Archive for the 'Training' Category

Jul 27 2009

What is a customer?

Following on my post about customer service last week I reflected upon the importance of the customer service experience over the weekend. Businesses need to hear and to learn these lessons!

In my hometown of Cardiff, we are getting very excited by the imminent arrival of a John Lewis store in the new shopping centre.

Now Cardiff is a great city, it has a perfectly good shopping centre but – John Lewis!!! They have a reputation for unparalleled customer service.

I can remember living in Reading where there was a branch of John Lewis. Even the spotty 17 year-old shop assistants had their hair combed and their trousers fastened tightly around their waists so that you couldn’t see acres of adolescent underwear!

As a customer, I knew that John Lewis would rarely give me a bargain price although they would price match other stores in the town centre so I wasn’t being overcharged. Their standard of customer service would make them the first port of call on my visits to town.

One of my business colleagues shared this with me:

What is a Customer?

A customer is the most important person in this firm,
in person, by mail or by telephone.

A customer is not dependent on us ‑ we are dependent on them
A customer is not an interruption of our work‑ they are the purpose of it.

We are not doing them a favour by serving them ‑ they are doing us a favour by
giving us the opportunity to do so.

A customer is not someone to argue with or match wits with,
nobody ever won an argument with a customer.

A customer is a person who brings us their wants; it is our job to handle
them profitably to them and to ourselves.

That is what a customer is ‑ in our business or in any business.

Attributed to Peterborough, Daily Telegraph

What can I say? If you have a business, print this out, put it somewhere that you and your staff will see. Make it a mainstay of your business, not just something to pay lip-service to… Do this and your customers will keep you in business!


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Jul 15 2009

Taking My Own Time Management Advice

OK, I came to my computer this morning, slightly less “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” than normal.

As I waited for the machine to spring to life I unfolded a piece of paper on my desk – it contained notes to include in a teaching session on writing a research paper. I flattened out the creases in the paper and spread it out before me.

When technology had caught up with me/my laptop, I set it off to check my emails…

Noticing a half finished blog entry, I then logged on to WordPress to complete the task I’d started yesterday.

It was only a matter of minutes before my email alert pinged and had me checking out my Inbox and my eyes glanced back to that sheet of paper I’d put on my desk.

It was only as I recognised the urge to finish off that email for a new autoresponder sequence that was also in an open file on my laptop that I realised the seriousness of this situation.

Within five minutes of starting work I had flitted between three or four tasks…Multitasking gone mad!

Now I can’t believe you’ve never experienced something like this.

As someone who teaches time management sessions this is time to take my own medicine.

Faced with numerous tasks, none too complicated, none are incredibly urgent, none will take a very long time to complete, I’m going to recommend a dose of serial single-tasking.

This is when I choose a task, set my timer for 15 minutes and go for it!

Get as much done on the chosen task as possible before the bell rings. If I complete the task, great!

If I don’t complete the task, I lay down my tools, set my timer once more and move onto the second task for the next 15 minutes.

It works brilliantly. I don’t get bored, I know I’m moving many different things forward and for the slightly more complex tasks, I have the added oomph of the deadline effect… when I can see I have only a few minutes left before the bell, it’s amazing how much more focussed I can be in working towards a convenient pausing point.

OK, job done. Blog entry completed – and this one written as a bonus. Notes for workshop captured in a scratch file and my autoresponder message sorted.

(Also installed X-Site Pro and rearranged my office! What a profitable morning?)

Hope serial single-tasking works well for you too.


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Jun 12 2009

How can you be enthusiastic about this?

Have you ever heard a boring lecture?

During a session on “Presenting Your Research” we were discussing the number one secret that the majority of Academics ignore during their conference presentations, lectures, seminars etc…

This one ingredient always comes high on the list of “Must Have” qualities when I ask groups “What makes for a memorable presentation?”…

The secret is – Enthusiasm.

If the speaker is enthusiastic about their work, their content, their material, it’s contagious, we can’t help but catch some of their excitement.

And yet so many presentations in the academic arena are, well, just plain boring.

In  their defence I’m sure the academics would protest that their job is to inform rather than to entertain – and yes, I have great sympathy with that. But if your audience is bored by your delivery style, they won’t remember the content long enough to stay informed once they leave the lecture theatre!

If you are a professional researcher – you have chosen this career, this research – if you can’t get enthusiastic about your own work perhaps you should seriously consider looking for another job… The question you should be asking is how can I convey my enthusiasm to my audience?

There are some circumstances when you are called to talk about something you are less enthusiastic about… maybe teaching an undergraduate lecture on a subject that you have little or no professional interest in… how can you be enthusiastic about that?

I’ve met this challenge many times in my life as undergraduate lecturing was never my number one career choice so, apart from the fake-it challenge, how do you get interested enough for your enthusiasm to become infectious?

For me, I’ve always looked for some other aspect to become excited about.

When the subject is too boring because it’s all tiny, insignificant but essential detail, then I make my challenge to see the big picture. How can I get clear about the big picture and clearly convey that to my audience?

When the subject is just boring because I have no interest in that I look for the “hook”. If someone somewhere is interested in this, what do they see in it that I am missing? Is there an implication, a consequence a beauty or symmetry to this subject that I haven’t yet discovered and I try to put myself in their shoes, see the subject through their eyes…

If all else fails I use the exercise as one in the structure and science of communication. If I have to lecture on this subject, how can I craft it so that it becomes the perfect model of how to deliver a lecture? What is the attention-grabbing introduction? How does the structure signpost the essential learning points? How do I reinforce the key learning themes throughout the session??? And I set myself the task of writing it as an exercise, a practice run in communication skills.

Funnily enough, the lecture that I dreaded most now gets the best feedback from my audience. I’m still not personally excited by the content, but I’m proud of how I communicate it to the students!

So how does this work for you? If you’re lecturing about something, how can you get enthusiastic about that? Oh and yes, it does take some time, some effort, some thinking about… like most things that are worth doing well!


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Jun 03 2009

Aggressive, assertive, passive or a victim?

I recently ran an Assertiveness Skills workshop for a group of University staff. It was an interesting mixture of managers and admin support staff who actually got on very well together.

We soon established that while many people in the group habitually adopted more passive forms of behaviour, some more frequently veered towards aggressive behaviour or “being direct” as they preferred to call it. And it can be a very fine line, one person’s simple and straightforward can feel like bullying to someone else, particularly if the second person lacks self-confidence or any sense of their own power.

Sure, there can be a sort of “formula” to assertive communication – demonstrating that you have heard and understood what the other person is saying, being clear to express what you feel, explaining what you would like to happen – but any verbal formula is left empty and powerless if the speaker, with their tone of voice and body language screams loudly “I’m a push-over!”.

As we went through the workshop – and it was an exhilarating ride through many diverse areas of discussion – self-determination, personal choice, social responsibility and worthiness – we came to understand that feeling and acting like a victim really limited our options.

I am so familiar with the idea that our own state of mind and expectation creates our experience of reality and it was a privilege to see this group of people realise the practical meaning of “The more you do of what you’re doing, the more you get of what you’ve got”.

I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” and these people, male and female, young and not so young, realised just how much they had been consenting to the way they had been put into powerless pigeon-holes.

It turned out that, while we did work through several strategies to develop assertive communication skills, the deeper work was in developing a greater level of self-esteem and escape from the mindset of victimhood.

I know they now need to take their new-found confidence back into the workplace but they have made a start…

It’s on days like this that I’m really proud of my delegates!


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Apr 30 2009

How to feel confident or positive, any time you choose.

During a recent workshop we really discussed whether it was possible or even desirable to be able to control how you felt…

Have you ever paid attention to the way that you feel at a particular time of the day, maybe right now…?

The way you feel or your state relates to your physical well-being, as well as your thoughts and emotions.
– How does you body feel now (calm, tired, energetic, excited, tense, etc.)?
– What are your thoughts occupied with (people, tasks, future, past, etc.)?
– Do you feel any emotions (happiness, anxiety, anticipation, etc.), and if so, how do you feel them (e.g. warmth in your chest, knot in your stomach, etc.)?

What most people do not realize is that we are constantly in some kind of state. In fact, we cannot not be in a state of some description! So as long as you are alive you are going to be in a state of some kind – and most of us will experience many different states during a typical day, sometimes changing between states in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

States can be resourceful (happy, motivated, creative, etc.) or non-resourceful (angry, resentful, fearful, etc.). People who spend the majority of their time in resourceful states will most likely be leading a successful and rewarding life, even if not necessarily an easy life (does anyone?). If you are in a resourceful state you can make the best of any situation. It is the number one criterion to success in any walk of life. Likewise, if you are in a non-resourceful state you will say and do things that draw problems, difficulties, tension and complications into your life.

So the question is: How do you maintain a resourceful state in the midst of the many challenges you face every day?

One answer is to deliberately create and use “anchors”.

NLP anchoring uses a stimulus – it may be a sound, an image, a touch, smell or a taste – to trigger a consistent response in you or someone else. Two very simple anchors might be to either simply clench your fist gently or to press together the tips of your index finger and your thumb.

The next trick is to learn to associate a particular emotional state with your chosen anchor.

When something is anchored, we react without thinking. This can be beneficial or painful.

Can you think of a piece of music that has special meaning for you or a smell that reminds you of a specific incident in your life? The music or the smell are acting as anchors to your earlier, powerful memory. Many commercial organisations use jingles or slogans to anchor their product firmly in your mind…

When we use NLP anchoring, we make these associations deliberately.

Anchoring is derived from Pavlov’s theory of stimulus-response. Pavlov trained dogs to associate a stimulus or anchor – the ringing of a bell – with the arrival of their food. Very soon, the dogs, which salivated vigorously when their food was presented, learned to associate the stimulus of the bell with the physical response of salivation.

Stimulus-response usually needs further reinforcement, whereas anchoring can be created at the first attempt itself although the strength of the anchor can be increased by repeating the process several times.

So how do we do this?

To be most effective your chosen anchor needs to be a unique stimulus – a special touch or smell for example – that occurs at a specific time to coincide with a very strong emotional feeling.

So get yourself into the right emotional state.

– Remember a time when you really felt the desired emotion, say confidence….
– Really re-live that emotion and do everything you can to make that feeling of emotion real and powerful to you right now….
– Move, jump, jiggle, smile, remember or imagine feeling really great, totally unstoppable, capable of anything, positively glowing with confidence… and just as you think you’re about to burst with energy use your anchor…
– Touch your thumb and index finger together and hold them together for about 5 seconds.
– After 5 seconds, relax, let go of the emotion, let your anchor release and come back to a “normal” state.

Right now, you are beginning to condition your body into knowing that, when you t ouch your thumb and index finger together (use your anchor), you feel really confident in exactly the same way as Pavlov’s dogs knew it was time to salivate when the bell rang!

You’ll probably need to repeat the “anchoring process” several times to make it robust. If you really can create, remember or imagine a strong positive emotional state then it becomes relatively easy to associate this with physical anchor…

Now, maybe as you read through this you’re thinking “Go on, it can’t be this simple” or even “This is silly” – I was very sceptical when I first heard of this technique… But just imagine for one moment that what I’m sharing with you is true…
If it really is this simple, don’t you want to give it a go?!!

The secret is to give it a go and to do this just as if you really, really believed it was true. Secret scepticism really won’t help you with this one!

If it turns out that I’m right, then you can know you can feel confident and composed whenever you choose to touch your thumb and index finger together!


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Mar 19 2009

Making Progress or Just Plain Busy?

I begin many of my training workshops by reminding participants of the value of their time. Time is the most precious resource we have.

Rich or poor, healthy or sick, we only have 24 hours a day and, yes, I try to use them wisely.

How many times are we aware of the ways we invest our time? And the word “investment” is the most accurate because the way we choose to spend our time is a true investment in ourselves and our own lives.

So this last week I’ve been delivering workshops, preparing to visit the Money Gym Property Extravaganza on Saturday and developing plans to launch a new internet business site.

When not directly interacting with workshop participants I’ve been thinking about creating a new product to give away to people interested in internet marketing. Putting myself into my ideal client’s shoes I’ve been browsing the internet to look for ideas – what does my ideal client want?

Can you imagine how the time has flown…
Help Wanted

Yes, I’ve seen many different products, lots of sales pages, a few things I’d never touch with a barge pole, avoided a few websites that my virus guard warned me were malicious and trying to install trojans on my website… but do I have a concrete idea?

Not yet.

And so this reminded me to reflect on the difference between being busy and making progress.

Even though I know I’m surfing with a purpose, this hasn’t been enough to keep me really focussed… I need to know what my outcome is.

Surfing is all well and good but I need inspiration for, and if at all possible, a real product to create whether that is an ebook, an email series or a piece of software to offer…

Time to put my computer away and talk with a business coach I think!

So what about you…

Are you just plain busy or are you making progress?


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Mar 13 2009

Scientists Managing Scientists

Now this might be one of those times when the title – Scientists Managing Scientists – seems to be an oxymoron, something that is inherently contradictory.

Research scientists – the environment is very individualistic, people are promoted and rewarded for getting papers published or grants awarded. This is frequently as a result of their own efforts or of the results produced by junior staff or PhD students who work for/with them…

Research Scientist At it’s best this can be a meritocracy, more senior staff can mentor and develop aspiring researchers who want to learn the trade of “professional researcher”, an apprenticeship that lasts at least 6 to 9 years.

Along that path of individual accountability there’s a subtle shift.

A researcher acquires or is rewarded with the responsibility for a PhD student or maybe a technician. Maybe a few years later, a junior postdoctoral researcher comes along to be directed and trained, and then you get to the stage where you’re applying for your own grant funding…

It seems to be a surprise that a major part of your role now is not to conduct your own research but to guide others to conduct your research for you.

This slow dawning that you are now a manager reveals a challenge in staff management skills for which few scientists are adequately prepared – but my top resources are below!

Our role models in management almost certainly have had little or no training at all. Some are excellent and supportive managers, others, perhaps a majority, have more haphazard skills in staff management. When it works, it works, when it doesn’t, we just get on with it. A minority of managers should be fired – the science gets done in spite of their inept management style and refusal to change.

The typical length of a research contract is just 3 years and the most important thing to achieve in that time is the publication of your research results – publication almost certainly being dependent upon the support and goodwill of the group leader. It goes without saying that even if a researcher’s experience of their manager is “trying”, most will endure it for just 3 years and the sake of the published paper.

But management skills can be learned, even by research scientists.

There are some excellent management skills workshops and a small number of books which are written specifically with the scientific environment in mind.

If you feel inclined to improve your management skills you could begin by looking at some of the books above – these three have earned their place on my bookshelf! If you choose just one to look at, make it Lab Dynamics…

If you want to improve or develop a wider range of influencing skills I have two more recommendations and “Influence…” by Robert Cialdini would be my “must have” book. Enjoy!


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Mar 12 2009

Financial Education For Free

Published by under Money Gym,Training

We go to school, even to University – and yet learn so little about managing our finances. We live in a place we call home all our lives and often don’t know how to use our home to provide security for our future.

How surprising then to get financial education when on a totally unrelated training course!

I was delivering a workshop with my Training For Universities business, all was well, a good group of staff, highly motivated and learning from me and from each other – and then we had the coffee break…

We got to talking about rugby – well we were in Wales – and I explained my challenge watching the last matches in the 6 Nations tournament… I will be in London at a Money Gym Property Extravaganza.

And suddenly the subject shifted “Is property still a good investment?”, “But you can’t get mortgages now can you?”, “And what about the money you lose when you don’t have tenants?” – the questions flooded out!

There was such a level of interest we had to negotiate an extension – and we extended the workshop while we talked about financial freedom and rent-to-own! I think they were blown away at the prospect of being able to make two families genuinely happy and make a profit.

What an unexpected way to end an exciting day!

And if you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about either leave a comment or come along to our Property Extravaganza on 21st March – and remember that all profits go to support The Big Issue – another example of a win-win!


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Feb 26 2009

Powerful Personal Motivation

Whether I’m talking with my coaching clients, working with a group of people in a workshop or designing a web page to sell products in the internet, we keep coming back to the same subject: Personal Motivation.

When I know I want to do X, why do I let myself down?
When I know I should do Y, why do I consistently find myself doing the opposite?
When it comes to shopping, why do people consistently buy what they want and not what they need?

These mysteries of life go much deeper than our conscious mind and knowledge. We know what we should do… but something much deeper actually motivates our actions. Now I could write a book on this but won’t right now!! Suffice it to say that our behaviour is motivated by our fundemental needs and also by our personal values.

Tony Robbins has described six human needs and believes everyone is—or can be—motivated by their desire to fulfill these needs.

The first four needs are basic or fundemental:
1. Certainty. We all want certainty at some level. Much of this comes from comfort or security. Of course there is no ABSOLUTE certainty, but we do want to know that we will be safe, be healthy, have an income. We want the certainty of knowing that, as long as we don’t break the law we will be free, if we pay our money our goods will be delivered… you get the idea.

2. Uncertainty. This might seem paradoxical but we also want uncertainty. Too much certainty is stifling! There needs to be enough uncertainty or variety in our lives to provide spice and adventure, to provide challenge and entertainment. Generally speaking we don’t want every day to be the same or entirely predictable.

3. Significance. Deep down, we all want to be significant. We may not want to be a star (or we might!) but we do want our life to have meaning and significance at some level. Maybe to be noticed, to be an individual, to have someone care for us for being ourselves – and at some level this means we need to be different to everyone else. We may not be the worlds greatest rebel but we probably want to “do it my way” at least some of the time. And those of us driven to act out “the world’s greatest rebel” role, are simply expressing this deep human need. It’s often quick and easy compared to persuading someone to love us.

4. Connection. In contrast, we also want to be connected. Yes, we want to be ourselves but we also want to be part of some family, group or team. The isolation of being the only one, with nobody understanding what it’s like to be me is just too demanding for most human beings so we crave connection. It is hard to argue against the need for love & belonging – even rebels hang out in gangs. We want to feel part of a community, a family, a movement or a tribe!

These four human needs are core to our being human: certainty – uncertainty, significance – connection. We are driven to meeting these needs in so many different ways. jumping-for-joy

And then we look higher, beyond the basic there is the expression of what makes us more fully human and this expreses itself in the desire to meet two additional needs:

5. Growth. Not everyone is driven to grow – but there are few of us that don’t enjoy getting better, knowing more, doing more. Our motivation might be to be promoted or get out of a rut of a job… to become better, to improve our skills, to stretch and excel may be more evident in some than others, but it’s there. And there are some of us for whom growth is a passion, a deep need and an eternal source of pleasure.

6. Contribution. Stephen Covey expresses this as leaving a legacy, our gift to the world or those who come after us. This is our footprint on the planet and, even if you don’t want to be remembered by name or in fame, most of us would choose to be remembered kindly rather than for wanton destruction! The desire to contribute something of value—to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it is in all of us.

So, when you’re confused by what you don’t do or when your actions seem contrary to your wishes, think of these needs – which is driving your behaviour? If you can think of a different way to meet your needs you might actually get closer to your goals!


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Feb 25 2009

Managing People: Book Recommendations

In my discussions following the Manage, Influence and Motivate workshop, I’ve repeatedly come back to a cluster of book recommendations:

I was really happy to recommend any of Macolm Gladwell’s books as an easy introduction to some very interesting areas. His latest, “Outliers” explores how ‘geniuses’ are made rather than genetic… his work has some profound implications about how we nurture our talented youngsters and what gifts we might be unknowingly throwing away. I’d probably recommend The Tipping Point and also Blink even more highly – but take a look to find out more about these books.

The work of inner change is more personal. We need to set real targets for progress, get out of our own way, deal with inner doubt or limiting beliefs… “Taming Your Gremlin” by Rick Carson – an absolute classic and an introduction to the art of mindfulness. Micheal Neill might be less well know but he is a master. His book is entertaining, practical, jargon-free and grounded in real life. I was concerned that the title “You can have what you want“, would reflect a very self-centred approach to getting “stuff” – not at all. It’s a book about becoming who you are with authenticity. It is one of the best self-coaching books I know. As for Paul McKenna, you might love him or hate him… set aside your predjudice and enjoy a practical book that comes with a useful CD.

When it comes to communication there are many different options. I can’t recommend Robert Cialdini highly enough… He is a master at explaining the hidden power of influence. You need to know this stuff! Likewise Allan and Barbera Pease are established masters in their field of exploring body language. A slightly small book with lots of excellent pictures is “Body Language At Work” by Peter Clayton but this doesn’t seem to be availavle at Amazon… The Andrew Curran book is a delight, particularly for the biologists amongst you but is accessible to all (just don’t get hung up on the neurobiology!) .

Do have a browse – if you have books you particularly like, do share them with me!


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