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Interview with James Cooke

Throughout his career James Cooke has given talks and workshops at an International and National level for Governments, Corporate Clients and Associations. By looking at the lessons of History, James will inform you on how to take these lessons and apply them to your Leadership to help you and your organisation fly. In this interview, James outlines how he prepares for speaking engagements and three ways to create a more innovative company culture.

What kinds of clients have you worked with in the past?

Over the last 25 years the focus has been on Leadership Teams. The clients have been a disparate group – but the themes have always been the same. Three UK Governments, the EU, through to developing the European HQ of the PGA and Ryder Cup at the Belfry Hotel. The full list includes leaders of Universities, Professional Firms, Not for Profits as well as all manner of Commercial Company. It has been a wonderful life.


How do you prepare for speaking engagements?

What can look easy on the day is in fact the product of detailed effort – would it were easier. For International Talks I use a script. It gets worse – I write it long hand in pencil! Workshops are no less thought through. But you need to be able to free wheel so, on the day, I rely on major topic headings. I always research the audience – first their needs and then their feedback.


2016 and 2017 has seen a shift in global politics with Brexit and the election of President Trump, do you see this as a permanent change in the international landscape or something which will become merely a point in history?

Huge topic and vital to our future. This is the focus of my next International Talk. The Western World is kicking back at the ineffectiveness of our established democratic elites. In truth and contrary to what we are taught, Democracy doesn’t work well. But it is the best bad system we have, and it has to adapt. In particular it will have to adapt to accommodate the increasingly competitive competence of China’s vastly better equipped leadership teams.


How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

My audiences are serious people – they want pointers, ideas, they want to fly. But you don’t learn if you are not relaxed and having fun. So, lots of laughter, leg pulling, asides, and whimsy. Especially in the workshops and Q&A sessions. My best accolade was being called The Happy Helper.


What is a common misconception about being a successful leader? 

Leaders should not be Heroes, statues on a plinth, all knowing. Instead the great ones are supporters, coached, enthusiasts who build a team and then help it to fly higher and further than it ever felt possible.


Can you give 3 tips for creating a more innovative company culture?

Innovation is a steady day by day process. It comes from asking at every point – why do we do it this way? How could we do it better? So:

  • Get everyone involved; your staff, your friends, your clients.
  • Look around for what makes others more effective than you.
  • Never compromise over value for money.


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