New Book in the process of being written

29 04 2013

Following the success of ReEnergizing the Corporation I am inspired to write more. The focus of the next book is getting more from organisational change, maximum impact, maximum engagement and maximum chance of success. We are in early stages at the moment, but we have had some great contributions from colleagues and friends, sharing their stories of success and at times the challenges of change. Keep an eye on the blog and the website for regular updates.

ICEAW Special Report on Leadership

21 01 2013

Just a short post to link you to the latest publication for the ICEAW who asked for a contribution on leadership and talent. You can see the pdf of the article on my website  just download the pdf to see the latest thinking.



Highest road in the world and thinking at altitude

25 09 2012

This year we took a different challenge on… driving to the highest motorable road in the world in the Indian Himalayas. At 5602 metres,  Khardung -la is higher than Mount Everest base camp.  The trip itself was awesome, driving from Narkanda to Leh on a road that is only open 4 months of the year to supply the military and where landslides close the way almost every day. It’s a battle to keep a single muddy track passable and a one where the edge of single track is a drop of between 300 -500 m without any barrier.

Altitude does some great things to the landscape – the sky was more blue than at any time I can remember – the clouds whiter. The rock and mountain scenery is stunning – it takes your breath away every corner you turn.

What was also impressive was the tenacity and spirit of the Indian road workers – never giving up on their Herculean task.  Each day armed with little more than hand tools, and the occasional vintage bulldozer, they would repair the previous nights damage and sort out a passage for the waiting supply lorries and occasional tourists. They slept at over 12,000 ft, eating a basic diet of bread and veg curry with a sprinkling of dust – which pervades every gap and chink in the clothing.  Yet as we passed they always smiled and waved – maybe not so many westerner drive in India, maybe our dirty faces caked in dust amused them, maybe they just thought we were mad – but it was heartening to see people with so little seemingly so content and openImage. As observers we cannot know what they really think about their harsh life conditions, but they chatted, smiled and worked well with each other on their task – clearing the road again. Maybe we have something to learn from them…. when we moan about our mundane days or our Herculean task…. my challenges seem pale in comparison.


Rome awaits – Jonas and Mark speaking on Innovation

24 01 2012

In February Mark and Jonas are working with a large group of  senior managers from a  global building materials company on innovation. It’s not what you make that matters but the way and ways of making both the product and business. We expect to challenge their thinking in terms of how to do business better and different in a market that is massively affected by an economic cycle or downturn. They are doing the right thing, change themselves before the competition do or the market demands it.

It’s better to change on the upwards slope of the curve or somewhere near the apex rather than in the tail spin of decline. We expect to push them to think differently and take control of their future in the industry. Should be fun !!


India trip is go !

2 11 2011

Just a link for all those who sponsored us to see the trip day one photos. We will update as we go internet access permitting. Developing capability in the kids of India , as part of the sponsorship. We meet them for a game of football in two days.


see your logos on our car trailing through south India!/profile.php?id=619995946

Collaboration , not as easy as it seems

24 10 2011

I have just recently run a session on a strategic leadership programme for a collection of government departments. I can’t say which ones but recent changes in funding, threat and resources have meant they really do need to collaborate much more. The programme is breaking ground, in that it’s been set up across departments, the first of its kind. Well that seems a bit obvious to me and to many of readers I assume to share training and development opportunities . However to the UK government, working together is policy; creating the forums for collaboration is, it seems, not.

So what makes good collaborative working at the senior level? Well its more than an edict or policy saying they must. Good collaboration starts with individuals deciding they should, then acting. No amount of policy or direction from the top will break down years of individualization and socialization into strong cultures. What it takes is for individuals to become emotionally engaged in the process, through a shared need, a realisation that there is real benefit in a collaborative approach, and the courage to act on that thought.

We ran a simulation, a game, unfortunately human instinct kicked in and the default settings of competitive behaviour ensued. What was interesting was the debriefing  discussion and how difficult it seems to be  to establish enough trust to collaborate in the first place. Well  ladies and gentlemen servants of the government, we really can’t wait for you to love each other, the economic crisis and the state of threat currently enjoyed by our country from those that wish us harm is too high for you to delay. Collaboration is the future of really effective performance, particularly where special talents are scares and consequences of failure so high.

I really do hope the programme works in the long-term, but currently it is one of the few forums for real inter government agency interaction, it’s a small but vital step in the right direction.

Talent Management; Graduates your simple guide to assessment centres

25 05 2011

I  have been very busy in recent months assisting a client select young talent for its prestigious leadership programme.  Given that the programme provides a fantastic opportunity for accelerated development and global experience , they set their bar high and rightly so. Our intervention is helping them design and delivery a really robust assessment process. So why the guide? Well I am not going to divulge the secrets of the centre, that would be way too helpful.. but given that the client, a very forward thinking organisation in many ways who  provides each candidate telephone feedback regardless of their success or not, it never fails to surprise me how little applicants know about making a good account of themselves. I am sure there are many I talk to who are hearing for the first time what I consider to be the essentials of applying for a post, not secrets but simple guides to success… so here they are:

1 Do not arrive for an interview without researching the company – this is an insult to the employer and shows lack of interest, drive and motivation to join. Think research not just google.

Dress to impress – not necessarily a suit, but not jeans and trainers, smart is the watch word – unless you are applying to a fashion house or some creative agency who might be impressed by your ‘creative’ streak.  Blue chips on the whole are conservative about what you wear. Dirty shoes show a lack of care for yourself, why would they risk you with a customer?

3 Pay attention to how you look – stubble is cool in the bar, not in the interview ( shows a lack respect ), hair should be under control at least and pony tails look good on ponies and  younger women… maybe at Glastonbury but not in an interview.

4 Questions at interview – please think about what your strengths and weaknesses are  before you get there so you are not surprised or unable to respond. Most good assessment has CBI interviews, based on specific competencies – being artfully vague, giving general answers or being impressive with rehearsed best interview answers volume one will get you no where quickly. Being perfect is not what most companies are looking for or believe, be prepared to show you have self-awareness and can be open about your development needs.  If you are asked a fair question, be prepared to answer it, most good employers will use structured interviews, the days of ” sell me this pencil”  egotistical managers are dead. Recently when asking a candidate where else they had applied, they replied that they thought this was an unfair question. If you are unwilling to share  who else you are applying to with a potential employer ( if you are at an assessment centre they are already spending serious money on you) then why would they feel you are a good hire? There may be places for secrets but not in the interview that is trying to assess how serious you are as a candiate.

5 Analysis exercises – these are there to let you show how smart you are – don’t waste the opportunity by being too big on style and low on content, which in an analysis exercise is arguments based on facts or good ideas.  All fur coat and no knickers as we say in Yorkshire is not good, being all presentation and no content and its not using the opportunity well. Don’t avoid calculations and don’t avoid making a decision, the two biggest faults in many exercises.

6 Group exercises – the clue is in the title, they are designed to see you work in a group  – similar to how you will work in most of your career. So show what you can do. Not all roles are leadership, there are plenty of ways of impressing an employer without having to be in control. Basics, speak … no contribution  is no good, intermediate…. speak up and have some ideas,  better still take a real part and engage others while you solve whatever task you have been given. Yes it’s, competitive and difficult but it also gives you another excellent chance to shine with others.

7 Focus on the roles you want to do– so apply for the industry, the function and the specialist that interests you. Saying you are flexible and can do anything , will try anything, is a sure way to show you have not really considered you career seriously. Do so now, before you apply.

7 tips to make a good impression, to show your skills and experience and to make a good account of yourself. If an employer has taken the time , effort and money to create an assessment process to show you to your best ability don’t waste it – don’t regret your performance  on the flight back home.

You may think this is a conservative view…. for conservative read experienced, as most of your assessors will be. When you are being assessed by 20 something’s with stubble and ponytails then please ignore this advice, but reality is, if you want a leadership fast track career then you need to behave like a leadership potential talent from the minute you engage in the process and the people they trust to select will be experienced.
I would wish graduates good luck… but if they are good it’s not a matter of luck, its a matter of performance on the day and preperation before hand.

Lazy thinking

12 05 2011

It’s so easy to be lazy, so easy to put off what should be done today, so easy to let things be… even when you think they are not so good, not so well thought out, not so productive. I am the same, I think about things, but don’t take the action when I am the most frustrated or feeling  most irritated by the ideas I have.

What’s the solutions I wonder? It’s not beating your self up for not being so pious or proactive that you act every time, but it might be escalating and exploring the thinking process until you are so so so so very  frustrated you have to act. Thinking clearly  is not so easy and it takes time to do well…. time being  something so valuable we waste it with junk tv and poor newspapers, but something that given space will improve our decision-making exponentially.

Take the time to think, and then make decions to nonconform, not accept things as they are but as Bertrand Russell suggested, be the unreasonable man and make the changes to the circumstances you find and make them  fit  you, make things change, make a difference …. don’t get caught out by lazy thinking and fit to what exists just because we are too idle to dwell and ponder properly.   All progress is dependent on the unreasonable man, or woman, or transgender …. you know what I mean, just don’t take the easy way out, think more and think clearer about what matters and whether it’s business, family or something important to you …. don’t be lazy !!

Target One Reached – Many thanks to you all

12 05 2011

After a fantastic response from people we have achieved our first target for the charity drive in Southern India. Many many many thanks to you all. I know when times are tight giving is harder  – but you have and we are very impressed by your generosity.

As many people who know me would attest to, I am quite goal driven so I think it’s only appropriate to now set a stretch target to aim for, not because I think what you have raised is not significant, but the charities can only operate when they are consistently funded and what will be a challenge for us is nothing compared to the difficulties that the children who benefit from both endure day after day.

So we will keep the donation site open and we will pester, advise, encourage, bully and badger our colleagues, clients, friends, family and even strangers into helping raise more…. so our new stretch target is £ 5,000….

Karma Enduro 2011 – driving & development

14 03 2011

Well now the year is ending, at least the business year in the UK, It’s time to think of new challenges to undertake. This coming year we, Mark and Kath Wilcox, will take on the Karma Enduro 2011, starting on October 30th. A well established adventure trip driving 2000kms through the Southern Indian landscape in a 1950’s design Ambi, the cute name for the Hindustandi Ambassador, or to you and me of the right age, a Morris Oxford !! Not an easy journey but one worth while to take a different path than the one most followed and raise some funds for a few good causes. There are two core charities for the Event, Adventure Ashram, and Rainbow Trust. You can visit their sites and see what they  do for children in India and the UK. We will also be raising money for another cause closer to home in Cumbria, but are still deciding the best cause. So watch this space for updates, sponsorship opportunities and other good stuff. All the costs of the completing the trip, and the initial donation to the two charities  of around £2850, is being donated by ourselves, but we want to raise more for the 3 charities… add to the adventure with us. Anything you give or pledge to us will go 100% to three good causes.

Just think you could have your company  logo, personal  mugshot or your  signature adoring this little beauty as it winds it way down from Goa to Cochin, with local radio, local tv, web and blog visibility. We are selling places on the car…. be there with us in spirit and get photos to put on your website and office wall. contact Mark at for details.

Don’t take life for granted, be part of something worthwhile….

Viral ideas in the organisation

25 01 2011

Recently we have been doing some assessment for a large engineering organisation. Our first involvement was with a graduate recruitment process for a global leadership programme. This assessment process , which we helped design and refine is now gaining a good reputation in the business. As a result, we have gained some more senior assessment work driven not by HR, the normal route to these things, but from senior line managers. Again the process is a success, given they are engineers, a demonstrable success. What is interesting to watch is how the process is spreading, gaining traction, getting developed and moving into areas of the business that were reluctant, resistant and really not interested in the past with objective and expert assessment of talent. Success it seems has many fathers …. there are now a number of senior managers across the organisation wanting to be associated with the projects, started in the graduate arena and now spreading their tools and language elsewhere…. some the same people that were definitely not going to accept the idea when initially approached.  What can we learn from this? One valid demonstration of results is worth a thousand words of selling.

So we now have a sea change in the organisation, getting to critical mass…. external senior post being assessed, their talent pools being assessed and their understanding of what drives performance being developed across line management and across a willing but less than influential HR team …the train has left the station!!

Frozen Thinking – defrosting the mind

22 01 2011

iceI am sitting in my office overlooking some beautiful frosty hills pondering about why some simple ideas or , at least to some of us, obvious truths are not taken up more widely.  The frozen landscape gave me inspiration, its not that the ideas are not good, its the fact that people’s minds are frozen in what they were taught as young managers or young professionals.  As Machiavelli commented hundreds of years ago, its not getting new ideas accepted that’s the problem, but making people let go of old ones.

If you think that most   managerial courses have content agreed and put into the curriculum decades ago,  showing Maslow as ‘the theory’ of motivation,  using Taylorism as an example of ‘the’ one best way  and using people like Jack Welch as icons of good leadership. The world has move on and many managers have taken their training, done their classes and set their ideas in permafrost. Management trainers and business schools, out side of a few world class ones, recycle, reuse and reduce their ideas to a common denominator of the famous few – Taylor, Maslow, Kotter, Porter et al. Getting different results means doing things differently and those ideas need to be researched, tested, adapted and applied – now – not in ten years  time when every one else is starting to get on the orchestral travelling transport vehicle !

So what is the glycol for the grey matter? Here’s my manifesto for the mindful-

  1. Read more about your profession – and it’s top players  – who are the gurus?
  2. Research your industry – globally – ask yourself if you were setting up now, where would you be based?
  3. Find out what makes you feel uneasy about your competitors – and learn from it, what would make your competitors unhappy about you ?
  4. Read at least 12 management books a year and locate 10 good ideas from them – not all will be any good – breadth and depth
  5. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable  at work – a project where you are not the expert – be wiser  from learning !
  6. Go to a conference about which you know nothing – find a nugget of wisdom from a different domain
  7. Network with interesting people – not just from your industry – most  innovative ideas come from inspiration elsewhere
  8. Help someone else learn to do something to a level of expert – teaching makes us better at doing

Don’t get frozen thinking, keep the stimulus flowing, put some anti freeze in the faculties – be a fresh thinker – it’s being fresh that creates the flavour !!