Month: April 2010

It’s amazing who you can meet in a lift…


Yep – it was Screamin’ Jay Hawkins himself that got into my lift in a Paris hotel late one night in the mid 90s.  He’d been performing that night in the hotel.  I’d watched from the back of the lobby having returned from a night on the town.  He was an elderly man by then, certainly in his late sixties, but his performance was still surreal & a little bit spine chilling.  Yeah – I know you’re wondering – and the answer is yes – he did have the skull on a stick with him, gripped firmly in his hand.  I think he was taking it to bed with him…



Beauty is perhaps transient – but some things are indeed permanent


I’ve loved John Keats ever since I’ve been aware of his existence.  When I was at school, to supplement the textbook we were given on Keats’ poetry, I bought myself a book full of his letters, many written to his true love & next door neighbour Fanny Brawne.

I enjoyed reading his poems, but it was the letters to Fanny and to his brother George in America that really caught my imagination.

Years later, I lingered in his house at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome.  He lived there with his friend the artist Joseph Severn in the latter days of his life, only 25 years old & dying from consumption.  He could no longer go out, but observed life in Rome passing him by through the window by his bed that looks straight out onto the Steps.

How lucky we are to have language and writing to express ourselves to each other and how amazing is it that we have the legacy of those that have gone before us to read at our leisure.



Something you should never, ever do…


One of my all time pet hates is writing on the backs (or insides) of hands.  No matter how desperate you are to write something down or remember something – never, ever, ever write it on your hand.  It looks truly terrible & it portrays you as a disorganised individual with no awareness of or concern about your personal appearance.

Nearly as bad as the young man I interviewed for a sales job recently – on leaving our building he stood on top of the mail in our hallway instead of picking it up & handing it to me – he didn’t get the job & he’s probably still wondering why!  This incident still makes our team laugh.

Little things really do matter.



Dr Dennis Kimbro & his views on recruitment


Talent management in local government (or the apparent lack of it and the complete disinterest there seems to be in it) is something I spend a lot of time thinking about & a bit of time talking about so I was very pleased to be able to see Dr Dennis Kimbro speak at the PPMA conference in London last week on the topic of Building Effective Leaders for the Future.  Dr Kimbro is a lecturer in human potential & entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta university and he writes books about notable achievers – talent recruitment, development & management is something he knows a thing or two about.

So here’s a brief summary of the main points I’ve taken away from his presentation.

In his research & interviews with 150+ notable African Americans, these are the 4 things that consistently make some people far more successful than most of us:

1.       They dream big

2.       They never listen to advice from friends & critics telling them the reasons why their idea will fail; they go with their own inner belief every time

3.       They dedicate themselves to lifelong learning (see slide on the photo above re what happens to you if you don’t!)

4.       They simply refuse to accept failure.

Food for thought indeed – I hope many of you see some of the above in yourselves. 

He had advice for the rest of us mere mortals as well – mainly around how to recruit good people into our teams – and these are the things you should consider when appraising your interviewees and in this order of priority:

1.       Do they have the right level of talent for the role? (education, intelligence, experience)

2.       How well will they fit with your existing team?

3.       Do they demonstrate the level of commitment to your team’s common purpose that you need?

And when you get them into the room – these are the 3 questions above all others that you should ask:

1.       Why do you want to work in this organisation?

2.       Tell me about yourself – what motivates you? – what are your talents, specialisms and areas of excellence?

3.       If we don’t offer you this job and you go somewhere else, what are we going to miss?

If your candidate can’t articulate their answers to the above, then you have a problem and should probably carry on looking. 

Dr Kimbro is a master of the business soundbite and here are a few of his priceless quotes:

·         Work is not a job, it’s an opportunity

·         The opposite of success is conformity

·         We need to want to make a difference, with others that want to make a difference, doing something that matters (I like this one a lot! – applies to every startup I’ve ever worked in)

·         Complacency is the first step to mediocrity

·         Stop complaining & focusing on the mundane

·         Monday should be a great day because you can’t wait to get to work! 

Dennis talked for an hour & I thought he was inspirational and wonderful.  I chatted to him afterwards & he was charming.  However, in a room with over 200 local government HR specialists I seemed to be very much in the minority.  Here’s some of what I heard later in the day from the HR professionals that are responsible for creating future managers and leaders for our councils:

·         He should have tailored his talk to the UK public sector

·         He was too passionate

·         None of that applies to us, it’s for the private sector

·         I’d heard it all before 

C’mon guys – if you want local government to be a vibrant place for people, especially young people joining the job market, to want to come & work, things really have to change & fast.  Dave Briggs     and I while away the hours we spend on roadtrips playing a game called “If I were a local authority chief exec I would…” and it’s always, always about people – no matter how many times we revisit it.