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Smiley Messaging

I carried out an unusual experiment this week.

I decided to try hitchhiking, to see whether I could get a lift.

But I also wanted to put my communication skills to work to try to stack the odds in my favour.

I needed to get to Madingley Hall, on the outskirts of Cambridge, to talk about some business and writing teaching.

I could have cycled, but it would’ve taken at least half an hour. 

There were also some annoying hills, and that would have meant I arrived hot and sweaty for important meetings.

... Read more

Leaders versus Managers

Leaders and managers are often confused as being one and the same.

But they’re not. Far from it.

I saw some impressive leadership this week, when I was mentoring at a medical technology event designed to encourage entrepreneurs with their business ideas.

The management of the event was good.

We knew where to be, at what time, who we were speaking to, what was required of us, and there were refreshments on hand.

All the elements you needed to do your job, in other words.

But the leadership of the event was what... Read more

The Thursday Theory

It’s a scenario we’ve all faced, and agonised about how to get the best outcome.

You’ve got a big meeting, either for a major contract, or a publishing deal, a new customer, a partnership, anything that really matters.

So... how to stack the odds in favour of the outcome you want?

I was thinking about that this week as I headed into London to do some teaching.

It was a Bank Holiday Monday, sunny and hot, and I was wondering about the wisdom of working on such a day.

But as you can... Read more

Inspirational Environments

What is humanity’s greatest achievement?

It’s a question I sometimes ask when I’m teaching, to test thinking skills, historical awareness, and ability to argue a point.

I've heard quite a range of answers, but this week, working in Oxford, came one of the finest and most creative I’ve ever known.


This was the beautiful base for the week of the summer school, Saint Edmund Hall, one of the University's colleges.

I took sessions in teambuilding, public speaking and debating, and where better for that than the... Read more

Doing it for the Money (not)

You can be paid for your work, and you can be really paid for your work. 

What's he talking about now? you're probably asking, yet again. 

I've just returned from the Swanwick Writers' Summer School, with a heart full of memories, thoughts and smiles. 

I was teaching photography for writers this year, and also teaching about teaching.

That was a particularly important course for me, because I dedicated it to the two teachers who, many years ago, helped the young Hall away from a life spent languishing in the badlands, and instead towards... Read more

The Power of Patience

Everything comes to he who waits goes the old saying. 

To which my reply usually is - yes, including death

You got it. I'm not great with being patient. But patience does have its place. 

Like sightseeing in Cambridge. It's best done slowly, so you can properly take in the 800 years of history. 

(Ok, that was a bit cheesy in terms of getting a pretty picture in, but you know me and my love of photography by now.)

Anyway, business, and getting on in life, don't always make easy alliances with patience. 

... Read more

The Business of Writing

As a writer, when you tell people what you do, you quickly get used to a familiar reaction - 

I've always wanted to write a book.

In which case, great. Go for it. Writing a book is a wonderful challenge, with so much to offer. 

But! One thing to bear in mind (and excuse the pun here) - 

Write for the right reasons. 

The business of writing is not as glamorous and lucrative as many seem to think. Nothing like it. 

This is a youthful me, from seven years ago, doing my best... Read more

Imagination and Innovation

Of all the great trades of life, writers are perhaps renowned for having the most vivid imaginations. 

They're certainly a vital part of the writing life, and as for me, I find stories everywhere.

Just this week for example, with a simple sight, sitting on a bench after some very welcome rain...

Who else sees hearts and tears in the petals and raindrops? Or is it just me?!

But imagination is far from the exclusive preserve of writers, no matter how much we might flaunt and fight for it.

As I often say... Read more

Modesty, Credibility, and Redefining Time

That must be the strangest title I've ever come up with for a blog - but it has a serious point. 

We can sometimes be too modest when selling ourselves, particularly at important moments. 

Let me introduce Jeremy Sosabowski, co founder of financial tech firm AlgoDynamix. 

I declare an interest here, because Jeremy is a friend, and an all round top chap. 

But he's also a very good case study for the tricky clash between modesty and credibility.

Part of the reason I like him is his modesty. Even by Cambridge standards, Jeremy... Read more

Turnaround Triumphs

Turning around a failing organisation is a huge challenge, but when it works the results can be breathtaking. 

Think Manchester City, from a club that never did much to serial champions, with great flair and style.

I was lucky enough to experience my own version of an inspirational turnaround this week.

Not on the showbiz scale of premier league football, but perhaps more impressive, and certainly, in my view, more important. 

I was invited to speak, and present the prizes, at an Awards Evening at Newmarket Academy, near Cambridge. 

It's a school which... Read more