Thursday, 30 April 2015

A different angle on the Election

I am not a fan of the TV political debates as a rule, but I saw and heard enough of recent broadcasts to enable me to update some thoughts on the topic of presenting in business.

Like probably most other people, I was most impressed with the performances of Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood. I think there are various reasons for this which are worth considering from a business perspective.

Like any business person making a pitch to secure a future contract, these ladies presented themselves, their beliefs and their ideas for us to consider, dissect and either accept or reject all that they stood for.

So why it was these two in particular drew such a broad level of support and favourable comment for their performances?

Superficially, you could say it was all to do with appearance. A sharp, business-like suit with appealing colours and coordinated styles produced a strong effect that suggested a well organised individual with the ability to reflect, not ignore the audience’s own tastes and preferences. A small point you may think but for me the person who chimes with his or her audience even before saying a word is simply doing a very good job. It shows that you care enough to bother to dress appropriately, not arrogantly or in a way designed to reflect your perceived superiority.

Secondly, and for me way more importantly, was the way in which they portrayed inner confidence. When a person at the top of their game engages with relish and enthusiasm as they did, then the proposition they offer simply becomes irresistible. In other words, it becomes very difficult for the audience not to admire the performance, watch every detail with close attention and ultimately buy in to the arguments put forward.

In a nutshell, the head and the heart are aligned into a near perfect performance and it is nothing short of a pleasure to watch as the presenter produces a polished and professional display which is extremely compelling to an audience.

I offer these comments of course without any political bias or favour. Each of us will decide on Election Day if these two ladies can be victorious. In the meantime, I think we should be grateful to them for demonstrating so vividly what can be achieved with a carefully crafted presentation delivered with passion and commitment.

Look after what is within and very often that is the secret ingredient which gets you over the line. In a world where we are bombarded with messages and people vying for attention, don’t ignore the difference your inner confidence can make. It’s unique after all so why squander it?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The power of three

Three’s a crowd – so the saying goes. Two-up we’re fine but add a third and all hell breaks loose. A couple is a great idea – but opt for three and that’s just asking for trouble. Or so we’re led to believe. Maybe in some areas of life that’s absolutely true and we would be well advised to take heed. But in business maybe there are some lesser known angles on this issue which are deserving of a little attention.

My last column started with the trio “who dare wins” and ended with the trio “brains, bravery, balance”.  From a linguistic point of view I have to say that I think the three-word motto like the ones quoted is pretty much perfect. They’ve been around since the days of Cicero and they are as effective now as they were then. By combining three words which often start with the same letter or have a strikingly memorable grammatical construction, the effect is to create a motto which is simple, easy to remember and yet contains the seeds of great ideas.

But I would like to take this a step further and point out the usefulness of a three-way conversation or meeting in a business context. This perhaps bizarrely has to do with the last word of the second trio, namely balance. Whilst two is very often good and creates an effective partnership in life we can see quite the reverse in a business context. This can be countered by the addition of a third party which can remove direct confrontation and often restore the kind of balance that allows an effective dialogue to take place.

This can be thought of as a tripod where all three “legs” have to be working for the tripod to remain standing. As an external business coach, I’m fortunate to be able to play this role quite frequently and bring balance around the boardroom or kitchen table where communication between two directors has become difficult.

The same role can be played in meetings where an outbreak of politics or a fight between two adversaries is consigning the real business issues of the moment to second place with often disastrous consequences.  The balance is lost and the business can end up on the wrong track very quickly from which it can be difficult, expensive or just plain impossible to recover.

So, perhaps tha t very ordinary little word “balance” is deserving of a lot more attention in a business context than you might have thought.

 As a final thought around the idea of three-word mottos, I would like to end on the concept of using them as a source of inspiration.

Often used before key meetings or important sales pitches, a lot of business people whisper phrases like “yes you can” under their breath. Whilst it’s easy to dismiss this as psycho-babble it’s also worth noting that in life you tend to get what you expect to get. Why not expect to get a positive outcome? Maybe you just might!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Who dares, wins!

“Who dares, wins” is a very memorable form of words and there can very few people who haven’t heard the phrase. It relates of course to the SAS and immediately conjures up scenes like those some years back of the Iranian Embassy siege in London. Masked men with stun grenades taking inordinate risks to protect the futures of ordinary British citizens as simply part of their job.

But what, you may be wondering, does all this have to do with a business column in the Chester Standard? The answer, of course, is that bravery plays a larger part than many of us care to admit in just about every conceivable way in every conceivable business.

I’m reminded of this daily in my own business and all those I interact with, almost without exception.  If your business is to succeed you need to take action and very often at high speed. In fact it’s a basic tenet of business improvement that high-speed action brings with it many unseen and highly significant advantages.

By being brave enough to impose time limits on yourself and drive through what you instinctively know needs to be done, you will reap the rewards of bravery. Acting decisively and taking ownership of the agenda is very often the first step in becoming an effective leader. Speed of itself can be exhilarating and is also a self-perpetuating mechanism which leads to more bold action in its wake. A taste is developed for the new way of working and the boost to self-confidence drives you further on to even more rewarding and challenging areas.

But, of course, no-one can get to dizzy heights without first doing some training and putting in some serious mental effort. Any element of a business plan has to be thought through, planned and given a huge amount of commitment. With such attention to detail you will open up possibilities that your former meek self could only dream of.

 If all of this sounds a little bit pretentious why not give it a go and see if you still feel that way afterwards. I recently won a new contract by moving fast and taking a larger risk than normal. I did my due diligence but at high speed and by carving a niche in my day-to-day routine to enable me to bid. Having got myself into that position I was rewarded by an early meeting with the client at which many of my fears around the content of the project were happily dispelled. I like to think there was an element of divine intervention involved but the truth is probably more prosaic and, in plain English, I just got what I worked for.

Oh and by the way, it’s not just me who thinks bravery is a good thing to have in your business. I attended a local event recently to listen to the inspiring Vanda Murray OBE  speak about her prodigious business experience and reveal her suggestions of how to improve performance. No coincidence I think that the word bravery was right at the heart of her three-word exhortation to us all: Brains, Bravery and Balance!