Real life is Good. Real life goes on

On Wednesday I made a BIG decision (for me) – I decided not to listen, read or watch any news on the dreaded “B” word for 10 days. Then, on the morning after 29th March, I would switch back on and find out whether the UK had passed a deal, delayed or crashed out – all in one moment and without having to suffer the pantomime inbetween.

While many of you may have mentally switched off already, this is hard for me – it’s a sort of “news addict meets Lent” thing. I am on Day 3 and I genuinely haven’t the faintest idea what’s happening (and please don’t tell me).

The point is this though – I feel great!

On Day 1- I rediscovered Spotify, the Desert Island Discs archives and numerous amazing podcasts while working away. And I talked with the family in the evening in an engaged way that we hadn’t managed between us for a little while.

On Day 2 – I noticed what a beautiful day it was. And, being Spring Solstice, I worked outside in daylight for much of it. I chatted with neighbours, watched a box set in the evening and drank some wine.

The lesson for me is to never again underestimate the impact that a big rolling news story like the “B” word can have on the individual and collective mood. Real life is good. Real life goes on.

“To Do” lists

I love making lists. Especially “To Do” lists.

So does David Mellor, business mentor par excellence, whose book launch I attended this week. He’s brought his three books from the excellent “From Crew to Captain” series – go to davidmellormentoring.com – and turned them into a really useful set of lists for anyone thinking about, starting or growing their own business. Well worth a look.

I make lists to keep my life in some sort of order – for me the big choices are always around how to organise them, how to prioritise and, crucially – what to leave out or let drop off. Do you have any rules or tips you swear by when putting together yours?

[A shout out also for a great charity on testicular cancer this week – DT38 Foundation or @dylantombides on twitter – that David highlighted as part of his book launch. Go have a look and take simple steps to care of your health today – or urge loved ones to do the same.]

Time: Current Clients vs. New Business

How do you balance your time between current clients and new business?

I’m SO proud to still be running my own business after nearly 8 years. People keep telling me that most fold within two. I don’t know if that’s true and I’ve never felt inclined to hesitate and check. Just keep looking forward.

I do though get a real kick out of mentoring startups. The question above – about balance of old and new business – is probably the most common question I am asked. Lean to the former and tomorrow you may have no pipeline. Lean to the latter and and you may have no clients to pay the bills.

I always have suggestions when asked about this, many personal failures to share of when i got it wrong – and a few of when I managed to keep the see-saw in balance.

I’m planning a series of blogs and webinars on this and other subjects this year and I’d love to hear (and of course give credit to you for) any thoughts or tips.

What you do or say to yourself on a daily basis to keep the see-saw of current and new business in balance?

Quality Content: How less really can be more

High-quality, thought-through content has never been as important as it is now, yet it’s never been harder to find. The evidence is all around – we’re being bombarded from all angles by a host of different channels polluted with self-serving baloney. And “baloney” is putting it kindly.

Please, let us focus today on the need for high quality content in marketing efforts, the content that addresses the issues the buyer faces, rather than the desperation that the seller feels to get his or her point across. Because let’s face it, there is no shortage of content in the world, but there is still a short of incisive high-quality content to raise a reputation above the crowd.

It’s no coincidence that many of articles in the latest Clever Content Weekly focus on this issue. I have been, am and will always be unashamedly passionate about the value of great content for your business. But you can – and must – pay lots of time and attention to it. Why? It’s important because it sets the tone for everything that happens afterwards. The services that you sell are central to any successful business and the simple, clear and direct messages you send out about them is the way in which you let the world know.

Notice I wrote “messages” in that last sentence – not the “media” you use. The media we use to convey messages have changed greatly in recent years. They will change some more – media will come and media will go – but clear messages and great stories will outlast them all.

Content is also important because an elevator pitch today feels like a luxury of time. Instead, your time to make a pitch is now the few seconds it takes the buyer inside the lift to push the button to slide the doors shut – with you potentially left on the outside. Under this kind of pressure, you don’t need to talk quickly about yourself. But you do need to talk clearly and simply about the difference you could make.

We are all Talent Citizens now

Yesterday for me was all about technology and talent – as will many days in future, I suspect. I couldn’t get to a great FuelX19 conference, so the tech kicked in – I watched a web stream of some excellent presentations while working on another project. And once online, I saw Jo Mills of Fuel50 talk about our responsibility as leaders and managers to embrace the concept of Talent Citizenship.

Talent Citizenship means you consciously, actively and wholeheartedly develop the talents of those who work for you – for the common good. You know employees may leave one day and, actually, you’re more than OK with that – you’re happy and excited about it. Your pride, as a proud Talent Citizen of the world, is to see them return to the talent marketplace in far better shape than when they joined you. I love Jo’s idea. Good citizenship, to me, is far more than extra-hours volunteering – it is also central to how we see our purpose in the workplace.

We are all ‘Talent Citizens’ now.

Top Employers Institute

It’s so important to stop and celebrate what goes brilliantly in the workplace. Last night we did just that, with the Top Employers Institute and several hundred like-minded folk in central London.

Inspiring stories around our table and doubtless others – and no one around me mentioned the snow or the “B” word… 🙂

Great to see you Kirsten Levermore, Natasha Tsakiris, Katie Scott, Daniel Cave, Beckett Frith and of course Emma Price

Thanks to everyone at Top Employers UK for such a great night – especially Phil Sproston FCMI, ACIPD, Sam Wight, Claire Matthews and all involved.

Respect is the constant

When you go to a conference, some things stick and others don’t. Last week, I had the pleasure to go to the excellent Merit Summit in Vienna. The keynote speaker Gerard Penning of Shell said something that has stayed with me …

“You can have all the Behaviours you like, but you have to show Respect to others….”

I’ve been thinking about this ever since – and I couldn’t agree more …

Behaviour, to me, is a display of a belief or attitude. It can vary from day-to-day depending on pressures and commitment.

Respect, to me, is not a belief, even though some businesses list “Respect” in in their behaviours. That’s nice, but to me it either exists or it doesn’t. It should be unwavering – a constant.

I’ve met people who are committed to corporate behaviours but clearly lack personal respect for others. And I’ve met those who try their best with behaviours – and sometimes fail, but show total respect to all around them.

I know who I’d rather work with … what about you?

Lest We Forget

How do we make sure we never forget the lessons that we always used to remember? Last weekend, huge crowds in St Albans queued for hours to see a stunningly beautiful set of poppy projections – see video – inside the walls of the magnificent Cathedral ahead of the 100th anniversary of Remembrance Sunday, or Armistice Day.

As I looked at those standing with us in the cold and rain, I considered how there is next to no one left alive with any memory of World War 1. Even those with childhood memories of World War 2 would be at least knocking on the door of their 80th birthdays. There were precious few of the latter in the crowd – and yet those with no recollection at all kept coming and queueing around several blocks of the city centre until late into the evening.

I do worry that while the understanding of war’s folly burns bright among ordinary people, the mistakes that led us there are now being repeated by leaders around the world. And this is why a 100 year old commemoration should shamelessly lean on new technology and ideas to keep the flame of remembrance alive.

Collaboration: Keep it simple for your CEO

How do you get your CEO’s backing for a more collective approach to creativity and innovation in your organisation? CEO sponsorship is so important – it’s like a snowball gathering mass on a downhill run – the higher up the hill it begins, the bigger the impact at the bottom.

In an excellent webinar this week, ahead of the forthcoming Merit Summit in Vienna (with a theme of “Co-creating Learning Organisations”), Professor Carlo Giardinetti set out his vision of the challenges of tapping into the collective intelligence of organisations.

Few leaders doubt that collaborative approaches are a “good thing”, yet Giardinetti rightly notes that many stop short of supporting initiatives they see as unwieldy or unworkable. Understandably, they put a heavy premium on simple, pragmatic and results-driven models for better collaboration.

The rest of us see the gains from applying collective intelligence but need help to sell it “upwards”. So we need to put ourselves firmly in the CEO’s shoes. Is our vision as clear as it can be? Is it simple to administer? Is it robust against the everyday challenges of corporate reality? And how will its results shine through – for all to see?

Answer these questions and we can give this snowball a massive shove – from the top of the hill ….