Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thought for Today

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Especially apt today for those of us with snow to trail through! But always apt for those of us who like to innovate.


Enjoy the snow!!


Similar but Different

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking. George S. Patton

I was just pondering about my last post about birds and swooping and teams and flight and so many things, prompted by a glance out at the birds in the snow! One of the great things about those flocks of birds is that they appear the same on first glance, but they really aren’t. Look at the pigeons, for example,  in your local town – pigeons: birds, lots of them, wings, legs, feathers, tiny bright eyes and puffy chests. But all different. And all after your sandwiches if you eat in the Square…….

I have experienced the most joyful and gripping team meetings in recent months in one workplace, with a team made up of inexperience, experience, energy, calm, noise and quiet, naivety and worldliness, enthusiasm and doggedness. These meetings have become longer to accommodate more happening, and the danger was always that they would dry up. No fear!!! The sheer vibrancy created by the wonderful mix of talents and experiences in the group has seen to that. It makes me value all over again the diversity we have to draw on – like those lovely birds swooping and diving together. I can’t help reflecting again that  the values and principles we use to improve our services and our lives are not unique – they have their roots in human nature and natural science – not rocket science. There is very little in our lives that will not be improved with reference to nature, and that doesn’t exclude our professional lives. In this group it is their enthusiasm and adaptability, among other things, that has led to a massive upward swing in performance and outcomes, reputation and credibility. And that didn’t happen by accident – it is the result of people working together as one cohesive group respecting each others very different talents and characters – like the birds. Like any great group.

George S Patton had it about right: it’s when we all seem to think the same that we should worry – that level of cohesion spells trouble and stagnation! Glorious diversity is what makes us great.

Genuine Thanks to everyone.

  Bernie Mayall I would just like to thank everyone affected for their patience over the last week or two when my committments were pushed back somewhat by sickness and bereavement in the family. Your support and patience have been very much appreciated. Business as usual after today.

Like a flock of birds………

Caught in a traffic jam in Essex I watched the shifting, stunning sky made up of the most beautiful majestic purples, pinks, lilacs and golds. The light was drifting away from Dover, my goal, and I hoped to escape. The birds were swooping and dipping, scooping up great patches of the purple and settling like disturbed dust on some of the flat, fat fields. I watched them – it gradually occurred to me that they were like a team of people I know: they were moving together, making the same sort of gestures, there was a degree of flapping, some swooping, a bit of squawking, and I saw a few arguments taking place often settled by some wing-play and a bit of noise but with a good heart and with the best interests of the group in the frame.

They had a lot of different but similar ways of getting where they were going, but they shared the goal, the aim and the destination. They had a leader, but the leader changed depending on which direction they took; they flapped their wings but in different beats and in different places in the group, and that rhythm also changed; they made different shapes and different sounds, but stayed together as an identifiable entity with shared characteristics; the ones at the front never flew too far ahead of the ones behind so no-one ever got lost, but they kept up the pace and kept the group moving forwards, together, showing the way; the ones at the back were clearly making the effort to keep up, and when the direction changed they followed it as swiftly as the faster ones and kept the shape of the group even when that shape changed.

Those birds, in their flock, were together and separate, driven by shared expectations and needs, with shared but various talents and gifts. They made beautiful and recognisable shapes in the sky, and those shapes kept changing to accommodate the changing directions. If one of them left there would be a gap, but another bird would soon move over and maintain the shape and direction with a different rhythm and a new outlook.

I watched those birds with respect and awe. I learned a lot from them as well as enjoying their beauty and grace. By the time I reached the Dartford Crossing (pauses to spit) I realised that the values and principles we use to improve our services and our lives are not unique – they have their roots in human nature and natural science – not rocket science. The co-operation and warmth I see in the team I know are vital assets and attributes essential to the wellbeing and development of the individuals, the team, and the services we deliver. Those individuals are brilliant – as a team they are awesome.


It is a time for remembrance right now. 

Winston Churchill said: “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

  I think many people working in the care and support field carry that concept in our hearts probably without even knowing it. That is probably part of the reason why we do what we do  – perhaps we empathise with others, recognise the universal right to basic things like freedom and hope. Many people have died and suffered to protect and preserve our freedoms. My son is nineteen years old and on days such as today, and when I view the images such as those in this video it causes me to reflect. I heard only yesterday about a young man who died in conflict recently who was known as someone who, even as a child, would never “walk on by” if someone needed him, and he carried that principle with him even to his death. Respect to you, sir, and to your proud family. The words in Churchills phrase were and are your watchwords.  I can never begin to understand how people manage, carry on their lives when their lives have been fractured and changed forever. But I can imagine that they might, without even thinking about it, expect  to  be respected and honoured, quietly and practically, because the freedoms for which they suffered and which Winston Churchill captured for us in a sentence, are a right. For all of us.

I cannot imagine what it must be like never again to feel the breeze on my face or hear the rustling of the leaves or the lapping of the waves, just because I am sick or infirm and would need help to leave the building in which I live. Just because the chair that would enable me to hear and see things is expensive, or “outside the budget”. Just because staff are “too busy”. Just because the risk assessments say it is too risky for me to be helped to listen to the birds because I would need two people and there are not enough staff.  On such prosaic and practical levels are freedoms eroded and hope crushed. Justice will never be served by reducing a human being to a piece of work to be “done”, not offering the mercy and honour of the right to see the sea and hear it crash on the shore or feel that breeze across the face, and not carrying out the duty of care and respect we all have to each other.

It is our duty to make sure we honour our heroes by honouring each other. Those of us privileged enough to work in a job that provides care or support for people need to be extra cautious that we deliver that care and support with humility, respect and honour. In a complex world it is important, sometimes, to remember that the great things are often simple:    “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”  

Poetry Please


by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

This is a poem that hangs on my wall in my office at home. It helps……………..

Success and failure

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
                                   Winston Churchill.
%d bloggers like this: