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 You know when you get the feeling when you come out of a situation that it could have gone a bit better than it actually did? That happened yesterday after a meeting with an established client about a new piece of work.

I presented to them an example using an e-learning solution; a solution which I knew very well having project managed the piece. I thought this familiarity would be all the preparation I needed and to be fair, it has done before.

What I found though was that I delivered my normal patter about it and although I got through it ok it didn’t quite hit the mark. In hindsight I should have put myself in their shoes and made a few notes about what I would want to see if I were them. I actually knew it so well I showed off far to much and probably got a bit technical.

I am sure I am not alone in this…. in every other aspect I prepared for and had a successful meeting but I have left them probably a little confused. It really does show that even if you know something really well you should never assume that strong knowledge is all you need to communicate to your audience in exactly the right way.

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Over the last few years I’ve been really interested in Allan Leighton and his approach to leadership. I was an Asda colleague in the days when he pulled the company back from the brink of collapse – and when the auditorium in Asda House was bizarrely known as the Tomato Room!

Not only is he a “pluralist” (i.e. he has a string of directorships), he happily gets involved at ground level… most famously having tasted the dog food while he was at Mars.

The issues at Royal Mail (over pay, pensions shortfall, changes to working practices and job losses) are probably the most challenging he has ever faced; yet he is facing them head on. Leighton sees the underlying issue as being about sort term pain for long term gain.

On Leadership he says: “Good leaders have, first of all, to be resilient. second, they have to focus on the right thing – what’s right in the mid term, however painful that is going to be in the short term, And third, good leaders must communicate the message as oftern as they can, and remember that leadership is not a popularity contest….. The best way to learn is to simply watch others – to see the good and bad, take the bits you like and that fit with your perosnality and style… and copy them shamelessly.”

Last month we did a feature on Making Meetings Matter. Here’s an article from the Guardian about how to deal with certain types of meeting goer.

A post I read on Seth’s blog this morning got me thinking about how often I say “I don’t know” without thinking about it first. Seth’s point is that there is 2 kinds of “I don’t know”; The genuine kind when you just don’t have the knowledge or the information and the fearful kind when you say “I don’t know” as a knee jerk reaction rather than having a stab at it, getting it only half right and looking foolish.

Sometimes saying “I don’t know” seems easier than having to come up with an answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to say.

Who wants to be known as the “I don’t know” guy?

Next time someone asks you a question leave it a beat before answering.  Maybe if you allow your brain to get into gear you’ll discover an appropriate answer coming out of your mouth instead of “I don’t know.”

Zen StonesThe Zen Habits blog had an interesting post on it the other day about Haiku Productivity.

Haiku Productivity is a method used by poets which forces the poet to focus on only those words that mean the most to the poem, rather than getting lost within the structure and any extraneous language. It’s really all about setting limits on everything

Actually the whole post is a little long-winded but I did find 2 top tips towards the end of it around emails.

The first one is for checking emails:

2. times to process email: If I only allow myself to check email twice a day, I cannot let email control my life. It makes me much more efficient. When I process email, I process to empty. Now, there are other times during the day when I have to send email, such as emailing a post to one of my editors. At that time, I might respond quickly to one or two emails, but I don’t process my email during that time.

With being in and out of the office so much recently I’d already adopted this tip without realising it, and it’s been very effective. If something is really important the person will call you in person.

Secondly when you do find an email that you need to respond to:

5 sentence emails: I got this idea from Mike Davidson, whose article came at a perfect time as I was limiting other things in my life, and was also trying to keep my emails short at that time. His 5-sentence rule (no email can be longer than 5 sentences) fit in perfectly with everything else I tried to do, and I’ve adopted it. It forces you to write only what’s essential. I broke the rule at first, but I’ve been pretty good lately. This rule also limits the amount of time you spend replying to email, and makes processing a breeze.

Great stuff. You might say poetry in motion, ahem. (sorry).

Over the last couple of weeks I have slept in various hotel rooms; someimes in an environment that was sleep inducing (practically on top of a runway suprisingly) sometimes not. If though, I had been staying in a Travelodge – I would have had my “sleeping experience” overseen by a Director of Sleep. Yes really.

What if I can’t get to sleep on my own? Well you can have a large pillow with arms, aka a “cudillow”.

But what if I need something to help me relax? Well, you could book a fish therapy room; 15 minutes of watching goldfish should do the trick.

What if, randomly, I want to go to a festival? Surely they can’t help me there. Well yes they can, with a Travelpod (now on a second generation).

What I really like is that they have taken a fundamental human need and made it the basis of all advertising – what can be found under peoples beds; cures for sleep deprivation; how much oversleeping costs the nation and giving parents sleep training. The list of possible studies, reserach and martketing opportunities is endless. They may offer low budget beds but the stories suggest they are, with tongue in cheek, genuinely wanting their customers to have access to a good nights sleep and are presenting themselves in every article as sleep experts.

And it’s working…. Travelodge is a national brand and opens a new hotel every 8 days. One couple arrvied in 1985 and liked it so much they never left.

A tip I came across for asking people for favours; you just need to say because!!!

Harvard recently did an experiment to see if people could jump a photocopying queue in a typical workplace. These are the different requests and success rates they had:

1. Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the photocopier? 60% successful.

2. Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the photocopier because I am in a rush? 94% successful.

3. Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the photocopier because I have to make some copies? 93% successful.

Somehow it seems the vague introduction of a reason is enough to produce an instinctively positive response in us.

Now obviously being British I wouldn’t attempt to jump queues, but I wonder if my partner might respond to “any chance you could make dinner tonight, because I want to sit and finish this book witha nice glass of wine?”.

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