[Interview] With Jeremy Blain, Digital Transformation Expert On The Next 5 Years For Your Company

April 29, 2019

Jeremy Blain is an award-winning Business Leader, Futurist, New Era Learning Professional, Author & Conference Speaker.

Jeremy is founder and CEO of PerformanceWorks International (PWI). He has created PWI because he knows that his experience, knowledge and passion can help organisations and individuals face into the changing workplace and help them be fit and ready for the future.

We had an opportunity to have a chat with Jeremy to discuss digital transformation and what it holds for the future of companies and their retention of customers and brand loyalty to become a more digitally centered business.

1. How Do Define Successful Digital Transformation?

By not calling it digital transformation but re-orientating that to Whole Business Model Transformation. This is the real need.

Digital transformation seems to have lost its meaning for many companies, who are seeing it as the integration of technology, a system, a structure or similar. Multiply that effect by the potential for different technologies being implemented across different functions, without necessarily talking to each other, and they are compounding the problem. In many companies, a further question is not even considered…how does my digital strategy and transformation align to what my customers need and want? Here lies the problem.

For me true success is looking at the end to end transformation the business needs to include the digital, the people, the customer and partners; all led by a credible leadership and management team. Whole business consideration, not just piecemeal interventions that may not work. It is no coincidence that in research across 2016/17 by IBM and Forbes that 84% of digital strategy fails**. A staggering amount and this is largely due to a misunderstanding of what digital transformation actually is, what it means and how to go about it.

My latest research goes into this in some details and proposes a brand new 11-step model for digital strategy implementation. While doing the research, it was clear very little guidance actually exists – until now. You can see more here.

** source:

2. How Do You See The Effect Of Digital Transformation On The Public Sector?

It depends on the part of world we focus on. For example, Countries like Vietnam, India, China, Singapore, HK and more across Asia have digital at the core of their policies. Be that in the development of Smart Cities like Singapore or building the economy on technology-driven services and business.

In Europe, from my recent survey (white paper above) it is clear that Red Tape and Bureaucracy is getting in the way of adequate planning, budgeting and execution of government level policy and implementation when it comes to digital. For example, very few public sector organisations we surveyed have a digital vision or even a leadership capable of understanding what is needed…compounded by a ‘laisse faire’ attitude. Unless that changes, transformation in the public sector will be slow and only in certain areas; rather than an integrated, policy-driven actionable plan – which is adequately funded.

Interestingly digital is levelling the global competitive playing field and allowing emerging economies across the world, notably in Africa, SE Asia and Latin America to start from the same place as more established economies. The more enlightened governments are centralizing their planning around this to build future-ready economies and attractive investment sites for external developers, investors and businesses.   Whole conferences are being fast-tracked around this area as a platform for global, not just local, participants. Such as Africa Com later this year and many more. This is as important to government as it is to private enterprise of course.

3. How Do You See Digital Transformation Efforts Affecting Customers In The Next 5 Year?

It is not just about our customers, it is more a question of how we do more together with our customers, fuelled by digital and driven by human expertise. For example, as we transform our businesses, how do we ensure that our technologies, data and processes align with those evolving in our customers. To the extent that within the next 5 years our systems should actually ‘talk to’ those of our customers to fast track data sharing, informing more rapid joint decision making and forward strategy planning. This is the gold at the end of the rainbow for suppliers and their customers.

4. Which Are The Emerging Technologies That Will Play A Significant Role In The Digital Transformation Process?

This could be a long list but key tech that can enable successful transformation includes AI (Artificial Intelligence) – around big data analysis, strategic planning and rapid decision making. Bin the excel spreadsheets and be driven by hyper rapid analytics, for real-time action.

5G will be a game-changer in terms of the above and the ability for businesses who are ahead of the curve to secure competitive advantage. This not just about bandwidth, download speeds etc. this could become the life-blood running through the veins of our businesses and how we interact with employees, partners, customers and competitors even. More leaders need to truly understand the power that 5G can provide their businesses. Right now, too many ‘don’t know what they don’t know’

Aligned to this will be technology to allow systems to talk to each other. Prior to a true ‘Internet of Things’ filling the gap, the use of API (Application Programming Interface) should be adopted by more organisations (small, medium and large). API is a way to ensure that there are clearly designed methods and communication lines across  the varying technology components you may use internally – and – over the next few years, to enable better integration with your customer systems and technologies. A key component for competitive advantage.

RPA – robotic process automation. A way to automate your future business processes to ensure the technology, AI, robotics etc all work together and are linked to the human heart of your business. Crucial to some industries over the next 3-6 years and something that many informed corporations are budgeting now for, as they prepare their forward strategies. Others are not doing enough…

In the digital age one could argue that the human touch is as important as it ever was. Leveraging your human capital in the age of whole business model transformation can be the ‘edge’ as far as competitive advantage goes (particularly around the attraction, protection and retention of Talent). This is why many organisations are restructuring their organisation around Human Design Centres. Mobilising your resources according to core personality, preference and capability, not necessarily job role or function. It embraces ‘difference’ and enables your people to perform in ways suited to them. A more fluid way to use Talent and more sophisticated way to mobilise resources be they permanent, contingent workers, in an office or remote. Equally a way to understand how this can work best with the digital thread of the business as much as the human.

5. How Do You See The Integration Of Block-chain Affecting The Businesses?

By 2021 it is predicted that over $6Trillion USD will be lost through cyber crime. As part of any digital strategy, cyber risk, secure systems and end-to-end secure processes, technologies and tools require much work in many organisations. Not just for how they work internally but how they interface externally most importantly. Those organisations with 20th century systems in place now are not fit for purpose in the Industry 4.0 era. But many heads are being buried in the sand. It is perceived as expensive, non-urgent and, again, a fundamental misunderstanding of the ‘cost of doing nothing’ is the biggest risk here.

In 2020s ‘trusting’ a company, system or tool is not good enough. In the era of fake news, sophisticated scams and readily available ‘credible’ technology, you need more. And that is where Blockchain comes in. For me – as a summary – Blockchain is the end to end ‘traceability’ your organisation needs internally and to be seen externally. It is TRUTH over TRUST. And that is the key point and why it is so important.

Thank you to Jeremy for taking the time to speak with us at Upwise.  We have certainly learned a lot and hope this insight has helped our community too.

The Future of Work and Learning – The 2020s : Utopia or Dystopia?

Research shows we are conditioned to think negatively 70% of the time – largely in ways that express our fears; something we don’t want or are actively trying to avoid.

As we leap further into an uncertain world – forever changed by jittery markets, rapid digital transformation, disruption, hyper competitive marketplaces, shifting cultural landscapes and the end of the ‘job for life’ – it’s only natural to be daunted by our own position in the evolving workplace.

Yet there is much to be optimistic about if we’re open to change and the exciting new opportunities that present themselves with it.

While conducting much of the research I have done over the past few years, I have interviewed many professionals and leaders across Business, HR and Learning. Interestingly, despite some differences across regions, companies and cultures, there are 5 common themes that are reinforced time and again, as organisations prepare their businesses and workforce for the future.

1, Be ready

We are living in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – the advent of sophisticated automation and the information age. We have transcended the ‘electronic’ era and are firmly in the digital. This revolution is not about to happen…it’s happening now. Yet too many companies fail to accommodate new technologies and new ways of working. This is understandable, what with the pace of change being quite overwhelming, but companies can make incremental changes to ensure they exploit the latest technologies and systems to their full advantage. Digital transformation is here to stay and this is one area exposed in our research which too many organisations, worldwide, are not tackling quickly enough, with the right research and in an efficient way.

2, Embrace social technologies and experiment

Social media has taken over the workplace like nothing else. Many people are aware of its existence and will probably use some platforms socially, such as Facebook or Instagram, in their personal lives. Yet when it comes to using social technologies and media in the workplace, many leaders are unsure just how it fits into the vast scheme of things. The point here is to experiment and learn. There are countless new ways to connect, to market and to be educated. There is likely something out there that could really make a difference to your place in the market, but you don’t have to succeed immediately. What we absolutely must do is experiment, learn internally and externally and act.

3, The old ways are no longer the best

There remains in 2018 much talk of Gen Y / Millennials and how companies should respond to their needs to engage them in the workplace. Gen Y Millennials represent a generation that has grown up with the Internet who don’t necessarily fit the narcissistic and lazy stereotype they are often tainted with (the ‘Me’ generation I feel is a dangerous, sweeping generalization). Instead, Millennials are challenging the old ways of working and adapting to a whole new working landscape; one devoid of 9-5 and top-down management. Rather than pandering to Gen Y – as their elders often feel pressured into – the most successful companies are finding new ways to work cross-generationally and embrace diversity. And this is yielding some very positive results.
In fact, it will become even more important to “flatten out” the cross generational debate as we welcome GenZ into the workplace within the next 2 years and, in many worldwide markets, define how to utilise and benefit from an aging population of ‘sliver stars’ who are ready to commit for longer and  contribute more.

4, Think positive

It is so important for Leaders to build motivation and clear direction for the future. It inspires positive thinking and commits hearts and minds. Consider the start of this post – many people fail because they frame objectives in a negative way (“we cannot miss our target this month” etc.)
As we navigate the 2020’s workplace, a positive mindset makes a huge difference, at all levels, and learning how to motivate your workforce so that they embrace change is paramount in any modern organisation.

5, Adopt new ways of learning

More agile working methods, ongoing business transformation, disruptive new competitors and more, mean we need to LEARN more. New knowledge, skills and behaviours to help us compete, collaborate, communicate and win. Corporate learning needs not just to evolve but I would argue requires a mini revolution of its own. We only have to look at the Education sector to see how learning can be different. The school classroom of today is flipped completely to focus on building knowledge remotely through online student working groups and then in the classroom to apply the learning to real cases, projects and challenges. Learning strongly through peer-to-peer collaboration and action.

Transforming HR and learning for the digital era is the single biggest challenge facing many human capital professionals. What is more important is to find the right blend of solutions that suits your organisation, personalises learning to new levels and impacts growth – of the business, our leaders, our managers, our teams and individuals.

After all, in the increasingly digitized world of business, one could argue that the human touch is more important than ever.

I am looking forward to taking you on a journey to the future of now – which, of course, is now! Through our research to establish how the landscape is looking our there and to some organizations who are taking brave, bold steps to transform and win differently in their markets. The somewhat portentious Chinese saying has more resonance now than ever before. “May you live in interesting times”. Many may not know but this saying was actually a curse. Interpret that as you will!

The 4 keys to successful networking for business generation

Well, we are heading to the year end and fast approaching 2019. As I look back on our year, I revisited a stat from a previous post – namely that the majority of our new business came from networking both informally and formally. This was driven from a shift in our business to have a more joined-up approach to our networking (both technology enabled and the human touch) which started with a fundamental question….which of course seems obvious now but for too long was not taken seriously enough. The question was this:

What are the best vehicles for our business to effectively network, make meaningful connections, attract true interest and lead to a higher level of business conversion?

Before we tackled the questions we were running to each new ‘fashionable’ tool as the Holy Grail for networking and lead generation. It was indeed tempting to want to do everything on Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, Wiebo, Pinterest, WhatsApp, hangouts etc etc – in fact whatever the buzz seemed to be about that particularly month / year / day. Our thinking was based on the “everyone else is doing it, so we have to do something similar…& quickly” school of thought.  You know where I am heading…It quickly became apparent there were fundamental flaws in this approach and the need for research, learning, best practice input and a far more specific approach was now alarmingly obvious.

We realised we had been slaves to technology and had almost forgotten how to connect human-to-human.  Technology become everything rather than being the enabler. This was the big mistake.

Technology is not everything of course and as you can see we learned the hard way to filter out the noise and find the tools / techniques appropriate to our business. We are in the Learning and Development industry and realised that we had to be pickier – and, due to the nature of the business we are in, ensure we have a strong Human Touch at heart of how we connect and network. Whether in the Cloud or at an event. It’s not so different across other industries I am sure…

18 months on and with a successful track record of change in approach behind us, here are the top 4 key approaches that have made the biggest difference to us in terms of meaningful networking and the generation of actual business:

a) Alignment of our technologies, social tools & activities
We started by filtering out the social tools and technologies that were not adding value to our business. We were left with Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and EDM campaigns joined up to our social sites, website and lead generation database. Before this shift we were happily sending ad hoc EDMs, occasionally updating our website, independently managing our own social media interactions and, ultimately, scratching our heads in wonder at why we were not getting any leads coming in, or any business generation upsides, above and beyond our sales efforts. Hello!

Our new approach is evolving and is now glued together. Linking our EDM activities and key insights for customers / prospects, aligned across all our platforms, enabled by a revamped website to capture data, helping us to engage in ‘real-time’ with our target audiences where interest was highlighted. Some data to back up how this joined-up approach has provided us with measureable results.

Twitter and Linked In followers have increased by 380%

Website visits and individual page views increased by over 105%

On average, around 20 warmed leads per month coming directly from our campaigns, through our website compared to less than 5 before.

This certainly feels like we are on a more successful track. We will continue to fine-tune and evolve the approach but the data speaks for itself. Planning and getting it all glued together is a recipe for success.

b) Linked In as our most successful social connection, lead and business generation tool.
Being more aligned and having a consistent approach to our posts, groups and reaching out to like-minded professionals, has enabled us to target our messaging much better and lead with “Insights” in our sharing and discussion threads to generate contributing comments, new connections and then informal discussions – often leading to more formalised meetings face to face. We have learned to plan this well over a medium term road map, rather than short term bursts and then silence and then another burst. We learned you have to put the work in! It doesn’t happen by itself, but the more thought and planning you put in, the higher degree of connections you can attract (ie through rolling posts like this) and the more new conversations you can open. Then it’s down to you!

c) We no longer pay to sponsor or attend major industry events (regionally and locally) and favour smaller boutique events at both industry level and those generated by ourselves (ie Breakfasts, Expert Sessions etc). Borrowing a useful metaphor from Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book this changed the game for us and helped us move from being a “small fish in a big pond” to a “bigger fish in smaller pond”. It has helped us open up more meaningful network connections with a quicker transfer from informal to formalised business discussions. When comparing our number of leads generated a large events to these smaller events, of course there was a difference in favour of then larger events. But these leads were more general. For our new Boutique approach our leads have been more specific and our ‘voice’ is louder. If we even out the data the measurable success rate due to this shift in approach has generated 30% more specific leads and just over 25% more business conversions when compared to our previous approach. A third more higher-quality leads, leading to 1 in 4 more conversions.  I’ll take it thanks!


d) EDM campaigns joined up to our social sites, website and lead generation database. This has been relatively new for us, it pains me to say. Before now we were happily sending ad hoc EDMs, occasionally updating our website, independently managing our own social media interactions and, ultimately, scratching our heads in wonder at why we were not getting any leads coming in or any business generation upsides, above and beyond our sales efforts.

Technology and us – A cross generational family micro-study

It’s Saturday and I’m at home. I have my Mom trying to work out how to open the lid of our laptop and I have my two kids surrounded by multi-coloured devices, happily flicking between one and the other.  A Traditionalist x 2 GenZ-ers and only myself and my wife (GenXers) to bridge the gap.  Interestingly I am sat here observing what is going on and some interesting traits on interactions and technology preferences are evident, which I feel could be played out in business as we head to the 2020 workplace.

1, My Mom’s preferred device is a traditional desktop – here she is out of her comfort zone on a laptop but after one week is starting to get the hang of it. Which is helpful for my sanity in so many way…”Just press that THEN that and it will refresh!” …”It’s called Word – it’s the same on a laptop as your desktop!” ; “Just click here..!”- you get the picture. That said, she is on the technology and here are some of her clear preferences:

  • email is the beginning and the end. Indispensable.
  • typing via a keyboard is the only way to go. Touchscreens don’t cut it.
  • social media happens to someone else
  • smartphones are for calling people (imagine that!) and occasionally texting.
  • electronic games and gaming is the undiscovered country and holds no interest.
  • kids can do anything with technology so useful to have around

2, My kids are comfortable on any device be it ipod, my wife’s iphone, my galaxy, tablets and laptops. But there are clear preferences and differences when compared to my Mom – perhaps unsurprisingly!

  • They prefer ipod / iphone and it’s for gaming and instant messaging
  • Whatsapp groups and Hangouts – so easy
  • email is in case of emergencies, homework or thank you messages J
  • they do all their homework on line through the laptop and submit automatically. Everything is on auto back-up. They can online chat with their teachers and colleagues in a protected environment.
  • It’s how they work, play and communicate
  • Touch screen rules – keyboards are for homework only!
  • My daughter embraces a wider range of technologies to communicate with her friends than my son (she is 18 months older)
  • They curate music / interests etc and can link their devices to other devices in our home (ie TV, speakers etc)
  • It’s second nature – they don’t think about this, they just do it.My conclusion is that with technology being such a big part of their day to day education and way of operating at school and home, it does become a kind of appendage. One step removed from artificial intelligence integrated with the human – but quite close when I observe them some days!

3, So what for us GenXers?

  • My wife’s clear preference is a mini-tablet. She can read, do facebook and her emails on it
  • My preference over the weekend is a full sized tablet – again for reading, catching up on the odd email and managing entertainment (music, planning weekend, food spots etc via the web and social sites). When out and about though I still prefer my Galaxy S5 – the larger size helps me manage my twitter and tweet on the go, but small enough for my pocket.
  • We are both comfortable with desktops, laptops and tablets, although don’t work too much with our smartphones. We tend to use for texting, whatsapp and calling – but not as much as we used to use our Nokia’s!
  • Touch screens and typing is OK with us
  • While we can ‘work things out’, our kids are far more intuitive and will help us do things quicker when needed via the technology. Again they don’t seem to have to try, it appears to be second nature.
  • For us, the human connection is as important as the technology which enables our closeness to others – Facebook with our friends and family in the UK makes it so much more personal. For our kids technology I suspect is more than an enabler and merely the way they roll.

Perhaps GenXers have to be more adaptable due to where they are in the cross generational mix. Sandwiched in the middle with the ability to be the golden thread to link each element of the spectrum.

So – fast forward to the 2020 workplace. My kids will be starting jobs, my Mom may be able to use a touch screen (maybe) and GenXers will be gamely trying to keep up with the technology upgrades, new tools and ways of working. Crucially though, as in our house currently, GenX will be Glue in the middle of the Silver Stars and the Young Guns of Gen Y&Z.

  • GenX-ers are Leaders in waiting – their role to meld the technology with the Human touch will be key to success
  • It wont all be about GenY anymore – the focus will be on the GenZ intake. The ‘’me’’ generation will need to play second fiddle for a change.
  • GenZ will expect the workplace to be very different to what it is now. How we work and learn with integration of appropriate technologies will be key. They will be capable, ready to contribute and could form a powerful engine room for businesses. Let us see! May be the end of the road for traditional email.
  • Integrating our aging populations in this increasingly technologically enabled world will be key for GenX Leaders.  The Human heart of work, learning and life will not be replaced – far from it – it will be more important than it ever has been.

Perhaps this is the central element that will bring all generations together – the human touch at GenZ end to give them the interpersonal skills required in business and for communication across the generations and cultures within the 2020 workplace.  At the other end of the spectrum, a recognition that at the heart of things is the human and that is how business will still get done. Perhaps 2020 is a great opportunity for a mass ‘’coming together’’ rather than the fear of a further drift.  Humans may yet still be in charge!

5 ways to improve your effectiveness in the classroom!

Why is it that most learning people only deliver a course rather than creating the right experience for people to actually learn? You know the kind…reading slides, rambling on and on just because they like the sound of their own voice, trying to impress people with big words or fancy slides.

In my opinion, we’ve checked out and it’s time to check back in. What do I mean by checking out…it’s called going through the motions. If you go through the motions you are telling your participants that it’s ok for them to do the same.

Here’s a few tips to change the way you deliver that will help capture people’s attention and create ore growth.

Know your audience: Gen X, Gen Y, Baby boomers etc. – I’ve heard every term out there and many trainers feel like they have to be generational experts in order to deliver. Well, stop thinking of your participants by their generation and think of them as individuals, as people…people who look to you to help them grow. It means that we in the learning community need to provide something for everyone. It can be done, but it takes a lot of skill and practice.

Which brings me to my next tip:

Conduct a conversation…not a lecture: Stop talking at people and start talking with them. Conversational learning is about creating relationships with your audience. By holding a conversation you can find out what people know, where they need to grow etc.

This engages people in a different and unexpected way. This is also a great way to actually address those generational differences mentioned earlier. The ones I told you not to focus on and I still don’t want you to focus on them, simply bring different viewpoints into your learning conversation. You can gain so much through getting fresh perspectives.

In order you have a learning conversations you need to…

Know your stuff: This doesn’t mean you have to be a “subject matter expert” on everything, but you absolutely need to be well versed in what you are teaching. You need to have comfort in the topics and you should be able to speak about your own experiences. It’s your experiences that help drive the conversation.  Can you actually teach an entire class without any slides?? You can if you know your stuff.

That why the next step is just call this…

Bring it to life: Why use a power-point slide to teach a model or concept when you can bring it from the “slide” to the room and create a new learning experience. I take great pride in the fact that I create amazing models of many tools life sized, right on the floor. Then I bring the participants around the model. They get to step in and step out of it. It creates an awesome visual…you just need a little bit of tape on the floor! Other was to bring it to life are…become the leader you are speaking about. Be the character of a poor leader, act out the behavior.

All of this brings me to my last point…

Bring your passion: This is the key to everything – I show up each day with passion, I love what I do and try to share with those I come in contact with. Passion is that personal driver that excites you in everything you do. It is so sad to me that many people have lost their passion…not just the learner but the faculty as well.

As with any new ideas, you need to go slowly and build your own unique style and make sure you are in alignment with your client/company standards. It is also a great idea to speak to your participants and get their feedback. I also review with them the things I tried and ask for feedback at the end of each session.

These five tips will surely help you create a better experience for you and your learners which will help create a more effective classroom.

  • As a reminder…
  • Know Your Audience
  • Conduct a Conversation
  • Know Your Stuff
  • Bring it to Life

And last but not least…always Bring Your Passion to the classroom, it will truly change everything.

These steps are not the only ways to increase your effectiveness but they will certainly be a start. We also welcome any of your ideas and thoughts on how you create a more effective classroom.

Coaching and Mentoring – Kids Style

I am hot, have twisted my ankle and scuffed my knee. I also have a big smile on my face having just returned with my son and daughter from a morning of sport. The first was their tennis lesson the second a football game (Soccer to those who need clarity!)

Their tennis coach, let’s call him Keith, has a way with the kids which I felt worked superbly.

  • he asked questions of them verbally and with the ball
  • he helped them to discover the answers to his questions themselves
  • he tested them on the same theme in-court many time and they worked through it to refine their approach and get better
  • he gave them tasks to complete prior to the next session and reinforced key messages and learnings from the lesson.

Sounds very much like a workplace coach for me and it was interesting for me to observe his easy style and how he enabled my kids to learn, without always giving them the answers.

Fast forward 1 hour. A drinks break and a warm-down on the football square, with me involved. They are happy, talking about their lesson and now enjoying another of their passions – Football (Australian and US readers be assured I mean soccer!).

After a few minutes two boys come over and ask if they can play. Now we have enough for a game! We start passing the ball around and one of lads who has joined us seems to be a magician with the ball. Within a few minutes he tells us he plays for AC Milan boys and goes to Italy for football camps in the holidays. We’ll call him Fabio. The competitors in my son and I came out and we tried to emulate the silky skills that were on display in the AC Milan half of the pitch. Oh dear. I thought I could do this once! Here is where I observed my son change his approach and respond totally differently to the tennis lesson I just observed.

He really looked up to Fabio and started to talk about how he was trying to do certain tricks. I had been helping as a coach – but clearly I wasn’t that competent myself! He observed Fabio and started to practice and do more. Fabio gave one or two tips, without showing my son directly and I could see the dynamic between them changing.

We decided to have a game. Their team went 3-0 up and we were all over the place. My son, who had been observing their playing style, suggested we emulate it. Pass, run to space, pass, stay close for tackles, watch the ball. I was now on the back foot. My son was in charge. We started winning tackles, we passed, we ran, I fell a few times but didn’t want to let down my kids – especially my son who had taken control. Then…we scored! My son found the bottom left hand corner and as I came in for the high five he wheeled round and high fived Fabio and talked about how he did it! Eh?? He was on our team!  Then he came back and got us into our positions and we ended up narrowly losing 7-5.

To me I reflected and realised the subtle differences here between the tennis coaching and what I viewed as football mentoring here. In two ways. My son certainly looked up to Fabio as a mentor and I can tell you he has just gone out with the ball to practice, inspired by the experience. The fact he wanted to be congratulated for a goal my Fabio first is a great indicator I felt. The second mentoring was “up the line”!  I was the mentee and my son the mentor. I upped my game and looked up to him and he showed me way more about the game that winning or losing. I am really proud and quite by accident realised I had one of the best mentoring sessions I’d had in years…

5 productivity lessons from my life as a business traveller


I am on another flight, in another seat, on a different airline, sitting next to a mix cultures, generations and assorted folk with assorted purposes. One thing, however, is a constant after my near 15 years of constant business travel. My laptop is open, I am working, I am listening to music to drown out the crying parents and screaming kids (usually interchangeable) and, yet, I am focused. I get a lot of work done up here at around 14,000 metres. I also get a lot done in the hotels I stay at, the airport terminals I find myself in and various other locations where I can connect with my devices or take out my laptop and get some real work done. Funnily enough I am at my most productive out and about. It’s a state of mind – a can-do attitude and it most certainly impacted how I have developed myself as a Professional and as a Leader. It’s not always been the case, with tough lessons learned on the way. Here are the top 5 pointers that have helped me stay productive, wherever I am:

  • Start with a clear purpose, every day
    When I am travelling, I know I have an hour here and there, a few hours flying, 30 minutes in a hotel reception. It focuses the mind. I can filter the distractions and do I what need to do.
  • Learn to filter out the noise
    It’s noisy on a plane, in a terminal, on a train, at a hotel reception area etc – Add to this the multiple demands and items on your list and it all adds up to a lot of noise. In these situations we have to be focused on doing what we need to do, rather than what we want to do.
  • Time for your business, yourself, your team, your family
    Getting points 1 and 2 right help manage this point. The curse of the business traveller can be the “always on” switch. Days blend into nights and into a mind-set of how perfect the time is to get work done – its dead time after all. True – to a point. But no one is good to anyone burned out. Leave time for the other important things:
    i) Instead of planes and hotels in faceless cities, I now ensure I engage better with my surroundings – it’s good for the heart and the head.
    ii) My team need time to talk, seek input and share. It is easier now than ever to stay connected and Skype + Go-To-Meeting are my best friends for staying in touch.
    iii) I spend more quality time with my family than I ever did. The pressures are still the same, it is just that I have learned with experience, feedback and practice to manage myself and my time differently.
  • Attitude is everything
    As a business traveller in these ultra connected times I know I can find space, do what I need and get to the important things. This helps me define my purpose, eliminate distractions and engage my positive productivity mind-set.
  • Everyone needs help – It was scary to be found wanting a few years ago and I realised that it didn’t matter how ‘senior’ I had become, I needed some coaching and advice. I wholeheartedly entered into it. This approach helped me balance socially & emotionally, commercially & operationally. Not necessarily in that order!  I couldn’t recommend it more to Leaders and Managers at any level. It has made a profound difference to me. Never be too proud to ask for feedback or help – you never know what benefits it can bring, particularly in terms of personal productivity and, perhaps, the positive knock-on effect to the productivity of your team.

How can this 5-point productivity plan help you? I’d like to hear your thoughts and productivity war stories. We all have them!

The journey of Business Transformation starts with Leadership Inspiration

Let’s face it…most so called “Leaders” don’t really lead at all – they simply tell people what to do. Here’s a thought, what if you stopped telling and started inspiring.

The fact is without inspiration you can never truly achieve business or people transformation.  Inspiration is the driving force behind any true transformation, so ask yourself this, “Why am I inspired to transform my business, people, and my leadership?”  If the answer is, I don’t know, dig a little deeper.

Ask yourself 3 powerful questions:

  • What will happen if my business, people and leadership stays stagnant?
  • What will happen if my competitors figure it out and transform before my business?
  • What will happen when my business, people and leadership transforms?

Think about increasing profitability, growing in new markets, what kind of new products or services can I be offering and how have my people/teams grown and developed.

By answering these 3 questions you will start to ignite the inspiration needed to move forward with your business, people and leadership transformation.  Here is a great tip, if you find yourself struggling with the questions, try doing a little research, go online and search for other companies, people or leaders that you admire that have transformed.  How did they do it?  What were their needs?  Ask people in your company to answer the same questions.

You see, without inspiration you are more likely to just be going through the motions.  That will never work. The reason? It will just be another program or corporate initiative.  You know the kind, the ones you always hated when you were an employee and your boss tried to stuff something down the ranks telling everyone how committed they are.  But of course you and the rest of the team knew better.  So you played along waiting for it to pass and within a few days/weeks/months you all were right back to where you were before – pretending everything was great.

This is why you, as the leader (boss, supervisor – insert our title or position here), must find true inspiration.  It is only with your inspiration that you will be able to get others inspired too.

Let’s talk about how to find your inspiration. My first suggestion is to do some real soul searching to find your inspiration. There is a reason you are reading this article.   What was it?

Is your business suffering from high turnover?  Have you been losing market share in recent month? Are your employee engagement scores lower than expected? Are you hearing about changes in your industry?  Whatever your reason, good for you, at least you are starting to think about the future.

However, all the doom and gloom doesn’t have to be the only motivator. Perhaps you are in the other camp, trying to think ahead of your competition.  You’re already on top of your game, you just don’t want to lose it.  You want to stay on top and you know transformation is the only way to ensure you don’t become complacent.

Determining why you feel the need to transform is the key, INSPIRATION is the engine! Now go and start your inspiration engine!

2 important leadership, learning & performance lessons from my first Spartan Race

I am 50 this year and instead of creating a mid-life crisis, I decided to make a positive step and challenge myself outside the norm. I wanted to achieve something and challenge my performance. Doing a Spartan Race certainly did that.

I am pretty fit; I go to the gym, I swim, I walk. You get the picture. This was different…
It took three months of training, developing muscles I hadn’t used for years (or ever), working with new people as a team and, finally, the day itself, a fantastic feeling as we crossed the finish line, everyone intact, exhausted and elated!
This was about achievement of something new, a different kind of performance with a new team, which bonded and performed at a new level…I had to unlearn what I knew about fitness and stamina, relearn new techniques and learn to integrate these skills into my performance toolkit over weeks of further personal development. I was totally committed.

On reflection there are so many parallels to my current leadership situation and how I have adapted my approach, style and more having been involved in the Spartan Race. It is having a marked impact on how I have re-oriented my own focus and the team’s over the last few months particularly.  It has made a difference – in quantifiable, actual terms.

As a result I realise anew that sometimes we must change the game to get out of the rut, find different ways to work and perform at new levels. Here is what I learned, actioned and impacted.

  • Leadership, team and performance
The learning The link
Refresh your goals and re-energise the focus Yes, we have KPIs / annual targets etc. but finding new ways to work in the current acceleration of things is crucial to success. I realised that I “thought” I was focused. This experience gave me another perspective and helped me fine tune the vision, refine the strategy and renew operational execution with and through my team. It is working…
There are new challenges to tackled. So tackle them. I have been in a senior leadership role for 16 years and I am driven. I believe in results through people and I believe in stretching the possibilities in business terms. 16 years on, it’s easy at times to get into a rut and coast. Not just when things are going well but when they are not. Leaders in this day and age can get battle-weary; and I have been. This Spartan experience re-wired my mental attitude and forced me into a change (even though there was some resistance inside me). The change helped me to relook at the business, myself, the team, the possibilities and DO differently – particularly on certain nagging issues. This made a huge impact to me earlier this year and put a spring back in my step – and, as a result, into my team and our first half performance.
Encourage new levels of leadership and  performance from your team At the Spartan I was in a new group of people – 90% I had never met. We formed, we stormed, we normed, we stormed some more (especially on critical training days!) and then we performed when it counted.

It required each person in that team to take a leadership role at times to take up the slack, support those driving the agenda from the beginning, picking those up when motivation started to wane and come in with new ideas when new thinking was required or new techniques needed.

Leadership at any level was a critical learning and the empowerment of my team, which has always been central to my style, has received a new coat of paint. Challenging them to lead in different ways; not just in their current role / focus but as  contributors to wider business. This broader empowerment was lacking and now it’s in play, it is paying dividends


  • Learning and performance – It starts with you
The learning The link
We can forget how to learn and think / do differently Yes, I know, I work for a Learning Company! That is how easy it is to forget 😊 – I have always worked closely with my team to support, coach, manage and evolve but again that has sometimes been at the expense of my own learning journey. I need development as much as the next leader and it was the Spartan that brought it home to me loud and clear.
I needed to unlearn, relearn and learn some more. Change the way I exercised and worked within a team, to deliver the performance I and we needed. I had to practice, practice and practice, having a couple of epic fails on the way and then found the path to success.

It is exactly the same for the workplace. I changed my game and it is benefitting the business in both qualitative and quantitative ways. This is not without a couple of false starts and a little re-engineering of course! It took time but with commitment and the will to learn and do differently the change came good.I urge you all in management and leadership to remember how to learn! It works.

New personal goals drive new possibilities See above. I am re-energised, learning again and it is infectious across my team. There is a complete, solid, obvious link to performance and I have reminded myself of the power of learning in relation to what can be achieved individually, with others and as a business.

This seems a counter-intuitive thing to say as a learning professional, so imagine this – there are many leaders out there who don’t see it, won’t see it, are unwilling to see it. This needs to change in the age of disruption we are living and working in. It requires new visioning, new goals and inspiring new possibilities within self and others.
Leaders and Managers in many organisations I work with NEED to change the game… What is everyone waiting for..?

So – I won’t be waiting for my 60th to do something different again. I have my eye on my next Spartan, a Temple Run, a new way of working with our customers, a more integrated and broader level of team empowerment and more. I am enthused, positive and renewed.

I am so convinced we can do more and help that we have themed our upcoming event (Twitter and Instagram #CegosDisrupt) entirely around creating this positive attitude for changing the way we lead, manage and get to action.’t hesitate to contact me personally if you feel I can help you make progress in your organisation – whatever your level and challenge.

I have disrupted the norm in my own small way and I feel it is a critical lesson learned as we head into the more in certain times of the ‘future of work’, new leadership practices, more challenges for organisations everywhere and the need for a strong human touch to bring talented people together and enable high performance. It’s not easy and it requires a renewed energy for learning.

What’s your story?

50 words for my 50 fifty-year journey in life, learning and work

Well I turned 50 over the weekend and I feel fit, healthy, happy and a tad wiser 😊 – I am an English guy from Manchester in the North of England, working for a French Company, based in Singapore, working across India to the Pacific and prior to that all across the Americas. I have become a global citizen, living constant change and revelling in an environment where I learn new things everyday through the things I do and the people I see.

So I thought I’d try to track my 50-year journey from Manchester to Singapore in 50 words. Some of those are ‘me’ and some are attributed to others. You will have to figure out which is which.
This was not as easy as it looks. Thanks to all of you who have been a part of this journey so far (even some name-checked) and those who will accompany my next fifty!  As you will see, some words are repeated and that is because they resonate in different ways / situations.

  • Expectation
  • Independence
  • Failure
  • Sport
  • United
  • History
  • Luck
  • Job
  • Shock
  • Learning
  • Steve
  • Friends
  • Job
  • Success
  • Sadness
  • Loss
  • Jackie
  • Entrepreneur
  • Failure
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Love
  • Fit
  • Training
  • Consulting
  • International
  • Culture
  • Success
  • Learning
  • Slowdown
  • Spartan
  • Global
  • Greg
  • Partners
  • Network
  • Asia
  • Start-up
  • Team
  • Trial
  • Error
  • relearn
  • growth
  • performance
  • industry
  • leadership
  • futurist
  • recognition
  • fitness
  • next?

It resonates with me, let me know if this tells you anything!