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Happy Now?

This sums up how I feel, pretty much to the letter. Sad. So sad.

Katyboo1's Weblog

It is day four in the Big Brexit house.

I had hoped after Friday’s absolute catastrophe of a day that the country might somehow magically rally over the weekend. I mean, when you plunge your country into possible ruin on the promise of a golden future that will allow it to rise like a phoenix from the flames, you have a plan, right?

As it turns out, you don’t. The only person that seems to have any plan at all, and be acting on it rather than just spouting meaningless Churchillian rhetoric is Nicola Sturgeon, and I can’t even vote for her.

I was distraught and angry on Friday. I had hoped to feel better by today. Instead I am running on barely controlled rage and getting more enraged by the moment.

Here are a few things I am furious about:

Firstly, leave voters telling me to calm down. I’m sorry…

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The Ryder Cup: It’s about people, Phil, not process

Wow. That American press conference after the Ryder Cup was some car crash, wasn’t it?!

While the first words off every European’s lips were to praise Paul McGinley to the hilt for his exemplary captaincy, Phil Mickelson chose instead to use his to plunge a knife right between Tom Watson’s shoulder blades – a decision that throws the essential and enduring difference between the two teams into sharpest possible relief.

Whereas past US dominance in the tournament was always based on having the world’s best individual players, Europe’s more recent dominance (that’s now 8 victories in the last 10 Ryder Cups) is undoubtedly the result of having the best team dynamic.

Whereas US players (most notably Tiger Woods and Mickelson himself) have typically performed well below par in Ryder Cups, the self same setting seems to encourage the Europeans to play beyond themselves. In stark contrast to Woods in past tournaments, Rory McIlroy looked every inch the world’s best golfer in spanking Ricky Fowler 5&4 and, where Ian Poulter left off in Medinah, Justin Rose picked up at Gleneagles, seemingly reserving the best golf of their lives for this event.

Why is that?

Not for the first time, stories of McGinley’s captaincy remind me of approaches ripped from the playbook of one of the world’s great motivators and man managers – legendary British Lions coach, Sir Ian McGeechan, whose example every Lions coach since has borrowed from heavily.

For example, for Fergie’s team talk with the European team, read wheeling out Lions legend, Willie John McBride, to deliver a stirring speech and hand players their test jerseys. For all the motivational words and imagery in the European team room, read the names of past Lions legends on a plaque above every peg in the dressing room – reminding you of the amazing players who’ve worn that jersey before you, and whose legacy you’re now part of continuing.

Most of all, I’m reminded of McGeechan’s words about Jason Leonard – a man who, despite a world record 114 international caps as a forward, never started a test match for the British Lions. McGeechan spoke of the unwavering support Leonard gave to Paul Wallace – the man who took to the field in his jersey in that epic 1997 series against South Africa. That, said McGeechan, epitomises what it means to be a Lion and is what makes Leonard one of the all-time greats.

So what, you may ask?

This sort of stuff means everything to exceptional team performance, especially in a sporting setting. It taps into deep emotions. It says that what we’re here to do is bigger than you, me and this particular moment in history. It breeds that all-for-one, never-say-die commitment to the cause. It means that when teammates exchange a glance, what that glance says is ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you down’.

In that context, every bit as surprising and significant as the setting of Mickelson’s implicit attack on Watson was the substantive point of his criticism – that the US’ recent failures can be attributed to abandoning the ‘pod’ system put in place by their last successful Ryder Cup captain, Paul Azinger, whereby the team of 12 were split into three groups of 4 who bonded over practice and from whom each player pairing was drawn.

An eminently effective formula this may have proven but, for me, Mickelson’s emphasis on having been “invested in [that] process” – his specific focus on reviving that particular system, rather than the recreating (by whatever means) the feeling of ‘togetherness’ it generated – is to entirely miss the point. (In fact, if you want to fully appreciate the difference between strategy and tactics, that’s a perfect example right there.)

Last time I checked, a process had never holed a clutch putt for a vital half point on the 18th green. It wasn’t a process that stiffed a wedge to within 2 or 3 feet to secure the concession that won this year’s trophy. It was a person. And until the US team figures that out – investing in the broader outcome of team togetherness, rather than arguing the toss over specific methodologies for achieving it – they may continue to find themselves on the wrong end of a drubbing.

On speech writing: Salmond shows true colours?

Beware the significance of every single word you write…

Listening to various leaders, in the wake of Scotland’s verdict in the independence referendum this morning, I couldn’t help but latch onto the very careful and deliberate insertion of the phrase “at this stage” in Alex Salmond’s concession speech – i.e. Scots have chosen not to separate from the rest of the UK “at this stage”.

Clearly he couldn’t help himself and you can’t help but think about what that reveals about the man.

Those three small – and apparently innocuous – words rather undermine all his other rhetoric about taking the ‘No’ vote on the chin and focusing whole-heartedly now on working “constructively in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

At best, the use of such a qualifying phrase makes him sound like a sore loser; at worst completely disingenuous (note also how his earlier assertion that the referendum would settle the independence issue for a “lifetime” has now been downgraded to a “generation”).

Alex, I know you don’t have kids or grandkids, but it’s time to go rent yourself a copy of ‘Frozen’ and sing along with Elsa. C’mon, you know the words…

“Let it go! Let it GO-OOOO!”

Africa’s Century: Defining African Leadership

Are you interested in the future of leadership in Africa?

Given the opportunity to pose questions to an expert panel — including former South African president, F.W. de Klerk, and Dr Nkosana Moyo, founder and executive chair of the Mandela Institute of Development Studies — what would you ask them?

That’s precisely the opportunity I have, thanks to an invitation to attend a private forum, hosted by Ashridge Business School, entitled ‘Africa’s Century: Defining African Leadership’.

So, if you have questions about the topics below, please post a reply, and I’ll do my best to put them to the panel on your behalf:

  • Africa’s economic challenges
  • Strengthening leadership as a strategy for economic development
  • Structure, scalability and sustainability of African business

The ‘Both/And’ Manifesto

Happy New Year, everyone, and here’s wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!

If you’re short of a New Year’s resolution, permit me to suggest a quick jaunt over to the Guardian’s Sustainable Business blog. There, once again, Caroline Holtum and the gang have very graciously lent me a platform to spout forth on the huge value to be unlocked by reconnecting business strategy to delivering social progress – this time in the form of my ‘Both/And Manifesto’.

Take a look and, if this feels like a credo you can sign up to, then please spread the word!

PS. A tip o’ the hat to Rob Cameron, Executive Director at SustainAbility, who, when I shared this with him a few weeks back, suggested replacing the ‘thick/thin’ value terminology with ‘deep/shallow’. His reasoning? While the ‘thick/thin’ dichotomy works fine when both concepts are placed in juxtaposition, they’re not terms that are likely to carry a whole lot of meaning if they get used in isolation. I think that’s a great shout. Thanks, Rob!

Invictus: an ode to self-mastery

I first posted the following a couple of years ago now, but seemed fitting to repost in tribute to Nelson Mandela…


Inspired by Geoff Barbaro‘s upcoming 55-minute guide to leadership communication, and by the fact that CommScrum‘s first birthday is just around the corner, I finally got around to watching Invictus last night.

It reminded me of the fact that, when I applied to Ashridge to do my MBA, one of the questions on the application form asked me to give an example of a leader I admired and why. I chose Nelson Mandela, citing (amongst other things) his appearance in a Springbok jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, which I still consider to be one of the most iconic images of my lifetime, and the very embodiment of the spirit of reconciliation.

The movie portrays Mandela not only as an incredibly astute politician (his line about reinstating the Springbok name and colours being a human calculation speaks volumes), but also a man with extraordinary self-mastery. That, above all else, shines through as the foundation stone of his leadership.

His own inspiration – that which “helped [him] to stand when all [he] wanted to do was lie down” – was William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus.

Whilst it may not have the same impact as hearing it read in Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones (his “caged bird” voiceover from The Shawshank Redemption still brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it), I reproduce it here in full.

Geoff revealed to me recently that he has a framed copy of Martin Luther King’s dream speech hanging on his wall at home. As someone who bangs on incessantly about authenticity, if I were to do something similar, I suspect this poem would be my choice. It’s theme of self-mastery as guide and compass through all manners of adversity, and the associated mental image I have of Mandela on the podium at Ellis Park Stadium, are powerful to say the least…


Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

“Ah, but is Plan A helping M&S to sell more pants?”

Someone asked me this on the back of a presentation the other day. Notwithstanding the fact that Plan A was actually cost positive within 2 years, and is credited with generating £135 million in value for Marks & Spencer last year, it’s the wrong question.

A more pertinent one would be “Will Plan A mean that M&S is still able to sell lots of pants 50 years from now?”