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  1. A lot of different things have made me think over the last couple of weeks:

    • The #SocialHRmcr 'unconference' that I attended
    • Clearing out my office (and kids bedrooms)
    • A change to my exercise regime


    On the face of it, they appear to have nothing in common, but they do: It's all about 'chipping away'. 

    I think the clearing out my office situation is obvious enough. Spending an hour or so a day is slowly but surely turning the family dumping ground back into a serious business environment. Fitting in 20-30 minutes exercise each day is (just at the moment) easier than attending long fitness sessions. Social learning is about learning whilst you work, not instead of work.

    That's always been the problem with traditional L&D: people see it as an additional task to fit into their already busy day. People often drop out of day-long workshops because 'something' has happened at work and they can't spare the time. Getting people to commit to long-term programmes is hard as who knows what their situation will be 6 months from now? e-learning (and all its glorious variations) gives increased flexibility, yet a) it isn't appropriate for every topic and b) not everyone wants to learn in their 'free' time.

    This of course was one of the guiding principles of Power Hour - training sessions that are short enough NOT to disrupt the day, but offering 'protected' time in which to learn. But these days, learning is much more subtle than that. 

    As someone who runs their own business, I used to worry that I don't invest enough in my own development. Since attending the #SocialHRmcr gig, I realise that I invest plenty. Sure, I may only attend 4-6 'formal' learning events each year, but I learn in many other ways including:

    • Reading books/articles to research new topic areas for the training that I design
    • Speaking to other trainers and taking a genuine interest in what they do, and their areas of specialism
    • Taking half an hour at the start of every day to 'do' social media, which ALWAYS leads me to at least one useful website, blog, video, article or infographic
    • Writing occasional blogs myself (a great way of reflecting on your learning)


    Because this learning isn't planned, documented or measured, it's easy to dismiss it and not appreciate its value. However, when I look back at how my own knowledge and skills have developed over the last 8 years it's clear that it really does all add up. Unfortunately, many organisations have still to recognise this. Social media sites are blocked; People aren't allowed 'personal development' time; employees aren't encouraged to share information across sites or departments (or heaven forbid with other organisations!); any development activity has to be justified as being relevant to the current role and signed triplicate. I could go on, but my point is this: Open your eyes to the wealth of learning opportunities that are around you, however small they seem to be. 

    Mosquito quote

    PS - Remember that if you choose to make Power Hour bite-size training sessions part of your learning strategy, we are currently donating £5 for every set of materials sold to fund a young person to do voluntary work in Tanzania. Why not visit our shop  and see what may be useful?

  2. In the school holidays, my kids were tucking into a pack of Monster Munch, and I noticed something interesting on the packet....

    Monster Munch

    In the top left corner, they've written 'New', crossed it out and replaced it with 'Old'.

    This shows me that the people at Monster Munch and tried something new (apparently making the snacks smaller and putting more in a bag). It didn't work out for them, so they've taken it on the chin and reverted back to the old format. At least they were willing to try.

    That's all I ever ask of people who attend training workshops: Try something new. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't, but TRY. Not all changes will work. If they do, brilliant. If they don't, you can always go back to doing things how you did before. There are no losers here.

    So, be a monster and dare to do somehting different after training!

  3. Last week my lovely sister invited to share three positive things each day for five days on facebook. This was quite easy for me. I describe myself as a realist, but actually I’m an optimist with a sprinkling of cynicism.

    Even on very ordinary (and if I’m honest) quite dull days it was good to focus on the positive things that happened. When we focus on what’s good, we see more of what’s good, and our world becomes a better place. I was even planning to make good things happen so I had something to post about!

    It made me wonder, in our very busy, fast-paced lives where instant gratification is king, how often do we stop. To pause. To reflect?

    By taking time to reflect we actively think about what has made us happy/sad that day. What we achieved and what we didn’t. What we did well, and where we let ourselves down.

    From this reflection, should come some sort of conclusion (or even enlightenment), and from that we can plan to get more of what we want and less of what we don’t; to achieve more success and less failure; to do more of what makes us happy and less of what doesn’t. In other words, to grow and develop.

    learning cycle

    Doesn’t this sound a lot like the learning cycle?

    We have slowly slipped into a habit of act-react, almost completely missing out the reflection and conceptualisation phases of learning. If we don’t take time to reflect and think, how will we ever learn from the lessons that life teaches us? How will we ever get off of the hamster wheel that many people find themselves in?

    Reflecting on three positive things is such a great and simple habit to get into, I’m continuing to do it…although not on facebook, and I think that you should too.

  4. Regular readers of my blog will know that one of the three things I do with my life is Zumba. (The other two being work and look after my family!).

    Last week our Zumba classes were taken by Emma. Emma is 17 years old, quite quiet by nature, and not really one to put herself out there. She is of course, very good at Zumba. Our usual teacher is in her late 20s, extroverted and full of confidence (and of course, very good at Zumba).

    Substituting one with the other is never going to seamless. Does this sound familiar?

    Teams get used to one particular leader. They get into a comfort zone, know what’s expected, and understand the leaders style. But then that leader gets promoted, leaves or moves to another team. The team is left a little disoriented and not sure what to expect.

    The NEW leader has been selected because they are technically competent, but that is where the similarity with the ‘old’ leader ends. It can be incredibly difficult for a new leader to come into an established team, but I was so impressed with the way that Emma stepped up to the challenge:

    • Firstly, she admitted that she may not be as slick as Ellen – she is less experienced afterall and Ellen has built the class (team) around HER preferences
    • She asked us to follow HER moves, not do the ones that Ellen does as she may do some things differently (recognising differences and establishing her authority)
    • She ‘borrowed’ a bit of Ellen…whooping and cheering (sometimes) even though it isn’t her natural style, to make things seem more familiar to us (known as modelling in the L&D world)
    • She asked for help by getting two demonstrators on stage (using the support available)
    • She thanked us for our efforts (recognition)


    And all these things, from someone who isn’t even legally an adult yet, made the 50+ people in the room want to help her to succeed. She was fab :-)

    If you are a new leader, remember that you need to get the balance right between demonstrating your authority and asking for the support of others. Show you are human, lead in your own way but learn from other leaders, and be realistic about how long it will take you to fill the shoes of the outgoing, more experienced leader. Have the confidence to step up. If you don’t feel it, ‘borrow it’. Most people will want you to succeed.

    If you need a bit more help with developing leadership skills in your organisation, why not check out our Leadership Package ? We'll even give you 20% off until the end of August if you use the code 'EmmaBlog' at the checkout :-)

  5. Today I got my priorities so wrong. So focused on the looming end of the month, I decided I would miss the first part of my son's sports day and just go for the second half. He was OK with that. He understood I had a lot to do. He just wanted me to be there for his 'big race'.

    I missed it by 5 minutes.

    What I was doing for work was important, but it wasn't urgent. If necessary, I could have done this evening. His race was 10 minutes in the day and I made the wrong choice about how to spend my time. I'm angry with myself, and I've cried for letting him down. For breaking my promise and not focussing on what mattered to HIM. It was just 10 minutes afterall. My client would have probably been fine if their training materials were a day late.

    It's a timely reminder that work is important. Of course it is. But we also need to remember WHY we work. It's a means to an end, and not an end in itself. We are all so BUSY its easy to lose focus on what really matters and what (in the long run) will make the difference. I can't turn back time, I can't undo the disappointment I've caused my son. 

    What I CAN do is make sure I prioritise each and every day properly. I'm going to stick up the Key Points Sheet for our Plan your Time module and refer to it daily. I WON'T make this same mistake again. I can't. Life's too short.

  6. This week, my husband is on a course. It's on a subject that he knows a lot about, and is pretty competent in - indeed, he often trains more junior staff in it. I asked him WHY he decided to attend when surely he knows it all anyway. This was his answer:

    • Things change. I need to know what I'm doing is in line with current best practice
    • It's always good to revisit a topic when you know it. When it's new it can be overwhelming, but this time I can concentrate on the finer points
    • It's interesting to hear how other people deal with things. It stops me getting stuck in my ways and makes me consider different options
    • I can make sure that I've not slipped into any bad habits
    • If I'm training others, I owe it to them to be the best I can be

    I thought this was quite enlightened, and quite different from many people I meet who feel that because they are already doing a job, they can't learn anything from a training course.

    What does my husband do? - He's a Consultant Surgeon...and if he can still learn, so can we all.

  7. Lots of people resist attending training courses, feeling that they are somehow unecessary. They can already do their job.

    Yet fit people keep going to the gym. Thin people watch what they eat. Why? - To STAY fit/thin of course!

    That's why lots of very talented HR and Training people attend courses and conferences: To stay at the top of their game...and that's why all of us should takle every opportunity we are given for development.

    ...and yes, I do intend to pactice what I preach!

  8. Well, spring is sprung and that means that we have to start tending to our gardens again. Some people love gardening.

    I am not one of them.

    Reluctantly I spent an hour last weekend clearling the weeds and turning over about 1/8th of what needs to be done. I still have anouther 7/8th to go, which I'm not looking forward to, but at least I've made a start. The longer I leave it, the worse it will get so doing something is better than nothing.

    nettleAt work, we all have jobs that we don't enjoy. Things that we'd rather put off, ignore and hope that they'll go away, but you know as well as I do that they won't, and the longer you leave them, the harder it is to do them... Things like dealing with that difficult person, planning an appraisal or giving negative feedback. They are all easier if you grasp the nettle (excuse the pun) and deal with it before it takes root. We need to prioritise our time carefully.

    Even training (unbelievably) for some people is one of those tasks that keeps getting put off because its deemed not urgent or too difficult. As the famous quote says "if you think training is expensive, try incompetence". Spending just an hour developing your staff WILL make a difference. There's a small patch of my garden that looks noticably better than the rest, and that's all down to 1 hour of effort. I've only got to invest 7 more and my garden will be transformed. So have that difficult conversation, give that awkward feedback, run that one-hour training session and see what a difference it makes.

  9. My cousin-in-law (if there is such a thing) makes truly wonderful cakes. Check her out on facebook (cakeybakeygal) to see some of the fabulous creations she turns out. My daughter, having seen these cakes, said "You can't make cakes can you Mummy?".

    "No" I said, but almost immediately corrected myself.

    "Actually" I said "I make very good cakes. They rise well, they taste nice and they're light and fluffy... I just can't decorate them"

    "You're right" she agreed (thankfully!!!).

    I share this tale because someone asked me how Power Hour training materials are pitched, and its a similar story. They ARE great quality training materials (just check out our reviews for confirmation). They are detailed, well structured, well balanced (input and activity), they are complete and they look nice... but they are BASIC in that they are aimed at a foundation level.

    But lets face'd rather have a cake that looks a bit rubbish but tastes divine than one that looks amazing and tastes awful ;-)

    Similarly, it's better to have ALL your managers doing the basic things well, than trying to use advanced techniques and getting it wrong. Concentrate on achieving first things first.

    So if you want a free sample, just visit our shop, register and help yourself!

  10. Luckily for me, business has recently increased dramatically...not on the retail side of the business, but on the bespoke, commissioned side. This is fantastic, but it does bring its own problems: The most significant one being that there simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to do it all.

    So, then I faced the difficult decision that many small business owners face: turn work down or entrust other people to help me? 

    I've decided to let go (a little!). 

    Yes it means that I personally am not earning the full value of the contract, BUT I have to take the longer term view: My client is more likely to be impressed as they will recieve the completed work more quickly AND it will be just as high quality (I am still going to be checking everything of course). This in turn will lead to improved satisfaction and hopefully, more work in the future.

    I've just put in a proposal for a 12 Module Leadership Development Programme. Four of these modules are highly bespoke and will focus on internal commercial and operational issues. Detailed business case studies and simulations strike me as being the best way to tackle these issues and really make learning meaningful. To do this, I need to spend quite a lot of time in the business to truly understand how it works. This is something I'm confident I can do.

    However, an associate of mine who spent 30 years in a similar environment, 10 of them at a very senior level, can probably get to grips to it an awful lot quicker. So I'm delegating this part of the programme to him. It was a hard choice, but I had to look at the bigger picture: What talents do I have at my disposal (not just within myself)? What is the best use of those talents in terms of meeting my clients needs? Me spending a week getting my head around something that my associate could probably pick up in two days is NOT the best use of our combined talents. I'm better off adding value where I AM the best person for the job.

    In organisations all over the world, from multi-national corporations to tiny local businesses, managers find it hard to let go. They want to keep hold of as much as they can because they have pride and what to make sure that the best service is delivered. However, this sometimes leads to an inefficient use of resources and talent. Sometimes letting go and delegating certain aspects, though hard, may be in the best interests of the customer.

    Help your managers to learn to let go through delegating, which in turn will motivate and empower others, and SHOULD lead to a better overall outcome.