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Wake Up…We’ve Moved!

January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

5x7in Greeting Card 2013

Thank you for being part of our Wake Up Be Inspired community. It’s been great to have you following our blog since 2010 when we started creating posts aimed to inspire you to do and think about things differently.

It’s a new year and a new beginning. Whilst Wake Up Be Inspired continues to exist as a community and a business, all my blog writing is now focused in one place at www.AskSimonSmith.com so this will be the last post here at Wake Up Be Inspired.

You can continue to read our thoughts and trustfully Be Inspired to new things, Get Stuff Done, develop yourself and your business by visiting AskSimonSmith.com. Check out our new blog there or download some of our free resources and keep up-to-date with us.

I hope you like what you see when you visit AskSimonSmith.com, and in the meantime, if you need something, all you have to do is Ask!

Take Time To Listen To Your Team

September 26, 2012

Your team have valuable insights and information to support you in improving your organisation, department or business, if you make the time to listen.

When was the last time you, as a business owner or department head, just sat down with the team and asked their opinion? If you’re not doing it regularly you’re missing out big time.

People want to feel valued. They need to feel listened to. The wage or salary is not enough to breed loyalty in your business. Your team want to be part of the solution and business development, and they want to be heard.

Taking 1-2 hours of your time, on a regular basis, will reap huge rewards in the long run, providing you do it from a place of integrity and not just to “tick the box”.

Ask powerful questions that gets them engaged and never judge the responses, or defend your position, in the meeting itself.

To get you started:

1. Arrange a short meeting with your team and make sure the location you use supports a “round table” discussion. Theatre / lecture style room layout won’t cut it.

2. Use an “ice-breaker” that has your team find out a little bit more about each other on a personal level. For example, ask them to pair up and find out from each other who they are, what they did this morning / yesterday at work and what would be their dream holiday. Then have them introduce their partner to the rest of the group.

3. Ask a series of potentially useful questions for your organisation. Give the team a few minutes for each question and ask them to work with their partner before sharing what they’ve come up with. Capture the main points on a flip chart as you go and let the conversation flow. For example, you might ask:

  • What works well in the business?
  • What bugs you or gets in the way?
  • What can be improved?
  • What support or training do you need?
  • How can you improve communication in the business?
  • What are the demands on your time?

4. Complete the session with appreciation and thanks, and remind the team that you will follow up. They need to know that you value their input and will do something with it. At the very least, address every point raised with the actual outcome, even if it’s a “sorry, we took that point and decided to take no further action on it because…”

There is no quick solution to building trust with your team. When you take the time to ask how people feel and what they think, and you follow up and take action based on the feedback, even when the answer is no, your team will provide you with everything you need to know.

Please let us know how you build trust in your team and find business improvement opportunities in your business?

A Few Simple Words Can Cause Confusion And Unintended Results

July 25, 2012

If five simple words can cause this much confusion, imagine what a whole sentence can create!

In the mail today was a letter that I assumed, by the thickness of the envelope and the hand written name and address details, contained “new business” correspondence.

However, what it contained was a page from a flipchart that simply had the following written on it in large letters:

FALSE

EXPECTATIONS

APPEARING

REAL

And the curious thing was that the only other thing contained in the envelope was one of my own company compliments slips.

On closer inspection I realised that the flip chart had been written by me.

Confused, I couldn’t work out:

a) why would someone send me this flipchart page

b) who had received my compliments slips in the past

c) why would they send me this page?

It’s interesting how you think when you’re confused and the communication isn’t clear.

Further questions flashed through my mind:

  1. Has this been sent as some sort of dig at me?
  2. Does someone think I’m scared of something?
  3. Has it been returned because someone in one of my audiences rejects the idea that fear is false expectations appearing real?
  4. Is it a threat?
  5. Do I fear anything right now?
  6. Do I need to practice what I preach?
  7. Have I asked for it to be sent to me and forgotten?
  8. Has a friend sent it as a motivational prompt for me?
  9. Has someone in my audience returned it because they have overcome their fears now?

And of course I then made up the answers:

  1. No. Nobody I know would have a dig at me in this way. If they had something to say they would just say it.
  2. No. I’m quite happy to get out of my comfort zone…or am I?
  3. Never had anyone reject the idea before. If this were true then wouldn’t they have just spoken up?
  4. No. I’m not aware of upsetting anyone enough for them to feel the need to threaten me.
  5. Where do I start? We all fear many things and constantly. We fear how someone will react when we ask them a question or make a statement. We fear upsetting our loved ones by doing or saying the wrong thing. We fear being rejected by the prospect we are currently in negotiations with. We fear our staff may call in sick and we won’t be able to get things done or have the phone answered. We fear being late because of the traffic. We fear having a lousy holiday because the weather may ruin it. We fear our children will be bullied at school. We fear the meal will burned if we don’t watch it carefully. We fear we won’t be able to get online if the broadband goes down. We fear the crazy driver in front of us on the motorway. The list is endless and is all based on “expectations appearing real” – our imagination at work.
  6. Always. We teach what we need to learn. Fear can be debilitating if we allow it to be. And the way to overcome is take a leap of faith and just go for it. As Susan Jeffers said “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Only when we recognize that our fear is our thoughts translated into “reality” can we move beyond it.
  7. Quite possibly I’ve forgotten. I write everything down, or ask requests to be emailed to me, so I can be sure to remember things I want to do. If I rely on my memory alone, there is simply too much for me to handle.
  8. More than possible a friend has sent it out of kindness, as a motivational message. I love receiving notes, cards and messages from people.
  9. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? What a lovely thought that someone has sent it back to me because they have overcome their fears about something. So that’s my choice for now. 😉

What I find so interesting in this situation, and it demonstrates it perfectly, is that you have to have clarity in your communication if you are looking to create a specific result.

Four words and a compliments slip arrived at my door.

From those four words, I created 12 different questions in my head (and that was just the start), before creating a list of possible answers to those questions.

And, in the end, I choose how I want to interpret the message.

I choose, because it’s always a choice!

Stuff happens. Words gets said. Gestures are made.

The real questions we should ask when we communicate, and we are communicating all the time in everything we do, or don’t do, say, or don’t say, is:

What is my intention?

What do I want to cause?

What interpretation do I want to create?

Love to hear your experiences of how unclear communication has affected you. Please do comment or get in touch.

Create pictures and your audience will respond

July 11, 2012

I was speaking at a seminar in the Black Country (a region in England) this week and helping local business people (from BNI) create “Presentations with a Punch” (well that’s what they called it in the marketing spiel anyway ;-)).

What I love about speaking at this sort of thing is how, when you tell a story, the audience truly engage with the point you’re making and you can almost see the “light bulbs come on”.

I used what we call a “metaphoric loop” in my presentation which helps to create the “emotional state” you want for your audience so they get what they came for – insight and, more importantly, learning that can  be taken away and used.

The great thing about telling stories (which is the basis for a metaphoric loop) is that you get to speak from the heart and you literally FEEL the audience respond. The passion and emotion is clear for all to see.

The biggest challenge people face about speaking in public or their presentation skills, is the fear they create in their own mind about what might, or might not, happen. When you shift your thinking around this, you become more confident, manage your nerves, and deliver a more effective and compelling message. Fear is simply False Expectations Appearing Real, and it’s learned over time…

We translate our experiences of life, what’s important to us (our values), the language we use, attitudes we adopt, beliefs and a variety of other factors into “pictures” in the mind. When we create pictures in the minds of the people we communicate with, and they can relate in some way to that illustration, we connect with the emotion. When that happens, the possibilities for changes in behaviour, and therefore results, are infinite.

If you want to change people’s results, change their behaviour. If you want to change their behaviour, change the pictures in their head.

Do adults learn more slowly than children?

June 12, 2012

A friend stated yesterday during a team meeting, in which we were discussing how to get a message across to our colleagues, that “adults learn more slowly than children”.

This thought promoted a question from someone else in the room, via Facebook later in the day: “Do you agree, or not?”

My initial response…

Children take everything on face value until they learn to discriminate based on values they accumulate over time. They discover how to distinguish “the truth”  from “not truth” based on their teachers opinions (parents, siblings, school, peers and so on), and then they become more adult like in their thinking, i.e. they look for mixed messages, hidden agendas, the underlying thinking, what’s in it for me mentality, etc etc. In other words, children accept “what is” until they learn to become cynical, skeptical and suspicious because that’s what they experience around them. If we, as adults, were more giving, loving, enthusiastic, positive, honest, caring, playful, full of joy, and open to all the possibilities the world has to offer, just like a young child, wouldn’t the world be a simpler and more interesting place to be?

So let’s think about this some more.

Children take everything on face value until they learn to discriminate based on values they accumulate over time:

Ever watched toddlers at play? They just “be” who they are. They chat, fiddle, search, copy, test, ask. They have a ferocious curiosity and accept everything they see, hear and feel as being true.

They discover how to distinguish “the truth” based on their teachers’ opinions:

Soon, children are “told” about things. Their parents tell them when things are “right or wrong”. Their siblings scream about “ownership” of material things. School teachers show them the “facts” on a wide variety of academic subjects. And as they grow older, examiners assess their performance based on the averages of everyone else and then “categorize” their achievement as being above, below, or on par, with that figure. Interview panels determine whether they are “good enough” for the job or placement. Lecturers tell them the way the world is.

And as they develop into adulthood, they bring it all together into one massive compendium of opinions and views, based on other opinions and views. All of which creates potential confusion, suspicion, cynicism and skepticism.

Finally, as adults, they spend the rest of their life trying to unravel the complexities of what they have been taught. They invest in building their confidence because they learned somewhere you shouldn’t stand out from the crowd. They go to self-esteem seminars to help them get beyond the teaching that they “weren’t good enough”. They compete in the workplace because someone had them believe at some stage that it’s all about winning over the rest. They scream at their partners and children because they heard somewhere that you have to shout to get heard. They mistrust others because they were brought up to think that “this side is better than that side”, “they’re wrong and we’re right”. They manipulate because they’ve discovered “techniques” to get what they want.

OR, because they are children, they are permitted to learn for themselves. They discover that co-operation is easier and more interesting than competition. They feel that they are valued and their voices are heard. They are confident in their own ability and don’t need to compare themselves to other people and come off better, or worse. They are like sponges, soaking it all up without judgement.

And as they grow and develop, they give of themselves, unconditionally. They serve and add value to other people’s lives. They live, they love, they care, they are full of joy and possibility.

Adults have the capacity to learn as quickly as children. They don’t because they filter everything that is presented to them based on the assessments and judgements they make, created by their experience, values, attitude, environments, and behaviour of others. All these things slow down the learning process.

When we, as adults, remove our filters and become open to all possibilities, we learn more quickly and we take experiences and people on face value.

Until proved otherwise of course! 😉

Wake Up and Manage Your Time

April 17, 2012

Do you have issues with “time management”?

There never seems to be enough time to get everything handled – make the calls that need making, respond to the requests that come in, complete the “to-do” list, fix all the little issues around the home or office, tidy the wardrobe, clear the garage, ring old friends, develop the new marketing material, attend all the networking events, go and see relatives, take a new evening class or attend another seminar, etc etc etc…

People get stuck in their “have to get this done sometime” mindset. Then they don’t get it done at all. They procrastinate, put it off, avoid it. They commit and then wish they hadn’t. They say yes when they probably should have said no. And regrettably they often put off their own leisure and wind-down time in favour of someone else’s urgent need.

Sometimes it’s easier to say yes than it is to say no. When this happens we do ourselves a dis-service and we can often create even more stress in our lives around having enough time. It becomes a vicious circle. We want more time. We say yes too often. Then we create less time to do all the things that need handling because we’ve been saying yes! Result – more stress about not having the time…

So what’s the answer?

The first step is to just STOP. Stop everything, and I mean everything! Just stop and take some time out to look at where you’re at, what needs handling, what must get done, what can be avoided completely, what can be delegated to someone else.

Sounds perverse – to create more time you need to stop. I hear you screaming that it doesn’t make sense. This is totally at odds with the problem. I know. I know.

Nevertheless, it works. 😉

When you find yourself simply overwhelmed with everything the absolute best thing you can do for yourself is just stop. Take a breath. Relax…

Now, clear some time in your diary. A few hours, half a day, a whole day. A Saturday or Sunday. Whatever you think it will take to just reorganize your current status. I’m not talking about doing all the things that need doing. I’m simply saying take some time to get a handle on where you are at.

Now that you’ve scheduled the time get a sense of where all the information is that you need to reorganize. Perhaps you have written “to-do” lists. What about your email inbox(es)? If you have a diary you will need it. If you use a Blackberry or similar you will need this as well. Remember your in-tray or files and folders. Anything at all that has “stuff” that you need to get clear at some point.

Once you have all this to hand and you reach your “de-clutter session”, take these simple steps:

1. Create a master list of all your “incompletes”. Don’t try and prioritize them at this stage. Simply get them down. Your list should have 3 columns – “ITEM” / “DUE DATE” / “DELEGATE TO” – At this point just fill in the “ITEM” column with the thing that needs doing.

2. Now look at each item and make some decisions about each item:

a) Can I ditch this completely? – If so, cross it out and forget it. If not, move on to question b)

b) Do I need to do this all myself? – If so, decide on a date it needs to be completed by and fill in column two. If not, move on to question c)

c) Can I delegate some or all of this to someone else? – If so, how much of it and to whom?

2. Contact those people you can delegate to and agree a date when it will be complete by. Fill in column two.

3. Re-organize your list in “due date” order with the nearest date at the top of the list.

Now you’ve got a sense of what needs to be completed and it’s all in one place. The next piece takes a little more effort and is so worth it in the end…

Take your scheduling system, diary, PDA or whatever you use and consider your own goals around free time and work time. Now schedule your free time, leisure activities, family time, social events, holidays and so on. Do this first. This is now “non-negotiable” time. You have made a commitment to yourself and your loved ones, and it’s in the diary! Do it for the next 3 months as a minimum, to begin with anyway.

Once you’ve scheduled your leisure time you’re ready to start thinking about everything else. Look at your list and schedule your priorities based on what you believe is achievable. I suggest you look at this process as a way of creating your “default diary”. For example, you might say every week day morning is “client meeting” time, two afternoons each week are “marketing activity” time (this would include making calls, networking etc), two afternoons are “customer care” time (follow up to meetings, handling customer service issues, seeking feedback etc), one afternoon is “managing incompletes”, Monday night is “evening class” or “study” time – personal development, Tuesday evening is “yoga”. You get the idea I hope.

Having scheduled your default diary we come to the most important piece…

Create a daily “Post-It Note To-Do List”.

Why a post-it note? Because it will help you train yourself to, in other words get in the habit of, creating 5 or less “have to get done” tasks every day.

Why 5?

Five is an easy to manage number. Any more and you set yourself up for failure. Have just 5 and you are much more like to succeed. When you’ve completed your 5 you can build on that success if you have time spare in the day and get EXTRA handled. Now you have reason to celebrate!

Wake Up to Your Charisma

June 20, 2011

What is it that draws people to you? How is it that some people seem to have a natural ability to be “interesting” to others? Why do some people seem so confident meeting new people when others feel afraid?

I was speaking at a CIPFA event earlier this month in which I was invited to discuss: “How to be a great PA – The Art (& Science) of Charisma” and it was these questions and more that I considered when putting together my presentation.

The definition of charisma according to Wikipedia is:

  1. Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others
  2. A divinely conferred power or talent

It goes on to discuss that the word originates “from the Greek “kharisma” meaning “gift” “of/from/favored by the God/divine” is a trait found in persons whose personalities are characterized by a personal charm and magnetism (attractiveness), along with inate and powerfully sophisticated abilities of interpersonal communication.”

Modern media describes charisma as the “X-Factor”, popularized of course by the talent show of the same name.

I suspect that some people appear to be charismatic because they have the ability to demonstrate confidence and a genuineness of character. They come from a place of authenticity and can create a real connection with people through their ability to “be there” for others. They ask questions and help people feel important and valued. They listen intently and allow everyone to be heard. They care and they can connect.

Furthermore they have a high level of self esteem. They are generally comfortable with themselves and are confident in their own abilities.

At the event I suggested that being charismatic is something that can be developed, it can be taught, so to speak. We are all born with a natural ability to connect with everyone. Just watch a very young child to see that this is true. They are naturally charismatic because they have no inhibitions, until they learn to have them that is.

We unlearn how to connect with others as we are conditioned by those who influence us. We are told by our parents and teachers to be quiet, speak only when given permission to do so, hold back until we are certain of our facts, don’t take risks, don’t speak to strangers, don’t ask for what we want as it seems greedy, sit down – shut up!

It is no wonder that so many people move into adulthood lacking confidence and feel intimidated by meeting new people. It is no surprise that many adults fear speaking in public and standing out from the crowd.

So, in fact, when I suggest that being charismatic can be taught, what I actually mean is that having charisma is something that can be created by unlearning that which we have learned to hold us back!

Charisma is indeed a gift from the divine and it is within all of us. We simply need to get out of our own way to find it again!

Wake Up to Your Charisma and get out of your own way. Try it, you might enjoy it. 😉

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