September 2011


On his T Recs blog, Mervyn Dinnen, recently published a very touching post, Things I Learned From My Dad. His sign off was almost apologetic for blogging so personally, and hoping that his readers would indulge him. The obvious responses to which are a) please don’t feel any need to apologise, we are all human beings, and b) of course we will. (And I also hope that those sentiments are appreciated.) I was reminded – in a pleasant way – of a recent faux pas: my own reaction and that of my partner when we came across the laudable charity, Business in the Community, was to wonder where people thought it normally took place? Offshore? Or on another planet, perhaps? “Business is business” is a truism as well as a tautology and a cliché, but surely it’s a mean rather than an end – even for any given business in question? It came as a relief to discover that the charity intended its name as a reminder of what we could do with more of, rather than an unintentional USP.

Having recently completed a suite of psychometric instruments (my experiences of MBTI, FIRO-B and the Hogan Development Survey have already been covered here, along with details of my own personal agenda and reasons for being interested in completing them), I was conscious at a number of points of the influence on my outlook on the world that both my parents had. My father died many years ago (although I still catch myself thinking of him at least once a day), while my mother’s long battle with Vascular Dementia came to an inevitable end earlier this year.

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BAFTA entrance It was Norma Desmond who uttered the immortal line “I’m ready for my close-up”, in the timeless classic Sunset Boulevard. With two days to go, we’re mightily glad – and not a little relieved – that our own close-up role at BAFTA this Friday (30 September) will take place in altogether brighter circumstances – and that we are not just ready but brimming with positive anticipation.

A jointly hosted event with MDA Consulting (with whom we recently announced our strategic alliance), we will be greeting 140 guests from some of the world’s leading blue-chip organisations at our Talent Management Breakfast Briefing. The morning’s programme includes presentations on the success of ASK talent management and OD projects by representatives from Invesco and the National Audit Office, as well as break-out sessions on a range of key organisation and personal development topics:

  • Talent Management
  • Executive Coaching
  • tASK (ASK’s unique business simulation methodology)
  • Learning Transfer and Application
  • Executive Assessment
  • Change.

The event is already fully subscribed (so much so that we are operating a waiting list), but please contact us if you would like to know more about our work in any of these areas or to attend any of our future events. We’ll also be publishing a report on the event next week: why not subscribe to our blog by email (see the link in the right-hand column) to be among the first to read more?

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(The following guest article has been authored by Dr Nigel Spencer, Head of Learning and Development for Simmons & Simmons: you can read Nigel’s biography in our Guests section.)

Coaching encourages us to presume that the ‘client is resourceful’, and we have read a lot about our clients’ ability to define and achieve goals, driving change within themselves and, by implication, through the organizations or social contexts they inhabit. But are there limits to their ability to do this, and how much change can coaches and clients respectively achieve? In short, where do individuals reach the limits of their ability to influence their environment? And what are the implications for our effect on those we coach and for our ability to effect organizational levels of change?

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The clichéd form of words would probably be to start with ‘Unaccustomed as I am …’, but being interviewed by someone else actually was a first. I’m therefore blushing slightly to mention that, as part of a two-stage, two-way dialogue with Peter Cook of The Rock’n’Roll Business Guru’s Blog, you can read my responses to Peter’s questions on subjects that include business, leadership, learning transfer and – as neither of us appear to be able to live without it, either literally or as a pricesless metaphor – music.

You can also download a PDF version of Peter’s most recent book, Punk Rock People Management. Previously acclaimed by Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters, Peter mixes up business academia with music in a heady cocktail that reaches the parts that other business gurus do not dare to touch. Punk Rock People Management takes a critical look at Human Relations and offers some short and straightforward advice on hiring, inspiring and firing staff.  In the spirit of punk, Peter has made each chapter just two pages long – ideal for busy people and those who now browse books online (a Kindle edition is also available, along with a traditional full colour book.)  On hearing of the idea that you could read a chapter in less time than it would take to pogo to a Ramones or Linkin Park song, we understand that international author and speaker Tom Peters tweeted just four characters to Peter: “DO IT”!

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While the world – and certainly many of its organisations – is always in need of more skilful, insightful and capable leadership, it is hard to argue with an authentic heart that the world is crying out for more books on the subject. Thankfully, just as some leaders rise above the multitude, some books stand taller than the mire of self-help tools and celebrity business hagiographies that continue to flood forth. While some of the latter may provide inspiration to improve, or a spark that sets an individual off on a personal development path, comprehensiveness, rigour and practical usefulness tend not to be high on their authors’ agendas. For the leader (at any level), coach, L&D or HR professional who is looking for something that truly provides these so-often lacking qualities, Awaken, Align, Accelerate should be an addition to the Leadership bookshelves that they can wholeheartedly welcome.

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For a great many of us, much of our lives are spent deeply immersed in the challenges of working globally, growing and nurturing our businesses and all the while trying to make sense of a seemingly never ending and ever-shifting and mutating economic landscape. A veritable ‘ball of confusion’, as the old song went. Our lives are far from uneventful, although the events – internal or external – are for the most part small, transitory, fleeting. They make ripples of differing sizes, but they fade and pass, the ripples overwritten by the next passing moment.

But not all events are made equal. Some can, in themselves, be over in mere hours, yet their impact is felt not just far and wide, but deeply and for years afterwards. Their impact is all the greater because they rob us of any belief or hope that our lives are under our control: they change what we have previously been able to think or understand. Events on this greater scale are not the shifting of sands beneath our feet as we make our way forward through our lives: they are drastic, jarring moments that completely re-arrange our landscape and our outlook. 9/11, the tenth anniversary of which occurs this Sunday, is one of those – mercifully – rare events.

A beautiful September morning in America with unusually clear blue skies turned, in the space of little over two hours, into something that – though many have written about it since – ultimately remains beyond the power or scope of words. Images of those events, replayed or reprinted uncountable times since, remain truly shocking: repetition has not inured us to them. Even for those of us mercifully untouched directly by the events of that fateful day, it is still a raw moment, and one whose impact around the world continues to be felt.

For those more directly affected – not just by the events of the day, but the ripples and repercussions that were to follow – 9/11 must remain an unthinkably painfully moment in which lives were irrevocably changed. Kazusada Sumiyama’s only child, Yoichi, was among the 24 Japanese citizens who died that day (9/11 claimed the lives of civilians from 90 countries). Now retired, he finds it difficult even to read newspapers as they carry reports of terrorism incidents around the world, but dedicates much of his time to ensuring that those who live on do not forget what happened that day. Speaking to Kyodo News in 2004, he said “”I want to create opportunities for remembrance.”

This Sunday is a moment when it is entirely appropriate that we all find the space to do so in our thoughts.

Crofton Pumping StationFor a word whose use is steeped in the religious and spiritual realms, faith has some equally secular definitions – a sense of duty, loyalty or allegiance, or a confidence or trust in someone or something. (Indeed the words Latin roots are about trust and confidence rather than a system of beliefs.) Yet even viewed through strictly secular eyes, it moves (us) in strange ways.

Three very different examples of it demonstrated themselves in the course of a day recently, but each seemed in their own way to demonstrate a human desire to have faith in something: it seems even those that some others might categorise as heretics need something to trust or believe in. As Victor Hugo wrote, “A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.”

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