Posts Tagged ‘Connection’

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

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

“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

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

Building True Rapport

May 1, 2012

Rapport is when we feel on the same wavelength as someone; we feel in sync and connected on an emotional level. We feel connected with a person, as if there is no barrier between us and them. We feel comfortable and natural and as though we like and know this person – as if somehow they are the same as us. We feel comfortable and good about ourselves around them.

There are many techniques for building rapport, but techniques are limited because they are just that: a technique. When we start trying to build rapport by using a technique so that we can make a successful sale or build relationships, we are fundamentally flawed. True rapport is created when we are not trying to manipulate for our own end gain. Rapport is created from an intention to not achieve anything for yourself. It’s created from a desire to deeply understand someone and to see the positives within them. When trying to build rapport with someone, the only question to ask yourself is, ‘Do I really care?’

Captivate - Building Rapport - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

When speaking to people…if I am asking them questions about their weekend and their wife and kids, do I really care what their weekend was like?  People very quickly know if you don’t really care because you no longer listen, you are not present with them or you are thinking about how you can get them to do something you want. When you are not listening, people find themselves to be boring and either stop talking or stop engaging in what they are saying. They start thinking, ‘Why is this person not listening to me? What are they thinking about?’ and they stop being engaged in what they are saying. Below are some handy tips to help you listen better and build rapport:

First…here’s an example of rapport breaking down all together

Handy tips:

  • Become curious about other people
  • Listen to understand and avoid listening to interrupt
  • Acknowledge what people say to you
  • When you are listening to yourself…you cannot be listening to the other person
  • Suspend your judgement about the other person
  • Don’t look over the person’s shoulder for someone more interesting
  • Try to find out one thing you did not know about a person on a regular basis
  • Focus on interests rather than positions i.e. we all have a ‘position’ and ‘interests’ about a subject
  • Make the conscious choice to really listen to people you are talking to…if you are thinking about what you had for dinner you are not listening
  • Be present in the moment at all times
  • Watch other people’s body language or listen for their tone of voice, listen for the unsaid
  • Ask genuine questions. A genuine question is one that stems from curiosity; you ask to learn something you do not already know. A rhetorical or leading question is one you ask to make your point of view known without having to actually state it. For example, the question “Do you really think that will work?” is not a genuine question because embedded in your question is your own view that you don’t think it will work. However, you can easily convert this to a genuine question by first stating your views. You might say, “I’m not seeing how this will work because we only have three staff members. What are you seeing that leads you to think it will work?”
  • Seek to enjoy every interaction you have with people
  • However clear you may feel about your understanding of the answers, it can be worth reflecting back from time to time and summarizing.  This ensures correct understanding, demonstrates attention and reassures people that they’re being fully heard and understood. This will play a major part in building trust.
  • Look for ways in which we see the world in the same way as someone else and let them know that
  • Try opening up and disclosing some personal information about yourself. The more open we are, the more people feel as if there is nothing hidden and they can trust us

None of the above will work, unless you really care about interacting with the person you are talking to.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Ever tried to bake a cake without an egg? Part 2

September 8, 2011

We know that customer advocacy is vital, now we need to explore the current shift in customer perception and mindset.

So, there has been a shift – a big shift!  So why, following this big shift in focus and perceived capability to deliver against a customer focus from the top, are the top dogs for service still relatively similar to the one’s we would recall from 10 years ago?

Really! The same organisations that were at the top of the tree in the UK; the likes of First Direct, John Lewis, Waitrose, Virgin and BUPA are still there today. (Check out any of the UK CSI results over the years)

Some, like BT, Tesco, British Gas have slipped a bit, but if you were to look at Britain’s best-loved customer experiences then and now, there would not be much difference.

So despite making a shift in implementing processes and retaining really strong intent from the top, success still eludes the vast majority of companies.

As with ten years ago, successful companies are those that have the greatest appeal to their customers in both rational and emotional terms.

We’ve spent much of the last decade shoring up the rational ways we do business – better processes, better measurement, better management, but have potentially neglected the emotional appeal.

Engage - Hand Holding - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

So what’s the answer?

Well, I think there are probably many things that the best of the best have in common in the way they create customer advocacy, but I was recently reading the Starbucks story and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks summarises the customer experience transformation undertaken by Starbucks as a combination of Intent – the genuine and visible intent of the leadership team, Process – those that truly support customer advocacy, and Heart – the engagement of the people within the organisation to deliver.

We often get asked to focus purely on Heart – ‘please come in to our business and make our people more engaged!’. But what we know is unless all three are working together and continually finely tuned, you’ll always be good, but maybe not on the list.  It made me think – focussing purely on one bit is really just like trying to bake a cake with just an egg.

Sally@Bluesky

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Ever tried to bake a cake without an egg? Part 1

September 2, 2011

It’s pretty common knowledge now that creating customer advocacy pays off.

By ‘advocacy’, I mean generating such an emotional connection with your brand that customers remain loyal in the long term and by ‘pays off’, I am referring briefly to the robust research that concludes that loyalty leaders have lower costs and higher growth rates than the average organisation.  (If you don’t believe me, check out any of Fred Reicheld’s work on-line.)

So armed with this knowledge, you’d think organisations would be getting much better at creating high levels of advocacy, wouldn’t you?  Well I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling a massive amount of advocacy for many of the companies I am a customer of – there are some, but they are still the same companies I liked 20 years ago.  They are probably the same companies you like, or at least have heard other people raving about.

Connect - BlueSky - Bluesky Performance Improvement

10 years ago research was conducted into Customer Centricity, to establish the extent to which organisations truly did place customers at the heart of their organisation.

What this research revealed was this:

  • 83% of companies believed their CEO’s were passionate about customers, although few had evidence to support it.
  • However, whilst over 80% of organisations had strategies in place for customer acquisition, development and retention, in some cases as few 40% actually had the relevant processes, targets and measures in place to implement the strategies effectively. Companies knew what to do but didn’t have the mechanisms in place to deliver.

Now 10 years on, we repeated this study in to a smaller number of organisations, but the pattern was evident all the same.  The picture 10 years on looked like this:

  • Interestingly 88% of organisations now believe their CEO is passionate about customers
  • However over 90% now have not only the strategies in place, but claim to be happy with the supporting processes, targets and measures in place for each business development component – customer acquisition, customer development and customer retention

The next part of this blog will explore the shift and what it means to the ‘Top Dogs’.

Sally@Bluesky

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Inspire – The Way of the Panda

July 28, 2011

Imagine a beautiful sunny day with the company setting out for their mystery hike, blindfolded and bundled into the back of a mini van. If we hadn’t seen them all go off so peacefully we would have thought they were being kidnapped. But no, their fate involved a map, a compass and a lot of walking.

However, not us! Physically impaired yet still inspired, unable to take part in the outbound antics due to a variety of injuries, the (special) team were empowered to choose how they spent their afternoon. After some serious consideration there was a clear winner…Kung Fu Panda in 3D at the Odeon, Guildford.

Simon, Charlie & Yvette Inspire Themselves

Two of our values – connection and progressive – formed the theme of the day. We lived these to the full, connecting via hot dogs, wearing each others’ popcorn and Simon made progress as he had never experienced life in 3D. With the help of Kung Fu Panda we reflected and recognise that inner peace and choosing who you are, right now and in the moment is a key lesson.

We ended our day connected, inspired and a bit sticky (from the popcorn)!

Simon, Yvette & Charlie@Bluesky

Simon, Charlie & Yvette - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement