On being polite (again)

If four cars approach a roundabout at the same time from four different directions, you do not want them all to carry on straight ahead at full speed and cause a great big pile up. On the other hand, you do not want them all to stop, each waiting for what seems like an ageContinue reading “On being polite (again)”

The Serenity Prayer

I am not an alcoholic, nor a Christian, but I love the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” It was written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s and later adopted byContinue reading “The Serenity Prayer”


I recently came across a study on assertiveness. Its objective was to explore the issue of people being overly assertive, notably in the workplace. The study was wide-ranging and complex, but also very thorough. It was maybe 20 pages long, with densely packed text in tiny font, and went into enormous detail on the backgroundContinue reading “Assertiveness”

Hollow confidence

When I was at university (some years ago) there was one class that was dominated by a handful of opinionated English public-school (i.e. fee-paying school) boys whose confidence was completely out of proportion to the value of their contribution. They talked loudly and without hesitation on topics they clearly knew very little about. Maybe it’sContinue reading “Hollow confidence”

Raining on someone else’s parade

There is a joke that Mexicans tell about themselves: An American businessman is on holiday in Mexico and, as he is walking along the beach, he passes a Mexican fisherman with his catch of crabs in an open bucket. “You should put a lid on that,” says the American, “or the crabs will climb out.”Continue reading “Raining on someone else’s parade”

A courage for gaps

Most of us would agree on the importance of thinking things through properly before we act. Thinking time ensures detailed, thorough and sometimes creative solutions. The more important the decision, the more consideration it deserves. But, at a certain point we need to stop deliberating and we need to find the courage to act. EvenContinue reading “A courage for gaps”

The power of ‘maybe not’

Our client was faced with a dilemma. Two of its best salespeople had an idea for a new business. But the idea was terrible … The thinking behind the new concept was jumbled, confused and incoherent. The plan could not possibly work. But the two budding entrepreneurs had absolute faith in their idea, so hadContinue reading “The power of ‘maybe not’”

Empathy and the estate agent

There was a documentary series some time ago about a firm of estate agents in North London. The early episodes focused much of their attention on one relatively new recruit. He was an earnest young man, who made a point of emphasising that he wanted to do his very best to match buyers to theirContinue reading “Empathy and the estate agent”

The devil and the angel

We have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The devil is encouraging us to push ahead regardless and ignore what anyone else thinks; and the angel is telling us we should listen to others and hold back. Except that the devil is sometimes right and the angel sometimes wrong. That’sContinue reading “The devil and the angel”

The power of ‘no’

I need a job where the core skill is to be cynical. That is my real expertise – finding the reasons ‘why not’; identifying all the downsides. It’s a skill I have honed over many years. Unfortunately, most jobs call for people to take a more balanced approach – to weigh up the pros andContinue reading “The power of ‘no’”