I learned about leading from – reading that book…AGAIN!

Have you ever read a book, or part of a book, or even watched a film again after several times and noticed something that you’ve never quite noticed with that intensity or level of insight before?  That’s exactly what happened to me early yesterday morning and I found it both exhilarating and inspiring!

Many of you who have worked with me will know that I am a fan of Michael Neill.  I admire his ability to put some challenging things into everyday language so that we can understand and change ourselves accordingly. He is also a very entertaining presenter!

This weekend, whilst reminding myself of some of the key messages from his book “The Space Within”, he mentioned that so many of us are looking how to “come alive” as we know instinctively there is more to life than what we are experiencing today, and that we wish to feel more connected to that feeling.  I find this to be true also in my own experience working with so many groups and individuals that I speak to and love to take them towards this place.

What he said next though was really useful to my work as a transformative mentor….that in the back of his mind he has two questions that inform him as to which direction to take in his journey with his clients (and their journey with him!).

Q1 – Do they know where their experience is coming from?

The truth is that most people think that their experience of life comes from their interactions with other people, circumstances, environments and “the world” in general. “It’s just how it is!  There’s nothing I can do about it”is a phrase I hear so very much.  When I’m working with people, I can certainly help them deal with these factors and situations, and that is of value to them for sure, but how much more valuable would it be if I could help them see where their experience is coming from such that they could, potentially, change or affect that?

When we can see the role “thought” and our “thinking” plays in creating our experience of the world, suddenly the world becomes a very different place to play in! You see we are not in control of what thoughts enter our heads, however, we are in control of the ones we pay attention to!!  The truth is that we do not experience other people, things, situations or environments…we only EVER experience our THINKING of other people, things , situations and environments.  Think about it (excuse the pun!) on two consecutive days you can have the same experience and react very differently (for all sorts of reasons)…two people having the same experience can react so different, so instinctively we know this to be true…it is ONLY our thinking that we ever experience and NEVER the “thing” itself.

The thing is, thoughts appear real but they are not reality…they are just a story in our heads and whilst in our heads they have no physical form.  But thoughts create feelings and these feelings are very real…and they make us believe that the thought therefore is real (because we can FEEL it…so it must be…right?!?!)  We then REACT to our feeling and in doing so physically manifest the thought we had…we really do create the WHOLE of our own reality!

Whilst this understanding has been at the heart of our work for several years, the fundamental shift to this being one of 2 key questions I find somehow obvious and yet amazingly clarifying.

This question is THE key step to realising our potential in this world, connecting to our deeper self and demonstrating true leadership in what we do.

So what about question two?

Q2.  Do they know that they are God?

Now I always get nervous about the use of religious words!  These are Michaels words and I get what he means, so please bear with me as I explain further.  “God” is a word for some “universal energy” that lies behind all life, brings the seasons, the circle of life and connects us and everything in this world in ways we kind of know but never understand fully.  Some call it a Universal Mind or Universal Energy.  It’s the thing that holds it all together.  It is that which we have no control over.  It is the energy that means that everything happens for a reason…it’s just we don’t know what that is yet.  We are mind and mind is us.  If we go looking for it then that’s as crazy as a drop of water (in the ocean) looking for the ocean!  We are it and we are in it.  We are “God”…and that means we were born perfect and all have exactly the same access to the infinite energy and source of wisdom available to every human being on this planet.

The issue here is that when we live believing that everything we experience comes from outside of us, then we look to fix everything outside and also fix ourselves in order to change the way people treat us.  This is not only a never-ending process but it is also exhausting for us.  In addition when we are looking in this direction we switch off our connection and awareness of the infinite wisdom we are naturally gifted with all our life.

So What?

When we can understand both of these statements/questions, then we really do perform at our best, have more fun being ourselves than ever before and live life with a smile, gratitude and compassion.  Surely this is the “home” so many of us are seeking.

Michael explains it far better than me. I recommend the book!  But in the meantime I will enjoy the renewed focus this has given me.

If you wish to hear more about this and realising your true potential then please do give us a call or email (antony@its-leadership.co.uk).

After all, iTS Leadership!



I learned about leading from – the London Marathon

As I sit here, one week on from completing last weeks London Marathon, I have been reflecting on the leadership lessons this years’ experience has taught me and thought I would share with you all.

1. GOAL – it is important to have a goal so you know what to aim for.  6 months ago I actually could not run a single step as I was suffering with issues with my Achilles tendon and I hadn’t run for 5 months. The goal of completing the marathon at the end of April helped to bring things into focus and I targeted my activities accordingly.

Q: what is your goal or vision and does it give you clarity?

2. PRACTICE – a challenge such as running 26.2miles is not something that should be attempted without any practice!  It is not a typical activity for most human bodies and as such it is important to get used to spending time out exercising.  With all the right training completed the body is able to rise to the challenge.

Q: do you practice for the most important goals in your business/life?

3. BE CENTRED – I actually felt incredibly centred at the start line this year, soaking in the atmosphere with a deeply calm mind.  I had done all my preparation and travel arrangements in advance of the day and took each step to the start line very calmly.  No excess energy was used dealing with the stress or anxiety of “last minute panics”

Q: how calm is your mind, especially when tackling your biggest tasks?

4. NOURISHMENT – one of the biggest mistakes I have made in the past is with my food intake leading up to the race.  I have previously had days of stuffing pasta down my throat and ended up at the start line feeling tired, heavy and sluggish.  This year, with a proper nutrition plan, I didn’t have one pasta meal! I simply had a couple of days of slightly more carbohydrate than normal after several days of carb’ depletion. The result was a bright and energetic body at the start with enough energy to see me through to the end of the race.

Q: what “nourishment” do you or your team need to complete your main tasks?

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED – one of Tim’s (from our team) sayings is “no plan survives engagement with the enemy”.  As good as my planning and training had been, I had picked up a calf strain in the last week and although I felt OK at the start, my left calf flared up with just one-third of a mile completed.  The pain was immediately bad enough for me to question whether I should attempt to complete the next 26.1 miles!  As I continued through the race the pain gradually rose up my left leg and then later on, my right hip and knee were feeling it also as my right leg overcompensated for the left.  Luckily my training and my calm mind kept me able and focused on the task at hand.

Q: do you feel robust enough to survive unexpected challenges on your journey?  What could you do to improve?

6. PURPOSE – the last 6 miles or so are always a struggle in a marathon as the body approaches the dreaded “wall” and your inner voice starts to get a bit noisy!  This year was made doubly worse as the pain I had been carrying for 3 hours was almost all consuming by this stage.  At this point all I kept thinking was “I have an injury, but that will mend over the next few weeks.  The kids in the children’s hospice (that I was raising money for) do not have that luxury.  If they can face their challenges with such bravery and humour then I can do this for them”

Q: are you clear on your purpose, why you are doing the things you have set as goals?

7. Support – one of the wonderful things about the London Marathon is the incredible crowd that lines the course from start to finish.  Those who runs lots of marathons all round the world tell me that London is definitely the best for this.  Having people cheer you on helps to take your mind off of the pain, brings a smile to your face and spurs you on to the next milestone.  It really so very very helpful.

Q: what support can you tap into for yourself and how do you ensure your team are being cheered on regularly?

8. ACTION – this may sound so incredibly obvious, but, in the end, you still need to turn up and put one foot in front of the other for 26.2miles!  No one can do it for you and there is no short-cut available. I know the saying “P***-poor planning makes p***-poor performance” and “failing to plan is planning to fail” but it is also true that “planning ain’t doing” and the only way to achieve is to act. In a race, the point at which to start the action is pretty obvious, it’s as you cross the start line…and what a buzz of excitement to finally get the race underway.

Q: do you know when to stop planning and start acting?  Is your “starting line” clear and does everyone else in the team know this too?

One week on and my left leg is on the mend and I’m now getting my next goals clearly laid out and developing my plans to attack these.  I have raised over £5000 for the Childrens Hospice thanks to so many of your generous donations.  Thank you.   

You can still donate here if you would like to:- 


I have a well-earned medal for stepping over the finish line in 4 hours and 12 minutes, which personally I am delighted about in the circumstances.  I also have these lessons to be grateful for and hope you find them useful.

If you would like help and support with any of the elements mentioned for you or your team then do get in touch….we would love to hear from you.

After all, iTS Leadership!

Learning from the Boston Marathon Bombing

Like many of you I watched over 40 thousand people run the London Marathon last weekend.  It was fascinating to see the mix of backgrounds and abilities all attempting the 26.2 mile run and all with their own personal reasons.  This reminded me the marathon in Boston a few years back where shocking events were to unfold and After Action Review (AAR) was to come into its own once again.

There were several AARs held after the marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013 and each of them provided profound insights into how the Boston healthcare system responded on this terrible day.   3 people died and 247 were injured, many with considerable limb damage yet incredibly no one who arrived at a Trauma Centrealive, subsequently died.

The first bomb went off at 2.50pm and casualties arrived at the first trauma centre at 3.09pm. Because the nursing shift changes at 3pm, there were sufficient staff available to put the Emergency Medical System Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) plan into action and clear Emergency Departments of other patients. The Boston marathon takes place on the local holiday called “Patriots day” when hospitals have less surgery scheduled so time to the Operating Room was impressively rapid and undoubtedly saved lives.  So “luck” clearly played a part in saving lives and whilst there may be no practical lessons to be learnt from this, perhaps there are some philosophical and moral ones which can be just as valuable in these circumstances. 

The practical lessons learnt which have led to the updating of the MCI Plan include creating a “pooling room” for spare staff to be drawn on as required.  One of the trauma centers did this and it was an effective way to use the many staff arriving to volunteer along with that extra shift of staff.  The AARs facilitated the review of the triage processes for MCI events of this type as less than 50% of casualties arrived with mass-casualty triage tags. These tags help decide the level of urgency for medical attention and treatment. Uncertainty about additional explosives created a sense of urgency in loading people into ambulances so tags were not attached to the most seriously injured. However sufficient manpower in the hospitals did allow for effective triage once casualties arrived and the lesson is that field triage may not always be a realistic expectation and instead a universal and robust hospital-level triage protocol should be developed. 

One of the simpler lessons learnt that perhaps has more in common with the type of lessons we learn for AARs in our own workplaces, was about tourniquets. The importance of these for saving lives that day in Boston has meant that it has now been recommended to be included in the national first aid curriculum. Something as simple as tourniquet training for first aiders is the type of lesson which we can all understand as a constructive outcome from an After Action Review. Without the the structured space of an AAR to think together would this level of clarity emerge about what is important to save future lives?  My experience suggests it’s not worth taking the risk.

I would like to applaud all those who called for, facilitated and participated these AARs as, not only did they generate incredibly valuable learning for future mass casualty incidents, they also provided a safe and supportive space during which people could reflect and try and make sense together of the significant human effort to do the very best on a difficult day. 

Yet we shouldn’t only use AARs for exceptional events such as this.  The appetite to learn may not be as compelling in our more everyday workplaces but the value can be just as great. Unique emergencies provide lessons about behaviour under exceptional circumstances yet more routine events create multiple opportunities to learn how to do it better every single day. 

What do you do to achieve clarity with your colleagues about what is important? How good are you at capitalising on the benefits of shared learning and avoiding any blame?  Would you like to hear more about creating this habit in your organisation?  Please drop me a line so we can arrange a chat judy.walker@its-Leadership.co.uk