Goal Setting – Your big shiny goal

Dream Big

Following on from my previous articles; find your purpose and self assessment – the 1st step, you now have a pretty clear picture of who and where you are right now so what is the next step on the road to finding your purpose? I personally found this to be the fun part when I was finding my own. Yes, goal setting should be fun!

Decide what you would like to aim for – this is goal setting on a grand scale, – the bigger the better. In fact, it should be huge and almost idealistic as this is going to become your ultimate goal.

Because of the position I was in after the rail crash, i.e. had nothing/was doing nothing the world was my oyster.  The limiters were off and I could let my imagination run riot.

This is what you need to do – take the brakes off your thinking and list down all the things that, how can I put it, turn you on.

Goal setting writ large

Forget the past, the present and the short term.  Imagine the perfect position and place you would like to be at when you die.  For now, don’t worry what is achievable or not, or how you are going to get there.  Aim for what your big shiny goal might look like as if you were already there.

Write a list.  Write down everything that you enjoy doing or being and, if nothing stood in your way, you would like to expand and build upon to turn it into your ideal future.

If you want to be a lion tamer write it down, if you want to become an astronaut write it down, if you prefer quieter pursuits like planting gardens write that down.  It doesn’t need to be titles, sometimes it will be things (as in my case) you would like to achieve or it may be aspirations. It can come from hobbies you really enjoy, it might come from an experience you had on a dream holiday once, it might be wanting to become like someone you admire. Write anything and everything that pops into your head and you think ‘ooh yes I like the sound of that’. Don’t worry if the list gets really long (as mine did) you’ll be honing things down shortly.

Here are just a few of mine to give you an idea:

And so many more…..

Once you are happy you have your list stand back again and look at it.  As you read each line and statement mull over what they are actually saying and highlight the ones that make your gut lurch with excitement.  If none of them do then you haven’t dug deep enough into your psyche – go away, clear your head and start again.

Goal setting- refining your big ideas

Following your sense of excitement as you read you should be able to take your highlighted options and put them into a shorter list.

Clear you head and emotions again and then consider each of the remaining statements.  Try to boil down what they are saying into one word or a short pithy expression. Once you have these words play around with them until they form into a title.  It doesn’t matter if you have never heard of the title you have come up with – know that you have just named your big shiny ultimate, goal.

The reason for the title is so that you can easily remember it moving forward. It should conjure up all the statements you shortlisted and decided to bring forward every time you repeat the title to yourself. This crystalizes your goal setting into something you can say succinctly.

In my case I was left with statements which when I boiled them down the short words that kept on occurring were ‘change’, ‘disruption’, ‘expert’ and ‘speaker’. From these I was then able to give my ideal, shiny goal a name: The Change and Disruption Expert.

The idea of speaking, although for some scary, was exciting to me, but it was more than simply becoming a professional public speaker. My big shiny goal was I wanted to have an impact on others, to disrupt conventional ways of thinking, change situations for the better, and not in a timid or small way. Having lived and breathed my way successfully through almost unimaginable changes and disruption I felt entitled to term myself an expert as I’ve actually walked the walk.

When you embark on this kind of goal setting, you are aiming for feelings, thoughts and ideas that excite you, motivate you, and align with your core purpose…they will help you to define and refine that purpose.

Created using Visme. An easy-to-use Infographic Maker.

How Can You Reach Your Goal If You Don’t Know Your Purpose


If you are feeling stuck in a rut, feeling unfulfilled, are jealous of other’s successes, or are simply frustrated that you are not further along to where you think you should be then read on.

I wrote a little while back about humans needing a purpose:

What I didn’t realise until recently is that not everyone knows that until you have worked out Your Purpose, your ultimate goal will remain unachievable or to put it another way – you won’t understand what your ultimate goal is until you have worked out your purpose.

I recently reviewed my delegate forms from various talks and workshops I have given in the past 12 months.  They spanned many industries and ranged from the lowest echelons to the highest.  One of the specific questions I asked on these forms was ‘what is your purpose in life?’.

Common denominators were answers such as ‘making lots of money/profit’, ‘not having to work’, ‘having a big house/a flash car’ to ‘being famous’ and variants along similar lines as these.

This is not having a Purpose. At best these are materialistic, myopic goals which are completely different to purpose.

If they are accomplished that just leaves a void as to what is next.  It is part of the human DNA to have something to strive for so once we have got to one of our short-term goals we’ll automatically be looking for the next.

In any case without purpose these short-term goals will more than likely remain unfulfilled unless these people accidentally stumble across their purpose without realising that is what they have found. But you don’t want to hope that you might stumble across a purpose. You want to have it now, change things for the better and achieve your ultimate goal.

Why Bother with Your Purpose?

Because once you have worked out your purpose the path towards your ultimate goal becomes much clearer and easier to achieve.  It does require a bit of work to accomplish at the beginning but once you have it things start to fall into place and move you along inextricably towards your big shiny goal.

10 years after the train crash I had recovered enough to take stock and wonder what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  In a way, I was lucky in that the crash had ripped away most of my previous life and effectively dumped it in the dustbin.  This left me with a blank sheet of paper on which to start planning and I took advantage of this position.  However, you don’t have to trash your entire life to work out your purpose.  All it takes is the will and desire to want to change things, honesty and a little bit of time.

And the great news is that it not only works for our professional lives, it also works on a personal level as the two are linked.  It also works if you are a business rather than an individual if you look at your company as an entity in its own right.

How do You find out What Your Purpose is?

This is where the hard work begins but I promise you that it is worth it.

Purpose starts from within ourselves.  Who are we, what are we, what do we want in terms of things such as contentment, love, harmony, and what we avoid because it might be difficult. Once you have defined Your Purpose this gives you the starting point to make the changes you need to obtain your ultimate goal.

The only thing you need to devote to finding Your Purpose is time and some soul searching.  This is not a quick fix process.  The thinking, reviewing and deciding does require you to dig deep within yourself and you can’t just dash through that in an afternoon or, if you do, the end result will simply not work.

What I am going to do is break things down in the next few articles to give you the tools.  I’ll detail how my thought processes went, what actions to take, the position you need to get to and you’ll be able to use it to begin to create your own new and exciting future.

Back to Work – Post Holiday Planning

Back to Work

Are you ready to get back to work?

I’ve often mused over the saying ‘the older you get the faster time goes’ as it does seem to generally hold true but I think I would now change it to ‘the older you get the faster change happens’.

It only seems like yesterday that it was New Year and new planning was being done for the coming months.  Those months seemed to stretch inexorably ahead and there seemed to be plenty of time to get everything done. After the holiday season, you and your clients are back to work and occasionally it can take some time to get back in the swing of things.

And then, in a flash, the end of the year is looming.  Certain plans made earlier are taking longer to come to fruition or have hit delaying obstacles if they haven’t withered and died along the way.  It won’t be long before another new year begins and progress assessment so far is not as bright as may have been hoped for.

At this stage a number of feelings can occur.  Frustration, exhaustion, general malaise, worry and even panic.

Don’t stress over getting back to work

I have written in the past about how plans must come with continual re-assessment and change of tack when necessary.  If you have been doing so then the situation I describe above should not happen as you will have been keeping pace with the ever changing scenarios and be ahead of the game.

However, if you have not been vigilant and flexible beforehand that the state I allude to may well be foremost in your mind. 

However, even if you are the latter there is no need for knee-jerk reactions or headless chicken antics.  The important thing is to concentrate on the NOW.

Use now, whenever that may be, to re-assess, re-group, re-plan, change direction.  The WHEN is not the important part the continual evolution and progress is if you still want to hit your goals.

Hopefully you will have recharged over the holiday period and learned some stress busting techniques. If you feel anxious about getting back to work after your break, then your first step is to take some deep breaths.

Your next step is to invest some time in reviewing your plans. This is worthwhile, because things will have changed, whether expected or unexpected.

Moving forwards after getting back to work

  • Be ruthless, you have three months left until Christmas. What is worth keeping from your plans, what should you junk?
  • Be realistic– some of your plans need more time to implement- don’t stress over these, put a note next to them to revisit in January.
  • Be rational. What can you truly get done in the time you have and what will give you the best return? I am a believer in dreams; implementing strategies that fulfil your true purpose, but I also know that bills must be paid! Be aware that for many industries January can be a quiet and unprofitable month. You need to maximise this quarter’s revenue to tide you over.

Don’t forget to connect. Your clients may also be feeling the stress of getting back to work and would welcome some clear advice from you. If you have gently kept in touch over the summer break, now is the time to capitalise on that relationship. Remind them of your discussion, help them clarify their own goals and you should find that you become top of mind when they need to implement their own changes.

Getting back to work after a holiday need not be difficult if you employ some stress reduction and keep a clarity of purpose.

If your holiday has thrown up some issues about what you are doing with your life (this often happens) don’t make any hasty decisions, allow those thoughts to simmer. Sometimes we need a break to get perspective, but holiday dreams can wither in the harsh reality of Winter. If you know that change is needed- then apply your planning techniques to that change and if possible, test out a few of those holiday ideas. Any major change needs planning and if you can focus on what is needed for success this quarter you can create time for consideration of future, significant change.

Maintaining communication – keeping the connection

Keeping Open the Lines of Communication- maintaining communication is important

Most industries have a lull during their trading year.  There is almost always a month where not much is going on in sales or where the closure rate is no longer as imperative as it was in the other months. You may be making fewer sales calls but maintaining communication is still important.

Maybe a lot of your clients are on holiday and your business is not holiday related. Maybe you have taken a break too, come back, and found that customers are still quiet- saving up their spend for the next quarter.

Don’t consider this month as a fallow month.  It is an opportunity to get things done that have been left in abeyance such as clearing out, destroying old papers, re-organising systems, researching potential developments, implementing test projects in preparation of the busier times to follow.

You may have had a stressful year to date- so also take the time to reflect, consider how to buffer yourself against potential stress as things hot up again.

Another crucial factor to remember during this period is your connections.  This quieter period is an ideal time to foster those relations further.

I just called to say…hello- maintaining communication

Take the time to make a call just for a general discussion.  Attend more networking meetings to encourage new connections and how about going out for lunch with your most important connections? Maintaining communication without pressing for a deal may open up new possibilities.

Remember, at the end of the day, people will do business with you because they LIKE you. Give them the opportunity of having your personal connection and time devoted to them.

Caveat: Don’t use this quieter period as an excuse to take your foot of the accelerator – just be a little gentler with your revving. If you disconnect too much from work it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. The idea is to balance some work “housekeeping” with maintaining lines of communication with clients, potential clients and maybe potential joint ventures. You may find that busy person, impossible to get hold of usually, is available during the holiday season as they too take this time to reflect and regroup. Build the holiday season into your planning and use it as a useful review period to ensure you end the year on a positive note.

The Return Deadline

Come September people are going to be flooding back into the office.  Children will return to school, parents will have more time to concentrate back at work without the holiday distractions and suddenly the impetus will start climbing as things gather a new urgency with business managers keeping a wary eye on the approaching festive season and financial year end deadlines.

Because of the creative and useful time maintaining communication that you have spent in the preceding month you are going to be ready to take full advantage.

You will already know what targets to hit. You will have your strategies lined up with the assets ready to be sent out.  As the auto-replies come off email communications you will be one step ahead as cohesive, helpful suggestions with calls to action messages get distributed.

Take advantage of the few days or weeks that others will need to get back into the swing of things and progress your cause. Hopefully during this lull, you will have also recharged your batteries- learned some stress busting techniques  to get you through the coming hectic period.



Beating Stress & Having Fun; Hobbies & Interests

The importance of hobbies and interests in beating stress

Most of us pride ourselves on working so hard and effectively that we find we don’t have time to indulge our interests outside of work.  What we forget is that these outside interests may well make us more productive inside. Not only that- research shows that people who have hobbies and interests are far more effective at beating stress when it strikes.

When was the last time you took a whole day to read a book?  When you go on holiday do you put your phone/tablet away and leave work things until your return? Do you have periods where you switch off from work entirely? Most important of all what do you do for FUN?

Having fun and beating stress

I am as bad as the next person. I haven’t had a proper holiday now for 4 years and have a stack of books I have been meaning to read by my bedside.  However, this is somewhat offset by the fact that I travel for my speaking events and take a few days either before or after to explore where I am or lounge around near a beach.  I also started a rule some time ago that on Sunday’s (unless imperative) I will not turn on my pc or look at my tablet which has freed up my time to stick my nose in a book and lose myself for a few hours.

Explore what you might enjoy.  It might be going to the gym (yuk), it might be roaming the countryside and having a picnic, it might be taking up a new hobby (I’ve just taken up archaeology and am loving it).  It could be anything just make sure it is not work related and makes you smile and relax.

The beauty of a hobby is that you can switch off from work demands and literally, “go somewhere else”. When you are absorbed in an activity your brain can focus on that activity alone and the other concerns literally get filed away. This is like a holiday for your brain and all those neurons that over fire during anxiety can rest.

A side benefit of having a hobby or interest is not just beating stress but warding off disease.

Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.


Stress is bad for your brain health and as you get older you may find yourself becoming forgetful or unable to focus. By giving your brain a break from the demands of your workload, you improve its cognitive ability and this can be helpful in not just beating stress overload but also in warding off diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Making time for hobbies and beating stress is possible

And if you are still saying “I don’t have enough time” – yes you do. In a week, there are 168 hours of which you sleep 56 and 40 are normal business hours – that still leaves you 72 hours per week to do something else if you want to.

It does take planning and commitment and sometimes the best way to do this is to schedule your downtime. If your calendar looks full, find a slot each day/week that you block off just for “you time”.

Plan breaks between periods of activity to allow the business of the day to filter down to your subconscious (where lots of ideas and solutions lurk). I find that walking away from a problem for a while often helps a solution to present itself. So, engaging in a hobby for an hour- or just doing a crossword, reading a chapter of a book etc. allows your brain to rest and think through a problem in your subconscious while your conscious brain is having fun.

If you are a workaholic- you will find that after a while you become less effective. It is not “heroic” to keep pushing yourself through this- it is counter-productive. Beating stress is not an option- it can severely compromise your ability to function. So, do yourself a favour, step back, take some time out and when you return to your work you will be refreshed and more effective.

The Dangers of Stress – And How to Overcome Stress

Is it important to overcome stress?

It’s been well documented the work hours lost attributed to stress.  An expensive condition to both employee, employer and the self-employed.  And yet we still push ourselves to the limit and don’t raise our heads enough to notice that this month is a perfect time to slow down a little.

According to medical research the physical problems related to chronic stress include the lowering of the immune response, chronic muscle tension, and increased blood pressure. These problems can eventually lead to serious life-threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, kidney disease, and cancer.

When your immune system is compromised you are prone to catching colds, fevers and any bug in proximity- you literally cannot fight off infection. You may find that as soon as you relax, such as go on holiday, you get ill and then as you are forced to rest you recover and eventually feel much better than prior to the illness. The adrenaline of working can keep your immune response functioning but all you are doing is stacking up the impact of the underlying stress for later.

Stress leads to everyday niggles such as headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, general aches and pains and a feeling of being “under the weather”. More serious long term effects of stress are depression, weight loss or gain and mood swings that disrupt your work and family life.

Take a stress break

A vast swathe of the working population is now entering the summer holiday season when their sprogs are off school and need catering for in other ways.  Noting that the ideal is not to leave them glued to their phones or game consoles thoughts turn to taking off for an annual getaway. How best to keep them entertained…How best to deal with the increased costs of looking after them….They might get 7 weeks off but can you afford to?  All this induces a different kind of stress which is equally as damaging. You are supposed to be taking a break and overcoming stress but all that is happening is the stress triggers have changed.

For us childless people August brings another type of stress.  With so many others off work for large chunks of time our work automatically slows down as fewer decisions are made or are deferred until after the summer break.  Particularly for the self-employed this can be extremely frustrating e.g. not many companies have conferences in August so my work dries up!

However, the trick is to embrace this change of pace.  It’s going to happen and there is nothing you can do to stop it so accept it and make the best of the slower period ahead.

Overcoming stress – some practical tips

Don’t wait until your holidays to tackle your stress- but make the most of this break to set yourself up with some good habits.

It’s all about pacing yourself. That means getting a regular good night’s sleep and eating properly as the basics.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is necessary.

If you are working then your organisation may offer some stress busting activities as part of their staff welfare program- take advantage of them

If you are self-employed, then when you do your annual planning, identify your peaks and troughs. Build in a break in the quiet times and use those times for long term planning that will save you time when you are busy.

If you are a parent- planning activities you all enjoy can be as simple as playing sports, going for walks, or playing card games when it rains. The holiday away may not be within your budget but kids value your time more than expensive holidays so stop beating yourself up about it.

Overall, take the impact of stress seriously. If you have a constant headache, feel ill and fed up most of the time- chances are you are experiencing stress. Take some time each day for some deep breathing. Plan your weeks to minimise stressful situations and when all else fails, get outside in the fresh air and walk. Studies show that nature is one of the best cures for feeling stressed.

I will be covering some stress busting techniques in later articles, but would be interested to hear any of your tips- just comment below.

The Blame Game – a game with no winners

For more years than I care to remember I have heard numerous companies stating that they ‘want to get away from the blame game’ they want to promote a culture of inclusivity where employees can voice concerns or point out problems without fear of retribution.

However, I see very little evidence that this is not more than just something to be said rather than a true cultural shift.

Coming back down to basics; an employee will always feel that their position is vulnerable.  If not from external forces, as we are seeing, such as economics forcing workforce rationalisation but also from internal pressures such as being regarded as a trouble maker. Employees in general, are afraid that if they lift their heads above the parapets to complain, they will be shot at!

Avoiding the blame game

A progressive employer wants to encourage employee participation and will listen to their views whether they be good or bad.  One way to achieve this, to remove the fear of retribution, is to set up some form of confidential feedback reporting.  A system that is completely anonymous but allows those who care about their employer and want the whole company to do well to give feedback. A way for them to express their opinions, thoughts and views which the employer can then take on board. It needn’t be complicated.  Even a simple suggestions box tucked in the corner would do or an anonymised feedback from online.

Public sector organisations have a written whistle blower policy for the more serious concerns and many large companies have the same. The term whistle-blower dates to the 19th century when policemen used to blow their whistles to alert the public of impending danger or crime. However, Ralph Nader, the US civic activist made it popular as a more positive spin on the idea of being a “snitch” or a “grass”.

When the blame game gets serious

Whistle-blowers take a huge risk when exposing unethical behaviour, illegal conduct or misdeeds, whether within a public or private sector organisation. Although protected by law, the law is vague and open to interpretation and many have lost their jobs or even been prosecuted. Hardly surprising then, that many employees keep their heads down and say nothing.

If something is going wrong within a company the front-line employee is far more likely to be aware than those sitting on the board of directors. A progressive company understand this and welcomes constructive feedback from their workforce. More importantly, a company has an ethical duty to eradicate sexism, racism and bullying from their workplace. They cannot do this if these incidents go unreported.

Signs that the blame game is in operation are; low productivity; high staff turnover; high sickness and absence rates. This indicates that somewhere in management, someone is not taking responsibility for the welfare of their employees. They are blaming, rather than listening.

Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you

Ralph Marston

The 21st century blame game

In this age of technology, companies would be well advised to take employee discontent seriously. In much the same way that an angry customer can leave a scathing review on their website or slam them on Facebook, so too can a frustrated employee. Moaning about work may be a national pastime, but social media enables those moans to go viral. Yes, if an employee writes defamatory comments about their company the organisation can sue them for libel, but is that the best solution?

Would it not be better to allow the employee a safe platform on which to air their grievances? Many schools do this well, with student suggestion boxes around the building. They then follow this up with student council meetings at which the suggestions are discussed.

Dismantling the blame game culture

Employees who feel their voice is heard tend to be more productive. If the culture is one of “keep quiet and get on with it” the company is guilty of a subtle form of bullying. The employer does have the power and most workers know this. They can strike, if they have a grievance and a union to back them, but surely that is a last resort?

The first step to dismantling the blame culture is to view all opinions as having equal validity. The marketing director may be angry and worried about the overspend on advertising budget by their ad manager. The ad manager may feel that the wrong instructions were given and is now terrified of losing their job. The reality may be that the system for setting budgets is flawed. Blame does not resolve this and costs the company money.

Allowing employees to express their opinions requires the company to listen first. Then there needs to be acknowledgement- the views have been heard, the company is investigating. Finally, there needs to be action- steps taken and the results fed back to the employees.

The imperative is that the employer actively promotes the system to their employees and then ensures they read what is said and act/report back on any issues raised.

Round Peg/Square Hole – the skills and job mismatch

I’ve deliberately switched this saying around as have you not sometimes come across people who don’t quite seem to fit their role and are rattling around knocking against the sides of their expected employment?

It could be that their role is not challenging them enough, or is too challenging.  It could be that their personal skills do not suit the role that has been allocated to them.  They may need more guidance, training or even given their head to develop their role.

Square pegs struggling with round holes just don’t fit and it can be easier for them to make a change in job or career. Your round peg employee has, on paper, all the skills needed for their job but somehow it just isn’t working. People in these situations are often discontented or have gripes that are ultimately destabilising for the rest of the team and company. They threaten to become that “difficult employee” everyone gossips about or, worse, triggers complaints.

As an outsider often brought in to help with company change and transition I meet quite a few of these round peg people.  It is such a shame as the skills they do have or the contribution they could make are missed.  These employees are aware that their abilities are potentially not being maximised. They may find parts of their job extremely tedious because it is way below their actual talent. Some parts of their work may be way outside their comfort zone, the gap between their ability and the requirements so great that it leaves them frustrated and anxious. In these cases, they will become challenging to work with as they try to avoid the areas that bore them while dodging the areas they struggle with.

Avoiding round peg dilemmas

In the fast changing 21st century jobs often must evolve to keep up and this can trigger a mismatch between skill level and job requirements. An employee who originally was a fit, becomes disillusioned at these changes; their job no longer matches their ability to perform it.

Here are some steps to help you avoid this situation

Step 1:

Creating detailed person specifications and job descriptions for each role in a company ensures a proper match when recruiting.

Step 2:

Reviewing these roles as change occurs will identify training needs for current employees

Step 3:

Implementing regular training to upskill employees will help fill the gap between current and needed skills.

Step 4:

Performance appraisal that is constructive, not punitive will identify a discontented employee before their disillusionment has an impact on the team and the company.

Perhaps checking at an annual review with specific, non-blaming questions might bring situations like this to light and enable relative minor changes that would retain a valuable member of staff.

Step 5:

Consider job rotation as a method to keep employees engaged, interested and their skills updated.

When an employee just doesn’t fit with the company ethos

Sometimes the round peg syndrome is because of a shift in company ethos. Change happens and change management is a crucial part of a company’s development. Some employees resent their jobs changing and resist. They do not see the gap between their skills and the job requirements as a positive challenge; they see it as a threat. As a business goes through transition it throws up many challenges and often brings to light those round peg employees.

To successfully effect change you need your employees to be on board so you cannot ignore their discontent. If you are an employee experiencing this and feeling as if your world is tilting, then take a good hard look at how you see your role. It may be time to get out of that square hole completely, whether shifting jobs within your current organisation or changing jobs totally.

Being a round peg in a square hole can be unsettling, but it does not have to be ongoing.  It may be that only a few tweaks to the role are needed to enable a comfortable fit. I have a helpful free guide on dealing with change – The Change Reaction that looks at how we deal with the necessary changes life and work throw at us. If you are an organisation going through changes and are discovering a lot of round pegs, then contact me to discuss how I can help.

Creative Space and brilliant ideas

creative space

Does your business have a creative space?

Now here is a business idea I love and have adopted myself.

At one of my clients’ offices I saw a glassed off area within their normal offices.  Inside were beanbags, funky paintings, an area with jelly beans and other treats, wipeable painted walls and decor that suggested a fun, light and airy playground rather than a stuffy office environment.  This was their creative area.

Employee team meetings were held in this area and the whole emphasis was on being creative.  No idea was too silly or nuts not to be considered.  It was scribbled up on the walls and then followed or discarded by further scribbling and noted thought processes.

Enjoyment and relaxation while thinking was the raison d’etre of this room and my client advised me that some startling yet great ideas had come from meetings such as these which had then shaped the company’s onward policies and tactics.

Brilliant.  And I can’t see why this would not work in any office, industry environment.  If we want the best from ourselves and our people surely creativity is where we will find it?

Making a creative space for yourself or your employees

If you are an entrepreneur and working from home it can be difficult to have that creative space. Maybe your office doubles up as a study for other members of the household or is just a space in the family living room. If possible, try to create a separate space for thinking and working, away from family and home life. I know entrepreneurs who use their conservatory or even their sheds as creative spaces. Outdoors can be a great place to think. If this isn’t possible, then home-based business owners could take themselves off for a spa day or play a round of golf, to relax, chat, and think away from the “office”.

If you are a business then consider creating a brainstorming, creative space for employees, following the example of my client. You may need to get creative to make the space, so think about those unused areas that you keep for occasional use or those landings between offices that generally have a few plants a picture and a couple of chairs nobody ever sits in.  As meetings tend to be outside client hours (or should be) – landings are a greatly unused space perfect for some free thinking.

The benefits of creative space for innovation

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. All too often business is told it needs to be innovative but has few tools with which to inspire innovation. So, brainstorming meetings take place weekly, in the same surroundings that are styled for professional conformity. It is kind of hard to think outside of the box, from within a box.

What goes on in the space you choose is important; relaxed rules, no idea too foolish etc…but the actual environment has an impact on the thinking taking place. How many of you have had great ideas relaxing in the bath? Or out jogging, or simply lazing in your back garden? The reason is that your mind has been freed from the routine thinking that characterises your daily work life.

Now, I am not suggesting a bath time team brainstorming; but a relaxed and informal environment frees the mind from the constricts of corporate thinking.

Plants, real ones, releasing oxygen feed the brain and running water has been shown to calm the brain waves and allow freer thinking. There is another upside to this which is more engaged and loyal employees. Allowing a space for creative thinking empowers employees and encourages them to contribute to the company strategy. This then gives them a sense of ownership of company progress which is highly motivating. Motivated employees tend to be more productive, so it’s a win, win, scenario.

So, next time you are trying to infuse some energy and change into your company, consider- do you have a creative space to enable those potential brilliant ideas?

What is the Point of Lessons if we don’t learn?

learn lessons

As well as being upset, along with the rest of the nation, as to the recent tragedy unfolding with the Grenfell fire I have also been deeply aggravated by the governments’ response of setting up a public inquiry into what happened and what were the causes.

Every time a major public tragedy occurs this is their stock response. However, as I personally discovered and as I fear we will see again, what is the point of holding public inquiries, finding out the ‘why’ when little tangible action is then taken to implement recommendations that are made?

Everyone wants to learn the same thing from painful situations: how to avoid repeating them.

Gary Zukav

Learn lessons from the past, then apply them.

They pour time, effort and public money into these types of inquiries but to what purpose?

By their very nature inquiries take a great deal of time, often years to conclude and by the time they do come out with findings and recommendations the immediate furore tied to the incident has died down and the will to make the necessary changes seems to have evaporated.

I can think of numerous examples where the time delay has led to exactly this happening and the authorities then shelve the findings as the things that need to be put right are inconvenient or too costly in their opinion. Lessons are clearly given but the will to learn from them melts away.

The only times I can think of when inquiry recommendations have been enforced and put into action have been where survivors or those affected by the incident have had the patience and energy to keep campaigning for them to be done.  I know this first hand as if I had not set up the Paddington Survivors Group and we had not then spent 5 years of our lives pushing, insisting and generally being a nuisance to the establishment our inquiry findings would have been ignored just as they had been from Clapham and Southall before us.

Cutting through red tape, learn lessons, take action.

It is simply not right.  The will should be there and remain there to make the improvements necessary and action should follow. There must be a better way to apply the lessons learned from tragedy in a timely fashion so that we prevent further tragedies occurring.

Business can be guilty of this too. When faced with disquiet amongst employees for example, they conduct internal surveys to identify the concerns. Then, they ignore the findings!

When something is going wrong; people affected naturally want to know why. Business leaders, governments, councils and those in authority have a duty to explore and investigate. However, investigating is only appropriate if you are then committed to actioning the results. All too often, the results are unpalatable; someone is to blame, mistakes have been made. The ostrich reaction is to ignore the results, bury them, delay action, argue the cost implications and do nothing.

Leadership is about accountability, responsibility and action. When something goes wrong, be it accidental, negligence, cost cutting, poor decision making or outright fraud; leaders step up and act. When disaster strikes and people’s lives are affected, responsible leaders find a way to cut through the red tape and fix it. Watch how fast a business will change course in the face of competition or a government will pass a bill that affects the immediate economy when it is needed. It can be done, it just takes the will and smart thinking.

An alternative to a public inquiry is an independent review.

In some cases, there may well be alternatives. The recent – highly revealing and highly cathartic – report on Hillsborough was handled not by a public inquiry but by an independent panel. Lawyer free, much cheaper and quicker, and, in that case, chaired by a bishop.


One of the problems with public inquiries is the heavy involvement of lawyers who slow down the process, add costs and whose legalese recommendations are too obscure for many of the public to understand. Public inquiries may be prompted by a need to feel something is being done- and will therefore disappoint if no action is taken. They can provide a catharsis for those affected by tragedy, but frustration when they drag on too long. They may demand accountability, but actual prosecution and/or blame may be a long time coming.

Ultimately, when tragedy strikes, we all want to know, why? Could this have been prevented? However, the process for discovering this should be as swift as possible, outcomes focused and recommendations succinct or no lessons will be learned.