Reflecting forward

12 months ago today started like a normal Monday morning.

My wife and I were running around getting the kids ready for school.

Due to the extreme levels of anxiety that one of our kids has, it was a stressful, difficult morning getting him out the door and into the car. Once they had gone I left the house to rush for train.

Being January it was cold and a little icy, but I had a train to catch.

So I rushed down the lane in our village and then boom, just like that, I slipped on a patch of ice, a snap and sharp pain later, I broke my leg and ankle.

Well, that changed my whole outlook for the year.

I ended up having to have 3 months away from work.

During that time there was significant changes to my team and the leadership team around me. My challenge of making the most of some changes to our leadership team went out the window.

But I didn’t dwell on the negative – I focused on improving me.

I set up my own company to follow my passion of helping people and organisations transform.

I shared more of my photography.

I created a personal improvement plan to be a better me.

And I created an improvement plan for my team with their direct input (collated virtually via my tools).


During the last 12 months I have made progress on implementing all of these parts.

  • Burning Leaf Creatives has successfully helped more than 8 companies to grow and develop, including 5 new companies set up by an inspirational founder.
  • My photography has gone down well – and I published a book of photos from my village.
  • I feel that I have become a better me – although that’s a harder one to judge myself!

But the team development plan hasn’t really developed.

We had three members of the team leave during the last 12 months for personal reasons. This has made it difficult to implement the changes that I, and the team, identified.

However, today that all changed.

A new beginning

On the anniversary of the break, I have spent most of today onboarding two new members of the team.

And I have been able to recruit them myself – only the third time I have been able to do that.

I have also been solely in charge of their onboarding process, which I have done in my own style.

Onboarding, Michael-style

Both started this morning at 9am.

Both were then taken straight to get their ID badges and security passes.

Both were then shown to their desks which had been cleaned and checked to make sure they work.

Welcome pack cover

And then both were given personalised welcome packs.

The packs, which had a cover similar to this, contained the following essential information:

  • Briefing about who we are and what we do
  • An introduction to the team
  • Structure charts
  • Map of the building
  • ‘You are allowed’ poster
  • Passwords and login details for their accounts
  • Initial priorities and tasks

All of which was customised to them.

Understanding them

About me template

I also enclosed an ‘About me’ sheet to capture details about them to populate our new design manual, which I have recently developed.

Following an hour or two of allowing them to log in to the system, read through their packs and the design manual, I then met with each of them individually to:

  • Get to know them better
  • Talk through their priorities
  • Talk about our culture and working style

And then I asked them to identify their Superpower using the SYPartners tool, which, amazingly, is now available as an app for free via the App Store and Google Play!

I use this information to identify the key strength that they bring into the team so that:

  1. I can ensure that they can use this strength in their day-to-day work so that they feel valued
  2. I can ensure that the team benefits from this strength

Amazingly I was able to guess one of their superpowers and the other one I was very close to guessing. More evidence that I had appointed the right people.

Moving forward

In the afternoon we finished with a new team briefing where we completed our teamsteps tool to help us keep the team aligned, informed and help us measure our progress.

I’ve also re-committed to my leadership intention for 2017 which was to –

“Inspire the soul of each individual in my team”

In 2018 I will.png

Here’s to progress.

unsplash-logoDavid Werbrouck
Continue reading “Reflecting forward”

MOONSHOT, transform for now & the future

A tool to help you transform your team, organisation or group for now & in the future

The world is changing all around us. To continue to thrive over the next five years, 10 years, 20 years and beyond, you need to shape what you do and move swiftly to prepare for what’s to come.

This tool will help you create a long-term destination for your business and a “Roadmap” to help you transform for now and the future.

This tool will encourage you to be ambitious, radical, and think hard about why you are here. It will help you set out your moon shot.

Unlike other templates and tools, MOONSHOT will support you to do all this in a way that is driven by your purpose, or your WHY* as I believe this should shape everything you do.


To download the activity sheet, click on the image below:


If you have a difficulty with the link, click on:

If you need more guidance, read on below to find examples and sources of inspiration:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Download the above example from Burning Leaf Creatives:

Sources of inspiration

SYPartners – 


Starbucks – 

STARBUCKS3_crop (1)

Starbucks (the full story) –


Nike –


Coca-Cola –


– – – 

* WHY is a concept created and shared by Simon Sinek.
Find out more about WHY.

With thanks – 
Huge thanks go to Susan Scripture-Shardlow for her input, insight and lessons.
You helped make this what it is.

TEAM lookout, smarter priorities for your team

TEAM lookout is a tool to help you understand and pull together a ‘team priorities plan’ created by your team for your team

I believe that the best leaders are the one’s that empower, engage and listen to their teams.

They ask them for their direct input, they make themselves vulnerable, and they give their team a balance of responsibility and accountability.

TEAM lookout is a tool that is designed to do all of that.

It helps a leader ask for the direct input of their team by asking the team to identify what they believe the team’s priorities are.

It makes the leader vulnerable as it says ‘I don’t know everything, I want and need your input’.

And it helps give individuals within teams responsibility as they have identified the priorities.

The job of the leader is then to give the individual the accountability for those priorities.

Give someone responsibility and they will do their best. Make them accountable and they will do even better – Simon Sinek

Download TEAM lookout

Click on the image below:

TEAMLookout_black (1)

If you have a difficulty with the link, click on:


Ask each member of your team to answer the following questions to let you know what they think your priorities are.

Encourage your team to include anything that they want –

1/ something that they are working on
2/ something that they know the team are working on
3/ something that they think you should work on
4/ or anything else…

You can then use all of the feedback to start pulling together your team priority plan.

*BELIEVATE, see how your personal purpose fits into your role

I believe that people should do a job that lights a fire in them

– to do this, it should be a job driven by their personal purpose

Complete the activities on my free tool *BELIEVATE to find your purpose and to identify three actions that you can take to bring your personal purpose into your work.

Go on, light that fire.


Download the sheet for free –

teamsteps, align your team

Keeping your team aligned, on task and up to date can be a challenge

teamsteps is designed to be a simple sheet to capture the key weekly activities and priorities for your team.

This sheet should be used at a weekly team briefing – maybe a standing meeting? – to capture:

what you are working on individually and as a team

key deadlines for that week

what barriers are in your way which can stop you

what resources and input can help you (internally & externally)

what you need to carry forward, postpone or note for next week

Then display it somewhere everyone can see it.

This will help keep the home team aligned, informed and can help you measure progress, even those small ones. As its weekly, it keeps the priorities flexible.


Download the sheet for free by clicking on the picture below:

teamsteps_align your team

If you have a difficulty with the link, click on

Learning to tell my story better

One of the reasons I created this blog was to help me to live my personal purpose – to do life, better – by sharing my story with others – you – in the hope that I will be able to inspire at least one person who is feeling like I did in 2012/2013 – stuck and unable to move forward.

So a key element of this blog has been about telling my story.

Sometimes I feel I have done this okay and sometimes I could have done better. But I do know that I want to get better in myself at telling my story, so I did something about it!

During the last few weeks I’ve been studying a (free!) course through the Skillshare website. The course is designed to help leaders – something I aspire to be seen as – improve their storytelling. And any regular readers of this blog will know the leader of the course, Keith Yamashita of SYPartners, has been a huge source of inspiration to me.

So, to me, it was a no brainier – a free course by Keith to help me improving my storytelling. It didn’t take me long to sign up!!

I approached the course in the same way that I do every opportunity – I grabbed it with both hands, jumped enthusiastically in, put 100% of me into it, and used it as an opportunity to challenge myself to be better.

As part of the course there are several stages that you go through to craft your story. Each one brings a new challenge, a new thought process, and a new way of thinking. And I admit I loved every minute!

What’s more, I also used it as a chance to do what I do best – to be creative in the way I tell my story.

As I went through the stages, I used different tools and methods of telling my story to refine it, improve it and focus on what it is I want to tell people.

So I used Paper by FiftyThree to structure my story. I created short videos of parts of my story. I used Storify to pull those bits together – along with some of the key characters and sources of inspiration that I used in my story, such as videos, images and links to articles, books, etc.

To then finish the course, I pulled my final – so far! – story into words. And then shared it with the group.

And when I was doing this, I shared all my work through my project area in the site in the hope that (a) I can inspire others and (b) so that others might comment on it with some ideas for improvements.

Over the next week I’m going to share more of my progress through the course in my blog, but if you want to see my thinking, my learning and my story, you can visit my project area on the Skillshare website.

Please do read and let me know what you think.

And if it does inspire you to join the course, please do – it’s free! – and I would love it if you shared your story with me so that I can get inspired by you.

Let’s do life, better.

Paper and Pencil, FiftyThree style

Followers of this blog will know that I love a good tool or two!

Whether it’s the awesome Unstuck & Teamworks by the amazing SYPartners or the brilliant Evernote, or The Knowledge by the very insightful & inspirational Carl Taylor or The Action Method from the turning-ideas-into-action guru Scott Belsky.

Well, over the past few weeks I’ve been working with another amazing tool – which is unbelievably free(!) as an ipad app – called Paper.

FiftyThree logo


Paper by FiftyThree

Made by the rather talented bunch at FiftyThree in New York and Seattle, Paper is described as “the easiest and most beautiful way to create on iPad” where you “capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and share them across the web.” Although I can’t confirm whether it is actually “the easiest and most beautiful way to create”, I can confirm that it is bloody good and would take some beating!

I’ve been using Paper with my cheap little stylus (under £3!) that I recently brought and I do have to say it is rather good. You can draw in pencil, pencil and paintbrush style. You can draw shapes. You can draw connective lines. You can handwrite messages. Or you can do all those at the same time!

I’ve been using it mostly to create the illustrations for Love Lights – my first poetry book – as well as for some sketches for redesigned web pages at work.

And I have fallen in love with it!

Here are some screenshots of the app:






To accompany Paper, the team at FiftyThree have also made their own stylus-type-tool to use with the Paper product, called Pencil.

Although saying that Pencil is a stylus-type-tool, is like saying an iphone is just a phone.

It is so much more than a stylus.

I haven’t yet used the Pencil but watching what it can do is making me buy one very, very shortly! And when I do, I’ll blog about the experience, so watch this space!

See them in action

Here’s a short video made by FiftyThree which shows how a few of their customers are using Paper and Pencil:

How amazing is that!

See what people have done with them 

Go on, join us in working “to do life, better“.

Find your superpower

I’ve wrote quite a lot in this blog about how I used the SYPartners tools to find my superpower – and then how I started to live, breathe and be my superpower.

A superpower is:

A natural talent someone brings to the team when it’s most in need of help

I have been using the online digital superpowers tool through the Teamworks product to find my individual superpower and also the superpower of each member of my team.

Well, today, I received the brilliant Superpowers tool in its new format –

a deck of playing cards.

The cards were originally launched by SYPartners when they hosted an event during the 99U conference in New York City in April. Although I couldn’t attend the conference or be in New York at the time, I did see them being shared across social media.

And then today I got to touch and hold them for the first time

And straight away I loved the new format. Having them in card format makes them even more fun, even more useable as we can play the game anywhere, and in this digital world, it’s still nice to hold and touch something that has been made and printed. Especially when they are this good quality!

So I set about testing the cards by seeing what my superpower is again. And guess what, the cards identified my superpower again as creative thinking.

So I’m pleased to say you’ve done it again guys – what a great product to help in the fight for greatness.

If you would like to purchase a pack for yourself or your team, check out the Superpowers website at

Here’s to progress – and here’s to fighting for greatness.

Let’s do life, better.

Time to stop being a lone leader

The next stage in my quest to transform my team into a ‘great team’ was to continue to better understand me, to learn what it was that I was doing that was having a negative impact on the time, and to work out how to perform my role better.

After a few more months of putting in place my actions something still wasn’t clicking. The team still didn’t feel right. Something just felt like it wasn’t working. So to help me understand what the issues were, I turned to the brilliant Unstuck app again.

Following through with the self analysis helped me identify why I was still feeling stuck – as shown below:

That was it. The app had hit the nail on the head.

I was being a ‘lone leader’.

This was a problem I had had in all my career. I had always struggled to delegate, to share the pressure, to ask people for help. I had always felt that the responsibility of the tasks sat with me so I had to do them. I knew that if I do them they would be done well. I trusted myself to do them. But it was slowly making my drown and feel overwhelmed at work. It was stopping the rest of the team buying into where we were going. I was being a blocker again.

But the great thing about the Unstuck app is, that it doesn’t just leave you there. It makes you feel that you are not the only one in the world who is a lone leader. The amazingly talented Alicia Keys had also been a lone leader! In fact, the app was also telling me that 17% of the Unstuck community were having a lone leader moment.

It really is great to know that you are not the only one or that you are alone in having these problems.

And once I knew what the problem was, the tools within the app then helped me make a realistic and doable action plan to move forward.

It was time to call in the cavalry!

So I started to use their tips. I started to delegate small tasks to people within the team. Small things at first. A few tasks to empower each person within the team. A few tasks that I didn’t need to do myself. A few tasks that started to create a bit of space in my own workload.

What the app also taught me was that we needed to better aligned in the team. Part of that would come from me stopping being a lone leader. But part of it would need more focus, energy and deliberate actions from me.