Wednesday, 22 September 2010


1. Sit down with a glass of wine, a pen and paper. Recall the boss you have had who you feel brought out the best in you – the best boss you have ever had. Make a list of the things they did which engendered that feeling in you. Do those things in the team, and get leaders within your team doing them too.

2. Likewise, recall the worst boss you ever had. Make a list of what they did which gave you that impression. Do none of these things. Encourage the leaders in your team to think about these and how to avoid them.

3. Ban criticism. The best teams are overwhelmingly positive places. You can experiment with this for a day, a week etc. And see how it feels.

4. Set up a formal space for praise in regular meetings, at which you ask: “what needs praising this month?”

5. Encourage people to name their feelings in meetings. “I feel sad....” “I feel excited.....” “I feel angry..........” Tap the vast potential database of the team’s emotions.

6. Establish a regular space for ideas. Take a subject on which the team works and allocate a fixed meeting space for ideas. Make it informal and only about ideas. Suspend judgement of all ideas till the end of the session so you get the maximum number of ideas on the table.

7. At the end of an ideas session have a race to find the winning ideas. Lay out all the written up ideas and promote each one place by voting. The winners will go the furthest.

8. Ban tables. Sit openly facing each other. Tables make enmities.

9. Sit in a circle. Also promotes good ideas and harmony.

10. Ban update reporting in a team setting, other than as lessons we can all learn from. If people are honest, most update reporting bores the others to death.

11. Take seriously the notion of job titles in the team, and allocate tasks around these. I’m talking about the informal job titles that reflect individual strengths in the team.

12. Try an experimental period where you talk ONLY about strengths and what is being done well. Build ideas from this to extend best practice.

13. Have a moment or two of calm / silence before team meetings to get yourselves into a mental space that is all about good listening and a nice slow thinking pace to get the most from ideas and decisions. One minute of silence is nothing, yet it can change everything.

14. Be very formal about a decision log. Write all decisions in the log and check for agreement before they are agreed.

15. Promote wishfulness. Rather than talking about “the problem is.............” talk about “I wish it were like this........” or “How could we make it................”

16. Ask “how is everyone...?” and expect really honest full answers

17. Be careful about measurement. When you are measuring you are not actually managing. Be careful about the difference between the two. Try to do much more managing than measuring.

18. Managing is all about asking HOW can we do better at.............. rather than WHY is the result like.................

19. Reduce the number of performance indicators you look at. Decide the two or three that are really key and focus your energies on those.

20. Try to spend a bit of time each time you meet thinking like a consumer. If needs be, appoint someone “consumer of the month” to act as the consumer consciousness, even if it is unpalatable or difficult to hear. Alternatively, invent Arnold. Arnold is the customer. Then you can ask, what does Arnold say about this? He might well speak some sense.

21. Think carefully about your common goal. If it is a number, it is probably wrong. No one really wants to spend their life pursuing a number. We’re just not built to live that way. Connect your goal to what is really important in peoples’ lives – your customers and yours.

22. A good way to do no. 21 above is to think about time. What do we really want our next couple of years at work in this team to be like? What do we want the minutes a customer spends experiencing our brand to be like? How do we engineer both?

23. Promote team members in reading, viewing and experiencing the world widely. Leave management models behind and encourage people in talking about the inspiration they are finding (perhaps from practice, perhaps anew) from other, unrelated areas – arts, philosophy, science, sport, you name it. By asking yourselves “is there anything we can learn from this field?” You will be surprised at how much you can import. Excluding management thinking is important here. Generally that gene pool is depleted. You refresh it best from unlikely sources.

24. Nick ideas. Look at the competition – indirect and direct. What are they doing that is a good idea you can pinch or adapt?

25. Be rigorous about your own experiences of your own brand. Try as far as you can to watch how consumers do experience it. Try and be as much like a consumer as you can in experiencing it yourselves.

26. If you can, bring in unusual people into your meetings, or hold special guest sessions. Get in anyone you think is genuinely interesting. Here I refer not to so called interesting consultants or business people (who often aren’t) but that bloke who has pioneered wheelchairs for Africa, the lady who has got prisoners sewing for a living, the first female Everest conqueror, the chap who lived for months with the tribe in Borneo, the pianist with the unusual background. You get the picture. These are the people who will fire your team’s curiosity. And that is gold. Curiosity is the mother of ideas.

27. Ask yourself where you expect ideas to come from within the organization. If your first answer isn’t YOU, then you may be taking delegation a bit far.

28. Vary where you meet. Most meeting rooms are insufferably dull places. There is no god reason why you can’t meet by going for a walk on a beach, by strolling in a forest, or sitting with your feet hanging in a river. Indeed, it’ll be better if you do.

29. Whenever you feel yourselves behaving professionally, be extremely cautious. These are the moments you are most likely to desert the consumer’s logic, and probably that of your staff also.

30. Include in your meetings a space for people to say “....... what I’ve really appreciated about you Doreen is..........; what I appreciate about you, Derek is..................” (calling each other Derek and Doreen is optional).

31. Allocate some time to meeting without agenda. Just a time to catch up on how you all are. You’ll be amazed at what stuff this can throw up.

32. Allow boasting. “Do you know what, we’ve got really good at............”

33. Party. Good teams do.

34. When you talk about a model, a process, a strategy, a theory, be aware you are not talking the same language as consumers.

35. Likewise, jargon and three letter acronyms.

36. Be careful with mickey taking. Humour is one thing. Allowing internal competition and rivalry is another. The enemy is out there. Not in here.

37. Why are we better than them? Why are we better than them? Why are we better than them? When it comes to your real competition you can safely become quite obsessive about this question. The harder you can answer it, the more the consumer will listen.

38. Simplify goals and tasks. Multiplication of goals eats time – time that can be spent figuring out how to be better than the competition, and acting on it.

39. Laugh. It’s not that serious is it?

40. Oh, and where there is laughter, ideas will quickly follow.

41. If your brand collapses tomorrow, it will make very little real difference to consumers. That’s partly why taking yourselves too seriously is a bad idea.

42. State your intentions and outcomes for each meeting you have. “I intend this meeting to be wow.” “I intend this meeting to be a place full of ideas”. I intend that we decide xyz....”

43. Have shorter meetings standing up. They’ll be shorter.

44. A posture guide: for ideas, sprawl. For discussion and opinion, sit. For decisions, stand.

45. Share on an ongoing basis what people in the team are really interested in, and see how any of that passion can be brought to work.

46. Eat together. If possible, cook together.

47. Don’t just have coffee and biscuits. Try some different forms of refreshment.

48. Start a team blog. Sound off online.

49. When someone has a good idea, tell ‘em. “Nice one Cyril.”

50. Have dedicated sessions asking for, and offering help to each other. No stigma about asking or offering.

Saturday, 18 September 2010


It is always nice when businesses that one is involved with do well.

I am therefore pleased to publish the following announcement from Wild Man Hotel Group, to whom I am a trusted advisor. It may be of interest to anyone reading this blog and seeking unusual, uniquely characterful places to stay:

"WILD MAN HOTELS are pleased to announce the details of our latest acquisitions:


THE AIRY RAMPART offers the discerning guest the chance to stay at a unique historic spa retreat situated with one of the finest views of Dartmoor. Its elevated position on an outcrop of the oldest rocks in Britain offers amazing views, peace and solitude, and unrivalled opportunities for watching birds and other wildlife. The Black Slug bar is a cozy place to relax, slug back your favourite tipple and catch up with friends, old and new. The Trangia Bistro is a simply great informal eating place. And the Airy Rampart's coffee and breakfast room has a view which must be experienced to be believed. We serve Rombouts super slow brewed coffee. The area around The Airy Rampart is packed with unusual things to do - all night horse riding, motorcycle scrambling, bird watching (you may even be lucky enough to spot a hen harrier or a raven or two), foraging and woodsmanship courses, hiking, watercress farm visits and many others. Whilst staying at the Airy Rampart, you simply cannot miss the exciting Rainwater Spa, a tonic for mind and body with its famous aromatherapy candle treatments.


Quintin and Adrian welcome you to The Sea View, a comfortable and discreet home from home with simply marvellous views of Durdle Door - believed to be one of the oldest rock formations in Britain. At The Sea View, we bend over backwards to make your stay a memorable one. With Quentin at the front of house, and Adrian working away behind the scenes your stay will be pampered, and you'll leave positively purring. In our Pebbleblast restaurant, Adrian works wonders. Why not try his famous Bhopal Spicy Sausage and Beans? They're guaranteed to fill you full of wonder. And it's not just Adrian's cooking that has earned us the maximum number of English Tourist stars. It's the small details that make a difference. Our beachside position and firm but comfortable beds and aromatherapy candles will leave you reeling! From our Fruity porridge breakfast to our star gazing conservatory, from our early morning coffee in bed service to our unique hand crafted cutlery and our night night tuckdown service, every minute at The Sea View is pure delight.

WILD MAN HOTELS is also pleased to announce that it is currently in negotiations for a further acquisition of a unique floating venue. More details to follow.

If anyone is inclined to stay at either of these fine facilities, please do let me know, as Friends and Family rates are available through me.

Monday, 13 September 2010


There's a storm coming.
I don't need my seaweed curtains, fir cones, my RYA Weather at Sea training or a skyful of Cirrus to tell that.
It's everywhere visible.

The forthcoming government public spending cuts are producing a chorus of squeaks - the kind of squeaks that indicate people in government departments are being squeezed tight. You can't cut this. You can't cut that. Most of all, you can't cut MY bit.

But with squeaks elsewhere, there are howls from the TUC. The howls are of varying degrees of quality. Some are plain stupid. The leading Union official who says on air that there should not be a single job lost, and that even a single penny of savings is unjustifiable has clearly earned his Brownie Guide I am Lost badge.

It is very understandable, following such a protracted and abject enlargement of the State, that many public servants should be worried. Especially those whose jobs have no real output.

It is also very understandable that the Trade Unions should voice reasoned opposition to the form of cuts proposed (which, incidentally, their official TUC statement does).

But what really is pretty disgusting is the spectacle of the Labour Party, in the shape of Harriet Harman, egging on the Union heavies toward unreasoned rejection of cuts, when they themselves had very substantial cuts proposed within their own policies. You'll note that I have avoided blaming them for financial mismanagement in the first place (or have I?). Go on, they are saying, you go and have a scrap. I'll be here holding your coat. Pathetic.

The rabble rousing towards civil disobedience will, I am guessing, stay largely as rhetoric. Industrial action on a political basis will be illegal. Union membership is in any case in tatters.

But there is a storm coming..................