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A thought for June

June already. Where is the year going? Lots of young people taking exams, poor things. Lots of hay fever about and at the other extreme; thunder storms and horrible humidity. Some people made the half term holiday into a proper holiday and everyone else is looking forward to their annual pilgrimage to the sun.

That is the upside. A couple of days ago I was shelling out huge sums of money for some root canal work. It got me thinking about how we purchase. There are 3 types:

  1. The basic stuff we have to have on a day to day basis like food and underwear. It is not optional, and it is not much fun to buy.
  2. The exciting stuff like clothes, shoes, a new guitar or a gig ticket. These purchases give us a boost and we love them.
  3. Then there are grudge purchases like my dental work. We do not want it. We did not budget for it and we do not feel the benefit. These simply take us back to the status quo.

If you sell the basic stuff then it has to be a stunning transaction for people to keep coming back otherwise they might just go on price. Stunning customer service is the way to get loyalty.

Exciting stuff can sell itself if we make the product or service enticing. Building the dream of ownership is how we sell it.

When it comes to a grudge purchase we want it done properly and as economically as possible. I deliberately did not say cheaply because we want it done once and we want it done properly.

It got me thinking about training, development and experience. We do our initial training and professional qualifications where they are appropriate and then we spend time on continuous professional development. We learn new skills either because we want to become more specialist or because the world we are in is changing and we want to keep up. We seek out experience to complement the training and we become increasingly worth our hire. My dentist is particularly skilled in root canals and his equipment is state of the art and that meant my time in the dentist’s chair was comfortable and as short as possible. He did a great job and although I am poorer I am now pain free and I still have the tooth.

I paid for the training, development and the experience and it has to be remembered: his years of preparation meant I was only in the chair for two hours and the pain was gone. However, there is something else. Anyone can make a job look difficult, it takes talent, real skill and lots of experience to make a job look easy. The ease gives the customer confidence both in the immediate job and its longevity. However, there is a danger because someone makes something look easy we may take the work for granted and forget that it is excellent workmanship. His trick was to take an X-ray before hand and talk about what he could see for five minutes before the work started. He made it clear what he would do and the chances of success. After the work was complete there was another X-ray and he explained what he had done.

My dental work is an obvious success (no pain and no hole) but it has made me think about my day job. Mentoring is all about drawing out the issues from the client and then in some suitable way asking them what the feasible solutions might be. I say “drawing out” because how I do this varies from personality to personality and can take lots of time and skill. I need to read the person and decide on the correct route to take; crafting a plan is the easy bit. For some people they realise that they would not have moved from the starting dilemma on their own and certainly would not have committed to a solution without intervention. Others do not always appreciate that I need forty years of experience and honed skills to get them to that point. Using intuition, reading body language, listening to what is said, hearing what is unsaid and then putting the findings to the person in an acceptable way, this is what I do. Helping them examine these findings and then using them as a starting point for developing some new thinking, this is what I do. Sometimes there is confusion that lifts, sometimes clarity emerges and sometimes the penny drops with a resounding clang. This is the equivalent to the toothache going away. Mostly people know it would not have happened if they were left to their own devices. However, there are days when I need to remember my input. After my visit to the dentist I am thinking what my equivalent of the pre and post X-rays might be. However, sometimes a wonderful, unsolicited testimonial arrives, like this one from Anna Botsford:

If you’re looking for a business mentor………look no further! I can highly recommend Liz, she has given me a safe, non-judgmental space to air my business and personal concerns, issues and goals. She has helped and continues to help me understand more about the way I work and how I can change it to be more productive and effective………. thank you, Liz.

It was good to be reminded that money spent with a mentor offers life time value. And it made me grateful that I had thanked the dentist for his work.

None of this is original. But think about how you demonstrate your talent, skills and experience and remember good work is always good value.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

In the meantime I am also taken up with the Inspire Initiative. It is out on the street now; please take a look at www.theinspireinitiative.co.uk

If you are a woman associated with Bedfordshire in some way and not in full time education you are eligible. There are two prizes of one to one mentoring. What is stopping you from applying?

A thought for April

They call them April showers and my goodness there are plenty of them this year. The councils are fighting losing battles with the pot holes in the roads and car drivers are performing all sorts of antics to avoid them. On the plus side the trees are budding and look very promising; the daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are fabulous, and my grass is growing apace. When the sun shines it is a lovely time to be out and about.

Last month I wrote about The Higgins Museum mounting the Celebrating Women of Bedfordshire exhibition and since then I have had some wonderful conversations about it. Mostly these have been about inspiration.

People have told me who inspired them and why. As they have done so I have watched them get excited again as they relive the moment.

There have been many inspirational teachers mentioned, always by name and with fondness. People who saw something in someone that no one else had spotted and then talked about how it could be developed. There is the wonderful story of Trevor Huddleston, buying the first trumpet for Hugh Masekela, as a 14-year-old who became world famous as a musician and a huge force in the anti-apartheid movement.

There have been inspirational parents either because they did something special or because they recognised something in their children and encouraged them to become something which was not viewed as a real job. I think of so many of the parents of successful sports people. They got up in the middle of the night year after year to get that young person to the ice rink, onto the river or to the gym before school. As the youngster got better they had to be ferried further afield. Family holidays were based around sporting events! And often the epitome of the career is the Olympics or World Championships and they were not able to go. However, it is rare to speak with someone who makes the podium without them thanking those devoted and loving parents.

There were many people in the work place who spotted a talent and then opened doors to allow the person to develop it. How often can we spot our own talents and abilities? We need someone else to identify it and see where it fits in and how it can be developed.

As a mentor I love all this. Someone who believes in you, encourages you and introduces you to people who can help is pure gold. To watch people, remembering when that happened to them is magical. However long ago it might have been, just talking about the memory lights up the person with all the feelings of the moment.

It got me thinking – why not encourage more people to tap into this and rekindle the inspiration and encouragement?

So, I am in the process of developing The Inspire Initiative, which is a competition for women who live or work in Bedfordshire and is designed to help the development of 21st Century business women, whatever their working lives may be. As soon as the website goes live (www.theinspireinitiative.co.uk) I will drop you an email. Please spread the news throughout your network.

The competition is based on an entry describing who inspired you and why. The format can be:

  • A three-minute video
  • A 1000-word blog
  • A PowerPoint presentation of no more than 10 slides

The competition is open to any woman of any age who lives in or works in Bedfordshire, and is not in full time education. It opens as soon as the website is running and closes on Monday 2 July, at 6pm. There is no age limit. It is all about reconnecting women with their influencers and reminding them of that special feeling.

There are two ways to win:

  1. The judges will decide on a shortlist of finalists and then pick the winner who will receive two years of free mentoring with me.
  2. All names of all entrants will go into a draw and the winner will receive one year of free mentoring with me.

However, I hope that everyone will win by reviving that original enthusiasm and that confidence engendered by a special person in their lives.

It is my passion to pass on what I know and offer the support I have had; if you are female and want some of this then apply for the Inspire Initiative. Please share this with all the women in your network.

If you are male I am sorry I will not be able to do this work for free but please speak to me about working with a mentor. A mentor will inspire, guide, teach and share. Eleanor Roosevelt got it right when she said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself”. Let’s chat about what you want to achieve; whether it is improvement in your business skills; development of management skills or personal skills to make you more effective, and I will explain my processes – if you decide they are robust and will take you forward then you can decide whether to buy me to help or I will suggest other people who might be appropriate.

If this has been interesting, please share it.

A thought for March

March – it came in like a lion with bitter cold and snow. There were fantastic stories of the kindness of strangers to the trapped, isolated and vulnerable. Well done to all those amazing volunteers who did not think twice but piled in and did what needed to be done. Good people who helped when the snow was thick and deep and when the thaw brought burst pipes and water shortages. It was heart-warming and wonderful to see such kindness.

For me March brought something else which was also heart-warming and wonderful.

The Higgins Museum is mounting an exhibition Celebrating Women of Bedfordshire which will highlight the achievements of Bedfordshire women over the last 100 years. The exhibition coincides with the 100th anniversary of some women winning the right to vote, for the first time, as part of the Representation of the People Act, which was passed in February 1918.

The exhibition will highlight the ahievements of 60 women connected with Bedfordshire in the fields of suffrage & politics, education, sport, community power, STEM, wartime, business, and the arts. Women have been nominated, researched, shortlisted and selected by an exhibition development panel made up of volunteers from the local community.

I am stunned and very privileged to be one of the 60 women.

Before I found out I was thinking about this month’s thought and was chewing over the idea of suggesting we should all look regularly at the professionals that support us and review their targets and performance. This came out of one client who was encouraged to believe that a social media campaign was the answer to flagging sales. He entered it at very big regular money without developing a proper strategy. It cost him a great deal and did nothing to move his business forward.  Now it could be argued that it was his responsibility to develop his marketing strategy and then select the right tools to achieve it. However, I think that if we sell a service we have a duty of care to our clients to ensure it is what they need. Leading the blind up the wrong path is unethical.

Another client has just been taken to the cleaners by her accountant who lumbered her, without warning, with a massive personal tax bill. In this case it was not that she was not expecting a tax bill and had not been squirreling money away to cover it. What floored her was that he had not kept her in the loop about one particular aspect of her business that meant she was liable for twice what she expected. I think if we sell a service we must communicate with clients regularly about where things are going. They employ us to be their representatives and have the technical knowledge to forecast the future for them so there are no horrible surprises.

In both these cases the advisers came with good reputations but were revealed not to have good processes. One did not initiate a strategic discussion before inaugurating a campaign and the other did not communicate at regular intervals and in particular when a problem was looming on the horizon. Good people are useless unless they have robust, tried processes which they follow consistently; however willing, they are working with their hands tied. And as the client you should be confident that you understand the processes and are confident they will yield what you want before you buy the person.

It seems to me that networking can be held responsible for some of this. We meet people we like; are convinced by what they say in bringing a useful tool to our business table and then we do not go back one stage and test that process.

How is this relevant to me being selected to be amongst these 60 Bedfordshire women?

The first reason is that my selection made me think about the very special people in my business life who taught me what they knew, supported me, told me hard truths but most of all shared processes that were tried and tested. These were the drivers in the business: targets and the plans and budgets that would measure how much we were achieving. Then there were the component parts: production planning and monitoring; sourcing suppliers; market research and planning; sales; delivering stunning customer service; accounting; hawk eyed cashflow management; and the rock-solid administration that supports them. Only when all this is in place is it worth thinking about finding the most talented people to accomplish them. Then of course there are all the managerial skills needed to lead a productive, creative team.

I was incredibly fortunate I was selected to join a gold plated management training scheme; I was offered opportunities like project teams and working parties; I was encouraged to get my professional qualifications as quickly as I could; I was selected to undertake an in-company MBA at Henley; I was pushed to look above and beyond policies and procedures and find original answers to problems and situations. In all cases I was given the basic processes before being encouraged to get sophisticated and creative.

There were some astonishingly able people in my career who shared time with me, questioning what I was doing and how; pushing me out of my comfort zone; evaluating my performance and encouraging me to grow and develop; as well as analysing the many mistakes that I made (and some were dreadful). They were people who believed in me.

So, I do feel privileged, but I also think I know my trade. I may not be good at everything and some lessons have been very hard learned but I know where to go and how to find answers; I know how to get the best out of people.

It was good to be reminded of all this and to be grateful yet again for the people who gave me their time and believed I could be a good business woman.

And the second reason I feel privileged by my selection by The Higgins. It has been a rigorous process. I have no idea who else was considered but I know each of us was scrutinised and deemed worthy.

So, thank you to The Higgins. And thank you to the people who have taught me.

It is my passion to pass on what I know and offer the support I have had; if you are thinking of working with a mentor and you believe Eleanor Roosevelt when she said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself” then please speak to me. Let’s chat about what you want to achieve; whether it is improvement in your business skills; development of management skills or personal skills to make you more effective, and I will explain my processes – if you decide they are robust and will take you forward then you can decide whether to buy me to help or look elsewhere!

If this has been interesting, please share it.

Working smarter not harder

As a business mentor I work with all sorts of people who want to improve their business performance and go from just being good to being great. The question I am most often asked is “please can you help me work smarter? I am working lots of hours, am permanently tired, know I am not as organised as I could be and do not know where to start. Help!”

Working smarter means very different things for different people but usually comes out of one of the three areas of your business life:

  • How you develop your business skills
  • How you use your management skills
  • How you manage yourself

Or maybe it is some mixture of all three?

I am going to give you my top tip in each area – not necessarily the tip that will make most difference in the long run but the tip that will give you an immediate result:

Business skills – successful business is selling something someone else wants at a price that makes you a profit. – simple. Except it isn’t because people often do not know what price to charge. Pricing is based on four factors:

  1. What is your skill level and what equipment do you need; therefore, how much should you charge for it? Remember it is the plumbing apprenticeship you pay for, not the five minutes to fix the leak.
  2. What do the competition charge and why? This will be one of the influencers in deciding where to buy. There is a market out there.
  3. What does the customer expect to pay and why? If you charge too little you will not be taken seriously and too much you will be viewed with suspicion.
  4. Having the confidence to charge the right figure. Good work is not expensive it is good value. You need to learn how to ask for the business at the price you have determined.

Get all this together and you will make a profit and probably work fewer hours!

Management skills – whether we have employees or not we need to learn how to manage others. It could be to achieve what we want from our clients, suppliers or contacts. We must rely on other people to achieve tasks for us and so the top skill is how to delegate properly.

Most people are afraid to delegate because they fear the other person will not do the job the way it should be done (that is the way you would do it!). The truth is that most people want to do a good job but they do not always have enough information to do it well and so they improvise. Before you ask anyone to do anything ask yourself: what do I want done exactly? What is the outcome I want? When do I need it done by? Do I need reports as the task goes on to let me know how it is going? What freedoms does the person have to complete the task? Once you have answered these questions you are in a good place to brief someone to do the job.

The communication needs to be two-way: you explain and ask questions to check out what the person has heard you say. These are not always the same thing! And don’t forget the most important question of all is “is there anything else you want to know?” and the most important statement is “come back to me at any stage if you have any questions”.

Personal skills: are we doing what we are good at as effectively as possible? This includes your admin! None of us likes doing this stuff, we prefer to do the things we started the business to do. This means we need to accomplish the other work as quickly and competently as possible, so we can get back to the more interesting stuff. It also goes without saying that there are never enough hours in any day to do all we want.

The key is to be doing the right thing at the right time.

My top tip is spending some time working out all that must be done and then organising it. Set aside some time to list everything that is on your plate right now. This should include work things, family things and personal things. Add to this over a few days as your brain reminds you of stuff you overlooked in the first sweep. Then:

  • Note against each task the optimum time by which it should be done; not the last minute but a comfortable time AND work out how long it will take to complete.
  • Find a bring forward system that you like.
  • Note each task separately and file it on the date you must start it to have it finished at the right moment.
  • Each week look at the days ahead and the work to be done and decide what must be done first.
  • Stick with your work schedule!

All this sounds easy and obvious. In many ways it is at an intellectual level. However, it is not easy to change habits, new habits need to become ingrained. It could easily be that you need support. That is where someone like me – a mentor – may come in. If so, please contact me for a free chat about what your unique needs might be and how we might meet them.

A thought for January

January; Christmas has gone (hope it was a happy time for you) and now the new year is upon us. Thank goodness the days are getting longer and we have many good things to which we can look forward. The problem with January is that everyone is talking about goal setting on one hand and resolutions that involve deprivation on the other. Many people know that I am not in favour of new year resolutions – they are often forged because everyone is doing it; without serious thought about what we need to achieve and how all those things might fit together; too often they revolve around giving things up not taking things up. Framing ideas in terms of misery is no way to achieve. However, I am not going to bang on about that; if you want to speak about crafting meaningful goals you will achieve then please give me a call.

No; this month I want to tell you a sad business story from which I think we can be reminded of some vital truths.

A few weeks ago, I went to the theatre. A famous musical theatre star was touring, doing One Night Only. It was a cold Monday evening, but the theatre was full of people and the excitement was palpable. We were all settled in for a good evening. We were fans.

Except we weren’t in for a good evening. This famous star upset 1500 punters good and proper. She did not sing what we expected. We wanted big musical numbers maybe interspersed with annecdotes about the story or her heroes in the business. She picked songs she liked – not from the musicals, not from the world we knew her in – and she talked a great deal not about the shows for which she was famous, just general rather egocentric chat. You could feel how disappointed the audience was. The applause was very thin. The embarrassment was growing by the minute. My friend whispered, “If there was an interval we could go home” and she was right.

What went wrong?

It seems to me there were three things:

  1. We did not get the product we had bought. We had paid to be entertained by the genre in which we knew this singer. Musical theatre is about the show. Where did we see it, who with, who was in it? And by the way, these are the songs to remind us. In a way she could have performed any songs from any shows. However, random songs from other people’s songbooks did not cut it. It was like going into an ice cream parlour and being offered tomato soup!
  2. There was no customer loyalty reward. She did not remind us of her hey day and awaken our memories. She did not connect with us. She ignored why we were fans and just took us for granted. She did not deliver what we had ordered.
  3. No attention was paid to customer feedback. She was aware of the disappointment in the auditorium because the applause was almost non-existent but did not react to the signals. She just steamrollered on generating more discontent and embarrasment.

And the results:

  • Will we spend good money to see her again? Very unlikely.
  • Will we continue to buy her CDs? Unlikely.
  • Are we still fans? I am not; who knows about the others?

When I checked the reviews of the earlier dates on the tour they all said the same things. In effect the star continued to ignore the facts. Demosthenes said, “the easiest thing of all is to deceive yourself; for we believe whatever we want to believe”.

How true. And how very sad.

Why am I sharing this with you? I think there are business lessons.

  • Do we deliver what customers expect?
  • Do we value and respect our customers?
  • Do we react quickly to feedback?

We all know how hard it is to win a customer – let’s hang on to them in 2018!

2018 is going to be a great year – lots of happy customers! Buying and repeat buying the products and services they want; loving the good customer service they receive; seeing good reactions to feedback. Lots of good feeling and profit through getting the basics right.

A thought for December

December; and Christmas is hurtling towards us. Advent candles are burning, and calendars being opened. Chocolate and carols are everywhere. Christmas cards are pouring through the letterbox and into the Inbox. It is a happy time but also very busy. We are catching up with the people we will not see over the Christmas and New Year periods; writing cards, packing presents and planning, planning, planning. Everywhere there is happiness and fun! And we have even seen snow and snow people!

Like me I expect you are going to lots of Christmas parties, drinks and meals. Aren’t we fortunate! Lots of lovely people, excitement and laughter. Everyone seems to be looking for a different theme and one of the ones I came across was about props. Which prop might describe your business? What a clever idea.
I thought about it for a while because as a business mentor I use my management experience, and what I know about business methods and human psychology. It is all in my head. Then I had the great awakening!!!!! I do have three tools:

The Torch
My job is to identify the hidden and ignored places in someone’s business or personal performance and then to shine the torch on them; the dark is only scary because you cannot see the threats but if you have a friend with you and a strong torch you can see and deal with them. It might help that I am not frightened of the dark!

The magnifying glass
Once we have found what is lurking in the dark corners then the magnifying glass helps me to focus on it and examine it carefully with the person. What is really going on? And what does it mean? But no Sherlock Holmes’ hat!

The magic wand
Once the situation has been identified and properly analysed then we can build a solution together. There is nothing magic about it, but the person often thinks there is because the answer seems to come out of nowhere; once they focus results come very quickly.

So, what are the tools of your trade? What do they tell you about how you work?

It is a great game if you have nothing else planned for Christmas Day!!!

None of this is original.  I hope it makes you smile.

Have a wonderful Christmas and may 2018 bring you many good things!

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you want to see the tools of a mentor’s trade, then please chat with me. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for November

November already. Where is the year going? It is a gorgeous autumn. Beautiful crisp mornings and some sunshine on the trees as they change colour. Wonderful, provided there is somewhere warm to return to! The children had an enjoyable Hallowe’en and now are starting rehearsing for nativity plays. We are making lists and wondering if there are two Christmases a year these days!

As the days are shorter I was indoors doing chores listening to the radio and along came a trail for an interview with Ken Dodd. Apparently Doddy is 90 at any minute so there will be interviews and shows to celebrate. I am not a Doddy fan – not my sense of humour but I admire his longevity! However, something that was said did catch my fancy. When asked what he would like his epitaph to be he thought and said, “He did his best”. It struck me that this phase can be said in two ways. “He did his best” in a very downbeat way implying it was a poor effort; or “He did his best” as a great compliment implying he was continually good.

Doddy’s humour looks so effortless he must work very hard to produce it. Certainly after all these years he knows how to work a crowd. He presents long shows even at 89 and still leaves the fans wanting more. He values each of his fans and is famous for giving one person a show as he would 2000. So, his best is superlative. It would be a great epitaph.

Two questions then. Would people say you do your best? And what would you like your epitaph to be?

“Your best” is always a difficult question to answer especially as I asked what other people would say rather than what you would say about yourself. We are much tougher on ourselves than others are; we put up unreasonable barriers to our own success and create standards that are far too high. Leave that to one side, think about the last time someone congratulated you on doing something well? What was it? Did you really hear what was said to you or did you try to brush off the feedback? Mostly people thank us or compliment us for something we did because they mean it, not to ingratiate themselves. Next time someone says something nice about your performance please take notice of it and treasure it up. There are plenty of times when we deserve praise and we don’t get it so use it then!

Do you put yourself in situations where you can use the best of you? If you are good with people are you using the skill or flogging away at something else and ignoring the strength? Doing what you are good at is so easy; doing what you are poor at is a chore. Why do chores if you don’t need to!

What about your epitaph? What is the sentence that would best sum up your life? What might your partner say or one of your children write? What would a work colleague say or a customer? Would it be something you have already thought of or would it be something new? Someone said to me last week “you’re such an ace at thinking things through”. That was not something I had thought about myself, but it might make a good epitaph!

Of course, the other way of looking at this is what is the epitaph you are working on making your own. We are all a work in progress. We are growing and changing all the time. What might you be working on? When my mother was a young woman she had a period of depression and hardly spoke to a soul. As part of climbing out of that dark space she set about becoming a good friend so that she would find good friends. Fifty years later when she died I had dozens of letters telling me what a good friend she had been and giving me countless examples – she grew into that intention.

So, come on…. what are you going to work on? For what do you want to be remembered? And what are you doing about it today?

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. I think understanding yourself is the first step on the road to wisdom; and thinking about your epitaph does not mean you are going to die!!!!!!

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for October

It is October. Autumn is here. The dahlias are beautiful; there are gorgeous berries and leaves everywhere. The days are getting short. Children are looking forward to half term already! And Hallowe’en is coming. Ghosties, ghoulies and bats are everywhere and parents are dreading carving pumpkin lanterns. Whether we like it or not Trick or Treat is now part of our landscape.

And what about you? What are your demons?

There are things in each of our lives and in every job, that we do not like doing. Do those tasks first and get them over rather than leave them until you have completed the rest of the list. When it is the last item on the To Do list you will not have the energy or the inclination to start it today. The task will either be left to terrorise you tomorrow or be done when you are tired and done not very well. It will probably take twice as long as it should. Do it early and bask in that feeling for the rest of the day!

However, that is not what I am talking about. I am pointing to the things which you dread because you are not trained properly to do them or do not have the necessary equipment or proper work place. How long are you going to host this ghostie? Make this the October when you face the problem and decide how to exorcise it from your life.

Is it training? Invest in yourself. Define what you need and go looking for a training programme to fill the need. If you cannot do whatever it may be there is a good chance others will not be able to do it either. There will be courses available. Remember to start at the right level, if there is a basic, intermediate or advanced course choose the right one. Learning is hard enough without making it more difficult by going in at the wrong level.

It might be that you choose one to one coaching because you want the personal touch and nowhere to hide. It might seem expensive but it could be money well spent if you define your objective carefully and select a coach who is an expert and has good references. Always go on the rule of three – get three proposals and choose the person who comes closest to your objectives and with whom you think the chemistry is best.

So far, it is all straight forward. Now I want to tackle those gremlins that will not disappear. These are the really scary ones; the little devils that perch on the end of the bed at 3am and will not leave you alone. They keep pricking you with spiky questions about issues that you have been avoiding or not allowed yourself to think about. Usually it is our subconscious trying to get our attention and if it wakes you up and keeps you awake it is serious. We all know these gremlins they will not go away and they will not let you get back to sleep. They natter, they nag and they frighten. Their modus operandi is to refuse to leave you alone until you take notice; they terrify you and paralyse you. There feels to be no way to escape.

These gremlins must be dealt with differently. If they were easy you would have tackled them already. These are problems where you cannot see an obvious answer or a good route forward. There are arguments for every answer and no clear winner. They can be huge issues where the gremlin is muttering that you will run out of cash soon; or they may be frightening crossroads where every road takes you outside your comfort zone; each option paralyses you rather than letting you choose a way and move forward.

The trick here is to share the problem with someone else and soon – I would suggest a mentor because that person will be objective and will respect the effect the issue is having on you. Family members and friends want you to stop worrying and to make things OK. Their emotional involvement makes it impossible for them to drive away the gremlins permanently. Find that independent person who has the knowledge to help you unpick the issues, understand your fears and craft a plan you can follow to chase the demons away. Sharing a problem like this really does bring it back into proportion. Once someone else helps you collect the facts and face them they are not so scary. A mentor will also find ways you have never thought of to solve the problem.

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. What frightens you is unique too because of your history and experience. Being frightened is not a weakness but sometimes the wisest response to a threat. You just need to find the best solution to the problem that poses that threat.

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for September

It is September. Autumn is coming in fast. Already we are pulling the curtains much earlier, the leaves are changing colour and the berries are on the trees and shrubs. The children have packed their bags and are back at school. Sometimes it is a new school or even off to college or university. They are learning how to tackle the unknown and finding new ways of doing things.

And what about you? Did you have a great holiday away from all the demands of work? I hope so. And are you now back at work? Be honest, are you thinking “2017 is two thirds over but I am not two thirds of the way through my objectives”? Are you starting to feel anxious about achieving your targets? It happens to us all.

What is your reaction? Are you reacting? Lots of us flounder. We go on doing what we have always done and expect it to produce different results; of course, it doesn’t; we get more of the same. It is only if we change that we create change.

I want you to confront a big question. You are only as good as you will let yourself be. How much room are you giving yourself to change, develop and grow?

There are many routes to creating that change. However, as a business mentor I want to suggest you look at mentoring. Why?

Recently I was listening to Harriet Harman being interviewed by Peter Hennessey. It was fascinating.

When the Labour Party came into power in 1997 she became Secretary of State for Social Security responsible for 80,000 staff and for processes that impact most of our lives. She did not do well and there was much talk about her being sacked. She said to someone “Tony won’t sack me, he is my friend”. The reply was “No, he is the Prime Minister, that is his job”.

Later she was asked why she did not stand for leader when twice as Deputy Leader she had run the Labour Party whilst it selected a new leader. She said at the time it never occurred to her.

Both are situations where a mentor would have been asking questions and helping her work with the answers, encouraging her to take appropriate action and to stretch herself. We would have seen and helped her explore the possibilities.

So why do I say you are only as good as you will let yourself be? You are the only asset in your business that will appreciate. Everything else starts its obsolescence before you unpack the box. You can improve and grow every day. You have the potential not to be just good but to be great.

In the musical world, theatre and sport we regard it as natural for someone to have on their team a person whose role is performance improvement. This is not yet as widespread in the business world as it should be but listen to the real hotshots and they cite a mentor somewhere in their careers as critical to their development.

What is a mentor’s role?

  • To be objective and tell you the truth. Remember the Emperor’s clothes in the fairy tale?
  • To help you identify opportunities and help you capitalise on them. Then entice you outside your comfort zone to exploit them and let you grow.
  • To help you avoid trouble by helping you identify it and then either avoid it or develop a strategy to get out of the situation with as little damage as possible.
  • To give you confidence and inspire you to try new things, face the things that block you and experiment
  • To help you review your performance and spot where you can improve.
  • To support you through the rough times and celebrate with you when there are successes.

A good mentor really gets you: what motivates you, what your aspirations are and what your constraints are. They get inside your head and you can hear the questions they might ask even when you are not with them!

They are secure in their own skins and so do not need to compete with you. They share their experience and their knowledge of both management and personal skills and help you develop them.  Of course, I think mentors are a good thing because we focus on you and your issues in the real world. However please choose who you work with very carefully.

Chemistry is hugely important. This is a highly personal relationship and if you do not get on at the outset it is unlikely to improve. I offer everyone a strings free blind date in which we can talk for an hour or so and really get a feel for each other. Recently I was incensed when I heard someone offer a 15-minute free phonecall and call it a selection process. That is nowhere near long enough and certainly there should be no question of payment. This is a very important decision on both sides.

Experience is vital. Make sure your possible mentor has run something successfully. It might be a big or a small business but they need to know what it is feels like to have to juggle cashflow and lie awake at 3am worrying about the sales funnel. If they have never had that experience how can they understand what drives you?

What is their approach to the work? We are all very different so ask and ask again until you understand it. Just to give you an idea what I mean let me outline my approach. Having had the blind date and deciding we like each other I start with what is on the client’s mind; that thing that finally brought them to me. Then I work both forwards and backwards until we have looked at the whole business: its history, current trading and the future. We work at the client’s own pace, there is no rush. We identify your goals, the facts and practicalities of the situation, what your options are and what you are prepared to do to reach your goals. Not everyone is prepared to take the obvious route and we may need to create a strategy that fits with your comfort zone.

Any session will focus totally on you and your business but it is not threatening in any way. We talk over coffee. You will know the answers. It will feel positive and exciting.

If you feel threatened, judged or the mentor seems to be taking over your business get away from them quickly. Those behaviours are not ethical.

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. Are you aware of your potential? Are you developing it? Are you challenging yourself to grow? Are you taking the action required to meet your goals? Do you want your legacy to be “s/he was always the best he could be” or “s/he could have been great if only……”?

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for August

It is August. The British summer is in full swing and we are seeing some sunshine. People are happy either because they have been on holiday or their breaks are approaching fast. The roads are quieter, the days are long and the heating is off.


So, this month I am only going to write a short thought because you have better things to do than read it!

Donkey Sombrero

At the moment, I am seeing clients who have work and childcare to juggle. A couple have taken their daughters (as it happens) to work for the day. It has been a revelation!

We all know the stories about how children observe what we do for a living. The mildest is “my Mum giggles on the phone all day”. They say what they see and occasionally what they hear.

If your twelve-year-old was with you for a day’s work what would she say?

Some of the things I have been hearing:

  • We went to this swanky hotel and mum spent her time chatting to people and eating cake.
  • This man came and talked to mum about a leaflet. He kept saying you will know what to do. And she was full of ideas and kept drawing them on a pad.
  • Mum was talking to people on the phone – she was polite, she didn’t get angry she was just happy.
  • We stuck all sorts of pictures on a board to show someone. It was fun!
  • We went to see the accountant and talked about the results – Mum says it sounds like we might get a special holiday!

I could go on and on. The point is what would your child see if they were with you for a full eight hours? Would it be you demonstrating knowledge that they had not seen before and did not know you had? Or would you be showing off a skill that is completely natural to you but never seen by your child? And what about your attitude to work? Is it all about passion, motivation and excitement?  Do they see the hard work, focus and commitment you suggest they need!?

What do they observe and what would they say? What do they make of you?  Is your work persona consistent with the parental advice you give? Does it make them proud of you?

And perhaps more importantly what do they think about work? What do they think about your passion and doing what you love? Will seeing what you do motivate them to find the right career path and use their talents and skills? Are you a great role mode, the best you can be?

None of this is original.  Your relationship with your children is special to you but would their observations make you a better person and are you giving them a good model?

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

If you are about to go on holiday have a great break.