Welcome to Ethiconomics

Welcome to Ethiconomics

Ethiconomics ™ is your complete guide to an improved, rewarding life leading to sustainable business relationships and personal fulfilment.

(ethik’ə nämiks) noun:

– a system of practices and personal values for ethical business in the global economy.

Current business practice has lead to virtual economic meltdown fuelled by corporate irresponsibility, non-accountability and a lack of moral values.

This must change; Ethiconomics™ is this change…

Ethiconomics ™ is your complete guide to an improved, sustainable life leading to rewarding business relationships and personal fulfilment.

How?  By showing you:

• that you CAN live and work with your authentic values

• that you CAN incorporate your own personal values into your working life

• that business MUST think beyond simple profits

• that you CAN change your work, family and community for the better.

There is no I in team, there is no F in leader

Teams, as a general rule, are the organisation of individuals and skills typically bound by a common objective, activity or intent. When these teams are assembled in the business environment, there is more often than not a specified goal and this goal, one can assume, can be best delivered by the creation of such a team – no doubt to incorporate a mix of skills and perspectives that is intended to bring more to the potential results than would be achieved by the endeavours of a single individual. This is my own experience of team-working or at least that was the case whilst I plied my corporate trade.

I have worked with teams as a member, as a facilitator, as an organiser and as a leader. There are, in my opinion, common threads through all of these many teams some of which I will expand upon here. These threads have a common feature; that of people and their relationships with each other.

Teams do usually bring a broader perspective to an issue thus providing the potential for more innovative, holistic and integrated solutions. Well, that’s the plan anyway. I have also utilised a myriad of measurement and project management tools from the simple traffic light option (grading the tasks in hand as green if progress is satisfactory, amber if it requires attention and red if it is priority) to the more complex sigma-type methods. All have merit but no particular method or system will work to optimum if the relationships within the team are not optimised. The relationships (and the inherent emotional aspects) are critical not only to the potential success of the activity but usually also to the sanity (motivation, satisfaction, value etc) of the members themselves.

Each member has to whole-heartedly feel that they are equally valued, that their voice will be heard, that their needs will be addressed and that their work will be incorporated into the outcome. If not, then their attention and focus will quickly drift. The team itself usually requires an identity. This identity manifests typically these days with a slogan or acronym which allows for internal and external (from the team) identification. The team members will typically be of a similar ‘status’ or rank which encourages open communication without the feeling that they will be damaging their future prospects. The team has to trust the organisation enough that their work will be recognised. The members should respect each other member and their respective abilities so that input is considered rationally and practically – no preconceived attitudes or corporate positioning. I would like to think that all of this is obvious. If not, then you are probably having problems with your teams. You may be suffering from the ‘I’ within the team – stronger personalities that smother the creativity and communication of the less gregarious members. This can be spotted and managed fairly quickly. If this is not the case then you may not have an ‘I in team’ issue; you may have a ‘no F in leader’ issue.

Even more important than the encouraging and managing of the above, even more important than the measurements, even more important than the open and honest communication for any team is that of the integrity, commitment and support of the leader. If there is no F in leader, then the team becomes a thought group – a group of earnest and like-minded individuals with a common activity. The ship is rudderless, adrift upon the tumultuous seas of corporate politics. You will, I am certain, be aware of the merits of leadership from our previous editions on the same. You will also most likely be aware of the necessity that a successful project/activity requires high level sponsorship. You will also be aware of the need for balancing emotional as well as intellectual qualities (trust, respect, empathy and such like – if not, read Len Foster’s articles!) but the role of the leader within a team environment often gets misunderstood and under-valued in the corporate world.

The team leader is the master of the ship, the captain of the team, the focal point, the icon (maybe) and the informed but detached holder of the wheel. It is she who must remember the overall goal. It is he who must make the final judgement call. It is she who must cut short discussion, bring in additional members if required, manage the egos, face the music, co-ordinate the activities, listen to the heartfelt pleas of individual members, sift politics from practicality, motivate by whatever each individual requires, adapt to changing circumstance, protect and serve the team without taking over or allowing personal bias to surface. In essence, the accepted first among equals.

I have recently been party to a project that displayed an almost perfect example of how not to run a team. No names, no pack drill but essentially there was a strong consensus regarding the intent, the mission, of the group but this was, regrettably, where the coordinated direction ended. The group was made up of mixed gender and a range of background, expertise and, most importantly, cultural environments. Almost inevitably, the older, more battle-scarred commercially oriented individuals dominated the younger, more socially oriented members. As the project proposal submission date loomed closer, these less-democratic members began to control not only the meetings but also the agenda. Once the agenda was controlled then it was a small step to influence strategy and activity. To cut a long story short the group of eight broke into at least two factions. The team leader was not strong enough to manage the personalities and so the project drifted. There was evidence of communications regarding the whole group and the project scope being sent to selected members and on occasion to the team leader only. Finally, when the final bid was dispatched, the content bore little resemblance to the agreed solution of the entire team and more like a single-party proposal.

Inevitably, the bid failed. Ironically, however, those portions that were left unchanged by the ‘inner faction’ scored very well in the assessment process and those amended, cut-and-pasted to the singular, ‘independent’ members scored embarrassingly low. The group that remained true to the governance, content and context of the initial scope was lauded, the group that under-mined the team, the team leader and the agreed mission were left exposed and embarrassed.

A team with a mix of skills and backgrounds is, in my opinion, more likely to deliver broader and more creative solutions. It is important to note, however, that it is not the skills variance that causes potential issues, it is the emotional/personality/behavioural aspects that come with each individual that usually influences success or failure the most. A leader needs to manage culture and communication as much as content and deadlines. In the above instance, the leader could not. I have seen this time and again. The human touch (emotional, personal and behavioural management) being a more important success factor than technical or financial content.

It is very important in any team that each member feels valued and valuable. It is important that governance and communication are open and accepted. It is important that each member accepts the role and responsibilities of each other with trust, respect and deference. There is no ‘I’ in team. It is critical, however, that the team is lead effectively. If there is no ‘F’ in leader there is invariably no f in success.

Well, what are you waiting for?

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another year passes and the wheel of time turns. Inexorably, inevitably and impersonally. For many of us it is a time when we reflect on the past year and gird our loins for the next. There is no natural reason for this reference to a spurious calendar embedded into our western consciousness and organisation by some medieval monk. For centuries we organised our years by the cycles of nature; by equinox and solstice, by season, growth and harvest. Still, it allows us the structure that we need in our ‘modern’ world for planning and organisation. Our frontal lobe is satisfied by this and our software applications are pure and blank, waiting to be filled with exciting and stimulating appointments and activities.

So, how are you going to fill in these spaces this year?

You may have already set your personal and business goals. You may have started that diet. You may have commenced that learning programme. You may have resolved that this year it will be different. And it will. It cannot possibly be the same. There will, however, be similarities.

Will there be political scandals and more MPs charged with various crimes against democracy? Very probably.

Will there be further extortions of the public at large by financial institutions without proper accountability and responsibility? Most likely.

Will thousands of acres of rainforest be felled – legally and illegally? Yes.

Will thousands of children die of famine, disease and drought whilst others gorge themselves into obesity? Yes.

Will we be peddled spin and rhetoric by fatuous politicians claiming that they we are all in it together? Undoubtedly.

Clearly I could go on – these predictions are not Nostradamian, merely guaranteed effects within societies that hold higher the price of things rather than the value of them. Obviously there will be more uplifting events too.

The person that you did not like before but now have grown more fond of will win ‘Strictly’.

There will be heroes and heroines breaking the mould and performing acts of exceptional human kindness and social impact.

There will be tales of bravery, goodness and altruism.

There will be more funny cats on YouTube to amuse and distract or a new series of your favourite sitcom.

There will be sunsets and parties. Love, life and laughter.

All of these things will happen so why will 2014 be different from 2013 for you? Does it need to be? Will you be satisfied with simply more of the same and if so, is that a bad thing after all? The answer, my friends, is very much down to you. Not necessarily because you will be one of those heroes or villains that flash across the media and human consciousness (but of course you may well be) but because just how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ this year will be is completely down to you. When you sit back in 12 months time and assess the relative success of 2014, it is you who will have set the goals, you who will have delivered them and you alone who will sit in judgement. It is you who will decide whether it was a better or worse year. It is you who will decide to be content or not, happy or not, frustrated or not. You are the cause and you will feel the effects.

So, before you get too embroiled in meetings and appointments, maybe it is worth stepping back, detaching and assessing what is really important for you because you may not be able to change the whole world at large but you are completely responsible for your own world. How and why? Well because what significance you attach to your life and work, the priorities that you set, the relationships that you wish to develop or drop and your respective emotional attachments to these external events are your own and only your own. Of course there will be set backs – someone will let you down – but there will also be progress and development. There will be contracts that you win and contracts that you lose. There will be days that go to plan and days that are randomly hectic. There will be spontaneity and surprise and there will be predictability and routine. This is life.

The key to making 2014 a year that you want to repeat is to make it one that you enjoy, to make it one that is rewarding and fulfilling and, because these are emotions that you are in complete control of, it is absolutely and totally within your grasp. It lies within your hands already and the events that you are planning (and not planning) will simply be the markers along the way. These will be the external causes but the effects are internal and absolutely personal.

I am not advocating irresponsibility and that you simply wait for the vagaries of time and tide. No, in fact, exactly the opposite. I am suggesting that this year above all others that you take full responsibility. Full responsibility for your actions and behaviour. Full responsibility for your responses and reactions. Full responsibility for yourself. This is not selfish. This is not abstract. This is not bunkum. This is practical, effective, efficient and ethical. It is unlikely that you will win every deal. It is unlikely that you will complete every task. It is even unlikely that you will fulfil all of your ‘resolutions’ but you will be part of discussions and deals. You will be ‘successful’ on occasion and ‘unsuccessful’ on others but the key to all progress is how you respond to these events. How you learn from them and you choose to change (if indeed you want to).

With his in mind I would like to offer a couple of suggestions before January turns to February and Winter makes way for Spring.

1. Do your business plan. A proper one that encompasses what exactly it is that you truly want to achieve with your business including the specific objectives, strategies and resources that you need. A simple financial plan is not enough because the money is only a function of the action.
2. Clear your clutter. This means all people, practices and possessions that no longer support your way of life (or the one that you are trying to build). Be aware of who really supports you and who actually drains you of time and energy. Develop your own u-s-p and build your niche.
3. Take full responsibility for your own emotions and behaviour. Blaming external events and people simply disempowers you. If it works for you, do it again, if it does not, stop doing it. Make improvement continuous and personal.

2014 is no different from 2013. January is essentially no different from December but what will make a difference to you, is you. Quite simply, be the change that you want to see and be responsible for how this makes you feel. There is nothing to wait for because in essence you already have everything that you need to create the changes that you want, the rest are simply tools and techniques for implementation, feedback and measurement.

Everyday sexism – it cuts both ways

There is no doubt that sexism exists, and not just in the workplace. It is a part of everyday society. Does this mean that it is acceptable? No. Does this mean that everyone is sexist to some extent? Maybe.

We exist and strive here at the3rdi to address sexism in many of its covert and overt forms. We give voice and support to a myriad of theories views and experiences. Through this, we try to remain neutral and balanced. There is a perspective here however that is unashamedly singular, sexism from the male perspective. I ask you to set aside any immediate prejudice in this area and such sweeping generalisations as “men cannot multi-task” to present before you the statement that sexism exists in both directions. Sexism can be experienced by men from women as well as on women from men. This is not a general comment; these are facts. I know them to be true because they are my experiences, first hand. They are my facts and they are true.

When starting my corporate career I completed a management training programme with a global engineering company. I travelled around the organisation spending time in just about every department, from marketing to HR, from Accounts to the factory floor.

I encountered direct sexism on many occasions. When acting as apprentice in the manufacturing section I worked for periods of eight and 24 weeks on various assembly lines. In the teleprinter area which required a higher degree of dexterity and less heavy load work, the majority of the workforce were women. I encountered sexism every minute of every day from having to squeeze between two workbench staff that had moved their respective chairs too close together in order that I made physical contact (this causing me great embarrassment and them hysteria). I was regularly required to pick up dropped screws and bolts whilst the “girls” watched and commented and hailed innuendo. I was regularly asked what I wanted for lunch “poke and stuffing today” (a vulgar reference to pork). If I commented or blushed, the ridicule was heightened. “Oh! Look Christine, the little boy is embarrassed. Come here love, I’ll show you what to do with your soldering stick!” In the offices, the same again but marginally less overt. Mother-hen middle-aged desperate housewives and admin pools that delighted in my obvious embarrassment at discussions about their respective partners lack of sexual prowess or the regular refuge of the slighted lady, ‘women’s problems’.

As I matured and developed into management, the game was still the same. NEVER question ‘women’s problems’, repeatedly having to tread on eggshells in an attempt to work out who of the 12 women that I worked with were, at which stage of the cycle and why that mattered. Don’t get me wrong, this was a professional organisation but let me ask you this. What would have happened if I had gone to HR and complained about sexual harassment? I think you know.

As senior manager and director the issues never went away completely it was just that the tactics changed. Women that stood too close, extended eye contact, the odd touch of a hand on my arm, whispered comments as I passed that I was supposed to hear but not supposed to hear. I have witnessed ‘power sex’ traps with fellow Directors, broken marriages from late working and gate-keeper secretaries.

My point is a relatively simple one. Sexism is not just in the workplace. If you are sexist, you are sexist. It’s that simple.

If you cannot see past the gender to relate to the person them self, you are sexist. If you set up groups that exclude one gender or the other, you are sexist. If you look for gender-based excuses for lack of promotion, look in the mirror first; how do you behave with the junior male trainee or the new manager or your line Director? Do you use your ‘women’s worldly wiles’ or rely upon your feminine charms? These are you using your gender energies and your gender assets to further your case, career or conversation. Do you make random, unqualified generalisations such as “it’s different for men” or “he can handle it” or “typical man, can’t multi-task’” or have you ever flirted or manipulated a situation with your feminine charms? If so, you are sexist.

There is undoubtedly an imbalance in the workplace when it comes to senior roles. There is also an imbalance in the number of sexual harassment cases. But I have seen cases and experienced events that were just as sexist and just as unfair and there is another point to consider here; just how many men feel that they can actually complain? The whole world of male ego turns against itself here.

I am not looking for sympathy, just recognition that it is a two-way street. I could cite further repugnant examples from Monica Lewinski to screaming hen parties. You may defend them, justify them even. That is up to you, the mirror and your conscience and for the record, mine is clear.

I came up with the idea of the 3rdi; my idea, my name, my vision. Karen has taken the magazine to people and places that I could not. Karen has met wonderful women and been involved in fantastic events, I have not. I have been asked to speak at one event in the five years that we have ran this magazine together. I stepped down from MD in order that the magazine, the cause, could develop. I have watched and listened from the background as we continue to address inequality and inequity in business and society. I have promoted women’s events, rights and causes without question and without reward. I will continue to do this with all the passion and focus that I have because fairness, balance and respect are key to my work and life and these values are NOT gender specific.

In essence, I walk my talk. Do you?

Learning to think, be and do differently

Learning is not just about discovering new things about the outside world. It is also about learning new things about yourself. It is about learning to think, to be and to do things differently.

We live in difficult times but just how we let these times affect us, for good or ill, is in many ways down to us. If we don’t like something we can change it and if we cannot change it directly then we can certainly change the way that we think about it. As Gandhi so famously said, we each need to be the change we want to see in the world.

Phil Birch, author of the groundbreaking book Ethiconomics and Business Editor at the3rdimagazine, has designed a unique personal development programme which will transform the way that you think and act. Called “Astound The World in 80 days” the eBook takes you, one topic at a time over 80 days, from Authenticity to Seizing The Day, so that you can seize every day and greet each dawn as a fresh, new, exciting challenge.

How we feel about ourselves is critical to how we interact, behave and communicate with others. This book is not intended for deep personal psycho-analysis so you can take a deep sigh of relief there, but it IS about you. It is about how you think, how you feel, how you integrate and communicate your ‘self’ with other sentient beings.

We cannot be in control of all that we see. We cannot, nor should we wish to, be in control of others. We CAN be in control of our self. We can be the cause of our actions and reactions and THIS is the key to change and growth and, dare I say it, a better, more peaceful and fulfilling life.

If you are tired of the way that things are for you at the moment then this book will guide you to other, more rewarding and fulfilling practices.

In keeping with Phil’s ethos, the book is available on a honours system.

As Phil explains, “Many elements of the program are based upon fairness, equity and my faith in human nature, so payment by honour system is the right way, I feel, for me to demonstrate my belief in these principles and my faith in you, the reader.”

You may decide that you have received £1 worth of value and pay no more.
You may decide to pay the recommended retail price of the book (£7.99).
You may decide that the program is worth much more to you than that, and decide to pay more.
You may decide to pay nothing at all.This decision is yours and yours alone.

So go ahead and DOWNLOAD the eBook for FREE and pay as little or as much as you wish whenever you wish.

Collaboration v Competition This time it’s personal!

Firstly I would like to define and clarify the terms:

Collaboration means to work with another or others on a joint project
Competition means a rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same customer or market.

So, on the face of it, the two seem mutually exclusive. One focuses on working together, the other, working against each other. Simple really; or is it?

Collaboration is a growing development in business today and has a multitude of forms, from the simplicity of a partnership to the complexity of a multinational corporation. Collaboration between team members allows for better communication within the organisation and throughout the respective supply chains. It is a way of co-ordinating different ideas from numerous people to generate a wide variety of knowledge. It is in this context that collaboration can trade punches with traditional models of competition. In fact, collaboration can punch well above it’s weight.

If I may draw an analogy or two from the natural world. If you have ever seen tuna working together to “herd” and group together a shoal of bait fish, say herring, then you will see collaboration working instinctively – on both sides. The tuna work “together” on the edges of the shoal and gradually squeeze them into a “single” mass of potential food. The herring, on the other hand, swarm closer and closer together using a natural instinct and (scientists now think) their ability to react rapidly in synchronisation with the fish closest to them; communicating even it is thought, in order to present “themselves” as a much larger, more imposing prey. A huge mass of individuals working together to fend off the threat of attack posed by the tuna. Each individual herring is therefore not only less likely to be picked off individually but the combined efforts of thousands of herring gives the impression of a single, multi-facetted, more daunting creature.
The tuna, by virtue of millions of years of natural selection and evolution, also work as some form of team; gradually squeezing the mass together to make the “target” more uniform and manageable. The eventual outcome may be inevitable but the point is that if it did not improve the life-chances of the herring then they would not continue to adopt this behaviour – the herring may even have gone the way of the dodo. Equally, if the tuna’s tactics where fundamentally ineffective then they too would have found another tactic or another prey.

We still have much to learn about the nuances and marvellous intricacies of the natural World and I am certain that some form of group collaboration, even incorporating some unknown form of communication, exists that we are, as yet, unaware of. Essentially, if it did not work over millions of years of evolution then they simply would not do it.

And so, to the World of humans and, more specifically, to the World of human competition – the business World.

We have been blessed with a complex intelligence. We also possess untapped depths of intuition and a natural compassion. We have the ability to understand the “greater good” in rational, logical terms. In fact, we can consciously “decide” with every action that we undertake whether to think and work with a greater good in mind, or not to. Unfortunately we have a tendency to adopt a mentality that starts, and all too frequently remains, with us as an individual. We all too frequently adopt an attitude that basically operates as “What’s in it for me?” Can you imagine a herring, or a zebra, or a wilderbeast ever saying to themselves.

“Mmmm, herding eh? Seems like a good idea but what’s in it for me? I think I will go my own way this season lads.”

Or the lions saying

“Yep, I know that working as a pride has worked well so far but I fancy doing things my way today. You go and catch it and I will wait around here and see what I can pick up.”

I suggest that neither would last long.

So, back to us. Collaboration; what’s in it for me? I will offer 3 key benefits:

You get to benefit from the experience of older, wiser, savvy, creative, knowledgeable, experienced individuals (in the respective venture). Access to skills and wisdom that you as an individual may not possess at that moment in time. In essence, access to experts.
You have the chance to add your own particular experience to the team; to show your own skills and virtues and to exchange freely ideas and effort.
You can present the “team” as a single, powerful, holistic entity containing all the necessary attributes required for the opportunity in hand. You may even be able to actually work with a competitor to share the spoils. Neither of you being able to win the business individually but as a combined force you have (at least) twice the power.

Collaboration is not new, so why is it not more popular?

I think it is reflective 2 things – condition and climate or more specifically the human condition compounded by the economic climate. We want to protect what is “ours” – our knowledge, contacts, intellectual property, etc. We also have far more complex communication and relationship needs and behavioural techniques.

We have a natural tendency to ask “What’s in it for me?” before we consider “What’s in it for us?”

I see this as a reflection of basic values and virtues, specifically being trust, honesty and authenticity.

Trust – the only way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them. We can deploy all the communication skills training, research, intuition, business credit checks etc etc but at the end of the day, we will only know whether any individual is “worth” trusting once we actually commit to doing it.

Honesty – again, unfortunately, it is all too often only after the event do we get to see the actual honesty of those that we are collaborating with. Not just little pockets of rhetoric, but actual, open and honest team-working with the overall group benefit in mind,

Authenticity – do they, have they in the past, walk their talk.

I have been the “victim” of the shyster before. Maybe you too have fallen for a scam in the past; be that the smooth-talking, high pressure time share rep while you are on holiday or the charlatan business “pareto partner”. By that I mean one that talks a great game in the initial discussion but who actually only puts in 20% of the effort to making the project come alive and takes 80% of the returns. These people, unfortunately, are everywhere – no values, no ethics, all “what’s in it for me?”

It would be remiss of me, then, to finish without offering at least some advice from my own experiences.

Do your research – check out the social collateral as well as the business collateral of any potential partner/team before committing to a collaborative project. Use all and any of the social media tools available, check out their testimonials, and look into their business history. Do NOT simply accept the rhetoric, enthusiasm and marketing blurb
Make sure that what you are getting is equivalent to what you are giving. Put value onto you your respective skills and attributes and be open about it before commitment. If you have donkeys years of experience and a shed load of contacts then make sure that what you are getting in return for your sharing these yields an appropriate value. You can always weight the respective returns from the venture against the specific effort that you contribute.
Write it down! Get an Agreement drafted that you all sign up to specifying the nature and duration of the project/collaboration, expected activities, potential returns, duties and obligations. Do NOT just go on trust (even if you have some previous experience with the partners involved). AND have mutually acceptable “escape” clauses. Better still, work within a well established legal co-operative framework. The formal Co-operative business model is well established and has worked well for many, many years. So why take time and spend money creating your own agreements when there is very likely to be a co-operative business model to suit your collaborative venture. And the good news is the co-operative movement provides lots of free advice and support to get you started. There are many examples of successful co-ops in this issue of the3rdimagazine so you don’t have to take just my word for it. And the3rdimagazine is itself a member owned co-operative so you can test the water by getting involved here.
Work with your values. If they have a product/service that you do require in order to work for a “greater good” then always consider whether you can actually work with these people. Do they share your values? Do they walk their talk? Have they a record of successful collaboration? Your brand is your reputation and in a collaborative project, individual reputation may take a back seat to the “brand” of the project team. Make sure that they are harmonious.

If you manage to find reputable, trustworthy, authentic collaboration partners that ACTUALLY trust and respect you (and vice versa) then it is an extremely valuable proposition in today’s economy and one successful venture can lead to another. Suddenly you have many business facets and resources without compromising your own.

Acting in collaboration may mean that you are sacrificing the whole prize for just a portion of it but at the end of the day, 20% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

This article was published in the3rdimagazine on 4 July 2011

Leaders – I see you!

I  gave a talk to a group of students at The National Enterprise Academy in Manchester about the benefits of ethics and values in business. The students were encouragingly receptive about the concept of Ethiconomics and indeed also of their own futures. Whilst it could be argued that the innocence of youth may yet strongly influence their ideals, there was no doubt in my mind that on the whole they wished for a better, more ethical future. These students tempered their inexperience with a sound grasp of business and leadership principles and I left the group feeling that the future, in their hands, is bright.

I constructed the presentation on the theme of “I See You” and supplemented with various topics from my A-Z Introduction to Ethiconomics. I selected 3 starting with the letter “I”, 4 with “C” and finished with a “U” (You). We discussed openly the topics and attempted to apply them to actual business situations; the underlying theme being that of ethical leadership. These students very much see themselves as the leaders of tomorrow.

I shall summarise briefly here as the attributes have unilateral relevance whether to students, entrepreneurs or corporate leaders. A leader, whilst being definitively unique, must display some, if not all, of these skills.

I started with a hot topic of mine, authenticity. OK, it is not an “I-C-U” but it is the bedrock of all sustainable business (and life) behaviour. I have written on this before in the3rdi but authenticity drives values and behaviour when applied daily to everything we do; if we walk our talk, then authenticity steers us on the path that we have chosen. I reinforced the point by instructing the students to look at themselves openly and honestly each time they look in the mirror; to “see” themselves and to evaluate with integrity how they are doing as a person not just as a worker or business person.

Then, we discussed these topics in more depth with respect to business and to leadership;

The 3 “I” s
a commitment, as of time or support
“Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self development) in order to guarantee your future.” Brian Tracy

Find the work you are inspired to do!

something newly introduced; new method, custom, device, etc
creative use of a good, service, or idea that is already available.

So, invest in yourself; regularly and consistently. I personally think that 3% is arbitrary and that if you are doing work that inspires you, then investing your time, energy and money in yourself is a joy as well as a benefit. Innovation is not just about products; being innovative in marketing, order processing, customer service etc can be just as key in creating, and sustaining, a competitive advantage. Innovation is more likely when accompanied with inspiration and investment (training, personal development) but requires one key component above all others; imagination. All that has been made, all that we are, originated in thought. If you can think, you can imagine, if you can imagine, you can create.

The 4 “C” s

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ghandi

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” Tony Robbins

Because you ALWAYS have one !

I am certain that the above need no great explanation as to why these are relevant to leaders. If there is one that stands out to me it is that of courage. Clearly we are not talking about the displays of courage that we hear about in one of the ever-present wars that there are these days but a quiet, internal, personal courage that drives a leader on.

Leadership is difficult and it can be lonely. Leadership is NOT just management and managers are NOT necessarily leaders. Clearly ther are elements of both in each but a leader is a different beast than a manger. Leaders require followers, managers require policies. For example, if you are the one to start a new movement, be that a business or the first on the dance floor, you stand alone. You take the risks and commit to the plan. Standing alone attracts attention. The masses stand back and watch to see what will happen. Others wait for signs of success or approval before investing themselves in the venture, or not. It takes courage to step out of the crowd. What any leader needs, however, more than anything else, is followers and the essential, critical component of successful leadership is the first follower, the first investor.Without followers the leader is a maverick, an eccentric, a loner. When the first breaks from the pack, the movement gains momentum because the movement appears to gain “credibility”. All leaders need the first follower first then the rest are far more likely to follow. It takes courage to break the mould and then courage to commit to the plan. Leadership needs courage.

The 1 “U”
The You – S – P (self esteem) – a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth

And this is the final attribute – a leader needs self esteem. This is not to be confused with self confidence; self esteem is deeper and stronger. Self esteem comes from confidence in your self, your plans and your business reputation. And guess what, self esteem needs courage (amongst other things). You are your u-s-p (unique selling proposition) as much as any product or service that you offer. You have to truly believe in your work in order to communicate and project confidence and worth and it is your worth, your value, that will attract clients and generate income. If you don’t believe, nobody else is likely to.

I finished off the presentation by asking the students to get their “R”s out.

Respect the other persons view of the World – it’s theirs and does not have to be yours.
Responsibility – for your actions
Referral – self referral – remember the mirror? I See You !!!!

This article was published in the3rdimagazine on 5 June 2011

How to use your brand to build your reputation

A brand is a product, service, or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services, or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and usually.


Well, quite a wordy but nonetheless relatively complete definition of a “brand”.

A company’s brands, and the public’s awareness of them, are often used as a factor in evaluating a company. In fact companies frequently hire market research firms to study public recognition of brand names, as well as attitudes toward the respective brands. This information is generally accepted as the public’s opinion of the company as a whole.

Here is the famous advertising copywriter and ad agency founder David Ogilvy’s definition of a brand:

“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised”.

A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced, and so it can be understood how this is directly related to the image and public opinion of the company itself. Enough said, I think, on the construct and “technicality” of a brand. I would like to expand on certain qualities alluded to I the above.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.

A brand has been described as the accumulation of memories, stories, expectations and relationships and in this context the power of the brand can be understood in more personal terms. I refer to the comment above but would remove any element of doubt. A brand IS the reputation. It is not a just a logo, a suave TV advertisement or a savvy marketing campaign. It is not even just the representation of the product, service and operations of the company (but clearly if these fundamental activities fail to live up to the standards promoted by the brand “image” then the market and consumers will soon enough relay this back to the organisation) it is reputation; a “perceived” concept as much as an experienced one.

An example? BP. They spent hundreds of thousands of pounds re-designing their “old” petro-chemical, 1960’s-styled logo into one that is more environmentally suggestive – a lovely, stylised daisy-type flower. Did this help them when they were trawled through the American courts and the World’s press for “destroying the American South-East coast, it’s towns, industries and economy.” I suggest not. It was they, the “British” oil company, that did this. An immense amount of time and money has and will continue to be spent in re-building this whole area but how much more will have to be invested into the good folk of the US to re-build the BP reputation?

Another example closer to home, maybe? Mr Blair and Cool Britannia. It all started very well it seems (or at least if you ignore the cheesy schmoozing of come of the coolest of Britain’s rock and music scene at Tony’s garden party’s), but, a few invasions, cabinet indiscretions and economic trials later and his reputation, I would suggest, is somewhat tarnished. Very few of the “good” that he may have inspired and delivered will be remembered before the fact that he took us into an illegal war and lied to various committees. Nixon, he may not be, but their reputations, I suggest, have parallels that cannot be ignored. So, your reputation is your brand and your brand only reflects and communicates your reputation. It is worth, then, understanding what a reputation is.

Reputation: The estimation in which one is held; character in public opinion; the character attributed to a person, thing, or action; repute.


and there it is. It is so much more than “brand” in so far as it reaches further. It precedes you, surrounds you and follows in your wake. In order to reinforce this point I would briefly refer you to the following recognised understanding of (face to face, and I would suggest even face to TV) communication interaction:

• 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.

• 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).

• 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

Essentially what I am saying here is that people may recognise your logo and products, they may even remember some of the words that you say but no amount of suave communication techniques in styling, tonality, stance, body language etc will repair a dodgy reputation so it is important, even critical, to your own and your business success to view your brand as your reputation and work on that.

What is your reputation?

What do people “say” about you when you are not there?

How do they “relate” to your and your brand?

My advice is 3-fold.

Firstly, be authentic. Ensure that you and your message (product/service) is consistent and genuine. If you are recognised as trying to be all things to all people, of being something of a chameleon and/or appear to change your mind and image to suit the respective environment then you WILL trip yourself up at some point. Be you and be true. Be authentic to you and your “brand.” Be multi-facetted but not two-faced.

Secondly, integrate your values into your business. It is one thing being authentic (but so are Middle Eastern dictators !) but another to fully integrate your own values into your life and work. If you want to display enviro-friendly policies then don’t take unnecessary flights or use huge-engined cars. If you want to project trust then act accordingly and trust others. If you want to be recognised as a fantastic employer then have genuinely motivational engagement and employment policies. The first test may be defining actually what your personal values are and how strong they resonate with you, then you will never really have to worry about your reputation – you will be thinkig, doing and being it every day.

Thirdly, do not expect to change the World with a logo. Start local, build your business, brand, and maybe niche, by serving a small but dedicated group of clients and partners and staff. They will build and communicate you reputation. They will become your cheerleaders and fans. You cannot be in all places at all times but your fans can. If they are convinced in your authenticity and values and if you walk your talk and deliver these values with consistent, tangible, authentic action, then they will be your reputation promoters. They will not only deliver but they will defend, spread and enhance your brand.

By including your values into every aspect of your life you will find that your brand will reflect these values. There will always be the up’s and downs’s of business activity – relatively “good” times and “bad” – but your reputation sticks around. It is HOW you deal with your stakeholders that matters – staff, customers, shareholders, community, partners – and not just what you deliver to them. A reputation can be a life in the making and no amount of “branding” and marketing will totally cover over a damaged reputation. An authentic, values-based, ethical reputation will, I suggest, cost far less in the long term than a reputation for unfair, inequitable, self-agrandising, red-braces-based business. Your brand is you and you are your values and your values in action.

To build and protect your brand, build and protect your reputation.

*excepts taken from “An A – Z Introduction to Ethiconomics” by Philip A Birch

Youth Enterprise re-visited – (let’s all hope that) the times are they a-changing

A few months ago I reported upon a presentation that I gave to the business students at Peter Jones’ National Enterprise Academy in Manchester.

At the end of the presentation on Business Ethics and Values, a subject close to my heart and head under the work that I do with Ethiconomics TM, I left 15 minutes or so for a question and answer session. The session actually extended to over 40 minutes. This I put down to the genuine interest of the students in the practical engagement and delivery of Ethiconomics into business strategy (and possibly a little nod to the delivery of the content itself – excuse the promotion but my mentor would insist!). Either way there was an engaged audience of young, exuberant and mature young entrepreneurs prepared to miss some of their lunch time to interact on the subject.

The quality of their questions in general was testament to their interest in business ethics and the standard of general business studies education that the Academy provided. It was the penultimate question that nearly caught me out and not because of its abstractly theoretical nature on some hitherto non-considered topic but almost the exact opposite. I was asked which were the top 3 topics (An A-Z Introduction to Ethiconomics has over 100 personal values and business principles topics) that I would recommend and that I also deployed most diligently. The first part of the question was relatively straightforward to respond to but I did have to make a mental check that I was “diligently deploying” the principle into practice.

My first topic was Authenticity. No surprise to anyone that has worked with me over the years,

“Even the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of not having lived authentically and fully.” Frances Moore Lappe,

Is very much how I personally feel about Authenticity. I had no problem with that element at least. The subsequent discussion left me with a strong impression. The topic was received with vigour and open minds. They instinctively recognised the power of acting authentically and of how today’s World of social media and instant information made it even more important to behave consistently and with integrity. Even as they forge their respective ways into the business and commercial world they were already conscious that behaviour is increasingly visible and that reputation of the individual and the company is becoming increasingly representative of brand, niche and sustainable business. Their own example was one of the Disney Corporation who’s mission statement is something along the lines of “To Make People Happy” but who have (allegedly – they also have a reputation for being mercilessly litigious!) the highest suicide rate amongst employees in the business world! A glorious manifestation of inauthentic values at work where clearly the value of the customer (and the cheque?) is strongly favoured over the value/values of the employees. Effective and successful if only measured in terms of money but maybe not so successful in terms of employees engagement and fulfilment.

The second topic that I chose was that of Affluence. I requested that they begin to consider their respective affluence, and presumed search for more, in terms other than just financial. This too was well received – albeit initially with a few raised eyebrows! The point that I made had two distinct elements; the first, that we have been in search of the Yankee dollar at the exclusion of the environment, personal contentment and community engagement for too long. It is becoming increasingly clear that this has had its day, shot its bolt and ran its course. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone in Greece or Ireland or vast areas of the US, or even many regions in the UK. The perspective of the students, and I want to reaffirm their knowledge and maturity in these matters, was again refreshingly open-minded and practical.

They absolutely understood the value of community, the need to protect natural resources and to reduce waste. They saw these in ecological, personal AND social contexts and very much understood that the change in World economic balance toward China, Africa (via China!) and Russia was going to involve a major re-assessment of financial practices and economic stability. They very much related to the need to be ostensibly less materially-minded and to move away from the pure consumerism mentality.

“Many who seem to be struggling with adversity are happy; many, amid great affluence, are utterly miserable.” Tacitus

The third topic that I selected was that of Culture. I presented this from the perspective of personal culture (including references to uniqueness, brand, values and niche). As a wise man once said,

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Mohandas Gandhi

Once again this resulted in creative debate. If the culture of a country lies in the hearts and minds of its people then my faith in the future was significantly uplifted. The “got it”! They instinctively applied the principle of personal values and ethical behaviour to their own personal “culture” and to that of their peer groups.

If culture is the accumulation of the collective values of one generation past on to the next, and I think that it is as culture forms the framework of society, acceptable behaviour and generally in the laws of the land, then I was left with a slightly bitter taste. Not because of the discussion just completed but because of the culture that we are passing on to this next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. We have created and perpetuated a culture of “what’s in it for me” rather than one of “how can add value to others”. We have thrown ourselves willingly upon the alter of consumerism. We have over-eaten, over-spent and over-exploited the planet. We have presented many dubious “role models”. We have allowed corrupt officials to bankrupt society. We have lost, or at least stopped deploying, our core, personal values. But there is hope and after all that was all that was remaining in Pandora’s Box when we let out the rest of the evils of the World!

The hope lies in the future. The hope lies in the youth. They are technical savvy, astute, aware and confident – maybe this is the legacy culture that we passing on – a “don’t do as we do but please do as you say” culture. I am very much looking forward to working with the students again; they seem to me to be the light at the end of the many tunnels that we have created.

This article was published in the3rdimagazine on 1 August 2011

Family Business – blood IS thicker than water but is that always a good thing?

I have been involved in several small and start up ventures. Some with new or “un-related” partners, some with “friends” and others with family members. I have never, up until this point, thought to compare the relative benefits and challenges of the various constructs. It is tricky enough to start and run any new venture – capital, investment, running costs, salaries, skills , responsibilities, roles, authority, workload, location, strategy etc – but at the end of the day, working effectively with any business partners seems to me to be the essence of all operations.

My extensive time in corporate world presented few of these challenges. Everyone has a defined role with understood responsibilities, rewards and (usually) measurements and feedback systems. Additionally, despite any relative success and failure, in this world the company always owns the job, you as an individual only own your own skills. This introduces levels of detachment that small business, including family operations, are not usually able to offer. Also, even if we hold a position of authority and responsibility, we can effectively go home and switch off. There are resources for each and every activity and a relative detachment from the actual day-to-day finances. Many smaller businesses do not have such extensive procedures and protections in place. They typically limit the “who does what” to informal agreement and understanding. This allows for greater flexibility but can, if not managed effectively, lead to cross-over of activity, decision-making issues and potential rewards disputes. So, given the extensive history of family business and the vast number of family businesses that thrive in the UK, what, if anything, does family business offer that non-family ventures are unable to exploit and can these ventures learn anything from non-family structures and operations?

There are undoubtedly a myriad of specific areas where corporate business is “different” from the smaller concern but I wish to concentrate on what I consider to be some key topics here, most of which concern the “human” element. Assuming that all of the necessary business structure documents have been completed (LLP, partnership, private ltd company etc) where and why can a family business learn or indeed offer lessons?

Many structures abound but in corporate world roles, titles and responsibilities are clearly defined up front encouraging specialisation and expertise. Many smaller businesses and particularly family affairs leave this expressed structure as implied. This can lead to issues, particularly if the ownership of shares and profits is not also as equally defined.

Just who is boss? The appointed final decision maker may simply follow the “rules” of sibling-dom – this may not be the best or most effective policy. Just because a sibling (or even parent) is “older and wiser” does not necessarily mean that they are best placed to make all the final decisions.

Corporates spend immense amounts on seeking the right person for the right role. Family business has an extremely restricted talent pool. You kind of get what you have. Ensuring that the best allocation of duties and roles is critical to success which may not always be an easy task – telling big brother or Dad that you know more or can do better may not go down so well!

In corporate business, everyone should know the exact level and scope of their responsibilities. In a family business there can be a tendancy to blur the lines. This encourages knowledge-spreading and reduces the chance of “silo management”.

One family member can ostensibly offer the same “face” of the business as any other – the assumption being that one represents all whereas in other businesses there usually exists an understanding and acceptance that sales sell, marketers market, managers manage and directors direct.

Again, family business can blur the lines – if the youngest of the family is assumed to be the least experienced and is expected to “defer” then there is the danger that their rewards (shares, revenue, bonus etc) may reflect this as the “natural order” of things. In corporate world, this correlation between age/experience and rewards are very much less defined. Young, talented IT or marketing individuals often commanding far higher salaries than the experienced “old dogs” that have years of experience.

I guess that it can be assumed that family members communicate but what happens if they do not? In a corporate environment, silo management and internal politics often lead to knowledge storing and internal competition but there does exist a minimum requirement for communication and collective reporting. A family has a massive opportunity here because of the assumption that blood is thicker than water, and usually is, but always be aware that when a family tie breaks there is more at stake than a few spikey internal memos!

The weakest link
Business can develop, manage, train, monitor, assess, appraise, discipline and eject employees. You cant dismiss a sibling! You may be able to remove them or transfer them around the business but a brother is always a brother, a sister a sister and a parent a parent. Any relationship is only as strong as the weakest link and the inability to detach completely the work-role from the family-role may cause problems never dreamed of in non-family business.

I understand that for every “benefit” there can be made a case for the opposing perspective so are there any definitive benefits that a family business can offer that non-family concerns cannot? Maybe. The issue of blood being thicker than water may produce invaluable benefits of natural compatibility – trust, familiarity, communication, tolerance, unity, succession planning, mutual development of skills and the like – but equally they may present challenges that other ventures do not have to face. Sacking a sibling for example or not passing on the family business onto the eldest son (figuratively speaking) irrespective of talent and ability can put pressures on all other members of the company. “Young” Mr Smith may not have anything like the kudos and respect that “old” Mr Smith possesses.

I would personally recommend a family business – to me, the intrinsic familial ties offer benefits (by way of understanding and natural support) that other ventures cannot – a friend is always only a friend, a partner always only a partner, a boss can never be a father. Members of non-family ventures can leave, or change their priorities at their own, detached and personal volition and possess their own natural and understandable tendency to support their own family over and above yours. A family will generally support itself and this united front may be the single, and most defining advantage that any business can possess.

This article was published in the3rdimagazine on 4 September 2011


To austerity and beyond! Or when is enough, enough?

There are many angles on which we could approach the topic of managing through austerity. Indeed, when is enough enough has as many contexts as there are individuals which it affects. There are clearly elements of the reality of austerity that are common even if the actual individual impacts vary.

If you are fortunate enough to not be impacted negatively and are making a prosperous living during times in which many others are struggling, well done. The issue of enough being enough is maybe an issue of considering wants over needs. Do you need that new golf club or designer handbag or all that food in the freezer? Or do you simply want them for what they say about? Do you still need all of those clothes in the wardrobe or could someone else benefit via your own charitable “trickle down” effect? Is £1M enough or do you need more?

For many more of us, and in particular, those of us not living in London or the South West, maybe enough is enough, regarding the imbalance of regional Government funding initiatives or the gap between business support policies and the reality of these policies, in practice, or the incessant propaganda that all the unemployed are job-shy or the fact that we are the most photographed nation per capita in the World?

Your responses to these external issues will be as individual as you are. Or at least they should be. Provided that you are not simply following the trend or blindly complying to rules or conforming for the sake of an easy life, that is to say, playing a role that has been written for you, then you will have an opinion; your own opinion.

So, that said, what makes these issues personal is the way that you integrate austerity into your own world by which I mean, how these issues directly affect your personal circumstances, emotions and behaviour. I can speak with some authority on how I personally behave as I have experience and if you want to know the reality of a situation, ask someone that has been there. I have been there.

I have searched out the yellow label products. I have waited for the end of day product reductions in the Co-op. I have juggled whether to pay the gas or the electricity bill. I have woken each morning with a three second smile and then faced the reality of another stressful day speaking to cash collectors and waiting for the daily incoming red bill post. These things I have done.

How did I manage? Well, with difficulty but with purpose. Despite the days of angst and worry, I kept faith. Only just on occasions it is true, but I kept faith in me (and those treasured few that supported me). Whilst I accept that for many of us work brings pressure and contentment, frustration and joy, ups and downs, the balance of these seems to me to be all the more important during times of austerity. The tolerances are smaller and the returns more fragile or short term. There always seems to be a permanent cloud just sitting in peripheral vision waiting to deliver the next storm.

Whether starting on a new career, accepting that promotion or in creating your own new enterprise, it is undoubtedly tougher in times of austerity. This made me consider many aspects of my life, including financial freedom and to ask myself “What do you want? What are you prepared to do to get it? And ultimately when is enough, enough? In terms of the minimum that I need and the maximum that I want.

I have created the following diagram to explain the principles behind my considerations. I will be expanding upon this in future posts in Ethiconomics but for now I will provide some context and explanation of my thoughts.



faithFaith – we start off in all good (blind) faith, inspired and high with motivation and expectations.

Belief – we add research, feedback and context to our project to turn faith into a qualified belief.

Confidence – more work, feedback, activity and reward. Our confidence manifests and confidence inspires our actions. Results confirm our efforts and rewards are satisfactory or beyond.

Arrogance – it all seems too easy! Our model works, business/life is good, I can afford to throttle back a bit, I deserve this.

Ignorance – things are trickier but that’s life. Nothing much to worry about, it’s just a bad spell. I am enjoying it (really, overall, well most of it!). Things will get better.

Denial – nothing to see here. OK things are quiet, money is not quite as easy to earn but I am still right and happy. It’s them not me anyway. It’s not my fault.

Folly – I was right before and still am. What I have done before will be as effective again. It doesn’t matter anyway. I do it just because I love it and am not bothered about the money or the stress.

F*ck It – or f*ck it off. If it sustains beyond Folly then you have 2 choices: f*ck it off before it f*cks you up!

Let me qualify. You are responsible for your emotions. You are responsible for your actions. You are in control of when you decide that enough is enough. Clearly this is a simplification but the principles are, I think, appropriate. If you stay within the first three elements, being responsible for your success, listening to feedback, developing your product (or self) and focus on continuous improvement and sustainable growth, then your needs will be met.

If you stray into the further states, you are still responsible but are more likely to be attracting elements of frustration, angst, isolation and stress. You effectively refuse to define and accept when enough is enough. By understanding what are your needs rather than wants are, you are likely to reframe these components of your life into more than to the single aspect of money. Your wealth can be viewed in different terms and, even more importantly, on your own terms.

So, be responsible, be aware of your condition and define your own rules for exactly when (and what) enough is enough.

This article was published in the3rdimagazine on 4 August 2013