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Leadership Training

Leadership Training

5 Ways to Maximise Your Happiness

If you’re happy/satisfied/fulfilled, you’ll do your best work. So, if you want to improve your performance, work out how to increase your happiness.

This article pulls together a series of posts that provide simple ways to do that:

  1. My favourite is inspired by JK Rowling and her Harry Potter books: they have lots of powerful images of ways to develop a powerful Patronus to thwart your own Dementors: Magical Ways to Maximise Happiness.
  2. Children are the experts at happiness (before they are conditioned to worry and fear failure). As the famous philosopher said, “A person’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child at play”: Childish Ways to Maximise Happiness.
  3. Music is one of the most powerful influences on our emotions, and a good song is my quickest route to happiness: Musical Ways to Maximise Happiness.
  4. Sport provides us with a rich source of techniques to improve performance, and so satisfaction: Sporty Ways to Maximise Performance.
  5. And if you are really under pressure, you can use a combination of these ways to reduce your stress: Simple Ways to Minimise Stress.

The incomparable advantage of a positive attitude: in tribute to Jo Gage

Jo Gage
Jo Gage

In late 2005 I joined a new unit of BBC News called Mediaport.  This was the BBC’s central recording team responsible for maintaining the organisation’s new digital recording system, called Jupiter, and recording incoming video.  It was one of the most challenging assignments I had at the BBC, and the one that taught me most about leadership and staff engagement, thanks to the amazing, largely unsung heroes who worked there.

The core function of Mediaport was a thankless task.  When we did our job perfectly, no one noticed.  They rightly assumed that recordings of news footage would be made day in, day out without error.  But, like a goalkeeper whose every mistake, however small, is likely to lead to a goal, whenever we made the slightest error, it was immediately a big deal because we could have failed to record a video required for the news. Busy news producers are not blessed with the time to be patient or forgiving of such errors.

Add in the fact that the Jupiter system was in mid rollout in 2005/2006.  Like many IT systems, particularly those designed to do complicated tasks for thousands of users, the rollout was not always smooth.  There were times when recordings failed through no fault of ours.  Yet human nature is such that it’s often the innocent messenger that gets the blame for bad news. And so it was for Mediaport staff who were often the bearers of the bad news that “your recording failed” and were often the recipients of unjustified criticism as a result, as if we were personally responsible for the functioning of the technology we operated.

Continue reading “The incomparable advantage of a positive attitude: in tribute to Jo Gage”

UPDATE: Childish ways to maximise happiness AND PERFORMANCE

On FormI’ve just come across the most wonderful story in the book On Form, by Mike Brearley.  Brearley, the former England cricket captain, now a psychoanalyst and lecturer on leadership and motivation, explores what it means to be “in form”, the wonderful state of being where you are at seemingly effortless peak performance. As you would expect, it includes a lot of cricketing examples.  One of them reminded me of this post I published in 2016.

Mike Brearley writes about Mike Atherton’s great innings in 1995 where he batted for almost 11 hours against ferocious bowling from Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock to score 185 not out to save a test match against South Africa. He quotes the journalist Scyld Berry, who covered the match, saying Atherton was “serenely calm” and in a “trance-like state”. He had no fear of failure, according to Berry: because he was

.. too far above the battle to notice, too inwardly certain of success to think for one moment of failure.

Mike Brearley says it’s the same quality that children have when they are absorbed in play. And he tells this lovely anecdote.

I like the story told by the educationalist Kenneth Robinson of a six-year-old who was asked by her teacher what she was doing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” she said.

“But,” said the teacher, “no one knows what God looks like.”

Quick as a flash the girl replied: “They will in a minute.”

So there’s an inspiration as you try to find form yourself.  Try to regain the seriousness and sense of infallible purpose you had as a child at play. Continue reading “UPDATE: Childish ways to maximise happiness AND PERFORMANCE”

UPDATE The 4-minute Pesto for Project Managers

Bowl by
Bowl by

This is an update on my previous post. I have done as I suggest below and worked hard to reduce my personal best time by applying the principles of Lean Project Management. On January 6th, 2019 I finally broke the 4 minute mark. 

I have updated the post with the comments in Red to demonstrate how I reduced the time. 

Here is the perfect recipe for the keen project manager. I’ve applied Lean Project Management methodology to the recipe for Pesto to maximise customer value (it’s yummy) and minimise waste (especially time – homemade is so much better than store-bought, but seems a hassle to make – or does it ….?)

Continue reading “UPDATE The 4-minute Pesto for Project Managers”

Celebrating 2 Years in Business

As 2018 comes to an end – my second full year as a self-employed consultant, coach and trainer – I want to thank all of the people and organisations I have worked with.  It’s been a fascinating journey so far.  When I set out in 2016, I was hoping to:

  • Meet new challenges (tick);
  • See new countries (tick);
  • Enjoy the freedom and excitement of running my own business (tick).

My son gave me a map for Christmas where you can scratch off the countries you have visited. Here is the map showing all the fascinating countries I’ve worked in and the projects I’ve done so far.

Map from; Conceived for Luckies by Xavier Unwin ©Luckies of London Ltd. 2013


Looking forward to an equally fun and challenging 2019 and to working with such lovely clients and partners as I did in 2017 and 2018.




The Gift to be Simple

The best expression of the key to high performance is – strange to say – in the film Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.  Sam and Donna are in a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea when Donna expresses words that provide the solution to life’s most challenging problems.

We live in a complex world. Much of what we face in our daily lives appears so difficult to understand, so complicated to explain and so hard to achieve. Yet, every day people do amazing things, often incredibly complex things.

I was recently in Morocco admiring the beautiful, exquisitely ornate and symmetrical tiles. The craftsmanship to design and then execute such a complicated pattern is impressive. Outside one palace I saw a chap producing a similar series of tableaux, as intricate as any in the finest palace, as you can see from the photo. Despite the complexity of the design, it was clearly something he found relatively easy. And that got me thinking. There must be a simple process behind the bewilderingly complex design. There must be a way to reduce that complexity to a combination of regular patterns which, once you know them, would allow generations of Moroccan tilers to produce them with ease.

So I set out to establish how the ornate pattern worked, and I broke it down into a series of geometric shapes and angles. Continue reading “The Gift to be Simple”

Lessons from the creators of India’s original mobile-first content

In the 10th to 14th Century C.E., and before the advent of paper, Indian artists painted on long narrow strips of palm leaves. These works of art were meant to be held in the hand, and so were designed to help people enjoy them when viewing from a close distance, just like the content we are now designing for mobiles: also hand-held and seen close-up. There are some exquisite examples of this art-form in Mumbai’s Archaeology Museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.

Folio from manuscript of Prajnaparmita, Palm Leaf, 12th Century C.E. displayed in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, India

As you can see (you may need to expand the images on modern devices: they were designed for the eyes alone!) as important as the text undoubtedly was, they paid much more attention to creating stunning visuals that conveyed the meaning of that text, caught the viewers’ attention and entertained them.  It’s an important lesson to those of us working on mobile-first strategies from what could have been the creators of the world’s first ever mobile-first content.

Pesto for Project Managers (in under 8 minutes)

Bowl by
Bowl by

Here is the perfect recipe for the keen project manager. I’ve applied Lean Project Management methodology to the recipe for Pesto to maximise customer value (it’s yummy) and minimise waste (especially time – homemade is so much better than store-bought, but seems a hassle to make – or does it ….?)

You can follow the text below, or just watch the video to see how it is done.

We’re eradicating as much waste as possible. And we are going to do it in an iterative way. So each time you make Pesto you aim to shave seconds off your Personal Best, and adapt the quantities to increase the flavour.

In particular we are going to avoid these wastes: Continue reading “Pesto for Project Managers (in under 8 minutes)”

Childish ways to maximise happiness

img_7492The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that humans were born with perfect knowledge, but somehow forgot it all at birth. So acquiring knowledge later in life is actually recollecting things we already knew.
I remember thinking this was absurd when I first read it (at school where I appeared to be learning all sorts of things that seemed to be totally new). But, as time goes by, I increasingly think that he has a point.
I am currently working with an Indian media company. In the newsroom I saw a notebook with these words on the outside:

The creative adult is the child who survived.

This got me thinking. The amazing thing about the people who work in that newsroom is how incredibly hard they work. They are a business channel covering the ruckus of the Bombay Stock Exchange in a roller coaster of live output with flashing tickers, graphics and logos. Every moment there is a breaking “flash” as another company releases its results, or a stock price “tanks” or “spikes”. But despite working very long hours and under great pressure, they seem happy – childishly happy –  not that they are in any way childish themselves (they are utterly seasoned professionals). They are childishly happy in the way that a child is happy when totally engrossed in his or her play: demonstrating utter concentration and dedication, and a sense of fun and enjoyment. It’s wonderful to see. Continue reading “Childish ways to maximise happiness”

Sporty ways to maximise performance

If you like sports and you’re interested in performance and leadership, here are my favourite 5 books.


Matthew Syed shows that no one is born brilliant. We all have the capacity to be the best if we work at it. It will make you think differently about failure: If you have a growth mindset, failure is not something that saps energy and vitality, but provides “an opportunity to learn, develop and adapt.”



41hvww7xz3l-_sx323_bo1204203200_Ed Smith’s book is the perfect companion of Bounce. However hard we work, shit happens and we have no control over it. But  bad luck can turn to good luck if we adapt to it.   “Successful people, by being open to opportunity and exposing themselves to chance, take new directions that prove more fruitful than anyone could have predicted.” For a vidid demonstration of the effect Luck can have on your life, read his beautiful final chapter.


Timothy Gallwey’s revolutionary programme to conquer self-doubt and lack of confidence in sport. It taught me to increase my enjoyment in playing tennis, with the inescapable result that I now play it better: an essential lesson in improving performance.



How do the All Blacks manage to stay so focussed throughout a gruelling rugby match that they are able to win by the narrowest of margins in the final seconds of a game? The answers are all here. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Karen O’Brien for giving me this one.)



If you agree with me that cricket is the perfect metaphor for human life, and you want to know how to be a successful leader in either game, then read this book by the best captain England ever had. How do you motivate mavericks like Ian Botham or Geoffrey Boycott?  (Probably only for the real cricket enthusiast!)