel that the friend we have is not really a friend at all; they are not a bad person necessarily, but they are not our friend, our special (in a non-exclusive sense) friend. The trouble is that these non-friendships can continue for years; they drain our energy, our time, our resources; and either duty or guilt means we somehow never quit them, and so end up a martyr to friendship. A sad condition, especially when you consider that the essence of friendship, unlike our families, is choice: we are supposed to choose our friends, but we cannot choose who our mother or brother is.

What, then, are the key characteristics of true friendship? I think there are three. First, and most importantly, is equality. Friendship is always based on equality. That means that if you think you are superior to others, or if you feel inferior, then you will have a real problem sustaining friendships. Equality is essential because in the first instance it enables ease of communication: there is no ‘boss’, no need for deference or degree; there is instead the glorious freedom of equality where we can speak to another as we would speak to our self! That is wonderful. And less people think to diminish the importance of this point, we need to bear in mind the insidious way that certain people develop self-images of themselves which invariably predicate self-importance and so superiority. Nobody, except a social climber or a snob, wants truly to be with a friend who is manifestly superior.

Second is reciprocity. Friendship is not about accounting: I have done this for you so that you should do this for me, a sort of one-to-one exchange, a commoditisation in other words of true friendship. But the reality is that true friendship always involves the exchange of benefits, and benefits are mutually shared and this is apparent. Sometimes we have so-called friends who never do anything for us; we haven’t been counting but over time, consciously or sub-consciously, we notice and feel empty. All the giving has been from us. Sometimes we have so-called friends who ‘give’ but what they give is not what we want, but what they want, and thus is always misdirected because the benefit accrues to them. And that’s an important word in friendship (as it is in sales): benefits. We can spend a lot of time with friends enjoying the ‘features’ of friendship – a weekly meeting in the restaurant or down the bar – but the benefits never emerge: for example, the conversation is always about them, or it’s always about how much alcohol can be consumed and little else; and this over time proves empty too.

And this leads on to the third key characteristic: namely, empathy, or the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes and feel life as they feel it. For if we can do that there will be no or few misdirected benefits for we will really know what our friends want and eagerly seek to help them get it. This is no different from how we might consider our children at Christmas. Sure, we can buy presents for our kids, but the loving parent knows – knows – what their kid really wants because they empathise completely with them. And you see the difference in the results: the kids who have parents who bought them ‘everything’ but, who gives a damn, and those who may have only bought their child one present, but it’s the right one and their joy and pleasure go on and on beyond the twelve days of Christmas. So it is with true friendship: when we empathise with our friends then our reciprocations become more and more valid and telling.


Motivational Differences that Make a Difference

Recently one of my colleagues asked me to review a couple of Motivational Maps with them. They were coaching a couple of international European footballers nearing the end of their careers; and the Maps of course are ideal for helping understand the direction in which one might go, for to be satisfied and happy with a new career the motivators must be aligned and satisfied.

The two footballers were from the same European country and probably knew of each other, as they are top players in the top division, but they played at different clubs. Neither was aware that they were being coached by the same person. So there it was: two Maps in front of me and what did I think? What did I see in the Maps? And strangely what I saw initially surprised me. Both maps seemed so similar. For example, both players had money and control well done their list of motivators, although both scored their money satisfaction very high, meaning that money was no issue for them. Both had the Star motivator bottom of the pile, which surprised me as being an international player inevitably leads to a certain degree of fame as well as fortune. But presumably this was something they accepted and did not actively seek.

But it was when we got to the top three motivators that things got really interesting. Again, they both seemed so similar. Player A had Belonging, Security and Making a Difference as his top three, and Player B had Belonging, Creativity and Making a Difference as his. In other words, these two entirely separate players shared their top and third motivators, and only the second motivator was different: Security versus Creativity. Given as well how similar the rest of the profile was, then one can easily conclude that the same career formulae could apply to both. One could assume that but one would be dead wrong!

For as I probed with my colleague – the coach – into what these two profiles meant an astonishing fact emerged, which the Maps themselves were revealing. I said that Player B had a much higher risk and change profile than player A. Indeed Player A’s profile with two Relationship motivators as first and second was going to be a lot trickier to develop into a new career because the whole thrust of the profile was defensive (we call Security orientation the Defender in our system) whereas Player B had two Growth motivators in the top three that would offset the need to belong (belonging of course resists change). So Player B would more actively seek to create opportunities for themselves and move on.

My colleague, the coach, at this point sounded quite amazed. ‘That’s interesting,’ she said, and what followed I could not know, ‘because Player A plays as a defender in his team, whereas Player B is an attacker’! In short, Player A has to block other’s initiatives whereas Player B has to create openings – that’s what they do in football, and presumably have been doing since they started playing at six years’ old!

How incredible: the Motivational Map had picked out not just some aspect of advising them in future and the relative ease or difficultly therein, but had identified a core component and difference in their current roles. Both footballers, yes, but one plays defence and one plays attack – and the Maps can see the difference in the desire and the want. As a profiling tool for recruitment, therefore, I think Motivational Maps is pre-eminent and the recruitment world is slowly going to catch up with the potential of this incredible tool.


Why You Should Use Motivational Maps in Your Recruitment Process

Motivational Maps can make a very big difference when it comes down to the the final selection interview, and there are, say, only 2 or 3 candidates left in the field. Often, because of the rigorous process organisations have gone through to pare the short list down to such a small number, the quality of the candidates is high, and it is difficult to differentiate between them. Who, in fact, will be the best fit?

It is at this point Motivational Maps can make a profound difference. Unlike personality and psychometric profiling tools, which really establish ‘traits’ – fixed characteristics of the person – Maps measure energy, which is fluid and changing: what the person really wants, and how much energy they have at that moment in time when they do the Map. In short, Maps make visible what is normally invisible – namely, a person’s actual desires. This has several profound advantages.

First, it enables us to establish whether the role of the job and the motivators actually match each other. To take a simple example: what if you wish to appoint a sales person on a low salary but high commission. This is invariably a ‘high risk’ type of role. The person applying may have a great CV, excellent qualifications, even an impressive track-record, but what if we find their motivators indicate risk-aversion and a high desire for stability (one of the motivators)? A-ha! More research needed into this candidate – all might not be what it seems.

Second, Maps can reveal underlying internal conflicts within the person or potential conflicts with the team members they are applying to join. For example, their number one motivator is for power and control, but so is their boss’s – how is that going to work, then? This needs unpicking before the appointment!

Third, Maps are a relatively new and unknown tool – candidates have no idea what they are revealing, and there are no books at the airport bookshops instructing you on how to fake your psychometric test and get the ‘right’ answer. The Maps are 99.9% accurate and practitioners of Maps are trained to spot ‘false’ results (which are extremely rare). Thus the information provided tends to be highly accurate, highly relevant and highly useful.

There are nine motivators at work and for any one person, three tend to be dominant. This means the Maps are not simplistic, just focusing on one 'trait'; on the contrary, the motivators interact dynamically with each other, which both knowledge, insight and subtlety must be used in its application. The key is to understand the requirements of the role and then see how appropriate the motivators are in relationship to that role.

It is important to stress that Motivational Maps are no substitute for the normal recruitment and HR processes for selection. Its value occurs in the final stages where for a small investment tens of thousands of pounds – or more - can be saved in making the right choice.

We hope you will want to use Motivational Maps in your selection process!



Why You Should Use Motivational Maps in Your Recruitment Process

Motivational Maps can make a very big difference when it comes down to the the final selection interview, and there are, say, only 2 or 3 candidates left in the field. Often, because of the rigorous process organisations have gone through to pare the short list down to such a small number, the quality of the candidates is high, and it is difficult to differentiate between them. Who, in fact, will be the best fit?

It is at this point Motivational Maps can make a profound difference. Unlike personality and psychometric profiling tools, which really establish ‘traits’ – fixed characteristics of the person – Maps measure energy, which is fluid and changing: what the person really wants, and how much energy they have at that moment in time when they do the Map. In short, Maps make visible what is normally invisible – namely, a person’s actual desires. This has several profound advantages.

First, it enables us to establish whether the role of the job and the motivators actually match each other. To take a simple example: what if you wish to appoint a sales person on a low salary but high commission. This is invariably a ‘high risk’ type of role. The person applying may have a great CV, excellent qualifications, even an impressive track-record, but what if we find their motivators indicate risk-aversion and a high desire for stability (one of the motivators)? A-ha! More research needed into this candidate – all might not be what it seems.

Second, Maps can reveal underlying internal conflicts within the person or potential conflicts with the team members they are applying to join. For example, their number one motivator is for power and control, but so is their boss’s – how is that going to work, then? This needs unpicking before the appointment!

Third, Maps are a relatively new and unknown tool – candidates have no idea what they are revealing, and there are no books at the airport bookshops instructing you on how to fake your psychometric test and get the ‘right’ answer. The Maps are 99.9% accurate and practitioners of Maps are trained to spot ‘false’ results (which are extremely rare). Thus the information provided tends to be highly accurate, highly relevant and highly useful.

There are nine motivators at work and for any one person, three tend to be dominant. This means the Maps are not simplistic, just focusing on one 'trait'; on the contrary, the motivators interact dynamically with each other, which both knowledge, insight and subtlety must be used in its application. The key is to understand the requirements of the role and then see how appropriate the motivators are in relationship to that role.

It is important to stress that Motivational Maps are no substitute for the normal recruitment and HR processes for selection. Its value occurs in the final stages where for a small investment tens of thousands of pounds – or more - can be saved in making the right choice.

We hope you will want to use Motivational Maps in your selection process!



Motivational Maps versus Staff Surveys

Your organisation’s ability to function effectively in today’s competitive market depends on a number of crucial factors. The most crucial of all is undoubtedly leadership and without it the organisation is doomed; and this leadership is not just one person – the ‘head honcho’ – for the truly effective leader always create leadership all the way down the command chain. Indeed leadership is diffused throughout the whole organisation. This leads to an important observation: namely, that organisational effectiveness is a people issue, and nothing is more important for success, for longevity and ultimately for making a difference than the quality of people we recruit, retain and reward.

Financial, marketing/sales and operational plans and strategies are also key to being effective, but they in turn depend upon people for their generation and their implementation. Are these people engaged, or serving time? Are these people ambassadors for your organisation or are they secret saboteurs? Are these people motivated or are they apathetic?

To date the only generally accepted way of establishing what the staff think and how they view the organisation is via the annual (or otherwise) staff survey. This is good but it has several drawbacks. First, it is relatively expensive for what it is; after all, you would think that since staff has managers who manage them we might know what staff think and feel from the managers? In small organisations they sometimes do – why don’t managers in large organisations (they are generally paid more!) - know? Put another way, it seems a form of managerial disempowerment. Second, the survey is ‘obvious’ in what it is seeking to know and establish. This means staff can point score, promote agendas, and more generally dis-inform management of the real situation and the real needs. Third, the information by its nature can be fragmentary and not easy to implement and respond to. Indeed, one of the frequent criticisms of staff surveys by staff is that it is done and nothing subsequently happens or changes.

Motivational Maps is different. To address the three points above: it is relatively inexpensive to implement; it is subtle and reveals both specifics and trends; and the information can immediately be acted upon and 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 grave interest to the effective leader. We have found in fact that it is only effective leaders who want to embrace this technology; weak ineffective leaders are frightened of it.

The individual Map tells us what the individual wants; the team Map tells us what the team collectively wants, and it also points towards potential conflicts – conflicts of energy - within the team that might derail it from its remit; and now the new organisational Map (to be launched by the end of January 2015) takes mapping to another level: it tells us what the teams want, and 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 – 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.

On all three criteria, then, Motivational Maps is superior to the staff survey, and my prediction for 2015 is that once the Organisational Motivational Map is fully operational, then increasingly organisations are going to wake up to this new and more effective reality! Happy New Year to all my readers and followers.