January 19, 2018

Archives for September 2014

Getting over something

HourglassHow far do you need to go into the future before the present will seem like the past?

When we’re struggling to get over some incident or upset, I find it can be a great help to think forward into the future—far enough into the future that present or very recent painful events seem definitely to be in the past and at a distance.

In the form of a question, it can be: “How much time will need to pass before we have moved on from this experience: A month, a year, ten years? The very act of asking the question tends in itself to move us on. Some might respond “never,” but actually there’s always a distance of time at which it’s over, even if it’s a hundred years. Then we can work back.

There’s a great line in the Tao Te Ching which sums this up…

“This too shall pass.”

If we have the courage to explore the future state, it can help us displace the present painful one.

How do you get over something?

Yes and no

Bridge to visionTo paraphrase 13th century poet, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi…

“Out beyond ideas of yes and no, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Asking a closed question always seemed to me a clumsy way of opening a conversation about something as complex as the future of a country and a relationship.

The truest guide to a big decision: Thinking, feeling or knowing?

Woman reflectingShould we make big decisions based on what we think or what we feel? Should we let our heart rule our head or vice versa?

In fact…

The truest guide is what we know—what our whole body tells us—our gut, if you like, which is a different thing altogether. That answer comes from lower down inside us—literally—the product of years of experience and sifting of information.

Our heart and our gut aren’t the same thing…

One is passion, the other is sense.

One is credulous, the other is sceptical.

One is excitable, the other is measured.

Which do you trust in the cold light of day?

Ian Paisley and the influence of personal change

Ian Paisley and the influence of personal changeIf Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness can become best buddies, surely just about anyone can be reconciled…

It seems to me Ian Paisley is an interesting example of how changing yourself changes the system—the world around you—especially if you are known to a lot of people.

If you’re not so familiar with the history…

As a Unionist preacher and politician in Northern Ireland, “Big Ian” began implacably and stridently opposed to any accommodation with the Republican side, and was a problem—repellent probably at times—to many. Yet he eventually travelled a journey of change (over decades) which led both to peace in Northern Ireland, and strong friendship with his principal adversary, Martin McGuinness—truly remarkable, considering the level of violence between their communities.

Disturbingly, in a way, if he hadn’t expressed (“bellowed” might be more accurate) such extreme views in the beginning, he might not have taken so many people with him—a critical mass—on the journey to reconciliation. It must have seemed that if he could move, anyone could move.

So “being the change” works. It’s influential.

With luck, you might not even need to bellow.

The story also shows…

To solve big, complex problems, we need to bring the pieces together, rather than have them separate, and apply a level of sophistication at least equal to the complexity.

Can we measure our influence?

Mid sized audienceWhen we set out to work on an issue on a large scale, it would be handy if we could discern the specific impact of our actions. It would be useful it we could determine how much of what we see changing around us is caused by what we ourselves are doing?

That way we could refine our approach and be sure it is as effective as possible.

I think the reality is we mostly can’t.

Probably, quite a lot of people are working on the issue—like increasing collaboration, for example—and so we really can’t tell which part of the outcome is down to us.


We need to act in the belief in we are making a difference, and accept the fact we can’t know exactly what we contribute.

And keep going.

We’ll be more effective if our state of mind is independent of the need for specific reinforcement.

New Series of Board-level Skills Workshops launched with Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

Business People in a Board MeetingDelighted to have launched a new series of workshops at the invitation of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, focusing on board level skills. We’ve picked two topics to begin with: Mastering … … Effective Board Meetings and Mastering … … Facilitating Groups, both areas where some new insights (and reminders of what you already know) can make a big difference to the ease which you get things done.

These are open invite and great value, so if you’re in the area (apologies for bothering you if you’re not)  and would like to take advantage of this opportunity to add to your expertise, please book on the Chamber’s website, as below, and/or let me know…

Thursday 25 September – Mastering … … Effective Board Meetings

Wednesday 29 October – Mastering … … Facilitating Groups

Two regular workshops, related to public speaking, are running soon too:-

Tuesday 7th October – Focus On … … Authentic Presence and Confidence in Public Speaking

Tuesday 21 October – Focus On … … Compelling Content in Public Speaking

I’ve just done one in this series. Participant feedback was “excellent,” I’m pleased to say.

Hope to see you at one or more of these. Let me know please if you’re coming.

Why don’t they take action?

GatheringSometimes it surprises us that people don’t do things we think they should take action on, to do with other people particularly (or anything really); even things they’ve agreed to do.

Why is that?

I think there’s quite a simple explanation…

People don’t take action because they don’t really know how—at least, not confidently enough to begin. They think they should know but, in fact, they don’t. So they stay silent and passive.

I think, more often than we usually imagine, inaction is because people don’t quite know how rather than because they don’t want to.

So, providing a bit of method might make a difference.

What’s not happening around you that could actually be because somebody doesn’t know how?

Are you sub-optimising yourself?

Woman thinkingWe’re very mindful of minimising our use of tangible commodities—like paper, for example. So much so, that it’s a kind of obsession. It’s important to conserve scarce resources—of course, it is. We do need to live in a sustainable way.

Sometimes though…

In conserving a tangible resource, we squander an intangible one, like our time and quite often that translates into wasting other tangible commodities. If we don’t use our time well, for instance, we do more travelling for the same result, and so use more fuel.

Nearing completion of a book, I notice how much I have to push myself to print out the draft for editing because that seems like a waste of paper. But not printing it out makes the process as a whole very inefficient and distinctly sub-optimal. Nevertheless, it’s remarkably difficult to overcome the conditioning about paper to optimise the book-editing.

It’s worth reflecting…

Where might you be over-optimising something tangible at the expense of something intangible which is actually more precious to you and to everyone else?

Leadership isn’t always about teams

Exhausted computer userWe tend to think of leadership in the context of leading teams, at least in connection with work we do.

But it isn’t necessarily so.

Yes, a leader’s role is often to build the necessary relationships with and amongst the members of a formally-constituted team in order to create the conditions where the group can perform to the best of its ability.

Sometimes though…

Leadership is about stimulating some kind of response amongst people who don’t work together at all, nor for the person “leading.” They might not even know the leader personally.

But still there is some kind of relationship—a more subtle one perhaps…

Because there’s no authority in the situation, it’s a more delicate matter—“like cooking a small fish,” in the words of the Tao Te Ching, “you spoil it with too much poking.”

How do you go about leading when you don’t have authority (assuming you need to, that is)? What’s different for you?

Something about seeing what’s important to people perhaps.