+Scott Watson

Monday, 17 December 2012

Assertiveness Skills - Giving Feedback Proactively

Many people in business worry about not just how to give feedback to a colleague or customer, but the consequences and implications for them personally having given it.  This is especially true when the recipient of the feedback is your line manager, or a long-standing and profitable customer.

But assertive communication isn't about being aggressive and/or forcing your opinion, view or position on to another human being.  Indeed it's anything but.  So how can you provide feedback to another person, without them feeling they are being attacked, but whilst maintaining rapport and a win-win outcome?

It's pretty straightforward and easy to do, with a little practice and an element of self-awareness too.  And, in the short video, Dirk Bansch, Director of Learning and Development at Summit Training shares with you two easy to use methods of giving feedback and inviting agreement on how you will communicate together in future.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Management Coaching

Management Coaching is often overlooked as a vital performance improvement tool.  After all, the individual has been promoted because they have demonstrated a certain, and acceptable level of competence in their previous role, and hopefully, potential for being successful as a manager.

But it's not always that simple.  Many managers are promoted to the role because they were technically competent as a technician, where they were responsible for their own performance, rather than having clearly demonstrated the ability to encourage, enable, motivate and support others to commit to, and work towards, the achievement of specific organisational goals.

Do you think that m/any of the managers in your organisation would feel comfortable in asking you, their boss, for assistance in developing their skills in managing priorities, which are often conflicting priorities with somewhat challenging deadlines, or how to turn around poor performance and engage team members?  If they would, fantastic!  If they wouldn't, you may be losing out on a significant amount of potential added value, and indeed, better results.

Here is an example of just how effective and worthwhile a one day management coaching session can be.

If you would like to optimise the effectiveness of your managers, why not get in touch with my team at Summit  Training by emailing Info@SummitTraining.co.uk or calling 0845 052 3701.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Emotional Intelligence In Education

With the need for an value of Emotional Intelligence becoming more accepted in schools and universities, we take a look at one Head Teacher of an OFSTED rated 'Outstanding' school and how developing emotionally intelligent teachers will benefit his school, staff, students and parents.

Emotional Intelligence training for teachers is something of a new development.  Why? Largely because head teachers are so focused on ensuring that their data, quality and outputs are sufficient to achieve the best possible OFSTED rating possible.  And, this is completely understandable.  Alongside the safeguarding of students, OFSTED is the number one priority for head teachers. 

Many schools are now exploring how emotional intelligence training can support their teaching and support staff to improve the quality of learning, help students manage disruptive emotional impulses and of course, unacceptable behaviour patterns too.  But one head teacher has gone one vital step further than many.  He has decided to apply emotional intelligence skills to how he and his staff communicate and collaborate with parents.

Take a look at how Mr Jim Inglis, Head Teacher of Altrincham C E Aided Primary School is focusing on improving the quality of teaching with emotional intelligence.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Management Training Course With A Difference

Management Training courses can all too often be too much theory, too many Powerpoint slides and nowhere near enough hands-on, brains-on learning by doing.

We supported DHL Express in Bahrain to develop 25 of their high potential managers, and they absolutely loved being actively involved in team building activities - and personal reflection time throughout their 6 day management training course.

When you are seeking to appoint a management training partner, remember to look beyond the glossy brochure and super-cool web site.  Look for testimonials you can verify and a commitment from your selected partner to transfer knowledge, skills and competence to your in-house team.  That's where you lasting ROI is generated.

SUMMIT Training and http://www.ScottWatson.co.uk/ are the sites you may wish to explore.

Team Building For Managers

Management Training expert Scott Watson presents his unique approach to developing high performing management teams.

Exploring how to improve collaboration, personal ownership of performance and develop high trust relationships, Scott's audience were repeatedly tested in a series of hands-on management team exercises that reflected the daily challenges (and headaches) they face in their workplace.

Find out more at http://www.SummitTraining.co.uk/ and http://www.ScottWatson.co.uk/

Team Building Expert Scott Watson

Team Building expert Scott Watson presenting on why teams fail to deliver lasting value to their organisation - and how to ensure that they do!

Scott had a group of high potential entrepreneurs for one day and helped them to realise that success is not an accident - and neither is failure!

http://www.SummitTraining.co.uk/ is Scott's main site with http://www.ScottWatson.co.uk/ being his leadership development and corporate speaker site.

Monday, 13 August 2012

For The Millionth Time - Stop Exaggerating!

Nothing ever words out for me.  

I'm sure you've heard it.  Perhaps even thought it occasionally.  But this belief is just so inaccurate.  Surely SOMETHING must have worked out for us at some point in our lives?  If it hadn't, it's very unlikely any of us would be here.

We humans have a habit of distorting reality and creating our own meaning about what a certain situation or event means to us personally.  Let me share an example with you from a coaching session with a senior manager at a multi-million pound company.

John was responsible for managing nearly 100 employees and successfully implementing a number of important projects, often three or four projects simultaneously.  During the first ten minutes of our first coaching session, he shared his issues, concerns and troubles with me.  How the performance of some members of his team was becoming a 'BIG' problem and he (the victim) was 'ALWAYS' being let down by some of his more senior, project team members when they didn't meet 'agreed' deadlines.

In his own words he 'Got it in the neck' from his boss who, on more than one occasion apparently, made John shout at his team in an effort to 'Get their heads out of their arses' and focused on their work.  He continued, 'I've warned them that if they keep stabbing me in the back, I'll have to get rid of them.'

Have you noticed anything about the vocabulary John is using here? Yes, they're all imaginary incidents that had never happened in (external) reality - but they were John's reality in the confines of his own mind. For John, it was all absolutely true and accurate.

As I began to politely question and challenge some of John's current beliefs about the terrible situation he found himself in, he stated that without exception, he was always 'let down' by his team.  That 'If it's happened once, it's happened a hundred times' (Note: Has John been counting?).

Unwilling to accept the real source of the teams poor performance, missed deadlines and subsequent reprimands from his own boss, could be more down to his leadership, John continued to hurriedly point his finger at others rather than accept any kind of personal responsibility.  He refused to move from his view of everyone else being to blame - (Note: 'Could John be digging his heels in?').  His tone was becoming quite aggressive towards me personally as well as the situation he was vehemently complaining about.  And this is a challenge that is often encountered when coaching a senior manager who can't see a solution anywhere they look.  It's not usually intentional aggressiveness, just an auto-pilot response with a purpose of preserving current beliefs - even though there's no evidence to support them.

Now, I'm all for helping people to remove barriers, resolve issues and produce better results for themselves and their teams, and I'm really rather patient too - but I can get really fed up, really quickly when someone lets their ego take over.  It adds no value and can do immense harm to relationships, trust and teams if not kept in check.

After a long, deep breath, slapping my hands together loudly as if delivering a single applause, I politely and assertively said 'OK then John, take off your shirt please...AND DO IT NOW'.  John, being quite a bit taller, and a lot wider than me with shaven head and grainy North-East accent wasn't the ideal candidate for this kind of provocative approach.  The look of absolute shock on his face was almost as funny as when Del Boy fell through the open bar in Only Fools And Horses. I expect you remember it well.

John's focus quickly changed from playing a very willing victim in to a state of absolute confusion and disbelief as I continued; 'Come on John, don't be shy, just take you shirt off.  I continued, 'I won't tell if you won't'.  After what seemed like minutes but was perhaps only a few seconds, John's brain was still trying to make sense of my somewhat unusual, and unexpected request.  He asked me in a rather uncertain voice 'Why do I need to take my shirt off?'  I replied calmly...and slowly, 'Because I want to see all of those scars on your back....from all of those knives - surely you will have lots of scars.  Won't you?'

Bursting in to a fit of nervous and relieved laughter, John stood up, leaned over the desk that separated us, and firmly shook my hand. Eager to avoid the possibility of a keen left hook, my leaning to my left was strategic positioning more than anything else.

A few minutes later, John had eased himself out of his previously limiting thinking and moved into a more proactive, responsible frame of mind.  The use of metaphor and polite challenging of John's language patterns has assisted him to learn just how unproductive they were to him improving matters with his team - and with his boss.  There were no scares, just images in his mind of what a certain situation has meant to him.  He hadn't got anything in the neck and neither was he always let down by his team.  It just felt like it sometimes.

What followed was a very productive, collaborative coaching dialogue. John began to make real sense of the reality of the situation and took full responsibility for his part in the problem.  And, from this new, more empowering position, it was easy for him to start being part of the solution.

This is both a simple and true example of how our experience of a situation or a person can be easily distorted by what goes on in our head.  Think about it - how often do you hear people say 'This ALWAYS happens to me' or 'This will NEVER work'?  Also, you could hear comments such as being 'Stabbed in the back' or 'Kicked in the teeth'.

As you begin to spot these patterns of communication at work, whether it is with a frustrated customer or in a sensitive meeting, become more aware of the individual perspectives and understand how they view the experience. Remember that if you do challenge the comment, do it politely and with the other person's best interests at heart.  Just as with John he was experiencing the feelings in his own mind, even though they had never happened in what we like to call 'reality'.

By increasing your awareness of these types of comments you can not only quickly diffuse tense situations, but also, if you are a manager, move your team performance towards better productivity, enhanced quality and eradicate careless errors.  And you can achieve this with just a little awareness and practice.

I recommend that you steer away from inviting people to remove items of clothing, or if you do, stay well out of striking distance!


5 Easy Ways To Manage Your Time More Effectively

'EVERYBODY seems to want my time', was the rather frustrated statement from David, a very professional, and very popular Human Resources Director at a fast-growing digital agency.

David's frustration was borne from the fact that whilst he was the Director responsible for ensuring that the organisation's employees performed well at work, and maintained some form of work/life balance outside of work, he wasn't able to.  The reason?  He was just so popular, trusted, helpful and decent - people just couldn't seem to stay away from him.

So serious had the issue of balancing work and home life that his wife, who he said was one of the most understanding people he had ever met - had stopped understanding and started asserting her right to having a husband (and new father) with them at home - in mind as well as in body.

His wife, Dianne, had apparently claimed in a 'spirited discussion' as David put it, 'Even when you're at home with us, YOU'RE NOT AT HOME WITH US....you're at WORK.'

Haven't you had those moments when, after a(nother) hectic day at work, you get home, walk through the front door and think 'That's it, family time', or perhaps a more accurate thought would be 'What a day, but that's it until tomorrow.'  All well and good in theory isn't it?  But what about in practice?  You know, you're relaxing on the sofa, feet up, perhaps a cuppa..or a cheeky glass of your favourite white - just to wind down of course.

But while your body is relaxed and comfortable, your brain most definitely is not.  It's still thinking.  It's still wondering how you're going to hit that crazy deadline that was imposed on you (but you couldn't say 'NO' to your boss could you?), how you can fit all of those meetings in to your already crammed schedule, how you need to get back to your lovely colleagues who today were so lovely as to ask you the most damaging question that exists in organisations today.  You know the one, it's the one that's nearly always asked in a polite, friendly and on some occasions 'smarmy' tone - and often accompanied by a submissive, puppy dog smile that snaps your parenting instinct right into action. It's the old chestnut... 'Have you got five minutes?'  Recognise it?  Dealing more effectively with this question alone can save you an hour a day.  That's sixty minutes, three thousand six hundred seconds!

Here are some of the practical, easy to apply tools and techniques David implemented to not just help him manage his time, focus and priorities more effectively, but to re-educate an abundance of very decent colleagues on how and when he could be available to assist them.


Sounds quite a challenge doesn't it?  Especially when the person asking (and expecting) you to say 'Yes' is your line manager.

But rather than jumping straight in to the submissive mode of 'Well, I just can't', think of it in another way.  A way that will help you, and your line manager to understand what's really important here.

When you operate on an auto-pilot 'Yes' with your line manager, it could be because you believe you are expected to comply with an authority figure.  After all, if the task/meeting/report wasn't important - s/he wouldn't be asking you to do it, would they?  And here's the really important point to bear in mind on these occasions.

You're not saying 'No' forever.  You're saying 'No' for now.  Until you've understood exactly what's involved, required and timescales.  Of course, there are occasions when you should be saying 'No' forever - for example if there's a more suitably qualified colleague to undertake the task involved.  But if you always perform well, always say 'Yes' without question, clarification or understanding, YOU'RE GOING TO KEEP BEING ASKED!  Why on earth should your line manager (or indeed colleagues) consider asking somebody else to help them when you keep saying 'Yes' to every request and/or demand they make of you and your time?

Here's an easy way to create a few seconds thinking time in the middle of an authority based request or demand.  Don't just read the words, connect with the authentic meaning.

Boss:  I've just been called to a meeting and it is really important I attend.  It'll take all afternoon so will you make a start on the employee training record spreadsheet?  I've not managed to start it yet...I've been snowed under with so many meetings and projects.'

You Normally:  'Yes, no problem, I'll just get this piece of work finished and then I have two coaching sessions with members of my team booked in for an hour each and then a meeting with a manager about a team issue...but when I've done those things I'll get started on the spreadsheet.'

Madness eh?  Especially if your boss then asks you to re-prioritise your schedule, postpone the coaching sessions and use those two hours to make headway on the spreadsheet.  Two things to consider.  One - what message does your willingness to shove your two colleagues out of an agreed commitment send to them?  Two - why did you jump straight in to auto-pilot compliance?  You may think that you're being helpful, but in this instance you're not.  You're being extremely unhelpful!

See Prof. Robert Cialdini's book 'Influence' to see how human beings are generally 'hard-wired' to comply with authority.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Get Engaged With Chester Elton & Britain Has Got HR Talent Group

Best selling author and employee engagement expert Chester Elton has agreed to join the 'Britain Has Got HR Talent' Linkedin group.

Chester is co-author of the book 'The Carrot Principle' and 'The Orange Revolution' amongst others.  He has presented his extensive research on reward & recognition, employee engagement and retention to audiences across the globe and I'm sure group members will enjoy learning from, and sharing with Chester.

Scott Watson

Join Britain Has Got HR Talent - http://linkd.in/yKaVnI
See Chester's web site www.ChesterElton.com

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Stop Moaning And Start Solving

Oh, don't some people moan?  And perhaps that's a good thing on some occasions.  Don't we all need to let off steam every now and then when we feel frustrated, disappointed, angry and even downright disillusioned?

Having colleagues we can have the occasional moan to is a good thing.  Externalising what's going on in our head can serve as a release for pent up emotions and emotional pressure.  The real problem arises when moaning is accepted as the norm rather than the exception in teams and in organisations.  Let me share an example.

When I facilitate leadership development training programmes, there's a clear standard set from the outset with, and in partnership with participants.  That standard goes something like this...

'Shall we all agree that this leadership training event will focus on developing solutions and, in the event of you wanting to have a moan, you're welcome to it - on the condition that you also generate at least one solution to the problem or issue you're moaning about?'

In written form, this invitation or standard may look quite unfriendly, even unhelpful.  But in reality its exactly the opposite.  It's very friendly and extremely helpful in the right context and partnered with a little empathy.  And that context is helping participants, good, decent human beings to take personal responsibility for themselves, their communication and, the problem situations they find themselves in at that moment in time.

My colleague and I have an unwritten rule whereby if either of us are feeling a little (or a lot) negative about a situation or predicament, we give each other permission to have a moan for up to ten minutes each.  And, that's the absolute maximum allowed.  If there's no focus on coming up with a solution, there's no permission to moan.  However inhumane this may sound - it actually works really well!

Why Do People Moan?

On most occasions, moaning is due to at least one of our personal values being transgressed.  For example, if your key personal value is trust, if a colleague makes a commitment to you on an important project and then, chooses to not keep that commitment - and doesn't let you know otherwise, trust can be damaged, the relationship soured and, it's emotionally healthy to find an outlet and share your disappointment with a trusted colleague.  Not too many mind you, or that can develop in to a pity party when you prove just how big a victim you are. And that's not healthy for anybody. Plus, if it develops to this stage, people will start avoiding you anyway.

A five minute moan can help to release stress and anxiety too.  Have you ever noticed one of your colleagues bounding around your office gesticulating and openly showing their captive audience (colleagues who care + those who don't) just how angry they are?  It seems that actively demonstrating disappointment, frustration, anger - and other related emotions is viewed by the perpetrator as a sign that their audience care. But it's exactly the opposite.  They don't care - and your shouting about the office is becoming an unwelcome interruption for them.

Breathe Deeply....

Just because you've calmed down and returned to your normal emotional state after a moan, or negative emotional experience doesn't mean you don't care.  It means that you are now able and ready to return to a more healthy, balanced emotional and mental state.  It means that you are better able to address the issue at hand without resorting to emotional blackmail or guilt tripping.  Tough Talks are most effective when undertaken in an emotionally balanced manner. And, do you know that after an 'emotional hijack, it can take your body up to 48 hours to return to its most balanced emotional state? So there are some potentially dangerous health issues to consider here.

A Question To Ask A Persistent Moaner

If your ear is being repeatedly bent by a constant moaner - and it doesn't matter where they sit or stand in the organisational structure, an effective way of helping them step out of their emotional state and think more clearly (or at worst, sod off and bother some other poor person) is to ask a good question.  And, good questions are not 'So how does that make you feel?' or 'Will s/he ever change?' A really good, snappy, solution focused question is this...

'And how are you maintaining this problem?'

With some people, such a question will push them to fly back at you on auto-pilot, pity party mode with a response such as 'I'M NOT DOING ANYTHING to maintain the problem.  It's not my fault...dah di dah di dah....'  You know how it goes. They're only telling you and moaning to you because they think that you'll listen, and listen sympathetically because you care.  Here's a news flash.  When you persistently moan - PEOPLE STOP CARING! They're just too polite to tell you.

For some people, such a challenging question will get them to pause for thought, look a little puzzled and then respond with something along the lines of 'Oh, I didn't know I was maintaining the problem...but now you mention it, I suppose I am.'

And this is where solutions are found. When finger pointing and blaming stops, personal ownership and responsibility has a space to get involved and re-activated.  Think about it for a second.  Isn't it always easier to expect somebody else to change how they communicate, think, feel and behave?   Another News Flash - You could be waiting a very looooooooong time for that to happen! But waiting for somebody else to change, as well as becoming rather frustrating, can also absolve us of our role in the issue. And if we're involved in a 'Problem' don't we need to be involved in the 'Solution' too?

Getting Focused On Solutions

Another question that can prove helpful for people who are willing to explore solutions is this.

'What are three things you could do and would be happy to do to resolve this specific problem?'

Again, the moaners will quickly and smoothly absolve themselves of any responsibility, sticking with their well rehearsed story that someone else has to change before they themselves can feel better.  But the solution focused people will start to think of solutions.  And the beauty of this is - The Solutions Are Theirs - Not Yours! And this makes them far more likely and far more motivated to act upon their solutions.

Try this approach for 7 days and start to notice how things (and people's thinking) change - for the better!

Friday, 13 January 2012

What's So Different Between A Croissant And An Apple?

A strange question?  At first sight, maybe it's a little confusing, but when we explore the differences is more detail, it's quite easy to establish that an Apple a day is so much more nourishing, enjoyable and healthy than a croissant.  Here's the story...

This morning I visited Manchester to obtain guidance on how to run my Mac computer more effectively and easily. As I was travelling from Halifax which is 25 miles from Manchester and the rush-hour traffic can be rather unpredictable, I set off on my journey rather early.

Arriving at my destination an hour before my appointment with a 'Genius' (we'll come to that in a while) at the Apple Store, I decided to grab a coffee and croissant at a branch of a high-street chain of French cafes.  And here's where the challenge began.

My request for a chocolate croissant appeared to silently trouble the waitress who was taking my order.  A pursing of her lips and slight frown with her eyes gave me a hint that something wasn't quite right with my request.  I carried on reading my newspaper, the coffee arrived, but the croissant didn't.  A full ten minutes later I politely asked the waitress if my croissant would be arriving.  Her hesitance to any answer my straightforward question again gave a hint that something was awry.  She proceeded to nervously advise me that 'We're just warming it up for you now.'  My response of 'It's ok, I prefer my croissant cold please', was met with her reluctance to provide me (the customer...paying customer remember) with a cold croissant.

Long story short.  The croissant arrived, the tough pastry and hard chocolate on the inside clearly demonstrating that this was 'old stock' and not at all fresh.  As the waitress didn't return to my table to ask if everything was ok - because clearly it wasn't I left the croissant with only one bite out of it.  As the waitress passed I asked 'May I check with you, is this croissant actually fresh?'  She responded 'I'll take it off your bill sir'. I politely thanked her for her offer to remove the cost of the croissant from the bill and asked again, 'May I check, is this croissant fresh?' At which point the somewhat embarrassed waitress responded, 'Well...it was fresh YESTERDAY MORNING'. 

So what happened here?  The manager or person responsible for ordering 'Fresh' items over ordered? Perhaps the footfall wasn't as high as expected or predicted?  Maybe in an effort to cut costs in a tough marketplace, it's company policy to sell pastries that are more than 24 hours old?  Who knows?  Well, the manager should know.  But isn't it a poor reflection on the brand when they'll do everything they can (i.e. warm old stock up) to avoid detection?

This is a clear case of putting profits for the organisation way ahead of serving the trusting customer a decent product at a fair price. And, with the internet now being used as a feedback mechanism for such outlets - Tripadvisor.com being the most popular, what would drive a manager to mislead customers in such a way?  But that's why an Apple can save the day!

Having left the cafe a little disappointed, and a lot hungry, I entered the Apple Store in Manchester's Arndale Centre to meet a Genius.  'The Genius Bar' is the name given to the resident experts who supposedly, can resolve any issue a user may have with one of their products. However difficult or unusual your problem, they commit to resolving it for you, right there and then in most cases.

As I waited for my very own Genius to appear, an elderly gentleman who was booked in for a personal coaching session on his new Ipad struck up conversation with me.  He mentioned that at the tender age of 78 years young, he had decided to start learning again.  Retirement had become somewhat boring and he wanted to keep his brain busy.  But here's the stunning thing!

Just 10 days previous he had purchased his first ever Apple product, an Ipad 2.  He spoke about how excited he was to be presented with an eye catching white box that he'd expected the Apple store rep to open and show him all he wanted to know, but he was surprised that he was invited to open the box himself, take out the Ipad and switch it on.  He called this the 'Getting to know you' experience.

Realising that he was a little hesitant in getting to know his Ipad, apparently the Apple store rep asked him what he'd like to know about first.  How cool is this? Involving the customer and entering their world rather than simply doling out information and babble whilst expecting the customer to enter Apple's world. As he grew steadily confident with his new machine, he began asking more questions to the in store expert. But, the happy, excited gentleman's Apple world was about to take a dramatic turn.  He told me 'I was just learning over the table to get a pen to make some notes and then it happened...in a flash.'

CRASH.  The Ipad fell off the table, hit the floor and landed face down.  Yikes! This isn't sounding too promising.  When he picked up his Ipad off the floor, the facia was smashed. His question to the Apple store rep of whether the Ipad could be repaired was met with 'No, it can't be repaired as it's all one single unit...BUT, it was an accident so let me get you another one and we'll take this one off your hands'.

And that's the story.  How ridiculously good customer service is this?  The store/brand treated him fairly and what does he do? He becomes an ambassador for Apple. He tells me, I tell you and Apple become even more trusted as a fair, socially responsible organisation.  And of course, they will probably sell a few more products if this elderly gentleman has anything to do with it.

Isn't it a shame that whilst Apple replace a £439 item at no cost, and little inconvenience to their customer, a chain of cafes can't serve a fresh £2.50 croissant or at the very least, let the customer know that other, fresher choices are available?

Customer (Dis)Service is becoming more and more accepted in the UK.  But if you the customer says nothing, you're just teaching these organisations how to treat you. And it's definitely not win-win.



Monday, 9 January 2012

Customer Service Or Customer Nightmare?

So many people in business view 'Customer Service' as a vital ingredient in their recipe for success.  And that's fair enough and completely understandable.

But, customer service is only a good starting point, and not a final destination.  Why so? Because what customer's really want, beyond 'service' is Customer Satisfaction.  Service is what your company believes it should, and in most cases, can provide to potential and existing customers.  It's your processes, standards, policies and even beliefs about 'what's right'.  As I said, it's a good start.  It's absolutely vital that you have some form of structured approach to serving your customers whatever your industry sector.  But customer satisfaction is what's going to get buyers to your web site, through your doors and telling their friends about you.  Here are a few real-life examples:

High Street Hairdressing Chain

I called my local salon to book an appointment for my hair to be cut.  I've been a customer (or 'client' as the organisation states) of this company for 5 years and have always been happy with the level of cut delivered.  Unfortunately, my hair is disappearing so perhaps I rather appreciate the stylist's ability to make my see through pat not so see through?

It's company policy for this chain to 'massage' your head as well as shampoo....and condition.  It's all rather trendy and somehow adds value to the 'client experience' - or so the manager told me!?

I spoke with the receptionist who advised me of a time slot which she could book me in for.  Due to the time slot not leaving me much time to return home and get ready for a business meeting I asked her 'May I just have a dry cut on this occasion as I have to be back home to get ready for a meeting?'  A straightforward request and one which I thought would not encounter resistance.

But that's not what happened.  Oh no, a dry cut?  No massage?  That couldn't be done. 'You can't have a dry cut, it's not possible and we don't do them' was the rather sharp response from the receptionist.  I responded, 'It's because I have a business meeting shortly after the appointment and I need to get back home, change and then drive to the client office....I'm not asking for any discount, I'm happy to pay the full fee. It would be really helpful if you could just book me in for a dry cut with Anna'. Can you do that please?'

Without a pause for breath, the receptionist advised me that 'Appointments HAVE TO last forty minutes, and as a dry cut will only take twenty minutes, we can't do it.'  Starting to notice where the nightmare is about to begin now?

I politely restated that it would be really helpful to me if she could book me in for the dry cut appointment, that I'd previously had 'the fully monty' and on many occasions, the appointment didn't last forty minutes, or anywhere near that duration for that matter.  'No, it's not our policy so you can't have it'. And that was most definitely her final answer.

Let's Review

Here is a long-standing customer (oops, client) doing his best to give a company cold hard cash and they simply won't accept it.  Why not? Because the customers request is deemed 'unreasonable' and doesn't fit nicely with their 'policy'.

Here's the real bonus.  It is the stylists job to keep the client in the seat for no less than forty minutes.  Why? Because it's company policy!  Even if it adds no value at all to the customer (oops, client), you need to keep him or her seated, right there in your salon.

After all, why let excellent customer service and customer satisfaction get in the way of a company policy?

Having advised the Head Office Customer Service Manager at the company of the situation she offered me a free haircut at the salon in question to resolve the issue.  Will I be going back?  Not a chance!

The Travel Agent Who Doesn't Deliver What He Offers

I listened to a regional news channel this morning and heard an interview with a Yorkshire based travel agent.  The interview was designed to help listeners understand that, despite the turbulent economy and a need to watch the pennies, it was still possible for family's to get away from it all and bathe themselves in sunshine in some faraway land.

The interviewer asked the travel agent what special offers were available during January and the agent responded with deals including 'Australia for just £199' along with many other unbelievable deals.  And that's just what they were, un-believable! I called the travel agent who advised me that his phone had been 'ringing off the hook' since the radio interview. And, upon further investigation, I wasn't surprised. He quoted me a £50 return journey from Manchester to Dubai, the only catch being, it was an indirect flight that would require a transfer of plane in Amsterdam.

But that really wasn't the only catch.  The 'special offers' this crafty businessman had quoted on air, and to me on the phone were all net of taxes.  Really, my wonderful £50 flight was over £450 when taxes were included. And shouldn't they be?  After all, isn't this travel agent intentionally misleading listeners into getting in touch with him?

The old saying of 'If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is', springs to mind here. But why mislead in the first place? Surely this approach erodes the very thing you want to develop with potential customers? Trust!

How Are You Doing?

So, these are a couple of quick examples where customer service, and indeed customer satisfaction have failed to materialise. How is your organisation doing in terms of delivering customer service that supports your organisation and its potential and actual customers? And, do you ever check to see if your customer satisfaction record is worthwhile and meaningful?

If you choose to ignore the very real problems that inept and/or inferior customer service can cause your organisation, you may have performed rather well during the economic boom, but, as many organisations are finding to their cost, this is the 'Bust' time and you need all hands on deck in attracting and retaining customers.

Scott Watson

Would You Hire A Whistleblower?

We've had Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat and even the MP's expenses fiddle.  And, each of these scandals only came to light because someone chose to communicate the wrong-doings of their leaders to either the relevant authorities, or the general public at large.

The people who uncover a scandal or cover-up are commonly known as a 'whistleblower'. Someone who 'blows the whistle' or calls time on a certain behaviour, standard or communication.  And, whilst their decision to tell all may at first appear commendable, it can have consequences that are more severe, and perhaps unjust, for them than it can for the perpetrators of the crime.

Recently, the business news media has covered the story of Japanese manufacturer, Olympus.  A well-estblished, apparently well trusted organisation that fired its Chief Executive, Michael Woodford, apparently for blowing the whistle on alleged accounting fraud within the business.

Isn't this a turn up for the books?  When have we ever heard of a top leader willingly unveiling a history of corporate deception and fraud within their own business?  It's all about leading teams you can TRUST.  Reports in the UK media detail the accounting scandal to be in the region of £1.2 billion. Not a number to be scoffed at, but one that has been willingly overlooked, ignored or perhaps even covered up by the very leaders who are/were trusted to lead Olympus honestly.  What's more shocking is the fact that Olympus is a Japanese company.  A nation that prides itself on trust and integrity.

The fact that Michael Woodford has been removed from his post is perhaps a reflection of the standards and beliefs the institutional investors of Olympus have about transparency, honesty and integrity.  With, at present, many of the executives who oversaw the accounting issue still in place, where is there to go for its ousted CEO?

The reasons for his choosing to uncover the accounting fraud have yet to be reported.  Perhaps he saw it as the right thing to do.  Perhaps, he didn't want his name to be associated with such an outrageous policy, which appears to have been actively endorsed by members of its most senior leaders.  Whatever his reasons for outing Olympus, who will want to hire Michael Woodford next?

Will he become an independent consultant to government departments across  the globe to improve standards, transparency and accountability?  Or will a private equity company snap him up to oversee their public and investor relations team? After all, if there has to be somebody watching over your business/es, it may as well be someone who is happy and willing to uncover supposed dodgy dealings.

Good on Michael Woodford for bringing the fraudulent practices of his company to the world.  Don't we all need someone we can trust in our organisation?


A Few Top Tips To Manage Remote Teams More Effectively

Managing Remote Teams can be a real challenge.  And a challenge that can easily turn into a real problem if not managed effectively.

Our clients tell us that the lack of person to person contact with their team members, whether it be their manager or subordinates is the most difficult issue when working in remote teams.  Remember, face to face contact over Skype or video conferencing is very different to person to person coaching or contact where you're in the same location.

Here are a few top tips on how to manage remote teams more effectively.  Try them for 10 days - consistently- and notice the positive difference that begins to develop.  Nope, just reading these tips won't add any value to you, your team or your organisation which is ultimately trusting, and paying you to do your best for them. And, neither will the 'I've tried that and it didn't work' attitude either.

You know as well as I do that a little practice and focus is all it takes to make improvements.  And a 10 day timescale is absolutely adequate (as long as you remind yourself to use these tips). So, here goes:

Understand Your Role In Delivering The Goods

It's all too easy to unwittingly abdicate responsibility for the level of results achieved when managing a remote team. Yes, when all is going wonderfully well, bring on the plaudits and raving fans, especially if they're your boss, or even your boss's boss! But what about when it all goes badly wrong?  Will you willingly acknowledge your role in failure?  Much like success, failure is rarely achieved alone and this is where your mettle as a manager is really tested.  Too many times I've heard examples of where a manager has stated something along the lines of 'I delegated the task to them and s/he said it was going well and on track. I guess I need to be less trusting and more careful next time.'

Too right you need to be more careful.  Where were you in providing ongoing coaching support, asking for updates on progress and challenges, checking quality and evaluating risks?  If you were too busy managing other team members and/or activities, it's still your responsibility to ensure that the outcomes you and your team commit to, are actually achieved. On time, on budget and spot on in terms of quality.

Your Role In Communicating Effectively

The ongoing developments in the world of technology were supposed to help managers and teams perform even more effectively.  Sometimes I'm not so sure that this goal has been achieved.  Super cool Iphones, tablets and Blackberry's have become more of a hindrance than a help to many.  Come on, you've experienced it. You're sat in a meeting with colleagues and your phone buzzes, vibrates or plays an alert sound to grab your attention.  And what happens?  You look at your phone, pick it up and read whatever email or text message has been received.  What message does this send to your team in that very meeting with you?  Yep, 'You're not as important as my phone'. Madness, complete Madness!

How do you plan when and how to communicate with your team members?

Do you have a process in place which allows your team members to happily accept delegated authority without them feeling they've been dumped on?  If you think you do, cool. But, I'd check what your team members think anyway.

Do you delegate in a manner that reflects trust, collaboration and shared ownership for the achievement of the required outcomes? Or do you 'delegate' by sending an email with an outline of expectations (with crazy deadlines even?) and then sit and wait to see what questions come back to you?

However well you think you communicate, you're probably nowhere near as effective as you believe.  And, one really easy way to work around this is to ASK YOUR TEAM MEMBERS WHAT THEY NEED FROM YOU.

So much information gets 'lost in translation' and your team members will really value the opportunity to have some structured communication support from you.  It will really help them perform even better for you.  Just sit down over a coffee and ask them 'In terms of how I communicate with you and manage you, please will you give me three points I can improve on?'

Your question may scare the daylights out of some team members, as such questions are rarely asked.  A high-trust relationship is required for this form of approach to be taken of course.

The long and short of managing remote teams is that YOU the manager need to take absolute responsibility for the delivery of the outcomes required, in the timescales agreed (not imposed) and ensure that your team members are adequately equipped to deliver what you're trusting them to deliver.  If you don't communicate effectively, there could be tears at bedtime!