Friday, January 31, 2020

Let Happiness Flow – Colombia Style

A couple of months ago I met Sylvia Ramirez when we were speaking together at a WOBI Leadership Conference in Medellin.

I was back in Colombia a few days ago and caught up with Sylvia again.  (Her first book Felicidad (Happiness) was Colombia’s biggest seller in 2019 – and she has a new book in the works.)

I promised not to reveal the contents – she’ll launch it in Mexico in June, but it outlines three great ideas to help you find your own personal/professional Happiness.

She’s 35 years old, smart, insightful and a charismatic, uplifting speaker.  And she’s right in the Zeitgeist of 2020.

Keep your eye on her.  She’s the real deal.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ageing (2) – For Robin

Never mind the joints that ache
the bones more brittle
than they were at twenty.

The memory lapses
and the end resembling the beginning
as we toddle much like toddlers,
Into age and then beyond
all of it is part of the ride.

From that first slap alive we travel
on deaths road. Life like everything
has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Wherever you may think you are
on that chain,
surprises cannot be avoided.

I promise you that growing older
in all ways but one is safe and
easy, something to be savored.

The downside? Outliving friends
that cannot be replaced, those
few that always make and made
a difference.

Ride on.
Live for those who did not complete
the journey, make a difference
for them.

Rod McKuen, Rusting in the Rain.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Getting From There to Here

A couple of verses from an ageing poet who wrote this 20 years ago sprung to mind this sunny Arizona morning.

But having seen the surge of youth, the sag of age
in breast and chest and everything,
I still say Spring is overrated. Age is better.
Less is expected of the once firm chest that drags
a little lower, the robust voice reduced to murmur,
speaking slower.

Age can finally say aloud what it really feels and
thinks in after dinner company or crowd.
No one blinks. If they do, no matter.
Age erases pretence; replacing it with sense.

Age is proof you got from there to here.
Alas, so many that you loved
did not complete the journey. You mourn them, yes,
and always will, but age is such a triumph over youth,
again, because you moved across the years to here.
Leaving there where it belongs
for youth to come along and re-discover.        


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Making Britain Great Again

I read a great article by Natalie Ceeney the other day, making the case that in the UK, increasing the skills of workers (young and old) should be our greatest priority.

I couldn’t agree more.  I was recently asked on a podcast what I thought was the greatest problem facing us this decade.  Unemployment I answered – 50% of all current work will be automated in the next 10 years, with most of those at risk being the youngest, the oldest and disproportionately women.

Huge numbers of people have not been given the right skills at schools / universities and are not equipped to deal with this accelerating reality.  McKinsey believes that by 2030, two thirds of the UK workforce could be lacking basic digital skills and more than 10 million people will be under-skilled in leadership and decision-making.

This will not only impact business competitiveness and productivity, but more alarmingly will widen existing inequalities and social disruption.

Every company needs to put leadership skills training and talent development at the top of its priority list.  And Government needs to up its investment significantly with Education adding skills training to its curriculum at some speed.

I hope Boris and his team get through all this Brexit nonsense quickly and then focus on putting the Great back into Great Britain – by focussing on transforming the way Education and Business think about skill development in this VUCA world.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Sound Advice from Mr Hemingway


Friday, January 10, 2020

Foodie Friday – Summer with Simon.

                                                                                     Photo Credit - Vanessa Lewis.

I’ve been mates with Simon Gault since 1989 – when he was an ambitious, hungry whippersnapper, busy making Bell House extraordinary.

We’ve done a lot together – including a joint venture, Gaults on Quay, which was one of the best times of my life.

Simon has gone on to fame and fortune – via MasterChef judging on TV, being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and opening Giraffe.

He hasn’t written a cookbook for six years – and here’s his latest.  Inspired by his beautiful daughter Hazel – a cookbook for all of us.  Healthy.  Fun.  Simple and Sensational.

Grab a taste of the real Kiwi Summer.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Leadership Lessons from the Mouse House

Here’s a list of Disney CEO Bob Iger’s leadership lessons from his new book – The Ride of a Lifetime.
  • To tell great stories, you need great talent.
  • Innovate or die.
  • There can be no innovation if you operate out of fear of the new.
  • Push back against the urge to say good enough is good enough.
  • Take responsibility when you screw up.
  • Be decent to people.
  • Value ability more than experience.
  • Put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them.
  • Ask the questions you need to ask.
  • Admit what you don’t understand.
  • Managing creativity is an art, not a science.
  • Don’t start negatively and don’t start small.
  • Grant permission to fail.
  • Create possibilities for greatness.
  • Don’t let ambition get ahead of opportunity.
  • Don’t invest in energy sapping small projects.
  • Good leadership is about helping others to be prepared to step into your shoes.
  • Demand integrity from your product and your people at all times.
  • Lead from a place of courage.
  • Leaders are Optimists; pessimism leads to paranoia and risk aversion.
  • Convey your priorities clearly and repeatedly.
  • Keep internal messaging simple.  ‘This is where we want to be.  This is how we’ll get there.’
  • Technology will make older business models obsolete.
  • You have to do the homework.  You have to be prepared.
  • If something doesn’t feel right to you, it won’t be right for you.
  • When hiring, hire people who are good in addition to being good at what they do.
  • In any negotiation, be clear about where you stand from the beginning.
  • Projecting your anxiety onto your team is counterproductive.
  • If you’re in the business of making something, be in the business of making something great.
  • It’s no good to have power for too long.


Friday, January 3, 2020

The Team of the Decade

By Joe Bernstein for The Mail on Sunday
·       After 34 years without a trophy, Manchester City enjoyed a decade to remember 
·       City excelled as they won four league titles, two FA Cup and three League Cups 
·       The club managed to attract Pep Guardiola and a host of top quality players 
Manchester City began the decade trophyless for 34 years. They end it with more Premier League titles and points than anyone else.
‘Champions four times. We would definitely have settled for that,’ smiles City executive Brian Marwood, who could also have mentioned two FA Cups, four League Cups, a unique clean sweep of domestic trophies in 2018-19 and a run to the Champions League semi-finals.
What started on January 2, 2010 with a 1-0 FA Cup third round win at Middlesbrough — Benjani scoring the winner in Roberto Mancini’s third game in charge as manager — has developed into something even the Abu Dhabi group couldn’t have dreamt of when they bought the club.
The last 10 years have seen the birth of legends like Vincent Kompany and David Silva, historic moments such as the Aguerooo (sic) goal and a massive rebuild of the previously impoverished east side of Manchester.
They attracted the best manager of his generation, Pep Guardiola, whose previous clubs Barcelona and Bayern Munich are part of European aristocracy.
Marwood, a former England and Arsenal player, has been present throughout, first as director of football and now managing director of global football as the City brand goes worldwide.
Marwood is proud his club have come from nowhere to be England’s Team of the Decade.
‘The club was very different in 2010 to what you see today,’ he reflects. ‘We all felt at the time there was an awful lot of work to be successful, and sustain it. Prior to the new owners (Aug 2008), not a lot of money had been spent on or off the pitch.
‘We needed investment in players but also other people, the team behind the team. Any business needs the right infrastructure and behaviour, vision, strategy, values. We were no different. We had to change the mentality so people within the club believed.’
Having rich owners from Abu Dhabi helps. But City are sensitive to the idea success has been bought without any other reasoning. It is worth pointing out that Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have spent more on individual players than them.
In the first part of the decade, their recruitment was spectacularly good with Kompany, Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero becoming club icons.
‘We did inherit a core,’ said Marwood. ‘Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta were already at the club. Players with a strong mentality were added; Joleon Lescott, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez.
‘Then that extra layer of talent; Yaya, Sergio, David. Patrick Vieira was important. His on-field impact was probably limited but he brought an amazing winning mentality to the dressing room every day. It became a winning culture rather than a losing culture with people feeling sorry for themselves.’
The catalyst was lifting the FA Cup in 2011 to end the long trophy drought. The following year, they won their first Premier League — under Mancini — in the most dramatic circumstances. Aguero’s injury-time winner against QPR allowed City to pip Manchester United on goal difference.
At boardroom level, the strategy was interesting. City were not a club reliant on having the same manager for 20 years like Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, neither did they wish to swap bosses as frequently as Chelsea. They found a happy medium.
Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini came and left as champions and now Guardiola has taken the club to a whole new level, winning the title two years ago with a record hundred points.
‘We always wanted to be club-led rather than manager-led,’ explains Marwood. ‘What I mean by that is we wanted to create a philosophy so there would be no huge disruption if a manager left.
‘Our vision, the DNA of how we wanted to play evolved, and Pep Guardiola is the high priest of that methodology. It was important to find that alignment between the long-term strategy and a coach being to able to manage within that structure. The fit between Pep and the club has been fantastic.’
As someone who has been at the heart of City’s rise, it is significant that Marwood is also keen to give credit to those who might not be mentioned as often as more famous names.
‘My strongest personal memory is seeing Mr Manchester City, Bernard Halford (former club secretary) going up to lift the FA Cup in 2011. I respected him enormously for what he did for the club during difficult times and when we moved stadiums, he was the man who locked the gates for the final time at Maine Road.
‘To see him going up the steps at Wembley will be forever etched in my mind. He stood for everything about Manchester City, the history good and bad. And being a humble, dignified person.’
Of course, City are not ending their decade the way they would like. They have lost this season to Norwich, Manchester United, Liverpool and twice against Wolves, and sit third.
Guardiola, a serial winner, is being pragmatic. ‘The club has made incredible steps with different players and managers in the last decade,’ he said. ‘Four Premier League titles is not bad considering this league.
‘But there are periods football is not about being up there all the time. We were incredible for two seasons but now in this competition, the Premier League, we have lost more games than then. You have to adapt. You have to analyse and move forward.’
Liverpool won six out of 10 championships in the 1980s. United won five in the 90s and six in the Noughties. Marwood thinks the strength of competition means it is less likely any team will dominate over long periods any more.
It is already happening in the Champions League where Real Madrid are the only club to regain the prize, and City are still looking for their first. 
Marwood says: ‘There have been teams in the past that have dominated for long periods. We’ve had an amazing 10 years but there will always be challenges.
‘Liverpool are certainly that challenge right now. You would expect Manchester United, Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal to recover. That is what makes this league as enthralling and entertaining as it is.
‘The battle is normally very close between the top two or three, like last year, because there is not a huge difference between a number of teams.
‘For us to win the league with 100 and 98 points was incredible and we had to be like that because of the teams challenging.’
They are the Team of the Decade and they will fight to stay at the top.