About Di Kamp

Di Kamp is chief executive of Meta and has been involved in the field of developing people and organisations for 35 years. She has worked with a variety of organisations, and specialises in enabling senior managers to guide their organisations from good enough to excellence, and enabling management teams to lead their people in a way that will enhance their performance. Di has written several books, including manuals for trainers, one on staff appraisals, one on workplace counselling, one on improving your excellence as a trainer, one on people skills, and one on being a 21st century manager. She is currently preparing a further book on the secret of sustainable successful organisations.
Author Archive | Di Kamp


I recently went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert, and was struck by the level of joy he creates with his band and his audience. At the same time as loving the concert, I was reflecting on how rare it is to simply enjoy yourself: to sing, laugh, dance, and take pleasure in simple things.

We have been taught through the consumer culture to search for our delight through more, bigger, better, instead of listening to our hearts, which say simple, natural, shared.

This may sound idealistic, not of the real world. After all, how often can we go to concerts, or just dance? It’s not our everyday. Well, it can be: look at the sunshine, the flowers in the gardens. Listen to that lovely happy song on the radio as you drive into work. Taste that special cheese you decided to treat yourself to in your weekly shop. Smell your child’s head – how sweet! Feel the grass with your bare feet first thing in the morning. None of these are expensive or rare – and they all feed our souls.

And why do we do it – feed our souls? Because it is essential to our health and well-being.  It causes our brains to release those hormones which keep us well, and help us to thrive. Consequently, when my soul is fed, I am a more pleasant person to be around, I notice and appreciate the more positive aspects of my life, and I feel able to handle what the world throws at me. What is more, I don’t need the compensation of ‘stuff’ to try to fill the void.

If shopping did it for us, wouldn’t everyone in town look happy? If gadgets did it for us, wouldn’t everyone using their technology send positive messages?

We all have a sense of what feeds our soul: if your heart warms or sings at the thought of it, you know that works for you. That is what is worth investing in, spending time on.

This month, take a little time every day to feed your soul, and keep yourself well. The world is full of soul food, if we care to look for it – you don’t need to go and see Springsteen – although I would recommend it!!

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How often do you tell the people you love that you love them? Or show them how much you care?

How often do you tell the people you work with that you appreciate what they do that makes life easier for you? Or that you enjoy aspects of their personality?

How often do you thank people for the everyday services that they give you? Or tell them when the service was more than you expected?

These questions tend to only occur to us when we lose someone we loved, yet they need to be part of our everyday lives. When someone dies, it reminds us that it could always be too late to say the things that really matter to those we know and care for.

And if we are to live joyfully, relationships we have play a part in that – by paying attention to the good things about our relationships, we both gain more joy and spread more joy.

I don’t understand why we have a cultural tendency to notice the negatives in our relationships. I do not believe that it is inherent – young children don’t do it until we teach them how to. Nor do I understand why we restrict our positive feelings about each other, rather than let our hearts be full – again, young children are extreme in their emotions, so inherently we all are too.

So how about having a month of daring to appreciate, enjoy, and voice the positive in all your relationships, and see what happens!


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It is so easy to put off doing things that we really love doing – not enough money, not enough time, and all the other myriad excuses that we give ourselves.

I led a funeral for a dear friend of mine a couple of years ago, and we celebrated how she had lived life to the full – what a lovely way to spend this time we have! And it is a sharp reminder that none of us know how long we really have, so we need to do it now – that special thing we wish we could do.

It may be something big – a world cruise, a change of type of work. It might be something small – a bit more time spent with friends instead of the computer, a visit to a place we haven’t been to for years. Whatever you wish you could do in your life, for goodness’ sake, get on with it!

And on an everyday level, remember to:

  • Enjoy the moment – the weather, the sound of the birds, the smiles we can elicit from others
  • Tell people you love them – don’t assume they know
  • Spend time on your relationships – they will give you more value than anything else in life – and that means with the shop assistant, as well as with your friends and relatives
  • Don’t moan – do something about whatever you feel like moaning about – or laugh at it instead!
  • And celebrate being alive, and all the wonders that entails – don’t wait for the right thing or the right time.


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Do you ever wonder who you really are? We all have a version of ourselves with the traits that we recognise, and often a second version which is how we would prefer to be seen, but accepting the whole of who we are is another matter entirely!

I find that most of the time I like who I am, and can deal with my own quirks, and be forgiving of them, but once in a while they really catch me out. Examples would be: when I am ill, and become very sorry for myself, and at the same time, very cross with myself; when I don’t know how to handle something, and I begin to question my ability in other areas as well; and when I know what I would prefer to do, but I feel myself bowing to the pressure to follow other people’s way rather than my own.

Learning to take a step back and accept things as they are, including my own behaviour or reactions, is for me a vital part of being who I am, that I am gradually getting better at. I also realise that it is sometimes helpful to have someone else’s view of you, to help you to keep it in perspective.

Growing into being who we really are is a lifelong job that we all have, and one that it is worth considering once in a while. So, some questions worth asking yourself:

  • Do I like me? And if I don’t answer positively, what does make me likeable?
  • Do I accept my own quirks of character? And if the answer is no, what would help me to be more accepting of them?
  • Do I follow my own preferences, or am I swayed by what others think, or the pressures around me? And if I am swayed, what would help me to stay true to myself more often?

Remember that none of us is perfect, and all of us are wonderful, unique and special, and appreciate yourself in this light, before you look at anyone else.


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In Meta we emphasise the importance of keeping yourself resourced, to give you the energy and resourcefulness to be at your best. This is something every small child knows naturally – you need to keep yourself feeling good, so that you can get the best out of your life. Yet as we grow older, we are actively discouraged from listening to our own needs. We learn to eat at certain times rather than when we are hungry, to sleep when it is bedtime rather than when we are tired, to keep still when we want to move, and to move when we want to rest – the list goes on and on! The consequence of all this is that we begin to ignore the messages from our bodies, our minds and our hearts that tell us we are running low on energy, and to push ourselves on, against our inner wisdom.

When this becomes habitual, we leave ourselves exhausted and depleted, and that is when illness can creep up on us, or bad moods, making it impossible for us to be at our best. We want to encourage everyone to remember how to look after yourself, in a natural and easy way, so that it is easy for you to give of your best and still stay healthy and happy! We like to use a metaphor to explain what we are talking about.

Imagine that you have a fuel tank which contains your energy and resourcefulness. Most people tend to empty their fuel tanks faster than they fill it, so the orange light is constantly flashing on their dashboard. When your fuel tank is almost empty you will never perform at your best – that requires a full tank of energy and resourcefulness. Now if this were a real fuel tank, we all know that it is expensive to keep filling it up, although vital if you want your vehicle to keep going.

Fortunately topping up our imaginary fuel tank is very simple and easy, and generally costs nothing. Every time you smile or feel good, you put some fuel in – it need only take a breathspace. We call it having treats and we recommend that you have lots of treats every day.

A treat is anything which makes you smile or feel good that you can access through your senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Observe small children – they find hundreds of things to smile at, laugh about or feel good about in a day. They notice the birds flying past and singing, the clouds whizzing across the sky, the colours of the flowers in the garden. They love the feel of the gravel under their feet or the grass with dew on it, the softness of a cushion, the roundness of an orange. They smell the roses, the fruit, the freshly washed sweater. They listen to the wind in the trees, the rain on the window, the music they love. And they instantly decide whether they like the taste of something or not, and show you by their reaction! These things are all around us in our everyday lives, and we can use them, as children do, to top ourselves up, just for a moment.

We can also give ourselves an extra boost to our fuel by allowing ourselves to have something we call turbo-charges. These are anything which involves us completely, making us forget our everyday worries for as while. For many people this will be a hobby or interest: cycling, exercising, doing a jigsaw, watching a great movie, or theatre production. Sometimes it is just those things which we often deny ourselves: the long luxurious bath with wine, candles and a good book; or the couple of hours where we just do whatever we feel like doing, rather than the list of chores. Such things are not self-indulgence, they are how we revitalise ourselves, and a turbo-boost will top your fuel tank up rapidly and more fully than the simple treat does.

At Meta we believe that treats and turbo-charges are the fundamental requirement for us to bring out our own excellence. When we feel energised and resourceful, we all perform better, come up with better solutions and ideas, and behave better with others. We need to remember to look after ourselves in this way, for our own sake, and for the world we live in – what a different place it would be if we all kept ourselves feeling good most of the time!

We recommend that you:

Make a list of possible treats for each of your senses

Allow yourself at least one breathspace an hour for a treat

Allow yourself at least 1 turbo charge a week

The world is full of potential treats and turbo charges, so exploit the possibilities and make yourself feel good.

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In Meta we talk a lot about excellence, in its true sense, which is about working in a way which is inspired and natural. If we actually use our natural abilities, we find it easy to be excellent. The work we do with organisations is based on the principle that we all can be excellent, we just need reminding of what comes to us naturally!

We have done a lot of research over the years into what the distinctions are that enable an organisation to be excellent. Over the last few months, we have been working with an organisation, Bromsgrove and District Housing Trust, which is a living example of what we talk about and we thought it was worth briefly describing what we mean by using them as an example.

Let’s begin by emphasising how important the vision and commitment of the senior management team is. At BDHT, the executive team truly want their organisation to be the best it possible can be, for both staff and customers. They have recognised that nurturing a culture which encourages and supports their staff is key to achieving their long-term aims, of being both sustainably successful and offering the best possible service to their customers.

They have also recognised that everyone within the organisation has to feel a similar level of commitment to making it work as well as possible, and that it is their responsibility to create the environment that enables people to feel empowered to contribute not only their best in their specific roles, but also their ideas for making the organisation as a whole even better.

The commitment in BDHT, from the senior management team, the managers and the staff as a whole, is not just intellectual – ‘this is a good idea’ – it is also emotional – ‘we really care about making BDHT brilliant as a place to work and as a service’.

The work we have been doing with them is designed to support and reinforce their desire to be the best they can be. We have been working with the whole staff group on the tools and techniques which will help them to continue to develop their culture and ethos in practical ways.

We began by getting everyone to define what they believed would be the ideal place to work, and thereby getting them to realise that they all wanted the same sort of culture, ethos and way of approaching things in their workplace. We also asked them to describe the way people would work in such a workplace, what the values and operating principles would be, and again, there was a clear agreement about what these were.

Since then we have been running a programme with them on working smarter not harder, which is designed to make them conscious of the behaviours which make the difference in building towards being that ideal organisation. In this programme we have concentrated on how you can keep yourself on form, so that you are more likely to be effective, and how you work with others in a way that brings out the best in both of you.

There is no doubt that they already had many of these ways of working in their working practice, but by making them aware of what makes the difference, they find it easier to build on their strengths, deal with the things that sometimes stop them from being excellent, and become even better as an organisation.

The enthusiasm and willingness to take it further that we experience with them is a testament to both their prior good practice, and their excellence as an organisation. They have recently been classified as 9th in the Best Companies Awards for non-profit organisations, a massive improvement on their position last year. Yet maybe the most telling piece of evidence is the fact that not one member of staff wishes they could work somewhere else – when your people want to come to work on a Monday morning, we reckon you have cracked it!

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Do you ever stop and think about your thoughts?

I know, that sounds strange, doesn’t it. Our thoughts just seem to happen on their own, like our breathing or walking. Yet they are actually created by us, whether we are aware of it or not.

As small children, we seem to have an inherent way of thinking which is useful: we look for the fun in things, we expect things to work out, we have another go if something doesn’t work out the first time round without seeing it as failure, and we are creative and imaginative in our approach to life. Then we learn the ‘normal’ way of thinking, through the influence of those around us: to fear new things, to doubt our own ability, to judge and criticise others, and ourselves and so on.

In Meta, we call these learnt thoughts the inner commentator. We believe that we collect these types of thoughts as children, because we want to be looked after and approved of, to fit in. So although they aren’t our natural way of thinking, we adopt them, because they lead us to behave in ways that fit with the norm, and not challenge the world we live in.

However, when we are grown up, we have the right to check out whether this way of thinking is still useful to us. Notice that we use the word ‘useful’. This not whether it is right or wrong, just whether it makes our life easier or harder, more enjoyable or less enjoyable.

Our thoughts are not just thoughts – they lead directly to expectations and specific behaviour. So they are a very powerful driver for how we live our lives. We say things like: ‘I thought this would be a difficult meeting’, and can be surprised by how often our thoughts are self-fulfilling prophesies, yet the fact is that the thought leads us to expect the meeting to be difficult, and we then unconsciously give off all the non-verbal messages that that is what we expect, and look for the evidence that we are right – we actively make it happen without realising it. No wonder we are so good at self-fulfilling prophecies!!

There is now a considerable amount of research, which backs this up. (For more detail, see ‘It’s the Thought that Counts’ by Dr. David Hamilton). Our thoughts affect how we are physically, mentally and emotionally, and create our experience of life. They are the differentiating factor that causes two people to go through the same event yet have two totally different experiences of it.

And the research shows that thinking usefully actually improves our health and longevity, because our own less than useful thoughts cause stress on our immune system and damage our health, whereas useful thoughts and a more positive experience of life causes us to release more health-giving hormones.

So, once in a while, when life seems hard, stop and notice your thoughts. Could you have a more useful thought about what’s going on? Is this person being awkward or are they having a bad day? Is this work boring or easy to do without much effort? Are you fed up or wondering what would make you feel better about things?

We have a wondrous tool for making our own lives easier, and we do have control over it – we can choose how we think about things. They are your thoughts; choose to make them useful to you!!

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One of the aspects of excellence that we at Meta are particularly interested in at the moment is the concept of working smarter not harder – in fact, we are adopting it as our theme for the website this year.  The phrase has been around for many years, first appearing in business ‘speak’ when the trend became to flatten structures and reduce staffing.  Yet obviously, it has stayed mainly as a concept rather than a reality, since most people are working harder and longer than they ever have.

So what does working smarter really mean?  There are numerous elements to it, which we will be looking at over the coming months.  In essence, it means to work with your natural flow rather than against it.  That natural flow is how we are at our most effective – we even have the phrase ‘being in the flow’, so we obviously know this at some level.

Yet we have learnt to treat ourselves as if we were machines, mechanically going through our tasks, and ignoring all the signs that this doesn’t really work for us – exhaustion, stress, depression, chronic illness and, at best, not being at our optimum.  We are not machines – that is our strength!  We have emotion, intuition and intelligence, which set us apart.  We also have a natural ebb and flow, physically, mentally and emotionally.  And when we work with our own natural flow, we can achieve miracles!

If we recognise that we do not run at a consistent pace, we can begin to work smarter.  We are still designed physically in the same way we were when we were hunter-gatherers.  Our bodies and minds respond best to periods of intense activity – the hunting and gathering – followed by a rest period – feasting, laughing together, resting.  OK, I know that life isn’t like that now, but if we cater to some extent for that natural rhythm, this wonderful adaptable creature called a human being responds by becoming more effective and less exhausted.  By the way, we are called human beings, not human doings!!

Because we have become so used to driving ourselves on, we don’t even notice that we have become less effective until we have reached the stage of non-functioning most of the time, and we even accept that as normal.  It isn’t!  Watch smaller children, left to their own devices.  They are still working to their natural rhythm, being fully engaged and then knowing when to slow down or rest, and running about a lot, then doing something quiet.  And if we allow them to continue their pattern, they seem to have boundless energy!  We could be the same – it’s natural!

So, to begin with, just start noticing when you have pushed yourself on too far: are you just staring at your computer?  Are you no longer hearing what someone is saying to you?  Have you read that same line of that email over and over? Does getting dinner seem like a huge task ahead of you?  Stop, sit quietly, or go for a bit of a walk, and allow yourself a little recovery time.  You’ll be surprised by what a difference it makes!

In the coming months we’ll be doing some more blogs on specific ways in which you can work smarter not harder in the workplace, why? Because right now you are working probably harder than you ever have, and we’d like to help! At Meta we think its time to stop and take a fresh approach to working and we’d like to help support you in making that transition.

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We may be in the 21st century already, but many of our organisations are still being managed as if it were the 20th century, or even the 19th! In the rapidly changing world of work, this is a recipe for disaster, and anyone who wants to be part of the new economy needs to take stock of their skills, and choose to change their priorities.

Leaders set the example for how to be and behave in this day and age. You need to be leading others into working smarter and exploiting the potential of their skills and qualities, rather than demonstrating that working hard is the only way to go.

What does this mean in practice?


The 21st century leader starts by managing themselves. He/she knows how to maintain a positive attitude, keep themselves from getting stressed, stay energised, and manage their time and priorities. A tall order? No, this is just about taking responsibility for making your life work for you. It is about ‘breaking the rules’ of custom and practice in traditional working cultures, and applying common sense instead.

After all, we all know that working for 4 hours on a report when we’re in the wrong mood is unproductive and inefficient, even if we do look busy, and we all know that we are more effective in our work when we feel energised.

Setting the direction

Are you still controlling the minutiae of what your staff do? If so, it’s no wonder if you feel overstretched, and your staff feel disempowered!

It’s time to start concentrating on the bigger picture: what, ideally, will your team achieve, and how, ideally, will they work? Give them something to work towards that’s inspiring, and some agreed parameters for what ‘a good job well done’ looks like in that vision, and let them get on with it. Lead with inspiration, instead of managing by control.

Managing others

It’s time to put into practice the implications of that old chestnut, ‘People are our greatest asset.’ We can all begin to pay proper attention to our staff, treating them as we would like to be treated. Treating people as our greatest asset means that we put our support and encouragement of them first on our list of priorities, not last. If they were a very expensive piece of technology, we would take great care of them, and they are better than that – they can achieve miracles if we treat them right!

By valuing and appreciating what others contribute, by encouraging them to use their strengths, we also set the example for how they treat each other, and customers, as well as bringing out the best in them.

Being a role model

The most powerful message we give to our staff is not through words, it is through our everyday behaviour. Just like children, we tend to copy what others do, rather than do what they tell us to do. So be aware that how you approach things, how you tackle your own workload, how you deal with others, are the messages you give about what is acceptable here. If you are managing yourself well, you will be encouraging others to do the same. If you are constructive in your approach to issues, others will be too. If you show respect to your colleagues, they will show respect to you and each other. It is a very simple formula, although not so simple to put into practice!


This might sound like a nice idea, but your to do list is miles long, so when you have time… Please realise that we will never have time – this is a choice we make, which will gradually make our lives easier, and enable those around us to work smarter as well.

The qualities of the excellent 21st century manager are not alien to any of us. They are the qualities of mature and thoughtful human beings. You undoubtedly have them – the question is, are you using them at work? And are you willing to make that choice now?

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There’s a disturbing new virus that is hitting at the core of every part of society. It’s called the tiredness virus and it’s something that we at Meta are committed to eradicating. There is no doubt that the tiredness virus is badly affecting organisations right now, it’s hitting the productivity of organisations very hard.

Why? Because tired people are NOT good for your organisation, nor are they good for anything! Think about it – when you’re tired:

  • Bad decisions get made
  • Awful mistakes happen
  • Office tempers flare up
  • Work seems harder to do
  • Efficiency is vastly reduced
  • Dealing with anyone is hard work
  • You end up being busy rather than being effective
  • The to-do list seems never-ending
  • And some days you feel like nothing has got done!

No-one is effective when they are tired, and everyone finds work and life more difficult.

Most people right now in the workplace are playing catch up with their sleep. They work longer hours than ever. With the wonders of smart phones and Blackberrys now, there is no escape from the office. You are being contacted at all hours and expected to respond at all hours. You probably live off coffee/tea/Red Bull at the moment and are rarely eating a proper lunch. Your body and your mind are tired, worn out and in need of some respite. Not because it’s a nice or right thing to do, (although it is the right thing to do) but because actually it makes sound business sense. If you are properly rested and you have filled your fuel tank properly, the by-product of that will be that you work more efficiently and more effectively.. And feel better for it!

So what can you do?

Well, if you are in a position of power within your organisation, realise that if you want more to be done in an effective way, you must allow people to have their personal time, to take their breaks, let them go home on time, and don’t email them at 12am – they’ll think you’ll expect a response.

If you’re a leader then lead by example. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and show how effective you can be with sleep. When you feel tired, stop and have a break. Give yourself a chance to refresh when your effectiveness quotient is down.

The best solutions, the most exciting innovations come from downtime and reflection time. How many times have you been stuck and then got up and moved around, or sat down and reflected, or even gone to the loo and had a moment of inspiration?? ‘Inspiration’ literally means to ‘breathe in’ and so if you haven’t even got time to breathe (and lets face it a lot of us are just too busy right now) then its not surprising that inspiration doesn’t come calling very often.

I work mentoring young people (16-18) in my old school and I’m seeing a worrying trend (in the last 5 years) which is that young people are becoming as tired and exhausted as their parent role models. They are also running beyond their natural limits. What kind of example are we setting our own sons and daughters if we are constantly tired, grumpy and over-worked?

The evidence shows that if you are well rested your brain functions better and you get more work done in less time. You are more effective after a decent night’s sleep and when you work more effectively more gets done.

So if you want to get on top of your to-do list, keep your organisation healthy, and set a good example to your work colleagues and your family, do a few simple things –clear yourself of the tiredness virus.

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