High Time for Apple to Evolve

With the demise of the old-style Mac Pro, Apple reaches a technological ‘T’ Junction and a potential parting with some of its important fan-base.  To the left (i.e. those of us left behind) may have to turn the hundreds of thousands of professional audio, video, and graphic artistes who have bought into expensive dedicated processing cards.  These won’t work with the new architecture – not without expensive breakout boxes.  Heaven forbid, we may have to go back to basics… to the PC.  At least PCs have slots.

To the right is the Steve Jobs paradigm: I’m right, you’ll catch up someday.  And you know what?  He was right.  His paradigm of the rugged indiviualist, the innovative entrepreneur was right… for the 20th Century.  It’s 180 degrees facing in the wrong direction for the 21st Century.  In the Wiki-Worlds, it is www: wrong, wrong, wrong.

The way of the 21st Century is collaboration.  The dinosaurs that don’t get that deserve to go extinct.  Evolve and involve people!  In a world of connected-customers, the way of the dictator cannot stand… even if the dictator is benevolent (which I’m not sure Jobs was!)

Before I go any further, let me state in unambiguous black print on a white page: I love my Apple kit.  I love it’s beauty.  I love its functionality.  I love its easy of use (most of the time).  It’s Apple, the culture, that has life-threatening problem.  The 21st Century is the time for symbiosis – win-win on equal terms with the partners who are its customers.

Living Organisations or Zombie Companies?

A Living Organisation – one that will survive and thrive in the 21st Century – will be one for whom all the seven aspects of life are true.  Two of these are showing warning signs on the Intensive Care monitors for Apple:

  • Respiration
  • Sensitivity


Respiration is the give-and-take that all living organisms have within their environment.  They take what they need to live on, but they also give out.  There is a balance of Nature.  For an organisation, this means way more than doing something noble for charity.  It means a living and breathing relationship with their customers and suppliers.  I don’t experience that with Apple, nor with the other “Usual Suspects” that I will mention below.


Sensitivity does what it says on the label: it senses.  It keeps track of the internal environment and it makes sense of the external environment that it depends upon for life.  Without it, the organisation becomes a zombie.  It is ‘animated’ as if it is alive, but it is just going through the motions.   The spotlight was turned on Amazon recently in the UK – with a television documentary showing just how ‘sensitive’ the mighty Amazon are to their staff.  Staff are customers too in my book.

Adobe and Mindjet

Two of the companies I depend upon for my creative tools have recently gone down the ‘subscription’ route.  With marketing spin on this, this is positioned as good for the customer.  Yeah, right.  It’s great for rich customers, but not for those of us who have saved hard to get access to this technology.  For those of us whose cashflow is uncertain, this marks another T Junction.  You stop paying your subscription?  Find out what happens next.

I love marketing but I hate some many marketing smart-arses.  Listen up people: Win-Win or no deal.  And now: Win-Win, or WIN-WIN, but not WIN-win.

So what’s the difference between Adobe and Mindjet?  Mindjet are sensitive to their environment.  They changed the model to suit their customers – from all payscales.  They restored the option to buy the upgrade.  Top marks.  Mindjet’s Alive!

Amazon proudly told me they were the World’s most customer-centric organisation.  I was really excited by this.  I wanted to know more.  Couldn’t reach anybody.  Didn’t get any response.  Knocked – nobody answered.  Guess I was the ‘wrong’ type of customer.  I applaud the dream Amazon – now talk to your customers and listen to your staff.

Zombie companies like Adobe, Akai, Amazon, Apple, Avid, and, to break up the ‘A’ list, Yamaha who forget their customers have a past dedicated to their products, deserve to cease to get our support.  There is a value on customer loyalty – it should lead to mutual respect and benefit.  Get a load of the ongoing success of the John Lewis Partnership.  John Lewis has it stayed vibrant, vital, and vivacious – by choosing the symbiotic route of partnership.  It’s worked for a long time and will continue to do so.

I want Apple, Avid, and maybe even Amazon to succeed – but only if they return to their senses.

[Ed – btw, when I typed “zombie” into my tag field, “Eurozone” came up – is there a message there?]

The Coach as Therapist

The Leadership Coach as Therapist

As I was maturing in my career the norm was to make a fierce distinction between being a counsellor, a coach, or a therapist.  It seemed a good idea to make such professional distinctions, but it’s not true to life.  In real life there is no separation between the church and state of the worlds of home and work.  To suppose that your personal life has no bearing or impact on your performance at work is quaintly naïve.  And those of us who have had a trouble night worrying about work know that “work” very definitely affects “play”.

A significant number of people have said to me recently (in the context of business development meetings) that I would make a good therapist.  This was unsolicited and initially surprising.  It stems, I believe, from my renewed commitment to listen to others without cluttering my mind with what I want to say in response.  This often means there is a gap between when they stop talking and when I start – but it’s never been an uncomfortable pause.  It seems the act of being attentively listened to is a therapeutic process for many managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

The fascinating thing for me has been the shift in content that has begun coming out when I listen more attentively.  Much of the ‘stuff’ is personal (and confidential of course!)  Whilst I have no ambition to be a therapist personally, I really do want to help people move forward in business.  To do this, there is often a need to help them move forward at home too.

With my curiosity growing , I looked up the derivation of “therapy” and “therapeutic” – and was delighted to discover that the words are rooted in the idea of ministering to someone’s needs (often medically).  Since I’m driven by a desire to see people living a life to the full spiritually, psychologically, physically, emotionally, financially, and socially, the definition works for me.

So what would be the role of a Corporate Therapist or a Leadership Therapist?  The definition would suggest our role would be to minister to the needs of the corporation or the leadership.  This would have to embrace all the current strengths of performance coaching, but add the more personal aspects of seeing the corporation and its leaders as being part of a broader social context.

I believe in “Organisational Ecology” – that organisations who don’t understand their role within the context in which they do business are missing untold numbers of opportunities for developing a vital and sustainable business.  The same must be said of leaders.  Leaders operate from a context – their private and social lives may be invisibly connected to their working lives, but the links are there nevertheless.  As a consultant or a coach of the future, I believe it would be wise for us to learn to listen to all the content shared with us – and not to shy away from matters that touch on emotional states, or personal issues.  Of course, we won’t have all the answers, and don’t need to.  The important steps are to listen fully, and understand the wider context.

The level of rapport that this fresh approach is building between me and my “clients” has injected fresh vitality into my business.  Now I am not just a coach but also a confidant – and often a friend.

Living Organisations® Interview Questions

Eden is a Living Organisation

The Need for Living Organisations

Since the vast majority of us give the best years of our productivity and the most productive hours of the day to our organisations, it is vital, imperative even, that we create organisations that are a joy to work for.  These organisations need to be vibrant, life-affirming, energising, exciting to work for – in other words, they need to be “Living Organisations”.

Our organisations are not separate from the world in which they conduct business.  They are vitally connected in a web of life.  In fact to see themselves as separate is to invite self-destruction.  Instead, they have a part to play in the ecology of commerce and of Civilisation as a whole.  It therefore makes sense to mimic the models that already work in Nature.  The most fundamental of these models embraces the seven characteristics that define every organism that may be said to be alive: Movement, Nutrition, Reproduction, Excretion, Growth, Respiration, and Sensitivity.

The Questions

I am beginning to seek interviews with people who are the “voice” of their particular Living Organisation.  The interviews are straight-forward, and need to use the same questions in each interview.  To help you gather your thoughts, here are the questions.  If you are proud of the vitality of your organisation, and would be happy to be interviewed, I’d love to hear from you.


•    What are you moving towards as an organisation?
•    What, if anything, are you moving away from?
•    How do you know when you are moving in the right direction?


•    What energises you as an organisation?
•    What does your organisation ‘feed’ on?
•    What does your organisation value most highly?


•    How are you seeking to spread your message?  (or products or services)
•    How do you replicate your best practices?
•    How do you ensure the organisation’s talent is replicated and passed on?


•    How do you deal with set-backs as an organisation?
•    How to you learn from your mistakes as an organisation?
•    How do you recycle?
•    How do you reduce waste?


•    In which ways are the organisation growing, expanding, or going deeper?
•    How do you define ‘growth’ for your organisation?


•    How do you enter into an exchange with your community – the environment in which you live and move and have your being?
•    What do you give?
•    What do you receive in return?


•    How do you sense what is going on in the Market?
•    How do you stay aware of what’s going on inside your organisation?
•    How do you keep track of opportunities or even threats in your environment?
•    How do you use information you gather?

The Ambassador

The Ambassador

And the Embassy that Celebrated Customers

I love to write. I love people. I love ideas… but more on these three strands in a minute.

The Customer Evangelists: St Jan and St Darren

Jan Walsh (BT) and Darren Cornish (E.ON) are two senior executives whom I have found to describe themselves as “Customer Evangelists”.  I think this is a great way to send a message about how important the customer is to an organisation.  Vast sums are invested nowadays on Social Media and PR to promote the ‘goodness’ of the organisation to the customers we want to keep and to the ones we want to ‘convert’.  In fact ‘evangelist’ comes from ‘evangel’ – which means ‘good news’.  St Jan and St Darren have good news for their customers – their organisations care and have good news to share.

From Evangelists to Ambassadors

A more frequent description is of our colleagues as ‘Ambassadors’ for the brand.  This sounds magnificent – even ‘Stately’, and adds great dignity to the rôles of Customer-facing staff.  (N.B. I think we are all ambassadors, regardless of whether or not our rôle is internally or externally facing.  We all represent the brand and we want the internal ‘customer’ to be proud of it too. There must be utter congruence throughout the inside and outside of the company – a congruent continuum!)

The idea of the Ambassador inspired me, early this Sunday morning.  You cannot have an Ambassador without an Embassy!  And what is an ‘Embassy’?  An Embassy is a permanent diplomatic mission, but to whom?  I believe each organisation has an important diplomatic mission to the nations of customers!

Through PR and some Social Media, most of this mission is outgoing, like evangelism, but many organisations are missing an absolute goldmine of opportunity.

The Customers who want to give

When we open our eyes, ears, and hearts, we find that there are a lot of customers who want to give freely back to the organisation.  People are naturally creative.  The output of this natural creativity is ideas.  People also love to share.  It gives a giver great pleasure to share a gift that is well received.  Ideas need to go somewhere!

Thus we come to the flow of ideas that often pour into organisations.  Eventually, most of these ideas are responded to – usually as a secondary part of someone’s role – and usually it takes far too long.  Too often, in my experience, there is no response!  I believe this is a grave mistake.

The Embassy that Celebrated Customers!

This is where the Ambassador’s role comes to the fore.  I would laud and applaud any organisation that set up an Embassy to the United Nations of Customers – an Embassy whose main diplomatic mission was to respond to those customers.  It would be “The Embassy that Celebrated Customers!”

The rôle would be straight-forward and the impact would be enormous.

The Ambassador would have an appropriately senior position, and their mission would be to respond rapidly and personally to each and every customer idea.  (I’m not talking about ‘Customer Services’ dealing with complaints – that’s another valuable opportunity for another blog.  This one is purely about positive ideas and contributions given freely to the organisation.)

Every idea and contribution (e.g. photographs) would be acknowledge and responded to – and understanding of the ideas reflected back accurately – not just with a generic idea or form letter.  If I was the Ambassador, my responses would be sent in a personalised greetings card, and signed.  Why would I take such trouble?  I would make such an effort because the customer has made a pilgrimage.  It takes a lot of energy for a customer to have an idea, articulate that idea, and then send that idea in.  That’s a lot of effort.  It’s a personal effort that deserves, even ‘demands’ a personal response.  Good organisations go the extra mile – so I think anything that shows ‘the personal touch’ is a great way to match and then exceed customers’ expectations.  This builds brand loyalty and personal commitment far more powerfully than Facebook competitions!

I’m sure you can see how this is easily a full-time rôle, even for a small organisation.  How would it pay for itself?  Clearly, not all customers’ ideas are practical or actionable, but their loyalty is worth its weight in gold.  For those ideas that are practical, an opportunity arises for the organisation to improve its performance and its credibility.  By nurturing such customers, an organisation can even create devotion – becoming a ‘Love Brand’.  I promise you that the vast majority of customers do not require any more reward for their contributions than the recognition of acting on their idea or publishing their photograph (and thus publically acknowledging it).  I personally see no loss in also thanking the customer with products or services as a token of appreciation.  This is low cost to the organisation, and high value to the customer.

The alternative is quite sad.  I love to share.  I have shared hundreds of ideas with organisations – free of any strings attached or hidden agendas – over the years.  Many of those organisations haven’t even bothered to respond.  The logical result is that I’ve stopped the flow of ideas to that organisation, and, wherever possible, shopped elsewhere!  These very same organisations continue to send me emails and newsletters and catalogues, saying how wonderful they are, and how focused they are on customer satisfaction.  Yeah, right…  Which customer?  Clearly not me!

The rôle of the ‘Ambassador to the Customers’ is a central rôle for PR.  After all, isn’t PR all about ‘Public Relations’?  The Ambassador’s rôle is to meet and connect.  This is why I said at the start of this blog that I love to write, I love people, I love ideas.  These are the Ambassador’s core skills.  An Ambassador must be articulate in their response to each and every message from customers.  They must love people, otherwise another message will leak through their prose.  Also, the Ambassador must be a Creative – someone who can take an idea and really work it until it is proven valuable or becomes a stepping stone to a better idea.

An Ambassador is a Diplomat – and thus must be diplomatic!

Diplomatic Tennis

An Ambassador must also play diplomatic tennis.  By this I mean that a good game of tennis involves rallies – a back and forth – just as does a great conversation that builds rapport.  I can say, hand on heart, that even the organisations that have responded to me in the past, have cut the rally off with their response.  The door was not left open for partnership in developing the idea.  Again, I can only authoritatively speak for myself, but I would have happily developed most of my ideas for free – just for the satisfaction of being creative and being acknowledged.  (To the cynics who might be thinking, “I bet his ideas are rubbish then!” I would say that some of the organisations I have shared with have used those ideas without acknowledgement – at least proving the worth of the ideas.)

The rôle of the Ambassador would therefore include promoting a rally – a back and forth of exchanges to engage our brilliant customers into partnership with the organisation.  This builds rapport.  Outstanding customers could then be given a visa to join us!

Of course, this is what many organisations are trying to promote with Social Media – and I see Social Media as an important set of diplomatic channels for the Ambassador.  My chief point today, however, is to harness the ideas and contributions that come from customers and are freely volunteered.  The customers that share these ideas, if treated with respect, become ambassadors themselves – absolutely the best (and most economically sustainable) form of PR any organisation could wish for.

The bottom line is that many of your customers know your business better than you do, and they certainly know their own minds better than you do.  We must listen, and respond rapidly, and become the Embassy that Celebrated Customers, if we are to harness this power for good.



An Ambassador in search of a new Diplomatic Posting!


If you drive a company vehicle that broadcasts the brand, don’t drive the company van like a devil!

Love Brands and the Secret to their Success

Psyche opening the gate to Cupid’s Garden

[This is a sample of my forthcoming eBook on this subject.  Consider this the practical overview – a foretaste of a publication that will go into far more depth.]

What if we could find a secret – a secret that would show us the way to never fail?  Guests at weddings have been exposed to this secret for hundreds of years, but can this secret be unlocked for companies, organisations, and brands?  Saatchi and Saatchi were the first to coin the phrase “Lovemarks” as a new and refreshing alternative to brands, but we are going to keep to the language of a “Love Brand” for this exploration of our potential future successes.

Here’s the passage (from the NIV) that has given us the clue at so many weddings.

1 Corinthians 13

New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails… 13… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [End]

Love Brand Chrome

1 Corinthians 13 rewritten for Loving Brands

Saatchi and Saatchi talk of “Lovemarks” – but there is something far greater: a Loving Brand.  A “Lovemark” or “Love Brand” is defined by its fans, its staff, its customers, its suppliers… A “Loving Brand” takes responsibility for its own actions, its own love; it is proactively loving… and lovely!

I have taken the considerable liberty of rewriting 1 Corinthians 13 through the lens of modern marketing and business practice.  My rewrite is not Divine Revelation – though my hope is that such Divine Wisdom may be seen in this new light to be phenomenally relevant to modern business practice.  I certainly felt inspired to write this message!

And so for Loving Brands:

If I speak using the language of today’s customers, of the media, and of celebrities, but have not love I am only an empty vessel that makes the most noise.  If I have the gift of knowing how the market is trending, and can fathom such mysteries and know what to do with this knowledge, and if I believe in my organisation to the point where this belief will move whatever blocks my way, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I invest heavily in Corporate Social Responsibility, publically and visibly sacrificing much for the community in which I do business, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

A “Loving Brand” is patient with its staff, its suppliers, its customers, its community.

A “Loving Brand” is kind to its customers, its suppliers, its staff, its community.

A “Loving Brand” does not envy – even its competition.  It does not boast or exaggerate its achievements.  It is not arrogant.  It does not dishonour others (especially its competitors’ offerings), it is not self-seeking, it is slow to anger (and quick to hold-its-tongue), it keeps no record of wrongs – by staff, by competitors, by governments, by banks, by suppliers, by customers…

A “Loving Brand” does not take pleasure in bad matters but rather rejoices when truth and integrity are manifest.

A “Loving Brand” always protects the Brand, the Team, the Customers, the Market, the Earth.

A “Loving Brand” always trusts its people, its customers, its suppliers…

A “Loving Brand” always has a sure and certain confidence to do with its unseen future – it is hopeful, upbeat, and positive. It thinks in possibilities, not impossibilities.

A “Loving Brand” manifests perseverance – always.

Loving Brands never fail.

…and these three will remain, belief in the Lovely, Loving Brand, confidence in the Lovely, Loving Brand’s future, and love by the Brand and love of the Brand.

But the greatest of these is love.

I say to you again, “Loving Brands never fail.”

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Archaic Consulting – and the cure

In the News…

The news media have been quick to expose corruption deep within some of the most esteemed names in auditing, accounting, consultancy, and banking.  These ‘noble’ companies have been caught stealing from stakeholders and from governments.  They lie, they steal, they cheat.  Other more attractive ‘love-brands’ have been found to be doing everything they can on the edge of the law to avoid committing taxes to the countries that they have grown fat feeding upon.  This is all unsustainable.

As a consulting company, I call this kind of Jurassic Mindset “Archaic Consulting”.  It is based upon a belief system that suggests being a parasite (ie. taking from your customers, stakeholders, and community) is an ‘aggressive’ business model that somehow should be applauded and admired by hard-nosed ‘realistic’ business people.  The sooner these business models, and the predatory dinosaurs that perpetuate them, are driven to extinction the better.

A 21st Century Cure

My solution is to take the glue of our language, the vowels, and assign significance to each one.  In English, we use ‘A’, ‘E’, ‘I’, ‘O’, and ‘U’ to glue consonants together to create sustainable words with meaning.  We also have a special role for ‘Y’ – which I will come to last of all.

The cure to Archaic Consultancy begins with ‘A’ – ‘A’ for ‘Authentic’.  ‘Authentic’ is used specifically in Transactional Analysis to describe beliefs and behaviours that are ‘true’ to the individual.  There is no compromise – no violation of personal integrity – no searing of the conscience.  Archaic Consultancy is not authentic.  Salespeople and Consultants in Archaic Companies are encouraged to bend, stretch, and adjust the ‘truth’ to fit the fiscal lust of the organisation.  This means lying to the customer to ensure the order is said ‘yes’ to – even though the salesperson knows they cannot deliver on their promise or timeline.  This kind of behaviour is rife, and, frankly, any organisation that requires its people to even exaggerate the truth is worthy of extinction.  Authentic behaviour, on the other hand, will lead us closer to the better business practice of “under-promise, over-deliver” – a practice that we know can produce ‘Customer Delight’ and sustainable, repeat-business.

The ‘E’ of our cure is for ‘Entrainment’ – the art of synchronising with another.  We all need to work harder on our listening skills.  Sometimes it’s easier to notice someone not listening to someone else rather than to ‘hear’ this fault in our own communications.  The species of consultancy that will replace Archaic Consultancy is a symbiotic species.  This new 21st Century form of Consultancy will always pursue Covey’s “win-win or no-deal” philosophy.  It will see service like an insight: when I share an insight with you, you will have the insight, and I will retain it – win-win – we both prosper.  Let’s call the neo-form of sustainable consultancy, “21cc” for short.  21cc will realise that any deal that leaves one party considerably better off is a poorly formed outcome.  In an age of “TripAdvisor”, “Amazon Reviews”, and other review engines, revenge is easily taken by customers who feel taken advantage of.  This will begin to happen to companies too.

Entrainment is building a rhythmic relationship with our customers and suppliers.  It is breathing together, moving together, pacing one-another.  It is a dance of rapport.  ‘Symbiosis’ is one of my favourite words – and it describes the results of entrainment.  In this dance, the customer will often lead – and the 21cc will follow.  It is my belief that synchronising with colleagues, customers, and communities in this way will lead to more experiences of synchronicity.

‘I’ will stand for ‘Inspiring’ – 21cc will be a force for inspiration in the lives of all they touch: their staff, their suppliers, their customers.  As such, they will recognise that ideas that are actioned are the major fuel for an ongoing flow of inspiration.  The quickest way to kill creative motivation is to block the flow of ideas.  Inspiration is both energy source (fuel) and currency (reward).

‘O’ is the most significant paradigm shift that must happen if we are to evolve.  ‘O’ stands for ‘Ownership’.  I regularly have clients asking for ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ that my approaches work.  The only ‘proof’ I can reliably point to is… me.  Take my touch-typing programme as an example.  The programme a) teaches touch-typing in about 3 hours, b) teaches the concepts in an entertaining and high-calorific way (using chocolate), and c) provides the all-important access to entertaining ways to consolidate skills after the programme.  Does it work?  Only if the participants take ownership and continue to practice after the introductory event.  The gap between great expectations, good intentions, and sustainable good-new-habits is only bridged by consistent action.  I’m not a dictator. My participants are not slaves, victims, or puppets.  Training, teaching and education is a democracy – the power is within the grasp of the learner.  21cc must get this message across to clients – if it doesn’t work, the teacher is not to blame!  If it does work, the student is to be praised!

This is why coaching can be such a brilliant way to help bridge the gap.  Coaching is a form of ‘shared-ownership’ en route to the full exchange of contracts – the full exchange of ownership!

‘U’ is ‘Unique’ – 21cc must have sufficient genetic diversity from other organisms in the business ecosystem for clients and potential clients to be attracted and to commit.  Grey-scale may be arty and often more economic than full spectrum colour, but I know what my retina wants to drink in.  Too many consultancies boil down their personality to a common ‘brand’ identity.   This is under the mistaken guise of providing brand-consistency.  This, however, is to fly in the face of what is required for new paradigms.  New results in new markets require new patterns – patterns that may be perceived as ‘unreasonable’ at first, but rapidly become the new benchmark for excellence.

And finally, I promised you the ‘Y’.  The ‘Y’ is, of course, representative of ‘You’…and me.  Bespoke business solutions is the only way forward.  The off-the-shelf profiteering of the 80s is gone, gone, gone.  You, the client, You the colleague, You the community must have initiatives tailored that “suit you sir!”  And then, beyond that, You must realise that You make the difference.  21cc is a collaborative partnership, not a dictatorship.  It’s not Parent-Child, it’s not Superior-Subordinate, it’s not Rich-Poor – but it is Y-Y… and that’s a whole new gender in the genetics of Consultancy!

(Mis) Management by Good Intention

…or the road to Hell that is paved with it!

This is likely to be one of the harshest blogs I’ll ever write, so let me first assert something.  I have done a LOT of damage over the years to my friendships and relationships – all with the best of intentions!  When this blog moves into critical style, know that I am speaking to myself first-and-foremost, with the intent that it might just be a useful mirror for others too.

Up Close and Personal

I’ve had the rare opportunity recently to work very closely with one of my favourite Suppliers (as in an organisation rather than an individual).  This is an organisation where the dominant psychological preference is that of the Creative (Squiggle-Triangle or Triangle-Squiggle in Dr Susan Dellinger’s eloquent take on Carl Jung’s Personality Types – see www.shapestest.com).  These Creatives are driven to create, driven to improvise, driven to tweak and improve everything they touch.  These are people who use “alternative currencies” way beyond the two-dimensional attraction of mere money.  These are Creatives who value ideas, recognition, and artistry as equally valid currencies that enrich their lives.

So what’s the best way to systematically extinguish the very spirit that lights their fire?  That’s an easy one – and it has three strands (like all great chords).

  1. Firstly, you must squash, ignore, or crush every great, bad, or so-so idea they have.
  2. Secondly, you must impose changes on them as a surprise – whatever you do, don’t enter into any dialogue with them first, or check with them that it’s OK… after all, what do they know, they only do the job day-in, day-out?
  3. Thirdly, make sure you catch them doing anything wrong – and let them know that you’ve caught them in any inappropriately stupid way you can think of.  Whatever you do, do NOT catch them doing anything right, and do not notice any situation in which they go the extra mile (again)…

Maintaining (Mis) Management by Good Intention

To sustain this kind of level of destructive mis-management, you must have a least two non-democratic senior leaders.  Their style must be as Autocratic as possible – with one of their favourite phrases or behaviours being, “that’s on a need-to-know basis”.  If they can also enforce changes to good practice without consultation, that will really help bugger up the morale and smooth running of the organisation (see point 2 in our unholy trinity above).  These Autoprats – sorry, “Autocrats” – will long for the Jurassic Management practices of Mushroom Management and Seagull Management.  (“Mushroom Management” is defined as, “keep ’em in the dark, and feed ’em shit” – I know a lot about feedin’ them shit!!!  “Seagull Management” – again from the Jurassic Management Manual – is defined by the practice of the Parent Bird (ie. the Autoprat) flying in, making a hell of a lot of noise, crapping over everything, and then flying out again!)

The big issue here is that Creatives do “passive aggression” – they’ve usually got enough grace to smile and get on with it, whilst at the same time looking for creative ways to throw a spanner in the works.

The sad thing here in the organisation I’m thinking of is that one of our Autoprats really is doing it from the best of intentions – for the success of their company on their terms.  However, the even sadder fact is that they’ve failed to realise that it isn’t “their” company anymore.  Creative-types give their heart and soul to any organisation they commit to – so even if it isn’t recognised “legally”, their place-of-work is really “their” organisation – they are the major stakeholders WAY more important than the external customers...  This is what gets the Creative staff members out of bed in the morning, and what keeps them motivated.  Bluntly, I’d also have to assert that in the spirit of patent and copyright law (at least in the UK), the ideas the Creatives put into the organisations are really “their” ideas until signed over – and so it really is “their” organisation.

Mis-Management by Design

Having endorsed the good intention of one type of Autoprat,  I have also to assert that there are cancerous agents in organisations – the bullies and the gold-digging parasites – that simply need to be cut-out and cut-off – and the wound quarterised for the good of the organisation.  Even the “Gentle Jesus” had no time for this kind of parasite: Matthew 12:25, “Every Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city of house [or organisation] divided against itself shall not stand.”  Wasting investment on them is like “casting pearls before swine” – and doomed to disaster.  Removing them is utterly a good business imperative.  This blog is not about them, though as soon as we can develop a genetic test to identify bullies, parasites, and gold-diggers in the “womb” of staff selection, and terminate them before “birth” into the organisation, the better.   Ooo, that probably shouldn’t be in the blog, should it?  Sorry, but if you open your eyes and ears to the media, you will see that bullies and gold-diggers destroy innocent lives.  One life is one too many.  We are historically far too tolerant of bullies, autocrats, and other parasites.  There’s almost some sort of secret gauge that says, “how many people have got to suffer before see draw a line”?  Dig out the bad apples before the whole barrel is contaminated – the sooner the better.

Hope for the Well-Intentioned

Flipping the coin, we find that the best way to manage bad-managers is to manage them!  Rather than the passive aggression that is the “cornered” response of the compromised Creative type, we creatives need to recognise that so-called “Strength Respects Strength”.  Calling a “Sod” a “Sod” will actually provoke respect!  Of  course if you try this with the pseudo-symbiont of the parasite, all hell will break loose.  Check the “inner-witness” of your heart – you know when an apple is good, and when one is rotten to the core.

As recently as only 1834… the Tolpuddle Martyrs formed a righteous alliance against the tyranny of class and autocracy… and were sentenced to the exclusion of exile and transportation for their integrity.  Understandably, less than 200 years later, individuals in organisations are reluctant to stand up to the crass stupidity of managers – for fear of exclusion and exile.  The Tolpuddle Martyrs changed the world, however, so I call upon the courageous to rise up and “…make the buggers’ eyes water” (thanks to Pink Floyd for that last lyric!)

Managing Creative Types

I said earlier that Creative Types recognise other currencies as equally valid payment for their inputs and passion: recognition of their ideas, inclusion in the decision-making process, keeping them in the light of information, respect, noticing them going the extra-mile…  I know someone at this Organisation who will clean the toilets without fuss or without explicit need for recognition… and they are a senior manager!  That, to me at least, is a sign of a leader whom I want to follow.  When the going gets tough, I’ll follow them.  Our major Autoprat works through so many layers of buck-passing that we’d be drowning in poo before they’d don the rubber gloves.  When I was a Bible College, I was also delighted to discover that the guy who tidied up the chairs after church was the retired ex-Principal.  This was the much-loved and much-missed Gilbert Kirby.  What a guy!

By way of stark contrast, don’t look at your phone messages while one of your Creatives is trying to share with you… they should be the only person in your World who matters at the moment in time.  Aside from being rude, it’s just stupid!

Creatives need attention and recognition to fuel the flame… and they don’t mind if the wind blows the flame in a new direction – just don’t blow out the flame.  From the Flame, via “L” learning, come Fame.

I would whole-heartedly recommend the Blessing-White X-Model of Engagement if you really want to harness the infinite power of your Creatives.  You’ll need to discover what your Creatives really want from the job, and in return you’ll find they will really give what it takes for you to meet your Organisational Goals – but it’s “Symbiotic” – both parties need to “win”.

The Conclusion of the Matter

Even though many managers mis-manage from the very best of intentions, only the emotionally intelligent should be allowed anywhere near managing a creative workforce.  Don’t piss on the fire of the Creatives… not if you want to stay in business anyway!