I’ve been thinking about skills.
Not the skills that help you do your job today or tomorrow, but those that can stay with you throughout your career. There are a few that I think are worth developing that have been traits of some of the most successful people I have worked with and for.
- Grit. Determination. Mental Toughness. Whatever you want to call it, you’ll need some capacity to deal with obstacles and difficult times. No project is easy, there will be many roadblocks you’ll need to overcome. Every day can bring a challenge of some sort, especially if you are engaged in customer care. You’ll often hear me talk about being ‘deliberate, relentless and focused’ in pursuit of a goal. Building your mental strength will serve you well for ever.
- Agility. The world of work is constantly changing, and the pace of change is increasing year by year. New tools, new systems, new processes, new paradigms of work, new trends. All of these imply that all of us need to adapt and embrace change frequently. Building an agile, growth mindset will help you navigate choppy waters.
- Learning to say NO. The flow can be overwhelming, so working on a strategy to say no will help you prioritise – remember crystal and rubber moments? Stop saying yes to the sh*t you hate. Life is too short to yes to things, activities, events and tasks you hate. If what you are accepting to do won’t improve, enhance or make you a better person, just say NO and focus on projects that are mutually beneficial to you and the other party. Find tasks that energise you and light you up, and say yes to those instead. You will be a happy and better person in the end.
- Critical Thinking. My son had a choice between doing Business Studies and a new subject called Critical Thinking for his GCSE’s. We sat down and reviewed the syllabus for both, Business Studies was BS, rooted in the economic theory of the 70’s and teaching kids about supply chains involving factories. Critical Thinking was about ethics, philosophy, debating and arguments. My logic was simple, “whatever you end up doing, you’ll need to be able to argue”. It’s a path that has seen him grow into an interesting person to debate with. For me, it’ll be the number one skill he can carry through his career.
In summary, these are (some of) the transferable skills that honing and refining now will serve you well in any job, or any career path you take. You can see these in the great leaders, played out in public and private to drive organisations and careers forward.
Something from the Web
I like this clever project to map vintage pictures of New York City – I’d love to see a similar project for London. Talking of favourite cities – this amazing video (7 minutes/YouTube) is a great tribute to beautiful Paris.
This week, I’ve been thinking about personal brand, and how anyone can take a few small steps to improve theirs. It can be tough to stand out in a company of talented individuals. Especially if you work for a large corporation, you may wonder how you will be able to make your mark. However, there are plenty of ways to stand out in the workplace with a little extra effort. Here are 5 suggestions:
- Be Inquisitive – asking questions and sharing the answers can be one of the most critical things you do in your day. It shows you care about understanding your workplace, and you want to communicate with your colleagues. Rather than making you look foolish, asking questions will be the thing that will help you avoid foolish mistakes. Your managers will notice that you are asking questions and will have more confidence in you because of it.
- Be Honest – Integrity is one of the key character traits that employers and managers look for. There can be a lot of pressure to cut corners to try to get ahead of someone else. It is important to realise that performance will come and go, but character stays.
- Be Bold – When you’re sitting in a meeting and you have an idea that you think would be great for the company, speak it! You have things to contribute – that’s why you were hired. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and experience.
- Be Happy – The daily grind, can be a grind. If you come in with a smile on your face every morning, make an effort to get to know your colleagues and go out of your way to make the office a brighter place, you will stand out from those who keep to themselves. Kindness goes a long way to help you stand out in a large group of people and your efforts won’t go unnoticed in the office.
- Be Transparent – There is nothing more authentic than being able to admit when you are wrong. If you find out you have made a mistake, immediately do what you can to make it right. If it’s something you need help from a manager to fix, do not wait to tell them. It is better to face your mistake and take the proper steps to fix it than to try to hide it. Many people like to minimise their mistakes. Taking full ownership for yours will set you apart.
Something from the Web
It’s Halloween – here’s some music to enhance your spooky parties! In the spirit of saving you a few minutes this weekend, here’s a guide to choosing the fastest line at the supermarket. If you want to be really rich, don’t buy an Apple computer – spend the same money on stock.
Finally – everyone doesn’t matter, a great interview about finding your calling with Seth Godin (30 mins/YouTube)
Apparently, if you want to live longer read a book, and I’m never one to pass up advice like that. So for a tenth edition special, here are ten books I think are worth a read. If you like a business book, here is some great advice on how to read one.
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin : is this the greatest business book ever written? It’s about creating something remarkable in your work. Remarkable, like a Purple Cow. See?
- The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker : This is one of the most uplifting books of recent years, where the author proposes that humankind has become much less violent over the years, despite what you read in the media.
- On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan : Probably my desert island book. Short and punchy story about manners in the 1960’s
- The Long Walk – Salvomir Rawicz : Or maybe this would be my desert island book. About a falsely imprisoned man who walks to freedom. From Siberia. To India. Only took 9 months, makes our commute seem trivial.
- This is your brain on music – Daniel Levitin : Ever wondered why a hit is a hit, and why you like House music more than Heavy metal? This guy explains it with a bit of science.
- Solid Foundation: an Oral History of Reggae by David Katz : This is simple, the history of Jamaican reggae from the 1940’s to the current day. Best read with Spotify available to enjoy some amazing tunes.
- CB Fry : King of Sport by Ian Wilton : Britains greatest ever sportsman. Captained England at Cricket, played for England at Football AND held the World Long Jump Record. As well as studying at Oxford, standing for Parliament and meeting Hitler along the way. A life well lived.
- The Chimp Paradox – Steve Peters : If you do ANY kind of sport, or just want to improve your confidence in tricky situations. This is for you. He made the British Cycling team winners.
- Consiglieri : Leading from the Shadows – Richard Hytner : Excellent book about being a leader from wherever you are in an organisation. A really funny business book.
- The life-changing magic of not giving a F*** – Sarah Knight – and finally, a really funny one. Helps you care less, and get more.
Something from the web
Do you remember when your Mum told you not to play with your food? These guys ignored the advice and now are in the vegetable Orchestra. Yep. Really.
I *really* don’t like spiders – but this is a very cool video of a spider weaving her web.
And finally, If ever you needed proof that technology is changing quickly – this video is it, the evolution of F1 video games (5 mins / Youtube)
Top of Mind
This week I’ve been thinking about kindness. Seems like such a simple concept, but one that is quite difficult to follow through on. The act of doing something for someone, without expecting anything back. Seems to be dying art.
Watch this guy offer to do kind things for people (3 mins/YouTube), and struggling to get people to understand and accept his help. I posted this on Facebook for my friends, and there was a strong debate on why people wouldn’t accept and why people don’t try to be kind more often.
The reasoning ranged from the fact that people are too busy to be kind, to the possibility that we are all naturally mistrustful of others. One friend mused that maybe we are all so self-obsessed that we spend our time looking down at our phones more than looking out at our fellow human beans.
My opinion is that it’s a combination of these things, but most of all we’re just a bit scared, and the fear is fed.
Most of what we hear is bad news, this will kill you, these people will hurt you, those people are bad, this idea is wrong. People spend too much time tapped into media that only wants to warn or save you, not to uplift and nourish you.
I think we need a bit more pragmatism and a lot more optimism – less Mail and more mirth, less Trump and more trumpets, less doom and more delirium.
Let’s start small; your mission for the weekend is to compliment someone you don’t know. The barista, the newsagent, the cashier at the supermarket, it doesn’t matter who… you’ll feel as good as they do when you drop the compliment-bomb. You never know, it might catch on.
Something from the Web
I love money, and I love music – what about if the two things were combined!? Your new five pound note can play music as well.
I don’t know much about motorbikes, but I know I want to see loads of these on the roads in the future. BMW invents the future of two wheeled mobility.
Finally, here’s a handy Excel tip (90 secs/YouTube) to supercharge spreadsheets where multiple people need to collaborate on data entry.
“I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s” — William Blake
I’ve spent a large amount of time in my inbox this week, as I prioritise and plan my work its good to see what people are sharing with me and how I’m managing my communication. I even had a conversation about how I manage my inbox, and where I see my priorities.
There is a lot of talk about Inbox Zero – and the idea that clearing your mailbox at the end of every day is the ultimate goal of productivity. The one hour video at that link explains how you can do it, but I’m not sure that’s realistic – especially in a support/customer care environment.
I prefer to follow some simple guiding principles, and build a system that works for me. Here they are:
- Define a routine. Check your email on a regular schedule, not reactively. That might be once an hour for ten minutes, not every time it pings.
- Turn off the dopamine. Every time you get a ping or a notification your brain gets a hit of dopamine – somebody loves me! Silence the sound, turn off the toast.
- Only touch an email once. Imagine picking up your post, scanning it and then stuffing it back in the mailbox for later – that’s madness (not this madness). Find a way to process everything as few times as possible, if the task will take a minute – take the minute.
- Unsubscribe – remove the cruft from your mailbox by removing yourself from all the things you automatically delete. You know you do it. Apart from SFTW – you know you love that.
- Build systems to support – a good notetaking application that acts as a reference system, a calendar that works, a task manager – we’ve talked about this before!
That’s it – five steps. Implement those and you’ll find yourself in your inbox way less. In a future SFTW I’ll talk about how I manage when I feel overwhelmed by mail. I’ll tell you how I blast through my mail at high speed to get it down to a manageable number.
Above all else – don’t let it rule you. You are way more creative and impactful than the product of your mailbox.
Your email inbox is someone else’s To Do list.
Something from the web
Have you ever wonder how big stuff really is? Wonder no more – this guy has you covered. Although, the one with the cats is a bit scary.
Have you ever tried meditation? Here’s a beginners guide to starting out with meditation (20 minutes YouTube) – nowhere near as weird as you first think.
Mark Zuckerburg went to Africa, but it wasn’t a typical visit by a celebrity to Africa – this is a really interesting article on his trip. We’ve talked about how powerful excel skills are – here’s another great
We’ve talked about how powerful excel skills are – here’s another great video on Pivot Tables and Charts (14 minutes YouTube) – very very useful.
Finally – how long do you reckon it takes to build a 737 aeroplane – betcha didn’t guess 9 days.
To make consistent progress on goals, you need to learn how to deliver when things aren’t going as you expect. Some people call this ‘grinding out a result‘, I prefer the analogy of ‘winning when you aren’t playing well‘.
A lot of people will suggest that all you need in these situations is a positive mental attitude, if you think like a winner, you’ll be a winner. I think this is really important, being optimistic and focused will help you deliver great results, but it isn’t everything.
In addition to a good attitude, I think you need a fundamental (not this fundamental) to fall back on. In sport, this might be a method or technique that allows you to regain your mojo. It might be a ‘minimum daily quota’ that allows you to reset your progress. In business, it’s likely that this will be a foundational process that allows you to drive forwards when everything seems tough.
In the Customer Service world I nearly always look at the way we track our work as the fundamental process. Good case management is the key that can unlock performance, ensuring that we record customer concerns properly. If we can track, measure and find solutions with a level of discipline, then we can recognise success and begin to raise our performance. I’m a strong believer in winning one thing every day, so one customer success leads to the next, and ultimately to business and career progression.
Ensuring that we can count (and count) on those successes is the key to making progress on goals.
Something from the web
Whatever happens with your Customer Service – don’t let it get to this stage, where a disgruntled customer smashes up €1000’s in iPhones and Macbooks at a French Apple Store. Just give the guy his refund!
Finally – I hear lots of complaints about hardware that is inadequate for the job, slow PC’s, old operating systems, hard drives crashing. Spare a thought for these guys, who run their business on some fairly old kit.
I’ve been thinking about time off – and how important it is to ensure you take time out to rest and recharge your batteries. Every night we get a chance to rest physically, but for me… it’s the weekend that allows me to recharge myself mentally. Not this Weeknd.
When you take a vacation, you get to do both at once. Research tells us that time away from work can make us happier and healthier, but they can also make us more productive at work. Time away allows us to reset our brains and approach work with a new energy.
After all, a rest is as good as a change – right?
These days, vacation days are enshrined in law and holidays have really changed, especially in Europe, where people only really started visiting in the 1970’s. However, one thing remains, taking rest and relaxation requires you to make some effort in planning, booking and taking your days. So whether you plan a vacation, a staycation or just some peaceful time at home – it’s up to you to work with your manager, find the time and use the days so you don’t lose the days!
Something from the web
This amazing interview with employee #1 at Amazon, is really interesting, just imagine building that empire from scratch!
Someone sent me another map of the tube network in London, this one shows the map geographically with all of the disused stations and platforms. Now you can work out why you are going round a corner!
Some amazing storm photography, worth a look at these beautiful pictures.
And finally – how’s your ping-pong? Reckon you could take on this guy?
What do you have to do? Do you keep a list?
I keep two, a kind of master list and then a simple list of the three to six things to do each day. I write that first thing in the morning and try and eat the frog before I get too far into my day.
As you think about your to-do list, do you have any tools that you prefer? I like a paper list for each day, backed up with my master list in my favourite, OneNote. There are some excellent methods for turning paper into a powerful note taking and action tool – check out the Bullet Journal methodology. However, there are some great alternatives, todo.txt is a simple way of building a list in a text file. Outlook does a good job of tracking your tasks if you want to stay close to your email and calendar. There are even some great apps like Wunderlist and Todoist that will help you build tasks lists that work across all your devices and phones.
But – whatever tool you chose, my advice is to build and use the system that works for you. Using a task list to clear your brain of the things you are trying to get done is a key principle of Getting Things Done. They call it the mindsweep, and it’s a great way to capture all the post-it notes in your head, whether they are business, personal, family or just the great big idea you have.
Something from the Web
Do you suffer from FOMO? Or Even FOKU? Or are you just addicted to the Dopamine? Whichever it is, put your phone down for a couple of hours this weekend.
You suck at Excel – well, maybe you don’t suck, but this video is an excellent (and fast) way to learn more about my other favourite app. The guy presenting is a bit of a d*ck, but the basic concepts of how to build sensible datasheets is really good.
Finally – imagine the moon rolled down the street…just pause and think about that for a minute. Better still… watch when it actually happened:
There – feels better knowing now. Have a great weekend everyone!
Someone asked me in a 1:1 the other day why I always carry a notebook, despite the fact I use OneNote to capture stuff on my laptop.
It’s a simple answer really, as I connect with people, I don’t want the technology to get in the way. I use OneNote constantly (even right now!), to draft mail or posts, outline presentations or organise my ideas. However, when I am listening to people speak, I prefer to remove the technology and get back to basics – so my notebook (everyone has their own favourite) is constantly by my side.
However, it’s not just us old fashioned types that carry a book – this article explains it better than me, but the theory is that you should always carry a book because ideas emerge at odd times, and are often not fully formed – and the notebook allows you to capture and create in a way that electronic notes don’t.
And what about OneNote? Well, it’s my absolute favourite product from my previous employer. I use it as a notebook, and also a personal wiki. I have a two main notebooks, personal and work – and I use it to keep me organised, and able to find the information I need to keep at hand. The mac version is not quite as fully formed as the Windows one – but it’s still an amazing tool. Here are 12 amazing ways you can run your life like a boss with OneNote.
Last week I talked about Personal Development and the rise of the online course – obviously the World Economic Forum (you know the Davos guys), were reading and they followed up with this article about why Online Learning is really the future of education as a whole.
Couple of Snippets from the Web
Imagine being cut off from the outside world for 40 years, and not even knowing that the Second World War had happened. I know Russia is massive, but that’s an amazing concept. If you like a podcast on the journey home, this tells the story beautifully.
This advice from Steven Spielberg is truly excellent (YouTube Video) – listen carefully to that whisper, it never shouts.
Finally – What happens in one minute on the internet? Check this graphic out for the latest stats.
Anyone who has aspirations for their career will be thinking in some way about Personal Development. Whether you choose to have a formal development plan (
Whether you choose to have a formal development plan (example here) or you take a more laidback approach, you’ve probably considered getting some external training at some point. When I was 17 (years ago – when the first PC virus went…well…viral), I went back to nightschool to top up my O-Levels (before GCSE’s history fans) – but since then, I’ve occasionally invested in training to enhance my skillset
These days, you can do some great self-development online. The advent of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) , means that for free, or at least relatively low cost you can participate in learning from some of the worlds best establishments. You can use MIT and do courses in everything from Aeronautics to Writing (and probably Zoology), you can use the Khan Academy (funded by my old boss) to learn absolutely anything for free – you can even be like the Big Bang Theory guys and study at Caltech (bazinga!)
So, if you fancy some personal dev – check those out, I’d love to hear what you’d most like to learn, maybe you could even find a learning buddy at work?
Let me know if that’s something you’d like help or advice with.
Couple of Snippets from the Web
I previously shared my love for the design of money, but I’m also fascinated by maps, and now I am a commuter I was interested to see a new Tube Map for London which shows the number of steps between each station. Handy if you are participating in Steptember (you are, right?)
This amazing device is really the future of technology, having your computer speak to you, listen to you and understand your movement – coupled with a massive screen. I have a theory that this technology will be included in the new iPhone 7 – which is why they can get rid of the headphone jack.
Finally – what happens when you try and build a city in the jungle? Well, Henry Ford expected to make a load of money, but really what happened is that things didn’t work out and the jungle reclaimed the city. There is a book and a beautiful album all about Fordlandia.