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And yes, I like to use alliterations where I can. By vitality I mean broadly ‘quality of life’. Don’t get so caught up with the vision that you forget to have fun and worse still, stop others from having fun and enjoying life. You might have a strong vision for your company, but don’t forget about your family. Don’t get so caught up in achieving best ever global sales that your team members feel you see them as tools to achieve a task, rather than people who add value.

In order to help prevent falling into vision vice, I would strongly suggest making sure you have written a vision down for your personal and family life as well.


As team leader your job isn’t just to get individuals to Accept that change is coming. You need to Help them to plan and prepare for that change.

People often have a vague (sometimes even a clear) idea of where they are headed. Change often throws them off course or even blocks a road they thought they were going to go down.

Your job in the Help stage is to remap with the individual. A mass e-mail on ‘change management’  is about as appropriate at this stage as a bicycle is to a drowning man.

Get people to talk about the map that they had planned out. Talk about what the future might look like. They might decide they want to go somewhere completely different. Talk about how they might get there and what tools they might need.

Make sure each individual has a clear plan of action.  This will make sure they feel confident, cared for and ready for the change ahead. And that’s where you want your team to be.

The patient listening, hand-holding, tissue-box buying, and gentle re-assurance finally pays off. People start to accept the fact that the change is going to happen, that it isn’t quite the monster they thought it would be and in fact, it might even turn out to be a good thing for them.

Some might be vocal advocates of the change. Others will tend to ponder it internally. You need to encourage the advocates to spread the good cheer, and continue to dialogue with those who are quiet to ensure that they don’t slip back a stage or two.

Don’t try and rush through this stage. It is foundational for all that is coming.

None of us are likely to ever see the Blackberry Empathy but it is an interesting concept.

In short, it uses a biometric ring to determine the mood of the owner of the Empathy. Their mood will change the colour of the phone screen, the colour of the owners social avatar and the colour of the messages that they send.

It will also show you the mood of all the people on your contacts list that also own the Empathy. So you can see what sort of mood your boss is in before you ask them for that pay rise or holiday. Handy. Although he can see what mood you are in half way through a meeting. Not so handy.

If you have ever used the Johari Window then what the Blackberry Empathy essentially does is increase the ‘Open’ or ‘Public’ square i.e. those things about us that are known to both us and others.

If you haven’t used the Johari Window, it is a great tool that helps teams to interact better and more effectively with each other, by encouraging appropriate disclosure and feedback. Done sensitively, disclosure can help build trust, solve issues and work more effectively as as team. Done sensitively. I’m not sure broadcasting ones mood via Blackberry would fall into the ‘sensitively’ or even ‘sensibly’ category!

Have a look at this 25 minute video if you can. Especially if you are struggling with these 3 questions:

1 – How do you get everyone in your team to contribute ideas? Why do some people hold back?

2 – How do you get people to really think like a customer and think about the customer experience?

3 – How can you find solutions to business problems more easily?

brainstormWe’ve all been there, doing the round the table brainstorming session where everybody says an idea and somebody at the front writes it down on a flipchart but do we really understand what it means to brainstorm?

Brainstorming is a freestyle licence to say anything, even if it’s the most stupid, tenuously-linked idea.  That’s the key to a good brainstorming session and a flow of ideas that just keep on coming.  We shouldn’t hold back the crazy ideas through fear of people laughing at us as they often turn out to be the most creative thoughts, and more of then than not the winners!

We British, with our stiff upper lips can sometimes be the worst when it comes to brainstorming as our mentality to such things can be somewhat reserved.  However we do like to have fun and that’s what brainstorming is really all about – fun!

So next time you find yourself huddled around the boardroom table take off the shackles and unleash the brainstorming beast.  Who cares if people laugh, it just means you’re a funny person.

tea ladyFollowing on from The Gorv’s comment yesterday about employers actually finding out and listening to what employees want I saw an article on the BBC News this morning featuring the return of the classic British tea trolley! Apparently a survey of 1000 office workers showed that a return of the tea trolley to the working environment would be very welcome as it signals the fact that it’s break time and everybody needs a break.

The worries of the modern office worker are many and as such regular breaks should be encouraged but the opposite has in fact happened with people chained to their desks and feeling guilty if they are caught on a break. Back in the days of the unions break time was set in stone with workers knocking off for a cuppa at 11am and 3:30pm but now people barely manage to get away from their desk for lunch let alone a break.

So how do we break the shackles?

Here at Marton House we make a big thing about going somewhere away from the office for lunch.  The more people the merrier. There is no set times for lunch but it’s generally acknowledged lunchtime is one hour sometime between 12 and 2pm and an arrangement is made about 30 minutes before we go out.  At breaks I make a conscious effort to go round and visit people just for a chat, even if it’s just to see what they are working on.
Your manager is there for your benefit as well as that of the company and as such should be ensuring staff are getting the breaks away from the work that they need. After all a break benefits both the employee and the company as after the break the worker will be more productive (hopefully).

The vision of the 21st century tea lady is that of a manager pushing the tea trolley.

Actually we should have seen the return of the tea trolley coming as when we were filming last year in a the HQ of a large Irish bank we were pleasantly surprised to be interrupted mid-rehearsal by the arrival of the “scone” lady.  As she went around the building whole floors would come to a stop to get a cup of tea and a scone.  We were amazed and the people we were working with there were amazed that we should be amazed – “Everyone stops for a scone!”, they proclaimed.

You can read the BBC article here.

 My top tip for today is to check out Wally Bock’s post about 7 ways to increase engagement in the workplace, over on his 3 Star Leadership Blog.

We all know what we are good at right? The question is does everybody else in the office?

Our obvious abilities are the stuff we do everyday, the stuff we get paid for! So what about the things that we are actually really good at but choose to keep them to ourselves? That’s our hidden superhero power!

For example, I’m pretty handy at DIY tasks. One day somebody found out about this, asked me to build some shelves and ever since I’ve been the “go-to” guy when it comes to fixing something up in the office (today I’m fixing an LCD TV to the wall, gulp!).

I don’t mind this at all, in fact it’s nice to do something different around the place once in a while.

Other people around our office have different, unique superpowers which makes them the “go-to” person for their specialism.

  • Richard is our English guru, if you need anything proof-read you go to him
  • Brian is an ex-history teacher and is a great resource for facts
  • Steve keeps his ear to his pod when it comes to music and is a fountain of knowledge
  • Ilias is a PC wizard and knows his stuff
  • Laura has a keen eye for wildlife photography and a fine knowledge of nature

Etc, etc.

What’s your superpower, and does everybody know it yet?

A short while back we were asked to film an interview with the head of training at a certain insurance company. This is a regular occurrence for us when a message needs to be sent out across the business.

Normally a person like this has worked their way up through the ranks or come across from a similar company and as a reward they’ve ended up with a swanky office towards the top of a high rise building. This is quite often the location they want to film their message in too, even though we always try to break tradition by suggesting other locations – depending on the project requirements of course.

This person was different. When I was talking on the phone to his PA she suggested the filming should take place in his office, as is the norm. Usually my next line of questioning tries to break that mould a little bit and get them thinking of areas which could be more appropriate by suggesting there could be a problem with filming in the office, something along the lines of the office being too small for us to film in but in this case her answer took me by surprise.

“Oh I think you won’t have a problem there, it’s open plan!”

You see, this particular head of department had snubbed the high rise office and chosen instead to have a desk in amongst his team.

This says a great deal, and we came away with an amazing interview.

In a similar way Seth Godin made a post on his blog recently about a bank manager in the town of Pleasantville aways parking directly outside the branch in a potential customer spot. Not only does this send out a message to the customer, it also sends one out to the staff too.

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