People are not commodities…. people come first

Illustration with a team on puzzle pieces.
Illustration with a team on puzzle pieces.

I recently did a key note to a group of sophisticated entrepreneurs – the topic was on business transformation, sustainability and growth.

My belief is that no one person should ever underestimate the value (and difficulty) in delivering the business basics; as any entrepreneur or CEO will tell you, its really hard to design, create a good product, provide an excellent service, and earn a profit. But when large companies use their incredible power to simultaneously mix profit with positive social impact, we see the truly amazing potential of business at its best. And one of the most encouraging business trends over the past several decades is business leaders’ realisation that companies can take serious steps to minimize their negative environmental impact and still be profitable.

Although, as we have seen, technology can have a baleful impact on the human side of business, it can also work the other way, especially by improving information. The internet enables consumers to discriminate on the basis of more than just quality and price; they can increasingly take human and environmental impact into account too. As companies like BeGood raise the bar about how much information is provided about consumer products, social impact becomes a consumer feature just like any other.

My favourite businesses, though, are not just those that provide value to the marketplace without doing harm but those whose profits are intrinsically linked to solving social or environmental problems. In the past five years thirty-one states in the US have passed benefit corporation legislation, allowing for-profit companies to legally pursue social and environmental impact in addition to profit. The proliferation of ‘B-corps’, including the now publicly traded Etsy, shows that multiple bottom lines are not mutually exclusive.

There is a trend toward inhuman treatment of workers in other ways too, and again, technology can exacerbate but also help. Bosses are often incentivised by systems created by management consultants or software programs brought in order to help improve ‘efficiency’. The result: employees are inhibited from exercising their abilities to the fullest and not trusted to use their judgement, work autonomously, or make decisions outside of specific frameworks.

Much of this comes from the drive to quantify performance. You can understand the impulse that led Amazon forcing its warehouse employees to track themselves without countdown-beeping GPS devices, but how can that justifiable impulse be channelled into a more human approach?

I have discussed a few ideas in this blog, but all the ideas require change, some of the changes start with individual culture and human to human values, spending more time in nature and with our families and children and away from over use of technology. Other changes require businesses to execute transformation with the challenging existential questions that artificial intelligence and robotics present.

I feel that there needs to be a balance of human to human to technology, this will preserve our culture, values and relationships. What ever happened to picking up the phone? Or talking to someone face-to-face? Or do we not have time?

Everything has become too big, too bureaucratic, too distant from the human scale. We feel we can not control the things that matter, It is time to make the world more human.

Itzik Amiel once said:

“It is not only business to business sake but human to human sake.”

What is happiness…..continued


A few years ago I wrote a blog ‘What is Happiness’ – having coffee with friends recently in London, the subject seems to be increasing more and more, with people asking ‘what exactly do I need to do to be happy’?

I have spent 25 years in business developing companies and leadership, but after years successfully helping people lead teams, lead businesses, and lead organisations, something slowly dawned on me. Is anyone happy? The general conversation at corporate functions, business lunches and conferences was filled with conversations about struggling to find balance, feeling too busy, and keeping up with others. So many leaders said they did not have the space in their lives, were stressed about time and money, and felt burdened with endless decisions and conflicting advice. Even the greatest leaders in the world, billionaires, Fortune 500 CEOs are all plagued with fatigue, dramatic crises on a daily basis. I have also suffered with my fair share of unhappiness at times.

The happiness model we were taught from a young age is actually completely backward. We imagine that if we work hard in order to achieve big success and then instantly we reap the rewards of happiness, you have heard the saying ‘great work, big success equals big happiness’
We do great work, have big success, but instead of being happy, we just set new goals. Now we study and research for the next job, the next qualification, the next promotion. Why stop with an MBA, why stop at being a Director when you can be the CEO,why stop at one house when you can have two. We never get to happiness. It keeps getting pushed further and further away.

William Shakespeare once said ‘ For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. But if thinking is the root cause for being happy or sad, surely we can switch it on and off like a light switch?

Aristotle said ‘Happiness depends upon ourselves’. In today’s scientific world we have evidence that proves the importance of attitude and specific proven actions we can take to manage our attitude.

There is a new piece of research published in ‘The How of Happiness’ by the University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky that shows exactly how much of our happiness is based on our life circumstances. The conclusion of these findings state that 10% of our happiness is what happens to us and 90% is based on our generic predisposition and our intentional activities.

You do not have to change what you are or what you have to be happy, but instead change the emotion you are expressing. If you are expressing anger then you will feel angry. If you express jealousy or guilt, then you will feel jealousy and guilt. If you are expressing love then you are likely to experience happiness and fulfillment. Think back to different times in your life and make a note of what you were expressing. We often associate feeling happy with who we were with what we had, or what we were doing. Those external things were not making us happy. It was the love we were expressing at the time that fulfilled us.

Happiness and joy aren’t guaranteed because you achieve your self help goals. These are just games we set up in the mind to trigger our expression of love and acceptance. It is your expression in the moment that determines the happiness and joy in your life. When you express love you are happy. When you express emotions of fear and anger you are unhappy. We have become conditioned in our life to express ourselves in reaction to outside events. Only when we break these conditioned emotional responses and consciously choose our attitude will our happiness be assured. Having awareness and direction over your expression is the key to assuring your happiness.

The steps to being happy can be defined as:

1. Know who you are
2. Practice self-kindness
3. Love yourself as you are
4. Move beyond self-improvement
5. Be true to yourself
6. Abandon self-defeating behaviours
7. Trust yourself
8. Consider yourself blessed
9. Know your strengths
10. Find your essence and your next step

We all know that being happy today is a daily challenge. Between our personal daily struggles, the challenges of those we are close to, and the hardships that are happening globally, it’s easy to fall to a place of sadness. And yet we still yearn and often times work towards a feeling of true happiness and inner peace, which is pure elation.

A person’s first and last love is self-acceptance. Have you ever wondered why happiness is considered as the most essential feeling? It is a feeling that we all feel. If we try to stay happy on a regular basis, there is a lot we can change in ourselves and bring out the positivity. There are many habits which people practice in their daily lives for staying happy, but there is this one habit which is related directly with our being satisfied with our lives, which we practice the least – and that is self-acceptance.
As Ayn Rand once said:

‘Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.’

C-Suite – is it time for a rethink and change?


I was discussing at a Non-Executive Directors meeting recently ‘the role of C-suite’ and whether C-suite are integrated enough to the business, to really drive change, transformation, effect the direction of growth and shareholders, or whether C-suite was too far removed from the business to really matter.

Harvard says that ‘a role of management in business services is to make average people exceptional…but you must have the information to know what exceptional looks like in your customer eyes.
In 2014, I attended a conference by one of the UK’s top business schools and wrote a blog, ‘What is Excellence in Business‘. There is a constant discussion on leadership, its value and where leadership fail to deliver and execute strategy and business development and growth.

The C-suite is considered the most important and influential group of individuals at a company. Being a member of this group comes with high-stakes decision making, a more demanding workload and high compensation. As “chief” titles proliferate, however, job-title inflation may decrease the prestige associated with being a member of the C-suite, but do the C-suite actually cause effect in an organisation that creates value to shareholders, customers and employees.

The next-generation C-suite must transcend functional boundaries to secure enhanced alignment and coherence, without defaulting back to the command-and-control arrangements of a bygone era.

So what is the answer?
In an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, companies are likely to rely more, not less, on the judgment of managers in making critical decisions and choices. A fundamental and unique role for most C-suites is the application of collective knowledge and experience in exercising judgment on the most critical issues—and enabling others in the enterprise to do likewise.

From the worlds of social psychology, behavioral economics, and most recently, neuro-science, a great deal has been learned about the reality of how humans make decisions, individually and in teams. It is typically a far less rational process than assumed. The power of heuristics and biases, the dangers of certitude, the risk of reliance on experts—these and other factors are well understood. But with the convergence of disciplines, and an increasing focus on techniques for better team-based and individual decision making, this is a field starting to move from the world of theory into the world of practice.

Then, there are the opportunities afforded by exponentially increasing access to hard data. The hype around big data reflects real promise in the form of greater transparency and insight, delivered through executive dashboards and powerful and intuitive visualization technologies. Judgment will never be replaced by data—but it will be increasingly supported. Access to sound information in close to real time can enable the C-suite to agree on necessary course correction, focusing on facts from the field rather than the specific (and sometimes competing) interests of different functions and executives.

But data are sometimes tortured to “reveal” whatever the interrogator wishes to learn: They do not always overcome inevitable cognitive biases. Two other opportunities for enhancing judgment come from the “softer” domain of social science. Few executive teams today are as diverse in their composition as their talent base and the markets they serve. But that is changing, with global experience and background becoming more highly valued, and the evidence mounting of the benefits of designing leadership systems to accommodate greater diversity.

Difference also brings challenges—of conflict, misunderstanding, and misalignment. Here, a great deal has been learned, and codified, about the skills that underpin productive dialogue. These are learnable skills that can transform the effectiveness and outcomes of senior executive communication and interaction—and some leading firms are already investing heavily in building such leadership capabilities.

The future
There needs to be an ongoing evolution of the C-suite and the critical integrative role it must perform are likely to have far-reaching implications across many firms. A recent Harvard Business Review article reports that some CEOs are already “double hatting” key executives, giving them significant responsibilities beyond their official jobs—for example, a functional chief leading an integrated operational initiative.16 Some specific “chief” roles are likely to evolve and grow. Relationships between leadership teams and boards will perhaps realign. Promotion paths to top leadership will likely take on some new contours. It is even possible that belonging to the “top team” will cease to be the permanent destination (which results in potential calcification of the team), but become a time-bound tour of duty for executives prior to returning to their own specialist areas.

It will be up to top leadership, too, to address the perennial challenge of balancing different time horizons. Top executives carry unique responsibility for both short-term performance and long-term stewardship of the firm. Intense pressure from capital markets for immediate results, coupled with a shortening average tenure for some senior executives (especially CEOs), have underscored the former in many Western corporations. Two factors are likely to enforce a more balanced perspective here. First, axiomatically, discontinuity demands anticipation—to avoid catastrophic and irreversible missteps. Second, in most industries, the competitive set now includes powerful new players who might secure advantage from a traditionally stronger orientation toward longer-term horizons, enabled by the more patient capital support of their state- and family-owned legacies.

Finally, one of the most profound changes in the years ahead might well come in the area of executive incentives and metrics designed explicitly to encourage more aligned and collaborative leadership, and to help ensure a balanced focus on short- and long-term imperatives.

So what is the conclusion:
If a company sticks with the C-suite model it probably has in place today, it might find it hard to remain competitive. The next wave of globalisation is bringing unfamiliar opportunities and challenges, along with increased diversity and complexity. These dynamics are intertwined with rapid technological change and fast-evolving business models, industry structures, and organizational forms. Plotting the course forward will test the limitations of the typical team of functionally oriented executives.

A key requirement for the next-generation C-suite will be the ability to secure alignment and coherence across multiple dimensions of essential change, without defaulting back to the command-and-control arrangements of a bygone era. Achieving deeper integration and coherence is unlikely to be achieved by C-suite 2.0 fragmentation—but neither will it be accomplished by a return to the smaller, tightly centralised C-suite 1.0 model. Boards and CEOs might make this a subject of discussion and debate, and come up with their own definition of their future C-suite 3.0.

As John Quincy Adams once said:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Do we forget our first love or how people have made us feel, or are we still in love?

love blogI have been having much debate with friends recently over the subject of ‘Love’ and whether we ever forget our first ‘True Love’. For some people, they will never truly experience ‘True or unconditional Love’ and for others there is a long distant memory of ‘True Love’. I love the quote by Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We all have experiences to share, some of you may have read my first book, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’. This book was published in 2014 and took me three years to write – chapter 5 of the book, named: ‘lessons of love’, focuses on my first true love and as Maya Angelou describes in her quote you never truly forget how you felt or how people have made you feel – or do you?

If you spend enough time reading advice columns, you notice a pattern. In the stream of sorrows and quandaries and relationship angst, one word bubbles up again and again. First. My first love. My first time. My first ever. And unlike all the relationships that came after, with this one, the past can’t seem to stay in the past.
Because long after it ends, our first love maintains some power over us. A haunting, bittersweet hold on our psyches, pulling us back to what was and what can never be again. Unless . . . ?
But why? Why should this one lodge in our brains any differently than the others, even when the others were longer, better, more right? They just weren’t quite as intense as the first.
The scientific research on this topic is thin, but the collective wisdom among psychologists says it’s a lot like skydiving. Meaning, you’ll remember the first time you jumped out of an airplane much more clearly than the 10th time you took the leap.

“Your first experience of something is going to be well remembered, more than later experiences,” explains Art Aron, a psychology professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook who specialises in close relationships. “Presumably there’d be more arousal and excitement, especially if it’s somewhat scary. And falling in love is somewhat scary – you’re afraid you’ll be rejected, you’re afraid you won’t live up to their expectations, afraid they won’t live up to yours. Anxiety is a big part of falling in love, especially the first time.”

So the relationship embeds itself in us in a way that all those who follow never can. Not that the subsequent loves aren’t as good. For most people, hopefully, the ones that come later, that last, are ultimately more nourishing, steadier and more solid. But this doesn’t stop anyone from clicking on their first love’s new profile picture when it pops up on Facebook. You know, just to see.

Nancy Kalish has spent more than two decades studying couples who reunite after many years apart. The psychology professor at California State University at Sacramento says that the key to understanding the power of first love is knowing how it shaped us. In your first instance of requited romance, everything feels new, “and together you decide what love is.”
Kalish says her research has found that when both parties to a first love are truly available when they reunite — either single, widowed or divorced — the relationships have a 70 percent success rate. But many of the people she hears from these days are heartsick, rather than happy. A survey she conducted two years ago found that two-thirds of the people who found their lost love were married at the time of the reunion.

Singer, the psychologist who studies memory, has one more theory about why the thought of a first love can remain so fresh and alluring, even after decades go by. Perhaps especially after decades go by.
“I think it’s not just about the other person. It’s about who we were at that time,” he says. “We’re relishing the image of ourselves. They give us license to be the person we were once again – young and vibrant and beautiful.”

Whenever and whomever it was, your experience with your first love is etched into your memory forever.
It’s your first taste of romance – that strange thing people always talked about in the movies that you finally really began to understand. It’s your first time experiencing yourself more selflessly than you ever thought you could be, feeling things you never thought you were capable of feeling toward anyone. Thoughts of a first love are ripe with emotions, be them good, bad or a complicated mixture of the two.
Regardless of how positively or negatively the experience unfolded, your first love influences how you approach romance in significant ways, even if you don’t realise it.

Normally when people talk about falling in love, they use words such as ‘I feel like I’m high,’ ‘I feel euphoric,’ ‘I can’t stop smiling’ — those kinds of very intoxicated types of feelings.
Some people might consider someone a first love if they felt a strong physical connection with that person – if they felt “swept away,” as Dr. Dardashti called it – but for most people, the strength of the emotions is what’s most important.
So, perhaps a first love really is the deepest. For one, first loves seem to help us craft our definition of love – which, as we all know, varies from person to person.
In that sense, perhaps a first love is the deepest in a literal way, creating a foundation upon which other relationships build themselves higher and higher like a skyscraper until that first love becomes completely out of reach, too far down to be touched.

“To tap into that state of love a little bit with your partner, see if you can look at him or her with those same eyes and tap into that state,” Dr. Dardashti said, is wonderful.

In conducting some in-depth research, I found 15 truths about love that we tend to forget when imagining our perfect relationship.

1. Love is a choice.
2. Love is not infatuation.
3. Love takes time.
4. Love requires patience.
5. Love takes work.
6. Love requires being present
7. Love is kindness.
8. Love for yourself is a prerequisite, before you can love another.
9. Love is not selfish and self-absorbed.
10. Love is being all in.
11. Love is never perfect.
12. Love is about being with someone you can be yourself around.
13. Love can take you by surprise…
14. Love is commitment.

I feel Tyler Knott Gregson sums up this weeks topic really well when he said;

“Somewhere someone thinks they love someone else exactly like I love you. Somewhere someone shakes from the ripple of a thousand butterflies inside a single stomach. Somewhere someone is packing their bags to see the world with someone else. Somewhere someone is reaching through the most terrifying few feet of space to hold the hand of someone else. Somewhere someone is watching someone else’s chest rise and fall with the breath of slumber. Somewhere someone is pouring ink like blood onto pages fighting to say the truth that has no words. Somewhere someone is waiting patient but exhausted to just be with someone else. Somewhere someone is opening their eyes to a sunrise in someplace they have never seen. Somewhere someone is pulling out the petals twisting the apple stem picking up the heads up penny rubbing the rabbits foot knocking on wood throwing coins into fountains hunting for the only clover with only 4 leaves skipping over the cracks snapping the wishbone crossing their fingers blowing out the candles sending dandelion seeds into the air ushering eyelashes off their thumbs finding the first star and waiting for 11:11 on their clock to spend their wishes on someone else. Somewhere someone is saying goodbye but somewhere someone else is saying hello. Somewhere someone is sharing their first or their last kiss with their or no longer their someone else. Somewhere someone is wondering if how they feel is how the other they feels about them and if both they could ever become a they together. Somewhere someone is the decoder ring to all of the great mysteries of life for someone else. Somewhere someone is the treasure map. Somewhere someone thinks they love someone else exactly like I love you. Somewhere someone is wrong.”