Wednesday 31 July 2013

Business strategy development

I've attended a number of less than successful business strategy development sessions in the past and have observed a number of the following happening:
  • the same people contributing
  • nothing new emerging
  • energy at the end of the day being very low
  • limited inspiration to take action
  • lack of cohesion between the leadership team
  • no clear plan emerging
  • cliches maintained
  • nothing changes as a result
I'm sure you could add to this list.

When facilitating such sessions I often use nature as the inspiration and find, as a result, the above list to be missing. I'm sure there are many reason for this - the one I'd like to concentrate on today is the power of metaphor.

With one client, after the leadership team had spent time in small groups in nature, the above picture emerged to summarise the conversation about where the organisation was and some of the options that existed for where they wanted to be.

The beauty of using metaphor to explore the current situation, especially if you can stick with the metaphor for as long as possible, is it avoids:
  • ego
  • resistance
  • barriers
  • "if"s, "but"s and "not"s
  • defensiveness
  • anger
  • blame
The beauty of using metaphor to explore opportunities is it avoids all of the above and in addition:
  • attachment to preconceived opportunities
  • the same old opportunities re-emerging time and time again
  • lack of new ideas emerging
Imagine the facilitator, or CEO for that matter, saying "we need to do something different" at the start of the session. Before we've even had chance to take a breath the reasons why it's not possible start. With a metaphor the suggestion to try something different comes from:
  • walking up a lane and seeing a hole in the hedge
  • sunrise or sunset
  • caterpillars or butterflies
  • seeds - whether floating past, growing or still in their pods/shells
  • the tide changing
  • the sound of the wind
  • harvest time 
  • spring time
I can assure you the "can't"s evaporate when faced with the wisdom from nature. Once the wisdom has been harvested then, and only then, is it time to release the metaphor. Time to understand what it means in practice and identify an inspirational and innovative strategy for the organisation going forward.

How could the wisdom of nature help your leadership team today? #happytohelp

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

You can find out more about the work I do here. There's also an Overcoming business challenges using the wisdom of nature workshop arranged in August - it's also available to be run in-house.

Caterpillar picture courtesy of Pixabay

Monday 29 July 2013

The benefits I deliver

"Alison what do you do? I love reading your blogs and get a lot from them but I'm not sure what you earn your money doing."

I've been asked this question a few times recently and realised that a blog response might be the best option. At least for those I can't talk directly about it to.

In essence I'm a procurement professional with a strong, and uncanny, intuitive sense of where the problem lies, with a passion for:
  • personal responsibility
  • seeing the bigger picture
  • values
  • beliefs
  • communication
  • engagement
  • team working
  • change
  • wellbeing
All supported by a mind that loves excel spreadsheets (well someone has to!) and knowing the right questions to ask. More on my experience and skills can be found here and on LinkedIn.

These passions fuel the desire, and inform the way in which I use different tools to get others unstuck. That is I'm at my happiest when people (or teams or projects for that matter) are:
  • stuck
  • facing a challenge
  • are in dispute with others 
  • don't know what to do
Once clients are back on track I know my job is done and it's time to leave. To me 'inspiring change inside and out' explains my mission.

"What does that mean you do every day?"

Over the last eight years it's been a mix of: procurement consultancy; procurement elearning script development; category strategy development and implementation; category management and supplier relationship management training; leadership, management, communication, influencing and change management training; project management; meeting facilitation; team development; competency assessment and development; and coaching.

Prior to working for myself I was communication and personal development manager on the leadership team of HBOS Group Procurement at the time of the merger between Halifax and Bank of Scotland.

I'm currently in the process of arranging a couple of workshops:
Both workshops are also available to be run in-house.

I'm also offering intensive 24hr coaching retreats and trialing Skype coaching where a quick intervention is required. (I'm currently looking for a small number of individuals to test out the 30 minutes service free - in exchange for feedback and, when successful, a testimonial)

"What benefits do your clients get from your involvement?"

Many of my clients are procurement consultancies and I therefore deliver the list above to their clients. I wrote a blog on the business benefits from the work I do. I realise however that a series of blogs providing insight into what I do, how I do it and the benefits that arise as a result might be useful.

Here's some blogs I've already written that emphasise the areas I work with clients on:
Other blogs to follow, that will be more like case studies, will include:
  • Strategy development
  • Personal development
  • Developing confidence
  • Getting back on track
  • Building organisational capability
  • Delivering exceptional performance
  • Using nature to landscape your life - personally and organisationally
I'll add links to these as I write them.

I hope this blog has given you a better flavour into what I do. If you still have any questions please do leave a comment below.

If it's given you any ideas on how I may help you personally, your organisation or someone you know do please get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Kindest Regards

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out +44 (0)7770 538159

Saturday 27 July 2013

Talk - don't write!

Bees on a postbox

Blogs all week have been using nature to convey key messages about communication in organisations.  So what can we take from these bees?

A big warning I suspect that we're often too quick to commit something in writing. How often have already difficult relationships escalated due to a hasty email being sent and the other person misinterpreting what was written?

If you were sending a letter and came to this post box you'd certainly think twice before posting it. I suggest we need to do the same when we send emails. Especially when what we're communicating is important to us or the other person.

Who do you need to pick up the phone and speak to rather than send an email?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Using nature to landscape your life - personally or organisationally

Friday 26 July 2013

Learning from nature

I have a regular personal training session in the local park in Kirkcaldy and was amazed today when my trainer took me to this group of trees. Beneath the trees the council have place stones in a circle that say:

"Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven"

Wow - on sooooo many levels because:
If you have a challenge in your life you'd like insight on why not use nature as your teacher? You simply have to:
  • Think of the issue
  • Put the issue to the back of your mind
  • Go out into nature and notice what you notice
  • Return and tell the story of your journey in nature (to yourself, in writing or to others)
  • Reflect on what nature has to teach you about what to do differently in the issue you first thought of
  • Take the necessary action
  • Let me know how you get on :-)  
What situation can you use this process to provide insight on, and when will you take the step into nature in order to allow it's wisdom into your life?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely

Blog 26/31 in July as I participate in the Ultimate blog challenge.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Are your relationships crumbling?

As we work our way towards the end of the week water continues to provide insight into communication and its impact on our relationships. We've had too much water falling on baked ground not being absorbed and warnings of drought that could kill off some trees.
Yesterday I saw again the impact of not enough and too much water - this time on sandcastles.
The sandcastle above lasted a minute or two before crumbling. It just needed a little more water to provide the glue that would have kept the sand together for much longer.   
Although, as I'm sure many of us have found, once the tide comes in all that care and attention amounts for nothing as our carefully designed castles topple back into the sea.

So what learning do I take from water that can be applied to communication - personally and organisationally?
  • Communication is the glue that holds us together
  • Too much communication and we can get overwhelmed
  • Too little communication and it doesn't stick
  • Communication isn't something you do once - it needs repeating regularly
  • Communication little and often is better for absorption and flourishing 
You'll find further advice on the benefits of effective communication, the excuses we give for not communicating more, communication planning, what needs communicating and how by following the links provided.

Is your communication too much, too little, or if you'll allow me to mix my metaphors, just like Goldilock's porridge and just right?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely.

Blog 25/31 as part of the ultimate blog challenge.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Relationships affected by drought

Yesterday I suggested that communication was like water - essential for ensuring effective relationships flourish. One of today's top headlines was "Trees still affected by 1976 drought" and stated that "the long dry spell that year killed off many drought-sensitive beech trees."   

In this situation too little water impacted the health of the trees. Yesterday's torrential downpour was equally as useful, with the water running off and not getting into the ground to feed the roots.

If you're not achieving your objectives because other people are any of the following it might just be you're being a little too much like the rain at the moment - too little or too much.
  • Being unsupportive
  • Not doing what you'd expect them to
  • Complaining
  • Blaming
  • Angry
  • Disengaged
  • Secretive 
How could you ensure your communication was more effective and enabled your relationships to flourish rather than wither and die? Do get in touch if you'd like to make your communication more effective.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out +44 (0)7770 538159

Blog 24/31 in July participating in the ultimate blog challenge.
For more on use of nature to landscape your organisation do see Facebook or Pinterest.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Do you need to soften them up first?

After many days of heat wave the ground, brown from the lack of water over recent weeks, was hit with a torrential downpour today. The problem of course was after so much sun the ground was baked dry and the water could do nothing but sit on the top (as shown above).

It's the same when you water a plant that's been left for too long without water - the water just runs straight through.

The reason is that the soil needs time to soften up. In both instances watering little and often would speed up the absorption of the water and enable it to provide sustenance to the grass or plant roots.

Isn't that what communication in an organisation is like. If you communicate too much at a time then it just doesn't even go in and you might as well have not bothered.

I wrote a series of blog posts last week on effective organisational communication and addressed:
Which of these will assist you most today?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Blog 23/31 in July as part of the ultimate blog challenge

Monday 22 July 2013

Staying on track

One of the tools I use with clients is the frameworks for change coaching process (FCP). It's a wonderful tool that asks questions of the individual or group in a way that helps them understand what's stopping them achieving their goals.

I wrote a blog some time ago sharing the insights gleaned from using the process when considering 'keeping on track in a downturn'. Times have changed since then and talk is now of recovery and less of recession.

I wondered what questions I might be asked to answer if I used the cards today to address "how to stay on track." This blog is the answer.

If you want to try answering the questions yourself in relation to a situation you'd like to keep on track with, before I share my thoughts, then here they are. You'll certainly get more insight if you do.
Q1: How are you, or can you, express your feelings clearly and responsibly?
Q2: How might compromising your integrity have set, or continue to be setting, you back?
Q3: How can valuing and expressing the quality of humour act as an antidote. 
Q4: What would a role model, who best demonstrates healing to you, do in the current situation.

What did you discover from your own answers to these questions? What insights arose? What action might you want to take and when?

Here's my response to the questions asked.

Q1: How are you, or can you, express your feelings clearly and responsibly?

I'm tired! After keeping on track for the last eight years and having had the busiest 6 months I've ever had I'm tired. It feels like it's been a battle to keep ahead and yet here I am. This question seems to be asking me to acknowledge how I'm feeling and act from that place rather than battle on.

Q2: How might compromising your integrity have set, or continue to be setting, you back?

Not an easy answer and one I suspect may continue off line. I know what I want to do and sometimes I perhaps allow pragmatism to persuade me of my folly and to follow the more obvious expected route. In doing so I let go of my vision.

Interestingly I had thought my answer to the first question was taking me down the route of letting go of the vision, being practical and just going for what's easy and less tiring. I realise as I type that perhaps I'm tired because I'm not allowing the vision to inspire my action.

Which means more business values, battling for businesses soul and using nature to landscape our lives - personally, organisationally, politically and economically and using the ICECAPS checklist which starts with Integrity!

Q3: How can valuing and expressing the quality of humour act as an antidote.

I think my prescription for positivity is relevant here. Laughter is a great release of tension and yes even tiredness. So I need to remember to do more of the things that I enjoy and make me laugh, and of course less of the things that don't.

Q4: What would a role model, who best demonstrates healing to you, do in the current situation.

Not an easy card to consider in a work setting. I can't help but think for me it's about applying the ICECAPS checklist I've developed to the current situation. Because whilst it's not a word I've used, yet, healing might be one outcome when living according to the checklist. Nature certainly doesn't get as sick as humans do and since the checklist is using nature as our teacher then well being will also be an outcome.

I'll let you know how I get on in a few days once the insights and learning have had time to land and bed in a little more.

The process is never lacking in insight, challenge and revelation. If you'd like to use it on a challenge you, or your team, currently are facing then please do get in contact.

Alison  Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely
+44 (0) 7770 538159

Blog 22/31 in July as part of the Ultimate blog challenge.
The process, the insight, setback and mentor cards used here are from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks -

Sunday 21 July 2013

Don't speak ill of another

Napoleon Hill is reported as saying

"If you must speak ill of another, do not speak it, write it in the sand near the water's edge."

I assume to allow the water to take the thought away. Why not try it and see what happens - you might just be surprised. If you don't live near a beach then writing it on a piece of paper and then ripping it up or setting fire to it (safely) would work. Alternatively writing it in sand in your garden, or children's sandpit, and then watering it would too. Basically anything that allows the thought to be expressed and then expunged (if that's the right word?).

Such a great idea and aligns well with the other ideas for using nature to landscape our lives I've shared recently on sayings such as:
 and whilst not directly linked to nature two blogs that use metaphor similarly:
Have fun - because fun can still provide great insight and release.
Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely.

More on using nature to landscape your life can be found on Facebook and Pinterest. It's certainly an innovative process that can be used in a team setting to identify potential setbacks, resolve problems and even identify future organisational strategies.

Blog 21/31 in July as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Saturday 20 July 2013

Effective communication - part 5

I'd like to hope it's obvious what the benefits of effective communication are. Yet if they were that obvious my question would have to be "so why don't more managers plan for effective communication?" (Postscript: A recent HBR blog suggests less than 51% have a communication plan in place with internal stakeholders.)

The benefits are, as the picture I hope demonstrates, the ability to achieve your organisational goals. These goals are achieved because the right resources, are in the right place, at the right time, to do the right things to achieve your goals. Ineffective communication not only stops these happening but can put hurdles in the way that will prohibit any further progress.

I won't labour the point further - expect to surmise - that if employee opinion polls measure opinions that an organisation believes are helpful to successfully achieving its objectives. Then the actions taken to improve communication in my role as communication and personal development manager in Procurement at HBOS, just after the merger between Halifax and Bank of Scotland, were successful.

As a result of actions taken improvements in employee satisfaction within the department in one year were:
  • Feeling motivated in present job: from 61% to 73%,
  • Feeling valued: from 46% to 61%
  • Satisfaction with Communications: from 49% to 72%.
That is we went from one of the poorest performing departments to one of the best - bearing in mind an increase of 1 or 2% is generally considered good in these polls.

What action can you take to improve your communication? and when will you take it? Of course letting me know if I can be of any assistance to help you.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely.

So far in the series on effective organisational communication I've considered the excuses we give for not communicating effectively, the need to plan and think about the communication plan, the different types of information that need to be communicated and the the different methods of communicating. There's also insights using the wisdom of nature applied to communication too.

Blog 20/31 in July for Ultimate blog challenge.
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Friday 19 July 2013

Effective communication - part 4

The most often used method to communicate is email. The challenge with this method of communication is that it doesn't allow others the ability to ask questions and can easily be misinterpreted. The other issue with email is one email can get lost in the sea of other emails we get daily. Which means if you're communicating something important how can you be sure people even read your email never mind understand the implications of the changes you're proposing.  I'd certainly suggest you think careful about use of email for many communications.

Other options include:
  • Newsletters - although for them to be read regularly they need to be informative
  • Use of intranets - again you need to ensure people want to use them
  • Use of social media - many companies are successfully communicating via this method
  • Team meetings - escalating important and relevant information
  • Attendance at other team's meetings - to share your news and allow them to ask you questions
  • Meetings/forums/presentations and conferences - again providing the opportunity to get input and provide clarification
  • Informal gatherings or 1:1 meetings
  • Away days - a mix of business and pleasure (as per the above picture) 
  • Documentation - manuals, policies, procedures
  • Video's
  • Interactive online communication
  • Use of promotional items such as mouse mats, desk jotters
  • and so on
Please do share other communication methods you've used successfully. They won't all work for every project nor organisation but choosing the right mix will maximise the opportunity for your success.

What method can you use this week to improve your communication effectiveness? Happy to help if needed.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely

Part 1 of the series on effective communication within organisations considered the excuses we give for not communicating effectively. In part 2 I shared the simple need to plan and think about communication and part 3 considered the types of information that need to be communicated. Part 5 shares the benefits of effective communication. 

Blog 19/31 in July as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Effective Communication - part 3

In everyday life births, weddings and deaths are communicated in a timely manner and widely for all to know. This picture is of me with my step grandson whose birth was widely broadcast, and only today I heard of the passing on my neighbour Bill and spent some time on the phone letting others in the village know of this sad news. Festive updates might be used to communicate what we've all been up to in the year since our last card, and use of social media certainly allows us to keep an eye on who's doing what, where, when and, complete with pictures, with whom.

Yet this need to communicate often goes out the window in business. That is we forget to communicate the news - often within the team - never mind with stakeholders. That is we need to think about timely communication of our own organisational equivalent of births, weddings, divorces, house moves, renovations, new cars, illnesses, fitness improvements, weight lost, degrees and exams passed, holidays (planned and taken), birthdays, deaths and so on. In other words we need to have an effective plan to let everyone, who needs to, know about the following:
  • Organisational goals (and changes to them)
  • Key success criteria for the business (updated as they change)
  • New recruits
  • New roles
  • Changing governance or roles
  • Departures
  • Changing systems (often at the planning stage not just before we implement it)
  • Changing processes and procedures
  • Project kick offs
  • Project status's
  • Project, team and individual achievements
  • Learning from project reviews 
  • Where to go for help
  • Learning and development opportunities
  • Forthcoming changes
  • Opportunities
  • Threats
  • Risks
  • and so on
Remembering that these will all need tailoring for the different audiences and whilst some will be able to be achieved in an email others will need face to face meetings individually or in groups. 
What do you need to communicate and when will you do it?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely.

So far in this series on effective organisational communication I've covered the excuses we give for not communicating effectively and the need to plan and think about communication. Part 4 will consider the different methods of communicating, and part 5 the benefits of effective communication. 

Blog 18/31 in July for the Ultimate blog challenge.

Effective communication - part 2

In my last blog I shared the excuses we use to not communicate with others at work. I used the example of telling Ted everything when I was younger and yet now he's relegated to a 10 yearly clean and knows nothing of my life.

Today I'd like to consider what effective communicate looks like. With Teddies it was easy we just took them on a picnic and let them chat and join in our conversations. In organisations it requires more planning and thought. Without that then many stakeholders and even team members may just think you're doing this to them.
The interesting thing is that planning, thought and time is all that effective communication requires. Many managers, however, don't allow themselves the time to think about:
  • who needs to be involved (always more people than you think)
  • when they need to be involved (always earlier than you think)
or to plan:
  • what needs to be communicated (more than you expect)
  • the different methods to be used to communicate
  • responsibility for the communication (someone with the time, desire, influencing skills and relationship with others needed to do the job well)
Before I left HBOS I was communication and personal development manager for the procurement team. I was responsible for everyone within the team knowing what everyone else was up to and communicating with internal stakeholders. All I needed to do was ensure we had a mechanism and a plan to do that. Also reminding others if they forgot to provide a regular update on the project they were working on, and helping writing the updates to make them more meaningful.

Yes I was met with many of the excuses I shared in yesterday's blog but planning and thought meant we had a happier and more productive team as a result.

Who is responsible for communication in your team or project? What can you do more of to make their job easier? Not forgetting of course if you need any assistance to please contact me - +44 7770 538159 or

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely

Blog 17/31 in July in the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Effective communication - just like we had with Ted!

The bear on the right was given to me on my brother's birth when I was three, and his pal joined him in my teens (a present from my first ever boyfriend).

There was a time when I told my teddy bear everything. Each night I'd lay there in bed telling Ted about all my adventures - if he hadn't come with me to share in them that is. There wasn't anything I didn't tell Ted - he knew when I was happy, sad and excited. He knew of my plans for the future and was there every night as I hugged him as I fell asleep and I'm sure even knew of my dreams.

How times change. Whilst I do still have Ted (which makes him 47 and three quarters) - he knows nothing of my life other than the occasional spin in the washing machine every 10 years or so when I think he's looking a little dusty.

Isn't that what communication in many businesses is like? We start very keen and everyone knows everything and slowly over time as the dust settles we tell ourselves:
  • they wouldn't want to know
  • it's not of interest to them
  • they don't need to know that
and then as times passes and the moths appear and other excuses are used
  • why should I tell them that
  • they'll just try to change the decision
  • I don't have time
  • it doesn't matter
  • it will be easier to just tell them after the event
Not one of these is ever true - you can never over communicate. Although as a communication manager in a procurement team, before I started working for myself 8 years ago, I would accept there are right and wrong ways of communicating (more of that in a future blog).

How might your communication have become like mine with Ted? What steps can you take to get it back to the good old days? If you need any help let me know.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely

PS: I've also written about effective communication in the past - I'm sure it won't be the last!

Blog 16/31 in July for the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

In need of more bounce - part 2 (for teams)

An earlier blog considered all the different things you might do to get your bounce back personally. As I wrote the blog I realised that teams (and even organisations) can become very deflated and lacking in bounce too. This blog reflects on the things that can be done to get the bounce back at work.

Consider a time when bounce was lacking in a team you were a member of - which of the following did, or could have, re-established bounce in the team?
  • A clear vision
  • Alignment of values - walking the talk
  • Clarity of goals
  • Measurement of progress
  • Buy-in from all involved
  • Senior leadership support
  • Inspiration
  • Effective communication
  • Participation of all involved
  • Inclusion of wider stakeholders
  • Resources to do the job (whether development of new skills, more people or new tools) 
  • Feedback
  • Flexibility of approach
  • Understanding and appreciation
  • Effective management
  • Team cohesiveness 
  • Effective team working
  • Supportive behaviours (and lack of unhelpful ones :-))
  • Healthy working environment
  • Life balance
I also realise many of these work well for getting your personal bounce back too.

I'd love to know how a team you've been involved in got their bounce back.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in purchasing and business more widely

If your team is in need of more bounce I'd be happy to discuss different tools I use that that would help facilitate this. The Frameworks for Change Coaching Process is a great tool for uncovering what's holding you back. The Landscaping Your Life process is also a very effective tool for tapping into creativity within the team - either using the ICECAPS checklist or more metaphorically in nature itself for strategy development and so on (for examples of the many different ways we can relate, and therefore learn and use nature do see my LYL Pinterest board).

Blog 15/31 in July's Ultimate Blog Challenge.

In need of more bounce - part 1?

Next time you feel a little deflated remember even bouncy castles, whose main purpose is bounce, feel that way at times. They just require input from external sources to get their bounce back.

When you're next feeling like this picture all you need to do it consider what external sources could provide you with that extra bounce:
  • Water?
  • The right food ?
  • Exercise?
  • Going outside?
  • Time with specific people? (I'm with a 7 and 10 yr old at the weekend :-))
  • Time alone?
  • Busyness?
  • Peace?
  • Being creative?
  • Writing?
  • Singing?
  • Dancing?
  • Learning and developing new skills?
  • Being reminded you are loved?
  • Being grateful?
I get a sense that following my prescription for positivity may also help?

How do you get your bounce back when you've lost it - please do share your thoughts in the comments below as its easy to forget all the different ways bounce can be re-established.

In need of more bounce part 2 - considers getting bounce back in organisations and teams.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in purchasing and business more widely

Blog 14/31 in July for the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Are you using all your senses?

If your browser doesn't show a video above click here.

Not all causes to problems are obvious which is why you need to observe all the clues that are available that will help point you in the right direction.

In the video I use the movement that we can see in the field of wheat to determine where the wind is and the direction in which it's headed. You can also hear the impact of the wind as I speak as it's picked up by the video recorder. I remember sitting in a tent in a gale and hearing the wind approaching as it moved through the adjacent avenue of trees.

In a situation you'd like more clarity on what can you observe (see/hear/feel) to help you get to the root of the problem?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out
Blog 13/31 in July for the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Monday 15 July 2013

What does respect look like to you?

Yesterday I blogged about our relationship to time. As a result of tweeting about the blog I asked did someone being late show a lack of respect. It was a trick question really because as I explained in the blog - those with a preference for 'in-time' won't believe so and those with 'thru-time' preferences will.

And they're both right - from their worldview anyway. I suggest it's up to both parties to understand the other's worldview. Those in-time should understand that their colleagues with thru-time preferences may judge their lateness to be disrespectful and need to appreciate the repercussions if someone holds that belief about them. Those thru-time should understand that those in-time would believe that their undivided attention in meetings is more respectful than promptness at the start.

Which had me thinking about our values - of which respect might be one.

Our values are what inspires and motivates our daily actions. They're what determine what we will do and what we won't do. They also determine what we do and don't admire in others and therefore how we judge them - and ourselves for that matter.

Even at its simplest level what values are in our top five can and will lead to disputes between individuals about what to do and what doing it means. As another blog suggested when I chunked our values into achievement, affiliation & power. Someone valuing achievement and success may very well want to manage a project differently than someone valuing affiliation.

Every action is motivated by a need to achieve a value - yes even actions that a majority of us would deem to be unacceptable. Which brings me to the added complexity that our values are nominalisations and we each have our own definitions for what achieving them means.

If I take respect for a moment then it might mean any, or none, or all, of the following to someone: 
  • Being on time for meetings
  • Giving our undivided attention in meetings
  • Listening to what others are saying
  • Acknowledging you have heard what others have said
  • Saying thank you
  • Doing what you say you're going to do
  • Being honest
  • Doing what they want you to do
  • Respect for yourself
  • Respect for others
  • Fairness (which I'd suggest is in fact another value)
  • Respect for the planet (as image suggests) 
The key is understanding that your definition of respect is just that - yours and that others are likely to have a different understanding of what respect is or may not even value respect as highly as you.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Blog 12/31 in the ultimate blog challenge for July.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Are you always or never late?

Judgement of others is something that raises its head weekly in conversations at work, coaching and personally. Time keeping is one area this judgement takes place in, and I'd like to share an updated blog from the archives that I've shared with many people recently on the subject.

If I was to ask "which of the following applies to you when arriving for appointments?" most of us would be able to find one that applies most often:
  1. I'm ALWAYS early
  2. I'm early
  3. I arrive just in time
  4. I'm late
  5. I'm ALWAYS late
I'd suggest I'm No. 3 most of the time with equal distribution for No. 2 (if I have no idea where I'm going) and No. 4 (if I get caught in traffic because I didn't allow much time for delays).

The fact is both No. 1's and No. 5's get frustrated with each other for different reasons. No. 1's will think that No. 5's don't respect them because they're late. No. 5's think No. 1's are being over sensitive. Both will certainly think their belief about the other is right. And from their worldview they're both right.

In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) there's two descriptions used for our relationship to time which help explain this difference:  
  • In-Time - you're associated with the current moment, living in the present, fully experiencing what's happening in the moment, you wouldn't even notice if the sun's absence meant you couldn't tell the time on the sundial.
  • Thru-Time - where you're disassociated from the current moment, viewing time from a distance - thinking ahead to the future or back about the past. If you have a preference for thru-time I suspect the lack of detail down to the second in the sundial would mean you'd feel frustrated, never mind on days where the sun wasn't shining!
Those who arrive early I would suggest are likely to be thru-time - thinking ahead about what they need to do to get to the meeting on time but they may be seen to be distracted in an earlier meeting. Those who are late are likely to be in-time - fully present and in rapport with those in a previous meeting but not aware of the time and approaching next meeting.

We each have a preference for which style we use most but the key is being able to be flexible and switch between them as appropriate. The problem becomes when we get stuck in one mode. I suspect with increasing use of technology and increasing pace of life it's easier to get stuck in thru-time - as wonderfully described in the HR Juggler's blog.

To continue the theme from recent blogs on learning from nature, I'd suggest that whilst nature (naturally via quartz and pulsars) does have the ability to track time very precisely it's only humans who have decided to use this ability to determine the precise content of every second of their days. The rest of the inhabitants of the planet seem to be quite happy with deciding action based on more basic, and I'd suggest less stressful, mechanisms such as where the sun is in the sky, time of year, feelings of hunger and so on.

What preference do you have for your relationship with time? How does that impact others you work with and your judgement of them or they of you?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Blog 11/31 in the ultimate blog challenge for July.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Let's understand each other instead

Yesterday's blog was entitled 'What part of "No" do you not understand'. It looked at others' (especially those in call centres) reactions when I say "No" and the seeming need to persuade me of the error of my ways.

I often get asked "Isn't that what NLP (Neuro Linguistic programming) does - try to manipulate others into doing what you want them to?" The answer, when I teach and coach influencing and communication techniques, is "No."

I realise in this instance it might be useful to explain my reason for "No" rather than answer as I did yesterday.

Consider for a moment how you'd influence the seeds in the above packet or any plant for that matter? You might try to put them where you want them to grow but unless that provides the right conditions for growth for that type of seed or plant you won't get very far. After all this won't work:
With the seeds above we're lucky as the perfect conditions for growth are provided on the back of the packet. That is we know when and where to plant them, how far apart and what care and attention they need to grow. We won't be able to precisely determine the direction of growth but we can do our best by giving them access to all the relevant conditions they need to flourish. Remembering of course what works for these seeds won't necessarily work for other seeds - that is they each have their own set of conditions that work's perfectly for them.

Those we wish to influence in life are no different. We need to understand what makes them tick too. If we could buy them from a garden centre then the reverse of their packet would tell us things about them such as: their objectives, current challenges, influence within the organisation, alliances, preferences for communication, beliefs and past experiences about the topic we're wishing to influence them on and so on. We'd also come with a packet with similar information. That is we'd both get to understand each other better and what we need in order to flourish.

Communication in this sense is then allowing both sides to understand each other's point of view. This allows both parties to understand whether the needs of one can be met by the other. If I can't meet your needs I will know and so will you. It's certainly not about me trying to shoe horn what I can do into your business.

When wishing to influence others understanding each other first will increase the likelihood of that influence being successful - for both parties.  

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

For more on the use of nature to landscape your life organisationally or personally do see my Facebook page or Pinterest board.

Blog 10/31 in the ultimate blog challenge for july.

Monday 8 July 2013

What part of "NO" do you not understand?

At many a network event I've been invited to attend sales workshops that will help me:
  • Seal the deal
  • Ensure there's a call for action
  • Turn a no into a yes
  • and so on
Having just received a phone call from a call centre operative trying to sell me something today I realise why I'm a little hesitant to attend these workshops. It's because I'd rather accept the above "No" than have potential clients doing this:
Not a pretty sight I appreciate :-) and it doesn't feel great either. As I wrote this blog I could feel myself still getting stressed about it. Is that really how you want potential clients to feel?

I have a growing list of companies, that cold call me and don't accept my first "No", that I will no longer deal with. Not because I don't like their product, not because the price is too high but because their call centre operatives try to persuade me of the error in my thinking. They've been taught every technique in the book. To use emotion and logic, I'd suggest even bullying and badgering, to get us to change our minds and will not give up until we hang up or say yes. There's no empathy just a belief in their own point of view to the exclusion of others being able to hold alternate views.   

I remember Steve Wright on the radio once saying he'd got to the age of 45 and still found it interesting that others didn't accept his "I don't like salad thanks". Instead they try to persuade him of the error of his ways and say things like "I've just put a small piece of salad on your plate so you can try some". I get the same when I say I don't like spicy food - "Oh this isn't hot try some." It's never not hot - to my mouth anyway - and yet I fall for it every time trying to please others and yet I know my own mind and body. I suspect I've tried 'not too spicy' food just short of a 1000 times why should I be bullied into thinking the 999th time will be different.    

I wrote a blog a few months ago entitled 'are you suppliers afraid to say no' I now wonder whether we're just not listening.

Nature is certainly more straightforward - I'd just rather you accepted my "No" than me have to bite your head off, sting or poision you as plants and animals do when they're violated!
Next time someone says "No" - stop and think about your reaction to their response and consider how it might be more beneficial to accept their "No" this time.  

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out   

Blog 9/31 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge for July

Sunday 7 July 2013

Personal flourishing

In a previous blog I shared why I preferred flourish as an outcome of the ICECAPS process I've developed rather than success. Today I'd like to explore personal flourishing.

As a reminder - the main differences between flourishing and success are: success is the achievement of goals and flourishing is to thrive, develop and be healthy. Which means you can succeed and not flourish - which I suspect would lead to failure at some point in the future.

I'm sure many of us would suggest we already have flourishing as our main goal in life rather than success. After all health, happiness and love are all qualities we say we want and of course are all essential if we are to flourish. If Maslow and his hierarchy of needs are right then flourishing also requires safety, security, belonging, esteem and self actualisation.

But look a little deeper and I'm not sure our actions always support this? If asked what success looks like in life I suspect that many of us would include attainment of something such as a particular job or salary, financial independence, a partner, a nice car, a bigger house, a longer holiday and so on. Whilst I appreciate these don't exclude flourishing, I do think we sometimes lose sight of the main aim of flourishing and make achievement of these 'things' our main aim. Lack of them means we think we've failed and yes our flourishing can spiral down as a result of our feelings about this. However is it really their lack that is our failure or instead holding a belief that having these things will somehow enable us to flourish. Of course there's a minimum level we need to achieve to ensure we're safe and secure (as suggested by Maslow) but I'd suggest all of us able to read this are well past that mark - whatever we may think. 

In short I believe we're human beings not human havings or human doings. Human beings flourish. Human havings and doings can succeed but may not necessarily flourish. 

A future blog will consider organisational flourishing. Your homeplay in the mean time is to observe when having and doing is getting in the way of being and therefore ultimately your flourishing. 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Flourishing is the outcome of a 7 step process I've developed that uses nature as our teacher and suggests that, just like nature, we need to preserve our ICECAPS. 

Blog 8 as part of the ultimate blog challenge writing 31 blogs in July. 

Poppy picture with kind permission of Pixabay.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Look beneath the surface to what's really going on

Despite my holiday approaching with rapid speed, a comment on yesterday's blog, which linked Maslow's hierarchy of needs to the food chain, had me rushing back to my laptop to write an additional blog. 

On the train the other week I met and talked to someone for the whole 7 hour journey back home to Fife (including the 2 hour delay). The repercussions for me of which, I'm sure, will ripple out for many weeks, months and even years. I mentioned to her my use of nature with clients to landscape their lives and businesses and she introduced me to Sylvia Earl's work. Sylvia, along with other scientists, is 'worried' about what we're doing, or have already done, to the oceans. One of the other finds arising from that conversation was The Last Ocean documentary. Again the lack of sustainability in our actions, this time in respect to The Ross Sea in Antarctica, is highlighted.

One of the conclusions to be drawn from this new information is the precarious state of our oceans: 

"Less than 10 percent of all fish species remain. Half the coral reefs globally have died or are in sharp decline. Since the 1950s 300 dead zones - oxygen-deficient areas that can't sustain life - have appeared along coasts. Contaminated water is increasing disease worldwide, including cholera. Pollutants in seafood is sickening growing numbers of people. The human impact on oceans and subsequently on climate change is effecting the future of the planet." The World is Blue book description.

I don't know about you but I didn't know that. I know about the depleting ozone layer, the reducing icecaps, the state of the rain forest and the decline in number of bees. Apparently our oceans are in a far worse state.

So why didn't I know that?

I think it relates to the comment made in yesterday's blog and the findings from the undercover boss earlier in the week. When the CEO of DHL knew about the problems in the company he did something about it. Prior to him experiencing the problems first hand he wasn't aware they were a problem.  Yesterday Bonnie shared a story of her father's company stepping in when the locality was hit by a natural disaster. They saw there was a problem and they helped those in need.

Isn't that the reason we don't know about the state of our oceans - because we can't see them? Isn't that why we had the financial crisis and any other crisis whether social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal and ethical? Because we can't see them and it's easier to bury our head in the sand than take responsibility for our actions?

All these crises could have been averted if due diligence and responsibility for actions had been considered before action is taken. The fact we can't see the impact of our actions makes it easier to continue to believe in their benignity.

What I realise as I type, and as these blogs this month reveal themselves, is that using the 7 step ICECAPS checklist for all personal, organisational, political and economic decisions would go some way to stopping this worrying trend.

I would love to know your thoughts - although as I'm away from the pc for a week I won't be replying till I return to work on the 15th.  

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Blog 7/31 in the Ultimate blog challenge in July. This challenge also explains why, whilst I'm away, you'll see scheduled blogs appearing here. I'm back in person on the 15th.