Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do we need a love school? How would we teach it?

I have questions for you to ponder, if you want.

I'll build up the context first. When I look around the world, I see people and organisations, like banks, driven by and addicted to greed. I also see countries spending vast amounts of resources on "defence", which is driven partly by fear and partly by greed. The profits in defence industries are enormous. People stay in jobs they hate, in organisations that do no objective good. This partly out of fear of spreading their wings and partly out of greed for the "goods" the jobs provide.

We also know that happiness and fulfilment and satisfaction come from love, not greed or fear. I love helping people be the best they can, I love inspiring hope and joy in people and organisations and encouraging people. I love learning how to do this better and better. Love isn't a feeling. It's a verb. It's something you DO. I've helped dozens of people discover what they love to do and encouraged people to go and do it. Love is whatever you do that leads to growth in the wholeness, integrity, health, confidence and fulfilment of the beloved. (Which can be an individual, a team, an organisation, a garden or a planet).

We could, and maybe we have to, have a world, which we work together in love to heal and savour.

I have spent much of my life learning how to love. It's the "secret" ingredient that underlies all my practice. Of course, I've got much more to learn. I think we urgently need a "Love School", because we just need more love, which will chase away the greed and fear.

Now I come to my questions.

Do you think we need more love in the world? Why?

"What is the curriculum of a "Love School" and how do we teach it?" (Of course I am asking this myself).

Answers on a e-postcard, please!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The power of delighted attention

I have just been reminded of a powerful and simple exercise that demonstrates the power of delighted attention. This makes people happy when you give it. It is also quite lovely to receive.

Divide your group into pairs. In each ask them to choose to be A and B and that say that both will play both roles in turn. Ask the A's to think about an issue that is significant to them and that they haven't solved yet or would like to get new insights into. Get an agreement about confidentiality and not gossiping.

Ask the A's to talk about their issue to their B. The B's are just to listen, pay attention, look at their partner warmly and encouragingly, and show their delight in having the opportunity to listen, and keep quiet. Then swap roles so the B's talk and the A's listen. About five to fifteen minutes each way is enough, depending on the nature of the group. After the two sessions, have a brief discussion about what it was like to listen and to be listened to. Also ask people if they made progess with their issue.

I ran this many years ago in a counselling skills course and was astonished to find that in ten minutes 70% of the group had made significant progress with their issue. It's amazing how powerful loving attention is. It really does help you think. Sadly, it is also very rare.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Realise your potential!

Discover your purpose

Be the real, joyous, you!

We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve performed at our peak, times when we’ve felt fully alive, when we’ve been living in the moment, so absorbed by what we’ve been doing that nothing else has mattered.

Each of us has unique talents we were born with. When we become aware of what they are and use them on a daily basis, we feel inspired and we inspire others. We are able to make a valuable contribution in the world and to lead more fulfilling lives. Every day becomes an adventure - exciting, inspiring, fulfilling.

This is the secret of happiness and it is possible for everyone. It is not the preserve of the few. You too can realise your potential by discovering what it is you do magnificently, what it is you were born to do and what no one else can do quite like you.

Core Process

Developed by Chris Bull and others and introduced into ICI in the 1970’s, Core Process is a journey of self-discovery that results in a pair of words that capture the essence of who you are - you at your best.

Nick Heap

Nick worked at ICI for 12 years, initially as a Research Chemist then as a Facilitator, Coach and Development Consultant helping individuals and teams maximise their performance. He has also worked as a Marriage Guidance Counsellor, a Samaritan Volunteer and Career Counsellor and has been an independent consultant for the last 26 years.

Nick has gently facilitated several hundred people through the core process, from blue chip organisations, the Civil Service through to small companies and private individuals.

A great listener who is passionate about the Core Process and what it can do for people, Nick is committed to helping people unlock their potential and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

43 Roe Green Close, Hatfield AL10 9PD

Tel: 01707 886553 and 0787 9861525



“A remarkable tool.”

“A truly profound experience.”

“Helped me discover my unique gifts and how I best add value to the world, doing what I love doing.”

“I had an extraordinary session. There came a point where I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. The more I think about it (my core process) the better it gets.”

“Give yourself a gift and spend time with Nick on your core process. It will inspire and motivate you to be the best you can be more of the time.”

“I walked away at the end of the session listing all the people I wanted to send to Nick to experience this process.”

“Good men are hard to find - and Nick has devoted much of his life to helping others find out more about their REAL selves - right down to their very core.”

“Brilliant. I now have a greater understanding of why things happened in my life and how I can make them better in the future.”

I would like to thank Christine Mockford for her elegant description of this service.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recession could be a blessing

We may be heading for a deep recession, even a depression of economic activity. Most commentators see this as an unmitigated disaster. It could be a disaster, if we keep thinking the same things and trying to do the same things, but it could be a great opportunity too.

Life BR (before recession) has some problems. Many people are working too hard, not enjoying it a lot, anxious to have the latest things to bolster their self-esteem and have very little time to be, think, hang out, relax, go for a walk and even (shock horror) waste time now and then. Life really is not much fun! Even children have their lives filled with organised activities, after school classes etc. The amount of time they have to play is going down every year. Because of the drive to get and spend, often on artificially created "wants", "economic" growth has continued. It's not made us happier. It has caused environmental damage, loss of species, degradation of water, pollution, global warming and the obliteration of rich indigenous cultures. "Economy" means taking care - we don't have an economy, we have a profligacy.

It is making more and more people wonder if there is a better way. I don't know if there is a better way, but I do know that in order to find one, we have to take time to think and talk and listen to each other. A recession could provide us the opportunity to do just that. It is a least possible this time that rather than having some people completely unemployed and some fully or overfully employed, we might have almost everybody working less and being paid a bit less. The space that this creates might make it possible for people to connect, co-operate, share resources. We could get to know each other better, build communities, have inexpensive fun. Parents who had been trying to juggle very full time work might have a bit more time playing with their children. Happier children leads directly to less crime.

Even our health could improve. Many illnesses are either caused by stress or made worse by stress. Having a bit more time might reduce this. People might choose to eat more vegetables and less meat because vegetables are cheaper. They are also healthier.

When people share stories about times when they have been happy they talk about simple experiences, like a sunset, or a funny thing their two year old said, or a walk in the woods on a gift of a day. None of these are material things. Perhaps if we have the challenge of having less, we may seek these simple pleasures and discover they are more longlasting than acquiring the latest fashionable toy.

These times do give us the opportunity to think about what is truly important to us and to help shape the world to be the way we want it. It's really up to us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to have happier, more productive meetings?

I responded to this question on LinkedIn: I am looking for a way to make weekly staff meetings (10 participants) really cool and still cover standard stuff. Any ideas?

I was chuffed that my answer below was chosen as the "Best Answer" by the questioner. You may find the ideas worth trying in your meetings. If you do, I would love to know how you get on.

My Answer

Here is one way to do it. You can use some of the ideas to jazz up any meeting.

You could try creating the agenda together once every few meetings. Often meetings are dull because the items are defined by the boss alone - so no one feels very enthusiastic about them, except the boss! Of course, the boss is still the boss so you can make sure the items that are important to you are in the agenda.

Start the meeting by going round the group and asking everyone to say something positive, while everyone else just listens. You can ask them to say something that is going well, or something directly related to the topic. For example, if you are discussing customer service, it might help to ask them to say why this is important to them. This activity helps people to connect to each other and be positive.

Create an agenda from the group's key interests and concerns. You can ask everyone what the most important issues are that he or she would like the group to work on today. List the issues on a flip chart without editing or comment. Then ask each person to tick off the (say) three issues from the list that she or he would like to work on. The issues with the most ticks are the agenda for the meeting.

Ask the participants to share their best thinking on a topic or issue for (say) two minutes, while everyone else just listens attentively. This makes the noisy people focus their energy and gives the quiet ones time to think. They also don't have to fight for attention. Have a turn yourself but go last if you are the most senior person at the meeting. When everyone has been heard, the rest of the meeting often goes very well.

Use sub-groups. If you form small groups from the people with most interest in a topic, you will get more and better work done than if you stay together. Groups of three to five are the most effective for producing and testing ideas.

If you need to get everyone thinking about something quickly, ask people to take a few minutes each way talk and listen to each other in pairs. This is particularly effective when you are a bit stuck on something controversial. The thoughts from their paired discussions are usually constructive. Pair work is useful you want a thoughtful response to an announcement of a change. You can ask each pair to come up with a question or a comment. You will get more and more thoughtful responses.

At the end of the meeting, or half way through if it is a long one, go round the group and ask people for their thoughts about the meeting. You can ask people what they learned, what was good about it and how the next one could be better. This will not only improve the meetings, it will also share the responsibility for them working well.

There is more on this, and related topics in my ebook "Developing People", if you would like a free copy, please contact me.

Nancy Kline's book "Time to Think" is a great resource.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Could these simple ideas make the world a happier place?

These are a few longer-range ideas. Some may be happening already. If they are, please tell me about them. I hope they may inspire you to action. They are all simple, but none of them is easy. They may challenge your assumptions. These are potential programmes or projects, not techniques.

Please let me know what you think of them.

The ideas

Cuddle therapy!

Most of us know instinctively that if a child is distressed a warm cuddle will often help. Sometimes the child may cry or get hot and angry but afterwards, things are much better. It is also a natural instinct to want to cuddle someone who is distressed. This applies to adults too!

We seem to have made being natural like this very complicated. There are a few damaged people whose experience has distorted this natural and healthy behaviour so it becomes abusive. In trying to protect other people and ourselves, many people are now deeply scared of cuddling or being cuddled, “doing what comes naturally”.

So, perhaps we need to reclaim this and be freer to ask for a cuddle whenever we need one and offer one too. We could even give them each other. Sex and closeness are not the same. You can be sexual without being close and close without being sexual. Closeness is a basic need, for humans.

Documentaries about humans at their best

David Attenborough's films about life on Earth are both world-famous and beautiful. They now cover life in all its varieties except that of human beings! Humans are remarkable. Although we can be appallingly destructive, we are capable of greatness. Most of the “news” we read is negative.

I would live to see some documentaries about humans at their best. A series about how different cultures celebrate life events would be very interesting and inspiring. We are not very good at celebrating in the West. We often eat too much and get drunk. Other cultures do it much better. We could all learn from each other.

There is tribe in South Africa that handles miscreants very elegantly. The offender sits in the middle of a circle of all the people in the village, who tell him or her all the good things they can remember about that person. This can go on for days. Then the offender is welcomed back into the village!

Of course, “we” have some good things to pass on too. Our tradition of judicial independence is very precious.

Empower some people to be “free spirits”

A “free spirit” in this context is a person whose job is “To do whatever she or he can do to make things better”. They would be change agents and catalysts, listening to people and teams, linking people, encouraging new thinking and facilitating conversations towards win-win solutions. They would gain access to people because of their personal skills, reputation for trustworthiness and honesty, their humour and their compassion.

It would be a very great honour and privilege to do this work. Ordinary people or governments could fund it. If we had 1000 people with this role world wide, it might cost £100m a year. If one person helped organisations to solve one problem, for instance by building better understanding between competing agencies, this would easily recover the costs.

Finding the healthiest happiest people and discovering why and how

Some people are both healthy and happy. They are not necessarily “rich”. There is no evidence that material wealth, beyond quite a modest income, adds to either. It could be that these happy and healthy people are doing some things, or thinking some things that directly contribute to them being happy and healthy. If this is so, and we knew what it was, we could choose to do the same.

We could find some healthy and happy people and find out what they do and how they think. The method I have used for “profiling” successful professionals might work here too. Who knows, there might be simple things we could all do.

There are already some clues active churchgoing can add years to active life. A positive attitude to ageing can do the same.

Love politicians

This is a radical thought! Politicians are people so, however it may appear, just like us they are always doing the best they can. It may not be the best possible, but given their history and circumstances it is the best they can at the time. So blaming and criticising is no help. In any case, you can't manage the past only learn from it.

Politicians may enjoy exercising power, but so do we all. They do decide to manage on our behalf anything that may happen. This is an awesome responsibility. All of them would earn much more in a less demanding role.

I would like to see us supporting and loving politicians rather than criticising them personally. Challenging their ideas is fine. If we elect them to help us, we should help them. One way might be to catch them doing something right and send an appreciative note. Another might be to offer some time or a listening ear. What do you think you could do?

Neighbours from heaven

I get fed up and depressed by all the television programmes that show people at their worst. They are typically called “Neighbours from hell”. I imagine the effect on the viewers is either to confirm their prejudices that people are awful or that this is all you can expect from a particular class or group of people. Neither is very productive.

So, what about some programmes e g “Neighbours from Heaven” that showed the best of people instead? These would show heart-warming stories of extraordinary generosity and kindness. Instead of depressing the viewer, they would challenge and inspire her or him to do something similar. This would increase the amount of positive energy and spirit. If might encourage more of us to pay attention to good things, and then we would feel better too.

Network change leaders and change technologies

There are many powerful tools and methods around for helping people and society develop and learn. I have written about appreciative inquiry, re-evaluation counselling, and organisation development and know a bit about others like open-space and process consultation. There are many, many others. I would love to see some conferences and conversations where thought leaders in these fields worked out how their approaches could work together. Maybe they would find some synthesis that was much better than either. We don’t need the competition which says, “Our approach is right and we have nothing significant to learn from anyone else is”. This just slows us down.

Speak to a stranger

Many people would like our cities to be friendlier. Anyone can decide to make them friendlier by being friendly. We could decide to speak to a stranger, by asking a simple question and listening to the answer, or giving a stranger a smile. I do this even in trains, and have never been rebuffed. It is also nice to say “Thank you for the smile” when someone gives you one.

We are all strangers to most people and almost all of us are quite nice really. This might be easier with a bit of encouragement from city leaders, but we do not have to wait for permission, we can just do it. Some people already are see

What else could we do to make our communities and cities friendlier?

I hope this blog is interesting, if different. If you have any comments or want to take up any of the ideas do let me know. Also, please let me know if there is any other subject you would like me to write about.

This piece is also on my website as an ezine. You can see archived ezines here.

Best wishes


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Installing Love

Author Unknown

Tech Support: Yes, can I help you?

Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self- Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program not run on internal components " What should I do?

Tech Support: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer: So, what should I do?

Tech Support: Pull down Self- Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer: Okay, done.

Tech Support: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbal Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone that you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Causes of success of technology projects

Here are the results of some research, using appreciative inquiry, into the root causes of success of technology projects. Successful projects make everybody involved happy, but only 16% are successful! The reasons for success are both surprising and simple, so please read on.

The root causes of success are “soft”. They are about the management of the project.

  1. Arrive at the contract between supplier and customer via exploration, testing, conversation and dialogue. This builds mutual trust.
  2. Broadcast your successes as you go.
  3. Communication is critical for the success of projects. To do it well enough takes time, imagination, thought and planning.
  4. Create a strong and supportive team that meets regularly and talks openly. If possible make sure the core team is small.
  5. Commitment from everyone involved is crucial. This takes time and frequent and detailed conversations.
  6. Engage with the key people very early on in the project. Involve everybody as it progresses but encourage them to keep things simple and focus their energy.
  7. Find outstanding people, they exponentially increase your chances of rapid progress.
  8. Focus on getting the job done and disregard cultural, hierarchical or bureaucratic barriers. Make and use informal contacts to get things done.
  9. Give people the opportunity to learn about and test the system before it goes live.
  10. Have a champion or champions for the project. Make sure they always know what is going on.
  11. Have a clear, agreed and intrinsically meaningful goal for the project. This is worth the time and detailed discussions it takes.
  12. Have a skilled and experienced project manager with the authority to manage the project.
  13. Have resource limits and deadlines that make people use their imagination to meet the goal.
  14. Have some margin for requirements that change, as people understand more clearly what the project requires. See change as inevitable and an opportunity to be smarter.
  15. IT may have the idea but it essential that the business sees the benefits and owns the project.
  16. Learn rapidly from successes and problems. Use your learning for the present project and later ones.
  17. Make sure you get buy in from everybody involved by actively listening to and responding to their concerns and suggestions.
  18. Maintain constant and open dialogue between all the stakeholders in the project.
  19. Test concepts in a small way by demonstrating them first.
  20. Make sure everybody knows what their role in the project is and how their job will contribute to the success of the project.


    These root-causes lead to successful projects, which happen on time and to budget, work and make or save money. You reported feeling fabulous, vindicated, relieved, excited, pleased, marvellous and “drunk” when you achieved success.

    It is very surprising that although these conclusions appear obvious and none desperately difficult, still only 16% of technology projects succeed. We are still not sure why this number is so low. However, one thing was quite clear from all the people who participated in our small study. All of you wanted your project to succeed and had this as a personal priority.

Acknowledgements: I worked on this project with Mary White, and the interviewees were Martin Dale, Trevor Jenkins, David Wedge, Paul Buckley, Rory Murray, Keith Turner, Susan Popoola and three people who prefer to be anomymous. Thank you for all your help.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A nice way to make things better

Appreciative Inquiry is a positive approach to generate change. You start by finding out what works and then think how to build on this to make things better. This is often easy and fun, it is much more powerful than looking for problems, which makes you miserable and then trying to fix them, which feels like hard work.

The link is to the appreciative inquiry commons website. This has lots of practical examples of this powerful and enjoyable technique and philosophy.

The power of listening

One very easy way to make other people happier is just to listen. Almost everyone is eager to talk and be heard. If you decide to pay attention warmly to another person and not interrupt, that person will feel happier instantly and will think that you are somebody quite remarkable! This will of course make most listeners feel good too.

It is odd that we all want this gift, to be listened to, but many people are so reluctant to give it. A really neat way through this dilemma is to take it in turns. The reevaluation counselling community have developed this idea a very long way with astonishing results. Have a look at

Just decide to listen attentively, without interruping, or saying what your thoughts are about an issue next time a friend or colleague raises something, and let me and this blog know what happens. I think we will all be surprised!

Best wishes


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The simplest way to be happier!

Try this. Ask a friend or a group of friends to tell you stories about times when they were happy. Just listen and encourage everyone else to listen. Join in yourself. Then do the same about times when they and you made someone else happy. You will be astonished how interesting, inspiring and enjoyable this will be!

We did this with some friends and found that the hard part was choosing which happy experience to share. That is a nice problem. We also learned that making other people happy was a very good way to be happy yourself, which is encouraging.

If you try this, please let me know how you get on and tell others via this blog!

This way of thinking is an example of Appreciative Inquiry, for more on this have a look at, it's a great site.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Helpful resources

My site, practical developmental ideas has 200+ articles, tools, designs, resources and ideas that anyone is welcome to access. All these can help to create happiness and effectiveness at work and elsewhere.

If you know of other resources that can help people make their world happy, please post them here.

Let's share our stories and lift our spirits!

We all want to be happy. Making other people happy also makes us happy. We can all do a few simple things everyday to make ourselves and others happy. By doing so, you will make the world that starts from you, happy too! When enough of us do this, the world will change.

Changing the world will be fun, engaging and enjoyable, which it needs to be otherwise it will be a drag!

I hope this blog will help us share our ideas and experiences, support each other and encourage a flow of cheerful positive energy that will make your world happy!

I welcome your thoughts and feedback and suggestions on how to make this blog more effective. I am new to the blog world.

What have you done to make your world happy? What is your dream?

Best wishes