My friend changed my life – with shoelaces!

If you ever wear shoes with laces then I’m guessing that, like me, you learned how to tie them at a very young age.  I certainly remember putting one foot on the bottom stair and practising as Mum showed me what to do (cross them over and under, then form a loop etc!).


So, like most of us, I’ve tied them the same way ever since, without even thinking about it.  From time to time I notice that my laces have come undone – annoying when that happens isn’t it – usually when I’m in a hurry or it’s raining.  So what do I do?  Well I tie them again, just the same way that I did before.  (Some laces are particularly slippery I find, and come undone more often, and especially at the wrong time).

Then one day my friend Andre remarked in passing that it’s interesting how much difference it makes whether we tie our laces properly (like a reef knot) or poorly (like a granny knot – sorry granny).  So a properly tied lace (right over left, left over right, just as in a reef knot) stays tied securely for much longer.  (Goodness knows why an architect was thinking about shoelaces, but that’s Andre!)  I checked my own ‘shoelace-tying technique’ and you can guess what I found!

Huh?  As a sailor I know about knots.  I can tie a reef knot in a storm on a dark night with my eyes closed (often the best way to be on a dark and stormy night at sea anyway) and still be certain that I’ve done it right.  So how can it possibly be that I’ve spent my whole life since I was three tying my laces the ‘wrong way’?

All of that got me thinking; it’s just a habit, right?  I’ve just ‘always done it that way’.  So I started wondering how many businesses locally, or in the UK, or in the world, have habits, things they’ve ‘always done that way’ where really, with a bit of digging, we can find a better way.  A faster, cheaper, more efficient and more profitable way – with less cash tied up. Most of us I guess, obviously including me!

So, if you run a business locally and feel you’d like a little help with the shoelaces, please give me a call on 01672 512001.  We’ll talk about your shoelaces over a coffee.  I can’t help all the world’s businesses but – if you’re local, I can help you.

By the way, in case you’re wondering – yes I have succeeded in relearning how to tie my shoelaces!  It takes a while, and consistent repetition, but after a few weeks I rarely have to think about it.

About Nigel Scott


Are the values in your business crystal clear – and does it matter?

When businesses are formed, they immediately begin to reflect the values of the owner or leader.  We recruit people who seem to fit with us, we attract customers who like our values, and the business grows.  Usually these ‘values’ are not explicit or written down, but in a small team everyone pretty much knows what the boss wants and how they want things done.

As businesses grow, things begin to change.  Leaders of growing businesses have less time to spend with each member of a growing team.  Leaders are busy, need to recruit new people, work with new customers, and the values gradually become a bit less clear.  Not in the head of the leader of course, but everywhere else.

Why does this happen?  Well, it’s about relationships; in a business of 4 people, everyone knows everyone else and there are only 6 one-to-one relationships within the team.  It’s easy to be aware of what’s going on in each of these and the leader is personally involved in half of them, and just one step away from the others.

By contrast when a business has 100 people, each knowing everyone else, there are 4950 one-to-one relationships going on – and the leader is involved in just 99.  So that’s just 2% of the working relationships that involve the leader.


So, what values will people bring to work?  We’ll bring our own of course, which may or may not be a good fit with those of the business.  Hence the need to be clear and explicit about the values of the business.  They become the heartbeat of the team, a reference point for every decision, and a wonderful tool for providing feedback to people (‘I saw what you did there; spot on, and a great example of our Values around service – thanks’.)

So somewhere on your growth path you will find it really helpful to think through your business values.  Engage your team in the discussion, get their views as well (they’ll probably have a different perspective to yours, which is really helpful) and as a leader get personally involved.

Used effectively, your business values will be a powerful tool for recruitment, giving feedback and managing performance, and for guiding every decision that you and your team make.

If you’d like to talk about getting this working better for you please give me a call on 01672 512001

About Nigel Scott

Developing Leadership behaviour – with a smile!

I had the privilege of training recently with Marshall Goldsmith , focusing on Leadership behaviour.  Marshall has specialised in this area for many years and coached leaders of many large organisations.  He is extraordinarily open and generous with his knowledge and ideas so we had a wonderful couple of days.

Why should leaders change behaviour?

Good question!  People in leadership roles have often achieved their success because of (and let’s face it, occasionally in spite of) their behaviour at work.  They are good at many aspects of what they do, so why not just keep on doing it?  Probably we could all give our own unique answer to ‘why change?’; my answer is this.

  • We learn continuously through our working life and as leaders we have a responsibility not only to achieve results through our own efforts but increasingly through the results of others. Our behaviour affects them, and our whole team is affected as a result.  Any change or improvement that we can achieve is therefore amplified many times over through the business.
  • We are often unaware of the effect of our behaviour on others. We know what we think about it, but rarely what they think about it.  How often do most of us ask for feedback?
  • We have a responsibility to get the best out of other people; good people expect to be challenged and to develop in their work. If that’s not happening effectively, why would they stay?
  • ‘Generation Y’ are more mobile, digitally connected and live in a ‘knowledge rich’ online environment. Unemployment is low in many parts of the UK, and especially in the Wessex area.  Retaining good people is key to business success.
  • When people leave a job it’s often because they think they can find a better boss in the next job. People leave people.  Our job as leaders is to be worth staying for.
  • Being ‘nice’ is not enough. Being good may not be enough.  Being inspiring and great might be.

Marshall works with people at senior levels in big organisations.  They know stuff.  Lots of stuff, and lots more than he does about how to manage their organisation.  At the same time they’re still people, people who recognise that there’s room for improvement in all of us.

After a fabulous and thought-provoking couple of days with Marshall, a few thoughts to take away:

  • Changing leadership behaviour is simple.
  • It may not, however, be easy.
  • Leaders have to want to change and be prepared to work at it.
  • We have to engage the team in making change happen; trying to do it on our own is doomed.
  • Follow-up is critical to keep people on track with change.
  • In most organisations, in most countries, employee engagement is low. Leadership sets the tone.

If you’re a leader and would like to find out how to change leadership behaviour – look out for my next post on this subject

If you’d like to find out more about changing leadership behaviour please give me a call on 01672 512001 or drop me an email

About Nigel Scott