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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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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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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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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