It’s not what you know it’s who you know

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We are all familiar with this saying but today I did I get a practical reminder of this fact.

Just catching the train to London on a busy platform  three different people came up to say hello within a matter of minutes. All business people or connected to business people and all have access to a lot more people in their networks. It was a very brief conversation as the train approached however it got me thinking.

As we are in the second month of 2016 I have been reviewing goals that individuals set at the start of the year to see how things are going. As a coach I also have my own goals and to achieve the ones that I set both personally and in regards of the business they all require reaching out and connecting with the right people who can help me achieve my goals. When reviewing some of my clients goals the same question emerges who have you connected with since the beginning of the year, who have you asked for help?

Most high performing individuals realise the benefit of building a supportive and useful network and in order to achieve this are normally also keen to put others in touch with people they know who they think could help you. I love realising that two people I know would benefit from having a conversation and over the years one of the most rewarding aspects of my role has been seeing how some of these initial connections that I have initiated have grown into powerful relationships and sometimes powerful business opportunities and solutions.

The step that a lot of people don’t take is making time to strategically review their network in the light of the goals they want to achieve and deliberately take action to make the powerful connections they need to make.

So my action on the train as I type this is to think… Following my chance three conversations on the platform an hour ago are any of those people connected to anyone in organisations that I am trying to reach out too and can I ask for an introduction to another person who may be able to help me.

Anyone who you come into contact with over the next few days have a think whether they might just happen to know someone who can help you with your goals. If in doubt ask, do this frequently so it becomes a habit and a natural skill to add to your personal toolkit. Also when people ask you for similar try and help out it is very rewarding to see some of the results.

 

 

New Year is like Marmite

marmiteLove it or hate it New Year’s Eve will divide most groups of friends or colleagues a bit like marmite. I love it as it provides a perfect time to take stock formally on how the current year has been from a holistic work/life balance perspective.

 Some people will argue why wait until the end of the year to review progress and they would be right, in an ideal world a high performer will be having regular checkpoints throughout the twelve months to ensure everything is on track. A more thorough review exercise is still however really valuable on an annual basis similar to the performance appraisals we come across in business life.

So how did you do in 2015? How are you going to review the year do you have a structured approach? The method isn’t that important it’s the discipline of the exercise which I find powerful and encourages continual personal growth and development.

 I have kept a few personal development journals over the years and these little books are great for reviewing at this time of year. In these journals are rough goal setting exercises, reviews of prior years in narrative and tabular formats. I haven’t really had a consistent structure as the process has gradually been streamlined in recent years.

 On previous New Year’s eves I have listed various elements of my life such as work,family,relationship,friends,health,spiritual,financial,social etc. and given them a score out of 10. Looking back on these tables now the categories show very different scores with some significant areas of improvement which is good to see a reward for some key decisions taken and action put into place in prior years.

 A few years ago I changed the format into a more narrative account of what had happened in the year and I did this every 6 months. For certain areas of my life I did specify some particular goals I wanted to achieve or events I wanted to attend.

 For the past two years as well as writing an account of the year I also set myself the challenge of identifying just one single goal to focus on for each year and this approach has worked well.

So today on my to-do list is to journal my review of 2015 and tomorrow I will write down my area of focus for 2016.

Rest, Recharge and Reflect

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A recent week in the sun allowed for a period of rest and reflection and it was very much needed to recharge the batteries. Work has been very hectic and I hadn’t planned my holidays last year that well meaning that there had been no break from work for along time. It made me realise the importance of such breaks in relation to productivity and energy levels at work.

I have met a few people recently who haven’t been taking their allotted leave entitlements because of workload and I have had to actively encourage them to devise a plan where this situation can be rectified. If people continue to work long hours for an extended period of time it can cause inefficiency to creep in, leaders can become less effective and teamwork becomes strained.

If you have a customer facing role it is expected that every day you will face the public with enthusiasm and energy. In order to keep these attributes high, regular breaks with a chance to restore your energy levels, are vital.

With technology and ease of availability to work e.g emails , voicemail, in order to take a complete break and recharge you need to be extremely disciplined not to check email and get involved in work related issues while on holiday. Ask someone to read your emails while you are away so that they can edit all the rubbish and only leave those you need to action or actually read. Consciously make an effort to change the daily routine while on holiday. For a week there was no alarm on our recent break…. complete heaven allowing us to wake naturally. There was no schedule of activities we just decided on the day what to do, again a completely different routine. As a consequence of deliberate changes in routine it was a chance to rest, recharge and reflect and energy levels were restored.

Results Day!

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Over the past couple of weeks many students have received the results from degrees, A Levels and GCSE’s. Some people will have achieved more than they expected, others may be disappointed. What ever the outcome is High Performing individuals have the ability to adapt their efforts quickly in the light of new information or feedback. They also learn as they achieve and adapt their methods accordingly.

It helps to have an ideal outcome in mind and aim for this eg certain grades, getting a place at a specific university, achieving the headstand as in the picture heading this blog, however the learning may be in the journey to achieving this outcome not the outcome itself.

What have you learnt about yourself while attempting to achieve your desired outcome. Was it easier than your thought? was it far more difficult than you first imagined when you set out? Did you have to ask for help on the way? At times did is seem impossible – what did you do when you felt this way? Did you give it 100% effort at all times?

One key skill of a high performer is how they pick themselves up when things don’t go the way they wanted. How quickly they can accept what is and put together a new action plan or may be to deliberately take time out to reflect what to do next and not make any quick decisions. Take advice, consider options, speak to others who have experienced similar. All of these actions are positive and you are forming your future and your future outcomes

Love them or hate them ….presentation survial

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At some time in your life it is likely that you will have to make a presentation, whether work related or for a social occasion, most remain fearful but elated by the success once completed. It is a life skill and if you follow a few simple guidelines can be quite fulfilling.

Presentations are about communicating information so doing the groundwork and knowing your subject will help you to enthuse and if appropriate move your audience to action. It will also make you confident and help steady those nerves.

Understand your audience – Who are you looking to attract and who might attend, make sure your presentation is relevant and think about the skills they may have this will help with your content and also help to keep your audience engaged.

Set up – Always arrive before your audience make yourself familiar with the location and any electrical equipment you may be using, you don’t want to end up showing a picture of Aunt Bessie at last year’s family Christmas party instead of your financial report! Make time to have a quick run through.

Using Power Point and other Visual aids – This is a great way to illustrate or strengthen your point and to follow structure, but don’t get distracted. When making reference to the power point, graph, picture or whatever stand to the side and avoid putting your back to your audience.

Inflection – Change the tone and volume of your voice, smile if you are saying something amusing this will all help to maintain your audience’s attention and interest in your subject matter. Don’t talk to fast, learn to pause and be enthusiastic about your subject.

Eye Contact – Maintain eye contact during your presentation with members of the audience this will give personal emphasis to what you are saying and make them intent on listening.

Structure – Have a clear structure. Have an introduction so people really understand what your presentation is about and what they can expect. Use facts to delivery your message and conclude with a recap and summing up and make all points relevant and avoid lots of unnecessary detail.

Questions – If it is a good question acknowledge that is as it shows they have been interested in what you have been saying. However , don’t pretend to know something if you don’t, If someone asks a question and you really don’t know the answer be truthful and say that you will find out and get back to them , but make sure then that you do .

Chanel you nerves – try to relax, stand rather than sit and move around a little if possible.

Time Management – Time yourself, know how long your slot is and don’t run over. Keep an eye on the time.

Rehearse – Practice will help you feel prepared.

Present your self – Think about what you might wear, something that makes you feel good and give yourself plenty of time to get ready and arrive refreshed. Don’t forget to thank you audience and your host for their time and help, you might want to return.

So bearing the above in mind go out to do the best you can, take a deep breath and stay focused and you never know you might actually enjoy it!

Assessment Centres – Taking a closer look !

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You are very excited as you have managed to get through to a Graduate Assessment Centre for an organisation you would really like to work for , but you are wondering how the assessment days’ work and how you can come out on top.

Assessment Centres can vary in content but the idea is to create an environment where you will work alongside other candidates to demonstrate key skills in the areas of teamwork, Leadership and Management, time management; problem solving and decision making, allowing a future employer to assess how you would fit into their organisation. Making yourself familiar with the process, doing some research and following a few simple rules will help you to prepare and give confidence on the day.

The day itself will be generally made up of a mix of any of the following, Group Exercises, Case Studies, In-tray/ e-tray or other practical exercises, presentations and interviews, not for getting that the social side of coffee breaks and lunch are also an opportunity to show off your networking skills

The Assessors on the day will probably have a list of attributes and competencies they may be looking for, if appropriate you could try to find out so that you have an idea of what you will be measured against. Think about your body language and listening skills throughout the day and manage your time. You will be required to read and process information in the tasks quickly, so picking out the key elements and focusing on these will help.

Group Excercises- Look to contribute but not dominate, listen but do not interrupt and make it an inclusive discussion drawing in quieter members of the group. Stay focused on the objectives of the task be diplomatic and be prepared to compromise if necessary. Put your point across in an assertive but not aggressive way and don’t switch off once you have had your say, remaining engaged throughout.

In tray or e-tray exercises – These are normally made up of all the things you are likely to find in your in tray or inbox and will demonstrate how you process information, prioritise workloads, make decision or act on urgent requests. Before you start read carefully what the task is asking you to do then read through items in the tray to establish which relevant bits you need to action. There is rarely a right or wrong answer to these it is more about the skills you bring to the task.

Presentations – You may be asked prior to the assessment centre to present on a certain subject or you may be given the opportunity to speak on a subject of your choice. Whichever it is keep it simple and something you feel comfortable with. Put structure to your presentation so it is easy to follow. Practice eye contact, smiling and alter the tone in your voice from time to time to accentuate different points to keep your audience engaged. Use visual aids to support you, but if using a power point don’t fill it with too much information, only use key points as it will help to keep your presentation on track. If using a flip chart don’t turn away from your audience and talk to it! Stand to the side, glancing at it when making reference to it. Keep to time and practice to help build your confidence.

Interviews – At some point during the day you may have an interview, make sure you are well prepared, have researched the organisation well and understand what the graduate programme entails so you can ask relevant questions.

Above all don’t worry if you feel nervous about attending an Assessment centre for the first time , just be prepared to engage fully in the day’s activities, present yourself in the best way possible and research as much as you can, this will all help build your confidence, be yourself and enjoy the experience!

Good Luck

How Healthy Is Your Network?

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We all apparently know 250 people….. some of you may be responding “yes of course I do?” or “really I don’t even know 10!”. Well when it comes to networking it doesn’t really matter how many we do know it is how we manage the connections we do have. It is also important to continually manage your connections in a strategic way to keep your network current and alive.

When was the last time you sat down to take a strategic look at your current network to see if this is in area you need to do some work on. For most people it becomes important when they find themselves job hunting. Suddenly we start picking up the phone or sending emails to people we haven’t connected with for a very long time in the hope they might know of some suitable roles. This is far from ideal.

A high performer (job hunting or not) continually manages their network, keeps connected with everyone but in different ways and in different timeframes. The skilled networker is just as keen to help others grow their networks and put people in touch with each other as they are to make new connections themselves. There is nothing more rewarding than putting two people in touch with each other that can help both people achieve personal or work goals.

When you sit down to strategically review your network do you have any gaps? Do you have people who challenge your thinking, do you have people who you can go to who inspire you?, do you have people in your network who you can contact when things get really tough and you need some advice? Do you have people in your network who have an equally good network when you are looking to hire people or get specific expert advice on a subject?

What sort of person are you in other peoples network? Its a two way street networking when it works well…….