Of Gardeners and Grasscutters

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do … so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.

Ray Bradbury

Developing the Best Leaders

U.S.News & World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University just published their list of America’s Best Leaders.
The panelists rated nominees from to 1 to 5 based on how well they met the following criteria:

Sets Direction (25 percent):

  • by building a shared sense of purpose;
  • by setting out to make a positive social impact;
  • by implementing innovative strategies.

Achieves Results (50 percent):

  • of significant depth and breadth;
  • that have a positive social impact;
  • that are sustainable;
  • that exceed expectations.

Cultivates a Culture of Growth (25 percent):

  • by communicating and embodying positive core values;
  • by inspiring others to lead.

If your employees were given the chance to rate you against these same criteria then how do you think you would do?

  • What if you were rated by your boss?
  • Your peers?
  • Customers?
  • Investors?

For each of the three criteria what can you do in 2009 to so that you are able to rate yourself at least one mark higher than you do at the moment?

Full post – including the list of ‘America’s Best Leaders’ is here.

Do Me A Favour…please?

..and tell me what I am missing?

The Catalyst Centres in Leeds are into the implementation of  ‘sales plans’ designed to build membership and make the Catalysts the vibrant networking hubs that they need to be.

But the pricing strategy leaves me drop-jawed.

If I understand it properly the starting membership price of access to a ‘hot desk’ starts at £5 an hour.  With a minimum spend of £25 per month.

Now I understand that it is not about price but about value but it also HAS to be about access and inclusion for local people from the communities whose enterprise culture we are being tasked to ‘transform’.

Anyone who has been visiting the Catalyst Centres at Shine in Harehills or Rise up at Seacroft will know that they are not ending 2008 bursting at the seams.  (I am not sure how busy they are down at Hillside as I have not been dropping by there quite so often.)

I suspect that this represents a lot of investment that is not yet being used to anything like capacity.   Buildings, furniture, heating, lighting, salaries, laptops, printers all sitting there – burning cash – and not being used enough.

So the sales plans are underway and the centres are looking for people with money, working from home, who might be interested in a vibrant networking environment to get them out of their isolation. We are talking Sales reps, IFAs, life coaches, LEGI partners etc…

Does this really describe the target market for LEGI investments?

Or are we already witnessing a shift in social and economic policy objectives to achieve economic viability for the buildings and their owners?

I am really pleased that we have this great infrastructure available for residents of the LEGI areas in Leeds and the wider areas of influence. Indeed they may become real assets for the City. They could also become economic white elephants.

To avoid this we must develop a strategy for community engagement around enterprise (this is not the same as selling enterprise) and a funding strategy for the catalysts that allows them to play their part in transforming the enterprise culture of local communities – rather than making life on the road a little easier for an already employed mobile workforce.

So please do me a favour and tell me what I am missing….

The E-Factor

Had a great morning yesterday when I got to meet some of the team responsible for the development of the LEGI programme in North East Lincolnshire – and got to enjoy the splendour of Cleethorpes!

So what impressed me about the e-factor approach?

  • The enthusiasm and belief about what could be achieved in North East Lincolnshire
  • The commitment to real outreach work (facilitating an understanding of enterprise rather than trying to sell services and facilities)
  • A commitment to develop the demand for enterprise services before investing in too much infrastructure (an ambitious property development programme is underway – but only after the outreach and adviser teams have already got some hungry and ambitious clients)
  • The functional, astute and prosaic approach to developing property – this is about affordability, commerciality, sustainability and flexibility – not about signature buildings and grand statements
  • The close integration of all parts of the delivery team – most of the key staff work for a single social enterprise.  They share an office and have a close commitment to, and history with the communities they serve
  • There is a real sense of ‘shared destiny’ across the various strands of project development – a real recognition of how success in all aspects will be critical to the success of the project as a whole
  • Some really great case studies of significant progress already made to transform the lives of clients – these will provide a strong platform for developing an excellent reputation where it matters – in target communities.

Big thanks to Charlotte, Tony, Matt and Paul for spending  time with me. I am really interested to see how things develop in North East Lincolnshire.



I really enjoyed this clip on you tube – 40 inspiring speeches from the cinema condensed into just 2 minutes.


More on Self Belief

Some more ideas for helping people to develop self belief and confidence.

Encourage your client to spend more time with positive people

Ask them to consider carefully who they choose to spend time with – and ask them whether they are supportive, helpful and positive or whether they are hindering. What sorts of things do they talk about? What sorts of things do they do? Is it time to think about spending more time with more positive people?

Teach the concept of ‘giving sanction’

Giving sanction means choosing carefully which messages you are going to value and act upon and which messages you are going to ignore.   Psychologists have shown that we are good at taking notice of information that fits with our world view.  If we believe that we are not very good at something we will filter out messages that suggest we are doing OK or getting better.  Conversely if we believe we are good at something we will filter out messages that suggest we are not doing so well.

Develop affirmations that are credible

An affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that asserts that something is true.  ‘I am getting better at making my pitch’ is an example of an affirmation.  So is ‘I am making real progress on developing my business’.

Now I am not saying that it is all about managing our own internal conversations and beliefs.  Clearly this is only one part of the challenge.  But it is important.  Please don’t underestimate how hard it can be to help clients to develop more positive and optimistic thinking patterns.  Often the old negative patterns will have been grooved for years.  Before you can make any real difference you will have to establish a pretty strong relationship with the client.

However I don’t many many pessimistic people who have made the transition to self employment or entrepreneurship (although I do know a few who have become pessimistic as a result!).  So grooving positive thinking seems to be an important skill for the enterprise coach.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Building Confidence and Self Belief

In my experience entrepreneurs fall into one of two types. Either they are excellent (perhaps too good) at building their own self belief and confidence – or they are weak in this area – full of self doubts and expectations of disaster.   Some communities are full of people with generally good levels of self belief and confidence. In others the opposite is the norm.  In these communities the ability to build relationships with clients that enable them to improve their confidence and self belief is key.

Many enterprise professionals act as if confidence and self belief are the same thing – interchangeable words and concepts – but to me there are important differences.  Confidence is a temporary thing, transient, malleable in the short term.

Self belief is a more fixed (but still developable) underlying trait or characteristic that may have been grooved for many years.  It is our levels of self belief that dicate whether setbacks are seen as part of a consistent pattern of failure (low self belief; generally low confidence) or as just a temporary setback.

Most entrepreneurs will experience a loss of confidence, but their generally high levels of self belief allow them to see this as just a temporary setback, a blip, a one off.  Not something to dwell on or let define their expectations of the future or their own self image.

Generally it is not too hard to identify people with low self belief.  Their language is full of self doubt and negativity.  “I doubt that this will work”, “I have got this idea – but I don’t think it is very good”.

It is much harder to know what to do about it.  There are no quick fixes.

My first observation would be that most enterprise professionals have very little opportunity to do much work in this area because they do not have the time to build really powerful helping relationships with clients.  The support that they offer is more transactional (think ‘inform, diagnose and broker’) than transformational (think ‘insight, develop and coach’).  Their focus is on developing the business plan not the entrepreneur.

For those that do form more transformational relationships then working with both self belief (in the long term) and confidence (in the short term) are central to their effectiveness.  So what sorts of things do they do?

  • They help clients to recognise their patterns of thinking and self talk and categorise them simply as ‘helpful’ or ‘hindering’
  • teach clients how to replace hindering thoughts and beliefs with helpful ones
  • help the client to develop and use affirmations to improve self belief and confidence ( a good example of an affirmation for would be entrepreneurs is ‘all setbacks are only temporary’)
  • help clients to recognise and take note of times when they succeed, when things go to plan and make sure that these are fully reflected in their self image
  • teach clients to visualise success, to see, taste and feel success in their imaginations before they start to pursue it in the real world
  • teach clients to focus on lots of small wins – what can we achieve in the next 30 minutes?  24 hours?  This helps to build a climate and expectation of progress – which makes it difficult to maintain low self belief.

I know many enterprise professionals choose to ignore this part of their role.  They see it as being counselling or psychology rather than enterprise development.  They prefer to focus on the ‘hard’ issues of business planning and finance. In doing so many of  them compound issues of self belief and confidence as they have little or no belief in the clients ability to succeed or little conception of their role in helping to develop an enterprising psychology in their clients.

Tumbleweed Moments


We might be moaning about the leaves that blow into the garden – but at least we don’t have 6 ft of tumbleweed to clear away.

But here is what enterprising Idahoans get to do with their problem – sell it over the internet at $16 a pop plus postage!

Can you imagine the conversation with the business adviser?

“I’ve got this idea for a business…you know that tumbleweed that blows all over the prairie…well I am going to sell it to posh shops to use in window displays and as the perfect present for the person with no sense of humour.  I think I can make a killing….”

For more business ideas that ‘just won’t work’ (except that they do) – click here.

Marketing Enterprise December 5th – Follow Up

Our Marketing Enterprise day on December 5th held at LearningTree International in Euston was very well received.

Feedback from participants suggested that the highlights were:

  • examples of good and bad (mainly bad!) enterprise marketing collateral
  • ideas on choosing and using ‘gatekeepers’ to get the message of enterprise into ‘hard to reach’ groups
  • Prochaska and DiClemente (leading one delegate to coin the phrase – ‘Prochaska – Yay!’)
  • market segmentation models were seen as very powerful
  • a reminder of the power and simplicity of youtube for getting over enterprise stories was very welcome (why do we still spend tens of thousands of pounds on getting professionally shot video?)
  • the situational enterprise model that helps us to think about both the psychological and the technical readiness of the would be entrepreneur was very popular as was the whole concept of social networking (thanks to Stuart Holmes for that insight)
  • the power of asking for introductions and training enterprise professionals to use them effectively
  • managing referrals professionally – not only to develop the clients potential but also to develop the quality of the suppliers

Delegates also suggested that improve the event we should:

  • get more marketing and PR people onto the event
  • provide more examples of good enterprise marketing collateral (if you have any please do pass it along)
  • develop it into a 2 day programme to allow ideas on pursuing additional funding sources and engagemene tof LSPs to be further explored.

We will be repeating the day in the New Year – with further development of some of the most powerful ideas – or you are welcome to drop me a line about bringing the workshop to your organisation.  Otherwise keep watching www.enterprisegrowth.co.uk for new dates.

Wants and Needs

It is all too easy for enterprise professionals (especially the planners and strategists) to see what a comunity ‘needs’ if it is to become more enterprising.  More incubators, more managed work-spaces, more training, better supply chains and so on.

However it is much harder to establish what a community ‘wants’.  Those things that its members will choose to engage with and use.  The wants are often more psychological than material – we want hope, someone to believe in us, someone who can help to make things happen, someone we can believe in.

And as every economic development professional knows – if you give a community what you think it needs – but not what the people who live there want you are heading for trouble.