Halloween ROCKS

DATELINE: Halloween SATURDAY 31 OCT 2015, 3.00 – 3.45 pm

I’m launching the first in a series of inspirational events at The Virgin Money Lounge in London’s Haymarket. I will be hosting an interview, Q&A, meet and greet and guitar masterclass with Bernie Tormé, legendary guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, a former Virgin Records’ artist. This is part of Bernie’s UK Tour to mark the launch of his new album “Blackheart”. Book yourself into the event at the Virgin Money Lounge, prior to Bernie’s gig at London’s Borderline on the same evening, where I’ll be joining him on stage for a few numbers. Come to the party !!

ONLY 15 Spaces left – book your place at the lounge via e-mail peter@humdyn.co.uk

Bernie’s tour is itself unusual in so far that it has been entirely funded by his fans all over the world using “crowdfunding”. Fans paid in advance for albums, t-shirts, guitar lessons, jam sessions with the band, studio experience days and even formed a “virtual gothic choir”, singing into their phones and having their voices transposed onto some of the album tracks in the studio.

What did Bernie learn from working with The Osbournes?

As it is Halloween, no doubt Bernie will be performing various pagan rituals to celebrate saints and sinners in the deathly hallows of rock. Only joking !! Do expect to hear some sonically unique guitar playing informed by Jimi Hendrix amongst a cast of giants, plus Bernie’s unique fusion of the blues, psychedelia and traditional Irish folk music.

Innovators in business and music – Jobs, Hendrix, Branson and Clapton – artwork by the very talented Simon Heath @SimonHeath1 

We will also be discussing lessons from life on the road with the Prince of Darkness himself, Mr Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, a former Virgin Records’ artist. There is much to learn in business and leadership from the School of Hard Knocks and Bernie’s insights are priceless.

This is the first of a series of events for Virgin. We have follow up events booked with Jess and the Bandits, currently touring the UK and the nation’s TV screens and others with Aaron Keylock, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Patti Russo, Meatloaf’s singing partner and, who knows …. Come Lounge With Me on Halloween. It’s not about the money … it’s only rock’n’roll but you will like it – I presently learning “No Easy Way” from “Glory Road” in preparation for a possible guitar duelling session …

Punk Rock Money – Banking with Attitude

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Some of Bernie Tormé’s insights into the creative process and an interview with Sir Richard Branson feature in our forthcoming book for Bloomsbury, Leading Creativity, Innovation and Enterprise. Order your copy now by clicking the image:

Death Cheaters – Wilko Johnson

Here’s the interview we did for ME1 TV with the legend that is Wilko Johnson. Pure delight:

Underwater, Underground, Underrated

John Peter Wilkinson was born on Canvey Island in 1947, more or less opposite me, separated by the river Thames. Canvey Island is below sea level, a fact which Wilko discovered in 1953 when the island flooded. Wilko was just 6 years old when Canvey was “twinned” with Muddy Waters and likes to think that it informed his life as a submariner subsequently.

A life on the ocean wave - The Canvey Island flood of 1953

A life on the ocean wave – The Canvey Island flood of 1953

mapserv

As the crow flies, Canvey Island is 10 miles from my home in Kent

Hippies, Teachers and Pirates 

Wilko’s early days were spent travelling in Goa, Afghanistan and Nepal on the late 1960’s / early 1970’s hippy trail. On his return his mum got him a job as an English teacher at a local school, a job which lasted a year before his interests took him elsewhere. He had bought a Fender Telecaster guitar for £90 in 1965 having been hugely influenced by the simultaneous rhythm and lead guitar style of Mick Green from Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, which he claims is at the root of his own unique style or “USP” as we say in business.

vox-vintage-coiled-cable-9m-red--[2]-3784-p

Sprung into action

Wilko still uses his trademark Vox red curly guitar leads which propel him back and forth across the stage like some kind of whirling dervish on a spring. Just take a look at this great film with Roger Daltrey to see Mr Johnson spring loaded and dangerous.

Death Eaters

Wilko has carved out something of a niche for himself, in common with my friend Richard Strange. In Wilko’s case, he found his centre as a mute executioner in Game of Thrones. Richard’s niche seems to involve anything where he wears a hood, having been Kevin Costner’s executioner and ‘ate’ Harry Potter as a death eater!  Wilko comments on his acting career from Oil City Confidential to Ser Ilyn Payne:

“They wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them. That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it’s like second nature to me”

Death Eaters - Wilko Johnson in Game of Thrones and Richard Strange in Harry Potter

Death Eaters – Wilko Johnson in Game of Thrones and Richard Strange in Harry Potter

Death Cheaters – Down to the Doctors

In 2013, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given just 9 months to live. He refused to take any treatment for his condition and embarked on a final tour. About a year later one of his fans who was also a cancer specialist heard a radio interview and thought that Wilko should indeed have been dead by this time. He got in touch with Wilko, suggesting that he may have a more treatable form of the cancer. Wilko agreed to undergo an operation with an uncertain outcome to remove the tumour which by then weighed 3 kilos and declared himself cancer free in October 2014. As a result Wilko is somewhat shell shocked by the news that he is not about to die and having to reconsider what he now does next. I recall a similar situation with a school friend who has also cheated death. One thing is sure – Wilko will be making some more music and hopefully putting in some appearances at The Railway Hotel in Southend where he is immortalised on the sign.

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Sign O’ The Times – The Sign of The Railway Hotel in Southend where Wilko occasionally performs.

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey's recent album - click to view on Amazon

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey’s recent album – click to buy on Amazon

I had the great privilege of performing with Wilko Johnson and Norman Watt Roy down in Kent some years ago. Also the more dubious honour of escorting him through French customs with John Otway, dressed as a nurse! My copy of “Stupidity” plays on the turntable as I write this. Long live Wilko Johnson!

He does it right - Wilko shares his secrets on my battered and slightly out of tune Hofner Futurama - my first guitar - £10 from the insurance man

He does it right – Wilko shares his secrets on my battered and slightly out of tune Hofner Futurama – my first guitar – £10 from the insurance man

“You take John Otway though customs and I’ll handle Wilko – after all I’m a nurse”

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Peter Cook offers keynotes and longer masterclasses that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock  Come along to our next showcase event with Harry Potter’s “Death Eater”, Mr Richard Strange on Tuesday June 9th in Kent – Tickets are selling fast at Punk Rock Biz so pick yours up now

High Voltage Performance

I was delighted to be asked to give the opening keynote at the XPD High Performance conference recently in Nottingham and I’ve just been invited to give another keynote at the High Growth Summit in Nottingham on November 22 on the strength of this performance. I was also invited to speak at an event for the UK Tax Offices (HMRC), until they said that they could not afford to pay me. I pointed out that nearly 30% of the fee would return to them in taxes 🙂 but they were unmoved. Perhaps I should have offered to take “cash” as payment??  Anyway, here’s one of the conference photos:

DSCF0602

It turned out that the XPD conference theme was generated from the evening’s entertainment, a Madness tribute act.  It had set me thinking about the concept of “organisational madness” – in other words:

“Doing the same things in spite of compelling evidence of a need for change”

In an age of discontinuity, “more of the same” can be a recipe for business meltdown.  We need to be nimble and quick to survive and that has all sorts of consequences.  So, what can businesses learn from organisational madness?

  1. Business strategy becomes an “approach which learns and flexes” rather than a “five year plan”. It’s madness to plod on regardless if your customers are constantly changing their wants and needs.
  2. Staff are hired for their ability to learn and adapt more than just what they bring to the workplace. More than ever staff need to have adaptability built into their attitude.
  3. Customers are involved and engaged in the marketing of new products and services. It’s what academics refer to as 6th Generation Innovation.

and so on …

IMGA0010

Can I play with Madness … and Innovation?

We ended up contrasting companies which “LAG” (Learn, Adapt and Grow) from those that merely lag behind.  Are you a LAG or a laggard? A big thanks to David Langdown, Steve Robinson and the team at High Performance for making the event such a success. To book an experience like this, please get in touch with David Langdown at High Performance UK.  He does not accept deferred VAT payments as currency however … 🙂

Here’s a trailer for our event on Friday 22 November in Nottingham, just before our two day event with a European Pharmaceutical company team in the Netherlands.

Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll - Live in Nottingham

Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – Live in Nottingham

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

What makes you happy at work?

What makes you happy at work?  Money? Praise? Doing something new? Meeting people? The ability to use your expertise? Giving something to others? Fame? Feedback? …  There’s some background to the question, in the form of a summary of Fred Herzberg’s work on satisfiers and dissatisfiers, and that of the other motivational giants in the book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll

Business mixed with music

What turns you on at work? Find out here

I was reflecting upon my own motivators the other day when a client said to me “You’ve never had a care in the world.  For you, work is play”

Whilst I accepted this casual remark in the manner in which she intended it, as a piece of praise, the person in question obviously did not know just how much I care about my work and the painstaking design activity that sits behind what I do, so that it all looks easy on the day. But, indeed she was right.  We often do our best when there is a happy marriage between our own talents and what our job requires of us. When people have asked me “what is my secret to personal motivation”, I point out that I have simply brought what I love doing into close proximity with what my customers want and need, always ensuring that their needs come before my wants.  It’s what Wham were talking about when they came up with their ‘Choose Life’ T-Shirt:

If you're gonna do it, do it right

If you’re gonna do it, do it right …

That said, there are moments in my work when I do realise just how lucky I am .  One such moment occurred the other week after I had delivered an evening keynote address in innovation for a company and we had completed some team building activities with music after dinner.  Around 10.30 pm I realised that all was well and, just for a moment, I felt I could relax  and observe the scene.  I was playing “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath with Bernie Tormé, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan, GMT et al, and was getting paid for it.  “How lucky am I”, I thought to myself.  Better still Bernie was kind enough to complement me on my playing when I drove him home later. Proof positive that praise and authentic feedback are huge “Herzberg motivators”.

Sharing a joke with a Monster of Rock - Bernie Tormé

Sharing a joke with a Monster of Rock – Bernie Tormé

So, never mind the boll…cks and books on personal development.  If you want to “Live to Work” rather than “Work to Live”, the goal is simply to marry something you love to do with something that someone else (a) wants / needs and (b) is prepared to pay you for.  If you wish us to come and do a masterclass on the topic plus a live music experience, please get in touch.  We’ve had enquiries from a wide range of people around the world, from pharmaceuticals in the USA to HMRC and a University who wants to help the local economy make a step up through innovation and export.

To finish, we must reach out again for George Michael and Co, who said it simply with the phrase “Enjoy What You Do” in their 1980’s benefit classic ‘Wham Rap”:

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Can I play with Madness?

I’m delighted to have been asked to provide the keynote address for a very special event coming up from conference organisers High Performance UK at their 2013 Conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre on 4th-5th October.

Can I play with Madness - well, no, they don't have guests on stage, but I do ...

Can I play with Madness? – well, no, they don’t have guests on stage, but I do …

This is a fascinating request from High Performance UK.  They called me and said, could I do a talk on ‘madness’.  Now those of you that know me would realise their are several interpretations of this, all of which I’d be able to handle ! 😉  It turned out that they have a Madness tribute act performing in the evening.  So I really wanted to stay on to perform “Night Boat to Cairo” …

But on further reflection and dialogue we ended up talking about how companies can learn rapidly so that they can adapt and reinvent themselves in a new business environment.  So, I’ve concocted a series of lessons for Learning Companies and Learning Individuals that will both entertain and also carry some powerful messages with them.   Life is busy and the idea of being a learning organisation is always tempered by people’s willingness to learn from successes and mistakes and the time they give to such things.  I’ll be drawing on over 30 years experience of working within innovation teams to come up with a series of lessons for businesses that are poignant, valuable and sticky.

Do you fancy coming along or organising something similar in your own company?  Contact me via e-mail at peter@humdyn.co.uk  Our keynote starts proceedings on Saturday 5th October.  I’ve commented on Iron Maiden’s lyrics before in letters to the Financial Times, including “Can I Play With Madness”:

Can I play with madness?

Can I Play With Madness?

So, Can I Play With Madness?  Of course we can:

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Ask and you may receive

Ask The Smiths

This is a simply inspirational story of someone who refused to be defined by others and who made a huge impact in the music industry by doing something fundamentally different to the norm.

Amanda Palmer illustrates the powerful impact of connecting through your vulnerabilities as much as your strengths and the power of asking.

VULNERABILITY

I’d imagine that most of us would not wish to get naked in front of hundreds of people of the opposite in order to gain commitment to a project or cause!   Amanda’s method does not have to be copied, but it can be creatively swiped.  The underlying principle is that when you reveal a vulnerability, it can produce a much greater connection than appearing to have no faults.  The process of self disclosure and self effacing humour is much misunderstood, but in the right hands, can be a powerful source of connectivity.

ASKING 

I know so many people who want to achieve things but who do not ask people to help them.  Sure, it’s not guaranteed to work but one thing is equally certain.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  It’s a trait that I’ve used positively quite a few times through my life.  See the post on Harvey Goldsmith.  Whenever I’ve regretted things, it’s often when shyness has kicked in.  Shyness is nice, and it can stop you from doing the things you want to … wise words from Mr Morrissey:

A short post this week as I’m taking a break prior to my trip to New York next week – enjoy the summer if you have any wherever you are in the world 🙂

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Engaging for success

Engagement unplugged

Engagement unplugged

As many of you know, I have been something of a skeptic of the so-called “engagement movement”.  Lets face it, the idea of being engaged at work is clearly a socially desirable outcome.  Engaged people are thought to work longer, harder and smarter, giving what HR people call “discretionary effort” or what I call the “extra 10%”.  The problem of disengagement at work is also a growing problem as evidenced by a Gallup survey:

  • A recent research study found 71% of employees were disengaged to some degree.
  • The lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the US economy $370 Billion annually.
  • Engaged employees advocate their company or organisation to others– 67% against only 3% of the disengaged.

My skepticism with the engagement movement is simply that they want to spend more time talking and researching the topic than doing anything about it.  Hard pressed leaders do not wish to wait 20 years for a white paper to explore the longitudinal correlations between factors.  They want to find good quality, pragmatic approaches that will give them advantages in the short term.

So, it was with some pleasure that I found an approach to engagement that actually seems to make a difference to actual engagement levels at work via a Linkedin contact in Sweden.  Arnaud Henneville runs a company called Challengera that focuses on meaningful employee participation and involvement at work.  I interviewed him to find out more.

Tell me about your company and what’s unique about it?

Challengera is an engagement company. We provide a cloud-based social platform for Enterprise 2.0. In other words, we support companies of all shape and size in engaging their employees to any initiative – from highly strategic to campaign based and tactical.  This could include the launch of a new company direction through to a short term campaign to achieve a specific result e.g. To get employees behind a cause.

What does it do for the hard pressed HR Director?  And the person who has to watch the engagement dashboard?  And, most importantly the staff?

Employee engagement is a hot topic and it’s no wonder when, as you say, 71% of employees globally are not fully engaged in their work. Running campaigns with Challengera secures high engagement as have shown our past roll-outs with companies like global Fortune 20 company General Electric. HR leaders and CEO’s can relax and witness the ESAT and CSAT (employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction indices) going up! And that’s precisely why it works so well; because employees get pulled-in into the experience (one that is interesting, inviting, that builds on human hard wired traits for achievement, self-actualization, fun and competition) as opposed to being pushed messages (emails or PowerPoint).  

For me, this is a simple truth, that participation and involvement breed commitment.  So tell me, how does it work?  Can you give me an example of a company who have used it?  What has come from their use of your approach?

It’s best for me to let a customer talk:

“Our project was clear in DGS, a Global BU of GE Healthcare: Engage our 1600+ employees on our culture, Put our values into practice… with concrete examples given by our employees across the world, Link our people together, Share best practices, Engage discussions around our values & Recognize best practices. We were looking for an Impactful, Powerful & Business-connected tool: Challengera answered our request; a customized social platform for us to engage people around our BU. This is a great success & our people love it: this is new, different and engaging. Thanks to the team for this great success

Catherine B., Engagement Leader at GE Healthcare DGS

Another example is from a world leading industrial group. Key to the group’s profits is its inventory turnover. The group recently announced its decision to use Challengera to engage its workforce on the importance of stock-management, not by talking about it but by inviting employees to actively contribute to reduce it. The Inventory challenge will launch in a few months.

Give me one reason why it’s better than running a focus group, doing a motivational Powerpoint talk or a conventional employee engagement campaign?

Life – business included – is about doing, about moving forward and inspiring others to move forward! Whilst this is obvious, to engage folks around a particular topic and having them do something (for real) is becoming in the 21st century organization, harder and harder. There are many reasons for that and just to name a few (not in order of importance); the economy and the delayering consequences it has had for organizations, change of demographics (GenYers), flatter-matrix-and virtual organizations, the knowledge worker, etc. What’s more, very few companies have managed to bring-inside the company the tools that are (successfully) used by people outside e.g. social/connectivity/effectiveness tools. That’s what we have done: built a social enterprise platform that builds on both macro-tends and what we know of human behaviors.

Now, in practice: the tool allows a leader to ‘challenge’ (the challenge is the vehicle for engagement) his/her organization to X or Y. At first, it is top-down but as it takes off the initiative gets momentum and grows organically as the viral effects kick-in.

Can it be fitted into conventional face to face strategies?  For example, if I were running an innovation event for a major company, how would your approach integrate?

Last May we ran a campaign for the Absolut Company. While 300 staff attended a yearly conference on the topic of CSR/sustainability, we used mobile devices to challenge people on different aspects of the topics covered during the conference. It was a great success – not only because attendees got intrigued, but also because the animal spirit kicked-in. People were willing to engage in this live challenge and consequently in the topics themselves…  We continue to bring value post event as the platform remains open thus allowing people to go back and review relevant content.

So, it extends the life of a conference by putting in a follow up aspect?

Very much so.  It therefore increases the return on investment for a company event or annual conference.

I dislike plug ins for the common ‘diseases’ that organisations face.  How does your approach stand up to the need to customise and internalise things so that they feel part of the company culture?

We offer the platform with two ‘levels’ of customizations.

The 1st one is ‘Branded’, namely we turn the whole solution into a client-product: the solution looks, feels and breathes X or Y company. Whilst the solution is in the cloud, we connect from any client website, intranet, or Learning Management System.

The 2nd level is ‘Customised‘ and builds on the 1st one .  A client wants special features and we develop and integrate them to the solution.

How do people begin with a challenge? 

We typically invite new clients to try with an initiative before we start integrating the tool in the client-ecosystem. We offer consultancy if a client wants help in identifying an internal challenge before turning it into a product. If the challenge is clear (which is often the case) it takes a few calls before our teams ‘box-it’. 3-4 weeks of customization/integration later, the challenge can launch!

You can get in touch with Arnaud at arnaud@challengera.com or +46 700 40 52 25.  He has offered a 10% reduction in the price to readers of this blog. Simply quote The Academy of Rock when contacting him.

Indecent Proposals

Desperate times make people do desperate things and this week I’ve produced a roundup of strange and bizarre business practices that stand out head and shoulders below the water line for business ethics.

Indecent proposals occur when there is dishonesty in a contract

Indecent proposals occur when there is dishonesty in a contract

Starting with Kent County Council, who are normally held to be good employers with decent standards and so on.  They seem to have lost the plot on this occasion, having sent a tender out for some services which a colleague applied for.  An extremely long tender document was sent with explicit and transparent criteria for selecting the winning bid:

  • Proven track record in leading successful change management projects
  • Experience of working with a range of statutory and independent organisations
  • Knowledge of mental health and knowledge of substance misuse issues

After spending considerable time preparing the proposal, a letter was then received, telling my colleague that they had lost the bid due to a ‘hidden’ fourth criterion:

The real criterion for selection

The real criterion for selection

Somewhat frustrating for an organisation that prides itself on transparency and so on.  There was no feedback on whether my colleague had met the other criteria, thus there was very little they could learn from the time they had spent on this “indecent proposal”.  What a waste:

Staying with local government, I heard that Medway Council are about to put their workforce on ‘zero hours contracts’ – this broadly means that staff will have no job security.  I am self employed and have therefore signed up to the idea of being hired and used for time limited projects – that’s what I do and my security derives from being able to have a variety of clients and so on.  However, many people in employment join an organisation partly for some sense of security re paying the mortgage and so on.  HR people talk of engagement and getting ‘discretionary effort’ from people.  In my long experience, taking away their ‘Maslow’ security needs is one surefire way of doing the opposite.  Talking to a friend who is a dinner lady, she reported bitterly:

As part of Medway’s ‘Better For Less’ programme, we have had our hours cut, but are expected to cook the same amount of food in that time.  They sent ‘potato consultants’ in to tell me that I could peel the potatoes in 8.5 minutes instead of the 10 that I take.  I used to stay extra hours to get things done.  That’s all stopping.  So there will be ‘less’ but it will not be ‘better’.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 09.23.01

Medway Council’s staff now have the worst of all worlds:  A single paymaster, but with zero job security and the possibility of instant dismissal without any employment rights.  Yet another “indecent proposal”.  I predict a riot:

Incidentally, I have just been sent this artist’s impression of a potato consultant:

Half Consultant, Half Potato - original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysto/5914581571/

Half Consultant, Half Potato – original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysto/5914581571/

Finally, I recently did a project for boutique outsourcing Accountancy and HR consultancy RSM Tenon.  The 7th biggest accounting firm in the UK.  Again, a respected firm according to their own website.  The project was to mediate in a dispute and I was informed that my budget was £3000.  I had nearly completed the work when their consultant called up to tell me that they had changed their mind and only wanted to pay £2000!  I reminded them that “The Only Way is Ethics”.

RSM Tenon - The only way is Ethics

RSM Tenon – The only way is Ethics

After a bit of straight talk, things were grudgingly settled, although I ended up doing some of the work for free, in an attempt to stay close to their “revised” budget.  It turns out that RSM Tenon made £100M loss last year and now have a £94 M overdraft to help them continue in business.  No wonder they are keen to slash contracts after completion! 🙂  Strange though for an accountancy firm to make a massive loss and not wish to pay their bills, as their main business is accountancy!  My attempts to help RSM Tenon stay within budget would prove later to be a “Big Mistake” in the words of Natalie Imbruglia

A couple of months later, I’d been asked to conduct some further work for RSM Tenon.  This required attendance at a tribunal hearing which I was told I must reserve the dates for and could not book alternative work.  These were then cancelled at very short notice and I was told that I would not be paid for the opportunity costs.  I complained and was informed that RSM Tenon’s lawyers would be brought in to handle things, a strategy presumably designed to batter me into submission.   Whatever happened to honour and gentlemen’s agreements?  Other disgruntled observers reported this in a financial magazine:

Bizzarely, they actually make a proportion of their fees from telling other people how to run their finances. Genius!  This is what happens when accountants try to run a relationship type business.  They’re like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.”

To quote The Beatles “I should have known better” from RSM Tenon’s previous form.  Oh well.  I now have to take these people to the small claims court, wasting everyone’s time.

What should we learn from all of this?

  • In desperate times, we need to be careful in taking contracts in case people default on their commitments.  Even from what we perceive to be honorable and large institutions.  How the mighty have fallen.
  • In desperate times, treating people desperately will lead to desperate behaviour in return.
  • In desperate times, smart people refuse to respond to desperate behaviour in kind.  They do something different.

Has anyone else experienced bad business ethics in challenging times?  My experience has been that there are plenty of them, although most people dare not speak of them or just assume that they are the only ones experiencing such things.  Please add your story to this blog.  For a further story on HM Revenue and Customs, check HMRC.

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

To 2013 – 10 Business and Music tips

Punk Rock Leadership

Punk Rock Leadership

In this new year post, I’m counting down 10 business tips as seen through the eyes and ears of punk rock.   A kind of “Business Top of the Pops” but without the DJ.  No need to pogo whilst reading these unless you must.  Punk refers to brevity, simplicity and purity of thought in business.   For more on all this, ping me a note with PUNK in the title to claim your new year’s gift – a copy of my micro book – Punk Rock People Management.

# 10 – What do you want from life? – The Tubes

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – The Tubes’ revolting anthem on happiness in life and work, coming out of observations on their fans opulent lifestyle in San Francisco, points out that consumption per se does not lead to happiness.  So, rewards given without there being some basic desire for the reward are worthless.  We did not need The Tubes or the happiness movement to tell us this.  All we had to do was to look carefully at Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers.  Somehow The Tubes’ message is more potent.  If you are not familiar with the song, listen to the rant at the end of this piece.  In more recent times, Radiohead did something similar with “Fitter Happier”.

# 9 – Blank Generation – Richard Hell and the Voidoids 


THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – This is perhaps the first and only time that Punk Rock and HR Guru Gary Hamel will find unity … Hamel recently said that “HR must help kill bureaucracy and encourage greater innovation within organistions“.  Why? That comes down to the ‘blank generation’, aka people who are actively disengaged from work.  We don’t need engagement taskforces to know this – it’s punk rock common sense.  Less obvious is how to achieve that innnovation in HR, which, after all, is usually part of the risk reduction part of the enterprise.  I spent a third of my life working on scientific innovation and quite a bit of time watching people wringing their hands about innovation on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Council and frankly, I don’t see innovation as a core HR competence.

# 8 – Oh bondage, up yours – X-Ray Spex

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – Poly Styrene’s point was really all about female empowerment or girl power.  This applies just as much to the guys.  As Poly says “Bind me tie me, Chain me to the wall, I wanna be a slave to you all, Oh bondage up yours“. Simply put, if you want to get extra performance out of people, stop controlling every last detail of people’s performance through lengthy job descriptions, KPI’s, SMART goals for everything, yada, yada …

# 7 – Public Image – Public Image Ltd

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – “You never listen to a word that I said, you only see me for the clothes that I wear” Do we look past people’s appearance towards their knowledge, skills and attitudes in interviews, appraisals etc?  After all, it’s those things we desperately want rather than an illusion.  In an age where virtually everything is choreographed at work, remember that Steve Jobs would probably have failed an interview at Apple.

# 6 – What do I get? – The Buzzcocks


THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – We know well enough from Frederick Herzberg and The Buzzcocks that pay is a ‘dissatisifier’.  In other words, if you double people’s pay, they won’t work twice as hard for twice as long.  Take away their pay and you know all about it if it is perceived as being out of balance with the effort as Starbucks are just about to discover.  Pay people well enough, but don’t just focus on pay as the reward for work.  This reinforces the conversation about ‘What do I get?’ After all RNR stands for Reward AND Recognition, not just Rock’n’Roll.

# 5 – Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – The Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg, may not have been an employment lawyer, but he may have contributed more to our understanding of collective bargaining than all the employment law authors in the world if they were laid end to end, via his song ‘There is power in a union’.  Frankie goes to Hollywood also reminded us of the classic pluralist assumption within classical thinking on unions in their 80’s anthem “Two Tribes”.  OK, Frankie are not punks I know, but they conveyed the spirit of punk rock through their music.

Punk Rock HR offers us three chords on unions:

  • See unions as an advantage in a pluralist workplace due to the money and time they can save you if you get the relationship right.
  • Focus on interests rather than positions if you are to do collective bargaining well.
  • See negotiations from all viewpoints so that you can be most effective in reaching a solution.  It is what pre-punk Scandinavians Abba would have called “Knowing me, knowing you”.

# 4 – Happy House – Siouxsie and the Banshees

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – Siouxsie Sioux’s deeply ironic lyric flags up the problem with the ‘happiness movement’.  She commented that “Happy House” contrasts the illusion of family bliss, where everyone smiles, has blond hair, has all-day sunshine, eats butter without fat, with the realities of life – depression, wife beating and so on.  Grim stuff for a pop song!  The happiness movement also seems to operate under the illusion that we are all becoming more self-actualised and self-driven, when the data seems to suggest that people are less happy than they were 50 years ago, even though we are considerably richer.  Since work is a huge part of life, the implication is that we should design jobs and work which are fulfilling.

# 3 – Smash it up – The Damned

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – Disruptive innovation inside companies takes considerable effort.  Sometimes it’s necessary to destroy the status quo to make way for new practices.  Smashing up existing organisational structures and cultures may look like vandalism, but given the permanence of cultures, sometimes it is the only way to make space for the new.

# 2 – What a Waste – Ian Dury

 

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – “What a waste”, like “Sex and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll”, was a song about being in a job that makes you happy.  Perhaps all that is needed to create a high performance workplace is to develop the HR habit of finding out what turns people on and ensuring that the work gives them these outcomes.

In some cases, as Dury points out, this does not have to be Chief Executive or Vice President of HR, it could simply involve becoming “the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station”.

# 1 – Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – When I asked Professor Adrian Furnham earlier this year to identify out some factors that make for an agile innovative company, his first point was to ensure that youth has a voice in the affairs of the company.  Youth brings ideas that are untrammelled by experience, as long as people feel able to voice those ideas.  The smart HR person gives a voice to youthful and other naïve inputs to company strategy.

Send your suggestions for other punk rock songs with a business message by commenting on this blog.  Order your copy of Punk Rock People Management by mailing me with PUNK in the title.  Also available on Amazon Kindle and as a hard copy full colour book.  Coming very soon now, the new book – The Music of Business  – Here’s a quote:  This book is a great tool for people in business.  Harvey Goldsmith CBE

Punk Rock People Management - Disruptive Innovation in HR

– Punk Rock People Management – Disruptive Innovation in Business

Punk Rocker Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Must the show go on?

Just back from a weekend with the Godfather of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Dr Richard Bandler and the NLP master hypnotist Paul Mc Kenna.  At one point during the weekend, the song “The Show Must Go On” popped up in the back of my mind … funny how that happens … Undoubtedly this maxim pervades most entertainment circles.  Does it transfer to business I thought?  I felt a certain unease.  Let’s check Queen’s classic anthem before deciding:

I’d argue vigorously that the maxim is at least unhelpful and possibly dangerous in some circumstances.   One of my great business heroes Tom Peters, points out that one of the hardest things to do in business is press the STOP button.   In rock circles, my friend Bill Nelson has a maxim for reinvention that says “Do not be afraid of the off switch”.  Had Michael Jackson written the song “Wanna Be Stoppin’ Something” instead of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”, it would have probably not been a hit however 🙂

But the STOP button is vital in some circumstances.  Kodak would have probably avoided Chapter 11 bankruptcy if they had made the switch from analogue to digital film sooner.  Sony might have avoided a steady decline from being one of the most celebrated innovation companies if they had recognised the advent of downloading and done something different with their record company.

In our personal lives, what things are we doing that we really should not, just out of habit?  I can think of quite a few things that need to go in my ‘life laundry’.  And you?   A periodic pause for reflection before moving on is a healthy part of any smart person’s business and personal life.  Contact me for a free consultation if you need to do your personal or business life laundry.  “STOP in the name of life” may not have been a hit for Diana Ross but it may improve your bank balance!

Some questions to ponder:

  • What activities and habits are you pursuing that are past their sell-by date?
  • What ‘dark alleyways’ do others lead you down that do not contribute to your overall life purpose?
  • What relationships or tasks are you pursuing that are not based on a sense of equity / reciprocity?  How can you change them so that they produce better results for all concerned?

Just for fun, and having spent quite a bit of the weekend in light to moderate trance (my wife says there’s nothing new there …), here’s a humorous insight into the hypnotic world of Paul Mc Kenna:

Postscript:  This post has caused some controversy from people who rightly dislike the manipulative end of NLP.  From my direct experience I can say that Richard Bandler may swear a lot in his seminars but his ethics for using NLP are absolutely in the right place.  People cite politicians and bad sales people as examples as what is wrong with NLP.  If you put good tools in the hands of bad people, bad shit happens … Is that down to the tools or the people?  I leave you to decide.