Category: Culture

Can I help?

Have you ever seen someone fall over in public? If so, you’ve probably also seen them pick themselves up, and hurriedly mumble “I’m fine,” if anyone approaches them offering help. I’ve done it myself on many occasions over the years. This scenario offers a microcosm of the dynamics going on in any helping relationship; as Edgar Schein describes in his wonderful book Helping, there is a complex interplay going on between helper and helped, and unless both parties get that right, the offers of help will be shunned, even when they are really needed.

The penny-dropping moment with this book came when it dawned on me that those of us offering outside consulting support are, in our own way, proffering help to our clients. If I had a dollar for every suggestion or proposal I had submitted to “solve” a client’s problem only to be told that it wouldn’t work, or that I was taking the wrong approach, I’d be a wealthier person today! Had I really taken enough time to understand the problem, or to build up sufficient trust and respect between us?

And yet, when the client/helper relationship works, it can work exceptionally well. I will never forget the first proposal with a new client following a lengthy investigation into his situation. “So you’re telling me that I am the problem,” he mused. “Well, that’s good news, because the one person I know I can change is me. It’s persuading hundreds of others to change that is much harder.” He became our best client ever. And yet, the more I think about it, the more I realize that we struck lucky with this guy, finding each other at just the right time. He was actively looking for help and we came along with a practical approach that appealed to his belief system.

I’m seeing now that getting to the point where your help is both needed and welcome takes time, and should be factored into any intervention. It might seem time-consuming, but it is time well spent.

How are you at giving help? Or receiving it?

Olympic Torch Relay Day 65

On the Olympic Torch’s second day in the capital city, with only 5 days until the opening ceremony, it passed by the TPC office in Hornchurch. The torch has been travelling right round the British Isles since 19th May and will be carried by 8000 individuals who have been nominated by their communities as inspirational people. It really is a moment for each of them to shine (as the relay slogan declares). I’ve watched several of them run their leg and it was great to see them carry the torch with their own style. Some just walked, others sprinted, some danced, skipped, flipped, rode a bike or a horse. The zip wires and helicopter landings were left for the professionals to carry out. We were lucky that the weather was splendid for our leg of the relay, and the crowds came out to line the streets of the town centre. In a flash the relay passed through, but the parties started early and ran on for several hours.


The excitement in the Capital is building up, and although we have the usual last minute panics (security) and hissy fits (border staff and train drivers), I think it is amazing how much has been achieved without any obvious fuss at all. The various new stadia that have been built at Stratford East London look stunning, and promise a great audience experience. The sand has been imported into Horseguards Parade for the Beach Volley Ball and the Olympic Traffic Lanes have all been marked up. Although getting around the capital will probably be difficult, that is nothing new for London commuters. We’ve just all got our fingers crossed that the torrential rain we have suffered over the past 3-4 months will hold off until the middle of August.

The opening ceremony is shrouded in secrecy, but is billed as being a celebration of things British. Danny Boyle, the producer famous for Slumdog Millionaire is in charge of the proceedings, so it will be thoughtfully done, I’m sure.

We’ll be reporting our reflections on the proceedings from time to time. Can’t promise it will be unbiased, I’m afraid, but it will be our point of view.

Madeleine McGrath posted this on July 22, 2012, in Brand.
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Rock On!!

Thursday 17th November was a big day for our clients, Virgin Money. By an astonishing quirk of fate, the opening of the first two of their new concept Lounges (Edinburgh and Norwich) coincided with the announcement by the chancellor, George Osborne, that the Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Money.

This is a huge milestone for VM and one towards which they have been working for several years. They are determined to cause a stir in the world of banking – even though some in the industry are still describing their status as a minnow. If being 10th largest bank with 4 million customers makes you a minnow, it gives you some idea of the stranglehold that the big banks have on the market. Mind you, being smaller has never bothered Virgin businesses in the past – when VM first launched their internet based PEPS business  back in 1995, existing players in their market saw them as irritants – mosquitoes if you like!! And we all know how much trouble mosquitoes can cause, don’t we?!

Over the past 6 months Tom Peters Company has been running events for all existing staff to help them to see their part in building the bank of the future. The commitment in time and money to run these events was extraordinary, given the manic level of activity that was going on in the business. But Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the Chief Executive, has always set great store by keeping everyone involved – the events are designed both to communicate but also to give everyone the chance to have a say.

Virgin Money Edinburgh Lounge, November 2011

And as for these lounges – what on earth are they about? The answer is that they are all about relationships and definitely not about transacting or selling. The return on investment may be very difficult to quantify, but the stir they are likely to create may well be just what’s required in these times of financial stalemate.

It’s going to be an exciting time for VM – wish them luck!!