Ian Sanders at the 2015 Do Lectures

In October 2017, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella published a post on LinkedIn about his experiences of becoming a father (‘The moment that forever changed our lives’). His son, Zain, was born prematurely in 1996. He has severe cerebral palsy that requires 24/7 care. In his post, Satya explains how Zain’s birth was a turning point in his life. He tells of how having a child with special needs has shaped him not only as a parent but also as a business leader. The experience has helped him better understand the journey of other people with disabilities. …

(all photographs by Ian Sanders)

“The way we live and travel has changed…”

So began the somewhat unconventional in-flight announcement before the cabin attendant told us about the precautions being taken on board this flight. It’s Monday morning and I’m on a British Airways flight from London City to Edinburgh. My first time in the sky since late 2019.

We’ve become so ‘efficient,’ haven’t we? In remote working there are few wasted minutes. Many of us are optimising every waking minute of our working day.

Days full of online meetings. No commute time. Productivity has skyrocketed. There are no wasted moments waiting for the tube, queuing in the coffee shop, waiting for the lift.

But let me tell you what I miss. Because I think efficiency is over-rated when it comes to our calendars.

I miss those little moments. Standing on the platform waiting for the train. Sitting on the Circle Line, daydreaming. Walking through the streets, looking around.

(picture above: waking up on the Do Lectures farm, June 2015)

On the edge of transformation

December 1999. On a chilly morning I was sitting in my doctor’s surgery as she scribbled out a prescription for antidepressants.

It certainly wasn’t the outcome I thought my career would have. After nine years of organisational life, I had succumbed to the fact that my job was making me ill. The prescription was a sign. It was time to quit and work for myself.

We’ve all had moments like that when our trajectories shift. Whether we want them or not. And thus begins a journey of transformation. This particular incident that prompted a shift in direction for me was…

It was February 2013 and in just 24 hours I’d had a series of powerful moments of clarity.

Those last few months I‘d been getting a lot of grief on a project; a guy I’d partnered with had proved to be unprofessional and unreliable. It had got so bad I was having sleepless nights.

And then I — suddenly — realised. What was I doing? Why was I putting up with this rubbish?

I knew I’d had enough of chasing him and of hearing his false promises. I decided to walk away. It was more important to erase the toxicity…

There’s a particular image I like to use in my Power of Story talk/ workshop. The image is of a woman sitting on a step with her dog, and is taken from the excellent ‘Humans of New York’ Instagram feed.

On a quick scan of the photo, it’s pretty ordinary — a forty-something white woman, sitting smiling next to a black dog.

In my session, I first share the image without the caption. What do people feel about this woman? I get a range of answers, mostly along the lines of it’s nice, she looks happy and so on.


As the end of 2020 draws near you’re probably wondering what the new year will bring. When will we see our teams and colleagues IRL again? When we will go into the office? And when can we have a party?

One theme that’s been a constant for me in my career — and has helped me through the uncertainty and challenging months this year — is paying attention to my operating system.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot during 2020. Recently I was a guest on a panel where the host asked me about the systems and structures I…

It sounds so obvious doesn’t it?

A simple instruction: ‘Follow you.’ Two words that sum it all up: to follow your heart, go where’s right for you, be aligned with who you are.

‘Follow You.’

Easy, right? But actually, it’s often not easy at all.

Finding out the hard way

Here’s one guy’s story. He’s a funny and creative kid who grows up into a confident and independent young man. He knows what really matters. He knows what he stands for. He has opinions. He cares about politics, music, writing and photography, and gets involved passionately in all these things. …

Thirty years ago, when my Dad sat at his desk at a bank HQ in London, he was at work. When he was at home, he was off work. Black and white. For my parents’ generation ‘work’ was a place you went to, not something you did.

That’s not the world we live in anymore. And for the last few months — in what’s been a gigantic global experiment in radically and rapidly redesigning our work lives — most employees in organisations (including people at my Dad’s former bank) have much more flexible work lives.

Let me paint a picture…

A woman sits up at her kitchen island, opens her laptop and doesn’t leave that position until the evening rolls around.

A dad has redesigned his working week to accommodate two hours of childcare a day. He seques seamlessly from his to-do list to looking after his kids, with no break in between.

It’s been a common theme over the last few months. Many of us are shackled to our desks and laptops. We are cramming in work at all hours, not giving ourselves enough downtime, barely leaving our workspaces for a break.

Why are we doing this? Of course…


Sparking change through story. Energising people at work. Author of 365 Ways to Have a Good Day (out Nov 2021). Fuelled by coffee, curiosity, walking.

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