Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation
For lovers of schadenfreude we’re getting deep into The Apprentice (BBC1 on Wednesdays and with m’Lord Sugar on Twitter) when feisty young blades and gimlet eyed damsels lock horns in the quest to win a hatfull of money.
Success comes from being able to go from bed to business suit in under 5 minutes, once the phone has summoned them to the day’s task, and packing your pockets with edgy buzzwords can be useful too. It helps if you can add up and if you know that a cloche is a food cover and not a garden implement (sadly these particular business basics have eluded half the squad).
To suggest these perky poseurs are the cream of the business establishment is to mislead on two counts because:
1) They’re not – the programme is cast to show a range of skills and talents that veer from the mildly stupid all the way over to the really stupid.
2) They’re all so young – to be The Apprentice it seems you have to be under 30 years old which is a bit hard on us ‘middle agers’. Even more so given that this series isn’t actually about being a proper apprentice, as the prize is to become Lord S’s business partner in a startup.
So here’s my Big Idea for this week: I think we should have a new version of The Apprentice for people over 40 years old, because you can start a business and be successful at any age. However it would need a few tweaks to the rules, namely:
1) No day to start until candidates have had some toast and a chance to glance at the day’s newspaper.
2) Tasks should not require people to work under naff team names such as Thrust and Synergy. Instead, teams will be more relaxed and can be called ‘That’ll Do’ and ‘We’ll Have it Finished Sometime Tomorrow’.
3) The Boardroom carve up at the end of the task should be scheduled so as not to clash with The Archers. Biscuits would be nice too and a pot of tea would make things more convivial.
With these changes The Apprentice could attract a whole new cadre of determined, professional and less irritating candidates.
And of course, my point is this: You can be great at business at any age and can make a start whenever you feel it’s right to do so. Success comes from building relationships and by having enough humility to recognise when you don’t know something and then getting help.
Let’s cheer on the current candidates in The Apprentice because they’re good sports and they are very entertaining. And let’s hope that next year we have a version for more mature people too…maybe one day we might even get one for birds! I know a Crow who fancies his chances…
Tags: The Apprentice
A phrase which isn’t mine, but which I wish was is ‘Contact Before Contract’. My TA chum Trudi says this to remind us that we’re dealing with people and that they need to ‘enter the room’ before we hit them with the task of agreeing contractual terms. (This applies to all agreements, even if it’s just to agree what time to be back from the pub).
Now, what I mean here is that although we may be physically present, our minds may be elsewhere. We come bowling in to a meeting with our heads full of diary dates and priorities, kids’ homework requirements, a lengthy to do list and the nagging feeling that we’ve forgotten something important. Like taking the chicken out of the freezer to defrost for dinner.
Because our heads are buzzing we need to be allowed to settle into our current environment and focus on the person whom we’re meeting with. This is why it’s really important to give people contact-making time. Meetings that start NOW just jar. People can feel flustered as their mind is still processing their previous conversation and as a result they won’t be thinking clearly about the task in hand.
You only have to watch The Apprentice, on BBC1, to see this in action. Normally bright and thoughtful people get pounced on and make terrible snap decisions because they’re given no time to settle into the space and warm up their thinking.
When we make contact with people we also warm to them and that helps to build connections at a deeper layer. This is a cornerstone of trust, which has to be present for any contracting work to be successful. If we chat, we relax and we forge little bonds that mean we want to stay put and complete the discussion.
It’s like when we walk into a swimming pool. We test the water a bit with our toes whilst we are chatting to our partner. At one level we are talking, but at another we are noticing if the water is hot or cold. If it’s cold we will tend to break off the conversation and exit for a warm shower! We tend to trust our toes!!
Making contact is easy and the trick is to think of it as productive work, and not just idle chit-chat. Three ways to allow people to settle in are:
1) Find out about them. Asking questions to find out about how they are, what they’ve been up to, what they did at the weekend are all known as ‘unconditional strokes’. (See my previous strokes blog). These little units of recognition are about us and not directly about our work, so make us feel warm because the other person is interested in us.
2) Allow enough time. How much is enough? I’ve found that 5-10 mins for every hour of planned meeting works well. Machine-gun style management is pointless and might look efficient, but just gets people riled. Build in some chat time in your meetings and you will tend to get better thinking outcomes from your teams.
3) Notice commonality. When the other party says something about a subject you are interested in then comment on it and let them know you like it too. This ‘noticing’ forges little bonds between people and helps to make strangers feel more like friends.
The message for the week ahead is to allow yourself time to be interested in the other person. A few minutes of making contact at the head of a conversation can be the biggest deciding factor as to the outcome…it could decide whether you get to go down the pub, or not!
The Promo Video…have you seen Brian yet?
Los Penguin Productions have posted the Job Hunting Blues video on YouTube so please click through and enjoy it. It features Brian, our resident stunt man and he was great to work with, a real pro. Do you like his boots? And he was very happy to be able to read his own special, little copy of the book Job Hunting 3.0. If you know someone who is looking for work then please point them at Amazon where they can read reviews and order a copy of the big book.
This week: Would you find a friend for me please?
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Is the third part of our trilogy on Contracting. Tune in next Monday, to complete the set!
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Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in
Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish
Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age
Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish
An insider's guide to working for yourself
Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish