What is your connection to the story

Differences are good

I was out and about on Saturday wandering along a row of shops waiting for a girlfriend who was running lateand I am always early. 

I walked past a man with a clipboard raising money for UNHCR a refugee agency. I’m embarrassed to say my first judgement from afar was this was a scam when I got closer his warmth of greeting made me feel bad with my initial negative assessment. 

He asked if I was interested in finding out more about UNHCR, I said I had numerous direct debits to various charities already in place and rattled off the ones I could recall, I was ready to move on… 

He then gave me the best smile and said how delighted he was to meet someone like me who had so much compassion, brilliant way of handling my objection I thought, he seemed so lovely and flattery does work in my world and now I’m feeling even worse about my scam theory. 

OK, I said, tell me about UNHCR, he started to rattle off depressing facts about the plight of refugees, showed me some horrible photos of the camps, I was fascinated by my thoughts, I was numb, are we too overloaded with these images and facts? We have seen them on the news for years… out of the corner of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of a nearby fancy shoe shop I was appalled, ‘How could I go from starving families to strappy heels? 

Then everything changed… 

He said ‘I was a refugee for 5 years in Ethiopia, I stayed in a camp like this, I had no idea when I would be able to leave, I feared for my life as I watched children die around me through malnutrition…’ 

Now it was his personal story that got me hooked, it was terribly moving, I felt his pain and his fear and now I understood why he was standing on the hot pavement trying to sign up people to the cause UNHCR, this organisation had not just transformed his life but given him his life back. 

We chatted about his sales pitch I suggested he start with his story. 

On the way home I reflected on the power of sharing something of ourselves in the material we present,  I feel so often we hide this connection and it leave us wondering why are you talking about this topic? 

This was highlighted last month when I was working with a group of forensic accountants, helping them create more compelling presentations which they absolutely did! During the training, I asked one woman, Sarah, why she did her job? Her answer was she had always loved puzzles, loved the challenge, right from when she was a child, when everyone in the family had given up Sarah would take over the mission to solve the puzzle and now as far as Sarah is concerned being a forensic accountant is like being paid to do her hobby. When you hear her passion for her work, you instantly believe she must be good at it and if I wanted someone to look for evidence of fraud in my company books she would be absolutely my first pick. 

Help us understand why you are presenting the material and we will be more likely to buy your ideas. 

#unhcr #fundraising #traceyward #mojomakeover

Laughter is the best

Differences are good

When I left university my first career role was selling advertising space in computer magazines, admittedly not the sexiest role I have ever had.

The thing is, despite cold calling, over the phone, day in day out, we laughed daily.

And, I loved going to work.  Even on those cold wintery English days trudging up the London Underground escalator with the 1000’s of other commuters, I had a smile on my face anticipating the laughter that would ensue that day.

One particular day our ‘fun’ was a competition to get the word ‘hedgehog’ into our sales pitch, no easy feat given we are selling advertising space in computer magazines.  I managed it three times, yes three times, one of those achievements I’m really proud that no-one else gets, I laughed so much I nearly wet my knickers, you know, that fabulous belly laugh that you can feel the next day.

We were encouraged to have fun, and we had fun and laughed.  The fun and laughter was a brilliant tonic that kept us resilient against what most would admin the tough role of cold calling.

We talk so much about resilience at work, mental health at work, stress at work and yet I don’t hear people talking about laughter and fun.

I say it’s time to laugh more at work, bring back the hedgehogs!

Monopoly

Business is a game and it’s time women knew how to play the game

With just about every woman I coach who works in business I find myself having the same conversations and one in particular is around the ‘game of business’

Men get it they know ‘the game’ most women have no idea there was a game in place, let alone the rules of ‘the game’ it’s like watching women play monopoly being blissfully unaware they should buy properties instead they merrily hop around the monopoly board giving everyone else money until they run out of money and they are out of the game, then they realised they have been played.

Let me enlighten you…

The game of business

  • You are responsible for your career path, no-one else cares.
  • Just working hard will NOT get you promoted.
  • You need to manage the perception you are great at your job, with the people that matter, as no one else will.
  • If you come up with a great idea, own it, take the credit for it, and let everyone else know how great it is.
  • If you want promotion, pay rise, ask for it!
  • If organisational decisions are made on the golf course, play golf, or at least go for a walk with a club in hand.
  • You can push back, doing the workload of two people isn’t cool, it’s exhausting.
  • You don’t have to do everything today, really you don’t.
  • If your instincts tell you your boss is dodgy, self-centred, egotistical, narcissistic or a psychopath, you are probably right which means, they need you to make them look good and won’t invest any time making you look good. It’s time to find a new boss in your existing company or a new company.
Conversation with dogs

Differences are good

I have two dogs, a standard poodle and a toy poodle, “Mango” and “Smoothie” don’t ask me about their names… that’s a story for another day and nor are they my password.

The point is the little one “Smoothie” is an identical but ‘shrunken’ version of the big one “Mango” they are a very cute combination.  Whenever you walk these dogs someone will stop you for a chat, initially about the dogs.  The conversations are beautiful, always uplifting and always put a smile on my face.

These spontaneous conversations make me feel connected to humankind, so refreshing when technology although meant to connect us seems to isolate us more instead.

It got me thinking, we could all do with a ‘dog’ icebreaker to help us feel more connected.

Now, I know not everyone is into dogs so hear me out…

I remember an old friend of my mothers’ use to make her own hats.  As a young teenager I thought these hats were … well, to be polite, these hats were pretty ‘out there’ I thought she was quite mad, but thinking about it now, these hats were more than a hat, they were a connector for her in society.  Mum and I often saw her in the street chatting away to one person or another and these conversations always seem to start over her hats.

Feeling connected in this world is vital for our good mental health, maybe it’s time to think about what your ‘dog/hat’ icebreaker could be and start savouring these fabulous spontaneous conversations.

Differences are good

In workshops I love using my Conversation Style Game, M.O.D.E.  We all have different conversation styles: Minders, Organisers, Directors and Enthusiasts and in my workshops, in between the laughter, there are so many comments; ‘that explains so much!’, ‘Now I get you!’ as everyone starts to understand the different conversation styles at play, it’s Emotional Intelligence at work and it’s wonderful to see.

I created M.O.D.E. after my experience working with a boss called Trevor.  Now Trevor like me was also originally from the North of England and when we were in the pub together, outside of work, we got on like a house on fire.  Working together less so…

Over a weekend I would come up with a new idea, (I’m an Enthusiast, Director, I like new stuff and think quickly). First thing Monday morning I would rush into Trevor’s office arms waving saying something along the lines of…

“Trevor, I have this fabulous idea for a new marketing initiative!!!” There was no plan, no numbers, just lots of arm waving and energy.

At 8.30 am Monday morning this was Trevor’s response.

“Tracey, I have not had my coffee or planned my day, go away”

It wasn’t a great working relationship. 

A couple of months later Trevor and I attended a program around behavioural styles it was then I realised we were the complete opposites of each other, (Trevor, is an Organiser, Minder, he’s is measured and likes time to think).  

All I had to do was make some small changes in the way I spoke to Trevor for my ideas to be heard and this is what I did.

Firstly, I went in after 10 am that way he had time for planning and a coffee.

Secondly, I approached Trevor in his communication style which is calmer and without arm waving.

Thirdly, I gave Trevor time to think, I put some numbers on a one-page document, (I’m unlikely to ever go beyond one page) and left it with him to think about.

IT WAS LIKE MAGIC!  

Every time I approach Trevor in this way, I got my ideas across, Emotional Intelligence works!

It turned out once Trevor and I understood and appreciated our differences we become a really powerful team. 

Differences are good

In our relationships, we have communication habits or patterns. We might finish off a partner’s sentence, or have certain topics that are no go areas, some of these communication patterns are cute and endearing, and some are unhealthy. Most are unwritten and unspoken about and they happen over and over again.

(It is especially noticeable when you catch up with a sibling you haven’t seen for a while, those childhood communication patterns come flooding back. I observed this with a friend of mine and his older sister who lives overseas, the moment they met they went into this prodding, tickling encounter, as an only child I thought this weird especially since they were in their 40’s, but that’s a communication pattern for you).

In my marriage, there became an obvious communication pattern.

If ever I wanted to give my husband feedback, this is what would happen:

I give husband feedback……. he counters by giving me feedback….. I apologise.

I realised he wasn’t taking any of my feedback on board and instead, he used attack as best form of defence and I was becoming way too subservient as a result, not healthy.

We chatted about this, and I expressed my frustration, and to his credit, he recognised the pattern we had fallen into.

As a result, we introduced, and both agreed to implementing, the ’24 hour rule’.

It’s very simple, the rule is, if we want to give our partner feedback, we preface it with;

‘this a ’24 hour rule’ conversation’

Which means for 24 hours, our partner cannot come back with feedback for us.

Let me tell you this rule works it forces the other person to think about the feedback they have received, of course, we all want positive feedback. Still, sometimes our nearest and dearest can have valuable things to say that can help us grow as a person, and we need to put ourselves in a position to hear that valuable feedback properly.

Thank you not sorry

I was running a leadership workshop the other day and one woman, I’m going to call her Donna stood out for the wrong reason, she apologised 5 times in the first two hours of the workshop.

First, she was late arriving by 5 mins.  Now I’m sure we are both aligned here, we all want people to turn up to events on time, no one wants to be kept waiting but she wasn’t the only one to arrive at that time,  Sydney’s traffic was particularly awful that day, but she was the only one to apologise. That’s OK I hear you say; she is being polite… and yes, I agree, but so the day went on.

During the first session of the day, we were discussing the importance of vulnerability as a leader, and there was a strong push back particularly from some of the men in the room.

“Sorry, can I say something…” Donna said to join in the conversation shortly followed by

“Sorry for interrupting but…”   then

“Sorry to ask, but…” 

And then the classic one was as Donna was walking to the flipchart, I changed directions as to where I was going in the room, and I bumped into Donna.

“Oh sorry,” said Donna.

You get the picture.  I had a chat with Donna at lunchtime, and she was genuinely surprised by the number of times she had apologised, “I had no idea” she said.  

For Donna ‘sorry’ had become a filler word to use almost to get her conversations started, it was a habit, something she, like most of us, had no doubt been conditioned to say as a child.

And it’s cultural, I grew up in the UK, and we English are known for excessive apologising, one event I have never lived down in my family archives was the time I walked into a lamppost and apologised to the lamppost.  (The lamppost was fine by the way, I had a massive bruise on my forehead, but my family nevertheless thought the apology was hilarious).

We should absolutely apologise for things we have done wrong; these messages should be delivered with sincerity and action.  

The challenge is when we become compulsive with our apologising, they make us appear weaker, particularly at work and in our personal relationships. 

These were the suggestions I gave Donna.

If you are a couple of minutes late, instead of saying sorry say,

“thank you for waiting’” 

In group discussions when you want to join in use.

 “And…”

“Another point of view to consider…”

“I’d like to expand on that…”

“What about considering….”

If you want to complain about something instead of starting with “I’m sorry”.  Start off with “thank you for listening. I want to talk to you about…”

And when someone bumps into you simply smile and say “hello” they’ll feel much less awkward.

In the afternoon session Donna only made one ‘sorry’ we smiled at each other.

These habits are tough to spot in ourselves; they are habits, after all, we do them without thinking.  If you know a beautiful woman who has this habit herself, pass these suggestions on to her, it’s a simple way to help her become more compelling in her conversations.

Giving feedback

There have been several instances recently that has led me to the conclusion that most women are crap at giving feedback, myself included even though I teach communications I recognise it is not easy to do especially if it’s with a friend.  

I think the challenge is we are so concerned we will offend or damage the relationship that we say nothing or when we do, we’ve bottled it up for months and it doesn’t come out well.  Two stories one funny one very sad that makes my point.  The first, the funny one was I was vegetarian for years when I was living in the UK, my family were mortified, (we were a meat and two veg family so taking out the meat was shocking for the family).  My Mum being the beautiful woman she was, made me some lentil burgers, she made them in big batches and stored them in the freezer.  I was so grateful that she had made the effort to accept my vegetarianism that I said they were lovely, and as a result they kept coming year after year, and they were anything but lovely.  I should have been up front, given her a big hug for being thoughtful and laughed with her at these incredibly dry burgers instead I had to cop them for six years, true story.  

The second story is the more important one.  Some women I know are part of a sewing club, I know an unusual club for many of us, just stick with the story.  One of woman is poor socially and can be very abrupt with the group.  Everyone in the group knows this except her! She has this terrible blind spot, and no-one was ever game to let her know the impact she had on those around her. Her behaviour would often result in tension in the sewing group which last week resulted in two of the women leaving because of an ‘incident’ and the club has imploded, a lose-lose situation.  I wondered if someone had said something earlier would the situation have had a better outcome?  Quite possibly.  

I know it can be hard to give feedback, but be brave and consider your intent as your intent is key.

If your intent is to genuinely help someone then a private conversation should go well.  If your intent is really to ‘tell them off’ then success is less likely

And importantly, we need to understand if we are silent, just like the other sewers in the sewing club were over the years, we are actually part of the problem, as our silence says we are OK with the situation.

They say feedback is a gift, let’s see if we can make it feel that way and help each other be the best version of ourselves. X

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-27/philosophy-helped-me-leave-my-marriage-quit-my-job/10959868

Colour is the new black

What we wear says lot about us.  I’ve noticed I’ve abandoned the fitted garments for something more comfortable, but don’t worry I’m not yet into the polyester slacks my Mum use to wear, please don’t ever let me get that low.  But comfort is really important and I have abandoned wearing black!

I know, believe me it was a dramatic shift for me, not only is black slimming, it was my default option in my wardrobe.  Actually, black was my wardrobe for my entire life until now… Black suited me it was a colour I could pull off.  The new reality, although depressing initially, was that black doesn’t suit me anymore, it makes me look so much more tired than I was actually feeling, and I hate to use the ‘a’ word but black was aging me. It still took a good girlfriend to give me the hint, well it was more a shove, ‘you should stop wearing black, it doesn’t suit you anymore’ and she was right.

Fast forward 6 months, I’m fully into colour.  I’ve discovered its way more fun than just basic black and unsurprisingly, I’m being noticed much more, more compliments and what’s not to like about that.

Check out the link below and bring some colour into your life that gives meaning to who you really want to be 

https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-beige/

To smile or not smile that is the question

I spend a lot of time coaching people on developing their personal brand and helping them make great first impressions.  So much of it is around body language and facial expressions, the stuff we often don’t even think about.

In workshops when people are conscious about their body language they naturally stand or sit taller, which instantly makes they look thinner and fitter and when I get them to connect with each other I get them to smile, not a half-baked smile that hides your teeth, no, one of those big smiles that yes, does and should crinkles around your eyes.

Smiling not only makes us look more attractive, smiling makes us stand out in a room and the smile triggers our brain to release endorphins which makes us feel happier AND if we smile at others they will naturally smile back, even if they don’t know you, it’s a great social experiment you can try out walking give a big smile and eye contact to someone walking by and I guarantee they will smile back and that will give you such a lovely lift and you will want to keep smiling ☺

P.S.

OK I have just told you to smile and it’s important BUT not all the time.  When you are telling someone something of importance, something you want them to believe you need to lose the smile.  Women are notorious at smiling when delivering serious news messages and it confuses the recipient and dilutes your message.  This happened to a friend of mine years ago. He was in a performance management meeting with his boss, he was basically crap at his job.  When I met him that evening he said the conversation he had with his boss was weird “she just kept on smiling” he said. “I didn’t know whether I was being sacked or asked out on a date”.  If you want to be taken seriously with your messaging be congruous with what you say and how you say it.