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Euan Semple
Management consultant, speaker and author.
Management consultant, speaker and author.

Euan's posts

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+Euan Semple on using social media as much more than ways to share images of cats. With my own preferences and my own experience in using social media, I especially like Euan's comments here about using social media to start developing meaningful, valuable relationships with people you've not yet met in person.

+Bradley Horowitz _et al._ might do well to apply some of Euan's thinking as they (I hope) work to get more out of G+. The interest-based relationships at which G+ excels are right in line with Euan's message on how people can get so much more from their online interactions.

Being bothered

I can't be bothered". It's a phrase I use all too often.

At the weekend Penny went sailing with a friend and talking to him how much faffing about it took just to keep the thing maintained and setting it up to go sailing I marvelled at how he could be bothered. 

Last night we went kayaking along a stretch of the Thames. We nearly didn't go because I couldn't be bothered. In reality it only took us twenty minutes to drive to the river and five minutes to inflate and set up the kayak. In return we had the most wonderful trip in glorious low sunshine and came back full of the joys of life.

It's the same at work. It so easy to slip into not being bothered. Failing to find the reason to put in that little bit of effort that can make work so rewarding and make a difference.

It's worth finding the reason to be bothered.  

Losing your balance

Many moons ago I managed the editors who worked on Panorama. In those days it was broadcast on a Monday night so the weekends were the busiest and most pressured time for the editors. Being at the end of the production process, editing is where all the pressure ends up coming to a head and to be frank the production team took advantage of the commitment of the editors and I had many run ins with them about the way they worked. 

On one particular weekend I was laying roofing felt on our garden hut. I'd been fielding calls all day from work about some Panorama crisis, trying to protect my editors, keep the programme happy, and not get fired in the process. Eventually I lost control and shouted "fuck" at the top of my voice, hurled the hammer I was using spinning across the garden, and literally lost my balance at the top of my ladder.  

Not all jobs work to deadlines like this and not all jobs involve temperamental luvvies like TV does, but we all have that moment when we lose it, when the world falls about our ears and we run out of things to do to keep our balance. It can be the loneliest feeling in the world and though rarely life threatening can get our pulse racing, hands sweating, vision blurred, the lot. 

But it passes. It always does. No matter how long it takes. We recover our sense of perspective, the situation starts to resolve itself, solutions begin to emerge. We all know this.
It's remembering it in the heart of the storm that is the hard part.

We only have moments to live.

I've always loved this phrase from Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is meant to convey the idea that rather than live in the past or the future we should be more attentive to the present moment. In fact all of our memories of the past and our imagining of the future can only occur in the present moment so it really is all we have. One moment after the other.

How different things are in business. We obsess about the past, raking over the coals of previous disasters, or we fantasise about imagined futures spending months strategising about events that we delusionally expect to control.

Even when we are talking to each other we are never there. We are always racing ahead, anticipating our next smart answer to the question we imagine to have been asked or implied. Senior people are often the worst at this. I used to describe them as propeller heads. Always looking around for the next, more important, conversation to have rather than taking part in the one they are meant to be engaged in.

But it can be different. We have all experienced leaders who are truly present. Who lift our spirits with their attentive listening, who engage with the real world in the current moment rather than holding it at bay with a barrage of management bollocks.

Real presence takes courage, a willingness to face down and grapple with the world as it is in this moment, and the next one, and the next.

Tools of your trade

Sadly I still encounter too many people who still feel that technology is being done to them. From the senior execs I worked with who winged at me about what IT wouldn't let them do, to that sinking feeling when trying to send a client a presentation and they say "your file doesn't work" or they can't work out how to get it through their organisation's firewall. Even using Skype or knowing how to bcc emails appears to be beyond the abilities of too many.

Don't get me wrong. I am no geek expecting people to have PhDs in computing science. I have never been a fan of technology as an end in itself. I've never taken computers apart. I've only written as much code as I've written bad poems. My excitement about technology is as a tool to help me do more and better, along the lines of Steve Jobs' "bicycles for the mind".

In pretty much any job a computer, or smart phone, is the tool of your trade. It is a professional competence to know how to use it.

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One of the hardest things about change, especially at work, is questioning what others take to be normal.

I so clearly remember that feeling of waking up to the madness of busywork, trying to talk to others about it, and watching them close down and close ranks.

There is an almost bullying collusion about clinging to “the way we do things around here” in most workplaces. Challenging office norms is seen as deeply threatening.

This starts at an early age. I am about to deliver a talk to the sixth form at my daughters’ school this Friday. The sixth-formers are allowed to not wear school uniform but are required to wear “office appropriate attire” which for the boys means cheap suits and for the girls a world of confusion!

“Office appropriate”. Two seemingly mundane words with so much behind them.

But it’s all stories. Appropriateness is a story. Normal is a story. We make them all up. Other people make them up. Other people assert their stories over yours.

They say that madness is being in a minority of one. I reckon it’s a sign of sanity. Make sure the stories that make up your sense of normal are your own and not other people’s!

Bugger “tolerance of ambiguity”. Run towards it with your arms open!

I’ve not been paying enough attention to the election of Jeremy Corbyn to comment about his suitability as either leader of the Labour Party or as a potential prime minister. But I do get a sense of excitement about his appointment that signals bigger changes.
We are moving away from “mass”. Mass movements and mass media are things of the past. Our current political class knew how to handle mass, they appear at a loss as to how to harness networks of thoughtful individuals. Our old isms are outdated. We are shaping and forming new stories with each tweet, selfie and update. Large networks of individuals are beginning to emerge as the way we now make sense of the world around us.

None of us really know the rules for this yet. We are making them up as we go along. WE are making them up as we go along. Each of us individually has a new found responsibility, a new found power. It’s why the chapter in my book called “we all have a volume control on mob rule” will matter more and more.

It’s exciting - and the more we shake off our fears of ambiguity and learn to proactively shape our stories, the more exciting it will get.


This could be an alternative name for my business! I am increasingly asked to talk to people who are obstructing use of social tools in their business or otherwise getting in the way of change. One grey haired old codger talking to other grey haired old codgers to try to get them out of the way.

Seriously though having been a senior manager in a big organisation myself I can relate to their challenges. Managers are under pressure to deliver. Especially middle managers are in a tough place, getting grief from above and below, blamed for everything, and invariably in a situation of competing for resources and profile with their peers.

The sorts of behaviours that got them where they are today, and that appear to keep them safe and successful, are based on some deeply held assumptions. Challenging those assumptions is not for the faint hearted because doing so provokes an almost existential crisis and they, naturally, resist!

Like I say, people change one at a time and for their reasons and not yours. You have to find a way to relate the changes you want to bring about to the challenges the people you are talking to face. You need to really work hard at building trust and finding ways to relate to their fears and deal with them. Challenging but rewarding work.

Plus Ça Change...

Change is nothing new. It’s a constant and always has been. Every generation thinks that is it is experiencing greater change than those who have gone before, and certainly the fundamentals of human nature remain the same. But surely there are certain periods that are more momentous than most?

If, as I do, you believe that digital technology, in all its forms, is going to have an impact equivalent to the printing press, and you consider the long term ongoing impact that that had in terms of the enlightenment and our modern world view, then we are about to enter a similarly fundamental period of change. We are only getting started with what we will have to deal with.

This is why I feel a sense of urgency in working out what our overarching story is, our collective way of making sense of what is happening. Not a formula, not a quick and reassuring answer, but a different philosophy, a different world view.

Exciting and frightening at the same time.
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