Chris Croft's Personal Blog

June 27, 2012

PS Collection part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — chriscroft @ 11:09 pm
Reprints from some of my old email tips of the month in case you missed them:
A couple of time saving gadgets:
I’d really recommend a cordless phone headset so you can type using both hands while on the phone, or walk around while on the phone;
and also you may be suited to Z-pen which allows you to write on any paper and then, later, plug your pen into your computer and see a copy of everything you wrote, on your screen (with OCR software it can even convert your writing to text, fairly reliably).
The more upmarket one records as well…
records the speaker as you write notes in meetings or at lectures, and if you click on the notes it replays whatever was being said at that moment – amazing! A big long recording of a meeting is pretty useless, you’ll never listen to it again, but if you can dip into the key point in a presentation or a negotiation then that could be really useful I reckon.
PS – Listening to Free and Bad Company today. Is Paul Rogers the greatest male voice in rock, ever? Let me know!   (The female accolade must go to Annie Lennox – I’m not even going to discuss that!!)   and while on spotify, check out the Gotan Project…  intriguing….
PPS – Is the signal strength on Orange getting worse, or is it my imagination? Everywhere I stay seems to have no phone reception. I’m seriously thinking of changing to O2 when my contract comes up for renewal in a few weeks. You can take your number with you you know.
PPPS – no ticket ever arrived for the frontal double camera flash.   Whew!
PS – On Spotify I am enjoying Public Image, The Durutti Column, and Wishbone Ash (particularly the classic album Argus) – it’s my antidote to all the Christmas music that’s in the shops
PPS – Find out what sort of person you are with my lifestyle diagnostic
PPPS – Fed up with Turkey? OK, maybe not yet, but when you are, try Chili Mitt Oeuf, the brilliantly named recipe from my friend Pete Baylis where you put one hardboiled egg (obviously without the shell) per person into the chilli con carne, whole, they can cut it up themselves. A touch of class!
PPPPS – test your TV remote batteries by pointing it at your mobile phone camera, and you’ll see it shine. The phone camera can see infra red light.
PPPPPS – when coiling up wires or ropes for storage, (or computer cables, USB, Ethernet, ipod, etc) I always use the Mike Kneller Method. Don’t coil them up because they’ll only get tangled, and twisted, and can tangle with others next to them, but instead fold them in half again and again until about 2 feet long (thick cables) or 6” (thin cables like headphones) and then tie the whole thing in an overhand knot. Much neater, can’t get tangled or come undone, and doesn’t involve twisting so unrolls neater – and less risk of damage.
PPPPPS – when driving and talking using a bluetooth phone headset (yes, it is legal), switch off any air vents that are pointing at you, and you’ll get a much better sound
PPPPPPS – if you’ve got an external USB hard drive for backing up music photos and data (and everyone should have one) remember to use it every few months, because if left unused they can seize up. I guess it’s the oil dropping down off the bearings or something. Anyway, they like to be used occasionally. Could be bad if your computer crashed so you went to your USB and found it was beggared and you’d therefore lost all your data! I’ve got two and swap them over every month or so, but then I might be a bit OCD…
In fact an update is that now (solid state) memory sticks are getting so cheap you can get one or two or three 32gig ones and stick everything on there.  No moving parts so the safest of all.  And small too!
PPPPPPPS – I’m really impressed by the iTunes genius function. You select any track you like and then click on the genius button (bottom right) and it makes a play list of similar stuff. You can tell it how many tracks you want (it defaults to 50). It seems to work really well.

June 18, 2012

My little rant against racism

Filed under: News and Politics — Tags: , , , — chriscroft @ 10:31 pm

There’s been some racism in the Euro football, as usual, and as always I’m baffled by it.  Totally baffled.

What do racists make of someone like Beyonce or Halle Berry, who is a) mixed race (where do they draw the line?  is 25% black OK?  1%?) and b) undeniably attractive?

What about Donna Summer or Ashwarya Rai or Sade or Tina Turner or Naomi Campbell, or any one of many beautiful non-white women – do they claim to not find any of them attractive?

And is Mexican OK?  (Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria).  If no, then what about Spanish or Italian? If no, what about Swedish?  Or Brazilian?  Venezuelan??

and do they hate Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix despite their great music?  What if they like a band and then discover later that they are black – do they change their mind?  How do they live with that?

How do they feel about black footballers scoring for England?

I wonder if they know that Ryan Giggs is not entirely white….

How do they feel about the fact that they can’t tell if people are Polish or Scandinavian by the colour of their skin, so they can’t tell who’s foreign and who isn’t?  Are they against all immigrants or only ones who look different?

How do they feel about the fact than many non-white people in the UK are much more English than for example me (I’m only 50% English because I have a 100% foreign mother, but you can’t tell I’m only half English because my mother is white.  Does that make it OK, if so why, and if not, then does it worry them that they can’t tell?).  Many non white Brits were born here and have lived here all their lives, and have parents who were born here and have lived here all their lives.  Surely they are English / British?  At what point does someone become British?

Do they realise that their own blood lines all end up being from abroad if you go back far enough, (in many cases not very far at all) so how many generations does it take to be “properly British”?

Would they turn down a more competent (say) Indian doctor for a less competent white one?  Really, if their life was at stake?

How great it would be to have a pet racist that one could examine in a laboratory!

June 3, 2012

iPad music – listening to an artist on shuffle

Filed under: Gadgets, Music — Tags: , , , , — chriscroft @ 12:02 pm

Very irritating the way the latest upgrade of the player doesn’t have a button for “play all by the artist”.

Quite a lot of googling and an answer is found.

Once you get to the artist page (listing of tracks next to album covers), if the progess bar at the top is not blank, tap the back arrow (two triangles pointing left) repeatedly until it is.  Turn Shuffle on.  Press play.  It will now play all tracks regardless of album.

The key is to have a blank progress bar at the top.  If you select a track, it will only play that album. And if you press play without skipping back first then it will just play whatever you were listening to previously.

June 2, 2012

18 things a good manager does

Filed under: Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , , — chriscroft @ 8:15 pm
Not in order of priority
1  provide a vision of where we are going – for their own part of the organisation at least
2  think about systems – can things be organised better, are things falling between the cracks, should we invest
3  be creative about vision systems and people.  Creativity is vital, it’s the only way you add value in the end
4  have the courage to be yourself, be honest with people, fight for what’s right, rise above politics.  Courage!
5  motivation comes from all of the above but also – involving the team as much as possible in decisions
6  thanking everyone approx once a week for real things they have done that are good
7  being a coach and teaching people things – the manager is growing  machine of people and coaching is how this is done
8 be strong about poor performance.  If coaching doesn’t work then get rid of poor performers.  Following company procedures of course.
9  being a good planner – using project management techniques so that change happens smoothly and correctly and that everyone can see the plan and how they fit into it
10.  Appraisals – these fix every problem that can occur between a manager and someone working for them.  They are easy to avoid bt are vital.  Tom Peters says they are the only thing you can’t delegate.
11  Sharpen the saw – keep developing by reading and going on training courses
12  Being a good delegator.  It’s really hard to delegate things you care about, and delegate means let it go!  You still monitor and support if needed, but mainly you let them do it their own way, even if you secretly think you could do it better.  Bad delegators have demotivated staff and no time themselves.
13  Review the motivation of your staff regularly – are they learning, do they each have a challenge to work on, do they each have an area that is their own that they are accountable for; and are they happy?
14  Set a perfect example – because the bad things get copied but the good ones often don’t!  This means hard work, positive attitude, great customer care, attention to detail, etc, all day every day!
15  Build the team by having weekly team meetings, every week without fail.
16  Be organised yoruself – write everything down, and everything you delegate  you get a date when its due, put it in your diary, and check they’ve done it on that date.
17  Patience with poor performers
18  An interest in the lives of your people – they are not just workers, and everyone has talents that you can discover and which the organisation can benefit from as the person enjoys using the talent for you.

Planning for zero growth

Filed under: Managing People, News and Politics — Tags: , , , , — chriscroft @ 4:22 pm
Thanks to Mike for starting me along this path of thinking and reading….

Mathematics tells us that if something (e.g. the UK economy, or the world economy, and therefore the world’s use of oil) grows at 7% per year then it will double every 10 years.

The world’s use of oil has actually been doing this for many decades now, so it’s no wonder we are using up more oil than we are discovering. Reserves are maybe 50 years but if we keep doubling then they are only 20 or less. And we’re not going to discover double, or even the same amount each decade as we have done. Nothing major has been found since the north sea back in the 1970s. (and oil s important for more than just cars – it makes fertilisers which feed most of the world….)

If something grows by only 3 or 4 % then it doubles every 20 years – still an unsustainable rate!

If only the developed world has growth then it’s great for us because as a percentage of the world it’s small, and we can flog more and more to the underdeveloped world – but now that China India Brazil and Russia are booming as well we can’t all grow. We will run out of space, houses, greenery, fuel, roads, metals, water, things to pollute, etc. You may have noticed that a lot of this has already started…..

So we HAVE to discover a way to live with zero growth, and soon. Especially we in the developed world, since we are ahead of the curve and the others are going to carry on growing whether we like it or not.

What would zero growth be like? We currently think of it as teetering on a recession, but why is it so bad? Companies won’t grow but can still make a profit. In fact they will grow if they are better than their competitors or in a growing segment. Other segments will be contracting – but that’s life, and happens even when there is growth.

The stock market will have to get used to companies staying the same size. People will have to get used to their houses not increasing in value. We won’t have to keep spending money on new roads, hospitals etc.

All this would be fine if it wasn’t for one thing – people are living longer and the population is on average getting older. Who will look after them? At the moment we make more children, and we let immigration happen, (deliberate incompetence by the government?) so that we get enough younger people to do the work. But with zero growth we would have to find a way to keep things going with the people we’ve got. Maybe working until an older age, combined with great efficiency, and living off a smaller pension, will be how it has to be?

Pensions will have to be smaller because pensions are usually not a pot of money you have saved, but are taken from those still working and paying tax – a dwindling part of the population.

Could the economy cope with not growing? It’s going to have to, and I can’t see why not.

Thoughts anyone?

How to overcome nerves before and at a job interview

Filed under: Assertiveness, Careers — Tags: , , , , , , , — chriscroft @ 4:15 pm

Everyone gets nervous, and if you weren’t then you might perform less well, and the interviewers might think you didn’t care   But clearly excessive nerves would be a problem, especially if the interview is for a job requiring confidence!

I hope the following ideas help!

1 – self talk: say to yourself every day (as many times a day as possible) I deserve this job, I am well capable of getting it, in fact they would be fools not to give me it.  Saying it out loud, with exactly the same wording, is ideal.  This is like self hypnosis – though I wouldn’t discount hypnotherapy as well, it really does work, and is quite quick and not expensive

2 – also every day imagine what the interview will look and feel like – they will be smiling and nice, the questions will all be easy, it will go well

3 – just before you go in, imagine it going well

4 – prepare answers to all the key questions and possible difficult questions, like career achievements,why you want the job, why their company in particular, what  your strengths and weaknesses are, etc (there is a great book called Great answers to tough interview questions that helps with this if you need it)

5 – chat to the interviewer(s) before the interview starts, if you can.  Try to break down the formal atmosphere.  Also chat to the receptionist – this gets you warmed up and gives you a feel for the culture

6 – don’t accept biscuits, wobbly coffee cups etc just before the interview, just a glass of water.  And don’t have an alcoholic drink beforehand!  Probably not coffee either – it’ll give you the same physical feeling as being nervous.

7 – Prepare some questions to ask them.  And also, during the interview, ask them questions back so that it’s not all you talking all the time.  This gives you a break, and allows you to gauge what sort of people they are and adapt your style.  It also makes you look interested in them and their job.

8 – research the company so you know all about them; their problems, plans, the things they want and value, etc

9 – focus on their possible / probable weaknesses rather than yours. They need someone for this job, they can’t find anyone else good except for you.

10 – If there is any kind of person spec available then match up your abilities and experience with it – so have a couple of bits of real evidence that you have each quality.  This will be useful in the interview as well as helping you convince yourself that you are the best person for the job.

11 – have a run through with a friend asking you all the most horrible questions.  Do it again till you are slick.  (Not sick!)

12 – have other irons in the fire so you can be more relaxed about this one (though always tell them you really really want the job, and don’t mention any of the other jobs –  not that you’re desperate, but it’s a chance to use all your skills and really make a difference etc)  the best way to do this is to sign on with at least one good employment agency.  Much better than applying to job ads in the paper which is a real numbers game.

Good luck – not that it’s about luck!

ps Great article on this subject here:

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