I learned about Leading from: my 50th birthday!


It finally happened. My forties were fast coming to an end and I faced the transition into my fifties.  Actually I felt quite proud about my last 10 years and was looking forward to the opportunities and experiences that the next 10 will bring.

As I sat in the summer of last year with an injured ankle and a growing belly, I was also conscious of a promise I had made myself a couple of years earlier….

When I started work back in 1991, having recently graduated from university, I was on an Initial Training Course (ITC) with many lovely people and one particular friend, Roger. Over the years I kept in touch with Roger and many years later we ended up living very close to each other. Roger is a little bit older than me and when he reached his 50th I was blown away by how much fitter and in better shape he was than when I knew him in his mid-20’s!  I told myself, and Roger, that this was what I was going to do also…but as I sat on the sunbed, with a non-working ankle I was worried that my dream was slipping away.

Not one to be deterred by extra hurdles, I spoke with a personal trainer I had met a few years earlier. Tom (the PT) now worked with his wife, Jess, a nutritionist, to give a more holistic programme to clients and had a very tailored approach to helping individuals attain their goals.  In addition to getting into my “best shape ever” I also needed to get my running back to enable me to complete the 2019 London Marathon in April-19; this seemed miles away when I could hardly walk on my ankle!

antony milesSo began a programme of 3-4 weight circuits each week together with some dietary direction and rehabilitation therapy on my leg injury.  Every week I would have a video-call with Tom and Jess and we would check progress on all fronts and discuss what was working and not, then I would get a revised programme for the following week.  And so it continued, week after week.

Finally in December I could take my first steps back running.  3 miles became 6 miles and soon into 2019 I was into 9, 10 and then 13 miles. The ankle was working and, more to the point, the work I had been doing in my home gym had given me strength and conditioning that made the transition back into distant running a relatively painless path.  I was delighted, things were falling into place.

But what about my other goal…the “best shape ever”?

Well there had been some great progress but I thought I might follow a concept I heard from Simon Woodroffe once (the creator of Yo! Sushi) to “Make Failure Painful”.  I booked myself in for a professional photoshoot to record the shape my body was in the day prior to my 50th. Now there was no turning back and I was focused on my goal.  Tom and Jess turned up the dial on my training and nutrition plan and the challenge was simply unreal on some days, but I could see the weights rising, the muscles becoming more defined and my body measurements falling in to line. Let me be honest with you, I did not become a monk in this time!  I still drank alcohol on occasion and had a rather “large” day out with some of my best mates just a couple of days before the shoot!

On the day of the photoshoot I was completely overwhelmed by the results.  I did not look like me, but it really was me.  I hadn’t had photos done like this before and I was delighted to confirm that indeed, if not the “best shape ever”, I was certainly in better shape than before our wedding 25 years ago and this was definitely a massive goal achieved.

So why the blog and where’s the learning?

I think I have always felt that anything is possible when we approach it with an open mind and belief, and I have never been disappointed with this approach personally nor with individuals and teams that I have worked with over the years.  With my experience of the last few months this belief has been further enhanced by 4 key steps that I know can help all of us achieve our ambitions and become that person that deep down we have always known is there and that is to P.L.A.N.  Let me explain…

P = Proud – a few years back I was taught that we can live life Have-Do-Be or Be-Do-Have.  If we live Have–Do–Be then we seek to HAVE things that enable us to DO things that help us BE something (eg proud, happy, excited etc).  The problem with this is by the time we get there we are after the next thing, then the next etc.  It’s like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  When we turn this on its head and realise that how we are BE-ing in the moment is simply a choice, so we assume this state first, then DO the things we need to do to get the things we want to HAVE…then we are far more successful and enjoy the journey, every step.  Very early on in my journey I connected to my feeling of being proud of all I have achieved and proud of my body.  My goal was not to get into this state, I connected with this every day and then did what I needed to do to get what I wanted to HAVE…the best shape ever.

L = Leadership – there is so much personal leadership and having the right state of mind in this journey but I also got myself a coach (or two!) to lead me with their insights, expertise and daily encouragement.  I can honestly say that Tom and Jess kept me on track and motivated to continue through the hard times and the cold winter mornings.  They know their stuff, took a huge weight of effort looking into how to do this or that and gave me the information and instruction I needed on a daily basis to just follow and “do” in order to get the results I desired.  “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so that you may become what you have always known you can be.” (Tom Landry)  Have you got a coach or mentor?

A = Accountability – there is only one person that could do this for me and that was ME!  No matter what anyone else said or did, at the end of the day, I had to get on and do it.  Accountability was obvious and I knew it.  No delegation.  No abdication and as my friend, and great coach, Andy Bailey says “there is no try! We either do or we don’t!”

N = Nail it!  You see the thing that strikes me is that both winners and losers have the same goals!  So what’s the difference and where do the different outcomes come from? In the book “Atomic Habits”, by James Clear, he proposes that the winners are much better at focusing on and carrying out the process to get there.  In other words, they stick to the plan.  They Nail it! Focus, effort and determination with no excuses.

…and that is what I have “Learned about Leading” from my 50th birthday experience.  The key to success with self and other is to PLAN:

    • P – connect with your “BE”
    • L – get yourself a coach or mentor (we have some great ones by the way, look here http://its-leadership.co.uk/its-us/)
    • A – embrace accountability
    • N – nail it with determination and dedication

…and the result…I thought you’d never ask…but some things we will keep to ourselves for now!! 😉

After all, iTS Leadership!



PS: The aforementioned Jess and Tom would like to offer our readers a very special offer! For a complimentary 2-week introductory experience with Jess and Tom, email hello@jessntom.com with the code ‘iTS14’ and you will get a free taster of working with them. For further insights, look at www.jessntom.com 

I learned about leading from: the emotional weather storm

What a glorious weekend!  I managed to get out in the garden and trim some bushes and even dig a tree out, and oh boy was that all hot work!  Worth the effort in the end though I am pleased to say.

Whilst doing this I did reflect on my last lot of gardening a couple of weekends ago.  The weather then was very changeable!  I started in shorts and a t-shirt, then had to find a jumper and then a rain coat!  A few minutes later the sun was out again and I was stripping off as now I was too hot.  10 mins later the rain coat was back on as the heavens opened once again!  You know the deal…our glorious English summer😊

What struck me during this episode was how my mood could change with the weather.  I think the rapid changes helped to emphasise this to me.  In the sun I was happy and smiling and enjoying the warmth on my back.  In the cold I was shivering and wishing I was somewhere else.  In the rain I was feeling a tad bewildered and wanting things to change quickly.  And with all this I remembered that in life, we don’t experience the weather, we only experience our thinking about the weather!  What a great metaphor the weather can be for the “emotional weather” that we experience every day from our thinking.

You see, when our mood is high and we see things in a wider context, then little seems to bother us.  We take everything in our stride.  The metaphorical sun is on our backs and we smile as we enjoy the warmth and light of the experience.  But within a second our attention can focus on another thought that takes us into a low mood.  As with the rain, we focus on all the negative aspects and wish we were somewhere else and hoping that things will change quickly, but sadly too often we forget that our experience can change in a second with a single change of thought.

The truth is that we all only ever live in the feeling of our thinking in any moment, not in the feeling of the world.  Our whole life experience is simply our reaction to our thinking of the moment, the thinking of the circumstances and the thinking of the people we are with.  We cannot change the thoughts that pop into our head, as we cannot change the weather we experience, but we can choose how much attention we give our thinking and that can literally change our world.

This summer, do enjoy the good weather and any breaks that we get from it!  If you wish to talk more about any of this then please do get in touch.  Our passion is to help everyone grow their “Profit and Smiles” and if you wish to do so then we would be delighted to talk.

After all, iTS Leadership!



Finding our purpose: Part 3

Recently I have been having a lot of conversations with people about “Purpose”; their purpose, the organisational purpose and even the purpose for a meeting or project team.  I therefore thought a series of very short blogs on this subject could well be helpful for many of you.

This is part 3.  If you missed parts 1 and 2 then you can find them here:-

Finding our purpose: Part 1

Finding our purpose: Part 2

I find that one of the most powerful things in life is to find ones purpose.  Without a purpose we can drift from month to month and year to year, being blown by the metaphorical wind and tide of life with no focus on where we should be heading.  With a (strong) purpose we can weather most storms, show resilience, courage and an inner confidence that others find comforting and inspirational.

So the questions that come to mind are: what is a purpose, why is it so important and how do we find our own?  This is the third of three separate and short blogs over a couple of weeks.  I would love to hear your feedback as I can follow up with a further blog to address any questions, please email me at antony@its-leadership.co.uk

How do I find my Purpose?

That’s the obvious next question right!  I wish this was the easy bit but, in my experience, this is rarely the case.  I also don’t believe there is one answer that fits all, but there are some things I do know:-

  • You don’t have to spend 40 days and 40 nights on your own to find it
  • You won’t find it with a busy mind!  You must let the snow-globe of your mind settle and the best way to do this is to get away from your day to day surroundings…be that home or work.  Get out!  Go for a walk in an inspirational setting
  • A friend, coach or mentor can help you find it, by asking questions, remaining silent and reflecting back what they hear you say and not say
  • The following questions can also help to start the process:
    • what does the world expect from me?
    • what does the world deserve from me?
    • what would deeply upset or even anger me if it never happened?
    • what would I love my legacy to be?
    • what would I love my epitaph to be?
    • what do I REALLY want? (repeat this question 6 times and see where the journey takes you…the answers may surprise and delight you…oh, and have the Kleenex to hand!)

…and asking “why?” or “so what?” at least 4 times after each of the above is a sure-fire way to get clarity, and this is super helpful!

I was on a development programme at MIT in Boston last week, and one of the things they shared was that often in life we start to do “stuff” that is either needed or seems like a good idea and/or maybe some friends or colleagues are doing it.  Then, after a while, we get good at it after so much practice.  It’s then that we develop a PASSION for this as it gives us energy and plays to our strengths and then we discover that this is (aligned to) our PURPOSE.  As I mentioned before, I think we all have a purpose and it is within us to reveal, and as such, we naturally get attracted to the things that will serve that purpose.  So it’s always good to think about what things in life are you passionate about and ask why (ask this 5-6 times!).

The purpose of these blogs is not to be a definitive guide to finding your purpose, but I do hope they will serve as a stimulus to start your journey to find your own such that you can fulfil your full potential and create the transformations that you maybe have only dreamed about to date.

Our purpose as an organisation is “Creating the freedom to choose”. We understand that we all have a choice every day with what we say, what we do and what we focus on mentally and physically.  In doing so, we create our reality.  Understanding this and enabling others to see this creates the most amazing sense of freedom where each and every person can excel.  This is our dream and our passion.  It is our Purpose!

If you’re interested in learning more or finding help to find your purpose, as an individual, team or organisation then do give us a call or email me (antony@its-leadership.co.uk).

After all, iTS Leadership!

With love


Finding our purpose – Part 2

Recently I have been having a lot of conversations with people about “Purpose”; their purpose, the organisational purpose and even the purpose for a meeting or project team.  I therefore thought a series of very short blogs on this subject could well be helpful for many of you.  This is part 2.  If you missed part 1 then you can find it here:- Finding our purpose – Part 1

Thanks for all the lovely comments from the first blog.   There were a couple of more general questions in addition to confidential personal ones I have addressed with individuals.

Q: When is it best to “find our Purpose?” – to be honest, when we have a defined purpose our performance is always better as we have more confidence, clarity and resilience.  If we follow this train of thought then the best time is when you feel that you could do with more of these 3 characteristics in your life and/or business.

Q: How often should our purpose change? – this is a super question.  In my experience our purpose is like the diamond in the rock; it is always there and never changes.  I don’t believe we “create a purpose” it’s more that we “reveal it” by chipping away at the “rock” that get’s in the way of us seeing and connecting with it.  That said, there are different levels of clarity with which we see such diamonds, and over time we can “cut it” and “polish it” to become the most beautiful jewel in our life.  In summary “a purpose” is better than “no purpose” but the ideal is to reveal “the purpose”, but please be patient, this is not always easy nor obvious.


I find that one of the most powerful things in life is to find ones purpose.  Without a purpose we can drift from month to month and year to year, being blown by the metaphorical wind and tide of life with no focus on where we should be heading.  With a (strong) purpose we can weather most storms, show resilience, courage and an inner confidence that others find comforting and inspirational.

So the questions that come to mind are:

What is a purpose, why is it so important and how do we find our own?

This is the second of three separate and short blogs over a couple of weeks.  I would love to hear your feedback as we go so I can address any questions in the next instalment, please email me at antony@its-leadership.co.uk

2. Why is Purpose so important?

A clear purpose gives us resilience, courage and an inner confidence that others find comforting and inspirational.  Having a strong purpose takes us beyond ourselves and soon we are fighting for a much greater good and thus the level of our own importance diminishes.  This is true “servant leadership” and takes us to a place where our levels of success and achievement can surpass anything we previously thought possible.  Think here of Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama as prime examples of humble leaders with an amazing intent that shone from within them and made them feel nothing and yet everything all at the same time.

Simply put, our Purpose helps us put the jigsaw of our life both together and then on display in a way that helps to organise others to achieve something together.  This creates some wonderous and even miraculous movements and events; think of the end of apartheid in South Africa, the collapse of the Berlin Wall in Germany and even Live Aid.  None of these happened overnight, and all started with an incredible purpose to impact beyond any individual, that gelled communities to come together and achieve the impossible.

Now not all purposes need to be world-changing, but the higher the context of our Purpose, the more transformative we can be.


See our third and final blog on “How to find Our Purpose” soon.

If you’re interested in learning more or finding help to find your purpose, as an individual, team or organisation then do give us a call or email me (antony@its-leadership.co.uk).

After all, iTS Leadership!

With love


Finding our purpose

I find that one of the most powerful things in life is to find ones purpose and recently I have been having a lot of conversations with people about “Purpose”; their purpose, the organisational purpose and even the purpose for a meeting or project team.  I therefore thought a series of very short blogs on this subject could well be helpful for many of you.

Without a purpose we can drift from month to month and year to year, being blown by the metaphorical wind and tide of life with no focus on where we should be heading.  With a (strong) purpose we can weather most storms, show resilience, courage and an inner confidence that others find comforting and inspirational.

So the questions that come to mind are: what is a purpose, why is it so important and how do we find our own?  I shall answer these three questions over three separate and short blogs over the next couple of weeks.  I would love to hear your feedback as we go so I can address any questions in the next instalment, please email me at antony@its-leadership.co.uk

 1. What is a purpose?

A purpose is an intent and a “why” statement.  According to the dictionary it is “the reason something is done.”  In my experience, the more succinct we make our purpose statement, the easier it is to understand and remember and the more potent a tool for us in the task, project or “life” in which we are seeking success.

One of the challenges with “purpose” is that there are so many different levels we could pitch this at.  Pitch too high and it gives us very little help and direction.  Pitch too low and it lacks the passion and drive to bring out the best in us.  Consider these four challenges:-

  • Go shopping to get food for tonight’s meal
  • Fill the fridge with enough food for a week of healthy and nutritious meals
  • Provide enough information and financial resource for all the family to be able to live a healthy life
  • Teach and equip us so that we can grow and thrive

Look at these carefully, all have a what statement together with a “why” or “purpose” statement.  But the purpose grows in context.  If you gave yourself a few minutes to develop a plan to answer each of these, then you may find that the latter ones give you more freedom and scope together with a bigger picture (longer term and higher context of purpose) for “why” you need to do this. The important thing here is that there is no right or wrong, it’s about which helps you the most for where you are today?

Many of you have probably heard and seen Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  It is often reported that our journey through life can be about climbing this ladder as we “tick the box” of what is required in our life at any one time.  I think there is something here that relates to our Purpose.  At the base level we need “to find food and water so our family can survive” before we move on to “develop safety and security so our family can have fun, learn and grow” and so on to each level of the pyramid.

The thing is, it is possible for us to reach a transition point when we achieve one level and then feel lost until we define our next one.  It may well be that we never really had consciousness of what our purpose was before, but now we feel lost, and this could be that the subconscious purpose that guided us is no longer relevant.  There’s nothing wrong in this, it’s how most of us experience life!  If you are feeling “lost” then maybe now is the time to investigate what your current purpose is – and I use the word “is” rather than “could/should be” as I really do believe that our purpose is a bit like a diamond in the rock; it’s always there, we just need to chip away to reveal it.

In Part 2 we will look into “Why having a purpose is so important”.  Keep an eye out, it’s coming soon.

If you’re interested in learning more or finding help to find your purpose, as an individual, team or organisation then do give us a call or email me (antony@its-leadership.co.uk).

After all, iTS Leadership!

With love


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

We Shall See: My Adaptation of a Chinese Proverb

A boy was born into a family in a Tibetan village.  It was an agrarian village.  To earn a living you were either going to tend the fields or tend the herd, but the boy was born with a cleft foot.  So the villagers gathered around his families yurt and said: what a curse on your family that the boy is going to be a drain on your resources, he’ll never earn a living.  But the wiseman of the village happened by and said we shall see, we shall see.

In the villages of the region there was nearly no literacy.  The wiseman in the village was the only one that could read and write, so to communicate with other villages, one would pay the wiseman to write a letter to be sent or read a letter that was received, and since the young boy could not go and play with the other kids the wise man took him as an apprentice and by the age of 7 he was able to both read and write and earn a better living than he would have at 18 working in the fields and the villagers gathered around his families yurt and proclaimed what a blessing on your family that the boy is able to make such a fine living at such a young age.  And the wiseman came along and said we shall see, we shall see.

Some years past and the boy was 12 and he had finally made some friends his own age who were going to go horseback riding.  The boy thought this was something he could do and so he pleaded with his mother to be allowed to go.  She worried he had no experience and would get hurt, but she finally acquiesced to his pleas.  While trying to keep up with his friends who were experienced the boy fell and broke his writing arm.  And the villagers gathered around and said what a curse on your family that for a time you are without your income.  And the wiseman who had come to check on his protégé said we shall see, we shall see.

Days later the war lord of the region came through to subscribe every able bodied young man 12 and older to go off and fight the war, but because he could not march and he could not write the boy would simply be a drain on the military and was left behind as so many went off to fight and possibly die and the villagers gathered around his yurt and said, with much weeping for their sons, what a blessing that you’ve been spared and the wiseman said we shall see, we shall see.

Absent the fullness of time it is not possible to know if the moment is a blessing or curse – is the firing from a job the catalyst to launch the entrepreneur, the heart ache of break up the moment that leads to the enduring love of a life time?  

Ours is to learn from the experience, be true to ourselves and not believe the headlines (either good or bad), because the headlines are often far more extreme than reality and our reality is based on how we choose to view the moment.  How we choose to view the moment may vary wildly given time and new perspective.

I learned about leading…from the honks!

geese2At iTS Leadership, we have this wonderful ritual that kick starts our monthly team meetings; everyone nominates a “honk” to a team member(s) of their choosing, or even to themselves.  It’s a way of acknowledging all the hard work and effort over the past few weeks. This sets the scene for the start of a positive meeting and enhances the great bond we have as colleagues and friends.

We have recently been joined by a new member of the team and when we asked how they felt leaving their previous position, I was struck by the outpouring of positive messages they received by their colleagues/peers on their last day of work.  She shared how she was touched and, in some circumstances, quite surprised by the comments and level of warmth she received, and it was likened to a “living wake!”

Her experience reminded me of my last days of jobs in my past and, like her, I had experienced similar send offs and was equally surprised at how many people I had positively affected during my time within those Companies. At the time, I was grateful for their comments and very emotional; I was overwhelmed by the feeling of belonging and appreciation.

This then got me thinking about WHY I was so surprised. On occasion I had received a “thank you” and acknowledgement from my boss, if there was a particularly important project at hand, or from a colleague that I had helped and, at the time, I took pride in knowing my efforts had been noticed.  However, how many of us really feel worthy of “honks” at work, or even at home?

thank youFor some, there are positive reasons as to why they are off to pastures new; promotion, change of career direction, maternity, retirement, relocation, however, I know of many ex-colleagues that have left their jobs due to feeling that they could do better elsewhere, they hadn’t got the recognition they felt they deserved, their work wasn’t seen as valuable etc.  But on their last day, they would generally receive a card, with messages of “good luck”, “you will be missed”, “they will be lucky to have you”… and sometimes there would have been a collection and they would receive a gift of thanks, and colleagues would gather round to listen to a speech from one of the Managers on how wonderful they have been as a valued member of the team.

Whilst I feel this is a lovely gesture and I wouldn’t want anyone to leave their job without comment or acknowledgement, I feel equally saddened that, in the main, those people only truly know and understand their worth on the day they are leaving.  How many of those depart because they were unhappy in their role; would they still be in those positions if they felt they were deserving of a place in the team/Company?  Why did they not received their “honks” during their employment and were they in turn also encouraged to offer thanks to their colleagues? Probably not.

At iTS Leadership, we encourage Leaders to have a positive approach and learn to appreciate the skills and efforts of their teams, where it’s deserved.  iTS Leadership live by this message every day and, on behalf of the team, I would say we feel a closeness and unique working bond, very rarely matched by other Companies.  Those “honks” are our way of expressing how grateful we are to each other, and ourselves, to truly achieve profit and SMILES. They don’t have to be massive achievements, sometimes the smallest acts of kindness are those that are most appreciated and should be acknowledged.

To find out where our “honks” come from, have a look at the video on our home page: http://its-leadership.co.uk and learn more about our logo and the use of geese, or contact one of our team members at iTS Leadership to get your teams “honking!”

After all, iTS Leadership!

Author: Linda Jamieson