Thursday, 29 July 2010

The tale of tiresome tyres and hysterical brides

Tyres and brides – not a natural marriage (sorry, should have resisted) however, the moral of the story means they did not live happily ever after.

When will companies wake up to the fact that blaming customers simply doesn’t make for ‘happy ever after’ – never, never, never ….

Take my friend who wanted a new tyre on his car. Web price shows an all-in price of £166 (it’s a very posh car). Delighted he calls his local branch, enquiring about availability. He’s then asked what the car is (uhh oh, that’ll move the decimal point to the right) to be told “that’ll be £220 all in mate” …grrrrr, he’s not your mate …..

Explaining he’d seen it cheaper on the web he then gets offered “£175 all-in mate” – so what stopped them offering this price to begin with???

The customer waiting area was unlit, the coffee machine was filthy (and cost £2.00) and the magazines were ratty …….what was the brand message being experienced?

Confident, competent, honest or sloppy, careless, dodgy – you decide

And so to the bride …..and this just makes my jaw drop

Friend getting married, doing so in major style, decides it has to be a dress to die for (metaphorically we trust) so appoints high profile designer Susan Goodchild (the £ signs are immense at this stage).

Abridged version – went to collect on Saturday, full of excited anticipation & happiness. Sadly not to last - dress has been made for what appears to be friends younger and potentially anorexic sister – it simply ain’t gonna fit in a million years.

Wondering if they’ve got 2 dresses mixed up my friend (the customer paying vast sums of money remember) is told it must be her fault!!! She must have got the size wrong!

Erm, hello, this is a designer, tailor made dress, how on earth could she have got the size wrong??

By now in tears she is told “well, you’ll just have to make do with one of the dresses from stock”.

Far be it from me to suggest the dresses from stock are any less than totally gorgeous, being told “you’ll just have to make do” is not what a bride-to-be wants to hear.

Leaving the store without a solution and spending the weekend in tears, she eventually receives a call from the designer on Monday afternoon and is told “well, you must have put on weight” (this is a lady who’s recovering from liver cancer so I think not) ……there now remains something of an impasse. Friend doesn’t have a dress – designer doesn’t appear to have a solution.

And it’s all her fault!

Obvious points here, however I just wonder how many times common-sense flies out of the window, where employees and business owners lose sight of what they’re all about. I describe it as ‘choose your battles’ ……..some customers really do attempt to take advantage, however it’s rare. Most simply expect common courtesy, understanding and a ‘what can we do to put this right’ attitude – nothing too complicated really. Staff need to understand this attitude is going to win more business, increase loyalty and create a far more pleasant day. Leaders need to give permission. Customers are not the enemy

Thursday, 15 July 2010

e-tiquette – 10 email no-no’s

War & Peace

The email that goes on and on and on and on …..and not nearly as amusing as the old Ariston advert either. I often wonder if their strategy is to bore you into submission, like you’ll lose the will to live so sign up just to get rid of them

Flawed thinking – do these people really believe that we’re so captivated we have time to read their verbose ramblings?

Get to the point!! Keep your points succinct, relevant and punchy ….unless that is you’ve got stuff to hide, in which case keep rambling and we’ll keep deleting!


Not the world cup variety – flags telling me how to prioritise.

Hello??? I decide the level of importance not you. All smacks of ‘my priority is now your priority’ and is guaranteed to get me as mad as Maradonna.

My suggestion? Unless you’ve called and we’ve agreed this is a very important/open this immediately/it’s a top of the league message please let me decide where to place the importance

Reply all

This could fall into ‘cc list’ territory except for one major difference – the public row that generally ensues. Failing that, the rather tedious reading of an email conversation between the sender and the originator – either way it’s rarely compelling – it’s nothing to do with me!

The ‘public row’ happens when egos are clashing or bitchy points are being scored – perhaps making for short-term amusement but like toilet humour, soon starts to leave a lingering and unwelcome odour.

To avoid being viewed in a pretty feeble light take any disagreements out of the email arena, put your big boy/girl pants on and have an adult debate – privately

And ‘reply all’ for a private conversation is rather like naff cartoon ties or ‘you don’t have to be mad’ notices – you may believe its interesting for the rest of us – it’s not.

Poor spelling/grammar/structure/text talk

Grrrrr, one of my all time pet hates – what’s wrong with using F7 for goodness sake?

Compose. Cut & paste. Spell check. Sorted. Took a nano-second.

In the same way as emailing in text language – it just makes you appear sloppy, ignorant and incompetent.

Email communication is a pretty impoverished at the best of times but has now all but replaced the mailed letter as a method of business contact.

Hold this in mind the next time you’re tempted to believe spelling and grammar matter not a jot – they do

Finally, spelling names incorrectly – simply no excuse. This is such a deep, ingrained feature of our psyche (primary school and possibly even nursery) that you’ll cause huge disconnection by ignoring name spelling.

Forward history

Here’s a great oxymoron for you – what I mean is the email where you’re being asked to comment on something urgently which is lost in an ocean of fwd, fwd, fwd ………

Help me cut through the fog and just send me the relevant points

Cc list

I appreciate I guard my privacy with the ferocity of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens but seeing my contact details on view to the world and his brother in a business circulation is just plain bad manners.

Use bcc (blind copy) or find some email whiz who knows how to keep your distribution list anonymous.

On a slightly different tangent, being included on an email without any specific instruction or request for information drives me insane.

If your intention is to ask someone to do something please avoid cc-ing them on an email and assuming they’re going to understand what is you’re expecting from them.

Finally on the subject of ‘cc list’ is the inclusion of a superior.

It’s not big and it’s not clever. In many ways it’s the equivalent of “right, that’s it. I’m telling on you”.

Filled with politics, spiteful, childish behaviour – time to put the big boy pants on again

Wrong tone

Being all about authenticity I get pretty miserable when an email is either overly matey or full of pomposity and high-brow words that would never see the light of day in general conversation.

Use language appropriate to the recipient, or better still, use a language and tone that is genuinely how you speak (providing you’re not the ignorant incompetent who fails to use F7).

This also includes ill placed humour – misogyny is just tasteless and sexism is rarely a redeeming feature.

Think a little before sending and ask yourself how much gender stereotyping it contains – not all females love shopping and hate sport, in much the same way that not all guys are constantly thinking about sex ………are they??

We-ing over the recipient

The worst kind of email is one that is full of ‘we’. Disgusting thought isn’t it? You know the sort of thing – we can provide, we work with, we think you should, we pride ourselves on, we would like to ……I could keep adding to this but hey, that would become War & Peace wouldn’t it?

The content needs to be about the person receiving it, so consider using a narrative with me in it to guarantee I’ll keep reading.

This one area will do more to help me determine your competency, your quality, and the value I place on you than anything else you may conceive of – promise.

Rather like a first date if the email is all about you I’m going to become cynical and bored faster than a fiddlers elbow – give me a reason to open your email by providing information relevant to me, inspire me, educate me, enlighten me but please never we on me!

Bad news day

Likely each one of us can recall the unfortunate email sent out intending to be buried on a bad news day – this isn’t what I mean, I was just teasing.

This is the use of email to fire/dump/air disputes/complain – simply don’t do it. Ever, ever, ever

Visual pollution

They say a picture paints a thousand words – except when the email is so chock-full with images that finding the text in the preview pane proves futile.

Instead of being able to make an informed choice about whether to invest time reading it I’m more likely to delete – that’s if my spam filters haven’t zapped it first!

Be succinct. Signpost. Structure.

Use visuals with caution otherwise it becomes a designers wet dream

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The curse of auditory pollution

Having decided to ditch the car in favour of walking, cycling and taking the train I have become fitter, firmer and frustrated.

The first two F’s require no explanation. The third F began as wry amusement which has rapidly become screaming exasperation ……public announcements on trains.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I believe it’s vitally important to receive confirmation of platform departures and the fact that I’m on the right train, however, the apparently arbitrary nature of further announcements appears to be inexorable.

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of rail travel please let me explain.

It begins with the train manager announcing the type of tickets NOT valid for travel, of which there are zillions. Next are the safety announcements, to which no-one appears to be listening.

Announcements for where to safely store luggage swiftly follow – on the big space clearly labelled LUGGAGE would be my guess. Then comes another announcement from the train manager about where the quiet carriages are, with further prattling about what this means (dumbing down or what?)

Then we get the on-board catering announcement, lamely attempting to seduce us to indulge in their plastic tasting bacon rolls, molten hot beverages or poor quality wines. Even more hilarious is the catering manager’s announcement that there is no catering! Intermingled throughout these ubiquitous interruptions is the unrelenting and generic recording of where the train is about to stop, and what future stops are planned…….cross country trains make up to 20 stops …..imagine how monotonous this becomes.

Sometimes the announcements are made by individuals with a severe case of verbal diarrhoea, who, compelled to come ‘off script’ add their own witticisms (rarely are they) about the service, who they are, where they come from, what they had for breakfast, in fact just about any random fact you can imagine. All the while I just want to scream “For the love of God just be quiet”.

OK rant over…… I the only person climbing the carriage windows in frustration? Compelled to start a campaign to eliminate auditory pollution ……who will join me???

Friday, 30 April 2010

Power of the positive

Having listened to the final leaders debate last night I was amazed by Gordon Brown’s insistence to focus on entirely negative statements throughout his concluding speech. There was not one single positive thing in that statement. He missed a glorious opportunity to reinforce all the positive reasons why voters should re-elect a Labour government by sounding scared and desperate – both deeply unattractive characteristics.

Number one lesson in customer engagement and sales – NEVER slag off the competition!!!

Almost without exception it leaves a deeply cynical and suspicious customer behind. It rarely communicates how fabulous you and your services are. It never suggests you’re an innovative thinker. Seldom does it act to strengthen feelings of trust and confidence. In short, you inevitably communicate how preoccupied you are with everything other than the customer you’re here to serve.

There are many ways in which we unwittingly undermine our authority – Gordon Brown gave a master class in alienating potential customers and causing existing one’s to disconnect.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Jobs-worth on the train

May the Lord forgive me ………I simply loathe ‘jobs-worth’ types and I managed to attract one on this mornings train journey to Birmingham.

In my endeavours to reduce my carbon omissions/ get fitter/ enjoy fresh air I have decided to start cycling the 1½ miles from home to station and then station to office……I know, my halo is glowing bright.

However, this morning’s journey was blighted by possibly the worst example of jobs worth I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Let me set the scene……I get myself and said bicycle safely onto the train at International for the short journey to New Street (approx 7 minutes) and in the absence of any better place I holed-up between standard and first class, largely because the latter was empty and the corridor was wide……then jobs worth strikes!

My first error is to have underestimated the murderous intent of my cycle, something jobs worth identified in a heartbeat when he greeted me with the words “that bike could kill”. My bike? A murderer? Surely a miscarriage of justice if ever there was.

It seems what I should have done was enter the train at the opposite end, through a locked door, which only the absent staff at International could have unlocked for me. And I would know this because ……..???? Aahhh, it seems I couldn’t have known this, for only the man with the key would know.

By now I’m feeling confused (not hard I admit) which is rapidly replaced by a fit of the giggles as jobs worth grabs his mobile, puffs out his chest and complains to some faceless bicycle fascist at HO “we have a bike on the train and I knew nothing about”.

Suitably pleased with himself as he finishes his call, looks me in the eye and announces “that showed ‘em”

What a totally pointless waste of his time & energy! More critically I know see Virgin inspectors as silly, bullying and ridiculous ……more alarming is the murderous intent of my previously benign cycle!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Business or quick fumble?

A customers measure of our quality, competence and value are very different to what we might imagine. The bad news is it is rarely, if ever, determined by how brilliant we might be at something. It is almost always measured and judged by what we’re saying through non-verbal communication.

Let’s look at business cards -

In business I see companies and consultants listing endless services, I guess in the belief that as a customer I’ll be impressed by this. The opposite is in fact true.

I have no idea what it is they’re good at, they appear lacking in confidence, perhaps unsure themselves about their strengths and expertise, and so unwittingly communicate in a way which leaves me confused and doubting their credibility. Jack of all trades, master of none

It does little to create anticipation and irresistible temptation either. It’s the equivalent of baring all and leaving nothing to the imagination.

You surprise and delight your customers far more by introducing additional products and services in an appropriate and relevant manner, rather than attempting to explain everything at the same time. Better to find the judicious opportunity to unfurl your businesses breadth of services and products in a thoughtful manner than to pitch everything at once in a desperate and frantic manner.

5 tips to think about –

  • Decide what it is you want to communicate with your business cards – do you want to tell all or offer just a hint of what you offer? This is often the first thing people see in a business environment or networking event. It is the first opportunity you will have to create the wow
  • Consider also the ergonomics of your card – it must be able to fit into the wallet, and also business card holders. Designing something that is none-standard is flawed – if it can’t be filed it will be dumped! Confine none-standard shapes to your promotional material not your business cards

· One vital point on your cards is to ensure you use both sides. It is a missed opportunity and a false saving to only print on one side – don’t be misguided – use every available space

· Get them professionally printed. This is a necessary investment – substandard cards suggest you either don’t take yourself seriously or worse that you won’t be around very long. This may not be your intention but it certainly is what gets communicated

· If the contact details are out of date get new ones printed – never scribble details through, it just looks cheap and naff

The quality of your business cards, as with all your printed stuff will communicate more about your professionalism, how much you value yourself and ultimately how much I’m prepared to pay for your products and services. Avoid BTN (better than nothing) thinking – because it never is.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The value of ordinary

Nicholas Winterton is causing a bit of stink and the debate in our office is how accurately does this reflect (as suggested by Labour) the true face & attitude of most Conservative MP’s – do they all believe ‘ordinary’ people are the great unwashed, unintelligent and so dumb that we have little right to complain about their shenanigans?

My own feeling is that MP’s, footballers, business leaders and most cosseted celebs inevitably become totally out of touch with us ‘ordinary people’. Inevitably because they surround themselves with trusted sources who filter, spin and massage what reaches their privileged ears and so they stop listening to the very people who can tell it like it is.

I have said many times that business leaders would discover far more about how their brand is experienced and perceived simply by talking to and listening to their front line staff. These ‘ordinary’ people are critical in communicating a brand message, and they do so far more eloquently than any marketing executive or glossy campaign.

I wonder what stops them? Fear of being challenged? Fear of discovering how things really are? In the current climate many are retreating to autocratic styles simply because they have the employee by the short & curlies – this may give them a short-term gain and put a stop to all that complicated people management stuff but ultimately it will come back to bite them on the bottom.

At the first opportunity people will leave them, a cost to the business with both downtime and recruitment. Meanwhile and more troublesome, the cynical, de-motivated and disempowered employee remains in position to cause untold damage because of sanctimonious, autocratic management who fail to listen or even grasp the notion that ordinary people are creating their customers brand experience – the purest form of which is with face-to-face encounters.

Lets hear it for the ‘ordinary’ people – I look forward to meeting you in standard class!

Labels are for jars

We’re all no doubt aware of the heartbeat judgements we make about others we encounter in our lives. The labels we give them, the herds or groups we put them in. It’s a matter of human instinct after all – it kept us safe in the past and served us well. As we’ve evolved it’s become ever more instinctive yet a little less sophisticated, perhaps no longer serving us quite so well.

Having the privilege to discuss these ideas with young graduates I’ve learnt that more damaging than the labels we give other people are the ones we put on ourselves.

I figure in modern life this begins with how we’re labelled in the school system. Interesting debate on this week’s radio 4 Woman’s Hour about our love/hate relationship with the subject of Maths crystallised my thinking. Children as young as 5 are labelled on their abilities in this subject, and very few learn to rip the label off – children after all, learn to live up to our expectations, however low or high they may be.

Having been given many labels during my life I’m increasingly aware of the ways in which my continuing to wear them has hindered or helped – I was literally given a badge to wear in my geography class for the last 2 years at school which read ‘I am a disruptive element’ (shame on you Mr Webber). I believe a more accurate one would have read ‘I am so bored’ but this sounds a little defence doesn’t it?

Some labels have been placed on us by others, although many more we have stuck on ourselves. Take time to consider which labels serve you well and remove the destructive ones, the ones which hold you back, the ones which feel at odds with who you truly are. In particular think about the labels which start with ‘I’m not’ …..these are the real demons.

Finally, a Friday thought from Malcolm Forbes “too many people overvalue what they are not, and under value what they are”.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The real message behind the gesture

Don’t know about you but I just love surprises. But what happens when the surprise becomes a bit of a disappointment? Do you shut up because it was a surprise so ought to be a bonus, it didn’t cost you anything, and anyway, it’s the gesture behind it that counts ….or is it??

My recent surprise was winning a Mood clock from Orange mobile; I didn’t even know I was entered into a competition, so this made the surprise even more lovely.

Well, the Mood clock arrived in the mail today and it doesn’t work! I’m now caught between feeling like an ungrateful mare & a person who should get out more – it just leaves me feeling a tad disappointed that this was the best they could do. And yet I can’t help wondering about the thought process behind this marketing initiative by Orange.

Have they fallen into the BTN (better than nothing) style of thinking? Like all surprises they at least require a degree of thought – so what was the thinking for Orange when they send this duffer of a ‘prize’ out? The Mood clock arrived in a beautiful glossy box, complete with a ‘with love from’ gift tag – all very cute and classy, very on brand for Orange …..then I took the clock out, and oh dear, oh dear. It was almost as if they’d come from different brands! One who takes their customers and themselves seriously and one that’s a bit of Rhett Butler (couldn’t give a damn).

My whole take on the surprises thing is do it well or don’t bother. This includes personal as well as branded gifts (think cheap tacky pens at trade shows, or in this case cheap tacky mood clocks which don’t work). BTN thinking is damaging on so many levels; imagining it is better than doing or giving nothing rarely is. It remains in the mind far longer, suggests you’re a bit of a dullard and finally that you’re a cheapskate – none of which was the intention I’m sure.

Think about the quality message you’re communicating – it will determine how much I’m willing to trust you, how much I’m prepared to pay for your goods or services, or even whether I’m prepared to continue to do business with you.

Harsh but true.

Better than nothing rarely is …….

Monday, 15 February 2010

Can you afford to wear eau de self-doubt?

Have you ever met someone who simply doesn’t appear to love their own brand? Rather like Eyeore from Winnie the Pooh the fragrance of their doom & desperation fills the room. Perhaps there’s something in the air right now, maybe the moon is spinning in a different direction, but it just seems I’ve encountered this several times over the past few weeks with new coaching clients.

I’ve taken a huge risk on these occasions by saying its not sales or presentation coaching they need, it’s a boost of brand belief and a change of fragrance (metaphorically).

The risk has been because us Brits rarely want to offend or upset people, so we collude by staying silent instead of being courageous and saying it how it is. Now this doesn’t mean being offensive, personal or in any way cruel; it has everything to do with holding the other person in great respect. I’ve ‘owned’ how I’m experiencing them, how they project themselves and on every occasion they have said “thank you, I had no idea”.

If I were to put a name to their fragrance then I’d call it eau de self-doubt, and it really is a stinker! That wonderful line from the film The Incredibles keeps coming to mind ‘self-doubt is a luxury we can no longer afford’ … is an expensive luxury so needs to be viewed as such. Only indulged on rare occasions, best savoured alone or in the company of trusted sources (ie: those who will tell us it stinks and help us wash it off).

I figure we all experience moments of self-doubt – even the best have these moments , however I’ve come to realise it’s how we handle it when it pays a visit…..

I like to adopt my nieces approach to life & the people we have around us – a wonderful, sparkling and giddy carousel. Who do you have riding on your carousel? Do they truly deserve that space? How much time does the carousel spend stopping at self-doubt central? Does it have the smell of self-doubt?

Get yourself on the most amazing carousel, surrounded by fab people and saddle up for the ride. This doesn’t mean you won’t face adversity or set backs; plan for these, for of course they will visit from time to time – just make sure you’re not wearing eau de self-doubt when you’re preparing for the ride

Thursday, 11 February 2010

simple not easy

Having just spent a couple of hours with students at City of Birmingham Uni I was struck by a couple of things. Firstly how open and how free from agenda they are – they’re not looking to prove their point, protect their position or otherwise have a vested interest in maintaining fixed beliefs.

Don’t misunderstand me – this certainly doesn’t mean they’re lacking in opinions or thoughts of their own – their challenges and questions demonstrated they have this in abundance – what it means is they’re genuine free-thinkers.

Corporate leaders overlook and ignore these guys at their peril.

I couldn’t help wondering how many of them are currently employed, albeit part-time, by brands that could genuinely benefit from engaging with them, asking for their perspective and finally taking on board their ideas?

My guess is very few, if any, of their managers have the courage or the wisdom to do this simply because they see them as part-time students rather than a source of valuable and deeply relevant perspectives.

Secondly, many of the comments made were how simple the Romancing message is, that it’s really, well, pretty obvious stuff and what is it with corporate brands that simply don’t get this?

I honestly believe that it is because it’s so simple and jam-packed full of common sense it gets missed. That it’s not complicated to implement or because it’s so obvious, somehow devalues its currency?

Sometimes when we live close to something we become so familiar with it we tend to stop paying it the attention it deserves. It’s almost as if this familiarity renders our instinctive knowledge to the ‘irrelevance file’.

Couple this with the fact that obvious and common sense things are often incredibly simple ….. but they’re not easy. Not easy to adopt. Not easy to implement. Not easy to recognise.

For if it were easy then we’d all be doing it wouldn’t we?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Warm & Fuzzy feeling

Just finished reading an article from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) about the unhappiness being felt by workers at the moment. It seems the biggest single issue isn’t earning more wonga (although this may help in the short-term) it’s to do with the lack of opportunities to learn new skills.

Training and marketing are the easiest, so first budgets to cut in response to the recession but I think they’re the one’s that lead to permanent and lasting damage once there’s an up-turn. With almost a quarter of workers developing an ‘itch’ (23% according to the CIPD) the up-turn could see an increase in employee wanderlust if employers fail to romance and inspire their key staff.

Leaders may be screaming “there’s enough to do with managing the business!! I can do without high maintenance staff” but it’s a little like concentrating on bringing home the money and never being around to share the benefits. Sooner or later one or both parties start to feel lonely and taken for granted.

Keeping staff happy, loyal & motivated doesn’t mean having to spend squillions – it means making those tiny, heartfelt gestures that create wonderful memories, oodles of ahh moments and armies of loved up employees.

Perhaps listen more attentively for hints of what would bliss them out –

  • Their favourite biscuit
  • Pens running out – get them a new one
  • Mugs chipped – replace it
  • Picture of their favourite pin-up
  • Cakes because it’s a day with the letter Y in it
  • Crunchie bars because its Friday
  • Send a ‘you’re totally fab’ card/message

The approach takes imagination & care – its simple not easy – but it means you get to prevent costly break-ups, you reduce stress levels and best of all you get to do something really rather lovely.

And, now prepare for the warm and fuzzy feeling to happen …….

Friday, 5 February 2010

Trip down memory lane

Listening to Prof Mary Beard on Desert Island Discs this morning resulted in affectionate reminder of my angst ridden teenage world – the simple mention of ‘first bra’, PE and the girls changing rooms acted as unwelcome triggers.

For females reading this, who remembers ‘training bras’? – training for what I now wonder?? For the male contingent read on to better understand any teenage girls you may be Father to.

Training bras (sorry, unable to say this without a titter, erm I mean giggle) were wonderfully soft, powder blue or baby pink, came in packs of two, and were totally useless!! They fitted over your head and my yearning to wear one was fierce.

Unfortunately the yearning was not matched by breasts.

Similar to the humiliation faced by Prof Beard when ‘walking the line longing to be picked’, I made the painful discovery that the appeal for teenage boys did not include girls who were 5ft 10” with tits like two fried eggs - and no amount of training bras stuffed with cotton wool or Kleenex tissues* was going to alter this

So, the message for Fathers of teenage girls pleading for training bras is yield – they are a necessary part of growing up and the joy of ownership will far exceed the lack of breasts needed to fill them.

*on reflection it may have been the appearance of lumpy breasts which was so off putting

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Without thinking - what's the answer?

I would love to discover what your immediate perception is if I said ‘utilities’ – so, rather like word association, I say utilities you say ????
Answers on tweet please – warmest thanks

Friday, 29 January 2010

Surreal bulletin

Listening to the 6pm news bulletin last night was a surreal experience, in fact I questioned if it was April Fools day. It began with the shocking revelation from Toyota that some of their cars, but they didn’t know which, had problems with the accelerator sticking. I couldn’t help giggling at this, and if it weren’t so serious, I’d have enjoyed a good belly laugh – more on the damage to their brand later.

There followed a report about a guy prosecuted by the police for blowing his nose in his car – in stationary traffic – with the cars handbrake on – because he was not in control of the vehicle!

Next came a bulletin about Tesco in Cardiff banning locals from shopping in their PJ’s. Apparently many of them have taken huge offence at being told to get dressed, feeling its perfectly OK to pop in for their morning paper and packet of fags wearing nothing but their pink chiffon nightdress, or barefoot in their stripy PJ bottoms.

The final bulletin concerned the tragic event of the young children found in sports bags in the back of their Mothers car. Talk about a contrast of bulletins – if this weren’t heart-rending and horrific an event on its own, the impact following such frivolous news events seemed in many respects to be so badly positioned by the producers. It really troubled me that such little thought had been given to effect on the listener. Have we really become so desensitised to the horrifying story of small children being murdered and bundled into sports bags that producers feel a bulletin on chavs shopping in PJ’s is a natural link to child murders?

Dear Lord, I hope not

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

All about attitude

My salvation while sitting in the Birmingham traffic is listening to Radio 4 – never fails to entertain, educate or elucidate. Listening to the Hugh Skyes report from the Yemen I was captivated by two young brothers, Mohammed & Ahmed aged 10 & 12 talking about their average day.

School for 5 hours, looking after donkey’s 12 hours. Hugh Sykes suggested this was hard work and the response from Mohammed was breathtaking. Full of joy, enthusiasm and energy he replied emphatically that it was nothing of the sort.

These young boys were charming, polite and wonderfully expectant – one wants to be a pilot, the other a soldier. Both are proud to serve and do so with passion, determination and delight. A salient message about the power of our attitude to the world we live in.

How to abuse an audience

At an awards dinner last week, (delighted to be finalists sadly no trophy) we were subjected to a perfectly awful celebrity keynote speaker. It was painful for many reasons. firstly, he clearly didn't want to be there - his boredom was tangible - and secondly, he had no respect for the audience. With hands in pockets while doing a poor imitation of a foppish Hugh Grant, he proceeded to show slides of his TV antics in the style of someone showing their holiday snaps! And pretty dull ones at that.
The privilege of the platform comes with huge responsibility - entertain or inspire. This speaker did neither, although he could easily have done both given a little thought. The damage done to his personal brand was immense. Had he been authentic then the principles of digging deep and always being the best you can be would have been applied.

We all have off days I guess - my own feeling is to confine these to duvet days rather than when we're with others......every encounter counts, whether you're a celeb or a check-out operator.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A word of encouragement is never lost

Isn’t it interesting the power words can have? They are never useless, for they have the power to both encourage and inspire or defeat and destroy. The right word, at the right time, can have the most magical affect.

Do you save yours for a ‘just cause’ assuming that confident, accomplished and successful individuals won’t appreciate your words, that they somehow don’t need them or that you’ll simply be telling them what they already know to be true?

I’ve learnt this assumption is folly – often times the most gifted and talented receive few words of encouragement simply because they are so gifted and talented!

Everyone, even those who inspire us, welcome appreciation and a sincere word of encouragement

Seasons of life

I just love it when crazy stuff happens, as it did last night. Returning home late, cold and a little weary I opened my bedside cabinet looking for a hair slide when I noticed a small book. A small book which had been there each time the draw had been opened. A small book which had never before caught my eye. Yet there is was, demanding to be read.

The Seasons of Life by Jim Rohn has followed me around via my bedside cabinet for the past 10 years, remaining silent and benign until the time came for me to receive its message.

How many times does this happen? And perhaps more crucially, when it happens and goes unnoticed?

This delightful and insightful book is essentially a message about attitude, awareness and discipline. I urge even the most enlightened to read this book and absorb its message. Talk about right time right place – it offered me the insight I was searching for and a whole heap more. Thank you Mr Rohn may you RIP

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Be mindful who the customer is ......

Lord please give me strength! Have you ever had one of those experiences that just leaves you exasperated and wondering about the professional ethics and sanity of some businesses? Professional ethics because this company took the goods, were delighted with the results and even asked for further recommendations. Their questionable sanity – I work as a professional speaker, I write about brand reputation and these guys refuse to pay my invoice or return my calls and emails. How rude, how very rude indeed.

Hello????? This is rich material I’m being fed

Brand reputation is as much about how you treat your suppliers and employees as it is about your ‘customer face’ ……in many ways it’s more important. I believe your behaviour ‘behind the scenes’ is a truer indication of your integrity than any glossy marketing campaign, brochure or who you may be associated with. Businesses need to understand that the most pure form of brand experience is in every encounter we have with them, not the glossy communication which so preoccupies them.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Service not servitude

A great debate erupted this morning around the subject of service, where I was accused of ‘typical female semantics’. It started because I complained about poor service in a local coffee shop. The guy I was meeting was mortified, later asking me why it bothered me so much. I explained that it was about how people choose to be perceived by others – lacklustre, rude and uninformed versus enthusiastic, polite and knowledgeable.

“Why should she grovel, she’s only serving coffee” was his cry of defence

“I don’t expect her to grovel I expect her to serve” came my reply

Being proud to serve has nothing to do with servitude – it is everything to do with self-esteem and a determination to be the best we can be – whether that’s serving coffee or serving your country. We can choose with every encounter how we’re perceived and how we’re going to conduct ourselves. Do people really, consciously choose to behave in a way that makes them appear manner-less & dull?

I appreciate she’ll probably never see me again, I have no direct influence over her life, so why should she give a damn what impression she left me with? However, I can’t help wondering how she sees herself.

My mantra remains – every encounter counts – we owe to ourselves

Monday, 4 January 2010

The same wind blows on us all ......

Having been evacuated from my home on Christmas Eve due to a gas leak (thankfully no explosions or dramas) I happily swapped my homeless status on Tuesday and gratefully returned safe & sound. I found the experience a salient and fascinating one. Principally the reaction from others in the building who announced glumly “Christmas will now be a disaster” or family friends who declared “it must be a nightmare” (no it wasn’t, no-one was hurt and our homes were safe) or people who were angry and resentful on my behalf (what’s the point, my misery would only have been inflicted on the poor sod who’d taken me in)

When I returned home several things happened – firstly an overwhelming need to tidy, clean and move furniture around, swiftly followed by a deeply contemplative state of mind setting in, and finally a desperate need to be alone – an odd reaction you might think, a more conventional one being to open a vintage Rioja and the box of Green & Blacks I’d been given by a wonderfully thoughtful friend.

Having tidied the tree and decorations away I was struck by how peaceful everything looked. In the past I have found the contrast from sparkling festivity to minimalist neatness almost too much to bear; now I found it wonderfully restorative. Settling down in my now calm surroundings I began to contemplate 2010 and what actions and behaviours I would change and those I would retain to achieve my goals. There was an interesting piece in the Guardian on the 28th explaining why New Year resolutions are doomed to failure and it struck a chord for many reasons.

Firstly, many of the self-help gurus telling people what to do appear to be advocating powerful visualisation techniques as a recipe for success – stick a picture firmly in your mind (or on the fridge door) and bingo! you’re off. This is just plain crazy. I’m highly tuned to the power of the sub-conscious mind but it needs to be accompanied by consistent behaviour change too, otherwise it will all end in tears.

Next there are the set big-hairy-arsed-goal-gurus – lose half my body weight, make a million, travel the world, build a property portfolio, fall in love, drive a big expensive car, become more successful – these are impressive if that’s what floats your boat, however, steps are needed on the way to get you there – something seldom mentioned.

This may sound rather obvious stuff. Of course we need to identify what needs to be done and how we need to change our habits, however for the many looking for a silver bullet, or the gullible and the desperate, the charlatans message of ‘create the picture and all will be gorgeous’ is a highly seductive one. It’s a dangerous strategy and one guaranteed to propel individuals towards failure rather than steady success.

I love the approach developed by David Hyner of Stretch Development – have a big hairy goal and then identify the little steps, knowledge, training, help, support and actions needed to create it. Build each of the steps like a pyramid, making a strong foundation to ultimate achievement. And reward yourself along the way – what a joyless life it would be if we had to postpone celebration or deny ourselves until we had achieved our hopes, dreams, desires.

I’m left wondering how different things would be if more people understood the power of their reactions to life, the power of taking personal responsibility and the bliss of celebrating small achievements on the journey to our goals. My own personal recipe for success is pinned to the fridge door – Know what it is you want. Know what it takes to achieve it. Persevere.