Thursday, March 30, 2006

That dreaded word....

There is one word which I find so destructive. This word is so often used and so often it leads to antagonism or defensive behaviour.. the word...."Why" I cringe when people say "Why haven't you done that?" or "Why did you react like that?"
Ouch! whether you know it or not, the majority of times a sentence starts with does comes across to the recipient as aggressive. One way round this is to substitute why for allows you to have a dialogue about the subject.
So state the problem or issue and then ask how this could be resolved, how this could be perceived or what the person is thinking...etc I am not saying ignore the issue but make sure that you are not putting the person on the defensive by opening with "Why?" A conversation with constructive feedback will always win over an argument.....

A great meeting tip

People who know me, know how I loathe people who arrive late at meetings. I always start a meeting whether the people are there or not ! But I came across this idea which I thought was a great way to get people there on time. The last one in takes the minutes and takes responsibility of circulating them. We all know how people hate to take minutes - so try it and see if the timekeeping improves.....and let me know

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The singing grandma

I have a Nana who is 96 "young" and I visited her today. Interesting, when I went in she was dozing in her chair and didn't even recognise me...after about 10 minutes of trying to get her to engage with me....I mentioned singing - she immediately burst into a FULL rendition of Pack up your troubles in your own kitbag....and then carried on with Danny Boy and a few more of her favourites. Her eyes were alive as I tapped a beat on her chair arm, for her. Often I write about engagement...for me this sums it up. I hit on the happiest times of her life...she loved to dance and sing...she was reliving those memories by singing. I could see thoughts racing through her eyes. It taught me a lesson.
It is not what is interesting to you but what is interesting to the other person.
I had asked boring questions...about her mundane life in the home. I forgot the person and what my nana loved to do.....when we are at work how many of us think we are really engaging by asking "How are you today?" or "What did you do this weekend?" then rush to the reason we wanted to talk to them....if that happens to you start humming Danny Boy in your head and think of my Nana ! Standard questions are not engaging they are opening lines..engagement comes when you show interest in the follow up

Those dreaded meetings !

Studies show that if you sit to the right of the chairperson you have more influence...try it and tell me if it works...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tip On Decision Making

People often think they have made a decision....but you have only made it when you close down other options and fully commit to the decision. If you feel uncomfortable making the decision have you explored the other options and closed them down ? Remember even if the decision is wrong then you can tweak later or admit your mistake (a sign of a leader). But if you don't feel 100% committed the decision will become a self fulfilling prophecy.....

How to decommoditise yourself ?

In Ed Byrnes blog he refers to decommoditising your product in order to maintain your price. It made me think about people and how as a person if you want to increase your value in the talent marketplace. How do you create a brand that other companies want and are willing to pay more for your talents. For me the following increases your own brand value
  1. Relationship building and communication skills. Simply a must.
  2. Desire to learn - not only skill based but also a never ending curiousity in your company perfromance, your marketplace and your world. Globalisation means that you must understand the underlying trends in the world.
  3. Self Awareness - understand your strengths and play to them, understand your areas of development and work on them or ensure you fill those gaps by others around you.
  4. Developer of talent. Think of the companies people want to work for - they all have the ability to get the best out of them the chance to explore their individuality and yet still feel very much part of the team.
  5. Diversity of experience and the ability to bring together diverse opinion.

These are by no way the only attributes and I want to give more thought to it and would welcome your comments. Think we need to explore more over the next few weeks....

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pig Wisdom

Just come across a great blog which is worth checking out - Pig Wisdom Read and enjoy.

Your Influence

"What influence do I have ?" A common enough question around a business or even in a family. But in terms of 24 hours, 4 people will influence you and you will in turn influence 4 people. 4 is not necessarily a huge number I know, but then if you multiply that up about 100,000 people will be touched by your words, deeds, expressions. Now if I said to you that you have 100,000 chances to influence you may realise quite how much you influence the world.
Now that you have realised how much influence you have, I want you to think about how you want to use that influence.... a smile, a wink, words of encouragement, honest feedback....a "why don't you try that ? Also watch how others influence you and copy. I have been influenced by many people. One is my dad....he always taught me to respect people and to always know that every person is great at something be it parenting, cooking, managing, singing etc Not everyone is great at everything, - to achieve happiness always look for what people excel at and comment on it - play to their strengths. To see the level of attendance at my dads funeral he had found a lot of good in a lot of people....and made people feel special....what a great life achievement. Could people say that you look for the good in people ?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The art of listening

One of the key skills that is often lost with the pressure of time is listening - I know it is with me ! A poem that I always keep close at hand by Ralph Roughton always helps me focus:

When I ask you to listen to me and you start by giving me advice, you have not done what I asked, When I ask you to listen to me and you begin by telling me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to solve my problems, you have failed me. Listen ! All I ask is that you listen, not talk or do...just hear me. When you do something for me that I can do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. When you accept as simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational then I can quit trying to convinve you and get about the business of understanding whats behind this irrational feeling.

This week take time to listen - the issue usually lies behind the words. Listening helps you to understand and listening is one of the most motivational aspects of management.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


The term leadership, came form the Vikings. The leader sat at the bow directing the course of the ship due to their knowledge of the ice movements. Their skill lie in guiding - and that is true today in terms of leadership. They had the ability to lead from the front and be committed to the decisons that they made. Others trusted their actions with no questions asked as they felt it was their best way of surviving the seas.
What is the learning...well the need for direction, gaining trust from your team through successful communication in the past, and indeed knowledge of what is going on around you. Success is up to Rudyard Kiping said " We have 40m reasons for failure but not a single excuse"


Don't ever forget the relationship between corporation and co - operation....just one letter difference, but that "o" means the difference between success and failure.

Dr David Burns

Says....."Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can't accept your imperfections, thats their fault"

I would add think of this in relation to others as well.....allow others to do the same....mistakes help you learn - successful people make plenty they just don't make the same one twice !

Reviewing performance

It always amazes me how people do performance reviews once or at the most twice a year - or even worse make them voluntary. The most important part of a leader or a managers role is to constantly give feedback to help people develop. One on ones should be half an hour and every week. The review is not what changes the person, it does not happen in one event - it happens over time. Contantly reviewing and practicing on the core basics is the only way to succeed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

How do you measure yourself ?

When I speak to people, I am always amazed at how people judge themselves against other people. They are always more confident, more assertive, better car, better figure, etc etc
If you constantly judge yourself against others - in a world as big as this - you will always find someone who can make you "appear" inferior in some way.
So when I say "copy how successful people behave, I want to clarify. I am not saying judge yourself against others....rather in thinking of how you want to improve, of how you want to achieve your personal goals - watch others and learn from them. The only person to judge yourself against, is yourself. Judge how you are progressing against your personal goals.....and enjoy the progress you make...happiness comes from understanding what personal happiness is and continuing to ensure that you stay on that path....and always remember to someone else, you will be one of those people who always are more confident, driving a better car, have a better figure, etc

A little Poem from Steve Pavlina

Read this and it made me smile, we have all been there I think !

Here lies John, who passed away
While answering his email one day.
No friend, no child, no loving mate
Could keep poor John from working late.
With each new mail, he worked like hell
To click ”reply” instead of “del.”
A prompt response he’d always give
But somehow he forgot to live.

Got this from

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Drive vs Passion

I have just finished The Monk and the Riddle which is a story about starting your own business. An interesting sentence in the book "Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do"
This hit a chord with me. In the past I think I have been very driven - because I was brought up to work hard, and I felt that receiving a great salary meant I had to push myself. Now I am starting out on my own and realise the reason why I feel content and as happy as I have ever been, is that I am now following my passion. Doing something I feel I was born to do.....hours fly by because I love what I am doing. I just wish that I had read this book a few years ago and understood the difference between drive and passion ! Ask yourslf one question "What do I care about, and how do I satisfy that need ?" I now firmly believe that if you are not satisfyng or feeding that need, you will not find true happiness.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Quick Monday Thought

John Maxwell in Winning with People talks about the foxhole principle:- "If you are in a hole, dig it big enough for a friend"

Just thought that was a great principle !

Copy Cat

I have always had heroes and heroines - people that I have admired and have had so much respect for. Some of these are famous, some of these I know on a personal level. What I have found is that watching successful people is a brilliant way to develop yourself. Of course, you have to develop your own identity and allow your own character to shine but I have always added to this, by learning from others. In school copying is not allowed but in business it should be encouraged. When you see someone handle a situation well...look, learn and use that knowledge when you are in a similar position. Watch how successful people handle their teams, how they motivate, how they ensure that the team achieves their goals. Two skills worth watching are how successful people handle meetings, and how their handle one on ones - key aspects of your role. Watch, then copy. You don't have to learn from your boss, look out for other people around you, who you can learn from.... Tips I have got from "copying" are:- knowing people's names around the business, building diverse teams, using pauses in presentations for effect, don't just develop a product - sell the benefits....what tips have you got from people ?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mediocre becomes Excellent

As the rant below suggests I want to start a crusade against mediocrity !
So when we delegate or work with others....lets give ourselves one key thought. That task needs to be just slightly stretching their ability...that breeds motivation, breeds engagement and most of all with a sound feedback loop, breeds personal growth....mediocrity will be no more.......

The Desire to be Mediocre !

Is it me or is there a desire to be mediocre at work ? Don't be too visionery - as you might out shine the boss, don't challenge too hard as you may be seen as difficult, set mediocre goals then everyone will be happy as they will earn their bonus !
Maybe that sounds a bit cynical but I love reaching for the stars and aiming for the very best. I love giving people a vision of what we really could achieve if we really went for it, and then enjoying the tell me am I the only one who senses mediocrity creeping into business ? Am I the only one who senses that risk taking is too risky ! Lets demand excellence and see where we get......

Giving Feedback

Feedback is one of the most feared parts of life. You can get someone who only gives great feedback, only points out things that you do worng- or someone who gives nothing. None of these help the individual. Feedback is the absolute key part of anyone's development. For people who feel uncomfortable here is a 5 step approach
  1. Deal with feedback at the time - don't delay
  2. Start by asking if they have the time e.g May I ......
  3. State the facts and make it relevant to them so start with "When you...
  4. State the impact by using "Heres what happens.....
  5. Ask what they can do differently

If they are defensive don't worry, they have still received the feedback ! But be open to any feedeback they give you which may have caused their behavior. Remember, use this for both positive and adjusting feedback.....don't ignore positive improvements. The objective of the process is to help the indivdual not give your keep away from I think, I believe, I have noticed....that is about you not them. You should only refer to actual seen behavior and not hear say. Hope this you develop your people.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Quick Tip for Presentations

I was listening to the Art of Innovation from Guy Kawaski and he mentioned the 10:20:30 rule which I thought was great and wanted to share with you all.

10 = only ever use 10 slides in a presentation
20= minutes for a presentation and then allow 20 for questions
30=the font size which you should use

Gut Feel

I was reading about some research by the Institute of HeartMath which identified 3 major neuronal networks in the body. The brain, the intestinal track and in the cardinal sack. So "in my heart" or "my gut feeling" really do have physiological don't ignore it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Your most powerful muscle ?

Many may say your heart as it pumps 2000 gallons of blood through 62,000 miles of vessels, 100 times a day. But there is a muscle which is even more powerful....your tongue. It can put people down, it can raise people fact it could lift a that's powerful ! So use it wisely - words are incredibly powerful. Today, use words wisely and make someone's day - spend a little more time with the children, with your partner, with your boss, with your team. Find the time, by cutting meetings from 30 mins to 20 mins.....from 60 mins to 40 mins....people need that interaction to feel valued.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Time the Precious Commodity

This weekend I went with some of my best friends for a weekend away. A couple of nights relaxing and enjoying the countryside...mmmm that was before the snow came and trapped us in on Sunday. I then witnessed something quite incredible. About 5 cars were trapped on the road - 3 of which were BMW's which probably won't surprise anyone. We had all managed to get to this hill from different directions but no one could get up this last hill. So faced with a big problem do you think we all sat in our cars waiting for experts ? Do you think we set a meeting date and waited for the meeting to decide our next move? No, despite the fact no one knew each other in any of the 5 cars we all got out and one by one pushed, and skidded these cars up the hill. No one was given duties we all knew what our goal was and mucked in. It made me smile because at work no doubt it would have been seen as impossible...or not in the job description !...but not out here in deep snow we all had one aim...and we knew that we were dependent on each other and therefore freely gave our muscles to help each other. Some with car mats under the tyres..some finding wood to clear snow, others pushing, all encouraging. Wow ! Lessons learnt would be the power of a group all wanting the same all your team see and understand how they will benefit if they achieve their goal ?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Inside Story of the Apple

Anyone who knows me, knows I love reading, love learning. Anyway at the moment I am reading a book called Emotional Alchemy. In it there is this story which really touched a chord, and I wanted to share it with you.
A teacher asked a class "What colour are apples?" Most said red, others green and one child said white. The teacher explained - you can find red, and green but never white apples. The youngster said "Oh, yes you can look inside".
Wow ! How true is that. I know we are all taught not to judge a book by its cover but in reality we find it hard. Hands up who thought the child was wrong when they said white....hands up who now realises the question was not clear and it was just another persons way of viewing the same thing. It made me also think how much we cover up inside we get so wrapped up with what the world sees that we ignore our "core". Help yourself break habits this weekend...try one thing new - brushing your teeth with your opposite hand.....feel the unease of the change and instead of reverting back to habit...enjoy the strangeness of how it feels. Then Monday....try something new at work !

Communication Made Easy

3 steps to improving your communication
  1. You need to explain the inspiration for the idea, decision etc
  2. Give a general theme of what it is about
  3. The desired outcome

Most people start and end with (2). People need more, they need you to frame the decision or idea so that they can understand....they might not agree ....but they can understand how you came to this conclusion. This works well when you are presenting to management as well. You never have to be 100% certain - helps if you are not when it is an idea, as people can then add to it - but you do have to be clear with your communication. If not people will fill in the blanks themselves which is dangerous.

Finally,I loved this quote from Steve Henthorn"Learn from the past. Look to the future. Live in the present." Are you living life to the full now....and thinking about your future ?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

At the heart of friendship !

Often we get so caught up in the stress of our lives and we just don't see what is around us. This stone was lurking on the canal near where I live...just look, literally a heart of stone! Sometimes when we are down we just don't look hard enough for those magical things...interestingly enough I saw this after meeting 3 old friends who I thought I had lost touch made me smile and reminded me that no matter what you face friends will always see you unusual post but hopefully it will make you smile too

Service with a smile

Following on from yesterday I was thinking how people help me feel appreciated. These principles from John Maxwell in Winning with People are as relevant at work, at home or out shopping.
  1. Personal warmth - a smile as I approach, a welcoming tone.
  2. Consistency - someone who understands their self and does not have me on edge as I answer the phone or meet them, wondering what their mood will be like...
  3. Sensitivity towards others feelings and appreciating peoples differences
  4. The ability to forgive !
  5. Understanding that humans are not perfect and not judging them for it.

Goethe once said "Treat a man as he appears to be and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be"

It made me think - the smile is so important. How many times are you stressed or running behind time and you forget to smile. Sometimes thats when the smile is so important - it helps you relax too. For me the sensitivity and the understanding are absolutely vital in dealing with people...if you do not show this on a consistent basis you will never gain the respect that you crave. Anyone like to comment on other traits you need or how a smile helped them through a rough time ?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Partnership Principle

Fact: between 70 and 90% of a decision not to repurchase from a company is not about price, it is about the service that you received. I hate retail shopping in the UK. It would seem that I either have to queue forever, or I cannot find anyone to help me in store. Often I just walk out despondent, do they not want my money ? Relationships are incredibly important we need to work together, to win together. How much effort do you spend forging relationships ? Not just with the few but with everyone you work you work with good capable people or do you partner with difference makers ? It needs to be a combination. Whether you work with suppliers, customers, buyers, distribution......treat each relationship as precious. It is not about who is right, it is about finding a position that both parties feel respected. I recently bought a computer - I walked out of the first shop because they were not interested in me. The second shop...this assistant treated me as if I was the most precious customer ever...guess who got the sale ? Happiness is not something you get out of life, rather it is something you bring to your life.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Computers and the Future

David Freedman in this months Inc Magazine, discusses how computers are progressing. They now say that they are on the verge of making a quantum leap in brainpower. New powerful software is emerging which can not only calculate or produce data, but can interpret it. Wow, now think about that for a minute - how much of your role is interpreting data ? In a few years, computers will be able to get meaning from the data and react to complex situations. So you read it here! - start thinking about how you need to develop. Your role will need to change with the emphasis on developing people, developing customer service, inspiring people to accept this change in technology early so that your company is a forerunner of using the technology not being scared about it. When you are thinking about your own development plan, target it to what you will need in the future not now.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Consumer Solutions

Well, you are all obviously a bit shy ! Either that or you don't know the answers. If it is the latter it is important to give some time to think about it. One to congratulate yourself on last year...and the second to give yourself a personal mission for this year.
Yesterday, I was thinking about ideas. Dec/Jan I had not been as full of ideas as I usually am....then I realised why, I was trying to think of ideas, not solutions...wrong. I then went back to thinking of analogies not ideas. For instance, do you think anyone sat down trying to invent Sky + ? Or do you believe someone looked at what the consumer wants from watch it when they want to, not when the programs are on, ease of recording etc. Sky + came from looking what the consumer was the solution to a consumer problem not an idea in isolation. So in answering what important thing you are going to achieve this year...think about the problems people have in dealing with you....then base the solution around addressing those things.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Important achievements - Mine !

I found this quite difficult because I had a strange end to the year. Obviousy, everyone else found it just as hard as I haven't had your comments yet...come on make them visible.
  1. Most important thing I did last year - Grew talent internally and not take the easy route by bringing it in from outside. You do need to allow people to make mistakes but you can measure the success by how little they need you now. So proud of that...proud that I was never scared by it and proud of how people have responded to their opportunity.
  2. Most important thing I will do this year - I want to help people to achieve their potential. Out there there is a lot of ideas, skill, ability which is either just not recognised or even worse, held back. I want to ensure that this latent talent shines...working on how at the moment and most importantly how I measure it !

Quick thought for the day "Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance" Robert Quillen was right, today show your knowledge not your ignorance.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Spring forward!

Spring is coming and I can't be the only person thinking thank God ! Spring is a great time for spring cleaning....not just in the house. It is a chance to focus the mind - get rid of the rubbish that has accumulated. Dust off the clarity, repaint your vision.
Two questions to ask yourself and others around you

  1. What is the most important thing you've done last year ?
  2. What is the most important thing you'll do next year ?

Let us know what your thoughts are...publish on this blog ....then its public and you have made a commitment to achieving it....I will share mine tomorrow