Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

Benjamin Franklin
Do the Right Thing and Admit when You're Wrong

Do the Right Thing and Admit when You're Wrong

Posted by martin.parnell |

“We all make mistakes”, is a very true statement. There isn’t one of us who, at some time or other hasn’t made an error, whether it be in judgement or action, nobody’s perfect.

When you are the boss, it’s probably harder to admit when this happens, as you are the person others look up to, you are expected to have all the answers, know what to do in every situation and always get things right.

So, what should you do, when it’s you who makes a mistake?

"Admitting that you're wrong is a sign of strength," says Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid (Hudson Street, 2013). "It takes character and leadership to do it well."

It also sets an example for your employees, creating a culture where they feel free to experiment and fail. That freedom allows for greater creativity and quicker solutions when people make mistakes.

He suggests you practice these five tips to help you own your mistakes in a way that strengthens your company:

1. Take ownership. 
As the leader, you are responsible for what goes on at your company, so you need to own the problem and the solution. "Never make excuses," Winch says. "That doesn't strike confidence in a leader."

Commend employees who take ownership of their mistakes as well. By showing respect and support for them, you create a culture that addresses mistakes without blame. "Taking responsibility when things don't work is more conducive to growth," Winch says.

2. Be sincere. 
When you deliver an apology, your audience will be looking for signs of a canned or stiff delivery, and they'll take them as signs that you don't mean what you're saying, says Kurt Dirks, a professor of leadership at Washington University who studies successful apologies. To win them over, simply be yourself.

"Trying to go by a script only undercuts the potential impact," Dirks says. "Be who you normally are." That honesty -- in your words and your delivery -- will show that you actually mean it.

3. Show what you've learned. 
A good apology explains what happened and why. Start with why you made your original decision and the logic that led to that choice. Next, explain what you learned about why it didn't work and how that new information will inform how you move forward. If you haven't figured out the lesson yet, then you're not ready to deliver the apology. "You should feel empowered," Winch says. "If you don't, then you haven’t figured out all the fixes, opportunities, and messages of hope yet."

With any mistake, no matter how small, there is a way to prevent it from happening again. Even if the mistake was simple -- like not thinking through an idea -- you can improve your thought process so it doesn't happen next time. Sharing your lessons will also show your employees how to think about mistakes and move forward.

4. Make proactive changes. 
Talk is cheap, so people need to see that you will actually follow through. When you outline your plan for change, mention a step you've already taken toward those ends. "The more specific the better," says Dirks.

For example, you might mention a new process you instated to improve communication or a new approach you're taking in product development. “As long as you can explain how you're rectifying what went wrong and own it, then you'll come across as a person in a position of strength," Winch says.

5. End on a high note. 
When you talk about a mistake, acknowledge anyone who might have been harmed in the process. Sometimes, the harm is overt, like in the case of BP's oil spill, but often it's more subtle, like when employees invest hope and time in a project that fails. "If anyone has been harmed, show empathy," Winch says.

But always bring it back to what you learned and how you plan to use this experience as an opportunity to grow. "You want to end with a message of hope in every situation," Winch says.

The ability to admit when you're wrong, as a leader, is your greatest opportunity to learn and grow. Admitting fault in the right way can make your employees and company stronger.

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Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs
The Tim Hortons Dutchie Marathon-Food for Thought

The Tim Hortons Dutchie Marathon-Food for Thought

Posted by martin.parnell |

On July 1st it was Canada’s 150th birthday and I wanted to celebrate.  An idea started to form the week before and it all stemmed from a little treat that my wife Sue brought home from Tim Hortons, a Dutchie doughnut. My love of the Dutchie goes back a long way. As a lad in England, once a month, my dad took me to the car auctions in Exeter. On the way  we’d stop at a Wimpy’s restaurant and dad would buy me a milky coffee (now called a latte and twice the price) and a glazed-covered doughnut.

Immigrating to Canada in 1977 I stumbled across its Canadian counterpart and my relationship with the Dutchie began. Then, one dark day in 2013, I heard the news,  “Tim Hortons removes the Dutchie from its counters”. Over the intervening years I have tried the chocolate dip, Boston cream and apple fritter but they weren’t the same.

Then, in the last week of June, Sue came home with the real deal. Apparently, Tim Hortons had decided to bring the tasty delicacy back, for Canada’s birthday. As I was enjoying the raisin speckled delight an idea popped into my head “Why not run a marathon fueled by Dutchies?” The marathon part I had already decided on as I wanted to pay homage to one of Canada’s greatest heroes Terry Fox. But I would now also pay homage to one of Canada’s greatest doughnuts, the Dutchie.

I had tried something similar in 2010 during “Marathon Quest 250” when I ran 250 marathons in one year in support of Right to Play. Mackay’s ice cream in Cochrane was one of my sponsors and I ran the distance fueled on cones and water.

So, I needed to do my due diligence and went to Tim Hortons website to check out the nutritional facts on the Dutchie. I found one contains, calories 240, Sodium 200mg, Total fat 6g, Saturated 3g, Total carbs 40g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 17g, Protein 5g, Calcium 2% and Iron 15%. The numbers looked good and I figured that for a 5 hour marathon I would need 5 Dutchies.

I set off at 6.30am on a cool but clear July 1st morning. My route was a 1 km loop around my house and along the Bow River. After 5km I had my first half-Dutchie, microwaved for 10 seconds to give it that freshly baked taste. Around and around I went. My running buddy Wayne joined me and he ran 16 kms or one and a half Dutchies.

During the run I kept up with social media sharing such things as my favourite movie: “A fist full of Dutchies”; favourite book: “The Girl with the Dutchie Tattoo”; favourite song: “If I had a million Dutchies”; favourite quote: “Make the Dutchie great again”; favourite monument: “Stone Henge Dutchies” and favourite TV show: “Dutchie is the new black”.

At 4 hours 49 minutes and 16 seconds the Tim Hortons Dutchie marathon was done.

As I soaked in the hot tub, I thought how lucking we were to live in a country where I had the freedom to do something as wacky as the Dutchie marathon.

Eight months ago I had run a marathon in Afghanistan in support of girls and women. They were running for freedom.

Happy Birthday Canada.

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Everyone enjoys being acknowledged and appreciated. Sometimes even the simplest act of gratitude can change someone's entire day. Take the time to recognize and value the people around you and appreciate those who make a difference in your lives.

Roy T. Bennett
Reflect on the Number 150 and Celebrate those Closest to You

Reflect on the Number 150 and Celebrate those Closest to You

Posted by martin.parnell |

Many people in Canada are currently celebrating the 150th. Anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act) which confederated Canada, on July 1, 1867. We are seeing and hearing the number 150 everywhere

This brought to mind a posting on the website of my friend, Alan Stevens, entitled YOU'RE DUNBARRED! In which, he wrote:

“On the train to and from Scotland last weekend, we rattled past the beautiful Scottish coastal town of Dunbar. It put me in mind of a number. A hundred and fifty to be precise.

Anthropologist Professor Robin Dunbar came up with a theory twenty five years ago about the number of relationships we can keep up with. The number, known as Dunbar's number, is estimated at around a hundred and fifty. He based this on research into the size of ancient villages, Roman legions and nomadic tribes, but also upon the capacity of a region of the brain known as the neocortex. So how does this relate to social networking?

On the face of it, the Dunbar number seems ridiculously low. Many of us have thousands of contacts on social networks, and we exchange messages with them constantly. However, if you consider the number of people that you know really well, and have probably met at some point, it looks a lot closer to a couple of hundred. The implication is that most of your important interactions take place with a relatively small number of people.

If you think about your social media use, you will probably find that there aren't that many people you know and trust really well. Professor Dunbar also suggests that we have a close inner circle of just five people, and networks of up to 1500 who we recognise facially, but don't know that well. In short, it's worth remembering that despite having many thousands of friends and followers, the close circle that we know well is really important. Those are the people we should really value and spend time with.”

Whether it’s within our family, our close circle of friends or colleagues, relationships matter.

We must value the people who are there for us in good times and bad, put up with all our foibles are honest with us and who know us best.

So, at this time of reflection and celebration, let’s all take a moment to think about the people closest to us and celebrate our relationships with them.

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Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.

Catherine Pulsifer - Author
How to be Most Effective at Getting your Message Across

How to be Most Effective at Getting your Message Across

Posted by martin.parnell |

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a presentation at this month’s TEDx YYC. 

On Friday, I stood on the stage at the Jack Singer Hall, situated in the Arts Commons building in Calgary and gave a talk entitled “Life is a Relay”. Whilst rehearsing for this type of event, I am always aware of the need to integrate passion, humour, anecdotes and facts, into my talk. 

Along with these are other aspects to be conscious of, such as expression, body language and overall presentation. It all comes down to what I want to say, how I’m going to say it and how it will be interpreted, by the audience. 

In the work place, it is becoming increasingly common for a person to send an email, text, tweet or some other form of modern communication, which is OK for certain messages to get through, however, I would argue that, whenever possible it is better to speak to someone directly, either by picking up the phone or seeing them in person. 

In 2011, Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review, in which he stated: 

“Like many readers, I have experienced too many unproductive strings of back-and-forth emails or texts that should have stopped in round two, but continue. The problems with trying to resolve sensitive matters over email or text are quite obvious:

1. It is hard to get the EQ (emotional intelligence) right in email. The biggest drawback and danger with email is that the tone and context are easy to misread. In a live conversation, how one says something, with modulations and intonations, is as important as what they are saying. With email it is hard to get the feelings behind the words.

2. Email and text often promote reactive responses, as opposed to progress and action to move forward. Going back to the zero latency expectation in digital communications, it is hard for people to pause and think about what they should say. One of my colleagues suggests not reacting to any incendiary message until you have at least had a night to sleep on it, and always trying to take the higher ground over email. While by definition reactive responses occur in live discourse, they are usually more productive.

3. Email prolongs debate. Because of the two reasons above, I have seen too many debates continue well beyond the point of usefulness. Worse, I have experienced situations which start relatively benignly over email, only to escalate because intentions and interests are easily misunderstood online. When I ask people if they have called or asked to meet the counterpart to try and reach a resolution, there is usually a pause, then a sad answer of “no.”

Email is one of the greatest productivity contributors of the past two decades, and social communication platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have fundamentally changed and positively enriched the means and reach with which we are able to interact. Yet we have to recognize when such digital channels cannot substitute for a live conversation.

Email and social networking modes of communications have created a generation of casually convenient new connections, and even helped us deepen existing relationships, but they can rarely replace the real world. As digital communication accelerates the pace at which people form and broaden relationships, it is also decreasing the rate at which people are willing to resolve issues professionally and directly in-person. The next time you experience an issue over email, ask yourself if it is something that would be better served by a real conversation.”

It is also important to remember that, when someone communicates with us, in person, we are able to read their body language, expression and tone of voice. According to researchers M Mahdi Roghanizad and Vanessa K Bohns, in an article for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, published this year, a new study has found that people tend to overestimate the power of email and are, in fact less persuasive than they think over email and overestimate its power.

Highlights of the research showed: People underestimate compliance when making requests of strangers in person. In two studies, we found the opposite pattern of results for emailed requests. Requesters overestimated compliance when making requests over email.

This error was driven by a perspective-taking failure. Requesters failed to appreciate how untrustworthy their emails would seem to others. Bohns concludes that  "A face-to-face email is 34 times more successful than an email". 

So, I would suggest that, if possible, next time you want to have a discussion, present an idea or share a point of view with someone, why not pick up the phone or, better still, arrange to speak to them in person.

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To reach the goals of your life, you need discipline, you need luck and you need something as important as these two: Vacations!

Mehmet Murat ildan, author and playwright
How to enjoy a Guilt-Free Vacation

How to enjoy a Guilt-Free Vacation

Posted by martin.parnell |

It’s that time of year when many of us are looking forward to our summer vacation. A time to relax with family and friends or go off and pursue a passion.

However, for some people, the thought of taking time off work can create a great deal of stress. On the website Be Well At Work, Suzanne Gelb, PHD, JD, points out some reasons why they might feel this way;

  1. People are afraid of being replaced or they’re afraid of their work piling up while they’re gone.
  2. By taking vacation time they worry that the boss might think they’re not pulling their weight. They need to keep working to prove how valuable they are to the company. 
  3. They think they’ll miss too much work.
  4. They’re afraid they’ll get penalized for taking too much vacation time and be passed over for promotion in the future. 

It is worth considering that, taking a vacation is extremely good for you—and for your employer, too.

In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, researchers found that taking time off from work can boost your productivity, engagement, and overall happiness.

But even with all the facts swinging in favour of taking that long-overdue trip, it can still be difficult, at times, to get over your “vacation guilt.”

In a blog entitled "Holiday Vacations: Your Time to Rejuvenate" Robert Half gives some tips for enjoying your time off;

1. Create an action plan

Consider all of the potential projects that may need attention while you’re away. Write down an instruction sheet for those serving as backup so they know what to expect and how to handle specific situations. Also provide the names and numbers of contacts who might need to be reached. If you think someone will need to access your computer or other systems in your absence, speak with your manager or IT support to determine the best way to share security passwords with the person.

2. Spread the word

Give plenty of notice to key contacts that you will be out of the office and let them know who has been assigned as your backup. The more prepared people are for your absence, the less likely you will receive last-minute requests on the way out the door.

3. Wrap up your work commitments

Do your best to keep the last few days before your holiday break free from meetings and non-essential activities. That way, you can concentrate fully on cleaning out your inbox, wrapping up projects and tackling any final assignments.

It sounds obvious, but some workers find it hard to complete every task before breaking up for holidays. Make it your goal to wrap up loose ends before your last day, informing colleagues where you’re at with projects then switching on your out-of-office reply on all devices.

It might mean making a checklist a few weeks before the holidays start or allocating a certain period of wrap-up time each day in the lead-up to your break, but it will be worth it.

4. Prepare for your return

Remember that a key part of vacation preparation is getting ready for the days when you’ll be returning to work. Consider which projects will need immediate attention when you arrive. Also allocate time to check messages and meet with your boss and anyone who served as a backup in your absence so you can get updates on what you missed.

5. Step away from the smartphone

One of the challenges is that most of us use our smartphones to keep in touch with not only our work life, but our private life too, so it’s a slippery slope. Once you’re using your phone, it’s hard to switch the work mode off altogether, so for some people not using it at all is the best option.

If necessary, share your phone number with someone who will use it only in a true emergency - not when an employee has trouble remembering the time-saving Excel tip you shared three weeks ago. Also, resist checking in with the office. The more you stay in touch with work, the less of a break you will have. If you must check email and voice mail, limit it to once a day.

 

So, whatever way you choose to spend your vacation time, prepare well beforehand, try to leave work behind and think how much more enjoyable it will be, not only for you, but those with whom you share your precious time off.

Enjoy! (and don’t forget the sunscreen)

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Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

Voltaire
Get the Best Answers by preparing the Right Questions

Get the Best Answers by preparing the Right Questions

Posted by martin.parnell |

Media Coach, Alan Stevens is sometimes asked to write speeches for other people. He says that it's a tough task and, in order to do it well, “You need to be able to get inside the head of the other person, to understand the way they think, the impression they like to create, and the phrases they like to use”.

He informs us that many politicians employ speechwriters. Most of Ronald Reagan's great orations were written by his chief writer, Peggy Noonan. Even JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you..." actually came from the pen of Ted Sorensen.

Stevens explains that it’s not enough to just re-work what a person says, you have to go deeper and try to see things from their point of view. When writing a speech for someone, he will go to see them speak, or watch videos of their speeches. Then meet with them, and ask them a set of questions.

When I looked at those questions, it struck me that answering them would be a valuable exercise to do in a range of situations, e.g. when preparing to write your own speech, when making a presentation or pitching an idea.

If you are able to answer these questions, not only will you be prepared, but you will be more confident in your approach.

These are the questions that Stevens asks:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is your key message?
  • Can you explain that to me simply?
  • Why is this important to your audience?
  • What challenges do you expect?
  • What is the practical application?
  • Can you give me some stories and examples?
  • Are you sure of your position?
  • What do you want to leave out?
  • Why is this important to you?

If you are a journalist, you could use most of them when conducting an interview or writing a story.

It might be worth keeping this check list and referring to it until you get into the habit of asking yourself these things, each time you prepare a speech or written piece. 

If you are in a mentoring role, you might consider the words of Simon O. Sinek, a British/American author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant, who said “Leadership isn’t answering the questions others ask. Leadership is asking others to answer their own questions.”

And it’s worth remembering that, whether you are speaking or writing, your subject line or opening sentence will be the hook to capture attention.  You want people to sit up and take notice. Answering these questions can help you with that too.

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It isn't all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.

Gene Roddenberry
From the Beatles to the Mouse, timely Innovations

From the Beatles to the Mouse, timely Innovations

Posted by martin.parnell |

Fifty years ago, in 1967, the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, was released.

It was the band’s eigth studio album and became an immediate commercial and critical success. It spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK albums charts and 15 weeks at number one in the US. The record sold 250,000 copies in Britain in its first week (500,000 by the end of June)

The album and its cover were praised for its innovations in music production, song writing and graphic design, bridging the cultural divide between popular music and legitimate art. In May of this year, in an article on the “Biography” website, Laurie Ulster wrote: The studio’s technology was an important piece of Abbey Road’s creative puzzle. At that time, producers only had four tracks available to work with, and every time they transferred the recording to another tape, they sacrificed some of the quality. The constant improvisation needed to move beyond the restraints of the era spurred the Beatles, along with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, to new creative heights as they found innovative and strange ways to get to what they were after. That spirit of experimentation is as much a part of the album as the tracks themselves. 

I decided to take a look back at what other innovations and events came into play that same year. Here are just a few:

During February of 1967, NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 3 spacecraft The main purpose of the Lunar Orbiter 3 mission was to photograph the surface of the Moon in order to find and analyze potential safe landing sites for future missions in the Surveyor and Apollo programs. The cone-shaped craft also measured radiation and micro-meteoroid impact. The mission lasted for a total of 264 days and it ended in October of that year, after taking 149 medium resolution and 477 high resolution photographs. 

From April through to October of 1967, “Expo 67” was held in Montreal, Canada 

to create the 900 acre site, Montreal built new islands and added to existing islands on the St. Lawrence River, where they then built the 90 pavilions. The expo had 62 participating nations and had over 50 million visitors, making it the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century.

In the summer of 1967, in New York City, CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) opened its doors. Featuring 117 exhibitors showcasing technology like transistor radios, stereos and black and white televisions, it began a 50 year legacy of innovation.Held in Las Vegas every year, it is the world's gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies and where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.It has been the launch pad for new innovation and technology that has changed the world.

Also, in 1967 Douglas Engelbart filed for the patent on the computer mouse, which he had invented in 1964.  His creation was made from wood and had two gear-wheels that sat perpendicular to one another so as to allow movement on one axis. When you moved the mouse the horizontal wheel moved sideways and the vertical wheel slid along the surface. 

Moving on to this year, here are some of the winners of the 2017 Edison awards:

Diamox by Element Six:  Diamox is a new type of electrochemical cell, using boron-doped diamond electrodes, for treating highly contaminated industrial wastewater without chemical additions. It is a simple on-site modular solution for industry that is cleaner for the environment and can enable safe direct discharge or reuse of process water.

Molekule by Molekule: Molekule has created the world’s first molecular indoor air purifier. Where other air purifiers trap pollutants in filters and eventually re-release them into the air, Molekule is the only air purifier to eliminate all indoor air pollutants (e.g. allergens, VOCs), leaving the air clean and safe to breathe.

Sherwin-Williams Paint Shield is the first EPA-registered microbicide paint that kills certain harmful bacteria on painted surfaces. Representing a game-changing advancement in coatings technology, Paint Shield kills greater than 99.9 percent of these select bacteria within two hours of exposure on a painted surface.

GameChanger Q-LED Sports light by GameChanger is a high-performance lighting system designed for sports venues, with a revolutionary form factor and Internet of Things connectivity at half the cost of competitive systems. Unlike its competitors, GameChanger is bar shaped with proprietary optics which makes it more efficient in its lighting patterns and run wireless from mobile devices.

And if we look into the future, here are some innovations to look forward to, according to Seth Archer, on the Business Insider website:

According to Yigal Nochomovitz, an analyst at Citigroup, eye diseases will affect around 21 million people in the US by the year 2020. If a new way for sustained treatments is developed, it could usurp the current shots and eye drops.  Small implants could deliver drugs to a patient's eye for an extended period and could expand the possible marketplace by $13 billion in the next 15 years,

Robots have traditionally performed repetitive tasks that are easy to program. With new advances in robotics in a variety of fields, industrial robots have a larger base of technology to pull from, and they could do tasks that require more collaboration and communication.

Bendable screens, new materials, and augmented reality may all be contributing factors in the next wave of technology hardware design. Phones could start looking like wallets with folding screens, and TVs may be as thin as paper and transportable by simply rolling them up and taking them with you.

I wonder what innovations have come into everyday use, in your lifetime and which ones you would like to see developed, in the future.

How many of the innovations we have seen developed are likely to last for the next 50 years or is technology moving at such a rate that nothing that is new now will last that long? What innovations might we see in the arts? Who knows, maybe someone will come up with a 2017 album to rival the longevity of Sgt. Pepper.

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A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Laughter, the Best Medicine, in the Right Dosage

Laughter, the Best Medicine, in the Right Dosage

Posted by martin.parnell |

In an article published by the University of Kentucky, studies confirmed there is some truth in the saying “Laughter is the best medicine” and that “Studies from around the world have shown that an atmosphere of humour results in better patient cure, less anesthesia time, less operating time, and shorter hospital stays.  It gives examples of some of the researched benefits of laughter;

• Blood Pressure – People who laugh heartily, on a regular basis, have a lower standing blood pressure than does the average person. When people have a good laugh, initially the blood pressure increases, but then it decreases to levels below normal.

 • Hormones – Laughter reduces at least four of the neuro-endocrine hormones associated with stress. These are epinephrine, cortisol, dopamine, and growth hormone.

• Immune System – Clinical studies by Lee Berk at Loma Linda University have shown that laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies.

 • Muscle Relaxation – Belly laughs result in muscle relaxation.

• Pain Reduction – In 1987, Texas Tech psychologist Rosemary Cogan used the discomfort of a pressure cuff to test the medical benefits of laughter on pain management. Subjects who watched a 20-minute comedy routine could tolerate a tighter cuff than those who had watched an informational tape or no tape at all.

 • Brain Function – Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information.

 • Respiration – Laughter empties your lungs of more air than it takes in, resulting in a cleansing effect – similar to deep-breathing. This deep breathing sends more oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body.

 • The Heart – Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

 • A Good Workout – Laughter can provide good cardiac, abdominal, facial, and back muscle conditioning, especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercise.

• Mental and Emotional Health – Humour and laughter are a powerful emotional medicine that can lower stress and dissolve anger

It appears there is a good case to be made for engaging our sense of humor in all aspects of our lives.  However, not everyone shares the same sense of humour. So, how can we encourage humor in the workplace and ensure that it is used appropriately?

In his book, “The Humor Advantage”, speaker and author, Michael Kerr endorses the importance of humour in the workplace; ‘Having a sense of humor in the workplace is not about telling jokes, being a stand-up comedian, or being the office clown. It’s not about being an extrovert or practicing fake enthusiasm. It’s not even always about being funny (I can already hear you sighing with relief). Having a sense of humor is about adopting a spirit of playfulness and fun. It’s about appreciating the incongruous events and absurd moments that flitter by us every day. It’s about embracing a sense of balance, a sense of perspective, and a sense of humanity. And like our other senses, humor is a way of interpreting and filtering the events in the world around us.”

Kerr emphasizes the fact that he is not promoting any behaviour that might be construed as unprofessional, but that being “professional” does not mean that we need to “ downplay or even banish any semblance of fun and humor at work. Having a sense of humor is also about being authentic. After all, rarely are we more real than when we laugh. We are never more human than when humor shatters the professional masks we sometimes wear to reveal the true human being lurking beneath the corporate façade. This is likely why studies show a positive correlation between humor and trust: We tend to trust people more when we sense they are the real deal, and humor helps us appear more vulnerable and more genuine. He goes on to say “humor is a comfort, a catalyst, and a connector that any front line employee, sales rep, leader or even CEO, can include in their toolkit to help them achieve better results. And it’s a powerfully effective way to inject some life into your business brand that will help your business stand out from the herd to be heard like never before.”

In business, a good sense of humour might give you an advantage.  In his article, Making Sense of Humour in the Workplace, on the Canada One website, Steve Bannister tells us that “Many businesses are now beginning to realize that the punch line can benefit the bottom line. Robert Half International, an executive recruitment firm, conducted a survey of 1,000 executives and discovered that 84 percent of respondents felt that workers with a sense of humour do a better job. Another survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humour to those without. Employers are looking for the same characteristics which are inherent in those people who have a good sense of humour, namely; more creativity and productivity, fewer absentees and sick days, and better decision-making capabilities.

In his view, the essence of developing a good sense of humour is not taking yourself too seriously and keeping a positive attitude. Bannister explains what he calls “The Four Senses of Humour” and illustrates thepros and cons of using the various types;

1. Self-Deprecating Humour - Poking fun of oneself can provide a much needed relief from tense situations. Conversely, an excess of this type of humour may make other people uncomfortable and lead to serious low self-esteem issues.

2. Put-Down Humour - This type of humour involves teasing, sarcasm and ridicule and it tends to be a popular form of humour around the water cooler. If aimed at politicians, actors etc. it is harmless and can help to form social bonds, although if aimed at fellow workers, it can become a form of social aggression.

3. Bonding Humour - People who exhibit bonding humour are generally fun to be around. They tell funny jokes, lighten the mood and partake in witty banter. Bonding humour can either provide a sense of togetherness or it can isolate individual employees.

4. Observational Humour - Observational humour is the healthiest of all of the four types. People who use this type of humour have a unique outlook on life. They are always able to see the bright side of things and they don't take themselves too seriously. This enables them to deal more easily with daily stress in their life at work and at home. Observational humour is the only type of humour which can be enjoyed alone. As a result, studies linking humour with health have tended to concentrate on this type of humour.

Bannister then goes on to give advice for using appropriate types of humour, in the workplace;

  • Suffocate sarcasm - It has too much potential to be taken the wrong way in a work environment.
  • Justify your jokes - Don't just memorize the latest joke making the rounds on email. Tailor your jokes to the individual and keep them clean.
  • Be frugally funny - Making a funny comment to diffuse tension during a meeting is a great idea, but don't overdo it.
  • Join a friendly neighbourhood - Hang around funny friends. Spend time with those who are upbeat and avoid negative people whenever possible.
  • Giggle with the gang - You can be seen as having a great sense of humour without ever telling a joke. Just listen to those around you and share in their laughter.
  • Get with it - Remind yourself to have fun every day. Place humorous cartoons and quotes in your personal workspace.
  • Partake in periodic personal putdowns - This can put others at ease and you don't risk offending anyone. Be sure to keep a light mood and don't make it a habit.

Why not try to find ways to integrate humour into your working day? It could be of benefit to you and your colleagues in all manner of ways, as long as it is used appropriately.

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Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone. Help!

Lennon and McCartney
How to get by, with a Little Help

How to get by, with a Little Help

Posted by martin.parnell |

At 6pm on Saturday May 27th. I will be at the start line of the Confederation 150km ultra, which is one of the events taking place during this year’s Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. 

This once-in-a-lifetime running event is in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary which coincides with the 2017 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon Race Weekend.  The event website explains “This overnight 150K solo will be on a certified and looped course and will be open to a limited field of solo runners and run simultaneously with the relay. There will be multiple start times and athletes will self-seed so as to complete the first 100K in under 13 hours and as close to 7AM (50KM start time) as possible.” I can’t wait.

I’ve completed numerous marathons and Ultra-marathons and my training had been going well. But then, 11 days ago, I felt a twinge in my right thigh. Experience has taught me, there are some things you can “run off” and, at other times, you just have to rest up, self-treat with a regime of icing and heating the area and, if necessary, seek professional treatment.

That is how, last Friday, I found myself lying on the table at my Chiropractor’s, having Deep Tissue Therapy and Manipulation. After several good night’s sleep, my thigh is feeling much better and, with a little TLC, I’m confident it will get me through next weekend.

No matter how well things might be going, whether it’s in sport, at work or just in life in general, there are always those little setbacks, waiting in the wings, to make an entry and change the course of things.

Therefore, it’s always best to be prepared for these occasions. In sport, I’m fortunate to have a great team of people I can go to, my family doctor, Bill Hanlon, my chiropractor, Greg Long and my physiotherapist, Serge Tessier, all excellent professionals who practice out of Cochrane.

When it comes to business, I’m pretty much on my own, but if the occasion should arise, I know I can consult my speaking coach, Jane Atkinson, my friends at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS) and my wife and business partner, Sue. I also get weekly advice from a friend of mine, who is a very experienced and well-respected media coach, in the UK, Alan Stevens. His weekly newsletter is always full of great tips and advice.

So, who are your “go to” people? Do you have professionals who you can rely on to give great support and advice?

If you are in business, always keep a look out for people, in your field who share their knowledge. There are so many people out there, blogging and podcasting on subjects too numerous to mention.

But, be selective and look for people with a proven track record. 

Something else to consider is whether you have an area of expertise you could share with others.  Maybe you could be someone else’s support.

In business, as in life, it’s all about knowing when you need help or support and not being afraid to ask for it.

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Clear your stuff. Clear your mind.

Eric M. Riddle, STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter
Spring, a Time to Clear Your Mind

Spring, a Time to Clear Your Mind

Posted by martin.parnell |

Recently, I was in the doctor’s waiting room and picked up a magazine that had a detailed article on how to go about “Spring Cleaning”. It even went to the extent of providing a “check list” in order that one could tick off the tasks, as each one was accomplished. 

It got me thinking that this is an exercise that could also apply to your job. 

Maybe it’s a good time to take stock and have a clear out in that area too. It might be the really simple things, like ditching all those broken pencils that are in your desk drawer or de-cluttering your desk. It could be there are some bigger things; getting rid of all those manuals that are out-of-date, shredding that pile of paperwork you no longer need, getting around to all that filing you’ve been meaning to do. Set aside some time and get them done. 

You might need to tackle some larger issues, for instance, are those old policies up for review? Is that handbook out-of-date? Is there stuff you should have available online, rather than in paper form?  Do you need to be more organised? Getting rid of things can be cathartic, whether they are taking up space on a desk, in a drawer or on a laptop. 

That, of course, only applies to the practical side of things. But there’s another, important part of our lives that might need an overhaul and that’s all the clutter in our minds. Is all that stuff in your head preventing you from being productive? 

In an article on theYour Story website, entitled “Three ways to declutter your mind and maximise productivity”, Sonal Mishra suggests three ways that will help you make space for a stress-free, emotionally-calm and productive environment: 

Make a to-do list

You don’t need to store everything in your head. Whether digitally or on a paper, write down everything that comes into your mind. Choose a tool – it can be a notepad on your desktop, a smartphone, or even an app on your phone. Now use this device to store the bits and pieces of information that you need to remember. From paying bills to forming new marketing strategies and motivating the workforce, writing down your agenda for the week will help you find respite from the constant chatter inside your head. While writing down each point, observe and evaluate the significance of every task. 

Review and Compartmentalise

 It is difficult for two objects to occupy the same space at the same time. If you choose to clutter your mind with negative thoughts or irrelevant ones, motivational and positive thoughts will have to take a back seat and wait for their turn. This is definitely not the best practice, especially if you want to walk the path of success. You have to choose between negative and positive thoughts. Differentiate between productive and unproductive ones, and get rid of the ones that aren’t doing anything good for you. Spend five minutes every day to note down at least five things that you are grateful for. Appreciating what you have, which could be anything from a supportive family to an enthusiastic team will help you see the brighter shades of your life. 

Stop Multitasking

Stanford University research confirms that a spreading of our focus over too many activities is not in our best interests, stating that multitasking decreases productivity by as much as 40 percent. Since our brain is wired to only focus on one thing at a time, multitasking adversely impacts efficiency and performance in the long run. The brain lacks the ability and the capacity to perform more than two tasks successfully.  Follow your to-do list and stick to the schedule. While performing these steps, turn off your phone notifications and other distractions to minimise interruptions. Cell phones, e-mail, and all the other cool and slick gadgets in our daily lives can cause massive losses in our creative output and overall productivity. Your immediate surroundings play an important role in your mental health. 

Make sure you keep your room and workspace clutter-free as much as possible. By sticking to a routine, reorganising priorities, and evaluating the environment, you can avoid burning out and stay focused on both short and long term goals. 

Now’s the time. Make a list, give yourself a time limit, make it achievable and just do it. 

You’ll feel much better for it.

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The trick is to understand that you are simply talking with your audience, sharing your thoughts. You’re not arguing. You’re not selling. You’re having a conversation. You’re giving them a gift.

Peter Coughter, Author
How to make your Presentation Pitch Perfect

How to make your Presentation Pitch Perfect

Posted by martin.parnell |

In my last blog, I mentioned the 5 minute video clips, I receive, every Monday, from Alan Stevens, The Media Coach. Last week, he gave advice about giving a keynote speech, with reference to William Gladstone’s “Six Rules for Speaking.”

In a career lasting over sixty years, William Ewart Gladstone, served as Britain’s Prime Minister four separate times (1868–74, 1880–85, February–July 1886 and 1892–94). Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister; he resigned for the final time when he was 84 years old and is consistently ranked as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers.

After listening, to Alan’s reference to Gladstone, about giving a good speech, it struck me that those same rules might apply, when you are pitching an idea to your co-workers, your boss or a client. 

Here’s how: 

Rule 1.  Use simple words and short sentences. 

Rule 2.  Make sure that your diction is clear. 

Rule 3.  Know your subject. 

Rule 4.  Test your argument. 

Rule 5.  Make sure the facts are clear. 

Rule 6.  Watch your audience. 

Most of these are self – explanatory.  If your pitch is too complicated or if you are mumbling your words, people lose interest. Speak clearly and precisely.

You need to be prepared to answer questions, so it’s essential that you know your facts. Also, this will give you confidence when making your pitch. Don’t get caught out because you haven’t done your research. If, however, you are asked something that you have no answer for, be honest, don’t try to bluff, people will see right through it. It’s far better to say you honestly don’t know, but tell them that you can find out and when you can get back to them with an answer. "Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren't comfortable answering or don't know how to answer, don't make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:

  • "That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back."
  • "I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it -- great suggestion."

Rule 4 suggests you test your argument on a different audience. This may not be easy, You may not want to present your idea to colleagues beforehand and your friends and partners may have no idea about how your business works, but you might be able to get someone to sit for a few minutes and listen to part of your pitch, so that you can get some kind of reaction on the way you present it. 

Rule 6 is important because the way your audience is reacting, even if it’s only one person, may indicate that they are interested in what you have to say, would like more detail, have heard enough to give you a response or perhaps are even becoming bored and you have to change your approach. Another reason for watching your audience is because it is not a good idea to have your eyes down, reading from notes. Also, if you are using PowerPoint, make sure you are not turning your back and looking at your slides, have the board or any charts you are using, situated that you can glance at them, sideways, but stay facing your audience. 

 If you are going to use slides, make sure they are attractive, there’s nothing worse than having slides that are just a lot of print and only say exactly the same as you are. You may as well just give out photocopies of your pitch and that’s not a good idea. But, be careful not to make your slides distracting, you want them to be relevant and not take away from your message. In his publication "The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that win Business" Peter Coughter states, “The words on the screen are usually a distraction to the audience. If you’re reading the words, by the time you’ve gotten around to mouthing the words, the audience has finished reading them and is getting bored by hearing you say them.” 

If you are pitching a new piece of technology or an item, make sure your pitch is interactive – give the person/people you are pitching to, something to touch or hold. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something,the more we feel ownership over it, and the more we want it. 

There are other aspects to making a good pitch that are important, that will help you to be successful: 

Be confident – if you show confidence in your idea, it will resonate. If you are naturally funny, include some humour in your presentation, but don’t force it.  Being amusing can be engaging, if it comes naturally, but trying to crack jokes that don’t work can be really off-putting. 

Be fully prepared – not just in what you are going to say, the message you want to deliver it, but the way in which it is presented. If you are using any form of technology, be it a computer, screen, Skype, make sure it’s all working beforehand. 

Make sure you know the points of your pitch off by heart, just in case something should happen e.g. your technology fails, you lose your notes, you sat on your glasses – if you know the main points really well, you can use them to jolt your memory and the rest should flow from them. 

Giving any sort of presentation can be nerve-wracking. Whatever you do, stay calm and  keep a cool head. You thought this was a good idea, so why shouldn’t other people?

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Mondays are the start of the work week which offer new beginnings 52 times a year!

David Dweck
How to embrace Monday mornings and combat the “Blues”.

How to embrace Monday mornings and combat the “Blues”.

Posted by martin.parnell |

Every Monday morning, I open my emails and there’s a message from someone I know in the UK. Alan Stevens, also known as The Media Coach, who posts a weekly 5 minute video on tips to improve your speaking career. Sometimes they are practical, sometimes inspirational, but always worth listening to. I enjoy them because, apart from being very useful, they offer positive messages about how to enhance what I’m already doing and are a positive way to kick-start the week.

For a lot of people, on Monday mornings they feel anything but inspired and positive about the day ahead. They suffer from what is known as the “Monday Blues”. For some people, it starts on a Sunday and can ruin the final part of their weekend. They are daunted about going into work the next day, they are stressed and anxious and, come Monday morning, feel lethargic, negative and miserable.

Unfortunately, feeling this way, can have a negative impact on your performance and productivity—as well as the people around you.

In her article “11 Ways to Beat the Monday Blues”, Forbes staff writer, Jacquelyn Smith, quotes Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach says “If you enjoy your job and are passionate about what you're doing, going in to work Monday morning is another opportunity to do what you love". “But if you're feeling under-appreciated or unsatisfied with your job, it can be especially difficult to start another seemingly endless workweek.”

So, what can be done to help deal with this feeling of dread at going back to work at the start of a new week? Smith offers these ideas:

Identify the problem. If you have the Monday Blues most weeks, then this is not something you should laugh off or just live with. It's a significant sign that you are unhappy at work and you need to fix it or move on and find another job. Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs suggests making a list of the things that are bringing you down in your job. “Maybe it’s a negative co-worker or a meeting with your boss first thing on Monday morning, or maybe it’s that you don’t feel challenged--or maybe it’s all of the above,” she says. “In either case, clarifying what is bothering you can help you try to be active in finding solutions. It’s a way of empowering you to take charge and try to improve the situation.” 

Prepare for Monday on Friday. Friedman says. “By taking care of the things you least want to handle at the end of one work week, you're making the start of the next that much better. If you do have any unpleasant tasks awaiting your attention Monday morning, get them done as early as possible so that you don't spend the rest of the day procrastinating.” Alexander  Kjerulf,  founder and Chief Happiness Officer of WooHoo Inc.  “Sunday evening, make a list of three things you look forward to at work that week. This might put you in a more positive mood.” 

Unplug for the weekend. If possible, try to avoid checking work e-mail or voicemail over the weekend, especially if you're not going to respond until Monday anyway, Friedman says. "It can be tempting to know what's waiting for you, but drawing clearly defined boundaries between work and personal time can help keep things in check. Sometimes going back to work on Monday feels especially frustrating because you let it creep into your off-time, and so it never even feels like you had a weekend at all." 

Get enough sleep and wake up early. Go to bed a little early on Sunday night and be sure to get enough sleep so that you wake up feeling well-rested. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, waking up an extra 15 to 30 minutes early on Monday morning can actually make going back to the office easier.

Dress for success.  Sara Sutton Fell, says “When you look good, you feel good. “Feeling good about yourself is half of the battle because rather than being deflated by work you want to face it with confidence.”

Be positive. Try to start the week out with a positive attitude. “When you get to the office, do your best not to be a complainer. In the same vein, don't listen to other people's Monday gripes.” Friedman adds. 

Make someone else happy. Kjerulf says we know from research in positive psychology that one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to make someone else happy. “You might compliment a co-worker, do something nice for a customer or find some other way to make someone else's day a little better.” 

Keep your Monday schedule light. Knowing that Mondays are traditionally busy days at the office, a good strategy is keep you Monday schedule as clear as possible, Kahn says. “When you’re planning meetings ahead, try to schedule them for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This will help you to come into Monday with more ease.” 

Have fun at work. Take it upon yourself to take a quick break to catch up with friend in the office. Sharing stories about the weekend with co-workers can be fun and also is a great way to strengthen your interoffice network. 

Have a post-work plan.  Your day shouldn't just be about trudging through Monday to get it over with, but about looking forward to something. “By making Monday a special day where you get to go out with friends or make your favourite dinner the day doesn't have to be all about getting up to go into the office,” Friedman says. You could also plan a favourite activity or hobby for Monday evening.

Are you the employer, team leader, manager or work in HR?  Being aware of how the “Monday Blues” is affecting your workforce is important. For most people, not wanting to go to work on Monday mornings is because weekends are great and they want them to continue, they are tired from the weekend or would just rather be doing other things and the start of another work week means they have to get through five days before the weekend comes around again. But, for most of them, once they are back, they settle in to a routine and that feeling passes.

 

However, if employees are suffering from lengthy periods of depression, beyond the phenomenon of Blue Monday, “they should be taken seriously and investigated if the workplace is the suspected or contributing cause.” says Alexander Kjerulf.

Hopefully, for most employees, the beginning of the working week is a time to set goals, embrace the challenge of a rewarding job and another opportunity to enjoy a sense of achievement.

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Work, love and play are the great balance wheels of man’s being.

Dr.Orison Swett Marden – author
Being Responsible, in the Pursuit of Work-Life Balance

Being Responsible, in the Pursuit of Work-Life Balance

Posted by martin.parnell |

The Virtual Medicine Website gives this definition of “Work-Life Balance”: 

"Work-Life balance refers to an individual’s ability to balance the commitments, responsibilities and goals relating to their paid work (e.g. working hours, expected outputs of the job, career advancement), with personal commitments, responsibilities and desires (e.g. parenting, recreational activities, community commitments, further education). Individuals who maintain a healthy balance between work and life achieve a sense of wellbeing and feel that they not only have control over their working life (e.g. by being able to determine when and how much they work), but also to lead a rich and fulfilling personal life”. 

So, how do you know if you have achieved balance, or not? 

The Canadian Mental Health Association have devised a quiz to help you determine whether or not you have:

                                                                                                                    Agree         Disagree   

1. I feel like I have little or no control over my work life.                    0                   1 

2. I regularly enjoy hobbies or interests outside of work.                      1                  0 

3. I feel guilty because I can’t make time for everything.                     0                  1 

4. I often feel anxious because of what is happening at work.                0                  1 

5. I usually have enough time to spend with my loved ones.                 1                  0 

6. When I’m at home, I feel relaxed and comfortable.                        1                   0 

7. I have time to do something just for me every week.                      1                   0 

8. On most days, I feel overwhelmed and over-committed.                  0                   1 

9. I rarely lose my temper at work.                                                1                   0 

10. I never use all my allotted vacation days.                                    0                   1

                                                                    TOTAL: 

What Your Score Means: 

 0 to 3:  Your life is out of balance, you need to make significant changes to find your equilibrium. 

 4 to 6:  You’re keeping things under control – but only barely. Now is the time to take action. 

7 to 10:  You’re on the right track! You’ve been able to achieve work-life balance – now, make sure you protect it. 

I read an article entitled “The Six Components of Work – Life Balance by Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC, Executive Director -- Breathing Space® Institute  and these are some of the points he made, that can help to achieve that balance: 

1) Self-Management - the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that available resources, time, and life are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us. 

2) Time Management - making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you keep pace when your resources match your challenges.  It entails knowing what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks. 

3) Stress Management - In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, distractions, and noise require each of us to become adept at maintaining tranquility and working ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, versus focusing on one thing at a time. 

4) Change Management - Continually adopting new methods and re-adapting others is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves making periodic and concerted efforts to ensure that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you. 

5) Technology Management - Ensuring that technology serves you, rather than rules you.

6) Leisure Management - The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges the importance of rest and relaxation- that one can’t short-change leisure, and that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience. 

No doubt, having a “work-life balance” is not only desirable, but essential for healthy living. 

However, unfortunately, I have seen examples where people have taken things to an extreme and have not acted responsibly when it comes to achieving this particular goal and this can have detrimental consequences. 

My wife, Sue and I were at a conference, England, where I had given the keynote and spoken about all my fundraising initiatives e.g. running 250 marathons, in one year, climbing Kilimanjaro in 21 hours, cycling the length of Africa etc. when a lady came up and proceeded to berate Sue on the fact that she was “allowing “ me to do all of these things and it had sent out the wrong message to her husband, with whom she was in constant conflict because he worked “ dawn ‘til dusk” during the week and then she and the children barely saw him at the weekends because he was “ always training for one triathlon or another”.   

Sue was able to politely explain that, yes, I had, at times, done some extreme events, but she had often accompanied me, taken part in some and besides, had her own interests to pursue, when I was off doing my own thing.  Also, we are business partners, working from home, so we spend most of our time together. Another point is that, unlike her family, our children are independent adults. I only took up running and biking at the age of 47, so they had already left home. 

It’s not a matter of her “allowing” me to do these events, but supporting me, because she knows I always do them in aid of a good cause. In the weeks and months when I’m not training, I just go for a couple of short runs and a swimming session each week and Sue and I will often do them together. 

My point is that this husband had not been responsible when trying to obtain what he viewed as a work-life balance. He was not achieving balance at all, but merely taking the two aspects of his life to extremes. This is where I think it’s so important to consider whether you have truly achieved a ”balance” and whether your actions are appropriate, according to your situation. 

As Eileen Caddy, Author, once said "Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it".

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It is inevitable that I will leave a legacy simply because I cannot walk through life without leaving footprints as I walk. Therefore, I would be wise to consider the path before I make the prints.

Craig D. Lounsbrough
From Footprints in the Sand to the Locard Principle

From Footprints in the Sand to the Locard Principle

Posted by martin.parnell |

In forensic science Locard's exchange principle (sometimes simply Locard's principle) holds that the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it, and that both can be used as forensic science Dr. Edmond Locard (13 December 1877 – 4 May 1966) was a pioneer in forensic science who became known as the Sherlock Holmes of France. He formulated the basic principle of forensic science as: "Every contact leaves a trace".

Paul L. Kirk expressed the principle as follows:

"Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibres from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects. All of these and more, bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, and it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value."

It’s an interesting concept, that everywhere we go, when we leave, we take something and leave something behind. It got me thinking about how this applies, in our everyday lives.

When it comes to leaving things behind, there are the tangible things, like a strand of hair or a thread from an article of clothing, but what about the things that are more fleeting, like a smile, a comment or a frown?

These, too, can leave their mark and yet, like that fingerprint on a glass, we may not even notice. However, we know how they can affect us, how we sometimes take them with us and recall them, later.

Take a few minutes and think about, what you might have left behind today.

Did you give a good piece of advice? Did you praise someone or pay them a compliment? Did you say something that may have hurt someone’s feeling? Did you make a positive contribution in the workplace? Also, what have you taken with you, when you left home this morning or your place of work, at the end of the day? Did someone make you smile? Did you learn something new? Did you meet someone who made a lasting impression?

All of these things work both ways. Sometimes, it’s up to you what you might take away or leave behind.

When I walk on the beach, I like to see my footprints in the wet sand. But we don’t need the seashore to make an impression. Someone will follow in your footprints, either at home or at work.

Just make sure the ones you leave behind leave a positive imprint.

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Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.

Stephen Hawking
From Bins to Strategies, How to Accept Change in the Workplace

From Bins to Strategies, How to Accept Change in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last Friday, on returning home from a meeting, I found a new, large, green bin had been deposited on my driveway. It’s for recycling organic, compostable materials.I knew it was coming, but wasn’t sure when.  My first reaction was “Where am I going to put it? “I have to confess, initially I saw it as a bit of a hassle. It came with a booklet about what I can put in it, what bags I have to use, remembering what goes in it, when to put it out  to be emptied etc.

I had to make myself focus on the positive side of having an extra bin.

Of course, I know it makes sense, why put all that stuff in the landfill, when it can be made into compost? I thought too about friends who have been composting for some time and manage it all very well. I guess all of us occasionally take time to adjust to change, even when it’s a small one. It can also be true of changes in the workplace. Some people find it difficult to adapt to change.

On the Jostle Blog website, I found an item posted by Bev Attfield in Connected Companies, Clarity, entitled 6 steps for introducing technology into the workplace.

In it, Bev address one issue that can be particularly daunting for some employees and that’s when new technology is introduced. She states that:

“People don’t like change. That’s especially evident inside the workplace, particularly when it comes to technology. While some people see the immediate value of adopting new technology, many don't. Perhaps it’s the perceived difficulty of implementing a new way of working, or maybe the benefits haven’t been clearly articulated. Regardless, it’s important to carefully plan how a new technology is implemented.”

Bev then gives us 6 tips to help the process of introducing new technology:

  1. Make sure it’s something everyone, not just you, will benefit from. Be diligent and remain objective. Is this something that’ll really benefit your staff, teams, and organization? Or does it just seem like the right idea to meet your immediate needs?
  1. Give everyone a heads up. Communicate as soon as possible that you’re investigating a new technology and outline the benefits and impact for all. Be open about how it supports and aligns with business objectives. Involve key stakeholders early to get buy in and identify problems. 
  1. Engage a champion (or a few). Negativity can spread easily in the workplace. Enlist a few people at all levels to help others understand the benefits of the new technology. Show your champions the clear advantages and intended outcomes of the new solution so that they can easily vocalize and demonstrate their support. Make sure your full senior leadership team is behind the change and will function as champions themselves.
  1. Provide engaging launch and training events. No one wants to sit through a boring training session. If it’s done effectively, your participants won’t even realize they’re learning (or being asked to change). Try a lunch and learn or throw some humor into your presentation, and make your launch a celebration. Do what works best for your people and workplace culture. 
  1. Consider different learning styles and needs. Whether we’re an auditory, visual, or a kinesthetic learner, we all absorb information differently. Tailor your training sessions to all types of learners by providing a range of learning materials and options such as documents, live training, and videos. Be available for one-on-one training for those that require that extra bit of personal help.
  1. Make it personal. Nothing builds apathy more than employees not recognizing the personal value of a new tool. Let people know why this matters to them, and how it will impact their day-to-day work. Ensure staff understand how it will help them, not just the company. Make sure your new technology is ready to use and seeded with relevant data for all users. Help them quickly get more value out of the new system than the effort they are investing in it.”


These are all very useful ideas to consider, not just when introducing new technology, but any new ideas, strategies, resources and even that new recycling bin in the lunch room!

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We are stronger when we listen, and smarter when we share.

Rania Al-Abdullah Queen consort of Jordan
Good Management requires the Skill of Communication

Good Management requires the Skill of Communication

Posted by martin.parnell |

On April 1st. a news channel in the UK reported that the Thames Valley Police had launched an “Animal Whispering Unit”. This is their story: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka1eeUlGZDQ 

Apart from appealing to my British sense of humour, it got me thinking.  What if we had “Whisperers” in the business sector i.e. people who had a gift for communicating with personnel and using the information gleaned to improve team moral, efficiency and working relationships? Imagine having someone who could communicate with different groups, address a wide variety of problems, assess how they could be resolved and have their finger on all the many issues in the workplace. 

But, wait minute, I think we have these already, although they’re not called “whisperers’, we know them as “managers” and, surely, they are able to carry out all those tasks a whisperer might do. Well, maybe in an ideal world. But, unlike the police officer in the video, many managers are left in the dark when it comes to the real nitty-gritty issues that affect many employees. 

Managers are often very capable at the managing the day-to-day running of their department and overseeing the members of their team, but there can often be underlying issues that affect efficiency or moral that go unnoticed. I decided to do some research and looked at 9 different sites that describe the “Role of the Manager”  and almost all of them covered areas such as provide clear performance strategies and targets, provide training opportunities and motivate the workforce etc. etc. the list goes on. 

But, only one or two addressed the importance of developing good communication, as a role of the manager. One item I did find on Small Business Chronical stated that... 

“Communication may be one of the most important responsibilities of a manager to keep the workplace running efficiently. Employees need to know the mission and goals of the business and what is expected of them to achieve those results. Managers must have the ability to comprehend directives from upper management and to then translate them to staff so that everyone is on the same page. A manager's communication responsibilities may also entail resolving conflicts, motivating employees, speaking to the public on behalf of the company and preserving customer relationships.” 

These are all valid points. However, it only addresses the importance of communicating the needs of passing on mission and goals and directives, resolving conflicts, motivating employees and speaking to the public. Where does it state that a manager should listen to employees and address a wide range of workplace issues, explain why certain aspects of their work might be most pressing, encourage employees to share ideas, resolve concerns on a one-to-one basis and valuethe importance of feedback and review from his/her team? 

These would be valuable skills for any manager and all require communication. 

I believe that having good communication skills is probably the most valuable asset a manager can have, but one has to remember that communication is not all about speaking. Listening is just as important, if not more so. 

So, if you want to be a good manager, listen and encourage your team to share ideas, discoveries and issues that affect them. Maybe the Thames Valley Police are on to something. 

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Children don’t need more things. The best toys a child can have is a parent who gets down on the floor and plays with them.

Bruce Perry American psychiatrist
It's Important to Recognise that Communication is a Two-way Thing

It's Important to Recognise that Communication is a Two-way Thing

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Sunday afternoon, as I was running along the pathways, near my home, something suddenly struck me. Many of the adults I saw were looking at their phones and most of them were accompanied by children. It’s not something I’d been truly conscious before. But, then I began to notice other instances, where parents were with children and yet, rather than spending the time communicating with them, they were engrossed with their phones or ipads. 

For instance, I saw one lady, in Tim Horton’ s whose little girl, about 5 years old, was saying that she  needed to go to the washroom, but it took several times of being told before that mother took any notice. Another time, on the pathway, there was a little boy, pointing to a deer, on the other side of the river, he must have said “Daddy, look” about 9 times, before giving up. 

What is happening in our society that parents are more interested in a mobile device than talking to their own child? A friend of mine, who is an elementary school teacher tells me that she has seen a marked increase in children’s attention – seeking behaviour and the issues it causes and another friend who works with pre-schoolers said that she has noticed a decline in the general level of communication skills amongst young children and there may be a link between these issues and the way some modern parents are failing to communicate with their children. 

According to the Parenting and Child Health website: 

“The word 'communication' is used to talk about how people share information. Often when people think about communication, they think about talking and listening. However, people also send information by:

  • the tone of their voice
  • the look on their face (facial expression)
  • the way they use their hands (gestures)
  • the way they move and hold their body (body language).

However, it states that communication problems can be caused when there is:

  • lack of experience or stimulation
  • limited opportunities to talk with others. 

It goes on to list some of the difficulties that children may have when they have not grasped communication skills: 

  • recognising the emotions or intentions of others
  • speech sounds (saying the words clearly or correctly)
  • speaking fluently (without hesitating too much or stuttering)
  • using words and grammar (rules about word order and use)
  • putting words together to let others know what they think or want
  • understanding what others say.

An article published on the Better Health Channel stresses the importance of communicating with young children:

“Parenting is all about communicating with your child. Positive two-way communication is essential to building your child’s self-esteem. While children thrive with words of encouragement and praise, listening to your child boosts their self-esteem and enables them to feel worthy and loved. If you set up clear and open communication patterns with your child in their early years, you are setting up good practices for the future. A child’s ability to manage stress, feel confident and motivate themselves in later life has a lot to do with their early childhood experiences. A person’s ‘self-concept’ is their sense of who they are and how they feel about their place in their family and community. This begins to develop between the ages of two and six years. “

If you want your child to be a good listener, make sure you’re a good role model. Take the time to listen to them. Busy, distracted parents tend to tune out a chattering child, which is understandable from time to time. If you constantly ignore your child, however, you send the message that listening isn’t important and that what your child has to say isn’t important to you. 

Some suggestions include:

  • Pay attention to what your child is saying whenever you can.
  • Make sure to allocate some time every day to simply sit and listen to your child if you have a busy schedule.
  • Encourage your child’s ideas and opinions. Positive communication is a two-way street in which both parties take turns listening and talking.

Maybe it’s time for some parents to ask themselves what is really more important, reading that latest text or email or communicating with their child?  I’m sure many of them honestly don’t realize how much time they spend on their device. But, what some need to realize is that all the time that they are not communicating effectively with their children can affect them at all ages, but especially in the development of their communication skills and possibly their behaviour.

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Being successful at networking is realizing that, to get where you’re going, you need to help others get to where they’re going.

J. Kelly Hoey, Author
The Value of the Personal Touch when Networking

The Value of the Personal Touch when Networking

Posted by martin.parnell |

I have just read an article in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper which states that, in a recent survey, of the group of American adults polled, “40 percent said they should have done more networking, which is more typically associated with the professional world”.

I know that, in my business as a professional speaker and author, a great number of the speaking engagements and book signings I have secured have come from my networking at conferences, talks, presentations and other business events.

Connecting on a personal level, in a less formal situation, is extremely valuable. You create an impression and it gives you the opportunity to talk more extensively about your goals.

There is no doubt that technology has its place, when it comes to networking. I am networking through this blog, through what I put on my website, and what I post on Facebook and Twitter. But, when networking in person, you are able to judge more accurately the character of the person with whom you are connecting and whether or not you have shared interests and values, when it comes to business matters.

If they do, it is more likely they will be able to help you or know people who can.

One should also consider the value of networking when one is attending a social event, too. When you sit down to share a cup of coffee with someone or attend a luncheon, you don’t always want to be pitching your business, but it is still important to be open to further discussion on a topic, especially when it is one on which you have some expertise.

It’s also important to remember that it will give you the opportunity to help others. They can be mutually beneficial.

You should make an effort to remain connected. It may not be apparent at the time, but you never know when someone may have the opportunity to recommend you to someone, or vice versa and you need to know how to get in touch. If you have maintained contact it will make this much easier and also, it means someone will keep you in mind. Follow up on your initial meeting with an email, or brief phone call. It will help to form a more memorable bond.

In my role as an author, I have been able to reach out to people I have met through networking channels to offer expert advice and review my work.

So, don't underestimate the personal touch when it comes to networking, you never know when just  making  yourself  known to someone can help further your business ties, or help someone along the way.

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If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.

Albert Einstein
Most things are achievable and a little crazy helps!

Most things are achievable and a little crazy helps!

Posted by martin.parnell |

As part of my workshop “Unlock your potential: Set goals and achieve results you never thought possible”, I ask participants to think about some goals they might like to set themselves. Then, we discuss how they might be achieved, including how to tackle obstacles which might have to be overcome, in order to achieve success. 

It is often the first part of the exercise that proves to be most thought –provoking and, for some, most challenging. 

How do you set a goal that is applicable, doable and at the same time, challenging enough to give a sense of achievement when it is accomplished? 

In my role as an author, I have written about some pretty lofty goals I set myself, during the time I was fundraising for Right To Play and other charities. I dared to think I could run 250 marathons in one year, climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 21 hours and run 1,000 kms along the South West Coast of England in 25 days. 

Now, although I wouldn’t expect my workshop participants set themselves similar goals, I do encourage them to think beyond normal expectations, to really stretch their imaginations and see a path from where they are to where they want to be. The discussions that come out of this exercise can be very revealing.  I have had people share ideas that they have harboured for years, but never before spoken about. Others who hadn’t even thought about something they would really like to do and how they might go about it. 

When we talk about the reasons that are stopping them from attempting these goals, I almost always hear the same responses i.e. not enough time, not enough money, too many commitments but, almost universally, not enough confidence. 

For this reason, it’s important to take the time to break down the reasons for stopping yourself from doing something. When you do that, it makes the thought of attempting your goal less daunting and more achievable. 

If you highlight the obstacles that are standing in your way, see each one separately and think of them as smaller ”chunks” of the bigger issue, they will become less daunting.

It’s also important to remember that, often, these goals cannot be achieved on your own and you need to put some sort of support system in place. That might entail recruiting other people to your cause or simply having the right tools to get the job done. 

I firmly believe that, with careful planning, an awareness of the challenges you might encounter and a positive mental attitude, most things can be accomplished. 

When I struggled to run my first 2km, at the age of 47 I would never have believed it if someone had told me that, seven years later, I would complete those 250 marathons in one year, I would have told them they were crazy. But, it’s amazing what motivation can be gained from simply setting yourself a goal and having the determination to see it through. 

Of course, sometimes, a little crazy helps too!

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You cannot expect to live a positive life if you hang with negative people.

Joel Osteen
How to deal with Negativity in the Workplace

How to deal with Negativity in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |

At some time during our careers, most of us will have come across a co-worker who just relishes having something to complain about. They exude negativity, whether it’s the job, the boss, the company, clients or a colleague. For some reason, they will delight in cornering you just so that they can have a good moan. 

You may be able to deal with this type of person by talking through their issues, offering support if they need help with their job, being a sounding board or offering advice. If you feel they have genuine concerns, you might suggest solutions e.g. they speak to their employer or the HR department.  You may be able to tell them you’d rather not get involved and try to move on to a more positive topic of conversation.  Sometimes, the co-worker just wants to complain to a friendly, listening ear; they don’t want your advice or assistance to address the situation.   

Other people will find it very difficult to deal with such a person. They may not know how to handle the situation and find it draining on their time and energy. Whatever happens, it is necessary to set boundaries with regard to time you spend with that person and topics of conversation. Listen, but set limits. Long term complaining saps your energy and positive outlook. Don’t allow that to happen. Walk away. Tell the co-worker you’d prefer to move on to more positive subjects. If that proves to be too difficult, avoidance is probably the easiest course of action. 

However, what if it’s an employee who is being persistently negative? 

In her article 7 Steps to Deal with a Negative Employee, on www.thebalance.com, (January 2017), Susan Heathfield includes these suggestions:

  • Inform the employee about the negative impact her negativity is having on coworkers and the department. Use specific examples that describe behaviours.
  • Avoid becoming defensive. Don’t take the employee’s negative words or attitude personally. They are not directed at you. For whatever reason, the employee is unhappy with his or her life or work.
  • Ask the employee if something negative is happening in his personal life that is affecting his workplace success. Knowing what is happening in the employee's life lets you offer sympathy or another appropriate expression of good or hopeful wishes. It can also help the employee see that you are interested in and concerned about them as a person.
  • Ask the employee what is causing his negativity at work. Listen to the employee's complaints and concerns until you’re certain that the employee feels heard out and listened to. Sometimes people repeat negative sentiments because they don’t feel as if you have really heard them. Make sure that you have activly listened. The employee will feel the difference.
  • Focus on creating solutions. Don’t focus on everything that is wrong and negative about the employee’s outlook or actions in your approach. This will only cause the employee to dig himself more deeply into his grievances. 
  • Focus on the positive aspects of her performance and the potential contributions the individual brings to the work setting, not the negativity. Help the employee build her self-image and capacity to contribute.
    Talk to her about what she has done well and what her co-workers and you appreciate about her performance. 
  • In the future, when interacting with the employee, try to compliment the individual any time you hear a positive statement or contribution rather than negativity from her. You'll want to reinforce, as much as possible, the positive interactions the employee has with other employees and the workplace.

These seven steps frequently work when you hit an employee's negativity head-on in your workplace. 

So, whether you are trying to deal with negativity from a co-worker or an employee, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are several ways to consider, in dealing with the situation.

If you are the person who is feeing negative, take a moment to really think about the underlying issues and how you can, for your own well-being take steps to resolve them and not be a drain on your colleagues.

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