Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A black day

A black day for Manchester.

And for Humanity.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Have you filled a Bucket today?

Ten years ago I picked up a story book – aimed at kids four – nine, by Carol McCloud and couldn’t put it down.  I was in Jaffé and Neale’s eclectic, independent bookstore in Chipping Norton last weekend where I stumbled upon two copies of the 10th Anniversary edition which I picked up for grandkids Kendall and Chloe.

The humble Bucket book has turned into a Bucket Fillosophy with seven companion books available from bucketfillers101.com.

Like all great ideas, bucket-filling is a simple concept – it’s designed to help kids understand how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation and love by ‘filling buckets’.

In our 24x7 VUCA world we sometimes forget how unconditional generosity and random acts of kindness can make all concerned feel more positive and happier.

Personal wellbeing is a key element in sustainable peak performance – and filling buckets is one of the ten most potent behaviours in building our own wellbeing – and thus our own performance.

Wellbeing is important because:
  • It energises positivity and commitment to Purpose,
  • It enhances flow, productivity and performance,
  • The best companies to work for deliberately create happy work environments,
  • Happy companies significantly outperform their peer group.
And here are the ten things I mentioned earlier:
  1. Progress towards meaningful goals contributes significantly to happiness,
  2. Happy people take time to do things that give them pleasure,
  3. Quality time with friends and family is top of the happiness list,
  4. Doing altruistic things for others creates enduring happiness,
  5. Expressing gratitude enhances your own wellbeing and that of the recipient,
  6. Regular exercise increases happiness,
  7. Positive experiences tend to provide more enduring happiness than tangible purchases,
  8. Beyond satisfaction of needs, more money does not make people significantly happier,
  9. People quickly adapt to material advances,
  10. We get little enduring pleasure from short cuts.
Keep filling buckets and your bucket will always be full.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Putting Life Onstage, but Bigger

Broadway is a blast. From the frothy tour de force of Bette Midler in "Hello Dolly" to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop historical “Hamilton” to the wrenching heartache of Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” Broadway stretches the heart and head in every direction. Broadway is a feast for the ears and the eyes. There is an instructive interview in Backstage by Casey Mink with Tony-nominated scenic designer David Korins (“Hamilton”) about visual storytelling. Korins has currently conjured the glamorous world of makeup mavens Helena Rubenstein and Elizbeth Arden in Broadway’s “War Paint,” starring stage legends Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. Here are insights into the creative world of the set designer:

Putting life onstage—but bigger
“Set design is a master class in humanity and in psychology. Some advice [for getting into set design] is see as many pieces of theater as you can, read as many books as you can, see as many movies, and watch as many television shows as you can. Immerse yourself in culture in general. What we do is put life onstage, but bigger. To become a designer is to become a consummate and professional storyteller. I think the people who tell the stories best are the ones who listen to stories the best.”

Scenic designers are credited with everything but the actors

“If you ripped the ceiling off of the theater and dumped the building upside down, everything that falls out that isn’t an actor is the work that I make. I create the environment for a show or an experience and I sort of conjure up the entire world.”

Collaboration with actors is give and take

“I welcome collaboration with performers. It’s such an interesting conversation to have when someone says, ‘I know why you chose this lamp, but here’s why it throws me off.’ I might push back, [but] that give and take is where the magic of theatricality happens. There might be a tiny detail on the back of a phone or something only the actor sees, but that detail does inform their performance, and the audience feels it.”

Actors get to know the set better than the designer
“Inevitably, I throw a dart at the dartboard a year before we build this thing, and then on the first day of rehearsal I say to [the actors], ‘Here’s what I did,’ and they have to bend their performances around the physical space I’ve created. The nuances and the ‘eyelashes,’ as opposed to the ‘jawbones,’ are things they’re in control of. I’m happy to have them be in control, because by the end of the experience, they will know so much more about the physical space than I ever will…. Probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten in this business is someone saying to me, ‘When I walk onto your stage, I don’t need to do any character development work because I know exactly who I am and who I’m playing.’ ”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Brief Book, Big Message

ROI – Return on Investment – is one of the epic idea-killers in the corporate playbook. Initiatives to engage in pure research, and creativity for the sake of it, usually get quashed at the starting gate by the ‘Abominable No Man.’ In my early years of leading Saatchi & Saatchi I asked a searching question “What comes after brands?” I didn’t ask for a business plan, a delivery timetable, or an implementation matrix. I just wrote a check, and another one, and another…the result was Lovemarks and it was a sustaining idea for the company for several years.

“The Usefulness of Useful Knowledge” is a small book with a big message by Robbert Dijkgraaf, a mathematical physicist who specializes on string theory. He is Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, established in 1930 with Albert Einstein as one of its first professors. The first half of the book comprises an essay by Dikjgraaf, followed by the 1939 essay “The Usefulness of Useful Knowledge” by the IAS’s founding director Abraham Flexner. Both essays are passionate and powerful advocacies for the unobstructed search for “answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for application.” Such a source “often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary breakthroughs. In short, no quantum mechanics, no computer chips.” Some choice quotes from Dikjgraff’s essay:

“In the early twentieth century study of the atom and the development of quantum mechanics were seen as a theoretical playground for a handful of often remarkably young physicists with little immediate consequences. The birth of quantum physics was long and painful. However, without quantum theory, we wouldn’t understand the nature of any material, including its color, texture, and chemical and nuclear properties. These days, in a world totally dependent on microprocessors, lasers and nanotechnology, it has been estimated that 30 percent of the U.S. gross national product is based on inventions made possible by quantum mechanics.”

“The life sciences provide perhaps the richest source of powerful practical implications of fundamental discoveries. One of the least known success stories in human history is how over the past two and a half centuries advances in medicine and hygiene have tripled life expectancy in the West…We should never forget that these groundbreaking discoveries, with their immense consequences for health and diseases, were products of addressing deep basic questions about living systems, without any thoughts of immediate applications.”

“There is a famous, but most likely apocryphal, anecdote that when William Gladstone, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, visited the laboratory of Faraday in the 1850s and inquired what practical good his experiments in electricity would bring the nation, Faraday answered, “One day, Sir, you may tax it.” The equations were never patented, but it is hard to think of any human endeavor that doesn’t make use of electricity or wireless communication. Over a century and a half, almost all aspects of our lives have literally been electrified.”

“The Usefulness of Useful Knowledge” is a call for courage: for leaders, investors, financiers, government ministers and policy-makes…to just write the check.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

American Gods Shines, Sparks

Is this the edgiest show on television? From the award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman of the same title, American Gods follows the story of a war brewing between old and new Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world, steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Its protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and travelling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities.

American Gods is produced by FreemantleMedia, the global creative content network with operations in 31 countries, producing over 11,000 hours of programming a year, rolling out more than 60 formats and airing more than 420 programmes a year worldwide. I’ve been working with FreemantleMedia on their inspirational leadership, high level purposing, and peak performance.

Two weeks ago American Gods premiered on Starz and Amazon Prime Video. The reactions and reviews from fans and critics alike have been absolutely incredible. But Gods hasn’t just been a massive critical hit. “Audacious,” wrote The New York Times. “Beneath the extraordinary imagery is a story about the power and evolution of faith, and of immigrants who helped to build and define American culture, only to see said culture turn against them.” The LA Times: “The result is a wonderfully eclectic mix of gory bloodlust and fairy whimsy, ethereal beauty and tenement apartment realism…In a media landscape littered with real-life villains and fictional superheroes, everyone could use a little godly intervention.”

Over five million multiplatform viewers to-date have tuned in to watch the show on Starz in the US, making it their highest-rated launch show of the season. At the same time, viewers in over 200 territories have been enjoying the show on Amazon. Starz has moved swiftly to order a second season.

Talk about peak performance. FremantleMedia just had a remarkable week. A weekend ago five of their shows dominated ITV’s ratings in the UK. And they have just announced the return of American Idol. (Bravo Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO and Expert Ninja)

I’ve written before on KRConnect about how television is the most compelling and engaging medium in the content landscape. It’s an intensely collaborative genre and every element of the ensemble cast, production crew, executives and presenting networks need to be working on the same dream, the same script, and same language. Neil Gaiman and Gods writers and showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have imbued the FreemantleMedia platform with an epic theme of the worlds and wars of gods, and in doing so have evolved the art form of television narratively, structurally and graphically.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Winning Attitudes at Lancaster MBA

For several years I have been coaching MBA students at the Lancaster University Management School, ranked in the UK's top ten and among the world's top 50 business schools.

This year, I’ve hosted three leadership coaching sessions at the school, working with MBA students to share my experience and prepare them for the unpredictable. Robert Klecha, writer for Business Because (the network for the B-school world), interviewed me this week on the coaching series. His fine article appears here, my interview responses are below.

1. What is the goal of your lecture series?

To help Lancaster’s MBA cohort become Inspirational Leaders, equipped to win in our crazy world.

2. Why did you decide on Lancaster for your series?

I was born in Lancaster. I am a Lancastrian. I believe LUMS has an excellent programme and Peter Lenney’s Mindful Manager Focus provides the perfect context for my Inspirational Leadership programme.

3. As a successful CEO without an MBA, how valuable do you think the MBA skill set is for those looking to take a leading role today?

The LUMS MBA provides candidates with the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive. To this, we hope to add a cultural toolbox that will help develop a Winning Attitude.

4. Given the fast changing business world today, what are your thoughts on the importance of creativity for leaders?

We live in the Age of the Idea. Ideas are the currency of today. Winning Companies will create cultures of Creativity and Innovation. Or whither on the vine.

5. Do you think creativity is something that can be taught? And are some people more creative than others?

Creativity is an art, grounded in science. We were all born creative – look at any three year old at play/learning! – and then it was systematically squeezed and drained out of us. We can rediscover it, and enhance it through learning, practice and confidence.

6. A lot of students have commented on how dynamic and engaging your lectures are, contrasting their expectations of how a CEO acts. How important is it to challenge conventional management methods?

We live in a VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. A world of disruption. To lead – and win – in this environment we need new techniques, skills and a hunger to grow, attack and change. We must embrace ‘Fail Fast, Learn Fast, and Fix Fast’ – and relish it!!

7. If you could give one piece of advice to current MBA students, what would it be?

Make Happy Choices.

8. How do you enjoy giving the lectures and working with the MBA students?

Love it (or I wouldn’t be doing it – see No. 7!!!). I love their diversity, hunger, ambition, wit and approach to life.

9. What is the highlight of your experience at Lancaster so far?

Watching the students start to figure out how good they could really be.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Winning Hearts and Minds in Blackpool

Museums are an essential part in bringing art, culture and history to people. Unfortunately visitor numbers have been declining over the last few years – some of London’s most well-known museums have recorded dramatic drops in visitor numbers, up to 20% over the past five years. What’s the problem here? Guardian art writer Jonathan Jones has a good turn of phrase here: “There is nothing more aspirational than visiting a museum or art gallery. It is an expression of hope and self-esteem. Just as lying in bed all day binge-watching TV and eating crisps is probably a mark of melancholy. Going out to an exhibition or taking your kids to the Natural History Museum is surely a symbol of belief in your family and the future.” Jones’ diagnosis is that it’s not the internet and social media or mindless television. It is the economic squeeze on people. On top of the cost of admission, there is car parking, the family meal before or after…it’s an expensive family outing for populations with declining discretionary income.

Up north on the seaside however, museums are having a resurgence, with a number of major museums and cultural developments underway in resort towns including Blackpool, Southend, Great Yarmouth and Plymouth due to open in the next five years. A report in the Museums Journal (UK) discusses how museums are regenerating towns by capitalizing on their seaside heritage. A growing trend in visitor habits such as staycations and nostalgia tourism has seen seaside tourism regain its position as England's largest holiday sector, and was now worth £8 billion to the economy. “The belief in the sea as a powerful panacea goes back a long way...planting the early seeds of a tourist industry that was to grow into a vibrant and distinctive culture.”

I’m in love with the Blackpool Museum Project. When I wrote about this in July last year I recalled how, when growing up in Lancaster, “Blackpool was our summer Mecca, Disneyland and Nice.” The seaside resort was the birthplace of British light entertainment – music hall, dancing, comedy and circus. Rather than simply presenting visitors displays the proposed Blackpool Museum will be fun, interactive and based on the tastes of ordinary people. The “serious museum with a funny side” will be centered on eight nationally significant themes including the story of how Blackpool became symbolic of the British seaside holiday, the Blackpool Tower story and the great British talent show. It will be fun!

In March this year the £26 million development, spearheaded by the Blackpool City Council, has gotten one step closer to its planned completion in 2020 with a second round of application having been submitted, which includes the final plans and costings for the delivery of the Museum. It is projected to create 40 full-time equivalent jobs, and attract 210,000 visitors each year, including 22,000 new staying visitors with an economic benefit of £12.3m to the region.

Go to http://blackpoolmuseum.com/ to find out more.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Emoji Face Heart and Hand

Did you know that there’s a new school of academic and corporate research dedicated to studying emoji and their use in human interaction?

That’s right. Emoji cannot only be sent, but also studied. We’re talking esteemed institutions like the University of Toronto and the University of Minnesota. What's more, the small symbols have traveled it into the corporate world. The use of emoji in marketing has increased over the last two years, several brands have fully incorporated them into their strategies and some brands are creating their own – think Coca-Cola, Star Wars, Dove and Toyota.

While some emoji seem to have universal meaning that transcends language barriers, not all symbols mean the same around the world. In Japan, for instance, the “surfer” emoji can imply the sender wants to break up and “surf out of a relationship”.

In a previous blog post in 2014 I wrote about the top ten used emoji on Twitter. Back then the heart came in on number one, followed by the “tears of joy” emoji. Not much has changed in the top 10 since then except the tears of joy” emoji takes the top spot today. 

What does that say about us? We like to share our happiness and joy with others. Also an interesting point: Some researchers suggest that the fact that we’re using affirmative emoji more than other types is due to our desire to be seen as positive people and to brand ourselves as fun individuals. An outlet for radical optimism.

It also makes sense that the most popular emoji in general are the ones that fall into the categories of face, heart and hand. We like to connect with people and we want to know how others are feeling – these emoji can help us do that.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

CEO Genome Project (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about the CEO Genome project by leadership advisory firm ghGmart. The #1 trait they identified in CEO success was making fast decisions with conviction, if not necessarily perfect ones.

The other three are served today. They are:
  • reaching out to stakeholders; 
  • being highly adaptable to change; 
  • being reliable and predictable rather than showing exceptional, and perhaps not repeatable, performance. 
The first trait here – the second most-important once – involves highly tuned communication skills, and herein is an interesting discussion, as just over half of the CEOs who did better than expected in the minds of investors and directors were actually introverts. The study found that in the recruitment process, candidates who displayed a lot of confidence had more than double the chance of being chosen as CEO, even though particularly confident CEOs were no more likely to show better performance once they got the job. Don't ignore the stronger quieter types - think former All Black captain and world champion Richie McCaw.

Two other findings are interesting, according to the Washington Post report on the study. “Nearly all of the executives in their sample who were candidates for a CEO job had some kind of major mistake, the project found, such as overpaying for an acquisition or making a wrong hire, in their assessment. Nearly half of them also had what the researchers called a career "blowup" that pushed them out of a job or cost the business a large amount of money — and three­ quarters of that group went on to actually become a CEO.

And here’s one in the eye for the Ivy Leagues. Only 7 per cent of the best­ performing CEOs — who ran companies from Fortune 10 behemoths to those with just $US10 million ($13.2 million) in annual sales — had an Ivy League degree, despite the conventional wisdom that pedigree matters. "There was zero correlation between pedigree and ultimate performance," said Elena Lytkina Botelho, a partner at ghSmart and a co­founder of the project, while acknowledging that number could be higher if they were just looking at large Fortune 500 firms.

Studies such as the CEO Genome project are grist to the mill for my investment in and new chairmanship of the business education company Unfiltered. Subversion of captains of industries and MBA programs is high on my agenda. “Winning the world from the edge” takes on new meaning.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

450 Calories and Less

The need to slim down is a health imperative for the majority of people in most of the world’s countries. There are multi-million and billion dollar industries invested in weight loss, from diet to exercise to devices and procedures and low calorie food. All of it is hard work; persistence is required; though it helps when there are some well-designed products at reach.

Many of KR Connect’s readers will know I am Chair of the innovative New Zealand company My Food Bag, the clear market leader in food home delivery service. Last year we launched Bargain Box, designed for more budget-conscious families and those seeking better value-for-money. This week we launched Fresh Start designed specifically for people who want to lose and manage their weight. Fresh Start combines portion control, healthy eating, and cooking techniques with each meal nutritionally balanced and 450 calories or less.

Our chief dietitian and MFB co-founder Nadia Lim says many people are looking for greater levels of control and accountability when it comes to their diet.

“For many Kiwis, managing weight is an endless battle. As we age, we tend to become more health aware in terms of our dietary needs, but it can be a challenge to improve our eating habits and consistently stick to them. As a dietitian, I’m passionate about helping Kiwis to eat better, and this new range takes the guess work out of ingredient shopping, meal preparation and calorie-counting.”

Fresh Start delivers ingredients for five recipes door-to-door each week in 10 portion or 20 portion boxes. The 20-portion box serves five dinners for four people for $199 - $9.95 and 450 or less calories. The range features more vegetables and lean proteins than other My Food Bag offerings and lower levels of carbohydrates. It excludes all refined sugar. The meals feature lean proteins, large volumes of seasonal vegetables, lower volumes of carbohydrates focused on wholegrain or vegetable-based sources, and no refined sugar. Fresh Start allows users to choose from three plans ranging from 1200 calories a day to 1800 calories a day, depending on their level of daily activity.

And we’re providing our customers with tools including meal planning, recipes and ingredients – as well as advice and support they need to help them with successfully losing weight and improving their health and wellbeing.

So what does 450 calories or less taste like? Yummy!! Here’s the line-up:

· Vietnamese Chicken Laab with lemongrass, capsicum and sprouts

· Moroccan Baked Fish with spiced roasted capsicum, courgette, spinach and chickpeas

· Sumac Sesame Chicken with cauliflower, cucumber and tomato tabbouleh

· Ginger Pork Sirloin Stir-Frey with five-spice, broccoli and capsicum

· Cumin Spiced Beet with super seed broccoli slaw.

Check out www.myfoodbag.co.nz.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unfiltered – disrupting business education

Unfiltered is a rapidly-growing New Zealand startup focused exclusively on business education. Today I joined its board as chairman. Business education is a sweet spot for me, principally because I believe traditional business schools have not kept pace with the way millennials think and act. No more corporate treadmill for them, they want to be at it straightaway. Entrepreneurs straight out of high school. Learning by doing. Learning from mentors. Dreams into action.

Such is the story of Jake Millar, 21, who co-founded Unfiltered – his second company - with school friend Yuuki Ogino. Unfiltered’s website features more than 110 long-form interviews with entrepreneurs and business leaders, and has aggregated 1.8 million video views since it was formed 17 months ago. Its paid subscription website has successfully attracted 150,000 individual and corporate users, and an enviable list of sponsors that include PwC, Bell Gully, NZTE and the University of Auckland Business School.

Unfiltered has built a reputation for securing interviews with business masterminds following what Jake describes as a “high-trust, strong-relationships model.” Jake’s long-form interview techniques delve into the marrow of business and the challenges, failures, difficulties – and triumphs – each person has faced. Taken as a body of work, the Unfiltered interviews offer up a spectrum of daring ideas, humility and scar tissue, inspiration, and simple ways through the clutter of complexity every business operator faces.

I’ve been teaching, guest lecturing and generally disrupting at business schools all over the world for the past 20 years, and in the time I have with students I attempt to be as impactful as anything else they will experience during their degree programs. And so it is with Unfiltered. The world's mobile and desktop screens are hungry for content which is compelling, uplifting, fascinating, optimistic – and quick. Unfiltered offers the ability to scale this disruption right across the business education landscape.

Joining me on the board is Icebreaker and former Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe. Today’s announcement reveals the governance that will drive Unfiltered’s expansion strategy to the United States to replicate its New Zealand-proven model. The company has just closed a NZ$1.2 million seed funding round.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Assess Decide Execute

I lean heavily on the BQ factor – “Bloody Quick.” In my book 64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World I recount that, classically, a leader does three things: assess, decide, and execute. Short-handed to A.D.E. Typically in a business, leaders spend half their time interrogating the data, checking the facts and assessing. They spend 30 percent on discussion and consensus. The other 20 percent – execution – is a hospital pass to some poor sucker down the line. This is most businesses today: strategically driven, by-the- book, MBA-obsessed, ponderous. I argue for this model to be inverted: 20% assessing, 10% deciding, and 70% focus on execution.

A new 10­ year study from a leadership advisory firm ghSmart and economists from the University of Chicago and Copenhagen Business School, published in this month's Harvard Business Review, and reported by The Washington Post, backs up my intuition and finds that the most successful chief executives often don't fit the typical A.D.E. mold.

The researchers behind the study, called the CEO Genome Project, used a database of comprehensive performance appraisals and extensive biographical information of 17,000 C­suite executives, including 2000 CEOs. The database includes everything from career history to behavioural patterns to how the executives performed in past jobs, decisions they've made and demographic information. Their analysis examined a sample of 930 of those CEOs to come up with the traits and patterns that most predicted which ones became a CEO.

The #1 trait of successful leaders deciding with speed and conviction, even without all the needed information. The reports says “high-performing CEOs they stand out for being more decisive. They make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction. They do so consistently—even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar domains. In our data, people who were described as “decisive” were 12 times more likely to be high-performing CEOs.”

In 64 Shots I cite Colin Powell’s 40/70 Rule: “Use the formula P+40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.” The Post article references Jeff Bezos’s latest letter to shareholder in which he extols "high ­velocity decision­ making." Echoing Powell, Bezos wrote that "most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70 per cent of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90 per cent, in most cases, you're probably being slow." Being wrong isn't always so bad, he said. "If you're good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure."

Elena Lytkina Botelho, a partner at ghSmart and a co­founder of the project, said the #1 trait was the most surprising. "We frankly expected to find that strong CEOs stood out for the quality of their decisions — that they turn out to be right more frequently," she said. "But what very clearly stood out was the speed. Quality was likely something they developed earlier, but then they're willing to step up and make the decision faster, even with more uncertainty." ­

Other findings from the survey:
  • The highest-IQ executives, those who relish intellectual complexity, sometimes struggle the most with decisiveness. While the quality of their decisions is often good, because of their pursuit of the perfect answer, they can take too long to make choices or set clear priorities—and their teams pay a high price. 
  • High-performing CEOs understand that a wrong decision is often better than no decision at all. As former Greyhound CEO Stephen Gorman, told us, “A bad decision was better than a lack of direction. Most decisions can be undone, but you have to learn to move with the right amount of speed.”
  • Decisive CEOs recognize that they can’t wait for perfect information. To that end, successful CEOs also know when not to decide. But once a path is chosen, high-performing CEOs press ahead without wavering. 
  • And if decisions don’t turn out well? ghSmart’s analysis suggests that while every CEO makes mistakes, most of them are not lethal. “We found that among CEOs who were fired over issues related to decision making, only one-third lost their jobs because they’d made bad calls; the rest were ousted for being indecisive.”
The book of the study, The CEO Next Door: What it Takes to Get to the Top, And Succeed, Based on the World's Most Comprehensive Leadership Study by Elena Botelho, Kim Powell can be ordered from 800-CEO-Read.

Oh, and the other three traits? Read my next post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

There’s a brew going down at The Lakes

Part of the Cumbrian food and taste experience, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, is The Lakes Distillery. Interestingly, The Lakes District was once part of Scotland - hence a long association with illicit whiskey distilling! Founder of The Lakes Distillery is Paul Currie who co-founded the widely acclaimed, award winning Arran distillery, and a man who has grown up in and amongst the distilling industry.

After years of searching for the perfect venue, Paul came across some derelict farm buildings from the 1850s near Keswick, and in 2010 his dream started to turn into a reality. Against all odds, this Victorian farm has developed into a world class whisky distillery and visitor centre, with over 100,000 people visiting the facilities each year.

The Lakes Distillery now legally produces whiskey, vodka and the Lakes Gin (it’s best appreciated neat) and keeps waste to a minimum: it recycles water and heat and uses only grain, yeast and water in its process.

The goal is to produce a collection of world class spirits, and is on its way having being names by Timeout as “one of the best new distilleries in the world.” When asked in an interview how a new distillery can win the battle against fierce competition, Paul emphasized that there is nothing more important than quality. “The beautiful surroundings gave us a geographical advantage, helped us to build our brand. But the critical value of our business is always to enhance the quality to the best. Our goal is to make spirits that everyone enjoys, and become a leading brand to spirits fans.”

Cheers to that.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Why are the All Blacks so Good?

I’ve written for NZ Rugby World every month since issue number one, 20 years ago in April 1997 – and I was thumbing through the archives this sunny Saturday morning in Auckland when my copy of the latest, special edition was delivered.

Gregor Paul, editor of the world’s favourite rugby magazine, just published a special edition celebrating 125 years of New Zealand Rugby. He focused on why the All Blacks are so good.

Here in summary are 15 values which help explain the AB’s continuous improvement and sustainable peak performance.

1. Sacrifice
  • Give up things that won’t help you reach the summit.
  • Proves that the goal is worth chasing.
2. Respect
  • The legacy, the team, and the role of every individual.
  • Leave it better than when you found it.
3. Gratitude
  • Pressure is a privilege. Be grateful to have the opportunity to experience it.
4. Acceptance
  • Handle disappointment, man up, and do your job bloody well, whatever it is – for the Team.
5. Speed
  • In the mind. A positive attitude. Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast.
6. Trust
  • Believe in yourself, your skills, your game-plan, your systems and your mates.
7. Mental Toughness
  • Learn and practice TCUP.
8. Awareness
  • Uphold the higher standards. All the time.
9. Open Mindedness
  • Flexible thinking, responsive to new ideas, relish change.
10. Accountability
  • Everything can be done better. Use examples of the best players making mistakes. Everyone is accountable for the Team’s performance.
11. Dedication
  • Master basic skills.
  • Meet. Beat. Repeat.
12. Leadership
  • Everyone is a leader.
  • First know thyself.
  • Know what you’re doing, why, when and where.
13. Honesty
  • With yourself and your team.
  • Review performance shortfalls brutally and directly.
14. Core Role
  • Do your own job. Trust your mates to do theirs.
15. Continuous Improvement
  • Wake up the next morning and figure out how to improve.
  • Repeat daily.
Let’s see how these stand up to the latest threat – the British and Irish Lions in eight weeks time. Don’t miss the greatest sporting challenge of 2017.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Lion has Passed

At 6.30am on a wintry, cold 1989 Toronto morning, two partners of Egon Zehnder knocked on my door. They had been sent by Douglas Myers to find an operator to run the newly merged Lion Nathan NZ conglomerate of beer, soft drinks, supermarkets, hotels, wines and spirits. A few months later I had packed up and left Pepsi Cola Canada to move to the other end of the world to work for the most charismatic, paradoxical, irresistible, revolutionary I would ever meet. A great man. A great New Zealander.

He taught me about daring to dream, about the complexities of people, about driving performance, about winning, and about being a new New Zealander.

I loved him, respected him, admired him, trusted him and was driven by him to Learn, Fail and Fix.

He was caring and demanding in equal parts. He was provocative, brave, controversial, passionate and independent.

A pirate amongst sailors.

He passed today. 78 years young.

A New Zealand Lion.

Sir Douglas Myers. R.I.P.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I Love Laura

Laura Kimpton is a California-based, American contemporary artist. She is known for her Monumental Word series including installations at Burning Man and now on the rooftop of the James Hotel near my New York home in Tribeca. “LOVE” is right in my wheelhouse. Other words in the series include “BELIEVE”, “LIVE”, “MAGIC” and “DREAM.” Kimpton reportedly liked the juxtaposition of LOVE seen together with the Freedom Tower in an outside location and has said that she sees herself as the messenger of love in a time when there is so much hate in the world. Her website states that “her creativity stems from a desire to question traditional views on social interaction, therefore invoking through her art a reaction from her viewers that ultimately completes her projects. She is continually exploring new mediums in her search for revelatory communication.”

Two more connections I like about Kimpton’s installations. First comes from LA-based New Zealand art critic and journalist Lita Barrie in a Huffington Post essay on the ‘LOVE’ installation at Las Vegas’s Venetian Hotel:

“Hotel art” has a pejorative reputation in the serious art world, considered facile, derivative, and inoffensive decoration bought through commercial art consultants and hyped by PR agencies who are unfamiliar with art history or the aesthetic or philosophic significance of real art collected and curated by scholars for top tier museums and art collectors. But a few hotels have managed to transition beyond this line and acquire serious art to share it with the public.

“Kimpton is fascinating because, as an outsider artist, she refuses to be put in a box or to pander to commercial galleries, or what she calls “an art world run by left-brain people, running a right-brain world.” Her use of sparrows in LOVE came from living in Siena, where sparrows flock in great numbers, and this led to her realization that “you are free to love anything you want - especially yourself.” The word “love” takes on multiple meanings through Kimpton’s use of the cut-out birds, so that “love” is not restricted to just monogamous romantic love, but represents a flight of fantasy into a more universal feeling. Like Alice she riddles the meanings of words, on the “other side” of left brain logic. Although I was apprehensive about viewing “hotel art,” I came away from this experience uplifted. After talking with Kimpton in-depth, I had no doubt that she is an authentic artist.”

And here is the third connection, hotels, of which I know more than a bit as a global resident and consultant:

“Kimpton’s journey began as an insider within the hospitality industry as the daughter of a hotelier, Bill Kimpton, who made his name refurbishing run-down buildings in urban areas and collaborating with innovative chefs like Wolfgang Puck to create exciting hotel restaurants. While Kimpton understands this industry implicitly, thanks to her innovative father, she also comes from a strong art and psychology background, having earned both a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute and an MA in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco. Kimpton has worked on the periphery, yet she has also been accepted by the art establishment that collects her work.”

Laura Kimpton’s work is being shown by HG Contemporary on West 23rd Street, New York, starting on May 4th, 2017.

Two thumbs up.

Photo by Peter Ruprecht

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

CricHQ shortlisted for UK Sports Tech Award

CricHQ is the world’s leading data company, with the goal of becoming the world’s leading cricket broadcaster. They have been shortlisted as Best-Integrated Digital Media at the world’s leading sports technology awards, to be announced in London in early May. Over 70 sports from 30 countries were represented from 30 countries.

I took on the role of Chair of CricHQ at the end of 2016, working with founder/CEO Simon Baker and the team to scale the company within the framework of the world’s second largest sport (football being #1). CricHQ currently scores one in every 10 balls played at all levels of organized cricket around the world, including 54 out of 106 national governing bodies, 350 associations, and thousands of leagues, tournaments, clubs and schools.

CricHQ is an exemplar of New Zealand companies winning the world from the edge. Founded and headquartered in Wellington, CricHQ has operations in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States. In February it announced the acquisition of My Action Replay, a Bristol UK company that has perfected low-cost video capture of cricket matches at a very local level – school and club – meaning you can select you son or daughter’s fours and wickets at the press of a mouse.

Cricket is an engrossing, vibrantly exciting game, with enough pauses for reflection on the meaning of life. Until CricHQ, the game was decidedly analog, recorded on paper and consigned to filing boxes. CricHQ’s data and video tools are building a new world for players, fans, parents, administrators, coaches – and importantly, talent spotters. Take India, the world’s second most populated country where cricket is the national passion – spotting talent in all its corners will become possible with CricHQ when it is embraced throughout the country. CricHQ is becoming the lifetime home for players in a statistically-driven game.

See video interview here about my dreams for CricHQ.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Making Happy Choices

Am in Porto, the great river city of Portugal, with two great companies – Sonae, speaking to their 100 top leaders, and Sogrape, the country's leading winemaker, working with their marketing teams on four creative projects.

We’re staying on the River Douro at the Pestana Palacio do Freixo, built in the 18th century by the famous architect Nasoni – beautiful.

A couple of thoughts from our sessions by Rui Patriarca, Sogrape Marketing Director.

You only live once? (YOLO)


You live every day.

You only die once.

Even when happiness forgets about you sometimes, do not forget about happiness.

Making Happy Choices.

Thoughts from a country where Destiny is at the core of its spirit.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Here’s How to Destress

In today’s crazy world, stress levels can go through the roof. 24x7 internet and mobiles, no time for ourselves, ever shortening deadlines, mob rule via Twitter, Facebook mania, bingeing on media, TV, food, not enough time for sleeping, thinking, learning, improving – and it just keeps coming. Unless you take control of your own happiness and do something about it.

I believe in Making Happy Choices and in dealing to stress (and pressure) through positive actions (and mental toughness). There’s lots of work out there on dealing to stress but every programme depends on one thing – You. And your focus, commitment and discipline. GQ ran an article featuring two approaches from a GP and an author that will work – as long as you commit to them and act on them.

From Dr Nick Knight, a GP and PhD in performance physiology and nutrition:
  • Visualisation
  • Breathing meditation
  • Talk to yourself
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Keep a diary
  • Reset achievable goals
  • Take a time out
And from Carl Vernon, author of The Less Stress Lifestyle
  • Take action
  • Avoid toxic people
  • Focus on what you want
  • Be grateful
  • Be true to yourself

Monday, March 20, 2017

If you’re visiting the Lakes this Spring/Summer...

I have a home on the Fells above Grasmere, one of England’s most beautiful villages, on Greenhead Ghyll overlooking the Lion and the Lamb - Helm Crag. We are within 30 – 40 minutes of some of the best food in the UK and if you’re ever in the Lakes, here are some of the best:

Michelin Star Dining:

Forest Side – at the bottom of the road we live in. Fellow Old Lancastrian Andrew Wildsmith, creator of Hipping Hall in Kirby Lonsdale, lured Kevin Tickle from L’Enclume to create a unique forager based dining experience. Eight months after opening, they scored their first Michelin Star.

The Samling – (pictured above) a few miles away, overlooking Lake Windermere has just renovated its kitchen and restaurant – and retained its Star. Home to Renée Zellweger, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman on their visits to The Lakes – it’s a must visit. Chef Nick Edgar was Head Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. A heavyweight.

The Gilpin – Barney and Zoë Cunliffe have turned The Gilpin into a magical paradise. They hired Hrishikesh Desai, the winner of Chefs on Trial in 2015 to create two amazing restaurants, Hrishi at Gilpin and Gilpin Spice. Won their first Star last year. A beautiful spot.

My Favorite Three Restaurants:

The Jumble Room – in Grasmere. Opened 21 years ago by Andy and Christine Hill, who still run – and love it. “The very best ingredients, cooked with love and served with pride.” Funky Fun.

The Old Stamp House – in Ambleside. My favourite chef, Ryan Blackburn, and my favorite front-of-house man, his brother Craig. Cumbrian fare at its best. In the old Post Office where Wordsworth worked.

Lake Road Kitchen – 10 yards away from The Old Stamp House in Ambleside. In the Good Food Guide’s Top 50 UK restaurants. Home grown and foraged local produce. Casual. Easy.

Four Great Pubs:

The Drunken Duck – just outside Ambleside. Simply the best.

The Punch Bowl – at Crosthwaite. Arthur Bridgeman Quin presiding – UK Young Chef of the Year. 21 years young!

The Lyth Valley Hotel – just reopened. One to watch.

The Wheatsheaf at Brigsteer – Cumbria’s Pub of the Year.

So take a walk in the Fells – then treat yourself to some warm Cumbrian hospitality and great local food and drink.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spread your #lovein3words

Revlon have done a loving thing. On the Oscars broadcast they launched The Love Project. Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams and Ellen DeGeneres fronted the Love Project ad explaining what love means to them, in the hope of raising money for several charities, in addition to the $1 million Revlon had already pledged.

“The Love Project is the beginning of a social movement which aims to inspire more love, acceptance and caring in the world,” said Carlos Barreto, Revlon SVP Marketing. “At the heart of this campaign is the belief that all people are beautiful and that love can create a better world.”

Thousands of people have tweeted to #lovein3words. Here’s a sampler:

Helping our veterans

Confidence Courage Smiles

Strong Brave Fight

You. Us. Together.

Kindness. Passion. Empathy.

Family. Unity. Blessing.

Redeemed. Brave. Beautiful.

My Silly Boys

Belong Home Us

Show You Care

Grace in Tolerance

Art Music Life

We Not Me

Models of Diversity

Love They Neighbor

Family Above All

Dogs More Dogs

Nice one Revlon. Lovemarks in action.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

“. . . with Heart & Humor”

My friend from yore Robin Dyke, poet and professor from Victoria in British Columbia, came with me to a college talk in a beautiful part of Canada. Here is a guest KRConnect post from Robin. 

Picture this – a school devoted to developing future leaders spread over 300 acres, enclosed by pacific west coast rainforest and edged beside a lake sharing its name and rivaling the beauty of England’s Lake District – here you have Shawnigan Lake School. A school not unfamiliar to being on the edge of its island and continent location and the values driven educational vision successfully pursued for over 100 years.

Enter KR, resplendent in British Lions Scarf sacrament – one intimately familiar with private school life and its challenges to ego and independence, now equipped with a notable internationally spanned career of business leadership (not without controversy) and an openly edged perspective punctuated with disruptive and irresistible ideas - to speak to Shawnigan’s full student body of 500 along with staff. In the school’s Chapel no less. Potentially all the edgy ingredients for a perfect PC storm!

Throughout the forty minutes waves of rapt attention, gasps, wows, laughs and applause. KR at his spiritual and inspirational best. The thank you noting “especially for doing it with heart and humor”. And “we hope you come back soon!” Teenagers in full animation early Monday morning. Unbelievable!

How could this be? By relating his story that he too was in their shoes as a teenager. And more dramatically, the good humored reverence by which he roasted their Headmaster at the outset of his talk instantly signaled he was one of them. The gasps of delight at how connection can be made out of circumstance were made evident. Their attention from this point was bonded. This guy is crazy but I want to be daring like him!

What would I at seventeen want to hear to make me better at being my best – this was at the content center of Kevin’s talk – ten formative messages, well familiar to KR Connect readers:

1. It's a VUCA world

2. Make it Super VUCA!

3. Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements

4. Have a Personal Purpose

5. Ambition – Belief - Courage


7. Develop Leadership Skills

8. Find a Job that = Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, Joy

9. Fail Fast - Learn Fast – Fix Fast

10. Make Happy Choices

The students ate up the message, stories and examples as Kevin worked through each in order. Of the ten, the simplicity and vitality of number 4 particularly resonated with revelation; one students response: I realized my lack of clarity of my personal purpose was missing in my career and life planning. At this age it doesn’t get more impactful than having an inspirational dream. Apply these! Apply these! a student leader shouted out to the audience in thanking Kevin.

And so as well a lesson for the teacher - in the after talk with individual students there was a double encounter with one. The student had earlier asked Kevin about the boredom of studying economics in preparation for a career in business and what might be of more value. What about gaining work experience as a helpful start Kevin mentored. Later as Kevin was departing the student approached again; Mr. Roberts, do you remember my name? Kevin; I’m sorry I don’t, what is it? Student; Leo, Leo Lee. Next visit or otherwise, Kevin will remember you Leo!

Character and Courage, two of the marker values of Shawnigan Kevin brought to life in Leo along with the many more stories from the Chapel that are now being sung.

Link to view the full presentation on YouTube

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For F***’s Sake

In 2011 I was giving a keynote speech at a major economics conference in Spain. The country has produced many of the world’s greatest artists – Picasso, Dali, Miro, Goya, Velazquez; it held the World Cup then and has two of the greatest football clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Amancio Ortega Gaona was on his way to becoming the world’s richest person through Zara and the other apparel companies in the Intidex group. But overall, the country had – and still has – more than a few serious economic problems: half the country’s young people are unemployed; regionalism is rife; the two hour lunch; rampant property speculation; rampant tax evasion; the underground economy; being generally unproductive.

But two phenomena struck me more than any other. The first was its plummeting birthrate, well below replacement rate (a country needs a fertility rate of just over two children per woman to fill the spaces left behind by deaths; Spain’s is 1.32).

This fits a global pattern of marriage being in outright decline, advanced age of maternity, declining birth rates, motherhood and homemaking being secondary life objectives, aging populations, the phenomenal growth of solo living, and freakish phenomena such a ‘celibacy syndrome – the flight from human intimacy.’ By 2050 Spain will be a depopulated country dominated by elderly and single people, having lost 5.3 million people, or 11% of the population.

The second and quite tangential observation – stemming from the correlation between church-going and happiness – was that despite being an overwhelmingly Catholic country, only 15% of Spaniards went to church any Sunday.

Thus, a national strategy came to mind: Pray & Procreate. The room of economists looked at me askance, but it turns out my finger was on the pulse of a major issue. Business Insider carried a story this week on 10 countries that desperately want people to have more sex.

“There are few things more important than fertility in determining a nation's future viability,” writes Chris Weller, senior innovation reporter for Business Insider. “Because of certain cultural and economic forces, only about half of the world's 224 countries currently hit replacement fertility,” “For those that don't [including China 1.66 and the USA 1.88], encouraging people to have sex can involve strategies that range from highly explicit to downright bizarre.”

No surprise that Spain was right there among the low libido countries. Finally the nation has woken up to the issue and appointed a special commissioner to devise strategies to reverse the declining birthrate.

Other countries featured in the report were Russia, Japan, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Denmark.

Business Insider noted that Russia is experiencing a perfect demographic storm. “Men are dying young. HIV/AIDS and alcoholism are crippling the country. And women aren't having babies. The problem got so bad that Russia declared September 12 the official Day of Conception.”

Singapore has the lowest fertility rate in the world, at just 0.81 children per woman. Each year the government spends roughly $1.6 billion on programs to get people to have more sex. The Singaporean government even held National Night, an event sponsored by the breath-mint company Mentos, to encourage couples to "let their patriotism explode."

Other countries have tried incentives – baby bonuses, flexible leave structures, parental leave policies, days off work (the Swedish town of Overtornea has announced a proposal to give the municipality's 550 employees paid time off to “get busy”), parental education programs, three years of baby supplies, even free refrigerators; and disincentives: higher income tax for childless couples, provisions to make divorce nearly impossible, limits on one bedroom apartments.

But you have to hand it to the Danes. Do it for Denmark is the copyline of a promotional campaign to guilt couples into having kids to give their precious mothers a grandchild. The rationale of Spies Rejser, a Danish travel company, is that vacation is the optimal time for “doing it.”

So what to do? Obviously, completely obviously, the focus needs to be on people of child-bearing age. The Rooster’s “9 Brutally Real Reasons Why Millennials Refuse to Have Kids” is not an encouraging start: from “The world kinda sucks now”(1) to “We don't even need a reason; we just don't want them, so stop asking!”(9).

Against this, what to do, especially if your business is selling baby and parenting products and services? The answers are not simple.

1. Think both ends of life. Sweeping demographics mean that the health needs of seniors have a congruency with brands catering for babies. These companies need to segue their product development, manufacturing and marketing to cater for both ends of life.

2. Persist with continuous and messaging. Lack of awareness of this demographic bomb is a contributing factor. China has repealed its One Child policy, and 45% of the 1.31 million new born last year were to single child families (though well short of their 3 million new born target). Few people know depopulation is a problem, so raising awareness of the issue and solutions should be a continuous program for the governments involved. Demographics matter, they always have, and can’t be taken for granted.

3. Policies and Practices are essential. Companies and governments mostly have policies that are supportive of children but for everyone involved it will always be a bit of a struggle because of the pressure of commerce and balancing work and life. Keep working at it, listening and asking what will harmonize all the complexities. And taking action.

4. Focus on families.
Rather than promotional procreation gimmicks, we need to educate society that the greatest experience in life, is love itself, and the greatest expression of love is family. This is a multi-year macro program for governments, companies, brands and people (prospective parents and grandparents). Immigration is a major factor in this strategy and is driving certain government actions.

One thing is clear: the future of the family is a key national strategy for governments. Not power and war. Make love.

Monday, March 6, 2017

In Defense of Teenagers: It’s Not Their Fault

Everything you wanted to know about teenagers but were afraid to ask (apologies to Woody Allen for the steal). Danish researchers from Aarhus University have discovered:
  • Teenagers grow by 8 – 9 cm per year. The reason they can seem gangly and awkward is as they get taller (girls between 12 and 13, boys between 14 and 15) their center of gravity shifts but the brain hasn’t caught up and can’t calculate how to balance its new frame.
  • Seemingly reckless risk-taking is not due to stupidity or willfulness. It’s because the human brain isn’t formed until girls are 20 and boys are 24. And the parts responsible for planning and decision-making are finished last. Teenagers’ risk assessment capabilities are only half built.
  • Teenagers think about sex every six seconds. Their brains are flooded with hormones, oestrogen and testosterone by the gallon! It’s not their fault.
  • Girls do talk more than boys. Girls’ brains are inbuilt with a head-start for language. They talk earlier, have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences. Because of the way the brain is structure. In girls the part where we produce language has 20% more neutrons than the male; the part where we interpret language is 18% bigger in females.
  • Your teenager is not lazy. Teenagers need 10 hours sleep per day as their brains and bodies grow so quickly.
  • Their brains shut down when you nag them. The areas of the brain that process negative emotion go on full alert, while the areas that allow us to feel other’s emotions deactivate. And teenagers have poor prospective memories – they aren’t very good at holding things in their heads.
  • Teenage “Me, me, me” is not narcissism. It’s because they struggle to recognise emotions in others. They are 20% less accurate in reading fear, shock, anger until age 18 – when their prefrontal brain catches up.
Truly – it’s not their fault!
Image: Shuttestock

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The New England Patriots and Mental Toughness

How did Tom Brady and the New England Patriots comeback after being down 21-3 in the first half, and go on to win 34-28? Every time Tom Brady and coach Bill Bellichick open their mouths, the words “mental toughness” come out. They say it as a given – but what does it actually mean? How does it apply? What are the individual behaviors?

For many years in this column I have touched on mental toughness, frequently in the context of the All Blacks and James Kerr’s foundational book Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach Us about the Business of Life. “Touchdown Tommy” is the Richie McCaw of American football. Brady and McCaw are blood brothers – both captains of the greatest football teams in their respective codes. And it was fitting, I thought, that the winning touchdown by James White in the first ever Super Bowl overtime was done rugby style – a charge at the line, head down, arms out stretched, ball planted over the chalk. American football has a myriad of issues in terms of flow – the game could be called futbol interruptus – such is the lack of flow. One play at a time. Reset. Play again. Reset. Wales went 18 phases in their attack on the English line a few weeks ago. Ergo: make the touchdown an actual touchdown. Simply running across the line is not a touchdown. There are a bunch of dramas in rugby at the try-grounding moment. Just as American football has been learning from rugby about safe ways to tackle, there are many more things to learn.

But I digress. Mental toughness. For the Patriots, a lot of mental toughness is about task organization and individual preparation. Brady’s fastidiousness about mind and body preparation has been well documented. In an ESPN interview, Bellichick says: “Every member of the team has an opportunity to show positive leadership or negative leadership. The question for that person is ‘How are they going to do that? How are they going to control that?’ Positive leadership comes from two things: No. 1, doing your job. If you don’t do your job, I don’t see how you can give any leadership. A lot of people who aren’t very good at doing their job, and who try to give leadership, are just looked at as ‘Look, buddy, why don’t you just do your job? Why don’t we start with that instead of trying to tell everybody else what to do?’ So No. 1 [is] do your job. No. 2 [is] put the team first. If those two things are in place, then that person is going to give positive leadership to the team.”

More later this week about perseverance at any cost; the expectation of winning; and mental conditioning.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Justice is the Translation of Love

One of the great pleasures of American current affairs television is its principled partisanship. Fox is right wing for those who think that way. For a lot of the mostly East Coast-based national media, liberalism remains at its core, which is why Trump chafes so much. An outstanding double-header comes on PBS, with the avuncular Charlie Rose on at 11pm from New York, leading in to Tavis Smiley at midnight from Los Angeles. Tavis is a generous host and he’s in the conversation, not just moderating it. His dialogue with Dick Van Dyke, all of 90 and still brimming, about seeing Mussolini in the cinema newsreels in the 30s intoning “I alone can fix this,” echoes to the present day.

A riveting guest a week or so ago was Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and described as “one of America’s premier public intellectuals.” In his most recent text Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted. With the gifts of a preacher, Dyson said that “Justice is the translation of love. You can’t have love without justice.”

The conversation is a must see. See it here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Manchester McMansion

Manchester is the nearest big city to my Grasmere hideaway. It’s home to my beloved Manchester City and to Lancashire County Cricket Club. The Red Rose County where I was born.

And it’s under attack from two ex Manchester United footballers, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville who, backed by Singaporean and Chinese interests want to build two dung coloured towers of 31 and 21 storeys height, right behind the glorious gothic Grade I listed Town Hall. Two ‘big pointy shiny erections’ full of luxury penthouses, a fancy hotel, flashy bars – towers for Footballers WAGs.

And this £200 million development will lay waste to a police station, a synagogue and a great pub –The Sir Ralph Abercromby, the only remaining building that witnessed the 1819 Peterloo Massacre – a piece of Manchester history that should never be erased.

I hear Manchester’s planning committee will bless this abomination – although 7,000 Mancunians have signed a petition of protest.

A conservation area of local history desecrated.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Risky Business

Is a life without risk worth living? Looking at the recent “adrenaline-themed” issue of lifestyle magazine Kinfolk, I came across a joint interview between sociologists Stephen Lyng and Jeff Ferrell that resonated with me deeply. In their conversation, the two professors talk the reader through the psychology of risk-taking, which they’ve dubbed “edgework,” taking the word from Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

After meeting as graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin in the mid-1970s, the two sociologists and thrill seekers began finding ways to merge their academic work with daredevil pursuits like skydiving and motorcycle racing. In the 40-odd years since, they’ve managed to develop a renowned social theory surrounding “voluntary risk-taking” activities (everything from acts of physical courage such as BASE-jumping to emotionally and intellectually daring deeds like telling your boss to piss off!).

“We learned about edgework from people doing it—we didn’t so much invent the concept as were given the concept by the people who already engaged in it,” Ferrell explains about looking at the concept of thrill-seeking from an academic perspective. “We realized the better our skills got, the more risks we could take and the more adrenaline we could pump into our systems. Theory was living in our bodies as well as our heads, and those motorcycles and the skydiving were literal embodiments of the theories we were coming up with in the library.”

As the two friends, colleagues, and adrenaline junkies make clear, they see a profound connection between risk and living life to one’s fullest, comparing a life without risk to Disneyland. “I love the idea of the consequential edge—it could be your body and your life on the line, or it could be your career, your reputation or your relationship,” Ferrell says. “If there are no consequences at stake, then there’s no possibility of edgework. . . I’ve always been much more afraid of dying of boredom than dying in a motorcycle wreck or jumping off a building.”

All this risky business could have a biological imperative, too. One of my favorite scientific theories comes from Stephen Jay Gould, who suggested that substantive change always happen at the edges, the margins, the fringes of a species. Gould’s theory of “punctuated equilibrium” explains how evolution doesn’t take place on a predictable, linear path but with unpredictable and dramatic bursts coming from the outer reaches of the species. Not incidentally, the edge also explains why New Zealand is the future.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In Praise of Gut Feeling

Mr. Spock vs. Captain Kirk. Sherlock Holmes vs. Dirty Harry. Obama vs. Trump. Readers of this column over the years have seen me write about IQ vs. EQ, strictly rational decision-making vs. the importance of going with one’s gut, especially when it comes to business.

As if by intuition, flipping through a new favorite publication—Kinfolk, a “slow lifestyle magazine” published in Denmark, printed in Portland, Oregon—I came across a book excerpt about this very phenomenon. In Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious (2007, Viking), noted German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer explains the phenomenon of how “following our hunches can help us make better choices than dutifully weighing up the pros and cons.”

Almost everyone has had this experience, where more thinking and information—about that term paper or final exam, that sales brief, that now-or-never decision about one’s love life—can be crippling. Whatever term you choose—going with one’s gut, following a hunch, using the sixth sense—intuition is the handmaiden of rational thought. Without it, no one would ever fall in love, place a bet on a team or a stock, uproot themselves from their home, or consider leaving one job for the next.

In Gut Feelings, Gigerenzer—whose research Malcolm Gladwell used to fuel his book Blink, about the power of snap decisions—shows how our higher-level intelligence frequently works without our conscious thought. He argues that intuition is more than impulse and caprice, however, but follows its own rationale. “There are two ways to understand the nature of gut feelings,” Gigerenzer writes. “One is derived from logical principles and assumes intuition solves a complex problem with a complex strategy. The other involves psychological principles, which bet on simplicity and take advantage of our evolved brain.”

In my experience intuition honors our unconscious lives, and the complexity of a world that is not always governable by logic alone. Intuition is not antithetical to reason, but another form of reasoning. If ever faced with a dilemma whose pros and cons can’t be worked out on a spreadsheet, my advice? Go with your gut.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Crazies Leading in London

London Stock Exchange – March 10 – I’ll be opening the London Leadership Summit for Conqa, a global consulting, event management and sports entertainment organization that focuses within the elite sports industry. My theme – no surprise – Leadership in a Crazy World. My fellow crazies on the speaking roster are as impressive as they are eclectic.

There’s Paddy Upton, one of the most innovative leaders in world cricket. Paddy is head coach of the Delhi Daredevils in India, and the Sydney Thunder, 2016 league winners. He played a pivotal role in leading the Indian Cricket Team to the #1 test team, as well as the world champions in 2011. As the Performance Director of Cricket South Africa, he was a key player in taking Cricket South Africa to the first ever team to hold the number 1 status in all three formats (T20, 50 over & Test). Paddy will provide insight into how he managed to get weak, demotivated and under-performing teams, and turn them around to world-class high achievers. For him, the success is in the culture and he will explain how to get it right.

Tom Bird is author of the best-selling book "Brilliant Selling" and "The Leader's Guide to Presenting." He has spent his entire career in business and sales. His topic is “Influencing,” which he says is a key skill for today's leaders. A recent study showed that we spend on average 23 minutes of every hour trying to influence, but how long have we spent thinking about how we engage with a skill that we are using almost half of our working day applying?”

Lorne Sulcas is seriously crazy. He spent seven years as a game ranger, tracker, observer and photographer on Africa's Big Cats. From the summit blurb: “In the fiercely competitive world, it's eat or be eaten, and only the very best can stay at the top end of the food chain. As apex predators, Africa's Big Three Cats thrive through strategies and behaviors honed over millennia to get exceptional results in a challenging, changing and brutally competitive environments. Lorne will share the powerful similarities between the real and the ‘concrete’ jungles, and how these potent leadership lessons can help you and your organization thrives in the face of change and competition.”

And Gary Noesner deals with crazies. He is a 30 year veteran and former chief negotiator for the FBI. “In high pressure situations, leaders remain calm while everyone around them descends into panic. Many talk of big match temperament (BMT) as if it were a condition you either have or don't have. But what if it was a learnable skill? Gary will teach you how to remain calm, build influence and get on top in high pressure situations.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Reality Check #2: Where the killing comes from

The motivation behind the presidential order to reject people seeking to enter the US from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days was said to be keeping American people from “bad people with bad intentions.” Here are some facts.

Over half the 911 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, which was not subject to the travel ban.

The presence of NRA head Wayne LaPierre sitting next to the President at the White House last week gives me little optimism for sanity on American gun safety.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reality Check #1: Globaloney

America, it is said, is in a post-truthful state of mind. Anything can be asserted as a fact, especially when the rhetoric is designed to present America as a dystopia overrun with Islamic migrants and Chinese imports. Assumptions are rife and perceptions are warped.

In a Washington Post article Is America enriching the world at its own expense? That’s globaloney, Pankaj Ghemawat and Steven Altman of NYU Stern argue that “the United States is far less buffeted by international trade, immigration and other aspects of globalization than many Americans assume; the whole world is far less globalized than people tend to believe. And policies rooted in overestimating globalization — “globaloney” — could harm the people they purport to protect.”

These three charts go some way to debunking the spittle and paranoia about America being seized by foreign nations. “America First” is doing a pretty good job.

Pankaj Ghemawat is director and Steven Altman is executive director of the Center for the Globalization of Education and Management at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Ghemawat’s latest book is “The Laws of Globalization.”