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.



IH Milan Conference 2011

November 3, 2011

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



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/

Just a quick post to highlight an app I’ve been finding really useful. It’s called Pocket Informant HD.

I’ve used a variety of other apps to manage to-do lists and projects – Pocket Informant is the best one I’ve found for integrating to-do lists, project management and calendar functions.

It’s been especially built with David Allen’s GTD approach in mind.

For more information check out


In a previous incarnation I worked in a sales office. We were a venue that hosted staff parties, etc. (commonly know as a bowling alley). My finest moment came with a booking for over 200 people – That’s 200 people! Show me the money! I was flavour of the month – for days people high-fived me as I walked into work and strangers hugged me and said things like “way to go, Tiger!”

I deserved no less.

We drafted in extra staff for the big event – stocked the bar so that the fridges were bulging – turned away groups of potential customers, kids and their distraught families sent crying from our door. We didn’t need them – we had my 200 people coming in! Ten minutes before their arrival, Mike – my general manager – put on his best tie and brushed his hair. We headed for the main entrance trying to hide the pound signs in our eyes and we waited.

And we waited.

And waited.

It soon became apparent that I had written the booking down on the wrong day. The 200 weren’t coming.  Mike – my long-suffering boss – looked around at the venue that was devoid of customers but full of staff. Lots of staff. All on overtime. As his shoulders dropped I took the opportunity to leg it through the front doors.

I bought myself a can of beer on the way home. I sat on my bed- a lonely figure (where were the high-fives? where were the hugs?) – and there was only one thing I could do.

I slapped my hand to my forehead and shouted “Doh!”

What else could I do?

Proof – as if any were needed – that Homer Simpson is indeed the world’s greatest teacher.

On Monday morning my boss was waiting for me at the door. His hair was a little messy. There was no sign of his best tie. He sat me down in his office and watched me whimper for a while.

“Not your greatest moment ever, eh, Mike?” he said to me.

And then he added – “Don’t worry. Nobody’s perfect.”

And that was it.

What a great lesson he (and Homer) taught me – Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE.

As managers – I believe – not only do we NOT need to be perfect but that it’s unrealistic to always aim to be so. We just don’t have the time. If we haven’t made a few mistakes by lunchtime it probably means we’re not working hard enough.

So if you do make a mistake you should welcome it. I love this quotation from boxing legend Muhammad Ali –

“It’s just a job. Grass grows. Birds fly. Waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

If we don’t reach perfection, so what? If you make a mistake, slap your head and shout ‘Doh!’ and get on with your life. It’s just a job. Be kind to yourself…

…And let others make mistakes too – What a great lesson Mike taught me – Thanks, Mr Crane!

Do you agree? Please leave a comment.

iTunesU – an impressive collection of free university lectures available through the iTunes store – is a great resource for managers.

There are so many great lectures and podcasts – one example is “What Great Bosses Know” from the Poynter Institute. This is a collection of useful management tips – each one about three or four minutes long.

They cover a whole range of topics, for example, breaking collaboration barriers and critical thinking skills.


You can download the podcast through the iTunes store.

Any other iTunesU tips?

My hero is the boxer Muhammad Ali. In fact I can’t think of a finer management guru than The Greatest Of All Times!

One of Ali’s secrets was he always looked like he was having fun – and that’s no mean feat when your job involves getting punched really hard in the face. Yet even in the ring he had a twinkle in his eye and a smile hovering over his gumshield.

And he’s right. Work should be fun. Life is too short to hate work. What’s the one thing that ruins everyone’s fun at work? That’s right – Email.

I hate Email. Truly and deeply.

There are lots of things to hate about it. The thing guaranteed to turn me from mild-mannered DoS to raging Joe Frazier is that stupid red exclamation mark that people needlessly attach to their emails. !!! I take great delight in binning anything that comes with that offensive punctuation mark.

Email can quickly become your master – setting your agenda as you respond to what other people expect you to be do rather than doing what would make you most productive.

So what to do about this enemy of fun?

I’ve had some great email tips (one – get your in-box to zero – we’ll look at in a later post). My favourite is very simple – check emails twice a day – and no more. Go on – I dare you.

People go mad when I suggest this.

“But I might miss an important email!” – So what? If it was really important they’d pick up the phone.

“I might be the last to respond to my boss and look really bad.” – So what? They’ll get over it.

“Don’t take away my emails! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! I love them!” – oh, oh – now you just need a good Muhammad Ali whuppin’.

It’ll hurt at first, but checking email twice a day will give you so much more time to be productive. Once you’ve checked – turn it off. No beeps to bug you about the lovely mails you’re missing.

Others might not like it at first but they’ll get used to it. I find that if people really need me they’ll pick up the phone. That suits me too as I tend to get problems solved quicker over the phone than in a game of email tennis.

What do you think? Will you be able to cut the email habit to twice a day?

For more inspiration from The Greatest go to http://www.ali.com/