Wednesday 6 April 2022

What comes after Commissioning?

There has been much talk of late about how 'commissiong' as a practice, as a concept, as a job description (etc) is on the way out... Clinical Commissioning Groups are to be subsumed into Integrated Care Systems (Partnerships? Programmes...?). We have afterall, moved on from Compulsory Competitive Tendering, Best Value, the Purchaser Provider Split, Procurement (along with TQM, BPR, Kaizen etc etc), isn't it time we moved on from Commissioning too...?


But we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The systems view of commissioning is that it has and should always have been about real outcomes, co-production & co-design, patient/client/user 'centeredness', asset based community development, progressive procurement, whole systems working etc...

So if we move on from commissioning, will we move on from all those features too? I hope not. But what do we call this commissioning 2.0? (Or is it 3.0, or even 5G commissioning?)

I have been mulling on this.

One of my all time favourite movies is The Rainmaker (1956) which tells the story about a mecurial character called Starbuck played by Burt Lancaster. He arrives in a farming town ravaged with drout and aims to convince them that he can make it rain. Unsurprisingly he meets much scepticism and the film is all about whether his charisma can help the town believe in itself and collectively make the rain happen... (There is some romance too, naturally) I won't tell you how it ends (do watch it). Remembering this film led me to small conclusion: when we stop talking about commissioning, perhaps we should talk about

#Gainmaking instead.

And what #gainmakers do, is everything that is needed to bring about lasting & sustainable health gains, or social gains, or economic gains etc The focus is on gains - for people, communities, regions and nations. And just like Burt Lancaster's character, this is a shared and collective effort, mixed with trust, confidence and (Ted Lasso's) belief.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

My Word of the Year 2020

At this time of year, I usually try to choose a meaningful word that somehow captures the past year. This year of course has been unlike any other in living memory, so a whole bunch of words came flooding into my mind. I expect it is the same for all of us. But one word for me kept coming up again and again... 

This was to be a big year for opticians who not only wanted to remind people about '20/20' vision (with associated business promotion activities!) but also many British ophthalmologists (I am told) had weddings booked for the 6th of June as well. This is because 6/6 is the UK equivalent of 20/20 vision. (Explanation here) So being married on 6/6/2020 was the dream of many. This was sadly dashed for many due to the pandemic lockdown rules. 

Hence the word that I keep coming back to, linked to our sight and vision is, of course:


This is my chosen word for 2020. 

Foresight is a most valuable commodity in relatively short supply it seems. Although, it must be said, many countries around the world appear to have been blessed with leaders who managed to mine far greater quantities of it than ours did! 

But where does it come from? How can we all develop more of it in ourselves? From observing and learning about the world leaders who appear to have had lots of foresight, it would seem to me that there are several potent ingredients. 

Leaders who wish to have plenty of foresight need to:

  • Be humble in the face of science 
  • Listen (really listen) to professional advisers who know lots
  • Practise reflective and honest hindsight, and learn from past successes and failures
  • Shed preconceptions, assumptions and ideologies that shut down options
  • Be crystal clear about the outcomes and the values underpinning those 
  • Hunger for data and shrewd extrapolations
  • Respect imagination 
  • Use scenarios to model the future
  • Know that intelligence is often knowing what to do when you don't know what to do
  • Talk with many people, especially people outside your usual circles
  • Avoid any thinking that rests upon defeating the tides of change
  • Care, a lot
And there are a probably many more special ingredients (what have I missed?)

As I have done on many other years, I have made a donation to a local charity that specialises in helping young people find their words and their voices. (You can too, if you wish: As someone who has made a living out of words, this seems like a good thing to do at this time of year. 

Finally, may I wish you, the reader, a truly Merry Christmas and a wonderful Happy and Healthy New Year! May we all be able to live our ordinary lives again - with close social distancing and happy, visible smiles!

Thursday 30 July 2020

Cracking Questions: as a series of podcasts

Aside from the traumatic human cost of Covid19 across the world, the pandemic is set to ravage the business models and disrupt the carefully crafted strategies of almost all organisations, commercial and public. This is the time when these organisations need to engage with radical and agile transformation of how they do their business. The lockdowns and impending economic crisis have not just moved the goal posts, they have re-turfed the pitch and digitised the stadium as well. 

When I wrote 'Cracking Questions' some years ago, I aimed to create a book that would help leaders shape their organisations to meet the challenges of unknown futures and still be as successful, if not more so. The book is based on the simple idea: inside every organisation are the innovative sparks and creative geniuses that just need to be allowed to use their flare and build a more productive enterprise. The questions in the book were designed to help people rediscover their own ingenuity and verve for designing better ways to do business. 

And so faced with the pandemic, I pondered on how I might help businesses 'build back better'. I decided to turn my book into a series of podcasts that anyone could listen to as they went to sleep, went for run, or cooked the evening meal (and so forth). Today I finished the last pod case (number sixteen) which is now available for all to listen to. You can still buy the book of course (with its money back guarantee) if you so wish. 

But here is main link to my soundcloud channel: All the podcasts are on their, beginning with this one:  

The rest all there too - please just subscribe to the podcast channel and I think they will all be available to you. Please enjoy and hopefully these podcasts will help you to think about how to develop your strategy so that it is able to meet the shifting economic sans of this crisis. 

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Town Mayor

Sorry for not posting much on this blog of late, I have been extraordinarily busy with a range of other tasks - not least becoming Mayor of Buckingham. If you want to read about my journey, you can:

I will certainly be reflecting on what I learn about leadership as a consequence. So watch this space!

Thursday 22 December 2016

A new hope

At this time of year, for the last few years, I have been selecting a word to 'adopt' as a background theme for the coming year. And the 'adoption' was in support of a charity called "I can" which specialises in helping children with communication difficulties. But this charity have ceased this money raising campaign so I was left with a conundrum: do I carry on selecting a word and who do I now support instead.

My answer was yes and I have chosen to support a local charity called "Clearly Speaking" who work with children local to Buckingham where I live, who also have communication difficulties. (You can find out more about their work here)

But what word should it be for 2017?

My word for 2016 was Dance! For 2017 my word is....


Rapprochement: "(especially in international affairs) an establishment or resumption of harmonious relations: ‘there were signs of a growing rapprochement between the two countries’ "

It seems to me that the world is in great need of more rapprochement: not just between nations, but between communities within those nations as well. 2016 appears to me to have emphasised the fractures and divisions in our world. And I am reminded of the words of Jo Cox MP, murdered on the streets of her constituency this year. She said in her parliamentary maiden speech, as we all know now, that we have "far more in common with each other than things that divide us".

By choosing rapprochement (very deliberately I have selected a French word that we have incorporated into English) as my theme for 2017, I will be doing all that I can to search for, magnify and celebrate all the things we have in common across our many divides, whilst respecting our differences too. As I have said many times: we all live under the same sky, we all bleed red and we all want a better future for the generations to come.

2017: a time for more rapprochement...

Thursday 22 September 2016

Leadership in Films lives on

I am hooked as I can't seem to give up seeing the leadership themes in contemporary movies... (but I am going to stick to the short form posts!)

Jason Bourne is rather tedious and left me rather unsatisfied: it just didn't have the edge of the original films. The narrative seemed engineered to tick various boxes. A sequel too far. Leadership theme: beware distractions.

Suicide Squad has been rather burned by the critics and so I was not expecting much (the film was my son's choice!) But actually I quite enjoyed it. Even though the narrative is somewhat predictable and chaotic (can it be both?), it was satisfying in a schlock dark super hero kind of way. Leadership theme: given the right context, all people can discover their integrity and leadership potential.

Hell or High Water is a crisply made film with some excellent cinematography and superlative acting. It feels very authentic: you can almost taste the dust and smell the sweat. This is an unforgiving film about anti-heroes and unaccountable villains. Go see when you get a chance. Leadership theme: sometimes there can be no closure no matter how much it is needed.

Court is an intriguing film set amid the Indian legal system, although maybe system is stretching it to a level of coherence and logic that maybe makes the word inapplicable. Like the legal processes in India (as depicted) this is a slow film, but also an intensely engrossing one as well. The acting is understated but all the more powerful because of it. Leadership theme: never underestimate the power of patience.

Captain Fantastic is an unsettling film that will make you question what you think you know about parenting. It is a quirky story about a man and his six children who live in a dense Oregon wood from which they have to emerge into the screaming daylight of suburban America. Acting and narrative is top notch: you will not forget this film. Leadership theme: it isn't just conventions that hold society together, it is far far more than that.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a sublime peach of a movie that will have you crying, laughing and gripping the edge of your seat in equal measures. Fabulous acting by all concerned. This is a must, must see film! Again the core themes are parenting and challenging conventions. And New Zealand looks amazing! Leadership theme: to arrive somewhere, you have to leave somewhere else first.


Blogs 196 to 201: 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.


Sunday 4 September 2016

Leadership in Films: drawing the curtain

I have got to a point and although it may change, I am going to stop this series of blogs where I discuss movies from the point of view of leadership. With the 12 brief reviews below, I will have got to 195 movies reviewed and squeezed for a leadership theme.

This is not to say, that I will not do the odd one, now and then, but I think it is time to call a halt as it is not exciting me anymore. That is always a good time to stop....

But as my swan song, here are some brief reviews of the movies I have seen recently:

Absolutely Fabulous is absolutely brilliant and they managed to transfer well onto the big screen with some big screen locations. Many of the old gags are there adequately and nostalgically revamped for the movie. A good one to see. And leadership theme: running away is not an appropriate way of showing responsibility (but since when was AbFab about responsibility anyways?!)

Ghostbusters is great and I preferred it to the original series of movies. Heresy I know to say this, but this is a very successful re-imagining of the story line with a mainly female cast and updated to boot. Terrific fun, I hope they do the other movies too. Leadership theme: technology is nothing without good solid teamwork.

The BFG is a beautiful crafted film by one of the best filmmakers around: scrumdiddlyumptious CGI and magical acting by all concerned. Roald Dahl would have been very happy, I believe. Leadership theme: with courage, trust and humility in good measure, leaders can achieve almost anything.

Finding Dory is a thoroughly charming film which will have you believing in talking fish and octopuses being able to drive lorries... ridiculous really! Good narrative which will take you through some twists and turns. Leadership theme: never lose hope of a good outcome.

Star Trek: Beyond is almost all that one hopes a trek film should be: good action, good humour, a narrative that pretty well holds together, a little nostalgia and some ludicrous things that could never really happen. What is lacked was a dollop of philosophy to top it off. Leadership theme: never underestimate serendipity

Up for Love is an enchanting French film about a woman who agrees to meet a man after he finds her mobile phone, following a flirtatious telephone conversation. She then discovers he is about a foot shorter than her and the film follows the path of their relationship. It will keep you smiling and guessing. Leadership theme: size does matter but not in the way that you might think it does... 

Nerve is a tight thriller that will make you feel like you are on the back of motorcycle travelling at speed. The plausibility of the story line is mainly what makes is so shocking and compelling: are you a player or a watcher? Go see this sometime. Leadership theme: all leadership involves some gambling, but do you know what your limit is?

Swallows and Amazons is just a bit too clunky for my taste: the acting is wooden and the story (though probably true to the original) is disjointed. Great scenery though! Leadership theme: the path to a goal is not always a straightforward one.

War Dogs starts really well but then seems to trail off as if the writer, actors and director all got bored. It is a true story but I think a little more tension could have been injected to keep it pacey. Leadership theme: always know in detail what you are getting into...

Bad Moms is a laugh out loud movie: I thoroughly enjoyed its raunchy humour, and satire on American school PTAs and some of the people involved in them. Go see this! Leadership theme: stopping doing things for people can be very empowering, for both parties!

Mechanic: Resurrection is a tedious movie with about much narrative complexity as an Enid Blyton book for ten year olds. True there are some clever set pieces but the story is decidedly pedestrian: I almost walked out. 
Leadership theme: be careful of alluring distractions which can take you away from your main focus.

Pete's Dragon, on the other hand is a peach of a movie with a strong story and great cameo parts. It is obviously directed at a young audience but it is richly satisfying for an old geezer like me too! Leadership theme: never let anyone deny what you have seen with your own eyes.


Blogs 184 to 195: 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.


Wednesday 20 July 2016

A tall tale

Tale of Tales is an intriguing and hypnotic film that draws you in to an increasingly surreal world that at one level seems entirely ordinary but then turns your assumptions upside-down. The films weaves together some bizarre fairy tales which serve to remind you that fairy tales are at their core, often quite horrific and gruesome.

You will not fall asleep as these stories keep you wondering where they will turn next and whether any of the characters live happily ever after. And I won't tell you except to say that some of the characters undergo something of a transformation. An intriguing film that will linger in your mind for quite sometime! Some of the cinematography and sets are stunning.

One character shines out as a leader from the film. They manage to rise above the adversity they experience and become confident, strong and decisive. The sorts of qualities we always wish to see in a leader. This is from a character who earlier in the film appears to be the essence of meekness and compliance.

Can people (not currently leaders) become leaders? Can leaders become better leaders? Can better leadership be coached in or only out of a leader? What role do those who are being led have in helping their leader be a better leader? And if a leader loses the confidence of those they are meant to lead, can that ever be recovered? The lessons from this film are yes, yes, out of, an important but not critical one and the jury is out although coming through adversity and growing in confidence, can make a real difference... All relevance of these questions to the current leadership election in the British Labour Party is entirely yours to be made (or not so).

Are there different kinds of leadership?


Blog 183: 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 | #TaleofTales

Thursday 30 June 2016

I don't like bullies

Central Intelligence is an intelligent film. It is also very (laugh out loud) funny and has that narrative circle that I particularly like. There is a special sub plot around bullying that gives the film a powerful undertone. And did I say it was funny?

The plot works (just) although it is not quite Homeland. And it is full of some neat cinematic references. The comedic acting is well timed and seeing 'The Rock' act like putty is delicious. This is a class buddy movie just shouting out for a sequel or two as there is plenty of scope to take the story forwards. Go and see this soon, you will not be disappointed.

No leader should be a bully. Aside from the fact that bullying is wrong, it does not work. I knew of a leader who was known as 'The Exocet' because if anything went wrong on the shop floor and he got to hear about it: he would be there in a flash and explode at anyone who happened to be standing nearby. This behaviour did not help with the company's efforts to build quality into all that it did.

Bullying creates fear and dutiful compliance when in fact what businesses need are people who enjoy being at work and feeling free and confident to innovate. By all means, people should be held to account, but this can be done without the need to resort to bullying in all of its forms.

How do you create confidence in the workplace?


Blog 182: 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 | #CentralIntelligence

Who is the alpha dog?

The Secret Life of Pets was always going to be a winner: with that title how could you fail? The idea that pets do some strange and miraculous things when we are not looking is just delightful: it certainly delighted the youngsters I heard laughing in the cinema when I went.

The narrative is a little bit shaky and does not quite loop around even in this universe where animals can drive vans and organise underground inter-species meetings. But it is very funny and full of some great visual humour. You can probably wait until it is out on DVD. But do see it.

The story hinges on a difficult relationship between two dogs who are thrown together. Their ability to bury their differences (or not) provides much of the fuel for the narrative. Who will be the alpha dog?

As leaders, do we always expect to be in charge? Do leaders expect to be the 'alpha dog'? Or is their leadership in letting go? Perhaps true leadership is shown not by always getting one's own way but by ensuring the decision making process is one in which the right way emerges...

As a leader, are you always in charge?


Blog 181: 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 | #SecretLifeofPets

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Busy busy busy (3)

Stuff, just stuff!, is taking up quite sometime at the moment. So again - three films to intrigue - short reviews:

I didn't know whether to take Gods of Egypt seriously or not. Special effects wise it is a stunning film inhabited by stunning people. The story is convoluted (to say the least!) and gives an impression of trying to be in epic mode but some of the lines are just too corny for words... Leadership Theme: keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

Even though we all knew how Independence Day: Resurgence was going to end, they managed to string it out in an almost unpredictable way. Sfx are of course amazing and there are some sweet cinematic allusions (watch for the wing mirrors). Overall, it is harmless, but good to see on the big screen. Leadership Theme: do everything that you can to avoid confusing madness with great insight.

Learning to Drive is quaint and charming film about two people's journeys colliding over driving lessons in New York. There are no car chases or steamy love scenes, just some quite reflection on what love means and the importance of family. Leadership Theme: help often comes from unexpected places. Look for the unexpected...


Blogs 178/179/180: 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 | #GodsofEgypt | #IndependenceDayResurgence | #LearningtoDrive

Friday 17 June 2016

Book launch

Yesterday evening I held a launch for my book in the University of Buckingham Bookshop. The event was hosted and introduced by Sir Anthony Seldon, the Vice Chancellor of the university and Alison Cameron, the Bookshop owner and manager. My wonderful daughter, Jess Harvey, also talked how she went about illustrating the book.

It was a thoroughly lovely evening with close friends, colleagues and connected people in Buckingham.

Here is the speech I gave:

Good evening and thank you all for coming along.

I would especially like to thank Sir Anthony for agreeing to host this evening and to Alison in the University Bookshop for all your help in making tonight happen. And thank you to Nigel Adams for making the connections join up too. Thank you all.

Cracking Questions is the first book I have ever written and it will probably be my last unless I can focus on writing a novel that is bubbling inside me. But the world is full of management books. Why on earth would I wish to add another? 

Perhaps because I think there is a small gap in the world business library for Cracking Questions…

To use a military expression: we live in a VUCA world. Our world is more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous than it has ever been. By a significant factor. And this means all organisations - from small to big, from public to commercial, from all points on the compass - need to be able to dance and weave their strategy like never before. There is no room to be anything less than optimally effective,efficient and economic in use of increasingly scarce resources. 

And it is my belief that organisations do this best when the whole organisation is doing its best.

Sadly far too many management theories and practices live only in the rarefied air of a few - usually the senior managers and staff. The few might also be the hired consultants spinning their way into the the fabric of the organisations. I think the most strategic and successful organisations are ones in which everyone is part of that strategy and success - because each person has a critical part to play.

So this is mainly why I wrote the book. It is a short, simple, readable and practical book that is focused on helping people come up with their own creative ideas that would improve the ways in which business is done: more economy, more efficiency and more effectiveness. 

And because the book can be used by anyone, wherever they sit in an organisation, it also helps people shape their own working lives. This is also part of the reason for writing the book. Most of my life - personal, professional and political - has been about trying to find ways in which to help people become true authors of their own lives and not characters in someone else’s narrative. 

And I felt there is room for a book that does not need an army of consultants to back it up. Too many organisations, it seems to me, are addicted to using external consultants while their own in-house talent is overlooked or worse diminished. 

So what is the book about? The core idea is very simple: in all organisations there is a complex web of processes and procedures that have evolved into the way that they are. Many of these processes are not working very well. But rather than spend months process mapping to the point of physical and spiritual exhaustion, Cracking Questions take a radically different approach. Choose a process, map it only lightly and then ask a series of questions.

Each question is a solution looking for a problem. So called inductive problem solving. Some of the questions when asked will not reveal any innovation. Whereas another one or two may well. I guarantee an improvement or two will be found.

Indeed, the book comes with a money back guarantee - if nothing useful is discovered after reading the book, I will refund the money used to purchase it. 

So that is it. There are chapters on leading change and service restructuring. There is also a comprehensive crowd sourced bibliography in the back as well. It may only be a thin book but it is fat with ideas about improvement.

So I thought I would just read a couple of the chapters to give you the flavour...

Monday 13 June 2016

Busy busy busy (2)

Referendum is taking up quite sometime at the moment - and my book launch is happening this week as well!! So again - three films to intrigue - short reviews:

The Nice Guys is delicious fun. It is an exquisite homage to the 70's and with more than a knowing nod to Pulp Fiction in its zany approach to criminal mayhem. The police seem to just stand by and watch! Leadership theme: sometimes things are not what they seem!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a romping and pacey movie with a fair few laughs. However, it does not have the same wow factor of the first one in this new franchise. If they make a third, they will need to step up the narrative content. Leadership Theme: use your whole team because not everyone is like you.

I saw Youth at the local film club as I missed it on general release. This is quite an amazing film but with a slow burn. But its builds to an almighty crescendo. See it if only for a rare appearance of Jane Fonda. Leadership theme: never say never.


Blogs 175/6/7: 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 | #Youth | #TheNiceGuys | #OutoftheShadowsTMNT

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Busy busy busy

I know, if I have the time to see movies, I really ought to have the time to write each one up. But right now a combination of work and EU Referendum campaigning (and etc.) means I don't. Sorry! So here are some brief reviews and leadership themes:

Angry Birds: Should have stayed as a game: too contrived. A few funny lines but most were probably funnier on paper. Leadership theme: anger has its place and can sometimes achieve remarkable results!

A Hologram for the King: A delightful movie that takes you to a destination in Saudi Arabia that you never dreamt about. Leadership theme: the importance of being open to new adventures is what makes people special, and leaders know that.

Money Monster: Gripping thriller and although the trailer hinted where it was going, you will still hold your breath for most of the film. Leadership theme: remember you are always on camera and what you say is noted.


Blogs 172/3/4: 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 | #AngryBirdsMovie | #AHologramfortheKing | #MoneyMonster

Thursday 26 May 2016


Whisky Tango Foxtrot is a bit of a chaotic movie, but in many ways that represents the chaos of life in the 'Kabubble' as the press corps called Kabul during the (latest) Afghan war. Journalist Kim Baker is thrown into the life of a foreign correspondent and the film watches her 'journey' and (to an extent) how her values change... As with many films, it leaves you with the question as to how or even if you might have changed in similar circumstances.

Given that it was filmed thousands of miles from Afghanistan, it gives a plausible representation of what life must have been like. The script and editing are tight and some of the characters are simply delicious, especially the general played by Billy Bob Thornton. This is gritty and sometimes funny story based on real events. Go see this.

One of the things I admire about the armed forces is their capacity to be uncompromising and inflexible. Without giving anything away, there is a moment in the film where a marine says to the principal character something like "No way Mam, not going to happen, not on my watch!"

Sometimes leaders have to be that definitive too: sometimes the no (or yes) has to be written in big bold letters, as it were. This might be on matters of strategy, organisational values or simply a procedure that is (rightfully) sacrosanct. But any leader needs to know what their boundaries are.

When was the last time you were definitive? (Why?)


Blog 171: 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 | #WhiskyTangoFoxtrot

Tuesday 24 May 2016

A totally glorious movie!

I had to be persuaded (by my good wife) to see Florence Foster Jenkins as I could not quite get what the point of it was... But I am very glad that she did, because this is a thoroughly marvellous movie that blends humour, pathos and romanticism into an almost perfect fusion. Combine this with the sets, costumes and music (yes, the music - especially Frédéric Chopin) and this is a beautiful and uplifting film.

Meryl Streep continues to surprise and amaze me with her acting: there is nothing this woman cannot do. Watch her eyes in this film, especially. And Hugh Grant is fabulous: he really does have depth after all! And the rest of the great ensemble combine to tell a strange but poignant story that will delight you. Go see this!!

We all know the story of the emperor's clothes where he is persuaded to believe his new garments are so fine that although he cannot see them, they are there nonetheless. In a not dissimilar way, the lead character in this movie is allowed perhaps even encouraged to believe she can sing. When does self belief become self delusion?

Leaders need to believe in themselves and have confidence in what they are saying, doing and deciding. But leaders also need people who can tell them the truth, even if it hurts. Without these truth tellers, leadership can become a very fragile thing...

Who are your truth tellers?


Blog 170: 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 | #FlorenceFosterJenkins

My kind of film

There is one word that sums up Our Kind of Traitor: taut! This is a gripping thriller of the highest calibre with strong acting and a plausible narrative that will keep you guessing as it weaves between Marrakesh, Paris, London and the Alps.

I could make a case that this could well have been a TV series and maybe could still have attracted the same calibre of actors. But sometimes, you need the quiet of cinema to focus on the plot line and sink into feeling that you are part of the film. This is an excellent edge of the seat movie. Go see it!

A critical part of the story is when one character decides to trust another with something of life threatening importance. And for the sake of the story, these two people have never met before but are randomly thrown together.

Some people have argued that some of the most successful leaders are those that are able to spot and appoint the best people to their management teams. But there are some strong arguments in favour of more rounded selection processes that assess candidates for a position. Without a doubt, good leaders are able to get the measure of people, often fairly quickly. But whether this is a skill that can be unpacked and acquired is a moot point...

What clues do you look for when seeking to choose someone?


Blog 169: 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 | #OurKindofTraitor

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Bad sequel

Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising really ought not to have been made. Not because some of the 'humour' is borderline (if not over the border) sexist, racist and probably other 'ist's too. No. It is because the storyline is chaotic, unconvincing and lacking any comedic integrity. The cinema was mostly empty so I think people are voting with their feet.

Some American humour is very good: I am a fan of such programmes as The Big Bang Theory because the humour is subtle and builds. Whereas this film is just crass and clunky with about much grace as a concrete junk yard. Do not bother going to see this film.

Feeling valued or undervalued is a key theme within the movie and provides a modicum of narrative integrity (but not much!) I write this blog on a day in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week and on IDAHOT2016 day itself as well. In different ways, both campaigns are about truly valuing other people no matter what their mental health status or orientation is. The campaigns are about creating a world in which all are respected and valued, without prejudice, discrimination or worse still hate and threats of violence.

Leadership begins and ends with valuing people. Unless you really value people and those same people know that you value them, your leadership will not exist. You might manage or instruct them, but unless you value those people, you will not be leading them.

What do people say about how much you value them?


Blog 168: 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 | #BadNeighbours2

Thursday 5 May 2016

Questions, questions, questions...

I like questions and so it is no surprise that my first book majors on asking questions. But prompted by an invitation to come and talk about why questions, especially good and 'cracking' questions, are so important has got me thinking about quite why I like questions so much.

Fundamentally, I like questions because they create a space, a pause, a vacuum which pulls in thoughts, reflections and insights. Indeed, all human knowledge, if not endeavour of all kinds, begins with questions
  • What is happening here?
  • What is causing this?
  • Why is this different from that?
  • What is the difference that makes the difference?
  • What is over there?
  • What is on the other side of that?
  • Who am I?
  • Who are you?
  • Why are we here?
We are surrounded by questions and far fewer answers. Anyone who has been around a two year old knows that. But questions drive us forward, even when we have no answers to hand

One of my favourite psychological models is that of George Kelly who postulated that essentially, human beings are scientists. He argued that we spend our days attempting to understand the physical and social world around us. We ask questions, we invent experiments, we observe results and we interpret our world using patterns, reflections and hypotheses. (In my view, the reason why soap operas are so popular is that it allows us to vicariously test our theories of human behaviour: "James said that to Phoebe last week, I reckon next week... she will do this...")

So we are scientists. And what do scientists do? They ask questions and create methods for answering those questions. Without questions there would be no science, no progress, no light.

All questions are good, but some questions are better than others... I particularly like questions that:
  • get underneath what is happening, that open the bonnet as it were
  • take people to a different place, where they did not imagine they could go
  • can be repeated, gently probing deeper and deeper layers of understanding or self awareness
  • challenge people, making them wriggle but not squirm
  • open up new vistas, new possibilities, new ideas...
  • surprise people and make them smile with a tilted head
  • that suggest ideas, but in a way that means the person comes to those ideas in their own fashion
  • make people stop, and momentarily dumbfounds them as they struggle for an answer
  • build bridges, rapport, common cause and mutual understanding
  • help people praise and value themselves, and what they have achieved
  • make people laugh, perhaps nervously or confidently or both
Poor questions do the opposite of these. So...
  • What kinds of questions do you like?
  • What questions work best for you?
  • How do you make sure that not only is the content of the question good, but the way it is asked makes it good too? 

Cry in the sky

Eye in the Sky is the best film I have seen about modern warfare. You will probably hold your breath for the entire length of the movie. The narrative, direction and acting will not let you go for one second. This is a film that will make you glad that you are not a general, a front line soldier or a senior politician (unless you already are one of these).

This film illustrates a classical ethical dilemma (I won't say which) that will have you sitting uncomfortably in your seat as you are forced to imagine what you would do, at every twist and turn, as the scene plays out (this is a real time film, like High Noon). Go see this film for its own sake. But also see it for Alan Rickman's last role which he acts superbly: I will not forget one particular line he delivers very well, near the end of the movie.

The aspect of leadership I want to highlight in this movie is that of networked leadership. It is sometimes easy to think of leadership as if there is only ever one leader in a context. What this film more than adequately illustrates is that leadership is never singular: it is almost always a complex dance involving several people.

Networked leadership involves clarity about one's own and others' roles and authorities, an ability to influence and not resort to command, a deep capacity to listen and appreciate others' perspectives and a willingness to find consensus, and value that consensus as the best way forward. To say that is not easy, is an understatement. This film illustrates this brilliantly.

How effective are your networked leadership skills? 

Blog 167: 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 | #EyeintheSky