I have just finished reading Justin Webb’s new book, Notes on Them and Us: From the Mayflower to Obama the British, the Americans and the essential relationship: A Plan for the Amicable Separation of America and Britain, in which he explores the relationship that we have as Brits with our American cousins, drawing on his experience of 8 years in Washington as a BBC reporter. “Why?”, I hear you ask? Well, as a politics graduate who studied US politics and a massive fan of Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’ (something I have in common with Justin), I was just interested. (I also had an Amazon voucher for my birthday.)

It’s a great and easy read that I would recommend, with lots of wise insights that I recognise from holidays and working in the US. But there was a completely unexpected by-product of reading it – triggered by a particular point he made that illuminated my work in helping organisations shift their cultures and more particularly in confronting the unwritten paradigms at the heart of such cultures.

And then I had a really scary thought – how does this affect the models and approaches that we use in our consultancy work?

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It is, they say, lonely at the top. But there are many of us who have yet to have the opportunity to weigh up how much the view comes as compensation: in the meantime, many people still busily scaling the workplace ladder are finding it pretty damned lonely on the second or third rung down too. The working space immediately above a local workforce and just below a remote or virtual boss with whom there is precious little time or opportunity for direct contact comes not just with great responsibility, but a high incidence of personal isolation that it all too often falls to the isolated manager to tackle.

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Let me start by stating that I don’t read management books. No, really: I don’t! I find the time that’s needed to plough through page after page of theory, models and narrative too precious: I tend to be easily distracted by a more instantly rewarding activity. Don’t get me wrong: I am very passionate about the work I do in helping leaders and teams to be better at managing the relationships that are key to their success. But I have known for a long time that I have a strong activist pragmatist learning style: I prefer my models and approaches to be packaged with a discussion in a few slides.

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