Here is the full recording of the How Leaders Network webinar from February 9th for the IESE Alumni community.  We had 520 people connected to the zoom call, and some great questions.  We didn’t get round to answering all of the questions, so I have taken some time to give full answers here in this post.

The session is available here for IESE Alumni.

The slides from the session are available here:

Networking Resources on this blog

Questions and My Answers from the Webinar

“There are various levels of ‘networking’ from your close friend to the professional contact with whom you have met a couple of times at an event. How should each of them be managed?” Klaus

I’d say that each of us has 10 people who are family/close friends, 20 friends we see irregularly, 200 acquaintances that we have had an opportunity to share some experience together and 7.7 billion people with whom we have no real connection.

I remember a conference where Verne Harnish gave a keynote about high growth entrepreneurs. He recommended a strategy of making a 3 lists – 20 VIP, 30 important and 200 valuable.  The 20 Very Important people in your network you would proactively seek to help them each week…  one suggestion I heard back then was to do a google alert for the name of the person – and every time their name is mentioned in the press or around the web you will be notified.

Personally, I don’t deliberately “manage” my network.  When I travel to a city I will often look up a couple of people and see if they could meet for a drink or coffee.  When I am at one of IESE campus around the world I take some time to wander the corridors and say hello or have a coffee with professors and staff.  I have 2 seats at FC Barcelona and I will reach out to people to invite them to come to the game… this can be a powerful second step in building a relationship around a shared passion (football).

My father has been on the boards of an orchestra, an opera festival, 3 public companies, 2 universities…  The orchestra and the opera festival create wonderful moments that he can connect with people – he invites many people to these musical events, he asks people to sponsor musicians, he asks friends to come to operas…

I would suggest that rather than “managing” a network – you create opportunities around things that you have a passion for.  Get involved in music or culture or galleries or politics… anything that gives you a reason to ask others for help for a cause that is bigger than you.

“How can we network in a digital world where you cannot meet or have lunch together?” José P.

Zoom is a powerful tool. I’ve used it extensively to have 20 minute conversations over the last 11 months. It is actually more effective than meeting for coffee for an initial chat – we both save on time to travel to a location. We can go straight to conversation. Covid has made it completely acceptable to have video calls.

The challenge is that on video it is so clear if you are unorganised, unprepared and unable to facilitate an interesting conversation that is mutually interesting.

How to do networking in a natural way in personal and professional life? Thanks for the great session Rogger B.

Have interest in the other person. What are their dreams, goals, aspirations? Where are they doing well? Where are they facing difficulty? Who has played a significant role in their development as a person and professional?

“How does one promote his work to a higher level than your manager’s without stepping on your boss’s toes? There are multiple managers who frown upon such actions from their subordinates.”

I laugh and tell all IESE students that the answer to every question is “It depends”.  My friend Matt told me about the P.I.E. model for career management.

  • P = Performance – First, you need to be good at the actual work of your job. In the first 10 years of your career, this is where to focus on getting really good.
  • I = Impact – Next, you need to get onto project that are doing work that is making a tangible difference to what the leadership of the company value. In the second 10 years of your career, this becomes important. It is not enough from 30 to 40 years old to just do good work… if you care about your career it is vital that you get to work on projects that have a big impact (and avoid working on projects of low value).
  • E = Exposure – Third, you need to find a way to get positive exposure with the senior leaders of your business.  This becomes important from 40 onwards… you are good at performing the work, you are good at identifying opportunities to have a big impact… now you need to build relationships of trust with senior decision makers.

now we hear your full Irish voice loud and clear!! 🙂 Ricardo R.

I understand that the first 10 minutes the microphone was not doing its job and the audio was going up and down… Glad you let us know!

You sai you started of pretty clumsy when holding a 20 minute conversation with someone but now are pretty good at it. What advice would you give to holding such a conversation? Wadzi

I have gotten much better in several areas:

  • Reaching out by email/phone/LinkedIn with a short request to have a conversation
  • Being clear on who I am and why I am interested in a conversation (I will often tell a short version of the Sandra Erliso story…)
  • Asking good questions and making the conversation about the other person, their projects, their dreams, their aspirations, their lessons
  • Gratitude – via email, gifts of books, connecting them to others who could be of help etc

“Once you have the first contact and conversation how to build a relationship and keep it going?” Carolina S.

Serve their goals and objectives. The more I can get to know their personal and professional objectives, the more ideas I can have on how to contribute.

You said you have a very efficient way how to make the 20 min. Conversation valuable. Can you share some insides how you do that? Stefan S.

Here is a list of “Questions for Life” that I have collected over the years

I have done a lot of sales training over the last 16 years. It is an important skill as an entrepreneur. Most of sales training is about helping the other person get clear on their current situation and help them articulate in a rational way (and feel in an emotional way) the value of making some change.

How do you get the contact you want and build and strong and long lasting relationship with someone with more power than you that does need less from you than you need from her/him? Isaac B.

Begin small.  Find something they have accomplished and let them know you find it inspiring (I am assuming that you do find it inspiring… honesty is important).

How often the Meetings should take place? After the first one it might be difficult to find more topics to discuss Ruben R.

If I find that it is hard to get a good conversation going in our first meeting, I leave them alone. If I find that I am doing all the work to ask questions and keep the conversation flowing, this is not the time… and maybe this is not the person that you can build a trusted relationship with.

Are there differences in the way you do networking when you are in your late fifties (my case) from when you were in your early twenties? Pablo E.

Absolutely. I didn’t think it was important in my twenties.  I didn’t have many clear skills that solve other’s problems.

Today I have several valuable skills that can be of great help to other people.  I am pretty good at helping another get really clear on who they are and what they aspire to achieve. I am very good to helping them articulate their ideas in a way that they can attract many resources to make things happen.

Because I presume that depend on your current level and the level of the people you’re trying to impact/reach to. Isaac B.

When I was younger I was less able to help people in any material way – especially in Spain.

The book “So Good they Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport is a powerful study.  He interviewed 500 people over 50 years old who were “personally and professionally fulfilled”.  His quest – what did they do to create a life that was personally and professionally fulfilling?

His answer – first you need to develop “rare and valuable skills”.

If you don’t have “rare and valuable skills” you are not in a great place to help others.  I recommend the book to many people as they think about how to develop a successful career.

What can you do when you are 20-30 and want to meet senior people? First tell them what they have done that you find inspiring. Then ask good questions about them.  End the conversation before it gets boring.  Then send a written thank you (this is so rare that you will stand out a mile).

“How can you learn to ask effective questions to people you just meet?” Manuela V.

Care about them, about who they are, about what they aspire to become.  Don’t ever assume that a person has their whole life sorted out.  Everyone has some areas of life where they are not getting the fulfilment they hunger for.

If you were to have a 15-min Zoom with a potential mentor, what three questions would you ask them to move up in their “list” and build a powerful and lasting-mentoring relationship? Javier C.

This was answered in the webinar, but here’s the summary:

  • First, we need to ask about their past… their journey to today, the moments and the people that have impacted them.  Questions: Who inspires you? What are the 3 lessons you have learnt in your career?
  • Second, we need to ask about their future.  What are their aspirations, dreams, aims, plans?
  • Third, we need to get a sense of where they are today.  In Vistage we start every meeting with everyone sharing 2 numbers – 1-10 personal, 1-10 professional.  10 is best month of your life.

If you have been able to build a conversation around these three areas – past experience, future dreams and current situation… then there is connection and a relationship can begin.

If you talk about yourself for 15 minutes, there is nothing.

I volunteer to open a chiringuito on the beach with Conor if he´s still interested! 🙂 Ricardo R.

I tried that. I had a chain of ice cream stores (Giangrossi) and we won the concession for a chiringuito. We learnt that it is not such a wonderful environment to run a business.  I’d rather have a friend with a chiringuito these days.

I would be honored to hear the advise on whether it is better to focus on building a wider network or focusing on strengthtening a smaller inner circle? Both? Irina P.

It depends. If you don’t know exactly where you are going and are still exploring, then a wider network will give you more ideas.  If you have clarity on what is important to you, then focus on people that play a key role in that domain.

What is your main advise to young entrepreneurs that are seaking to get good mentorship and good network but do not have much to add to successful businessmen. Marco B.M.

Mentors: don’t ask them for permission. Just watch them and learn from them.  You don’t need to ask Elon Musk for permission to learn from his approach to life and business. You don’t need to ask Rockerfeller permission to read Titan, his biography by Chernow.

There are several types of mentor.  There are several roles mentors can play in your life.  Learn more here: What is Mentorship?

how long do you suggest a first talk with a potential mentor should take? Mercedes Fevre

Enough to connect. You can do that in 15-20 minutes.

How do you build on after the “First Great Meeting”? Lets say I’ve had a great 20 minute conversation… how do I build the relationship further? Whats the next conversation so the relationship can grow deeper? Wadzi

There is a book “Never Eat Alone”.  I don’t like the book as a whole, but it does have a lot of suggestions for how to manage your network in a deliberate

Thanks Conor and IESE. another great session. Congrats!! Ricardo R.


How do you manage your network? Do you have your own CRM system for meeting someone once a week? Will A.

Linkedin is pretty good for this.  I don’t have a specific CRM system for personal networking.  I have a page in my journal where I add names of people that I want to meet, and also for those I want to thank.

In my business we use Hubspot, but this would be an expensive tool for a personal list.

I send out Christmas cards each year – and about 50 go to people who I want to thank for positively contributing to my life during the year.  I have a google docs spreadsheet with address details for all of these people.

“Conor thank you for existing :-)” Rubén M.

Very kind!

Thank you! Sun-Sun de S.


What about professional over 55 ? Which will be your advise for them to improve their networking skills and relationships? Maria S.

It was an incredible eye opening conversation…. Thanks!!!! Michel W.



Past Webinars Q&A


If you are a leader, you need to work on developing 2 skills in the people around you:

  • Influence and
  • Decision Making.

The Importance of Influence Skills

Without the people around you learning how to influence others, they will always need your involvement to get anything done.

Read more on Influence

The Importance of Good Decision Making

Without the people around you taking good decisions, you will always need to step in to stop disaster from happening.  In the IESE MBA program we have a course called “Analysis of Business Problems”.  We teach a 6 step process for business decision making:

  1. What is the Problem?
  2. What are the Criteria?
  3. What are the Options?
  4. Compare Options to Criteria
  5. Select Option
  6. Create a Plan

Read more on Decision Making

What makes a person into a leader?

Charisma? No.

Communication? No.

Experience? No.

They deserve a promotion because of past efforts? No.

What ideas do you have?

There is one characteristic without which you cannot be called a leader.

Followers? Yes…  but what do you need to have as a leader so that others actually follow?

The Fundamental Characteristic of a Leader

A Destination.

You know where you are going.

…and then the power to Communicate

…and then you need to develop the ability to engage with people so that the destination becomes a shared destination.  

If you can begin to paint the destination in the minds of others with stories you begin to engage not just their hands, not just their skills, but their whole self in the committed pursuit.

A Shared Vision of a Worthwhile Destination

How do you engage those around you to commit to the journey?

Don’t “motivate” people.  

Figure out something that is worth doing.  Figure out how it will make your life better, how it will make their lives better and how it will make society better. 

Help others understand that being part of it will be better for them and their life.

How do you share this destination with others?  How’s this as a script:

  • Let us move forward: This is a good use of our time…
  • Here is what is in it for me…
  • Here is what is in it for you…

Business as an Infinite game

Simon Sinek shares a powerful concept in his book “The Infinite Game”.  He has popularised the distinction between Finite games and Infinite games. 

Chess is a finite game.  Soccer is a finite game.  Tennis is a finite game.  They each have a set of agreed rules, and a clear victory condition at which time the game ends.  The objective in a finite game is to end the game as victor.

Business is not a finite game.  Life is not a finite game.  Leading human beings is not a finite game.  

Success in life is keeping it engaging to play for all those involved (including yourself!). 

A game everyone plays voluntarily is more successful than a game where some must be compelled to play.

If you are going to set up an organisation, you can compel people to perform with threats and fear.  It is much more effective to engage them to play a game that is meaningful for them, and for you… and for society as a whole.

How to lead the whole Person

Imagine these two requests from a leader:

  1. “Go home and take 4 hours to think about how you will contribute to this organisation over the next year” or
  2. “Go home and take 4 hours to think about your life and formulate a plan for your life with this business being a part of the plan”

Which is the question of the bigger leader?

Jordan Peterson reports a 10% increase in contribution where leaders ask the 2nd question to their teams. 

You want yourself and your team to see that working for you serves their higher order purpose.  

If not, this is not the job for them.  Help them find a place where they can serve their higher purpose.

If you liked this post, you will also like Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life and What is Leadership?

This post was inspired by Jordan Peterson in this Bigthink video: 


This is a guest post from Ronald Cain. Ronald taught English in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for ten years. Teaching has provided him with lifelong lessons about confidence.

Over to Ronald...

I was a shy child. I consider myself an introvert.

I let this label define how I thought I should live my life.

In high school I missed out on many opportunities and at college this translated into a studious but quiet lifestyle. I got good grades, but I didn’t make friends. I missed out on the relationships that would lead to career opportunities later in life.

In my final year, as I watched my fellow students apply for jobs, attain challenging internships or explore volunteer opportunities abroad, I realised I was holding myself back. I challenged myself to articulate what I was afraid of, and realised I had built a bubble around myself. This bubble – my comfort zone – was holding me back from reaching my potential. In that year I vowed to burst out of this bubble, to step out of my comfort zone.

Here were my strategies to burst the bubble of my comfort zone.

1) Write down What You’re Afraid Of

I allowed labels such as shy or introverted as a way of disguising a fundamental fact: I was afraid. Only when I saw this fact did I realise that it was fear holding me back all those years, and the first step was to identify what I was hiding from.

In my case I felt like pursuing social achievements (outside of academics) put me at risk of the negative judgement of others. I was afraid of the opinion of others.  Once I realised that this fear was holding me back I was able to set about changing my habits.

2) Learn To Accept Discomfort

By spending many years in my comfort zone I had become hypersensitive to any discomfort and I avoided it at all costs. I always took the safe option. To face my fears I had to begin taking small steps, putting myself in uncomfortable situations and challenging myself to cope.

Talking to strangers was an opportunity for me to face discomfort. These new and unpredictable situations always challenged me, but striking up conversations with strangers gave me confidence for the future.

3) Redefine Failure

A fear of failure kept me limiting my expectations about what I could achieve – with small goals, there was no chance I would fall short. Once I realised that a fear of failure was holding me back, I knew I had to embrace failure to pursue my dreams.

Failure doesn’t have to be a negative achievement – hey, at least you tried. Redefining failure as a learning experience, one that’s positive no matter the outcome, let me take bolder steps forwards.

4) Take It Slow

You can’t change who you are overnight. You’ve probably spent years reinforcing the habits of your comfort zone, and retraining yourself to face up to your fears takes time. Personally, this is a process that’s still ongoing as I recognise impulses to flee uncomfortable situations even now.

Practising patience on yourself is an essential part of the journey so don’t get frustrated if you find it difficult. Identify small steps that take you beyond your comfort zone before jumping into the deep end.

5) Practise Deep Honesty

One of the biggest challenges I found when starting to step outside of my comfort zone was assessing my excuses. It’s true, sometimes you really are too tired or unwell to go out and face your fears. Other times, you’ll be gravitating towards excuses that give you an easy way out.

Face up to your excuses honestly and identify when they’re valid and when they aren’t. You need to be honest with yourself to overcome your fears.

6) Have Fun

You can’t spend your whole life living in fear. Discover activities which challenge your comfort zone that also appeal to you – try to have fun while you’re at it. Take up rock climbing or wild swimming, find a community and surround yourself in challenging activities you can take part in whole-heartedly. 

Burst The Comfort Zone Bubble

I stepped out of my comfort zone and discovered a world of opportunities were awaiting me. I hope that these strategies will provide you with perspective and skills to see how your fears are holding you back.

About the Author

Ronald Cain is a tutor at Cardiff Writing Service. He is a professional writer, a blogger, and a contributor to and Research Papers UK. Ronald taught English in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for ten years, and teaching has provided him with lifelong lessons about confidence.

If you liked this post on Self Sabotage you will also like this recent video 4 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging your Success

Life is too short to figure everything out on your own. 

Humans spend the years from birth to 12 learning how to survive.  Our parents have a vested interest in helping us develop the Stop there: we merely survive. 

We live in a highly complex society.  There is intense competition for status in whatever hierarchy you compete in. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to compete or not, society and humanity are designed to compete for resources.  It is not those born strong that rise to the top of status hierarchies in today’s human society.  It is those who learn to use their capacities most effectively and adapt quickly to changes in the environment.  

There are two ways we learn to make positive progress in this society – 1) our own experience, or 2) through the experiences of others.  Our own experience is a slow and expensive way of learning. 

If I am to choose to learn most effectively, through the experiences of others, I must learn the art of meaningful conversation. Through my work with Entrepreneurs’ Organisation forum and Vistage groups I have worked extensively over the last 15 years on creating the type of meaningful conversation that allows one to learn from the experiences of another.

I’m sharing 4 ideas that I took from Jordan Peterson’s book the 12 Rules for Life when I read it this year.

“Your current knowledge has neither made you perfect nor kept you safe”

Your knowledge is insufficient. You must accept this before you can converse philosophically, instead of pushing opinions, convincing, oppressing, dominating or joking.  

“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

It is necessary to respect the personal experience of your conversational partners. You must assume that they have reached careful, thoughtful, genuine conclusions (and, perhaps, they must have done the work that justifies this assumption). You must believe that if they shared their conclusions with you, you could bypass at least some of the pain of personally learning the same things (as learning from the experience of others can be quicker and much less dangerous).

It takes conversation to organise a mind 

“people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds.” The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche.    

“Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own” 

They say Aristotle was the last man who knew everything there was to know. Since the time of Aristotle (over 2300 years ago) society has become too complex for any one individual to know all that is known.  

When I was in school, I took huge value in solving from first principles. I would prefer to solve mathematic problems from first principles and avoid using formulaic recipes that allowed you to shortcut to a solution.  This was symptomatic of my whole approach to life. If I hadn’t figured it out myself, I didn’t value the knowledge.  There is a heroic valor to this approach, but it is dumb heroics.  

If you liked this post, you will also like How do I become a better listener and 50 Questions for better Critical Thinking.

Check out the full list of books I read in 2020.



A list of the books I have read during 2020.

Currently Reading January 2021…

  • Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity, Scott Galloway. non-fiction. Prof Galloway is a provocative thinker. He is not always right, but he takes strong positions and makes good arguments. Even when I disagree, his arguments help me clarify my beliefs and reasoning. Covid is an “accelerant”. We have accelerated 10 years into the future and society is still catching up.
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker. non-fiction. Recommended by a good friend. A reminder of the positive future and the importance of markets.  Reminds me of The Rational Optimist that I read earlier in 2020.

The books I have read during 2020

This is basically an extract of my amazon kindle content, with a few notes.  List in reverse order of purchase date on amazon.

  • Stoner: A Novel, John Williams – novel. reminds me of Franzen. The life of a decent man made hellish by other human beings and his own inability to find the strength to be himself.  A wonderful read.
  • Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow – biography. They lived through some tough times back in the 1750s. A great insight into the background of George Washington, his wealth, his emergence as a military and political leader, the “fake news” of his time, the bitter politics and how he dealt with the challenges of life.
  • The Weirdest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, Joseph Henrich – non-fiction. An insightful look at how reading has made a huge difference to society, and to the human brain. We are not “normal”. Literacy changes the brain, how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to family, friends and strangers.
  • Pathways to Possibility: Transform your outlook on life with the bestselling author of The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander – non-fiction. Lovely book. Helpful anecdotes and approaches to living in difficult times. I was expecting something more like Benjamin Zander’s other book… but I actually preferred this. I loved the 5 “infinite games” introduced in the final chapter.
  • Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential, Shirzad Chamine – non-fiction. Very helpful guide to our inner saboteurs – the voices in our heads that make a mess of our lives and relationships.  Good guidance on how to regain some balance when stress, anxiety, worries push you off balance.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens – novel. Brilliant creation of the character of a young girl abandoned by her family and how she makes a heroic life for herself (in a small but meaningful way) in spite of the challenges.
  • Rediscovering Life: Awaken to Reality, Anthony De Mello – non-fiction. Spiritual. Reflections on how to focus on what is really important and let the small annoying irritations stop bothering you so much.
  • Napoleon: A Concise Biography, David A. Bell – biography – the life of Napoleon. They say that “a great man is often not a good man”. I would agree. A man who took huge risks to rise to be the Alexander the Great of the 1800s. Insights into the politics of the times, and the rise to power of an outsider.
  • The Penguin History of the World: 6th edition, J M Roberts history. I re-read this book after finishing the book 1177BC. I wrote a review here: lessons from history.
  • 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History), Eric H. Cline – history. There was a vibrant civilisation in the eastern Mediterranean with trade and travel amongst the agricultural city states… until the year 1177BC… when it all collapsed seemingly overnight.
  • Serious, John McEnroe – autobiography – McEnroe is a good writer and makes this book an engaging read as well as an insightful biography of a polemic celebrity tennis player.  I read this as I played lots of tennis over the summer.
  • The Overstory, Richard Powers – novel. A unique book. The central characters are… the trees. You learn to see trees in a new light.  It starts as if each chapter is a short story independent of the other stories… but the stories start to connect and come together as the book goes on.  Highly recommended, very different from any other novel I have read.
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Matt Ridley – non-fiction. A positive celebration of markets, trade, science and a needed optimistic boost during this year of Covid. If you need to reconnect to a hopeful, positive future -> this book is worth a read.
  • Rafa: My Story, Rafael Nadal – biography. The life story of Rafa Nadal, tennis player from the island of Mallorca in Spain. Rafa is inspiring as a human who out-worked other tennis players to victory. Federer has the natural talent. Rafa brings discipline, focus and intense hard work to tennis.
  • Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, BJ Fogg – non-fiction. Similar to the book Atomic Habits, which I think I prefer as the go-to book on habit formation. This is a guide to reducing bad habits and increasing good habits in our lives. Major lesson: a consistent small habit and a shift in identity (“I am the type of person who is fit”) is how to build positive habits.  Show me your habits and I’ll show you your life.
  • The Caucasus: An Introduction, Thomas de Waal – history. The geography, history and politics of the Caucasus region. Good insights into the challenges of being on the edge of empires (bordering Ottoman, Persian, Russian empires and now Turkey and Russia).
  • Wealth, Poverty and Politics, Thomas Sowell – economics. Deeply interesting book on the factors that create wealth.  Geography: navigable rivers that reach the sea made a huge positive impact.  Africa is a tough continent to build wealth for many reasons. Culture and its impact on wealth. Strongly written defence of the democratic capitalist system and the dangers of “woke” liberal politics, populism, nationalism and other isms.
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami – novel. I love Haruki… don’t know many other readers that do. He has a fetish for cats and strange lonely human beings… but I find his stories addictive.
  • The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, Paul Collier – non-fiction. I was looking to get insights into how business leaders can play a positive role in helping society reduce some of the blatantly unfair and unjust imbalances in society. I got some vague ideas, but found the book hard to grasp and synthesize.
  • The Fast Forward Mindset: How to Be Fearless & Focused to Accelerate Your Success, David Schnurman – non-fiction. David is a friend and fellow EO member. This is David’s guide to personal and professional leadership of an entrepreneurial business.
  • Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, Mark O’Connell – non-fiction/biographical. This follows author Mark O’Connell as he spends time with the strange group of “preppers” – people building bunkers to prepare for the apocalypse. Why do we as humans have this constant sense of impending doom? Helped me see some of my own anxiety as “natural for human being”.
  • Spillover, David Quammen – non-fiction. I read this in March during extreme lockdown. Brilliantly written with wonderful stories over 50 years of following the scientists that study bacterial and viral epidemics.  This was written a few years pre-Covid and you can see that all the virus scientists knew that “the Next Big One” was coming.
  • Tales of Unknowing: Therapeutic encounters from the existential perspective, Ernesto Spinelli – non-fiction. Case histories of psychiatric patients as they work to gain clarity on their lives. I read lots of this type of case study and find it fascinating as insight the struggles of being human.
  • The Orange Girl, Jostein Gaarder – novel.
  • Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me – a Memoir, Deirdre Bair. novel
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, Marie Kondo. non-fiction. I was pushed to read this (lockdown means you spend a lot of time in your own home!). It was much better than expected. I expected a guide book to tidying (ugh). It was more a philosophical approach to getting clear what is really important in your life and removing junk, obstacles and stuff.
  • Understanding 4-5-Year-Olds (The Tavistock Clinic – Understanding Your Child), Lesley Maroni – non-fiction. I have learnt lot about my youngest daughter from this series of books from the Tavistock Clinic, and you can guess the age of my youngest daughter…
  • The Cicero Trilogy, Robert Harris – novel/biography. Insightful novel (there are 3 books in the series) about the end of the Roman Republic and the re-emergence of monarchy under Julius Caeser. Given the politics of USA, Great Britain this book feels like the Romans lived a similar political experience.  The Romans failed to stop tyranny… will we?
  • Existential Counselling & Psychotherapy in Practice, Emmy van Deurzen – non-fiction. How to help others come to terms with what their life is about.
  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson – non-fiction. I loved Jordan Peterson’s youtube videos and his book doesn’t disappoint. Strongly argued but inspiring.  Life is hard… and you must choose to face it.
  • Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse – non-fiction. Fascinating book.  Simon Sinek says this book inspired him.  The style of the book is almost poetic. Simple distinction, but this book makes it clearly and I came out with a different mindset as to how I lead in business.

Great books for 2021

What great books did you read in 2020 that I should be putting on my list for 2021?  I’d love to get your recommendations.

As you can see from this list I mainly read biographies, coaching/counselling cases, business leadership books, personal development books, novels and history books.  Typically at any one time I am reading one novel, one non-fiction and one history/biography book.

The best leadership book is not one that you can buy.   It is your own life, if well documented.

Do you take time to document your life?  Do you take time to look at your past year and get clear on where you are, and where you are going?

Last year Covid-19 brought a lockdown to over half of the world’s population.  Covid changed our plans, it changed our businesses and it shook up our world.  If we are to take something valuable from this year, it is important to take time to reflect on how the experience of Covid impacted you.

2021 is going to start without much change… the vaccines are coming but we will still have 6 months with restrictions on our movement, on our businesses, on our travel plans.  I am not going to wish you a “wonderful 2021”. I am going to wish you the energy and clarity to handle the challenges that 2021 throws at you as the best version of yourself.  That is my 1st January wish for you.

How to Reflect on the Last Year

In this post I will share a set of questions to structure a reflection on the past year, that might help clarify how to make changes in how you approach the coming year.

year in review pdf tool

Here is a 3 page pdf worksheet that will guide you through a reflection process on the past year.  I would recommend you print out the pages and carry them with you for a while.

PDF Tool: Reflection on the Past Year

The best results come when you go through the questions a couple of times over a few days.  I often tell EO or YPO forums and Vistage groups that I want to see dog ears on the pages, and different colours of ink… even a coffee stain… showing that you have taken the pages out several times in preparing your end-of-year reflection. The 19 questions will help you think deeply about what contributes to your fulfilment, what detracts and what lessons you can actively take into the coming year.

Writing in a journal

I am asked in classes “what is the most important habit to learn to speak well?”  My answer is writing each day in a journal.  Capture your life.  Capture your dreams, your frustrations, your questions, the people that helped, the people that made things more difficult…  capture it all.  My biology teacher, Mr Matz, always said “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory”.

Warren Rustand taught me to start the day with “10-10-10”.  Ken Blanchard taught me to “start the day slowly”.  Eric Matz (my biology teacher, when I was 14) taught me to write stuff down in a journal every day.  Each tool involves taking time at the beginning of the day to reflect on what is important and get clear on who you want to be.

In our executive development programs at IESE Business School we make specific time in the program each day to reflect.  Learning happens when you go through an experience, but is multiplied if you take time to reflect on the experience (and share your reflections with colleagues who share your path).

I’ve written several posts on how to approach writing in a journal:

Getting Clear on Where are you Going

If you know where you are coming from… the next thing to get clear: where are you going.  How to clarify a vision for yourself, both personally and professionally:

In golf, one poor shot can trigger a state of mind that leads to a run of poor shots. I hit my drive into the bunker. In frustration, I try a more difficult shot than I should, and put it in another bunker. I then try and hit it extra hard to reach the green in 3… and leave it in the bunker.

Chess international master Josh Waitzkin says that the moment when a chess player really loses the game is when they think they are ahead, and after a move they realise that maybe their position is not so strong.  The next move will be too aggressive because they are anchored on the emotional sense of being ahead.

A professional learns to forget the past and play the shot or the move that they have in front of them.   An amateur compounds the error.

One poor shot does not ruin a golf round… unless you let it.  

The same occurs in life.

Do you let one mistake lead to three more?  

On a diet… one biscuit leads to 3 more? …that’s how to screw it up.

Do you tend to let one mistake lead to 3 more?


Some things require patience.

“Don’t just do something, sit there” 

Some things can’t be rushed.

Sometimes patience is necessary.  

I have a metaphor I use as an entrepreneur at challenging times in life. If you are travelling on a boat along a river, if the river is going the other direction, you are better pulling the boat to the shore and resting.  Paddling against the tide is exhausting and the tide is stronger than you.  

This requires that you have the ability to be patient.

Some things that cannot be rushed:

  • great relationships
  • trust 
  • mastery 
  • wisdom

What else can you think of that cannot be rushed?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…



I was interviewed by Thomas Capone of the New York Distance Learning Association yesterday and the video recording of our 55 minute conversation is now available on their website.

About Thomas Capone, Director NYDLA

Thomas A. Capone is CEO of MTP-USA, one of the fastest growing telecommunications companies in the United States. Servicing over 300 of the Fortune 1000 companies in the United States. Thomas Capone’s clients include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S secret service. Thomas Capone is also executive director of the New York Distance Learning Association (NYDLA).

His idea behind the New York Distance Learning Association (NYDLA) is that everything is now about distance learning, not just higher education. Everything is about remote work, tele-work, file sharing, virtual classrooms, virtual work. Even virtual play! Look at the world of video games and virtual reality technologies. The NYDLA brings not only the technology – but smart people – the subject matter experts to those who must master this new world of global distance learning to be successful. The future of our world is to be a global marketplace, and it only makes sense to master the technologies and the distance learning techniques of this new world.

Original Recording here:

What we cover in the Interview

  • 00:00 Welcome to Coffee in the Clouds
  • 00:27 Who is Conor?
  • 02:35 How did you become a teacher?
  • 05:35 A story about my father… “Those that can, do; those that can’t teach”
  • 12:40 The lessons of life: Faith, Hope and Love
  • 14:40 Let your intuition guide you
  • 15:30 How do you define Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Manager and Leader?
  • 15:57 What is a teacher?
  • 17:12 What is a coach?
  • 18:56 What does a mentor do? How do you find purpose?
  • 31:30 What is a manager and what is a leader?
  • 36:10 How did Aristotle have such an impact on the world?
  • 37:40 How to move from in person to online communications?
  • 42:00 “you can’t coach speed!” what are the limits to coaching/teaching?
  • 47:00 What value would you share with a child as the basis of a good life?