Until I shouted, “pull”

Until I shouted, “pull”

Until I shouted, “Pull!”

I remember it as if it was yesterday…

It was a freezing cold January morning, the ground was crisp underfoot with a white hoar frost and I remember thinking what a good job that I had my thick socks and hiking boots on so at least my feet would stay dry and warm. The coach came over to me introduced himself and we talked for a few minutes about safety and the safety equipment that we had to wear – glasses and ear protection, but NOT gloves even though it was freezing cold!

After that, he took the gun out of the gun-slip case and held it open so I could see there was nothing in the chambers and I could see down the two barrels to the ground – it was clear (empty) and I could feel the excitement gathering in my chest. He handed the gun over to me and asked me to check it was safe and then to close it and mount it pointing down the range. He then checked and adjusted my stance and grip and told me to pull the stock tighter into my shoulder.

We then practiced swinging the gun and following his finger and getting my stance and site picture correct whilst keeping control of the gun, after which he demonstrated the target and we practiced a couple of dry “shoots” using inert cartridges where I shouted “pull” and then tracked onto the target, swung through the target and squeezing the trigger.

Once the coach was happy with my performance, he placed a “live” cartridge into the gun, checked the barrel selector and told me I was good to go.

I closed the gun with a firm “Click” and made sure my finger was resting above the trigger on the woodwork as I had been instructed. I went through the whole stance setup as I had been taught and controlled my breathing although I was full of anticipation …

I remember how focused I was and how quiet it seemed around me until I shouted, “pull”.

In a couple of seconds, my coach quickly visually checked me and pushed the remote control button … the automatic clay trap action whirred and tinged and the spring arm clattered and suddenly an orange clay target leapt out of the trap and began quartering away from me. I jerked the gun onto the target, followed it for a split second and pulled the trigger. The gun “Boomed”, and punched back into my shoulder, smoke belched from the end of the barrel and I popped my head up to see the orange disc still moving away from me – I had missed!

My coach said, “No problems, you fired too early and missed behind – remember to push through the target and then fire, let’s try it again”.

I missed the second behind and chipped the trailing edge of the third, but the fourth target … I smoked it!!

After twelve shots I was emotionally drained – I had experienced fear of the unknown, trepidation, more fear handling a “live gun”, surprise at the noise and recoil, coughed at the smoke, disappointment at missing, elation and pride at hitting the targets and in the end, the satisfaction at having learned something new that hearkened back to the primordial hunting instincts we all have.  All of that along with a deep respect for the coach who had taken me on such an emotional roller coaster in just under an hour, safely and without any fuss.  He really enjoyed seeing people learn a new skill and connecting with their inner emotions and fears.  Because guns are dangerous, he had to take some additional precautions but that didn’t stop him from enjoying it and helping me to enjoy it too.

That’s why I became a coach

That’s why I became a coach and is why I am still a coach today. I don’t coach shotgun anymore – no call for it in Bahrain (more’s the pity), but I coach Business executives and particularly Project Management in corporations.

Not very dangerous I hear you say, but you would be surprised at how many companies have suffered catastrophic loss and significant setbacks due to projects not being delivered or not delivering the planned benefits properly into the organisation.

Projects are the way that organisations evolve and change their DNA and I coach the executive management and I coach the project managers to encourage properly thought out processes and procedures coupled with the application of proven techniques and the benefit of my thirty odd years of experience in delivering significant IT change.

These days, we are taught from an early age that anything is possible and that you must use a positive mind to get what you want. I agree this helps but to see real lasting change that moves you and motivates you to take action that changes your life – you need a coach!

You are right, we can all do it – but are you really going to give a twenty something graduate a shotgun and a box of cartridges and say off you go and expect some kind of accident not to happen?

The Icebox Cashless Country Challenge!

The Icebox Cashless Country Challenge!

The Banking Challenge – Cashless Society

As a young programmer I worked for the Italian International Bank in London, who were owned by the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena reputedly, the oldest surviving bank in the world having been operational since 1472.  As an employee, I was steeped in the traditions and values of such a venerated institution and I was often subjected to a rhetorical narration of the banks genealogy and associated history of banking culminating in how our new systems and technology will take us into the future!

Please make allowances for my extended years with the understandable abstraction that has occurred over time, and permit me to recall a few key points with you.

Roman grain store loans

The story starts way back in pre-Roman times with grain store loans and we know of archaeological evidence of loans and money exchange with coins being transacted during Roman times, but banking did not really become truly recognisable until the twelfth century Crusades when the need to transfer large sums of money was met by the Templars and Hospitallers, who’s practice it was to take in local currency, for which a demand note would be given that would be good at any of their castles across Europe, allowing movement of money and reducing the usual risk of robbery whilst traveling.

A significant issue at these times was Usury (defined as lending at unreasonably higher rates of interest) which was forbidden by the predominant Christian and Muslim faiths and which allowed Jewish traders, who had no religious restrictions around usury and who had settled in Italy, to make advanced payments against crops and against future delivery of grain shipped to foreign ports. These merchant’s “benches” (the word bank is derived from the Italian for bench, BANCA, as in a counter) developed into centres for holding money against a bill (billette, a type of negotiable instrument which can be considered a forerunner of the promissory notes we know today).

Negotiable Instruments

Not to be outdone, the Christians and Muslims quickly devised negotiable instruments that avoided or disguised usury. One such method was to lend money without interest, but also require that the loan is insured against possible loss or injury, and/or delays in repayment. The laws of the time were also “adjusted” to make a distinction between things that were consumable (such as food and fuel) and those that were not, with usury permitted on loans that involved the latter.

The Modern banking practice and the issue of banknotes emerged in the 17th century with the Bank of England being the first in 1695. At this time, wealthy merchants began to store their gold with the goldsmiths of London, who possessed private vaults and charged a fee for their service. In exchange for each deposit of precious metal, the goldsmiths issued receipts certifying the quantity and purity of the metal they held as a bailee; these receipts could not be assigned and only the original depositor could collect the goods stored.

The next step was for the goldsmith-bankers to issue the receipts as payable to the bearer of the document rather than the original depositor. This meant that the bill could be used as a form of currency based on the security deposited with the goldsmith. The bankers also began issuing a greater value of notes than the total value of their physical reserves in the form of loans, on the assumption that they wouldn’t have to redeem all of their issued banknotes at the same time.


This simple shift in the use of promissory notes (a promise to pay the bearer in coins, usually copper, silver or gold), enabled banks to make out fixed denomination notes for use as money and the modern banknote was born, as was Fractional Reserve Banking and the associated Central banks.

In the UK, commercial banks were generally able to issue their own banknotes until the mid-nineteenth century, when the Bank Charter Act of 1844 restricted authorisation to issue new banknotes to the Bank of England and served to restrict the supply of new notes reaching circulation giving the Bank of England an effective monopoly on the printing of new notes.

In 1959, many banks agreed on the standard for Machine Readable characters which allowed cheques to be machine read. This was followed by the first Automated Teller Machines and the early 1970’s saw the establishment of the international payments system known as SWIFT. I was involved with the team that developed the BACS direct debit module in the IBIS systems in the early 1990’s, and also with the Certificates of Deposit module.

The entry of other non-banking financial institutions into the market at the turn of the century gave rise to a proliferation of technical negotiable instruments that could be traded worldwide and this along with various other factors contributed to the Global financial crisis of 2008 and the realisation that banking was an essential part of the fabric of our society and could not be allowed to fail.

These days we are starting to see innovative ideas such as paypal, the use of mobile phones in Africa for financial transactions, micro loans and of course, Bitcoin continue to gain acceptance. My particular thoughts centre on the fact that the acceptance of phone and Internet technology has in many ways negated the need to carry notes and coins. These days, we recognise that our machines are more intelligent and much more reliable than human systems and more and more of our transactions are routinely handled by computer systems.


So my question is; Why not do away with bank notes and coins?

Bahrain is a small island with a population around 1.3 Million souls and given that many Telecoms use Bahrain to field trial many of their new mobile phone technologies here, there is already an abundance of tech savvy people and a good infrastructure. Let’s consider Bahrain as a potentially excellent opportunity for developing a cashless banking system and field trialling it here?

Such innovation could be a great way to put Bahrain back in the driving seat of banking in the Middle East and of course, Bahraini computer technicians would be widely sought after having been exposed to such an innovative venture. The Central Bank are used to innovation and are not so caught up in their own self-importance to not seek help from outside and given Bahrain’s excellent relationship with the UK and America, I am sure several deals could be developed with Banking institutions, Universities and training institutes to develop and support such an idea.

As an executive coach, many of my customers seek to be involved in creating meaningful change and in leaving a legacy to future generations.

Do you want the “Icebox challenge” and take a cold shower or do you want to innovate and change history? – What do you say?

Writing a Vision Statement

Writing a Vision Statement


Creating a Vision

As a veteran project manager I know that the vision is all about creating a picture of where you want to be in the future. My personal favourite was provided by John Kennedy in a speech to congress in 1961 when he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”.

How succinct is that for a vision?

It is so simple and furthermore, it meets the usual Goal acronym – SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound), although it was more of a vision than a goal.  This translated into a series of missions that encapsulated the fundamental elements that eventually led to the successful realisation of his vision.

I am not saying that you should become NASA, but I am encouraging you to learn a great technique from our recent history.  There is a reason why Honeywell, Chevron, Shell, Toyota, Walmart and Starbucks are all successful at what they do,…….. because they have great mission statements that their people can relate to and focus on.

Where you are now

A vision takes account of where you are now, but it should also set out your dream of where you want to be and give you something to aspire to, something to reach for and something to focus your mission on when times get tough.  Don’t get confused, a Vision and a Mission are different!  Some companies have combined Mission / Vision statements and that’s okay, but I want to talk about you and you guys are not Fortune 500 companies (at least not yet), so let’s keep it simple for the moment.

We can create your Vision for your future. This is a powerful tool so you need to make an effort and write it down!  It’s no good just going through the motions in your head, you need to commit it to paper and then stick it on your desk, on your shaving / make-up mirror, on the fridge and on your PC and Phablet.  You should place it so you see it at least five times a day!

Let’s do this

Okay, so you got some paper?, then let us begin.

First up, conduct a personal SWOT analysis – See my previous Personal SWOT article or find one on the internet. This is useful because it helps you to see and understand where you are now. Then you should ask yourself, the following questions:

  1. “Where do I want to be in ten years time?”. Be honest with yourself, be true to yourself as you won’t have time later to repair it, so make the effort to get it right NOW!
  2. “What do I want to leave as my legacy to my family and to the world?”
  3. “What qualities / values do I most want to demonstrate in my life?”

Visualise your future

Close your eyes and visualise where you want to be in five to ten years time.  You are promoted to your sought after position; You have a successful dream team who are all empowered to be better than they already are; You have a wonderful family and a marvellous social network with all the accompanying attributes of wealth and status: You are living comfortably and manipulating large funds in a meaningful and philanthropic way fully realising your true altruistic self.  Dare to dream a little….if you have always wanted to go to Australia or Antarctica, then write it down.  Think about what you really want to do and achieve?

A word of caution, it is important that you are realistic about this, “Is it achievable and is it realistic?”. Most kids dream of being an Astronaut, but if they have any sight or hearing problems, these create additional challenges and will make it harder to get there. I am not saying you can’t do it, I am simply saying that the journey will be more difficult and you would probably benefit from tenacity as a strength and a good supportive network so you may successfully meet the challenge.

Avoid earnings type statements

I would also recommend that you don’t make an earnings type statement – “I want to be worth a million or own a Jaguar.  If you aspire to be better than the others, playing to your strengths and taking advantage of your opportunities and developing those weaknesses you feel it is important to develop, then the financial side will take care of itself, because you will be in demand and sought after like any good product.  People buy Apple because of its quality and functionality, not its price, so build your product with quality as its primary feature.

Boil it down

Once you have all this, boil it down to a single or a couple of sentences!

Wow! How am I going to capture all of that?  It’s easy trust yourself and just write it down.  Then start to refine it, take as many drafts as you need, share it with your friends and family and hone it down to YOUR Vision.  Keep in mind when you are doing the refining that you want a vision that is both inspiring and challenging to you especially when you read it out aloud.

So what’s your vision statement I hear you ask…….. heck why not?, my vision is:

“I want to be recognised as an individual of integrity, with a passion for empowering others to find their true potential and to develop genuine talent that will change the world.  I want to leave a legacy of an egalitarian community who are more inclined to resolution by contributing collaboratively with their minds than with recourse to violence and bloodshed.”.




Life’s lessons are tough!

I can still recall Staff Sergeant Kirk screaming, “STAND STILL you ‘orrible little man…..So what!!   Wot you goin’ to do NOW  Sir?”.

As I think back now, I can’t help but smile and remember that whilst it was hard and tough ….bloody tough!….., we kept a sense of humour and we had our Sergeants looking after our common interests – although you wouldn’t think it at the time!

I was lucky, I was selected to go to Royal Military College Sandhurst (RMAS) and there I was taught by the Sergeants and qualified senior ranking officers.  The word Sergeant comes from the Latin Serviens meaning, “One who serves.” and not just anybody makes it to Sergeant.  The Sandhurst motto is, “Serve to Lead” and the British Army has been developing high calibre officers using methods developed over many years and through many iterations and refinements.  It is an interesting fact that many of the Sheiks from the Gulf region including the King of Bahrain have passed out from Sandhurst.

The training system, which has been developed over centuries, uses experienced trainers (the Sergeants) coupled with a sprinkling of new ideas (new technology) and challenges young potential officers to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes in order to develop a deeply ingrained understanding of the subject.  Let’s face it, two kilometres in the wrong direction on a freezing winters night teaches you to check your map and compass properly and to involve your team!  Experiential learning coupled with practical skills and values that are honed by continuous practice and embedded by reinforcement (drills) produces leaders that are recognised as amongst the best in the world today.

New Mission

These days, I am on a mission to change the way we train our businesses and Government organisations. I propose that we should adopt the Sandhurst techniques developed over the centuries to cultivate our executives of tomorrow.  High quality training, in an environment where they can make mistakes and learn from them, supported by high calibre, experienced mentors and coaches who can reinforce core values and lessons that develop better performing managers who really will make a difference.

I am not saying we should shout and bawl at our young managers or subject them to gruelling physical marches and assault courses, although some would benefit I hear you say.  But, let’s use that which historically works, let us learn from history and apply the knowledge and experience in order to develop our next generation of leaders and let us move forwards safe in the knowledge that we trained our next generation the best way we could – we nourished them and coached them to be better!

Back in the UK, I coached Rifle and Shotgun – not much use in Bahrain unless the Olympic team needs a shotgun coach?  These days I consult and coach around corporate transition management, programme / project management at a senior level, along with organisational change coaching for groups and teams using many of the principles learned over the years.  You are welcome to link up with me on LinkedIn or get in touch on the e-mail below.

“Right you ‘orrible lot!   Get your kit and march off!  …   Look sharpish, you’ve spent long enuff readin’ – Go on now,      GET BACK TO WORK     the lot of you.”.

………JACKSON!!!! ….where do you fink you is going?….. I a’int finshed  wiv you yet     I fink I might need a spot o’ coachin’   …   Er Sir !”.