Tag Archives: developing leadership intelligence

The trouble with (audience) participation

Autumn is here with its traditional themes.  I have been enjoying bursts of deep reds, yellows and oranges as well as indulging my fascination for various kinds of fungi – I find so much beauty in this season, even as it takes us towards long nights and increasingly low temperatures.

I confess, the autumn is also a season for cosying up in front of the television – maybe even a little more often than I care to admit.  My nephew and I have been enjoying Young Apprentice and Dragon’s Den, usually exchanging observations if we haven’t watched it together.  You’ll also find it hard to get me out on a Saturday evening at this time of year – at least, you would have done until now.

On Sunday, I was shocked and disappointed when Ella Henderson and James Arthur, surely favourites to win this year’s X Factor, were pitted against each other in the ‘sing off’ following the audience vote.  That’s the trouble with audience participation:  give people a vote and just look what they do with it!  (And for any X Factor fans – who is voting for Christopher Maloney?!)

I have to say that, in the Young Apprentice, I see a different problem arising, with project managers failing conspicuously to draw on the input of their team.  Patrick McDowell struggled valiantly last week to convey the point that the team’s planning needed to take into account where they were starting from and needed to get back to at the end of the day.  I wondered what other ideas might have helped the teams to succeed if only the project managers had been listening.  Didn’t it make sense, for example, to make it a priority to phone round and get some prices for what looked like the largest purchase – a German car, taxed and ready to drive away?  And wouldn’t it have helped to engage in a conversation about how best to organise the task before getting stuck in?

I wonder if, as a leader, you struggle with both sides of this coin.  After all, the theory says that engaging people’s ideas through a participative style of management increases engagement and motivation.  Daniel Goleman and his colleagues, in The New Leaders:  Transforming the Art of Leadership into the Science of Results, describe how using what they call the democratic style helps to build buy-in or consensus, or to get valuable input from employees.  But this style does have its limitations.  Sunday’s X Factor results show one of them – you don’t always get the outcome you want from inviting ideas from your staff.

This style also has its limitations in the eyes of staff.  There’s nothing worse than being asked for ideas and then told that, actually, it’s the bosses ideas that are going to be taken forward, especially if it’s always the bosses ideas that are taken forward (or you think it is).  This can undermine the confidence of your staff or their respect for you.

So are there any things you can do if you want to use this style effectively?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Don’t invite input from staff when you already know what you’re going to do:  It may seem obvious, but if you set about appearing to use this style but are not sincere, staff will soon sniff you out.  NEVER use this style to give the impression that staff have been consulted when you know full well you have already made your decision;
  • Separate out consulting staff from the decision-making process.  There may be times when it’s appropriate to make a decision democratically but there are also times when it’s appropriate for you to make a decision yourself.  Be clear in your own mind which is which – and be rigorously honest with your staff about the likely decision-making process.  This way, team members know from the beginning how their ideas may or may not be used;
  • Be honest with yourself about the current level of capability of your staff and use this to inform your decisions about consulting your staff.  Invite their input in areas where you know they have something to offer so that they can add real value by their contributions and you can show how you have taken their ideas on board;
  • Combine your use of this participative style with other leadership styles.  Goleman and his colleagues point in particular to the need to provide clarity of expectations and to coach members of your team.  Helping your team to understand your overall vision and how they can contribute to it and providing coaching to develop their skills both play a role in increasing the likely quality of their contributions and ideas in team discussions;
  • Invite team member’s ideas at their growing edge.  With effective coaching support from you, the quality of team members’ contributions will constantly improve.  Keep inviting ideas at team members’ growing edge to stretch them and so that you both know how much progress they’re making;
  • Respond constructively.  The minute you dismiss an idea as stupid or worthless you send a powerful message to the whole team which makes it less likely that they will want to contribute in future.  Quite quickly, you’ll be saying that your team members have no ideas to offer.  Say thank you for all the ideas team members contribute no matter what you think of them.  If you can’t see how an idea will work in practice, test it with your team and ask them to test it with others if appropriate.  You may find a hidden gem and if you don’t, you may still all have learned something;
  • Be prepared to be surprised.  Engaging your staff in team discussions may be a stretch for you as much as for your staff.  Be ready to examine ideas that you might initially find strange and to find the ones that really might work.  Be prepared to try some knowing that they might work and they might fail as part of expanding your own thinking and showing your support for your team.

I’d love to know how you get on.

Not being heard? Time to do something differently

Recently a friend sent a card by (if I remember rightly) Daily Telegraph cartoonist, Matt.  The card depicted a boardroom scene and the caption was along the lines of “That’s an excellent idea, Miss Smith.  Would one of the men like to put it forward?”  It must have spoken to some real or perceived truth – it made me laugh out loud.

As to that “truth”, it may have been about sexism in the workplace or it may, equally, have been about influencing others – whether you’re a man or a woman, and whether you are seeking to communicate with your seniors, your peers, or those you lead, there will be times when your message isn’t being heard.  When this is the case, what do you do next?

All too often, the key reason our message isn’t being heard is this:  we are expressing it in our own language (be that logical persuasion, using facts and data or by some other means) and assuming others will think about the same issue in the same way.  So, a good place to start is by putting ourselves in the shoes of our audience.  How do those we want to influence think about these things?  This can be hard – if all your boss ever thinks about is how to catch people out who are doing things wrong, you may be reluctant to speak his or her language.  Still, to speak the language of your audience may be enough to transform the conversation into one in which you get heard.  More than this, it may be enough to transform an important relationship, so that you are heard with ease again and again and again.

The Matt cartoon also speaks to a deeper truth – that sometimes you’re just not the person to put forward a message or idea.  If your agenda is to attract approval or appreciation, you may find it hard to stand to one side and still, letting someone else deliver an important message can be an effective way to be heard.  This is one reason why organisations (or rather, people in organisations) commission outside consultants to do research and then deliver a message which isn’t easily heard from people inside the organisation.  It’s hard to speak up as an individual and say “you ask for our ideas but you always shoot them down so we’ve stopped putting them forward”.  It can be more compelling to hear that “members of your board expressed the widespread view that whilst you ask for ideas, you are highly critical of ideas such that people feel it’s not worth offering ideas”.

There are ways to promote an idea without going to the expense of hiring in external consultants (which is, in any case, a rather hit or miss affair).  Savvy leaders know that ‘socialising’ an idea before making a formal presentation is an important part of gaining support for a proposal.  If you’re going into a meeting wondering if your proposal will be approved, you probably haven’t done your homework.

Sometimes, effective leaders make some dramatic gesture to get their message across, like the leader who, after several months of seeking unsuccessfully to engage staff in dialogue about the need to turn their part of the business into profit, announced the closure of the department.  Suddenly staff were ready to talk and, what’s more, to contribute ideas to enable a radical re-shaping of their department and, in this way, to secure its future.

Why is influencing important?  Because the more senior you are, the more you need to work with and through others.  And the more you need to work with and through others, the more you need to be able to gain support for ideas, proposals and plans of action.

I wonder, how does this idea land with you?  It could be that you understand the need to influence and still, you don’t know how – for you, the challenge is in turning this intention into effective action.  Equally, it could be that you find the ideas above uncomfortable and even repulsive – for you, the challenge is squaring the need to influence with values around openness and honesty or even with your preference for getting the work done.

I’d love to hear from you in via the comments box below – how does the idea of influencing others land with you?  What has worked for you?  And where are you stuck and still needing to make progress?

What successful people do with the first hour of their working day

Kevin Purdy wrote a great article a few days back entitled What successful people do with the first hour of their working day.

The article offers a variety of inputs from diverse and successful people.  They don’t all start their day in the same way but they do have one thing in common – they’ve thought about how best to start their working day.  Have you?

In case you’re looking for ideas, follow this link.

How to be an outstanding leader whilst also being yourself

A few days ago as I walked through my local supermarket I caught a glimpse of an interview quote, inviting the reader to buy a magazine in order to learn more.  The quote was something along the lines of “I won’t cut my hair, because it’s who I am”.  It could equally have said “I won’t change my clothes/ adapt my accent/ take the ear-ring out of my nose…” and many more things besides.  I found myself thinking “No, these things are not who you are.  They’re ways you choose to express yourself”.  Several days after I walked past this magazine, I realised that the headline was pointing me to an important truth for those of us in leadership positions:  we can be outstanding leaders AND be ourselves.  At the same time, we need to be clear on who we really are.

Why is this important?  At one level it’s about fashion in the world of leadership:  it’s so fashionable to be “authentic”.  If you pop the words “authentic leadership” into your search engine you’ll find all sorts of scholarly articles and theory.  A number of authors have written books on the subject.  It’s in vogue on the discussion groups on LinkedIn.  At another level, authentic leadership draws our attention because the challenge of being an outstanding leader whilst also being true to ourselves is one that exercises people in leadership roles – many people at some point in their leadership career find themselves grappling with what appears, on the surface, to be an irreconcilable dichotomy.

Take Jurgen, for example.  Promoted at a young age into a senior leadership role, Jurgen looked around him and formed a view of what it meant to be a leader in his organisation.  He started to adopt the behaviours of his peers, especially those he admired.  In his tough-talking, fast-paced organisation he started to adjust his style to make sure his staff were in no doubt what was expected of them and what the consequences would be if they didn’t deliver the results expected of them.  He reduced his focus on people and increased his emphasis on results, identifying key projects, making plans for each project, allocating work amongst members of his team and tracking results.

Jurgen thought he was doing the right thing but he quickly discovered it wasn’t working.  It wasn’t working because his colleagues – previously his peers and now members of his team – seemed to be offering less cooperation than before so that achieving results was getting more and more difficult.  He didn’t know it but it wasn’t working in the eyes of those who had recruited him either, who expected he would bring a softer approach than other members of the senior management team, in line with their aspirations for a less “macho” and more emotionally intelligent leadership style.  Above all, it wasn’t working for Jurgen because it felt deeply uncomfortable – it just “wasn’t him”.  Jurgen felt like an imposter in the role, because he didn’t feel comfortable doing it the way others were doing it and he thought this was the way it needed to be done.

Jurgen took the initiative to organise a coach, who helped him to understand that he could be himself and still be an outstanding leader.  He developed a statement of values in which authenticity was key.  He dropped the persona he had adopted when he first stepped into his role in favour of an approach that was more natural to him.  It seemed like he was on track.  At the same time, when I met Jurgen a few months later, I noticed that I had a suspicion about some of Jurgen’s behaviours – it seemed possible to me that some of the behaviours he identified with as an expression of his authentic self dated back to a time in his early life and had not been examined since.  He thought he was the person who was always kind to people and he was – but he didn’t know why or even what kindness meant to him.  In moving away from the leadership persona he had adopted to a more “authentic” way of being, Jurgen had stepped into a set of unconscious behaviours which, in turn, were not always effective or even truly him.

Meeting Jurgen prompted me to identify and share some of the things I have seen leaders do who have learnt to be highly effective whilst also remaining true to themselves.  Here are just a few of them along with a few words about how Jurgen has applied them:

First, set your intentions

Jurgen set an intention to be authentic in his role as a leader and, following our conversation, added his intention to continue to develop as an outstanding leader.  This set up what you might call an inner dialogue as he started to explore what it meant to be both.

This was coupled with being clear about his intentions in specific situations, for example when he had to address a performance shortfall in a member of his team.  He sensed that being an outstanding leader in this situation meant addressing the issue and bringing it to a resolution – to an improvement in performance or to the recognition that his team member wasn’t in the right job.  At the same time, he also wanted to embody his core value of kindness and compassion.  He set the intention to explore how he could address the issue with kindness and compassion whilst still bringing it to a clear resolution.

Then, discern between your intentions and the means by which you achieve them

Jurgen realised that in attempting to be kind to his team member, he had been holding back on addressing the issue at all.  He’d let his team member flounder and he’d stood back and watched as colleagues became increasingly frustrated at the levels of performance they witnessed.  As the annual appraisals season approached, Jurgen knew he would be basing his year-end performance rating on behaviours he witnessed but not discussed with his team member.  The more he looked at his approach, the more he realised that it was anything but kind, even though kindness was at the heart of his intentions.

Once he had examined the effects of his existing approach, Jurgen was in a better position to explore what different approach he might take.  At this point, it made sense to him to ask more experienced colleagues how they handled this kind of issue.  He discovered that those he most admired were most likely to address the issue head on.  He also discovered that they were the most skilful in the way they framed the issue.  This gave him the basis for a different approach which was still consistent with his core value of kindness.

Ask yourself, “is this really me?”

Jurgen went one step further, and took time to examine why kindness was so important to him.  In doing so, he became aware of the extent to which he’d taken on a value of his mother’s – sometimes even at his own expense.  Examining his value in this way helped him to decide both to keep this value and to re-frame it.  He decided he needed to include kindness towards himself as an essential part of this value.  He likened it to the oxygen mask in the plane – realising he had to put on his own oxygen mask before helping others.

Jurgen started to develop the habit of examining his beliefs about himself and found that, sometimes, the outcomes surprised him.  He discovered some beliefs he decided to let go, realising he had thought they were his own and finding they were not.  As a result and, over time, he developed a stronger and deeper understanding of himself and greater confidence and self belief.  It seemed paradoxical to him at first and still, alongside this greater sense of self, he found he was less attached to doing things in particular ways – he became more flexible in his approach.  And as he became more flexible in his approach, consciously adapting his behaviour to meet the needs of the situation as well as thinking about what it meant to be authentic, he found his effectiveness as a leader improved.

How about you?  To what extent is it an aspiration you hold:  to be both authentic and effective in your role as a leader?  And how consciously do you explore what it means to be you?  How open are you to new insights about yourself – how conscious are you?  Please share what comes up for you in the comments.

Covey’s second habit: start with the end in mind

Photo by Bill
From http://signsoflife.goose24.org/?sign=124

When I learned last month of the death of Stephen Covey, author of the seminal book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I committed to re-read his book and to write a posting about each of his seven habits.  Returning to his book I am reminded of chocolate mousse – it’s so rich you don’t want to eat too much at a time.  So, a month after I wrote about his first habit, I am taking a few moments to write about his second.

Covey’s first habit, “be proactive”, is about taking responsibility for our own lives.  His second habit, “start with the end in mind” is about writing the script we want to follow.  As Covey puts it in this chapter:

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice.  There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things”

and later:

And if I do this, day after day my behaviour will change.  Instead of living out of scripts given to me by my own parents or by society or by genetics or my environment, I will be living out of the script I have written from my own self-selected value system.

Writing as a coach, it’s easy to say that much of Covey’s material in this chapter has been written about elsewhere.  NLP offers a model for outcome-oriented rather than problem-oriented thinking, for example.  The film and book The Secret have been immensely popular amongst seekers of wisdom and new insights.  Laura Whitworth and colleagues in their splendid introduction to coaching, Coactive Coaching, offer exercises which are the embodiment of Covey’s second habit and which have become familiar to coaches and their clients around the world.  Indeed, Covey himself readily acknowledges his own sources throughout the book.  To recognise the fact that ideas in this chapter can also be found elsewhere takes nothing away from Covey, who has organised core ideas in a way which illuminates them.

He begins by inviting readers to write the eulogy they would like to have read at their funeral – this really is beginning with the end in mind.  When we engage deeply with this exercise, it provides a powerful context for our decisions and our actions.  This is not just about manifesting the physical possessions we desire:  it’s about understanding the overall context of our lives and the role individual desires have in this context.  It seems unlikely, for example, that a new Mercedes will feature in our self-written eulogy.  The love of friends and family, the contribution we made through our work – these are amongst the things that we may look back on.

Covey also invites people to create a personal mission statement, a statement of our vision and values and how we intend to enact these in practice in the different roles we hold in our life.  He contrasts a life lived in line with this level of personal clarity with one which is guided by centres outside ourselves – the young person for whom friendship is so important that s/he will do nothing that might offend, the executive whose commitment to work is such that s/he constantly prioritises work over family, even the person whose focus is on some kind of enemy.  As I write, I do so with compassion, recognising how much the shift from such external centres to operating from a set of clearly defined personal values is a journey in itself.  (I shared my values on this blog in 2009, and though I revisit them periodically, they have not changed much in the interim).

Given Covey’s recognition that “all things are created twice”, it’s not surprising that he dedicates space in this chapter to visualisation and to affirmations as the means by which we can increase the quality of our first creation.  He also recognises the importance, in the context of both family and organisations, of participation in creating a mission, vision and values which have the full commitment of everyone involved in delivering them.

Covey’s ideas in this chapter are highly practical – writing your own eulogy, writing a personal statement of mission, vision and values, involving members of your family or organisation in writing a shared mission statement.  I could say more about each exercise in turn but this seems to be gilding the lily:  for now I invite you, simply, to try at least one of these exercises and to let me know – how did you get on?  

Covey’s first habit: be proactive

Following the recent death of Stephen Covey, I have been revisiting his most famous of books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  On my way to meet a client I take time on the train to read about Covey’s first habit:  be proactive.

In this first habit, Covey targets the opportunity for self-determinism that sits between stimulus and response.  This is about the difference between an unconscious reaction and a carefully chosen response.  Covey uses the story of Viktor Frankl who, in the Nazi death camps in World War II, realised that (in Covey’s words) “he could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him”.  Covey is careful to differentiate between being proactive and taking the initiative.  He says:

[Proactive] means more than merely taking the initiative.  It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  We can subordinate feelings to values.  We have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen.
This assertion tests me – because I hold the view that emotions have a wisdom to which we need to listen.  But quickly I settle into an understanding of what Covey is saying.  Given my own values for example, I would choose to view the emotion of anger as a sign that some need is not being met and to recognise that I am telling myself some story about how someone else is responsible.  If I act on the stimulus – react – without thinking, I am likely to lose my temper.  If I respond in line with my values, I am bound to take time out to process my emotions before choosing my response.  So far, so good.

Covey offers a further idea which is the consequence of taking this kind of responsibility and which challenges me greatly:

[…] until a person can say deeply and honestly “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday”, that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise”.

Later he refines this idea by adding:
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.  Of course, things can hurt us physically or economically and can cause sorrow.  But our character, our basic identity, does not have to be hurt at all.
And further:
Any time we think the problem is “out there”, the thought is the problem”. 
When we think the challenges in our businesses are down to the market, when we think we have a “problem” member of staff, when we complain that our wife/husband/boss/sister doesn’t understand us… when we wish that things outside us were different, we are not being proactive in Covey’s use of this term.  When we focus our attention on  those things we can do something about, we are being proactive.
Covey offers a number of ways to apply this first habit, of which I highlight just one:
1.  For a full day, listen to your language and to the language of the people around you.  How often do you use and hear reactive phrases such as “If only,” “I can’t,” or “I have to”?
Please let me know how you get on.

Stephen Covey – the death of a leadership master

News has been reaching me from various sources of the death of Stephen Covey on Monday, aged 79.  He died as a result of complications following a bicycle accident in April and with his family around him.  As much as I feel sad about those complications  I can’t help thinking that Covey’s was a good way to go.  If you’re still cycling-fit as you approach 80 and have the love of your family, well, it’s not a bad life – or death.

Covey is most famous for his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  First published in 1989, Covey’s book has provided guidance for conscious living which has had its application in the workplace and at home.  USA Today, in a blog posting about Covey, highlighted something I didn’t know – or had forgotten – about the origins of Covey’s work:

Covey said he developed the 7 Habits after studying hundreds of books and essays on success written since 1776. He noticed that the literature of the 20th century was dominated by gimmicks or “social Band-Aids” to improve the personality.

In contrast, the literature of the first 150 years — in the writings of Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin, for example — was based on character and principles such as integrity, courage and patience.

Covey said of his Seven Habits:

“(Live by) your own set of principles, your sense of vision of what your life is about. Maybe in a few months or year and a half, two years, you’ll be in an altogether different world.”

I make a note to revisit this book which has had so much influence across the world – selling over 20 million copies in 38 languages since it was first published.  (As I write I am setting myself the challenge of writing a blog posting on each of the seven habits in the course of the next three weeks).  For now, though, I just want to take a moment to honour the man.  As much as I feel for his family at the time of his death, my own heart is filled with gratitude for the gifts he shared with the world during his life.

Wanting to influence your staff? Listen up!

Research at the Columbia Business School has recently highlighted the role of listening in being influential.  Researchers asked co-workers both to assess their colleagues’ skills and habits and to assess how influential they are.  They conducted this research with students on MBA programmes as well as with executives in organisations.

The research findings do not entirely dispel the myth of the charismatic leader.  Rather, researchers found that the most influential people had strong skills both in listening and in expressing their point of view.  Why is listening so important?  On the one hand, listening helps leaders gather information about those they lead which they can use to tailor an influencing approach.  On the other hand, listening – really listening – builds trust amongst staff.

In truth, I am reminded of Gary Chapman’s little book The Five Love Languages:  The Secret to Love that Lasts.  Although its intended audience is a long way from the world of business, Chapman’s thesis – that we all like to give and receive love in five different ways – offers insights which – surely – can equally be applied in the workplace.

And if you want to learn more about the research from Columbia Business School, including five key ways in which you can listen effectively, just follow this link to read a summary.

Lost your temper with your staff? Time to “own up”

This week I have been writing about anger in a series of postings, recognising that the “amygdala hijack” – the sudden and extreme loss of temper – is one that we all have from time to time.  It’s an experience which can lead us to alienate those we lead or which, equally, can lead us to new insights.  New insights do not, however, happen by accident.  They happen because we are ready and willing to have them.  Sometimes they come years down the line.  Sometimes, days or weeks or months.

When we are angry, the immediate barrier to new insight is our own way of thinking about the stimulus to our anger.  It’s for this reason that I’ve given this posting the title “Time to own up”.  For it is our thoughts rather than any external stimulus that lead us to feel angry.  These thoughts usually include some confusion between the external stimulus to our anger (“I’m angry because you…”) and our thoughts about the external stimulus (“I’m angry because I’m thinking that you…”).  What’s more, our anger is also often accompanied by the firm belief that we are “right” to feel angry.

A first step towards owning our anger is to notice the way we are thinking and feeling and to talk about it.  Compare the following sentences:

“I told John weeks ago that he needed to contact the US and he still hasn’t done it and now they think we’re completely incompetent.  I could kill him!  He should have followed my instruction – if he had, we wouldn’t have been in this mess!”

This time, I’ve added mention of the emotions involved and used the phrases “I’m telling myself that…” and “I’m thinking that…”:

“I’m so angry!  I told John weeks ago that he needed to contact the US and he still hasn’t done it and now I’m telling myself they think we’re completely incompetent.  I could kill him!  I’m thinking that he should have followed my instruction – and that, if he had, we wouldn’t have been in this mess!”

Before we can claim our anger in this way, it helps to have compassion for ourselves and others – because when something goes wrong there is often shame involved.  Heaping our judgements on others can be a way to protect ourselves from self-judgements and from the feelings of shame that come with them.  At the same time, when we can accept the way things are (that people make mistakes, that we get angry…) we open up the opportunity to process and transform our anger.  If you’d like to know how, keep reading.  I’ll be writing about some techniques for transforming anger next week.

Feeling grumpy about an extra day’s holiday?

Learning to kitesurf on Perranporth beach, Cornwall

Picture this, in the midst of your busiest period, your staff – anti-royalists all – are about to benefit from two UK holidays to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.  You don’t know how you’re going to meet your deadlines and you don’t feel good about what lies ahead.  The last thing you need right now is an extra day’s holiday.  It could even be that, looking ahead, you’re already cursing the London Olympics – everyone’s clamouring for time off and, what’s more, you are dreading the disruption to travel in the capital and all the knock-on effects that might bring.

Perhaps, though, it’s precisely this thinking that gives you a clue to your need for time off.  Some thinkers might add that you need to get out and play.  The Harvard Business Review’s Morning Advantage recently highlighted a blog posting by Psychology Today about the power of play.  Strikingly, the posting highlights research that suggests that play makes an important contribution to our mental creativity, health and happiness.  The writer says:

There is evidence that play […] may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process.  Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt, to meet any possible set of environmental conditions.

Overall, the article’s evocation of play reminded me of the rhythm of life during my childhood, when my parents were farmers – a distinctly pre-industrial way of living.  Yes, there were certain things that needed to be done and hours to be kept – milking cows twice a day no matter what.  But there was also time between chores to take a cup of tea or to welcome visitors.  Sunday lunch was always a time for family and friends, for example.  In short, rest, respite and play (including my father’s legendary practical jokes) were woven into life – including working life – in a way that is rare in the modern corporation.

So if you’re at full stretch and feeling stressed in the run up to the Diamond Jubilee perhaps it’s time to step back and notice – how much time do you make for play in your life?  How much do you encourage your staff to take time to play?  Equally, perhaps it’s time to down tools for four days, including your PC and mobile, and just get out there and play.