Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Fifty Shades of Red

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

During my rafting trip along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon we covered 225 miles. Along the way, there were many things that I expected – and there were things that were an absolute revelation to me.

The first revelation was the importance of the Canyon’s geology together with the mesmerising beauty of its different coloured layers, complicated by the constant zigzag of equally evocative fault lines.

The whole of the journey was through Arizona, which I already knew came from the Spanish “Arid zona” – what I didn’t know was that the name Colorado comes from the Spanish for “Colour red”.  And the River was red – in places. It was also many shades of red and many other colours besides. Every morning when I awoke, being only a few yards away, it was both easy and fascinating to check on what nature’s paint palette had created overnight – as its colour often changed from how it was the previous evening.

Its colour depended on the part of the river we were on, the amount of rain that had fallen, the waterfalls, side canyons, washes and creeks that were feeding into it, and the speed of the river (the CFS – Cubic Feet per Second) to name four. Look at these pictures of its different colours.

The very bright blue water is the Little Colorado River – a counterpoint to the usually murky waters of the Colorado.

I also came to appreciate that the colour was one of the aspects of the river that the guides used in assessing how it would be for our rafting that day. It helped them to decide how they were going to work with it.

As I lay be the river one morning, mesmerised by its beauty and power, I started to think about how the Colorado was very like a team.

On the face of it, the same river passes through the same route every day.  A traveller would think like that at their peril. A good river guide treats it as a different river every day, and recognises its changes during the day. And this is what a great manager does with their team.

A poor manager sees the same team coming to work every day, whilst a great manager doesn’t have the same team coming to work every day. A great manager has individuals coming to work who will be different every day – and so the team will be too. The great manager notices those differences and manages accordingly – like a great river guide.

In the Harvard Business Review, Marcus Buckingham highlights his findings from research that started with a survey of 80,000 managers conducted through the Gallup Organization and then continued for two years with in-depth studies of a few top performers.  Buckingham found, “… that while there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it. Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. … In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.”

Generally, people leave managers, not organisations.

In “The Value of a Good Manager”, Peter Drucker itemises the four foundations that employees look for in managers. They are:

  • Managers who show care, interest and concern for their staff
  • To know what is expected of them
  • A role which fits their abilities
  • Positive feedback and recognition regularly for work well done.

The first foundation is all about managers recognising the fifty thousand shades of their teams. And in terms of the Colorado, where the likes of the Little Colorado meet the Colorado (picture on the left), that could be seen as a new member of staff joining the team.

What can you do next? Think about yourself, your skills, your interventions with your staff. Drucker suggests five questions to help you:

  • Do I demonstrate care, concern and interest?
  • Am I clear in talking through what’s expected of my staff?
  • Are people working to their strengths? Do I provide support where staff are stretched? Am I proactive in this?
  • How often do I provide positive feedback and encouragement? It’s far too easy to notice the negative and feedback on this.
  • Am I creating the conditions where people want to work with me?

What colour is your river today, and why?


Metro and Mail

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

In the early 1970’s at the age of 13, I went on my first international holiday. It was a school trip to Paris. I still remember aspects of it with great fondness – I say ‘aspects of it’ because I have forgotten a lot of what we did. The most memorable part, without a doubt, was going off and playing on the Metro one afternoon. We had been due to go to some pre-arranged activity, but a friend and I didn’t want to go – we wanted to see how many Metro stations we could visit in one afternoon (although I think our story was that we wanted to go to Pere Lachaise Cemetery as my Grandma had asked me to get some post cards of it).

Looking back on it now, I am a little surprised that the teachers allowed us to disappear off around Paris for half a day, not knowing where we were going (and obviously pre-mobile phones!) – but we were young, excited and gave no thought to whatever dangers a 1970s Paris may hold for two 13 year old lads …

Anyway, we had a great time – but we were doing it on a budget. A budget that required us to buy as few Metro tickets as possible.  We soon discovered that it was possible to insert the same small yellow Metro ticket into the entry machines more than once and still gain access. The machine punched a small round hole in the ticket to show that it had been used, but it was apparent that the machine was unable to detect whether or not a ticket already had a hole in it.

We got to the point where we were playing with the machines to see how many holes we could get in a ticket before it rejected the ticket. I recall that I got to 26 holes … I still have the ticket somewhere, but not sure exactly where.

I have been back to Paris since then and, as you may be aware, the ticket machines are far more sophisticated now. Whilst there may well be some very elaborate frauds available to those keen enough to spend a lot of time on such matters, a couple of 13 year old boys are unlikely to be able to use a ticket more than once.

It is understandable why they sorted it out – in terms of funding operations, tube fares really are the Metro’s lifeline. Whilst the Metro will have other revenue streams such as refreshment kiosks and advertising, their primary funding stream is the passenger. All fairly straight forward?

I would say so, but it appears not to be for the UK’s Post Office and Royal Mail.

The Post Office’s ‘raison d’etre’ is to deliver letters. Selling cards, holiday insurance and travel money must surely be ‘add-ons’ – particularly when there are apparently around 60 million letters posted each day (based on a six day week).

So if this is the main funding stream, it needs to be managed effectively – but it is not. I never cease to be amazed at the number of letters that I receive where the stamps have not been franked (i.e. had an ink date stamped across the stamps). The picture at the top of the page are ones I have received in the past month where the stamps are as fresh and clean as they day they were bought. The total value of those stamps is £5.98.

At the risk of appearing very sad, for the past three year I have monitored this issue around Christmas time and have found that around 15% of letters I receive with stamps on are not franked. What does this add up to in financial terms?

Let’s say the average cost to send a letter is 65 pence. If half of these use stamps (as opposed to other forms of paying postage) this equates to 180 million being sent a week at a cost of £117m per week (180m letters x 65p).

Over the year, this equates to £6.1b. A significant sum. 15% of this figure is £912m – that’s the value of stamps that are not being marked as ‘used’. If customers were to re-use 50% of those stamps (which I am not advocating) it equates to an annual loss of around £456m. A significant loss.

How can a company afford to lose that amount of money on something which is their core business? Machines that frank letters effectively can’t be too difficult to create, can they?  And even if they are, a quick memo along the following lines from employer to employee could start to eradicate the problem:

Dear postal worker, when delivering letters where the stamps have not been franked, please put a pen stroke across the stamps. Thank you.

Potential saving – almost £0.5b.

If the Post Office is so inefficient, no wonder it is being sold off. Did it lose its focus? Did it take its eye off the ball.

Whatever the size of your business or operation, it is always worth taking some time out every now and then to check you have your priorities right. As Richard Branson said, “To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself and focusing on the essentials”.


Is it pointless trying (except in rugby)?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

How often do you use the word ‘Try’ when you are telling yourself or others that you are going to do something? And just as importantly, what are you really saying? For such a small word, it can have hugely debilitating effects.

The use of the word comes up in many coaching sessions I undertake – and that’s because managers and leaders have a propensity to use it. Think of the last time you used it, and then think about what you were really saying.

Sometimes when people use it, and they say that they are going to ‘try’ and do something, they are really sharing that they don’t really have the confidence or belief that they can achieve whatever it is. They are already giving themselves a way out, telling themselves that it’s alright if they don’t achieve whatever it is they are going to ‘try’ to do.

On other occasions it can be used more dishonestly – and sadly I have to admit to using it in this way myself.  For example, if my wife asks me to do something, and I know there is little possibility of me doing it due to other – as far as I am concerned – more pressing or important activities, I will respond that I will ‘try’ to do it (I’m hoping and assuming that this is not too much of a revelation for her, but I also know I’m reasonably safe as she doesn’t read my blogs … well, I don’t think she does …). And guess what – it usually doesn’t get done.

The common denominator between the two examples is that the task or activity we are considering will probably not be achieved. As a rule of thumb or a default position, I find that the more a person uses the word ‘try’, the less they will accomplish.

There was some American research undertaken a number of years ago that supports my rule of thumb. It found that where a manager says that they are going to ‘try’ to undertake something, they are approximately 50% less likely to achieve it than when they leave out the word ‘try’. Unfortunately, I can’t re-find the source (but if anyone has it please let me know!).

You have probably heard the proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”. According to Gregory Titelman’s book, “The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings”, it has been traced back to a book called ‘Teacher’s Manual’ by the American educator Thomas H. Palmer, and it was designed to motivate American children to do their homework. Palmer (1782-1861) wrote in his ‘Teacher’s Manual’: ‘Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ I wonder whether it had the desired effect?

A more positive quote, or way of looking at matters, can be found in the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help build the boy into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  ”No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

And Yoda is right. There really is no try. We do something or we don’t do something. And so many thousands, possibly millions, more goals would be achieved every day if we stopped talking to ourselves and others in terms of ‘trying’.  

There is, however, one situation where a ‘try’ is an achievement. This is in rugby. A ‘try’ is scored when a player touches the ball down behind the opponent’s goal line. Why was that word used? Well, a ‘try’ originally didn’t get any points. When it was first introduced, the only way to score points was by kicking a goal – and the ‘try’ simply gave the team the opportunity to kick for goal and for points. The game has moved on since then, but the terminology has not.

But do you need to move on with your terminology? How often do you ‘try’? Does it add to your successes or stop you from achieving? Listen out for the next time you say it. Reflect on it. If necessary, plan to use a different phrase in future and evaluate how it impacts on your performance.


Foundations of team success – whatever the scale

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I saw last week that Croatia is now going to be able to join the EU, probably in July 2013. Assuming it goes ahead, they will be the twenty-eighth state to join. It is of particular interest to me as I spent eight years working with their Interior Ministry and Ministry of Justice assisting with their preparations for this eventuality. Croatia is an incredibly beautiful country which I have visited many times. When I visited during the late 1990’s, however, I saw a more serious side.

I visited Vukovar – a Croat city on the border with Serbia – where there were mass murders based on ethnicity, together with a huge amount of physical damage. At the same time I also visited Bosnia. Sarajevo and Srebrenica, both of which I found terribly depressing, were awful places which appeared to have no hope at that time.

Balkan history is complicated, however, what happened in Yugoslavia in the last quarter of the last century is reasonably straightforward. The Yugoslav President, Josip Broz Tito died in 1980. He had ruled post-WW2 Yugoslavia in a hard line manner. In doing so, he managed to retain a bond between the very different parts that made up Yugoslavia. Once he was gone, no one could carry on his style of leadership. As the economic decline took a stronger hold during the 1980’s, the disparate states within Yugoslavia increasingly focused on their differences. The areas that are now Slovenia and Croatia knew that they generated the majority of the country’s income, much of which subsidised the other areas – and so they decided that they wanted out. Slovenia decided it had had enough in 1991 and declared itself an independent country – and got away with it. Croatia, which is closer to Serbia, decided to follow suit, but by this time Belgrade – the current capitol of Serbia and the former capitol of Yugoslavia – was wise to it and decided to halt it. Their devastating war began.

Fast forward to Europe in June 2011, and we find a similar situation – substitute the EU for Yugoslavia. There is a harsh economic climate, a number of states are close to financial melt-down and there are mutterings that the richer states don’t want to support them any longer. There is no prospect of war, but there is the prospect of the downfall of the Euro. The question is being asked as to whether it is possible for a currency to function effectively across a number of countries without one ‘corporate’ shared financial strategy.

These moments in history are played out every day all over the world. What happens on these world stages occurs in far smaller teams in organisations. What they illustrate so well are the foundations that must be in place for any team, country or continent to function effectively:

  • Effective senior leadership – a leader who is prepared to listen, and who has true followers.
  • Strong and valued relationships – ones that have been built over time where there is strong rapport, not ones that will splinter when under pressure.
  • A shared vision and strategy – which is bought into by all parties through open dialogue.
  • An ability to handle conflict – a willingness to talk, negotiate and accept responsibility.
  • People or states have problems – they are not problem people or problem states, and they need to be viewed in that way.
  • Valuing diversity – an acceptance that we all bring different abilities to the table which will be recognised in different situations.

Effective leadership means thinking forward to these difficult times during the relatively easy times – and everyone needs to demonstrate this as we all have that responsibility.

As a team member, team manager or team leader, what are you contributing to ensure your team is truly effective in challenging times?


Misleading Matters

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

I was having a lovely email exchange with a person yesterday who has recently moved into learning and development management. She was explaining how she now needed to be more strategic, she has real plans for her company and she was so passionate about what she wanted to achieve. It was an inspiring exchange!

It started me thinking about if I was in such a position again. If I wanted to develop a culture that was as performance focused as possible and able to demonstrate how it added quantifiable value to the organisation, what are the words or phrases that would most hinder that culture shift, and what would I seek to replace them with? How could I demonstrate clarity of direction? Here are my top five:

Training Manager – that would be the first one to go. For me, the title signifies that the post-holder is purely focussed on what happens whilst a delegate is attending a course or undertaking an e-learning package. I’d want to be the Learning and Development Manager – or even the Performance Improvement Manager – thus signifying that I have a proactive interest in engaging with the managers and delegates pre and post event, and ascertaining the value of our contribution.

Abstraction – So often I used to be told at meetings that training was an abstraction, and the person making the judgment argued they couldn’t afford such an abstraction (in some companies the word ‘overhead’ is also used). I would immediately retort – sometimes interrupting the person, especially if they didn’t get the message the first time – that the learning and development that I managed and delivered was an investment (not an abstraction). If people get used to referring to your activities as an abstraction, the activities have the potential to become so. Take the opportunity to change the culture and make people think differently about what you are doing.  Eventually others will call it an investment, and then you know the culture can change and you will be viewed very differently.

Time Management Course – Why advertise that you are going to do something that is clearly impossible? Sailors don’t claim to manage the tides, and weather reporters don’t claim to manage the weather – we may wonder what planet they were coming from if they did. So what reasons do trainers and training managers have for claiming they can help people manage time?  We know what the tides will do, and can see and feel (and predict to some degree) the weather, so we manage ourselves accordingly. The same goes for time. Call such events Task Management or Task Prioritisation Courses – you will be surprised how differently people think about the event from the outset, because you are being clear about what will be achieved. Have a look at all your offerings – do they really do what they say on the tin?

Problem Person – I have often been faced with someone seeking assistance as they have a ‘Problem Person’ to deal with.  I bet Carl Rogers turns in his grave every time he hears this. If people are viewed in this way, they will potentially always be a problem. Such an individual is a person. A person who has a problem – a problem which you may well be able to assist them with. Where the manager thinks they have a ‘Problem Person’ they will more than likely become one.

Can you organise a (whatever) skills course, please? – The answer to this is ‘No’ – well not on this information, anyway. Operational managers are busy people and also may not be aware of all the ways that development needs can be met. You need to find out more – a lot more … how was the need identified, how many people does it apply to, how do we know it applies to all of them, why do all of them need it, what opportunities will there be for all these people to use the new skill, and so on. Get to the heart of the matter. You will receive so many ill-defined needs – and asking these questions (and others) will help generate a performance improvement partnership between your function and the rest of the organisation. And if you don’t ask the questions, and the learning and development intervention doesn’t work, the operational manager will make it public as to whose fault they think it is – and that will not do your culture shift (or reputation) much good!

So those are my top five – are there any that you would add?


Who’s giving training a bad name?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I sometimes wonder how people are appointed to positions as trainers. Do some organisations see it as a position that people are moved if they might be good at it, and are then left to get on with it – without any training or support? Do businesses think training is such a waste of time that they just employ anyone in the position? Whatever the reason, there appear to be too many companies or trainers giving training a bad name.

I see requests for assistance from trainers on various forums, but I’m not sure how they expect people to be able to respond with targeted and focussed suggestions. I’m meaning where people are asking others to suggest methodologies. Here are a couple I have recently seen:

“I have a four-hour workshop to give on presentations skills. I see the same participants the following week and they have to give a five-minute using the information they’ve learned in just four hours. Any recommendations? No technology available for them except for one laptop. They do not have laptops themselves.”

“I work in a manufacturing facility and I am about to conduct management development training for supervisors/managers to teach them more about ‘HR in their jobs’.   Does anyone have any good icebreakers that will compliment this training?”

Do these same people (or organisations) say, “I’m going to buy a car, which one would you recommend?”, or “I’m going on holiday and need a coat – which do you think I should buy?” I think not. So why do it for training?

Trainers asking such questions cannot expect to receive any sort of meaningful advice or assistance. And if they do use what is offered, does the organisation realise how much money it is potentially wasting?  

Let’s say we have 12 people in our group, and each receives a salary of £100 per day. That means with salary on-costs they probably cost their organisation £120 per day. That’s £1,440 in wages for attending a day’s training. Add another £200 for the trainer’s delivery and preparation time, £100 for the administration of getting the people on to the course, £50 for room hire and £10 for photocopying costs – that gives us a total cost of £1,800 for the day. There may also be travel and meal costs, but we’ll leave it at this for the purpose of the exercise.

If we have 6.5 hours contact time, it means that each hour of delivery is costing our organisation approximately £277.00. Or £4.62 per minute.  So a half hour opening exercise comes in at £138.

And if it costs £138 it needs to be focussed – not focussed on the ideas of others who have no knowledge of the organisation, but focussed on operational effectiveness, focussed or organisational goals, focussed on delegate needs and focussed on extracting a return on the investment. Effective evaluation.

As effective trainers know, evaluation starts at the planning stage. An evaluation of the needs of the attendees and the organisation. Once a Training Needs Analysis of some sort has been undertaken, planning, validation, delivery and further evaluation follow. This evaluation can show the organisational and operational improvements that have been achieved as a result of the training. Very satisfying, and likely to lead to the increased credibility of the trainers and L&D function.

Training people effectively is costly. Training people ineffectively is even more costly as we reduce (or fail to get any) the return on the investment.

Or have I got it all wrong?


Can you afford not to do this?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Conflict in the workplace costs the UK economy dearly. Conflict outside the workplace generates huge amounts of wasted time and unhelpful emotions.

According to the Report Fight, Flight or Face It (OPP, 2008), “the average employee spends 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflict. For the UK alone, that translates to 370 million working days lost every year as a result of conflict in the workplace” (p.4).

The same report suggests that in the UK perhaps we conform to our international stereotype of bottling up our emotions. It found that 65% of UK employees “… admit to feeling anger or frustration in the face of conflict at work”, compared with 57% across the nine countries surveyed in the study (p.19). Furthermore, 30% of UK respondents reported that conflict has resulted in an absence from work – compared with 25% across all respondents.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey Report Leadership and the Management of Conflict at Work, (CIPD, 2008), found that 44% of the 660 HR respondents reported that they have to manage disputes at work “frequently or continually” (p.4). It also reports that 28% of the respondents “… admit to having left a job as a result of conflict at work” (p.7).

So why don’t we address it more often?

I think that there are three main reasons:

1)    We often worry about whether we can handle it effectively

2)    We have concerns about how the other person(s) will react.

3)    We’ve got more important things to do (at least, that’s what we tell ourselves).

Well, here’s a way to do it that helps out with points 1 and 2 (and if you needed convincing that it’s not an important issue, the statistics I mentioned earlier should have helped). It’s a model called CUDSA – and it gives a structure to discussions. And following a structure will reduce the chance of unhelpful emotions getting in the way.

Confront the behaviour – it may well be that the person is aware of what they are doing, however, it is often not the case. Where a person displays unhelpful behaviour on a regular basis, it is easy to make the assumption that they must know that they are causing conflict – but it would be wrong to do so. I have come across situations on several occasions where everyone has assumed (or perhaps hoped) that someone else has already given feedback and therefore not addressed it. Often the person appreciates being made aware of the issue.

Understand each other’s position – the most important stage. If this isn’t carried out thoroughly and openly, the remainder of the discussion and any solution will not last very long. There will almost certainly be new information as you discuss this – in situations of conflict we often make judgements about the other person that may well not be based on fact – this stage addresses such potentially devisive issues.

Define the problem – once you have all the information and fully understand each other’s position, you will be able to define the problem. This needs to be achieved objectively and succinctly. Write it down so you record it clearly.

Search for a solution – list all the possible solutions, even if they seem a bit off the wall. Some might initially not seem workable, but they might generate further ideas from the other person. The more you come up with, the more chance you have of arriving at a really effective one.

Agree a way forward – Having reached this far, and if you have carried out the previous stages thoroughly, this final stage should be relatively straight forward. You will have built up increased rapport with the other person and may well see them in a different, more positive, light. Be specific about your way forward – and if what you agree is going to impact on others, let them know what you are going to do – it will increase your likelihood of success. Finally, fix a date to meet again to see how it’s going – this will help ensure the buy-in of all concerned.

Have a go. You can make a huge impact on your business and on the effectiveness of individuals. And you will develop and improve your own skills!


Be clear about what you can actually manage

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I was reading some posts on a Forum at the weekend relating to a person wanting some ideas for running a ‘Time Management Course’. I’m sure that you will have seen such events advertised. You may even have attended one yourself. The one thing that you will not have learned on the course is how to manage time.

Do sailors and mariners attend Tide Management courses? I don’t think so. I’m aware that King Canute piloted such a course back in the eleventh Century, but it turned out to be a bit of a non starter. He quickly realised that he was struggling to achieve the stated objectives and delegate feedback wouldn’t be good. There are certainly none that I can find on the internet. That’s probably because everyone knows that it’s not possible to manage the tide – you have to work within around High and Low tides.

I have been in cars many times when it has been getting dark and the driver – whether it has been me or someone else – has turned the lights on. As I turn the lights on, I don’t think to myself, “Oh, I’ll just manage the sunset”, I think (something like), “Oh, it’s getting dark”.

As a slight aside to that, who thought it would be a good idea to teach children about the sun rising and the sun setting? And then just when they understand that – or they think they understand it – teach  them that actually the sun stays exactly where it is – it’s us that moves …

Anyway, back to time management … So why do we talk about time management?

Not only is it an impossible task, it actually detracts from what anyone attending such a learning event is probably intending to address. If the event was called something like “Effective Task Management”, then this would more accurately summarise what the event is all about. And – more importantly – it would keep the learner focused on what they should really be seeking to achieve.  

The clearer we are with communication, the more we can achieve.


Handling weather fronts

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

I was very sad to see that Alex “Hurricane” Higgins had died at the weekend. In the early 1980’s I really enjoyed watching him play. He had such talent as a snooker player. He could pot balls from difficult positions with such apparent ease. He didn’t indulge in conformity. I have very fond memories of discussions with my dad as to his qualities when compared with the likes of Steve Davis – who my dad particularly liked to watch. I suspect that part of my fascination with Alex Higgins was that he was totally the opposite of me in so many ways and, at that time, I wished I could have been like him in.

Knowing more about him now, I am very pleased that I wasn’t and am not like him. As the years progressed I became more aware of his unpredictability, his mercurial temperament, his alcohol-related behaviour. He had a chaotic lifestyle.

When I read about such individuals, I always wonder whether with a little more assistance they could have lead a more organised and less chaotic life. I then wonder whether by doing that, it would have stunted their phenomenal talent and inventiveness. Does the sheer brilliance of talent have to go with a lifestyle of chaos and unpredictability? Are the two inseparable?

I don’t know. But I do know that most of us at certain times in our lives find ourselves in situations where we need a little help in order to steer ourselves through stormy situations or mildly chaotic periods. And this same weekend I had a phone call from one such person who I had recently assisted. Jayne – I will call her – has absolutely nothing in common with Alex Higgins, and in at least one way she is completely different to him – she realised when she needed a little assistance.

Last month – 22 June to be precise – I blogged about how I was assisting a number of people with their preparations for their CIPD examinations. One person in particular – Jayne, I will call her – had explained to me that when she read the exam paper, the questions, “just became a jumble of words making no sense”.  Jayne had failed the exams the first time around, having walked out after half an hour. When we first made contact, there were three weeks to go before the exam and she was panicking about what she needed to do. She was finding the whole thing very stressful – made worse by problems she was having at work.

Three weeks wasn’t long to have an impact. We had telephone chats every two or three days. We had short term action plans and longer term action plans (but never longer than three weeks!). I gave her micro-teaches on aspects of Transactional Analysis (TA), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) to help her understand what was happening for her and how she could start to manage the situation more effectively. I devised a set of questions (see 22 June entry) to assist Jayne with focusing whilst in the exam.

I spoke to Jayne a few days after the exam and she thought that she had given it her best shot, and a few days later she emailed me (see 10 June entry) to thank me for my assistance.

I didn’t expect to hear from Jayne again – but then she rang at the weekend. She rang to say that she had passed, and not only had she passed, she had achieved a distinction (over 70%)!  She was very pleased – and wanted to thank me for my support. I was overjoyed for her, and was smiling about it for the whole weekend – the effort that she had put in had really paid off. It illustrated a few points for me:

  • There are times when we all need help – and those of us who are prepared to seek it out will generally flourish.
  • Never give up – it’s never too late to start to address something – (but it is easier with more time!).
  • By being open to new learning and skills we can achieve much in what appears to be a short space of time – and can create positive ‘anchors’ that will assist us in future endeavours.

How could you be more effective with a little assistance or a little more focus?