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In all of the coaching we do with our clients, then the trickiest bit for people to make changes is simply the very first step. Reasons that people state for not starting are:

-          “...but what if it doesn’t work?”

-          “.....but what if I don’t like it?”

-          “.....I’m not sure I can.......”

-          Etc.........

 

If you’re not moving, then you are by definition static. And if you are not happy with your current situation , then remaining static will never in a million years result in the change you want. Unless by chance the planets re-shuffle themselves in your favour : possible, but very unlikely, and not a short term success strategy.

 

So if you want to change something, then:

-          Remind yourself of why things will be better. If you aren’t sure, that may be why you haven’t done anything yet.

-          Treat the first steps as an exciting experiment, rather than trying to implement the perfect solution first time

-          Tell someone else and ask them to support you

-          Go!

 

Once you’ve started, then you can always pause and see how things are and what the next step is. You can even go back if you like!

 

So then, momentum is key. Someone once said “If in doubt, take a general step in the right direction”. Great advice – so no need to ever be stuck again.

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I’m often posed the question ‘ we’re going to invest in some time together as a team, what’s the quickest/easiest/cheapest way to ensure we get some new thinking and everyone feels able to contribute’ at this point I’m meant to come up with a complex framework and some clever words to help pave the way. My answer is usually much more simple ‘go offsite’.

Our habits, patterns and thoughts of behaviour are so associated with our environment that we can inadvertently become fixed in our way of thinking when we’re physically in the same office which we reside in day to day. Find somewhere new; somewhere people can breathe, relax, get some fresh air have space to move, lounge and be themselves. This doesn’t mean a swanky hotel (not everyone’s idea of relaxing!) just somewhere where people can be people.

We recently invited a leadership team to work with us from our offices on Exmoor. They lounged on sofas, took lungfuls of fresh Exmoor air and plotted their strategy for the next 3 years whilst sat watching the river rush by in the warm spring sunshine. They wore jeans and hoodies, ate locally produced food from the pub across the road and pots of coffee from the local roast house. They left happier more relaxed and importantly with clarity; about why they were in it and where they were going. They ran the next day to book in to come back in 6 months time.

So my advice remains the same, go offsite, you might be surprised at the results.

 

At Tinder-box we can run team sessions and away days from our base on Exmoor, please call us for more details.

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About 12 years ago I remember being in my university library waiting impatiently for Google to load.  I remember how digital cameras could only hold a handful of images at a time and the smallest external hard drive was the size of my laptop and cost a fortune!

Technology was advancing but it was at the clunky stage, where it quite often made you more infuriated than helped a situation. 

12 years on in 2015 and the technological landscape is very different, it’s faster, cheaper, more effective and intuitive.  Most of us couldn’t picture life without it and I certainly couldn’t picture my work life without it!

So what will the landscape look like a decade away? As workspaces become more open plan and built around wellbeing as much as the work (Facebook, BBC, Google, Apple, Amazon) and with new forms of interaction, like holograms and displays that offer "high empathy presence", we’re already seeing a huge shift. Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft UK says “In ten years' time, I hope we will have broken free of many of the physical ties of our current working world.”

In a BBC article “Should we fear the future workplace - or embrace change?”  Dave Coplin shares his view of the future saying:

“My hope remains that technology will increasingly afford greater freedom in where, when and how we work.

The success of the future of work will come down to one thing. People.

It will be the extent to which the people are engaged with the "purpose" of their organisation that will dictate the success or failure of that organisation in the future.

Engaged employees embrace change, they look for growth and learning in all they do and best of all they unleash the full potential of new technology.

They do this by using it to find new ways of working rather than simply making the old ways of working happen a bit quicker.”

We know about the pros of technology in the workplace but we must also be aware of the implications and how to use it wisely. Coplin goes on to say “Only failure awaits those who use the technology to replace what we are capable of - ask any driver who has blindly followed GPS directions only to find themselves confronted with too low a bridge or too narrow a street.”

Another thing to consider is that technology can get in the way of work, take a look at this BBC article about how digital distractions are eroding our ability to concentrate.

Many of our clients are now opting for virtual events over face to face, especially when gathering groups of people from across the globe.  They are embracing technology and adapting with it to suit their needs.  Are you?

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We’ve been enjoying a spell of early sunshine in the UK which has put a noticeable spring in the nations step. The impact of the environment we’re in at any one time is often hugely overlooked.

We probably get to notice the stark reality of this more than others. The output of a team day to create the future vision in a meeting room in head office is invariably less creative and ambitious than one created in an environment offsite away from all the habits, patterns and anchors of the day to day operation.  A different space generates a level of interest and enthusiasm which kicks in before we even start, people behave differently, engage differently, they even dress differently and as a result you get something different.

Let me just bust a myth for you, different doesn’t mean expensive. People don’t expect to be taken to Claridges for the day, just something which shakes things up a bit will do the job equally well. Below are a few top tips for off-site locations which won’t break the bank:

National Council for Volunteer Organisations – beautiful rooms overlooking the canal at Kings Cross and all the profits go back to supporting voluntary organisations

RADA – all wooden floorboards and Kids from Fame, but your team will be thrilled to tell people they’ve ‘been to RADA’

Airbnb – known for overnight accommodation but there’s a filter which will show you which properties can be used for events. Hire a house for the day, no paying outrageous prices for drinks and get a supermarket delivery in and cook lunch together.

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Chances are you have had at least one point in life where you feel like you have reached your peak, or surpassed what feels like your learning ability (e.g. you have ‘been over your head’ in a work project or situation that has completely drained you and/or questioned your ability to deliver). It is not an easy place to be, nor is it much fun. The good news is that even in the midst of moments like these, we have an incredible capacity to continue learning and the ability to apply these learnings to different situations. 

Essentially, this is a bit of what learning agility is about – continuously learning new skills; being open to new ways of thinking and applying these to new situations. It is sparked by curiosity and the desire to challenge the status quo; putting ourselves out there to try new things where success is not guaranteed. In doing this, our focus shifts from curiosity to overcoming an unfamiliar challenge. This requires us to be fully engaged and adapt quickly to changing circumstances in order to deliver. And after delivery, we need to reflect and understand what/how/why we did what we did to deliver. Questions like: what are our takeaways, what would we do differently, what worked well & why, allow us to apply our learnings in different ways. This, along with some humility, allows us to continuously learn, develop and adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that surround us.

As a learning development professional who started out as an engineer, the essence and approach of development through learning agility really resonates. Not only have I had my fair share of ‘being over my head’ in work projects, I have also had numerous moments where I have thoroughly questioned my ability to deliver. There is a fear of failure that I need to push out of my way in order to welcome the unfamiliar challenges. Every time I do so I am reminded of the quote: ‘Nothing exciting ever happens in your comfort zone.’ Let’s face it – most development happens outside of our comfort zone. My question for you is, are you willing to go there?

by Nicole Mills

For more information on Learning Agility, I found these resources quite helpful:

White Paper: Learning About Learning Agility by Adam Mitchinson and Robert Morris

The Five Dimensions Of Learning-Agile Leaders by Kevin Cashman

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®)

www.tc.columbia.edu

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John Kotter’s 8 step model is one of the best known, used and adapted change models. We regularly use this or similar models with our clients. It is a very versatile tool, so I decided to apply it to my own challenge – which involves taking thousands and thousands of steps up and around the Yorkshire 3 peaks in a few weeks time. Given the fact that I’ve been walking for decades, it’s amazing how challenging it is to train for this. My head and heart are engaged, but my body is proving more difficult to convince! So here’s how applying Kotter’s 8 steps to change is helping me.

  1. Increase urgency: I’m doing the walk because I want to get fitter and hate going to the gym. Walking with 13 friends is more appealing but still challenging. What is at stake is my pride and knowing I am part of a team that I don’t want to let down. And knowing how good I’ll feel mentally and physically at the end of it.
  2. Build the guiding team: The group I’m walking with are part of this team. They are a mixture of expert walkers and marathon runners who push and encourage the rest of us and others who are great at organizing, planning and providing moral support. Also part of the team are our families who put up with us disappearing for hours at a weekend and drive to meet us in way out places (often involving a nice pub – but still!)
  3. Get the vision right:  I’m thinking about the beautiful views, companionship, laughter at our celebratory meal in the evening and sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.       
  4. Communicate for buy-in: This has been about engaging my family and agreeing roles in group. I’m pleased to say that I am chief list maker! It’s also been about setting expectations that we will need to walk in a faster and slower party so no one feels rushed or slowed down. 
  5. Empower action: There were a number of barriers to address, including equipment (I now have new and worn in walking boots, walking poles, waterproofs etc) and the fact that I have never done a 24 mile walk over 3 peaks in 12 hours. Training and a realistic training plan are essential.
  6. Create short term wins: We have planned for and completed several walks of around 15 miles on different terrain and in different weather conditions. Our time and distance goals have been challenging but doable, so we have felt a sense of achievement and progress.
  7. Don’t let up: We keep adding new milestones to our training plan. I now know my strengths and weak spots and am planning to address these by adding some specific exercises and stretches into my routine. And of course we have some “planning” evenings to look forward to.
  8. Make change stick: How will I build on my increased fitness levels and enjoyment of the challenge?  What will be next? I haven’t got as far as this yet – but will let you know!

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London 2012 was the breakthrough games for the summer Paralympics.  The recent winter games in Sochi arguably proved to be an even greater breakthrough. The majority of people didn’t even know there was a winter Paralympics.  After all, how much of Vancouver 2010 did you watch on TV?

Sporting competition is possible in Paralympic sport because of classification, the system that creates the framework for athletes to compete against one another.  On first glance it appears labyrinthine and indecipherable but it works in the same way that classification works in Boxing.  You can have a featherweight champion of the world and a heavyweight one.  Both are equally good but are not going to be seen in the ring together. 

The difference is that classification of disabilities and impairments is not intuitive.  Bundle that in with peoples’ perceived insecurities in discussing disability and its easier not to bother talking about it at all and that was exactly the approach of broadcasters prior to the London 2012 Paralympics.

In place of this knowledge was an underlying tone in broadcast presentation that glossed over this series of rules maintaining the long held idea that the audience couldn’t possibly understand it.  So they should just accept that they were there and that someone much wiser had thought it all through.  So relax, sit back and appreciate the heroes that we are about to place before you.  What?!!?

Why is football so popular?  Is it because everyone watching is wondering what’s going on, or is it because everyone understands every last second, therefore feeling they can express and opinion? (for better or worse)

As for heroes, who are yours?  I bet you can say why you hold each one in such high esteem.  Each one the result of series of conscious decisions defined by parameters that enabled you to gauge what each hero/heroine had achieved, empowering you to choose which ones were special to you.

In using explanatory innovations like the LEXI graphics system, Channel 4’s coverage of London 2012 was the first time that disability classification in sport was just treated as an extension of the rules.  The risks were huge.  Would the audience find it offensive, too unpalatable or just plain boring?  Would they desert for other channels leaving a tiny audience of die-hards behind?

London 2012 turned out the highest audience figures that Channel 4 had seen in ten years.  Sochi followed in the same vain building on the new fans of Paralympic sport.

  1. Engage with your audience/customers by telling them fully about what you are doing.
  2. Make the explanation itself engaging.  Good enough to be a product in itself.
  3. Allow people to generate an emotional engagement with what you are doing on their terms and they will be more numerous and faithful than ever.
  4. Have a cup of tea and a cheeky smile at having done something new.

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In July I will be presenting a session at the Institute of Fundraising National Convention entitled ‘Punch above your weight’. 

The session is designed to show how small charities can compete with the big brands in the sector. Having made the transition from a large national charity to a senior leadership role at a small NGO, Magic Bus UK, a former colleague and I will discuss how a diversified strategy and other practical considerations have enabled our respective organisations to ‘punch above their weight’. 

But what does this actually mean? Since joining Magic Bus in 2012 I have experienced a major shift in mind set about the opportunities and challenges of working at a large vs small organisation. Sure, larger organisations have bigger brands, bigger budgets and bigger infrastructure whereas smaller charities can struggle to secure unrestricted funding and brand awareness and may lack systems and processes. 

But, for me, the beauty of working for a small charity far outstrips the benefit of working for a large organisation.  At Magic Bus I have diversified my skill set, assumed greater responsibility, had the autonomy to make decisions, taken risks and made my budget stretch as far as it possibly can for maximum benefit. I have learnt to be bolder, more ambitious, tenacious and agile and I truly believe that my team and I punch above our weight and we aspire to improve every day. 

I have been lucky enough to recruit and develop my own team. They are a flexible, roll your sleeves up, proactive bunch who share my passion for Magic Bus and the children and young people living in poverty in India whom we support. Some of the team have also made the transition from larger charities and what they enjoy most about being an integral part of a team of five is that they have closer internal and external relationships and a greater connection with our grassroots work.

Starting a new job requires the ability to come out of the comfort zone and challenge and stretch oneself. I spent 15 years at large charities and I do not under-estimate the invaluable experience I gained during this time, there were highs and lows and I learnt a lot along the way. Having now experienced working for a small charity, and as a trustee of another small charity and a mentor to several individuals who work for larger charities, I have become a champion for small charities. 

Despite Magic Bus being based in India, I feel far closer to, and more passionate about the cause than I did at any other charity. This is what drives and motivates the Magic Bus UK team every day. We have all taken a leap of faith, come out of the comfort zone and we are on an incredible journey. I remind myself every day personally and professionally that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and that the comfort zone is a dangerous place.

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It always amazes me the reactions that ‘change’ can provoke in a business environment.  So where do you start?  If you are a business leader looking for inspiration from Google, the word change will present you with a list of 173 Songs titles and 38 Album titles that are simply called ‘Change’.  A word that has the power to inspire recording artists to sing deep passionate and moving classic songs, but disappointingly a word that doesn’t hold the same inspirational value when mentioned in organisations.  If anything when the word change is used, the most likely response is the non-verbal communication of raised eyebrows, deep signs and teeth sucking, actions closely followed by a mumbled ‘here we go again’ under the breath - and that is usually from the leaders!!

As my role dictates, I am a ‘change agent’ drafted into the manufacturing world of biscuit making, helping Leaders, Managers and Employees come to terms with the changing demands placed on their day-to-day activities. 

I was recently asked to attend a meeting of Senior Managers with a team of leaders responsible for the production of some of our iconic brands and products.  The subject was on the process of SMART objective setting and how to use coaching questions designed against our behavioural model to challenge individuals on their personal performance, with the intention of getting a balance between what is achieved and also how it is achieved.  To support this process we also have a simple ‘app’, which allows these objectives to be recorded and monitored.  As I finish my last input with the phase “any questions?”, the first question that is asked almost knocks me speechless – “when will we design an IT system that will motivate my team to want to deliver?”  Now, I was always taught that you must never answer a question with a question, however on this occasion I couldn’t resist!  So I responded with “Do you seriously expect an app to provide this?” Leader’s response “yes”.

Like Tom Hanks in the film Big, I would have had more respect if the response had been “I don’t get it” following my session - that would have been the honest response.  What this particular Leader had failed to recognise as so many others do, the process of change is more successfully achieved through addressing the behaviours that need to change to implement the change, and the first person to start with is you as a Leader.  The process of motivating people to change to deliver their best personal performance does not come from an IT application or from a Northern chick such as myself telling you how – it comes from the Leader showing their people how to achieve this change by demonstrating it through their own behaviour.  Like all learning experiences, I walked away from this session reflecting on my own performance and kicking myself saying when will I learn, never make the assumption that ‘they get it’ just because they have the words ‘Manager’ or ‘Leader’ in their job titles!

by Lisa McCandless, L&D Business Partner, Centre of Excellence at United Biscuits @g8lmc

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Most leaders are familiar with and understand the concept of change management and the stages people go through when adapting to change, but find it difficult to manage their teams when faced with the realities of incomplete information and prolonged uncertainty. These are a few of the tips that have helped us survive along the way:  

Communication 

  • Cascaded formal communications early and consistently.
  • Repeat the same messages, using as many different media as possible, far more often and for much longer than will seem necessary.
  • Assume that the audience will all interpret the message differently. Ask them to tell you what they heard and what they think it means.       
  • Don’t wait until you have new information to communicate. Schedule regular updates and if there is no new information, repeat what you know, clarify what is still unclear and give milestones by when information will be available.

Engagement

  • Use team meetings to discuss the changes and implications – this gives you a chance to hear and act on what is being discussed informally around the office. 
  • Discuss what is changing for the team and their hopes and concerns.
  • Ask questions to encourage people to express opinions and emotions.  
  • Help the team identify what they can influence and where they can take back some control. 

Individual Attention

  • Schedule regular short meetings with each team member to discuss the changes (10 minutes of individual attention is better than none). 
  • Do not reassure anyone that things will be OK. Focus on listening to what the person has to say and helping them articulate any concerns.
  • Notice how each individual reacts (language, body language etc) and recognise that it might not be the most “obvious” person who is most affected by the change.
  • If you are concerned about any individual in your team, follow up with HR to get additional support sooner rather than later.

Put your own oxygen mask on first

  • While it is tempting to focus on managing and supporting the team, remember that teams take a lead from their manager’s action, behaviour and even body language, so leaders need to secure the information and support they need in order to support their teams. So, as the airlines will tell you, this is a time to be little bit selfish and look after yourself first.

 

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As I write, it’s the anniversary of Benedict XVI becoming the first Pope to tweet. (In the unlikely event that you’ve forgotten, it read: "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.") There were plenty of other unanticipated events over the past twelve months – scientists 3D printing a living ear in a lab using collagen, the cloning of human embryonic stem cells, Iran agreeing to limit its nuclear programme – and, um, Benedict XVI becoming the first Pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign from the position.  

Similarly, most of what will happen in 2014 is unpredictable. But I’ll stick my neck out and make a prognostication: Moore’s Law will continue to apply. In case you’ve not come across it, Moore’s Law is a widely accepted notion of advancement made by the Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the processing power and storage capacity of computer chips doubles, or their prices halve roughly every 18 months. To offer some perspective on this, if you own an iPhone you have more processing power in your pocket than NASA had in 1969 when it landed a man on the moon.

Moore’s law can be seen clearly in the rapid advances in mobile technology that we’ve seen in the past five years and its principles apply to the technology in use in some of the three key trends of the coming year.

1) Wearable technology

In May 2012, the Pebble watch became the most backed project ever on Kickstarter. The smartwatch with an open API is one of a number of products, including Google Glass, that herald a new era in which we augment our bodies with technology. We’re moving from an era of devices to that we can turn off, put down and forget to a third wave of computing of always-on, always present devices that will be attached to our bodies and constantly connected to the internet.

2) The internet of things

You will, of course, be familiar with the internet of things via the example that’s most often cited at conferences: the internet connected fridge that will fill your online shopping basket when it notices you’ve run out of milk. The truth is that the growing number of smart objects in our lives – from devices that measure our health to the sensors in our home heating systems that allow us to monitor our energy consumption and carbon footprint – are at the very beginning of creating a vast web of data that goes way beyond ordering a pint of semi-skilled. Objects will communicate with each other and with us and allow users to tailor individual objects to their own requirements. This change will mean that each of us will have to start thinking about everything we see around us as an interconnected information generation system. In terms of data generation, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

3) Real-time data

I gave a talk at the Marketing Society recently about the power of real-time data. The tools we now have at our disposal mean that, for instance, a teenager in Chile can hack a domestic tremor detector and connect it to a server so that it can tweet warnings about imminent earthquakes – simple tool combined with innovative thinking means that thousands of people now have access to powerful information. We can analyse real-time data streams from the web so that we understand contextual data – for instance, by applying semantic analysis to social media we can understand the connections between people, topics, location and products. We can launch online products and split test them so that our customer becomes part of the design process and promotes deeper engagement. Real-time means that consumers can create their own meaning and transform their own passions into loyalty. To facilitate this we have to create the knowledge flows to tap into this value.

Greg Williams is the Executive Editor of WIRED. His novel, The Nero Decree, is a number one bestseller on Kindle. @GWillia66

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A friend of mine attended a training course last week and came back with this gem of advice that really resonated with me.  

Always make sure you try and do new things; don't always go to the same restaurant or bar, don’t go to the same place on holiday time and time again, don’t always do the same run or exercise class.  Instead, learn a new skill, language or sport, eat new and different foods, speak to people you wouldn't normally speak to, visit somewhere new etc... 

When we are young time goes so slowly because we are constantly experiencing and learning about new things, as we get older time starts to fly by because we have learnt and processed so much information.  By doing, learning and seeing new things life will start to slow down – take the example of a weekend away to somewhere you’ve never been – when you arrive home you can’t believe it was only 2 days ago you left, it feels like a week because those 2 days have been filled with new experiences.   

Routine blends each day into the next so to live a longer life ditch the routine and try something new.

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If you’ve ever seen Tom Hanks in Big or Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday you might have thought that getting to be a child again would be fun. And it’s quite likely that you do sometimes revert to “childish” ways, often without realizing, when you revisit your childhood home and/or spend time with family and childhood friends. It might not take the form of playing air guitar or getting back on your BMX, but could show up as expecting to be fed and watered by parents, or playing the practical joker with old friends. It happens because the family “system” is stronger than the individuals within it - and can last for decades with only periodic nurturing.      

One of the topics we explored at the ICF conference last week was Relationship Systems i.e. a group of people with a common goal or purpose in which the system has its own needs and identity, independent of the people within in. Along with workload, one of the biggest challenges for people who are being trained or coached is how to maintain their renewed energy and intentions when they return to their own work or social system. And how to ensure that they don’t unconsciously use their new knowledge and skills in a way that evokes bad feeling and even retaliation from their peers and colleagues.    

As coaches, having an awareness of the wider system is critical if we want to enable individuals or teams to implement the changes they want to make. On a personal level paying attention to any system we are a part of and depersonalizing individual roles within it takes a surprisingly liberating shift of perspective. And is much more achievable than undergoing a full body swap.

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