Category Archives: Personal development

Stop the Spinning Plates

 

I guess like many people I’ve been spending some of my lockdown time sifting through old clutter that I no longer need.

Whilst sorting through some old files I came across an exercise I used to use with my leadership coaching clients called “Stop the Spinning plates”

Everything that is incomplete drains our energy. Like keeping plates in the air; all incomplete things provide an opportunity for procrastination, for sending us off on a tangent with displacement activities.

They allow the important things to get lost in the clutter, both literally and metaphorically.

On the basis that now might be the perfect time to get rid of the clutter, so none of these end up as” spinning plates” once our working day gets back to some semblance of normality I thought I’d share the list with you.

The list does start with the obvious, but as you work through I believe you’ll come across a few that have been creating some clutter.

Ticking just a few of these off your list can be quite liberating.

Make a commitment to when you will complete each of these actions.

  1. Make a list of all the things you have to do – a to do list – and refer to it daily.
  2. Get an appointment calendar.  Put all your appointments in it. Refer to it daily.  Plan your time.  Stick to it.
  3. Clean up your house.
  4. Clean up your office.
  5. Throw away everything you don’t use, haven’t used in the last 6 months, or which is outdated.
  6. Organise your papers, file or throw away any unused papers.
  7. Clear out your filing cabinets.  Throw away unused materials.
  8. Clear the top of your desk.  Throw away unused materials and unneeded papers.  File all papers you don’t throw away.
  9. Get all financial statements up to date, including tax returns.
  10. Pay any outstanding bills or make arrangements &/or agreements as to when you will pay them.  Keep those agreements
  11. Make a list of everyone who owes you money, or has borrowed things.  Write or call and ask for the money or borrowed items, and make an agreement as to when you will have it back.  Follow this up.  Alternatively cross the person off the list and decide it is complete.
  12. Make a list of all the things that you have started but not completed. Either diarise when you will complete these (with a time) or make a conscious decision not to do it and take it off your list.
  13. Make a list of all the things you have wanted to do for some time, but have just not got round to doing.  Either diarise when you will complete these (with a time) or make a conscious decision not to do it and take it off your list.
  14. Make a list of all the agreements you have made.  Fulfil past agreements. Renegotiate and make new agreements with any you can’t fulfil.
  15. Take total responsibility for your business.  Do only what you can, delegate the rest.  Agree only what you know you can fulfil.  Never commit to more than you know you can do.
  16. Clean your car, inside and out.  Get it serviced.
  17. Start to take care of your physical body – eat well, exercise well, sleep well, etc

If you only do one thing: Pick just one item off this list and do it today!



Personal Development ~ the perfect opportunity

personal development

Personal development planning

There are only so many hours you can spend binge watching on Netflix or catching up on your favourite soap.

With many now having time on their hands it’s a fantastic opportunity for personal development; something which often takes a back seat in the day to day hubbub of the business.

With team members on furlough, it’s a good opportunity to keep their minds active as well as the chance to up-skill to make them better in their existing role, or develop new skills or expertise to fulfil their longer-term aspirations.

Don’t rule out team members who have be laid off; supporting them in their personal development can help in the quest for a new job. By showing your interest in them is a good boost for their morale, as well as how they perceive you as an employer.

Here are 4 considerations for drawing up personal development plans for existing or future roles.

1. Know what you want to achieve

When identifying personal development needs, ascertain yours and their expectations, what you each want to improve, and how will you know when it’s been achieved.

What’s missing

If there was one skill or one piece of knowledge that they feel would help them in their role (or roles they may be applying for) what would that be? How would that help?

Identify and build on strengths

Utilise individuals’ known strengths to capitalise on them, and stretch them.  It’s all too easy to focus solely on the gaps, but we need to tap into people’s talents too, and build on these so they can excel in some areas rather than being mediocre in everything!

Looking to the future

If discussing development for future roles, find out what’s important to them. Don’t try and second guess this, or make an assumption of their aspirations – ask them!

  • What motivates them in work? What’s important to them outside work?
  • What career path do they have in mind? What are the things that they value and are not prepared to give up?
  • What do they enjoy?  The chances are things they enjoy they’ll put more effort into.

Do a sense check that what you or they have in mind is a good fit.

The skill will matrix is a useful tool which you may want to complete first before undertaking the other activities. Or watch the video here

Their expectations and perception

If you are discussing the possibility of development into other roles ask them for their perception of the role by asking these or similar questions.

  • What do they consider to be the key areas of performance against which they’d be measuring their success?
  • What will they hear, see and feel when they are performing this role?
  • How soon do they expect to be able to get to this level?
  • What do they need to happen between now and then? (This is a good question to open up the discussion on development and support needed).

2. Plan personal development activities

Formal training is obviously not an option right now, and even when it is, it can be expensive, time consuming and present logistical challenges, particularly with complicated shift patterns.

Normally I’d recommend using everyday activities as opportunities for learning and development, and suggest a combination of different activities, which will be more effective than a one off ‘training session’ as it gives an opportunity to reinforce learning and maybe take in different perspectives.

However, if people are working from home, furloughed or laid off, what are the options?

There is so much information available online it would be easy to spend every minute of every day searching, reading and viewing this.

Go back to your objectives. What do you/your team member want to achieve and learn?

Review the objectives and content of online programmes and sessions and only sign up for those that are relevant.

3. Scheduling personal development activities

Don’t feel compelled to attend every session; if following a whole programme, there’s no shame in missing an individual session if it’s not of interest or relevant to your/their development.

Conversely, maintain momentum.

Stick with one or two options on each topic. Too many can lead to conflicting messages which can lead to confusion as well as overload.

4. Monitor progress

At the end of each session encourage participants to review their learning. Ask, “what’s the most useful thing they learnt”, or “what one thing will you put into action?”

This serves three purposes:

  • it encourages the participant to review and they are far more likely to remember and implement an idea they have repeated back
  • it gives you some feedback on their learning
  • it provides an opportunity to discuss how they will apply or implement this at a future date

If you only do one thing towards personal development

Talk to your team about the opportunities for personal development and suggest they each find one thing they’d like to learn or focus on whilst they have the time now, but that would help them in their role when we are back to normal.

Today’s top tip

Even if your business is temporarily closed, keep up your scheduled 1:1 time with each of your team, so they stay connected and have the opportunity to ask for help or support when needed without feeling awkward. Even if it is beyond the scope as your role as their employer, it’s good to know they have your moral support.


Perceptual Positions

percetual positionsBy the time you read this thankfully all the campaigning will be over and we’ll know one way or the other.

There’s been a bit of a difference of opinion in the Cooper household. Hubby and I have homed in on different merits for and against remaining/exiting the EU!

Seeing things from different perspectives extends far beyond which way to vote in the EU referendum. When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

One technique uses that of perceptual positions, which helps you imagine what difficult situations look like when viewed through others’ eyes, in other words to imagine what others perceive by imagining that you are that other person.

This involves looking at it from 3 different perspectives

  • First position is your natural perspective. You are fully aware of what you think and feel regardless of those around you. This is of course the perspective we find most familiar. But as you focus on it you may only then start to realise what is important to you and what you want from this interaction. You will probably become more aware of what you believe and value, and more likely to be assertive about your own needs.
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  • Second position is about stepping away from our own position and imagining what it’s like to be the other person, experiencing the situation as they would.Some people are very good at considering others’ needs and concerns; for others imagining second position can be a completely alien view. When you are really in their shoes everything you do or say makes perfect sense to you.
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    When you do this well you start to get a sense of what the other believes and values; what is important to them, and a better understanding of what they want. And the better you get at this the more empathy and rapport you create. You might even be able to predict how they might respond in this situation. You are certainly in a better position to offer better customer service to a customer support to a team member.
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  • Third position is an independent position where you act as a detached observer noticing what’s happening between two other people. I like to think of this as the ‘fly on the wall’ or ‘The Consultant’s perspective’ What is important is that this position is an impartial insight into a situation.Imagine you are watching and listening to each of the people involved as they communicate without getting involved yourself, without having to feel their feelings and emotions.
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    From this new perspective, you more likely to get an overview of the situation, the bigger picture. You can start to notice patterns and become aware of similarities and differences between the parties involved, and you’re better able to analyse the situation logically with less emotional involvement. What’s also important is you can start to see yourself as others see you.
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    From this position what advice would you give ‘first position’?

When to use Perceptual Positions

It can be particularly useful when you are dealing with a situation where you are having strong negative feelings towards the other party, or do not understand their actions.

For example:

  • When a team member is acting in a way that you find destructive to the task in hand, or negative towards others in the team.
  • In customer service training to illustrate how to handle an angry and (to our mind) unreasonable customer

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward in for example sales situation when it will help to see things from the clients’ positions or in a consultant position to see the situation better and help the client achieve their outcomes easier.

It works best when you physically change position when moving from 1st position to 2nd position and then 3rd position; e.g. in 2nd position move round to sit or stand when the other person would normally see or stand when you meet with them, and when the ‘fly on the wall’ stand up and physically look down on the situation.

The real learning comes by stepping out of first position to explore second and third positions and see what light it sheds on a situation.

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Give staff ownership

Here’s the 12th and final part in my 12 blog series on

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

12. Ownership  give authority

Give individual team members ownership over particular tasks. This gives a sense of pride and ownership.

And with ownership comes the desire to get things right.

When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise. This can take the pressure off you as this person then becomes the go to person instead of you.

Which invariably speeds things up for the customer too!

 

Download my Free Guide7 reasons 3d image clear
“7 Reasons why Customer Service Training Fails”



What can Social Media teach us about embracing new ideas?

I’ve just been talking to a friend who is a work from home Mum with 2 small children. We got chatting about social media, and I suddenly found myself giving her all sorts of advice. Am I an expert? Absolutely not (and that’s why I’m interviewing Josiah Mackenzie on “Making Best Use of Social Media in Marketing Your Hotel” for my interview series “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge“.) But I have learnt enough in the last 12 months to apply the principles to my own business. And I know where to turn to when I need help.

Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to our business. It’s all too easy to think we can get by, because it hasn’t done us any harm in the past.  The thing is as the saying goes “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get, what you’ve always got.” In other words, if we want to make improvements in our business, we need to learn and be prepared to take on board new ideas, new trends and new technology. 

Here are three stages to embracing new ideas:

  1. We need to understand how they can help. Without that understanding there is little incentive. In the case of social media I know hoteliers who are still ignoring TripAdvisor, let alone embracing what the likes of Twitter or Facebook can do for their business.
  2. Once we get our head around that, we need to set objectives. It’s all too easy to get taken away with a new idea and throw all our energy into it, in the hope that something sticks. Do we use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, a blog, YouTube, all of them ……? Well; that all depends on our objective – who is our target audience – potential customers, suppliers, joint venture partners, and are we using it to bring in business, demonstrate credibility, build rapport….?
  3. Finally, we need to think about the strategy – how we are going to implement it. And this might not mean going it alone. Who can help us, give advice on the best approach, who can talk us through setting it up, how often and how much time will we devote to this, can we outsource the setting up or day to day implementation to take the headache away?

So, just what can social media teach us about embracing new ideas that we can apply to anything new in our businesses?  It has reminded me that:

  • We can learn new ‘tricks’ if we understand why it can help our business
  • We need to be clear on our objectives, so we know what we are aiming to achieve, and can measure its success
  • We need to put a strategy in place  – the how, who, where and when

And before you know it we’ll be talking like an expert, too……

Caroline Cooper

P.S. Join me as I interview 10 hotel industry ‘experts’ over the coming two weeks in “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge“.


93% is unconscious

Have you noticed how we are able to just ‘click’ with some people, and with others it’s a real uphill struggle?  It’s all to do with rapport.  The ability to build rapport is key in any business, not just hospitality.  It has such an impact on our relationships – not only with customers, but also with suppliers and staff, in turn making our job a lot easier and more enjoyable. 
 
What is rapport
   
Rapport is a relationship of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people.  It is what happens at an unconscious level that makes us ‘click’ and is enhanced by a perception of likeness and liking.  It includes the ability to see the other person’s point of view (even though you may not necessarily agree with it), and is a vital element in any form of communication, including the business context.

Indicators of good rapport include
      Similar body posture
      Gesture in similar ways
      Same rhythm in movement and speech
      Breathing levels are similar
      Voice tone

Why is rapport important?
   
How often have you heard “She was so rude”, “He just didn’t seem to care”, “You don’t understand”, “I’m not sure if I trust him”.  Rapport gives the ability to relate to others in a way that creates a climate of trust, openness and understanding, it is a key part of building relationships in the business world.  Having the ability to build rapport helps with:
 
Customers: All things being equal people will have a better experience being served by people they can relate to, and are more likely to do business with people with whom they have good rapport.   And by maintaining that rapport throughout will enable us to identify what our customers really want, to help us provide the best services we can, and ultimately increase our chances of further business.  
 
Suppliers: Be it your butcher, your plumber or your accountant, having a good rapport usually leads to better service, puts us in a better position to negotiate when we need to, and makes it easier to ask for assistance when it’s needed. 

Your team: Having great rapport with your team will open up 2 way communication and builds trust.  You’ll get the best out of them if they feel comfortable to make suggestions, they are less likely to be critical of ideas offered to them, and for you it will be a lot easier to call in a favour when it’s needed.  And it makes for a more pleasant working environment all round.

And of course it’s important that our staff know how to build rapport too, so they can do their job effectively.

How to achieve great rapport

 
Think of people with whom you already have great rapport.  What is it you do, how do you communicate and what do you talk about?  All these factors can give us a clue to the key aspects of building rapport.  But what can you do in business if it doesn’t occur naturally?  You need to pay conscious attention to matching or mirroring (not mimicking) those elements that are part of natural rapport.

Research indicates that only 7% of our communication comes from the words that we use – for example the use of common expressions, terminology, etc.
How we say things – that is our tone, volume, pitch, emphasis – accounts for a further 38%.
And a massive 55% comes from a person’s appearance and physiology – how you sit or stand, your facial expressions and so on.

This means that  93% is unconscious.

So how do we make use of these factors?  Well, the closer we can match these (not mimic) to the other person the more likely we are to build rapport.

Let’s take each in turn:  

Tone

A part of building rapport is respecting the state, style and feelings of others – essential factors when dealing with complaints, and staff concerns; e.g. if someone is feeling frustrated by poor service show understanding for that frustration.  The biggest impact on this is our tone – Do we indicate an understanding for someone’s complaint rather than sounding defensive?  Do we sound empathetic towards a frustration instead of sounding irritated by it? And if someone is excited or happy about something, do we also show excitement or happiness, or do we dampen their mood through sounding bored or impatient.  The closer you match the other person’s tone the greater the degree of rapport.

Physiology

I am sure you have experienced a time when you have arrived somewhere and felt instantly out of place because you felt either under dressed or over dressed.  This is just one example of how our appearance matching those of others helps build rapport.  But this aspect also includes the wider and less obvious aspects of our body language, gestures and facial expressions, and can also extend to our actions.  Next time you are out, just take a look around you and you can easily spot people who are in rapport.  The way they stand or sit will mirror, their facial expressions will be similar and the chances are that when one reaches for their drink or to take a bite of food, the other person will do the same.  So to build rapport, ensure you match the other person – you don’t want to be too obvious about it, but it is surprisingly easy to do this without it appearing as if you are mimicking.

Of course, the more you know and understand your perfect customer, the easier it will be to match these aspects, and build great rapport – and attract and keep the customers you want!

And by remembering that the tone and physiology will be more unconscious ways to build rapport, next time you are in disagreement with someone (disagreement will usually be based on words i.e. just 7%) work on matching the other 93% – their tone and physiology – and you will be amazed at the impact this can have on your ability to reach agreement.

Words

What we actually talk about and the words we use will go some way to building rapport, so listen out for the terminology others use and try to use their terms rather than yours. But this also extends to showing common interests, common goals and common values.  So assuming your share these let them know, as these can help to bond you together.  A relationship with a customer will be a lot easier if you share something you have in common.  This doesn’t only apply to face to face communication – it also extends to any other forms of communication – so consider this in your marketing messages, on site promotions and any customer notices or information.


Are you an e-mail junkie? Part 3

Set up systems and rules

1. Spam filters
Getting the level of spam filtering just right can be difficult. If you’re worried about missing those important e-mails add their e-mail address to your white list.

2. Set up folders
Set up separate folders (in line with your normal filing system) and file your e-mails straight away to avoid having to spend hours searching for past e-mails. 

3. Set up rules
Consider creating rules for in coming mail from specified senders or with certain words in the subject line, so they go straight to the appropriate folder.  This is a great tool for non-urgent mail that you might want to review just once a week, e.g. newsletters or on line journals.

4. Set up different accounts
Having more than one e-mail account can help prevent your primary inbox becoming swamped, and help you filter what you get when.  For example, I have a separate account I use whenever giving my e-mail address to unknown sources, e.g. buying products on line. This account has the spam filter set at a higher level, so if my details do get passed on I am less likely to get bombarded with spam.  I also use another account for personal use, so I am not distracted during the day dealing with personal issues and equally I can filter out work mail when I want to switch off from the office.

So stop being an e-mail addict, and take some action today and see how much you improve your productivity over the coming weeks.


Are you an e-mail junkie? Part 2

Managing the volume of e-mails landing in your inbox

1. Pick up the phone
Do you remember the days when if you wanted to get a message to someone urgently you either picked up the phone or walked to their desk? How much of the mail you receive has been initiated by you in the first place? It’s often very tempting simply send an e-mail to ask a simple question, but then have a whole series of e-mails back and fourth (and time delay) before actually getting the answer you need? Yes, granted, there is an advantage if they are not available, but so often a two-minute phone call could get something done and dusted there and then, without the need for you to be checking every 15 minutes to see if you’ve had a response.

2. Stamping out the CYA culture
Do you have people in your team who feel the need to copy you in on everything they send out in an attempt to cover their a***? For every e-mail you receive internally that does not require direct action from you – make a point of highlighting this with the sender. If you purely want to be copied in for reference then ask that you be cc’d and setup your rules wizard for these items to be sent to a separate file.

3. Educate others
If you always respond to e-mails instantly you set up people’s expectations. With people who you deal with regularly let them know that you only check your e-mails twice a day and that it’s always better to call you if they need to contact you urgently.

4. Get off mailing lists
Most of us these days get tonnes of e-mails to promote products, newsletters, online periodicals, etc, that we either never read – or if we do have little value to your business. So have a purge and unsubscribe to all those you don’t need; if there is no option to unsubscribe (which any reputable company would do) then add the sender’s name to your blocked senders list.

Look out tomorrow for tips on setting up systems and rules.


Are you an e-mail junkie?

OK! I have to admit it – if I’m not careful I can be an e-mail junkie too. And it’s not just e-mail, but social networking too. It’s just so easy to get into the habit of checking e-mail and Twitter all day long – or having some form of ‘New Message’ pinging or appearing.

The trouble with e-mail or any type of distraction of this nature is that it loses your momentum.  Think of a day when you have really made great progress and achieved all you set out to do.  You probably got into the flow with minimal distractions.  E-mail is one of the biggest distractions and each time you hear that ‘bing’, even if you don’t open it straight away you are wondering who it is from or what it’s about.
 
So over the next three days I’ll be giving you my top tips to help you manage your e-mail more effectively.

Follow the normal rules of time management

1. Devote set times to checking e-mail
When you create your to do list schedule time to check your e-mails, prioritise tasks and complete things in priority order.  Complete the task you are working on before either moving onto the next. This includes leaving your mail unless absolutely necessary in order to complete the task in hand.  Would you allow a visitor to just drop by and demand your time? You’d expect them to make an appointment. So why should anyone sending an e-mail demand your attention when you’re in the middle of doing something else?

2. Remove distractions
Decide when is the best time for you to deal with your e-mails, and stick to this. Limit it to twice or maximum three times a day. The rest of the time either turn your e-mail program off altogether or at the very least disable the notification of new mail.

3. Your Challenge
This might take a bit of getting used to so here’s something for you to try for a week and see how you get on. (If it’s ESSENTIAL that you need to be IMMEDIATELY contacted by e-mail, then naturally this isn’t for you.)

1. Check your e-mail first thing in the morning
2. Then close the programme
3. See how long you can hold out before checking it again
4. When you open your e-mail programme check just how many (or how few) ‘urgent’, ‘must read it now’, ‘must do it now’ e-mails have arrived
5. Close the e-mail programme
6. See how long you can hold out
7. Repeat
8. Learn from the experience!!

Try to separate other functions from your e-mail, if at all possible, to avoid the temptation to look at your e-mails each time you open that programme.

Look out tomrrow for tips on managing the volume of e-mails.