March 27, 2012

Here’s a link to a reduced version of my slides from last Friday’s IATEFL talk.

Thanks to Pedro and MacMillan for giving me the opportunity to speak at the event.


Here is a link to the talk I gave at the International House DoS Conference in January. Leadership tips from Muhammad ALi, Abraham Lincoln and Sir Alex Ferguson.




IH Milan Conference 2011

November 3, 2011

Here’s a link to slides and video from my talk at the IH Milan Conference 2011



Useful Apps: MindTools

November 1, 2011

There seems to be general agreement between people who know me – that if there is any mind out there that needs additional help – it’s mine. So, thank God for MindTools.

The MindTools website is a treasure trove of useful management, career and thinking tips.

The Mind Tools app brings you a great selection of these articles – and is now available for the iPad…And it’s free!

What more could you wish for?

There are articles on everything from French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power (could anyone see that title and not want to read it…immediately?) to anger management (unfortunately the article is about controlling your anger – not how to merge your temper with your newfound knowledge of the Five Forms of Power) to something tantalisingly called SCAMPER.

Download the app and explore!

Here’s a link to the website – www.mindtools.com and to get the app – iTunes

I have dark secrets.


Once, when I was about 10 years old, I bought my mother some perfume as a gift only to swap it on the way home with a friend for a parachuting Action Man…Come to think of it perhaps my friend has some dark secrets too…

There are others.

I cheat at sudoku, for example.

I used to be a member of the Queen fan club…The group – not the woman on the stamps.

But as a manger who prides himself on being anti-paperwork, perhaps most shocking of all is the admission that I regularly use checklists.

I know. It’s bad.

However, having read Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, I feel it may finally be safe to admit it in public.

I couldn’t function without them, because, you see, I was born with a special condition – I have absolutely no memory for anything that might be remotely useful. The names of minor characters in Judge Dredd comic stories that I read over 25 years ago? No problem. The theme tunes of TV shows cancelled decades ago? easy-peasy. The three things I have to take intongfg a lesson? not a chance? The two pieces of paper I always need in a teachers’ meeting? You’re having a laugh, aren’t ya?

Gawande’s fascinating book isn’t about teaching but focuses instead on how easy it is for medical professionals to miss routine steps in complex procedures. Mistakes that literally cost lives. The introduction of checklists – as opposed to investment in training, etc., – has proven to be highly effective in avoiding such issues and has saved countless lives.

Luckily those of us in educational management are not facing the same pressures as surgeons, however, some simple checklists can help us become more efficient and effective in our jobs.

They take a few seconds to glance over, but I have found them the best tool for getting round my memory difficulties.

I will share some of the checklists I use over the next few weeks, I know, You can hardly contain your excitement, can you? Fell free to add your own!

Living in Italy has taught me that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next. Clothes, for example – Most of my Italian friends would look good in a shell suit. Whereas I’d manage to make an Armani suit look scruffy.

Smiles, are another thing. You’d think they’d work for everybody – and then you come across a picture of Gordon Brown – and well, no, you realize that they don’t always work, do they?

Oh – and team-building games. I’m amazed that people actually seem to enjoy them –how you could possibly create a bond with someone who’s  just sellotaped themselves to a beach ball is beyond me. Personally, I’d rather watch the entire series of Sister Act films than do any kind of team-building…mmm, on second thoughts – pass me that masking tape…

I’ve just started reading StandOut by Marcus Buckingham and I’ve been reminded that what’s true of apricot-coloured jeans is also true of management techniques. One style does not fit all.

In the book Marcus shares the story of a manager who turned a failing store round when he gave ‘everyone a whistle and told them to blow the whistle whenever they saw anyone do anything good.’ Can you imagine? However, the store went from the bottom to the top of the performance tables. Marcus makes the astute point that this doesn’t mean that we should all rush out and get the whistles in. Heaven forbid. The whistle was an important factor – but equally important was the personality of the manager himself. In the hands of another that motivating whistle could quickly become an instrument of torture.

I like to think of my management style as not-necessarily-too-organised-pretty-relaxed-bordering-on-the-David-Brent-let’s-cross-our-fingers-and-see-what-happens approach to getting things done. I’ve come to realize that not everyone rolls that way.

My great hero, football manager Alex Ferguson, achieves a lot through the effective use of anger. I’ve tried this – and failed miserably. People laugh. I go a bit red, can’t get my words out, and generally look as if I’m about to start crying. People point. And they laugh.

Equally, I can’t see Alex Ferguson playing dice games with Ryan Giggs to see ‘who gets the coffees in’ – but I think that particular game is one of my most effective management tools.

If you’re not authentic, people are going to see through you. It’s great to look around and see what management tips you can steal – but if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.

For more on StandOut visit http://standout.tmbc.com/gui/

Top Podcasts: Manager Tools

September 6, 2011

On a recent visit to my office, a friend happened to see my computer while I was updating the podcasts I listen to. He looked at the screen, did a double take and then –  with a distinct tone of amusement in his voice – he said, “Good Grief, Mike. How many podcasts can one man listen to?” –  then needlessly he added – “Get a life!”

I now keep my laptop hidden whenever I’m updating.

Still, despite my friend’s mockery, I thought it’d be useful to share some of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis (Number one is The Guardian’s Football Weekly, but I’m not sure that’s too relevant here).

I’ve mentioned it many times, but my favourite for management is the Manager Tools podcast.

If I’ve managed to learn anything at all over the last five years, a lot of the good stuff has come from listening to Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman’s weekly discussions – punchy, provocative and packed with good practical advice.

Their goal is to help you become an effective manager. Their advice is often challenging –  and sometimes raises an eyebrow. But I’ve found it works for me.

Manager Tools

Recent casts cover –

  • One-on-one meetings with team members
  • Managing your calendar
  • Coaching

Worth downloading!

More podcast recommendations to come….