Friday, 24 February 2012


When dealing with service users it can be helpful to remember these few points:

·     We all live in anxiety: awareness of breathing is the only proven remedy.  Everybody can behave differently in different or unfamiliar environments.  As a paid professional, YOU WILL NEED TO TAILOR YOUR BEHAVIOUR to suit the individual’s needs to deliver excellent service.

Speech and tonal qualities vary based on cultural andenvironmental norms, so be aware of space and touching.  Body language and tone give us a great insight into the international language of EMOTION.

Some conditions, illnesses and syndromes can cause people tonaturally appear aggressive (i.e. hearing impairments may cause a person to have a louder speaking voice) or behaviour could be caused by a person’s coping mechanisms (fatigue or anxiety) when in a public environment.

Many impaired service users are mistakenly (and regularly) assumed to be drunk, having substance abuse issues or unable to understand/comprehend simple information.  Speak directly to the person (not the carer and/or the random stranger standing next to them) when offering assistance e.g. “Does he need me to write this down for him?”

If in doubt, always offer extra assistance and/or inform securityto help the individual (as well as their carer) to have some time and space where they can organise themselves.

When angry, a service user generally sees themselves (even if itis briefly) as THE VICTIM.  Check into yourself to make sure you are not getting defensive or angry back.  When we get angry and demonstrate it to the other person…you have immediately lost the argument…even IF YOU ARE RIGHT!

·     Being neutral as possible will help to alleviate their anger quicker
·     Set boundaries and limits (ifnecessary)
·     Under-promise and over-deliver

·      PAUSE: to breathe and plan your next steps
·      CLARIFY POSITIONS: get them to acknowledgetheir position
·      RESPOND (avoid REACTING using fight or flight)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Building Better Teams

In this time of economic hardship and corporate downsizing, it can be difficult to get the best out of a team when everyone is feeling a little stretched to their capacity. 
It can be quite challenging to ask a group of people to take some time out of a busy schedules to attend a 'team building workshop'.  So instead, take a look below at some quick and easy ideas that you can implement to help improve your team's motivation and performance.

GET TALKING: A common feature of under-motivated teams is that they seldom have a chance to talk about reoccurring issues.  Make sure that you host a regular team meeting at least every two weeks.  This way your team can feel that they have an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to them.

LITTLE FUN GOES A LONG WAY: Injecting a little bit of 'play' into the workplace can have a huge impact.  A quick quiz, lateral thinking puzzles, games or an icebreaker can give your team a chance to relieve stress and improve relationships with their colleagues.  It can be really effective to partner people with co-workers that they don't normally work with, as this can help build relationships and allow people to see each other a fellow human being...not just as a job title.

GIVE PRAISE: Remember that catching people doing things right from time to time and acknowledging people for their contributions is a powerful way to make people feel appreciated.

ALLOW AUTONOMY: Give people and teams the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.  This will help a team to become more responsible for their tasks and give your team a greater stake in delivering strong results.

HOLD A WORKSHOP: Have team members plan and deliver a workshop around a relevant workplace subjects.  This can ensure that important skills and knowledge are shared throughout the team, allowing people to improve their understanding of key aspects of the business.

SURPRISE SOMEONE: Similar to giving praise, this can be a very powerful way to formally recognise a member of the team with a special thank you or an award.  This can send a very powerful message to the entire team that demonstrates how their contributions are noticed and appreciated by the organisation.

DO SOMETHING OLD, SOMEWHERE NEW: It is amazing how powerful a new space can be.  If you have a regular meeting in the same office, it can easily be transformed by having the meeting somewhere else.  In a local coffee shop, in a local park or even in the another meeting room can enliven the participants and make the meeting more enjoyable for all.

USE COMMUNICATION GUIDELINES: Think about how you can improve team communication by using communally agreed 'rules' that can help people know what ways the team can improve their relationships.  Examples can be: only replying to an email on a certain subject a limit of three times before you have to call the other person, having a time limit to team meetings (no longer than 90 minutes), no emailing anyone with 9 feet of your desk (except when sending a report), banning email for an hour each day, etc.  These types of agreed guidelines can encourage team spirit and help improve communication skills.

FOOD: Never underestimate the power of biscuits, sweets and chocolate.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Dealing with Interruptions at Work

An interesting statistic: The average American worker has fifty interruptions per day and seventy-five percent of the them have nothing to do with work.
Every day people are struggling to cope with greater demands at work with ever dwindling resources.  The greatest resource we have in the workplace is time.  That is why it is important to protect the amount of time we waste.  Protecting our time is a great strategy to help you discover more time to invest in the projects and tasks that are important to you (and your career).  Below are some tips to dealing with Time Demons...people who rob you of your time. 

MANNERS: A great saying when dealing with interruptions is: Be Gracious with People & Ruthless with Time.  It is always important to make it clear to the other person that you would love to help them, but you haven't the time.  Making it clear to people that time is the enemy, not them, will make them understand that this isn't the appropriate time for you to deal with their request.

SAY NO or NOT NOW: The main reason why people interrupt us at work, is because we let them.  Do remember that you can say no to their requests or that you are not available at the moment.  Using 'no' can also be useful to open up a negotiation about a request, so that you still might end up doing the task but in your own timescale.

ISOLATE YOURSELF: When working on a big project or on a tight deadline, using a meeting room can help minimise the amount of interruptions you have.  If you work in a team, diverting your calls to a colleague (or to voice mail) can also help reduce the amount of people disturbing you.

EMAILS: Set limits to the amount of times you check emails in a day.  Emails can be very distracting and if a request is important or urgent, the person will usually call you to chase the emailed request.  when extremely busy, a usual tips is to turn on your Out-of-Office notification, stating that you are away from your desk and that you will be able to reply to messages by a certain time.  

BE PROACTIVE: If there is a regular customer or a colleague that is constantly pestering you for extra assistance, it can sometimes be useful to call them in advance and ask if there are any issues that they can foresee where they will need your help.  Also, you can ask people how long the interruption will take.  So when people ask, "Have you got a minute?" you can respond with' "If it will just take a minute, if not, I will have to speak to you later."  This way you can have greater control of your schedule.

SEND THEM CLUES: Using body language can help let people know that you are under pressure due to a lack of time.  Some ideas are: look at your watch, stand up when people are speaking to you or pick up the telephone receiver.  This can send the message to the other person that you are busy and are unable to continue the discussion.  Even asking the question, "Anything else?" can make others realise that you are now trying to finish up the discussion.

MEETINGS: Meetings can be a real waste of time.  Here are a few things to remember to help your meetings be more productive: have a clock in the room so that everyone is aware of the time, agree an informal agenda at the start of the meeting (and stick to it), consider only attending a part of the meeting (rather than sticking around for bits that are irrelevant to you), agree your actions before departing the meeting, avoid discussing information that can be accessed online or electronically, stay only for a restricted amount of time (90 minutes MAX) and make sure that the meetings are action orientated (that key actions are assigned to the attendees).  Another effective solution is to have the meeting standing up.  This way people tend to stick to the topic and the meeting will tend to be shorter.  If a meeting is called to discuss another meeting, don't bother attending.  

DELEGATE or DEFER: If you really can't say no but still are struggling with time pressure, you may need to defer that task to someone else.  If it is a task that keeps occurring, then it may be an idea to delegate it someone else.  Delegation can be a great way of developing members of your team to take on new responsibility. But remember: Delegation is not abdication.  You will still be held accountable for the task so make sure you delegate the task thoroughly. 

DECIDE: We all need a break from the occasional drudgery of work.  So if you are going to let someone interrupt you, then make sure it is a decision you have made and not an element of your day that you can't control.  If you are allowing someone to interrupt you, then make sure it is an interruption that you can afford. 

Monday, 24 January 2011

Preparing for a Business Presentation

Most people under-prepare for their business presentations.  A common mistake is that a lot of business people think that they can just 'wing it'.  Good luck to you.  Luck is commonly described as preparation meets opportunity.  You have been given a business opportunity but if you haven't prepared enough, then you will need all the luck you can get.


  • 'WALK THROUGH' your key points, but have someone in the room with you (even your partner, kids or a friend).
  • While driving to the meeting, say your key points aloud to help you memorise your points.
  • Set very clear objectives to your presentation, and stick to your key points.
  • Think of the hardest question that you could be asked, and aim to come up with a great answer to that question.  If you don't know the answer, ask a colleague/boss.  If you really don't know what the answer could be, you can always say to the audience, "I don't know, but I'll get back to you".  If you want to win their business, get back to the questioner with the right information sooner than you promised.
  • Memorise and structure your introduction.
  • A great format is ABCD: ATTENTION: Good morning, etc. BENEFITS: This is the reason why the audience will want to pay attention to you CREDENTIALS: Why you are an expert in this subject? DIRECTION: signpost your audience about the structure of your presentation (the main 2-3 points) and how long you will take.
  • Structure your ideas into a logical narrative.
  • Use metaphors, current events, clear examples, analogies or commonly known stories to make your ideas more memorable to the audience.
  • Practice your will you bridge this idea to the next one?
  • Think about warming up your body and voice to make you look more relaxed and help prepare yourself.
  • A rule in the theatre is: 'bad dress rehearsal, great opening night' use all your mistakes as learning points to help in your preparation.
  • Ask your boss for an extra hour to help you prepare.  Stand up and perform your pitch, do not spend another hour (or two) trying to make your PowerPoint slides more interesting.  Try to make yourself more interesting, not your slides!
  • Prepare 'prompts' not scripts, this will keep you more 'present' in front to your audience and can help prevent you from reading too much.
  • Think of your PowerPoint slides as a guide to your ideas, not a rigid structure that you must adhere to.
  • Don't be afraid to skip ahead a few slides if you have already covered a point or you think it is now an irrelevant point to the audience.
  • Draw a map of your ideas and use the space to 'anchor' your thoughts.  So, for example, move to the right side of the room when you talk about your sales targets.
  • Focus on your key 2-3 messages and keep them simple.
  • Consider asking the audience a few direct questions.  Don't be afraid to pick out a person in the audience and ask them for their thoughts about your information.  They may not wish to say anything but it can help move your formal presentation into a less formal meeting.
  • Over-prepare but under-deliver: prepare 20 minutes but deliver 15 minutes of material.  Nobody likes a bore, so keep it brief and clear.
  • Prepare a closing statement.  Think of your 'Final Thought' and a remember to repeat your name and how people can contact at the end of presentation (after the Question and Answer session).
  • Consider how much monetary value your pitch is worth, have you prepared enough to equal the value of your business proposal.
  • Get into your 'performance' space early (if possible).  Can help to do a quick voice check to make sure people can hear you and get your room laid out professionally.
  • Keep the room cool.  If you want the audience to fall asleep, turn off the lights and turn the heaters on full blast.
  • Prepare your outfit in advance and wear something that makes you feel confident.
  • Eat a light breakfast or snack before you begin.
  • Avoid colas, carbonated water and too much coffee beforehand.
  • DO NOT DO YOUR PREPARATION IN THE RECEPTION AREA OF YOUR CLIENT (if you need to ask why, then you don't deserve the work you are winning).
Taking a little extra time to prepare can pay vast dividends and even help to ease your nerves.  Even if you prepare an extra 5 minutes, that extra effort can be helpful in making sure that your ideas a clear and memorable. 


If you are delivering a group presentation make certain that one person is made 'the chairperson' and takes a formal role in the presentation such as introducing the group and each member of the presentaing team (including identifying what topics each presenters will be speaking about).   Practice your segues, 'Now Dave will talk to you about Quality Assurance' and decide what will be your 'final thought' (and who will be saying it).  When exiting, don't dawdle or gossip.  Get out of the office quick and then find a coffee shop far away to have a group de-brief. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Email: how to cope with your addiction

Emails are a source of much stress in the modern workplace.  Technology was meant to make our life easier, yet most people become slaves to their inbox.  If you insist on using emails all the time, be aware of the following tips:

Remember the telephone: unless a written record is required, the telephone can give a personal touch which can have greater impact.

Set times: as a general rule, if you are checking your emails over 15 times a are an addict!  Try to check your emails less than 10 times a day.

Turn off email notifications: if you are constantly being distracted by your computer informing you that you have an email, it is very difficult to work effectively.  Check your inbox after you have completed tasks or when you return from a break.

Be brief: sum up your emails in two sentences.  If you need to add more information, attach a report.

Summarise: precede a long email with a short summary. If you can't summarise in three/four sentences, you never will be able to clearly communicate your idea.  Call the person or have a meeting instead.

Use folders: establish folders where you can place emails to read at an appropriate time.

Use Auto-Preview: scan the first few lines of the email.  Either then read fully, file or delete.

If it is urgent: say so.  Write URGENT in the subject line.

Formality: match the formality or style of the sender to avoid offence. If unsure, err on the side of caution and address them quite formally.


Apply the ‘three times’ reply rule: if you have to reply to an email more than three times, choose another communication method.  Email hasn't solved the problem yet, so you have to change your approach to dealing with this person.

Use the subject line: place key information in the subject line to make it easier for the reader to refer to your email in the future.

Respond promptly: don’t leave email unread for more than two days.  If the email is long and you do not have time to respond to the entire email, send a brief email acknowledging its receipt and your intent to reply in more detail.

Errors: spelling and grammatical errors are unprofessional.  Proof read everything before sending. It is not cute to make spelling mistakes, it just makes you look stoopid.

Never send ‘flame mail’: this is the email that you send out to someone who has annoyed you and you immediately regret it.  If you are angry with someone, it is best to speak to them face to face.

CC: if you love to ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ people – you have a problem.

Junk Mail: remove yourself from newsletters you don’t read or need. It may take a few extra seconds, but it can save you a lot of unnecessary emails in the future.

Final Thought: consider if the other person is a Reader or Listener

Management guru Peter Drucker suggests recognising someone as either a ‘reader’ or ‘listener’ as a way to help you get the best out of the person.  Readers learn and respond best to written messages; Listeners learn through oral communication.

If you sometimes find it difficult to communicate, or you just can’t understand each other, maybe you are writing to a listener or talking to reader.  Take this into account when trying to communicate with someone, and at the same time you should convey your preferred means of communication too.

So basically, if the person is quite chatty and enjoys talking to you (LISTENER), make sure that the emails you send them are quite brief and always follow up with a phone call.  If the person tends to look uncomfortable in meetings or has a tendency to write quite long emails (READER), highlight your ideas initially with a clear email.  Identifying people's preferences can help save you a lot of time (and emails).

Become more influential!

Below are some ideas and tips that can help you become more influential and persuasive.  Before starting out, realise that if someone is in complete disagreement without, you can't automatically persuade them straight away.  After your initial discussion, they may only slightly move towards agreeing with you.  So it may take a few discussions before they are in the right frame of mind to start buying into your ideas (and eventually your products).

BE HUMAN: Treat the other person as a person, not a ‘customer’ or someone who is just there to line your pocket with cash.

FREE STUFF: Remember the law of reciprocity: people love to get things for free.  If you give someone something free (a pen, a bit of advice, a contact of someone else who can help) they will feel more obligated to you.

CHARM: People like to deal with people that they like.  Nothing gives you a greater advantage than being nice and pleasant to be around.

BODY LANGUAGE: Be aware of the emotional signals that people are always sending you.  By paying attention to their physical cues and clues you can demonstrate powerful listening skills.  Also, if they are bored or want to speak, you will be able to adjust your behaviour accordingly.

CONSISTENT: Do you do what you say you are going to do?  Do you fail to follow up on a promise.  It is important to under-promise and over deliver to your clients.  If you fail to call them back when promised or ‘forget’ to send through that information you mentioned, good luck ever getting them to buy your services.

VALUES: What you find most important, the other party may find completely boring.  If you value success and they value friendship, be sure to highlight how client relationships are important to you.  Make sure you have a good understanding of your values and those of the people/company you are aiming to build a relationship with.  Many influencers fail because they aim to persuade using their own values and not the values of the other party.

STYLE MATTERS: Do you push?  Should you pull?  If you are too forceful, you may put people off by being too intimidating.  Pullers tend to be more successful because they appear to be more sensitive to their client’s needs.  Develop an awareness of when you are pushing too hard, when you could pull a bit more information from the other party and when it may be best to withdraw (one of the least commonly used styles but often the most effective).

SCARCITY: ‘Oops, sorry that item is no longer available.’  This is the last thing a client wants to hear but suddenly, for some unknown reason, that client wants that item even more.  And they are now willing to pay more for it.  Research has shown time and again, that the scarcer a product/service is, the more in demand it will become.  As long as there is a demand, then the supply should be heavily regulated.  Be very clear about how long something is available for or about the difficulty of getting something to the client straight away…and then see their faces light up when you deliver it sooner than expected!

EVIDENCE: People like proof.  If your neighbour bought something and it worked wonderfully, then you are likely to buy that product.  9 out of 10 dentist can’t be wrong, so get some evidence together that people love what you and your company do, and they will be happy to try it for themselves.

BE YOURSELF:  Believe it or not, you are probably quite a nice person.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You may even have a few friends to prove that you are not a complete loser.  People buy from people.  The more natural you are, the more likely that people will trust you and the products you represent.

And finally...LISTEN!  Rarely do people listen to us.  So when we meet someone who is prepared to listen to our problems, it can be something special.  So listen to the other person and make them feel like you truly care.

Goals: secrets to success

Nothing can guarantee success more than using a structured and disciplined approach to achieving your goals.  Using these tips as a guide can help to take you closer to your dreams.  Focusing your attention towards what you want out of life can help you to achieve your goals more regularly.

1. Identify your values.  Spend some time to identify who you are and what are your values.  It is useless to pursue a goal that doesn't reflect who you are truthfully.  Becoming a top sales person will prove very difficult when you really enjoy working with your hands and creating new objects.  Some key questions that you can ask yourself include: What type of work do I enjoy doing?  Where does my passion lie?  Do I prefer to work with people, data or things? How would I like to be remembered when I die?  Answering some of these questions can help you to identify your personal values and save you a lot of time and heartache by pursuing goals that don't truly reflect who you are.

2. Set SMART goals. A commonly used structure for goal setting is SMART

S = specific: what exactly do you want?  Can you describe it? In detail?  Do you want a house or a three bedroom detached cottage by the sea for £450k?  The more specific you become with what you want, the more likely you are able to visualise you goals.  Visualise is a powerful tool to achievement.  The more you can 'see' yourself living you goals, the closer that goal will become your reality.

M = measurable: can you measure your success using numbers, percentages or amounts of money.  The more you can measure your success (i.e. reduce your personal debt, save a certain amount of money, complete a certain number of tasks), the easier it will be to persevere.  Remember that most people are 'off track' most of the time when pursuing their goals, so by having some form of can keep yourself 'on track' a bit more regularly.

A = achievable: Your personal beliefs are very powerful.  Think about how likely it is that you will be able to achieve your goal.  If you need a little more time, don't be afraid to adjust your timescale.

R = realistic:  Are you delusional?  Is this goal something that you can see yourself realistically doing in your lifetime?  If you want to be a great astronaut but you find basic math a bit difficult, maybe you should consider another goal?  Be honest with yourself.  Recognise that trying to achieve something that you know you will never succeed at can be a waste of time and lead ultimately to disappointment.

T = timebound: What is your deadline?  A cheesy saying is, "A goal is a dream with a deadline." If you wanted to make a million, by when?  Get as specific as you can about your goals, including when you want to achieve your ambitions.  Is it by the end of the month, end of the year or your 50th birthday.  Any deadline will do.  Just ensure that you believe it is achievable and realistic.

3, Challenge your beliefs. Although you should avoid setting delusional goals, it is sometimes useful to stretch your beliefs.  Beliefs can be explained as, 'what are your expectations?'  Could you expect more out of life?  Do you constantly set yourself up for failure by telling yourself that you will never achieve what you want?  Check into your inner thoughts and become aware of any negative attitudes that may be preventing you from achieving more in your life.

4. Move forward or work backwards. Goal planning can help you bridge the gaps from 'where you currently are' to 'where you want to be'.  Drawing a map outlining the key steps you need to complete before you achieve your goal can help you plan for the necessary steps that are required achieve your dreams.  This map can be drawn from where you are right now, moving to where you want to be.  Or you can draw it backwards, starting with the goal and then ask yourself, 'what has to happen just before I achieve that?' This backwards goal planning can be a very powerful visual guide to help you plan a path to success.

5. Phone a friend.  Try interviewing people who are successful to understand the habits of high achievers.  People love to talk about themselves, so feel free to ask them how they accomplished their dreams.  You never know, this person may become your mentor or an advisor.  An invaluable asset towards success!

6. Persevere and get creative. Do something.  Anything.  Just start your journey and avoid giving up.  It is important not to fixate on 'how' you are going to achieve your goal.  The 'how' tends to present itself after you have committed to the 'what' you are going to achieve.  Being flexible and creative when you are required to solve problems or overcome difficulty will help you to stay positive.

7. Broadcast. Don't be afraid to tell people about what you want to achieve.  This can increase your luck!  Luck is often describe as: preparation meets opportunity.  Once you have started on your path to achieving your goals, you might meet a person that can give you an unexpected opportunity.  So tell people about what you are doing.  If they can't help you, they may be able to give you advice or recommend you to a friend/colleague that could assist you.

8. Celebrate and give recognition.  Enjoy your success and acknowledge all of your hard work.  Also, we never achieve anything entirely on our own, so thank hose people who helped you.