Friday 30 October 2015

Expectations and achievement

Over the years I've obtained many insights from my personal training sessions. Such sessions that have me rushing to my laptop have usually ended with my laughter and "that would make a great blog."

Here's what generated today's laughter and insight.

Earlier in the week I ended my PT session with 3 sets of plank of increasing duration - 30s, 45s and 60s. On the last set I was screeching and near to tears as my body shook with strain at holding such a strong position for so long.

... Fast forward to this morning ...

"Please don't get me to do 60s again" I pleaded. Which resulted in the following.
  • I held plank for 30s - being told of my progress in 10s increments.
  • I held plank for 45s - being told of my progress in 10s increments
  • I held plank for 60s - being told of mu progress in 10s increments
My personal trainer then showed me his stop watch ....

Apparently my timings were actually 30s, 50s, 71s, with increments in approx 12s (when telling me they were 10s).

Had he told me before I started I was going to do it for that long I'd have failed to do it! I know myself well enough to know that, certainly as far as fitness is concerned, if I don't think I can do something then I won't. Today's white lie proved to me I have to be careful about my expectations of my ability to do things - both fitness and I'm sure at work too.  

Alison Smith
Inspiring change - inside and out in mind, body, heart, soul and purchasing!

Other insights shared more broadly here around well being broadly have covered:

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Begin with the end in mind

During last week's Category Management workshop we discussed how to ensure we start meetings/workshops, and our day, in the appropriate state of mind to achieve the objectives for the session.

All to often we rush from one meeting to the next, grab a coffee, answer a few emails and start the session distracted, and already thinking about the next meeting.

With all this rushing about and busyness the challenge is we're not always in a state of mind, body and emotions that is conducive to an effective and efficient meeting.

The solution is so simple it's often seen as common sense, and therefore ignored, with assumptions being made that "we're already doing all this", or "we don't have time to do it right so let's just get on with the meeting before we waste any more time!" or even worse thinking "I'm ok so everyone else must be too!"

There's so much we can do to ensure we shift into a resourceful state at the start of the meeting and this can include:

Looking after our well-being
  • Ensuring we're appropriately fed and watered (dehydration can hinder thinking - so too grumbling stomachs or too much caffeine or sugar) 
  • Ensure room temperature and ventilation is at appropriate levels (such an easy thing to get wrong and can be the source of much distraction)
  • Having had some quiet time during the day (because otherwise you will be trying to do too many things in the meeting rather than pay attention)
  • Ensuring regular breaks are taken
  • Taking responsibility for our body posture (because a tense body leads to tense thinking)
Clarity of objective
  • Agreeing the outcome needed
  • Agreeing the process to be used to achieve this - this may be achieved via an agenda
  • Agreeing timings
  • Agreeing roles and responsibilities 
Agreeing how to minimise distractions 
  • Taking time to write down what you're thinking/worrying about to pick it back up at the end of the meeting (childlike perhaps and an effective tools for compartmentalising the meeting for our brain, and therefore metaphorically leaving everything else at the door)
  • Closing emails on laptops/phones
  • Having a car park for unrelated issues to discuss at a later time
  • Having a red/yellow card to use for rabbit holes
Agreeing what won't help the meeting achieve it's objectives
  • Talking about unrelated topics
  • Gossiping (I may write a blog on this as it's interesting how often we can fall back into behaviour that could be described as gossiping)
  • Talking over others
  • Repeating past grievances
  • and so on
What behaviours are agreed as unacceptable will be culturally specific - for example the acceptable level of, and vocality of disagreement could be very different between different teams/countries. I know from recent experiences in the Netherlands and Finland that both find a less direct approach very frustrating.

Agreeing what will help you achieve the objectives
  • Reminding ourselves what state of mind and body will be most appropriate - for example if creative thinking is required how can you do something that will inspire that type of thinking. Sitting around the same table in the same building may not do that - whilst going for a walk outside might! Or perhaps get the Creative Whack Pack out.
  • Common suggestions for helpful behaviours include: respect, courage to speak up, receptivity, openness, honesty and so on.
  • I sometimes use cards (see pictures above or below) by way of a discussion about what is needed for the session. Years after I'd left full time employment the team I used to work with still used these cards to start meetings - that is they'd found it was a useful way to keep meetings on track - and not just a peculiarity or foible of my meetings :-)
Starting by being in rapport with each other
  • Starting by focussing on what everyone agrees on, and has in common with each other - it may be the current situation, the problems, the need to find a solution (see this blog for more on rapport)
  • Doing something together - the obvious - having a drink, introductions, sharing updates etc
  • Doing something together - not for everyone - mindful breathing, showing appreciation ;-) 
I know much of the above is common sense but a reminder of these best practices at the start of a meeting ensures they are fresh in people's minds. 

Rather than repeat the above lists at every meeting you may just want to start the meeting with:
  • What Worked Well - at the last or other meetings
  • Even Better If - from previous or other meetings
That is have a discussion about how you all want the meeting to be conducted - this will enable you to discuss positive behaviours it's easy to forget about, and less than positive behaviours its easy to let back in. Remembering that bad habits, as well as good habits, can find their way into unconscious competence/incompetence.

I'd love to read your suggestions on how you ensure everyone gets the most from their attendance of a meeting, and how you ensure objectives are achieved.

For more about the content of the training last week do see yesterday's blog on "I've written a blog on that".

Monday 26 October 2015

I've written a blog on that!

When delivering Category Management or Supplier Management training I can often be heard saying "I've written a blog on that". Not so much about the procurement theories and models - more often about learning, influencing, communication and perhaps the softer skills that enable effective best practice procurement to take place and deliver real value to the organisation.

Often those attending the workshop ask for details of a blog I mention. So here's an index of blogs mentioned on a recent  3 day category management workshop (I'm updating these after each subsequent workshop. This mean it's becoming quite a long list, which I apologise if it only
makes more sense to those who attended rather than those looking to understand what we might cover in such a workshop.)
Blogs on more procurementy topics have covered:
Well-being also crops up, perhaps more over lunch or in the evening. Here's a few blogs covering topics discussed, not at every workshop, but occasionally:
Have a great week.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out (more here on why that's important)

PS: See this link for a similar index for a supplier management workshop I ran recently, and another on effective team building. Although over time these lists are starting to contain very similar blogs.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Having a chocolate moment

Oil rigs appear every few years and stay in line of sight from my house for a few months whilst maintenance is undertaken on them, and so I celebrate when they depart leaving me once again with a clear view of Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth.

I was talking to my personal trainer today and said "oh goody we may be saying goodbye to this oil rig" and then went on to describe how the boat is able to seemingly submerge it's middle so the oil rig can be floated onto it and taken back out to sea. 

He looked at me very strangely and said "the boat seems a little small to me."

I looked out of the window and laughed and said "Oh we're having a chocolate moment!"

Again he looked at me strangely.

On most of my workshops I use the word "chocolate" as an example of how we each have different interpretations for words. In the exercise I ask people to write down the first 8 words they think about when thinking of chocolate, and then ask them to compare them with the first 8 words others on the workshop have written down. Generally even the most common word will only be written down by 50% of those there, and some have very few words in common with others and everyone has words that are not common with anyone else. 

Of course when you think of other more relevant words such as purchasing, procurement, consultant, or trainer it certainly helps explain how misunderstandings arise. 
Once we've done the exercise in a workshop any misunderstandings from then onwards are attributed as "we're having a chocolate moment."

Look at the picture again and notice how many boats there are near the oil rig. 
When I said "boat" my personal trainer had seen the small one on the right hand side away from the oil rig.  When I said "boat" I was meaning the boat on the right hand side but adjacent to and partly obscured by the oil rig. 

Such a great example of how easy it is to be at cross purposes when we make assumptions that we're talking about the same thing.

Next time two opinions seem to be at odds with each other it may be that you're also having a chocolate moment. You may therefore just need to clarify what you're both talking about. You may just be surprised at where the difference in opinion is coming from.

Subsequently I've written other blogs exploring definition of supplier management, supplier relationship management, out of contract and one from recent NHS experience on personal care. 

Inspiring change inside and out (more here on why that's important)

and I realise last time the oil rig left I took a picture of just what I've been talking about...

The "boat" with sunken middle
This last picture shows the legs that have been retracted above the oil rig's accommodation into the sky, rather than below it into the sea bed, if you see what I mean. At least you can see Edinburgh and the castle on the skyline in this picture unlike in today's!

Thursday 1 October 2015

NLP - does it work

I like a challenge, and as I have a few hours before my plane leaves Amsterdam, I have decided to use that time to reply to Rob Briner's post asking about the evidence for NLP. 

I'd suggest the question is flawed - it's assuming NLP is something that we can define - something we all have a common understanding about that we can put in a wheelbarrow and investigate.  

However I see NLP as something similar to purchasing, HR, gardening or dancing. That is - a catch all title that doesn't necessarily tell you what competencies, tools, techniques or outcomes anyone is using or getting from doing that activity. I personally put the techniques I learnt on the NLP workshops in the personal development or soft skills category rather than using NLP.

I don't know the research behind dancing, and in fact I would suggest I don't even know what the outcome we think dancing is meeting. I know I enjoy it, and I know I personally get benefit from doing it and watching it. That's enough evidence for me. 

There's lots of varieties of dance, and when millions sit down to watch Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday evening they're not wondering what research has been undertaken for its efficacy. 

Everyone watching Strictly will have a different viewpoint about the benefits they get from watching, and what benefits those taking part obtain. If they don't enjoy watching it they simply turn it off - friends may try to convince them of the error of their ways but they're hardly going to be persuaded to watch by someone showing them a research paper on the benefits of vicarious dance watching. Alternatively millions of people enjoying it won't be persuaded by other research demonstrating how TV watching is bad for them.

That is the Strictly watchers, and non watchers alike, use their personal experience to determine the efficacy of their experience. That experience will then determine whether they continue to choose to experience it.

If I want to get fitter, learn to dance, relax, become more supple or flexible, laugh out loud, or simply spend time with friends there will be a multitude of dance classes, nightclubs (are they still called that?) or DVDs I can use to support me in achieving that outcome. 

To decide which of these different classes we take we will each need different data/evidence.
  • One person may need to try it for themselves and if they have a good experience believe it works
  • Another may need to try it 5 times until they believe it's effective 
  • Someone else may need to know someone who has benefited 
  • Or know 10 people who have benefited 
  • Or know someone in authority who has found it works 
  • Or only know it's effective if their friend believes it 
  • Or read a book on the subject 
  • Or they may need to know why it works
  • Or understand the underlying theory or process it uses 
  • Or see the research that supports why it works
We're all different - the above list provides 10 different means of obtaining evidence. What we each mean by the word 'evidence' is therefore different. My evidence, is not your evidence, is not another person's evidence. There is certainly evidence for the efficacy of all NLP techniques just not the evidence some would like.

I can't persuade someone who wants the research paper that something works based on my experience, in the same way someone else wont be able to persuade me that my experience is invalid because of the lack of a research paper. In the same way that, just because someone only believes in something's efficacy because a professor said so, doesn't mean I'm going to discount my own experience. (Best not muddy the water further with exploring the fact that we often get what we look for in life which presupposes nothing is fact :-)) 

Yes there will be dance DVDs and classes making extraordinary claims but they're the minority and certainly won't be used to judge all dance classes. Why expect the same from those using NLP techniques in their work. It's why I use personal development as the term to describe the tools I use - too many people have chunked their experience of 1 NLP tool or practitioner to mean it applies to all NLP tools and practitioners. Something we don't do when we look for dance, soft skills, communication or influencing experts. 

I don't know what research has been done on every NLP technique - similarly I don't know what research has been done for dancing. I don't know why people haven't tried to justify each of the NLP tool's existence or efficacy. I don't know who would pay for this, and the motivation behind doing it. The things I read about where research is funded seem to be where $billions are involved to counter the nay sayers in order to protect the profit e.g. pharma, FMCG, car emissions and so on - and look where research got them. 

(I'm not saying research isn't valid I'm just saying that for me my own experience will have a higher priority than someone else's research because I trust myself more. That said if someone provides their evidence I will explore it to see if my own criteria may be flawed, or in need of change. After that we may agree to disagree  - we're simply choosing to work from a different map of the world).

I also don't know the research for the category management tools and techniques, supplier management techniques or HR techniques I use every day - but I still use them. 360 degree feedback was all the rage some time ago and now I'm reading it's going out of favour. Did research determine when it was the flavour of the month, and it is now determining it's decline? I don't know - although the research itself doesn't necessarily change someone's good or bad experience of 360 feedback. 

What I do know is since attending an NLP workshop I understand myself better, and therefore as a result can flex my behaviour more easily to adapt to situations and people. The tools I use the most, with myself and others, I use frequently because they work (for me and my clients) eg well formed outcomes, eliciting values, beliefs, use of metaphor, rapport, language, anchoring **, standing in their shoes

I'm sad Rob if you want to know the research before you try out a technique (although now I check your occupation I can understand it's the foundation of what you do). For me that would provide me with a lot of stress because it would impact so many aspects of my life and stop me making any decisions or taking action! 

I saw someone do something really well today, and at the next opportunity I will be trying it out myself. I don't need to know what research supports its efficacy - I experienced the words for myself and will see what outcome I get. If it works I may do it again, and I may even tell others. (That said I'd word it as 'this worked for me why not try it yourself' rather than saying "having tried it once I now think it's a miracle cure".)

For me that's what modelling is all about - and NLP started out as 2 academics researching how people did what they did well so others could try it for themselves. The tools aren't something new and were around before someone decided to give put them in a NLP toolkit - they're things people, who do things well, do - so watch 2 people in rapport and you'll be able to learn what rapport is. Yes I learnt this on an NLP workshop - but if prompted you could learn it on a bus or in the pub too. Most things I learn in conversation with others in the pub I don't feel the need to rush to find the research - I may buy a book but I'm assuming that's not what you'd accept as evidence Rob? The lack of research certainly wouldn't stop me trying them out and then sharing it in my work if I found they worked for me. 

Your very question Rob is the essence of what NLP workshops have taught me - we're all different, we're motivated by different things, react differently, have different convincer strategies. What is right for me may not be right for you - it doesn't mean we're either right or wrong - it's just how we make sense of our world. 

I'm sorry I can't give you what you need to know - I'd love to be able to give you the research that proves that a number of NLP techniques are fabulous tools - just because I can't doesn't mean they're not fabulous tools for some people. 

Ok best go through security - see you on the other side ;-) 

** just a thought - anchoring is based on Pavlov's research (ie the guy with the dogs, bell and dog food) and is the basis behind the phobia technique I was taught. That is a stimulus causes a reaction and you can exchange that negative reaction with a more positive one. ie use the same mechanism that you developed the phobia in the first place to make it less intense. It's not magic but may feel like that to someone who has had a phobia for years and no longer has it. The key to getting the technique right is ensuring you understand the stimulus - for a spider it could be seeing it, or it moving, or its legs or something else entirely. Until you understand the stimulus that triggers the reaction Pavlov's theory isn't going to be of any use at all! We've taught ourselves how to be scared for years and we can teach ourselves not to be - someone just decided to put it in the NLP toolkit.