Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

One more way to use LinkedIn for networking

One of the finer arts of networking is introducing your contacts to each other, just because they are people they might each want to know. Clearly this is no good at all if there is no clear point of common interest in their professional or personal lives. You need to put some thought into the contact and do it only if there is come clear advantage to both parties.  The best networkers understand that there is huge value in doing something for a colleague, associate, client or supplier – with no expectation of return. That old ‘What goes around, comes around’ adage.
Today I connected up two people on the other side of the world – just because I thought they would be useful contacts in the same industry.
– Karen was our wonderful contact on the Thomson Reuters 360 degree feedback project for about 6 years. She has recently moved back to Sydney and is embarking on an exciting new phase of her career studying psychology and doing some independent career coaching for her past employer.
– David is the Head of HR for a large computer hardware company – also based in Sydney.

Rather than connecting them directly on LinkedIn, I opted to mail them and ask if they would like to be introduced to each other – but I included their public LinkedIn profile links so that they could get a better look at each other’s backgrounds and experience before connecting up. They can then choose whether to meet up for a coffee, just stay in email contact, or extend that to include LinkedIn as well.

We tend to use online tools in the way that others do – I’ve started to think about other ways to use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to be more effective in different aspects of my life. And I’ve found a number of new ways of using all of them.

Photo credit: dsevilla

What I’ve learned from Twitter

I recall having more than one “Bah-humbug” moment in 2008 when the subject of Twitter came up. I just could not see the point of telling the world when I was going to make another cup of coffee. Even worse, I really didn’t want to be interrupted by hundreds of people telling me what they ate for lunch.

I hadn’t made the mistake of dismissing it without even looking. I had signed in to do just that, but, having decided it wasn’t worth doing, had not uttered a single Tweet. And that was how I intended to stay. But towards the end of 2008 I got an email telling me that Christopher Penn was “following” me. (To the uninitiated this could sound as if I was being stalked, but in Twitter terminology this is a good thing – it means someone wants to hear what you have to say).

This was intriguing. Why would someone follow me when I hadn’t said a word. So I logged back in to have another look. And I downloaded Christopher Penn’s ebook on Twitter for business. Having dipped the tip of my toe in the Twittersphere, I decided it wouldn’t do any harm to explore a bit more and within an hour or so of playing in Twitter, I discovered its benefits.  There are loads of lists online which tell you why Twitter is a great business tool – I read one just this evening on John Jantsch’s blog.

Now, 2 months into my Twitter dialogues I’ve learned two great lessons which I didn’t anticipate. Firstly, Twitter has helped break down barriers to spontaneous writing. It used to take me ages to think through what I was going to write. I was amongst the many thousands who second guesses their prose and ends up deleting and changing more than they write. Twitter gets you into the habit of diving in and sharing your thoughts. I’ve found my writing time has become far more productive.

And then I found TweetStats. This is a site which tells you all sorts of interesting (if trivial) things about the time of day, day of the week, and people you have Tweeted most often. And it has a neat little tab that gives you a cloud tag or Wordle of your Tweets.  There’s something about seeing your stream of thoughts translated into a cluster of words that gives a very clear idea of your frame of mind. Wow! I had no idea that’s what I sound like. The good news is that its quite a positive picture. It will be interesting to see what else I can learn about myself through Twitter.


What do we measure?

I’ve just finished reading an article about testing your marketing messages.  The example used was of testing the effectiveness of one headline against another. Its common marketing wisdom and we know that overall, those that follow the dictum have great marketing success than those of us who randomly dump words on the page and hope we hit the target.

The point of this article is that these days there are loads of clear and easy-to-use tools that will deliver feedback from the market to tell you whether you are reaching your tHead-measurementarget audience, whether the message is clear, and whether its on the mark. More and more people – even those who don’t have massive marketing budgets to spend – are coming round to the logic of testing your marketing message.  It just makes sense. Understand where there’s room for improvement and then make the changes.  Couldn’t be clearer.

Strange then, that the same logic doesn’t always apply when people consider training. So often companies make an educated guess at what training is required. Yes, sometimes its fairly obvious. But sometimes, its just what the MD thinks would be a good idea, or what a current management guru is talking about, or even the latest training brochure lands on the desk.

Surely, its just as sensible to assess skills gaps before deciding what training to apply?  It would seem logical to measure performance first and then decide on action.  Hopefully, just like the measurement of marketing messages, quantifying strengths and development needs is becoming accepted as the logical starting point for actions.  360-degree feedback is a pretty good starting point.

Energy vs engagement – which takes the lead?


Have you noticed that people who are really engaged with what they do, also seem to have a special kind of energy. So here’s the question – what comes first: the energy or the engagement?

Can we be energised by being more engaged with what we do? Or should we find ways to boost our energy levels in order to become more engaged with our careers?

What do you think?

Do you have a one-buttock business?

Benjamin Zander , conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra talks about passion and music in this remarkable TED presentation.  But if you listen to the message in the spaces, he’s also talking about leading people and finding ways to provide a vision and excitement in what you do.

BZander_webHis realisation that the quality of his work depends on his ability to awaken possibility in other people, is a phenomenally powerful insight.  There are many facets to that art – allowing people to see themselves differently; showing them that they too are capable of running a marathon, or taking on that project, or going on that fantastic trip. Sometimes just giving them permission to give it a try is enough. Sometimes its just a case of stepping out of the way. And sometimes its getting behind them and giving them a shove that does the trick.

Working out just which actions to take to awaken those possibilities can be a daunting task for many leaders. But looking at how we act and the messages we’re giving, is probably a pretty good first step.

Our stance and language combine to speak volumes – perhaps more than we sometimes intentionally say.

So what does this have to do with the one-buttock business?  Awakening possibilities is an emotional act – you can’t do it without being passionate about the people. I think where you place the emphasis in your business is the key. Benjamin Zander’s presentation has a lot more than music at its heart – but you’ll have to watch it to find out.

Enterprising Women

Yesterday I had the privilege of talking at the Enterprising Women 2nd anniversary lunch. It was amazing to have the chance to talk to almost 180 women entrepreneurs. An inspiring experience.

There was consensus that one of the most motivating elements of hearing other people's stories is the realisation that, even though you're going it alone, others are having the same experiences. There's a normalising effect in that.

Most Influential – the morning after

Last night's event was really interesting. I attended Human Resources Magazine's Most Influential in HR Awards at Claridges in London. It was a great event, where I had the opportunity to meet some really interesting people.

We had some great conversations about metrics and how you prove the returns on measuring the engagement of your staff (amongst other things). 

It was generally acknowledged that measurement was essential in HR, and that there was enough soft evidence to show that keeping your finger on the pulse of staff motivation and competence is critical. What is not quite as easy is to do is to find hard figures to help build a case to the board. It is possible and we discussed a few examples from personal experience. By and large though, I think its going to be up to HR directors who want real growth in their people, to argue their case strongly and persuade the board to give it a try. After all, as we said last night, even 1% growth in employee engagement can make a far greater contribution to the bottom line.

So here's a question for you – when did you last take the pulse of your organisation? If not recently, then measure the engagement, or the competence levels in your organisation at the very least, and see what you discover. There will be something – I can guarantee it.

Oh, and you want to know who are HR's most influential thinkers and practitioners this year? They're listed on Human Resources magazine's website.

Creating Entrepreneurs talk

I’ve been asked to speak at the Institute of Directors Annual Conference in Suffolk. The topic is Entrepreneurship and I guess my opinion is considered relevant as East of England Business Woman of the Year Enterprise Award recipient. Public speaking isn’t an area where I have much experience. Those of you who know me may well raise an eyebrow at that statement and think ironically about the fact that I talk up a storm – all the time. But speaking in public is quite different to just having a big mouth!

I decided for a number of reasons that if I was going to accept this request I would need to make an investment in getting the final product to the state where it was absolutely the best I could do. Firstly, I know how valuable time is to people who run businesses. I owe it to the audience to make it worth their while to sit and listen to me for half an hour. I also owe it to myself to use this opportunity to develop a killer presentation and the skills to deliver it really well – because then I can do it again in June when I have a second speaking engagement.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve been working with two great people to get my output to a professional enough level. More about them in a later blog.
For the current presentation I’ve been researching companies that behave in exceptional ways. And I found it fascinating. I just had to share one of the best stories I’ve come across:
Southwest Airlines took part in an event which became called ‘Malice in Dallas’ in 1992. At 61, with a smoking and drinking training regime, Herb Kelleher took on 37 year-old weight lifting head of rival company, Stevens Aviation in an arm wrestling match. And all because they didn’t want to involve the lawyers in a dispute over the use of a slogan. If only all corporate disputes could be settled so brilliantly – its worth reading the story.

Its easy to see why Southwest Airlines is one of the USA’s top companies to work for when you understand just how far they go to make work fun.

Getting help with the ‘What next? question

fortune cookieGreat to see MSA gets a mention in Personnel Today’s article on training for before and after 360 feedback.

The expertise that wraps around 360 reviews is a key component in the ultimate result. Making sure the ‘What next?’ question (or even the ‘So What?’ question) is properly explored makes the difference between it being a box-ticking exercise, and something that delivers powerful results.

Welcome Aboard

planecrash2Earlier this month a new “free” 360 review service was launched. Its a DIY, no service, no support, one-size-fits-all product which comes with no advice on how get any value out of the reports. This scenario is a classic case of ‘You get what you pay for.’

How many people would be willing to fly on an airplane that had not been safety checked, had an unqualified pilot in the cockpit, no cabin crew and no baggage handling staff – even if it was absolutely free?

Yet somehow, there are still those who would rather save a few pounds than make a solid investment in their people.

Hard to understand.