• What the Dickens is going on?

      “To be shelterless and alone in the open country, hearing the wind moan and watching for day through the whole long weary night; to listen to the falling rain, and crouch for warmth beneath the lee of some old barn or rick, or in the hollow of a tree; are dismal things -- but not so dismal as the wandering up and down where shelter is, and beds and sleepers are by thousands; a houseless rejected creature.”
      Charles Dickens - Poverty and the Poor.

      Another anniversary! This time, we celebrate the bi-centenary of the great author and social commentator Charles Dickens, whose life was recently celebrated in a service at Westminster Abbey.

      Dickens wrote novels that most of us at school studied as set texts. Many of them were bleak and were a social commentary on Victorian England, with its grinding poverty, poor houses, open sewers and sickness. In dark, pea-souper alleys, people lay sodden drunk from gin or spaced out in opium dens. There were regular runs on banks that ruined many. Small children climbed and cleaned out chimneys and sold matches. Stealing meant transportation for the smallest of misdemeanours.

      As a result of his writings and the contribution of many other creative people, some of the most significant infra-structure projects our country has ever seen were delivered.

      Whilst Victorian England has passed from living memory and remains something we read about in history books, most of us wander through towns and cities that contain solid-built Victorian buildings. My first flat was in a Victorian building, constructed by craftsmen who were proud of what they built, full of swirling plaster mouldings, patterned architraves and tiles hand laid with care and attention.

      In London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol and most of our fine cities, we walk on the bones of these ancestors who generated wealth for us from the industrial revolution.

      Whatever the moral rights and wrongs are from this wealth creation, as we move into a period in the present where we will be celebrating the life of a great artist, I ask you to consider whether much has really changed?

      Of course we've benefited from technological advancement, but has this been shared with all the people?
      Isn’t our drug and alcohol dependency still as high as it ever was?
      Do our children and young people aspire to better their lives through good jobs and a decent education?
      Do people live in decent, affordable homes?
      Do some suffer from food impoverishment?

      Whilst some of the terrible diseases people suffered and died from 200 years ago have been eradicated (cholera, typhus, TB, smallpox), the startling fact for me is that when you pick at the surface, much remains the same, because human nature doesn’t really change all that much. It’s just that our ‘toys’ and methods of communication become more sophisticated.

      Where are the great social reformers for the 21st Century?  Who are the creative people waiting to take on the mantle of the great Dickens? Where are the leaders who will take a risk and work from conviction rather than personal interest?


    • Just one word!

      Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don't let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months."
      -Clifford Stoll

      It’s all in a word. My whole life and access to all my bank account details, my password on my PC and social networking sites.

      Well, it was until recently. Now I’ve changed everything.

      Here’s why.

      About four years ago, a friend was on his PC late at night reading committee reports, when an e-mail came in from his bank saying he’d been locked out of his accounts. It was in the earlier days of internet scams when we were all a bit more naive. A bit tired, he absent-mindedly entered his details into the site.

      Five minutes later, his bank savings account had been wiped clean of all his savings, some £10,000.

      The next day at work he was a broken man. Luckily for him, a few days later the bank had refunded him, but there’s a lesson there for us all.

      I, too, have half filled in a similar form and realised just in time what I was doing. It was ‘supposedly’ from the Inland Revenue saying I was entitled to a tax refund of £185.00.

      I was fooled because it seemed someone was offering me money.

      No bank, HMRC or anyone else you have financial dealings with will ever contact you via e-mail, so ignore them or forward these e-mails to the bank section that deals with fraud.

      More importantly, internet experts say we are creatures of habit. We tend to make our passwords the names of our children, pet or mother’s maiden name plus a simple number. Much of this information can be found out about you on social media sites. Never put your date of birth on them, unless you make yourself younger by a few years!

      Believe it or not, it’s quite easy for someone to play around with a few obvious names and bingo, they hit pay-dirt.

      We work hard in the NHS and public sector, so the last thing we need is for someone to come in and do this. Change your passwords on a regular basis, otherwise, you may find yourself in the position my friend did.  

    • Diamond Jubilee

      I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.Queen Elizabeth II

      Yesterday was the diamond anniversary of the Queen’s succession to the throne.
      Sixty years … a long time to be doing a job when many people her own age have long since retired.

      I listened to the news yesterday about the way parts of the UK marked the occasion and watched a couple of TV programmes on the subject.

      One of the things I found remarkable was the news clips of Britain in the early 1950s. The politicians wore top hats and looked not only as if they’d come from another age, but an age older than today’s political leaders. The time seemed to be more mannered. Voices were clipped and over-enunciated and there was a culture, custom and practice that has all disappeared today.

      What is so extraordinary is understanding that the Queen has met most of the great political leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries, starting off with Churchill. She’s also managed this with most of the USA Presidents and leaders around the world. One can only imagine the conversations that must have taken place with our own Prime Ministers over the years, and if you’re interested in politics, you’d just love to be re-incarnated as a fly on that palace wall! All these conversations over time has made the Queen one of the most (if not the most) knowledgeable people on the planet.

      The other major thing I noticed was how the grinding poverty people experienced in the 50s, 60s and 70s has changed. We live in a much greater consumer society. Everyone has a phone and a TV and access to much better, cheaper, food and we can all pretty much afford a car. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, we shared a phone with the next-door-neighbour. It was called a ‘party line’. You’d pick up the phone and if someone was talking, you'd have to wait until they’d finished. Most families couldn't afford colour TV's and a chicken cost not much less than the price today, yet our incomes have generally risen much faster.

      Today we are a more diverse society than ever before, which then consisted of a sea of white faces, and the Queen’s role of Head of State for many commonwealth countries reminds me of our shared heritage and how the past mixes into the present in an exciting and creative way.

      Whilst most women well into their eighties might be thinking the latest mobile phone a bit too much hard work, the Queen seems to take the massive changes happening around us, in her stride.
      This is the point of it all. The Queen has been with us for most of our living memories. As a symbol, she’s been the glue that binds the past to the present and us to each other. As there’s less of her life ahead of her than what’s gone before, I'm not convinced the future, will be the same.
      Whatever you think about the Royal family, even many republicans admit the Queen is unique and special.

      A friend of mine who is anti-monarchy knew the Queen was visiting her home town and went shopping as usual. On the way home, armed with supermarket shopping bags, she saw a black car stop at some traffic lights on a zebra crossing ( this is unusual I believe?) and realised the Queen was sitting in the back. “I threw my bags to the ground and started jumping up and down like a mad woman. I can’t believe I did this but she has a charisma and a quality about her I wanted to be near.”

      Look back at the quote at the beginning of this blog. It’s a heart thing that the head and its logic cannot fathom. She’s got our trust and we hers, so long may she reign.

    • The Courage to Change

      After a career in local government lasting almost 20 years, I realised I was on the wrong track just as I was applying for Chief Executive jobs. It hit me one day like a bolt of thunder.

      Forget the good pension and salary. I needed to be ‘me’. What that meant when I gave it a lot of thought was that I’ve always been a creative thinker, generating ideas, solving problems and helping people to be the very best they can be. I loved being with people and getting them thinking about doing things differently to make a difference. I had a unique contribution to make, but I needed to get out of what I was in to think straight.

      So, I walked away from everything and set up my company called Create Tomorrow Today (a bit of a mouthful, but think about it). The initial idea was ‘leadership development with a creative twist’ and I’ve done some wonderful projects and met some lovely people, helping them to see their lives and their businesses from a different perspective. Nearly five years on, I’m doing what I love - inspiring people to realise their dreams, not lock them away until they are too old and tired to do anything about them.

      During this time, I’ve reflected on the many people I’ve managed, met and supported and have worked out what ingredients you need to be balanced and fulfilled (in that order). Life today is so fast and unpredictable, most of us get out of kilter and go into survival mode. There are four simple things we need to do to get back on track:

      THINK            Understanding our thinking patterns and how to apply them
      FEEL               Being emotionally expressive and compassionate and managing your  relationships CREATE         Appreciating beauty, using your imagination and believing in possibilities
      BELIEVE         Finding your purpose and the joy of living

      These are the tenets of 360 WISDOM. Once we understand them and have them in balance, life becomes very interesting. The 360 WISDOM tools you learn and apply to your life help you get centered and focused on the essential you and how you can make the best of your talent and potential. I will share with you all of this and more in my workshop series commencing at the BARBICAN in London on 25th February a packed day that I hope will give you a lot of ‘light-bulb moments’. This is what I’ll be teaching on my workshop and exploring it with some amazing, like-minded women.

      So, if you’ve felt like your life isn’t quite what you expected or wanted (or worse, is passing you by), see if a little bit of 360 WISDOM can help you. Join me in London or Brighton on 4th March (the Old Courtroom), Birmingham on 10th March (MAC) or Bristol on 25th March (Arnolfini). There's a 20% discount off tickets for Health and Public Sector 247 members. Just type 360 WISDOM into the search box to see what online discounts are available to you! 

    • Steve Jobs is my hero

      A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. Steve Jobs.

      I have to say that Steve Jobs is one of my heroes. There’s a speech he gave on YouTube to graduates at Stanford University that is truly inspirational. So, if you get the time today, take a look.

      He talks about his life and how no matter what happened in it (even when it appeared to be going badly), he kept on trying to do the things he loved.

      He had to drop out of college because his family couldn’t afford the fees. So he slept on friend’s floors and snuck into classes he enjoyed. One of them was a calligraphy class.

      Today, writing beautifully in different scripts seems arcane. (In fact, I use the computer so much that when I have to write in long-hand, a four year-old’s writing looks neater)! But Steve persisted and enjoyed every moment of this dying art.

      When he invented the first Mac, he said his love of calligraphy came back to him and as a result, he put all those wonderful fonts onto it that we now take for granted - sans serif, Tahoma, Baskerville Old Face and Copperplate Gothic. What wonderful images these conjure up of plate setting and old-fashioned wood-blocking.

      His approach chimes with my 360 WISDOM theory. In this busy, crazy, mad world, we must remember to do the things we love. Sometimes, it’s hard to forget when we are caught up in day-to-day living with all its concerns - keeping warm, paying the bills, staying healthy, supporting our children and staying in touch with friends and family.

      Try to remember the things you love and find some space and time to re-engage with them. Somehow, they are your anchors in this ever-changing world. They ground and centre you and remind you of who you are and what makes you unique and special. Whether it’s cake-baking, writing poetry, going to the races, working-out, playing bridge, singing in a choir, or collecting matchboxes, it’s your love.

      We all realise after the event why we did the things we did. We in the West see time in a linear way, and thus feel like we are on a fast track moving forwards with no time to branch out or revisit parts of the journey.
      However, many cultures in the east see things in a circular fashion and 360 WISDOM, relating to the 360 degrees of a circle, does just that.

      In Steve’s speech to the Undergraduates he talks about ‘joining the dots backwards’ as it’s all we can do unless we step off and do things differently.

      He was successful because he had a different, broader perspective on life and its challenges. Instead of trying to be like everyone else, we need diversity, broad experiences and view-points. I’ll be explaining in future blogs how we can design things differently and change our perspective, just like Steve did.

      PS This is written in Calibri, but will probably end up as Times New Roman!

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