Friday, 14 December 2012

Leaderless December


Two fundamental weaknesses in our society today have been insidiously becoming critical issues that directly impact on the welfare dependency culture and the poor decision making in our public services.
A lack of effective leadership at every level creates poor learning and dysfunctional problem solving. Having been involved for over 20yrs helping leaders become more effective I find the inadequacies similar in every organisation and they become increasingly psychotic the further up the egotistical power chain ambitious leaders climb. Leaders do not listen effectively – they have too many filters and prejudicial distractions to be able to hear what is really going on. They also are wrestling with the turmoil relevant to their internal dialogue about being strong, capable, in control and confident to handle any situation. These stressors are natural defence mechanisms that place survival of oneself before the need to listen objectively to the issue in hand.
This protective and defensive listening prevents real learning which in turn creates repetitive mistakes and gross inefficiencies. Leaders shy away from genuine reviews beyond initial corrective action. Few are courageous enough to go deeper and ask how the situation occurred in the first place. The antecedents, behaviour and consequences are often known in any review, however to examine what created the antecedents in the first place are often beyond the remit and vocabulary of most lead reviewers.
The lack of listening and learning is exacerbated by the poverty of thinking and lack of creativity in an effective problem solving process. How often do you hear ‘now we know what the problem is – this is what we must do about it’? This 2 stage process misses the most important element of effectiveness and efficiency in that before jumping to action lets first clarify what it is we are trying to achieve. Many people reading this will say yes of course that’s obvious – however in my experience this is rarely acted upon as this ‘mind set’ of short cut problem solving is engrained in all of us from a very early age. In doing so it prevents ambition in that little time is spent on clarifying the goals that are possible and limits creativity as discussion exploring the range of possible actions are diverted by the relief experienced from early agreement on what might seem an obvious solution but not necessarily the best.
To address these inadequacies of leadership much more emphasis needs to be placed in personal development and awareness to help people in positions of power to understand the effect they have on others and how the nature of the position they hold can sabotage their effectiveness from day one.
With more responsible and personally aware leaders then the criminal waste in resources that we know exists today in our public services can be dramatically reduced. 

Another fundamental weakness in our society relates to the institutionalised welfare culture experienced by many who could be considered as underprivileged or in need of support. If you are brought up in a family where poverty and unemployment is the norm then this cycle of low expectation and dependency is past from generation to generation despite the best efforts of social support and education.
We need more effective and robust interventions to help educate parents and much more emphasis in every school year, on emotional responsibility. It’s vital that we enable children and young adults to understand the choices they have in life and the implications of making these choices. We must help them take responsibility for the decisions they make and prepare them for the inevitable life events  they will experience. This has partly been achieved by the Personal, Social and Health Education agenda but has yet to adequately infiltrate schools to the extent that begins to shape behaviour and decision making. I suspect the reasons for this are mainly two fold, i.e. the priority and emphasis of getting the right SATS/results and the lack of skilled facilitators amongst the teaching fraternity who are capable and comfortable in emotional and experiential teaching methods.  

If my views about the lack of effective leadership and the lack of emphasis on emotional education from parenting to young adult education contributing to welfare dependency are mislead or poorly formed then I would welcome any reassuring information about relevant developments.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Inspirational August and September

 How can the beauty of human endevour live side by side with the ugliness of human self destruction?

I was fortunate enough to see some of the athletics in the Olympic park and experience the excitement and joy of all involved. I rode on the wave of emotion as the crowds cheered the athletes and marvelled at the incredible feats of human endeavour.

Then came the Paralympics – if anyone ever doubts the potential of the human spirit to overcome adversity then spend an hour watching these athletes climb to the heights of excellence in the pursuit of discovering what they can achieve.

The Olympic movement is one of the few platforms where the world comes together as a community sharing common goals. As we witness this momentous collection of winners embracing each other with respect as a world family we also are aware of families being torn apart.

The middle east is a simmering cauldron of poisonous lava that could flow over and damage us all.

Can Syria find away to start dialogue with opposing sides or is the civil war destined to end in destruction and submission of one side with many thousands more killed and a legacy of hate passed on to generations to come?

Can Israel and Palestine ever begin to accept a compromise and agree to live side by side and find away to forgive the past and move on?

Can Iran reassure the world that they are not advancing their Nuclear ambitions and find away of healing the animosity between them and Israel?


It seems that being human means that we will always have the choice to achieve the very best of what we are capable of and the very worst – mainly self destruction.


The use and the abuse of power and need for control is often a major source of conflict – I appeal to the power brokers of the world to work together endlessly until a peaceful solution to these seemingly insurmountable conflicts is found.

 I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Perfect team

Extract from a book by Mike Wash – 54 Tools and Techniques for Business Excellence. Published by MB2000. Oct 2007


Can you recognize or relate to this?



Case study 1: The Perfect Team

The anticipation of meeting up again was always mixed with excitement

and a little anxiety. Excitement because of the potential of us producing

something special, the anxiety – well, I guess my own insecurity of wanting

to do well and not let anyone down.

Our meeting room is not ideal, yet its limitations dwindle into

insignificance once we launch into the task in hand.

The noise levels before we start reflect the frantic catching up with each

other, the quick re-establishment of friendships and the exchange of

questions and insights about our journey together so far.

We start on time, our leader calling us all together and although we do

have one or two people drifting in, they are greeted with recognition that

they will be giving themselves a bad time for being late and are quickly

integrated with support.

We get down to the task in hand, immediately we fall into role, everyone

knowing exactly what’s expected of them, and we all have that bit of spare

capacity to look around and check if everyone else is OK and clear. In

every team there are different levels of ability and in our team, we are

blessed with high flyers, yet they are also recognised as equal team

members and will readily create a coaching partnership passing on secrets

of extraordinary performance to the less able.

Most teams will also develop cliques, and in ours, well they are not so

much cliques, but naturally developing sub-groups coming together through

age or genuine friendships – these dynamics are used to an advantage,

offering additional support to each other and are viewed as a norm, rather

than a threat.

We are all clear about the ultimate goal and every time we meet – the

goal and vision is colourfully illustrated reminding us of the incentive for

giving our best and the ultimate sense of satisfaction we will all feel

knowing what we will have achieved.

It’s not all plain sailing – there are mistakes. Yet, when this happens,

not only the individuals concerned crave to understand why, they also

demand feedback so they can learn to improve. These moments can be

intense yet the feedback is expressed with sensitivity and skill and everyone

pays attention as this moment may offer that gem of learning and insight to

help each one of us.

We make rapid progress and the contribution each one makes begins to

create a synergy unique to the collective experience and skills we all bring.



We usually meet towards the end of the day, yet even though many of us

are tired, sometimes exhausted, the uplift and adrenaline found in us

working together dissipates any weariness.

The facilitating skills of our leader are apparent, bringing us in

appropriately so our contribution is valued and maximised and each time he

offers guidance and direction, we become clearer on how collectively we

are progressing toward our goal. Somehow, we simultaneously work at an

individual, group and organisational level where, almost by magic, we can

be sure the information or resources will be presented in such a way that

demonstrates real empathy for what each one of us is trying to achieve.

We develop a form of temporary dependency on each other and with

this goes a real sense of responsibility to follow through, and a trust that

your team members will do the same.

The smiles are greatest when moments of creative spontaneity produce

innovative ideas that make a difference between standard performance and

extraordinary performance. Every idea is valued, at the same time; those

with experience are well respected, so it’s the marriage of differences that

create a real sense of special satisfaction.

At the end of our meeting, there’s a sense of reluctance to part quickly –

almost as if there is some unfinished business – this is often confirmed

when we decide to debrief socially and relax together as friends, laughing,

joking and already planning together for the next milestone on our journey

together toward this single goal that binds us as a team.



Rehearsal night for the UK Premier of

‘Titanic – The Musical’

Performed by The York Musical Theatre Company


Book available from


Friday, 11 May 2012

Will I go to Heaven?

Will I go to Heaven?
What is this place called heaven? Is it a place or a state of being?
I believe it is a state of being – a state that every person searches for – some not knowing they are searching.
The state is total happiness.
To be happy we need to know ourselves deeply to the core and understand who we are in relation to everything else in the world.
This is the path of spiritual awareness – some follow it through institutional religion some tour the world, others sit under trees and meditate, and some feel the need to preach to others their understanding so they gain comfort in that they have spread their word. 
No one has all the answers.
I believe Jesus was a healer a philosopher and wise man. In his time the world needed a different way and hence created followers – Christians.
The Bible was written by others who were also on the spiritual journey – recording their insights and events that gave them enlightenment. It’s a good book but so is the Koran. The messages in the bible and Christian faith are very similar to all religions ie
We are all one family
Love your neighbour
We are part of everything that goes on in this world therefore we do care.
Be non judgmental and forgive those who trespass upon us.
These and many other core insights to effective and happy living are not easy and can slip away from us at anytime especially when we are under stress or angry for whatever reason.
People take time out to quietly meditate, reflect and focus on these things almost as a top up of the’ good stuff’ (faith some call it) – going to a church or holy sight or somewhere full of splendor can have the same effect eg the Grand Canyon or the Lakes.
Happiness and therefore heaven comes from a deep appreciation of the joy of life and the celebration of what we have.
However – there remains a mystery – this thing called God. I believe it refers to the ultimate potential human state -  only occasionally discovered through miracles and the unexplained occurrences in life eg Indian astrologers writing about your history before you are born
People healing themselves through prayer and positive visualization
Lourdes,Telepathy,Intuition etc etc
No one knows for definite how the world began
Most recognize the Big Bang explanation ie spontaneous explosion of gasses to create a universe – but what else, what was before that, how big is the universe and is there a power that we do not know having an influence – could this be God?
In away – it doesn’t matter. We are what we are and we make the most of it and the best is happiness which cannot be found in material things – only through the love we give and receive.
You are a loving person, I know and you are going to make a difference in this world and the next. Ah!! The next???
I believe there is a next. I believe your spirit never dies. The body does but your spirit lives on.
Sometimes it becomes a new person, (evidence in past lives, reincarnation etc) Sometimes it disperses into your loved ones and sometimes both.
The spirit of my mother lives in me, my deceased sister – not sure but I see and sense her a lot particularly when I feel at risk – so her spirit is protecting me. She said she was going to come back as a magpie – which fits as she was very mischievous!
For children and to many adults this thinking is difficult and I believe the institute of the church uses the stories and symbols to get over the, in our case a Christian way of life
And leaves it up to the individual to how deep they go to helping them become aware of who they really are and what real happiness is.
I believe if you are as true to yourself as you can be and do no others harm then heaven is an open door. When our body dies I believe our spirit joins with our loved ones dead and alive and something special happens – people who die can have more influence on the living than when they were alive. This is through understanding why they where in your life in the first place and the messages passed on through to your own loved ones
These are great questions to have now and you will re-visit them at different stages in your life. The answers will remain the same but the meaning will be at a different depth.
Peace and Happiness
Michael Wash

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

World Wide Leadership Failure

War and bloody conflict is essentially a failure in leadership. 
Failure to negotiate
Failure to think through consequences of actions
Failure to forgive
Failure to trust
Failure to understand or empathise with different perspectives
Failure to compromise
Failure to convince others about the positive alternatives to conflict
Failure to suppress ones own personal power and ego
Failure to be aware of the bigger picture and longer term benefits of living in peace
Failure to share the true spirit of humanity in all its loving and generous spirit.
How many more lives will be lost before the United Nations ( our only global forum on Leadership) begin to make this discussable and work towards a global vision for peace.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

100th Anniversary of the Titanic

February 2012

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic – the year one of our largest cruise ships hits rocks forcing the ship to be abandoned.

1912 15th April RMS Titanic sank with loss of 1517 lives. On the 10th April  it set off from Southampton to New York on its maiden voyage with 2223 people on board. That fateful night it struck an iceberg – there are questions about whos fault it was.

Was the look out sufficiently equipped and alert?
Was the ship going too fast under pressure to break records?
Was the course set too far North?
Was sufficient notice taken of icebergs in the vicinity?
Why wasn’t there sufficient number of lifeboats onboard?

On Jan 13th this year the Costa Concordia hit rocks and starts to sink forcing evacuation of all 4200 passengers. The Titanic was the largest cruise ship in its day and half the size of the Costa Concordia.

Captain Edward J Smith went down with his ship Titanic.

Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia left before most of his passengers and refused to return when instructed to by the coast guards.

Who is to blame in these dreadful events?

In Simple Truth number 51 I give examples of other disasters where blame is dominant in the chaos, trauma and grief – for further information go to

 Here is an extract                          

On 28 January 1986, seven astronauts were killed when the Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after take-off.

Why did the O-rings fail to seal the joint adequately?

Why wasn’t the risk assertively communicated and stressed in appropriate language to the launch decision makers?

Why weren’t staff members, in particular the engineers, more assertive in communicating their doubts about the safety of the O-ring?

Who decided to launch in low temperature when the risk to the O-ring integrity was high?

Why was NASA experiencing pressure from Congress, the military, and media to launch soon?

Who’s to blame?

On 6 March 1987, 197 people drowned because the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry capsized shortly after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

Why was the person responsible for closing the cargo doors asleep on duty when the ferry left port?

Why did the officer responsible for checking the doors feel under pressure to move on without checking?

Why was the design of the ferry as such that the captain couldn’t see the doors from his station?
Why was the ferry on that route when it was inadequately designed for that port?

Who’s to blame? 

On 6 July 6, 1988, the Piper Alpha oil drilling platform exploded, killing 197 men.

Why wouldn’t the shift engineer work overtime to ensure that the pressure valve was complete?

Why weren’t the permits for pump maintenance and valve replacement coordinated?

Why were the firefighting systems turned to manual?

Why were the firewalls so weak?

Why were the evacuations instructions inadequate?

Why weren’t the high-pressure gas pipelines strengthened?

Why didn’t the other rigs in the area stop pumping oil?

Why did the rescue rig turn their water pumps on too early, tripping them out, and why was it too slow?
There were only fifty-nine survivors – most of whom survived because they ignored advice and jumped from the burning rig.

Who’s to blame?

On 15 April, 1989, 96 football fans died and 766 were injured when the crowds were hurdled into a spaces/pens resulting in a massive crush at Hillsborough Football club, Sheffield. 

Why wasn’t the start of the game delayed to allow more time for fans to get in?

Why weren’t the roadworks on the M62 announced to allow more planning for fans’ travel time?

Why were Liverpool fans given the smaller end of the ground when it was predicted they would be the larger crowd?

Why weren’t the police better trained to handle crowds, and why did they open gate C?

Why didn’t police and stewards redirect fans away from the tunnel entrance?

Why were there inadequate numbers of turnstiles?

Why weren’t the pens and fencing removed following previous crushing incidences? 

Why did police turn back the ambulances?

Who’s to blame?

Rarely can blame be focussed on one individual – we all act in the circumstances we find ourselves – but what has contributed to those circumstances occurring in the first place?

What is the point of blame – is it to seek revenge, justice or to learn from the event in order to prevent anything like it occurring again?

And what of the grieving families – can they gain peace through the process of apportioning blame? Or would they gain more through the process of forgiveness

See Simple Truths with Brutal Advice number 36. You will find it difficult to forgive. 

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