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.