9 Magic Questions

September 19, 2017

Here are nine magic questions – if you develop crystal clear answers to all of these in any given situation, be it something for yourself, helping motivate a member of your team, or in a sales context, it will make a massive difference:

1. What do you want?
2. Why do you want it?
3. Why is that important to you?
4. Why don’t you have it now?
5. When would you like to have it? Why then?
6. How will you feel when you have it?
7. What do you need to do to get it?
8. Are you willing to do what it takes to get it?
9. What’s the Plan of Action to get it?

I knew the rules but not how to win!

February 18, 2015

In our house board games are big! We love them!

The old classics – Monopoly, Cluedo, Scrabble. There are some fantastic new kids on the block, our current favourite being Sequence.

One of the kids’ birthdays recently yielded a new delight – a game called Scotland Yard. There is great excitement in the house when a new game is being unveiled and the learning of the rules followed by those first few run-throughs is an almost-sacred ritual!


On this occasion I was not around when the cellophane was pierced and the game learnt. Neither was I present for the second and third outings. The rest of Team Howes had become fairly well versed in this new entertainment and I was at a significant disadvantage.

Finally I get to play and the kids explain the rules to me. This piece moves here. This card does that. You can’t lay this card when that happens. You must collect six of these before you can do this.

Ok, I think I understand the rules. But what’s the aim of the game? How do I win?

This was the bit that was not so well explained by the kids in their eagerness to get started…and beat me!

I find myself in the middle of the game, asking questions as we go and squinting at the tiny instructions without my glasses to try and make sense as we went along as to how the game eventually gets won.

Work can feel like that. Sometimes for the owners / leaders…often for staff. I know what I’m supposed to be getting on with, but how do we win? What does success look like? How does today, or this week really count?

We want (and for our own well-being, need) to succeed. Victories keep us fresh, energised and creative. Knowing the rules without having a clear and imminent sense of a goal to reach, a finish line to cross, it’s drudgery and no-wonder the productivity levels aren’t what they could be.

Whether it’s for yourself, or for those you lead, make it clear where the next finish lines to cross are, and make a deal of it when the tape is broken. Mine today was a short list of ‘Must do today’ tasks, the last of which was writing this blog. My prize – I’m off to make a fresh pot of very nice coffee!

Why don’t we all drive a Fiesta?

May 2, 2014

I was at a client’s premises today and looking out of the reception area I could see around 20 different staff cars parked just outside. Here’s the thing that struck me in the few minutes I had to myself before the start of the course I was running – there weren’t any two cars the same. There were two Vauxhalls and two BMWs and I think two Hondas, and then, of the others I remember, a Kia, a Nissan, a Ford, a Hyundai and a Jag…..O yes, and a Citroen, an Audi and a few others.

As someone currently looking at getting a new car sometime soon, I’m up-to-date with the WhatCar.com list of best cars in each category but…and here’s my big question… why doesn’t everyone just buy the ‘best’ car in the category that they are looking for?

Why aren’t there just a couple of choices of car for each shape, size, level of performance etc?

It reminded me that people are phenomenally unique and complex and make their own choices for a whole myriad of different reasons. We don’t just make the obvious, sensible decisions. We have taste, preference, individual personality, style and motivating factors.

Anyone involved with people (which I’m guessing includes you, just as it does me!) needs to be aware of this and interact with people accordingly. There’s no shortcut – it takes time to develop relationships, get to know people and understand them if you want to optimise performance and maximise peoples’ potential. More importantly though, it’s a good, friendly and ethical way to treat people. Both your life and theirs are the better for it.

Impossible not to be inspired!

April 7, 2014

Yesterday I completed my first ever proper running event – the Regency 10k in Leamington Spa. I wasn’t going particularly fast or , achieving anything especially impressive compared to the accomplishments of many others in so many different fields of life, but it was something i’d set a goal to do so it felt great to go out and do it. Just for the record, I came 636th!


What really took me by surprise was the impact that the cheering, shouting and encouraging words from the crowds watching and also the stewards and marshals stationed around the course had on me. It was genuinely very profound and made me want to run faster and push myself to get round in the very best time I could. It was like my own mini London 2012 experience!

I can also recall so many other situations where I’ve been going into new situations in both a personal and professional context and there alongside me was someone significant cheering me on, expressing confidence in my ability to succeed and giving me that undeniable boost that comes when someone else shows belief in what you can do.

In discussions around good leadership and management we talk often about the value of praise, encouragement and reward, but I’m not sure we really appreciate just how much of an impact we can have on those around us. As I discovered in a small way yesterday, it’s impossible not to be inspired when others cheers you along, congratulate you on your progress and urge you to dig in and keep going.

Find someone to cheer on today and see what happens!


What’s your Olympic Gold?

October 8, 2013
nick and chris

Meeting an absolute legend!

The weekend before last I attended the National Entrepreneurs Convention at the ICC in Birmingham and had one of those genuinely awe-inspiring “don’t-come-round-very-often” experiences.

Sir Chris Hoy, the most decorated British Olympian in history, was the guest speaker and I was transfixed! This guy has made me shout, jump, sweat, scream and even well up a little (I’m not too proud to confess!) on more than one occasion as I’ve watched the Olympics and cheered him on to victory as if it was actually me winning that gold!

Sir Chris shared the story of when he was 15 and his coach asked the club he was part of to go away and think about what the big goal was for each of them. Chris wasn’t even the best in that group of fellow young cyclists at the time, but he was the only one who came back and said he wanted to win Olympic Gold. The rest, as they say….

It challenged me, and I thought I’d share that same challenge with you, to identify the single most important goal in my life – the equivalent of my Olympic Gold. A goal that is so motivating, so important and stirs my passion like nothing else. A goal that generates for me absolute clarity about what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing, enabling me to answer with sincere honesty the question, “Is my current behaviour congruent with my goal?”

A little time, a little thought, a little ink on some paper used answering this question has really helped me a lot. I hope it does you too.


June 19, 2012

I’m sure there are many of you who, like me, are spending far more time than usual in front of the TV in the evenings watching the Euro 2012 drama unfold…and just as many of you who can’t wait till its all over and life (& TV schedules) gets back to normal!

The thing that always fascinates about team sports is the emphasis on success through togetherness, the importance of shared drive and determination, and the delicate balance between high levels of motivation whilst not being over-stressed and therefore underperforming. 

Teams that really pull together and prize shared success over individual brilliance always outshine and outperform those that don’t. In any team endeavour, be it sport, business, or just life, investing in the team dynamic, the ownership of shared goals and the ‘all for one, one for all’ spirit pays dividends a hundred fold. Just ask any Dutch supporter if they’d trade some of their superstars for a bit more of that!