when Saturday comes …..priorities, Fairford Town & house moves…

IMG_2737On our travels through the Cotswolds early last year, Susan Kent and I stumbled upon Fairford Town Football Club, an amateur team plying their wares in the mighty Hellenic Division One West…..well, after supporting them home and away for a fair part of the season, we’ve been blown away not just by the team’s performance – they scored 131 goals in 30 league matches to storm the title – but also the warmth of welcome we found from other fans, the players and the volunteers who make Saturday happen…..I was really humbled on Saturday night when attending the awards dinner, to be asked to present the fans’ player of the year…..to an amazing young man named Jason Milhench who drives fork lift trucks during the day and lives his dream on the pitch when Saturday comes. If he’s on song, Jason is simply irrepressible, scoring and making goals for fun, and Sue and I have taken him to our hearts, partly because he also has a habit of getting into trouble with the referee’s note book and can hardly stop himself advising the game’s officials how and where they could improve their handling of the game…..we have an important cup final coming up on Thursday night, the night before we are due to complete the purchase of our home and begin moving in, but I’m glad to say Sue has retained a sense of priorities and we will be travelling on the team bus to Bristol instead, to cheer on Fairford and willing ‘our’ Jason to stay on the pitch and lead the opposition a merry dance…..Come on Fairford!

#Hellenic Division West  #FairfordTownFC

Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go? ….Tomorrow, in Britain we have a choice to make, whether to stay or leave the EU, and amid all the noise and clamour of those who want our votes it is difficult if not impossible to fathom what is best for ourselves, our country and our future.

For me, it boils down to this; in choosing how I want to live my life I have learnt that in the long run its best to choose the path that is founded on optimism and hope, that is built around a belief in the good in people and not fear of the worst, the good in progress, and not fear of change or longing for a past way of life.

The BREXIT campaigners want us to fear the EU, fear immigration, and believe we can “have our country back”:  my answer is this: by all means we can celebrate the past, but we can’t live in it. We have to live in the future with all its imperfections, uncertainties and joy. Let’s make the best choice tomorrow.

the best lack all conviction: Trump has some allies in Europe

 

 
Financial worries and fears about terrorism and immigration are contributing to a rise in right-wing politicians in Europe similar to Donald J. Trump.

The New York Times carries an article with a decent examination of what’s going on in the western world:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/world/europe/voter-insecurities-feed-rise-of-right-leaning-populist-politicians.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

Pretty worrying , especially as our ruling political elites don’t seem to have a clue how to answer the mass appeal of the nationalists and tribalists.

down in New Orleans, Louisiana folks appear more European than North American in their culture, ‘salt and pepper’ easy-going values, and then Houston, Texas was a world apart again – refreshingly honest and plain-speaking the Texans I met suggest that the USA political elite only care about the east and west coast metropolitan areas plus Chicago, and the rest of USA can go and rot. Polarisation everywhere. The poverty I just experienced along Louisiana’s coastline is shameful. To say that this – the USA –  is the world’s most developed civilisation, the world’s First Nation , and can on the one hand exhibit such excesses and phenomenal wealth, with the wealthy elite boasting 2nd, 3rd and 4th homes,  a nation where eating-out extravagantly is the norm, and yet tolerate such abject and extensive poverty, homelessness, hunger and mental illness, it denies all logic.

WBYeats had it right:

the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Regards and happy holidays

 

Goodbye to the big easy

Sad farewells to the ‘big easy’ as we slip away from New Orleans on an Amtrak “express train” to Houston which will take 9 1/2 hours – the first 3 miles takes 30 minutes on this rickety old railway that stumbles and jolts its way through Louisiana’s swampy marshland and field after field of sugar cane interspersed with trailer park after trailer park…it’s a far cry from the Mansions of Maine and Cape Cod Cottages – feels like a forgotten land that I bet the Presidential Wannabees rarely touch : certainly can’t imagine that any of them travel railroad very much, makes you want to love British Rail!image

 

#ViveLaChoice …….today, I choose…..

Today, I chose to attend an American football game.

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Today of all days I am grateful for the freedom and choices I have : to wear what I want, go where I please, listen to the music I choose, watch whatever sport I like, to have a faith or no faith, to mix with straights, gays or lesbians without fear, and where women and men alike are free to make those choices too.

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I know I don’t live in a perfect world but I respect the rights of others to enjoy it too with all its imperfections.

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#ViveLaChoice

My News

There’s big and exciting changes ahead at Bromford!  Here’s a copy of the message I sent out to Colleagues on Tuesday:

A Lover of Learning…and a Lover of Action too.

MK editThree hundred and three score years ago, John Harvard, “a godly gentleman and a lover of learning” and a Stratford Upon Avon boy, left these shires for Boston, America and a year later endowed what became Harvard University, one of the world’s leading research universities. Fast forward to today and I find myself in the curious and exhilarating position of being about to follow in his shoes and make the exact same journey from Stratford to Massachusetts. More of that in a minute or two.

Back to the more recent past and two score and eleven years ago, half a dozen property people came together and resolved – probably in a smoke-filled room somewhere in ’60’s Birmingham, UK – to set up a new way of doing things for people in housing need. Around that time in 1963 I was just a kid really, a rebellious wannabe teenager vaguely conscious, amid a world trying to blow itself up, of people like John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King trying to make it a better place. Half a century later and the world seems just as scary. But that bunch of Brummie do-gooders – they called themselves Bromford by the way after the Bromford racecourse next door to their first scheme – morphed into something quite special and today Bromford has become a major force in UK housing – a beacon of light and hope in a mixed and turbulent world –  as part of the ‘third arm’ in housing. For 30 of those 51 years I have been both lucky and privileged to serve Bromford as its Chief Executive. But now, after 30 hugely enjoyable years leading this fantastic organisation, I have decided it is time to move on and hand over the baton to someone else. And to make my own personal homage to John Harvard of Stratford and Boston.

Colleagues who know me will know that this has not been an easy decision to make  – I am passionately committed to the organisation and what we stand for, our values or ‘DNA’ if you like, and I think of it as a ‘family’ that I am proud to be part of. I am also deeply proud of the special culture here – the extraordinary ‘ Bromford Way ‘ of doing things built upon an unshakeable belief in the good in people – and I like to think I have helped make a small piece of ‘social housing’ history along the way. The average CEO tenure is now about 5 or 6 years and I have bucked this trend for long enough. One day my luck might run out, health or otherwise, and so it’s time to make way for some one else to lead the organisation, bring in some fresh thinking and make their own mark.

And in that respect I am delighted that the Board has decided to appoint our Executive Director Philippa Jones as the next CEO. As many of you will know,  Philippa has worked tirelessly at Bromford for 26 years and has held leadership roles right across the business.

mk and pjShe lives and breathes the Bromford Culture – teamwork, putting others first, and she is a great fit for what the business needs going forward.

Philippa will take over from me at the beginning of January next year when I will head across the Atlantic from Stratford to commence a sabbatical year at Harvard University. You may have heard my mantra “we are all trainees” and I will be putting this into practice participating in Harvard’s phenomenal Advanced Leadership Initiative http://advancedleadership.harvard.edu .

I am really excited about this opportunity to spread the word about Bromford and in particular to develop a number of ideas behind the “You Can” Foundation.

Also, just as I shared the learning from Harvard Business School in 2002/4, through the launch of our Leadership Academy and the ’60 Nelsons’, I will bring back my learning from this programme to support colleagues in an advisory capacity in the further evolution of the Bromford Deal and our social purpose of Inspiring People to be their Best.

Bromford has never been in better shape – we have just delivered the strongest ever set of results in our 51 years, and have a superb financial and cash position that is the envy of others.

We have weathered the storms and uncertainties of the credit crunch really well and although there are more economic and political challenges ahead, the tough decisions we took five years ago have stood us in great stead and now provide us with great opportunities and choices going forward.

We have a great strategy in place with a clear direction of travel; creating a great place to work, building financial independence from Government and inspiring people to be the best they can be, by doing things for themselves and by putting something back into the world. It’s the best strategy we could possibly have.

As for me, my personal strategy is now to rejoice in the forthcoming ‘once in a lifetime’ Harvard experience, relish the life-affirming events and opportunities of these last 30 years at Bromford and to climb many more mountain passes while my legs permit it. Oh, and to break bread with the best friends across the world that I have yet to meet.

A final thought from me: the biggest thing I think I have done here is to help create a platform on which other people can do their work, give of their best and exceed their wildest expectations. I never wanted Bromford to be like everyone else. I wanted us to #BeGood but to be #BeDifferent and proud of it.

I am proud to have served among you, to have known so many fabulous hard working colleagues, and to have made so many friends who I know will be friends for life. I will say this at the Bash next week, but I’d like to thank everyone now -without you Bromford is nothing.

To paraphrase another American, Abraham Lincoln, in his closing line in the Gettysburg Address : “the world will little note nor long remember what we say or what we think, but it will not forget what we do”.

So seize the day guys and gals, make your lives extraordinary.

Mick Kent
#InspiringPeopleToBeTheBestTheyCanBe

“The stronger the team, the stronger the team….”

Image Today 11-31-16Some of you may know that I am a supporter of Luton Town FC and after years in the doldrums, we have been enjoying a renaissance this year, culminating in winning the Conference title as champions last week.

This turnaround is pretty close to miraculous as only a year ago the club was tearing itself apart, results poor, supporters at each others’ throats and the team in free fall………….and then a miracle happened.

At halftime and losing at home to Lincoln, the players were subjected to particularly unpleasant abuse from a section of the crowd. The team were upset and angry and, although they turned it around to comeback and win that match 3-2 , after the match there was an ugly confrontation on the pitch between a supporter and the club captain.

The miracle was not just the comeback and doing what in Luton has become unheard of for years, namely snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – but that somehow all the anger, the mistrust and pent up frustration from years of relegations, unfair points deductions, and pitiful performances on the pitch, somehow from that day forward, that angst got channelled in a quite different direction. And the fans no longer worked against the team but got behind them – even when we were losing. It was almost as if that abusive confrontation finally stirred up the good in people. And the team on the pitch responded, turned it around and went on to what became a record-breaking 27 game unbeaten run, scoring a record number of goals and on Easter Monday were presented with the championship trophy in front of 10,000 emotional supporters.

Alongside that however, something else fascinating has started to happen. As well as cutting out the negativity, the fans have started to show their appreciation to other teams – in the last few weeks alone I have seen things I thought I would never see again at Luton. We have clapped off opposing teams and given standing ovations to two – firstly Aldershot who went down fighting 1-0, and then Braintree who had the nerve to turn us over at home in front of the TV cameras and deprive us, for a week or so, of the Conference title! What did we do? Well, we didn’t boo them, we stood up and gave them a great ovation. And then on Saturday, down in SE London we applauded a stunning goal by Welling’s Ross Lafayette even though it made it hot and uncomfortable for us in the last 15 minutes. The good in people spawns more good. And I believe creates goodwill and strengthens self-belief. And it certainly has helped to create a ‘feel-good’ factor and pride in supporting everything that is Luton Town FC.

There are some great leadership lessons in this remarkable turnaround, and one day someone will write a book about them. One of them though is about a man called John Still. He is Luton’s manager, appointed a year ago from Dagenham & Redbridge ( who?), an unassuming fellow and a bit like the granddad or uncle that most people would like to have. He talks a lot of sense and he works hard, very very hard. He is down to earth, approachable, no airs and graces and doesn’t suffer egos. He also doesn’t go in for long speeches. But what he does say, you listen to every word. And one thing that has been his mantra since arriving at Luton is this : the team is everyone – the players yes, but the groundsmen too, the cleaners, the people making up the half-time sandwiches, the directors and every single fan too. Every single person matters and every single person is part of ONE team – the Luton team.

You can well imagine that this is music to my ears. It is, I believe, the single most important factor in our renaissance and it has united everyone to get behind the club and be proud again to wear the orange & white colours of Luton. On Monday John Still was asked to say something to the adoring fans. He didn’t say much as in his words ” I am knackered”, but as well as thanking everybody, he reminded us all :

“THE STRONGER THE TEAM, THE STRONGER THE TEAM ”

All football teams (Manchester United included), all organisations, all businesses and all teams everywhere would do well to heed that. The more every single person pulls together, the stronger the unit, and the stronger the unit, the better the results on the pitch. The picture below is one I took on Monday, it’s of the whole team that is now Luton.

#LutonFC #COYH #Hatters