Measuring up, yet Dressing down

February 3, 2018


Bridget smiled radiantly, glancing at the bemused onlookers as she parked her bike, unpegged her jean clips (it was a bit late, the chain had already caught the bottom of her now stained, old fashioned bell bottoms) and coughed to clear her lungs.

The bell sounded, breaking the trance of onlookers; kindly family, friends and the like. “You need to get ready dear” an elderly aunt cautioned, just as the church organ struck up its welcome. “I am” she replied, “very ready”.

“Without make-up and no white, long flowing white dress? In holey jeans and muddy boots?” came the query, the crowd’s bemusement shifting to incredulity.

“Yes. I walked, breathed and reflected, rather than sat, pampered and gossiped. I am ready to pass through and onto my new life” she retorted, as she strode down the aisle and into the welcoming arms of her chosen partner.

Moving through life’s stages, rites of passage, is all about the preparation. Rush and we maybe unready. Pontificate and pout and we may be distracted and focus on the wrong things.

It pays to take time out. To retreat and conference with trusted confidants, but then the time comes to bounce back out again. To take up that project and hop on down into the new adventure.

“Go on bounce across ……… I will catch you!” bubbled Bridget’s confidence


A story of adversity. Reject or Resolve? – ‘Mikey Boy’ becoming ‘Mike the Man’ (Part 1)

May 1, 2017


As young boy Mikey’s mother left home, taking his sister, but leaving him alone with his step-father. Mikey’s dad had died when he was a baby. Although kindly, the step-father could not cope and Mikey was pushed into foster care.

Through no fault of his own, Mikey found himself frequently having to move homes. Sometimes his foster family had children or sometimes they changed their minds or goals. Sometimes they were abusive and simply could not cope with the shy and awkward, often resentful boy, whose withdrawn and sullen response to his challenging circumstances made him a target for the bullies.

Mikey soon learned to override the initial fear of these bullies and fought back. This had two impacts on the teenager’s life: he became aggressively angry and he also  came to believe everything bad that was said about him. That pattern or sense of fear did not leave him for a very long time, haunting him and making him overly anxious, but more on that later. Just now, that fear of not being good enough of feeling under threat, negatively affected his self-efficacy or belief in himself. Mikey felt like he had been cursed and slipped slowly into trouble with the law.

Then a trigger moment happened. A kindly policeman simply challenged, the now young man, to “take charge” of his life. The policeman interjected into Mikey’s stunned silence, telling him the well known story of the two wolves who battle inside each of us. One is the fearful, angry, bitter, self-pitying and nasty wolf, the other a kindly, energetic, grateful and hard-working wolf. “Who wins? The one you feed.” The police man explained. Mikey paused and reflected.

At this point he could have gone one of two ways, resentfully rejected the prompt and slipped further into self-pity, anger and addiction or resolved to pull himself up and choose a different route.

Reflect now:

When was the first time you experienced an overwhelming adversity, conflict or failure?

What was the nature of that event or situation? Was it gradual and slowly draining or unexpectedly sudden?

What coping strategies did you employ?

Your ‘Seven Ages’ interrupted

January 15, 2017


Learning is Life Long.

History illustrates that where education falls behind the pace of technological change, workers become idle.

Once education catches up, prosperity follows.

The problem is that the life long learning necessary to keep up (or ideally out pace) technology favours those who are either young or already educated. It also tends to favour those who have general rather than specific skills.

Although there is a current reaction against globalisation and migration, which tends to exacerbate the woes of the middle aged specialist worker, it is unlikely to be halted. The world is simply smaller now and will become even more integrated, eventually.

Change will happen and it may be difficult. The career/job for life no longer exists. And more and more people are becoming self-employed, either as specialist or generalists through the so called ‘gig’ economy.

These workers are de facto taking responsibility for themselves and will need to know how to and what to develop competences in. This is even more important for them now, given that working lives are getting longer and time to market for technological innovations shorter.

The ‘Seven Ages of Man’ may need revision. Those of us moving from six to seven may need to put our grumpiness on hold and adapt. Those in five or six may need to learn responsive learning patterns.

Those new ways will include developing resilience to change and the emotional intelligence to keep being flexible, learning and risking try new ways to contribute. I have no doubt we will want to do so with organisations that take us empathetically in mind.

We need a real, inclusive Community College for Careers and Commerce for ‘5th ages giggers and beyond!’

How to be ‘Ill at Ease’

January 12, 2017



The modern world would have you pop a ‘pill and flop back to work’. It’s almost like there is no time to pause and recover. The government stats bare this out; sickness per employee is dropping still. It is below four days a year. Hurrah for productivity! Hurrah for progress! But are we really getting better?

The government stats also bemoan the number of people who present at over worked A&E with flu like symptoms’, because they simply don’t know how to be ‘ill at ease’, that is how to stay at home and recover properly.

Of course, if necessary we, patients, should seek right medical support for urgent or critical illnesses, but there is also a case for being ‘patient at home’ with ourselves, by arming ourselves with proper rest rather than harming ourselves with over work (which also includes over working the emotional berating we can put ourselves through for not being ‘better enough’. There is a sense of social exclusion driven by being perceived as ‘feeble’ or a ‘shirker’.

Many of the pharmaceutical peddle this view throughly highly advertised ‘miracle cures’ and have us believing we should bounce back instantaneously. Before they existed, like back in my 1960’s childhood all the kids with mumps and measles would meet up and play together. We would keep ourselves isolated in community!

But today, kids, even big kids like you and me, are wheeled down the doctors for antibiotics for a sore throat. Why? Because our busy, important world demands it!

Instead, honey & lemon, gargling with salt water, warm rest and fluids will suffice, best done of course, quietly without grumbling or bowing down to demands to be perfectly fit!

In essence we just have to be a bit kinder to ourselves and others. To encourage us all to take better care of ourselves. Let’s not threaten each other with terrible things that might happen if they don’t get better, quick!

Ideally, they should rest at home, sparing the rest of us, too! Maybe, if you make just one resolution this year, forget wearing yourself out at the gym and, instead, make life a little easier by embracing the art of being ‘ill at ease’.
‘There is one consolation about being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.’ Henry David Thoreau

Busily doing nothing

January 2, 2017

imageA degree of IDLENESS is essential to an efficient and effective life. This is an oft forgotten insight in an age when mindfulness apps set targets for sitting still and for exercise, and of course for monitoring our hearts, bloods and other bits! God forbid that any of them should raise!

Rumi, Sufi story teller, speaks of a father who well loved his three sons and was wise as to the art of idleness. He wanted to know what his off spring knew of the power of ‘Doing Nothing’, so he asked the

The eldest explained his adept at ‘doing little’. It had made him patient. He explained how, for example, he could read another man’s mind by the sound of their voice and, if they refused to speak, he could watch him for three days and get to know them well. The old man smiled

Laziness had a different impact on the second son. It had made him crafty. He too could understand another by the sound of their voice and, if they refused to speak, the second son would start talking. The other was then bound to reply, and give them-self away. Not quite so impressive, thought the old man; craftiness is a common human trait. All you have to do is know the trick.

But idleness was best achieved by best the youngest who had the mastered gift of presence – of being, not doing, some might say.

And what comes with presence? The ability to be receptive and sit in front of another and feel what the other felt. With that sense, he could understand anyone. Some call this ‘mindsight’. A means to receive insights from a place not influenced by either joy nor grief. It is a way that mediates between voice and presence; where information and energy flow, and relationship is at its deepest.

For me, it is a place of ease. Of doing little, but affecting much. This laziness, Jesus told his followers makes a burden light. If it feels heavy, hard work, impossible then something has gone wrong. Ease is the key principal.

Buddhist teach of “right effort”, which invariably means less effort. When your legs are dead, your back is aching, and your mind feels caught up in a storm, it’s time to stop meditating. A mindless, joyful chat with a friend will be more spiritually beneficial.

Idleness allows things to unfold without a need to influence or be in need of an outcome. Stuff just happens when you contemplate it.

Valuing Social & Business Progress

November 30, 2016


Organisations, especially companies wanting to make profits, are increasingly becoming concerned with advancing social progress. It’s called ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and forms part of an increasing drive by Companies to win back and enhance public trust.

In many cases their response is now becoming less about being ‘expedience’ i.e. doing so because it’s a ‘must’ and makes good marketing sense, and more about their recognition that a ‘social contract’ exists under which, in exchange for people buying from them, they will behave in ethical ways that enhance consumers utility from their products (thereby creating mutual profit), remedying their damage to the planet and enhancing our common social cohesion.

This is because businesses do not operate in isolation. They form part of a whole, and must be a cohesive force in an ecosystem comprising of social expectation, social norms and, we hope, sensible Government policies. Effective businesses will want to initiate collective community action, whilst measuring and reporting on the positive impact they are having.

As this process evolves it will be critical that people and businesses agree:

1. A common agenda or set of priorities.
2. An agreed means of measuring progress.
3. Mutually supportive and re-enforcing actions.
4. Effective communications – that is ‘good conversations’.
5. Commitment to support initiatives

All of which will lead to a set of shared and common values, focused on people, planet and profits.

Getting business and the community organised around this is essential and needs a structure to feed it.

Rational, Emotive, Cognitive & Behavioural (RECB) Business (and Life?) Planning

October 22, 2016

method1As a Business Consultant and advisor I often found myself caught between the different entrepreneurial stances to planning. Some entrepreneurs like the idea of a detailed, full and complete planning others, seemingly ‘fly from the seat of their pants’ casting off the constraints and effort involved as ‘too time consuming and restrictive’.

The great strategic management guru, Mintzberg, termed the first approach ‘Rational Planning’ – ‘Set your mission, identify your critical success factors (and measures), analyse your environment (SWOT), choose your best approach (strategy) implement it (take action) and feedback on progress (control)’ he lectured. It makes good, logical sense.

I call the latter one ‘Reactive’, not unlike the ‘Behavioural Response’ the psychologists Skinner (stimulus leads to response) and Pavlov (the bell driven salivating dog) describe to us. It goes like this – something happens in the business (‘ding’) and the entrepreneur responds (‘dong’).  I guess they are not really planning just reacting!

My experience has taught me that two further planning positions or entrepreneurial types exist between these extremes:

  1. Those who concentrate or focus on just on a few ‘Critical Drivers’ when planning their business. I term this ‘Cognitive Planners’. This saves time, but benefits from a degree of rational evaluation of what is important to the business (I mean, of course the egotistical entrepreneur!)
  2. That ego is not necessary a bad thing; it has often been honed through experience and instinct that means the ‘opportunist’ is not lucky, but simply confident in responding to their ‘Gut Instinct’ – I term these ‘Emotional Planners’.

This worked for me because as an executive coach, business psychologist and consultant, I was able to link my own  psychological research and RECB (Rational Emotive Cognitive Behavioural) and approach directly into tailoring the business planning intervention that best works for my client. Neither of the four approaches is any better than they other. The efficacy depends on context and the risk profile and ways of the entrepreneur.

It has worked for them and my suspicion (and further research focus) is how such an approach can support us all in understanding how we approach risks in and planning of our lives.


To Brexit – and Beyond!

October 9, 2016


“The empty raincoat is, to me, the symbol of our most pressing paradox. If economic progress means that we become anonymous cogs in some great machine, then progress is an empty promise. The challenge must be to show how paradox can be managed”

‘Just telling them about yourself and what you will do in the community!’ came the response to my question ‘what shall I say about English life 2020 onwards?’

‘Ahhhh….’ I pondered as I looked at great and the good with whom I would share a stage; a Conservative MEP, a president of the British Chamber of Commerce, a migrant County councillor and two EU grant funded University lecturers. Yours truly brought up the rear.

Being in such salubrious company, I further pondered what I had of merit to say about myself, which I posed to my friends. ‘Tell them you are generally a good egg, grandfather, business lecturer, executive coach and a volunteer with trauma victims. So I did, linking those aspects of me to my concern to see the future unfold safely for all of us, be it young, fair to middling or old.

In that vein, I went on to talk about the great social philosopher Charles Handy who (in his book the ‘Empty Raincoat’) predicted that we would have three careers:

  1. Firstly, one in which we make our money (I was a CEO, I explained)
  2. Secondly, where we follow our passion (I am a lecturer, coach and therapist)
  3. Finally, how we make good use of ourselves in retirement (I am in training to be a Bournemouth Deckchair attendant – but I won’t work Bank Holidays, or weekends, or in the summer – I will, however, do double shifts in January!)

My real point was, that for me, ‘2020 and Beyond’ has to undeniably be about our youth, cushioned with in the wisdom that us, ‘wanna-be elders’ can bring to the table. We best do that by not being a burden on our society, by doing work that shares that wisdom (or brings rest and respite to the weary) and in encouraging them with hope.

Which we can do, because the forecast are that for the UK employment will grow, the Government will do less of it, and more of us will be self-employed or on close to zero contract hours. The youth will be far more responsible for themselves than my generation was – it will be ‘their gig!’.

UK Employment  TRENDS:

    • Grow in 2025 by 3m to 37m
    • Public Sector fall to 4.5m (from 6m)
    • Micro Business Grow to 7m plus (from 4m) – ‘It’s My Gig’
    • 3m Knowledge Workers
    • 4m Contingent Workers*

My suggestion from this was that: Those working for themselves will be a ‘powerful economic & political force’ and will demand:

    • Tax & Administrative Burden Cuts
    • Welfare needs to match their Work Life Balance
    • Being part of a COMMUNION

And concluded that can be achieved locally through ‘Community Hubs’ that deliver:

COMMUNION – through the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings by having:

    • Good Conversations
    • Personal Development – Fit for Life
    • Business Development – Fit for Purpose
    • Training
    • Advice

Leaving them ‘COMMON, UNITED & COLLOBORATING’. It felt like a good future – see here There need not be a paradox.



Balancing People, Planet and Profits – A solution?

August 24, 2016

Social-Enterprise-MarkSocial enterprises face unique challenges. They need to keep their customer satisfied, have contented staff, make a profit and have a positive cash flow – all responsible businesses need to do that! But the additional burden – or exhilaration if you are truly passionate – for Social Enterprise is to satisfy your social aspirations too – whether that means serving your community, protecting the ecology or re-solving a social problem.

For me, how I prefer like to serve my community is in helping families to have calm lives. I believe that families, regardless of how you define them or indeed whom you choose to be in your family, are the bedrock of community cohesion. When we feel secure in our family environment, we can step out and do good work in our community.

My community work is focused on families suffering with the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and with single mothers wanting to build a career or business. Neither myself nor my colleagues are wedded to those groups, it just happens to be an area of specialism. Therefore, we also support other social entrepreneurs who want to have and make their own and unique impact in the world, through consultancy

I do this by running a business that provides consulting, therapy and coaching. The business uses its profits on a ‘third, third and third’ basis i.e. that is equally into:

  1. Funding free and reduced rate work for those in need
  2. Investing in the business to build for the future
  3. Rewarding those who invested in the business

I would recommend this as a model for other social enterprise’s as it has proven to be sustainable, enabling us to take on and provide our service from premises rather than compromising and working from ours and clients homes.

Purpose of this post? To raise the profile of social entrepreneurs and ask you to find ways to help me raise the profile of the work that we do. Can you help?


People, Planet and Profits

August 23, 2016


There is a tension in the world, particularly the Western World, which often bubbles up into political trouble. At its extreme the Capitalists (‘hurrah for profit!) stand deeply opposed to the Ecologists (‘humans are just one of many planetary species!’)

Standing between these two extremes of ‘Profit’ and ‘Planet’ are the ‘People’ those of us who are the beneficiaries of profit (from the exploitation of natural resources) and who accept we have some responsibility and obligation to care for the planet (‘we are all valuable!)

It’s not difficult to see that ‘Pristine Capitalist’ of ‘Profit Rules’ might align to Right Conservative politics (in the UK). Their key argument is that people have an obligation to use resources for best effect and that the best way to decide that is if people are willing to pay more than the costs of providing the good or service. Capitalists argue that by employing people and paying taxes they are making their adequate contribution to society and the planet. They assert it is for the Government to decide the priorities for a social and ecological agenda.

The extreme opposite is the ‘Deep Ecologist’, maybe those on the political left, such as the Green Party. They place a much greater burden on the people to elect and choose the planet over profit. They might even feel there are far too many humans, demanding too much from the planet and that short term profit is simply indulgent and short sighted. They argue we will eventually out-consume the ability of the planet to provide.

Most of us ‘People’ can accept both arguments and stand some where in the middle.

We might advocate a ‘Social Contract’ that is an obligation to balance the requirements of the three factors of production; capital, labour and land (Profit, People and Planet). The writer is excited at the animated debate around these issues and feels that the younger generation (despite their Gaming and Pokemon ways) are much more capable of taking forward the sustainability debate (‘How to meet the need of the current generation with out compromising the needs of any future generations’) than are the older team, of whom the writer is a part.

Why? Because the older team grew up with ‘Profit as a God’ which recent ecological focuses have demonstrated is not always sustainable. The other reason is that the generation following us are ‘Feminine’ in their approach. They take a whole and holistic view, balancing the three P’s.

No wonder the cry in any catastrophic situation is (save) ‘Women and Children First’, they are the future.