What is your burning ambition?

In a recent interview with the Birmingham Post (19/10/13) Greg Doran (Artistic Director: Royal Shakespeare Company) was asked about his burning ambition. His reply will bring a smile to all who enjoy his work at the RSC – ‘to be able to do what I’m doing.’


I thought about my burning ambition and, like Greg Doran, I too really enjoy what I do. Are you achieving YOUR burning ambition? Are YOU doing something that you really enjoy and find rewarding?


If you are, then why not think about what will keep you on track and energized? If not, then what changes do you wish to make?


Increasingly there is research demonstrating the positive impact of happiness and wellbeing on our mental health, workplace performance and overall results. So, doing something that interests and excites is important and good for us.


If you are not, then here are 3 simple ideas:


  •     seek out your strengths and focus on them;


  •     identify one or two simple things that you CAN do to make you feel good;


  •     talk to colleagues, friends and family about options and ideas.



“To business that we love we rise betimes

And go to it with delight.”

Antony and Cleopatra: William Shakespeare


Closing with a quote from Shakespeare makes me reflect that he must have loved his work; he certainly wrote plenty of plays, collaborated on many more, acted, produced and much more. Perhaps another tip is variety and involvement with others – now there’s a link to engagement which sounds like a blog for another day.


Meanwhile, if you want to talk about finding and achieving your burning ambition, please get in touch for a chat.



07956 121 464

In it together

groupstandingonhomemeerkat_org Leadership is a team effort not a solo expedition. My blog last week raised the question of trust, a vital part of leadership for a strong team. This got me thinking about how we encourage trust to strengthen the team we are part of.

If multi-vitamins strengthen our personal immune systems – what can help keep teams strong as the summer gives way to winter?

Hopefully you have enjoyed the August Bank Holiday (in England and Wales) and before the next one, the days will get shorter and it will become colder. It’s the time when our personal immune systems need a boost; perhaps its also time to check out the teams you are part of – what will help them move into autumn strong and healthy? How can they ensure they are ready to take on new challenges and maximise opportunities?

In to-days world, all teams need to be resilient – to work together, to offer support, encouragement and to trust each other. Check out your teams – what is needed to help you work together in a way that truly shows you are ‘in it together’?

A question of TRUST

Trust is the basis of business success[1]. Trust is integral to employee engagement and motivation. Our inquiry into resilience illustrates how trust helps to foster relationships, which in turn support positive business results.

Sir Terry Leahy, in his book ‘Management in Ten Words’ names TRUST in his top ten.  Having recognised it as important, we must be able to say what it means to us. Ashridge Business School define trust as ‘having successful relationships’ and being able to rely on colleagues to deliver. In addition to relationships, teams and individuals need to believe that they are part of a responsible business where ethical decisions are founded on tangible values.

As we all know, trust is hard to gain and easy to loose. Thus, it is important that we each reflect upon TRUST in both our professional and personal lives. We need to think about we do to foster trust. Leaders must ask themselves how the business can sustain a culture of trust?

If we think of trust as a muscle that we can flex – what can we do each day to keep this muscle strong, supple and flexible? How can we ensure that we show trust and foster trust?


[1] Hr Magazine. August 2013. Page 50 – article by Dent, Holton & Rabbetts of Ashridge Business School.

Cricket Bat

Ashes success – leadership questions?

Cricket success – England has won the Ashes 2013 series. Success in the Ashes is always a cause for celebration – by the team and all the England supporters.

The success came through good teamwork . Different skills – bowling, batting, fielding, coaching – all played their part; as did resilience  when the going got tough and Australia seemed on the verge of fighting back.

So how come questions have been raised about the leadership of the captain, Alastair Cook? It has been suggested that he is negative and too defensive. This may be true but let us not forget – they won. And also, let us consider that ‘not all questions are equal.’ It could be significant that the questions were initially raised by Shane Warne – the ex-Australian cricketer. Could one see an ulterior motive here in seeking to undermine the England captain? Read more

Iincreasing your teams curiosity

Increasing team curiosity can improve its overall performance and decision making capability. Research shows that in effective teams members share their own views and ask others their views; teams keep a discussion focused while getting all relevant information into the open and create solutions. These teams have stronger performance and better working relationships.

Encouraging curiosity starts with the team leader. By asking more questions in team meetings the leader will both encourage ideas and ideas will be ‘aired and shared’, plus the leader is role modelling questioning.

The way questions are asked is important. Too many questions and too little sharing can feel like an interrogation – also known as the ‘terrier style’! Questions must be based upon genuine curiosity. Read more

All Change at Kings Cross

kings-boulevard‘Looking back and looking forward’

Change is all around us. Take a look behind Kings Cross and you will see major re-developments. As I walked along King’s Boulevard I was fascinated by the weaving together of the past, the present and the future.

The walls are adorned with stories from Kings Cross past: the steam age, Bodecia’s final resting place (under Platform 9) and titles of jobs long gone. The present is a hive of activity: new buildings going up and an invitation to ‘name a street’. Looking forward: businesses and homes that will offer now opportunities and create their own stories.

Change needs to look both back to celebrate what has gone and look forwards to create a shared vision for the future., while engaging people in the present. King’s Boulevard is currently designed as a thorough-fare and also as a place that will interest and excite.

This reminded me of the major change project that the Royal Shakespeare Company undertook by closing their theatres and undergoing a major re-build[1]. Throughout this project they actively looked back and looked forward. The new theatres opened in 2011 and were immediately nominated for an international architectural award. To this day their skill at engaging key stakeholders in the change project is paying off – both financially and artistically.

In our working lives we are constantly facing change. I invite you to reflect on how looking back and looking forward can support you, engage others and excite those you serve. It makes financial sense and can offer opportunities to celebrate success.

Making leaders of staff and patients

In her recent article in the Health Services Journal (17 May 2013), Juliette Alban-Metcalfe provides strong arguments for shifts in leadership behaviour that can contribute positively to the services for mental health patients.

A key point is that:

“leaders need to relinquish some of their ‘expert’ status and work in a coaching and collaborative style.”

I would strongly suggest that this is true in all businesses. The evidence is clear that a more engaging leadership style has many positive benefits for individuals and for businesses (Table 1).

Table 1: Engaging leadership – WHY?
Engagement is great for individuals:

  • Job satisfaction and motivation
  • Reducing stress and improving well-being
  • Creating fulfilment and self-confidence


Engagement is great for business:

  • Improves customer satisfaction
  • Enhances retention and loyalty
  • Improves productivity and profitability
  • Encourages proactivity and innovation

Prof Bev Alimo-Metcalfe, September 2011

So how can a shift to engaging and collaborative leadership be achieved? Leaders need to change their behaviours and followers need support in working differently; certainly coaching behaviours can be very helpful. Here are a few simple steps that draw on basic coaching.

  • Asking questions: in both 1-1s and team meetings seek opportunities to ask more open questions; you can build on initial responses by encouraging people to develop initial ideas. DeBono’s 6 hats can offer a good way of playing with different types of questions: lets just take two examples:

White Hat thinking


This covers facts, figures, information needs and gaps. “I think we need some white hat thinking at this point…” means ‘let’s drop the arguments and proposals, and look at the data’. It directs attention to available or missing information.

The questions that encourage this type of thinking are:

  • What information do we have?
  • What information is needed?
  • What questions should we be asking?

 Red Hat  thinking


Red – like fire – suggests warmth. This covers intuition, feelings and emotions. The red hat allows the thinker to put forward an intuition without any need to justify it. “Putting on my red hat, I think this is a terrible proposal.” Usually, feelings and intuition can only be introduced into a discussion if they are supported by logic. Usually the feeling is genuine but the logic is spurious. The red hat gives full permission to a thinker to put forward his or her feelings on the subject at the moment.

  • Listening: taking time to listen and providing space for others to speak are vital in encouraging people to get involved, put forward ideas and get involved.
  • Space to work together: time to tackle those ‘sticky’ problems is essential and can offer real opportunities to get people working together and generating and trying out ideas. The benefits can include better team work, creating new relationships and finding solutions to old problems that people have ‘learned to live with’.
  • Trust and excitement: these are key emotions associated with engagement. Generating trust and excitement in the workplace is fundamental to a high performing team.

In your workplace why not try out these ideas, or tell me of ways that worked for you …. I will then share your ideas in a future blog. Let me know if you would like more about DeBono’s six hats – we can take a look at all six if people are interested.

CIPD Centenary Anniversary


Last week I went along to the West Yorkshire CIPD[1] celebratory event, held at Huddersfield University Business School. The CIPD started 100 years ago not too far from Huddersfield. At the Rowntrees factory in York the Welfare Workers group was established, and over the years this has developed into the CIPD. The founding belief was that a well workforce is a productive workforce.

How amazing that we have now come full circle and that this is the underlying message of so much current research into engaging leadership and employee well-being.

Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive, was the keynote speaker and reviewed the current business environment, typified as it is by uncertainty and volatility. He made a strong argument for HR playing a key role in building trust in a workforce, based upon values that are both clearly stated and obvious through behaviours at all levels. He stated that behaviours and attitudes are now as important as knowledge and skill – IQ versus EQ. Basically, I agree with this, although I would go for an IQ + EQ view of the world.

One of his points was about the key role of social media. Many of you will know that the CIPD are passionate about encouraging mentoring. What I certainly didn’t know is that the CIPD CE is being mentored by a 22 year old, as a way of learning more about social media and its increasing application in the workplace. His point, quite rightly, is that the young people who businesses need to attract and employ are much more savvy with social media, and to be effective businesses need to be able to use social media. That means people like me – you? – learning from our younger colleagues and friends. Me a Luddite? Sorry not the time, I must check my Twitter account!

It was a great evening with a real celebratory feel. If you thought about attending and didn’t – you missed the best chocolate brownie pudding imaginable!


[1] CIPD – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development