Browse Category: Personal Narratives

TEDMED stage Palm Springs

Emotion and relationships in TED Talks

Emotion and Relationships Move People.

This is one of my favourite TED style talks. For a few reasons. Firstly, how I first saw it. A guy who had worked on and off for me for a few years sent the clip to me via Facebook with the message “This woman reminds me of you.” I watched it and had to dry my eyes. Who would not want to be compared to this woman?

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Articles published in City A.M. this week

City A.M. articles for this week.

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I’m really enjoying writing for City A.M. each week, I hope you are enjoying reading my articles as much as I enjoy writing them. Here are the articles I published this week, be sure to check out what I published last week in City A.M..

Here are my articles published in City A.M. this week:


Stalled career syndrome: What to do when your job’s going nowhere

Are you bored at work? Passed over for that promotion? Find yourself procrastinating or spending time surfing the net to make up office face time? Feel like you’re not getting anywhere? Then you may be suffering from stalled career syndrome.

Two ways to really annoy your boss

Want to annoy your boss? Why wouldn’t you? By simply and consistently annoying your boss you could leave those boring office days behind, forget the early mornings and that rubbish, crowded commute and spend the rest of your days at home in your underwear watching daytime TV. Whoop whoop.


Here are my articles published in City A.M. last week

See all the articles published on the blog this week



late candidate selections

Candidate selections 277 seats not yet selected.

Back in March I wrote a blog post called “Candidate selections 290 seats not yet selected”. And now writing this blog, five months later, it appears that only 13 seats more seats have been selected. (I understand that the seat of Darlington is being selected tonight.)

To make any sort of dent candidates surely need 6 months in post. So if the aim is to have all seats worked by a candidate for 6 months there will have to be a minimum of 60-70 candidate selections a month.  That is some pace!

There was once an accepted wisdom that active and focused candidates could negate most of any incumbency advantage – IF selected 2 years before an election. If that is still true I don’t understand why we haven’t selected more seats already. There must be keen candidates and even keener associations? What about building capacity for 2020?

I fully understand the financial and family pressures of a candidate fighting a seat for 24 months before an election and the argument will be that the 40/40 seats selected candidates early for that very reason.  But where is the long term planning?

Have a look at some of the seats that have not been selected yet – they may not be “easy wins” or even “maybe wins” in 2015 – but many are surely seats that should be worked with a view to a decent result in 2020 – or is that too far away?

If you know of any seats that are being selected soon, or have already been selected but are not on the list, please let me know in the comments below.

Update – as of 22/08/14

EastleighMims Davies (31/07/2014)

Bethnal Green and BowMatthew Smith (31/07/2014)

Birmingham EdgbastonLuke Evans (01/08/2014)

Ynys MonMichelle Willis (02/08/2014)

North West DurhamCharlotte Haitham-Taylor (06/08/2014)

North DurhamLaetitia Glossop (06/08/2014)

Kingston upon Hull NorthDehenna Davison (09/08/2014)

Kingston upon Hull EastEmma Ideson (09/08/2014)

Kingston upon Hull West and HessleMike Whitehead (09/08/2014)

Mitcham and MordenPaul Holmes (12/08/2014)

Birmingham Selly OakAlex Avern (13/08/2014)

Bolton North EastJames Daly (13/08/2014)

DarlingtonPeter Cuthbertson (13/08/2014)

Batley and SpenImitaz Ameen (14/08/2014)

Congratulations to all the new candidates and thank you to everyone who helped contribute to the updated list.


Seats Unselected August 2014

Life Priorities – The Empty Pickle Jar Test

Life Priorities – Sometime you need a SatNav to help you make decisions

One evening a couple of weeks ago after a particularly long and busy day, I met up with an old friend. A good friend. One who has stuck his head “above the parapet” for me. We met by accident – we both were heading home. We went to the pub. 

We discussed some important things going on in his life and some important choices he faced. Choices are only ever tough when there are costs involved. And there were – personal, time, money and relationships.

He had seen the video above on my Facebook a few weeks earlier. We discussed it again. It helped that night, along with a few beers, to establish his real life priorities – and those that were less so. I have done the same in my own life because the story in the video above touched me (in a slap around the face sort of way) and made me re-evaluate and reassess. A continual process.

Or perhaps “makes” (present tense) is the right word. As we parted that night – I shouted out “Decide on who or what your pebbles* are!”

I am not sure if I was talking to him or me. But there I was, 45 minutes later, still writing about it.


*I prefer pebbles to golfballs. 🙂

The right to be forgotten in business

So you’ve got the new, big, shiny job. You have told your boss where to shove it, booked your last bit of remaining holiday, called in sick once when you weren’t and sat back as you wait to start your new exciting job. Your new employers have said the job is yours, subject to references and checks, but that just means it’s a sure thing, right? I mean – you have an email and everything and you have already spoken to your new boss on the phone about why’s happening on your first day in the office. And the contract is in the post.

ID-100226218However 18 years ago you got arrested,our new employers have found out. Or a speeding ticket or something similar. And your new employers have found out and now you have no job, the job offer is withdrawn and you are literally between jobs – the one you chucked and the one who did some research on you. Or paid someone else to do. The meaning of that sneaky sentence in the job offer email or letter  – “Subject to references and checks” – suddenly becomes ominously clear.

This is a reality for many people.

I recently received some information from the pre-employment screening company Experian – who I had only thought of as a credit ratings agency. Until I read this:

When you are hiring employees, you might need more information on a candidate to make an informed decision. The following list includes the types of information that you may often consult as part of a pre-employment check:
•             Identity Check – Validating an individual’s identity to ensure identity exists and verify it belongs to your candidate.
•             Credit Review – Ensure an individual doesn’t have any adverse financial data on their record, checks include, Electoral Roll, address search, CCJ’s, bankruptcies and voluntary arrangements.
•             Criminal record checks – Ensure that an individual doesn’t have a criminal record.
•             Employment referencing – Verbal or Written Employment History – Referees are first qualified within their organisation in particular to their job title/role and professional relationship to the candidate, Experian Background Checking contacts the referee directly to verify the candidate’s employment.
•             DVLA, FCA, Sanctions, Media & Director searches are also available
Using the Experian Candidate Verifier removes associated risk to brand image via the delivery of accurate data on potential employees.

On the surface you may think as an employer this is a good thing. It probably is good practice to check whether a prospective Company Director or Officer or financial signatory is who they say they are and has no criminal record. The company describes the checks as ‘a first line of defence for your business’s integrity, reputation and security’.

If you use this service, you can assume you can trust a new employee in the full knowledge of knowing everything about them. You can protect yourself, your company, and its image and reputation knowing that your new employee is “clean”. There will be absolutely no surprises ensuring that your new employee does not have a criminal record or chequered history. You can finally be certain that there is no doubt whether your new employee has lied about their education, qualifications, or references. Or at the very least if something does goes wrong with the candidate you can always cover your A*** by showing that you had done your homework and authorised this research. This of course assumes that people who have sinned will always sin again and those with no history will continue to be blameless, but that’s another story – circumstances change, financial pressures grow – the conscientious angel of yesterday may easily become the white collar crook of tomorrow.

Experian ask on their website: How much more could you know about the people you’re recruiting? And to me this is a problem for some candidates.

Experian, for the right price, can find out an individual’s current address, as well as two previous addresses. They can find County Court Judgements, whether you have been declared bankrupt, and any other decrees and administration orders they can find. Fair enough I suppose.

Experian can tell you whether someone has been a director of a company before, whether that company is still going or not and maybe why they left. It can also find out if you have ever been self-employed. Also fair game.

It can check whether a person has ever been involved in money laundering scheme with access to data from the Home Office, the US Secret Service, the Bank of England, the US Treasury and various national and international law enforcement agencies. Scary but also fair research.

They can find out if you have a full driving license, any penalty points, speeding or other driving offences. Experian can find out a complete criminal history, with all conviction information, spent or unspent. As well as any other non-conviction information, ‘considered to be relevant’. This is where I get squeamish. What is “relevant”? What about that stupid thing you did at university? Or the fight outside the nightclub 20 years ago when you were arrested by mistake in the confusion and then released without charge?

Added to that, Experian can also conduct a ‘Media Check’. They are able to research over 45,000 national and international newspapers, from as far back as 1971.

So what does this all mean? Well if you have EVER done anything wrong, whether you were convicted or not, whether you have ever had financial difficulties for whatever reason, if you have ever had speeding points, or if you have ever been once negatively mentioned in a newspaper somewhere in the world in the last forty years, your potential employer can find out.

This can make even the most innocent, harmless, and innocuous person uncomfortable. For a company to be able to amass such huge amounts of information on the people they employ, or are considering employing, is unsettling. The ability for a person to put their past behind them is no longer an option. Some may think this is a good thing, but consider all the falsely accused who are forever associated with something they did not do.

Recently the European Court of Justice set the precedent on a case stating an individual’s right to be forgotten. The case came about when a Spanish man tried to remove an article about an auction for his foreclosed home – however he has already paid the debt and now blames the article for denying him a job. Although the internet giants like Google are unclear on how to interpret the ruling, the concept is interesting.

Obviously suggesting that anyone should have the ability to remove any article about themselves on the internet is ridiculous, but with companies like Experian looking under every rock, one incident can hang over the head of a job candidate forever. Does this mean that only angels can now be considered for senior jobs? Does this exclude the risk takers and the entrepreneurs and those arrested by accident – the people who were either innocent or those who have tried and failed and sometimes fallen on their faces?

Of course I am not suggesting or condoning CV fiction or untrue claims – but this level of scrutiny is now a reality for many.

An effective CV is more than just titles

ID-100195340 (1)CVs used to be a collection of titles and dates. That’s not good enough anymore. When you are writing your CV you need to convey what you have achieved, what you started with and what you ended with. Context and colour is everything.

If you just list your job titles and dates employers will reason that you had a position but did nothing with it. A job or a position is an opportunity to achieve things for the company. If you don’t outline what you did and what you achieved, in context, you won’t even make a paper short list, let alone an interview.

The paper sift, the pre-interview elimination process, is the most brutal. Most people prepare for interviews either by getting interview coaching or running through potential questions and answers. But you have to get in the room first. So focus on that first!

A recent client of mine was one of 20 who got a job offer from a large consulting company. Over 4000 people applied, but they probably only interviewed 100. Do the maths – your chances of getting excluded on the basis of your CV are huge compared to the chances of failing at interview. Your preparation and your coaching should reflect that.


Image courtesy of photoraidz /

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.

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