Monday, July 29, 2019

Learnings from Lancaster

I’ve been working at Lancaster University’s Business School for 10 years now, alongside two inspirational MBA Programme Heads – Chris Saunders and Peter Lenney.

I discuss 64 Shots, Leadership in a Crazy World with the MBA’s as part of Peter’s Mindful Manager Programme.  After three x three hour sessions with the 45 strong cohort, we invite eight of the group to a two-day Masterclass to my Grasmere home, where we focus on Inspirational Leadership, Mental Toughness and Active Listening – mainly through high pressure, fun, fast, interactive role plays.

During dinner the group pitches a bunch of questions.  Here are 16 from last week with my top-line responses.

Q1.  How flexible is the Personal Purpose? What can be changed and how often?

A1.  The Personal Purpose is very flexible.  Review it monthly, change it whenever you feel it needs changing.

Q2.  What exercise/practice do you recommend to enhance our Mental Toughness?

A2.  Remind yourself of Focus, Commitment, Discipline.  Practice Blue Head, TCUP techniques.

Q3.  How do you measure success or failure in leadership?

A3.  By evaluating someone’s track record and every-day performance in their ability to Fail Fast, Learn Fast and Fix Fast.  And then by seeing if they are creating leaders and inspiring peak performance from their teams.

Q4.  How would you explain The Four Agreements to your grandchildren?

A4.  Simply and clearly, using examples from their daily lives – when they are 8 / 9 years old.

Q5.  If you were given super powers for 3 minutes - right now - how would you make use of it?

A5.  The one Super Power I would love is the ability to eradicate a major disease, eg cancer.  And I’d share the ‘secret’ with the world.

Q6.  As a leader, what was your biggest weakness and how did you overcome it during demanding times?

A6.  I gave people too many chances / too much time to overcome weaknesses that they were unable to eradicate.  I learned to make harder calls earlier – so everyone benefitted.

Q7.  Are there any practical tips for making oneself disciplined?

A7.  Yes – write down your goal every day and look at it three times a day.  Share your task with someone close to you and ask them to help you stay on task.

Q8.  I agree that one should not try to please people but how should one be comfortable knowing that someone is not okay or unhappy with us?

A8.  Observe them.  Listen to them (not what they say, but what they mean).  Ask them again.

Q9.  Biggest failure in your career and what you learned?

A9.  See my post on July 9, you’ll see nine lessons from three failures.

Q10. What do you think is the key success factor that got you promoted and became a global CEO?

A10. A combination of Hunger, Work Rate, Creativity, Decision-Making and Leadership/Listening skills.  All founded on the ABC’s (Ambition, Belief, Courage).

Q11. What are the things that you have made it as daily morning and evening routine that you never missed in your entire career and at what age you have formed these routines?

A11. I start the day with my ABC’s on one particular project.  I close the day thinking of three things that made me smile that day.  Around 39.

Q12. When you look back at your career what is one thing you wish you would have learned early in your career?

A12. To become an entrepreneur once I had peaked as a corporate CEO – 15 years ago.

Q13. What was the most crazy thing you have done to deliver your ideas or sell something?

A13. Entered an Analyst’s conference with a lion on a leash.

Q14. What was your key learnings after leaving Saatchi & Saatchi?

A14. Never stay more than seven years in the same job.

Q15. What relevance/importance would you place on deliberately seeking out a leadership mentor and if significantly important how best can one establish such relationships?

A15. Mentors have been important to me.  But I never ‘sought’ one out.  They just happen (if you put yourself out there).  Remember – Luck is what happens when Preparation Meets Opportunity.

Q16. If you were to hire, what quality would you consider irresistible?

A16. I love people with high (IQ+EQ+TQ+BQ)CQ and who are Competitive, Passionate and Restless.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Foodie Friday. Nothing Beats a Decadent Lunch at Home.

I love eating dinners out – and I rarely lunch, but when I do, it’s with family or friends and it’s (as Sally Bowles told us in Cabaret) Divinely Decadent.

Last week we did the business at Beckwood.

The Ensemble:
Joseph Royle:
-    Manchester City, Everton and England Footballer and goal scorer.
-    Manager of Manchester City – taking us from Division 2 to the Premiership, Everton and Ipswich.  Full time Liverpool Wit.
Peter Reid:
-    Cultural Attaché to Huyton (!).
-    Manchester City, Everton, Bolton and England midfield dynamo (and named 4th best player in the world in 1985 just behind Maradona and Platini).
-    Manager of Manchester City, Sunderland and subject of fan chant ‘Cheer up Peter Reid’.
Brian Ashton:
-    Rugby player – Lancashire, the North of England, Barbarians and England.
-    Inspirational, free-thinking coach of Bath, Ireland and England and my co-Chairman of the LRGS Black Sheep Club
Darren Royle:
-    Exec Chairman of Wigan Athletic.
Jonathan Jackson:
-    CEO of Wigan Athletic Football Club.
Dave Bennetts, Barry Parsonage and Eric Rigg:
-    Friends since primary school and companions in arms at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and The Vale of Lune RUFC.

The Programme:
1pm      Drinks in our own Lancastrian pub
3pm      Lunch in the Dining Room, Beckwood
7pm      ‘Name That Tune’ (!) in The Lancastrian pub
10pm     End of Decadent Lunch

The Chef:
Nick Foster – late of The Drunken Duck, now his own boss and private chef in the Lakes and North West Lancashire.  Visit him at
Here are Nick’s sample menus:

All washed down with local beers (Bluebird Bitter, Lancaster Blonde and Lakeland Gold), 1995 Château Montrose, 1990 Château d’Yquem and Sandeman’s 40 year old Tawny.

Cheer Up Peter Reid!!!!


Monday, July 22, 2019

The Deliberate Life

Hayden Wilson is a marketing consultant/copywriter/author based in Sydney (and a top bloke).  I recently recorded a podcast interview with Hayden for his Deliberate Life series.  You can listen to it here:


Thursday, July 18, 2019

That was the week that was.

Sunday: Acute tendonitis of right Achilles completes first month of six-month rehab.  Working reasonably well, ice, Voltaren anti-inflammatory, plus compression bandage getting the job done.

Monday: Two hours in Zebra Dental Surgery in Grasmere replacing 30-year-old front teeth bridge with a temporary bridge – three front teeth removed.  Blood and thunder.  Kris Kristofferson and Bose headphones get me through.

Monday evening:  First attempt to eat with new bridge.  It fails totally – no front four teeth.  The Werewolf look.  Grandkids thought I’d be cleaning up with the tooth fairy – 4!!

Tuesday mid-day:  Replacement bridge fitted.  Double the cement of yesterday’s.  All good.

Tuesday 2pm:  Take grandchildren to kids farm.  Left leg starts burning – can’t figure out why.

Tuesday 6pm:  Get home, take trousers off and look at leg.  What a horror.  Twice the size of the right leg, mottled in violent purple, crimson from ankle to two inches below knee.  Send photos to Dr Marcus Stone in New Zealand.
Marcus orders me to the A&E clinic.  Nearest one is in Lancaster, one hour away.  Wait there for five hours.  Doctor diagnoses a serious infection which appears to be spreading (especially during the five hours).
Moved into a ward, put on an intravenous antibiotic drip – kept in there all day with four intravenous sessions.  Infection halted in its tracks.  No more expansion.

Wednesday 7.30am – 3pm:  Three doctors on the case with slightly differing theories, until senior consultant decides in favour of infection and cellulitis.  A scan reveals no DVT threat.  Lancaster Royal Infirmary (where I was born) are obviously delighted to have their prodigal son return and suggest I stay another 24 hours to enjoy their intravenous drip and famous NHS cuisine.
I explain my grandkids are waiting for me and I have to leave immediately – now that the penicillin has won Phase I.  I procure seven days oral antibiotics with a commitment to return for an Assessment/Bloods on Friday.
(The fundamental problem with hospitals is they are full of sick people.)
Bad things come in threes.  Looking forward now to some sunshine.

Thursday:  Swelling reducing.  Front teeth still in.  TGIT.


  • Friday 4pm:  Bloods all improving.  Royal Lancaster Infirmary discharged me officially.  Six days antibiotics away from normal.
  • Teeth still in!  Permanent bridge in two weeks time.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Your Business Brave?

I’ve been working with a small crew of imaginative, transformational folks for a few years now and they’ve just completed and sharpened their offer – so welcome to RELUCTANTLY BRAVE.

(I recently taped a podcast with their Creative Head which you can see here.)

The Braves offer three services:
1.   Coaching brave leaders to imagine possibilities and catalyse others,
2.   Catalysing brave teams to work inclusively, imaginatively and purposefully,
3.   Building brave brands that are purposeful, authentic and compelling.

Give them a yell if you’re interested.  Contact James on +44-7779-035 988 or

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Are You Spartan?

Growing up in Lancaster, I was lucky enough to get into one of the great Northern schools, Lancaster Royal Grammar.  Praesis ut prosis (lead that you might serve) is engraved in the pub I have in my Grasmere home.  (Well you would, wouldn’t you?!!!!)

I was fortunate to be taught by some inspirational teachers – Doug Cameron, Peter Sampson, Jim Bates – who gave up teaching when he won some lottery money and retreated to North Wales to enjoy the outdoors and Baz Salmon – who introduced me to that great race, the Spartans.

A small City State, who, against all odds, overcame the Establishment (Athens) in the Peloponnesian Wars somewhere around 400BC if my aging memory serves me right.  (Too proud to Google it!!)

Who couldn’t be moved by Leonidas and the 300 at Thermopylae?

Spartan means simple, frugal, austere and self-restrained.  Laconic is derived from the Spartans (their home is modern day Laconia), pithy and concise from these people who prized brevity of speech.

So, are you Spartan?

Spartan Code

1)   A Spartan pushes their mind and body to their limits.

2)   A Spartan masters their emotions.

3)   A Spartan learns continuously.

4)   A Spartan gives generously.

5)   A Spartan leads.

6)   A Spartan stands up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.

7)   A Spartan knows their flaws as well as they know their strengths.

8)   A Spartan proves themselves through actions, not words.

9)   A Spartan lives every day as if it were their last.

Check yourself against this code.  Personally and professionally.  How do you score?  How does your boss do?  Your key team members?

Following this Spartan Code would lead to a successful, competitive and happy company in my view.

And to a great Region / Country.

So, are our political leaders Spartans?

Looking at Corbyn, Farage, Johnson, Gove, Fox, Leadstrom and co – how do they score against these criteria?  One man’s view:

1)   Besides flirting with cocaine and jogging for the cameras, do they really push themselves?  Or do they look lazy to you?

2)   Emotionally are they in control or are they constantly playing to the camera / public perception and hiding how they truly feel?

3)   What have they learned from Brexit in particular?  From the outside it looks like they are all lost and have learned practically nothing about how their constituents, the people, feel – and they are clueless on how to negotiate with the EU.

4)   Fail.

5)   General Norman Schwarzkopf said about Leadership “When given command, take charge and do what’s right”.  Leadership is based on a moral call, and is about making things happen whilst creating other leaders.  This lot?

6)   They are all Flip-Floppers.

7)   I doubt they have this degree of self-reflection and awareness.

8)   Not immediately apparent.

9)   A great piece of advice for you and I – but this bunch just look miserable.