The Bullog – December 2021

What if Greta was your intern?
Views vary widely on the outcomes of the recent COP26 in Glasgow. Some feel our leaders really “copped out” from making any meaningful commitments and failed to grasp the urgency of the climate crisis.  Others believe that some important successes were gained as we gradually edge towards a net zero future.  Of the myriad political voices and opinions out there, Greta Thunberg often seems to make the most sense to me as continues to hold leaders to account.   Activists like Greta who makes waves will always be controversial figures and attract more than their fair share of criticism. But even her detractors would have to acknowledge the scale of the impact she’s had at such a young age and in an incredibly short space of time.  
Conventional wisdom would say that to drive political change, you wait until you’re 18 years of age, vote for the first time and then for the determined few, pursue a career in politics that may give you an important political role some 20 years later.  Greta started much younger and by the time she was eligible to vote, had created a global youth movement in more than 150 countries. Well, so much for conventional wisdom.
What’s next for the likes of Greta, Alexandria Vallaseñor, Isra Hirsi and other young activists out there?  Should they go on to study? Should they go into full time activism in the non-profit sector or accept a Youth Ambassador role in the United Nations? 
What if they decided to go into business – perhaps to join your company? What if Greta Thunberg were your intern?
It’s a sobering thought for any business leader.  How might you harness and channel that rebellious, determined spirit?  You might console yourself with the fact that getting Greta herself is highly unlikely, however she represents an emerging generation who play by a different set of rules, reject traditional roles and will expect a very different set of incentives from a career in business. 
I started as a graduate trainee engineer in BP at the tender age of 22 and was sent to work on the oil platforms 150 miles north of Aberdeen.  I was wet behind the ears, not just from the rain and spray from the stormy North Sea.  At the time I believed that power in business came with a job title – a function of cumulative years served in the corporate world or the amount of grey hair. Gender was also a factor and sadly still is. If I worked hard and kept my head down then I’d be promoted – make manager, then on to become a senior manager, then a VP and so on.  Only once I’d joined the senior leadership ranks would I be able to make change. 
I was jolted from this trance by a year spent as a volunteer with VSO at the age of 33, which catapulted me on a different trajectory as a so-called Intrapreneur – chronicled in my book by the same title (oh come on, I’ve not plugged it in a while).  I learned that Leadership is as much a mindset as a skillset and needn’t be dependent on a particular pay grade. I was lucky enough to find purpose and meaning in my career from my mid thirties.  Greta’s generation will expect it from the get-go.
What tips would I have for business leaders hoping to attract and ideally retain the “Gretas” out there?    Well, I’d start with a degree of humility.  Recognise that on topics such as the booming ESG (Environment, social and governance) agenda, depth of knowledge may actually be inversely proportionate to age or seniority in a firm.  Just in the same way that you have to ask your kids for help with any technology related issues, so you should seek to empower and engage younger employees in finding the most impactful path towards sustainability.  It’s what the CEO of Novartis, Vaz Narasimhan calls “unbossing” the company, a concept that has become a big part of the company’s philosophy.
In a corporate world where too many senior leaders are pale, male and stale, I say bring on the rebels, the misfits and the non-linear thinkers like Greta and let’s challenge the traditional hierarchical mindset by initiating and driving change bottom up.

Back on Bute

Still on the topic of COP26, Craigberoch held a very successful event on the afternoon of Saturday 8th November. We were kindly hosted by Federated Hermes in a giant inflatable conference centre which was on the verge of being closed due to the high winds. However, thankfully we were able to continue to run a mini “movie trailer” version of our Decelerator Lab for delegates at COP which they seemed to enjoy greatly. Indeed, some were overheard to say it had been the highlight of their week.

Craigberoch’s main event however, was during the following week when we held our second in person Decelerator Lab of 2021 on the nearby Isle of Bute. Holding any type of gathering which involves time in the outdoors in Scotland, especially in November, is bold to say the least.  However, it turned out to be a transformative week for so many of the participants who had signed up. We mixed senior leaders from companies like Deloitte, Accenture and Givaudan, with UN workers and of course our fully funded places that are offered to members of the local Bute community.  There were many highlights but I’d single out the traditional Scottish ceilidh where our crowd of almost 30 mingled with another 30 or so from the Bute community.  Dancing, improv theatre, art and long walks in beautiful nature are not just about having a good time and relaxing – they’re a chance for us to get out of our comfort zones, out of our heads and learn to think with our entire bodies.
We’re planning a number of similar Decelerator Lab sessions in 2022 as well as a more self-directed “Co-being” weeks on Bute. Check out the schedule on the events page of our website.  Also, mark your diaries for RESET22 that will take place online on the afternoon of the 16th of January.  Back by popular demand, it’s an opportunity to kick the new year off with a fresh and more balanced approach to your work and life.

On the personal front…….

After a gap of almost two years, I was delighted to be able to join the Geneva Gospel Choir and its lead, Maestro Nehemiah Brown for another weekend of fabulous gospel music. Regular readers of The Bullog will recall that I discovered a passion for singing (not to mention clapping, swaying etc) at a rather ripe old age, having only sung in the shower for much of my life – but it’s never too late to start. I was a bit rusty and off key, but gradually warned up.  Hoping for several more gospel weekends in the new year.

Lastly, the snow has arrived in the mountains in huge quantities and I’m relishing more long walks with Penny the Dog.

OK, that’s more than enough for now folks. If you enjoy this monthly ramble then do feel free to suggest others sign up here.  Until next month,


* The Bullog  = Bulloch + Blog

Make sense?  Not bulldog, nor is it bulls**t although I’ll let you be the judge of that! It’s a brief synopsis on recent articles, events and opinions from my world and the things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.