December 21, 2018

Lucia to light up the dark


Lucia service at Southwark Cathedral, performance by the choir from the Swedish Church in London

Exactly a year ago I wrote about Saint Lucia and how the Swedes celebrate this saint’s day with traditional songs and candles to light up the dark.  We can’t change the dark, but we can change our attitude towards it.  In fact one particularly beautiful song reminds us not to fear the dark, because this is where light resides.  We can’t have one without the other. For the Swedes who want to know it’s: Var inte rädd för mörkret ty ljuset hvilar där.

It’s easy to make the connection from collective singing to project teams that come together to complete a specific task and then disband.  Different constellations gather for performances on different days.  What is needed from each individual is the strength that comes from knowing your craft (the vocal part and lyrics for each song) as well as the willingness to contribute and sometimes to accept support.  It helps when you are uncertain to trust in the ability of your teammates and lean on them.  Each vocal part in a choir sticks to its own tune while contributing to a harmonious whole.  You have to let go of your “own voice” to create something bigger, more beautiful, that resonates at a deeper level.

What moved the thousands of Swedes in London to attend the Lucia services? My guess is that it is about revisiting childhood memories and having the sense of “returning home”.  This is something that truly touches hearts and souls. I wonder where “home” is today, particularly for those who are displaced and are far from their roots? For me this is a burning question as I shuttle between Stockholm, London and elsewhere.  I think it’s a place where we can feel accepted for who we are, with a sense of belonging, where we can bring our gifts and awake refreshed from peaceful sleep, knowing that every day we have the opportunity to contribute, to the best of our ability.

Giv mig ett bo, med samvetsro, med glad förtröstan, hopp och tro!

These are the words of the carol with the English title “I seek no gold or majesty” (Giv mig ej glans in Swedish).  The phrase refers to the desire for a place to live in faith and hope. The word “samvetsro” stands out for me.  It’s hard to find a direct translation into English but it means having a peaceful conscience.  Hearing news from around the world of the difficult and complex challenges we face, how many of us have hope for the future?  How many trust their business leaders and elected politicians to stand up with hope and faith to challenge the untruths that are so easily spread, causing division and unrest? At GBL our hope is to contribute to a better world through our leadership development work and spread the word to a wider audience with our upcoming book The Discovery Prism: a fresh lens on 21st century organisations, which we eagerly await in early 2019.

The Christmas message is one of peace and love.  If we are to sleep with a good conscience, we all need to commit to doing whatever small acts we can do on a daily basis to bring forth light from the darkness.

How do we do this, it can’t just be another item to add to our already overstretched to-do list?
In a professional development workshop this week we were reminded of the concept of “wide-angled empathy”.  This is a real stretch of perspective, a call to put aside our fast judgments of people and situations, to be open or curious about difference and even beyond that, to practice empathy for whomever we encounter.  Try it for yourself when watching the news on TV – how many minutes do you last before a negative comment jumps to mind?  I find it very hard.  Yet if we are to embrace all the messiness of the world around us, and contribute more than just our own bit of mess, it might be an attitude worthy of consideration.

Anne and Helen at GBL wish you a Christmas season of “homliness” wherever you spend the holidays and  renewed hope for the New Year.

Anne Stenbom



November 13, 2018

How’s the book going? Challenges of life and work

Organisational Culture

This is a question we are often asked as we started writing our book “The Discovery Prism©: a fresh lens on 21st century organisations” in January this year. It’s been an eventful year as in parallel to writing the book our house has been in part demolished and re-built and Anne had to deal with the accelerating illness and death of her father.  Life has a habit of carrying on even when you’d like to put things on hold so you can handle just one thing at a time.

The work environment is no different and in our book we acknowledge the particular challenges faced by people in businesses this century. I recently heard this summarised as the holy trinity: producing higher quality at lower cost with diminishing resources, to which I would add, responsibly.

Concepts on their own will not create transformation. Central to the framework are the key behaviours that will: elevating the being (how we are) as well as the doing (what we do), working collaboratively, the importance of dialogue and connecting the dots.

The overarching values governing the framework are human and systemic sustainability. Success in the 21st century has to be an inclusive concept simply because if it comes at the cost of the wider system: community, nation, environment, globe, it is not success, simply a deferred own goal.

When all the elements of the Discovery Prism© come together, as one of our interviewees put it: “there is a plus”, felt as a vibrational energy of people literally working on the same wavelength. This is the exciting creation we wish every organisation, big or small, to discover.

So, the compelling reason for our book is to give hope to people in businesses today, that there can be a future of work worth striving for. And the answer to the question “how’s the book going?” is, yes, the book’s coming along and we are very excited to announce that it will be published early 2019.

Helen Battersby

May 31, 2018

Connection and connectivity on multiple levels


We are currently undergoing a house renovation and it’s driving me nuts. It’s an old house with all the associated problems. We’ve chosen to right as many of these problems as our budget will allow. One of the benefits my husband is especially looking forward to is the multiple-level connectivity the house will be wired for. Even in the attic! And it will appear miraculous as wires are tucked behind walls like veins under the skin. I think I have never been as admiring of my husband as I have been during these past months. He has engaged in conversations which scatter my brain cells with mentions of letters and numbers and cables. Sometimes he relays these conversations to me, and my little secret is that I do not listen. I cannot listen.

And yet I am co-writing a book with my colleague, Anne about the power of connection! The kind of connection we’re writing about is like the blood in your veins. It’s what, I believe, as human beings, we’re wired for. Without it we wither and fade.

What we are not connected to, we tend to treat as a commodity. We do this with things, nature and people. If you turn this round, the more connected we are, the more mindful we are of things, nature and people: from what we consume, how we treat our environment to how we treat others. The degree to which we feel connected will determine the quality of that relationship.


April 16, 2018

Promises, Promises

Leadership / Organisational Culture

Here’s a story of two new starters on the same day – an intern at a tech start-up and a new CEO for a medium-sized listed tech company, both in the City of London.  I was interested to hear reports of their first day and the promises they made or were made to them.

At the internal company briefing the new CEO promises his staff “small” things that make a big difference like listening and asking questions and plenty of big things, like a new corporate culture and strategic direction. He has already worked out, by talking to people in advance of his arrival, what the company needs, which is outlined in his strategic focus on building a customer-centric organisation with greater staff empowerment and pride.  This comes with responsibility and he will hold people accountable.  He envisages better customer relationships and higher growth. His tone is confident and his manner is one of optimism and high engagement.  After all, this final move in his long international career means that his lasting reputation is at stake.


February 16, 2018

Are you a 21st Century Leader?

Leadership / Self-Leadership

21st Century Leadership

Never before have we needed more true and honest leadership to manage the complexity of our current business world. We need 21st century leaders!  The reality is that leaders in organisations today have to cope with so much – not just long days, never-ending to-do lists and fighting the balance between short term demands versus longer term strategic direction but also the fragmentation of their teams, virtual working, dis-connection, the unpredictability of their marketplace, their business, the insecurity of their jobs. We often note how the public sector limits the potential for leadership. Many leaders are frustrated by their lack of real executive power and spend endless hours coordinating agencies, trying to eke out limited resources due to lack of funding and dealing with the next government initiative.  Press reports for the private sector are often no better, with headlines of self-serving executives being completely disconnected from their stakeholders, both internal and external. (more…)

January 11, 2018

New Year Resolutions – what’s your vision?



At the start of the New Year we may consider our resolutions – do we remember what we promised ourselves last year?  How great was our intention to act on our promises to ourselves and others?  Maybe we achieved some shift and we can congratulate ourselves if so, since the vast majority of resolutions do not reach fulfilment.  So what’s makes the difference?

Having the vision of success is key – what will the new me look like?  How will my relationships be changed?  What plans will reach fruition? Can I picture this, not just as a still but as a movie clip in my head – what will I be doing, thinking, feeling, experiencing differently?  (more…)

December 13, 2017

Lucia brings light to the darkness

Connection / Self-Leadership

Today in Sweden we celebrate Lucia Day.  This is a celebration about light: it’s the darkest time of the year and the start of Swedish Christmas festivities.  Santa Lucia is borrowed from Syracuse in Sicily from where this saint of light, patron of the blind, originates.  The Swedish words are not a translation from the Italian lyrics but rather an ode to Santa Lucia who walks with candles and lights up the dark.  Since the daylight hours last only 6 hours and 10 minutes today in Stockholm, candles are a very good idea.  But do they do the job in all our darkest hours?   Perhaps there is something here about acceptance of the darkness too? In fact we may need to lean into the darkness in order to appreciate the light even more. (more…)

October 16, 2017

What Pilates can teach us about authenticity


The cat pose

At Pilates we do this exercise called the cat. Imagine being on all fours, like the animal. In neutral, our teacher tells us our backs should be like a table top on which a drink could be placed without spilling. From there we curl in to stretch the lower back and then go into a dip to stretch the shoulders, then back to neutral. Neutral is the position in which your core is strong, and you are completely in balance. Sometimes it can take a bit of time to feel your way into this position – we’re so used to either hunching or tensing that we forget that state of balanced relaxation.

I think that being “authentic” is like that neutral state – natural, strong and balanced. This state is free from the sunken feeling – the victim mindset where we give away our power and apologise for our existence. It is also free from the need to appear bigger than we are, imposing our presence in a way that is strained, forced and unnatural.

Sometimes people shy away from changing any aspect of themselves because they feel this would not be authentic.  When we coach, we challenge this assertion.  To become more of our real self means daring to show up more. This may mean finding out things about ourselves that are hidden – to others as well as ourselves.  It doesn’t feel comfortable to push the boundaries of our normal behaviour, since we mostly operate in a limited range, narrowed by years of conditioning. We need to stretch in order to grow, just like in Pilates. We can broaden the range of what is relaxed and strong by breathing through what is tight and tense.  A conscious stretch warm-up on a regular basis makes all the difference – daily!

Try it out – stand, grounded and strong! Feel your personal power – a stance that is neither less or more than you are. Nothing can be more than the real you. The real you, neither shrunken or puffed up from fear, is enough.

April 25, 2017

Dot-to-dot puzzles, a new world record

Just off a transatlantic flight, with jet lag and tired eyes, I spent a few hours in a student flat on a Sunday morning contributing to a new world record – in dot-to-dot puzzles!  What was the fascination for participants – friends and family of the world record challenger?  Support, of course; you don’t turn down a friend or family member without a good excuse.  There was however something bigger and more compelling.  The chance at being part of setting up a new world record appeals to our competitive nature and sense of “winning” on completion.  Not only that, once started, there was a noticeable determination to keep going to the next dot and the next .. until at least some part milestone had been achieved, like finishing to the next hundred or thousand, or a recognisable image.  With some relief you were able to give your tired eyes a rest in the satisfaction that you had played your part towards the completion of something greater and that the next person would take up where you had left off and do their bit too.  Tangible in the room was a mood of calm concentration and friendly camraderie with young people I had never met before.


March 9, 2017

Positive, sustainable transformation


It all started over a scrambled egg lunch when a friend asked me what I thought transformation was. A group of us had been contemplating the local New Year Swim and for some, it was the first time and a scary prospect, hence the turn of conversation.

Recently a participant asked me the same thing in a leadership development course and I was reminded of that discussion. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve blogged about transformation before (Transformation – really?).  Positive, sustainable transformation is at the centre of our work: connecting the current to the potential whether that’s the current you to the potential you, the current team to the potential team, or the current organisation to the potential one. (Potential, I believe is always one step ahead of your current position).

I define transformation as a shift in perception that renders the previously impossible, possible. I believe it is deep courageous work which in its wake brings humility and compassion since as we strive to stretch beyond current limits we surely recognise the struggles of others and the path that still lies ahead of us.

Some of you may be wondering about the relevance of humility and compassion in the work place?  My contention is they are elements that both produce and are the products of transformation. Without them you will not see the need to look beyond what is to what’s possible or inspire others to do the same.  Still others may be questioning the value of change that goes on around them- change for change’s sake.  I would argue if it keeps you in the same small spiral, or takes you to an even smaller one, it’s not transformation as we define it: something which connects and moves to the greater potential.

Finally, you may say that you don’t see examples of people exercising the type of leadership which inspires and exemplifies transformation. Well we need them. The result of the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world we inhabit is that “senior roles now demand a portfolio of skills and human capacities little short of the miraculous.” (p41 Dancing at the edge: Competence, Culture and Organisation in the 21st Century: Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester). Included amongst those “miraculous human capacities” are humility and compassion.

As a result of the conversation around that table, and with continuing encouragement and support, our friend believed that she could be the kind of person who could dip in the sea on New Year’s Day.  And so she did. It has been the spur to many achievements and her potential keeps on expanding.

We’ve come a long way from scrambled eggs. What’s possible for you?

Helen Battersby