Monday, 3 November 2014


Harriet’s CEO of Thomas Cook. She’s turned a basket case of a company into a Prada handbag. So she’s terrific. But here’s what she said about sleep:

I don't sleep much, I never have. It's over-rated.

Apparently she manages on less than three hours a night. Well done her - for now - until she implodes - because life has an ironic way of mugging people who flaunt their alpha-ness.

My advice to you if you want to think and produce thoughtful and carefully created solutions, not plans that are conceived in a daze, is the following:

  • Slow down - most golf swings by the greats look measured and graceful. That’s what we want our leaders to look like and how we them to behave.
  • Calm down by breathing deeply and employing (within reason) mindfulness. Clear your mind but don’t empty it.
  • Use soft eyes. Sit and look gently into the middle distance letting your unblinking eyes float and go soft. Try it - it’s an ideal mode for deep reflection.
  • Then try and widen your angle of vision. Think about a problem and imagine standing above it and doing two things: seeing it in a broader context and also seeing how small or big it is real terms.
  • Most of all listen carefully and stand up straight and notice what’s going on around you.
  • And sleep. Sleep restores you, replenishes your energy and in your sleep your brain is sorting things out and quite often finding ingenious solutions to intractable problems. 

When I was young, dynamic, thrusting and a greasy pole climber - a thoroughly ghastly person - I was shockingly unobservant, unpunctual but I had a remorseless focus. This is my least favourite word in the current management lexicon (it comes next to passion). That’s when I behaved like Harriet and had 5am meetings just for show.

And then I read Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” where he says:

…cognitive load is not the only cause of weakened self-control. A few drinks have the same effect as does a sleepless night.

Harriet do you hear me?

How to solve problems and make brilliant decisions. (Business Thinking Skills that really work) published by Pearson is coming out on November 12th 2014

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