Tag Archives: business

The thing that most makes me want to punch a manager in the face

ImageThere are lots of things managers do that can infuriate you. Apart from being inept the thing that most makes me want to punch a manager in the face is when they make excuses for their decisions.

If you don’t know what that sounds like, it could be something like “we wanted you to take on that project but the deadline has moved forward”

It’s not you, it’s me.

Why do managers hide behind reasons out with their control? Or even worse use those reasons as an excuse. If you really want someone to be on a project then you will genuinely do everything in your power to get them on the project. And when you are using those reasons to cover up thinking that someone isn’t good enough then you are doing everyone a disservice.

Telling someone that they could have done A but unrelated B stopped them rather than saying they weren’t good enough to do A in the first place actually damages your relationship. You may have spared their feelings but without honesty you can’t effectively help someone to grow. And if you don’t help them to grow, they stop working.

Your opinion and decisions are what make you a leader. Nothing else. No industry knowledge, no strategy formulation, just your decisions. You may make decisions about strategy and you may have opinions on the credibility of knowledge which offer more to those that work with you, and for you, than just knowing.

So instead of thinking of reasons to tell your staff, let them know it’s your decision. You may need to justify it but at least your position will be clear.

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My beef with recruitment

Very-Angry-Man-ShutterstockI’ve posted previously about how recruitment is like dating here. Well after getting a new job to me it felt more like a dancing partner who can’t dance, but leads anyway.

Some things I wish recruiters did differently in job postings.

1. Dependant on experience. Really? Don’t we all know this means dependant on what you get paid for your current job.

2. Competitive pay. If it’s that competitive tell us what it is and we will definitely want to apply. Otherwise this means we can pay you less than the previous guy or any of our competitors.

3. This successful company……. why can’t we know what company it is? Would we be embarrassed by the company? Should we not apply?

4. Recipe list of skills. I’ve seen some crazy demands for jobs. One included a training manager who needed to be proficient in photoshop, indesign and video editing. Maybe you want too much from this role? Maybe you should rethink the job description?

5. Sector specific experience. Is your sector that blisteringly complicated that no one else can pick it up in a couple of weeks? Or are you that fast paced that unless someone can already do the job they can’t apply?

6. Specific software usage. Ok so I have mainly seen this in HR. If I haven’t used a particular software I will be atrocious at the job. Really? Of course, you were born being able to use a software that hadn’t been created yet and I couldn’t possibly learn it. But maybe we all take as long to learn things as you…..

7. Entry level role – must have experience. How on earth do people get experience for entry level roles without doing an entry level role?

So these aren’t the most constructive comments but maybe if some of these beefs disappeared maybe we wouldn’t have as big a talent deficit.

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Know yourself – an introduction


In a lot of my previous posts I have always said to be successful in most endeavours you have to know yourself. Self-awareness can be a big differentiator in the business world. There are many tools and models out there to help you understand aspects of your personality. All are flawed and debated in one way or another.

So where do you start?

Well if you have chosen to become more self-aware then you have already made the first step. If you are reading this and are curious you have the most important tool to becoming more self-aware. Alongside this you must be driven to discovering more about yourself, particularly in times of difficulty. The third skill you will require is honesty with yourself. We are all pre-programmed to protect ourselves physically and we learn to protect ourselves mentally as well. No one likes to know they are bad at something or have it pointed out. The skill of acknowledging your flaws will allow you continue to be curious and determined.

The first tool you will need is to find out your preferred learning style. If you want to learn more about yourself, tapping into your preferred learning style will make this happen quicker and easier. 

So step 1 into better self-awareness is your learning style.

There are 2 main models of learning style which are in general use. These are:

Honey and Mumford’s learning styles which are activist/reflector/pragmatist/theorist. You can learn more about this model here.

The second is the VAK learning styles – visual/auditory/kinaesthetic. You can learn more about this one here.

Both of these models display preferences and you may have a mixture of these. Indeed, there may be parts of these and other models which resonate with you together. If this is already happening then you are more self-aware than you realise. If not don’t be discouraged. This is where your curiosity and determination will come into play. I would recommend learning more about these tools and others until you find things that make sense to your actions. 

Alongside all these models I will offer my own perspective on learning. I believe that learning preferences, particularly in the case of skill development,  can fall on 2 continuums: social or individual and imposed and free learning. 




A social learner will receive learning points and evaluation from others while an individual learner will create their own learning objectives and will self-evaluate, however representative this may be.

Structured learning will have a set of criteria and objectives often using a curriculum like a school class to increase learning where free learning is born out of experience and reflection on that experience. Free learning does require more curiosity as it can have no start point or end point. 

You may place your own comfort area on both continuums which will land in one of the four quadrants. Examples of learning situations from all quadrants are;

Someone who is a social free learner may observe and reflect on skills in social situations or may discuss issues with a coach.

Someone who is an individual free learner may improve skills through practice, such as speech giving in front of the mirror.

Someone who is an individual structured learner may learn from textbooks, online courses or in classroom situations.

Someone who is a social structured learner may learn best in group tasks such as team building exercises or may conduct a 360 degree feedback exercise and pull together their conclusions.

If we look back to the honey and mumford and VAK models, these would resonate most with individual structured learners. In opposition there may be some of you who would like to discover your learning style and may want to discuss this with a group, being a social free learner.

The important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong answer to self-awareness and that these tools or mindsets can only be used by you to help discover more about yourself. 

If you are still interested in becoming more self-aware then my next few blog posts will cover more tools and ideas to help discover more about yourself and how you can use this knowledge to achieve more.

Thanks for reading.



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Don’t just chase performance, create it!


So Andy Murray has just won Wimbledon today. His playing was of the highest degree against Djokovic. Now what would we think if Andy Murray was a business? Or, as a manager, your team?


I have never been much of a business person. I’m definitely more of a people/organisational psychology kind of worker. So I have never been much of a ‘chase after things’ kind of guy. I’ve always thought that performance can be planned. Absolutely.

I’m at odds with 98% of all management around the world.

Now Andy Murray had to chase down a few balls today to win the points and that is something most managers (excluding me) are great at. They will track figures, give team talks, work on weaknesses or weak performers, drum the importance of targets and make that their sole focus.

But Andy Murray didn’t win just by playing games. He trained. He did drills, he did weights, he did stamina training, he probably did dietary training as well. He had a coach to support him and provide advice. Every hour of his week was geared towards winning Wimbledon.

So what can businesses and teams do to work towards world class performance?

1. Have a coach. It doesn’t need to be someone more senior but someone who can cast a different view on things. That way when it comes to match time, performers are better prepared.

2.Do drills. For example let’s take a sales role. Now people can refine their sales practice using tacit learning over time. To speed things up break down sales into the components that make up each step of the way. Practice these over and over separately. This will improve things a lot quicker and can be applied to any role.

3. Build periphery skills. Interpersonal skills and wider industry knowledge are top of the list here. They may not be directly related to a role but can help elevate a good performer into a great performer.

4. Wellbeing. Now with this I don’t mean giving your staff fruit or gym memberships. This comes down to mental wellbeing. Everyone’s needs are different so this will take a lot of patience understanding and curiosity on your part. Find what everyday mechanics help people feel comfortable and what stops them being comfortable.

5. Strike the balance between supporting performance and driving performance. You need a bit of push and pull to reach the top.

6. Believe that you and your team can perform. Mental determination can really sustain improvement. I talk a little about how to do it here with your team.

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Do you have a personal brand?

ImageSocial media is maturing and it’s links with the workplace are strengthening. Many people know the missteps of causing harm to your personal image but here are my tips for strengthening you personal brand in the job market.

1. Know yourself. This should be the first point on every list. You have to know exactly who you are before you think about what you want your personal brand to be. The better you know yourself the stronger your brand can be.

2. Brand visibility. Make a presence on all the social media sites you think will be valuable in your area. LinkedIn and twitter have the strongest business use but don’t rule out the likes of pinterest or instagram for the more visual fields. Keep these up to date and regular. No one likes an unsociable media page.

3. Connect. Your personal brand can be defined by who you associate with and how you work with those connections. Strong links to many ethical organisations may stand you in good stead. The opposite is also true.

4. Speak up. Offer your thoughts and opinions however you think is suitable. Blogs, forums and messages all represent you. Be proactive with this. Many people appreciate you offering first before asking for something in return. If you offer help, you may just become the name that comes to mind when someone is in crisis.

5. Curate. Market yourself in the most appealing way. Websites are easy to create by yourself. Use wordpress or another tool to bring together all the good things about you. Think of it as a new style of CV. Be creative. You may not always carry a paper CV with you but you can always tell someone a weblink.

These are some basics on building your own brand which in turn can help you stand out from the crowd. And the more you stand out, the more you will be seen.

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Don’t judge, improve


As a leader you need to know how your staff perform. You can benchmark them against each other picking out your top performers and those that need to shape up. You judge them based on productivity reports but also on what you have seen in the day to day runnings. You can comfortably gauge your employees so there will be no surprises in planning.

Of course, your employees completely agree with your viewpoint, right?

This all comes down to the self-fulfilling prophecy. However much you want a staff member to improve their performance, if you believe they are an under-performer, it will show through in your actions. On the other hand, you may have full confidence in someone you think is a high performer. They may actually be struggling.

Stop judging your employees!

While this works for an individual who you judge worthy it has the completely opposite effect on everyone else. It can be a real disengager. To balance out the issue of “favourites” don’t focus on performance but focus on improvement. If you think everyone can perform and then focus on their improvement your actions toward them will be completely different. It will allow you to continually challenge each of your team to outperform without the pressure of a target. It will build sustainable performance. It will build engagement. It will build trust and loyalty. Used correctly it will build a learning organisation/team.

So rather than wanting your team to perform at a certain level, just want them to improve. No matter how they are performing only focus your actions on improvement. Your mindset will control your actions. And that will speak volumes.

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Grow yourself – the basics

cultivatePersonal development is key to a successful career. No one is ready to be a CEO from birth so these skills take time to grow. Below are some basics to help on your development path.

1. Don’t pigeon hole yourself. There are so many tools to help understand yourself better like MBTI, Honey and Mumford learning styles, Belbin team roles etc. These can help but don’t give you the full picture. In fact most of these tools focus on your preferences. Sometimes the more powerful development happens when you challenge your fears or weaknesses. Always play to your strengths but understand your weaknesses.

2. Carpe diem. I mean this in two ways. First off be pro-active in your development path. Find every opportunity to develop yourself and schedule it into your time. Secondly take development from the every day. You may have behaviours or habits that you want to change, or you may even want to understand why something works. In your day to day work take a second to think about the mechanics of each task.

3. Learn from the good and the bad. Don’t just learn from your mistakes. As long as you practice number 2, you can understand why you are successful and apply that in other parts of your work. Also take time over your mistakes. You should only make a mistake once. And don’t beat yourself up when you do. Yes acknowledge it, but don’t let it stop you going further.

4. Ask. Looking in a mirror will only show you one side of yourself. Find a mentor or manager who you know will offer a balanced viewpoint. All bad or all good is no reflection of anyone. The more perceptions you can get the more you can see the full picture. This can be tough to hear sometimes. Tough doesn’t always mean bad.

5. Document the wins. Remember where you came from and how far you have gone. It can keep you motivated to reach where you want to go to.

Whatever you want to achieve you will have to grow to get there. This takes time and effort. Keep it up and everyone can get there.

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Get rid of paradise – culture and productivity.



Have you ever watched a nature documentary on birds of paradise and their mating rituals? Every time I sit in a meeting people start to look like birds of paradise. There are expected intricate behaviours unique to each environment and each individual. I have always found the pleasantries and rituals of business culture odd. It is like learning a second language of buzzwords, behaviours and pecking orders. But it works and gets people doing jobs in an organised way.

Have you ever felt that it gets in the way sometimes?

Indulge me in a personal story here from my days as a composer. I studied composition with orchestral musicians so getting them to try new things with their instruments took a lot of persuasion. Many ego’s were patted and a lot of support was provided. It took time. I was shortlisted for a prize in the Netherlands (seen by many as the hub of leading contemporary music) and got to work with a great quartet. They were rising stars in contemporary performance. I went along to a rehearsal. 

It felt like I had walked into a family domestic, cursing accusations were flying. At first I thought this was extremely unprofessional. So I sat quietly at the rehearsal. The four players spoke their mind openly to each other venomously exclaiming when someone played wrong. Then it hit me.

There was no room for error.

All four players knew each other’s part intimately and how they should work together. On top of that any mistake was dealt with immediately. There was no fudging of notes. They repeated each section until they could play through the entire work. Then the magic happened. They refined each section arguing how it relates to the intention of the music. These four players had achieved more in an hour than most players achieve in a week.

I’ve never worked with anyone quite like it again, in music or in business. In fact I think business worries more about being “professional”. It’s engrained right down to email signatures and sentence structure, our words are expected to dance in a certain way.

At the end of the day those four players were all working towards a great performance. They had achieved a singularity of vision and the most effective communication I have ever seen. Relate that to how your teams work together and see if they are as productive. Would some honesty helps things move quicker? Take away the pomp and circumstance and leave them with the goal. Just the goal. They will discover the best fit communication for them.

And if the air turns blue you know people are passionate about it. They are also comfortable enough with their colleagues to stray from the polite. Everyone is searching for high performance teams. Maybe if we stop thinking about what they need to perform and think about what is stopping them from performing we will all get along better.

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Celebrate the little things – my blogs 1st birthday


It’s been my first full year of blogging. Not the most successful, not the least. I now have an MSc in international HRM and I am on the cusp of launching my own business.

It’s important to celebrate the little things, like this blog’s first birthday. I may not have written consistently throughout the year but I did continue. We may not always get it right but it can be just as important to recognise small successes to help make the big successes happen.

Do you celebrate all the little successes?

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Are you curious?


Change change change change and change again. This is what business looks and feels like now. Sometimes it feels hard to gain a grasp of. I find there is one way to lessen the sense of dread piling up. 

Be curious.

Being curious helps us to learn. Learning helps you to understand. And understanding helps you to actually contribute to the business. Seems simple enough?

So why do we give ourselves reason not to be curious? ‘I don’t have time’, ‘That isn’t relevant’, ‘I have no interest’. Why do we protect ourselves from the new? And I do mean protect. When you discover that new band that sound like music has never been played before or the first time you set down for holiday and you can feel the possibilities. We like new things so why don’t we like to be curious? There are many reasons but for me personally, it’s a fear of failure. I like new things only when I know they can’t go wrong. What’s yours?

If we don’t like to be curious then we won’t survive in constant change. You may know someone with a “zest for life”. I just see them as comfortably curious. So how can you increase what I like to call your curio-capacity?

1. Know yourself. You have to understand what you enjoy about curiosity but also what stops you from enjoying it. When you understand your barriers then you can overcome them.

2. Challenge your curiosity. Find activities which will force your curiosity. My favourite is driving on a road you don’t know without a map or destination. Go discover. It might be in another country on holiday, or it might be ten minutes from home. Either can be liberating.

3. Enjoy the satisfaction. Accomplishment can be it’s own greatest reward. Revel in learning something new. Self-reinforcement will perpetuate and grow your curio-capacity.

4. Grow your curiosity socially. Take every conversation as a chance to learn something new about the person you are talking to. Be genuinely interested. If you like sports, talk to someone about music. As a leader challenge other peoples curiosity. It can foster satisfaction, engagement and loyalty from your team.

Being curious can help when things change and let us keep contributing. If you are unsure, your kids will show you how it’s done. 

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