Category Archives: Productivity

The secrets of repeat business

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productivityThis article is by Geoff Langston from Arizion, a customer-facing training expert with over 30 years experience. For further tips and hints see

What’s unique about you?

Have you ever considered what your unique selling point (USP) is, what makes you stand out from the crowd? Whatever your chosen sector, there will inevitably be a whole load of competition, both on the high street, and probably on the internet.

Do you make your customers feel special?

An area it is worth considering now, at the start of your journey, is how special and unique you make your customers feel, right from day one. Customers are only going to refer you to colleagues and potential new customers if they have received excellent service from you. Here are three top tips for how you can stand out from all your competitors by really looking after your customers.

Tip One – When you have formed a relationship with your first clients, keep in touch with them

Think about any customers you have lost touch with. Simply re-contact a number of former clients and you will be amazed at the amount of business that can be generated by this apparently straightforward process. Reasons to call might be an article you have seen that relates to their business and might be of interest to them, or perhaps a personal hobby of theirs. It might just be a regular phone call to say hi – you might be surprised how many people will say “I’m pleased you called, can you…?”.

Tip Two – Just say thanks

Another personal touch when you have a new client is to drop them a line when you receive payment of your invoice to say thank you, and that you look forward to working with them again in the future. Again, the personal touch makes all the difference, and I would suggest that you would be one of the few suppliers who do this – who is the customer more likely to remember when they want to use a supplier again?

Tip Three – Imagine…

The final tip is to be a customer on a regular basis. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and look through your customer’s eyes. You are likely to see things very differently. Look at a potential client’s business in detail and get a good understanding of it, then ask yourself what you would be looking for in a supplier if you were them?

So, ask yourself – how could you make your customers feel special?

If you need any help with this, please get in touch.  

Is coaching a useful management skill? (part 2)

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In a previous post, I described what coaching is, how to coach your own people and how coaching can even be useful to those that don’t manage others.  Here, I expand on this introduction, explaining how coaching benefits the organisation, the manager and staff member.

Benefits to the coachee or staff member:

  • Most people yearn to do a good job and to release their full potential in the workplace. Working in an environment where their manager supports them in this and helps them to find their motivation creates a “win/ win” for leaders and those they lead.
  • A coaching approach can help people to be more effective and so gain more satisfaction from their work. The results of this can bring huge benefits for their development. The coachee can take more responsibility, become more committed and productive in a supportive, empowering and stretching environment. It is also a useful mechanism for job enrichment, as you can use the unsung heroes in departments who may feel they have reached a plateau, but who will have significant experience and organisational knowledge.
  • People at work can often feel like a very small inanimate cog in a very large machine. Using a coaching approach absolutely turns this on its head. Any intervention using a coaching approach, from a ‘corridor conversation’ to an annual appraisal, means that the ‘coachee‘ is the focus of attention and the most important person at that moment for the manager.
  • I think coaching has perhaps the greatest impact because it challenges the individual to implement changes in their work and follows up if this has been done and what it has achieved. It is therefore far more likely that individuals make the required changes to their practice/work. It is also more likely to make a positive impact on work because it is more supportive and is an individual approach. Changes are gradually introduced that support the individual to achieve the desired outcome in an appropriate time and way specific to that individual. It also encourages a “learning” response in people who then go on to be self coaching i.e. asking themselves the sorts of questions a coach would without actually having a coach.

Benefits to the Line Manager as Coach

  • A coaching management style is so helpful for the manager in that it will take away the pressure and stress of having to come up with all the answers themselves. For example in one major plc, field staff were not getting any 121 support because the managers felt that they personally had to come up with all the solutions to the problems. Now they act as facilitators and help their staff to come up with 2 or 3 solutions – if it comes from within a person there is every chance they will do it. However much of UK plc still believes that managers must tell!
  • I’ve never come across an organisation in which managers complain of having too many excellent staff. Since the performance of a team or organisation will always reflect many different individual inputs it helps to get the best out of every member of the team. A coaching style can make a real contribution here.
  • It is most rewarding seeing line reports blossom using such an approach.

Benefits to the organisation

  • One of the benefits from organisation-wide coaching is that it improves knowledge transfer, or if you like, gets the stuff to move around the organisation better. People learn that their knowledge and skill-set is valued more when it is made widely available than when it is wrapped around them for protection. So it reduces the number of single-holder knowledge/power points.
  • The climate in a business where coaching is a preferred approach creates engagement, improves morale and serves the customer better. This directly impacts the bottom line. In other words the return on investment is high.

In summary coaching is a very powerful management tool with a number of benefits at many levels. It is also a key leadership style as the old ‘command and control’ is really limited to crisis occasions.

Who can you start coaching? What benefits will it bring your business?

If you want to get in touch, please email, tweet, or leave a comment below.

Is coaching a useful management skill?

By | Career, Leadership, Productivity | 2 Comments

coaching peopleWelcome to our latest post. You may be thinking it’s been a bit quiet. You’re right! I have taken some time off in August, which was wonderful. In this blog I focus on coaching as a management skill and a true leadership skill. What is it exactly, how do you do it and what are the benefits?

What about if you don’t manage people, is coaching relevant?

Yes, because as a skill set you still have yourself to manage and your peers.

Definition of Coaching

Before we can check out how useful coaching skills are to the line manager we need to define what it is. I like the way Myles Downey, in his book Effective Coaching, describes coaching as… “Potential minus interference is equal to performance”. What he means by this is that performance can be maximised and potential released if the stuff in the way can be removed or minimised. So someone can perform better in their job, i.e. you or a team member, if attention is focused on the right things and doing them right. Another way to consider coaching is that it’s about the future; it’s about achieving results and supporting someone through that process.

How to coach your people

If you manage people, coaching is a very powerful skill to have at your disposal. Imagine a manager and direct report having a conversation. It’s all about agreeing what has to be done namely setting some targets for the future. Having this role clarity can be a revelation in itself. Then by working backwards to the current day you can define what gap is there to fill to meet the targets. Having identified this gap, the line manager asks his/ her team member for all the possible options to meet that gap. What are all the ideas and possibilities that help achieve that target? This is the creative bit where the line manager mostly listens and when once the team member has exhausted his or her ideas only then can the line manager chip in theirs. This way you can tap into the resourcefulness of your coachee. After all, the manager as coach does not have to have all the answers! The last part of the process is agreeing a way forward. Out of all the ideas generated which does the coachee feel are the best and easiest? What timescales are realistic? Who can help or provide resources? What could go wrong and how can this be worked around? This is very similar to project management in getting the best ideas into action plans.

What about if you don’t manage people; how is coaching relevant?

If you don’t manage any people then this is still relevant in that you do manage yourself and self coaching is a very useful discipline, as is coaching peers. Colleagues can benefit enormously from support and listening but probably the most helpful bit is asking questions about their assumptions and giving them to think aloud in an uninterrupted way. In her excellent book Time to Think, Nancy Kline talks about the increase in ideas and energy from really questioning and listening with peers.

So what are the benefits of coaching to the organisation, the manager and the staff member? Why bother with this coaching stuff?

The answers to these questions will have to wait for another post, but if you want to get in touch in the meantime, please email, tweet, or leave a comment below!

Good decision making – how do you shape up?

By | Career, Leadership, Motivation, Productivity | One Comment

In this post I focus on how to improve our decision making.

You may want to make some changes in your professional life or business. Critical thinking, seasoned decision-making and judgement are key attributes for any professional. As is tuning into your intuition to make decisions feel right. Can you improve how you do this?

Yes, you can!

Please read on for some ideas to support and inspire you.

If you are considering making demanding decisions in the year ahead, how do you make sure you are making the right decisions?

  • Have you ever made poor decisions?
  • Lost out on something big?
  • Messed it up?

We all have and hindsight is a wonderful thing but unless you can travel back in time you don’t often get a second chance! Do any of these examples of poor decisions listed below, sound like you:

  • Resigning from your job or quitting on a contract on impulse with no other job to go to?
  • Not spotting things because you haven’t thought through the situation from all angles?
  • Getting angry about an issue and upsetting people with whom you need a long term professional relationship?
  • Not acting but procrastinating instead, putting off tasks for another day?
  • Worrying, becoming stressed out and making a decision when you are exhausted?
  • Taking on too much and producing mediocre results?
  • Doing what you always do and expecting a different result?
  • Sitting on the fence unable to make decision one way or the other and frustrating those who work with you? Making a recent decision which just didn’t feel right and with hindsight you should have listened to that feeling?

What is really good decision making?

Decision making involves making a choice from a range of different options. Sometimes there is so much choice that we feel overwhelmed. It can be complex and incredibly difficult to feel you are making the right choice but there are some helpful ingredients to guide you.

Judgement: what is right or wrong? What is ethical, moral, or “green”? What boundaries are you adopting which support your beliefs and principles? Learning from Enron springs to mind here.

Values: what drivers and motivators can guide you to feel you are making a decision that will inspire you? Will the decision move you towards your goals and away from problems?

Intuition: What is your inner wisdom or gut telling you? Can you answer a definite “yes” to this? If not, listen to what your instinct is telling you.

‘Creative silence’ is a technique where you take 10 to 20 minutes each day when you have quiet time to sit and let the brain make connections without a forced agenda. This helps you make use of your intuition and solve problems as it mimics meditation by going into the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is very smart and looks for mismatches and solutions. Consider whether there any decisions you made recently with your logical hat on but keep coming back to? There may be a mismatch with your values or principles which you are working through.

Reflection: Give yourself time to make an important decision. This is the only time procrastination is helpful when you sleep on something to get some more perspective. Perspective is extremely important in making robust decisions. Having an external frame of reference if you run your own business is vital. If you work in the corporate world make use of colleagues to test out ideas.

Experience: What is your past telling you? What have you learned that works well?

Creativity: What are all the different options available to you? If you believe you are not very creative use a technique to help structure your thinking e.g. a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. If you’re not very high on original thought and work better on building on someone else’s ideas – find that someone! A good website for developing creative solutions to the problems you face is Or more simply, think about the benefits and the costs of your decisions. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Logic: What are the natural steps to take and in what order? What is the end result you desire and what are the steps to achieve that? Help: Asking for help from others who have been in this situation before or have expertise in this area is a real sign of strength.

Stakeholders: Who is potentially involved in this decision and has a view? What will be the likely impact if you don’t involve them? Tap into your emotional intelligence and be aware! Another way to look at this is to simply think about what would the customer want or the end-user? How does the decision impact them?

Priorities: If you only worked on one thing – what would it be? What decisions can move this forward?

In my next post, I will look at 10 ways to make really good decisions. In the meantime, if you want some coaching on your decision-making, get in touch!

Managing Stress, part 2

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I have talked before about pressure at work, some of the triggers of stress and the tell-tale signs of too much stress. But what about if you work all the time? Are you a workaholic?

The definition of a workaholic is someone who has an obsession with work. They are now referred to as “work dependents” and are described as such when work has become a crutch that is shoring up other less successful parts of their lives. Raj Persaud in his book, “The Motivated Mind”, recommends the following tactics:

  • Plan two fun things a week to look forward to and give yourself a break
  • Delegate tasks and manage your own control needs
  • Set boundaries about what is achievable at work in a typical 8 hour day
  • Remember you don’t have to catch every ball
Personality, stress and work: who do you know who is a Type A Personality?

Does the following description bring anyone to mind?

  • Goal directed or pushy, competitive, with an excessive drive and an enhanced sense of urgency.
  • Naturally suffers from irritation, hostility and an increased potential for anger.
  • Huge frustration with others who are not as fast as them and so get in the way.

Problems arise when an A type Personality works in a high stress environment. A very common occurrence and society rewards them! To assist them lessen their chances of heart attack gentle to moderate exercise is recommended!

Tips for managing stress levels at work:
  • List what you can & cannot control. Recognise that the “cannot control list” is not worthy of your worry and energy!
  • Prioritise what you can control. Take small steps each day to progress the list and getfeedback early on if you are not sure about your skill level.
  • Take time out to get some perspective because when you are in the thick of it you cannot really appreciate what impact it’s having.
  • Stop beating yourself up, accept that you cannot change the past but that you canchoose how to act in the future. Record regularly what you have been successful in and review this to keep positive.
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve on your own. Asking for help is OK!
  • Build in time to relax and sleep.
  • Talk to someone at work that you respect or confide in someone outside of work.
  • Keep a diary to note down when you are stressed to increase your awareness about yourpersonal triggers.
  • Imagine someone else had this problem – what would they do? This gives youperspective.
  • Focus on the solution and what action can be taken.
  • Make a decision, having weighed up all the options – you usually feel better once it’s stopped whizzing round in your head.
  • Remember back to when you have successfully survived other stressful periods in your life and think about what strategies you used then.
  • Take time for exercise, sport, meditation, reading what ever is your thing. Singing is great for reducing blood pressure!
  • Think through the worst case scenario and put a plan in place to aim to avoid this and have a contingency plan if the worst did happen.
  • Adjust your standards if you are a perfectionist and go for 80% not 120%.
  • Attend any training & development on time management and stress management. Which of these ideas might work for you or people you work with? Only yesterday I was working with a client who was really suffering from stress and it’s not a good place to be. Managing your optimum stress levels is a skill worth learning.

Which of these ideas might work for you or people you work with? Only recently I was working with a client who was really suffering from stress and it’s not a good place to be. Managing your optimum stress levels is a skill worth learning.  If you would like help with developing that skill, get in touch.   

What are your personal triggers for Stress? – part 1

By | Managing Strengths, Motivation, Productivity | One Comment

stressed businessmanThe focus of this post is on stress & pressure.

Have you got the right amount of pressure in your professional life? What causes you stress at work? Why should we bother managing our stress levels?

Notice if there are any tips that could help you remove some of the stressors that sap your energy. Or could you look out for any warning signs in colleagues, team members etc and potentially help them? We probably all know people who have had too much stress and recovery takes a long time.

Common stress triggers

Pressure at work is a good thing and part of normal life, but too much causes stress. Alternatively, with no stress, pressure or demands, it would be hard to get going at all and our motivation might suffer. Too much stress is as bad as too little. So where does all this stress come from? The usual sources of stress include big events such as death, divorce, moving house and illness – but what about the more day-to-day work events that can stress us out? How many in this list apply to you and are you happy about it?

  • Public speaking
  • Perfectionist
  • Changing jobs
  • Networking meetings and conversations
  • Attending Interviews
  • Bad traffic
  • Sitting Exams
  • Uncertainty
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Someone shouting at you/telling you off
  • Forgetting something important Meeting sales targets/other targets
  • Work overload
  • Unable to make a decision/procrastination
  • Not enough work
  • Constant change & reorganisation
  • Constant availability through technology
  • A poor working relationship with your boss/colleague/team member

If you are suffering from too much stress as a result of some of the above the impact can gradually build up to some quite profound physical and mental results.

Just some of the likely physical effects you want to avoid:
  • Stomach ulcers
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Raised stress hormone levels (these actually shrink the part of the brain where new memories are laid down, especially spatial memories like “where have I left my keys?”)
The mental effects you really don’t want:

Burnout at work can lead to the following problems:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • A detached attitude towards others
  • A low sense of accomplishment
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
League table for stressful professions

So which professions suffer the most from stress? Some recent American research by Martin Seligman listed the following professions as the most stressful:

  • Lawyers
  • Teachers
  • Secretaries
  • Waiters

Occupational research has found that it’s not so much the workload that causes stress but the amount of control you have over the way you do your job. So even if you have a lot of work to do, having some say in it buffers you from the effects of stress. What is it about lawyers that make them vulnerable? The latest theory by Seligman is that lawyers tend to be pessimistic personality types. Pessimism is seen as a plus amongst lawyers because seeing situations from a prudent perspective, from every conceivable angle is beneficial. The key here then is not to take home the pessimism but instead expect things to work out and opt for flexible optimism! Do you British lawyers agree with this?

Managing your optimum stress levels is a skill worth learning.  If you would like help with developing that skill, get in touch.   

Tips to develop success traits

By | Managing Strengths, Motivation, Productivity | No Comments

success-aheadLast time, I wrote about the characteristics of successful people; but how can you develop your own success traits?

Read on!

Tips to develop success traits
  • Having an optimistic view on life and focusing on the positives is hugely helpful. Do you view everything as an opportunity?
  • High levels of confidence and self belief are essential. What situations do you feel confident in and how can you find more of these?
  • Keeping a diary of successes each day or success tracking is a helpful habit. By the end of a week and then a fortnight and after a month imagine how many small things you will have achieved that all contribute towards the end goal.
  • Persevere when it’s tough and remind yourself of the benefits.
  • Passion, use it to propel you forward. Would you do this even if you were not paid?
  • Play to your strengths: know what they are and use them. What talents are you known for?
  • Ask for help: be it financial, time, support, a pair of hands, or feedback – whatever it takes.
  • Take calculated risks and avoid rash emotional reactions. Make time to think logically, be creative about the options available to you and then listen to your gut instinct.
  • Learn from mistakes, don’t dwell on them as you cannot turn back the clock.
  • Find role models to speak to and learn from. Buy them a coffee and listen to their experience.
  • Go public on your goal and action plan if that will motivate you not to lose face.
  • Look after yourself. A workaholic, knackered and out of shape is no good to anyone.
  • Have a balance between enjoying the present and planning for the future.
  • Plan in breaks, treats and rewards at intervals to look forward to.

Is there anything else you could do to be more successful?  If you want help with reading the signs, get in touch!   

The traits and habits of successful people

By | Managing Strengths, Motivation, Productivity | One Comment

success/failure signpostThis time I  focus on the traits and habits of successful people. So how is that relevant to you? Well there may be some areas where you want to sharpen up your act and here are some ideas of what to do! The material for this comes from working with a number of clients over the years and seeing what really works. Books are useful to find out what the gurus say but what really works in practice is what is talked about here.

What is success?

People do not wander about and find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.”  Zig Ziglar

Firstly, determine what it is you really want. What is your vision of success? Next list all the benefits. Leave your ideas and come back to them after some reflection. Use your intuition. Ask yourself “what is important to me at work and in life?” Other than materialistic goals research shows that most people want to be valued and have their efforts recognised. Really think hard about what the cost of this success will be for you. The effort, time, money, energy-are they worth it? What is the price of success or failure? Does the thought of failure even stop you dreaming of what you would like?

Does motivation matter?

Motivation is a key tool to achieve what you desire – so be in charge of your motivation and tap into it rather than letting it be in control of you. Motivation takes us to the pinnacle of success but can take us to a low point – the enemy within. Be realistic about what you can achieve in what time frame. Think about your key drivers or values as these are the core source of your fulfilment and satisfaction. Ask yourself what will happen if I don’t achieve this? Are the consequences serious if you don’t make this happen?

Success strategy into action

Having focused on what you want (your vision) and written it down, plan in detail how to achieve it. Think of this as the architect’s drawing and the builder’s plans. Be aware of goal conflict when you have two goals in direct competition. For example, “I want to go to the gym after work and get fit” versus “I have had a long and tiring day at work and want to comfort myself by going straight home, raiding the larder and watching junk TV.” Prepare for the easier temptation by taking a healthy snack and only watching targeted TV later! Each day start with your to do list and focus on the important not just the urgent. Consider what is time well spent? Prepare ahead for obstacles and things going wrong and build in a plan b. Concentrate on one task at a time and complete it, allowing for the fact that there are distractions and interruptions.

To sum up; success doesn’t just happen, it needs a plan and action but not at any cost.

If you need help with planning your success, get in touch.

Gender difference, part 2

By | Leadership, Managing Strengths, Productivity | No Comments
gender differencesTips for the workplace:

In a previous post, I looked at gender differences you should know about. This time, it’s tips about how to deal with those differences in the workplace:

  • Take notice of those non-verbal signals by tapping into women’s intuition, i.e., the ability to notice small details and changes in the appearance or behaviour of others. By using this ability you can detect subtle mood and attitude changes in your team, colleagues and peers. At a meeting ask some of the females to summarise the feelings and emotions that are occurring, a very emotionally intelligent thing to do.
  • Female and attending an interview for a management position? Wear a more masculine style of outfit. You have a better chance of being selected than if you dress in a more feminine outfit. Even if the interviewer is female!
  • Male characteristics and values are largely responsible for driving people to the top of the organisation but feminine values are becoming the way to stay there, encouraging team work, interdependence and collaboration.
  • Men have logical, problem-solving minds and often feel that there is no need to share their own problems with others. So with small problems males are best left alone to work them through. With big problems this inability to effectively problem solve and talk at the same time can lead to stress. Encourage male colleagues to talk about what is going on and see that it is a real strength to ask for help and not battle on their own. Interestingly women are happy to share their problems but don’t necessarily want advice but just to be listened to. So give female colleagues a listening ear.
  • Closing business deals with direct, short, solution-focused sentences is where males thrive. Such direct speech can seem rude and abrupt in social settings. Using indirect speech or concentrating on building rapport is generally a natural female style. The ideal in business is maybe a duo of male and female, each complementing the other.
  • To encourage male listening, give him an agenda and advance notice. This appeals to his logical side and makes him feel appreciated in terms of why you are meeting and his contribution to the agenda and solving the issue.
  • If you are in the position of selecting a team or project group, a mix of males and females is best. This manages the competition amongst the men in terms of status and hierarchy, and maximises the harmony with the females. The blend of problem solvers and relationship builders can support and help each other to create a better end result.

Our genetics may determine our physiology but do remember that our up-bringing and any training and development will enable us to change, adapt and improve! Bear in mind too that our personality differences such as introversion and extraversion, can also emphasise and/or compensate gender differences. By acknowledging our differences we can embrace them!  

Gender difference: what do you need to know?

By | Leadership, Managing Strengths, Productivity | One Comment

Grab yourself a drink and take a minute or two to read this and see if any of it makes you smile! In this post I focus on the differences between male and female brains and next time I’ll look at how to make the most of this knowledge at work.

Do I really need to know about gender differences in the human brain?

So let’s get the biology lesson over with! Males and females are different; not better or worse, but different. Same species different worlds!  We evolved differently because men hunted and protected whilst women gathered and nurtured. Over millions of years brain structures continued to change. We think differently and process information differently. Our perceptions, priorities and behaviours are also different. How does this relate to you? Well if you live, work and play with the opposite sex here are some interesting facts!

9 differences you should know about:
  1. Eyes in the back of her head? Not quite but females do have better peripheral vision. Males have a type of longer tunnel vision to see well in a narrower field and so make better night time drivers!
  2. Women’s eyes display more white than men’s eyes because close range personal communication is an integral part of female bonding. Having more white on show, allows a greater range of eye signals to be sent and received.
  3. Females are more effective at lying to males face to face because male brains are less skilled at spotting incongruencies between verbal and non verbal signals.
  4. Reading between the lines is something women are said to do. This is due to their greater sensitivity in differentiating tone changes in voice volume and pitch enabling them to hear emotional changes in others. Men, however, have better directional hearing for hunting purposes.
  5. Male brains are not so well equipped to hear or see details. Females pick up the visual, vocal and body language signals such as who is talking to who and the subtleties behind this; whereas the male brain was evolved to see a zebra on the horizon and how fast it’s moving!
  6. Most males have a specific brain location for sensing direction and so find navigation and orientation easy. Men use their spatial skills here. I know I certainly prefer to drive and let my husband do the map reading!
  7. Females are attracted to therapy, counselling and teaching professions because of their strength in speech. Women have two speech centres in their brain, one on each side enabling them to be good conversationalists!  Males have one speech centre in the left part of the brain.
  8. A woman’s brain is configured for multi-tasking because of the larger number of connections between the right and left side of the brain. Males literally have a more compartmentalised brain and prefer to focus on one thing at a time.
  9. At the end of a day full of problems, a male brain can file and store them all away. This ability to store and separate information comes from the compartmentalised male brain. Females, however, have less function to store and so the problems go round and round in her head. Hence the need to talk about them and acknowledge them!

So with all these differences what can you do to maximise your natural strengths and those of the people you work with?

Get in touch with The Smart Coaching Company!