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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Here's some advice. Stay alive.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
Risk versus Reward, is it Worth it?

Risk versus Reward, is it Worth it?

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently read a story about a snowmobiler who had been reported lost, near Revelstoke, BC. Fortunately, a rescue helicopter spotted him, some 2 hours later and he had come to no serious harm.

What I found most interesting was the first line of the report, on the CBC website, which read.........

“Being prepared likely saved a Hinton, Alta. man from serious harm after spending a chilly night on a mountainside while snowmobiling.” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky. He went on to say "He was an experienced sledder, he had a good sled, he had the usual items, the backpack with the gear.”

RCMP recommend anyone heading into the backcountry carry a shovel, probe and beacon with them along with food and water and be dressed to possibly spend the night. "Most people laugh at that idea... but as we can hear, this gentleman didn't [plan to spend the night] either, but he was prepared by having the right gear."

Another story, the following day, reported that “Rescue crews have found the remaining four of the seven people who went missing Monday while visiting a ski resort near Kamloops, B.C.” But, what struck me about this story was   “KSAR spokesman Alan Hobler said earlier that the seven had gone out of bounds at Sun Peaks and into a hazardous gully.”

Why it is that people will still take the risk of going out of bounds, not only risking their own safety, but when lost or injured become a drain on the rescue services?

Some years ago, my wife, Sue, was having treatment from a dentist, in Calgary. Great guy, early thirties with a wife and two young children.

One Tuesday, she went along to the surgery, for her scheduled appointment and the place was in chaos, the receptionist was in tears and could only apologise that they hadn’t contacted Sue to cancel her appointment. The reason being, her dentist and a friend had been killed, 3 days before, caught in an avalanche, whilst they were skiing out of bounds.

During my ‘Quests for kids” initiative, I did some fairly crazy things, but I always took safety precautions, and weighed the risks.   None of us are infallible. No matter how experienced we may be in a venture, it’s never worth ignoring advice, especially when it comes to dealing with the unpredictable nature of our surroundings.

If you are tempted to go out of bounds or ignore the advice of experts, stop and ask yourself,” How would your family and friends feel if they received a call telling them you would not be going home, because you thought you knew better?”

Nine times out of ten, people survive these needless risks, but there’s always the chance you’ll be that other person.

Is it really worth it”

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By seeking and blundering we learn.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
How you Handle a Mistake can Define your Character

How you Handle a Mistake can Define your Character

Posted by martin.parnell |

We’ve all heard the expression “We all make mistakes” and it’s true. There isn’t an adult on Earth who, sometime during their life, hasn’t made some and there are others who’ve made quite few. But even when a mistake can seem so glaring and awful, it’s the way you handle that mistake and what you learn from it that can turn something which appears so negative to have a positive side. 

During my “Quests for Kids” initiative, when I was tackling my 10 endurance quests, in the hope of raising one million dollars, for the charity Right To Play, I confess to making a few mistakes and one I remember, in particular. 

I had decided I would attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in full lacrosse gear. At 6.45am on Sunday May 26th 2013, I lined up with approximately 13,000 runners for the start of the 49th Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. Despite this being a new record attempt, the administrators at Guinness had set me a sub four hour target and this was certainly not going to be a walk in the park. 

However, for the month prior, I had been training in full kit and, having previously run nearly 300 marathons, I was feeling confident. I had a plan and I felt all I needed to do was stick to it. I would run to an aid station then take a drink of my water / nutrition mix. A key piece of technology that I had with me was my Helmet 4iiii’s Sportiiii’s. This little gizmo, attached to my helmet, would give me an audio heart rate and pace at two minute intervals. To achieve the record I would have to maintain a 5min 30sec per kilometre pace and keep my heart rate below 166 beats per minutes. 

Things started off well and the kilometres ticked by. My first problem occurred around km 28. The sun was getting hotter and hotter and my heart rate hit 165. I was starting to feel some cramping in my legs, so I increased my electrolyte intake. I was still on pace but the heat was beginning to take its toll. By km 34 things were starting to go sideways. My heart rate hit 175 and I was getting light headed. The next 4 kilometres were a blur. I kept my head up and shoulders back and tried to stay up with the runner in front of me. My head was cooking and my buddies were pouring water through the vents of my helmet.  

At km 38 everything fell apart. My legs became rubber and started to spasm. My heart rate spiked at 190 and I finally dropped off a sub 4 hour pace. I jogged the next 3 km in a daze. The final 1 km I walked. With 300m to go I could hear the crowd cheering in the stadium. I turned into the final 150m stretch and with the cheers of the crowd started up a shuffle / run. I crossed the line and collapsed. Medics were there and fellow runner Ally helped me to the medical tent. They laid me down, wrapped me in a silver blanket and feed me apple juice. My final time was 4 hours 18 minutes and 58 seconds. Not a Guinness World Record. 

The mistake I made was not taking into consideration how the weather would play such an important role. I had failed to factor in the effect heat would have on me running that distance, dressed as I was  and how I would deal with it. Lesson learned. But that was something very personal to me. 

When you make a mistake in business, it’s a whole different matter. Unless you are self-employed, you can almost guarantee that a mistake you make will have a knock-on effect. In his article “How To Handle Mistakes So They Don't Harm Your Career”, published in Forbes magazine, Victor Lipman, offers  some simple, constructive steps that can make  mistakes less problematic . Here are some of his comments: 

Admit what you did was wrong - Evasion will get you nowhere.  Most of the time it only frustrates your management. 

Take full responsibility for the error - OK, so you did something wrong.  Don't try to come up with fanciful excuses for it.   Take ownership and responsibility. 

Explain what you learned from it and why you won't do it again - It's OK to make mistakes, but it's not OK to keep making the same one over and over.

Most of all, mistakes can be a chance to show the kind of employee, and person, you are. A mistake can actually be a positive opportunity to demonstrate character - to show you're a person who's honest, forthright, and can be trusted to tell the truth in a difficult situation.  

Mistakes are part of life and most of them can be rectified, but whether they can or not, it’s the way you handle them that defines your character and professionalism. 

Just remember, everyone makes them.

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Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Albert Einstein
Count on the Things that are Worth Counting

Count on the Things that are Worth Counting

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sometimes, particularly in business, it can be difficult to quantify how much we contribute to the progress, efficiency and success of the company we work for. We rarely pause to consider which of our actions count and actually make a difference. 

It is worth taking the time to evaluate the different aspects of our jobs and which tasks are of true value.  It may not be surprising to find what we count as valuable. They tend to be the things we can easily list and see as part of our job description. But what about the other things we do that are not so easily identified as having an impact?

If you haven’t already done so, it might be worth starting to compile a portfolio.

On the website www.thebalance.com, I found a list of factors that are frequently addressed at interviews. It may be worth giving some thought to the issues they raise, in order for you to assess your achievements and contributions. Here are some to consider:

  • Describe specific examples of how effective you have been, changes you have implemented, and goals you have achieved. Think about the depth and breadth of related experience that you have within the company.
  • Have you increased a company’s sales record by a certain percentage? Did you raise a certain amount of funds for an organization? Numbers offer a concrete example of how you have contributed to a company, and how you will likely contribute in the future.
  • Do you have the ability to effectively meet challenges, and the flexibility and diplomacy to work well with other employees and with management?  Do you have any specific qualities or skills that are particularly important? Do you have work samples?

You are entitled to be valued for everything you do. Also, if your employer is aware that you are you are having an impact, you will make yourself indispensable.

In an article for Forbes magazine, Caroline Ceniza-Levine, looked at “Seven Contributions Indispensable Employees Make To Their Companies” and asked us to consider them in regard to our own work practices:

Bottom line impact

Bottom line impact is one contribution indispensable employees make. Look at your activities to generate revenue – are you directly involved in selling? Are you supporting sales via marketing, operations or administrative support? Do you keep costs in line and therefore contribute more directly to profitability?

Productivity

Indispensable employees are efficient and effective at their jobs. Efficient employees are quick to completion and not wasteful of resources, including management time. Effective employees do their jobs at high quality. Are you both efficient and effective in your role? Do you need to focus on building better systems and habits to deliver more efficiently? Or do you need to upgrade your skills and expertise to perform more effectively?

Positivity

Indispensable employees are enjoyable to work with. We all know of a colleague people dread collaborating with. We also all know colleagues that people love to work with. You look forward to seeing them. After interacting with them, you’re more energized. You don’t have to be friends with everyone in your company but you want to be that colleague with the positive energy. Are you easy and enjoyable to work with?

Reliability

Indispensable employees deliver what they promise and on time. Can people count on you? What is still on your To Do list that others are waiting for?

Creativity

Indispensable employees come up with ideas or ask thoughtful questions to encourage ideas. At the next meeting, aim to add at least one helpful comment or make one supportive remark to someone else’s comment. Focus on solutions to problems that are raised. In your day-to-day role, think about how you might approach one of your responsibilities differently. This may lead to an increase in productivity or in your perceived positivity. How can you be more creative in your current role?

Diplomacy 

Indispensable employees know how to navigate office relationships.  As with positivity, you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but indispensable employees figure out how to get things done – collect valuable information, enrol colleagues into helping them even when there is no official reporting relationship. Are you able to handle your colleagues in a way that generates little or no ill will? Do you need to listen more, communicate more clearly, or be more engaging? 

Marketability

Indispensable employees are valuable to their company externally, not just internally. Whether it’s having a client-facing role, such as sales or customer service, or it’s being a brand ambassador for your company in recruiting, industry conferences or other professional events.  Are you knowledgeable about your company overall? Can you be compelling and informatively explain to people why they should work at your employer or do business with your employer?

So, why not take out your job description and see if you are truly fulfilling the different aspects of your job and furthermore, why not jot down all the additional things you do?

It will be something to take to your next personnel review.

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People are 3 times more likely to learn and retain knowledge through playing games.

Alvin Toffler The Third Wave
Grab your Top Hat and celebrate with an Old Favouite

Grab your Top Hat and celebrate with an Old Favouite

Posted by martin.parnell |

On February 6th, in 1935, the board game Monopoly first went on sale. Wikipedia states that:  Monopoly is a board game that originated in the United States in 1903 as a way to demonstrate that an economy which rewards wealth creation is better than one in which monopolists work under few constraints and to promote the economic theories of Henry George and in particular his ideas about taxation. The current version was first published by Parker Brothers in 1935. Subtitled "The Fast-Dealing Property Trading Game", the game is named after the economic concept of Monopoly - a domination of a market by a single entity.

It is now owned and produced by the American game and toy company Hasbro. Players move around the game-board buying, trading, or selling properties, developing their properties with houses and hotels, and collecting rent from their opponents, with the goal being to drive them all into bankruptcy, leaving one monopolist in control of the economy. Since the board game was first commercially sold in the 1930s, it has become a part of popular world culture, having been locally licensed in more than 103 countries and printed in more than thirty-seven languages.

So far, over 250 million sets of Monopoly have been sold since its invention and the game has been played by over half a billion people making it possibly the most popular board game in the world.

An article in the publication Parent and Child explains that, apart from being “an easy and excellent way to spend unhurried, enjoyable time together”, playing board games have the added bonus of being “rich in learning opportunities”. They satisfy your child's competitive urges and the desire to master new skills and concepts, such as:

  • number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting
  • letter recognition and reading
  • visual perception and color recognition
  • eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity”

It goes on to say that playing board games can teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others. Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child's attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game. 

But, obviously, board games are not solely for children. In May 2015, the publication Health Fitness Revolution shared it’s Top 10 Health Benefits of playing board games. Board games entertain and bring people together through competitive and cooperative game play. However, board games offer a lot more than just entertainment. In fact, these games beneficially impact health in multiple aspects at any age.

  • Reduces risks for mental diseases: One of the primary benefits of playing board games is reducing the risk of cognitive decline, such as that associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your mind engaged means you are exercising it and building it stronger. A stronger brain has lower risks of losing its power. Board games help the brain retain and build cognitive associations well into old age too.
  • Lowers blood pressure:  laughing can release of endorphins which help muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which evidently will lower your blood pressure.
  • Speed up you responses:  play board games and in time you might be better at being able to find those hard-to-find car keys. Scientists at the University of Toronto assessed two groups’ ability to search for and find an object; their results showed that study participants who regularly played games were far quicker at locating the target than those who didn’t.
  • Reduce stress:  According to an online survey by RealNetworks, Inc., 64% of respondents said they play games as a way to unwind and relax and 53% play for stress relief.

Those old board games collecting dust on the top of your closet could be key to keeping your mind active and healthy. Why not close up your laptop, put down your Smart phone and spend some time seeing if you can buy some hotels, stay out of jail, avoid those snakes and experience the joy of climbing some ladders? 

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Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.

Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!
The Benefits of Sharing and Supporting in the Workplace

The Benefits of Sharing and Supporting in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |

January is National Mentoring Month, an annual designation observed in order to celebrate mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives. Its goals are to raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms and recruit individuals to mentor, especially in programs that have waiting lists of young people.

Despite the perceived emphasis on supporting young lives, a mentor can provide valuable support to people of any age, especially at a time when some employees find themselves taking up second careers or having to adapt to new roles, in the workforce.

"Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be." Eric Parsloe, The Oxford

If you look up the word “mentor”, in the dictionary, you will find two definitions.The noun is used to describe “an experienced and trusted adviser”. The verb means to advise or train.

According to MENTOSET, a product of the Women's Engineering Society,“Mentoring is a powerful personal development and empowerment tool. It is an effective way of helping people to progress in their careers and is becoming increasing popular as its potential is realised. It is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee) normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences. It is a helpful relationship based upon mutual trust and respect.

A mentor is a guide who can help the mentee to find the right direction and who can help them to develop solutions to career issues. Mentors rely upon having had similar experiences to gain an empathy with the mentee and an understanding of their issues. Mentoring provides the mentee with an opportunity to think about career options and progress.

A mentor should help the mentee to believe in their abilities and boost confidence. A mentor should ask questions and challenge, while providing guidance and encouragement. Mentoring allows the mentee to explore new ideas in confidence. It is a chance to look more closely at yourself, your issues, opportunities and what you want in life. Mentoring is about becoming more self-aware, taking responsibility for your life and directing your life in the direction you decide, rather than leaving it to chance.”

It goes on to list some of the benefits of mentoring, which include:   

  • The employee feels supported and has a mechanism for working through any problems that exist.
  • Mentoring includes training, support, encouragement, advice and guidance from people who have both 'done it before' and are usually independent of the mentee’s current organisation
  • Both the mentees and mentors gain confidence and leadership skills

You may not have considered yourself as a mentor, but there are probably times when you have supported a colleague, given advice and shared your experience. This is something to consider mentioning, if you are filling out a resume, as it is a valuable skill. You may have, at some time, been mentored and might consider passing on the lessons learned to someone else.

Although we are now almost at the end of this year’s National Mentoring Month, it is something to bear in mind for next January, an opportunity to reflect on the role of the mentor and consider how you might use your skills and experience to become one yourself.

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I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper

James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack
Treasures in the Mail and why Handwriting still Matters

Treasures in the Mail and why Handwriting still Matters

Posted by martin.parnell |

According to the website daysoftheyear.com, January 23rd. is National handwriting day.

National Handwriting Day was invented by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA).  "The purpose of National Handwriting Day is to alert the public to the importance of handwriting. It is a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting. “

Last Friday, my wife and I received a handwritten letter from our 12 year old granddaughter Autumn. It’s a delight to see how her handwriting has changed over the years, from her first effort to write her name, with its backward letters and upper scale and lower scale letters mixed together, to this recent account of how school is going and her new interests.  Despite the fact that we regularly connect with her on Skype, there was something wonderful about receiving a letter from her, in the mail. But one noticeable aspect of her letter is that it is printed i.e. not cursive

My wife is a great believer in the importance of keeping the art of cursive handwriting alive. Some of her most precious possessions are notes and letters from her Mum, who had beautiful handwriting.  

In December 2014, The Guardian newspaper published an article by Anne Chemin on the question “Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?” In it, she states that “Computers may dominate our lives, but mastery of penmanship brings us important cognitive benefits, research suggests.” And that “Some neuroscientists think that giving up handwriting will impact on how future generations learn to read.”

At first sight the battle between keyboards and pens might seem to be no more than the latest twist in a very long story, yet experts on writing do not agree: pens and keyboards bring into play very different cognitive processes. “Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought,” says Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva. “Operating a keyboard is not the same at all: all you have to do is press the right key. “

Some neuroscientists think that giving up handwriting will affect how future generations learn to read. “Drawing each letter by hand substantially improves subsequent recognition,” Gentaz explains.

Marieke Longchamp and Jean-Luc Velay, two researchers at the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at Aix-Marseille University, have carried out a study of 76 children, aged three to five. The group that learned to write letters by hand were better at recognising them than the group that learned to type them on a computer. Learning to write by hand does seem to play an important part in reading.  

In a paper published by the journal Psychological Science, two US researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, claim that note-taking with a pen, rather than a laptop, gives students a better grasp of the subject. The study focused on more than 300 students at Princeton University. It suggested that students who took longhand notes were better able to answer questions on the lecture than those using a laptop. For the scientists, the reason is clear: those working on paper rephrased information as they took notes, which required them to carry out a preliminary process of summarising and comprehension; in contrast, those working on a keyboard tended to take a lot of notes, but avoided what is known as “desirable difficulty”.

In France, in the early 2000s the ministry of education instructed schools to start teaching cursive writing when pupils entered primary school. “For a long time we attached little importance to handwriting,” says school inspector Viviane Bouysse. “But, in 2000, drawing on work in the neurosciences, we realised that this learning process was a key step in cognitive development.”

From August 2016, in Alabama, USA, a State law (Lexi’s Law) requires cursive handwriting to be taught by the end of third grade, in all state schools and all students should become proficient in writing words and sentences in cursive.

Cursive writing will begin in second grade with how to write lower-case and upper-case letters and will continue to be practiced in fourth and fifth grades.  When reaching out to local parents and teachers about Lexi's Law, many were positive explaining the benefits they have seen in teaching cursive writing to their children and students, especially those with learning disabilities.

Andrea Overman teaches at Alabama Christian Academy and said there is benefits to learning cursive writing before print. "With cursive all letters start on the baseline, which is the same place and therefore less confusing," Overman said. "Individual words are connected with spaces between words, which helps with word recognition. It requires less muscle control for their children who have fine motor issues.

Regardless of the scientific debate about the importance of handwriting in the development of cognitive skills, it is still something most of us will still do almost every day, whether it’s jotting down something on a post it note or  writing a shopping list, it is still something very useful and also something which can give pleasure to others. Think of the joy you get in receiving a Birthday card in the mail, or a postcard from abroad.

Handwriting Analyst, Julia Layton states that “Every person in the world has a unique way of writing.” She explains that we develop characteristics in our handwriting and this is why a sample of someone’s handwriting can be used as forensic evidence in court.  It would be a pity to lose some of that individuality, when so many aspects of communication are becoming standardized.

I for one will celebrate handwriting day by making notes for my next Blog and my wife will be writing a reply, by hand, to our granddaughter.

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Today’s amateurs are tomorrow’s champions

Matshona Dhliwayo Author
When things get Serious and making a Commitment to the Next Step

When things get Serious and making a Commitment to the Next Step

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently read a blog by Oliver Balch entitled “Lycra leggings – The final step in the evolution of a running fanatic”. In it, he talks about the realisation that he has become a serious runner: 

I was out running the other morning, the usual steady pace, gulping down the frosty air, when it dawned on me that I was wearing running tights. You know, the ultra-tight compression ones. The ones with antimicrobial technology and go-faster stripes. The I-take-my-running-seriously ones.

It led him to ask himself............

When did it come to this? When did I become the man who wore Lycra leggings? Leggings that cost as much as Levi’s. It’s absurd – financially, fashion-wise, every which way. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have scoffed at the thought. Now, I’m slower to chide. It’s OK, I tell myself. I’m just being me. The new me. The runner me. The convert.” 

It got me thinking, about when I came to consider myself a serious runner. The runner in me first raised his head when one of my younger brothers, Peter, challenged me to run the Calgary marathon, in 2003. Over the years, I had attempted various sports, but just going out and running had never really appealed to me.

However, I wasn’t going to back off from a little sibling rivalry. After attempting to train alone, starting with a 1km jog from my front door, I soon realised I needed help, so I guess the first step I took to becoming “serious” about it was to join the Sudbury  Rocks Running Club, in Ontario. I became hooked and have since run literally hundreds of races, including marathons and ultra-marathons. I am frequently asked to speak to running groups, having become somewhat of an expert on the whole subject of running. This and my philanthropic endeavours for the children’s charity Right To Play, led to my career as an author and speaker.

I had written blogs and articles about my various events and experiences and it was when I decided to use this as a basis for the manuscript for my first book, Marathon Quest and was fortunate enough to be published, by Rocky Mountain Books, that I began to think of myself as a serious author.  In order to hone my writing skills, I worked with the people at Rocky Mountain Books, who provided me with a wonderful editor.

I was soon being asked to speak about these topics on a regular basis and when I started to be paid for doing so that I came to regard myself as a professional speaker.  For support, when it comes to improving and promoting my speaking skills, I joined the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS), whose members are a constant source of mentoring and sound advice.

Most of us decide, from the outset, on a serious path to take, whether it’s in a career, pastime or other endeavour. Sometimes, these things slowly come to us, from what might seem a fairly casual approach.  It’s worth being open to realising when that transition might occur, be prepared to embrace it and see it as an opportunity.

It may give you the chance to set goals, achieve a sense of fulfillment and set you on an unexpected path to great things.

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Let the sky rain potatoes

William Shakespeare
Spuds and Speeches, it's all in the Preparation

Spuds and Speeches, it's all in the Preparation

Posted by martin.parnell |

A friend of ours was telling my wife about a recipe for coconut snowballs, using mashed potato, apparently they are an old family favourite and delicious. 

The lowly potato has also made its mark in the pages of the Guinness World Records. 

These include the:

  • Largest serving of baked potatoes
  • Largest potato salad
  • Largest serving of mashed potato
  • Largest potato dumpling
  • Largest pie, potato
  • Largest bag of crisps 
  • Most mashed potato eaten in 30 seconds
  • Most wins of the Mashed Potato Wrestling Championships
  • Most potatoes carried between the knees in three minutes (team of six) 

And, one that caught my eye............. 

The fastest marathon dressed as a Mr Potato Head was 3 hr 38 min 20 sec by Andrew McKenzi. 

It got me thinking about how many different ways one could serve up the humble potato and there are many, from just plain boiled, with a knob of butter and pinch of pepper to that delicious dish, potatoes au gratin. 

In a way, potatoes are like speeches. Some take less time to prepare, some need spicing up a little, to make them interesting and some can be kept plain and simple and be just as satisfying. 

But, in the end, a potato is just a potato, just as a speech is just a speech, what makes either of them great is how well you prepare and then serve them. You don’t need to keep rewriting, but it’s always worth spending some time on a little tweaking here and there, according to your audience and other factors you need to take into consideration. e.g. time allotted. 

So, next time you’re about to present a talk, why not see if you can treat it like the potato, use the same basic ingredient, just present it a little differently. 

And, for those of you who might feel inclined to try that coconut snowball recipe: 

  • Cook and mash potatoes
  • In a large mixing bowl combine shredded coconut, confectioner’s sugar, mashed potatoes and nuts.
  • Mix with clean hands and mould into small balls.
  • Set on aluminum foil and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Can be dipped into melted caramel, strawberry or fudge flavoured almond bark. 

And, you can adapt this recipe by using sweet potatoes – apparently.

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