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Phil's Books blog

New Book: Love & Loss in the Time of Covid

“This accomplished experimental novel centers on loss, connection, and trying to heal in a pandemic. Dourado manages to balance tragedy and comedy in this intriguing debut that reimagines the novel in the context of Covid-19.”

– Publishers’ Weekly Book Life Supplement, November, 2021

My new book, Love & Loss in the Time of Covid, is available to buy on the links below.

“A moving and funny memoir of love & loss in a time of turmoil.”

Love & Loss is the first novel set during the time of Covid written and published in real time, as the events described in it were happening in the real world.

Part grief memoir, part Covid chronicle, the novel tries to make sense, through the experiences of one family, of the world turned upside down that we have all lived through, and are still living through.

Front cover.

My new book, published by Steelhouse Publishing, is available as a paperback, a Kindle eBook and, soon, as hardback and audiobook. The paperback or Kindle version is available on these links:

Love & Loss in the Time of Covid (UK)

Love & Loss in the Time of Covid (US)

Or search the book title on your local Amazon site.


donna d 5.0 out of 5 stars 

Beautifully written – a must-read

Reviewed in the United States on October 26, 2021

This story follows the intimate journey of Matthew, who has lost three important people in his life during Covid, in succession, and how he navigates how to cope with his loss and grief. I found his journey along the Thames to be so symbolic – from putting the pieces of the kayak together to the navigation down the River, in the water – perhaps a search for rebirth. Having sought solace and peace in nature during lockdown (and still now), I could understand why his early morning time, drifting along, breathing in fresh air, were key to his search for healing.

The book offered humor where it was needed to give us some comic relief within a heavy subject matter. I found this book to be easily relatable, having lost friends and loved ones during the pandemic (and at other times too). Being separated from my mom for 6 months as her apartment building was in total lockdown, I could relate to his concerns for his own mother. Forced to wave to my mother from the sidewalk up to her 8th floor window was heartwrenching, but necessary for her health and protection. The author writes in an intimate, honest tone that I appreciated. There is no sugar coating to the pain from loss.

I totally understood how the main character used books, films, nature, videos, Ted Talks, science, grief counsellors, journals and articles written by others who have suffered grief – any avenue he could – to help him in his pain of loss and help him find a way forward to light and hope.

We live in a different world now – still in Zoom for many things where we used to have human contact, and finding ways to accept this way of life and find some positivity in it. The daily news lead off story is still about Covid and we can either fall into the darkness of it or choose light and hope for a better future.

I so appreciate that this book was written in real time. I loved this book.


Mrs T 5.0 out of 5 stars 

Can’t put this down 5*

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 5, 2021

I know it’s a cliche, but I can’t put this book down. I’m three-quarters of the way through. My dog is staring at me with his legs crossed, needing his walk. My son and his family are due for Sunday lunch. So, I have to put it down and get up for both of those. But, then I’m really looking forward to getting back into it. The grief theme and how the main character tries to work through it when he loses several people at once makes complete sense to us. My husband lost both his parents very close together and, when that happens, you haven’t been able to grieve full circle for one before you start again. It just all comes at you at once. Intensely moving and surprisingly funny book.

Barbara 5.0 out of 5 stars 

An unforgettable, extraordinary book.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 8, 2021

Superbly written, original, intensely personal, moving, funny. One of the most evocative, extraordinary books I’ve ever read. We’re inside the central character Matthew’s head as he encounters, remembers and confronts his experiences of grief, loss and powerful love. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s also great if you read in bitesize chunks – if you can bear to put it down, or simply have to, such as during a commute to work. But believe me, you’ll actually long for the journey time because every chapter sings. Unforgettable.


You can read an excerpt by going to the book’s page on this link Publishers’ Weekly Booklife Site and clicking on the ‘Download excerpt‘ button.

The Second Little Book of Leadership

…just published on Slideshare. Hope you find it useful.


Letting customers ‘co-create’. Young people and companies seem to do this naturally

This is a bit self-indulgent. It’s my younger son playing piano with his uni housemates in their band. What intrigued me is why he is doing it quite like this. So, I asked him.

It’s because one of their ‘fans’ asked. It says so on-screen partway through the video clip. It reminded me of when a CD Baby customer asked for a squid in answer to the question on the form ‘Anything else you want?’ and was sent one (look it up on You Tube). Younger people, bands, companies seem to have far less problem with this adaptation of what they do in response to what customers ask – turning it into a quirky feature.

Anyway, here’s the blindfolded piano player and his musical friends to illustrate the point:

Time to vote for the Top 30 World Leadership Gurus (before end February)

Well, I was 17th last year, largely, I think, for creating The Leadership Hub, and winning some awards around the world for the corporate version, which runs inside the intranet of a large organization and brings their global leadership community together as a development platform. No-one’s done it like that before as far as I know, and I think that’s what brought me to this website’s (below) attention.

Anyway, see the email I just received, below, and do please vote. For me if you think I deserve it, but for someone else if I don’t. I didn’t put myself up for this, I should add.

Phil Dourado

PS If you get ‘failed’ when you try voting using their drop-down list of the Top 30 candidates (hey, why am I in small print in there 🙂 ) , then just write into the field a bit further down that says ‘nominate’ and submit that instead – my name if you like, or someone else’s if not www.leadershipgurus.net

Dear Global Guru Candidates

We are finalizing the ranking for 2012. And your originality, works and impact have qualified you as one of the world’s top 30 Leadership gurus. And as you know, 40% of the ranking is based on peer voting.

So, please get your fans to vote for you at: www.leadershipgurus.net. The final calculations will be completed by March 1st. we will inform you individually when we tabulate the results.

All the best,


PS. As usual, if anyone contacts you and asks for money or donations representing Leadership Gurus or Global Gurus, it is NOT us. We will never request or accept compensation or gratuities for this award”

What my Tesco Metro taught me yesterday








I walked into my local Tesco Metro the other day and they have this new, real-time display above the entrance doors. Sometimes it says ’30 seconds’ even. This time it was less than 60.

The lesson’s  obvious for all of us. This just makes the point in one wonderfully ‘in  your face’ screen. In the 1980s and 1990s, large organizations busily created processes for managing customers based on them/us queuing or waiting in line – most notably the contact centre/center industry.

But, customers don’t want to wait. They hate you for it. They hate your call centres that queue them or make them wait in line. They hate your attempts to route them through your system with Interactive Voice Response.  They hate you for making them fill in a form with their personal details when you already have that information. They don’t want that. They want a real person answering their question now.

The reason they won’t wait is that time is life. By asking them to wait, you are stealing their precious time – you are taking little chunks of their life. You are killing them by moments. That’s how they/we see it. Life’s short. We all want to get the most out of it. The more you eat into people’s time by making them wait, the more you are, literally, taking their life away from them, second by second, when they want to do something else with that time.

So, before you build yet another process based on the assumption that customers will wait in line to reach you. Or even on the cynical assumption that they won’t wait, so you ‘manage’ the queue that way – which we all have experience of as customers; you actually exploit the ‘Life’s too short to wait’ feeling we all have by making your service have a long wait time – the traditional route for keeping customer complaint calls down – then you are, in the long-term, dead yourself as an organization.

Follow Tesco. Follow Disney. Bust your queues or lines. Don’t build processes that assume customers will wait for you.

Why on earth should they?

Phil Dourado 

Little Bets, How breakthrough ideas come from small discoveries, by Peter Sims


“In this era of ever-accelerating change, being able to create, navigate amid uncertainty, and adapt using an experimental approach will increasingly be a vital advantage.

The way to begin is with little bets.” – Peter Sims

I love this book.

One sentence book summary: You innovate to keep changing and improving by a constant series of ‘little bets’ – affordable experimental changes or mini pilots – taken at all levels of the organization: if you are not trying at least one new thing or new approach at any one time, then you will stay the same; maybe you’re ‘good’ already so play safe most of the time, but since ‘good’ is no longer good enough, you may look like you’re succeeding, but you are actually slowly slipping behind. (Wow, what a long sentence…)

Why this is so important: Fundamental to the little bets approach is knowing that you will get something wrong, learn why and improve it. It’s because it’s new that you don’t know if it will work. And you ‘learn by doing’ – smart business leaders call this ‘failing forwards‘ – It looks like failure but it teaches you something you didn’t know and teaches you how ‘it’ will work, and you then fix it and find you now have something no competitor has. You created it.

One paragraph on why you will think this is wrong compared with the way you are used to working: NONE of us are comfortable with this approach as it ‘ups’ what looks like our failure rate. We all want to be in charge of the unit or department or organization that rarely gets anything ‘wrong’ – the safe pair of hands.

That old-fashioned view of what success looks like just means you will stay in safe territory where you know how to do what you are doing. So, you will not progress fast enough. As Picasso said, he was always trying new things that he didn’t know how to do, in order to learn how to do them. That’s the only way we move forward.

Fundamental to the little bets approach is that you:

1. Experiment: Learn by doing. Fail quickly to learn fast. Develop experiments and prototypes to gather insights, identify problems, and build up to creative ideas, like Beethoven did in order to discover new musical styles and forms.

2. Play: A playful, improvisational, and humorous atmosphere quiets our inhibitions when ideas are incubating or newly hatched, and prevents creative ideas from being snuffed out or prematurely judged.

3. Immerse: Take time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights, in order to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up.

4. Define: Use insights gathered throughout the process to define specific problems and needs before solving them, just as the Google founders did when they realized that their library search algorithm could address a much larger problem.

5. Reorient: Be flexible in pursuit of larger goals and aspirations, making good use of small wins to make necessary pivots and chart the course to completion.

6. Iterate: Repeat, refine, and test frequently armed with better insights, information, and assumptions as time goes on.

Great book. Busts the ‘innovation is only noticeable if it’s big innovation’ thinking and shows how to create a continuously innovating culture that improves – a continuous improvement ‘engine’ if you will.

More on Peter Sims’ website>>>

Peter Sims talks about the book on his website (I’m a link. Click on me).


How to Lead in 2012: Follow Happy Henry’s Recipe

Relax! A Happy Business Story

By Henry Stewart, Cathy Busani and James Moran

You can download a free pdf copy of this book on this link:


60-Second Main Learning Points

In this fictional tale, a highly stressed small business owner discovers a new way to run his company.


What would your organization be like if you completely trusted everybody? What would you have to do to get to that point?

Chapter 1: About Trust and Information

  • Without information, people cannot take responsibility – with information, people cannot avoid taking responsibility.
  • Agree principles that everyone can work within.
  • Train the staff to do the jobs you’re trusting them to do.
  • Trust them to do it.

Chapter 2: Celebrate Mistakes

  • Celebrate your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Imagine what it would be like to work somewhere where you never got blamed for your mistakes… where mistakes were seen as positive things, as outcomes of risk and innovation.
  • You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t make any mistakes – go make some.

Weekly Mistake meetings – people talk about the mistakes that they made and how they could do things differently. Admit when you, the boss, make a mistake.

Chapter 3: What to Judge Your People On

  • Look at how your people’s targets fit within the company principles and targets – get your people to see the big picture.
  • Judge your people on the results they achieve, not the number of hours they work.
  • Recognize when people have done good work, give your feedback personally and make it specific.

How are they going to know how much you appreciate them unless you tell them? Recognize when anyone does a good job and make sure they all know that you’re pleased with their work. By showing that you appreciate them you’ll increase their motivation and enthusiasm and consequently improve their morale.

Chapter 4: Listening is Different From Hearing

  • It’s not enough to hear, you have to really listen to people.
  • People say more than they actually “say”.
  • If someone is acting out of character, ask them what is really wrong – and how you can help.
  • Frame conversations to help people listen better.

Chapter 5: Believe the Best

Always believe the best of your staff. Believing the best should form the basis of every communication.

  • Believe the best of people.
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Listen without judgement or assumption.
  • Ask how you can help them.

Chapter 6: Hire For Attitude Train for Skill

  • Hire people your existing staff will be happy working with.
  • Skills can be learnt, a good attitude is either there or not there.
  • If somebody is not happy in their current job, see if they can do something else better.
  • Set your staff up to succeed – exploit their strengths, not their weaknesses.

Chapter 8: Job Ownership and Full Involvement from Everyone

  • Create a framework which gives people ownership over their jobs.
  • Get everyone involved in the decisions that affect them.
  • If people are involved in decision, they will be more committed to making those decisions work.

Chapter 9: Work/Life Balance

  • Help people to balance their home lives with their working lives.
  • If people are happier with the balance of their lives, they will be more motivated and produce better work.

Chapter 10: Putting it All Together

  • People work best when they feel good about themselves.
  • How would your organization be different if management focused on making people feel good?
  • Ask your people for ideas – they may know how things work better than you!

Author of this book, Henry Stewart, in these videos, talks about some of the learning from the book:

http://thinkers50.com/sharing/video-library/ ( 5.24)

http://thinkers50.com/sharing/video-library/ (2.28)

Virgin’s four word formula for a distinct guest experience

My colleague, Susan Johnson, is working on brand behaviours for a client. We were doing some research into brands that are brought to life by the people who deliver the service. As we were looking into Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Susan came across this and shared it with me:

“Virgin has Brilliant Basics and Magic Moments”

Brilliant Basics. Magic Moments. That’s a powerful four-word formula for bringing a brand to life through how people behave.

Clear brand behaviour guidelines provide the framework, great processes and committed people provide the brilliant basics within the framework. Then the Magic Moments often come from the personality of your people and their freedom to express it. Freedom within a framework is the way to frame the thinking on this.

Nearly always, a ‘magic moment’ comes from anticipating a guest’s need. And surprising them. Magic needs surprise.

Customer service – going through the motions

Ever feel the service your organization gives is too procedural, too much ‘going through the motions’? Show them this cartoon from Doug Savage, if so. Source and copyright: www.savagechickens.com

The world’s best passenger complaint letter?

The Telegraph ran this letter to Richard Branson a while ago – I’m late in noticing it. I like the eventual response – Branson rang him up (he does that – he did it to me once when I worked for The Independent) and offered him the chance to select the food and wine for future Virgin flights. I also used to work for The Telegraph and haven’t read it for ages and was more than surprised at the praise it lavished on this letter. Yes, it’s funny, but why go on about how it is ‘almost universally praised’ – Their news journalism used to be good. That’s just hype. Which is why I gave up on journalism for the most part…

REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

“I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at thehands of your corporation.

Look at this Richard. Just look at it: [see image 1, above].

I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?

You don’t get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it’s next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That’s got to be the clue hasn’t it. No sane person would serve a desert with a tomato would they…

more here