We’re all for experiential learning so when, as a team, we had the opportunity to get away from urban life for two days in the higher reaches of North Wales to Snowdonia – we gathered our gear and jumped at the prospect.
Location? A fantastic wooden cabin set in Trawsfynydd - a spacious living area from which to launch our trek. It’s always handy if one of your colleagues owns one of these! ( Thanks Neil!) The property was roughly 30 minutes from our target for the weekend… the 900M Cadair Idris. 900M – ‘Seriously?!’ I hear you cry! Well, this weekend had to have its challenges!
We arrived on Friday, to be greeted with a hearty meal and a glass or two of the red stuff, the first of many opportunities throughout the weekend to discover what makes each of us tick.
With Saturday upon us, we set off, our journey taking us through the vast mountainous area, the fresh, windy air in our faces. The stillness of the calm valleys was striking. With no traffic, the silence of the mountains was only occasionally broken by the sounds of sheep.
Taking in a three hour trek to the summit, we passed beautiful lakes, rocky terrains and even a snow field towards the top – the views were stunning and even though we weren’t the most experienced group of climbers, the sense of achievement when reaching the peak was fantastic. We had got there together, helping each other through difficult spots – the sights from the very edge serving as the reward for our endeavour.
We went up as a team and came down an even stronger team, although individually our knees and ankles took a battering as we descended! A two hour walk back to the starting point gave us time for reflection on our achievement and was firmly put into context when looking back up from the bottom to see what we had climbed – yet another stunning view.
With the weather so perfect on a late April Saturday, a BBQ was the order of the day on the decking outside back at base. The peak of our walk was in full view, glistening in the sunset. In the evening, we had another chance to bond with great food and wine whilst the clear night skies gave us an opportunity to pause, look up at the stars and take it all in.
A great location, a journey of discovery and the chance to pause and reflect had given us a fantastic weekend, the effects of which are already clear back in the office – renewed enthusiasm, a better understanding of each other and the memory of a brilliant weekend away together.
At Farscape we recently ran a Women’s Networking event for a large law firm. The event was something completely new for the firm – they had responded to the latest research showing that despite high percentages of female law students, trainees and solicitors, only 21% of partners in private practice law firms are women. Because it was new and just for women they were worried about how the event would be received and if it would have any kind of impact on the women who were attending.
Well, not to toot our own horn too much, but the feedback was brilliant! The women, initially sceptical, came away inspired, empowered and felt that they were now equipped with the tools to overcome barriers to gaining promotion. This was thanks to our wonderful facilitator. Feedback about her was exceptional:
‘Best facilitator ever’
‘Can we clone her?!’
So what makes a facilitator, or any speaker or presenter, this engaging?
I think a lot of it comes down to what I like to call the 3 P’s of engagement:
This one is pretty simple but overlooked by so many. You cannot hope to engage your audience if you are not fully prepared. A facilitator (or speaker, or anybody giving a presentation) might have presented the same thing a hundred times and know it like the back of their hand, but unless they take the time to prepare it every time, making it relevant to each audience, it will come across as too rehearsed and regurgitated. The audience will quickly switch off.
This is harder to master and can take years of practice to get good at – but a truly engaging presenter/speaker/facilitator will stand in front of an audience and fill up the stage. And it can be learned. One simple tip is to do nothing! Just stand, look at your audience and say nothing for a minute before you start. It can be uncomfortable for the speaker, but the audience immediately engages.
Don’t use it! No-one wants death by PowerPoint. However, if you do need to use it remember the slides are for your audience – not you! They should be simple and memorable – a visual aide to helping their understanding and embedding their learning. They are not notes pages for you to read off. If you merely regurgitate what is written on your slides you will send your audience to sleep.
There is undoubtedly more to being an engaging presenter – but these 3 points are not a bad place to start.
By Emma Webb
If you’re interested in finding out more about running a Women’s Networking Event in your organisation, please give us a call on 0117 370 1800
HR departments get a hard time. A recent report from the CIPD states that there is a gap between how much business leaders think that HR is integral to business strategy and how much HR thinks that they are.
This is worrying – HR plays a vital role in many aspects of business strategy including shaping the future leaders and culture of the organisation. It suggests that many leaders just aren’t recognising how important the role of HR is. This means that crucial decisions about the values, culture and leadership of the business may not be prioritised. We know from research that 40% of leaders actually impair organisational performance, so in order to be really successful business leaders cannot afford to underestimate how important HR is.
However, the report also shows that business leaders and HR worry about the same things – including leadership development and talent development, retention and engagement.
So why the big gap in perceptions?
Perhaps it is due to the fact HR has many administrative processes that can seem slow leading to the perception that they are reactionary, not proactive and therefore cannot be involved in making important decisions. Or perhaps it is the fact that (as the report states) many business leaders simply do not know what HR does and how integral they are to the business strategy.
How can HR combat this perception?
HR leaders need to have the courage to challenge business leaders, they need to be more visible and they need to make themselves heard. When a decision is being made that HR believes does not fit in with the values and culture of the organisation they need to be able to challenge that decision and be listened to.
And it begins with relationship building. The report states that in order to challenge there needs to be ‘mutual respect and trust on both sides’ There also needs to be an environment where both parties can be frank with each other.’ There needs to be strong relationships across departments and seniority levels. In the end this all comes down to good communication skills.
By Emma Webb
Respect is a vital part of building any successful relationship. Whether it’s having respect for other people’s values and beliefs or being respectful when others speak by making sure that you listen to them. Without respect you cannot hope to gain people’s trust, friendship or respect in return from them. Which is why the most recent research from the CIPD is worrying. They have reported that there has been a dramatic deterioration in the extent to which leaders treat employees with respect.
I remember in a previous job one of my managers made it clear that if I didn’t come in to work on a day off my job would be at risk. He knew that I had a big family gathering for my Granddad’s 80th birthday but he didn’t seem to care. It felt like he was more concerned with reaching targets than understanding why it was so important to me that I went to my Granddad’s birthday. He even called it a ‘little party’.
I found this hugely disrespectful and realised that I didn’t want to work for a company that didn’t have any respect for what was important to me. Soon after that I began looking for another job.
This may not seem a big deal – it’s not in the same league as disrespecting somebody based on gender or religion for example – but as you can see even the little, one time events can have a huge impact on relationships.
Respecting people does not mean you have to change your own values or beliefs. It is, however, about taking the time to find out what is important to others and why. It is about having genuine curiosity for people and what makes them different to you. My manager may have believed that I would rather be at some ‘little party’ than working hard. But if he had taken the time to find out why it was so important to me perhaps he would have had a better perception of me and I definitely would have had a better one of him.
By Emma Webb
I’ve had a very frustrating week this week and it’s all down to a lack of communication. It emphasised to me the importance of a human connection in areas of business – whether it’s for your customers or your team.
So why was I frustrated?
Firstly someone had made a fraudulent claim for an internet pay day loan using my details. Whilst this wasn’t frustrating in itself – clearly it was all a mistake and I would get it sorted – the actual getting it sorted process was infuriating! After waiting on hold for an hour and getting cut off 3 times I finally managed to speak to somebody.
Secondly I decided to exchange something I bought online. After sending it back I received no indication that they had received it and were sending a new one out. And could I phone somebody to check? There is not one phone number on their website. So I filled in their online contact form (which gave me a list of options – none of which were relevant) and have still not heard back. Now I’m left worrying that I will out of pocket.
It seems that as more and more businesses choose to operate online, communication becomes less and less important to them. Whilst it might be cheaper not to have to staff call centres, and sending an email means customers can avoid the dreaded hold music, there is actually no better reassurance when somebody has a problem than a friendly voice on the end of the phone.
This human touch gives the company a personality and allows customers to make an emotional connection in a way that an automated email just can’t. This connection will consequently have a huge impact on customer loyalty, engagement and satisfaction.
And if this is the case for customer loyalty, engagement and satisfaction then the same can be said for your team. The easy option is often to communicate by email – it can be done at your desk with little disruption to your work. But this impersonal approach doesn’t build relationships.
But think about how much better working relationships could be if we didn’t email to communicate everything? By going out of your way to have a conversation and encourage people to come to you with queries or problems you are much more likely to have a loyal, trusting and engaged team.
By Emma Webb
Job performance is directly linked to happiness. The happier the worker the more motivated, productive and engaged with the job they are. And a happy leader creates a more positive working environment for everybody else – meaning that happiness and productivity flows through all levels of the organisation.
That’s why recent research from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) is particularly worrying. They have shown that levels of happiness for newly appointed managers reach a peak in the first two years of their role and then drop and continue to fall after this. This then has a serious effect on their motivation, engagement and productivity – and that of the rest of the team.
This can, however, be combated with the right leadership or talent development. We know that having opportunities for development is one of the most significant factors in job satisfaction. Therefore, making sure that you have planned relevant and timely development opportunities will ensure continued happiness and productivity.
Having a clear career progression plan that the newly appointed manager is aware of and has agreed to is so important. And sticking to it is vital. Levels of happiness are guaranteed to drop if these promises for progression are broken.
I have witnessed many examples of this happening. For example two of my friends currently are unhappy with their jobs. They have both been in their roles for just over a year and both have mentioned that they cannot be bothered to put any effort into their work anymore.
One of these jobs was supposed to be a graduate development scheme that promised to provide opportunities to experience a number of different areas of the business so that that my friend could make a decision about where he wanted to progress. They have recently said that this is not possible.
The other was an IT job where specific training about the industry was pretty much vital in order for him to be able to work efficiently and it was never provided. He had to learn as he went along.
Both of my friends are now taking their skills elsewhere.
Clearly providing opportunities to develop, and sticking to the promise to do so, is important. Fail to do this and unhappiness and unproductivity are inevitable.
By Emma Webb
As the year draws to a close and we all wind down for the festive period now is a good a time to stop for a moment and reflect on the past year. After all, this is what we do at Farscape! Nothing is taught, practiced, explored without ample opportunity to review and reflect. So…
What have you achieved or learned this year?
How can you take what you have learned and apply it in a positive way for next year?
What are you going to do differently?
2012 has been a hugely positive year for me in many ways. I have grown in confidence both professionally and personally. I put this down to having an employer who’s willing to invest time and money in developing me in the ways I want and need to be developed and getting out of my comfort zone and putting in the hard work that is required to improve.
Last year I was practically terrified of using phones! I hated it. Now after a year of focused practice and training it doesn’t faze me at all. And I am having much more positive conversations. Last year the thought of writing an article that would go out to the whole L&D community embarrassed me – surely my writing would be laughed at? But after a number of publishing successes and really great feedback I can’t wait to write the next one.
And my achievements in work have had a positive effect in my personal life. Friends have noticed how much more confident I am and how much more willing I am to try new things.
So 2013 will see me continuing to push myself, constantly reviewing my personal development plan and seeking opportunities to take on more responsibility.
However, 2012 have not been entirely positive. I have discovered that I do not cope well with difficult conversations – in fact I avoid them at all costs! A number of aspects of my life have changed in the past year – friends have let me down, or moved away or had babies and I find myself unable to talk to them about how I feel for fear of upsetting them. This only ever leads to frustration and resentment on all sides.
2013 will also therefore see me working on having these difficult conversations.
So, what have you learned this year? How will it affect your 2013?
By Emma Webb