Menu

Jez's Notebook

What Honeybees Taught Me About Leadership

If you’d have told me a decade ago that the secret to a successful, thriving and happy, well-balanced business lies in nature, I very much doubt I’d have believed you. Despite growing up in the countryside and loving nature with almost all my heart, I never thought that there could have been significant lessons of worth or value for humans in, for example, the work and life of the honeybee – let alone something that could be applied to leadership for the better of an organisation.

For the past 13 years I’ve worked as a keynote speaker at conferences and Behaviour Insight Advisor for businesses in all manner of sectors, from pharmaceutical to engineering and from defence to finance; small businesses and global outfits and with everyone from board level senior leadership to sales teams and even entire conferences where the maintenance and cleaning staff were a part of the message delivery.

In that time I’ve delivered training workshops, consultancy programs and shorter presentations to help leaders (“managers” don’t exist in my book; the definition is “to cope”, which isn’t a great start for inspiring those in your charge) develop cultures to make workplaces happier, more efficient and more effective.

When we bought the dilapidated small farm and set out on a journey to become honeybee farmers to assist in reversing the decline of the bee in Britain, I was vicariously afforded the privilege of observing these remarkable insects and rewarded with an insight into what prevents 80,000 honeybees, living in such close proximity (literally back to back) from

We’ll Pay You Later

Imagine that today your computer broke. They sometimes – thankfully rarely, although usually when you really need them or are in the middle of something important – transition rapidly from absolutely fine to complete meltdown.

Well, imagine that happened at work. You’ve no backup computers and the long term solution is, of course, to replace the computer. You’re going to need to buy one but when you call the computer supplier, you tell them that you want the computer now but won’t pay them until three months time.

Or imagine that you decide you’re going to all get together and have a nice coffee from the independent coffee shop near your office, sending out someone to get takeaway coffees every lunchtime. When you order them you tell the coffee shop owner that you’ll pay them in three months time.

There is an increasing trend by organisations – large organisations with tens of millions of pounds of profit – to tell suppliers their

It’s Okay for It To Not Be Okay

When the sparrow was deftly plucked from the bird feeder at great speed and then eaten by the sparrow hawk, I was stunned. I stood and watched the whole thing unfold and as I looked on, filled with an equal sense of awe and fascination and sadness and disgust, contemplating whether I was in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time.

Can you spot the pesky woodpecker eating nuts, not bees.

When we first moved to the farm we didn’t really see many birds, nor hear them either. There was the punctual barn owl that takes its hunting flight at seven o’clock each evening and the occasional blackbird, robin or sparrow flitting about in the hedges. After we installed

Reflecting on Depression, Sticks and Stones, and Purpose

You’re not supposed to talk about things that make you look less successful, or less happy in my industry: it’s all success, strategy, positivity and, frankly, a lot of rubbish.

So, today, I’m going to tell you – honestly – that I’ve felt my depression creeping up on me again for a while; trying to suppress it’s grip.

There will, I hope, by many reading this who because of their chosen profession, or through peer pressure, or through self-pressure, feel the need to put a mask on. When that mask begins to eat at your face it can be especially challenging because despite the general positively growing trend towards understanding and supporting mental health, the reality is that we’re still scared of it. We still don’t know what to say and we’re still running away from it.

We’re not supposed to pull away the iron curtain and expose that we’re human. The impact of centuries of locking people away, turning a blind eye and thinning out society of those who show signs of struggle still runs deep. We seem to like the idea of being mental health aware and sympathetic and conscious – we talk the talk – but it’s not supposed to happen to us. I’ve written about my depression in Flip the Switch but largely it’s a very private battle. Until now.

Standing Room Only for Jez’s Talk at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show’s Bee Hive Theatre

Edged with bee-friendly flowers, which were awash with grateful bees, The Bee Hive Theatre at the 2018 RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

Jez was invited to speak on Friday 20th July at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Tatton Park Flower Show in their brand new Bee Hive Theatre.

Visitors from across Europe flock to the show to listen to some of gardening’s favourite voices from BBC Gardener’s World and BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time.

With an estimated 65,000 visitors, the Bee Hive Theatre was a new addition to the popular Cheshire flower show this year to showcase everything about everyone’s favourite pollinator, bees. Including talks from renowned beekeepers and scientists, Gill Perkins from The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Kate Bradbury, Jez’s talk was a huge success and although cut by organisers last minute from the original 45 minutes to just 20, it still drew a standing room only crowd as Jez explained his decision to purchase a derelict farm and re-instate it as a pollinator-friendly site, which has become home to their honey farm.

Jez’s energy and enthusiasm for nature and gardening, coupled with the photos of the bare concrete and grass farm when they moved in compared to photos of the huge amount of work they have carried out drew audible gasps and applause as he detailed the planting decisions they have made based on the needs of pollinators, why the best plants for your garden happen to also be bee-friendly, insights into the gardens they have created at the farm, including: rose borders, vegetable and fruit garden, jewel garden, cut flower and cottage garden borders, herb garden, wild flower meadow orchard, colour borders and a jungle/woodland area – as Jez explained that he is trying to create “the Harrod’s food hall for pollinators” or “Disneyland for bees”, the audience listened attentively, many taking notes.

Wrapping up, Jez explained why he believes beekeeping is the new gin and tonic, to much laughter and agreement from the audience present, and how “outside space owners” (Jez explained that for some people the thought of being a gardener was too much responsibility and if they didn’t identify with that title, tended to ignore gardening advice) were in the perfect position to make a very real difference to the decline of the honeybee and to pollinators everywhere, by simply thinking differently about planting and gardening.

Jez Rose is a broadcaster, award-winning author, speaker, bee farmer and tea drinker. He describes himself as an “unconventional gardener”. For more information visit www.JezRose.co.uk and for free planting advice for the best bee-friendly plants, in association with award-winning garden designer Adam Frost, visit the blog at www.BeesforBusiness.com

Honey – what’s in a name?

What is an acceptable amount of money to pay for a jar of honey?

The price of British honey is set to rise.

Brexit? European economics? Greed? Perhaps none of the obvious are to blame but without a greater public understanding of just how much goes into getting honey to your table, I fear honey may well go the same way as milk.

I grew up right next to a bovine farm and have met many dairy farmers in my time; they all have the same story to tell. It’s one of long hours, hard work and a

Is It Too Obvious? The Sentient Solution

The start of the vegetable season can’t come soon enough for me – an opportunity to get outside and plant, in this case, peas. Even if it means wrapping up in loads of layers but on a dry day that’s balanced by the natural daylight, fresh air and contact with nature.

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of the BBC show Gardener’s World – in fact, it’s the only reason we maintain a TV licence and every year when the licence renewal is up, I consider not renewing as Mrs Jez and I hardly watch any television, unless friends or colleagues are on. Every year I’m reminded of that Victoria Wood gag where she explains that the television license inspector came knocking on her door: “we’ve reason to believe you’re watching television without a licence and are fined £100”, to which Wood explains that she’s only watching Gardener’s World, to which the inspector replies: “oh, ok, call it fifty”.

Last year I remember watching our friend Adam Frost visit some community projects that were using gardening as a mechanism to bring communities together and to offer what was essentially distraction therapy for those who had suffered all sorts of different life traumas. Refugees who had been forced out of their country, witnessing (and in one case personally subjected to) rape, famine and destruction in the process. Children with learning difficulties and special educational needs who felt that they didn’t quite fit in; the recipients of bullying behaviour and feeling confused. Different nationalities; religions; social backgrounds and here they all were, together – gardening. Growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruit – together. No prejudice and in some cases not even a common language among them, however, despite the social, economic, psychological and behavioural extremes, Frost began to unpick their stories, revealing to us, the emotionally overwhelmed viewers, that here was nature, healing.

Some of these individuals had been to the most darkest places in their minds and souls: they had witnessed and been subjected to some of the most horrific examples of behaviour our species can exhibit. But with their hands in soil; preparing and nurturing new life in the form of plants and in turn enjoying the culinary benefits of their labour, there was solace.

If nature can help to heal and provide efficacious restorative opportunities for human health, wellbeing and behaviour when we are at our lowest and despite the most extreme of circumstances – just imagine what contact with nature could do for those of us fortunate enough to not be in those positions?

Gardening activities are, for me, the most obvious

Making Our Mark – the forgotten premise of leaving a legacy

In the worlds of architecture, grand garden design and world peace, the likes of Antonio Gaudi, Capability Brown and Mahatma Ghandi all acted with the intention of leaving a legacy: something of value for others to benefit from. Across many areas of society, there are historical examples of acts with the intention to promote the greater good and leave something of benefit for others – to leave the world a better place for having been here.

From

The Culture Claptrap – why is culture not more important?

Ask any CEO, anyone with the title “Head of”, a Brand Manager or anyone in human resources and they’ll all tell you – no matter what industry or organisations type they’re from – that culture is key.

And why wouldn’t they? They’re hardly going to say: “we don’t really care what working environments are like; we’re far too busy for that investing in product and margins – people should put up, shut up and bloody well get on with it”, are they? Yet organisations don’t need to verbalise that as actions speak louder than words: what we do – or don’t do – often has a greater impact that words.

The dreary impact of a lack of focus on environment.

I’m still hearing

Do Rabbits Get Screen Fatigue?

Just some 100 years ago I’d have been locked away for being insane. A statement that might not be especially surprising to many reading this but I do talk to myself. I’d never noticed before but Mrs Jez does like to point out just how much I chatter to myself and to the dogs, and the bees and even the vegetables. I don’t expect an answer, so in terms of a assessing myself on some informal madness scale I think I’d score fairly low – unlikely to show you my knife collection at the bus stop or crumble Rich Tea over my head but I might say “hello” in a lift.

Sometimes I surprise myself with my seemingly inherent ramblings: “oh Jez what are you doing?”; “let’s take this caterpillar off of your leaves you poor plant”; “oh Mrs Bee, come on now get with it”; “Mr Weed you’re beginning to annoy me” – those are just this morning’s. But yesterday’s was a real corker and even surprised me.

Walking to the vegetable garden I asked myself – no one else around, not even