Susan's Musings

Just Thinking Out Loud

Whose Money Is it Anyway?

I recently read in Third Sector magazine that US President Barack Obama gave $172,000 to Charity in 2011 equating to 22 per cent of his income that year. Fantastic I thought – I have a dream, fantasy or whatever you may call it of reaching a place whereby I do a sort of tithe[1] reversal and give away 90 per cent income so it was an inspiring read

I was still reflecting on this with a smile when I read that Lord McAlpine had been awarded £185,000 in damages by the BBC for the false allegations made against him in relation to Child abuse.  The BBC stating that “The settlement is comprehensive and reflects the gravity of the allegations that were wrongly made,”

It was shortly followed by calls for him to donate the money to a children’s charity. My thoughts were – it’s his call and I responded along these lines to someone who had made such a comment and he retorted, “he’s already fairly wealthy. The important thing is his name’s been publicly cleared. Perhaps the money could benefit others.”

I felt very uncomfortable and somewhat disconcerted by this – Now I believe in paying tax, in helping and supporting others but why should we assume that because a person earns/ has more money than the average person  that if they get something extra even with very good reasons, that they should automatically just give it away to Charity?

If there are taxes due they should be paid, but If we begin to operate on the basis that people awarded money that already have a “reasonable” income should give it away – where do we draw the line, who defines the boundaries and what happens to freedom of choice?  Do we say that a lottery winner who already has a substantial income should automatically give their winners away? That a high earner within the City who wins a claim on the basis of unfair dismissal after many years of discrimination and abuse within an organization should give the money to some form of support group because they are not that bad of.  In either case the individuals concerned might choose to, but I believe it should remain their choice and they should not be pressurized into doing something that they would not otherwise do or be made to feel bad if they don’t.

Yes, there is no question, the societies that we live in are in many ways unjust and unfair, however, I believe that we must be careful in the way in which we try to rectify such ills.  We must hold people and organisations to account, but we must be cautious in how we invariable hold people responsible.

Like so many others, I was disappointed to learn that Starbucks pays little if any tax within the UK when they were said to be making so much money. I was also surprised to learn that same week that a Starbucks branch in the centre of Milton Keynes had been closed due to the recession. It all made sense when a Starbucks franchise holder on Question Time spoke of how boycotting Starbucks would affect people like himself and lead to the threat of job losses.  I think most people like myself forget or are unaware that Starbucks in the UK is ultimately run by franchise holders who all probably do pay their taxes.

I think overall my concern is therefore on the systems that are in place and how they operate and affect us all.  Equally I’m concerned about a them and us society that ultimately pitches people that have against people that don’t


[1] Tithe – to pay or give a tenth part of especially for the support of the church.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

Beyond the Man in The Mirror




There’s a lot to be said about looking in the mirror and seeing yourself for who you are – warts and all and working to improve upon yourself or even just accepting yourself as you are.

This week I was, however, reminded that there is also a time to look beyond the mirror. To listen and accept the positive things that other people have to say of you, to accept the good that they see in you and what you do– even if in your mind it represents a magnified view of you.

It reminds me of the words of a young man who was mentored by Usher who said of Usher, “ he believed in me until I was forced to believe in myself”

I believe that as you begin to believe and take steps towards becoming that “magnified” image, even if it’s sometimes scary, there is a strong possibility that you just might become that great person that others see.

And everyone wants to be the best that they can be – don’t they?


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

The Squirrel

Recently, I was at the University of Northampton for a meeting.  Because it was such a nice lovely day the lady that I was meeting with suggested that we sit outside and talk.

As we sat talking she noticed a squirrel merrily skipping along oblivious to our presence and brought it to my attention. We stopped talking for some time to observe the squirrel.  We were somewhat horrified to notice it suddenly jump into the bin.  However, it shortly came out with an empty sandwich case.  It started pecking away at the case with the hope that it would find something to eat, but after a while it got tired and skipped away leaving the sandwich case on the ground.

“Don’t leave that that there” called out the lady I was talking to, but the squirrel just skipped away.

I smiled and wondered, how many people would think it was one of young students that we had seen on the campus for a summer course that had left the sandwich case on the ground.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

Who Am I?

It may sound criminal, but I actually missed the Saturday night of the Olympics when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all won Gold medals.  Although I watched all the events later, I was actually at a party that evening.  To be precise – I was at a Nigerian party.

I Specify that it was a Nigerian party as although I originate from Nigeria and I’ve actually lived there before I very rarely go to Nigerian parties.

I therefore found myself sitting and observing – fascinated.  It was a 70th birthday party and I was fascinated by all the people dressed in different styles of dress all in the same material – brought and sewn especially to support the celebrant.

I was fascinated by the rich variety of Nigerian food inclusive of a range of rice and yam dishes with different soups and sauces.  The variety of Nigerian snacks inclusive of meat pies which are actually very meaty in comparison to the British meat pies or Cornish pasty.

I was fascinated when a variety of gifts inclusive of bags, waste paper bins and saucepans were distributed to the guests.

In addition, in recent years Nigeria seems to have developed a new style of music which is characterised by African beats with singing in English often interjected with some singing in a Nigerian language.

So as I sat contemplating my environment with fascination a song started playing with a chorus “ Who am I, Who am I”.  Even more fascinated I found myself contemplating for the first time in a long while – really and truly, Who am I in the context of Nigeria?!

Selah ?

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

Just Keep on Moving

I drove down to Milton Keynes Shopping Centre earlier today for a meeting with Waterstones about my new books.

I hadn’t realised that the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile was taking place in the City Centre.  This led to some closed roads and the need to do a bit of meandering to get a parking spot.

Having parked my car I walked towards the shops only to get caught trying to cross the road by some of the event’s participants running along the road.

Being that it was such a lovely afternoon and I had plenty of time on my hands, I stood relaxed waiting for the participants to pass by, listening to the beating of the African drums being played by the side of the road as it did so.

As I stood watching it was fascinating to see the diversity of the participants from those in costumes to the other participants of different ages – parents with children and people just going along by themselves.  There were those that were running and also those just walking along. There was even a lady with a pushchair.

All of them were just walking towards a destination at their own individual paces.  As they finally all passed by and I crossed the road, I found myself thinking – as we all go in the new week, let’s keep on moving by whatever means necessary, regardless of whatever odds we may encounter.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

The Limitations of Empowerment

In recent times there has been constant talk within Human Resources (HR) circles about the importance of Employee Engagement.  To be honest even though we may have used different terminology in the past, the concept is really nothing new.

After all, it’s in the bid to engage employees, to retain them and attain the best results from them we talk about empowerment, delegation and at a more sophisticated level Distributed Leadership.

I’m an advocate for empowering employees and staff in general, but at the same time I feel the need to say that there is a need for a certain caution. It is great to have an engaged, empowered workforce, but it is equally important for staff to understand the limits of their responsibility.

There is a need for their to be clarity around the boundaries – where does delegated responsibility end and at what point should they be referring to someone more senior before making decisions.  This is aligned to their knowledge, capability and experience.  Necessary limitations of delegated authority also go beyond this to encompass the implications of decisions or actions that may be taken.

It is critical for any leader to remember that no matter how much you delegate, the buck ultimately stops with you. That is you can delegate a degree of authority, but not the ultimate responsibility.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

Learn By Doing

It’s difficult for me to keep count of how many films I watched over the last Christmas period. So I’m sorry to tell you that I can’t tell you what film I was watching when a man told a young lady struggling to find her way in life that “We learn by doing”

To some extent, it doesn’t really mater what film it was anymore.  The important thing is that it resonates with real life – most especially as we’ve come to a new year.  The beginning of a new year which if we are to be honest, just like others we see as a special breakthrough year.  We make new years resolutions, we make lists targets. We have all sorts of aims, process – you name it, in  order to make this a better, more successful year.  We wish each other all the very best; hoping and praying that dreams will come true.

Don’t get the wrong impression, in many ways I’m in the same boat.  I do believe luck changes, breakthroughs come, dreams come true and God answers prayers.  The only thing is I also believe that more often than not there is a requirement for us to do something extra, different or differently to get that result.

I don’t know about you, but I know that sometimes I’m held back by the fear of making mistakes and getting things wrong – what if I fail? Or for some there’s the concern that others may not see our genius and believe in us.  But going back to the film that I mentioned, the truth is we learn by doing, I’m also becoming increasingly aware that if our intentions are right and we are not reckless, we’ll find that the right people will support us along the way.  I therefore intend to just put myself out there more and learn as I go along.

Critically though, I intend to do so using three key sights as I go along i.e. Hindsight, Insight and Foresight.

You see, whilst I watched a fair number of films over the Christmas period, I also did quite a bit of reading on British Social and Economic history in preparation for a new book that I am working on.   From doing so the criticality of the sights became apparent to me.

A common response to actions of leaders that didn’t quite workout the way they were planned was “with hindsight” he or should might have..   i.e. reviewed retrospectively – understanding the nature of an event after it has happened.  Or a fuller dictionary definition that I believe makes it even clearer is: recognition of the realities, possibilities or requirements of a situation, event, decision etc after its occurrence.

The truth is we don’t have the benefit of hindsight for past decisions.  However, whilst we should never dwell on it, we should reference past occurrences as part of our learning for the future. The saying that “history repeats itself” is frustratingly true when it refers to things that we’ve got wrong in the past.

Hindsight should become part of the basis of our insights and foresights to enable us to successfully move forward. In other words I believe that beyond the simple process of learning from our current actions we must learn from the past otherwise we do become reckless and  have a negative impact not only on ourselves, but also others who are affected by our actions.

I believe our insights or intuitive understanding provides us with a grasp of the inner nature of things comes partly from our inner being, but also from our understanding of past experiences.

If we take the above and marry it with a bit of foresight i.e. planning and mental preparedness though there is still a bit of a risk we have a good basis for pressing forward and for greater success.

Wishing you all the very best for 2012


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

The Essence of Feedback

I once received a testimonial that stated amongst other things “Susan is a delight to listen to and debate with. She questions anything and doubts everything.”

I didn’t like this at first because while I’ve come to realise that I do analyse everything by default but at the same time I trust people, expecting the best of them unless I find that their story just doesn’t add up or they do something directly to me or someone else that betrays that trust.

Then there are those people that I just connect with at some level due to common interests, values, visions, experiences or something less tangible that just can’t be defined. I trust them more because there is that connection.

There are also the people that I would virtually trust with my life or at least aspects of it. They are people that I’m confident have my best interest at heart even though they might make mistakes and get things wrong from time to time. (I recognise that without a doubt so do I)

Now moving on from there, I know we are supposed to do our own due diligence, but when people I really trust introduce me to someone they know or make a referral, the person that has been introduced has more credibility with me then if I’d just me them on the street. I suspect most people operate on these bases.

As a result of this, I’ve been feeling somewhat concerned following a few conversations I’ve had with friends whereby feedback not provided on experiences could potentially lead to the heightened risk of further problems in the future.

I first started really thinking about this when I met up with a friend for drinks a few weeks back. Sally was feeling fed up with people taking her for granted as she had just terminated a business relationship with someone who was good at what he did but never delivered to agreed timeframes. She had found it difficult to terminate the relationship with James, because a close associate had introduced him to her. What, however, made things worse was that when she spoke to her associate about the situation he admitted that he knew the problems with James, but thought she could manage things. What her associate failed to realise is that by not giving Sally a true assessment of James he had virtually set her up to fail.

It was against this backdrop that I subsequently met with Peter for lunch. The last time I met with him he had been raving non-stop about Simon who had done some work for him. Noticing that Peter didn’t once mention Simon during the course of the conversation, I asked him how Simon. To my surprise he virtually started spitting venom speaking about how Simon had duped him and how he was lucky to of got of lightly.

Knowing that a mutual friend had introduced Simon to Peter, I asked him whether he had let the introducer know. He responded he hadn’t provided any real feedback because he didn’t want to cause any upset. What he forgot is that without the feedback the introducer could very easily introduce Peter to more people that he knows.

The lack of feedback also extends into employment situation when we don’t tell an employee that he or she is not doing well because we don’t want to cause upset. The only problem is that by not providing feedback we rob the individual of the opportunity to improve, to gain promotion and possibly get good bonuses.

So maybe it’s time that though with sensitivity we all start providing feedback where necessary.

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

Time to Shine

She looked at him contemplatively – wondering how he would respond. Then still looking at him in a somewhat cowed position she removed the scarf to reveal the scars.

He stared but not with the look of disgust that she had anticipated that would lead him to look away and find an excuse to walk away. Rather there was a look of amazement and awe on his face.

As he continued to stare she gradually began to sit tall as she realised that it was time to wear her scars as marks of conquest and beauty. Time to take her place and shine.


Copyright 2010. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

About The Author

Susan Popoola

Susan is a Human Resources Capital Optimisation Specialist specialising in areas inclusive of Talent Management with additional interest in a number of other areas inclusive of Education, Community and Social Justice.

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