Archive for the ‘Topic – Communication Skills’ Category

Living life – with or without social media?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Last Friday and Saturday I was at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership (NAP) Conference in York. I attended some very good sessions, met some new people, and renewed and developed a number of other relationships. It was excellent value for money and extremely well organised – a credit to all those involved.

All this happened face to face. I didn’t tweet once. But many other people did. Did I lose out by not tweeting? Did others lose out by me not tweeting?

The use of social media was a key theme of the Conference. Delegates were encouraged to tweet, the main screen displayed conference tweets at every opportunity, and bloggers were a permanent fixture in the main conference room.

The speakers at the start of the each day had very different perspectives around the use of social media – the first proposed that by using our ‘devices’ and their associated social media capabilities we would live life to the full, and the second that it is only possible to live life to the full by not using them. Their definition of ‘living life’ was very different.

Gemma Reucroft explained how she had become more social media savvy over the past few years, and gave examples of some of the doors it has opened for her and the relationship benefits she has gained.  She talked passionately and convincingly of the potential developments that this will bring to the workplace – the potential (partial) demise of the workplace as we know it, email becoming a thing of the past and recruitment activity taking place exclusively through Twitter.  Early in her presentation she played a video containing a bewildering amount of statistical information about how much of the world’s population use devices (i.e. smart phones), the internet and various forms of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, it would be the second most populated behind China.

At the start of the second day, Jonathan Cooper presented a completely different perspective on relationship management. He encouraged the more traditional forms of communication, and the benefits of making it authentic. He concluded his presentation with a video encouraging people to put their devices away – look up and not down – and live ‘real’ lives (although it was a little twee and could have been more representative of diverse communities). Whilst Gemma’s video had been very cognitive, this was clearly aimed at the affective domain of learning. The domains of learning targeted by each presenter had strong congruence with each of their themes. Jonathan’s session closed at the conclusion of the piece of film, and as I listened to and looked around at the applause, it was very apparent that a good number of people were clapping with a vigour not previously seen at the Conference – a result of an affective methodology and perhaps by those not ready for the level of social media being presented on the first day?

Gemma had given us all a social media bingo card (see photo) which we were asked to individually complete to give a quick indication of how effectively we were engaging with social media. It wasn’t something that she had created, but a resource she had gained through her use of social media (I’m afraid I missed who, so I cannot give them a mention).

As you may be able to see from the photo, I scored 10 (out of a possible 20). I could perhaps have had an 11th as I check my emails (rather than social media – or are they social media?) as soon as I get up, and a 12th as I have over 100 Facebook contacts if I also incorporate the ‘Likes’ from my company Facebook page.

The highest number in the room was around 13, so I wasn’t far off that number, but I don’t regard myself as engaging with social media particularly effectively.

The bingo card was quantity based rather than quality based. Yes, I have over 500 contacts on Linkedin, but is that a really effective measure? – I know all my contacts, but LION’s (LinkedIn Open Networker) go around linking up with virtually anyone.

A couple of years ago, and I cannot remember exactly why – but we had fun doing it – my son and I created a Facebook page for our dog – Spotty Ackerley. Within a very few days I became aware of how many other animals there are on Facebook – in addition to a whole load of dogs, he has now responded to Friend Requests from giraffes, cats, lions, zebras and elephants to name just a few. He now has over 2,000 friends (to my 44). If Facebook animals were a country, it would be more populated than Hungary.

If some of the questions had been around whether I had gained any work or contracts from my use of social media, whether I had implemented anything at work as a result of social media or whether I had gained any useful information from social media, my overall score would have been significantly reduced – and probably more accurate as to my effective use of social media. Is this not the true value of it?

I only used electronic communication once during the conference. A person sitting in front of me left her glasses’ case on the floor. I went to look for her but couldn’t find her. She had given me her business card, so I texted her with the information (is texting social media?). About 4 hours later I saw her again, and I mentioned the glasses case. She confirmed that she had received my text and that the glasses case belonged to her but she hadn’t yet been to pick it up.

Whilst she had received my text, she didn’t respond to it. As I left the conference the glasses case was still at ‘Reception’ where I had left it. An example of both poor engagement and ineffective use of electronic communication? More accurately, perhaps, it demonstrates that the benefits of social media will depend on a person’s behaviours as well as their technical knowledge. I would also suggest that it depends greatly on a person’s personality type, which I will explore further in my next blog post.

Clearly, social media has a part to play in our lives – both at work and away from work – and it is a method of engagement, as is face to face engagement. The theme of the Conference was “The Business of HR … making a difference”. As individuals, we need to be clear on what constitutes effective use of social media, how its use can make a positive difference at work and what quality it can bring to our relationships – if  we are to use it effectively.

How do you use social media differently from how you used it six months ago?

Paul

 

Happy Coaches for London?

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Happy news! Harrogate, North Yorkshire – where I live – is officially the happiest place the UK. This is according to the “Happy at Home Index” 2013. The local media made a lot of this. It may well have only stayed local news, however, Ant and Dec featured it as a quiz question on their Saturday evening TV show – so now everyone in the UK knows. This success needs reinforcing – perhaps the Town Council should consider changing the town’s name to “Happygate”?

My daughter came back from University a couple of days after the announcement of this very prestigious honour. It was – quite understandably – the first thing we discussed when I picked her up from the station. We decided to enjoy and experience some of this happiness. We started waving at other car occupants as we drove to Sainsburys. Unhappily, nobody waved back. We then looked for people in Sainsburys with that air of happiness. We stopped looking after a couple of minutes – and came to the conclusion that all the drivers and people in Sainsburys must be from out of town – coming to try and take in some of this happiness.

This week I am working in London … for a full seven days. I have written before about my love of London - and in particular its Tube and DLR system.  I am currently staying locally, and travelling to a place of work each day on the Tube. Living like a Londoner for a few days – and I’m like a kid in a toy shop!  I love the Tube … I like the smell, I like the names of the stations, I like watching the people … but I do think I’m in the minority.  Judging by the people on the Tube, their city probably didn’t come too close to Harrogate in the Happy League.

In fact, I mentioned this of the Tube to a couple of Londoners about a fortnight ago. One responded that this was because I didn’t use it every day. I then mentioned how fascinating I find it watching how people know the best carriages to be in to use the shortest cut-throughs at particular stations.  The two people then started discussing how they have particular seats; “For me the third seat in on the left from the middle double doors on the Metropolitan Line, but on the District Line I usually sit ….” It was something like that, anyway. I have to admit that I did start to lose interest in the conversation, until one of them then said, “But the Olympics – that was the worst time. Everyone was so happy. People were smiling and some tried to talk to other people – sometimes it was difficult to avoid them. Didn’t they realise some of us were going to work and not meant to be happy”.

I tried to picture the clash of cultures. Happy people on the way to the Olympics and unhappy people on their way to work. I assume there was only one winner – as there usually is where majority and minority cultures meet.

But, could it be different I thought? We know that happier people live healthier lives, and recent research has shown that those people who live together in a relationship tend to live longer than those who live alone. And we all know people who if they haven’t spoken to somebody for 10 minutes need to go and find someone to talk to – the extreme extraverts (how do they cope with a 45 minute Tube ride surrounded by people but with no one to talk to?).

On some main line train services they have “Quiet coaches” – perhaps there could be a “Happy coach” on each Underground train.

What will be the benefits? Well, they would include:

  • An Olympic legacy spanning further than sport
  • Underground travel opportunities which appeal to both Introverts and Extraverts
  • In about 50 years’ time, there will be research showing that people who generally travelled in the Happy Coach lived longer and healthier lives than those travelling in the other coaches

Well, Boris, what do you think?

Paul

 

MBTI for Kids – your questions answered!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Since my last blog on how we can now administer the MMTIC, it has been great to see how much interest it has generated. Consequently, it seemed like a good idea to respond to some of the questions and comments.

“What does the Report cover?”

There are actually three Student Reports available, all tailored to three age ranges. The age ranges are 7-11 years, 11-14 years and 14-18 years – and if you click on the relevant age category, the link will take you to a sample Report.

The Report covers aspects such as:

  • The person’s results from completing the questionnaire
  • Their likely ‘Strengths’ and ‘Stretches’
  • Practical applications for them within school and within relationships

There are further Reports that can be generated which deal with more specific aspects, such as careers.

“Who gets the Report?”

The child owns the Report as it is about them – so they get the Report. No adult should be given the results of a child’s Report unless the child is also given the results. Any Reports resulting from the completion of the tool are considered confidential.

“Who is there when the child receives the interpretation of their Report?”

The child needs to understand that the Report belongs to them – they also need to understand that in order to use it for developmental purposes it is beneficial for their parent, carer, teacher, etc, also to be there so that they can assist the child to use it and build on the findings.

In order for the child to feel relaxed about hearing the interpretation of their Report consideration also needs to be given to the number of people present. With the child, a parent and the interpreter, there are already 3 people – the potential effects of additional people needs to be considered on an individual basis. If the intention is also to use the results in the school environment, it may be that the child and parent wish the teacher to understand the results. It will usually be best for the child if this is a separate meeting, or the teacher is given the information separately – but only, of course, with the child’s knowledge and consent.

“How accurate is it?”

A young person’s Type will still be developing. Since Type is developing in children, when we interpret a person’s Report we have to recognise that children’s awareness of their Type may not be firm, especially if it is the auxiliary function (the second most prominent of their mental functions – these being Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling). Extraversion and Introversion as well as Judging and Perceiving (the attitudes) may be clearer than the mental functions.

Because of this, children are given an opportunity to discuss their profiles and disagree with the results, if they consider them inaccurate.  The obtained psychological Type profile is only confirmed when the child confirms the description is accurate. If there is disagreement, the person is helped to understand that Type is developmental and that the instrument may not be able to identify everyone’s preferences every time. The schild is then helped to become aware of the differences between Type profiles and is reassured that it is okay to disagree with the results of any instrument.

“Another example of putting people into boxes, but this time doing it when they are children. I think this is a step backwards. Hmmmm.”

The Report and interpretation is all about helping people understand that different people use different ways to communicate, to take in information and to make decisions. The better (and earlier) that people understand these differences, together with how to work more effectively with these different types of people, the more effective they are likely to be in their lives.

“How much does it cost?”

The child needs to answer the set of questions, and we then input these into our domain within the MMTC site. This generates the Student Report mentioned earlier. We then print a copy of the Report, meet with the child and parent, carer or guardian and undertake a personal interpretation of the report. This activity lasts for 60 – 90 minutes. The complete cost of this is £45.

And if you have any other questions, we would be happy to respond to them!

Paul

MBTI for kids!

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

As a parent, I have always wanted to do all I can to give my children the best possible start in life. To give them that little bit extra so that they can cope as effectively as possible with the world as they find their own way through it. And I’m sure that’s probably the same for most parents.

There are lots of ways in which we can do that, but it’s not only us who are involved – there are also many other people who impact on this process. Teachers, relatives and friends all play a part.

It is also the case that our children have different drivers and motivators from us – each will have a different psychological  makeup – they will perceive the world and make decisions in different ways from us. Our personal strategies and approaches are unlikely to work for them.

How much more effectively could we support them if we had a better understanding of their makeup? How much more helpful could teachers be if they understood each child’s learning strengths?

The idea that each of us is born with a specific set of preferences is the foundation stone to Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type. During a child’s early years they begin to develop their preferences and implement their own personal style of taking in and processing information. An understanding of your child’s unique personality type provides you with vital information on how they:

  • Take in information
  • Prioritise information
  • Make decisions about information.

‘Type recognition’ during a child’s developmental years offers huge benefits to the child. When a child is provided with this tailored environment, which provides them with the freedom to develop their natural preferences, they can develop much higher levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.

The Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator (MMTIC®) was developed to help children and young people better understand themselves in many areas including:

  • How they approach learning
  • What their strengths are
  • What their stretches are
  • What strategies may help them improve relationships, study habits and school grades.

The MMTIC® is based on the 60 years of research which underpins the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), the world’s most widely used personality assessment, and it has been used in schools for almost 25 years. The most recent studies (2002 – 2008) have culminated in the most accurate version of the tool which has demonstrated extraordinarily high rates of reliability and validity. Its use is accompanied by a vast array of support materials. Students can take the MMTIC® assessment on line or using pen and paper. Reports are written directly to students – and there are three levels of assessment and report – elementary (7-11), middle (11-14) and high (14-18) representing the age ranges shown in brackets.

In short, it is a MBTI® for kids.

Some people ask what it measures. It doesn’t measure anything. What it shows is whether a child:

  • Is extroverted or introverted
  • Is more likely to see the fine detail of their environment or sees the bigger picture
  • Makes decisions based upon objectiveness or personal and /or emotional values
  • Places more emphasis on bringing things to closure or would rather explore alternatives.

At Breathe Personal and Organisational Development, we are very excited to have been accredited to deliver the MMTIC®. We are one of only about 50 organisations in the world outside the USA to have been accredited in this way.

We believe that the MMTIC® offers a wonderful opportunity for parents and teachers to gain a fuller appreciation of a child’s personality preferences. Its use can reduce the potential conflicts a child might have within relationships, and increases the potential for greater success at school and within friendships. This, in turn, facilitates an improved relationship between the child and the parents, the child and the teachers, the child and others with whom they build relationships.

Paul

Communication Breakdown

Friday, November 9th, 2012

“It’s well under 23”, I said as I put the first of our checked bags on the scales at the very beautiful Orlando Airport. He looked up at me  - perhaps quizzically – as  he moved it to the centre of the scales.  The scales showed ‘47.0’. “That can’t be right”, I said.

“Sure is”, he replied, “when I picked it up, I knew it was well over 23”. I was astounded.

“But I only checked it an hour ago”, I retorted.

“Not a problem though”, he added, “It’s under the 50 pounds, and that’s all that matters for me”.  Ah, pounds!  I was using kilogrammes. We laughed about our different ‘languages’.

Just another of those communication breakdowns that happen every day, probably every hour. A simple misunderstanding due to the way we make assumptions, don’t listen or don’t explain ourselves.

But some misunderstandings are more complicated. Earlier in the holiday we had been staying at a relatively cheap, but very well equipped and maintained Best Western hotel. In the bathroom was the notice pictured above, which said “Take it home!  If you enjoyed your stay as much as we think you did, you shouldn’t have to leave those memories behind.  Many items in this room such as towels, pillows and sheets are for sale. Please contact the front desk at check-out for pricing. Thanks for staying with us!”

Before you read any further, think about what you are being told. What information is it seeking to give? What message do you take from it?

I had read it a couple of times when we first arrived. Later I went back to it. It was preoccupying me. I didn’t understand it. The towels were just white towels – nothing special. They didn’t have any emblems on them or fancy stitching. Why would people want to buy them as “memories” of their stay? I was stuck – I decided to involve someone else. “Peta, why would someone want to buy these towels as souvenirs?”.  She quickly replied, “I don’t think that’s what it means”.  I was intrigued.

She went on to explain that she had read it a couple of times herself and had decided that the actual message was not the message I was taking from the notice.  She thought that the message was to anybody who was thinking of stealing any of the items, telling them that they shouldn’t. Blimey! I read it again and could vaguely see her point of view.

But if that’s the case, why not just say, “Please do not take the towels”, etc. If that is the intended message – and I’m still not sure it is – I wonder how many readers understand it. Have the creators of the message spent so much time attempting to make the message ‘positive’, they have completely lost the focus of the actual message – and so nobody knows what is really meant.

How often do we verbally do this in our daily lives? Often I would suggest. And it is perhaps a more ‘underhand’ breakdown in communication than the baggage example. What does it do for relationships and rapport?

Paul

Going Round in Circles

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

One of the most satisfying day’s work I ever had was way back in the 1970s – probably 1977, I think. I was working as a ‘Saturday lad’ (meaning I was at school, and so only able to work on a Saturday – shops didn’t open on Sundays, then!) at Boots. It was about 4 weeks before Christmas. Calculators were the ‘in’ item of the season. They had become small enough and cheap enough (around £50!) for them to be available to the mass market – and the mass market wanted them.

On the previous Saturday, I had been learning about them as I worked in tandem with a full time employee. This person was very helpful to me, but he only had eyes for one particular Casio calculator. And so whatever the public were looking for when they visited us, this Casio was the answer. I have no idea why – we weren’t on commission. The consequences were that we sold quite a number of Casios, but also missed out on a lot of sales.

The next Saturday he was on his day off, and I was on my own. The manager spoke with me at the start of the day and asked if I was happy with my role for the day, and then set me a challenge of selling 80 calculators that day. To his surprise, I said I thought that would be relatively easy – so suggested 100 as a target. He said he didn’t think that was realistic. I sold 104. I can still remember the thrill of selling the 100th! Significantly, in my opinion, only a small proportion of them were this ‘preferred’ Casio model.

Which brings me to training courses and meetings. I have sat through a lot of these in my time – as I’m sure you might have.

When people have not met before, the trainer, facilitator or meeting chair will usually – and rightly – ask everyone to introduce themselves. This is often accompanied by a request for individuals to explain their role, or what they want to get out of the event, or why they have chosen to attend, etc. This can be helpful to both the attendees, as they learn more about each other and the different motivations for being there, and for the trainer or leader, as they get a better idea of what people are looking for and potentially the opportunity to tailor the programme accordingly.

But do facilitators make this activity as comfortable and beneficial as it could be? At the majority of meetings and events that I have attended, attendees are normally asked to go around in order from left to right, or right to left, etc – often starting from next to the facilitator.

Put yourself, for a moment, in the position of the attendee. What happens for you in this situation? Do you prefer being first, or last, or somewhere in the middle? Do you think, “Let me introduce myself now”, or perhaps, “I wish I had a bit more time to think about what I’m going to say”. Perhaps you think, “Only 4 people to me … only 3 people until me … only 2 people to me …”. None of these are particularly useful internal responses as they mean that you are not listening to what’s being said, or you are not giving as helpful information as you might be able to. How can this be addressed?

First, we must recognise that these groups will always be made up of many different types of people. Whatever we like when we are attendees, this will be different from many of the others attending.

One of the dichotomies within the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is Introvert and Extravert. The Introverts generally like time to think, time to consider what they are going to say. The Extraverts usually like to have conversation, get involved quickly and make conversation.

The NLP “Motivational Traits” model, has ‘Proactive’ and ‘Reactive’ as one of its dichotomies – the ‘Motivational Level’ Trait. This relates to whether a person prefers to take the initiative or wait for others. Proactive people want to do it now, get going – and so, given the chance, usually introduce themselves as soon as possible. Reactive people prefer to wait, to consider, to act with caution and they generally dislike taking the initiative. 15 – 20% of the population are strongly Reactive, and a similar amount strongly Proactive.

How, then, can trainers cater for these differences in personal preferences, enable people to feel as comfortable as possible, and get the maximum benefit from the exercise?

This is how. The trainer can explain that there will be the opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves, together with the reasons or benefits of the activity. He or she can then explain that they are happy for anyone to start by introducing themselves first, and from then on, anyone else can follow on, as long as they are not sitting next to the person who has just spoken. It might have to be explained a second time, but its worth doing. The benefits?

  • Extraverts and Proactive people can interact as soon as they want.
  • Introvert and Reactive people can wait a while and consider their contribution.
  • Contributors are likely to feel more comfortable.
  • Attendees are more likely to listen as they are not counting down to when it is their turn.
  • The trainer will learn far more about the attendees.

And in relation to the last point, I don’t just mean learning about what the attendees want out of the event. The trainer learns who is likely to be quick off the mark, who is likely to be quickest to answer questions, and who may be a little reticent in coming forward, who might need a little time to think before responding. Information that can help the trainer, and the delegates – and make the day even more effective.

All because of a very small change in a methodology as a result of focusing on delegate needs.

But as with most rules, there is an exception. If I am running an event with a blind or visually impaired person in the room, I would go left to right or right to left in a structured way. This is because the blind person uses this process to map out the room – who the people are and where they are sitting. A ‘random’ approach will cause them confusion and hamper their involvement.

Have a go – and let me know what you find!

Paul

I Had a Dream …

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Through the nervous 90’s, and on 99 not out … then the opportunity arrived … a slower ball … driven back past the bowler for a single … a maiden test century … and then, sadly, I woke up … Why was I dreaming about that very English game of cricket?  Ah yes, I went to sleep last night thinking about what to write in my one hundredth blog post. I quickly discounted – with a shiver at the thought – that this was an indication that I should explain the rules of cricket and how it is played. No, it was because this journey of writing a blog has been like a cricket innings.

At the outset I thought that it would be tricky – a bit like facing the new ball. As each idea to write about comes to mind, they are a bit like balls being bowled – some can be used and ‘posted’ to the outfield, whilst others should be left well alone. Sometimes there might be a dozen in a row to be left alone, at other times 2 or 3 good ones come along at once. And the weather conditions – or my outlook – can impact on the effectiveness of the posts.

And in the same way as when a cricketer makes a century, and the TV coverage reviews their 100 runs, I will review my experience of 100 blog posts.

When I set out, I had very little understanding of blogs and websites. I didn’t know whether to write a blog, but I was given one piece of crucial advice which made the decision for me. I was told that websites will rise up search rankings if their content is constantly being updated, and that a blog was one way of doing this. The other primary way was for me to update my own website, but my ineptitude in this area left me with just the one option.

I also read parts (I say ‘parts’ because I don’t think I can claim to have read a full book in at least 20 years) of the book “Naked Conversations” from which I really warmed to the idea of building on-line rapport with potential customers – by demonstrating where my expertise lies and helping others understand what makes me tick.

Those were my two reasons – ranking and rapport – which were countered with a large dollop of trepidation. What would I write about? Did I actually know anything of any value to others? Where would I find the time? Was I really comfortable opening myself up, warts and all?

However, as with many things we concern ourselves with in life, none of these issues materialised. And more importantly, there have been benefits, huge benefits. It has been personally fulfilling, a tremendously positive and enjoyable experience and has generated a small amount of client driven business from people I would never have otherwise met. So what have been my main learning points?

  • Returning to my dream I referred to at the start of this post … at the outset I found myself reviewing the day as my head hit the hay (I  haven’t intentionally attempted poetry yet!). I found myself asking  “What has happened today that links to learning and development or my business?” I found it a tremendously satisfying way to review and reflect on a set period of time.  It generated some really good stories. The next day I would write my post. And I have discovered that I just love spending a couple of hours writing, reflecting, thinking, questioning, writing, learning, considering, writing … and finally publishing!
  • By checking the ‘search strings’ I can see which particular blog posts are being found by people. This has helped me to understand where my expertise is perhaps welcomed and subject areas that are not as readily available on the internet as others (John Heron’s wonderful ‘6 Category Intervention Analysis’ and ‘Dimensions of Facilitator Style’ are two such subject areas). From this, I can give additional focus to areas which are of interest to readers.
  • By checking the statistics, every now and then I notice a website that has been paying a close interest in mine. This is usually because they have published one of my articles – sometimes for good reasons – and it is great to see my company logo in some e-magazine in some far off country – and sometimes as an error (I once used a Steps album cover as my photo, and I now have an unintentional presence on Steps lyrics website!)
  • There are very few down sides. The only one that springs to mind is the amount of spam comments I get – about 150 a day. The majority are deranged, illegal or obscene, but a few are misguided – like the glasses company that linked to my post describing how to create a Vision! On a different tack, I do also remember a rather lengthy discussion with my wife as to whether I should publish a blog about OFSTED in case it was libellous. I published.
  • I have learned that I can use one blog post on various media in addition to my website – for example Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. I know I am connected to different people through all the different media, and so this facility enables me to contact as broad an audience as possible. My areas for future development here are to learn how (if possible) to get the comments generated via one form of media to populate the other forms automatically, and to develop  y use of other media.
  • I was also approached by Glasstap asking if they could publish my old blogs as articles (akin to a new film being released on DVD, I suppose) which has given me exposure to another market very relevant to my business.
  • And the final jewel in the crown – new business. After wondering many times whether the laudable principles described in “Naked Conversations” would work (build on-line rapport, show your expertise, never overtly sell a product or service) an email arrived out of the blue, saying “ … and having looked at your website and blog, I am interested in setting up a meeting with you. We have 4 senior executives who would benefit from coaching in Leadership skills amongst other things. Could you give me a ring when you are able please?” As I read it, I knew I was experiencing a significant moment on my blogging journey, in a similar way to 100 blog post  being an important point …

This reviewing of my ‘maiden century’ also comes along at an opportune time as professional colleagues have been discussing the pros and cons, and whys and wherefores of blogging.

I have no idea whether my experiences or enjoyment matches other people’s – each person has their own unique reasons for blogging. However, one of the ideas that I have seen and heard being discussed is having other people write blogs for you, and either being quite open about this, or, as one person has suggested, “… simply send to your clients as if it was your own work”.

I can understand why some people choose to have other people writing their blogs – better understanding of the internet, use of key words, reducing workload to work on other things – but it’s not for me. In my previous post I outlined my core foundations – how am I demonstrating realness, or being genuine if I pass off someone else’s work as mine? It certainly wouldn’t build that rapport I am seeking to achieve.

And I may miss out on business opportunities, but more importantly to me, I would miss out on my fun, my enjoyment, my sense of achievement. For me, using others to write my blog is the institutionalising of something that is expressive and perhaps rough round the edges – akin to choosing Paul Weller rather than The Jam, listening to Radio 1 over Radio Caroline, shopping at Waitrose as opposed to the Farmer’s Market and passing by the local coffee shop to savour a Starbucks.

A few weeks ago, a colleague said to me, “Every time I read your blog, I can hear you saying it”. Perfect! That pleased me no end, and if and when I stop writing my blog, if it had a headstone, that would be the best epitaph.

Blogging might not be for you, but if you are thinking about it, go for it. Just write! I’m so pleased I did. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

And hopefully my thoughts here might have taken a bit of shine off the new ball for when you come out to the wicket!

Paul

How similar is Parenting to Coaching?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

My last blog related to Khalil Gibran and his thoughts on Teaching, from his book, “The Prophet”. This blog relates to his writings on Children from the same book. This passage was where I first learned of Gibran. Sara, who I had trained as a trainer and then stayed in contact with after the course, gave me a framed copy of this passage together with a copy of the book for my birthday many years ago. The passage moves me every time I read it:

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘Speak to us of Children’. And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Read it again – I’m sure you can’t have taken it all in from one reading!

Ever since being introduced to this passage I have used it as my strategy for bringing up my children. It was very much what I think I already did, but it sums up how I wanted to be as a parent so beautifully. It also highlights how easy it is to be unhelpful to those we seek to assist in growing.

And I say ‘growing’ rather than ‘growing up’ intentionally – because I often wonder how much this passage relates to training, coaching and other developmental activities? Does is encapsulate Carl Rogers approach to such relationships? Gibran was very good friends with Jung – how much of Jung’s influence is present?  Most importantly, can it be used as a backdrop to what an exceptional coach or trainer seeks to achieve?

As a trainer or coach, my clients “come through” me when they attend a programme or a meeting. I show them unconditional positive regard, but I hope I don’t give them my thoughts. I should not “seek to make them like (me)”. And they certainly must be responsible for their own arrows, although hopefully I can assist them in making their bows more stable.

So is the passage really about children? Or is it also about teaching, training and coaching, or life or relationships in general?

I struggle with these questions every time I read the passage – which hangs on the wall in my office. But what I don’t struggle with is the brilliance of the writing, the beauty of the metaphors and the wondrous skill of Gibran’s storytelling.

Paul

Prophesising facilitation?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post arguing that training can never be exceptional. In short, this is because training is an output – whereas it is the outcome which is of value. I’m not sure whether people agreed with me or not, but it is actually my most read post so it has been at least of interest to people.

I do believe, though, that training (the output) can vary considerably dependent upon a number of factors, perhaps the most important of which is the trainer or facilitator.

A few years ago I was introduced to the work of the poet Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), and in particular his book “The Prophet”.  The book comprises 26 short essays where the Prophet speaks to the crowds on a number of subjects.

As for Gibran himself, he was an American-Lebanese writer, and is the third best-selling poet of all time behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu – so there is a good chance you will already know about him.

I really enjoy his short essays as they say so much – and so succinctly. One of the essays relates his thoughts on ‘Teaching’. He tells the crowd:

“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.”

I just love that! What do you think of it? As I said at the start, the essay is about ‘Teaching’, but the term ‘Facilitation’ in relation to developing others had not been coined when Gibran published his book in 1923, but in my eyes it sums up facilitated learning beautifully.

And he makes it sound so simple! In less than 200 words he has given a wonderful account of what differentiates a poor trainer or facilitator from a great one. And within that word count the Prophet has included examples, together with visual, auditory and kinesthetic references thus appealing to the different learning styles within the crowd.

If more trainers, coaches, managers and the like went with the view that all the people they work with have all this ability which, “lies half asleep in the dawning of (their) knowledge”, what would be the effect? Too often such people are judged as opposed to being given the opportunity; closed down as opposed to being encouraged to grow – not the led to the, “threshold of (their) own mind”.

If you think there are any aspects missing, what are they? What additional sentence might you add?

Paul

Masking Tips

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Well, there I was on the shoreline, as I described in my last post. In a place I didn’t know, in a mild state of panic, with nowhere to stay and no way of leaving. I had a vocabulary of about twenty Croatian words. I was starting to freeze both physically and mentally.

In Maslow terms, I was back to basics – my physiological needs of warmth, shelter and food were not being met. My only option was to talk my way into someone’s home. As there was only one place with a light on – the shop – I had one opportunity within my one option. Not a strong position. I also felt pretty foolish for having got myself into the position, and have never liked imposing myself on others. Could my position have been any weaker?

I wasn’t confident I could pull it off. In NLP terms, this was me in “First Position”. As I thought about going into the shop, I considered how I would come across to anyone I met – “Second Position”.  I thought of Acres, from Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’, when he says before the duel “My valour is certainly going, it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were, at the palms of my hands!”’

Finally, I took “Third Position” or the “Meta Position” – I looked at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. I then I realised what I needed to do. I needed to become someone who would always manage to succeed in such a situation – and that person was Michael Palin! He travels the world meeting new people, has a lovely way with people and gets himself into people’s homes and premises whenever he wants.

So I became Michael Palin – initially in my mental approach, and then in terms of my physical behaviours and all aspects of my rapport building. To cut a long story short, it worked like a dream! Anna, the shopkeeper – who also had rooms she let out in the summer – let me to stay and fed me for the next two days.

It is a technique I have used on several occasions since, and one that I have encouraged and enabled others to use - it can bring about strikingly beneficial results.

It obviously had more of an emotional attachment for me than Anna. I went back two years later (this time in the summer!) and stayed with her again – and even though I reminded her of my previous visit she couldn’t remember me. Perhaps it happened every week? The Tourist Information Office in Dubrovnik having a competition to see how many unsuspecting tourists they could get to visit a closed Mljet! …

Which brings me to last December, when I wrote a blog about “Being Santa”. Having got changed from being Santa, I went back to my colleagues and they were talking about how people are different when they are somebody else. It made me think more about Masquerades and being Santa – or being anyone else to be more precise (and so reminded me of Michael Palin).

Whilst I acquired my Santa outfit for fun (£2.50 in a Homebase sale!), I did by accident find an additional use for it. The office Christmas Party. I find Christmas a lovely time of the year, but office parties are not part of Christmas for me – I have never really enjoyed them.

There was one particular year when I really didn’t want to go, so I decided to go as Santa. And it was a very interesting experience. I discovered that I was able to go to it and enjoy it more than I had done previously. On reflection, I realised that I was attending as Santa and not as Paul, and so had a different outlook. Consequently I used a whole different set of behaviours. As a result, every year from then on I went as Santa – and enjoyed them far more.

The main reason for the invention and subsequent popularity of Masquerade Balls in Fifteenth Century Venice was so that people could conceal their identity and hide who they really were. The anonymity they provided to an upper class that was governed by the strictest etiquette was irresistible. They didn’t have to be themselves; they were able to be different people. Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”.

This leads me to the questions I want to pose.  Which is the real person? Paul or Santa (or Michael Palin)?

The person when they are wearing or not wearing the mask?

When is a person closest to being their innate self?

I have thought about it many times over the years since my visit to Mljet. What are your thoughts?

Paul