Getting to know the ‘real people’

As technology continues to advance face to face communication is often seen as a thing of the past, there are great advantages to the technological improvements however it also makes  it more challenging to get to know the ‘real people’ in your team.

Whether your communication is face to face, by email or Skype there are a few easy steps you can take to get to know your real people and develop stronger more effective relationships.  I am not suggesting everyone becomes best friends, I am however suggesting you get to know your real people as from experience if you don’t you are missing out on getting the best from them.

My approach is simple STOP, LOOK and LISTEN…


  • Take the time to reflect on each person in your team, what do you already know about them – what are their family circumstances, how they spend their spare time, what hobbies do they have.  If you don’t know find out as in itself it can indicate what they enjoy
  • Consider why are they doing what they do – ‘what is in it for them’, what motivates them to come to work each day – caution here do not assume that everyone’s reason is the same – money.  I have worked with people whose work is their family; yes of course they need to earn money however it is actually secondary to the need to belong
  • Show an interest, ask a question that requires more than a one word answer e.g. ‘what plans have you got for the weekend’ and please don’t ask the question and walk away.  


  • Look for the signs that things are different – you can tell so much by really observing people yes it is easier face to face, however you can also pick up so much from an email by the language used if you look for it.  Look for the reason to compliment or just check in with them to make sure they are ok and that you care enough to ask
  • Look for reasons to compliment – share an example of what they did that pleased you, what was the positive effect and encourage them to do more
  • Look for opportunities to do things that show you care – a birthday card, thank you card or just say thank you.


  • You can find out so much by ‘listening’, not superficially what I am talking about is ‘really listening’.   Picking up on the snippets of information that will help you to understand them better
  • Listen out for the sporting teams they support make a point of checking how they did – you then know whether to celebrate or sympathise with them the next day
  • Listen to their career aspirations and help them to achieve them – don’t prevent them so they stay with you because they will leave anyway and everyone misses out.

The reality is people respond better if they feel you are interested in them.  Your investment to get to know the ‘real people’ will deliver rewards.  You will know what motivates them, you will understand what makes them happy and when the going gets tough your relationship enables you to get that much needed buy in.

What hasn’t changed is – excellent communication to get to know people whatever the medium is the key to sustained success it’s about investing the time to STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.

Reviewing performance ‘must-do’s’…

All too often reviewing of performance is left until the end of the year; as a result there are often unexpected surprises, frustrations and disappointments resulting in you spending your time fire-fighting and reacting to issues that arise.

In an ideal world there are many pay offs to sitting down on a monthly basis, something you may want to consider doing in the year ahead if you don’t already do so.  However if you are about to embark on reviewing the performance of others here are some tips on what Maze Research have established are the 4 key skills areas you will need to become more successful with your reviews.

Hope this helps you to help others achieve their true potential.

What will your team be famous for?

With year-end reviews getting closer, what will you be saying your team has been famous for this year?  It may be one thing or it may be many, however what has made them stand out above the rest?

If it is a challenge for you to pinpoint what they are famous for, consider this…

Famous sports teams tend to be remembered because they have won a major competition, a league or achieved a world record.  Their success comes from hard work, and determination.  In most cases it takes time and effort to create and achieve such a status.  The one thing they do all have in common is a very clear focus and direction. 

Successful teams, without exception, know exactly what they are working towards, what they are trying to achieve and it’s this unity in the destination that allows them to maintain the energy and motivation to reach it.

Every team becomes identified by their results.  Think of sports teams that have amazingly successful seasons, then have a change of management and their fortunes begin to change, and vice versa.  So, you can be just as famous, or infamous, for poor results as you can for great results.

One way to ensure that your team are famous for the right result is to ensure that the WHOLE team is absolutely clear on the destination.

So if you do not have the opportunity to celebrate in style this year, start planning for 2015 and decide as a team on the following…

By 31st December 2015… what specifically will the team deliver that will make them famous to the business and how will you measure your success?  And of course celebrate your achievement!

This is a great team exercise and from experience you will be pleasantly surprised of what they come up with and how prepared they are to challenge the boundaries.

It’s good to walk…

There are so many reasons why it is good to walk including the 3.2 million deaths each year which are attributed to insufficient physical activity.  Therefore why is there so little of it?

Research tells us that walking improves health and happiness; by walking a mile we can burn off 100 calories and walking two miles three times a week can reduce our weight by one pound every three weeks.  The more a person walks the better they feel and the more relaxed they become.

From the people I have talked to the main excuse appears to be not enough time.  I could reply saying they need to make time however that would result in a different conversation, therefore I suggest they try the following:

  • Walk and Meet – Instead of sitting around a meeting table, walk and talk.  This is especially useful for those meetings where you need to generate ideas.  It energises and  inspires the mind plus you can make your notes using the voice recorder on your phone
  • Team Walk – Get each person in your team to organise a 20 minute ‘Guided Tour’ to start each team meeting.  For example:  a Guided Tour on local places of interest
  • Take a Break – If you are going to make a drink try using a kitchen that is further away, the same applies when visiting the toilet
  • Take the Stairs – Avoid the lift and take the stairs
  • Walk to Work – I appreciate that this may not always be possible however if you need to use your car, use a car park or space further away
  • New Starter Walking Tour – When you have a new starter take them on a walking tour of the local area pointing out the banks, dry cleaners and best sandwich and coffee shops
  • Thinking Walk – Rather than diving into a project, take a thinking walk to get your ideas together before you start to plan it out, a different environment is highly stimulating.

 Hope you enjoy trying some of these out yourself and the benefits it will give you.

When is it good to copy?

We all have very different views on how we feel when others copy us – I am not talking about when we were at school and the person next to you copied your answers.   I am talking about those people who try to emulate you for your characteristics, your confidence and your personal brand.

My opinion is aligned to that of Albert Bandura, the 1950’s Canadian psychologist who researched and created the Social Learning Theory – his concept that self-efficacy breed’s confidence and people learn from one another by observation, imitation and modelling is so true and there is no harm in it.  If you observe someone behaving in a way that you believe would help you to achieve your goals and objectives and you decide this because of the positive outcomes they achieve then that is a good enough reason. 

To start copying:

  • Identify the specific skills or traits you have appreciated
  • Observe them carefully to learn how to apply the skill or trait
  • Practice – if at first you don’t succeed don’t give up, practice makes perfect

You do need to be realistic, no point using Usain Bolt as a model if you have never tried sprinting, but if you have seen someone else do something and thought ‘I can do that’ then that is the time to copy away!


How to beat your post-holiday hangover…

Taking a break and if you are lucky a holiday is essential to recharge the batteries, however how often have you retuned to work feeling like it would have been easier to not have been away and on top of that you are suffering the effects of a post-holiday hangover? 

Your body is now back in the office while your mind is still enjoying the warm sand under your feet, the condensation on your hand from your ice cold drink and the soothing sound of the waves… back to reality you are most definitely in the office and you need to get back into things quickly, you have a mountain of emails to get through and meetings to attend. 

It’s all about prevention rather than cure and here are a few ways to beat the hangover… 

  • Delegate tasks well before you go – have a follow up process for when you return (you can find a blog on delegation on
  • Set your out of office for an extra day – it gives you a day to catch up, you may need to let your manager know that you are not taking an extra days holiday, it’s your call on this one
  • Have an early night the night before and set your alarm half an hour earlier – your body will need the sleep however having an extra half an hour in the morning will mean you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast
  • Before you start to deal with your emails delete all of the spam – instantly it will look less, you will feel better and then you can start to prioritise
  • Don’t book in back to back meetings for your first day back – everyone will say they need to see you but it will certainly not help your hangover you need to manage it and the expectation of others
  • Take a break at lunch time – your body has been used to it, take your lunch away from your desk
  • Drink more – water that is, we all drink more water when we are on holiday because it is hot and if you stop your body will not function as well and you will feel tired
  • Arrange something you enjoy doing for the evening of the first day back – it will give you something to look forward to
  • Be realistic – pace yourself you will not catch up 1 or 2 weeks of work in one day and neither will anyone expect you to

Hope this helps to relieve you of your holiday hangover… Enjoy your holidays!

How to get ‘smarter’ with your objective setting

Over the years we have trained many people in how to write SMART, SMARTS, SMARTER objectives, they are a key part of managing our own achievements and being able to help others to become absolutely clear on what we need them to achieve.

There are many versions of the acronym; we all have our own favourites or those that are used by our organisation.  It is important to ensure our objectives are specific, measurable, action orientated, relevant and time bound there is however a much ‘smarter’ way of ensuring they are.

All you need to do is write down the following, making them smart then takes care of itself:

By… write this in ‘Newspaper Date’ style

Deliver… what specifically will be delivered?

Measure… how will you measure success?

Yes it’s simple, but in my book making it simple is good!



It might seem crazy what I am about to say…

When we hear Pharell Williams sing ‘Happy’ it brings a spontaneous smile to our faces and we feel energised and as a result more productive.  Extensive research also tells us that happy people are healthier, spend fewer days off sick and make more money!

So why do people not do more to bring a smile to someone’s face?

You may think it is too difficult in the workplace to make people smile, that it is impractical to have ‘Happy’ playing in the background however there are a number of things you can do to make a happy and more productive workplace.

  • Smile… it costs nothing and means so much
  • Ask people how they are and also wait for their response don’t walk on without hearing it
  • Play a game at lunch time – there is nothing like bringing old games out of the loft and sharing them will your colleagues
  • Find time for fun – plan fund raisers, agree days when you will all dress with a particular colour, have a meeting with a fun theme
  • Take a word from the Oxford dictionary and get everyone to weave it into their conversations during the day, the last person to do so buys the biscuits
  • Buy ice creams it creates a short break when people talk, relax and feel happy
  • Celebrate – find reasons to celebrate – a job well done, completion of a project, achieving sales, new contract
  • Recognition – give praise where praise is due and say thank you
  • Leave your frown at the door – if you feel unhappy in the morning leave your frown at the door, don’t inflict your mood on others
  • Recruit those with a happy disposition

These are all practical low cost tasks you can do to help make people happy just like Pharell Williams does!


A WWW DOT© approach to delegation

There are many managers who find delegation challenging, they are equally surprised when the receiver does not do as they have requested – what they perhaps do not consider is that instead of a request they delivered as a ‘tell’ hardly surprising then that they did not achieve the desired outcome.

Maze came up with a different approach to delegation, WWW DOT© it has been tried and tested, it is collaborative and engaging, it delivers results!

It comes in two stages:

Stage 1: Consider the WWW

  • WHAT – exactly do you need the person to do
  • WHY – are you asking them to do it
  • WHEN – do you need it done by

Thinking about this before speaking to the other person will help you become clearer about your expectations and will help you to consider all the options available before delegating. 

Phrase it as a request for help, using questioning as opposed to a directive/command, this approach will engage, develop more buy-in to the result, will mean as the leader you start to have less involvement in the decision and so develop the other person in the process.

Stage 2 Consider the DOT 


This should be collaborative, aiming to discuss all the options available with the other person, you may need to negotiate or influence to gain agreement and time scale. 

The end result will be a way of delegating that has very clear expectations for both parties and as a result better outcomes!

Feedback it’s a gift

According to Ken Blanchard ‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions’ I agree however would add it is also a gift; in a positive context it’s the gift to let you know you are doing the right things, a good job and appreciated for it, where negative feedback is given the gift is letting you know how you can improve, get better and avoid future negative consequences.

So why then do we hear managers saying ‘I knew there was a problem, I should have said something sooner however the time wasn’t right’.  These are also people who end up getting cross, reacting unprofessionally or wait until an appraisal and wonder why other people react badly.

Yes positive and negative feedback need to be timely, they also need to be clear and constructive but please no feedback sandwiches, they confuse and give out the wrong messages. 

A simple format I use is EEC, removes the emotion, gives clarity and allows you to structure your thoughts.

Hope you find this useful to give feedback to those managers who procrastinate and for them to use it to share that all important gift.