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As you are aware Change is all about people, and it starts with us. This is an exploration of some of the ideas and issues that I've encountered along the way. I've created this also to enable a dialogue to begin around this subject and hopefully produce a forum where we can all learn something.

A different point-of-view

September 8th, 2015

clip_image001I was out walking last weekend, and our walk brought us back to town from a direction that was new to me.  I really enjoyed seeing it from a whole new perspective, laid out before me, looking at it from the opposite hill. I was then struck by the idea that here I was stimulated by seeing the landscape from a new viewpoint, and then realising when I get into a disagreement with someone it was different.  It was a little light-bulb moment.  Why shouldn’t I be just as stimulated to look at something from someone else’s viewpoint as a bit of landscape?  The answer is obvious… I like being right as much as anyone, or perhaps it is I dislike being wrong.  However, shifting to the position of simply enriching myself by enjoying a different point-of-view is a win for everyone.  I may end up in the same place, but my journey is so much more pleasant for everyone…. Just a thought. 


Windows 10 Change lessons

September 2nd, 2015

win10 Like 75 million of others, I have upgraded to Windows 10.  It has received almost hysterical praise from the tech press.  It seemed that everyone loved to hate Windows 8, so much so Microsoft skipped Windows 9 in order to distance themselves from it. I find this all slightly strange.  Granted their idea of having a single system across all their platforms, that wasn’t a single platform, or ignoring the fact that the vast majority of their installed user-base didn’t use touch screens was a mistake.  However, it was simple to bring back the much needed and loved Start button (it took less  that 5 minutes) and you were left with a stable, usable platform.  Still, the press love to bring down the mighty and everyone knows that Microsoft are bad and Apple is cool.  No one mentions the awful software that Apple releases for iTunes.  Most of the people I know who were persuaded by the svelte, sexy lines of the Mac computers found the transition painful and of limited value. 

Still the good news is that Windows 10 is good… so that is alright.  What interests me is the fact that we label change as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and we then respond to the label.  The truth is that change is always uncomfortable, even if it brings good things.  It always requires some effort, some learning and some abandoning of the familiar. To have any other expectations is at best naive and worst a lie.  Getting married is usually a much anticipated and welcome change, but it certainly requires work and adjustments in order to work. 

So next time a change is coming your way, it helps if you get your expectations right; there will be some pain, but if it is the right change, you will move forward… If not I guess, like Edison, you’ve learnt one more way not to do it!

Silence your inner critic

August 25th, 2015

_inner-criticIf you are human, you usually have a small voice in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough.  Sometimes it is identifiable as the voice of a particular parent, teacher or coach.  Even if that isn’t quite you, then you probably have uttered phrases like “That always happens to me!” or “I’m never lucky..” 

However, there is a way to help deal with this kind of undermining.  Ask your self the 3 P’s:-

  1. Permanence: How long will this last?  It may feel like forever, but we know that usually isn’t true.  What is more true “I’m not good enough yet” or “I’ll never be good enough”?
  2. Personal:  Is it part of who you are or just something that happened?  “I’m never ready” or “I wasn’t ready this time?
  3. Pervasiveness: Is it happen everywhere, an unavoidable law of the universe?  “Good guys never win?” or “I didn’t win this time

The thing is if these are universal laws like gravity, or happening to everyone like the weather we don’t have to take any responsibility and there is nothing we can do to change them.  However, if this isn’t the case, then maybe we can dare to hope for something better tomorrow and more importantly, do something to make that more likely.  The key is believing that we can be better and investing in that idea.

Difficult meetings–the elephant in the room

August 24th, 2015

The other day I had a very difficult meeting to facilitate.  A business was facing a tsunami of troubles, their very survival was at a stake and they needed to plot a course which gave them the best chance of survival.  These things are difficult on many levels.  There are complex business reasons why they are in trouble, some within their control and others outside of it.  However, perhaps the more difficult element of this kind of meeting is the underlying emotions.  They are naturally afraid.  Afraid of failing, and afraid of its consequences.  There is a saying “If you aren’t afraid, you just don’t get it!”

elephant-in-the-roomSo my job is to not only remain clear-headed, but to help them plot a course through this mine field.  This involves sorting the wheat from the chaff in what is said, and ensuring that everyone hears it too.  However, one of the moments that was most difficult was when I decided to confront head on one of the elephants in the room.  I knew there were some really highly emotionally loaded issues and I took the risk of bringing them into the light.  Some how I managed to do so without triggering any explosions and we could move on. 

The fact is this kind of emotional landmine can blow your leg off even if you try to avoid it so sometimes a ‘controlled explosion’ is the safer option. This kind of thing is always a judgement call, and some people feel more able to do it than others, but like so many things, the secret in is in how you do it.  If you are doing it in an emotionally neutral way, and being honest and unmanipulative about it then you are much more likely to get a good outcome.  If it goes badly, then the chances are it was going to go bang anyway,so better now than later.

Feedback to difficult people

August 19th, 2015

In my experience most people are poor at giving good feedback.  Usually they don’t realise there is a way to do it properly and their so called ‘feedback’ often does not come from a neutral place within the ‘giver’.  If you are feeling annoyed or let down by the person, it is likely this will come through in your message.  It is basic human nature that when we feel attacked, we either run away and avoid the message, or attack the messenger.  It is even more difficult when we need to give an unwelcome message to someone who we know is likely to respond poorly.

There is a special technique for doing this, and there is a useful article in the HBR on this.

The key is firstly to be very clear what you need to communicate to them.  This may well be different to what you would like to say to them!  So first of all make sure you have a clean, emotionally neutral message, stripped of any blaming.  Own your emotions and reactions to the other person.  Ensure that where possible your message is evidence-based and you can give real examples of their behaviours and the results thereof.  You need to describe what they do, contrast it with what you would like them to do and describe the benefits following the recommended change. There is a guide here.

It is natural to feel defensive when entering what you feel is a lion’s den, and this can change how you deliver your message.  You need to ensure there is no emotional ‘leakage’ in your manner.  You need to maintain a neutral manner, in much the same way as a newsreader would deliver it.  This helps the other person to hear it and not react defensively. 

SARAYou also need to ensure that you use temperate language than doesn’t either carry a sub-text or appear to do so.  All of the above makes it more likely that the person will and can respond positively.  Remember the SARA model of how people respond to feedback or bad news (Shock, Anger, Rejection, then Acceptance.)  You have to allow the person to travel this journey and help them through it.

If you approach this correctly, it isn’t about you being right and them being wrong; it should be about finding a way in which you can work together more effectively.  If you genuinely come from this place, you  should be prepared to take on board the fact that you may need to change too, and to listen to what they have to say.  You may have to lead the way by showing you are willing to change too.

This genuinely tough, but a very valuable life skill. Good luck!

Windows 10–the story so far

August 10th, 2015

The Upgrade

win 10 logoI reserved my copy by clicking on the little Windows 10 logo.  Despite keeping my computer up-to-date, that didn’t spontaneously arrive, I had to ‘prompt’ its appearance (Google this for the trick).  I got notification yesterday that it was available and I clicked download.  I guess that took an hour or so.  First time it didn’t download fully so I had to do that again.  I let it run overnight and in the morning it was all there.  I clicked upgrade and it went through pretty painlessly.  As others have said, everything was where it should be.  I love the new modern look, it seems so much more Apple!

I suggest you don’t take the Express option, you really don’t want Microsoft to overwrite all your preferences.  You also need to go to the WiFi settings and stop it sharing your WiFi passwords with everyone you are connected to on Skype and Facebook… not a good idea.

I checked most of my main apps and they all work fine. The biggest issue for me was it seemed to have ditched my anti-virus software (Kaspersky) and turned on Windows Defender.  I was advised to ensure I had the latest version of Kaspersky and this was fiddly.  KIS2015 is the latest version on their site and it upgrades to something like 15.0.231.  However, there is KIS2016, version, and this is better for Windows 10.  However, I had to disable Defender to get this to work, which meant uninstalling, turning it off, and re-installing.  My son’s machine wasn’t so fussy.  Windows blogging software, Live Writer only seems to work, if you run it As Administrator.

Small talk is a big deal

July 27th, 2015

We are all guilty of dismissing small talk as a waste of time and I know I’m not the only one who has loudly declaimed how much I hate it.  However, a little more thought and study shows that far from being a waste of time, it is a vital piece of social glue.  Think about monkeys and their mutual grooming routines, these build trust and interdependence.  The thing is we are never going to reveal our secret heart to a total stranger (at least not without a significant amount of alcohol first!)  Think about it, the first thing you want to know about a stranger is what are they like, or more importantly, are they like us?  Do they come from the same ‘tribe’ or background?  We explore to discover if we have the common ground or history we can build a relationship on.  So what happens first is a series of relatively bland questions that create a space which we invite the other to step into.  Think of it like a dance, we each take a turn around the floor and then make space for the other person to follow suit. 

small talk penguins

I found it interesting when researching this to discover that people who study this kind of thing have categorised (and ranked) our communication on a scale according to the amount of task related (or ‘real’ content) it carries, thereby dismissing all else as ‘small’ talk.  Feminists have described this as patriarchal disrespect for the important and more female task of building relationships and maintaining harmony.  This kind of language is now referred to by sociolinguistists ‘social language’.

I have often noticed when attending networking meetings, that once I have ‘bumped into’ someone more than about 3 times, I tend to think of them as someone I know and feel warmer towards them; they are a safe, friendly face in a sea of strangers.  Familiarity (and the absence of negative experiences) tends to breed trust.  This then opens the door to a more substantial exchange of ideas and stories.  In other words, you have to earn the right to share and build a relationship and ‘small’ talk is the entrance fee we pay.

So next time you are feeling like it is a waste of your time, think of it a token down-payment on a new relationship.

Bending the rules?

July 22nd, 2015

Toshiba ceo - CopyYesterday it came to light that Toshiba had been cooking the books to the tune of £780m and as a result the CEO & Chairman were forced to resign.  They are not the first Japanese company to run into trouble after the global financial crisis earthquake in Japan, Olympus also had problems.  It seems that failure was a loss of face and therefore unthinkable, and rather than change what they were doing, and admitting it wasn’t working, they decided it was easier to ‘adjust reality’.  I have written before about company culture and the importance of being able to admit to mistakes and learning from them.  History teaches us that the most successful companies constantly try new things and some of these are bound not to work. Think of all the mini-projects and services that Google launches and then pulls the plug on such as Google glass.  If it isn’t safe to admit that you have failed then inevitably people will lie, attack and cover-up the truth.  This is a failure to create the right culture rather than just a business failure.

Change is always frightening but it starts from a place of admitting we want more or we want something different.  If we can’t say this then all we can do is stay on the rails and inevitably the light ahead is an oncoming train…

The story of OK…

July 20th, 2015

I wonder if, like me, you have ever wondered what the word OK actually means and where it comes from?  Or whether you ever tried to find the answer to these questions…?  I never succeeded until now and as a little favour to other lovers of words, here is the story of Ok.

As a little aside, isn’t interesting how we use this word as social lubrication and how often people use it to mean the very opposite.  We have all been there when we asked someone “What’s the matter?” and got the response “I’m okay…” when it was patently clear that they weren’t.  However, what we do with this insight is a dependent on all sorts of things like how much time do we have, where are we, what is our relationship with the person, what we are trying to achieve and many other issues.  This simple phrase allows us to hide or escape under the guise of coping when we are struggling, or ignore this in another if we feel unable or disinclined to help.

Two little letters that have a versatility and utility that even transcends English and works almost anywhere.

TomTom Go510 Review

July 13th, 2015

rsz_1tomtom_510I have owned a TomTom since I bought the very first Go, about 15 or so years ago.  I have had at least three of them, each better than the last and I recently upgraded to the newest version to Go 510.  So you understand your options available, this is an incremental upgrade on last year’s 500, incremental but significantly better.  The 5 refers to the screen size of 5”, so you can also buy the 610 which is an inch bigger, but most feel this is a little too big.  There is also the 5100 & 6100 which are the models with a built in sim for data, rather than relying on your phone’s data connection.  I chose the 510 as I don’t use it every day and don’t take it abroad often.  The only downside is you have to ensure you have bluetooth tethering enabled on your phone to enable it to connect to the device.  You use this connection for searching the net and getting traffic updates.  You can use it as a basic GPS with no connection.

I didn’t buy last year’s 500 model because it didn’t allow you to upload your own POI (Points of Interest) files, which I used to upload things like speed cameras.  You can upload them on the 510, but you no longer have the ability to have the TomTom warn you when you are approaching them so for my purpose this isn’t a big improvement.  The new range of satnav has had a radical overhaul of its interface.  I knew the old one inside out, and used most of it.  They have stripped away options than most folks didn’t use and streamlined the whole thing.  They have removed the ability to pair your phone and use the TomTom as an in-car bluetooth.  I didn’t need this, so I’m not fussed.

Initially I was a bit flummoxed at how to make it work, it really is different.  However, once I twigged it, I started to see the benefit.  The on-screen interface is much clearer.  You have much more and better information about what is coming up.  On a recent journey up the M1, it told us just how long the 50mph restriction would last, what our average speed in the average-speed camera controlled zone was, and when we would encounter the next one.  It managed my expectations beautifully, just like a good management consultant. 

The other key part of this deal which made it irresistible for me was that now instead of getting a free year of traffic data, which is invaluable and accurate, then having to pay £40 pa, you get free, lifetime traffic information, plus, instead of just covering Europe you get the world version, maps are updated free for the lifetime of the device and free traffic cameras (which used to be £20 or more).  I paid £40 to upgrade my maps after 3 years use so these represent real savings, and over the life time of the device, mean the upgrade is almost zero for me. 

It genuinely changes the way I drive and is, in my opinion, hands down the best you can buy, and only £169.  I traded in a very old one at Halfords and got an amazing 20% off.  I also have no doubt it suits me much better than using my phone even with the TomTom app on it.

Handy Hint:  In order to link with your phone you have to enable a mobile hotspot and bluetooth tethering.  In order to avoid having to do this each time you get into the car, use the app Trigger.  I have set it up so that as soon as it connects with the car bluetooth system, the tethering is turned on and then off when it is disconnected.