Strategists in Human Capital!
Affinity International Consulting presents Futurepoint

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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Monday, November 18, 2013

How To Grab the Attention of A Recruiter

How To Grab the Attention of A Recruiter

A Clear And Concise C.V. Can Go A Long Way

The most important tool in seizing the attention of a recruiter is the curriculum vitae, or C.V. This is more commonly known as the resume. The C.V. should be simple, well designed, and easy to read. It should be no more than one page in length, and it should demonstrate to the recruiter why the applicant would be the perfect fit for the advertised position. The recruiter will see hundreds, if not thousands of C.V.'s, so it is important that the applicant spend an appropriate amount of time constructing and perfecting the C.V.

Tailor C.V. To Each Specific Job Position

The C.V. should be easily tailored to specific jobs. Constructing a generalized or non-specific C.V. is counterproductive, uninteresting, and does nothing to demonstrate to recruiters or potential employers how the applicant can meet specific job requirements. The applicant should include a cover letter and a photo to help recruiters associate a face with the words on the page, and use eye-catching phrases to help guide the recruiter to the most important points in the C.V. A quick glance at the C.V. should give the recruiter everything that is required to determine that the applicant would be perfect for the job.

Be Prepared For The Interview, Before The Interview

It is important that the applicant dress and act appropriately at all meetings with the recruiter. It is possible that the initial contact with a recruiter could turn into a screening interview. The employer or company should be thoroughly researched and the applicant should familiarize him or herself with how he or she would fit in and benefit the company specifically. Generate a list of possible questions that may be asked, as well as answers to the questions, and practice them. A confident and prepared applicant will go a long way in impressing recruiters.

Open Communication Is Important

Once the initial contact has been made, it is important to keep in touch with recruiters. Recruiters can be extremely busy, so it is important that the applicant touch bases from time to time through a quick phone call or follow-up email. The applicant should be careful not to negatively influence the recruiter's opinion by being overly persistent or bothersome. This communication should continue even through the attainment of a job. Once employment has been gained, it is important to let the recruiter know.

Use Social Networking To Help, Not Hurt

Many applicants spend a great deal of time perfecting their resume and interviewing skills, but shoot themselves in the foot with their social networking profile. Applicants should polish all social networking accounts and make them professional and informative. The important parts of the C.V. should be reflected though the social networking profile, transforming it into a tool to capture the attention of recruiters.

By following the tips outlined above, those seeking the attention of recruiters will have the best chance at being noticed. Being professional and persistent, providing a well written C.V., educating oneself, and ensuring a stellar on-line reputation will all go a long way in bringing the right kind of attention, and maximizing the chances of employment success.

The Entrepreneurial Test

How entrepreneurial are you? Take the test!
Many people believe that because they have decided to start their own business, this makes them an entrepreneur. If that were the case, why is it that they do not behave entrepreneurially in their own life or when working for others? In this article the business consultant, writer and motivational speaker Roger Cowdrey has put together some tests to find out how entrepreneurial you really are. Interested? Then go for it!

How to consider whether you are entrepreneurial

I have worked with countless embryo businesses, and, all too often, people have decided to start up a new venture because of redundancy or lack of employment opportunities in their field of expertise. This rarely demonstrates a true entrepreneurial desire but rather a ‘last ditch’ alternative to unemployment.

One way to consider whether you are entrepreneurial in your approach to life is to look at your behaviour at home or in employment. For example, try writing down all of the new ideas or processes that you have suggested and/or implemented in the workplace. Did this give you a buzz or did you resist the concept of change?

When I give lectures or work with entrepreneurs I often give some puzzles to illustrate my points regarding entrepreneurship. I do not refer to these examples as tests but rather as a stimulus to get people to want to look harder at how to become truly entrepreneurial. What follows are three examples of the sort of things that I use. I would suggest trying to tackle these before moving on to the answers that follow.

The third eye

Imagine that you have been given the privilege of having a third eye added to your body. You can have this eye added to anywhere on your body that you choose. Explain where you would put the eye and why.

Joining the dots

Below is a grid of nine dots. The task is to join all of the dots with as few straight lines as possible. You must pass through each dot on the grid with a straight line and you must pass through each dot only once. The straight lines must join to each other. How many straight lines did you draw?

Black and white hats

Here is a diagram of four men wearing hats. Two have black hats and two have white hats. They are buried up to their necks in sand and cannot turn around. The black rectangle is a solid wall. The men can only speak once they have deduced correctly the colour of their hat. Which man speaks first?

Now that you have had time to look at the three problems, let us look at what it tells us. What is important is not necessarily the answer but rather what reaching the answer tells us about ourselves See the results!

This article is based on the free eBook “Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset”
We bet you have become curious about whether you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur! Here are the results of the 3 test examples you just tried to figure out.

Extra eye – Result

In the case of the extra eye this is an apparently free choice and hence no one answer is more right than another. However, in using this test on hundreds of people the majority of adults will put the eye on their back or on the back of their head. Their verbal reasoning is that this would enable them to see behind them. However, this is also the safe option, as it does not open them to the possibility of a solution that is different from everyone else.

However, if you ask a group of children that have yet to be indoctrinated with the conformity and do not feel the need to be the same as everyone else then you get much more imaginative answers such as on the end of fingers so as to allow people to look round corners.

The problem for adults in this scenario is that they have been conditioned to believe that there is only one right answer and even in a free choice question they will go for the least risk solution. Subconsciously they may consider the less obvious answer but will take the more obvious answer because as people get older they are less likely to want to stand out from the crowd because of the conditioning we have already discussed.

Joining the dots – Results

Now let us look at the question of the dots. I like this puzzle because it is a good example of the way we put artificial boundaries on our thinking. Most people can solve this with five lines and this satisfies all of the criteria set. This means that technically it is a correct solution and many people will achieve this. However, to solve this with only four straight lines requires the solver to really think ‘outside of the box’.

When the solution is put to adults there is often the response that “you didn’t tell us that we could go outside the box”. However, it is also true that no one told people that they could not. They simply put artificial lines between the dots and created their own box. How many times in life do we impose limitations on ourselves that are not really there but which our conditioning leads us to believe that they are.

Black and white hats – Results

Finally let us look at the hats puzzle!

Clearly the man on the right cannot speak, as he cannot see any of the other hats. For the same reason the man third from the left cannot speak either. This leaves the black and white hats to the left of the wall. Obviously the man in the black hat cannot speak because he can see a black and a white hat and so he has no way of telling which of the two colours he has.

This leaves us with the man in the white hat. He can only see the black hat and so he is instantly discarded. However, he can work out that if he had a black hat on then the man behind him would have seen two black hats and would have spoken to say that he had a white one. The fact that he has not spoken means that the man second from the left must be wearing white and hence he is the one that speaks.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Personal Development Questions

36 personal development steps, facts and questions
In this article you will find 36 tips, questions and examples which can help you understand yourself. These questions are useful tools for reflection. A solid self knowledge appreciation is a foundation of good career planning.

1. My talents

Instructions: We all have talents . The questions below give you an insight to where those talents lie and what you can accomplish with them.

1. What things do you believe you do better than most people around you?

2. What kind of things have you done which others have described as “outstanding”?

3. What kind of skills do you find come easily to you?

4. List past achievements of which you are particularly proud.

5. List future achievements you would be most proud of.

2. A strengths inventory

Instructions: We know our strengths from the yearnings we have to do well; from satisfying work; from rapid learning; and from moments of excellence. Use the following examples to find out your own strengths. Then decide how you can develop them.

A. Examples of longings and yearnings

B. Examples of work that I find satisfying

C. Examples of areas of rapid learning

D. Examples of moments of excellent performance

E. How The Strengths Can Be Built Upon…

3. Weaknesses

Instructions: We know our weaknesses from the tasks we dislike doing; from unsatisfying work; from areas of slow learning; and from repeated poor performance. The examples below can help you identifying your own weaknesses. Then suggest how you can manage them.

A. Examples of tasks I don’t relish

B. Examples of work that I find unsatisfying

C. Examples of areas of slow learning

D. Examples of repeatedly poor performance

E. How the weaknesses can be managed…

4. My Goals

Instructions: Goal-setting is the defining activity of self-development. It is the one activity that sets us on the path to accomplishing what we are capable of. Follow the instructions below to brainstorm your current goals and check that they are achievable.

1. Brainstorm your current goals. Make them as big as possible.

2. List up to 3 activities which would help you move towards one of these goals:

3. Describe one of the goals in behavioural terms (e.g. not status but how you will one day behave)

4. Check out your goals against the following…

Are the goals based on your strengths?
Are the goals ecologically sound?
Can you visualise yourself when the goal has been achieved?
Can the goal be broken down into small targets?
Could the goal be adjusted if new information comes in?

5. Programming

Instructions: Programming is one of the quickest ways to ensure we reach a goal we have set ourselves. Try out the following 4 techniques for a goal you have set yourself.

1. When you have achieved your goal…

What will things look like?
What will things sound like?
What will things feel like?
2. What pleasant experiences will result from achieving this goal?

3. What unpleasant experiences will you avoid by achieving this goal?

4. What “as-if” practice can you use to get familiar with achieving this goal?

6. New Birth

Instructions: Identify a time in your past when you found yourself in a new situation that was unfamiliar to you. Think about how you handled it and, using the seven steps of the change spiral, suggest how you could have handled it better.

Steps in the change spiral:

1. Letting go of the past

2. Letting yourself be in the new situation

3. Exploring the new situation

4. Thinking about what to do

5. Developing a new identity of who you are

6. Learning new skills

7. Integrating, completing and moving on

Friday, November 15, 2013

Newest Professional Jobs

Aspect Software Inc. - Baile Chláir, County Galway
Strong customer service and teamwork skills. Strong logical and critical thinking skills. 0-4 years of experience....
Aspect Software Inc. 20:32
State Street  252 reviews - Dublin
This job posting is constantly reviewed and we will only contact candidates when we have open vacancies in the company.... 7:13
CPL UK - Dublin
o BA/BS degree, ideally 1 year of relevant business experience (internships). o Solid knowledge of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and related language and...
Top Language Jobs 7:13
DEinternational -Deutsch-Irische Auslandshandelskammer Dublin - Dublin
Sales, Marketing or Transport / logistics. ¿ Two years¿ work experience will be an advantage. However strong work experience through college will also be...
EURES / EC Europa 9:51
Perriam and Everett - Dublin
Solid experience of managing a team of recruitment consultants. Proven track record of successful professionalrecruitment....
Perriam and Everett 9:26
Sigmar Recruitment - Dublin North, County Dublin
Management of subsidiary companies. Financial reward for undertaking this project will be very attractive....
Sigmar Recruitment 21:30
Newmove Recruitment Services - Galway
that the candidate has experience in any one of the following:. o Analysis of functional requirements to be.... 9:32
Minimum 2.1 Bachelor’s Degree or above. At least 1 years work experience either after college or through internships/summer positions.... 16:33
CPLJobs - Dublin
Confident with an ability to work with a team as well. Desires to study towards an ACA qualification. For further information please contact Eoghan immediately...
CPLJobs 13:50
Careers Register - Dublin
Confident with an ability to work with a team as well. Desires to study towards an ACA qualification. For further information please contact Eoghan immediately...
Careers Register 13:46
eFlexes - Limerick
o Third Level Degree in Physiotherapy qualification. o Current member of ISCP is a must. o Experience either working or knowledge of a long term geriatric...
eFlexes 11:43
eFlexes - Galway
o Third Level Degree in Physiotherapy qualification. o Current member of ISCP is a must. o Experience either working or knowledge of a long term geriatric...
eFlexes 11:43
Coco Careers - Cork
Building both technical and professional relationships with customers. An exciting Graduate Electrical and Electronic Engineering scheme with fantastic training... 14-Nov
oDesk - Ireland
We need to hire a specialist Student Workbook creator for an ultra professional Leadership and Managment programme. Hi,....
oDesk 20:04
Sigmar Recruitment - Dublin
This is a great opportunity to work on a project that can allow you to make a huge impact on the success of the product in your market....
Sigmar Recruitment 21:29
Sigmar Recruitment - Dublin
Minimum 2.1 Bachelor’s Degree or above. At least 1 years work experience either after college or through internships/summer positions....
Sigmar Recruitment 21:30
Gilligan Black Recruitment - Dublin
[b]Sales Manager for leading Professional Services company €60k + Bonus + Benefits. Your role will involve managing a small team of inside sales professionals...
Sales Jobs Ireland 14-Nov
CareerWise Recruitment - Leinster
1 to 2 years experience prefered. A strong Graduates with a degree in Chemical Engineer would be considered that would ideally have some intern/grad experience...
CPL Healthcare - County Meath
Relevant Qualification in Occupational TherapyA minimum 1-2 years post graduate experience as an Occupational TherapistHand Therapy experienceAcute hospital... 22:47
TTM Healthcare - County Kildare
Key requirements BSc(Hons) Diagnostic Radiography or equivalent. Validation from the Irish Institute of Radiographers.... 20:25

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Common Interview Questions

24 common interview questions

The questions asked during a competency based interview will vary depending on the company and the specific role. Whilst some competencies appear on many job descriptions, organisations will have their own unique definition of what that competency means to them, shaped by their specific priorities and company culture. For example, one company’s definition of interpersonal skills may not be the same as the next, so it is important to pay attention to the detail in the job description.

Here are six common competencies with examples of questions interviewers can ask to assess your skill, knowledge, experience and judgement in each area.

Communication skills

Communication skills is a broad competency and depending on the role emphasis will be placed on different aspects of it, for example, written communication, presentation skills, listening skills. If written communication (e.g. report writing) is an integral part of the job, it will probably be assessed separately. Similarly, if presentation skills are a key competency, you would usually be asked to deliver a presentation as part of the recruitment process.

Communication skills, especially verbal communication is somewhat unique because in many ways it is assessed during the actual process of the interview. So, in addition to your ‘live’ demonstration of your communication skills, here are some questions interviewers can pose.

Tell us about a situation where your communication skills made a positive difference to a situation.
Explain how you would go about dealing with a difficult customer.
Talk us through a time when you felt your communication skills let you down and what did you learn from that experience?
Have you ever dealt with people who were unresponsive or reluctant to listen? How did you deal with them?


Leadership is another broad competency. For more senior positions it will often be divided into several competencies like strategic thinking, vision and execution. In general terms, qualities that are sought under the heading of leadership include being proactive, setting standards, being a role model, and managing change. It can overlap with other competencies like influencing skills, managing conflict and motivating others.

Give us an example of how you inspired or motivated a team to improve their performance.
Describe a situation where you achieved your outcomes by getting a team to support you?
How do you approach people who show resistance to your leadership?
How would you describe your leadership style?
What has been your greatest lesson in leadership?

Team Player

This is another common competency because practically all roles today involve working co-operatively with others.

Give us an example of how you helped a team you were part of achieve a goal.
In the past how have you approached dealing with conflict within a team?
Were you ever part of a dysfunctional team? What did you learn from that experience?
What do you enjoy most about being part of a team?

Influencing and negotiation skills

This competency can be viewed as an extension of communication skills. Interviewers are assessing your skills of persuasion, your ability to foster buy in, handle conflict and resolve issues.

Give us an example of how you positively influenced someone (or a group of people.)
Describe a situation where you had to seek agreement with people with different agendas.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to persuade others to go along with a decision or an idea you didn’t believe in yourself? How did you handle that?

Organisational skills

Skills and qualities assessed within this competency include an ability to prioritise and manage workflow, meet deadlines, achieve results, plan courses of action and an ability to approach situations in a logical and orderly way.

Tell us about how you organise your working day.
How do you determine your priorities?
Tell us about a time you had to react to an unforeseen situation at work.
Give us an example of how you have managed your time effectively in the past.
Take us through the steps you have taken in the past to get a project up and running.

Innovative thinker

This competency will appear in the job description of any creative role (e.g. advertising) but if a company is seeking lateral thinking, or a flexible approach to work, it can be included in other job descriptions as well. Under this heading interviewers will assess your ability to think creatively, seek new solutions or simply think outside the box.

Give us an example of how you brought a new solution to an old problem.
Tell us about a time when some lateral thinking led to a welcome result.
Tell us about a time where you tried something new, but it didn’t work out. What did you learn?
Hypothetical situations can also be used to great effect by interviewers to assess your ability to think laterally. Some companies have developed a reputation for asking very strange questions to test innovative thinking. For example, list five ways you could use a pen with no ink!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do you really have what it takes to work from home?

Do you really have what it takes to work from home?

Are you thinking about working from home? That’s a nice idea but many people don’t have the space and the discipline to turn this plan into success. In the following article you will find necessary conditions for a successful “home business” – from the perspective of a person running a coaching business but also applicable for every other profession.

Working alone from home

Managing yourself is a crucial part of running an executive coaching or any other kind of practice. It will be a radical change if you have never worked from home before and have been used to quite a structured working day.

Self-awareness is the key to learning early on from any mistakes you make as you adjust to what suits your style of working and personality.

When you are not going out to client facing meetings, you can often spend a lot of time alone.

Common problems of working alone at home

Having no one to bounce ideas off
No one to share a high work load with
Temptation to do other things around the house
Getting involved or distracted by other people in the house e.g. partners working from home, children in school holidays, unannounced visitors.
Cycles of self-doubt and anxiety on “bad” days
Over working and not having separate work and life time
Not taking enough holidays

Temptations and distractions : if you are not typically self-disciplined can be an issue. If it’s a sunny day you may want to go outside and drink a beer. If that is your way of taking a break, then that’s great as a way of balancing your work and home. However, if you know that this is a tendency of yours to procrastinate and may end up in you not completing work (plus feeling guilty about it), then you may have to limit this.

The benefit of working for yourself is about flexible hours and taking time off which you wouldn’t be able to do as an employee; however you have to find a way that suits you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Review - So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Post image for So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport – Review & SummarySo Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport – Review & Summary

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” –Steve martin

Review - Alex Vermeer

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport (2012) is about working right, rather than finding the right work. To achieve true work satisfaction you should learn to love what you do, not do what you think you love.

Find rare and valuable skills that you are good at, or could be good at, and excel at them using a craftsman mindset. Then, use the leverage obtained from this to obtain more control over your working life. Lastly, explore the edges of your field to find a motivating mission, a unifying goal in your career.

Doing this will help you fulfill the three key ingredients to an ideal working life: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

I’m happy I read this book, especially since I’m fairly prone to falling into the “but what do I really want to do?” mental trap—which is a valid question, but only to a point… ultimately I need to make more of an effort to Be Good At Things rather than constantly worry whether I’m doing the Things I Most Like Doing. Cal primarily drives his points home with several long anecdotal examples. I think more, shorter examples would have been better.

Overal, I think the book is worth a quick read. I blasted through it pretty rapidly, taking notes (see my mindmap at the bottom of this post), and don’t think I’ll need to review it again, since the ideas are relatively straightforward.

Key Ideas

the passion mindset – Focusing on the value your work is giving you; leads to unhappiness and work dissatisfaction.
the passion hypothesis – The claim that in order to have job/career satisfaction you must first discover what you’re passionate about and then find a job in line with that passion; widely believed, but wrong and potentially dangerous.
the craftsman mindset – Focusing on the value you can give to the world through your work; i.e., striving to constantly get better.
career capital – Your rare and valuable work-related skills. The ‘currency’ you use to obtain ideal work.
Key requirements to be intrinsically motivated by your work (adapted from Drive by Dan Pink):
competence / mastery – The feeling that you are good at what you do.
autonomy / control – Having control over your day and actions.
relatedness / purpose – The feeling of connection other people; the desire to make a contribution.
How to obtain these things:
Use the craftsman mindset to develop valuable skills.
Leverage your skills to obtain more control over your job.
Explore the edges of your field to find a overall goal.
control – Having a say in what you do and how you do it.
mission – A unifying goal in your career.
Some Quotes

“Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.”

“Regardless of how you feel about your job right now, adopting the craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you’ll build a compelling career.”

“Working right trumps finding the right work.”

“Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.”

“If your goal is to love what you do, your first step is to acquire career capital. Your next step is to invest this capital in the traits that define great work. Control is one of the most important targets you can choose for this investment.”

“You’re either remarkable or invisible.” – Seth Godin, Purple Cow


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