Author Archive

I just gave someone a listening to.

September 12, 2013

Listening-Dog-BlueI am a mere mortal. I know this because I have to take my car for its annual MOT. (That’s a legally required road safety check here in the UK for more mature vehicles. More important people have somebody do this for them. Or have new cars.)

The thing is, it took me a while to get it sorted out because I ended up giving the lady at the garage a damn good listening to.

In brief: Her husband is fifty years young next year so they are going to New Zealand where they have friends. They are going to rent a motorcycle. He already has a Honda Fireblade and she sometimes falls asleep when she is pillion. Their kids – which they had young – are at university and the boyfriends have basically moved in. The kids each have a Vauxhall car. They have almost paid off the mortgage and thanks to a canny endowment purchase.

This happens to me a lot. I meet random folk and they download.

My family roll their eyes when we are out and about as I am forever engaging in dialogue. Admittedly I am partially to blame as I choose to engage, but there is evidence of a kind of conversational magnetism.

Often in delivering training there is a “listening skills” component. Talk turns to techniques, tips, tricks and blocks to listening (summarised here). The more I reflect on this, the more I come back to the same basic thoughts. In order to listen, you need to be present. (That’s present in the sense of paying attention in the moment. It’s not present as in the opposite of absent.)

Practicing good listening is – almost? – an art. You don’t “do” art, you “be” it. For some, it’s a lost art. For others, they have yet to discover its value.

So – for the record – here’s my listening checklist:

A) Choose to listen. (Be open to receiving. Stop broadcasting for a wee while.)

B) Prepare yourself. (Crank up your presence in the moment.)

C) “Be” a listener. (Silence, reflection, pause before responding.)

Now go on, give someone a proper listening to…

“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.”
David Augsberger

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvement Ian Beer

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Asking questions as a creative habit

August 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are genuine.”
Abraham Lincoln

Being a bit, well, old I can remember when research exclusively meant having to physically go to a library and read stuff. And when I say read, I mean really read. You’d ask librarians, speak to subject matter experts and whittle it down yourself to a few key titles if possible. Then you’d be alone: scouring the contents pages looking for the right chapters.  Essentially it was a whole lot of reading. Then the world changed.

Behold the internet!

Often we fail to recognise how it has made stuff quicker and simpler. Now we don’t even have to read because a subject matter expert has made a video. When it comes to DIY it’s possible to “get good” at any number of things because one can watch a VideoJug or YouTube expert showing you how.

Of course, quicker and simpler isn’t always better.

As my induction to Blue Sky Performance Improvement rattles along I find an increasing need to up my understanding on various topics. This has become a curious hotchpotch of t’interweb (video or otherwise), reading actual books, working with subject matter experts and getting coached. It’s underpinned by plain ol’ fashioned questions.

Then it occurred to me that I was experiencing blended learning. Now this has me reflecting not only on the shortcomings of each method in isolation, but of my own disappointingly lazy tendencies for finding evidence to fit the crime (so to speak). So as adoring of the web as I am, my level of trust in myself needs to be policed. I am staying honest and tempering my rampant enthusiasm by one simple question.
Is that true?

Is that cynicism? Nope, it’s pragmatism dear reader. The hopeless romantic in me would love to think that everything published out there in the Cloud was good and true. Then I read about Professor Hal Gregersen at INSEAD who positively relishes asking questions of what is presented to him. Like him I now find myself helping reshape and refine existing materials, practices and processes because questions have been asked. This feels good. This adds value. So now I modify my approach.

So what if that was true?

Now we have joyously disruptive conversations around here that test current thinking and move us ahead. How very refreshing.

Abe Lincoln would be proud…

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementwww.blue-sky.co.uk

“If I Had More Time I Would Write a Shorter Letter”

August 7, 2013

Simplicity & Sophistication.

There’s much debate over who this quote is actually attributed to. On this occasion, let’s credit Mark Twain. More here. No matter, it’s a theme that fascinates me. (It’s also a rich vein for irony as any expansion on the topic surely invites ridicule. Note to self: Use the KISS principle in blogs.)

Recently joining Blue Sky I am learning all the time about us: as people and The Blue Sky Way. Then there are our many wonderful clients and projects. Have you seen our case studies?! It’s really rather exciting! And yet really rather overwhelming when you’re new. My poor, overloaded Welsh brain is imploring folk to provide summaries, headlines, priorities and snapshots because it can’t make sense of it all.

This is where the fun starts.

You see, when you are so very deeply connected with a job/project/idea, to pull back and give someone a simple oversight is surprisingly challenging. It’s all too easy to brain dump and give all the detail in briefing a colleague. How so? This is human nature on several fronts: our professionalism, our intelligence, our thoroughness, our knowledge, our expertise all jostle for position.

Yet such detail is not always helpful to the new guy/gal. Not at first. So how do you do this in a manner that gets the newbie up to speed with maximum efficiency? Time to efficiency is a concept all of us have some interest in at work. (Although when you Google it I was rather surprised to see searches around Viagra as a top hit!) How long before you’re going to be truly effective?

Not that one can exist on a diet solely of sketches, helicopter views and big pictures you understand. Yet to prioritise, one must get a handle on the themes at play and then seek out the detail. It came to me in a flash: I need people to pitch to me so that I can buy what they are talking about.

At times like these I turn to Dan Pink. In his corking read “To Sell is Human” he postulates that we need to practice six pitches to get on.  Here’s the first one:

http://vimeo.com/66508882

On a note closer to home, I’ve had success with asking “how would you explain this to my maiden aunt?” Then I get a non-technical, jargon free, plain English overview for what’s going on. It works wonders. Why? Because then I’m curious: then I want to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Da Vinci said it before, I’ll say I again:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementhttp://www.blue-sky.co.uk

When was the last time you tried something new?

July 30, 2013

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”

So said Mark Twain and as my first month with Blue Sky ends I am moved to write on the topic.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you started something new? I mean, properly new? For me – professionally – it’s been not far short of a decade. Add in not getting any younger and the whole shift from comfort zone to discomfort zone is a fascinating one to reflect on.

Consider this: you get home to find your nearest and dearest half way through a movie. You sit down to watch. It’s awkward to interrupt, to ask what’s happened so far, you’re not sure what’s going on and the plot is a little bit of a mystery. Familiar? Well, it’s like that changing to a new role only more so. It’s frustrating not knowing who the main characters are and what they represent. It’s maddening not knowing what’s important and what’s inconsequential.

Unlike that movie though, with a new role it’s okay to ask. It’s okay to press pause, to ask “what just happened?” Of course, it’s not a movie, not a recording. It’s more like live TV and the cameras are trained on you!

It’s only when you make a personal change like this that you realise how all-consuming it is. You’re surprisingly tired, you’re more easily confused and you’re blessed (?!) with excess information. Add to that your desire to make it work and professional pride, or in my case, sheer stubbornness. It is oh-so-difficult to remember to step back such is the onslaught. Particularly as you’ve trained yourself in being really, really good at your last job.

Luckily, the folk around here are not just great to be around, but also rather excellent at this change stuff. I know I’m in good hands, I just need to let them help me!

So I’ll be focused on prioritising and keeping it simple. After all, Leonardo Da Vinci told us “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” If I allow myself a moment to stand back, I think I know what he was getting at…

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementwww.blue-sky.co.uk