Posted by: mikeduckett | February 11, 2013

Ashley Plamer-Watts: Always Developing

Way back in 2005, when in his mid-twenties, Ashley Palmer-Watts had already achieved in his career that to which many might aspire – he was Head Chef at a restaurant with three Michelin stars.  And not just any restaurant, but The Fat Duck.

So what next?! What was his next achievement to be and how would he stay focused?

For him, the trigger was being invited to present the Royal Institute Christmas Lecture.  Heston Blumenthal, Ashley’s manager, addressed Ashley’s doubts about his ability to do this by recommending he get some coaching!

Despite some doubts, applying the Fat Duck ethos of trying new things to see what happens, Ashley decided to give it a go.

At his first session it became clear that apart from the ‘technical’ skills of presentation, he needed to work on his confidence in front of an audience.  Ashley believes that you have to invest in something in order to get outcomes, so worked hard, both with Mike Duckett and between sessions, to achieve his objectives and in return received much acclaim after the Lecture.

Ashley is aware that coaching should not be perceived as a blunt instrument for tackling a narrowly defined problem, but as a subtle tool to help clients achieve broader objectives.  He therefore had further sessions with Mike after the Lecture, with the broad aim of becoming a superb Head Chef.  He wanted to be a leader, a role model and an inspiration.  Most of all he wanted to earn those things, not to expect them just because he had the job title.

He therefore worked on management techniques, problem solving and how to grow professionally to become the Head Chef he wanted to be.mqdefault

Here, on this clip Ashley talks about his experience of leadership when Head Chef at The Fat Duck

He also wanted to learn how to free his mind, to become more creative.  He needed to avoid getting bogged down with dealing with problems in the kitchen and fire fighting, instead focussing on his creativity. (Familiar issue?!)

Mike gave Ashley a number of tools to help him achieve this aim.  Just one of these tools was specific pieces of music to listen to while he goes for a half hour walk.  Ideas are not necessarily generated during that half hour, but his creativity is stimulated and he is confident that the results justify the time investment.  Before opening ‘Dinner’ at The Mandarin Hotel, Ashley did this every day.  The rigours of service mean that this is no longer possible, but he still uses this technique as often as he can – if it works, keep doing it!

Sometimes Ashley doesn’t really know what he wants to achieve in a coaching session – there’s no immediate ‘problem’.  It never takes long though to draw out what’s not quite right, what’s not working, what needs improvement, and the next two hours then fly by!  Ashley appreciates that Mike doesn’t put things into his head, he gives him tools to help him “crack the code”, to see how simple things can be.

Looking back on what he has achieved so far, Ashley is now comfortable with the fact that he (and anyone else) can develop further than he thought, given the right tools and the right support.  He is a driven person who wants to become even more successful.

He does perceive himself as being very lucky to work for a company which also believes this and which is prepared to support him to achieve his aims, and who clearly see this as being of benefit to the company.

Ashley’s advice is that however successful you already are, and however you define success, you can and should work on yourself in order to either maintain your success or to become even more successful

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 27, 2012

Dumping Email & Bad Grammer

Clip from Marlow FM radio show where we discuss articles – “Top 10 tips. Why Ditching Email Is The Way To Go” and “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Bad Grammar. Here’s Why”

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 13, 2012

Interview with Mike Clare, Founder of Dreams plc

The second part of our radio show: an interview with Mike Clare, founder of Dreams plc and Clarenco LLP

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 13, 2012

Zombie Companies and Moralistic Food

Here’s a clip from the opening 30 mins of our last show when we discussed Zombie Companies (those that are dead but won’t lie down and food types that affect your moral judgement! (We have to edit out the music so that’s why there sometimes seems to be strange breaks!)

Posted by: mikeduckett | October 31, 2012

Monkey Business in the Boardroom

Here’s a short clip from our latest radio Marlow FM show – talking about Apes and CEOs……

Posted by: mikeduckett | October 5, 2012

Marlow FM Psychology of Communication Edit


This is an edit of a show during which we discussed some interesting research into the unconscious effects that items such as mobile phones and briefcases can have on communication in meetings. So if you want to encourage your opposite number in the meeting to be competitive leave your briefcase in view!

Posted by: mikeduckett | October 2, 2012

Staying Fit To Think – Marlow FM


Here’s the edited content of a show we did recently with a guest, Kevin Dobson of Beyond Fitness, in which we talk about the idea of staying fit enough to think clearly! What about the idea of using the office as your own personal gym?

Posted by: mikeduckett | August 6, 2012

Portfolio Careers: Marlow FM Radio Show

As Mark was on holiday I asked Karen Pawlowska, of Take One Business Communications, to help out on our fortnightly ‘Biz Buzz’ show on Marlow FM (Thu 2/8/12 14:00  – 15:30). The subject was ‘portfolio careers’; a term coined by Charles Handy to denote a career that is built not on one single occupation but any number, adding up to a portfolio.

Our guest was a long-standing client of mine, Penny Mallory, who has developed, over the years I have known and worked with her, a wide variety of skills, including World Rally Car racing, TV presenting, motivational speaking and running a tea shop!  Listen again as she describes the benefits and drawbacks of being totally responsible for all the choices you make.

Posted by: mikeduckett | July 9, 2012

Last Thursday Karen Pawlowska of was the guest on Biz Buzz on , which I co-presented with Mark Harris of .

Although some of the conversation was around the power of using video with your business (and particularly online), which is Karen’s area of specialism, we invited her on as she is sometimes known as “the Queen of networking”, and given that networking was our theme for the show, we knew she’d be a great addition to the conversation.  We were right. Here’s some footage of the show, courtesy of Takeone:


I think one of the key issues for me is the style of networking group you work with.  I split these into Grazing and In-depth.

When Grazing ( and the like) you meet lots of people who you’ve not met before, have a brief chat and see if there is and ‘chemistry’ between you (of the business type, of course!).  If there is, you may well swap cards, have a browse of eachother’s website and a one-to-one can then ensue, from which business, or referrals, or both, might emanate.  Or might not.  It’s a numbers game.

When networking In-depth (,, and many more) you see mostly the same people every week, with those people learning more & more about you and your business (and vice versa).  In this scenario, your primary objective is not to secure business from people in the room (although that’s always nice) but to enhance your reputation with them so that they feel comfortable (and knowledgeable) recommending you to other people.

Which is best?

Well, the “Harry Hill solution” is perhaps not applicable here!

The answer of course is that the question is invalid!  A valid question would perhaps be “Which is best for you?”.

Different businesses, and different people within those businesses, get a range of benefits from each type of networking.  This also goes for the various time slots – breakfast, mid morning, lunch or evening.  There is no “best” – it’s about what works for you.

For me, there are 7 things you should always consider when networking, and they are……

1)  Prep before the event 2)  Don’t “sell sell sell” at an event 3)  Listening is more useful than talking! 4)  Don’t interrupt a conversation in progress but look for an odd numbered group (3 or 5) and the one person less engaged than the others – they’ll welcome your attention 5)  Don’t have too much alcohol – especially at breakfast!! 6)  Don’t hand out your business card almost at random. 7)  Always always follow up a contact.

How clever am I to know all that?

Well, I sort of knew it already, but the day after our show I became aware of the post at which expresses very well what I already sort of knew.  Have a read, and you could do worse than to sign up for their daily bulletin.

Posted by: mikeduckett | July 4, 2012

Radio Marlow FM. The Mike & Mark show!

Just a short blog to let you know that the theme of the Biz Buzz show on Marlow FM at 2pm this Thursday is networking.

Why should you do it?  Where can you network?  Grazing or in-depth?  What’s a 1-2-1 & when should you have one??  All this and more will be addressed!!

Our guest will be Karen Pawlowska of .  Karen will of course be talking about the power of video and why it is such a powerful tool for your business, but we invited her on to this particular show because she is a networker par excellence and so her thoughts on our theme for the programme will be of much value.

Needless to say, we’ll be choosing music with appropriate titles to play during the show – if you have suggestions, we’ll be happy to hear them.

As always, the final 30 minutes of the show is devoted to questions from listeners – these can be on the theme of networking or on any business matter.  Emailed questions prior to the show should go to .  Phone calls, texts or emails during the show are most welcome, but please be aware we can only answer the phone when music is playing, not while we’re broadcasting!

You can listen live at 2pm on Thursday via .  Hope you enjoy the show – please do let us know what you think!

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