Thursday, 28 April 2016

Up to 11pm Special

Since seeing Midnight Special, I have been asking people what they thought of the ending of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Those old enough to remember said it was disappointing. To which I say: me too and it's a bit like this new movie, Midnight Special.

Up until the last twenty minutes it is a tight, tense and unpredictable thriller with convincing understated acting. But then it seems as if the writers and sfx budget ran out of puff. True, some may find the climax of the film a satisfying ending and you will only know if you see it... But if you are like me at all, you may well be saying: really... is that it?


One of the narrative tensions in the film pivots on reconciliation: will two key characters find enough common cause to help them find some peace between each other, or not? True reconciliation is a beautiful thing to see and better still, experience. Hatchets can be buried and the past put behind us.

Sometimes though, animosity and anger run very deep, so deep that reconciliation seems impossible. Good leaders can make the impossible, possible. Through a combination of supreme patience, resolute focus on the goal and an earnest search for the common ground, leaders can make this happen. Sometimes, for the sake of a business, it really needs to happen.

How good are you at making the impossible, possible?
_____________________

Blog 165: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

#leadershipinfilms | #MidnightSpecial

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Good Queen Hunting

The Huntsman: Winter's War is cracking good movie with plenty of pace, humour and an engrossing narrative (for a film of this kind). I like the way that the film wraps around the previous movie: a sort of sequelprequel. I have not seen the previous film but that did not get in the way for me.

There are some meaty narrative tensions around love, betrayal, reconciliation and revenge. I know this is from a fairy tale universe, but occasionally it would be good to have a film where the baddies are not vanquished and love does not (eventually) conquer all... But there again, would anyone want to see such a film? This is a film to be enjoyed.


One of the aspects of this film that I like a lot are the many strong female characters that inhabit the film. I like this because, typically films of this kind (fantasy epics) do not. It is even rarer to enjoy the performance of a female comedic lead (well done Sheridan Smith).

As always, diversity adds strength and vibrancy to an ensemble. The art of good leadership is to make sure that such diversity is always present through carefully designed non-discriminatory and open recruitment and development strategies.

How diverse is your leadership?

_____________________

Blog 164: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

#leadershipinfilms | #TheHuntsmanWintersWar

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Bit of a super mess

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was probably a great idea when it began but in my view, it all ends up in a bit of mess that stretches credulity to the limits. I won't say in what ways my incredulity was stretched (there were more than one) except to say: Superman is an infinitely strong and invulnerable alien whereas Batman is a strong human with a few Earth made toys...

I know: it is a superhero movie and one has to suspend quite a lot of credulity... (that is the point) but even within the DC universe, surely there are some limits otherwise we can Lois Lane swallowing a magic potion and becoming even stronger than Superman. Yes it is well directed and actors have practised looking steely, thoughtful and somewhat upset simultaneously, and the sfx are brilliant... but it did not quite work for me.


I have always liked the quiet, determined and science based leadership of Alfred, Batman's 'butler'. It seems to me that Batman would be little more than a rich (but damaged) young man with a flash car, were it not for Alfred's help.

Sometimes in organisations there are the obvious leaders who attract all the attention and seem to single handedly make the weather. Very often though, the success of such leadership is underpinned by the back room leaders who make it all work seamlessly. These leaders are often unsung but are just as important.

Who are the back room leaders in your organisation?

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Blog 163: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

#leadershipinfilms | #batmanvsuperman

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Cracking Questions: now into second month of publication!


Zootastic!!

Zootropolis (Zootopia in the US - heaven knows why...) is a must see movie! Go and see it this evening, or even this afternoon if you can make it! You might be sitting next to bunch of eight year olds who just think it's a fantastic jolly animal cartoon. But you will know by the end that it is an extraordinarily subtle, funny and satirical allegory for a world corrupted with hate, prejudice and intolerance.

Oh yes: and see it for the sloth scene alone, which had me falling off the seat in hysterics. This is a good movie. Perhaps one that should be shown to all primary school children as part of the Government's 'Prevent' campaign. Great plot, great voice over acting, great animation. A film to surprise and delight you! Who could not love a film with a perky feminist bunny and a sly fox with a heart of gold..!


So many forms of leadership are on display in this movie from the avuncular, if slightly dim, mayor to the keen bunny who just wants to win over everyone with her energy and charm. And with many variations in between: including fear, manipulation, force, humour, appeasement and doughnuts.

This is a film about diversity (loving the doors on the train!) and how there are always great variations in both leadership and those who choose to follow. There can be no single form of leadership that is always correct. As the world is diverse, so must be leadership.

Within your leadership team: how much diversity of style is there?

_____________________

Blog 162: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

#leadershipinfilms | #zootropolis

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

High expectations but low rise ultimately

As is not unusual these days, the High Rise trailer was far better than the film. As such I went with high expectations but in the end I was a tad bored and not a little disturbed. This is probably one of the most disturbing films you are likely to see at the cinema this year: so be prepared!

The acting was earnest but the plot was confusing and it went on far too long, I assume to stay reasonably faithful to the original J G Ballard story. I must say though, I have to admire Tom Hiddleston's stealth campaign to be cast as the next Bond: as one character says to his character in the film "you are one of the few people who look better with their clothes off than on". So if he can nail looking not too bad in a dinner suit, he has probably got it in the bag.


One of the things that always irritates me about dystopian films like this, is the oft casual assumption that society descends into vicious anarchy in the absence of clear leadership and control. I don't agree that would happen as I think a new form of leadership would emerge.

But I think what is likely is that in such circumstances, is the quality and speed at which new leadership is established is dependent on the leadership that was present before. Excellent leadership does not leave a vacuum behind. Instead good leaders create the conditions into which the next leadership can come into being easily and swiftly, once the occasion demands.

How well are you creating the conditions for the next leadership?

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Blog 161: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting...

Kung Fu Panda 3 is a work of art: both fine art and comedic art. It is a beautiful film to watch and a great film to enjoy. I did fear that the narrative energy would have run out for this third film. But no. This franchise is still on top of its game and delivers lots of delightful and very funny moments.

I love the way it has dumbed down Taoism but in a way that Taoism cannot be dumbed down... really. It is of course a ludicrous story but that is fine: it has no pretensions of being true to life. The voice over actors are delicious with some surprise castings: make sure you watch the closing credits. Go see!


When the Way is forgotten
Duty and justice appear;
Then knowledge and wisdom are born
Along with hypocrisy.

In my view, even with the best procedural manual in the world, you cannot really 'bottle' good customer service. An excellent leader is one who is able to create the environment in which great service is naturally and effortlessly offered to all clients and customers.

How much are you having to force good service into your organisation?

_____________________

Blog 160: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Not many films make me angry... (SPOILER ALERT)

I was expecting an action movie with lots of explosions. Which indeed London Has Fallen is. But what I didn't expect to see is half of the Metropolitan Police suddenly turn into gun toting terrorists: which is both ludicrous and offensive. Would the producers have made a film in which the US National Guard were found to be riddled with terrorist sympathisers? No. I thought not.

And essentially this film is a computer game turned into a movie. I like books of movies and movies of books. But a film that centres mostly on people running around corridors shooting at each other is frankly tedious. And the notion that two people in a crashed helicopter who are not even wearing seatbelts (huh?) can walk out of the wreckage and then run around is just too silly for words. But if you want to see some great special effects of what London would look like with a few buildings blown up... do go and see it.


The theme of this film is almost 'don't trust anyone!' Anyone you think might be friend could easily turn out to be an enemy. (And on that basis, shoot first and ask questions later, if you can be bothered.)

Who do leaders trust? Who can leaders trust? I am not suggesting that leaders are surrounded by enemies out to take them down. But it is likely that many leaders will not always know in whom they can confide. I think good leaders make sure that they have a confidante - someone they can trust to listen, not betray confidences and bounce ideas around with, maybe even crazy ideas.

Who is your confidante? 

_____________________

Blog 159: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Should you choose this film?

The Choice is the latest in a growing line of romcomsad movies that will make you cry and laugh in almost equal measures as you observe another romance blossom (and fade a little...) on screen. I almost got too grumpy with this movie as it seemed to be so clinically designed to make you reach for the tissues.

It does have all the usual romantic ingredients, freshly mixed like a salad at a barbecue. It even has Tom Wilkinson who pops up as a genial patriarchal vet who can bring animals back from the dead.  It was probably him and the great acting by the leads that kept me from being too grumpy with the film's 'formula'. But only just... It could and should have been a darn site more subtle that it was and I am left wondering whether Nicholas Sparks was altogether happy with the screenplay... It is a wet afternoon movie, or wait until the DVD.


Most of life and therefore leadership is about making fuzzy choices. Of course, there are moments when big choices have to be made (as in this film) but most of the time we can make choices that we can later unravel or paste over.

Leaders, perhaps by definition, probably have to make many big (and irreversible) choices that affect other people. But maybe also, some leaders create artificial conditions that magnify the importance of their decision making...? Perhaps leaders might do well to translate some of these big choices into fuzzy ones: there is leadership in that strategy too...

Have you made some 'big' choices that might have been better made as a series of fuzzy ones?

_____________________

Blog 158: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Unique masterpiece

Anomalisa is an unforgettable film: one that will leave you wondering and marvelling at both the animation skills and the narrative. This is a must see film! It is difficult to say too much about it as doing so will, in all likelihood, give too much away.

But just know this: this film will not proceed as you might expect. It will make you think about the world in a very different way and in that respect it is a true of work of art. Great art disrupts us and interrupts our usual way of seeing things. This film does just that. Go and see it... now. As another reviewer (or more) has said: this film is a masterpiece.


This film is about many things. One of those things is authenticity. Being true to oneself and speaking authentically to others is what marks a great leader. Leadership is built on authenticity. Of course, it is deliciously ironic that an animated movie should be about being real: feeling real and seeing that in others.

Since it has been established that once you can fake sincerity, you've got it made (variously attributed), it might be said of authenticity too. Except, I think, authenticity is only really felt on the inside: only a leader knows whether she/he is being authentic or not...

Are you always authentic?

_____________________

Blog 157: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with updates at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Singled out

How to be Single is... OK... The dialogue at times is brilliant and the humour is rib tickling. Rebel Wilson is (as always) excellent: she has great comedic timing and I hope will be around for many years to come. But the story confused me. I know I am easily confused, but there seemed to some loops in the narrative that did not quite work for me. I did miss the first five minutes... but that not ought to matter that much... ought it? Maybe I am just not in the target demographic.

So, script and narrative: great, mostly. Acting: also good but not stand out good. Overall feel: a good romcom that could have been just that little bit tighter. One to wait for until it gets to DVD? Probably a good date movie though (ironically... dangerously?)


Towards the end of the movie there is nice reveal, not a huge twist, just a neat surprise about one of the characters. Should leaders be surprised about what others can do or have in their metaphorical kit bag? At one level, yes but at another, no...

Of course good leaders should always be prepared to be surprised by the hidden talents of the people that they lead. You just never know... But also: great leaders are good at creating the conditions within which these talents can emerge and blossom.

How good are you at creating the conditions within which people can showcase their talents?

_____________________

Blog 156: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Hail the Coen brothers!

Hail Caesar is a peach of a movie. It is, in my view, a near perfect film as it surprises, delights, tickles and shocks in delicious measures. There are some wonderful vignettes that all hold together in this 50s Hollywood romp that will leave your cheeks aching.

The acting, the dancing, the sets and the costumes are sublime. This is one of the best Coen Brothers' movies I have seen in a long time. It even beats the Big Lebowski. Go see it, and on the big screen: it is worth it for the set piece dances.


The lynchpin character's loyalty is tested throughout the film and of course I won't say how that story line plays out. But it got me thinking about loyalty and how much of a person's loyalty to a business or organisation is dependent on the leadership they get...

And I conclude, quite a lot. Not everyone, of course, will up sticks if their loyalty is tested to destruction by poor leadership. But perhaps even worse, they will stay and just be that little less innovative, committed, helpful as their loyalty has been eroded.

So how do you know whether your leadership is boosting or reducing the loyalty of the people you lead?

_____________________

Blog 155: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Gripping secrets

Secret in Their Eyes is a great movie which seems to have almost slipped out with little fanfare and trailers. But this is a subtle, harrowing and understated film that deserves your attention. This film is based very closely on an original  (El Segreto de sus ojos) and has been compared less favourably to it.

But go see this for no other reason that Julia Roberts' performance. It is a very different Ms Roberts on show and she plays the part with great determination and skill. Chiwetel Ejiofor is excellent too. Critics have not been raving about this film. I was gripped by it though but it is far from light!


Secrets corrode well being. Secrets can sit like parasitic worms at the back of our consciousness, burrowing away at our mental health. The bigger the secret, the bigger the worm. Although many people appear to have the ability to live with such secrets, this is probably at some cost.

In this regard, I am not talking about confidences or matters that deserve to kept undisclosed. The secrets of which I talk are the ones that are edged with guilt, if not completely woven with such a feeling. Secrets such as these are never going to help make things smooth. Leaders need to be aware of how their behaviour may foster the keeping of secrets, that will eventually come to be destructive, even to the leader.

How do you ensure that whilst there can be confidences, guilt ridden secrets are not encouraged?

_____________________

Blog 154: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Is Grimsby that grim?

Grimsby paints a pretty bleak picture of the town. What Borat did for Kazakhstan, Nobby has now done for Grimsby. Unsurprisingly, the townsfolk are less than happy. But it is a film you ought to go and see nonetheless: this is satire after all.

Though I feel I should warn you: the humour is not just irreverent, it is decidedly scatological, silly, shocking and at times, violent. But I enjoyed it! Whilst there are jokes at the expense of a caricature of Grimsby folk (and others), there is also much about family loyalty and love in there too. Line your stomach first, but then go and see it!


Part of the narrative of this movie centres on Nobby suddenly discovering his inner secret agent skills. Yes... it's a stretch! But it reminded me of some research in an organisation that sought to discover the profile of the people who were the most innovative. Was it their education, their job role, their family background etc? What they found was that the people who were most creative and innovative were those who defined themselves as such. And that was the major difference that made the difference...

So in my view, one of the things good leaders do is to encourage people to define themselves differently, and then discover how much talent they already have.

How are you helping people to redefine themselves?

_____________________

Blog 154: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Unleash the innovative beast inside you!


Dead funny

Deadpool is a film that will stay with you for a long time as it will shift forever your appreciation of other Marvel comic films. It is self referential, self parodying but unselfconscious in its approach to the 'superhero' genre. Indeed it winks knowingly at every other super hero film you have seen...

Special effects cannot be faulted and the acting is quirky and convincing (as convincing as anything can be in the Marvel universe). The narrative guides you along like a dark ride at an amusement park: you have no idea where you will end up next. A film to treasure!


Anyone can be a leader. What makes a leader stand out is an ability to see the world from a different angle: to pose questions or perspectives (or both) that force people to look anew at what they thought was unchangeable. Just like Deadpool, this is about changing the accepted ways.

This is never easy and Machiavelli warned us nearly 500 years ago, just how risky it is to try and upset the status quo. But this must be done as without such upsets there can be no progress: just the retreading of old well worn tyres. And they end up wearing very thin...

What question will you pose today that will upset a well worn perspective?

_____________________

Blog 153: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Move along there

I am not sure why, but I think Ride Along 2 could have been so much funnier... The two lead characters just seemed to be holding back. Obviously I am no comedy film writer, so I cannot say how this could have been done... (perhaps aiming for a 12A certificate was part of it). But I know there was sufficient twinkle in the eyes of all the actors that made me feel that they had more fun off camera than on it.

And the story was just a tad too predictable. It really did not have to be: and so it felt like lazy scriptwriting and production. The actors do a fine job but the material they had to work with could have been much better. Maybe wait until the DVD comes out...


Being predictable is an interesting challenge for leaders. Should leaders be consistent, a known quantity? There is a safety and solidity in predictability. It creates a stable environment and everyone knows where they stand, especially in relation to the leader. Such a place is a firm base for high performance...

But should a leader want this level of comfort. Shouldn't leaders shake things up and be... unpredictable? If the measure of a leader is anything, it is the degree to which she/he creates a dynamic environment where innovation and energy crackle and pulsate.

How predictable are you: should you be more or less so? 

_____________________

Blog 151: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

What are your principles?

Trumbo is a stonking good movie, especially for progressive film buffs like me who do believe, (ironically just like the UnAmerican Activities Committee), that films can be real agents of positive change in the world. It would be interesting to list all the films that have bolstered or even created social movements. Spartacus, one of Trumbo's scripts, may well be one of them.

The acting is tight and up close. The story is very well told and richly brings this part of American history to life. Again I would praise the costumes and sets: so well done, so evocative of the period. It is both a funny and sad film that will make you think, lots! Go see this as soon as you can.


Films like Trumbo raise the question: how far would you go to assert or defend your principles? Would you go to jail for them...? Would you be prepared to die for them...? Most of us never have to make choices of that scale, thankfully. But we do have to 'stick to' our principles, do we not? Otherwise what sort of principles are they?

Every leader needs a set of principles. But uncovering these is not always straightforward: we live them rather than list them. But I think, as this film shows, we have to know consciously what our principles are so that we know when we will need to assert or defend them.

What are your leadership principles?

_____________________

Blog 150: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, 5 February 2016

33 amazing stories

The 33 is an achingly good film which captures the heart of the story of the 33 miners who trapped in a Chilean mine a few years ago. These were brave men who worked together to survive and keep each other alive under almost impossible circumstances.

The story telling is clever in the way it manages to connect the lives of those on top of the earth and those trapped below, particularly with one enchanting scene. I suspect the real circumstances were far more disordered and dishevelled than the film portrays but the love, urgency and desperation is well directed and acted onto the screen. This is a compelling and hugely moving film, and one to see.


This is a story of teamwork both above and below ground. The end of the story would not have happened without each person understanding what everyone collectively and separately had to contribute, and honouring everyone else in the process. It is rare to see such teamwork.

Perhaps it was helped by a there being a very clear objective: get all the miners out alive. This focus made sure than everyone knew what part theirs was to play. The circumstances dictated this. In less challenging situations, it falls to the leader to ensure that there is sufficient focus and direction. All too often teams fall apart over a lack of such direction.

How good are you are establishing direction?

_____________________

Blog 149: in my 2014/15/16 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014 and 2015). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Cracking Questions: business transformation source code

Every now and then a book comes along that that looks set to transform how business is done in the world. "Cracking Questions" is one such book.

Ludicrous claim or just possibly true? Only you, the reader, can answer that question.

And unlike possibly any business book before, this one comes with  a money back guarantee. So without risk to your bank balance, you can find out whether "Cracking Questions" will change the way you do business for the better, forever (or not).

This book rests on the simple idea: everyone can be an innovator. At the heart of this book are 24 questions which can help anyone discover new ways of getting more with less.

You just have to ask the questions.

Moreover, you won't need teams of besuited consultants to show you how to do this. Nor will you need to consume reams of flip chart paper mapping processes or imagineering customer journeys.

And it's not a long book: a bath time read if you wish (maybe with a top up 2/3 way through).

Is this a book that you can afford not to read?

Might "Cracking Questions" be just the book you have been searching for: one that will help you gain that productivity edge?

"Cracking Questions" is available from all the usual online book stores - publication date: 21 Feb 2016 (with a Kindle ebook already published)
Read here why I wrote Cracking Questions.


And here is the book blurb:
Inside this book are some cracking questions designed to help you crack open and liberate the creative and ingenious power within yourself and your organisation. These questions will stimulate your thinking about how to do business in entirely different ways. And this could well be the first book on business transformation and leadership that you will not only want to, but will indeed read, from cover to cover. Does that interest you? Have you have been searching for a book that will help you gain the performance edge that you have been seeking? Could this be that book? Have you ever had that nagging feeling that there must be better ways to get more results: ways of really achieving more with less? But you don't quite know how or where to start? This book offers you a straightforward and practical approach to improving productivity. Critically this book is about doing it yourself, with your colleagues: rather than hiring small armies of transformation consultants to fill forests of flip chart paper with process maps. This book comes with a money back guarantee. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain by purchasing this book. What do you want to do with this opportunity?
Publisher: The Choir Press
ISBN: 9781910864319