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Not Your Natural Net-worker?

January 1, 2019 | By | No Comments

What could better start for your 2019 working life than expanding your network?

Whether you work for a big corporation, your local authority or are CEO of your own mini empire there is much to be gained from a professional mingle. Whilst LinkedIn allows us to virtually connect, nothing tops real-life handshakes and conversations which behind a screen, can stagnate, ignored in message box. If you are face to face with your correspondent, drink in hand, nodding to acknowledge receipt of their wisdom, you are much more likely to get an instance response to a question. Moreover, if you have taken the time to research your correspondent’s background, their likes, interests and current status, you can also create an environment where your opposite number will remember you over others.

What is going to make you memorable at an event? (In a good way, we’re not talking tripping out of the toilets or singing ‘My Way’ after too much alcohol)

1. Some people are very comfortable in networking environments and thrive on the buzz of having to professionally befriend a roomful of strangers. Others are horrified by it. Most are somewhere in the middle. Our advice is to be authentic, relaxed and true to yourself. You can always tell if someone is putting on an act. You know when you are around someone doing this, you don’t feel entirely comfortable around them. So don’t be one of them. Smile! Smile as if you are in on a secret but one you are prepared to share with the right person.

2. Listen and look interested. We all want to share our stories but don’t be in a hurry. Be the person people remember because you looked the least desperate to ‘network’. When you do share your information, keep it to three key phrases – a strong intro sentence, explaining who you are and what you do, a summary sentence, explaining what you or your organisations aspirations and plans for the year ahead are. Perhaps a closing sentence as well, along the lines of what you are hoping to achieve from attending networking events. Make it memorable but succinct. And then listen to your contact’s information. Ask questions and if you’re genuinely interested in a connection take a business card. (If you think you might have any recall issues put notes into your phone to refer to when you follow up.)

3. Follow up! Keep the momentum going. If the relationship is going to be of benefit to your organisation or to that of another contact, send an email the next day. This shows real integrity to your connection, not only that you’re interested but that in business you can be relied on.

4. Know when it’s time to move on. Even if you are having a great time and the conversation and laughter is flowing, it’s a little bit like a first date, keep it classy and ensure you are both allowing other’s access to you. It’s a professional event after all. It’s going well, it’s a sure sign you can reconnect again, just swap cards and follow up the next day.

5. Standing alone? Not sure how to get the conversation started? Networking events are about just that. Rarely do organisers let attendees stand alone but if you do find yourself adrift, assert yourself and introduce yourself. Usually, if you linger for a bit, you will get invited into a group that might have formed. Or politely interrupt a conversation and ask if you might possibly have the benefit of a conversation with either party when one or the other becomes free. This way you will at least secure a conversation at the earliest opportunity.

6. To re-cap, be yourself, be prepared (research if possible) keep if brief but interesting, be MORE interested in others. Follow up. Get involved, don’t stand on the sidelines!

Communication In Teams

March 7, 2014 | By | No Comments

AntsSo let’s start with the basic premise that a team is a group of people working together with a common aim. In some teams, motivation to reach the common aim might be much higher. Team members within Manchester United FC for instance, may, for passion, pay packet, and prestige feel compelled to battle harder to reach manager-led targets than say, team members for Manchester City Centre Morrison’s. Having said that, given the right manager, there’s no limit on the enthusiasm that might be inspired in their staff team.

Communication is key in everything we do. Anything, involving someone other than ourselves necessitates it. Let’s face it, most of us even talk to ourselves at some point and if we’re honest, sometimes we’re not even always that honest with ourselves! 

What happens when we communicate within our work teams?

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Information comes from high above does it not? Well some of it has to. Unless of course you are top dog, the big cheese, from whom the directions are drizzled or dictated. Are you confident your team or your minions understand them, relate to them, take them on board in a way that inspires them and motivates them to carry out your wishes, your expectations properly and sufficiently?

What about if you’re a middle person. Someone who gets armfuls of information dumped on them and is expected to sort through it, to decode it, decipher it, translate it somehow and make it more user-friendly for the next batch of people who have actually got to action it. Is that you?

Or do you consider yourself a mere plankton? Small-fry who gets on with well-oiled day to day instruction with only the odd change to the daily grind. In fact, a change does occur, you welcome it as a ridiculously exciting event because your job is otherwise so samey?

I’m not here to stroke any egos but you’re all significant. You all need each other. Big cogs need little cogs to turn. But could you all turn that big machine a bit more efficiently?

We all know how things have changed over the last twenty five years or so. In the office, the most modern form of communication back then was the fax. People still smoked at their desk, or met by the vending machine to buy a Twix and a scalding cup of coffee that tasted of plastic, in order to swap paper files, which are now electronic. People had meetings in actual rooms, shook hands and locked eyes, smiled and enjoyed conversations. Often these days’ colleagues can work in the same building and not see each other between pay-days, yet exchange thousands of words between emails. That’s just how time has moved on.

When you do spend time with your colleagues, or do send an email, or pass on information, it is worth considering if you are optimising it. Is it always professional yet make you seem friendly and approachable? Is the information well laid out and accessible? Is it relevant? Does anyone else need to see the information? Are you sending the information to anyone who doesn’t actually need to see it?

Why not think about your role within your team and ask yourself if the way you deliver information could be improved. If you make positive changes, they may just impact on a colleague in a way which has a positive effect on the rest of your team.

 

 

Communication at Christmas

January 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

We can learn so much about communication from almost any scenario. Take Christmas.

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Nan sits there near the tree, staring at the television, hands in her lap, nursing a plate of half eaten mince pie. She doesn’t say a great deal. She suffers from selective deafness. Her aural function however is incredible if the phrase ‘cup of tea anyone?’ is uttered within a ten metre radius. ‘Yes please dear!’ she’ll shout to whomever made the offer.

Uncle Dave has been on the Stella since lunchtime. He doesn’t stop talking or cracking jokes. He doesn’t bother making eye contact with anyone because deep down he knows that no-one really wants to lock irises with him. He knows that he’s doing everyone a favour by forcing this one less intrusion upon them. He knows he’s loud, a bit crude and not all that funny but he does know that when there IS a lull, it’s Uncle Dave they’ll all be grateful for. Isn’t it?

Dave’s long suffering girlfriend Sue flaps her hands a lot. She doesn’t drink, she’s the designated driver, however she loves to be the conveyer of drama and intrigue and her primary mission is to engage eye-contact and ‘lock-on’ like a limpet. She loves to talk, to impart, to divulge and to express as if her regurgitated gossip is a gift wrapped basket of wisdom rather than a second hand sack of hearsay.

Mum Pam rules the kitchen, and the house. She barks orders at Dad who chops, peels and slices. Mum wants Dad Stan to be Jamie Oliver. Dad is more Oliver Hardy. However he wants a peaceful life and that means a happy wife so he does as he is ordered without argument.

Son Jason wants to be at the pub. He thinks there is still a way. He has purchased generous and well thought out gifts for his family. He will charm them into a two hour reprieve this afternoon and slink away for three pints of Guinness. He can and he will.

Spoilt daughter Amber is preparing her ‘tears of devastation’ if her top three desired presents fail to materialise. There is, after all, the Boxing Day sales and Dad Stan cannot bear the sound of female sobbing.

Sound familiar? How could this possibly not translate to the workplace?

  • Nan, the colleague who refuses to be a team player.
  • Uncle Dave, the class clown, who really ought to spend more time being productive than being entertaining?
  • Sue, the gossiper who needs to concentrate less on what others are doing and more time on her work
  • Pam, the hard-edged office manager
  • Stan, who needs some assertiveness training
  • Jason, the charmer
  • Amber, the manipulator

There can be positive aspects to almost all of the above personality traits if used in a positive context. Recognising them and harnessing them is the skill. Learning about yourself, how you come across is the next step.

For example, if you want to get someone to do something and be happy about doing it for you then learning how to be assertive, convincing and charming is key. If you appear to be a pompous, manipulative bully I suspect success will be elusive. Obvious but true.

For more information about public speaking go to www.surespeech.co.uk

 

Different for all of us.

March 12, 2013 | By | No Comments

What is confidence? It’s different for all of us.

self_esteemSome people wear it like a coat, covering what they perceive to be their less confident but true self in something more robust and appealing.

Other people try to muster something up from within themselves like an energy force that will propel them into doing what they need to do despite any reservations.

However it works for you, I find the application of it a fascinating concept. I once worked with a man in his thirties who was due to give a speech to an audience of hundreds. We’d spoken on the phone and had had one Skype public speaking session. He was determined to let me know he had no confidence at all and wanted to warn me I would probably be his biggest challenge. ‘Don’t worry’ I told him ‘I like a challenge.’

Due to his time constraints, our first meeting was in a pub. We arranged to meet for half an hour, simply to talk over what we’d already been through on the phone and Skype. ‘I just want you to meet me’, he’d said ‘so you can see how nervous I really am and what type of person I am.’

This client of mine worked in the city and regularly held meetings in pubs, restaurants and other social venues. I knew on this particular day, he was meeting me after meeting a group of his work colleagues. ‘It’s not a formal meeting as such’, he told me ‘we’ll just be by the bar. As soon as you arrive I’ll say my goodbyes to them and we can move to a quieter part of the pub’ he told me.

I arrived at the pub ten minutes early. I scanned the bar, seeking out my client, looking for the desperately shy and nervous man. I spotted him almost immediately, surrounded by a semi-circle of other suited people. Clearly though, he’d sent his gregarious twin brother to take the meeting for him.

I sat and watched as this ‘painfully shy’ man, held court, telling a story about a disastrous job interview. Putting his pint on the bar top, he used his hands and arms to demonstrate and he’d experienced. His eyes were alive. His facial expressions were theatrical and reinforce. His audience were completely engaged. They laughed in unison, whooped together and shook their heads with the incredulity that regurgitated stories often inspire. He noticed me, nodded his polite acknowledgement and shook hands goodbye with his colleagues.

We moved around the corner to a quieter table. ‘Great to meet you’ he said ‘but let me tell you, you’ve got your work cut out with me. I am SO nervous about this. I can’t give a speech to save my life!’.

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I remember smiling. ‘Yes you can’, I said, ‘you just did!’ Sometimes you have a whole bank of skills under your belt. You just fail to recognise what’s there. Don’t underestimate what you can already do that might be transferable to something else. Long story short, the only thing my client needed was my help understanding how to transfer the skills he already had.

It might be all you need too.

What are you looking at?

March 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

lookingI’m often on the train. I actually enjoy train journeys simply because I get to indulge in one of my favourite past-times; people watching.

This week for example I have seen so many interesting interactions and exchanges taking place in train carriages and for the most part, I imagine those taking part, don’t even know how much of an audience they had.

Before I share some of my experiences with you, it’s wise to remember that next time you’re on the train, the innocuous looking woman in the corner seat, head buried studiously into a book, is NOT too engrossed in her novel to notice you. She is in fact, looking directly at you and soaking up every snippet of what you say and how you move!

Okay, somewhere near Birmingham I was in a seat with the back of another seat in front of me. Across on the diagonal was a table seat shared by a couple, sitting across from each other. I had my sunglasses on and rested my head against the window. I probably looked asleep; in fact, I might have nodded off if I hadn’t heard with woman hiss ‘I know you’re lying!’ I was drawn to the face of the man, who sat nicely in my eye line. ‘I’m not!’ he protested, panic etched on his forehead. He picked his mobile phone up with his right hand and passed it to his partner. ‘Check it, go on.’ He urged confidently.

looking2‘Well you weren’t with Pete!’ she asked, leaning forwards across the table. I assume she was scanning his face for clues. His eyebrows shot up and his forehead wrinkled. (This can be a sign of a liar caught in the act). He looked up to the right. ‘I was at work, I was going to meet Pete but I had to stay for a meeting, for God’s sake.’ Note this, right handed people usually look to the left to recall memories, and to the right when they are in the act of making something up.

I don’t believe you’, she spat, picked up her handbag and stormed through to another carriage. The man, looking, flustered and red faced, picked up his coat and followed her through seconds later. I want to shout after her ‘Trust your instincts, he IS lying!’ but of course I didn’t.

On another occasion travelling home I shared a carriage with two women, a blonde and a redhead and a lone male in a suit. They were probably all in their early twenties. I was sitting opposite the man, ostensibly gazing out of the window but I could see his face and more importantly I could see the reflection of the redhead in the train window. It was late.

The lone male glanced at the redhead and then the blonde, his eyes returned to the redhead and they stayed there almost as if his gaze would be invisible to them. I saw the redhead smile to the blonde and coyly look at the floor. The lone male averted his gaze, furrowed his brow in a slow, but apparently casual manner, appearing to look lost in intelligent, contemplative thought. He opened his legs wider and sat back in his seat and pushed his bottom forward, clearly attempting to accentuate his masculinity. The redhead crossed her legs and turned a little away from him while leaning back and keeping her arm from blocking her body. To be honest, she looked like she was trying to pose as a mermaid on a rock. No words were spoken in this exchange but without even thinking, these two were both communicating with each other without giving it a second’s conscious thought.

looking3Unfortunately, I reached my destination not long afterwards and I will never know if conservation was made, or numbers were swapped.

What I do know is, if you keep your eyes open you see much more going on around you than you realise.