Thursday, 11 December 2014

One of the best books I've ever read!

This is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. I'm not joking when I say this. I don't necessarily agree with the politics and I avoided the military despite my school trying to shoehorn me in. Colin Powell is becoming my leadership guru. I recommend this to anyone who wants to lead, has an interest in leading, or has a below average leader they need to lend it to! Buy it here

Friday, 5 December 2014

Don't Waste My Time!!

You've got to love a Blog about time wasting from Rita J King!

Revolution now! My Manifesto for meetings!


Do you come away from meetings feeling like it was a waste of time? With no clearer idea of who is doing what and how these actions will contribute to your organisation? All too often meetings fall short of the mark so last year I wrote my manifesto to #makemeetingscount. I want more meetings to be a rewarding experience. Rather than leaving everyone wishing they could get the last hour of their life back!  Want engaged employees and committed partners? Revamp how you communicate with them face-to-face. This manifesto has already helped lots of teams to re-energise their internal communications. And I hope it helps you too. Make your next meeting count and let me know your thoughts on the manifesto.

MANIFESTO for meetings!

Set the direction
Focus on the outcome(s) before you book time in the diary. What decisions or actions absolutely need to be made or completed at the meeting? If it’s worth other people committing time, even travelling, to your meeting then the purpose needs to be clear.

Keep your meetings short - aim for 30 minutes. It’ll help everyone stay focused as no-one likes meetings overrunning. If you need more time to launch a new project or bring a dispersed team together, arrange a longer meeting. But break it into 20-30 minute chunks, led by different members of the team and focus on just one or two decisions or actions in each session.

Craft an agenda that makes people want to be at your meeting. Write at the top of your agenda exactly what everyone is committing to achieve by coming to the meeting. “By the end of this meeting we will have shortlisted our new campaign strapline". Structure your agenda to focus on achieving these objectives from start to finish. Unrelated, long-winded discussion items tire your attendees and erode their goodwill. They'll either be itching to get to the meat of the agenda or get away.

Circulate the agenda well in advance - ideally with the initial meeting appointment. Encourage them to get in contact if they don’t think the meeting's purpose or what they can contribute are clear or correct. You don’t want people sleepwalking into your meeting. Neither do you want them reluctantly sitting there playing with their Blackberrys. They'll suck the energy from the room!

Prepare, prepare, prepare
Make the meeting a teleconference or Google hangout if you can. Everyone's time is valuable. Show you understand and respect this by not forcing people to travel unless there's a good reason to do so.

Choose a room that's appropriate for the type of physical meeting. It’s so obvious but it's often overlooked. An oppressively hot or painfully cold, windowless room will turn your meeting into a joyless hell. Insufficient chairs or doing group work around a boardroom table won't create an inclusive atmosphere that is conducive to getting things done.

When people start to arrive, make sure you're not flapping with a laptop and projector. Sort the tech gremlins out early then spend your time welcoming everyone and warming them up for a productive meeting.

A week in advance
- circulate anything that needs reading. Otherwise you'll spend half of your 30 minute meeting getting everyone up to speed.
- take 5 minutes to talk to session leader for longer meetings. Encourage them to find ways to vary how they deliver their 20-30 minutes to keep those attending engaged. No one wants to see back-to-back PowerPoint presentations!

Lead it
Start the meeting on time and end on time. It’s unprofessional not to start and end on time, as is turning up late. Don’t make allowances. And if you only need some attendees for specific items, show respect for their time by letting them leave early.

At the start recap the objectives. At the end evaluate whether you've achieved them. Give everyone the opportunity to comment on what worked well and suggest changes to make future meetings more effective.  

Chair effectively. This means avoiding common issues, like one person dominating the discussion. Thank them for the contributions and keep inviting others to voice their thoughts. Don’t allow someone in the room to lead you off on a tangent either. Keep a blank sheet of paper on the wall to ‘park’ other issues to pick up with the individual after the meeting. This shows you’re not dismissing the issue they’ve raised whilst not knocking you off course.

Record and circulate the meeting outcomes within 48 hours. Make sure any actions to progress outside the meeting have a clear lead and timescales attached. The real measure of how energised your employees are when they leave is how quickly they complete their actions.

And finally an ask for meeting attendees everywhere. Don't be afraid to challenge the purpose of meetings, why they need you there, and whether travel is really needed.

#makemeetingscount Joe Baker 2014

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Book Recommendation

Read this fascinating, thought provoking book.

I can't quite bring myself to have a digital break. But I can see the point.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Is sport news? Follow the money

IIt's a strange irony that a sport with several national champions, an olympic champion and a world champion doesn't make the UK news, when a sport with no champions at all is all over the place!
of course I'm referring to the women's Tour of Britain bike race and the er...premiership football. im a great fan of cycling and I know that it has risen massively in the ranks of spectator sports over the past few years. There was indeed histeria whaen the Tour de France started here in England, followed by similar hysteria over our Olympic efforts. sadly it seems to go unnoticed by our UK media when these poor underpaid waifs who have trained themselves down to a wafer in order to compete hit the road. Under paid and under recognised, in fact it took a silver surfer in a mobility scooter [LINK] kamikazeing across in front of the race to get it in the news at all. Staggeringly my attention was drawn to our Britain is Great PR campaign [LINK] orecently, said to bring in £500 million to the good old GB. Did I miss something the most recent advert they could think of in sporting terms was tired old Bertie (David) Beckham the has been footballer. Meanwhile our symbol of Olympic greatness Lizzie Armitstead
was grimacing her way through the torrents of rain to try and steal the Tour from the eventually triumphant Dutch world champ, Marianne Vos. What more modern, athletic and technological combination could you possible think of than a cyclist and her bikes. Wake up GB, if you want to be seen as in the forefront of greatness get your champions on the news and promote them across the globe.

Cold War is not over! Did it ever end? A Grudge...

One should never carry a grudge because it will eat away at you and you will never be free of it. Suffice to say I have not succeeded in following this adage. So Simon Murden, yes even after all this time I remember your name, here it is. I believed I was right then and I still believe it now the Cold War never ended! I was in the final year of my first degree, undergraduate International Relations at University of Plymouth. I was quite cocky, I had never scored less than 68 in an essay and was expecting a first. There was unfortunately a staff reshuffle and I locked horns with a new lecturer. During lectures we politely sparred, or so I thought. It was there that I posited my theory that although historians had written of the end of the Cold War I did not believe it. He knew more than me of course and laughed off my rationale but in my essays he marked me down. And humiliatingly not on what I had written but on my presentation.  None of my lecturers ever questioned or used presentation as a reason to criticise my work during my entire degree. I missed a first by 2 per cent this led me to attend UCL and achieve my masters in Russian Studies. So why do I believe the Cold War never ended and what evidence do I put forward?
Well firstly, Russia still has nuclear weapons in a state of readiness.
This is a fact little mentioned in modern reporting.  Secondly, the psychological struggle over Russia's energy grip on Europe, versus the West's economic stranglehold on Russia has never diminished. Thirdly, Russia has never fully integrated into the 'European' family of clubs , Council of Europe, NATO, etc. Last but not least the other more sinister element of the psychological 'Cold War', espionage is alive and well. If anything it is worse than ever before. See: US Spies Russian Spies

Putin is pushing the West incessantly over the Ukrainian situation. So far the 'faux' response from NATO has had little effect on Russia, they continue to push and they continue to test. What exactly is our response, well similar to the Cold War period, brinksmanship and games. Limited sanctions that have little or no effect, political intervention again with little effect and military posturing. Well look out Europe, Putin is not running scared, you're going to have to do better than that! The Cold War is not over - watch this space! Well Simon?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Climate Change - I'm a believer! (Infographic)

I'm a climate change believer but even if you aren't you will still appreciate the beauty in the way that this infographic presents complex information.
Dr Stahl-Timmins from the University of Exeter Medical School has used the latest Climate Change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce an infographic to coincide with the report. It helps readers navigate the complexity of information presented. Check out the link here:

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Whatever happened to the music that changed your life?

Following the sad death of my childhood hero I’m reflecting on the picture in front of me. It's 12 inches square, bright orange background that looks like clouds on fire. Mapped against it is a head and shoulders. A sharp nosed redheaded figure facing the right edge. Nattily dressed in graphite grey hooded coat. It’s a stunning image and it’s on the cover of a seminal album for me, Low by David Bowie.

"Low profile" that was the pun intended by Bowie on the cover. For me a teenager at the time, the screenshot taken from the epic ‘Man who fell to Earth” (Link) was too striking to avoid. 

Not that I wanted to avoid it. I had avidly collected all the other Bowie LPs and their stunning iconic images adorn my walls to this day. 

Low was somehow different and it resonated with me in so many ways. Partially recorded in Berlin, according to legend the first of Bowie’s 'Berlin Trilogy', it caught the Cold War mood and emotion perfectly. Don’t forget in the West the USSR and the fear of nuclear attack terrified us. The electronic hard edge of Bowie’s music somehow reflected that fear. 

As a teenager I obsessed about nuclear attack and the space race between, in my opinion, the dominant USA and the belligerent USSR (2 years after Low they invaded Afghanistan). Like many others I rushed to collect and find likeminded authors and musicians that reinforced my world view.

 Space and mutually assured destruction filled my daydreams, along with the other more pressing needs that fill the minds of teenagers. Bowie’s lyrical excellence punctuated by the superb musicianship of Ricky Gardiner and others was awesome. Many myths arose around this album especially around the drum sound, which we now know was aided by an Eventide Harmoniser. Not to mention The electronic genius of Brian Eno, sporting an AKS synth that back in 1977 we’d have killed to get our hands on. Low inspired me too. It led me to rush out and form an electronica band, The Bermuda Triangle. Aptly we disappeared almost as quickly as things that enter that zone and for many so did Low.

In 77 Low was not at all popular, but retrospectively my awe at this album and it’s unique production has evolved to be a popular view. The lack of critical acclaim was surprising and did nothing to hold back the Bowie legend. Competing at the time with Roxy Music and influencing many many others such as Talking Heads, he continued apace. In 2003, the album was ranked number 249 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In my opinion completely justified. Let me know what you think, perhaps you have a seminal album you want to share with me?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Today is the first day of the rest of my.....

Why have I decided to blog? Well because I need a place to post my thoughts on the great issues, developments and problems of the day. Also I sometimes need a place where I can just rant either in a positive way or sometimes a negative one. Forexample the disappearance of flight M370. Is it just me or are the mass mediafuelling a circus that is demanding daily updates? When in fact so far, there is no evidence to present that leads to a conclusion about what happened to the plane. Well more on that later, I’m a bikie, guitar player, tech loving, happy geek. On these pages I’m going to bare my soul on these and many other subjects. I hope you enjoy it, I’m sure you’ll let me know.