Strengths Positively Identified Kick-start Excellence – Excerpt by Rene’ Carayol the Author of SPIKE | Marketing and Networking University

Strengths Positively Identified Kick-start Excellence – Excerpt by Rene’ Carayol the Author of SPIKE

Rene Carayol Spike Book

Rene’ Carayol, MBE, a leading global business guru specializing in leadership, culture and transformation, political analyst, a visiting Professor of CASS business school and the author of SPIKE published by LID Publishing


In this groundbreaking book, René Carayol, leading business guru, top keynote speaker on Leadership and Culture, executive coach, shares the magic and simplicity of the SPIKE (Strengths Positively Identified Kick-start Excellence) philosophy. In the world of SPIKE, there are no losers anymore – everyone has something they are great at! The product of 30 years of supporting the growth and development of thousands of individuals and organizations globally, the book brings together a proven formula for personal and business development. The vital and essential ingredient of SPIKE is that everyone has at least one inherent strength. Finding those sometimes hidden strengths and energies, and then mobilizing them for your and other’s benefit, is the ultimate aim of this inspiring book.

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Nobody wants to work for a pessimist. How much of an optimist or pessimist are you when it comes to rapid change? Ask your loved ones how they view your positivity under pressure.

Sometimes, change creates a culture of complaint. People get mad at the situation. They gripe. They burn up precious energy on frustration and angry feelings.

Some play “poor me”, whine about being a victim, and dwell on what they’ve lost. They wallow around in wishful thinking and long for a return to the ‘good old days’.

Still others waste themselves on worry – about the future, what they might lose, or what could go wrong.

None of this negative thinking improves a thing. But it also doesn’t make them bad people. In fact, they have Spikes to be capitalized upon. They need the support and direction of those who see the world of change more optimistically.

Change makes a lot of new demands on people, leaving you little time or energy to spare. So instead of getting upset and wasting these precious resources, spend them on solving the new problems.

Buckle down. Channel your thoughts and efforts along productive lines. Get busy instead of getting mad. Crowd out unpleasant emotions by filling your mind with a search for solutions.

Action is better therapy than tears. And doing your part to help the organization adjust will lower your level of emotional stress a lot better than resisting the changes ever would.

But this is rarely achieved alone.

Redirect grief, anger, or worry into a passionate pursuit of results. Work from the heart and you heal the spirit. Put fire into your job habits and you burn off worry and anger.

Spend your energy and time on finding solutions to the problems of change. You can help shape the culture into an energy-efficient system that feeds off the diversity within the Spikes of its people.

Those with little experience or exposure to the ‘old way of doing things’, will have much less respect for them and have little fear of doing things differently – they should not be frowned upon, but their Spikes must be encouraged and embraced.


Joe Namath, Hall of Fame quarterback

Keith – We Are Stronger Together

It was a very full house at Goldman Sachs’ River Court offices in Fleet Street. I was the guest keynote speaker for an important Leadership event. Everything had gone very well and I had stayed behind to talk to the extremely smart and driven, young talented employees who were the attendees for the event.

Goldman Sachs always run top-drawer events. On my way out, one of the attendees stopped me in the reception area. He introduced himself. He was tall and impeccably turned out. He said, “Thank you for making the Mentoring Scheme happen at Deptford Green School. It helped me change my horizons. I would never have believed that I could have gone on to university and land this job at Goldman Sachs.”

He was to always stick in my mind.

It was my first day of work at IPC Magazines. I’ve always lived and worked north of the river in London. There is a particular snobbery and competition practised by those who live north of the river, against those who live south of the river. Both sides swear blind that the other side is full of plebs and paupers.

I must admit, I did hesitate when I realised my new place of work was going to be south of the river.

Driving in on my first day was a brave and perhaps foolish move as, predictably, I got lost. I pulled into the car park of a large school in Deptford, knowing I was close, but having no idea how to get to Stamford Street from here.

I really wasn’t ready for what I was about to experience. There was an enclosed area at the front of the school, where passers-by had thrown used syringes, used and burnt out bits of baking foil, and other remnants of what appeared to be the results of communal drug taking. It turned my stomach.

I now hesitated and questioned whether it was a good idea to proceed into the school. Four or five pupils in uniform rushed past me to get into school on time, screaming breathlessly. The sound of their laughter convinced me this was indeed the right place for help.

As I opened the door, there was a charming black man surrounded by kids of every race and colour, with myriad different accents. They were all demanding his attention, and he was dealing with all of them like some latter day Pied Piper. His golden Spike was obvious for all to see and for the children to experience.

He gently gestured at me, believing I was a parent, and indicated that he would be with me in a moment. I just watched in awe as he doled out dollops of love and attention, whilst managing to bring a calm order to this noisy throng that was outside of his office, the headmaster’s office.

I knew it was getting late and it was my first day, but I couldn’t move. This was a Master-class in leadership. When he eventually came over, he was soft, welcoming and quite assertive. He asked me for the names of my children, and I told him that they weren’t at this school.

He instantly launched into a well-rehearsed speech on the positive aspects of Deptford Green School. His name was Keith and he was the proud Headmaster of this school, with over 1200 pupils; over 70% of them had English as a second or third

language. A large number had come from the shelter Britain had offered to the unfortunate victims of the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ tragedy.

The available local social housing was in high demand, and many communities were fragmenting, as all who could, moved away.

He spoke with such candour, such passion, that it would have been rude to interrupt. This was another of his immense Spikes – he was an outstanding communicator at all levels and to all people, no matter what their background. I eventually confessed to simply being lost, and wanting directions to IPC Magazines.

His eyes lit up and he asked me very directly: “What do you do there? Do you work on one of the magazines for boys or girls?”

I responded: “Not really, I’m just a Board Director.” He apologised, but still looked at me disbelievingly, and asked whether as a Director, I could get him some old copies of Mizz Magazine for the girls at the school, and perhaps Shoot Magazine for the boys? I smiled and responded: “Sure,” perhaps a little too nonchalantly to be convincing. I asked him: “How many copies

did you want?” He said, “Whatever you can get, as many as you can get – just a few old ones would do”.

He was instantly lowering his expectations.

He then walked me to the gates, and we both stared into the enclosed area and looked disappointedly at the detritus of drug taking paraphernalia. He was clearly agitated. “It’s a disgrace. No matter how many times we get it cleaned up, the disenfranchised local young people will still always deposit their rubbish in front of our school. They just don’t realize or care about the potential damage it can do to these children.”

Mike – Give And You Will Receive

IPC Magazines, at the time, was situated next door to the old headquarters of the supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s, and across the road from the Express Newspapers head office. Three big blue chip businesses, just a stone’s throw from Deptford Green School.

I couldn’t get Keith or his school out of my thoughts as I drove off.

The following week, I arranged for 1000 copies of the current issue of Mizz and 1000 copies of the current issue of Shoot to be sent to the school.

I received an urgent phone call from Keith: he was worrying that there had perhaps been an expensive mistake, because the school had received copies of the current issue, and not old copies as he had requested.

It gave me a clue into what also needed fixing, and it was the beginning of a brilliant friendship.

I had to explain that there was “no accident,” and that there would be “no cost to Deptford Green School.” He was gracious and very grateful. Being the opportunist that he clearly was, he instantly asked me, if there was anything else we could do for the school.

Our blossoming friendship, coupled with his boldness, brought many mutual opportunities to bear.

This eventually led to me convincing Mike, the Chief Executive of IPC Magazines, to come and give a special speech at a school assembly, early one morning. Mike came from the humblest of origins and just caught the mood perfectly. He managed to get the packed hall laughing, and shared a few relevant and inspiring stories of his journey to becoming Chief Executive of a large local business.

At work, Mike could be very hard indeed – he had to be. None of us had experienced this far more empathetic and nurturing side of him.

Mike was brilliant; the kids loved him, and this enabled me to develop a long-lasting relationship between Deptford Green School and IPC Magazines.

Keith and Mike were quite similar in what they were trying to achieve and how they went about it through their people. They cared about what they were doing, and brought vision, passion and purpose to all who worked for them. Mike got as much from his experience at Deptford Green School, as the pupils and teachers got from him.

They had very similar Spikes, which were deployed in very different environments, but in actual fact, delivered similar results. Mike noticed and observed everything. On the way back to the office Mike was in reflective mood. The changing

nature of the local neighbourhood had struck him hard.

It wasn’t lost on him why I had asked him to attend. He now started asking me what was on my mind.

I carefully explained that what Keith really wanted was some of our people at IPC to take an interest in some of the children at Deptford Green. He wanted visible and positive role models for his students. Many would have had no working adult in their homes or in their lives.

I’d had the massively unique and positive experience of being mentored by some unforgettable people. I’d also had the privilege to have been a mentor for some time at a scheme organized for undergraduates at the recently formed University of East London.

In fact, my mentee from the scheme, Naveed, would join IPC Magazines in the months to come. He had gained the confidence to respond to a job advert. He only let me know after he had been offered a position by the company, that he had fulfilled his goal of joining IPC Magazines. He would play a key role in ensuring our Mentoring Scheme hit the desired spot.

Jill, my long-suffering PA, had been with me at PepsiCo and was my first hire at IPC Magazines. We were the ultimate team.

We had the most complimentary of Spikes. She was super organized and efficiency personified. She naturally read all the ‘small print’ and always had me in the right places at the right time.

She knew I would say ‘yes’ to everyone who wanted to see me. She managed them all, and no matter how long they had to wait to eventually see me, she made them feel as though they were the most important people in my diary.

We were nearly telepathic. We would argue and disagree, but we always got on, and in many respects, she was the real ‘boss’.

At around this time, Mike was invited to be part of a ‘Busi- ness in the Community’ initiative to visit a number of schools in the area alongside a number of Chief Executives of local large businesses. Mike was unfortunately away and asked me to stand in for him. It was a huge and timely privilege.

We visited four or five local schools; and each had their own special charm, and the guests were being ‘courted’ by the schools to take a long-term interest in the schools and their students. At the end of a long but very productive day, we were all talking loudly and proudly about the insights we had picked up throughout the day. The conversation moved naturally towards the setting up of Mentoring Schemes for the students, potentially by the businesses run by the gathered leaders.

Jill– Leaders Naturally Coach

This was a moment not to be lost. I volunteered to set up and run a Mentoring Scheme for Deptford Green School, which just happened to be the first school we had visited earlier that morning.

On returning to the office, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm, and I gathered my team around me, as I shared the vision of the Mentoring Scheme for Deptford Green School that we would initiate.

There were about eight of us thinking out loud and seeing how we could best make this happen. We soon had an outline

of a strategy, and as we did at all our meetings, I then asked for someone to ‘own’ the actions.

I had learned many years ago that one volunteer is worth a thousand conscripts.

As I paused for a moment, Jill jumped up – she wanted to organize and run the Mentoring Scheme. None of us had expected that. Jill never wanted or looked for the ‘limelight’. She would organize all my public speaking commitments and would always say, “I don’t know how you do that – I can’t think of anything worse.”

Jill was now standing and holding some notes in her hand

– which was shaking violently – as she tried to contain herself. In an instant, we all had stopped talking and gave her our full and undivided attention. Jill’s neck blotched red; she cleared her throat and, without ever glancing at her notes, she launched into her heartfelt desire to make a difference to these students’ lives.

Without pausing for breath, she explained how the scheme would look, how it would run, and the varied roles and responsibilities of all of us in the Leadership Team.

It was superb, and there was little that needed adding.

None of us knew that Jill had this inside of her – we knew she was the best organizer in the team, but this was a side of her that was new to all of us. She had the ability to simplify everything that came across her desk. When I had to be in two or three places at the same time, she would be totally unruffled and ensure that everything went to plan. Even those who might be disappointed felt that they were treated with huge respect and a friendly service.

She was usually the first touch point of our ‘brand’. She was the most perfect ambassador and advocate for my team, and for me. Jill was always soft and soothing for all who came into contact with her.

Some Spikes are not always obvious, but they are well worth the effort it takes to discover them.

The following morning, Jill came to see me as she had realized that she had taken complete control of the Mentoring Scheme. She was on the point of apologizing for her behaviour, when we talked about organizing being one of her huge Spikes. But this wasn’t just about organizing – this was something that was very special and unique to her.

I’d initially imagined giving this task to one of my Leadership team, but Jill had grabbed it, and our job now was to support her and create an environment that would enable her to ‘win’.

Just a few months later, we had ten mentors from my team at IPC Magazines. They were building effective relationships with ten of the pupils from the sixth form of Deptford Green School. Naveed, my former mentee, had jumped to be at Jill’s side, and he now was in a position to ensure the scheme picked up on all the little things that could make such a difference to the mentees.

I felt very proud. I had developed a mentoring relationship with a few of the teachers at the school and met with them on a regular basis at my office at IPC. They just grew with the confidence from knowing that there was someone out there that they could talk to in private, about anything and everything.

It was going so well that demand was outstripping supply. We needed more mentors. Jill suggested that we opened the scheme up to people from right across IPC Magazines. Not just my team.

With her enthusiasm and know-how, she buzzed around all the PAs of my peers and we soon had more than twenty mentors from across the business.

Leaders Are Found

By now Jill had become the mentoring maestro. She administered all the training and development for all prospective mentors. She was superb at matching mentors to mentees. Introverts and extroverts were carefully matched; hidden talents

were capitalised upon. Not all were instant successes, but Jill was always alert and brave enough to make early interventions and assertive changes as necessary.

Jill had demonstrated to all of us how much more could be achieved when the task at hand was matched to an individual’s Spike.

The pupils blossomed, and we collected many human stories of success, and quite a few awards. Business in the Community stayed close to all we did and helped share best practice across all their schemes and clients.

Around the same time, at my daughter’s school, which was at the other end of schooling in London, they decided to get rid of their internal Career Counselors. Instead, they replaced them at the school assembly on Friday mornings with a parent, who was invited to talk to the students for 30 minutes about their chosen career.

I had been selected to do this talk in a month, so, I turned up one week to watch one of these sessions from the back of the hall to better understand what was expected of me.

The students were restless and noisy, and giggled playfully as the guest parent was introduced and approached the stage. She had brought along with her what appeared to be a long narrow suitcase and what looked like a suit carrier.

She walked down the hall and stepped confidently on to the stage in front of the gathered students and calmly took off her coat. She first opened out the long case, instantly flipping it into a ‘massage’ type table. She laid a crisp white sheet over the table. She then opened the suit carrier, took out her uniform and changed into her white gown, gloves, hat and mask. She carried this all out without saying one word.

She had that natural sense of theatre that belongs to all great storytellers.

The noise levels reduced, as many were trying to work out what was going on, but it was still far from quiet. She then

brought out a startling array of shiny tools and implements. The members of the audience were now straining their necks to see. Once the hacksaw was placed on the lectern, she had the full and undivided attention of all in the assembly hall.

She was a surgeon and knew how to captivate a young and impressionable audience.

In 30 electrifying minutes, she was able to convince this young audience that the slicing and opening up of human bodies was not just extremely important, requiring great skill, but was also a very fulfilling and satisfying career.

She was extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic and great fun. You could have heard a mobile phone vibrate; all the students were leaning forward and massively attentive.

Passion, enthusiasm and real knowledge of any career is not easily delegated or simulated.

She went on to share that she had sat in a similar school assembly many years ago and had heard a surgeon speak to the school; she hadn’t understood anything he’d said, but she just knew that she wanted to be a surgeon.

She had made the gory and sometimes extreme work of a surgeon appealing to many of the now awestruck students.

Her Spikes of being able to engage and connect with people, coupled with her compelling story telling, were on display throughout this master class.

We soon adopted a very similar initiative for Deptford Green School, with the necessary twist of having our managers as well as the few parents, sharing what they did for a living in front of the school assembly. Many were brilliant, but all were memorable and motivating. It was just as successful.

It opened up whole new horizons and a variety of never- thought-of career possibilities for our talented and now ambitious students.

At the end of the first year of the Deptford Green School Mentoring Scheme, Keith invited Jill and I to one of their open

evenings; we were the guests of honour and were privileged to hand out the academic awards for the year.

This was indeed an honour. This time, when I pulled up to the school, the shameful enclosed area had disappeared for good. There was an extra special aura of confidence and optimism about the school. Business in the Community had brought in Ernst & Young, the management consultants, to measure the impact of the Mentoring Scheme with IPC Magazines, and the results were astonishing.

The results shook all of us. Ernst & Young proved that mentoring had a bigger and more positive impact on academic success than teaching!

This was amazing. It was all about taking an active and positive interest in the pupils (and teachers). Everybody benefits from a more caring environment, but so much more can be achieved if someone is taking a special interest in your well- being and success. No matter how good Keith was – and he was very good indeed – he could not do it all on his own.

The climate of success paved the way for further involvement, and the Mentoring Scheme at IPC Magazines had now spread throughout the whole company; at its peak there were some fifty mentoring relationships.

As with all mentoring relationships, the only reason to continue, is if both parties are gaining some tangible benefit.

Learn, Unlearn and Re-Learn

My leaders and managers at IPC who had thrown themselves into the Mentoring Scheme were also changing. Their once impenetrable ‘management speak’ had changed, especially those who worked in the IT team.

They had previously been accused of being a bit ‘geekish’, and perhaps had little in terms of people skills; they spoke a strange language that no one but themselves understood. Having to

deal with the keen, but rather sheltered pupils of Deptford Green School, had changed them massively.

One of the most instructive moments happened very early on in the mentoring relationship with Deptford Green. I got a call from the reception desk of our offices at Kings Reach Tower

– there were three pupils from Deptford Green School who had arrived to meet three of my managers, but the managers could not be contacted. I soon discovered that the managers were on another site, a few miles away.

I needed to get to the bottom of this rather embarrassing situation.

When I went down to meet the students at reception, it soon became obvious what had happened. The pupils had arrived two hours late for a 3pm appointment.

In trying to explain to them that the managers would always be busy, so they needed to arrive at the agreed time, it became clear that they had NO idea about appointments or time- keeping. They were astonished that their mentors would not be available some two hours later.

Tremendous learning occurred for all concerned. These experiences changed the language and attitude of all the managers who had the pleasure of working with these brilliant children of our local community. We certainly were able to help them, but they also helped us – they taught us humility and humanity.

I am sure if I had brought those same consultants in from Ernst and Young, they would have shown that these managers learned so much more from the students of Deptford Green School than they ever could from me.

Jill and I were politely greeted at the school entrance; we were shown into the auditorium. The academic awards evening had a strong and vibrant Caribbean theme. There was tasty food for all and a steel band playing in the background. The school hall was impressively decorated and it felt like we could have been somewhere in the West Indies.

Everything had been made by willing and creative students. It was a huge pleasure and accolade to be giving out the various certificates to really proud students, with many parents in the audience. We then sat back and enjoyed some excellent virtuoso performances from a number of hugely talented students.

One of the performing students really stuck out in my mind

– a young girl who sang a number of Caribbean folk songs with the most amazing voice. I had earlier presented her with a certificate for academic achievement.

I left that evening feeling really proud to be a Director of IPC Magazines. This was really making a difference. We were giving back to our local community – the very community where our future customers and workforce would come from.

Some years later, I was in the Pebble Mill Studios of the BBC, waiting to be interviewed on a programme about the media. There was a band playing in one of the adjacent studios which had its door left open. All of a sudden, the most amazing voice was spreading intoxicatingly all around the studios. Everyone appeared to stop; even the seasoned cameramen and sound technicians were mesmerized by this clear and beautiful voice. She was hitting the most amazing notes, with such clarity and strength.

The applause burst out around the whole building, and we found ourselves applauding, even though we were waiting to do a serious news report.

Just before I was about to go in to my interview a young girl walked past me and said: “Good afternoon Mr. Carayol. You probably won’t remember me, but you gave me my academic achievement award at Deptford Green School a few years ago.” She continued: “Martin is still my mentor, even though he has now left IPC Magazines and I have left Deptford Green

School. He has helped me get my first recording contract.” We shook hands, she smiled and, with that, she was gone.

What a moment! I was literally speechless and found myself smiling all the way through the serious news interview

that followed. If ever there was a moment for me that summed up the beauty and the value of mentoring, then that was it. It brings together the most unlikely of people from the most diverse of backgrounds. There are always people willing to coach and there are always people willing to learn – sharing is everything.

Mentoring is one of the best ways to assist others in identifying their true Spikes. It is through relationships built on trust that conversations around our Spikes are best nurtured and developed.

Those of us who have successfully been doing the same thing very well for years will find it quite challenging to change to something completely new. A strong relationship with a trusted neighbour might well be the best environment to start to explore how can we best adapt and evolve.

The ability to learn, unlearn and relearn will separate the winners from the losers in the future.


Henry Fonda


Mentoring relationships get better and better – investing the quality time early on will get you the ROI (Return on Involvement) you deserve.

One of life’s key requirements is to better understand who you, and those closest to you, REALLY are – the Spike approach helps massively.

It’s so much more powerful to ‘show rather than tell’. The best leaders are great role models; their actions speak so much louder than words.

One of the most essential legacies of all great leaders – is to have found and nurtured many more leaders.

Difficult concepts and theories need bringing alive. Try telling a personal story to illuminate the point – stories are so much more memorable and much easier to listen to.


Even with the unlimited access to resources at our fingertips, we still benefit from the insight of those who have already walked the path. “A good mentor will give you guidance, but also hold you accountable for your successes and failures. Accountability is the best inspiration because it keeps you working at a higher level – you won’t want to disappoint yourself or your mentor. Most importantly, a good mentor will challenge you to become a better version of yourself. They will expose your weaknesses and challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone.”21

Mentoring improves team productivity by nurturing responsible employees and allowing the mentor to focus on higher-order responsibilities, such as developing new business. When managers feel that mentoring is a waste of time, usually it’s because they don’t know how to and are choosing comfort over progress. Effective leaders should “determine which of their tasks bring the most value to the business and draft a ‘stop doing’ list, which includes responsibilities that will be transferred via mentoring. The road to a stagnant firm is paved with the phrase ‘It’s easier if I just do it myself.”22

A mentor becomes a prized asset within the organization, as mentoring facilitates personal growth by strengthening one’s coaching and leadership skills through diversity of mentees. Not only does it help to train and retain talent within the organization, but it also helps create a legacy that has a lasting impact on the mentees, while enjoying the satisfaction of helping develop future management talent.23

21 Pierce, S. (2015) How a mentor helps you find the better version of yourself.” (Online) http://fortune. com/2015/06/01/stacia-pierce-importance-of-a-mentor [Accessed 22 Apr 2016]

22 Thompson, E. (2010) “How to Be a Better Mentor.” (online) Journal of Accountancy. Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr 2016]

23 Hollister, R. (2001) “The Benefits of Being a Mentor – Mentoring enhances your professional life as well as your protégé’s.” (online) Available at: https://www.ache. org/newclub/career/MentorArticles/ Benefits.cfm [Accessed 22 Apr 2016]

What is the SPIKE philosophy?






October 1, 2017