Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation
I was chatting with a happy client last week who’d made in-roads into his long to-do list, after our previous coaching session.
Curious to know exactly what had caused the shift in his effectiveness, I asked what he was doing differently now?
‘Well, it’s quite simple really,’ he replied, ‘every time I find myself using the word try in my speech or in my thoughts I stop and ask myself if I’m really going to do the work? If I’m just picking at it, I stop the task and choose something else. That way I’m not wasting as much time and although I’m might not always be doing what I ‘should’ be doing, at least I am doing something productive.’
He had a point. We can often sit down and try to finish the task we’re supposed to be doing, but which secretly we’re bored with. In reality it’s often better to own up to our faffing, stop the task and change course.
Indeed I did this myself the other day, when trying to write some PR material. I tried really hard for a bit and then realised what I was doing (which was trying to write). So I stopped the trying and choose a different task (giving Crow’s plummage a brush after his dust bath) and got on with a decent slab of doing.
If we promise to try and mow the lawn, paint the fence, wash the car, clean the windows or take the dog for a walk, it’s a fair bet that none of these things will actually happen. And we’ve not broken our promise either because (due to a handy psychological insurance policy) we only committed to try and do these things and not to actually do them. A subtle difference, but the devil is in the detail.
For extra insurance cover we may have started them and then found a jolly good reason to stop and watch a bit of sport on the tellybox….the job clearly only ‘paused temporarily.’
Next time someone offers to try and do something…pause them and ask if they’re:
A) Going to try and do it?
B) Going to do it?
You’ll be amazed at how much more productive they are when they choose B).
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