Browse Category: Personal Branding

Real Authenticity is Raw, Potent and Compelling

Real authenticity is what all politicians yearn and strive for. It is what spin doctors go on about their clients needing and what commentators complain about politicians lacking. Being human is risky and dangerous. Because people judge you on the real, candid unspun you. Being yourself and being totally open makes you vulnerable to attack from opponents as well as from competitors within the ranks of your own party. Being human is sadly seen as being weak and our natural survival instinct is to feign impregnability.

Every now and then a politician is brave enough to be really authentic and to speak from the heart. The power of real, authentic humanity is so many leagues above stunts from actors like Tony Blair wearing jumpers and drinking from mugs of tea.

The public mood is so tilted against career politicians that many PR agencies are hired by politicians to create this silver bullet of authenticity. But plastic, manufactured authenticity can be smelt a mile off. There is no replacement for the real thing. When I work with clients we focus on unwrapping the real person – not creating a plastic mask.

In this YouTube clip Joe Biden talks about a tragedy in his life, himself and how he reacted. He exposes his own human weaknesses and vulnerabilities and as a result it is one of the most compelling speeches I have seen from a politician in a while. It is brave, frank and needs no big words or grand gestures or dramatic spinning or otherwise from his team.

Of course, no-one wants to have to pay the price Joe Biden did to ‘gain’ this authentic pain and anguish and vulnerability. But all politicians could learn from his bravery and his candour. I respect him enormously for what he said.

In the UK Parliament there was a debate on mental illness recently and MPs from around the House (including my No2AV friend, co-conspirator, red wine drinker and Labour MP, Kevan Jones from Durham) ‘fessed up to their own demons, mental health issues and humanity. They were universally applauded and I doubt they will suffer electorally from being so open. I have seldom been as proud of our British MPs – talking and listening to each other maturely on a serious subject that affects so many people.

Performance Coaching is best one to one and designed for those who hate losing.

Group Coaching

I used to do a lot of group coaching. I do very little now and when I do, I take another coach along to help make the coaching more effective.  The groups I used to coach were typically groups of 12-15 from companies like Grace Chemicals, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and SAP. They were very typical corporate coaching sessions for middle management and the budget for the day was split between all the participants’ personal development budgets. German firms are better at this most – personal development is both encouraged by the companies and sought after by the employees.

Coaching PyramidThen Mercedes hired me to do an 1-2-1 session over ten days with a senior guy on a very sensitive issue and I loved it. More importantly than that – the results were better too.

Norming Training

Group corporate coaching normally is what I call “norming training” – it gets everyone up to a minimum level of competence. Or at least it should! Far too often norming coaching is seen as just something to survive and it is approached by participants and coaches without focus or energy.  Coaching without a specific target is harder to focus and too often includes handouts that soon become, and remain, dusty on unvisited shelves. Tennis coaching is fine and good and important – but preparing for a match against a specific opponent on “that court” is far more fun!

Norming training gets people from the bottom of a pyramid to half way up. It is important but it has its downsides and its limits.

One is the fact that the participants can’t open up completely to the coach with making them themselves vulnerable to the others in the room – who invariably are, will be, or are friends of, current or future competitors in the corporate or political career race.

Secondly – the higher you get up the performance pyramid, the less coaching is about transferring skills and the more it is about what’s in your head. Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.

Performance Coaching

Most of what I do now is performance coaching – in other words coaching aimed at a specific event with a time limit and a specific outcome.* It is taking people who are already quite competent and pushing them up the pyramid – leaving good, and the competition, behind. Coaching people who want to work to step up from being “good enough” and who now want to make Partner, bring in the business and the bonuses and get promoted. Since that session with Mercedes I have worked in the same way in politics, career development and with corporates: –

  • Politics – preparing wannabe MPs for selections and selection speeches, successful MPs for their maiden speeches, campaigns for elections, the No2AV referendum campaign and even the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for an address to the United Nations
  • Career/Personal Development – preparing graduates and senior executives for interviews
  • Corporate – preparing business development, management and MBO teams and individuals for major events, pitches and proposals.

All of them are focused on specific events, with defined time limits or dates and a specific win/lose outcome. It is for those want to perform as well as they possibly can – not just a bit better than the others and who resent being called “good enough”. It is for those who, like me, hate losing or coming second. If you know somebody who might fit into one of those categories – why not forward this post to them and introduce us by email?


*I have also worked on ongoing campaigns, e.g. against Human Trafficking, but there is a difference to this type of campaign – they are drip, drip, drip although they obviously include specific events and critical dates.

What makes a Political Legacy

I drove to a friend’s funeral in the Midlands yesterday. I have been to a lot of funerals in my life – this was my first to a Labour politician’s funeral. On the way I got a premonition of the size of Lord Bilston’s funeral when I saw the street signs on the dual carriageway to Bilston. The town where he was born, the constituency he represented and the name he carried in the House of Lords. Bilston.

LordBilstonDennis Turner aka Lord Bilston was a Labour Party trade unionist, councillor, MP and Peer who I met and worked with on the NO2AV referendum campaign. The word plotting is overused but he, Lord Bruce Grocott and George Howarth MP and I plotted, schemed and worked together for a solid month – the result being the extraordinary alliance between the Conservative and Labour Parties to defeat the Lib Dems and their proposed Alternative Vote. Without the input of these three men we would never have got Labour’s big beasts (John Prescott, John Reid, Margaret Becket, David Blunkett and Charlie Falconer) on board.

But,  intense and busy as it was, working with these tribal political opponents was great fun. Bruce told me yesterday that he had enjoyed that campaign more than any other and Dennis certainly took great delight in reminiscing about the campaign whenever we saw each other in Strangers Bar. Bruce, George and I were together again yesterday to bury a friend.

The church was packed and the service was long. 1 hour and 20 minutes long. There was standing room only at the back and people waiting patiently outside for the whole 80 minutes. Luckily the sun shone. These were not political people – not duty attendees. We estimated that there were 750-800 people there. It was, inevitably for a man with over 40 years of public service, a political funeral – with some political speeches, a number of Peers, former Cabinet Ministers and Labour MPs attending and therefore missing PMQs. The coffin bearers wore red ties. But – all the speeches were real and personal and I bet they were all written by the people giving them. They were raw – as funeral speeches should be. One of the best stories was how teenage chorister Dennis had led a strike of the choir – timed on a Saturday just before 3 weddings were due to take place.

Two of the speakers mentioned the fact that walking through Bilston with Dennis took ages. Both explained that he literally knew everyone, their names, their kids names and even their dogs names – a plus for a dog lover like me.  But the line that really got me yesterday was “Dennis was one of us”.

Much is made in both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party of candidates being “parachuted” into seats and how this doesn’t go down well with the voters. Research has shown that an ACTIVE candidate can negate an incumbent’s advantage if selected over 2 years before an election and I have candidates like that right now. Much is also made of how Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 81-19 on the question “Does he understand/get people like me?” But what a great line that “Dennis was one of us” is. What an epitaph. What a summary.

Politics is important business and we need good and competent people in politics. They can’t all come from within their own communities. Or could they? Maybe if they did we would have more politicians getting over 700 local people, non-duty attendees, coming to their funeral. Funeral attendance is clearly not the only test of a political legacy or a sign of whether a politician made an impact on people, in legislation etc – but it is a human one. And politics is at its best when it’s about people.

Picture from

As this article makes clear – I wasn’t the only Conservative there.

Speaking in Public.Take your job seriously, but not yourself.

This YouTube clip is glorious. How could it not be? Two Oscar winners and George Stephanopoulos – perfect! Plus it illustrates two of my favourite tips for speaking in public in less time than I can write this post!

Stephanopoulos is the guy who worked with Bill Clinton before and throughout his entire first term and wrote a brilliant book about it afterwards. But he is just the extra in this ABC news clip! h/t Denise Graveline

It has Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson without a script, without a Director and without an Editor. He is naughty, funny and real. He is right at the very top of my very short list of people who I don’t know but who I would love to go drinking with, and I am delighted to see him being just as I imagined. After all, according to his wikipedia page, while at school he was in detention every day for a whole school year.

Then there is “the refreshingly real” Jennifer Lawrence, a gorgeous and successful Oscar-winning actress, being wonderful and natural and herself. She is fun and likable and unedited. I often tell clients that they are world experts at being themselves and mediocre to rubbish at being anyone else – so they should stop trying. Ijust hope that she doesn’t get “training” that mutes or hides her personality.

The worst trait, and the biggest turnoff, that I have to address with clients is pomposity, snobbery and arrogance.

My standard instruction to all my clients is: “Take your job seriously – but not yourself.” Unless you have a monopoly on something that people must have – hardly relevant in my coaching sectors – you cannot flourish unless you are at least competent AND likable.

Anyway, enough of me – watch and enjoy.


New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions. The process when we all lie to ourselves.

Making New Year Resolutions is when we all turn into politicians – making promises to ourselves that we firmly believe we will keep. Until the same time next year, or even in summer – or even earlier, when we realize that we haven’t come close. In which case, there is always next year! 🙂

Here is my take on some of the top New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Lose weight. My six pack has been in hiding since I was 18. Like everyone else in the UK, I want to lose weight. But as a superb friend told me recently “Everyone in the UK wants to lose weight! Get over yourself. Stay healthy, do more exercise, eat less and better – but don’t freak out about it!” Nothing to add really.
  2. Getting Organized. I am generally just happy I can find my desk. I need to know where the important stuff is and this year I need to bin stuff that clutter or confuse my head, my thinking, my work or my emotions. Keep it simple, Old Man!
  3. Spend More Time with Family. Hmmm. I spend 1-2 days every week with my aunt – which is cool. Will increase that or at least ensure that 1-2 becomes 2. On the other hand, like most people, I have some family I am quite happy to spend even less time with. Will work on that too. I have a bunch of amazing family and cousins – particularly in Ireland. Should definitely get over there more often this year to see them – seems I have only been there for funerals recently. Not good. I also need to spend more time with my friends in the UK and Germany!
  4. Spend Less, Save More. Well, that’s easily said. I guess what I am going to do is buy less but buy quality – whether it is food (see Lose weight!), clothes or stuff for the home or office. Oh, and I plan to work even harder for those who I like, who pay well and who pay punctually and work less for the rest.
  5. Enjoy Life. I plan on laughing much more, wearing suits far less often and getting out in the fresh air much more – far away from my multiple electronic bleeping, ringing things. They may all be Apple products but too much is too much.
  6. Getting/Staying Fit and Healthy. I have a plan. Which I have already started. Four or five days ago. An hour long walk with Buster every day. This may help my health – but it is GUARANTEED to rescue my sanity.
  7. Learn Something New, Fun and Exciting. This is a challenge. What to do? Apparently it takes 15 hours of practice to learn to ride a unicycle. Can I be asked? Should I learn another language? Or get a degree in something? I lived in Germany for a while. They have a great saying: – “As soon as you become a Master in something, you should become an Apprentice in something else.” I doubt I am a master of anything (apart from sleeping in) but it is a thought process that has merit. Do something new, visit new places, drive down roads you have’t seen before, take Buster for walks in new places.
  8. Fall in Love. Definitely NOT going anywhere near THERE on a public forum. Ever. 
  9. Quit Smoking. Done that last year. With some help. Going to keep on quitting, or not smoking, every day. Non-Smoker. Smug. 
  10. Help Others achieve Their Dreams. Well that is my day job. And I love it. Helping people tell their stories. Storytelling for business, politics or personal career development! Helping people get a new job or promotion or even getting their first job – mega! Or playing a role in winning political selections and elections. In 2012, my work even including playing a tiny role in helping a company buy a UK football club. I love what I do – and would do it even if I didn’t have a mortgage. But I do have a mortgage – so will continue loving what I do, a while longer! 😉
getting selected

Getting Selected – Becoming a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

Getting Selected is a tough and demanding process.

Getting Selected is tough – but first you have to decide whether you really want to go through with this. You have to decide whether you are seriously ready to turn your life on its head.

Then you contact the Candidates department at CCHQ who in turn arrange for you to meet someone in person who assesses your level of insanity.

That is the easy bit. Then, suitably certified, you apply to go on the parliamentary assessment board – the PAB. This can be incredibly tough and consists of an interview, a speech, two essays, an in-tray exercise and a group exercise.

CCHQ have an unusual marking process for the PAB and there is (allegedly) no appeal process. They have got the judging criteria spot on, though, so you have to demonstrate that you possess them all.

Opinions vary as to how good the PAB process is and, like anyone, I have my thoughts on the process. But it is what it is and CCHQ isn’t going to change it anytime soon, so consider it as hoops that need to be jumped through. Being an MP is tough and has many challenges, but at least as an MP you have real people and real situations to deal with.

Getting past the PAB and being able to apply for real seats is a huge breakthrough. The stakes are now higher and, depending on the seat, you are now within spitting distance of becoming a Parliamentary Candidate and even an MP.

Now you have to wait until CCHQ releases the next tranche of seats which you need to assess in terms of winnability, doability and whether you have any affinity for the seat. Then the next stage of your journey to getting selected starts.

Then you have to summarize all your life’s details in an attractive and compelling way and set them out in a 2 page formatted Word document CV. This CV is incredibly annoying and time consuming to work with as the formatting keeps moving around like a sulky, scowling, arm-folded kid having a strop. But you HAVE to get this bit right as the ‘paper sift’ is often the most brutal stage and is aimed at excluding rather than including.

Then CCHQ and the association officers meet in London where your CV will be coldly assesses and eyebrows will be raised and discreet nods will be nodded, in ways eerily reminiscent of Sir Humphrey.

Get past this stage and you are nearly in the Getting Selected game. All you have to do now is pass two selection interviews consisting of a 5 minute “Select Me – I am Wonderful” speech and 20 minutes of questions – one in front of the Association Executive and one in front of the full membership.

Then you are a Parliamentary Candidate. All you have to do now is get elected. Easy huh?

This can be a long and emotional roller-coaster of a journey that can take a huge amount of time and money. It also can impose a significant amount of pressure on your partner, family and personal relationships. But if you are doing it for the right reasons, you will manage it. If you want to know more about my Getting Selected and Getting Elected courses please email on (You will have to prove to me that you are genuine here btw!) Feel free to have a look at my track record here.

The Daily Politics Show interviewed me for a piece on Getting Selected as an MP – have a look here.

Here is what one of my clients wrote to me today – he has just been selected for his home patch of Sutton and Cheam.

Hi Peter,

Thank you again for your help in getting me through the Parliamentary Assessment Board and getting selected for a seat first time of asking.

So many potential candidates have to tear around the country repeating that process before perhaps securing a winnable seat. I know that I would not have done anywhere near so well if it wasn’t for you.

Years ago I was told that like when taking medication, it was better to respond than to react. Building up an armoury of stories and responses helped me do just that, responding in a way that allowed me to answer the unasked questions as well rather than simply batting back the original question.

The key lesson for me was to have succinct responses that go beyond simple platitudes.

The simple question “Why do you want to be an MP?” has started a process across my borough of ensuring that our local council candidates each have a positive vision to share rather than simply to beat the other guy. The former leads to the latter but follows a different, more productive path.

You certainly put me through my paces but by the time of the interviews I felt ready for pretty much anything. …. I look forward to seeing you soon. Paul— Paul Scully. Conservative PPC Sutton and Cheam

Public Speaking or Giving Presentations – 3 Things to Learn from Ant and Dec

What do Ant and Dec know about public speaking?

Why should anyone interested in improving their public speaking pay attention to Ant and Dec?

Let’s put this into context. Are they worth copying?

Ant & Dec got their first presenting (or public speaking) job nearly 20 years ago, in 1994. Since then, Ant & Dec have won the National Television Award for Best Entertainment Presenter(s) eleven (11) years running 2001 to 2012.

Eleven times! That is huge! Add to that a career of nearly 20 years either on a stage, on camera or speaking in public – and still being marketable in a very competitive field.

Although, like everyone, they have had failures and setbacks, they are still on our screens after a joint career of nearly 2 decades AND they enjoy significant and widespread popularity AND  are widely known by their first names.

There are very few, IF ANY, politicians or business leaders with the same levels of name recognition and popularity. So, they must be doing something right.

Public speaking is tough for most people. Some say that public speaking is as stressful as getting a divorce or moving house. It is true that very few people are any good at it. This is often because people focus on the words and forget the delivery. People who write speeches sweat and debate over every word and every phrase. This is true for both professional speechwriters and the pencil-chewing wreck who suddenly realises they have to actually stand up and give a speech or presentation. Minute for minute, more time is almost always spent on the words than on the delivery.

Of course, the words count – otherwise why speak? But unless your delivery DELIVERS the message (gettit?) to the audience, preferably undiluted and intact, you may as well have not stood up and opened your mouth. It is probably right to spend more time on the words than the delivery – but spending no time on the delivery is looking for trouble.

Your speech delivery or your presentation delivery DELIVERS your message.

Would you write an email or a letter and not send it? Or send one that doesn’t say what you mean?

OK – let me labour this point – what words you use and what you say is a fat lot of good if your delivery sucks.

A speech is supposed to move people, leave them with a message, or an emotion or even (Hey – you did your job!) a triggered action. But if the audience are wincing or uncomfortable during the speech – that is ALL that they will remember.

Speechwriters love great speakers – but great speakers are not born great. Great speakers practice and polish their delivery and they practice the speech. Speechwriters hate writing and putting blood and soul and guts into a speech that is delivered by someone who doesn’t practice the speech, care about the message or bother to pay attention to their delivery.

So what public speaking or presentation tips can we learn from Ant and Dec?

  1. They Have Fun.  Ant and Dec take the mick out of each other, the judges, the camera crews, the audience, anybody – they revel in the occasion and are visibly enjoying themselves. Either that or Ant & Dec are amazing actors. They SMILE! All the time. Just for a second – close your eyes and think of Ant and Dec – I bet your mental picture is of them smiling. They are comfortable with each other, comfortable in front of the camera and not overly or visibly concerned about getting everything right or saying the right words. Even when they make mistakes, lose their place, or generally are human, they ride the mistake and, ripping each other or themselves for doing it, get on with the gig. No awkward silence or uncomfortableness for the audience. Just fun.
  2. They are Informal and Real.  Authentic is the trendy word for this. It just means being human and being yourself. Which is why, unless you are an amazing actor – if you want to lead and/or represent people – a good place to start is actually liking people. Otherwise you are going to have act damn well for the rest of your professional or political life! Ant and Dec do this really well.
  3. They Connect with People as People. Ant and Dec connect with the contestants, the audiences, the camera, the judges and the audience. They take the time. They engage and smile and use different words and phrases when talking to people. There is none of the American retail Have a nice day plastic insincerity to their comments or how they interact with people.

A few politicians are similar in their outlook and approach. It is no surprise that they enjoy unusual and extra-ordinary popularity, at least in part, because of it.

Steve Norris, Boris and Bill Clinton are all liked by more people than people like their political party or their positions. They almost always appear to be having fun or at least enjoying the moment and are totally at ease on the stage. They all are relatively informal and often self-deprecating. They all connect with real people – as real people. They treat people as people and talk to them like normal people too. They are also happy to be themselves and their personality is allowed and encouraged. If only there were more political personalities like them.

NB. I have used one of the official pics from their official website – I hope they (and their management) will be ok with my using it!

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