Friday, 4 September 2015

Priorities and Finite Time

Over the last few weeks the subject of priorities and finite time has arisen for me.  This has sadly been brought on by a number of unexpected deaths within my sphere, albeit not too closely.  Yes, I know, but this isn’t going to be one of those morbid rants about how we should embrace life and live for the day!

My reaction to these sudden demises was tempered with a week long holiday to Cornwall where I was able to get perspective from disbelief, grief and generally trying to work out what my reaction should be having not experienced a funeral since 1997.  It started me thinking about my emotional intelligence report from 3 years ago which indicates that I have emotional self awareness and good empathy, but that my reality testing is potentially wanting, as is my impulse control.  In this way, I have been a shoulder to cry on, but then made a complete faux pas stating “How beautiful the lilies look on the dresser.”  Believe me, this is improvement!

I think if I were to carry out another EQ-i today, there would be differences and hopefully a more balanced result as I have been worked within Zest Business Coaching for many years now and had
coaching and mentoring from the best of the best.  For me it’s been learning to listen more, to measure my reaction to a situation, to not feel that I have to fix everything and be able to see other viewpoints without being overcome with the frustration that nobody can see mine.  It is still work in progress of course.

What these losses have given me is a little more perspective, a little more appreciation and a little more gratitude.  Combined with my holiday recharge I have come back to life and work with a slightly different and more positive outlook.  The EI distinction between work and life is a little blurry and the question of EI a big one for me.  Zest have carried out many EQ-i on a variety of staff at differing levels of seniority.  It has been interesting for me as I process these reports and almost never get to meet the subject of the report.  There is a long standing question of how important Emotional Intelligence is in the workplace, but maybe this recent article will give you a glimpse as it makes the point, “We would argue that success in business is a function of four things: Your IQ (how smart you are), your prior experience (including your education, work experience and training), the level of effort you put forth and your emotional intelligence.”

The bottom line is that it is important and one takes the emotional intelligence of our being into the workplace 5 days a week (give or take), to work as a team, to manage, to communicate, to succeed, to nurture, to perform and to grow a business.  DO NOT underestimate its significance.  Build your team strategically taking the best of an individual’s EI and put it to use purposefully to bring out the best in them.  A person with low self-actualisation and independence is unlikely to succeed if “left to it”.   Supported by a team with people who are high on the interpersonal scale, they will shine and their potential can be realised.  An EI profile enables you to identify the characteristics and leaning that an individual may not even acknowledge themselves and perhaps as their manager, you may not be aware, but by being informed you have the ability to nurture.  Well worth the investment at £75!

So in conclusion, I am going to learn from my recent experience of demises, take stock emotionally and let it enhance my EI.  Time is finite and there will always be priorities, but for me, the trick is to be emotionally grounded and aware of emotional shortcoming in order to be the best one can be.

Friday, 19 June 2015

What has the world come to? by Sellena Ford

At the ripe old age of 44, I have just exclaimed out loud for the first time “What has the world come to?”  Utah university latest to introduce 'texting lanes' for pedestrians glued to their mobile phones

Mobile technology has reached out and enslaved us all.  Even I must admit that when I recently dropped my mobile phone down the toilet, I unexpectedly felt cold and very alone.  Suddenly I couldn’t connect with anyone or anything and that made me feel vulnerable.  How bizarre that I grew up in an age where communication boiled down to letter writing and being static whilst on the telephone as it was attached by a cable to the wall.  We even had a customised telephone seat with an integrated small table and cupboard which allowed telephone directories (do you remember those?) to be secreted and not on show.

So, is being able to simultaneously speak, respond to business emails, tweet, check weather and know how many calories you’ve burned so great?  Face to face contact is reducing with the popularity of “at home working” and being able to carry out business using conference calling, skype, webinars and whatever else is out there.  My personal opinion is that it is starting to put immense pressure on us as it impacts and invades our downtime which is all important in this fast world which is getting faster, and stress being at an all time high.

We run a communication workshop that elaborates on the fact that you cannot NOT communicate.  By NOT responding to texts or emails, we are communicating and potentially being judged.  It is maddening.  A good lesson to remember is that the most effective communications are those that send messages (and I don’t mean electronic necessarily) and present information according to the recipients’ needs.  Interestingly, body language accounts for 55% of communication when in a face to face situation, but only 10% when on the phone.  70% of phone communication is down to the tone of the voice; barring the lack of being able to hear it due to bad reception!  We also have “text speak” which I refuse to engage in as I believe it was invented because people are lazy, have terrible grammar and can’t spell.

So back to texting lanes?  It’s not just the USA that’s gone mad, it’s the rest of the world too, with Belgium trialing designated smartphone pedestrian lanes and a smartphone sidewalk in Chongquing.  I can only think that encouragement of this will lead to an increase in the number of accidents as awareness of environment is impacted.  I shall also personally mourn the loss of eye contact and engagement and a polite good morning.  My mother doesn’t often get it right, but her phrase of “Everything in moderation” seems to be the way to go.  Don’t be enslaved by technology, utilise it to your advantage without compromising your work and social community.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A smile is not compulsory, but it helps... by Sellena Ford

I have recently returned from an impromptu trip to America; a trip which became urgent due to the illness of a close relative.  I arranged my flight(s), 6 of them altogether, 2 days before departure as speed was of the essence.  A gruelling 19 hour journey entailed, combined with the panic of a slightly agoraphobic woman (me), having to leave her micro managed life behind.  My return flights allowed me plenty of time for reflection on my week long experience from a business perspective…

Having arrived at Birmingham airport at five in the morning, I proceeded to check in, having not been able to do so online.  I was travelling light, with only hand luggage and just needed boarding cards.  An airline attendant began the procedure and then looked slightly puzzled as she started pressing keys on her keyboard, clearly willing them to work.  My anxiety was rising as she called a gentleman colleague over who proceeded to tell me that they couldn’t generate my boarding cards as I had to change airports in New York, arriving at Newark and departing from La Guardia, 24 miles away and with 2½ hours from touchdown to next take off.  What????

In my anxiety due to the nature of the trip, I clearly hadn’t read the itinerary correctly and had failed to notice this rather glaring, time constrained and potentially “smooth trip” affecting situation.  I stood there dazed, muttering that I didn’t know how this had happened; the colour drained from my face.  The gentleman appeared to take pity on me and with not so much as a smile, just cool professionalism, said that he would take care of it and change my ticket so that I could fly from Newark.  Relief flooded me and I patiently waited for him to work his magic.  There was no banter, no joke making, no facial expression.  To be honest, I like to bounce off other people and this guy clearly wasn’t inflated.  He competently got the job done.  The relief and gratitude I felt were immense and I did profusely tell him that he was a wonderful man and that I was so thankful.  He modestly accepted my praise and off I went.

Scene change to a hospital in Palm Springs 20 hrs later…  More customer service scenarios.  In the whole of my 5 day hospital experience, the best customer service that we received was from a lady who was running the Starbucks facility.  Having ordered coffees on 3 occasions, every subsequent visit to the cafĂ© was prompted by said lady pre-empting our order, even when I was fumbling over my brother’s order of a macchiato, with an extra shot and no foam (who drinks this???!), she would say, “Don’t worry, I know what you need.”  An employee probably on minimum wage, but who clearly has the wherewithal to make her customers feel important, recognised and remembered, having sympathy at their potential reason for being in a hospital and providing a prompt and efficient service, and all with a smile on her face.

This was so much in contrast to the sloppy, uncoordinated, poor service of hospital staff, from auxiliary staff to doctors (and inclusive of nurses!).  I hate to complain, I’m British, but having nurses come into the room to ask what medication the patient had already had was slightly speech rendering.  A doctor examining my frail relative and only realising after 20 minutes that he was with the wrong patient… the black mould and dirt in the isolated room for a patient with pulmonary issues… days of unnecessary nil by mouth orders for a patient already underweight…

After 5 days of hospitalisation, my brother, who has been an American citizen for 20 years, and I called a meeting with 5 key hospital staff, the essence of which was to advise them of our intention to take legal action and involve the media.  Only in America!  My brother walked the walk and talked the talk and advised me that this really was the only way to get things moving.  We questioned their communication, their ownership, their lack of duty of care and their leadership processes.  Funnily enough, everyone could not do enough for us from that point and procedures went ahead and my relative was finally released from hospital 2 days later, diagnosed, a little improved and well on the way to treatment.  There is a whole department dedicated to patient support services to which we made statements and our experience recorded.

On my flights home, I looked at our scenario from a business perspective and in contrast to the service I had received both in the UK and my “less important” happenings like my Starbucks encounter.  It boiled down to taking responsibility and caring about what you do.  Good customer service is imperative to ensure a client’s good experience; how else do we improve on reputation and build business.  Good leadership enhances and substantiates this.  Communication is paramount, regardless of whether you are at an airport, a coffee shop or a hospital.

A smile is not compulsory if you are competent and proactive, but it does help.

There is hope however; this article highlights some amazing customer service stories from last year

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Myth of Multi-Tasking by Sellena Ford

Time and time again I have an internal debate about multi-tasking, because I just can’t get away from it!  Just the other day I jokingly said to a friend’s husband, “Not too good at multi-tasking are you!”  He didn’t take offence, but merely turned to me with a look that said, why would I want to?  And actually he is right; it’s not big and it’s not clever.  There are numerous articles that back up the myth around multi-tasking.  It’s a necessity, but an unwelcome one.  I personally believe it’s more common in women; the ability to field phone calls, cook dinner, check accounts, walk the dog, time manage, ensure attendance at children’s evening clubs is most mother’s weekday night and I haven’t even tackled the working mother.

The article link below from Forbes in November last year, did stop and make me think.  “And not only that, trying to do too many things at once causes the brain to lose the capacity for deep thinking altogether.”  Well actually, put like that….

Zest run a workshop around exactly this subject.  I have attended it, thoroughly enjoyed the concept of how to focus one’s energy and actually put this into practice once back in my real life.  Like many training programmes, courses and workshops, the learning is sometimes short lived.  We are totally committed initially, but as time (and life) moves on, we forget the learning as everything else takes over.  What we should be doing is making time to remember the benefits of energy focus, ridding ourselves of distractions and working out what matters most.

Looking after our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy are paramount when looking at being a good decision maker, a good leader, a good mentor and a good team player.  Concentrating on the job at hand, being motivated and centred, rather than fractured and “flitty”, can only benefit the organisation, your colleagues and ultimately yourself.  So essentially, this has been a reminder to you, and to me, that you need to go “Beyond Multi-Tasking”, as this place really does exist.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The 2014 Google Snapshot of the World by Sellena Ford

As the first month of the new year comes to a close, I felt it important to look at the world from a Google perspective from 2014 (don’t ask me why, but Google seems to know a lot about a lot!).  The top 10 Global Trending Searches 2014 - does any of the below surprise you, Flappy Bird at number 6 maybe!?

1.            Robin Williams
2.            World Cup
3.            Ebola
4.            Malaysia Airlines
5.            ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
6.            Flappy Bird
7.            Conchita Wurst
8.            ISIS
9.            Frozen
10.          Sochi Olympics

In terms of the top 3 global trending people in 2014 (different from sheer number of searches), Jennifer Lawrence finished in first place, followed by Kim Kardashian and Julie Gayet.  2013 saw the top three people as Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker and Malala Yousafzai.  I wonder what the balance will be in 2015; perhaps the General Election will encourage more googling on political figures this year?

The top three “how to…” Google trends in the UK were How to draw, How to kiss and How to crochet.  The USA “how tos” were How to AirDrop, How to contour and How to vote.  Touchy, feely United Kingdom?

So what has the trend been for Zest in 2014?  We saw continued growth and in particular, organisations who had drawn their training budgets internally during the recession, beginning to reinvest in their people once again.  We have seen an increase in organisations developing their internal coaching capacity through the coaching skills workshops we offer, developing through CMI Coaching and Mentoring programmes and bespoke workshops.

2015 has seen a major change for Zest with the retirement of Paul Cook from the business.  He has been a breath of fresh air and a hugely positive influence and Elaine and I are sorry to see him go, but wish him well in his new venture.  What does this mean for Zest?  We strongly believe that “when one door closes, another opens.”  Zest's future is developing our business model further and working more regularly with our expert business associates, in order to offer a broader range of workshops.  One of the things we love doing is nurturing the relationship with our existing clients; Elaine most enjoys these meetings when they involve discussions over coffee and cake!  This year we will concentrate on how we offer supervision and support to the ‘super coach’ groups we have already developed within some of our client organisations and look to offer our now considerable experience of growing coaching cultures to more new clients.

And you and your businesses for 2015?  What will you do differently, what’s working, what’s not…?  It would be good to hear your story, even better, if you would like a chat with us (don’t forget prerequisite coffee and cake!) please get in touch.

Friday, 28 November 2014


Together with my excellent and incredibly attractive colleagues at Zest (my lawyers have informed me to say), I have been writing Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accreditation material for a ‘First Line Management’ course during which time my auditory senses drifted onto Absolute Radio and an old favourite track of mine.  I am paraphrasing now but basically let me ask some questions;

Don’t you like the way, I move when you see me?
Don’t you like the things that I say?
Don’t you like the way, I dance? Does it bug you?
Don’t you like the cut of my clothes?
Don’t you like the way, I seem to enjoy it?
Stick my fingers right up your nose!
Or listen to the song if you prefer

Jean Jacque Burnell and Hugh Cornwall’s seminal punk band (The Stranglers) had stumbled on something here because their strapline ‘something better change’ tends to indicate a futuristic analogy which in 1979 may have been unintended at best, and unimaginable at its most zealous.  There is another possibility; they both have time travel capabilities and penned the lyrics based on what life is like for a manager in 2014 or beyond.

In 1979 there were some massive changes happening; the Ford Cortina MK 2 became the Ford Cortina Mk 3, pubs were allowed to open past 1030, TV gained a new fourth channel (shrewdly entitled Channel 4), and some other things around school milk I think?  So let’s grade the lyrics from time travelling punk rockers as if a manager today, because inclusion is powerful and difficult at the same time; you may not agree with the way somebody moves, verbalises ideas, dresses or acts, but as a manager (within the realms of morality or professionalism) do you have any choice?  As a manager in 2014 look what you are embracing; mass immigration, constant legislative updates, austerity fluctuation, global competition, high tempo risk, political intervention, technological acceleration, complex employee flexibility and a workforce designed to test you in all of these spheres.

So ‘something better change’ should really be ‘everything always changes.’

I recommend many techniques and skills for being an excellent change manager but not necessarily inserting a digit into a person’s olfactory gland.  Instead look at your people, admire what the collective brings, grab the differences and realise the no choice potential.  There will be amazing professions out there that do not even exist yet!  Just ask The Stranglers when they get back from 2054.

“People will try to tell you that all the great opportunities have been snapped up.  In reality, the world changes every second, blowing new opportunities in all directions, including yours.” -- Ken Hakuta

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Career Progression Spins Around your Head - by Paul Cook

The energetic airstream rushes violently through the unsuspecting lungs, limbs turning to lead, head thumping whilst defensive adrenaline pumps and the cyclic rage of the elements force oxygen and gravity into one confined yet terrifying moment. It was only a micro second before that the balmy autumn breeze had bought calmness and serenity into its world which had then been crushed by the selfish actions of another.  This terror, this self-seeking action maintained purely to gain an outside chance of mystical futuristic financial success, is not based on science, but pure superstition. Yet it did know that if unlucky it, or other members of its family, may experience such an event two or three times in a lifetime, the linyphiidae or more commonly referred to ‘money spider’ is routinely and randomly spun around one’s head three times in attempts to brighten up the fiscal future.
There are of course other ways of progressing financially and generally these traditional approaches do not involve arachnid manoeuvres.  You could win the lottery, inherit a fortune, invent something that everybody wants, have a risky punt on the stock exchange or bet your house on a rank outsider.
All commendable and achievable (not without some external risk factors) of course but I want to explore the more commonly used system of ‘getting promoted’.
Our neuro pathways have the astonishing ability to tell us things that are not true; ‘you are not good enough for this’, ‘the competition is better than you’, ‘you don’t deserve this’, and others which can be only tailored to you.  And as I have mentioned many times in previous blogs these barriers are sometime known as limiting beliefs.  So add a couple of other factors.  Other people also have the astonishing ability to add to your own limiting beliefs; some of these naysayers start on you when you are about five years old; they don’t mean to  they just think they are helping; ‘don’t do that you might get hurt’, ‘don’t look down’, ‘you’re not good enough for that yet’.  As advice progresses through into adult life we hear gems such as ‘look them in the eye’, ‘the competition is tough this year’, ‘don’t move your hands around’, ‘sit up straight’ and my favourite, ‘make them laugh’ (the latter is of course extremely good advice if you are prepping for a job at the circus).
Now let us add these excellent approaches to what your body can also achieve.  You can become the money spider, lungs filling, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, limbs failing and blood sent to everywhere apart from where it’s needed.  A very good friend and ex colleague of mine who I shall call JK described one of his interview experiences thus; ‘all of a sudden the clock got louder, the furniture got bigger, my legs got shorter and I started to swing them like when I was a schoolboy’, which, he had become!  Even when he tried his best line to add comedy value whilst looking the chairman in the eye he actually saw the dry tumbleweed root cartwheeling across the carpet.  The formula for this is now known as:
Bitter experience+ poor advice x limiting belief = JK aged 7 ½
There is a much more effective and highly successful method to progression and success.  This method is unique because it is only available and tailored to you.  Click on the image for more information.

Reference articles:
National Geographic
Spiders do not have lungs or need interview technique to survive
Medellin Cartel (Colombia)
There are other ways to make money

“The only thing limiting your aspiration is your imagination.” ― Stephen Richards