Self-awareness and How to Develop It

self-awareness or self awarenessWhat is self-awareness?

Self-awareness, or awareness of self, is the first pillar of emotional intelligence and it really is the key to everything.

At a fundamental level self-awareness means being aware of the existence of an entity or presence which is identifiable as you. The idea that you are a distinct and unique being when compared to all the other beings around you. I’m going nowhere near this philosophical rabbit-hole but feel free to explore it yourself if you like that sort of thing.

A more practical definition is the conscious knowledge of your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Developing more self-awareness is the intentional monitoring of one’s current self and the practical application of work and adaptation to produce a desired and different future self. This is generally known as self-development.

Why is self-awareness important to your self-development?

You must start somewhere. If you don’t know where you are starting from how can you plot an effective course to anywhere else?

A deep and honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses takes real courage but the knowledge you will gain will pay huge dividends.

Assuming you have decided to develop yourself, it is well worth getting right down deep and looking at your inner self in a radical new way. This is scary. Seriously, it is very scary. We tend to hide ourselves from ourselves using sophisticated internal narratives which even we come to regard as absolute truth. These are not truths but rather constructs we have created to rationalise and make sense of our own inner worlds, combined with our experience of the external world. We form beliefs and hold values about both our inner world and the outer world.

When we formed these narratives they would have been, or at least have been believed to have been, highly beneficial and useful. As our lives move on they may well stay useful but often become simply neutral; being neither useful or non-useful. Problems can arise when these narratives become non-useful to us. They can even become detrimental and harmful to us. We either decide or are forced to choose to make changes. When we decide to do this ourselves, with or without help, this is called self-development.

Ways to get under the hood

Assuming you have chosen to become more self-aware to make changes you must now get started. You can follow several pathways to make progress. By the way, I don’t believe many people ever gets to total self-awareness. Total self-awareness is the realm of the buddhas and other enlightened beings. I have never gotten close and simply treat the process of my life as a work in progress. I am simply enjoying the journey of discovery.

Completely solo self-discovery might be possible, but I struggle to picture someone making genuine and sustainable progress in isolation. We all need feedback to understand progress and this is easier working either directly with other people or using resources created by others who possess the knowledge and skills we seek.

I will briefly discuss five areas here:

  • The Johari Window
  • Psychometric tools and instruments
  • Coaching
  • Mindfulness
  • Other self-development resources

The Johari Window

One interesting model for getting you started is to look at something called the Johari Window. The model was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham back in 1955. The name chosen simply derives from a combination of their names. The model essentially states we have four symbolic or metaphorical areas within us and these impact on our interactions with the wider world. I’ll leave you to look on-line for information about the Johari Window model. It is fascinating and very well-documented, so I will not waste your time by reproducing unnecessary material here.

  1. An “open” area of which we are aware, and of which others are aware.
  2. A “hidden” area of which we are aware, but of which others are not aware.
  3. An “unknown” area of which we are unaware, and of which others are unaware.
  4. A “blind” area of which we are unaware, but of which others are aware

Actively exploring this model as a formal exercise is an interesting and informative activity for individuals and groups. Why not try it out? Consider working with a coach or trusted friend and see what you can discover.

Psychometric tools and instruments

You could also examine some, or all if your budget will stretch that far, of the psychometric personality and psychological profiling tools, of which there are many. I will not bore you with the details, but a quick online search will reveal a substantial and growing list.

You may well have encountered such tools. They have their uses and can prove very incisive in some cases. There are many distinct types, and quite a number are aimed at highly specific aspects of personality or behaviour. Not all are good of course so buyer beware or caveat emptor. Do your research and ask your network for feedback and advice. The results provided should be interpreted carefully and in context. I recommend seeking out a trained and or licenced practitioner to get the best value from your experience. Once again, consider working with a coach or trusted friend and see what you can discover.

Coaching

I have mentioned coaching several times now and I must admit to some bias here. I am a professional coach and I work with many people on just this kind of personal journey. People sometimes worry about the cost of employing a skilled professional coach, but the transformational returns often far outweigh any financial investment. The experience is often life changing and I would highly recommend it.

Be coached by a trusted friend or colleague. Someone who has been on a similar journey. You could buddy up with someone and take the discovery journey together. I believe the journey is the important thing so begin it as soon as you can and do it the way which suits you best. Start with the why and the how will look after itself.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a simple meditation-based practice. It yields a variety of mental, physical and emotional benefits; Many of these are now scientifically shown as highly effective. Mindfulness meditations typically consists of focusing full attention on something and simply observing your thoughts and experiences as they appear. Thoughts are transient and thoughts are not the person. Mindfulness is all about awareness, observing without criticism and learning to be compassionate with yourself.

With practice, mindfulness allows you to differentiate between wholesome and unwholesome thought patterns. The mindfulness practitioner then has many options available for either letting thoughts go entirely or modifying them into more wholesome forms.

Over time, mindfulness practice can bring about long-term changes in mood, happiness levels and overall mental and physical wellbeing. Studies have shown mindfulness can prevent the onset of depression and positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression and reactive emotions so that if they do arise, they dissipate more easily. Memory, creativity, reaction times and even productivity can all improve. Mindfulness practice creates wholesome thought processes for improving or ameliorating any number of emotional attitudes, mental states and mind/body relationships.

Is mindfulness just mystical nonsense?

Neuro-scientists have highlighted and proved the brain’s ability to alter its structure and internal connectivity in adaptive response to repeated conditioning: known as neural plasticity. We are familiar with the idea that effectively and repeatedly practising any activity, such as a musical instrument, leads to more and more skill with that instrument. Running repeated thought processes over time will also alter the neural pathways to make that mode of thought easier and stronger; less commonly realised. Mindfulness takes positive advantage of this phenomenon and seeks to strengthen wholesome thought patterns for the benefit of the mindfulness practitioner and those around them.

To practice mindfulness is to use the power of our minds to give deep, focused and non-judgemental observational attention to our own experience as it unfolds.

Mindfulness is a gym for the mind and as such it opens a world of possibilities. I am a huge fan of mindfulness. Seek a good introductory course and get practising. You could even attend a guided retreat if that is your thing.

Other self-development resources

There are numerous books, courses, guides, videos, audios, apps and more besides, all designed to help you, or at least relieve you of your money, in your efforts to self-develop.

Choose carefully and work with solid proven sources. Once again, a good coach or mentor can help with this. Whatever you do make sure you do something.

Although self-development is often an internal pursuit, it is not a theoretical or spectator-based activity. It requires action so act. Do something positive and you are on your way.

Some last thoughts on developing self-awareness

You are the centre of your universe. It all starts with you.

If you can’t, don’t or won’t dig deep and fully acknowledge and accept your true, warts and all, self then the rest of your life will be inauthentic and superficial at best. Even if you learn to get on well with others, your lack of knowledge or ownership of your own core being will leave you with a sense of incompleteness and imbalance. In my experience others can sense this fundamental lack in you and they will treat you differently as a result.

This search for true self-awareness takes courage, commitment and massive honesty. I’m not suggesting you go and sit cross-legged on top of a mountain for years on end. I am suggesting you begin to identify your true strengths and weaknesses, your true values and beliefs and your true desires and fears. Work with a coach, friend or trusted advisor if you need to. Seek honest feedback and accept it with gratitude. Do whatever you need to do to learn more about the true you.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it even possible? Well, I’m still searching for my true self, so I can’t answer that one for you I’m afraid. In truth, you may never find the absolute true you but if you try hard enough you will find enough truth to work wonders with.

The next post in this series will look at the second EI pillar which is the regulation of self.

You might also like to check out “Emotional Intelligence in the Real World

Emotional Intelligence in the Real World

high emotional intelligence or EI equals real moneyWhat is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence or EI is a term used commonly in the business and professional world. If you are a manager or leader you will be expected to possess an elevated level of emotional intelligence. You should be constantly looking to improve it still further. You are expected to identify and nurture it in your staff and teams. The measure of your emotional intelligence level is known as your Emotional Quotient or EQ. This measure of EQ is now considered more important than the traditional measurement of intelligence or IQ.

Here’s the problem. Many of the professional people I encounter in my coaching and training work have a poor understanding of their own emotional intelligence levels. They also have a poor understanding of what is meant by Emotional Intelligence as a concept. This is a real concern.

This is a whistle-stop tour of the four elements and is designed to provide some awareness. Take emotional intelligence very seriously. Nurture it and develop it in yourself and others.

Why does Emotional Intelligence matter to you anyway?

Managers and leaders who handle people poorly or who have little understanding about other people, that is those with a low level of emotional intelligence, tend to create high stress levels, high staff turnover rates, low productivity and low quality of output.  They can even create elevated levels in sickness and HR legal problems. At work this costs you or your business real money. They generally, but unfortunately not always, do poorly themselves.

Good managers and leaders do the exact opposite. Managers and leaders with high emotional intelligence make you or your business real money. They are generally more successful in their own right as well.

On a personal level a high level of emotional intelligence enables us to negotiate life with more ease and success. We understand ourselves well, we can curb our excesses and we can play to our strengths. We can build solid relationships and people both like us and want to be with us. Life is generally better with high emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence in a nutshell

the four pillars of emotional intelligence

Simply stated, and as shown in the diagram, there are four main components or pillars:

  • Awareness of self
  • Regulation of self
  • Understanding of others
  • Managing relationships with others

That’s it, plain and simple. These four elements cover pretty much everything you do in your life and work regarding interpersonal interactions and self-development. All well and good but what can you do in the real world now you know this? What does this mean for you?

There is a lot of complex theory, ideas and downright nonsense flying about regarding emotional intelligence, so I will make it as plain and straightforward as I can and keep it on a practical level.

Awareness of self

This is the first pillar of emotional intelligence and it is the key to it all. You are the centre of your universe. If you can’t, don’t or won’t dig deep and fully acknowledge and accept your true, warts and all, self then the rest of your life will be inauthentic at best. Even if you learn to get on well with others, your lack of knowledge or ownership of your own core being will leave you with a sense of incompleteness and imbalance. In my experience others can sense this fundamental lack in you and they will treat you differently as a result.

This search for true self-awareness takes courage, commitment and massive honesty. I’m not suggesting you go and sit cross-legged on top of a mountain for years on end. I am suggesting you begin to identify your true strengths and weaknesses, your true values and beliefs and your true desires and fears. Work with a coach, friend or trusted advisor if you need to. Seek honest feedback and accept it with gratitude. Do whatever you need to do to learn more about the true you.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it even possible? Well, I’m still searching for my true self, so I can’t answer that one for you I’m afraid. In truth, you may never find the absolute true you but if you try hard enough you will find enough truth to work wonders with.

Regulation of self

The second pillar of emotional intelligence is the regulation of self. Once you begin to discover and uncover this true version of yourself, you will then begin to realise certain behaviours, thoughts and emotions which are somewhat less than helpful to both you and others. You may discover beneficial traits and thought processes which you may not have realised you had. To improve your emotional intelligence, you now need to work on regulating or controlling the unhelpful attributes and ideally boosting your more helpful attributes.

Once again, easier said than done. Do you have a lack of focus or attention? How about procrastination? What about really needing to lose weight or get fitter? Are you a perfectionist? Maybe a little too passive-aggressive perhaps? Are you lonely? Perhaps you lose your temper easily? Do you need more assertiveness? What about your fear of conflict? How are you going to address these and any other issues you might have?

What really stops you doing what you know needs to be done? Is it time? Is it money? Or is really laziness? Perhaps it is all three or even none of the above. Only once you become aware of your deep true self, which we looked at in the previous section, can you work on the true core issues?

Understanding of others

The third emotional intelligence pillar is an understanding of others. When you get right down to it, other people can be confusing and strange. It can be hard enough to try and figure out what makes us tick but once other people get involved in any part of our lives and work, it can get very messy and complicated. Life would be technically easier without other people, but it would be a lonely and essentially pointless existence. We need other people and generally we like other people, so it makes sense to understand them.

The big problem is that everyone is as unique in their way as you are in yours.

The good news is, although each one of us is truly unique, we can also be usefully categorised and bundled in quite general ways. These broad-brush definitions and classifications are not truly accurate, but they are incredibly useful ways to inform our own thoughts about and behaviour toward the other people we interact with. They could be said to be intentional and well-meant stereotypes. With a little study and practice you can become very adept at recognising these broad categories. At this point you can then adapt your communication and behaviour to get the best from any encounter with them.

Even if you don’t like other people very much, learning to understand what makes them who they are can greatly elevate you as a communicator and leader.

Managing relationships with others

Managing relationships with others is the fourth pillar of emotional intelligence.

“No person is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent.” John Donne said this, although I have changed the quote a little for reasons of gender correctness – the 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different too our enlightened utopia.

The truth of his statement is unaltered. You need to build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of our lives and work. All of us need to develop strong personal and professional networks. We also need to be able to operate effectively as key elements in the networks of others.

When the first three pillars of emotional intelligence are firmly in place we can then begin to create and successfully manage such relationships and networks.

Our friendships, family connections and working relationships can define us. Modern life is nigh on impossible without them. Even if it were possible to live entirely alone and isolated, for myself at least, it would be a miserable and pointless life.

Begin at the beginning

The order the emotional intelligence elements are in place is the order in which to develop them for best results. Firstly, make sure that every element is in place then try and balance them in terms of level. If you are poor at managing relationships for example and relatively happy with the other key elements, then start by developing your ability to manage relationships. Completeness and uniformity of ability is the first step.

Developing emotional intelligence phase 1

Secondly, once the elements are in place and broadly level, you can begin to consider bringing the level of all four up to as high a level as you can without overdoing any one area.

Developing emotional intelligence phase 2

There will always be a tendency to lead and lag on elements in any such endeavour but don’t stick to your favourites or strong areas at the expense of others. Using the relationship element again, if you hate talking to new people or even talking to friends and colleagues, don’t simply allow yourself to become a very self-aware observer of others. Seek tuition, coaching or support and force (or regulate) yourself to get out there and do it anyway.

This is a basic introduction. It is a practical overview at best. There is always more to learn and absorb. Like life itself, developing emotional intelligence is a journey of discovery.

Next steps

I’m going to be blunt here. Leaders are readers so educate yourself and become informed. Learn all you need to know about emotional intelligence and its implications. This applies to all your life. Don’t wait to be spoon fed. Too many people do that so stand out from your crowd and get the knowledge. If printed books are not your thing then get audio book versions. If video is your thing then seek out the information on www.TED.com or YouTube. Go on a course or hire a coach. Whatever you do make sure you get the information you need.  You owe it to yourself and your staff to be the very best leader and manager you can be.

I recommend you start with the work of Daniel Goleman who popularised the rise of EI with his book Emotional Intelligence then seek out the myriad of associated online resources.

Once you have the theoretical knowledge, start to experiment and grow. Begin to apply the knowledge practically in the real world. Make mistakes then reflect, learn and move on. Try new things out. Seek coaching and training and try them out again. Seek feedback. Increase your own emotional intelligence and help others do the same. The effort is worth it.

You might also enjoy reading:

Self-awareness and How to Develop It

Perspective shifts take you deeper

Sometimes, taking a different viewpoint or perspective can change your life.

I watched another short but fascinating video on the BBC News channel this morning.

Titled, “How I found out I was black,” it concerns Brazilian priest Brother David who had always believed he was white until a classroom game changed his perspective and indeed his whole direction in life.

It is well worth a watch and I’ve put the video link at the end for you.

Now, I am not about to begin analysing the wonderful and complex Brazilian multi-cultural melting pot. It is an incredibly diverse and vibrant part of the world and long may it continue.

What is interesting to me is the transformational aspect created when taking an unfamiliar perspective.

Brother David’s story

In this case the perspective shift was somewhat thrust upon Bro David. He had previously thought of himself as white and the whole experience appears to have been quite something for him. There will likely have been a complex whirl of emotions going on during the transformation, which started as a game conceived by some fellow students, and it subsequently led him to become an ardent supporter and champion of black rights and educational opportunity. Good for him I say.

Understanding others

One of the 4 key pillars of emotional intelligence is: understanding others.

It is an area many people dabble in and they can form a good understanding of the opinions, beliefs, values and feelings of other people but this is often only a superficial understanding. They then base decisions, relationships, negotiations, etc… on this superficial understanding. It’s a bit like reading a non-swimmer reading a book on swimming then jumping in at the deep end and expecting to front crawl like a champion.

Have you ever felt hard done by when judged by another? “They don’t even know the real me,” you say.

The real rewards are to be found at a much deeper level. There is an old saying about, “walking a mile in someone’s shoes,” before you make any judgements or decisions about that person. We can never truly know the whole story of course, unless we somehow become that person. We, however, can get a better picture than most by examining them from a distinct perspective; their perspective in fact.

Most people, myself included, are most comfortable viewing and experiencing the world from our perspective. It is generally termed the 1st person perspective.

The view of the other person concerned is known as the 2nd person perspective.

Give perspective shifting a try

Why not experiment a bit and stretch yourself by analysing situations, interactions and events from an unfamiliar perspective? What do you think the world looks like or sounds like from the 2nd person viewpoint? How do they feel? In what ways might their personal history impact their experience of the world? How might you appear to them? How might you sound to them? What might your words and gestures mean to them? How might they see the current situation from their perspective?

You will not necessarily be correct in your interpretations. In fact, you will most likely be wrong most of the time as we humans are not very good at mind-reading. What you will get a good handle on is the fact that people and situations are always far more complex and nuanced than we first believe. This knowledge will make you far more careful about judging other people and far more diligent in seeking to understand them more clearly and deeply through dialogue and shared experience.

Try this out with as many different people as you can. People you think you know well and people who are relative strangers to you.

It will not be easy at first, but give it some time and practice and you might find your interactions, and even relationships, with people improves markedly. You may well never think about yourself and your interactions with the world in a superficial way again.

Here is the BBC video link. Enjoy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-latin-america-42581913/how-i-found-out-i-was-black

 

Logan Paul Needs EI

Girl using mobile phone for texting or SM with and angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other meant to illustrate the importance of EI or emotional intelligence

EI or Emotional Intelligence is critical in the modern world. One ill-judged comment really can bring your whole world crashing down around you. It certainly did for Logan Paul.

I just read an interesting article on the BBC news channel today which highlights the importance of EI. It recounts the drama unfolding on the internet regarding the ill-conceived comments made by one Logan Paul, a quote “American You Tube star,” and the ensuing online backlash.

I confess I have not watched the video myself – life is too short and I’m too busy – so I am not making any judgements or criticisms of any kind about the actual content or the associated discussions. It is easy to throw accusations and blame around and I’m not above dropping the odd rick now and again myself.

What is fascinating to me here is the lack of EI displayed by Logan Paul when posting this video. What was he thinking? He, and apparently the people who advise him, failed to consider the potential upset the video may have caused others when he sent it to 15 million subscribers. I suspect he is not alone in his misery. I have dropped myself in the proverbial many times throughout my life via poorly judged comments and statements. We all do it from time to time. I am better able to learn from my mistakes nowadays.

What can you and I, and Logan Paul if he ever reads this, do to reduce the likelihood of making such mistakes in the future?

In its barest essence, EI comprises four parts:

  • Understanding of self
  • Regulation of self
  • Understanding of others
  • Managing relationships with others

After much research and experiential wound licking. I always recommend running a pre-flight check of any message before you deliver it.

Let’s apply a potential thought experiment to the Logan Paul scenario (hypothetical of course but it illustrates the process).

Understanding of self – Logan likely understands himself well enough. He knows what he likes and gathers like-minded people around him. This displayed self-knowledge and willingness to share with the world is likely to have contributed to him having 15 million followers in the first place. So far so good. Tick number one for the understanding of self.

Regulation of self – the wheels are wobbling a bit here. Logan needs to put out material for his channel which his audience will enjoy. He has clearly been doing a reasonable job so far. The problem for Logan this time is he has failed to separate what he feels is suitable from what his audience thinks is suitable. What he thinks is personal of course but not all of what he thinks is suitable for sharing. This box should have a tentative cross in it or at the very least a question mark. If he felt world would genuinely benefit from this message he could have tested the waters with some trusted people outside of his crew to get a go or no-go decision.

Understanding of others – this is where the rot should have stopped and would have done if he had run such a pre-flight check. Logan must have felt he had a solid handle on how his followers think. This was clearly not the case. He stomped all over untested ground and fell into the quicksand of outrage. There are certain broadcasters who specialise in dark or risky material. People know this and either love them or loathe them. It appears here, however, that Logan sprung this ego-driven nugget of self-satisfying material on an unsuspecting audience. They likely feel let down and misunderstood as much as simply outraged by the content. Test your material gently and get to know your audience limits before dropping bombshells. There should be a cross in this box and a no broadcast decision to follow.

Managing relationships with others – now an ongoing saga. Due to his lack of audience understanding, poor old Logan has mishandled his relationship with them. I believe he has apologised but for Logan getting through this will be a big test of his character and mental toughness. This avoidable phase is now a work in progress and it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks. Perhaps I’ll put out a part two.

Why not consider running your own EI pre-flight check for all your messages? With practice and diligence, it can become a positive habit and, when it becomes a habit, you’ll find it happens almost instantly for you.

Don’t do a Logan Paul. Your pre-flight EI check could save you a world of hurt.

Here is the BBC video link if you’d care to watch:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-42538495

 

 

Customer Experience Poor At M&S

Poor customer experience at M&S

 

This article is all about customer experience. My customer experience to be exact. My poor customer experience at Marks & Spenser to be even more exact.

Marks and Spenser have dropped the ball in spectacular fashion. Because of a poor customer experience, they have successfully converted two loyal customers into two non-customers. All due to a lack of corporate emotional intelligence and poor local leadership.

There is a clear point I wish to make which relates strongly to mindset and emotional intelligence but there needs to be a little context first.

Picture this

This very morning, my good lady wife and I had the dubious pleasure of visiting a large local M&S store. Doing this only 3 days before Xmas might well be considered madness. We were expecting a reasonably pleasant experience however because, as my wife had pre-ordered and paid a deposit for all the required items back in early-October, it should have been a simple matter to collect, pay and return home. We had booked the earliest slot as well but, even then, a small amount of queuing was to be expected as the service appears to be much in demand.

Did all this happen as planned? Of course not. We were finally directed to the rear of the store and into a confusing queue snake system. We had our identity checked against the order which is a good thing then placed in another queue to collect our groceries. This is where it all ground to a halt.

When we finally got to the grocery area, rather than find a complete box with our name, unique order number and groceries waiting for us, it turned out to be six or seven harassed staff valiantly trying their best to build our order from a pile of assorted groceries stacked in a chilled box behind them. The items did have some numerical ID codes but were not even stacked in numerical order. The staff had to disappear to the main stores to find missing items.

The customer experience system collapses

It was a chaotic and broken system by 1000 hrs and the queue behind us had spilled out of the queue snake and onto the main shop floor. Riots may yet ensue. The staff were left to face the shoppers because managers were conspicuous by their absence and the one who was there refused to make eye contact with anyone. Whoever designed this system needs a reality check.

Contrast this with Tesco. We were anticipating a home delivery at 1100 hrs this morning. Given the build up of traffic we expected to see it arrive much later than the midday upper limit. Not a problem on a day like this. Imagine how pleased we were when, as we pulled into the drive following out M&S debacle, the Tesco delivery pulled up on the drive at 1030 hrs and politely asked if we minded him arriving early.

The key point I want to make here is one of corporate and staff mindset.

Whilst we waited at M&S I was discussing the process and effects on the staff and customers with the friendly and helpful assistant. I asked her why they could not plan and implement a simple and effective customer experience system like the one Tesco and many others now provide.

This was the answer which shocked me, and it highlights why Tesco are winning and M&S are not:

“We can’t do a system like that – it wouldn’t work here – we’re a different kind of store.”

This is a completely limiting belief on the part of the assistant. Furthermore, this belief is almost certainly echoed, supported and probably driven by the many layers of management above her.

Can they fix it their customer experience?

Anyone and any organisation can do almost anything they want if they commit to it. M&S cannot change the weather, but they can certainly change and redesign a faulty chaotic system then implement it correctly. If this is indeed a systemic mindset throughout M&S, then they have a serious and chronic problem.

What they really mean here with the statement “we can’t do it” is they “don’t want to do it.” A corporate “can’t/won’t do” mindset in this instance leading to a chaotic and head in the sand operation. This demonstrated little regard for their customer experience or indeed that of their front-line staff. M&S profits are down? Hmmmmm?

Tesco, on the other hand, have a corporate “can do” attitude. One which appears wholly focused on improving customer experience. This attitude turn generates more profits as well. Tesco profits are up? Hmmmmm?

M&S could learn about good customer experience from Tesco

Tesco realise a good customer experience also results in word of mouth referrals and yet more advertising free growth. I tell everyone how good the delivery service is. This falls into the emotional intelligence quadrants of understanding others and managing relationships with others.

In this instance, M&S have failed to see that customer experience matters. We will chalk it up to experience and, no matter how tasty the food may be at M&S, we will not return next Xmas and we will not recommend anyone we know does it either. In my humble opinion, M&S management urgently need some emotional intelligence awareness training and some process design skills.

Emotional intelligence and customer experience go hand in hand. Organisations can and should embrace this and so should we as individuals.

Rant over.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it interesting. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Here is another Emotional Intelligence focused retail experience post (The Apple Store this time) which you might enjoy: Customer Reality Is Bad At Apple

Who’s Watching You?

Dash camera being fitted to a car windscreen

If you knew people were watching you, would you do things differently?

How the feeling of other people watching me caused an unexpected improvement in my driving style after I’d fitted a windscreen camera to my car.

Here is the backstory

I recently installed a windscreen mounted camera in my car. You know, just in case there’s an incident I have some video backup.

Here’s my big caveat. I’m a big believer in anti-censorship. Despite recently publicised requests, by various public organisations, I’m not about to take any footage and submit it to authorities to then have them penalise what I consider to be the bad driving of others. It’s my subjective opinion only and it’s the thin end of a very fat wedge. I might deplore stupid behaviour by others but I must acknowledge their right to do it; behaving stupidly is their choice after all. Actual accident evidence is all I am interested in.

I tell a small lie here. Being only human, I might well keep and distribute video of meteor showers, unicorns, space ships, rainbows, ghosts, etc…

So what?

So, all that said, the first time I went out in the car with the camera fitted I noticed something very strange.

I noticed my own driving had improved significantly. Now I’m obviously a world-class driver and significantly above average (as we all are I’m sure) so I don’t mean the actual driving technicalities improved but I noticed I was being much more polite and courteous than normal. As I’m being totally honest here, I was also following road signage to the letter and being extra careful with my speed too.

A curious occurrence indeed and one which demanded some reflection and deeper analysis.

My “people watching me” explanation

I examined quite a few scenarios and finally realised the answer.

Subconsciously, I’d taken on board the fact that if I had a camera watching other people drive, it stood to reason that other people might have cameras watching my driving.

In effect, I was asking myself how my driving would look to others. Would I be embarrassed if I watched the footage of my driving played back to me? Would I be happy if the world were to see the footage?

These are actually very powerful questions. If all drivers were more aware of the camera concept would driving behaviour improve? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I certainly can’t hurt in my opinion.

Let’s take this “people watching me” idea a step further

Interestingly, one can take this “What if people were watching me right now?” question and concept further and apply it to other behaviours.

In a conflict situation for example, would you be pleased or appalled if your behaviour and language were to be made available to all? Is your cool lost far too easily? Are you a bully? Do you fold too easily? Would the fact that you thought people were watching your actions help you retain your cool adult demeanour and force you to adopt more effective influencing styles? I think it might.

What can you do differently?

The next time you’re standing in a long supermarket queue, a traffic jam or some other sub-optimal environment, consider how you would look on playback. Would you like a big screen telly showing your behaviour? If the whole community was watching you would you be comfortable with your behaviour? Try to be more mindful and adopt a patient, more relaxed mindset. The queue won’t move any faster and the situation won’t change any faster but you’ll be in a much better state when it does finally improve. Give it a go.

My driving has remained greatly improved so the camera will stay put for now – for accidents and miracles only of course.

 

Perfectionism kills creative output

Perfectionism is like shouting at a brick wall

Perfectionism is the enemy of creative output

Perfectionism has held me back. I have battled with perfectionism on and off all my working life. It can be a real productivity killer. If you or someone close to you tends toward perfectionism then read on and see how I now think about it and work to combat it. Perhaps you can do the same?

“Perfection does not exist. To understand this is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.” Alfred de Musset

In order to get good at something you must put some work into it. If you are trying to become good at being creative you must first create some things. If your are seeking to become a high-quality writer, you first must write something. To become a high-quality musician, you must play. Once started you must keep going so the quality improves. It’s not easy.

Unless you are a legitimate genius who can conjure fully formed high-quality work from thin air then you must acknowledge and accept the fact that success in any field of endeavour takes work. I don’t know about you but I must follow the hard work process.

Work at increasing your output not your perfectionism

The more work you put into something will lead to you creating more output. When you learn and grow based on the feedback for each output event your quality will increase. Being prolific coupled with improvement through feedback will eventually lead to success.

For inspiration to keep my productivity high I always think about one of my personal heroes, Mr Bob Dylan. Whether you like his work or not you have to accept that Bob Dylan has produced a colossal body of work. Has the work always hit the mark or met his personal standards? Probably not, but the point is he did it all anyway. In my opinion, he always grew better and more confident as a direct result of his prolific output.

Ira Glass has some wonderful views and advice on the topic and I would urge you to look at this YouTube video: Ira Glass on Creativity.

Are you a perfectionist?

There is one sure fire killer of creative output and its name is perfectionism.

When you kill your output with perfectionism you severely, or even terminally, limit your chances of hitting your intended target for success.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you try to get things perfect before you release your work to the world? Well, I hate being the bearer of unwelcome news but here it is anyway. There is no such thing as perfect and no such state as perfection. You might as well try and catch smoke with a net. If you are trying to make something perfect you will fail. This post, for example, will never be perfect no matter how much I rewrite it. All I can reasonably do is the best work I can do then get it out there and into the world. I can do no more.

You can only do your best

If something once created is not perfect, many people who tend to perfectionism think other people will notice this and either ignore them or, possibly worse, criticise and hate them. This could not be more wrong or self-defeating for the aspiring creator of brilliance, which the poor perfectionist undoubtedly is.

Now, it is only right and proper that people strive to provide the best output they can for the intended recipients of their efforts. Notice that I said, “best output they can” and not “perfect output” because trying to get something perfect is morally laudable but ultimately completely misguided.

Here’s the thing. The perfectionist will never provide their intended recipients with anything at all because they never feel their work is perfect. It’s a vicious circle from which there is no escape. What do they fear? Is it a failure? Is it success perhaps? Do they really expect perfection in others? Do they really believe others expect it of them? There is something blocking them somewhere.

The law of diminishing returns

There is a law called “The Law of Diminishing Returns.” This states that beyond a certain point you get less and less improvement in something compared to the amount of effort applied to make that improvement. It will never reach 100% no matter how hard you try. Put more simply, if you get something as good as you reasonably can then more work will make only a slight difference. I’ve tried to illustrate this graphically below.

Your audience is not perfect either

If you tend toward perfectionism be aware that the things you may see as potential defects and shortcomings won’t even be noticed by your audience. Remember, your audience is not perfect either.

If what you must give or say is valued and valuable; people will value it for its own sake and not because it is worked, edited or polished to near perfection. Pour your passion and love into your work and people will get it, value it and love it likewise.

Make things as good as you can, by any practicable and reasonable measure, then get your work out there. You can always improve it later if you want to. People will give you feedback if you just ask.

I know that I can always edit this article based on feedback but, if it is not being read by anyone because I haven’t published it, then it may as well never have been written at all.

What valuable work are you holding onto because it isn’t “perfect” enough for you?

Be prolific and get your work out there for everyone’s benefit.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did enjoy it then please like it and, even better, share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

People Issues Cost Real Money

people issues cost money picture of burning money

Picture this people issues scenario

You are not really a people issues type manager and you don’t normally pry either. Thing is, one of your key managers has become a bit preoccupied and distant lately. Nothing you can point to directly but something has changed and their performance is not what it was.  You are struggling to rely on them for anything these days.

Apart from poor performance, it is the small indications you have noticed the most. They eat alone or go out for lunch. They do not make small talk. Laughter has been replaced by silence and occasionally even an out of character snap back.

You do not know why any of this is happening of course because you have not asked them and well, based on your experience with them, they would be unlikely to tell you anything anyway. It is probably just a phase and will all blow over in time. Besides you have a business to run and targets to meet.

Messy people issues are for HR to deal with, right?

Most managers will readily acknowledge the all too common scenario above. There are many variants and degrees of severity but essentially the situation boils down to a key worker having some sort of issue and their performance suffering.

Could be you are part of a large organisation and the effects are not huge in relation to the rest of the staff. Maybe the person in question is in a role which impacts few others in the organisation and has no impact on the customer experience. Perhaps.

However, what if you are a smaller business and that person represents a major percentage of your staff? What if they are your key salesperson or an agent who interacts directly with your customers? Perhaps that person manages a key department and the reduced performance and poor attitude filters down. What if that person is you and you are the CEO? What if indeed.

People issues cost real money

Even if you set aside or forget the basic human right whereby the employee should be helped to feel better on ethical grounds, try applying an actual pounds and pence costing to the results of the poor performance in terms of wasted wages and lost opportunity. Try a modest five or ten percent reduction and factor this into relevant organisational scenarios in your business and you’ll soon see some uncomfortable figures developing. These numbers represent money you are losing which should really be on your bottom line.

People issues rarely fix themselves

In my experience these people issues rarely if ever fix themselves. If things worsen for this person you are looking down the barrel of more disruption, stress related illness, sickness and even the employee leaving altogether; potentially with the all too common legal repercussions which can follow.

Someone wrapped up in a personal issue is generally stuck there. They cannot see a way out because everything looks black. If they could see a solution to a superficial problem there would be no issue in the first place, just an exercise in prioritising and resource marshalling.

People need help to get unstuck

Stuck people need a resource outside of themselves to get unstuck. As a good manager, you are duty bound to take positive steps once you know there is an issue. Some managers are great at being this much-needed resource but sadly they are in the minority. Many managers lack the skills and empathy to address the situation properly and, even though they may have the best of intentions, when they take a, “come on chin-up, it’ll be alright” or a “pull yourself together” approach this can often make the situation worse.

Even talking to someone at work at all can be a no-go area for the person with the issue because whether it is a work-related problem or a personal one there are a host of reasons they may not feel comfortable discussing it. They might not want to risk exposing their perceived weakness or failure any further. Their boss may in fact be the cause of the issue. They may fear a lack of confidentiality, even from an internal company coach or counsellor.

What is the people issue solution?

What then is the solution when you have someone who is stuck, suffering and costing your organisation money? You cannot simply ignore them and, unless you are a skilled and experienced coach who has the full trust of their staff, you are unlikely to help them effectively yourself. Internal coaching often doesn’t work due either for a variety of reasons already mentioned.

My recommendation is to bring in a high-quality external coach.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I may be a little biased here but my bias comes from a place of love.

I am a high-quality coach and much of my work centres on this very type of personnel issue. I and other high-quality coaches provide mental and emotional space, deep-dive questioning, a positively challenging environment and full confidentiality. The very things which stuck people need in place. These key elements enable them to open up fully and discuss, sometimes for the first time, any and all issues which are holding them back. It can and frequently does work wonders.

Coaching is an investment not a cost

When these people get back on track they often bounce back better than ever and the positive ripples can spread far and wide within the organisation. Whichever coach you do choose, make sure the chemistry is right and check that coaching is indeed the best option. A modest outlay in quality coaching at the right time can realise a massive return on your investment. It can add real value to your bottom line.

Don’t ignore those messy people issues. Tackle them early and engage them effectively.

Invest in some high quality external coaching support. The results are amazing.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Late arrivals can cost you a lot

Man literally running late for a meeting

Excuses, excuses and more excuses for being late

So, you are a little late for a business meeting but it should be okay, right? It is only a few minutes and besides it was not really your fault was it? The traffic was worse than you expected, that last e-mail was important and the people you are meeting are normally laid back and friendly so they will probably cut you some slack. The meeting can start without you and you can quickly get up to speed, right?

Being late is totally excusable, right?

Don’t be so sure.

Business people are busy. We have to make rapid and often automatic decisions about the world in general and the people we interact with in order to stay sane and make sense of the world. Everybody does this.

We put great store in first impressions. You need to make your first impression a good one.

This is basic emotional intelligence at work. Understand yourself and regulate your behaviour in order to manage your relationships with others.

Being late never hurt anyone, did it?

You’ll find it does often hurt someone very near and dear. Being late hurts you.

It would be nice to suppose that first impressions are formed by a person analysing all parameters in any given situation then making a rational and intellectual front of brain decision about the meaning and next steps. Perhaps the process might follow this route: “My appointment is late so I will check the internet and determine if there are potential traffic problems. Perhaps a flat tyre or important family matter? I’m sure there will be a good reason for it and I will happily bide my time in order to find out what they have to offer me once they get here. I’m sure the other people here will reach the same conclusion.”

Yeah, right

It would be nice but in the real world it does not often happen like this at all.

All first impressions are formed in our old or reptile brain and a summary report gets sent higher only after being screened here first. First impressions happen fast and they have durability too. Whether good or bad, this summary report lodges in the reptile brain. It is hard to get it rewritten once it is in there.

The old reptile brain is not very sophisticated but it is there to protect us. It is the seat of the flight or fight response. It checks for danger or threats. Its mission is also to prevent us wasting time and resources and to stop us using up valuable higher processing functions when it feels we do not have to. It seeks threat triggers.

For people who value and respect their time meeting someone who has a different view of time is just such a trigger. Someone who is late is perceived as a threat. Someone who is late equates to someone who will likely waste valuable resources. The negative report gets sent; it carries a lot of weight and it endures. The reptile brain has a number of such triggers. Other people have them too so you need to work hard to create good first impressions yourself.

We all have our shortcuts

I am a busy man and I place great store in punctuality. Timeliness is a key measure in determining whether I will work with someone or not when I meet with them or interact with them for the first time. Time respect is one of my key values. I will do everything in my power to ensure I arrive at places ahead of time in order to prepare and provide a professional first impression. I expect others to do the same for me.

Lateness indicates a number of fundamental things to me: Lack of care for self and others, chaotic and disorganised, untrustworthy, disrespectful, unreliable and arrogant. The list could and does go on. I do not want to work with people who exhibit these traits no matter what they have to offer. This will cost them money and gain them a poor reputation. If you do this it will be costing you money. Would I refer you to others? Unlikely.

Am I right or wrong?

Am I actually right about that person? Perhaps not but it does not matter. I simply do not have the time to apply my neo-cortex or my patience to the issue. Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Maybe I am but my reptile brain has detected the threat and sent the report and that is what I have to go on. These are my perceptions and, as for all humans, perception is reality. I have to make fast decisions in order to be successful and I am not alone.

Now, we cannot help events which are truly out of our hands. You may be in mortal peril and unable to contact me. The trouble is I don’t know and I probably don’t care. Inform me of your time status. Better to have the meeting rescheduled than have you show up late. I can then do something more productive with my time. We have mobile phones now and you must at least have written my number down as part of your preparation.

Aggressive lateness

Some people use lateness as a power play. They feel it elevates their status in some way and therefore lowers mine. I tend to walk away from these people and leave them to it because there are plenty of business people out there who are both punctual and a genuine pleasure to deal with.

When I feel a person has respected my time I tend to respect them more.

We all know at least one person who is chronically late all the time. They would be late for their own funeral as the saying goes. They are probably beyond help. If this is you then you are probably beyond help too.

Is there hope for you?

If you are only late now and again there is hope. Get a grip and take control of your approach to time. Get coaching if it helps. At least get a good alarm clock. Even if it goes against your normal preference you must show others you can respect their time if not your own. If you do not it could cost you far more than you think.

You are sending behavioural messages all the time so send good ones whenever possible. What other poor first impressions might you be making? What do you look for when you meet someone for the first time and why?

To get the low-down on effective people management skills check out my Amazon author page http://viewauthor.at/AndrewDPope and see my full current range of no-nonsense business and self-development books. The list is growing all the time so watch this space.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Assertiveness is what exactly?


Young woman with metaphorical strong arms drawn in representing assertiveness

What is assertiveness?

I have mentioned assertiveness quite a few times in recent articles. What is it and do you even need it?

Assertiveness is one of those things everyone has likely heard about but no-one can easily define. We are often told to be more assertive but what exactly does this mean? What are we supposed to do more of? How assertive are we right now? What are other people doing about it? It matters so let’s define it.

Assertiveness matters

Your level of assertiveness and comfort when being assertive can have a big effect on your overall management and leadership style. This stuff is important. It can affect the whole of your life if your assertiveness is too low.

There are many on-line self-evaluation questionnaires available. If you want to find out your current level of assertiveness or your preferred interpersonal or influencing style then feel free to try them out. As with most things in life, there can be good or bad and free or paid for; take your pick.

The influencing styles

There are four main classifications of influencing style of which assertiveness is but one:

  • Assertive
  • Passive
  • Hostile-aggressive
  • Manipulative-aggressive (aka passive-aggressive)

Passive is a type characterised by an “I must lose and you must win” attitude.

Hostile aggressive is an influencing style characterised by an “I must win and you must lose” mentality.

The last influencing style listed is termed manipulative-aggressive or passive-aggressive. This type is characterised by an “I must lose so you must lose” mindset.

All of these styles are on a continuum. This means we all exhibit the different traits in different degrees at various times in our lives. Categories are useful but in the real world people are not so easily defined. Over the long-term it is likely we will favour one style over the others. If you are not sure, ask your trusted colleagues. They will then be able to tell you what style they think you prefer and exhibit most. It may shock you.

What do we normally do?

By and large, most of us choose to adopt the passive stance whenever possible, especially at work. You know the old “anything for a quiet life” and “why rock the boat” approach. Does the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sound familiar?

If you are going to be a better manager then you need to be as assertive as possible. You need to know what assertiveness is so I had better start by defining it.

Assertiveness defined

Assertiveness means completely clarity. It means openness about how one feels and what one needs. The assertive know how to achieve it fairly. This definition is agreeable for our purposes. Assertiveness  requires assertive communication skills, assertive body language and confidence. It requires the ability to communicate calmly without attacking or yielding unnecessarily to another person.

Assertive people know they have rights. Assertive people expect certain things. They expect fair things in their work. These rights and expectations come with a caveat. They come with a responsibility to accord other people the same rights and expectations. So this idea of assertiveness adheres to a win-win approach to life. Adopting an “I get what I want and you get what you want” approach then means everyone is happy.

Sounds simple so why are we not all doing more of it?

So what can you do about it?

We should be, because learning to be more assertive will help us to express our thoughts and feelings freely, speak up and defend ourselves, know and stand up for our rights, negotiate reasonably and control our emotions effectively during periods of interpersonal conflict. It also applies when we have to manage difficult people.

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

Get the book and get more assertiveness into your life

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also like to read:

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Difficult People At Work – Part 2

Difficult People At Work – Part 3