Chris Croft's Personal Blog

June 23, 2014

Which communication method to use?

Which communication method to use?

Use the urgency and the importance of relationship building to choose the best method.
Consider moving up a level or two on the arrows.

Positive Attitude – why it’s so important

Filed under: Assertiveness, Careers, Happiness, Selling and Influencing — Tags: , , — chriscroft @ 2:56 pm

1 – Effect on you

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a – What happens to you – if you expect bad things they tend to happen, and if you expect good things they tend to happen.  We attract what we envisage.  I don’t know why this is, but it’s definitely true.  People who are unlucky then expect to be unlucky again, and their expectations come true, and so they get into a loop.  Be in a good loop rather than a bad one!
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b – How you interpret what happens – some people focus more on the bad things, and if you spend more time focussing on bad things (especially things you can’t do anything about, because they are already in the past, or are unavoidably coming up in the future) then you start to believe that your life is worse than it actually is.
Some people get really knocked sideways by the random bad cards that we all get dealt, and they allow those to ruin everything else.  “I can’t enjoy the party, I’m still fuming about that scratch on my iPhone / about what Fred said to me / about the parking at the party”.
Also – do you take the opportunities when they come up?  It is easy to fail to pick up on the good opportunities: “I could have gone to Australia but at the time I was too busy” etc.

2- Effect on others – and therefore you in the end

  • You’ll attract more positive people, because they tend to avoid negative people and gravitate towards similarly positive ones.
  • They’ll want to work with you – when people are choosing teams, or interviewing for jobs, they prefer positive people.
  • You’ll affect their attitude – whether in a positive or negative way – so you’ll get back what you give out.
 

3 – Is it annoying to be TOO positive?

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Not if you don’t talk too much.  Quietly positive is the key.  Whether you are thinking positively or negatively it’s best to be a good listener and ask others about themselves.

4 – Can you change yourself?

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Yes!  And surprisingly quickly!
I mentioned earlier that negative loops are self-perpetuating: thoughts lead to actions which lead to experiences which lead to beliefs which lead back to thoughts.
So the key is to break this loop by controlling your thoughts.  Start a game to never think or say anything negative.  Push those negative thoughts out with positive ones. Say to yourself “The party WILL be fun”.  “The Presentation WILL go really well.”
This feels rather odd at first but becomes a habit very quickly, and then it’s natural and requires no further effort – you have moved up to the positive level!
You might also want to think about the influences of others on you.  Negative people, negative reading (papers, magazines), negative TV programmes, these all drag you down, so it’s better to avoid these and select positive people and experiences so that you feel good from every interaction.
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Onwards and upwards!
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CC

April 16, 2013

Managing Upwards

I would divide this into two parts: general good practice when dealing with bosses, and dealing with problem bosses.

First there’s communication style
– Ideally you would tailor your communication style so that they find you easy to deal with, perhaps even like you! Are they in a hurry and wanting a quick summary or are they a thoughtful, detail person?
– Make sure you don’t become high maintenance. Don’t take up too much of their time, don’t check everything with them before you do it (unless they want that!), don’t send them big long reports or emails to read, don’t phone them at times when they are busy or tired or thinking about something else.
– Don’t always come with bad news and problems

Then there’s influencing
a) what’s in it for them, what do they want or need? They have weaknesses too, if you think about it – they need to you help them and do things that aren’t totally in your job description, maybe do longer hours every now and then, they need you to stay motivated in order for you to be creative and work hard, they need to look good to their peers and superiors, they don’t know all the answers so they need your help, etc), and…
b) what style of influencing is best for them? This depends on the type of person they are – are they influenced by facts and logic or by emotions and excitement? Are they risk-averse or are they impulsive and brave?

As bosses become more difficult then the main principles of assertiveness also apply to bosses as well as anyone else – use the 4 step process which is to

1) Understand their situation and say that you do,
2) Say how you feel (worried about letting the side down, feeling demotivated because you don’t have enough effect on performance of the job, etc, so not whingeing or negative but still concerned and not completely happy – this is a powerful second step since they can’t ignore it), then
3) what you want to happen – this makes it easier for them since you are giving them a solution, and makes you look positive, and
4) asking them if they agree, can they see your point of view, is the request reasonable – this commits them to a solution, and enables you to find out if there is any resistance in order to be able to handle it if necessary.

But if your boss is really bad, (as in psychotic / psychopathic / damaged / sadistic / useless, etc, and there are lots of these about), then there are only three options:

train your boss to behave better, using the four step process described above (may take repetition and persistence!)
leave (there’s always another job out there, you have to believe you’re worth of it, and there’s no harm in looking. The times I’ve been pushed I’ve looked back and thought I should have jumped ages earlier! If I had just had the courage!
cease to care … and they should be done in that order – doing a job you don’t care about is the worst outcome! If this happens they’ve won and you’ve lost.

January 5, 2013

Megaphone Selling

Judging by The Apprentice, Alan Sugar’s idea of a “great sales person” seems to be someone pushy and loud, who has no shame when it comes to hassling passers by.

And I want to say “NO!”

The two most important qualities of a sales person are

a) being liked

and

b) being a good listener

and often the Apprentice “sales people” have neither.

Walking around the streets heckling people with a megaphone isn’t selling. Barging in to a customer’s office and ramming your proposition down their throat isn’t selling. Selling is getting to know your customers, understanding them, and based on a knowledge of their needs, giving them what they want. Or at least showing them how what you are offering can help them. Louder isn’t going to be better, and you can’t win arguments by being louder – listening is the only way to turn someone around.

And of course my two sales qualities are related, because being a good listener will make you more likely to be liked. The objective is to be liked by as many people as possible, because every customer who doesn’t like you is almost certainly a lost sale.

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And by the way, on The Apprentice they don’t do their brainstorming correctly either – as soon as the first idea comes in they judge it, often negatively, so the creative people soon give up. Ideally they would collect as many ideas as possible, sparking off each other, recording everything good or bad, and then, after that, select the best one. And the manager should keep out of it rather than pushing their own pet idea.

There we are, that’s the end of my rant, I feel better now!

Onwards and upwards

CC

PS Have a look at 45 minutes of good stuff from David Allen, the time management guru, for free on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo7vUdKTlhk&feature=related

August 13, 2012

The Olympics – POD or POA?

Were you inspired by the Olympics?

They certainly were brilliant – the organisation, the crowds, the stunning opening ceremony, and of course the performance of the athletes – what amazing people they are, yet also strangely ordinary people – just people like us, who are somehow doing amazing things.

So many thoughts swirling in my mind about it…
Do I want to be like those athletes? If not a track cyclist, then at least a gold-medal-standard trainer! Do I want to be the best in the world? Do I need to be? Do I have the talent, the ability? Or the motivation? Would it make me happy?

I think the question is: What should a normal person do having seen the Olympics and been inspired by them?

Let’s take it apart a little:

Reasons for Post-Olympic-Depression

• It’s been really easy and fun just putting the TV on and wallowing in the spectacle
• Our normal lives and all their problems have been suspended for two weeks
• Now it’s back to reality
• We hope that the Olympics and their after-effects will somehow improve the country and our lives, but of course they won’t. Reality is still there.
• “I’ll never have a body like Tom Daley or Chris Hoy or Usain Bolt, and I’ll never get a medal in anything or be cheered on by an 80,000 crowd. I’m a failure compared to them”.

Reasons for Post-Olympic-Achievement

• “I can see that ordinary people can achieve their dreams if they are prepared to do the work”
• All it needs is a small step to get onto the Spiral of Achievement: motivation leads to effort which leads to results which leads to more motivation which leads to more effort which leads to more results which…… and the Olympic Effect just might be enough to get people to take this first step.

Are the Olympians ordinary, just like you and me, or not?

Well, with the possible exception of the godlike Usain Bolt, my belief is that they are ordinary people who had the luck to get onto the Spiral of Achievement, and then, perhaps with the help of others or through their own strength of will, had the strength to persist and keep doing the work to get there. And to reach the very top that work is very considerable. Did you see the video of Chris Hoy training, to the point where he collapsed off his bike and lay on the ground in lactic acid agony, groaning in the foetal position, while they just put a blanket over him and left him to recover. THAT’s doing the work! If you tell any successful person they are lucky they have every right to be annoyed – they have done the work!

It’s possible that to be the best in the whole world you need great talent as well as doing the work, but seeing interviews with the boxer from Hull, the canoe medallist, the Taekwondo and judo winners, and the rowers, I got the distinct feeling that they were ordinary people who had just really really focussed and then done the work. And certainly, if you wanted to be very good at something, as opposed to the best in the world, then it’s really not about talent, it’s about work. Anyone, including you (yes you reading this) really can do anything you want if you’re prepared to do the work.

I used to think that the challenge was to find the thing that you have a talent for. But maybe the
challenge isn’t to find the thing that you’ve got a talent for, but to find the thing that you enjoy enough to then be motivated to do the work required. If you have a talent but you don’t enjoy it then you’ll never do the work and so you won’t succeed.

So maybe the legacy of the Olympics will be that lots of people will take that first step onto the Achievement Spiral and find that they can get results. All that undiscovered talent! Maybe there is a future Usain Bolt living in Hull! However I suspect that

1 -the greatest evil of all, laziness, will again triumph and most people will plan to do something and then not bother, (like all those people who join the gymn in January and then stop going by February) and also that

2 – most people won’t make the leap from Sport to Everything Else. Why not decide to be really good at computers or music or languages or selling or…..? They are all the same, they just require you to do the work. But will people realise this?

I do hope that all over the UK people decide to be better at all sorts of things, and they get onto the Achievement Spiral as a result of the Olympics.

But then I think about Victoria Pendleton (or Queen Victoria as some commentators amusingly called her) – who is retiring from cycling, saying that she doesn’t enjoy it any more. She’s the best in the world, how can she not?? And I think the answer is that she is paying such a massive price to be the best in the world that it outweighs the happiness. Quite right Victoria, you’ve achieved enough, and you deserve to have some fun! We all remember Steve Redgrave saying after Sydney “If anyone sees me getting into a boat again would they please shoot me” and then within 2 weeks he declared himself in for Athens. It’s great to see him enjoying himself now, he’s more than earned it!

So, bearing in mind that you can achieve anything if you do the work, but you want to avoid the Pendleton Factor, here is my overall conclusion from the Olympics:

1. Set yourself at least one goal, based on something you enjoy doing – don’t worry about talent. It doesn’t have to be in sport, it can be anything you like.

2. Make your goal large enough to be exciting, but not so large that in order to achieve it you’ll have to give up the rest of the things that make you happy. So Olympic gold is probably out! (e.g. to be able to run 5k in 45 minutes, or to play in a band in your local pub, or to speak good enough Italian to joke with locals, or to be good enough at tennis to hit the ball hard and it still goes in).

3. Focus reasonably strongly on achieving your goals – this means giving up some things and fighting against the demon laziness. Focus strongly but not obsessively. Obsessive focus will reduce your overall happiness.

Onwards and Upwards like a lightning bolt (imagine me assuming the position in front of my flip chart)

CC

July 19, 2012

Just out of guarantee

Filed under: Assertiveness, Customer Care, Selling and Influencing — chriscroft @ 6:26 pm

I sent out a tip about a problem I had with my Sony TV when it went wrong at 13 months and how Sony didn’t appear to care at all.

Here are some of the most useful replies I received:

 

 

Reference your problem with Sony.

I had a similar experience with LG. The on/off system collapsed just after the guarantee period.

Richer sounds – where I had bought it – said they could fix it but would charge shedloads. I quoted the Sale of Goods Act 1893 which requires all goods sold to be “of merchantable quality” and claimed that a £750 television which cannot last 14 months could not meet this requirement. I therefore insisted on its full replacement, free repair or a full refund. (I am not a solicitor, but all sorts of generalist law featured in my professional training.) They backed down, (possibly intimidated and fearful that I might actually be a lawyer who might sue them) and carried out a free repair for which they were going to charge over £200.

The moral of the story is that the product guarantee does not replace our legal rights and these can still be enforced.

Onwards and Upwards!

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The CD/DVD drive on my Sony laptop packed up after 11 months and 1 week.

They were superb.
Arranged a courier, gave me a log number, I could watch it as it travelled around between their distribution and repair centres in europe and then it’s journey back to me and because I worked 20 miles away from home they did the collection and return from my office.

I got it back as good as new. All Free.

BUT

During the first phone call they said if I’d gone past the magic 12 months they charge 20 euros [i don’t know how i would have paid that!] to ‘open a case’ on their repair management system before they would even discuss it with me. Then I’d be into paid repairs.

Although it can take some time and durability on your part your could complain quoting the Sale of Goods act. It often depends on a very arbitrary subjective judgment and the individuals that deal with your case because it makes moral sense to guarantee an item for a reasonable period that you would expect it to be operational for and a TV isn’t designed to work for a year. Would they put that on their ads – “Sony, Good for a Year” ?

For a washing machine with high energy input and lots of moving parts twelve months might be a reasonable guarantee period but a modern TV should last for ‘years’ and a 12 month warranty is nonsense.

I bought my cheap ‘bedroom’ TVs from Tesco for around £100 – no problems with them after two years plus.

My lounge TV I bought from John Lewis where they offer local price matching and a free five year warranty.

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Hello Chris

If you want to cause Sony grief, remind them of the two year mandatory warranty within the EU for faults present when the item was delivered.  The presumption is that a failure in two years means it was there when delivered
My favourite company Apple is in trouble over this in Italy.

Could be fun if you have the time to play!

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Chris,

Re the TV – just because its out of guarantee, doesn’t mean that the retailer  is absolved of all responsibility – there is an EU directive and also the sale of Goods Act which gives you rights for anything up to 6 years.  I’ve used the threat of small claims court in the past to “persuade” retailers to be reasonable – remember it’s the retailer, not the manufacturer you have the contractual relationship with….oh, and if you paid by credit card, the card issuer is also jointly responsible for the quality of goods/services supplied, provided they cost more than £100.

Have a look at http://whatconsumer.co.uk/is-the-guarantee-worth-the-paper-it%e2%80%99s-written-on/

http://whatconsumer.co.uk/forum/other-goods-services/1972-how-long-should-last.html#post3815

Kind regards,

Bill

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Yup, and how are Sony doing these days? Not so good. Their failure to be even a player in the iPod / iPhone market is one of the most staggering failures by an incumbent in the history of industry. They invented the Walkman, owned “portable music”, had a great brand, made computers, were the world leader in consumer electronics and even owned a huge amount of content via their investment in movie and music studios. In comes a computer maker into their territory, and they miss the boat completely, despite having 100% of the ingredients needed for success. They were out-competed by Creative, a Singapore-based start-up, for Christ’s sake.
I have a theory about the Japanese. They develop a perfect plan on the assumption that everything will go right – and, because the plan is so good, it usually does. It is then a loss of face to develop the plan for what to do when that goes wrong. Response to customer complaints, and development of a Plan B in response to unexpected competition, both fall into this category. They just don’t think about calculated risk very well.

June 2, 2012

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:  http://m.wikihow.com/Have-a-Good-Job-Interview

May 23, 2012

Thoughts about lawn mowing

Filed under: Assertiveness, Happiness, Time Management — Tags: , , , , — chriscroft @ 8:47 pm

Three things I want to say about this:

First – it goes against my No Crap Policy (NCP) but then again, there is my “Make Wife Happy” policy to consider as well.  There is a theory called the total utility of happiness which says that you should do whatever maximises the happiness of the whole system.  So if it makes me only a little unhappy to have to mow the lawn, but makes her very happy, then I should do it. Otherwise I would be being selfish. (Conversely things which I really hate and which only make her a little happier should not be done – otherwise SHE would be being selfish).

Second – mowing the lawn may be urgent (getting long, almost too long to mow, and rain coming soon) but it’s not important (spending time mowing isn’t one of my life goals).  The fact that it HAS to be done doesn’t make it important.  So because it’s not important my objective is to spend the minimum time on it.  An example of something that is the reverse, i.e. important but not urgent, is phoning my mum for a chat.  Let’s suppose I usually spend 45 minutes on the lawn and 10 minutes on my phone chat with my mum, this is not ideal as the less important thing, the lawn, is getting more time.  But that’s unavoidable as it HAS to be be done and is a longish job.  But if I could reduce it to only 35 minutes by efficient methods (or reduced quality) then I could have 20 minutes with my mum, and that’s the essence of time management: identify what’s really important rather than just the junk that has to be done, and maximise the time you spend on the important things. So it’s not about absolute time spent, it’s about squeezing the less important things in order to maximise the more important ones.

Third – I should get the most happiness from everything, even the unimportant things, perhaps by making them fun.  I could listen to my favourite music through loud headphones as I dance my way around the lawn, or use my (usually bad) personality drivers to advantage – use the Be Perfect driver to enjoy doing a really nice job, and use the Hurry Up driver to try finding the most efficient mowing pattern so there is minimal double cutting and easy turns at the end (e.g do rows 1 and 4, 2 then 5, 3 then 6, because doing 123456 means turns that are too sharp…etc!).

… and that’s what I’m thinking about today!

CC

PS – Lawn mowing fits perfectly with my 5 options for unimportant tasks:

1 – say no to it (rejected in this case for reasons given above)

2 – negotiate (maybe get something back for it or avoid something else instead?)

3 – delegate it (pay kids or a gardener)

4 – more efficient systems (e.g. good mower, good mowing pattern)

5 – do it less well (less often, less carefully)

Hmm, maybe I need to add “Make it fun” as a sixth option….

September 17, 2011

“If I could just pre-authorise your credit card sir?”

Filed under: Assertiveness, Customer Care, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 1:02 pm

….“It’s just a swipe of the card, we’re not going to charge anything to it, but it’s more convenient if you want to add any extras to your bill”

 

There seems to be an increasing trend towards taking a swipe of my card when I check in to hotels, even though I’m not buying anything.  Maybe I’ve already paid for the hotel in full in advance, or maybe I’m going to pay for everything when I leave – either way, why do they need my card?

And if you say “It’s OK thanks, I’m not planning to buy any extras (meals, mini-bar) they start to insist on the pre-authorisation.

My fear is that they’ll accidentally charge me for the hotel room twice, or put all sorts of things on it.  So I really don’t like giving my card in for “unknown expenditure” at the start.  Not to mention the time it takes when I just want to check in and go to bed.

So – why are they doing this?

Is it in case I do a runner?  Or damage my room in some way? Seems unlikely – they already know my address etc, and anyway, they claim that they can’t take any money on the card without me signing for it again – in which case, what’s the point?

Does anyone know whether than CAN actually take money from the card without me coming back to sign a second time?

I do agree that it might make charging for extras easier, but then why don’t I just sign receipts with a pen as I go along, like most hotels, and then pay my bill at the end?  Especially if I’ve got to come back and do the card a second time anyway, it hasn’t saved me any time at all.

Thoughts anyone?

September 1, 2011

The Management Potato applied to the band

Filed under: Assertiveness, Happiness, Managing People — chriscroft @ 6:03 pm

I know you like stories about management ideas applied to real life, here’s one:

You may remember the idea of the Management Potato, where if you criticise people their ‘Potato of Performance’ just gets smaller until it becomes a prune, but if you build them up you can get a pumpkin…

Well, even if you know about the theory, it still happens, and I can feel it happening to me in the band – and there’s not much I can do about it.

It started when I made some posters for us to give to pubs, and our guitarist and band leader, who is a very talented artist but too busy to make any posters, said “Oh well, I suppose they’ll do until we get some proper ones”. So I don’t think I’ll bother with making a version 2…
Next I got us a gig at a pub that turned out to be less than brilliant, and the comment was (translated for spam filter suitability) “This is a rubbish gig you’ve got us Chris!” It took several visits and a few phone calls to get that gig, they’re always a pain to get, and so I think I’ll not bother with getting gigs any more.
Our previous bass player used to bring song ideas along, but they were nearly always rejected out of hand by the leader, and although I think I’ve got some really good ones I don’t think I’ll risk it.
I had been planning to get a back-drop printed, and I’ve got a good idea for a design, but I know what he’ll say, so I think I don’t do it.

So basically I don’t really do anything now, apart from the minimum, which is to turn up and play. Don’t get me wrong, I love the music, and the band is great, but it needs people to do more than play, and that’s just not happening any more. I guess everyone else feels the same as I do!

Conclusion:

a) Am I too sensitive? Should I persevere for the good of the band? Maybe, but it wears you down after a while (the above were shortened for clarity, it’s been a long relentless process), so however tough you are your potato gets diminished eventually. Mine has taken about 5 years to reach a prune…

b) What should the leader have done, given that maybe my posters weren’t very professional and the gig I got was a bad one? The answer is to think “Posters – At least he’s done this much, which is more than anyone else, and much better than nothing” and say “Brilliant, thanks Chris!”. Gig – “Don’t worry about the gig not working out, there’s no way to tell until you get there on the night, and your next one will probably be a great one”. And yes, he should have agreed to play one of the bass player’s songs, even if it wasn’t our best number. I expect John Lennon’s first song wasn’t as good as Imagine!

c) Parallels with work – anyone who suggests ideas or does work beyond the minimum needs to be noticed and encouraged, however small their efforts appear and however tough and experienced you might think they are. The oak tree has to start as an acorn, at which point it is easily trampled!

Onwards and upwards!

CC

PS – Don’t try and help me solve the band’s problems, I’ll be alright! – the point of this email is to get you to ask yourself if you are nibbling away at someone else’s potato without realising….?

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