A couple of new videos.
How to choose a coach, mentor, or business adviser.
How about starting a business?
A couple of new videos.
How to choose a coach, mentor, or business adviser.
How about starting a business?
By Mark VernonWednesday, 01 June 2011
Full article from Management Today magazine.
I'm not sure that I am doing anything differently, but both Cranfield School of Management (where I did my MBA) and Imperial College (where I read Electrical Engineering) are rising in the rankings this year. Imperial has risen fifth (or ninth) in the world according to the Times Higher Educational Supplement. This year in September The Economist wrote that the Cranfield Full-time MBA ranked 1st in the UK, 4th in Europe and 15th in the world.
Today we enjoyed some orienteering (I last did so when I was a teenager) and had decided to go to Polly's Tea Rooms in Marlborough for one of their famous cream teas. The orienteering took less time than we had anticipated, so we chose lunch instead. Polly's Tea Rooms have a great reputation, so we were looking forward to this with some anticipation.
When we arrived we were met by a sign which said, “Wait here to be seated.” A family of three were ahead of us in the queue and we wondered how long we would wait. Nobody attended to us to welcome us or give us an idea of how long the wait might be. Nobody seemed to have that role or to feel that such an action was important. Meanwhile we watched the bustle of waitresses clearing tables, and a queue of people alongside us waiting to pay for their table gradually reducing.
After what seemed like half an hour, but was probably five to ten minutes, and by which time there was a significant queue behind us, the waiter finished collecting money and told us we would have to wait a few minutes.
I suggested to him, probably more aggressively than I should have done, that it would have been nice to have been greeted earlier. When we were politely pointed towards a table a little later I wondered why we had all been queuing as there seemed to be quite a few empty tables around.
I found it interesting how this experience diminished our enjoyment of the restaurant. Does it take a lot to say “hello” to people rather than line them up like cattle? Perhaps what felt like a poor welcome was not intentional – maybe half the staff had phoned in sick, and the difficulty for service industries is that people rate them on the whole experience and not just on what they think their core product is.
Perhaps as I get older I become less tolerant, or perhaps I am just more aware of what good service can look like. I also find myself surprised at the number of businesses who do not seem to have a way of encouraging feedback from their customers. Good feedback provides testimonials that help with marketing. On the other hand complaints are a gift to draw attention to the way things can be improved, and to prevent the diminution of reputation and sales that can be caused by disatisfied customers.
When the meal came it was good – scampi and chips cooked to perfection – however next time I'm in Marlborough Polly's Tea Rooms will not be the place I have been looking forward to going, rather it will be one of a number of possibilites alongside the other pubs, hotels, and restaurants.
I sometimes wonder whether I am really a Quaker at heart. I like the way that they value, use, and are comfortable with silence. I like the way that they like to think things through rigorously and seek to live in a principled way. I like the way that they seek to make decisions by consensus and give those who disagree, but do not want to get in the way of a majority decision, the ability to “stand aside.”
So I read with interest a recent article, written in the light of the likely takeover of Cadbury in the UK, called “The Quaker Brand.”* Cadbury was one of a number of businesses set up by British Quakers in the 19th Century. The Quakers were keen to provide good working conditions for their staff, and a visit to their Bournville site in Birmingham is fascinating – and not just for the opportunity to eat lots of chocolate!
What interested me particularly in the article was that the reason that the Quakers became such good businessmen was because, being outside the Anglican Church, they were banned from universities (until the middle of the 19th centrury). This effectively excluded them from careers in law, science, or medicine – and of course their pacifism excluded service in the armed forces. There was also good networking within their religious community. These developments resonate with the Jew's dominance of financial activity in Europe in earlier centuries due to their exclusion. It is interesting to see the way in which the closing of doors to certain activity can shape whole communities in a way that brings benefit, although it can be (very) painful at the time.
I find it a scary thought that the focus of British intelligentsia on law, science, and medicine continues today to the detriment of creative industry. As I have sought to live out a vocation in the world of business for most of my working life, I also find it alarming that this establishment position was colluded with by the Anglican Church which in earlier centuries had a stranglehold on most of the education system. The Christian faith calls for a positive theology of work, but this perhaps explains why many (Church of England) churchgoers say that they find a complete absence during church worship of connection with, or affirmation of, their work.
Yes, maybe I am really a Quaker!
*The Week 30th January 2010
This week I heard some fascinating presentations about helping people to reach their full potential. The occasion was one of the regular get-togethers organised by the Institute of Business Consulting in South West Britain. The evening, yesterday, was hosted at At-Bristol by Veridian plc who wanted to tell us about their learning tool Freemind, designed by Tom Fortes Myer.
This is a collection of recordings on CD which individuals and organisations can use to get rid of the blocks to achieving their full potential. The underlying belief which Tom explained, and which I can agree with, is that performance = potential – interferences. So achieving potential is about getting rid of blocks. Before the talk I spoke to someone who had used Freemind. She spoke of how it had transformed her life since she started to understand that every situation she faced was an opportunity for her own development. That statement is, itself, transformative. by which I mean that it changed my own way of thinking.
The recordings are available on CD or by download from the Freemind web site, which includes some sample recordings free of charge.
Tom's talk was complemented well by a talk by Jan Childs of EQ4U about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and how it is much more important in the development of leaders than IQ. I recommend her book “Understanding Emotional Intelligence in 90 minutes,” which can be purchased from the web site.
Part of my own fascination is the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence. Spiritual Intelligence is to me about the uniqueness, connectedness, and vocation of human beings in creation – which embraces the growing desire amongst employees in particular and people in general for meaning and purpose in their work. I notice that Jan heads off in this direction in her book, particularly in the final chapter, and I see the Tom's approach to unlocking potential as drawing together the spiritual and emotional.
People seem to like to claim that important historical figures are on their side. One example is the way people will argue about whether Charles Darwin believed in God. The example I want to explore here is the “father of modern economics” Adam Smith.
I believe in business, in the sense that I see that trading is a way of creating wealth. This is one of Scotsman Adam Smith’s precepts. In his famous 1776 treatise, The Wealth of Nations, he wrote of his faith in self-interest. In using that language today, some of us may feel that self-interest is wise or inevitable: others may feel that the word is immoral. Adam Smith meant that he believed that, if a number of people were acting out of self-interest in developing their businesses, then society as a whole would become more wealthy and all would benefit. This is his concept of the invisible hand: he did not advocate self-interest, but he observed that it was commonplace and that more benefit seemed to come to society as a whole when people traded out of self-interest than when they sought instead to be philanthropic (there's a challenging thought). (By pursuing his own self interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good – WoN, 456).
It has been stated that the proof that wealth came through labour, through trade and not through hoarding gold, was seen in the growing wealth of countries such as the UK and America because at that time they saw growth through trade, whereas countries such as Spain which saw wealth as being about holding onto gold bullion languished.
I have been fascinated by the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr, Nobel laureate, whose work is depicted in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. In a captivating moment in the film, he watches some of his friends eyeing up women in a bar and suddenly declares, “Adam Smith is wrong!” His theory – the Nash Equilibrium – says that if people just work out of self-interest based on what other individual “players” are doing they will not produce nearly as good an outcome as if they collaborate with one another. In other words, trade may be good, but acting just as an individual player will not produce the best results.
Modern advocates of free trade derive their doctrine from Adam Smith. But will everyone benefit in a society that is just driven by free trade, by “the market,” whether they are totally self-interested or collaborate? There seems to be much disbelief today that free trade on its own is sufficient; there is a belief that certain groups of people need special care or protection.
So I was interested to read a speech given by Traidcraft founder Richard Adams to Durham University students. As an alumnus I read it in the Spring edition of the magazine Durham First that I was sent. Here is some of what he said.
The market is quite good at a number of things, as Adam Smith pointed out. It creates efficiency, it's good at encouraging profit-seeking behaviour, it delivers goods and services effectively to those who can afford to pay, and it created jobs for many, and wealth for some, in the process. But as we are finding out with a vengeance, it's not so good at recognising external costs like environmental damage and the exploitation of people and, given it's head, it will pursue profit to the wilder shores of greed and criminality. Smith recognised this and, being an Enlightenment professor of moral philosophy, assumed his market economics would be set within a moral framework.
So, 233 years on, how do we change the market? We make it grow up, give it values, a sense of responsibility, a conscience, a theology, a heart. This is what fair trade, sustainable development, ethical business is about.
This leads me back to my starting point, the significance of the context in which people set their theories, and the competing claims of modern commentators. Did Smith see market economics as set in a moral framework? And, whether he did or not, should we and how should we?
I’ve been impressed by a recent article in the magazine Engineering & Technology (5th May). It’s an extract by Steve Carter from his book “Road to Audacity.” He is a psychologist, fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, and makes three fascinating points about handling change, which seem to me to be a good framework and to apply more widely than just the present recession. Here’s my summary paraphrase.
Things never stay as they are, so we need to be as attached to the present as we would want to be to a building that is on fire! Leaders must not offer false comfort, but be honest about what is happening now. We need to be in fully in touch with reality, and this includes listening to our staff.
A MOTIVATIONALLY RICH VISION
So where to jump to? We can’t stay where we are; motivating people to avoid something does not work; and anyway if we avoid reality things may get worse not get better! We need to have prominently in front of us in our mind that which we are seeking to build. Know what you want to become, and be passionate about it.
A SMALL MANAGEABLE WORLD
If the vision, the desired change, seems to be too distant, people feel not motivated but powerless. Therefore there needs to be a focus on small steps, that is realistic goals in areas that people can make an impact (compare Stephen Covey's “Circle of Influence”). People need to be clear about how they can contribute. So the leader’s task is to present the reality, the vision, and also the plan for this leg of the journey.
Text of article here
Steve's profile at Apter International here
Philip Whyte, a guest columnist in the Times, is seeking to lay to rest the myth that Britain's manufacturing base has shrunk. This interests me because with an engineering background I enjoy manuafacturing, and also because recent “Credit Crunch” events should discourage us from being overly reliant on the finance sector.
He writes that manufacturing in Britain forms a larger proportion of GDP than in France of the USA, and that – before the recent recession – our industrial output was higher than ever. So, our industry has grown, but services have grown more, he writes.
Original article here.
Source: The Week, 21st March 2009.