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Posts from the ‘Personal Achievement’ Category

Business leaders to be inspired and challenged by Alastair Campbell and ASDA’s David Smith: ‘Winning and building a high performance culture’

November 23rd, 2016





London based business leaders join Academy for Chief Executives at key ‘Unlocking Potential’ event aimed at inspiring and challenging leaders’ mindset

Alastair Campbell, communications director to Tony Blair, will share his thoughts and experiences around creating a winning mindset at a keynote conference of business leaders brought together by the Academy for Chief Executives.

He is joined on the platform by David Smith who, as people director and part of the Asda board, led the failing grocers to become a highly profitable 170,000 employee business, doubling its market share and subsequently being sold to Walmart for £15bn and voted Sunday Times ‘Best Place to Work’

The conference in the City of London on Thursday 24th November; ‘Winning and building a high performance culture’, is part of a major series of ‘Unlocking Potential’ events hosted by the Academy for Chief Executives, one of the UK’s leading coaching and leadership support groups for senior executives.

Alastair Campbell will set out a blueprint for winning which can be used by all business leaders to achieve more and be more successful. His unique access to the world’s elite in business, sport and politics led him to write ‘Winners and how they succeed’. He identifies that the most ‘winning winners’ are sports people and he says:

“..what few people in business and politics ever do is really try to learn from how the best in sport get to be the best and stay the best…… To be brutally frank, as the waves of change lap around us and the lapping feels like it may turn to a lashing and then a hurricane, the challenges at home and abroad at times make it feel as though a perfect storm is brewing, I think we need to [learn].”

David Smith will share some of the key principles in creating high performance cultures that can be implemented into any business to help it grow. He deployed seven key elements to change the culture and performance of Asda and he shares and reinforces the need for any business leader to adopt consistency if they are to grow their business.

Tony Carey, Chief Executive of New Chase Homes Limited specialist house builders with a significant growth target to increase their annual build targets by around 300% over the next four years and who is also a group member of the Academy for Chief Executives says:

“I’m very curious to hear from both Alastair Campbell and David Smith. Both have powerful track records which speak for themselves – I want to meet the men and get a feel for their character. I’m fascinated that Campbell appears to sit in the background and supports others to win. I’m keen to know how that impacts on him and where and how he sees himself as a winner.

“As with all my Academy for Chief Executives’ experiences, I’m expecting this to be a really valuable event for both me and my business and hope to take much learning from it.”

Vince Tickel, Group Chairman of the Academy for Chief Executives in Central London said:

“In business I always learned by watching the way someone better than me performs. By copying them and what they do I find it makes a massive difference to me and my business performance.

“Here we have two highly experienced leaders sharing key insights they have learned over decades boiled down and shared in bite-sized chunks that can be taken away and implemented to help get you as a business leader, and your business, to the next level. That’s what our work at the Academy for Chief Executives is all about, helping successful leaders become more successful.”

The event is to be held at Blake Morgan, New Street Square London EC4A 3DJ. Further information is available from Lizzie Stuart-Bennett

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For further information, please contact:

Karen Gray :: 07976 841123


The Academy for Chief Executives is one of the UK’s leading coaching and mentoring organisations for senior executives. With more than 30 groups nationwide it aims to improve lives by unlocking the potential of every business leader.

Brexit; Stop, Pause, Plan, Implement. Repeat.

June 28th, 2016


What is your plan text is written on blue paper with a red marker aside.MEDIA RELEASE

Brexit; Stop, Pause, Plan, Implement. Repeat. 

“You are being watched. As a leader your influence has a magnified effect…

Your personal response to Brexit will serve you into the future… and develop resilience… unexpected events simply lead us to find unexpected solutions.”

Ian Price, CEO, Academy for Chief Executives

Ian Price, CEO of the Academy for Chief Executives emphasises the value and importance of a thoughtful plan and choosing our attitude before, as leaders, we respond to the unexpected and change:

“So it’s out then. I’m sure I wasn’t alone, rubbing my eyes in disbelief on Friday morning, digesting the result of the EU Referendum.

“It was, we thought, unlikely, unexpected and, as a result for many, unforeseen.

“Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works for business owners and managers throughout the UK.

“It will fall to each one of us to make good decisions in the hours, days, weeks and months ahead as we each, in our own way, make our contributions to keeping the economy’s wheel’s turning.

“We are facing, what most of us agree is, unexpected change. We know change is challenging.

“Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general summed up the feelings of UK plc on Friday morning: ‘Businesses are used to dealing with challenge and change and we should be confident they will adapt. We need strong and calm leadership from the government, working with the Bank of England, to shore up confidence and stability in the economy.’

“It’s not just our political leaders and senior bankers who need to be strong and calm. We’ve all had times when ‘landscape’ suddenly shifts around us – the shorthand we often use is ‘crisis management’.

“Over the years we have spent a great deal of time in the Academy for Chief Executives considering the characteristics of a crisis – ergo proven, effective ways to tackle and respond to unexpected change.

“I can think of few better moments to share our tried and tested collective views as we each embark on our journey to steer through the choppy waters ahead:

  • First; stop, take a deep breath, have a cuppa and be prepared in the immediate short term to do nothing. Snap reactions are often, not always, to be avoided in crisis situations.
  • Then gather your resources. Get your team and tools together. Establish the current status of the situation. What’s going on? What does it mean? And what courses of action are open to us?
  • Establish initial priorities and actions with input from as many relevant sources as possible.
  • Define your purpose clearly. Make it a cause that everyone can understand and rally around, each knowing their role and responsibility.
  • Maintain focus on this purpose. This may be a re-affirmation of your existing purpose or this ‘what’ may have been adapted or changed.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! Remember – it’s the ‘why’ you need to keep foremost in your and your business’ mind. Businesses with a strong and clearly defined purpose survive and thrive.
  • Keep consulting, keep reviewing and keep communicating on where you are, your progress and where you need to get to. Involve everyone: your team, your suppliers your customers and your allies and keep on communicating. Listen to what they have to say to you too.
  • Make it real – track everything against your timeline, what needs to happen, who is responsible and by when.
  • Finally, be an ‘embracer’ of the change. You are being watched. As a leader your influence has a magnified effect. Your attitude will be critical. Choose your attitude carefully.

“My final thought is this. Your personal response to Brexit will serve you into the future. Being prepared to challenge and be challenged is what keeps us fresh and successful. Businesses that embrace change positively develop resilience; they are fleet of foot and equipped to respond calmly and successfully to the unexpected.

“Remember unexpected events simply lead us to find unexpected solutions.”

  • ends –

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For further information please contact

Glenn Watkins 07714 246509

Karen Gray   07976 841123

Nicola Hunt  07976 934342


The Academy for Chief Executives is a leading executive coaching and mentoring organisation working with business leaders and their teams throughout the UK.

Member companies collectively turnover £3.5 billion per annum and on average employ 75 people each.

In Search of your Real Purpose

May 27th, 2016


38308By Jeremy Marchant
If you don’t know what the purpose of your business really is, and you don’t know what the outcomes are that you want to have happen as a result of trading, then you will find it hard to be compelling, or even comprehensible when you talk about your business.It’s important to recognise that it doesn’t actually matter what the purpose of your business is, provided it makes sense to you and you feel confident about discussing it with other people. There are no wrong answers. However, a given business could choose from a variety of purposes and the key thing is to choose a purpose which is useful to the business.

Case study
A client business of mine provides IT support to SMEs. They do it well, are liked and trusted by their clients and the business is profitable. We were discussing their five year plan, for which knowing what the business is about is pretty important.

Now, many business owners, if they’re asked what the purpose of their business is, will answer “to make money” (or similar). There isn’t anything to object to in that answer other than to ask “is it a useful purpose?”, “is it helpful?” But, suppose a business wanted to make more money. There is nothing in that description of purpose which would give a clue how to do that.

A more useful approach would be to consider “making money” as an entirely valid outcome of achieving their purpose.

My client said the business’s purpose was “to provide high quality support within the terms of the service level agreement”. An interesting answer – but is it a good purpose? It certainly could be a valid purpose, but surely it is a description of what the business does. It’s the thing they do which, if they do it well, will achieve their purpose.

In the end, they decided that the purpose of their business was: to enable their customers to continue to trade in the event of a technical failure.

That was the problem their customers paid them to solve, or better, to avoid. Whether the client was running an online shop, or they needed to print a proposal to send to a prospect, if the computer went down, there would be an adverse effect on the business.

With this definition of their purpose, it was easy to see how they could grow the business, and they soon moved into providing telecommunications support.

Purpose may not be what you think it is
It is essential not to confuse purpose with outcomes. The outcomes, or objectives, of a business or project are the things we want to have happen as a result of achieving the purpose of the project: they aren’t its purpose.

A purpose is the answer to the question, “why are we doing this?” Clearly, by this token, “increase sales”, for example, is really an outcome. But how often do we answer the question, “what is the purpose of X?”, with “to achieve outcome Y”? As in, “What is the purpose of my business?” Answer, “To make money”.

A very good exercise goes as follows: if you answer that the purpose of X is A, then ask yourself, isn’t A really an outcome? Even if you don’t think it is, ask yourself, if it were an outcome, what would the purpose really be?

The third component to this model is: actions.

The actions are what you say in a meeting, do in a business, and so on, which are designed to achieve the purpose which – if it is achieved – will secure the outcomes.

In the case study above, the business originally mistook “to provide high quality support within the terms of the service level agreement” as its purpose when, of course, it is the actions they take to achieve some other purpose. That purpose being “to enable their customers to continue to trade in the event of a technical failure”.

There is an implied point that the reason the business was successful was that it provided “high quality support…” etc well.

In summary, the business:

  • provided IT support services to SMEs (the actions),
  • so that their clients could continue to trade in the event of an IT failure (the business’s purpose)
  • which resulted in healthy profits, growth of the business, nice cars parked outside and so on (the outcomes).

Important. The purpose of a meeting, say, is likely to be different from your purpose in attending the meeting, which is likely to be different from others’ purposes in attending. These are unlikely to be the same. If this isn’t acknowledged, the meeting will be rambling, unfocussed, unnecessarily long and possibly an unpleasant experience.

Tips on defining purpose and outcomes

1. Any business, project, job, meeting, conversation, holiday, etc, can have only one purpose at any one time. If it looks as if there are two, then one of three things is the case:

a) the purposes are in fact the same thing, but expressed differently

b) one purpose is a subset, a special case, of the other so, again, there is only really one purpose

c) the business, or whatever, is literally at cross purposes. It is like a sledge being pulled by two teams of huskies, each in a different direction. At best, progress is slow and, in all probability, people end up by being torn by conflicting demands, creating stress and inefficiency.

2. There can be more than one outcome at a time.

3. The business can have a purpose and outcomes and you can have a purpose and outcomes, which will almost certainly be different. It’s important to define both and, particularly for business owners, not to confuse the individual’s purpose with that of the business.

4. Purpose and outcomes don’t have to be ‘clever’ or ‘unique’. In fact, the more simply they are stated, the better.
Jeremy Marchant
Jeremy Marchant ThumbnailAfter a corporate career with BT, Marks and Spencer and in IT consultancy, Jeremy Marchant joined international coaching firm, Shirlaws. He later set up his own coaching business and, after a few years, launched the emotional intelligence at work brand. He is a certified NLP master practitioner and is a partner in Synatus, a nationwide group of some 150 senior level consultants, interim managers, coaches and trainers.


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A Reason for Being

May 27th, 2016



by Clive Wilson

Everything in life has its purpose. Purpose is the force that keeps all of life growing, creating and thriving. When life steps out of line with purpose, or fails to adapt to changing contexts, unintended outcomes result. In the worst cases life declines rapidly and ultimately dies. So it is with organisations. Those that are purposeful have the energy to create and grow, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.
Organisations that lose their way tend to fragment, become chaotic and may end up as prey for predators.A stated purpose serves to inspire and focus an organisation’s efforts and those of the teams and people that make up its workforce. But we need to be careful. A stated purpose will also create boundaries, some of which may be helpful and some may be severely limiting.In 2010, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development conducted a study to find out whether a shared sense of purpose was useful to organisations. What it found, in a nutshell, was that employees are motivated less by profit and more by being of service to customers or society. Where profit was perceived as the primary purpose, a third of respondents said that they were actually demotivated that their hard work and efforts were going into the pockets of investors and owners. In contrast, in organisations whose main purpose is to add value to customers, six out of 10 agreed that ‘by focusing on customers, in the long run we are benefiting ourselves’.

The situation was also improved when organisations had balanced the interests of all stakeholder groups, including investors and owners. Moreover, there is clear evidence that organisations with a sense of purpose outperform those where purpose does not permeate throughout. This outperformance is in terms of employee satisfaction and engagement indicators as well as financial and service delivery.

So for me the formula is simple:

Alignment = strength and focus = energy reinforced consistently = results and success 

It seems to make sense, then, to articulate the purpose of our organisation. But if we really want to inspire energy and maximum performance, we have to craft our statement in a way that will touch the hearts of the people we most need to motivate.

What is Purpose?

Purposeful people are easy to spot. They seem energised, focused and attentive. At the same time they exude an air of confidence, being less affected by the trivia that gets those who are less purposeful down. And the same is true of an organisation: its purpose is both its very reason for its existence and that imponderable ‘something’ that inspires resolve and determination from its people.

Purpose is a powerful strategic anchor. Compared with other aspects of strategy, including the corporate vision, purpose is relatively stable. Its essence may shift a little and, as such, should be kept under strategic review but, for most organisations, the purpose may change little for many years.

But that’s not to say that it is set in stone. Purpose is context-driven. This is vitally important. As human beings, we move in numerous contexts and so have numerous purposes – bringing up children; being a partner, friend or colleague; serving our organisation and profession; and so on. Some of these purposes will come and go and some may be with us for most of our lives.

Even within the relative constant of our organisation, our context may shift. As the market changes, our purpose may change. One of my clients began life making bicycles in the 19th century. It now makes ducting for nuclear power installations. Another started as a coal merchant and transitioned into international removals and storage.

And as well as being context-driven, purpose is also stakeholder-driven – it changes depending on whose eyes we are looking through. For example, customers may see the purpose of the organisation being about the provision of excellent services; owners, investors and shareholders about maximising their investments; staff about earning a wage to provide for their families and having meaningful work to do that inspires them; and communities about providing all the above in such a manner as to maximise positive impact and minimise negative impact.

This means that we need to strike a balance. Neglecting one stakeholder at the expense of another puts the organisation at risk. We only have to look at the demise this century of the many organisations that placed undue emphasis on shareholder profit or directors’ bonuses at the expense of the needs of other stakeholders, especially those of their customers.

So while we need to consider all stakeholder needs – and doing so represents a fantastic opportunity to grow an understanding between us and them – we still need to ask ourselves this: ‘What is our primary reason for existence? What are we fundamentally here to do?’

For most organisations, the answer is likely to be about providing a specific service or set of services for a particular customer base in a cost-effective way. The reason that this purpose may well be the primary purpose is that all other purposes hang off this one. Without this purpose, there is no employment for our staff and no return on our investment. It is therefore likely to be a statement that all parties can sign on to and be proud of.

Crafting (I use the word deliberately) the declared purpose of our organisation is a real art and worthy of our time and energy. We should bear in mind that our espoused purpose will have a significant impact on performance. In other words, as far as our businesses are concerned, it is probably the most important sentence or paragraph that we will ever write.


Clive Wilkinson ThumbnailClive Wilson is an author and a board director at Primeast, a consultancy that has been promoting purposeful leadership since 1987. He is a facilitator and executive coach and happy to engage audiences on the subjects of purposeful leadership and sustainable development. This extract from his book Designing the Purposeful Organization is ©2015 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd. You can get a 20% off the book at using the discount code HRDPOS


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Leadership, Emotion and Purpose

May 26th, 2016



By Chris Burton

If you want your people to perform at their very best, collaborate effectively, pull together but still show initiative and stick with it no matter how hard it gets, it all comes down to three simple factors:

  1. Having trust in those around them;
  2. How they feel about the job they do; having a strong sense of pride and purpose;
  3. How they feel about the people they work with.

Everything we experience, whether at work or in our personal life, gives rise to emotions which we then interpret (make sense of) and give meaning to. The interpretations we make are based on a number of considerations; our own beliefs, values and attitudes as well as the organisational context. It appears that for the vast majority of us the three factors listed above give rise to the strongest emotions and perceptions and that’s why they play such an important part in keeping us motivated and performing at our best. There’s plenty of other contemporary research which explains why this should be the case.

We all have a basic human need to trust. And when trust exists great things can happen. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey demonstrates that in organisations with high levels of trust, things can happen up to 60% faster than in low trust organisations. This trust “dividend” means that in business, when trust increases speed also increases and costs fall. Conversely, lower levels of trust incur a “tax” of decreased speed and increased costs.

There is an extensive body of research demonstrating the link between how people feel about the work they do and their respective levels of motivation. If we feel that our work has value and purpose and we are making an effective personal contribution, this has a huge impact on levels of self and team motivation.

It’s the Relationships, Stupid
But enjoying our work and having a sense of pride in what we achieve isn’t enough to deliver the very highest levels of motivation and engagement; there’s an old adage that we join a company for the job and leave for the people. Relationships then are the glue that binds us together and see us through the toughest of challenges; in the face of adversity, ambiguity and uncertainty it’s the strength of our relationships and the breadth of our personal network that keeps us steady.

Studies have found that the more socially connected people are, the better they tend to perform. But very few organisations actually do very much to proactively encourage stronger relationships at work – which brings us neatly back to the role of leaders.

When things are easy and life is comfortable it’s easy to ignore weak leadership; mediocrity can be tolerated because the impact weak leaders have on those around them is less obvious. I’ve witnessed this myself in organisations of all shapes and sizes when (perhaps because of strong market conditions) things are going well; leaders being largely ignored by the people they’re supposed to lead, and even worse the leaders know they’re being ignored and don’t really care. Everyone just keeps their heads down, quietly gets on with things and ignores the problem. But the
problem comes rushing to the surface the moment there’s a crisis.

When things are tough, strong leadership is required. The actions and behaviour of leaders is seen through a magnifying glass which highlights every small imperfection and their impact on those around them becomes immediately apparent.

Regardless of organisational intent, it is the leaders, who either create an environment where people can build strong relationships based on trust and take pride in what they do, or who will constrain potential and performance through their own actions and behaviour. In his book ‘The New Leaders’, Daniel Goleman describes “resonant” leaders as being attuned to people’s feelings, able to channel their own positive energy into the rest of their team. Most of us are extremely receptive to the emotions of others; this is because our brain’s emotional system is an open loop, designed specifically to pick up, and reflect, the emotions of those around us.

In the workplace we constantly watch our leaders and managers for emotional cues and we reflect these emotions and copy their behaviour often at a subconscious level. Leaders who recognise this and create positive resonance achieve high levels of motivation, performance and engagement. Daniel Goleman calls these leaders “High Impact Leaders”.

High Impact Leaders are highly self-aware and recognise the impact their actions and interactions have on others. This knowledge enables them to inspire trust and build strong relationships, ensuring that the people they work with understand the value and purpose of their work, instilling a sense of pride in what they do. This more than anything achieves engagement and creates a positive environment where people want to achieve their best, and are able to do so.

What this means is that a ‘great place to work’ isn’t about the building you go to each day for work, the office you sit in or the benefits you receive; it’s simply loving what you do and who you do it with. And that’s something that with the right leadership, everyone can enjoy.


Chris Burton ThumbnailChris Burton is a leading consultant in the field of organisational behaviour and leadership development and leads the Work Life Motivation programme at t-three consulting. This excerpt is adapted from his research into the factors which most influence motivation and engagement when things get really tough, which interviews and surveys conducted with soldiers returning from active service in Afghanistan.


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The Science of Success

November 19th, 2015


 11-002By Brian Mayne

“If you think you can, you can”! Hearing seemingly simple quote by Henry Ford turned out to be the greatest turning-point of my life.

I was 30 years old when I first really heard those words. I had heard the saying before, of course, as I expect you have, but I had not understood the great depth of wisdom that it represents.

At the time I was unemployed, my family business had gone bankrupt, I was £1,000,000 in debt, my home had been repossessed and my wife had left me.

On top of all that I had grown up in a travelling fun-fair family and never attended a regular school. I struggled with learning problems and dropped out of education at 13 with no qualifications and barely able to read or write. Despite this, I did enjoy success through my teens and into my twenties with the family entertainments business and disco I operated with my brother. But when this all came to an end in the early 1990s, my life came crashing down.

It was at this seemingly dark hour in my life, when I thought I had lost everything, that a light shone and I discovered the greatest treasure: I was introduced to the science of positive-thinking and the art of effective goal-setting.

We hear a lot about the benefits of positive thinking and the importance of setting goals, but few of us understand the science behind positive thinking or receive proper training in effective goal-setting.

When you choose to focus your mind on the positive, whether about yourself, your life, or any aspect of it, you help trigger the release of a feel-good chemical in your brain called serotonin. As well producing positive emotions, serotonin is also the chemical that helps to form more connections between your brain-cells, which in turn helps you to use more of your brain.

In recent years, science has made amazing new discoveries about how the brain works. However, the fundamental principles of positive-thinking and success have been known for thousands of years.
In the 3rd Century BC, the Indian sage Patanjali said: ‘When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover you are a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.’

The above statement was true more than 2000 years ago when Patanjali wrote it. It continues to be true now. And it will still be true in another 2000 years. It is an example of a ‘fundamental truth’ and fundament truth is eternal.

The latest area of neuro-science is called ‘neuro-placidity’ and is all about how flexible the brain is. It shows that when you set a ‘compelling goal’ your brain-cells respond and are stimulated to make new connections that support you in the achievement of your goal.

Scientists continue to debate and discover which parts of the brain do what. However, it has long been understood that we have two halves to our brain and generally the left-brain is predominantly logical and the right-brain is more creative. We all think in both ‘words’ and ‘pictures’. We are each able to hold a vision of our desired destination with our right-brain, and make a logical plan of how to get there with our left-brain. We can each choose to be our own leader as well as our own manager. And to be truly effective in our life, we need to use both.

Positive thinking and goal-setting are a virtuous circle because they stimulate you to use more of your brain, and by using more of your brain you find answers to your problems. Meanwhile, through the release of the feel-good chemical serotonin, you also find the courage to face your fear and the motivation to take your new idea and take a brave step forward towards putting it into practice.

It was through this realisation, coupled with setting myself a goal, that I gradually stimulated the brain-cell connections that helped me overcome my dyslexia and learn to read well. Learning to read at 30 years old was such an amazing experience that I dedicated myself to learning as much personal development and practical brain science as I could. I re-educated myself in the school of life and applied the principle of success I discovered to pay off my debts and build a new life for myself teaching others what I had learnt.

Now, 20 years later, my books have been translated into many languages and I travel the world sharing my whole-brain activation systems for success. In particular Goal Mapping has reached millions of people, helping them to turn their dreams into realities.

The system works because of its unique combination of words and pictures that stimulate whole-brain activity and command the subconscious autopilot to move you towards the achievement of your goal.

More than 900 teachers, trainers, coaches and therapists of all type have chosen to become Certified in teaching the Goal Mapping system around the world.

Goal Mapping has reached more than 3,000,000 people helping business to hit targets, boost grades in schools, sports people to win medals, and support people in their goals to improve their wellbeing.

But the greatest prize gained in any form of goal-setting is the self-growth that people experience through the pursuit of their compelling goal.

My life changed 20 years ago when someone taught me how to set goals. To this day I am grateful and have dedicated my life to teaching it to others.

My mission is to help seven million people with the Goal Mapping system, and share the fundamental truth that: ‘If you think you can; you can’.


Brian MayneBrian Mayne has travelled a path that has led from gypsy origins to the amusements industry and through to corporate training, education and the world of personal development. As chairman of Lift International Brian is now actively involved in the process of developing and delivering the very finest empowerment material available. You can create your own Goal Map and learn about teaching it to others



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Case Study: Silence is Golden

July 3rd, 2015


Glenn Watkins

Glenn Watkins – Chairman Academy 88 & Academy 08

Glenn Watkins is Chair of Academy 88 and Academy 08 which cover North and West Central London, Watford and Harrow. In May, he sat on the panel of London’s first ever Mindfulness Summit for business leaders in London.

Last autumn Glenn decided to sign up for an intensive meditation retreat in early June as one of his personal goals for 2015. The programme took place in a 22-acre property in deepest Herefordshire, set in beautiful wooded grounds.

The meditation technique used is called Vipassana and dates back 2,500 years ago. It is agnostic, non-religious and non-dogmatic, a pure form of meditation. And there was no talking for the 10-day duration of the course. We had to find out more.

When did you first become interested in meditation?

Discovering and practising meditation 15 years ago has enabled me to more fully experience and enjoy the varied aspects of my life, including business. I love the feeling of calm energy, deep creativity and “connectedness” that kicks in when I choose to practice regularly and live a more mindful existence.

Why did you decide to invest in the retreat?

As Academy Chairs, we are always thinking about how to stretch ourselves. If I can model that for myself then I can model and share my learning with members and other Chairs. One of the wonderful things about the Academy is that we have always embraced the softer skills as part of a holistic approach. As an Academy Chair, you have to be a model member.

This means always being open and ever receptive to new learning and different ways of doing things. I call this AOA or Always on Awareness. We are about healthy leader/healthy business, growing leader/growing business, more mindful leader/more mindful team. Whilst I have embraced mindfulness, I am also a very KPI-focused, hard number-crunchy type businessman. So for me it’s all about achieving a balance.



Why was no talking allowed on the retreat?

Actually there was no speaking, reading, writing or even eye contact nor any other kind of communication or interaction. It was explained that this was to help with focusing one’s mind. This also helped to create an environment where there was never a reason to hurry.

As an example, after two hours of meditation every morning I would walk into the dining room and immerse myself in the experience of eating breakfast in quiet contemplation. By fully placing my attention on the bowl of porridge, toast and herbal tea for a good half hour, it took the experience of breakfast to a whole new level. This was an opportunity for pure mindfulness and I really enjoyed this part of the day. All too often if I had been at home I would have bolted down breakfast or grabbed a banana to eat on the way out.

Ten days sounds like a long time – how did it feel when you were there?

By the third day I realised that it was time to really let go and embrace the process as I was in it for the long haul. Going with the flow is another way of describing it, being open to the best possible outcome without trying to control what happens.

So how does all of this apply in a business context?                            

Mindful practice can really help to set you up for the day. If things are not going your way or you have unexpected news to deal with, it enables you to draw a breath before a reaction and respond more calmly than you might otherwise have done. As leaders we are programmed to try to ‘fix’ people and problems. But when we pause, take a breath and stop and think, a more considered, constructive and more creative approach often emerges.

It’s also about how you want to show up every day and how you want to be seen by your colleagues and team. I want to be the best that I can be and continuous improvement is an important part of this process. As a leader I have a thirst for learning and appetite for sharing this insight and knowledge with others.

If we as leaders are having a bad day, it may give permission for others to do the same. However, if our minds are calm we can be fully present and in the moment and enjoy the interactions for what they are, whether that’s a board meeting, a sales meeting or a family meal.

What did you learn from all of this?

One of the key learnings for me was the importance of breath which is a pathway into the unconscious mind. Breathing is one of the things we that we take for granted, yet breath is about the only critical body function that unlike the heart of the liver, we can control if we choose to do so.

By placing attention on the breath, it is possible to sharpen the mind to access a sub-atomic cellular level within the body. It’s at this level that can change deeply engrained patterns by accessing the unconscious mind. This is done through an increased awareness of sensations and feeling in the body, be it pain, heat, a tingling feeling or an itch. But rather than react to that sensation, you sit with it, observe it and release it.

The teaching here is the law of nature; nothing stays the same, everything changes. It’s just all a moment in time. When you recognise this you can react differently and choose what to do next. If you train and sharpen the mind to be more aware of what’s happening at an unconscious level, it is possible to alter a lifetime of habits and patterns.

It can be quite technical to master this process and take great discipline and patience to continuously scan the body – with a clear mind – and observe the sensations for hours at a time.  However, the rewards more than made up for the investment of time and energy. All in all it’s quite a phenomenal space to experience.

One of the most rewarding insights was the deep feeling of gratitude that I felt about life and those around me. The whole experience gave me the opportunity to take stock of my life and to really appreciate and feel grateful for all that I have; family, business, friends, my Academy Group members. This gratitude has also inspired me to share my learning from the retreat. It has also motivated me increase my own personal meditation practice to an hour every day.

The combination of the quiet and reflective environment and the intensive focus on the Vipassana technique also acted as a catalyst for deep emotional memories to surface. There are many things that we suppress over the period of our lives often because they are too painful to deal with at the time. During the retreat I found situations and/or people I had suppressed for one reason or other surfacing in thoughts, emotions, pain or other sensations.

This was a great opportunity to resolve and release issues that had the potential to prevent me fully expressing my full authentic self. It’s hard to explain how profound the release of deep-rooted issues and engrained patterns is to experience. It really was a very deep and heart-felt release straight from the depths of my core beingness. As a result of this release, there was a wonderful sense of being more centred, more authentic than ever before.

Another key theme that emerged around day three or four was forgiveness. This was an intense opportunity to let go of baggage I had been carrying around and to forgive people (including family members) who had created a situation where I chose to feel angst in my life at some level.

Would you do it all again?

Yes! Next time I might go back for a shorter period to serve as a volunteer. This means that you get the opportunity to help the other students in a practical way by working in the kitchens, helping to clean or serving the food others. In this way, there is the opportunity to share the experience of those around you on the journey, whilst at the same time having access to the meditation sessions for one’s own self development.

Glenn WatkGlenn Watkinsins

Glenn’s passion for leadership development and entrepreneurial business growth have resulted in becoming a Chairman with the Academy for Chief Executives ( where, having “walked the talk” as a CEO member for seven years, he chairs groups for progressive leaders in London to accelerate growth in themselves and business.

Academy 88 and Academy 08 peer groups are a powerful yet practical experiential learning environment; members of the groups are guided on a journey to greater career fulfillment and inspired to achieve extraordinary business results.

A confidential safe space where objectives are identified, experience is shared and knowledge gained. Members work together to solve problems, elicit new ideas and make better decisions, while measuring and sharing the outcomes.

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Are You Over-Busy?

May 7th, 2015



By Pete Wilkinson

Life is very busy for most of us. That’s especially true if you’re running a business or part of an executive team. You probably have far more projects running than you can handle and I bet you also have far too many plates spinning. And with all this going on it isn’t just nice to take time out, it is absolutely essential.

Are you running at full pace and maybe still not getting the results you expected or desire? I would imagine if we were talking face to face right now you could tell me about all the things that you have to do and you would probably say there are not enough hours in the day.

The only way to manage this sort of situation is to take a little time out.

It may mean getting up a little earlier or taking time out during the day or even later in the day. But it is essential

Here’s how I do it. Take today for an example. I got up a little earlier and went for a run. Nothing too far. The sun was shining and I ran through some fields, around a quiet graveyard and back along the coast with the sun reflecting in the sea.

I let my mind relax. I took in fresh breaths of air and I looked around and took in the views. It may be for some reason that you haven’t run for a while and doing five miles is a little beyond you. Fair enough, then go for a walk, go for a ride, or just go outside and find a bench to sit on.

The key is to take some time out. Reflect, relax and rejuvenate.

After my run I felt more in control and I had a new perspective. I’d spent some time by myself without email, hearing the phone or hearing my name. I was able to refocus on what was really important.

What will you do differently from tomorrow, or even today? How will you take time out to reflect, relax and rejuvenate?

Setting a little time aside for you to keep focusing on what is important helps you be more and achieve more, whether that’s happiness, fulfilment, sales or profit. The key is to do something, however small, to ensure you get some time for you.

Here’s another time-saving approach that can help to achieve more without having to work an extra 10 hours a week.

I’ve been trying a new technique recently in order to be a little more focused in achieving one of my goals. You know what it’s like. You have lots going on, many projects and sometimes the important stuff just doesn’t get done. Often a good few days go by and you realise you haven’t made the progress you expected.

Go to a stationary supplier and buy some small white cards, about the size of a postcard. Think about one of your major goals or something you really desire. For me it was the persistence to complete my online course so that I can help people remotely.

Once you’re clear about what you want to achieve, take six cards and write your goal on each card.

You will be writing the same thing on each card. This will help you execute.

The next step is to place the cards around your home where you will see them. Mine are on the fridge, near where I get shaved, beside my alarm clock, in my car, on my office desk and inside my coat pocket.

I am now reading what I desire about 30 times a day and it is really helping me to be focused. When you start something new like this it is important to look for the first sign of success. When you find it concentrate on that and stay on task. If something is important to you it is worth a bit of work making it happen. So take action!


Pete WilkinsonPete Wilkinson is a coach, workshop leader and keynote speaker who works with executive teams and individuals to help them deliver consistently high performance results. He is passionate about helping people achieve more in a week than most do in a month. Find out more at


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Speaker Gems

December 30th, 2014



Ten incisive one-liners from the Academy’s roster of speakers

  1. A good one-liner gives us all the learning we need – think of it as a seminar in a sentence (Sue Cheshire)
  2. Get on with it – good plans executed today are better than perfect plans executed next month (Nigel Risner)
  3. People do what their managers review (Jeff Grout)
  4. Make sure that your purpose is bigger than your fear (David Hyner)
  5. The door to an individual’s motivation is locked from the inside (Ken Allison)
  6. If it comes from a plant, you can eat it. If it is made in a plant, then don’t eat it! (Marissa Peer)
  7. Assertiveness is the art of making a point without making an enemy (Jane Gunn)
  8. The best way to avoid exit interviews is to have great “retention meetings” (Jeff Grout)
  9. The more you know, the fewer your competitors are (Roger Harrop)
  10. You carry your own personal weather around with you (Nikki Owen)


Case Study: An Authentic Heritage

November 5th, 2014


Matthew Jones

John Jones first entered into the fine art industry in the 1960’s when he quickly discovered that he had an aptitude for making high-quality bespoke picture frames. It was not long before he was framing professionally for artists such as Francis Bacon and David Hockney, designing and producing museum-standard frames specifically to complement their work. In January 2012, John Jones was awarded an MBE as Master Framer for his services to the arts.

In the intervening decades, John Jones oversaw the expansion of his company into a leading international consultancy business specialising in the protection and presentation of works of art. But he never departed from the belief that the firm should be family-owned and family-run, bringing his sons, Matthew and Kristian, and sister, Kelly, into the business and handing its stewardship over to them when he retired as CEO in 2013.

In June this year, the company moved into its new north London HQ – a six storey warehouse incorporating design consultation, conservation, photography and print studios, plus workshops where artwork is fitted into frames that have been hand made at the John Jones wood mill in Hertfordshire. It also houses the John Jones Project Space, a not for profit exhibition space, part funded by the Arts Council England and Islington Council.

With its bare concrete ceilings, simple wood floors and plain, unadorned windows, The Arts Building reflects the key message that this is a business that values substance over image and is determined not to compromise on its values or the way the business is run.

As Matthew Jones, the eldest of the three siblings and managing director of the business, explains, the building may mark the start of a new era, but the legacy of his father is never far from the surface.

“It’s his name above the door of the new building and we have created something that he is proud of. He built this business on an authentic passion for being the best and delivering unequalled quality. Now that my dad is out of the picture in terms of the day-to-day running of the business,it’s up for us to continue this legacy,” says Matt.

It has also been part of the journey to recognise that the authenticity of our brand is based on our passion for high standards and refusal to compromise on quality. We are very conscious of the fact that it would be detrimental to the business to lower our standards or to compromise simply to meet a budget,” he continues.

Matthew is a member of Academy Group 88 and was also voted Academy Member of the Year for his contributions to his group and the strategy and actions he’s applying to John Jones.

“Our business can be very fluffy.  We are dealing with creatives – artists and art lovers.  Art is an incredible thing – you buy on impulse to collect and you hope that when buying that it will also become an asset that will increase in value. These decisions are based on a creative eye, intuition and even an emotional connection with the piece of art. So one important aspect of the culture of our business is that we are authentic, sensitive and in tune with these impulses.

But that doesn’t mean indulging every whim. Sometimes a creative tension emerges:

“Part of our role is to take people through an emotional journey in acquiring a piece of work – flat or sculptural and the creative process of how it can be installed in its new environment.  Our clients trust the pedigree of our brand and its heritage and so if a customer has a view but we don’t think that it is right – from a quality and/or aesthetic point of view – we will take a stand.”

And there are other areas where the tension between the commercial and emotional sides of the business can emerge.

“We get approached all the time to support charities, and whilst we would love to be able to help on every occasion, you have to remember that you cannot say ‘Yes’ to everything. This is where putting clear budgets in place for the year and sticking to them is important.

“My Academy Group leader, Glenn Watkins, has been instrumental in reminding me that at the end of the day, we are a business. One thing in particular that I have learned from my time at the Academy is the importance of knowing when to say ‘no’!

“In terms of the dynamics of working for a family business The Academy was very supportive in helping us through this transition. As a family we all went through the process of better understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how we can all work together to best effect. As a result there’s no doubt that we have grown stronger.

“It’s also all too easy to think that you think you know it all but actually talking through things it really helps. I am a big believer in reflections. If you are talking through where you are and where you want to be, there is encouragement to ensure that things are thought through in the right way.

“In our case it is clear that the brand, the heritage, the business are all intertwined and so it was essential that my sister, brother and I were all aligned through the process of transition now that my dad has stepped down from day-to-day responsibilities. It has also helped us to come together as a team as never before.”