“In life, you cannot always choose what you do, but you can always choose who you are”

This is an inspiring story. I first saw this video as a commercial for a well known malt drink. It reminded me of my family when they came from the Caribbean to the UK at the end of the 1950’s.

Growing up, I was surrounded by a bunch of eccentric characters from different islands. These were tough times, many people came over to the UK as blue collar workers. The work was hard and the hours were long, therefore leisure time was full of music, laughter, good food, friends and hope for the next generation.

My mum was an accomplished seamstress so she made sure we were always dressed in the trendiest of clothes and on Sundays, we always wore our “best”. Most of my Dads friends were manual workers so Sundays and special occasions (even friendly cricket matches), always called for a sharp suit and tie. During those times in the late 60’s and 70’s there was not a lot of disposable income like today, so you had to be creative, with food and clothes, we used to go to the top department stores and boutiques to “shop for inspiration” I realise now that meant buying one item and getting inspired to make an outfit for a party or a special occasion.

I love it when I go into companies and I see young interns and juniors starting out in their career, choosing to dress sharp to define themselves. One young intern I recently met, came into his office wearing a stunning pink designer jacket, finished off with a white shirt, a tie, sharp black slim fit trousers, and the shiniest shoes. I was surprised at the reaction, everybody who passed, complimented him on his attire even a visiting VP. So we can all take some inspiration from the video and apply this to our every day lives, it has certainly inspired me. Not sure I could get away with a pink jacket and black slim fit trousers, but perhaps an “inspirational” shopping trip is in order…

Connect via email blondell@perfect-fossicking.com or give me a call 07525 018074

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The Power of Thinking…

Thinking

One of the biggest challenges I often come across is making changes stick.  After training and during a coaching programme, people are usually engaged and full of enthusiasm. They set and achieve their desired goals, but what happens in the long term when the changes just don’t stick?  

Recently, I was involved in quite a heated discussion between a sales manager, business owner (Managing Director) and one of the senior sales team about this very subject. While the general feeling was that the sales team had “all they needed”, there was still some resistance to change. Of course, everybody had their own opinion and assumptions about why this was. 

To find answers to this question, I was keen to get some insights from a leading transformational coach.  One of my favourite coaches is a lady called Geraldine Locke, who combines her role as Operations Director at Consalia with providing management development coaching solutions for small businesses and individuals.  I asked Geraldine if she could give any advice about making changes stick. 

Geraldine was very open and keen to share her insights and experience; first of all she recommended I read a book by Nancy Kline – A Time to Think.  Geraldine explained that the key to ultimately making changes that stick is to create a thinking environment that will challenge our assumptions we make about ourselves. We must also listen, think and question – without assumption.  She also recommended reading an article published in the Harvard Review by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey called The real reason people won’t change. 

Geraldine kindly lent me a copy of A Time to Think and a few things resonated with me. First of all, growing up I realised that often I was not encouraged to really “think”, to solve a problem. I remember at school learning my times tables “parrot fashion”. Nothing wrong with that – except that now I don’t remember all of them, especially the 8s and 9s. But I do remember how to work out percentages (that still requires a bit of thought) and as I grew into a young adult in my first job being told “You are not being paid to think”. 

As I read the book, I realised there have been times that limiting assumptions have held me back. However, some of my best accomplishments had been through careful thought and consideration; perhaps Nancy Kline was on to something.  

I also realised that we all have a creative side to our personalities and this can be harnessed through thought and reflection, but the challenge is to create a thinking environment and be open to the process.  As Nancy Kline says in her book: “A thinking environment is a way of being in the world”. She also says that: “by mastering the theory and skill of a thinking environment, people do enrich their work, their life and their relationships, produce better ideas in less time with better business outcomes”. 

So, back to the heated discussion between the sales director, Managing Director and head of sales.  I took time to reflect upon their business issues, personalities, how they are going to achieve their desired goals, focused around sales sustainability and growth, and how they are going to make these changes stick.  My suggestion is that we implement a “thinking environment”, so they can feel good about themselves, feel valued, unleash their considerable talent, work together as a team and live their best selves. 

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Connect via email blondell@perfect-fossicking.com or give me a call 07525 018074

Remembering Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaThe sad news about the passing of great leader Nelson Mandela has affected millions of people around the globe. I wanted to document and share how his life, vision and courage shaped my life and in some way made me the person I am today.

I do remember a humorous tale about Nelson Mandela after his release from prison. He was invited to Dublin to attend an official ceremony in 1990. At the same time, Ireland did very well in the World Cup and reached the quarter final. The Irish national team were on an open bus on a tour of the city. Roddy Doyle (author of The Commitments) told the story that half a million people were chanting “Ooh Ah Paul McGrath’s Da, Ooh Ah Paul McGrath’s Da…”. Apparently, Nelson Mandela found it amusing that, after he’d spent 27 years in prison, the crowd were cheering, thinking he was the father of one of their sporting icons.

My first memory of Nelson Mandela and the Apartheid movement was towards the end of the 1970s, in senior school. By that time Nelson Mandela was serving a life sentence on Robben Island, for creating acts of sabotage against the South African Government. I was intrigued by a man who could not be discussed.

Like most senior schools, there were a mix of students, some sporty, some academic, some musical and creative. There were also those that asserted themselves (I guess today they’d be referred to as bullies – spiteful and mean individuals). I was an easy target due to my personality and skin colour living in a predominately white working/middle class home counties town.

It was the Soweto Uprising in June 1977 that sparked a lively debate about the Apartheid system in South Africa. We debated the pros and cons of economic sanctions and, as you can imagine, these discussions exposed a variety of values and beliefs about race and politic. Some of the students were genuinely in favour of Apartheid and were quite vocal with their views and opinions. Following on from those debates, I was subjected to some cruel taunts and jibes from a minority of students.

In retaliation, my teacher suggested I present my perspective in an assembly to the whole school. That’s when I began reading about Nelson Mandela, his fight for equality, freedom and his imprisonment on Robben Island.

I don’t remember the assembly, but I do remember my interpretation of the word apartheid. Translated, it means “separateness”. I tried to explain what that meant for those brave students in Soweto. I told the school the stories I’d read in the papers about the Soweto students protest about mandatory instruction in Afrikaans. More than 500 students were killed, the majority younger than 18. I showed graphic pictures from a newspaper of Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo after being shot by South African police and Antoinette Sithole, running along besides them.

I talked about inequality for students and the motivation behind the riots. I also talked about non-whites detained without trial and the murder of medical student Steve Biko. There were also phone taps, the exile of courageous journalist Donald Woods and harsh reporting restrictions. I remember feeling humbled and asking the whole assembly if they could imagine being so brave, taking such action to stand up for their rights and being prepared to suffer the consequences.

Finally, I talked about Nelson Mandela and his speech. During our lessons and debating sessions, Nelson Mandela and ANC members were portrayed as criminals and terrorists. I found out he and his associates were well educated. He was a lawyer and gave a powerful speech at the time of his sentencing. It was a long speech, much of which I did not understand but this is what I remember.

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

After that assembly, there was a renewed mutual respect between myself and my tormentors and the remainder of my senior years passed in relative harmony – we learnt to get along despite our differences.

Over the years, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons, thanks to Nelson Mandela. He gave a whole generation hope, pride, forgiveness and the ultimate master class in peaceful negotiation.

Thank you for making my life full of hope.

Everybody Needs A Superhero

Captain cb scully

Like most people, I read with amazement about Captain C B “Sully” Sullenberger (what a name), who was the ultimate hero in 2010. Not only did he successfully land Flight 1549 on the Hudson river following a bird strike, but he then walked the entire length of the plane – twice – to make sure all 150 passengers had escaped. He was the last person to leave the aircraft.

My earliest memory of a superhero is Batman played, of course, by the gorgeous Adam West. To me, he was the ultimate hero. Smart, funny, brave and strong and he always solved the problem, caught the bad guy and lived to fight another day.

 “Being a hero doesn’t mean you’re invincible. It just means that you’re brave enough to stand up and do what’s needed.”Rick Riordan, The Mark of Athena

It may be controversial and I know we don’t often save lives, but I feel quite strongly that the majority of sales professionals are unsung heroes. I feel privileged that I get to interact and engage with these hard working men and women who regularly demonstrate their superhero qualities on behalf of customers who, surprisingly, probably don’t realise it.

In that list I would include my favourite luxury fragrance sales ladies who consistently and patiently go the extra mile to help their discerning clientele understand, discover and select the suitable gift for family, friends and sometimes as a mark of gratitude for business connections. Or the good people in Logistics who ensure that valuable documents, drawings and their clients’ best work is delivered on time and in a professional manner. Lastly, those tenacious City surveyors who are pivotal to finding the right office building in the right location, providing security, safety and a working environment so their clients can get on with whatever they do.

When I get feedback from a client about how my coaching enabled a reserved individual to approach a group of peers and prospects at a high profile networking event with confidence, skills and ability, I feel like a hero. Most recently, I heard one chap practised his questioning techniques in a social setting. He is now dating the lady he practised on, not quite what I had in mind for connecting and engaging!

Doing what we do every day, we often encounter rejection and a fair amount of frustration, but to the people we are in service to – our customers – we are their heroes. So go on, I dare you, adopt your superhero persona and go the extra mile to be your customers’ hero today. 

(Oh, and do tell me how you got on…)

What The Face can teach us about selling ourselves and our USPs?

Image

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV but my ears pricked up when I heard the most interesting dialogue from the most unlikely source. Honestly, I never thought I’d be hanging on every word and agreeing with what Naomi Campbell had to say.  For those of you who have not seen the programme, the makers and experienced models are looking for somebody to represent and be the face of a leading cosmetics company: potentially a life-changing opportunity for the fortunate winner.  So what was it I found so interesting? It was the similarity between us all, every day in front of clients, at meetings and presentations, with co-workers and in social settings and those beautiful girls on a runway wearing the most expensive and elegant designer clothing.  I was surprised to hear Miss Campbell talk about being a top model. Apparently, it is all about the attention to detail and knowledge – how to pose, engage the audience, sell the product, have confidence, be creative, be able to take direction and get into the right mind set to get a winning picture. Models must adopt and cultivate a winning spirit and have the drive and determination to succeed. Sound familiar?

By this time I was completely gripped. I have a bubbly and outgoing personality, which is a huge blessing but over the years I’ve learnt it is not about me, it is about the product or service and how those can solve a problem for the buyer.

I never thought I’d agree with Naomi Campbell, but she is right – hence 27 years at the top of her game. Sometimes, the best messages come from the most unusual sources.