Posts Tagged ‘Connected’

How accountable are you?

March 17, 2014

The Accountability Ladder is a tool we use a lot at Blue Sky; it’s part of the company lexicon and used to help us understand why we’re not achieving everything we’d like to at work and at home. So, how does it work? Well, a recent conversation with my nine year old nephew explains it rather well:

“Hey Vincent, is everything ok, you’re looking a bit worried?”
“I’ve got a bit of a problem, I’ve not done my school project”
“So how come you haven’t done it?”
“Well, I didn’t know it needed doing.”
“Hmmm, but if you didn’t know it needed doing, how come you’re telling me about it?”
“Well, I guess I did know that it needed doing…”

In this short exchange, young Vincent is already on the shifting sands of perspective. So how does the tale fit with the tool?

Well, the Accountability Ladder describes the eight levels of accountability that allow us to step back, evaluate and really look at the choices we make and how we handle different situations. The top four rungs describe accountable behaviours (things that happen because of you) and the bottom four describe victim behaviours (things that happen to you). The more time you can spend towards the top of the ladder, the more opportunities you can open up for yourself and your team and the more attainable your goals will be. 

So, although I wouldn’t want to say that a young nine year old is a victim or displaying victim behaviours, in the sense of the model, Vincent was just not taking accountability. What he was trying to do was hold on to being right about being wrong; his own very good reason not to change. Indeed, in his own mind, an entirely adequate reason for his lack of effort or his lack of success. Our conversation didn’t stop there:

“When you said you didn’t know, but you did know, what’s the real reason you haven’t done it?” I asked.
“Well, I never really had it explained to me, the teacher didn’t make it clear,” so he moved to a place of blaming someone else.
“Ok, what didn’t the teacher make clear?”
“Well, she didn’t make it clear… well, actually she did make it clear”.

Even at this point, Vincent’s fertile imagination continued to justify his inaction:
“We’ve just been so busy this holiday” (still at the bottom of the ladder…. someone else’s fault for taking him out and showing him a good time).
He then moved up the ladder to excuses.
“Well I can’t do it now because there’s only three days left so it’s pointless, it’s not worth me doing it”.

So here he’s kind of saying there’s maybe something I could have done, but at this point I’m still right in not having to do it, if it was my fault before, I’m still ok because there’s no time left.

He then went on to say: “Well, with a bit of luck, some of the other kids won’t have done it either.”

So Vincent is now on the wait and hope rung and what he’s really doing is saying: “These are all the reasons I haven’t done it: I didn’t know about it, other people should have explained it to me, I can’t do it now because I don’t have time and with a bit of luck, other people won’t have done it either.”

In a work context, we’ve all sent a wait and hope email; the kind where our response is non-committal or pushes the responsibility away… the kind where you press send, sit back, sigh in relief and cross fingers that it won’t come back.

So when we choose the “I didn’t know” and “blame others” excuses, or “I can’t” and “wait and hope”, the chances are we’re stuck. So next time you find yourself thinking “I can’t talk to that person because they’re just so aggressive” (blame others) or “I haven’t got the time” (excuse) or “well at some point they are bound to realise what they are doing wrong” (wait and hope), the chances are that you’re on one of those bottom rungs of the ladder.

So when Vincent said: “My dad will kill me if I don’t do it”, he was acknowledging reality and in doing so, he moved up the ladder. He realised that actually, if he was the only child in that room that hadn’t done the project, the teacher was going to hold him to account. He then moved into owning it.

In fact, he was like the cat who got the cream when he turned round and said:
“Do you know what? I bet in three days I could make it look as if I’ve worked on it all holiday”.

He had started to find a solution and make a plan, “I could use google maps”, “can I borrow your camera, Uncle Guy? You could drive me around and I could take some photos around the local area”. And then he moved into making it happen.

The Accountability Ladder doesn’t necessarily mean you get the output that you want, or that you’re able to solve things. What it does mean is that irrespective of whether or not things turn out in your favour, you can hand on heart, look anyone in the eye and say “I was accountable for my decision”.

If you think of a relationship with any one person where it’s not as good as it should be and you want to change it, then you need to own it, become the solution and make it happen. At Blue Sky we talk about Conscious Choice, which is about making the decision to actually act from the top of the ladder.

Where do you sit?

Guy Bloom - Blue Sky Performance Improvement  Guy@bluesky

  http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

Friday Night In

November 11, 2013

Tesco-Van-BSI was sat in last Friday night, anticipating some great TV moments ahead. I had already started to plan out the mindless action films I was going to watch, the rubbish I was going to eat…..My better half was heading out for the night leaving me to put the kids to bed and sort the food shopping delivery. The latter task for some reason I build up in mind as something I hate doing.

The food had been ordered online; the man had packed it up and had delivered it to my doorstep! What is there to hate about the process….maybe it is me being a grumpy old man…but my experience tends to be…..The van pulls up, the guy then proceeds to pull 3 huge boxes from the back, rings the door bell and then drops them outside and grunts a hello. I then have to become a human shopping sprinting machine.… where I have 5 seconds to pick up all 12 bags at once, race to the kitchen, dodge the kids who have started to unpack the goodies as I carry the bags, catch tins that have fallen out of the wafer thin bags, unload it all and race back before the guy puts another 3 huge boxes down in front of me. This process repeats until I have no breath left and no room on my kitchen worktop or floor to put more bags down!

I saw from the corner of my eye the supermarket van pull up outside.  I sighed here we go…..The doorbell rang….anticipating the normal grunt and ritual cliché exchanges. Not this time, I was met by a middle aged guy who can only be described as a very happy man, who loved his job! He immediately scanned the situation and observed that I had two children poised ready to take any chocolate from the bags that they could see. He must have noticed I was a little flustered, he calmly said…. “There’s no rush, I will give you a hand to bring these ones in before we get the rest!”. Could I believe what I was hearing… I had readied myself and limbered up even for the customary race  back and forward to the kitchen. But it looks like this time it would be different, the delivery guy was helping me.

As the chap walked back through the lounge he noticed my daughter who at the time was holding her guitar, practicing 3 Blind Mice from memory. He stopped in his tracks and started asking her about the guitar and how long she had played. Loving the attention my daughter proceeded to tell him her musical career (all 2 weeks of it). He asked if he good borrow the guitar for a moment and started to show her a couple of chords… which he then wrote down on the back of the receipt so she would not forget them. All I could think of was…. why don’t more people take the moment to scan the other persons situation and seek ways to help them in the moment? This is what great attentive and thoughtful service is about…. make it easy for people, connect and leave them with a peak ending they will remember.

The delivery guy could have chosen to be oblivious to what was going on for me, but he didn’t. He took a few precious seconds to slow down the process to allow me to only break a moderate sweat moving the bags, he took the time out to engage with us and most importantly he left a lasting memory of the service. That is what I call a peak end to a customer experience. I would love to hear about your stories.

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Seanatbluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Communication – the key to building trust

October 16, 2013

Lydia HewettI’ve worked with many household names, usually when they are trying to change their working culture to move in a new strategic direction and in my experience the companies that do this successfully do it openly, honestly and in an adult way. In other words they trust their employees and management team to create shared goals and together agree how they are going to get there. Sounds easy doesn’t it? In reality it’s a brave and often avoided move, as Stephen Covey says in ‘The Speed of Trust’:

“Trust is the least understood and most neglected variable of our time.”

Unless a company has always had an open and honest culture with trust at the core, then creating trust is a challenge. It means getting everyone talking, getting everything out in the open – believe me, when you start asking people to talk about what’s good and bad about their work place, they rarely hold back!

For management teams this sudden honesty can be terrifying, all sorts of issues they thought had disappeared rise to the surface, but this bravery is always rewarded. As Covey says:

“How we do what we do makes all the difference.”

The brave organisation spends time getting past issues out into the open, talking through the proposed changes and taking time to explain the reason behind them. Crucially they’ll also listen to and value the opinions and issues they hear back. Your people are the most important resource and they know detailed aspects of your company that as a manager you will not. By trusting their judgement and ideas, you engage them in the process of change, you talk through issues that if ignored become barriers to successful transformation, and you get a range of invaluable ideas that help the change be a long term, lasting success.

It’s an adult process and a hugely motivating thing to be involved with. I’ve lost count of the number of times people from all levels of an organisation have told me after a session that this is the first time they feel their voice has been heard, or the first time they really understand where their company is headed and what’s expected of them – it’s powerful stuff.

The key to generating trust is to keep your courage, yes, you’ll have to come through some difficult conversations and face up to some issues that it would be easier to ignore. In reality it’s a spring clean, by getting your house in order and everything into the open, you create strong relationships based on shared trust and common goals to work towards a shared future, I for one want to be part of an organisation that operates on these terms.

Lydia Hewett

About Lydia:

Lydia started out in-house, recruiting staff, managing employee communications and developing HR policies for a FTSE 100 business as it went through a complex demerger.

She moved into her first consulting role in ad agency JWT’s employee communications arm, principally working on NHS change projects. A move to PwC was followed by five years in their consulting arm. Here she worked for various household names as well as for smaller organisations, specialising in employee engagement, culture change and communications.

She is CIPD qualified and has coached managers, designed communications strategies, implemented corporate restructuring programmes and managed complex global change processes.

www.prospectplaceconsulting.com

The great trust gap

October 8, 2013

2013 has been a terrible year for organisational trust.

The Jimmy Savile inquiry highlighted a worrying lack of accountability within the BBC and even the police. Edward Snowden’s data-privacy whistleblowing suggested the governments not only don’t trust us, but we shouldn’t trust them. And the new Governor designate of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, declared that trust “screeched out of the parking lot” in 2008 and banks need to undergo deep cultural change to restore public confidence.

Frankly, these scandals of mistrust come as no surprise to most of us, whether you’re the waitress in a bakery or the CEO of a bank. The CIPD’s quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work. The symptoms of mistrust – hostile gossip, fruitless meetings and incompetent leaders – are daily realities for many in the workplace.

Yet high trust is a key characteristic of profitable and sustainable businesses. Trust not only provokes customers to buy, it encourages employees to stay loyal and turns process-clogged organisations into lean, mean collaborative machines.

It’s time we spoke up about the lack of trust in our organisations and took responsibility for change. Here are the three steps we take at Blue Sky when turning rhetoric into reality.

1.    Take the trust blinkers off

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within your business every day. Examples to look out for include leaders talking the talk but not demonstrating the competence or the character to live up to their senior role; widespread grumbling behind the backs of colleagues; a reluctance to make decisions; not owning up to mistakes and making self-serving decisions.

Click here to read more »

2.    Break trust down into its elements

Steven M.R Covey brilliant book The Speed of Trust emphasises that trust is a behaviour rather than a trait. By breaking trust into 13 characteristics, including talking straight, righting wrongs, confronting reality, clarifying expectations and practicing accountability, he demonstrates that trust is under our control, and that it can be rebuilt, step by step – if we can find a way to commit to it.

Click here to read more »

3.    Get buy-in from within

Finally, trust has to become a priority truly embraced and evangelised by people at all levels of an organisation to ensure cultural change. Naming the behaviours you identified in step one, and citing the evidence that show the impact of trust on the bottom line (for example, people are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust) will help win over cynics. With senior leaders as your champions, you then need to ensure that trust coaching spreads through the ranks. As role models begin to emerge, the groundswell of trust will begin to grow.

Click here to read more »

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke Edwards

I am Director of Learning at Blue Sky, so am firmly placed to share with you our approach to performance improvement at every level from your contact centre staff to your CEO. I know that for businesses to achieve major success, their people need to work towards organisational objectives, not individual or departmental ones. I love the work I personally deliver for senior teams that are positioned to support this behaviour from the top down.

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

Bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses

July 25, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I start to read numerous articles each week, but in truth, actually finish reading only a small proportion. I’ve been wondering why that might be.

I think many open with statements that immediately make me feel like I’ll need to commit to a considerable journey of exploration with a resulting output, that in truth, is likely to leave me none the wiser.

Confronted with complex questions, theories, models, mnemonics, tinged with an inordinate amount of academic references and unpronounceable words, the outcome tends to be the same. “Hmmm, haven’t I got work to do?”

Now, whilst I’m no Stephen Hawking, I’m certainly no slouch so surely if I find much of this stuff heavy going, intimidating even, there must be others like me, no?

I want to read articles that engage me immediately. Things I can identify with and understand without reaching for a thesaurus, something that hints at what’s in store and lures me in with tantalising titles, offering me a little “try before you buy”. Essentially, I want a mini-break before committing to the fortnight’s holiday.

Well, I fairly recently discovered Daniel Goleman and have found his articles an absolute breath of fresh air. Whether skimming the surface or a mere flirtation with the topic, he has a way of keeping it simple whilst offering links which will take me on the deeper journey, if and when I decide I’m ready. Whether it be Evaluating your own Emotional Intelligence with the starting point being asking myself 9 very straightforward questions or exploring the Five Key Steps to Habit Change, he does enough to engage my thinking swiftly.

Seriously, who could resist an article entitled Maximize your “Aha!” Moment Before I know it, I’m there, bags packed and heading off on a journey to who knows where.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that this is over simplified nonsense. Trust me, with his Ph.D. from Harvard, for those interested, there’s enough references to Freud and gamma activity to keep even the purists happy.  I think he succeeds where others struggle, in bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses.

Miranda-Cain---Blue-Sky-Performance-Improvement   Mirandaatbluesky

Blue Sky Performance Improvement Logo - High Resolution

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement