People Styles – what are they and how do they work?

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People Styles – what they are

We are all similar, but we are also all different.  ‘People Styles’ allow us to predict, usually with a high degree of accuracy, how a person will react in a particular situation.  Let me give you an illustration:

Recently I was asked by a colleague ‘why’ another colleague was behaving in a particular manner.  My colleague was clearly quite troubled by the third colleague’s behaviour, and was even feeling some personal responsibility for it.

Once I had an understanding of the situation, the answer was quite obvious.  The third colleague was clearly severely stressed, and knowing them as I did, I found that their behaviour was exactly what I would expect.  I would also say that while this explained the behaviour, it did not excuse it or make it right.

While I am not a psychologist, I do have a sound understanding of human nature.  From experience, I know that it is often possible to accurately predict a person’s response to something.  The key to being able to do this is to understand their ‘nature’; which means their ‘normal manner of thinking or behaving’.

Why we need to know about People Styles       Continue reading >>>

Categories: Communication, Body language, People/Social Styles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Multitasking – the truth behind the legend

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Multitasking as a concept

During the early years of the 21st Century, ‘multitasking’ (or ‘multi-tasking’) was one of the popular management buzzwords.  I can recall discussions about how it was necessary to be a ‘multitasker’ in the modern workforce, and I also recall how being recognised as a multitasker had a positive impact on things like performance appraisals.

This multitasking concept had gained traction during the 1990s.  Around that time, technology was bringing us ‘new toys’ in the form of things such as: networked desktop computing; the internet; email; mobile phones; text messaging; and so on.  This was the beginning of the era of collaboration on a grand scale.

While every one of these ‘toys’ increased our accessibility to co-workers, managers, and others, they also increased our “interruptibility”.  For someone to be able to cope with this, they needed to be able to multitask – to deal with several things at once without becoming distracted.  That is why multitaskers were rated highly by many managers.

Now we have a little background on why multitasking became popular in many organisations, let’s take a look at the flip side of the coin.

Building the case against multitasking     Continue reading >>>

Categories: Change in the workplace, Learning and Performance | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

How to improve your attention span

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Are our attention spans shrinking?

Did you know that apparently our attention spans are shrinking.  A UK behavioural research study conducted in 2008 for Lloyds TSB Insurance [1] showed an average attention span to be just over five minutes.  That compared to more that 12 minutes a decade previously.

The prime suspect behind this is ….. wait for it …. …. WORK!  The main reasons cited by participants in the research for poor short-term memory and failing attention span were ‘stress’ (18%) and ‘decision overload’ (17%).

Attention deficit is seen as one of the main causes of ‘unforced’ accidents in the home.  Important statistics for the insurance industry included:

  • 73% of UK adults had an accident in their homes due to forgetfulness = 33.4 million people.
  • costs for the damage caused by these accidents equated to £1.68bn over 12 months.

Can it really be that attention spans have deteriorated so much, so quickly?

What does this mean for you and me?

Our attention span is the amount of time that we can concentrate on something without becoming distracted.  In my Post “Effective Listening – the secret to successful communication”, I noted that ‘paying attention’ is sometimes described as being ‘the most important learning skill’.

But, in fact, it is more than that – paying attention is an essential ‘life skill’.  For many everyday tasks we need a good attention span, e.g. driving a car, riding a cycle, preparing and cooking a meal, and so on.  It would not be good to become distracted while doing any of these.  And, without a good attention span, we could not enjoy things like movies or theatre, or reading a book, or many other hobbies and interests.

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Effective listening – the secret to successful communication

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Effective listening does not come easy

Are you a ‘good’ listener?  According to my research, most of us are not ‘effective listeners’.

I know that from time to time, when someone is talking, my thoughts are elsewhere and I am not really taking in what they are saying.

Sometimes the problem can be a distraction in the form of something else that I see, hear, or even smell.  Other times it can be something that has been said then causes my mind to start thinking about something else.

In other words, the focus of my attention shifts away from what I was hearing and onto something else.

Learning how to listen

The thing is, listening is something that most of us have been doing all of our lives (unless our hearing is seriously impaired).

Listening happens naturally, without even having to think about it.  In fact, of the four communication modes (speaking, hearing, writing, reading), it is the one which involves the least amount of learning ‘how’ to do it.

Now, perhaps that is a part of the problem.  As a comparison, let’s take running.  We all know how to run – again that is something that happened naturally for most of us as we were growing up.

But, the really good runners, like the athletes who go to the Olympic Games and so on, spend countless hours practicing their running!  The reason they do this is to improve their style, or even learn how to change their style, which improves their efficiency.

So, if top athletes need to regularly practice running, do we need to learn (and practice) how to listen?  Let’s just hold that thought for a moment ……   Continue reading >>>

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Brain food – what exactly should we be eating?

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What make the best brain food?
Our brain is the hungriest part of our body. It consumes about 20% of our energy.
Did you know that the type of food we eat can influence alertness, attention, concentration, thinking, memory, learning, and decision-making?

The fact is that we can all boost our brain power by eating the right sorts of foods. In general, food that is good for the body is also good for the brain. But not only is what we eat important, when we eat is also very important. Let me illustrate with a short story.

Several years ago I was in a team of consultants on a ‘fly in-fly out’ assignment in the South Island (New Zealand) town of Oamaru. We all stayed in the same hotel, and usually met together each morning at breakfast.

Our breakfast choices were quite diverse, from a full-on ‘big breakfast’ for some, to coffee and a slice of toast for my colleague Jodie. At around 9:30 a.m. each morning, Jodie would leave the office briefly, to return with a large ‘sticky bun’, which she consumed with great relish.

After a few days of this routine, during breakfast another colleague (Alistair) asked Jodie about her ‘sticky bun’ ritual. Jodie explained that she simply needed some sweet food to keep going until lunchtime.

Alistair then described how his ‘big breakfast’, and particularly the bacon and eggs, gave him the energy to go through until lunchtime. He challenged Jodie to try a breakfast of bacon and eggs, and to see whether she then needed her (now) famous mid-morning sticky bun ‘fix’.

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Categories: Health & Wellbeing, Learning and Performance | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Are ebooks better than paper books?

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Do you do much reading from a computer screen (or similar)?
Do you use digital books (ebooks or e-books) rather than physical (i.e. paper) books?

I often read digital content, usually from a mobile device such as my phone or tablet.  I spend a part of my daily commute reading posts and other articles from the web, or documents that I have converted to digital form.

However, there have been times when I remember reading an article or post, but I have had to revisit it to really remember the message.  Other times, I have known that I have read something, but I actually don’t remember reading it.

Curiously, at the same time, I have had a good recall of other things I was reading from paper books, magazines, and on sheets of paper.  So, while I was confident that I wasn’t losing my memory completely, I was certainly losing parts of it!

This was becoming a bit of a worry.  Happily, I have now uncovered what I think is the problem.  But before I talk about that, let’s have a closer look at digital content, and more particularly, digital books.

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Effective leadership – where do good leaders come from?

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I find leaders fascinating!
I want to know what makes them ‘tick’, and why they want to be leaders.
I also like to look for the things that allow some people to be ‘effective leaders’, while others are not.

If we take a look, leaders are everywhere.  We have leaders in our local communities, in sport, in business, and in politics (of course).  Even most family groups have their leaders – a matriarch or patriarch figure.  Without leaders, our society would probably disintegrate.

Are you a leader in any of these levels?  The probability is that most of us will fit in there somewhere.  I have been a leader in a number of community groups, and also a leader in several business units.

Over my years as a consultant, I have worked in a number of organisations and across several industries.  This has allowed me to observe many ‘leaders’ and their styles, from the “C” level to front-line supervisors.  Two standouts for me are:

  • there are many managers who do not make effective leaders
  • when times are hard, effective leadership can be a rare commodity

There is a whole industry built around leadership – with various leadership academies all over the world.  I find it interesting that there are many different theories about leadership, and there are also many different ideas about what makes a leader.  Let’s clear this up a bit by working through a few questions about leaders.

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Why effective coaching needs a proven demonstration technique

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Have you ever helped someone to do something, or perhaps to understand something?

If “yes”, then you were probably ‘coaching’ (even if you didn’t think about it like that).  Actually, it’s likely that almost all of us, from time to time, ‘coach’ someone about something.

If we look for a definition of coaching, we will find many variations; some are general, others are quite detailed.  To me, coaching is about ‘helping someone to improve’.  Usually it will be about performance, but it could also be about things like attitude or confidence (Yes – either or both of these may ultimately relate to performance).

My point is that coaching is what many people do everyday.  Parents do it, friends do it, colleagues do it; and most of it is done without us realising that we are coaching.  It happens anywhere and everywhere – at home, at work, at play.

While what I am talking about here may not be the sort of coaching that a ‘master’ or ‘power’ coach might do, it is most definitely coaching.  Coaching of some sort is likely to be happening all around us, every day of the week.

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Improve your learning skills – here’s how

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We are all learning – all of the time we are learning.  Yes, even when we are asleep, we are learning [1].

So, if we are learning all of the time, why do we need to improve our learning skills?  The short answer, in one word – “survival”!  What I mean is that our world is a place of constant change.

Technology, in particular, brings ongoing change into our everyday lives and into our workplaces.  To survive, we need to keep up with whatever change brings, which usually means that we need to be learning new stuff.  Sometimes we even need to reinvent ourselves, and start new careers.

A recent global study has predicted massive change in employment needs and opportunities over the next 10 years, mainly from advances in technology and education..  Many developed economies (US, Europe, Korea, Australasia, Singapore) will have shortages of skilled workers, while many developing countries (India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia) will have talent surpluses.  China is expected to have a even balance either way [2].

So then, if we need to be continuously learning, how do we learn, and is there a ‘best way’ to learn?  Let me borrow a quote from the University of Canberra:
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Sometimes we need to Stop Doing!

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To Do, or Not To Do – How to make a ‘Stop Doing’ list

I have a confession – I am a ‘list’ person!  I write lists for everything, from packing for a holiday, doing the weekly groceries, and of course, my To Do list.

My typical work day is pretty mundane:  I deal with emails, attend meetings, solve problems, do stuff, and hopefully remember to have lunch!

I rely on my To Do list to keep me on track each day.  Some people recommend developing your ‘hit-list’ for tomorrow at the end of the day – I prefer to do mine at the beginning of the new day.

Every morning I check my email for new tasks.  I add these to what is left unfinished on my To Do list.  Then I reorder the items, usually based on delivery date.  From that, taking into account how much time I have available, I work out what I am going to attack today.

As I am going through this process, I do apply a “Stop Doing” check – let me explain.

A few years ago, I read “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins.  This is packed full of really good ideas, one of which is the “Stop Doing List”.  Jim Collins makes the point that what we stop doing is just as important as what we put on our To Do lists.

Good to Great came out not long after “Work Smarter, not Harder” (by Jack Collis and Michael Leboeuf), which had generated a good amount of discussion.

When I came to the Stop Doing List in Good to Great, I had a light-bulb moment!  If I wanted to work smarter, here was something that I needed to take on board.

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