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Values Count – digital edition available

Imagine the scenario, you’ve seen that I have published a book “Values Count”. You realised that it came out back in February of this year. You would love to read it – but you don’t want to buy it in paperback. Either you live outside the UK or you just love reading books in digital form.

Well, it has been a while coming. But finally, Values Count has been released on Kindle. This doesn’t mean that you must have a Kindle reader to be able to get hold of a copy. There are Kindle apps for your mobile phone, your tablet and even your laptop or desktop.

So… finally, there is no excuse anymore! What are you waiting for – go get yourself a copy. Go on, click here.

If you are waiting for the iBooks copy or for Kobo and a host of other formats, I’m in the middle of working out how to use Smashwords to publish in those formats. There’s a whole new learning curve to climb for that. I’m going to need another month.

Thanks for reading – apologies if this reads like an advert. Normal service resumes in the next post!

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Values Count – here are the opening paragraphs

Earlier in the week I mentioned that my new book has just been published and is available on Amazon. Here are the opening paragraphs from the Introduction:

“It’s all about the money – that seems to be the measure by which everything is judged these days. Every day we hear about new scandals relating to the ethical basis of business, whether it’s large multi-national companies not paying their taxes or corporates who distort their accounts to massage the stock market, or banks that lend irresponsibly and then look to governments to bail them out when they are at risk of collapsing. Too big to fail was a mantra that was all over the newspapers a few years ago.   Those of us who work in the public sector are not exempt from these problems.

In recent years there has been a growing rhetoric that says “private sector good, public sector bad”. This manifests itself in neo-liberal politics where the market rules and public sector provision is seen as intrinsically inefficient. We increasingly live in a world that knows the price of everything without any underlying sense of the value of what we do.”

Intrigued? Why not read the whole book. Follow the links in this post or search for my name on Amazon.

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What’s he Building in there #3

buildingA few years ago on this blog I wrote a post called “What’s he building in there?” It came after a long break when I had written nothing. The title was taken from a song by Tom Waits. In it, Waits describes someone who is in his barn building something. The neighbours can hear the noises, nobody sees him to talk to. Everybody’s imagination runs riot with ideas as to what he is doing and their prejudices get the better of them. It’s a great song – worth a listen!

Well, I have been a bit quiet lately. Partly this is because the day job has been incredibly busy with a number of key projects coming to fruition. Also, I’ve been buried deep in creative mode and editing and publishing mode. I thought it might be useful to update on some of these projects.

Values Count – I have a manuscript ready to go about values based working. I’ve been preparing a self-published version of this book whilst also exploring another edition as part of a wider venture. The book is nearly there – just a  few tweaks to the cover and inside and it will be done. It will be of interest to coaches, people who are working on organisational development, and anyone who thinks that ethics and underpinning values are really important to the way that they work.Details will be available here on the website and I will send an email out to those who are on my subscribers list.

Blue: experiments in sound – there’s already an album worth of sound files on bandcamp which I shared some months ago. The book itself is with an artist who is working with me on designing it. Phillip Kingsbury is preparing some beautiful watercolours to complement the poems. I’m hoping this will be ready before the end of the year. I’m working up some plans for a print run of the book, and a limited edition of the book together with the CD and a postcard series of earlier linked poems.

It Begins Like This – my poetry collection from last year is still available on this site as a PDF download. A paperback edition is in the final stages of editing.

I’m also working on new ideas for book manuscripts, including a book on the application of Archetypes in the workplace, and a book on coaching approaches. Both of these books are well advanced. And the new collection of poems, “Hang Fire“, many of which are on a political theme, is underway. I have written about a third of that.

So …. that’s what I have been building over the last few months…

Drop me an email if you want to know more, or post a comment.

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Has your team had a Rehearsal Day?

IMG_0151There are eight people in the team that I lead. Last summer it was feeling like we were flying around and hardly ever having time to reflect, time to work together and to plan our future. We were so busy in delivery mode that we had little time to see the bigger picture.

Tentatively I suggested to the team that we should spend some time in reflection. We were in the middle of a series of workshops to look at the work that we needed to do to build strong and supportive communities of practise. It struck me – that if we were going to build strong communities, we had to begin with ourselves.

Rehearsal Day is our community building time. We take a day a month and shut the doors to the outside world. The day is in two halves – morning is structured and afternoon is open, a space for us to be creative.

Since last August we have run 5 Rehearsal Days, each one pushing us a little further forwards. Each time we sit down together and use a private Google Plus page to capture our time together – photos, video, web links and short posts from the whole team – so that we are capturing the learning as we work together. This is a key component of the day as it enhances reflection. For the first day, I asked everyone to make sure that they posted at least 5 photos, a short video (from their phone) and a 200 word post of their impressions on the day.

The mornings are generally taken up with team meeting work – updates, decisions needed, detailed planning of the forward programme of work. Nothing original in this – most teams have these kind of sessions.

The afternoons are a time for us to learn together. We show videos – often TED Talks – and we look for inspiration around us that will push our thinking forwards. We also spend time looking at the work that we are doing with an open mind, challenging the way we do things and being open to new ways of looking at the work that we do.

Team Awaydays are nothing new. However, this isn’t time away – it’s time in our base, rehearsing in private, trying things out, testing out how we work together. The unstructured element of the work is key – that is how we make space to be creative and innovative.

The experiment of Rehearsal Days is still in process – each month the approach we are taking shifts and adapts. It is important not to settle into a pattern as this would miss the point of creating an environment of constant innovation.

What have we achieved so far?

  • The team is much more open to debating how we work and testing out new ideas
  • We are much clearer about the core values and behaviours that underpin our work and we have had time to test these out in a safe space
  • We have had time to look at our working space and explore how to make it more conducive to what we are trying to achieve
  • The culture of the team has shifted as we have worked together to be an inclusive, optimistic team where everyone’s ideas are valuable
  • We are learning how to have fun together and see play and enjoyment as a key part of work
  • We are looking much more widely for inspiration – seeing ideas that can be adapted in the most diverse of places

It has been such an exciting journey. As the leader I have learnt to hold back and resist the temptation to plan ahead which would stifle the process we are developing. This is challenging as it means being prepared to feel out of control in order to make a more innovative and participative space. The payback for doing this is huge. Our work is moving forward at such a pace and we are creating new programmes and projects of work that would never have happened without Rehearsal Days.


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Just say so

IMG_0395Writing – a whole day dancing around the writing task. It’s a familiar pattern.

Recently I started listening to the archive of podcasts called ‘Page Up‘ by Angela Lauria. There are some interesting ideas about writing and publishing in each episode. She acknowledges that there are different types of writers. Some write little and often, doing the work in short bursts, whilst others write in long intense periods.

Now, I’m not sure which of these I am and suspect I may be a combination of the two. The poet in me wants to write in short bursts – blogging really lends itself to that. Whilst the writer in flow, which I tap into on occasion – can write for long stints. I wrote about this recently when I described the idea of a writing marathon. I can comfortably produce 1000 words in half an hour. So, the theory goes that if I write continuously for a mammoth chunk of time I could generate enough material to edit into a finished manuscript in a couple of sittings. This started me thinking about the writing time for a typical book. If an average size book is 40,000 words (120 to 150 pages) and I write at 2,000 words an hour that means the actual writing time for a book is a mere 20 hours. There is time to spend on thinking, planning, editing and on structure. But the actual writing time is fairly short.

So, getting to the page and writing is so fundamental to being productive. It’s ridiculously obvious, but writing a book requires the writer to actually write words! And to get beyond the inner critic does mean just writing words, even if there is a voice chuntering away as there was this afternoon. The voice that says, this is useless, the sentences are too long – the grammar isn’t right.

This afternoon then – after a whole day of dancing around the various things I am writing on, I finally settled to 40 minutes and produced a piece of writing for the book on Core Values. This book builds on the blog posts I wrote about developing a set of core values for the work that I do. Another thousand words added to the work in progress helps me to get closer to finishing one of the heap of books I am working on finishing.

When Meg Wheatley was staying with us in Liverpool recently, I asked her for advice about writing. She has written 8 books now, so I reasoned that she must have some helpful wisdom to impart.

The clearest thing was that having a dozen or so book ideas on the go at the same time is a great way to avoid getting any of them done! She suggested deciding which one I wanted to complete first. Then just get on with it!

So, this afternoon I set to and worked on completing the book / booklet about Core Values. It’s on its way now. I am struggling with getting the structure right and being clear where things go. I have enough of a structure to write within and can change it as I go. So, there we are – enough to get things moving again. The end point will be a book to share about this topic.

Last week I wrote a blog post about where and how we work. It was a response to a blog post from Julian Stodd. After publishing it, Julian tweeted me to say that he enjoyed seeing me Working our Loud. Here then is another example of working out loud. Describing the process as it emerges. Learning through experimenting. Trial and error.

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Core values – 8. Conclusions

Over this series of blog posts, I have set out the 6 core values that underpin the work that I lead in the NHS here in England. As I have explained, these values have been teased out through work carried out by external researchers who looked at the impact of our work on the health system which we cover.

The values became apparent to the researchers as they listened to us describing the work that we do, and more importantly why and how we do that work.

I had a “strategic coffee” in Lancaster yesterday with a new contact (hello Stephen) and we were talking about the importance of values. We realised as the conversation developed that values are key for underpinning the work that we do and driving forward major decisions that we make about the work we will become involved in. We also realised that the structure of organisation is secondary to the set of values that we work from. If we have a robust set of values, the governance that we work with, whether public, private or not for profit becomes much less important. Of course, there are other considerations to take into account when deciding which organisational structure is the best fit. But it is important to realise that structure does not determine values. Values drive the structure and ensure that we are working from a sound ethical base.

Values help us to look at what we should say no to as well as what we should say yes to. They also help us to see who fits well with our work – employees, associates and partners.

Above all else, being clear about the values of the organisation we are working in helps to be clear that we have good alignment with our workplace. If this is not the case, it’s probably time to start looking for another job!

I hope this short series which I began in March has been helpful.  As I mentioned in recent posts, I am going to expand on this and develop it into a larger booklet. This will be available in the next few weeks, after the summer break. Do please get in touch if you would be interested to see this. You can contact me via the contacts page, or email me.

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Remembering Values

This is a guest post from Taravandana. It fits in really well with the series I have been writing about values. Thanks to Tarvandana for sharing this article:

Last October I was fortunate enough to spend 10 days in Bhutan the small democratic kingdom found in the Himalayas nestling between North West India, China and Sikkhim.

Bhutan is a Buddhist country that under the guidance of the King is consciously modernising, incorporating the best of “the West” whilst holding to the values and philosophy of Buddhism. Whilst it’s not perfect I was struck again and again by the positive impact these have on the quality of life of the Bhutanese people for example through underpinning education and access to health care and limits placed on advertising. For such a small Himalayan country the infant mortality is low and compared to India that I also visited, the people and animals look well nourished and there is little litter on the streets.

Being a practising Buddhist I could be accused of being rather biased in claiming that it’s Buddhism that accounts for these observations. Maybe I am and yet the facts still stand.

What had even more of an impact on me was being surrounded by symbols and reminders of my deepest values. Everywhere I looked were pictures, statues, symbolic signs of qualities such as compassion, kindness, clarity, wisdom, peace and energy (in pursuit of the good) as well as the potential for human transformation.

Being based in the UK I’m used to doing my best to live a life informed by these values but it’s not easy, in fact it’s often tough. I find myself regularly swimming against the tide of the prevailing culture and I regularly take the easy option and give in, for example to the pressures of consumerism or pessimistic thinking.

So it was a relief to instead be reminded of how I aspire to be, live and work. I felt supported and empowered in my endeavours and ever more confident in the potential that we all have to grow and develop given the right conditions.

Since the trip I’ve been pondering the implications of my experience for leaders say in the NHS where the far reaching transformation agenda is only going to happen if leaders can maximise the engagement of their teams and work together collectively through shared values and mutual appreciation and support. The agenda is very challenging and when things are tough it’s my experience that leadership behaviours slip. Stress doesn’t often bring out the best in people.

There’s considerable commitment and investment being made in leadership development (at least in the short term) and yet I wonder if completing a 360, participating in a leadership development programme and accessing some coaching is enough to enable and support individual NHS leaders to be the leaders the staff and patients need them to be. i.e. role models of values like compassion, clarity, integrity, excellence and positivity, especially during times of upheaval and uncertainty.

It seems to me that the burden for turning around the NHS rests on the shoulders of individual leaders rather than to be shared. Is it any wonder that stress levels can be so high and behaviours unhelpful in the leadership community especially when it may be considered “weak” to admit to any worries or lack of confidence.

Perhaps we need to pay more attention to creating conditions that encourage and support our leaders to be as effective as they can demonstrating the values and behaviours that get hearts and minds involved and optimise patient experience?

Conditions such as:
• Encouraging collective leadership where “we are all in this together” rather than individualistic leadership where we compete for our slice of the cake (of the limited budget)
• Reminders and symbols of our values
o Reminders and symbols that feed our souls/psyche.
o Whilst posters describing Trust Values help I mean symbols that speak to our unconscious and conscious minds and so to our deepest values and motives, like those found in myth, fairy stories and ancient drama. For example archetypal symbols such as the knight, healer, goddess, king, wise woman, jester etc.
• Being role models to each other.
• Recognising, appreciating and reinforcing positive behaviours.
• Challenging unhelpful and unacceptable behaviours skilfully with compassion and clarity.
• Sharing the good news stories at least as much as the “bad” news stories but preferably more to redress the balance and boost morale.

Let’s give our NHS Managers and Leaders the support, encouragement and reinforcement to be the best they can in difficult circumstances.


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Core Values – 7. Optimism

This is the seventh post in the series on Core Values in the workplace. In it I talk about the sixth and final value. There will then be an 8th post with some conclusions. If this series has been of interest, you may be interested to know that there will be an expanded version in booklet form due out in a few weeks. Subscribe to the website or email me if you are interested… 

The thing about a cliché is that it becomes a cliche because it has currency. So, that well-trodden expression: “are you a glass half empty or a glass half full person” does have substance to it. The world seems to be divided into these two categories – those that see what is missing in life, and those that celebrate what they actually have.

Taking an optimistic outlook on life is a key element of the values I am setting out, because it creates the tone for the other values. Looking optimistically at any situation, creates a real can-do attitude, an approach that believes there is a positive solution to any situation. It is also the basis from which to work with an “owner” state of mind. Chris Brogan talks extensively about the owner. It’s the opposite of being a victim. When we own our reality, and are prepared to tackle any situation and look for a solution, we are creating the causes for success. Even when things are not going well, it is possible to see an optimistic position – things could be worse, at least we don’t have to sort that out, at least we can make some choices, there’s a lot to learn from this situation. There are always positive ways to look at any situation.

It is also interesting to see how adopting an optimistic value set can be infectious. For a start, when we are optimistic about the possible outcome in a situation, others will adopt that attitude with us – willing us to succeed. Sometimes it is possible to create a more optimistic reality in the future by talking it up and getting others to believe that it will happen. Overcoming barriers and obstacles by having a strong conviction of optimism can actually help the barriers to disappear. A dogged belief in the future is what gets so many successful people to achieve the seemingly impossible. I wrote more about this in a recent post about being unreasonable.

Even whilst all around is crumbling and falling apart, there is a key place for unfaltering optimism. If we look deep within, that optimism is always there.

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Core Values – 6. Humility

This is the sixth post in the series on Core Values in the workplace. In it I talk about the fifth value. The next post in this series will describe the final value. There will then be an 8th post with some conclusions. If this series has been of interest, you may be interested to know that there will be an expanded version in booklet form due out in a few weeks. Subscribe to the website or email me if you are interested… 

When the team I work with was evaluated back in 2011, the value of humility was described as:

a non-hierarchical, respectful,
modest style; a style which supports others to contribute.

This is a key part of the style and culture that underpins our work. We work with partners to deliver projects where the key factor is the success of the project, rather than our profile. We have always been more concerned about the contents of the shop, rather than having a glossy shop window. At times, this has given us problems – but the underlying focus on humility is a key strength of our work. I have talked in earlier posts in this series about the importance of the “honest broker” role that we play. It is very difficult to act in this role if partners have any sense that the work is being done for greater glory or self-aggrandisement.

In the last couple of years, the NHS has had a much greater emphasis on the market and on competition rather than collaboration. This has, at times, made it very difficult to work from a place of humility whilst all around are vying for position.

Ultimately though the best dressed window, the most impressive marketing campaign, is nothing if the contents of delivery are not of the highest quality.

As with so many things, the middle way will help tackle this tension. So, it is important not to be naive about the need to ensure that others understand the role and scope of the team in delivery of its work. This can be done without overplaying the ‘publicity campaign’. Ultimately, it’s a question of getting the work recognised to ensure that it continues without the ego getting in the way.

Working from a place of humility ensures that the objective is to serve others and deliver something of the highest quality that is of great value to those with whom we work.

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Core Values – 5. Inclusivity

… And so we reach the 5th of 8 posts about Core Values in the workplace. So far, we have looked at the values of Altruism, Integrity and Co-Creation. This post looks at Inclusivity.

From the first Impact Report on our work, there was the recognition that ensuring people are involved and included
is a key aspect of our work. This core value complements the previous value of co-creation. To enable co-creation it is important to be inclusive.

Working in the world of health research, this value is not without controversy. It sits at the heart of the conflict between approaches to research that strive at excellence and those that set out to see a thousand flowers bloom. Whilst I appreciate the importance of excellence in achieving high quality, it is vital to ensure that work is inclusive. Instinctively it feels right to include people wherever possible in things that we do. The default when asking whether someone should be in the room, is to say yes. There have to be really good reasons to leave someone out!

As I have said, this can make us at odds with those that set out to achieve centres of high excellence and work with exclusivity.

Still, if we are to build excellence into all that we do, we need to draw on the expertise of others. If we exclude people, we limit the ability to draw on wide areas of expertise.

This is why this core value drives what we do. Again, if we look at the way in which the values complement each other, if we work from an understanding that all of the expertise is not held within the team, and that we need to draw on skills from others – by being inclusive, we increase the chances that we will succeed.

Thus, as we look across the health professionals and look at the ways in which research is conducted in healthcare – there is far too much emphasis on trials led by medics. This is the outcome of exclusivity. As a result we miss out on the wider perspectives that research needs which can be brought to the agenda by the other professions that work in healthcare. By being inclusive and working particularly to include those professions that are very under-represented in research, we can create an environment where the richness of research is much much deeper.

The next post on Core Values will look at Humility – a value that is being challenged in the changing organisational climate in which we are working.