Rene Carayol

The real meaning of “taking the knee”

Many leaders are out of touch with a generation for whom inclusivity and solidarity are non-negotiable.

Since the tragic murder of George Floyd, I’ve made a short posting on LinkedIn every day about inclusion. The odd one hits a nerve.

With the European football championships, ‘taking the knee’ by England players has become the current bane of objection for a vocal minority of fans. I mentioned Gary Lineker’s provocative Tweet -“If you boo England players for taking the knee, you’re part of the reason why players are taking the knee” – and quoted the England manager, Gareth Southgate: “We encourage those that oppose this action to reflect on the message you are sending to the players you are supporting.”

Southgate has oozed class and role modelled inclusive leadership that many CEOs could learn from. He has the backing of all his players because they have his. The government and FA have shown the opposite.

Within hours, we had a febrile atmosphere but because it was on LinkedIn (and it’s not anonymous), it was better behaved than what you often see on social media, but the disagreements were real and forceful.

We have learnt the hard way that racism is not logical, and you cannot have a logical discussion with racists. The more intemperate and nasty postings started to be deleted as they caused outrage. Senior executives from the companies of the aggressors entered the fray to apologise, and protect the values and reputation of their businesses.

I was contacted by one head of people as a colleague had let themselves down with some strong, offensive views. I explained that I didn’t feel they were overtly racist, but were wise to delete their posts. They had directly apologised, claiming it was ‘in the heat’ of the moment. Businesses are having to do the job that social media companies should be doing.

This sort of boorish behaviour clearly would not be tolerated at work. The nonsense we heard online about this being a protest against the Marxist BLM organisation is a laughable cover for racists.

Some said rather ridiculously to keep politics out of sport – please, do me a favour.

From Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics to Tommie Smith at the 1960 Mexico Olympics. Who can ever forget Nelson Mandela at the 1995 rugby world cup final, and the impact it had on the fledgling Rainbow Nation? Should England lose, it will be Black players that will be singled out for nasty, unrelenting racial abuse online. Politics?

Speaking of politics, Boris Johnson made another screeching U-turn on his stance on England’s footballers “taking the knee”, stating fans should not heckle players. He had backed his ‘base’, saying that he didn’t support players adopting the pose. “On taking the knee, specifically, [he] is more focused on action rather than gestures,” a spokesperson said.

This is not the leadership needed. After cutting feedback from Gordon Brown and Keir Starmer, Downing Street came back: “The prime minister respects the rights of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices”, and he “would like to see everybody get behind the team to cheer them on, not boo”. This had an instant ‘cooling’ impact on the atmosphere on our social media.

‘Taking the knee’ is a proud show of solidarity between the England squad against the evils of racism, and the players have reiterated this. It allows Black players to feel they are supported, much like the singing of “You’ll never walk alone” does for all at Liverpool FC. Previous generations of Black players had zero support, and the racism was far more overt and crushing.

We sadly saw the Russian fans boo the Belgian players for ‘taking the knee’. That’s their usual abject racism. Let’s stop the hypocrisy and not play to the divisive ‘culture wars’ – racism is racism.

After Southgate’s strong stance, Steve Clarke, Scotland’s manager, said: “For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance.”

‘Taking the knee’ has tabled the debate. It affords a strong sense of solidarity for all Black players. Maybe for the first time, football feels ‘joined up’ and is making a collective stance against racism. This starts at the top, but it needs more than Southgate.

Unfortunately, our leaders in society are out-of-touch with a much more assertive generation for whom inclusion isn’t a matter of political debate or a fashionable point of view, it’s a way of life, a matter of non-negotiable human rights.

Inclusion is not just being allowed to be there but being valued for being there. We’ve managed to get to the moon, now let’s try and get to racial justice.

Original story can be found here.

Andrew Williams

How to keep grounded as a leader

As you rise through the corporate ranks, the impact of your decisions increases and your role becomes more and more important. You do not.

Failure to recognise this can lead to all sorts of problems. Leaders who think they’re better than the people they lead will lack empathy, alienate people, lose touch with the reality of their business on the ground, and become dangerously overconfident.

The best leaders know how to keep their ego in check, but is this something you can do deliberately? Andrew Williams, who’s been CEO of FTSE 100 company Halma for nearly 16 years, shares some tips.

“I went to a Cardiff comprehensive school that was… not the best. But while I may not have got a great academic education, my social education was fantastic. I’ve never been in awe of people above me, and I’ve always tried to treat people lower down the organisation with respect.

“That’s important – I’ve seen as many people struggle because they can’t be authentic around their boss as I have people who get ahead and then forget where they came from.

“A good starting point is to find friends who aren’t interested in what you do for a living. I still play football every week on a Thursday night [out of lockdown], and though it’s a different part of the country, they’re the same kind of friends I had 30 years ago.

“And of course as soon as you walk through the front door at home, you know you’re not the boss any more: my kids treat me with the appropriate lack of respect.”

Original article can be found here –

Business as usual

How to balance business transformation with business as usual

Future-facing projects need to be designed for speed and tolerant of failure, says corporate innovation specialist Chris Locke.

This year may well be remembered as the year of the retail apocalypse, with iconic brands including Thomas Cook and Mothercare succumbing. However, it’s not just the retail sector that’s felt the pinch. Across every business segment we are seeing giants of industry failing to respond quickly enough to market forces, leaving shareholders paying the ultimate price.

Herein lies the challenge for all established companies – how to manage these external changes when everything within the organisation is geared towards maintaining business-as-usual. As futurist Ray Kurzweil outlines: “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — we’ll experience 20,000 years of progress.” Unfortunately, static business models don’t marry well with these exponential market dynamics.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in how firms approach their business transformation programmes. Of course, you can’t neglect the core business – the cash cows that feed today’s profit margins must be maintained and optimised – but there must also be a recognition that these cash cows will eventually be put out to pasture. We therefore need to be actively managing our portfolio to search and develop the next generation of business models to drive growth.

Read more here.

Rabbit hole

How to escape the productivity rabbit hole

Want your staff to be more productive? Stop expecting them to do more in less time, says professional organiser Joshua Zerkel.

Management theorist Peter Drucker famously said, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” For businesses, the need to boost team productivity is nothing new, however, with the rise of flexible working and the plethora of tools employees are feeling the pressure to simply “do more”. 

When businesses start rolling out new processes and tools there can be a tendency to fall down the productivity rabbit hole, focusing solely on employee output without considering whether their actions are driving efficiencies internally or just creating more work.

According to McKinsey, the average worker wastes 61 per cent of their time coordinating their work in meetings, email and chat rather than doing their actual work. This time could be better spent doing meaningful work that actually creates impact and drives the business forward. 

Read more here.


What Aristotle can teach you about leadership

2000 years ago, Aristotle, the world’s greatest philosopher, statesman and writer made a profound observation about Successful leaders.

As per Aristotle, all successful people have loads of something called koine aisthesis or sensus communis.

He describes this quality as the higher-order perception that humans uniquely possess but used properly only by a few. This acts as a kind of guide for the others, organising them as well as mobilising them in one connected perceptual apparatus.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines this quality as a “master” virtue and a must for achieving success in life. He also terms this quality as phronesis, a term which combines ethics and action.

Phronesis has been interpreted in different ways, “prudence” is the most common one. But the definition that I like best is “practical wisdom.” Or “common sense”.

Let us see what Aristotle has to tell about practical wisdom-:

· Practical wisdom combines action, accompanied by reason and ethics required to prevail over a difficult situation.

· It does not depend on knowledge of the person. Rather it depends on a particular situation and a particular situation requires specific action.

· Practical wisdom is critical for decisions promoting Eudaimonia (Happiness or Leading a good life).

In a nutshell, Deliberation, Reasoning, and Action. This is the stuff of practical wisdom.

Aristotle considers this as the master virtue because this is the only virtue which keeps the other virtues in “check” or in other words, in perfect balance.

For example, too much “courage” in an impossible situation is foolishness. Similarly, Loyalty can degrade into “blind obedience” if done without thinking rationally. Likewise, too much of “self-confidence” can harden into a stubborn ego and so on.

Thus Practical wisdom “is the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.”

And In Book 6 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle lays out the skills and attributes a leader needs to develop in order to become practically wise.

Know your objective

Businesses form teams to achieve an objective that improves the quality of a service or product, reduces waste, or removes inefficiencies in a process. Successful teams have a strong leader who can guide the group toward the objective or goal.

The goals of the leader must align with the objective of the project and lead the team toward its mission.

Always remember a leader who does not understand his objective can never attain practical wisdom in it.

Understand the Perception.

Once in a while, businesses will encounter emergency situations that often need quick action. These moments are understandably challenging, as their outcomes largely depend on the leading capabilities of the leader in charge.

And this is precisely what Aristotle meant when he tells us that practical wisdom depends on a particular situation and a particular situation requires specific action.

To know how to act in a particular situation, we need to deftly perceive and understand the circumstances before us. What are the facts in this case? What’s the history here? How do others feel about it?

Successful leaders tailor their responses accordingly to the situation in hand and turn the tables deftly.

Seek the Truth

Great leaders are truth seekers. It enables them to deal with facts and act in the best interest of their business and their people.

And Aristotle believed that an understanding of absolute truth was necessary in order to be practically wise. Absolute truths act as boundaries for us while we exercise practical wisdom.

Understanding absolutes require an informed intellect. This gives us the necessary data to slice and dice and come up with a meaningful decision which ultimately brings Eudaimonia to all.

Learn from Experience

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “practical wisdom is also of particulars, which come to be known as a result of experience, but a young person is inexperienced: a long period of time creates experience.

Aristotle firmly believed that practical wisdom could only be gained through experience. He often likened practical wisdom to a skill like carpentry or masonry. You can’t just read a book about carpentry and expect to become a master carpenter.

You become more and more practically wise, the more situations you face. And with every situation you face, you gain more experience, either good or bad. And this cumulative experience is the key to success.

You learn from your experiences and make informed right decisions.

Play the Devil’s advocate and then act on it.

According to Aristotle, “the person skilled in identifying multiple options would in general also be practically wise.” The heart of practical wisdom is deliberation.

Practical wisdom requires that we deliberate with ourselves the best course of action to take in a given situation. It’s a skill that we become more adept at through experience.

And Of course, all the reasoning and deliberation would be a waste of time if we do not Act on it. Over and over again in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “practical wisdom is bound up with action.”

It’s not enough to know what the correct thing to do is, you must actually do it.

Why is Common Sense So Important?

As organisations have become more complex, specialised, and bureaucratic, the opportunity to exercise practical wisdom has increasingly been replaced with reliance on rules, regulations, and incentives to achieve our goals. But rules don’t always work as intended.

However, Successful leaders always ensure that while rules and processes should be powerful enough to command discipline and commitment, but at the same time, they should be flexible and nimble to act effectively in unforeseen or unusual circumstances.

And this Flexibility to adapt comes from common sense. Common sense thus is a form of practical decision-making and the ability to imagine the consequences of something you do. It stops us from making irrational mistakes and makes it easier to make choices on what to do.

And we aren’t born with common sense, we develop it over time and with repeated practice.

As Aristotle has rightly said:

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.

Original story can be found here.

Sports person

How the Premier League became an export superstar

In July, the Brand Manager Pursuivant to the Royal Family will have awoken to the same sobering news that greeted the Chancellors of Britain’s noblest seats of learning on the Cherwell, Cam and Thames.

Pollsters Populus had surveyed 20,000 people from 20 countries and territories about 10 of the UK’s best-known institutions, companies and brands. Each one was rated for modernity, excitement, trust, global recognition and whether it enhanced the wider UK brand. The survey’s startling conclusion was that all the pomp and pageantry of our royal weddings, all the traditional excellence of our dreaming spires, simply didn’t stack up against a Monday night relegation dogfight between Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town.

That is because that particular globally televised scrap – almost certainly taking place in the driving rain before a roaring crowd – is one of 380 annual fixtures in the Premier League which, the survey said, is simply the biggest British brand in the world.

Read more here.

The UK needs a manufacturing resurgence – and a weak pound

OPINION: Productivity growth depends on industrial investment, which demands an active approach to the national currency, argues JML founder John Mills.

Productivity growth in the UK economy is almost non-existent. Many people find this fact puzzling. However, there’s a simple reason why, and there’s a relatively simple solution too – if only we can bring ourselves to face up to it.

If we want to rebalance our economy, and get our productivity up, we need to make manufacturing profitable again. We need to create the conditions whereby it makes sense to site new manufacturing facilities in the UK instead of China or Germany or Holland.

But to do this, we need a much lower exchange rate. This would make the prices we charge for goods to be sold to world markets much more competitive. We might not all agree with this strategy but it is the only way we are ever going to crack the UK productivity puzzle.

The UK’s low productivity is the result of two factors. Economic growth stems very largely from investment. Currently, we invest a very small proportion of our national income compared to most other countries, and what we do invest in produces very small returns.

Read more here.

The secret of great learners: Focus on the process, not the outcome

The history of orthopaedic surgery offers some surprising lessons for self-improvement.

Learning is so vital today that we can think of ourselves as living in a learning economy. We can’t just be knowledge workers; we must also be learning workers. In the words of Jeffrey Immelt, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, ‘You never hire somebody, no matter what job you’re hiring for, for what they know. You’re hiring them for how fast you think they can learn.’

But we’re bad at learning. Supremely bad. In fact, we’re our own worst enemies. Instead of doing the things that will help us learn, we often do just the opposite. One of the most common mistakes is obsessing about outcomes while neglecting to examine carefully the process through which we achieve them.

I have three sons who, at least for the moment, all love baseball (as does their father). I have the good fortune to help coach each of their baseball teams, although soon their skills and knowledge will surpass mine. Recently my eldest son came to the plate with the bases loaded against a hard-throwing but wild pitcher. Most of the team was either striking out or walking. He ripped a pitch, but unfortunately it went straight to the shortstop, who fielded it on one hop and, given how hard it was hit, easily turned a double play from second base to first base.

Read more here.


How GKN’s boardroom woes left it vulnerable to attack

They call it the corporate jungle, and not without reason. Life at the top of UK plc can be red in tooth and claw, and any sign of weakness or vacillation may be pounced upon by investors hungry for a more substantial financial meal.

Such is the case with the recent £7bn cash and shares bid made by turnaround specialist Melrose for troubled FTSE 100 engineer GKN. After being rejected out of hand as ‘entirely opportunistic’ by the GKN board, Melrose then turned hostile, upping the bid to £7.4bn, an increase largely attributable to the rise in Melrose’s share price after making the first bid. That, plus the fact that GKN’s shares have now hit an all-time high of 442p, is a pretty unambiguous sign that the market is up for the deal and that GKN now has a real fight on its hands.

Melrose wasn’t likely to retire without a fight, especially after it received the blessing of US activist investor Vulcan Venture Partners, which holds around 4% of GKN’s shares. Vulcan’s boss CT Fitzpatrick stated in an email yesterday that he wanted GKN to open negotiations with Melrose.

Find out more at here.


Carillion collapse puts thousands of suppliers and sub-contractors at risk

The collapse of construction giant Carillion could be highly damaging for thousands of small British firms, according to a number of leading industry organisations.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is one of a growing number of business groups to have called for payment protection for Carillion’s small suppliers and sub-contractors, of which there are thousands.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the electrotechnical and engineering services trade body, the ECA, are also among the organisations to have expressed concerns for Carillion sub-contractors in the wake of the company’s demise.

The UK’s second biggest construction firm was believed to have debts amounting to around £1.5bn when it went into liquidation in 15 January, owing roughly £800m in retention payments to small suppliers and sub-contractors.

Worries have arisen that much of this money may now be lost, putting the survival of many of Carillion’s sub-contractors at risk.

Read more here.