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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Must-haves for successful leaders

Without exception, there are three traits that every leader must have in order to be successful. You can attempt to lead without them, but at least one of four things will eventually happen if you do: You will be so miserable that you will burnout, your team will fail in completing their work, your team members will leave, or your team will lose respect for you.

Desire to lead

So what are these three required traits? First is the desire to lead. Without it, you will never be comfortable in the leader role. You will struggle every day with the basics, and your team members will sense it in everything you do. If you don’t burn out first, you’ll find that work suffers and your team is frustrated because they can’t do their work without you doing yours. They may eventually leave – if you don’t first.

There are a number of characteristics and feelings that can help you determine your level of desire to lead. These include, among others, I enjoy it when others seek my ideas or opinions, I don’t mind asking team members challenging questions when working on a project, I like playing the role of coach to help others improve their skills, or when the team has a problem, I consider it my problem too.

Commitment to the mission and vision of the organization

The second trait of successful leaders is commitment to the mission and vision of the organization where they work. Imagine trying to convince others to give their best in order to accomplish something they don’t believe in. That’s difficult. But trying to convert them to believing in the mission and vision of an organization when you don’t believe it yourself? That’s simply impossible.

At this point, there is one question you need to ask yourself. Do you know what the mission and vision of your organization are? If you respond by naming what you do, that’s not the same thing. One is what you do. The other is how you do it. If you know what you do, but not the way you are expected to do it, you cannot effectively lead others to assist in accomplishing the company’s goals.


The final trait that every successful leader must have is integrity. Integrity in this sense has a simple meaning; doing what you say you will do and behaving the way that you expect your team to behave.

If you want to practice integrity, there are three key areas that you can concentrate on developing: sincerity, consistency and substance. Leaders demonstrate these facets of integrity, for example, by being honest about their own limitations, having the same expectations or rules for themselves as for their employees, and making it a priority to maintain clear communication and resolve any conflicts

Monday, December 16, 2013

Leader or Manager?

Always a great conversation opener at a management forum.
Here is an article on the subject of management versus leadership.
My definition is very simple, a leader knows when they are managing and
when they are leading, a manager may not!

By Sean McPheat

The question of leadership and management occupies the thinking of even the most experienced person. They sometimes struggle to identify the relationship between the two and the paradoxes that create confusion often mean that the question isn’t answered satisfactorily in any sense of the word. Here we discuss how the two terms are not diametrically different; simply different sides of the same coin.

The difference between leadership and management is really quite simple.

You manage things. You lead people.

Leaders and managers exhibit a set of different skills and behaviours that are closely linked and complimentary to each other. Management and leadership are both necessary for success. Individuals who can excel in both help their employees and businesses thrive in today’s business climate.

Management is task-focused

It’s short term. It’s a series of checklists and “to do’s” that ensure the work gets done.  It’s how we execute tasks to achieve a specific desired outcome. It’s taking actions to achieve a budget or deliver a project on time. It is the manner in which resources are used to achieve objectives.

Leadership is people-focused

It’s the words said and actions performed to inspire something deep within another. People involved understand their role in achieving it. It’s providing the spark that fires someone’s drive, motivating them to carry out increasingly challenging ways of working. It is the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission.

When to lead, when to manage?

People looking to head a successful business should focus more on leadership because it gives employees the focus needed to get started. With an established direction, management naturally falls into play because it will set the deadline and details.  We don’t say “They’re managing a revolution”. We tend to say, “Leading a revolution.” When others respond to how they’re doing with “I'm’m managing”, it implies “keeping up” or “going with the flow.

The real essence in this is to determine in which situations you need to exhibit both components. So the question could be asked, “When should you lead and when should you manage?”

The problem is that most people in leadership roles spend the majority of their time and efforts managing and almost none of their time leading.  Where is your time being spent? Take a piece of paper and make a list of all of your weekly activities.  Next to each one, write the amount of time it consumes. If it is a management activity, (managing things, budgets, resources, operational, etc.) label it with an M. If it is a leadership activity, (people related) label it with an L.

The importance of knowing your people

Managers spend more time managing things and leaders spend time with people. Do you know your people? Do you know what they want? Do you know their strengths and weaknesses? Are you coaching them to get better? Do you know what their short, mid-, and long term career goals are? Are you meeting one-on-one with each team member on a regular basis to coach them on their individual development plans? Do you ask or tell?

An employee comes to your office with a problem or a challenge. They explain the whole scenario. You decide on two choices here 1) Tell them what to do, and then ask them what questions they may have about your solution. 2) Ask them what they think are possible solutions, and which they think would work best.

Which choice you make determines whether you are attempting to manage the situation or lead the person. Ask, “Why do you think this is an issue?” and, “What do you suggest we do?” That will allow you to get a different perspective on matters and show you are interested in ‘leading’ rather than just ‘managing’.

When managing people, you want them to get it done. When leading people, you are coaching them to arrive at a solution with their own thinking, so that they can be more productive in the future. Managers tell and leaders ask.

Are you delegating effectively?

Many managers don’t because they feel that it’s their job, or that others couldn’t do it as well as they could. Managers seldom delegate. Leaders delegate strategically. They delegate a task for a reason, with thought and planning. The purpose may be to teach a skill, boost self-esteem, reward performance, or train for future opportunities. Managers never delegate, unless they have to.

Boosting morale and achieving results are the cornerstones of most organisational success in today’s economic climate. When employees experience true leadership, there is often a big increase in morale, productivity and loyalty. So it’s up to you to make the choice…when you go to work tomorrow, will you choose to manage or choose to lead? It could make a real difference.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is Culture & Change?

What is culture, and why is it so hard to change?

We talk about culture all the time. Somehow we decide that one company’s culture is bad, that lean can never succeed there, or that a bad culture in another company became a lean one.

I’ve always struggled to understand the basis for how the lean community defines culture. It seems to include a lot of opinion, anecdotal evidence, and judging.

In his writings about culture, Dr. Joseph Juran often cited a book that anthropologist
Margaret Mead edited in 1953. Mead was one of the founders of modern anthropology, and as did her colleagues, studied distinct and relatively isolated cultures in Africa, Pacific Islands, and the Americas. They observed in detail how technological changes affected cultures and the people within them.

From its post-World War II beginnings, the United Nations saw one of its missions as bettering the lives of people suffering because they lacked Western technologies that. Many cultures seemed to resist positive change, however. Efforts to introduce vaccines, plows made of iron rather than wood, pest control, or outboard motors often failed. People who sincerely wanted to help solve problems felt frustrated by having their improvements rejected. That led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Federation for Mental Health to ask Margaret Mead to oversee a study of what caused technological change to succeed or fail. They were to find out what the psychological and sociological barriers to improvement were. How did technology affect the mental health of individuals? What would open people to the benefits of change?

As advocates of lean transformations, we are in the same situation. Lean is a technology, a science of how to do things. Company cultures seem to resist changing for the positive.

Do we have the right definition of culture? The anthropologists’ used this working definition:

“Culture is an abstraction from the body of learned behavior which a group of people, who share the same tradition, transmit entire to their children, and, in part, to adult immigrants who become members of the society. This definition includes the system of technology accepted and used in that group.”

I think these are some of the lessons for us of that definition:

1. It is an abstraction. Abstractions are concepts, ideas, invisible, hard to put into words, and not always easy to recognize. To make change, it is necessary to first observe and try to understand the culture from the perspective of the people. To change ideas, it is necessary to know what the existing ideas are, and how they function to make the society work. In addition, labeling an abstraction “good” or “bad” and oversimplifying what happens in an organization doesn’t tell us what to do differently to introduce lean where we think it will do good.

2. Behavior is the source of a culture. Changing what people do every day and how they do it will change culture -- reasons for the importance of standard work and continuous process improvement in lean. But an individual can’t change the pattern of daily life when it supports a sense of personal and community well-being. If the new behavior would violate a taboo, however unreasonable the taboo may seem to an outsider, the old one must remain unchanged.

3. Behavior is learned. It can be unlearned. A new way of doing things can be taught, practiced, and adopted. If individuals see it benefits themselves, their families, and their communities, they may decide to change.

4. Culture is transmitted to individuals as a whole, a system. Changing a part of it can cause unexpected and unintended results, some of them unpleasant or even disastrous.

The reason for the UNESCO study is to assess the effect of change on the mental health of individuals in the group being changed. In introducing lean, could we be traumatizing some people, making them depressed or angry? We are pulling the rug out from under their feet. In our culture, people won’t tell us when we cause psychological harm. Or we won’t listen when their complaints or silence are clues to take more seriously. Perhaps they are not just being unreasonable.

Nobody comes into an organization with the purpose of causing pain and suffering. If we could change our own behavior and approach, would starting a lean transformation be more successful?

If you want to read along, look in the used book websites for Margaret Mead (editor), Cultural Patterns and Technical Change, UNESCO, Holland, 1953. A 1956 paper by Dr. Juran based on the lessons from the book, “Improving the Relationship between Staff and Line: An Assist from the Anthropologists,” can be downloaded from the Juran Institute.  Registration may be required. A Juran paper published in 1957, Cultural Patterns and Quality Control, is also available

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LEAN Psychology

Lean champions must understand the psychological principles of change

In this blog, we look at the psychological principles of change, as observed by anthropologists of many introductions of technologies that were new to isolated cultures. Because anthropologists don't participate in the change, they can distill conclusions that are more unbiased. The psychology of each individual is important to a group's response to change. Culture is derived from individual minds, decisions by individuals about whether to adopt a change or not.

 A significant change in someone’s life introduces some instability or disharmony, which produces emotional tension. Old behaviors are part of the person’s sense of self. New situations require new behaviors. If people feel they don’t have the right skills, for example, it threatens self-esteem and may cause worry about keeping their jobs. Even changing shifts or working in a reconfigured workcell will have a psychological effect that the change champion be aware of.

 Frustration accompanies tension when old beliefs and concepts of personal worth are incompatible with new practices. Even minor frustrations can add up to more serious problems. If people start believing that they can’t accomplish what is expected of them, change efforts can be derailed. While some tension can help people learn and grow, they need resources and support in order to become more at ease with the new.

When women took on factory work during World War II, manufacturing supervisors had to adapt to working with them. After the men came back from the war, women were sent home to be housewives again. The psychology of most manufacturing leaders prevented them from seeing that these women employees were as valuable as men. (Wikimedia Commons image)
. When frustration is persistent or intense, the physical and psychological health of some individuals may be impaired. The signs that someone may be struggling may take the form of anger, withdrawal, illness, or even sabotage. Distress affects a person’s ability to learn, and can make it appear that he or she is simply unable or unwilling to learn new methods and concepts. These potential consequences, at greater or lesser degrees, make it important to identify and resolve frustrating conditions, behave with respect, recognize individual differences, and provide encouragement and support.

When change champions take time to understand the workplace culture and the people who will experience the change before introducing disruption, they can adapt their message for that specific group of people. More importantly, they can adapt themselves. Mutual understanding leads to trust.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

8 of the best Massive Open Online Courses worldwide!

MOOCs list: 8 of the best Massive Open Online Courses worldwide

Do you know what MOOCs are? Are you interested in developing yourself and online learning? Then take a look at this article and our list of 8 Massive Open Online Courses.

What are MOOCs?

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.

Although early MOOCs often emphasized open access features, such as open licensing of content, open structure, learning goals and connectivism, to promote the reuse and remixing of resources, some notable newer MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials, while maintaining free access for students.

1. The Open University

The Open University provides high-quality university education to all those who wish to realize their ambitions and fulfil their potential. About 12,500 people currently enroll for OU courses each year.

Nearly all the undergraduate courses of the Open University have no formal entry requirements. This allows people who have missed out on education to fulfil their potential and achieve a university-level qualification.

The OU was founded to open up higher education to all, regardless of their circumstances or where they live. They have students of all ages and backgrounds: school students wanting experience of university-level study, school leavers who choose to begin their careers while they study for a degree, people wanting to develop or update their skills, or change career entirely, and retired people wanting to explore new interests and keep mentally active. Check out for more information.

2. Iversity

“As we move further into the digital age, it is becoming clear that the walled-in software solutions universities use today are glaringly outdated”. This is the motivation behind Iversity. They wish to move beyond the existing teaching formats to enable wholly new forms of online teaching and learning. In order to develop open course, they call upon individual instructors, universities and knowledge-based companies to join them in their effort to democratize education.

Our open course platform provides…

a structured course environment that features multimedia teaching materials;
assessment features such as multiple choice and peer review in order to keep students engaged and provide them with quantitative and qualitative feedback;
a discussion board where students can engage in peer-to-peer learning by asking and answering questions or sharing links, references and general observations;
The company’s founders are a diverse interdisciplinary team from Berlin. They’ve attended some of the world’s finest institutions. Yet, wherever they went, they were frustrated by the dearth of digital infrastructure in use. That’s why they set out to garner the wealth of opportunities to improve the quality of teaching and learning for future generations of students. Check out more at


ALISON is a 2.5 million-strong, global online learning community, filled with free, high-quality resources to help you develop essential, certified workplace skills. The mission at ALISON is simple: to enable you, wherever you are in the world, to learn and get certified new skills – at your own pace – using their free, interactive multimedia.

There are hundreds of free courses to choose from, such as business & enterprise, languages, personal development and IT. ALISON is for anyone taking their first step towards a new or better job.

Their materials will help you to develop your creativity, confidence and competence for work, and to be as contented and productive as you can be in the world of work. See more at

4. Open Learning

OpenLearning and their team from the University of New South Wales are happy to welcome all visitors, whether they are a student, teacher or someone in-between!

Students and teachers worldwide struggle to learn in an environment that focuses on delivering content with little room for community or creativity. OpenLeaning’s mission is to give you the freedom and the flexibility to form a community, express your creativity and discover yourself through education.

The courses offer topics such as services marketing, programming and writing skills. Find out more on

5. Coursera

Coursera believe in connecting people to a great education so that anyone around the world can learn without limits. Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Their technology enables their partners to teach millions of students rather than hundreds. They envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education that has so far been available to a select few.

Classes offered on Coursera are designed to help you master the material. When you take one of their classes, you will watch lectures taught by world-class professors, learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. You’ll also join a global community of thousands of students learning alongside you. Check out Coursera at

6. Udacity

Udacity’s mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging, and highly effective higher education to the world. They believe that higher education is a basic human right, and seek to empower their students to advance their education and careers.

“Higher education is broken with increasingly higher costs for both students and our society at large. Education is no longer a one-time event but a lifelong experience. Education should be less passive listening (no long lectures) and more active doing. Education should empower students to succeed not just in school but in life.”

Udacity are reinventing education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment. Learn more at

7. edX

EdX believe in the highest quality education, both online and in the classroom. EdX was created for students and institutions that seek to transform themselves through cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy, and rigorous courses.

Through their institutional partners, the XConsortium, they present the best of higher education online, offering opportunity to anyone who wants to achieve, thrive, and grow.

Their goals, however, go beyond offering courses and content. They are committed to research that will allow them to understand how students learn, how technology can transform learning, and the ways teachers teach on campus and beyond.

Main goals:

Expand access to education for everyone
Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online
Advance teaching and learning through research
Learn more at

8. EduKart is India’s leading online education company that delivers high quality and industry relevant Online Distance Learning degree, international programs and certificate courses, so that working professionals and students pursuing higher education can easily learn relevant industry required skills and become a more valuable workforce. was started in 2011 by alumni of Stanford University, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and University of Delhi. The founding team is immensely passionate about delivering high quality education and believe that creates a difference in the lives of those who aspire to move ahead.

EduKart courses provide:

High Quality – the best online experience that you can get, supported by telephonic doubt solving and certification.
Industry Endorsement – we work with leading industry bodies to ensure that our courses are certified by industry experts and add real value to you.
Affordable Pricing – we are committed to keep pricing of the courses as low as we can, so that you do not have to think twice about investing on yourself
See more at

Friday, December 6, 2013

Listen to this!

This article is written by the author of the free eBook We all think that listening is natural and something we all do well. But real listening – listening that is profound, focused, and empathic – is rare. It is an essential skill for those who perform the modern roles of managing and counselling people.

Here are 7 ways to learn the art of listening.

1. Stop, look and listen

Skilled listening is total listening. It means stopping what else you are doing and giving yourself over, lock, stock and barrel, to someone else. When you are a total listener your whole demeanour needs to say to the other person: “for the next few minutes I want to focus on you, hear what you are saying and understand you.”

2. Take yourself out of things

The biggest block to fully listening to someone else is what is going on in your own mind. If you hear yourself analysing what the other person is saying, thinking about it and planning your response, then you've stopped listening. You’ve simply picked up a few things and hurried to your own conclusions. Instead, listen to the end. Listen without interruption. And take yourself out of things.

3. Look through a window, not a mirror

When talking to others most of us interpret what people say through our own perceptions and understandings. In reality, we can do nothing else. Our view of the world is different from theirs. This is what is meant by looking at others through a mirror. When listening focused, however, you should aim to see things according to how they see things, even if you yourself don’t share their view. This is empathic listening or seeing things through the window of their frame of reference.

4. Stay tuned in even when you don’t like the music

One of the greatest challenges for anyone performing the role of a skilled listener is to listen to someone who is talking about things that wouldn’t normally interest you. Most of us are quickly turned off by things that are not on our favourite list of topics. When this happens in your professional life, don’t switch off. Go to that point of listening more intently than ever, even if you have to ask more questions and seek more explanations.

5. Be alert, alive and attentive

You can tell if someone is listening carefully to someone else. There is a stillness in their body and their mind like a calm lake. They don’t move. They keep constant eye contact. They are as near as possible to being on the other person’s wavelength. This is the quality of attentiveness.

6. Take your time

Focused listening is “present moment” listening. Time sometimes seems to stand still when you are fully listening to someone. You are not in a hurry. You don’t think about what has just been said or what you are going to say next. You are only aware of what is being said here and now. Paradoxically, taking your time to listen doesn't take you longer. In fact, it is the most efficient way to listen.

7. Respond to the moment

While in focused listening you may spend most of your time doing nothing but listening, you may have to intervene at some points to respond. Always respond in the moment, in other words, to where people are. Don’t have a plan of what to ask. Only ask questions that pick up what the person has just said and where they are. If you have nothing to say, then say nothing. That way the exchange is a true meeting of minds.

Listening is a powerful tool in all kinds of communication. The more skilled you are – to the point that it has become an art – the more successful will be your understanding and communication.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How does Lean training benefit individuals and companies?

The field of Operations Excellence is in high demand by employers. When looking for jobs in the industry, a key skill to help your resume stand out is Lean Six Sigma training and certification. Lean Six Sigma is a set of strategies, techniques, and tools for process improvement and reducing manufacturing defects. Certification proves to employers that you have learned and can apply the tools and techniques of Lean and Six Sigma. Both you and your organization will benefit from higher productivity, efficiency, and quality in all aspects of business operations.
Where is Lean Six Sigma Applicable?

If your organization has external/internal customers or suppliers, opportunities exist to apply Lean Six Sigma. Companies implement Lean Six Sigma through the following 5 processes:
The improvement team defines the issues that were getting in the way of satisfying customer requirements.
Measurements are used to establish a baseline of the current state of performance.
Analysis is conducted on the measurement information to isolate the root causes of the issues.
Creative solutions are then developed to improve performance beyond the current state.
To assure the issues resolved remained resolved, controls are implemented.
The preceding example illustrated the Lean Six Sigma process of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
The following are examples of how Lean Six Sigma can help in numerous industries:
Sales and Marketing

Order cycle time reduction
Promotional marketing effectiveness
Sales support efficiency

Discharge cycle time and cost reduction
Medication dispensing efficiency
Reduction in non-reimbursed claims
Bio-Hazardous waste reduction
Blood Bank cycle time reduction
Supply Chain Management

Supply chain cycle time and inventory reduction
Tactical corrective action process effectiveness
Enhanced supplier communications
Specification and revision control management

School bussing system optimization
Athletic field water management
Curriculum effectiveness
Hotel and Hospitality

Purchasing and logistics for cruise ship consumables
Hotel supplies inventory management
Restaurant supplies inventory management
Defense Systems and Military

Light vehicle armor kit quality, delivery, and cost improvement
Gun and guided missile system cost reduction
Capture and disseminate field lessons learned cycle time reduction
Training material update and global distribution cycle time reduction

Inventory management and control
Assembly operations cycle time, cost, and inventory reduction
Furniture Finishing Quality and Consistency
Production yield improvement and cost reduction
Lean Six Sigma is applicable for any organization’s operating processes, delivery of services, or production.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

London Calling!

Here is a quick snapshot of graduate level jobs available in London.
Ovo Energy Limited - London
What is the time line for the Graduate Programme?. From 6-12 months you will broaden your understanding of the wider organization by sharing and gaining... £27,000 - £31,000 a year
Ovo Energy Limited 27-Nov
Kantar Media  12 reviews - London
A desire to work in media / advertising or research would be preferable. We would be open to someone on a year off from university or someone who is interested...
Kantar Careers 27-Nov - London
We believe that the training and development opportunities offered to graduates at Waitrose fully justify the Partnership's industry-wide reputation for quality... £29,000 a year
Timesonline 25-Nov - London
To be considered for this role you must have an undergraduate degree. It is a great advantage for the applicant to have good general drinks knowledge and...
Timesonline 27-Nov
Deloitte  696 reviews - Cambridgeshire
Entrepreneurial Business provides enterprising individuals and their growing businesses access to all of the services of our firm via a trusted and dedicated...
Deloitte 28-Nov
Standard Chartered Bank  218 reviews - London
Support Global Account Managers/Relationship Managers in the preparation and implementation of sales and marketing plans....
Standard Chartered Bank 30-Nov
Rock Recruitment - Bournemouth
One year working in a related professional environment. Good understanding of digital capabilities for the media and a high level of English.... £17,000 - £24,000 a year
Go Job Search 28-Nov
BG Group  7 reviews - Reading
Co-ordinating and organising logistics for recruitment events, such as being initial point of contact for universities....
BG Group 25-Nov
Vertex Resourcing - Oxford
This role would be a perfect match for a recent graduate or someone with the ambition and drive to progress within a research role.... £26,000 - £28,000 a year 29-Nov
B&Q  129 reviews - Hampshire
Our Retail Management Graduate Programme is designed for ambitious graduates with a passion for retail and offers un-equalled experience and management... £24,000 - £26,000 a year
B&Q 29-Nov
Royal Society of Chemistry - Cambridgeshire
Open to applications for RSC Graduate Scheme. To find out more please visit our graduate blog below. This is a fantastic opportunity to join the team at the...
Royal Society of Chemistry 30-Nov
EMEA Cummins Generator Tech - Peterborough
A structured support network provides you with a safe environment to learn and be challenged, while delivering and working on projects that actually add value...
Cummins 27-Nov
Eco-Oiko - London
If you’re really, really good, there might even be a job for you after you graduate. The tasks will vary and will mostly business related providing a broad...
Easily apply to this job
Indeed 27-Nov - London
We will support your development throughout the internship. You will have plenty of opportunities to develop your communication and problem solving skills, and... £18,156 a year
Timesonline 27-Nov
Fidessa Group - Woking
Degree educated with a minimum 2.2 or above in a numerate subject (e.g. Ability to demonstrate a logical approach to troubleshooting issues....
Fidessa Group 26-Nov
Austin Rose - London
Full study support to complete their ACA. The opportunity to act in an autonomous fashion at an early stage.... 29-Nov
IT Connections Limited - Bedford
We need confident, ambitious and motivated graduates who want a fast-paced career, with excellent rewards for determined individuals....
Easily apply to this job
Indeed 27-Nov - East Anglia
Publishing Editor - Open to applications now. There are also opportunities to be involved in the production of databases to support our aim of becoming the...
Timesonline 27-Nov
Public Health England - Porton Down
For any questions relating to this post please contact Lorna McInroy ( Open to all external applicants (anyone) from outside the Civil... £26,792 - £33,816 a year
NHS Jobs 26-Nov
iCrossing  4 reviews - Brighton
You might have some relevant SEO or copywriting work experience within an agency environment. You will be an excellent communicator via email, phone and face to...
iCrossing 27-Nov

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Communication Skills That Matter

I spent a week in the company of Philip Gould a few years back at his training centre in London, developing advanced professional skills in empathy and communication. I particularly liked his emphasis on self reflection learning and his very practical approach. He does not use  psychobabble or hyperbole and his work is very grounded in establishing meaningful communication. Philip was committed to Life Long Learning, a long time before it came into our professional language.

Philip Gould, Philosopher and creator of the Philip Gould Training Skills with People course.

Philip Gould, Philosopher and creator of the Good communication can move mountains. If you know how to attentively listen to people, give the right feedback, sovereignly deal with complaints and say no if necessary, you can simplify and enrich your life. In this interview, Philip Gould, trainer, with his wife and son, on the “Gould Training Skills with People” course provides you with 7 helpful tips and information about how to communicate in the best way possible.

1. In your newly released book “Connecting with people – Two crucial skills”, you declare that listening with empathy and speaking assertively are the most important elements when it comes to interacting with people. Why these two?

It’s because when we do these two things we greatly increase the amount of mutual respect, understanding, frankness and trust in a relationship.  It’s a simple, powerful and very practical idea, and works well with most people – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

2. In your experience, what are the most common obstacles people face when they communicate with others?

Perhaps the most common one is that we suppress, ignore or keep quiet about our own and other people’s feelings, and this makes us disconnected from one another and tense.
We make wrong assumptions about what’s going on in people’s minds – and so we misunderstand.
We assume they know what’s going on in our mind, and by not taking enough trouble to spell it out clearly we allow them to misunderstand us.
We use argument as a method of persuasion, and it gets us nowhere. By listening with empathy and speaking assertively we could persuade much more successfully without argument.
We forget the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you like to be treated”, which is why we so often fail to connect with others.

3. Can you give us an example of a conversation where someone listened with empathy?

HE:  How was your day?

SHE:  Awful.

HE:  Sorry to hear that.

SHE:  My boss was in a bad mood again.

HE:  You’re obviously upset.

SHE:  I am!  I’m beginning to think I should get another job.

HE:  It’s pretty serious, then.

SHE:  It is!  It feels awful being shouted at when all you’re doing is trying to help.  I’m nervous and tense every time I go in to work.

HE:  And now you don’t see why you should put up with it any longer – because you know you’re worth more than this.

SHE:  Yes, that’s it exactly!  (thoughtful pause)  I’ll start making enquiries about other jobs in the morning.  Thank you.  My mind’s made up.  I feel better now.  How was your day?

4. People can find it very hard not to be rude if they are frustrated. How can one improve this? For example, is there a best way to deal with complaints?

The first thing to do when you’re faced with someone raising a complaint and in an emotional state is allow them to let off steam. You can say, for example, “This must be frustrating”, and then wait for them to express their feelings.

It’s no use saying, “Just calm down so that we can talk rationally and I can help you.” They can’t until they’ve let off steam. If you don’t do this the energy in their emotion has to go somewhere and it will often be expressed as rudeness. Although it’s never comfortable receiving a complaint, a brief touch of empathy usually works like magic. When someone lets off steam they are calming down because they’re releasing the tension – even though it may not sound like it. So be patient. It works.

The second thing to do is reassure them that your intention is to help. Don’t assume they know this.  Spell it out – “I’m here to help”.

5. What does it take to give good feedback?

Most of us are very sensitive to feedback and very easily made to feel attacked and disapproved of. When this happens it is natural to resist the feedback. Here’s how to do it without making people feel disapproved of:

Always start with praise, by saying specifically and generously what they are doing that makes you feel good and the reason why you feel good about it (e.g. “The way you handle customers makes me feel very safe. You always seem to treat them with courtesy, care, tact and firmness, which I believe is very good for business.” Allow plenty of time for this to sink in and, if they want to, spend time discussing it.
Then when they feel approved of be equally specific and frank with the criticism (e.g., “I’m worried about how you’re handling our internal sales support people. I know it’s part of your job to give them feedback, but the way you do it seems to put their backs up. This, I believe, is bad for business.”) Then pause for this to sink in and be discussed. Most people would take this feedback very seriously and not feel attacked by it

6. Let’s talk about another essential factor: assertiveness. One important aspect of assertiveness is to learn how to say no. How can people who find it hard to say no start their “training”?

I personally find it extremely hard to say no.  It’s because I’m afraid of how the person I’m saying no to might react. The impulse to say yes can feel so strong it’s almost instinctive. Going against it calls for some soul-searching:

Do I feel totally at ease about the idea of saying yes? If not, precisely how do I feel and how strong is the feeling?
Why do I feel this way?  It’s probably because something that matters a lot to me will be jeopardized or compromised if I say yes. What is it that matters so much to me?
It may take a while to figure out the answer, which is why if you’re in doubt it’s a good idea not to reply straight away but to say you need time to think about it. Then having figured it out you can say it assertively, e.g., “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but having thought about what you are asking my answer is no. Saying yes would feel wrong for me because what matters to me is …”. My own goal is to have the courage never to say yes when my gut feeling is to say no. I don’t always achieve this.

7. Changing the way you communicate is a life-long learning process. How can you keep yourself motivated personally?

I can’t answer for you. What keeps me motivated is the sheer pleasure I get when I experience mutual respect, understanding, trust and frankness in a relationship. Seeing other people doing it well also helps, as does reflecting on my own frequent failures.  Learning opportunities come thick and fast.

One thought – it can help greatly if you have a friend from whom you can ask for frank feedback from time to time about how you come across when you’re communicating.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Brain Power

The brain is the most powerful organ humans possess. Although we all have a hugely powerful potential offered by our brain, we spend very little practising our thinking skills. We believe that thinking is either a natural function or believe that the great thinkers among us are gifted. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone has the ability to use this under-used potential.
This aericle is based on the free eBook
Do you want to get to know your brain better? Then let’s take a look at some astonishing facts about this powerful organ.

The Brain contains 100,000 billion connections

The facts about the brain are truly stupendous. For example, did you know that the human brain takes up a fifth of all the energy generated by your body in its resting state? It is similar to a 20-watt light bulb continuously glowing. How big do you think the brain is? Well, if you can imagine it, your brain consists of 100 billion cells, each one of which connects to 1000 other brain cells making a total of 100,000 billion connections. There are more cell connection points in the human brain than there are stars in our galaxy. As Norman Cousins put it, “Not even the universe with all its countless billions of galaxies represents greater wonder or complexity than the human brain.”

No one has ever been able to use their brain’s full potential

Here are some more astonishing facts about your brain. Although the brain weighs just 3lb, it contains 12 trillion nerve cells (more than two and a half times the people on this planet). It contains 1000 trillion trillion molecules (way beyond our ability to compute), and can process 30 billion bits of information a second. Your brain has 10 billion neurons and the range of connections all the neurons in the brain could make would amount to one with 28 noughts after it. Your brain has enough atomic energy to build any of the world’s major cities many times over. Unsurprisingly, no human being has yet existed who has been able to use all the potential of the brain. How about you?

Exploding the brain myths

One of the reasons we fail to make the most of our brain and, therefore, our thinking skills, is that we hang on to a range of inherited assumptions about our brain and our capacity to think. Many of us believe that, contrary to the facts, we are either born bright or stupid. We think that we are only as intelligent as our measured Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and that this is fixed throughout our lives. We think that, when we run up against big problems, they just can’t be solved. We fret over taking decisions and bemoan our ability to choose wisely. We think that we are stuck with the way we think and that we cannot change it. And to top things off, we think that, as we age, our brain declines and with it, our abilities to remember things. The only one of these assumptions that is true is that it is only our thinking that limits the power of our brains.

Summary of our brain’s key points

1. The human brain is so powerful that few of us come anywhere near to using it as well as we could.

2. Every person has the ability to think intelligently and creatively.

3. The brain is the source of key mental faculties such as memory, imagination, creativity and innovation.

4. The brain is the key tool for mastering the modern information age.

5. Everyone in a modern organisation is a knowledge worker to some extent.

6. According to research, half the skills needed by successful workers involve the use of thinking skills.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It is time to love work.....again!

Remember when you were still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up inspired a no-nonsense response? ‘Doctor!’ ‘Explorer!’ ‘Astronaut!’. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and the question of what career path to pursue isn't quite so straightforward.

For many young adults, choosing which direction to take after school can feel daunting, if not impossible. Should I pursue further study? Which education provider do I choose? Which course is right for me? Should I take some time out?

The path to your dream career may be fraught with challenges and setbacks, but there are several things you can do to keep on track. Use these tips to help get your career compass pointing in the right direction.

1. Know thyself

When it comes to choosing your career, the old maxim ‘know thyself’ rings truer than ever. Taking the time to carefully assess your interests, aptitudes and personality type goes a long way towards identifying your potential.

Conducting some kind of self-assessment is a vital first step. This could take the form of a questionnaire, career personality test, or psychometric indicator like the Myers-Briggs test.

Or, perhaps it’s as simple as asking yourself which subjects you enjoy, and which you excel in. Do you pursue any extracurricular activities? What are your values and your world-view? Think of it as writing an autobiographical pros and cons list. ‘I'm good at X, but not so strong when it comes to Y.’

Pinpointing your personality type and nutting out your strengths and weaknesses will go a long way towards ensuring you set off in the right direction.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Conceding defeat can be tricky, not to mention demoralising, but now isn't the time for pride. Your future is at stake!

Sourcing some first-hand industry knowledge will help you decide how realistic your job prospects are, expose the hidden perks (and the pitfalls!), and open your eyes to new possibilities.

Most high schools and colleges offer a career guidance service, so this should be your first stop. If possible, make a booking to see an advisor one-on-one. After assessing your general aptitudes and ambitions, you’ll be given more tailored advice on your short-listed options: what the job market is like, salary, potential for growth, stability, hours, work–life balance and qualification requirements.

Attend tertiary education expos and information evenings, subscribe to career advice blogs and RSS feeds, chat with family and friends – get your hands on advice, tips and industry insight in any way you can!

3. Study, study, study!

You've just spent the last 12 or 13 years of your life in school – nobody could blame you for declaring an all-out ban on academia. In some cases, however, the only way to find out whether you’re cut out for a particular career is by dipping your toes in the water. Whether this means doing some extreme Googling, enrolling in a MOOCs course or taking the plunge and heading straight to university is up to you.

Resist the tendency to feel pigeon-holed by your decisions. If it happens that you arrive part-way through your course and realise it’s just not for you, there are several options for transferring or deferring your studies, and many universities offer recognition of prior learning as credit towards future learning. Think of further study as broadening your horizons, not as boxing you in!

4. Prepare a professional resume

Ensuring that your credentials are up-to-date could mean the difference between securing a last-minute intern ship or landing a holiday bar job in Brazil – you never know when they’ll come in handy!

If this is the first time you've prepared a resume, don’t fret. There are plenty of on-line resources out there that can help you navigate the basics of resume and cover letter preparation, including endless samples and templates.

5. Follow your heart… or don’t

It’s that age-old dilemma in love and life – to follow your heart, or to use your head. Do you pursue a path based on your passions and interests, or do you choose a ‘practical’ job path that offers reliable career and salary prospects?

If MailChimp founder and email marketing guru, Ben Chestnut, is to be believed, we should abandon our obsession with finding something we love doing, in favour of his more pragmatic mantra: love what you do.

There’s no easy solution to this common conundrum. But, let’s face it – if you do decide to pursue a career you don’t enjoy simply because of ‘practical’ considerations or parental expectations, you’re setting yourself up for unhappiness, or even a mid-career meltdown.

Always keep your options open; life after school doesn't have to mean stepping out of the classroom and into the lecture theatre. If your heart just isn't drawn to the idea of further study, then consider alternatives like apprenticeships, vocational education or even a gap year.

Whatever your decision, bear in mind that most people change career paths up to five times during their lifetime, so recalibrating your professional direction is not unusual and can make for an even more interesting journey!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Answering Behavioural Interview Questions.

It is estimated that 80% of the interview is made up of behavioural questions. This type of interviewing is
based on the philosophy that your past actions and behaviours will be a good indicator of your future behaviours. Therefore, how you acted towards certain circumstances in your previous job is a reliable indicator of how you will act in your new job. In this article we’ll take a closer look at these behaviour type questions – with preparation tips and examples.

What are behavioural questions

These types of questions differ from standard interview questions as they focus more on experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities. Rather than the standard question of “Do you have leadership skills” a behavioural question is more likely to be “Give me an example of your previous role when you displayed leadership abilities.” As the interviewer has already determined which skills are necessary for the role, it is important that you are prepared for these questions.

The best way to begin studying for these questions is to look at the job description. The list of skills that they require are the skills they will more than likely focus on. When the job description mentions they require a person with good teamwork skills or negotiation skills, it is more than likely that this will be turned into a behavioural question to see if you really do possess these skills.

How to answer behavioural questions

The best way to answer a behavioural question is to use the STAR format.

Situation: The interviewer wants you to present a recent challenge and situation in which you found yourself.

Task: What did you have to achieve? The interviewer will be looking to see what you were trying to achieve from the situation.

Action: What did you do? The interviewer will be looking for information on what you did, why you did it and what the alternatives were.

Results: What were the outcomes of your actions? What did you achieve through your actions and did you meet your objectives? What did you learn from this experience and have you used this learning since?

How to nail the behavioural interview

1)    Take a blank piece of paper and write down between 10-20 examples from your education, work experience, community work, charity etc. of where you added value in a positive way.

2)    Now using the STAR format write out the Situation, Task, Action, Result

Example question: “Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.”

Situation: My role as project manager was to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget.

Task: My last role involved combining three office spaces into one. With a tight deadline of 90 days and dealing with multiple contractors from different companies, I knew it was going to be a struggle to complete the job in time. I set the goal of having everything completed within 80 days to give us 10 days at the end to make final corrections.

Action: By dividing all the different contractors into three main teams and having three project managers controlling the three teams, I was able to create a more efficient and effective work timetable and ensure that downtime was kept to a minimum.

Result: As a result of this more efficient working time we completed the job on time and reduced costs by 15%. This new way of dividing contractors into smaller teams has now been implemented into standard work procedure and seen a reduction in overall costs.

The most asked behavioural questions

Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation and how you overcame the situation
Provide an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead
Tell me about a situation where you have had to speak with an unhappy customer
Give me an example of a time when you motivated others and how this led to a positive outcome
Give an example of a goal you set and how you reached it
Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to make a split second decision
Describe a situation where you knew your boss was wrong – how did you handle it?
Describe a major change or adjustment to your job and your reactions to the change
Tell me about a time when you encountered conflict in the workplace and how you handled the conflict
Provide an example of when you had to go above and beyond your normal duties in order to get the job done
Describe a time when you put the needs of your workmates before your own when completing a task
Provide an example of a problem you had with a co-worker or boss and how you resolved it
Provide an example of a time when you felt you were able to motivate
Describe a time when you did not put in 100% into your job or performance and what you did about it
Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem with very little guidance or direction
Tell me about a time when you went overtime on a deadline
What is the biggest contribution you made in your current role?
What are you most proud of in your working career?
Discuss a setback you have overcome in the last 12 months

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Do Good People Turn Evil?

Here is an interesting article for all of us interested in human behaviour!

Do Good People Turn Evil? By Adam grant

Half a century ago, Holocaust perpetrator Adolph Eichmann was on trial. The prosecutor called him “a new kind of killer, the kind that exercises his bloody craft behind a desk.” Reporting on the trial, Hannah Arendt drew a different conclusion. She argued that Eichmann was a plain bureaucrat, seeing himself as “a law-abiding citizen” who “did his duty” and “obeyed orders.” She called it “the banality of evil.”

The core claim was that if you put good people in a bad situation, bad things will happen. Soon, evidence emerged to support this chilling idea. At Yale, psychologist Stanley Milgram showed that ordinary men would inflict severe pain on others simply because they were asked to do so by an authority figure in an experiment. When a man failed to learn a set of words, a scientist in a white coat told them to deliver increasingly harmful electric shocks. Many went all the way to 450 volts—even after the “victim” (an actor) complained of heart trouble. “It may be that we are puppets—puppets controlled by the strings of society,” Milgram lamented.

At Stanford, psychologist Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned students to play the roles of prisoners or prison guards. Cruelty ensued: the guards forced the prisoners to sleep on concrete and took away their clothes. “In only a few days, our guards became sadistic,” Zimbardo writes: the “power of a host of situational variables can dominate an individual’s will to resist.”

These were two of the most powerful demonstrations in social science, by two brilliant thinkers, and they’ve been taught to a generation of students. But what if we’ve drawn the wrong conclusions from them?

Although many people do underestimate the power of situations in driving behavior, more recent evidence shows that individual differences matter far more than we thought.

Who Signs Up For a Prison Study?

In the prison demonstration, Zimbardo claimed that ordinary people underwent a transformation. In his book, he calls it The Lucifer Effect, proposing to explain “how good people turn evil.”Yet the students who participated were recruited for “a psychological study of prison life.” What kind of person volunteers for such a study?

When psychologists Thomas Carnahan and Sam McFarland compared people who signed up for a psychological study of prison life versus a general psychological study, the differences were stark. The people who volunteered for a prison study scored:

27% higher on aggression (tendency to attack or harm others)
10% higher on authoritarianism (expecting obedience from subordinates)
10% higher on Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate others for personal gain)
12% higher on narcissism (seeing oneself as superior)
26% higher on social dominance (believing in the importance of hierarchy)
7% lower on empathy: (concern for others in need)
6% lower on altruism: (motivation to help others at a personal cost)
Psychologists have long described narcissism and Machiavellianism as two thirds of the dark triad of personality. The third is psychopathy (antisocial behavior and a lack of empathy and remorse), and now there’s a fourth dark trait that parallels the behavior of the prison guards: sadism (the tendency to feel pleasure from inflicting pain).

When people with these types of dark traits signed up for a prison study and became prison guards, they were surrounded by others who shared their tendencies, and they expressed them. People “do not automatically assume roles given to them,” conclude the psychologists Alexander Haslam and Stephen Reicher, after running their own prison experiment with cooperation from the BBC. Rather, “particular individuals with particular beliefs make tyranny possible.”

Who’s Willing to Deliver a Deadly Shock?

In Milgram’s original research, only 65% of participants delivered the maximum voltage of electric shocks. The psychologist Thomas Blass, author of The Man Who Shocked the World, was curious about the differences between people who obeyed and those who objected. When Blass analyzed the 21 different variations of Milgram’s experiment, he found that certain personality traits and beliefs predicted who continued delivering the shocks.

People were more likely to deliver painful shocks if they were authoritarian. The shockers were also significantly more trusting of others (they assumed the scientist would do the right thing) and used to following the lead of others (they believed life events were driven by external forces like luck, chance, or fate, rather than internal forces like effort and willpower).

Bad Barrels or Bad Apples?

Could it be that good people don’t turn evil? Even at war, most people aren’t willing to kill. As biologist Frans de Waal writes:

It is a curious fact that the majority of soldiers, although well armed, never kill. During World War II, only one out of every five U.S. soldiers actually fired at the enemy. The other four were plenty courageous, braving grave danger, landing on the beaches, rescuing comrades under fire, fetching ammunition for others, and so on, yet they failed to fire their weapons… Similarly, it has been calculated that during the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers fired more than fifty thousand bullets for every enemy soldier killed. Most bullets must have been fired into the air.”

This isn’t poor accuracy; there’s clear evidence for intentionality on the part of soldiers. As Dave Grossman writes in On Killing, “The weak link between the killing potential and the killing capability of these units was the soldier. The simple fact is that when faced with a living, breathing opponent instead of a target, a significant majority of the soldiers revert to a posturing mode in which they fire over their enemy’s heads.”

Most people aren’t willing to inflict irrevocable harm on others. Consistent with this idea, historian David Cesarani has challenged Arendt’s original conclusions that Eichmann was just a bureaucrat. Arendt only witnessed part of the trial, where Eichmann managed to put on a “deliberately banal façade,” Cesarani writes in Becoming Eichmann. “Eichmann’s Nazi convictions and his unquestioning obedience to orders were part of the same ideological package… Either Eichmann wanted to kill Jews or he didn’t care if they perished… To the fully indoctrinated Eichmann, the Jews had no intrinsic claim to life.”

Bad people are more likely to opt into bad situations. When they band together, all too often, evil is the result

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