Your knee bone connected to your…

I took myself by surprise in 2013. Having never run more than a couple of miles in the previous 52 years, I entered and completed my first half-marathon.

So what did I learn and discover from this great feat – and what does that tell me about the challenges of working life?

1. I could do it! And it didn’t matter that I had to walk the last 6 miles or that I was nearly last;

2. My feet, achilles tendons, knees, thighs, ‘glutes’, lower back and upwards are all indubitably connected in one remarkable (but slightly misaligned) system;

3. I needed help – physiotherapy, pilates and a podiatrist to help deal with the troublesome aforementioned limbs, an ever-supportive wife, and dozens of generous friends and relatives who encouraged and generously sponsored me. *

I have also been busy working this year! In my work with leaders and their teams, I like to be an ‘agent of change’ or a catalyst for better performance so, in that spirit, I find myself asking ‘what difference do these points above make in the broader context of our lives and work?’


outperform your expectations

1. So many of us, so often, treat tasks and challenges as ‘binary’ or ‘black and white’ – so don’t attempt them through fear of failure. In truth, there is usually an infinite number of outcomes, so why not put the quest for perfection aside and just get on with it. You might just surprise yourself.

2. Nothing in life happens in isolation – we are all individuals and we are all connected, and everything we do has an effect on others. Remember this as you hurtle forward through life and work’s challenges – who else will notice that effect? And what would you like them to notice?

3. Good teamwork means that you can outperform your individual expectations (one of the central tenets from the study of high performing teams).

I’m not sure I’ll rush to run another long race – I’m listening to the message from my joints – but I do wonder what alternative challenge might happen over the next year. I’ll wager that it will include imperfection, and that I won’t be doing it on my own!

Which just leaves me to thank you for being one of my valued ‘connections’ and to wish you a very happy Christmas holiday season and a positively surprising year ahead.


The Ascent of Man

60 years ago today, ‘Nature’ Magazine published James Watson & Francis Crick’s description of the ‘double helix’ structure of DNA – an amazing moment for science and mankind. Their work was an important step in the journey towards so much that is important to us today in healthcare, cancer research and many other fields. Jacob Bronowski’s reference to Watson & Crick’s work in his impassioned ‘Ascent of Man’ series ultimately inspired me to go on and study biochemistry at University.

Who could have guessed in 1953 what seems so ‘normal’ now? Huge progress has been made in many areas of science and technology: nuclear physics, neuroscience, communications, the internet and iPads to name a few! And what other extraordinary achievements will we see in our lifetimes? Prepare to be amazed again.

But while science and technology hurtle forward, one thing which, arguably, doesn’t change much is the human condition: our need for fulfilment, meaning, motivation, identity, connection – and how that is manifested in family, relationships, creativity, careers, society and leadership. In the end I wasn’t much of a biochemist and my work now focuses on people – and how they can achieve their best results in their lives and within their human conditions.

In my work as an executive coach people often ask what coaching brings. For me, it’s about providing support for the client’s ‘ascent’ – whatever that might mean for them. Perhaps it’s how a lawyer can connect with and manage their team; or how an asset manager can cut through ‘all the noise’ with clarity; how an accountant can develop the self-confidence to become a leader; or how a multi-national team can build trust and focus together; how a marketing director can build engagement and commitment for promotion; or how an entrepreneur can believe in themself as, well, an entrepreneur! All of these results could have been true in 1953 too.

The answers for dealing with the doubt, anxiety, confusion or isolation that gets in the way come from within their own human condition. And the methods for revealing those answers are grounded in thinking from Watson & Crick’s time (Carl Rogers’s person-centred approach) and much earlier (Socrates!), combined with a clear focus on the outcome they want – and the ‘space’ to think and share confidentially.

I’ll leave you with Bronowski’s final words from his series (yes, I still have the book!) which, for me, captures both the excitement of the future and, also, why my work is important to me:

“We are all afraid – for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every man, every civilisation, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. The personal commitment of a man to his skill, the intellectual commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one, has made the Ascent of Man.”


Thank you for your time and attention. If you’d like to share this message with others, please do. And I’m running the Devizes Half-Marathon this year for Cancer Research UK (science!) and Mind, the mental health charity (the human condition!). Do please take a look and support if you can:

See Your World More Clearly

Have you ever noticed how where you are affects how you think?

And do the same old problems keep recurring when you’re stuck in the same old place?

When you need to explore and find some extra clarity and energy around critical issues and decisions, it can be a good idea to escape from your usual executive, urban, working environment.

At the same time you’ll be getting yourself physically moving, and breathing in some of the freshest air in England!

Combining a professional, confidential coaching conversation with a restorative walk on the beautiful chalk downs overlooking the Vale of Pewsey stretches both your mind and your body.

This isn’t just a friendly chat with exercise and stunning views. It applies a specific, professional approach within an ancient landscape that includes a range of features from which symbolic meaning and new thinking can emerge.

“It’s a great walk with a charming companion.  But that’s not the point.  The environment and Adrian make you think.  Every time I’ve done this I’ve come back with a clearer idea of where I’m going and what I want to do with the business next.  These are some of the most productive hours I spend each year.”  RK, Partner, Management Consultancy.

You can choose to work on anything that’s important for you, for example:

  • what leadership means for you;
  • resetting your ambition and the direction of your career and life;
  • challenges of promotion and change;
  • how to change and have the impact you want with others;
  • off-loading and untangling your thoughts.

As an experienced and accredited executive coach, I like to use highly ‘non-directive’ techniques in this outdoor environment. These help to encourage different thinking, access hidden resources in your mind and soul and shift your sense of what is happening in your life and career – and what could happen.

Natural environments like this have inspired some of the finest of human thinking and creativity: Wordsworth, Keats, Virgil, Nietzsche… You may not end up writing poetry or philosophy, but you will take away new perspectives, ideas and options and, hopefully, feel reinvigorated with a clearer sense of direction and potential.

I live in All Cannings, in Wiltshire, near Devizes, around ninety minutes’ drive from the Hogarth roundabout via the M4. There’s also a train option from Paddington to Pewsey. Most of my work takes place in London, but I aim to make use of my local surroundings on Fridays, and have worked with a number of clients using this approach successfully over recent years.

A typical plan for the day is…

By car:

  • 10am: arrive All Cannings
  • 10-11am: initial coaching conversation over coffee to understand and draw out the key themes on which you’d like to work;
  • 11am-1pm: walk to, up and across the local hills, and back to the village. This 4.5 mile route includes the highest point in Wiltshire, a Neolithic/iron age ‘camp’, the Anglo-Saxon Wansdyke, and the Kennet and Avon Canal. There’ll be plenty of time to discuss, pause and reflect upon the identified themes;
  • 1pm-2.30pm: traditional pub lunch at the Kings Arms – our local Wadworths pub – or a lighter option if you want to keep the healthy theme going!;
  • Drive back to return home before the rush hour, continuing to reflect on what you’ve discovered and the options you’ve developed.

Or by train (might need to check these times are up to date after Covid changes!):

  • 11.06am from Paddington to Pewsey arrives for pick up just after 12.00pm;
  • 12.30pm initial conversation over a light lunch;
  • 1.30pm-3.30pm walking and coaching on the hills;
  • 4.25pm train from Pewsey arriving back in London by 6pm.