Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Business Networking

Learn the secret of business networking.

35 years ago I was the director of Special Events at the New York City Ballet. I had to go to loads of meetings, cocktail parties, fund-raising events, get-togethers with donors, as well as organise and run the company’s own events.

When each meeting, get-together and event was over; I’d be flooded with relief. Although networking was a huge part of my job I was uncomfortable with what I expected of myself – to chat, meet new people, introduce myself to potential donors, meet and greet and so on. The irony was that I was actually very good at it and successful at my job, but I never enjoyed that aspect of it.

I had to force myself to leave the comfortable groups I was chatting with (usually colleagues) to meet other people; my stomach would be tied up in knots; I’d feel tongue-tied and awkward, even if it didn't show. 

35 years later, going to business networking events is a ‘piece of cake’. This isn’t arrogance talking; this is me, after developing Business Networking Courses at Impact Factory, practising what I preach. 

First thing I discovered many years ago was that I wasn’t alone in feeling that everyone else could do it better. I even got feedback from other people that it looked as though it was so easy for me to break into already formed groups, introduce myself to total strangers and so on. 

The reality is that quite a few people, if not most, really don’t enjoy networking. They may look okay on the outside but inside their tummies are tided up.

What has changed for me is knowledge. 

When we created Business Networking Courses; the objective wasn’t simply to help people feel more comfortable in the networking arena, but to demystify the whole process of networking and to give people enough understanding so they felt in charge of the networking arena.

Through creating these courses, I learned as well.

Because I now understand the dynamics of how nearly every person behaves at business events, I can see what’s going on. I'm no longer intimidated, and I genuinely enjoy the whole process of joining and leaving groups, introducing myself, ‘schmoozing’, acting as a ‘hostess’ even if it isn't my event. 

Instead of being intimidated, I can go to events without knots in my stomach or feeling awkward.

It’s like being let into a secret that I felt other people knew and I didn’t. That’s the beauty of our Business Networking Courses – everyone can be in on the secret.

We also run open courses in London for Building Business Relationships, Assertiveness Skills and Personal Impact.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Assertiveness - the nice factor

The key to really good Assertiveness Training.

We’ve been running assertiveness courses for over twenty years, only we didn’t used to call it Assertiveness Training. We called it The Nice Factor, about being too nice for your own good.

That’s because way back then, assertiveness training had a bit of a bad reputation. It was all about standing up for yourself, being a broken record saying the same thing over and over and our favourite, “Just say no.”

As we heard many times on our courses, “If I could ‘just say no’ then I’d say it. But I can’t.”

And that’s what separates our Assertiveness training from so many others. We don’t ask people to fundamentally change who they are; indeed we don’t ask people to change much of anything. Yet we still get results.

That’s because our take on Assertiveness is that you have to work with what people already do, using the natural bent of their personalities. You don’t have to take people out of their comfort zones; you have to make their comfort zones bigger.

It’s really tough when you’re unassertive. People consciously or unconsciously take advantage, you often feel hard done by, you feel you have no options but to keep behaving as you always have. “It’s just the way I am,” people will say as the reason for their unassertive behaviour.

We all adapt our behaviour in certain situations; unassertive people adapt their behaviour more than most: they say yes when they want to say no; they give in under even the mildest of pressure, they act as though everything is fine on the outside while seething on the inside. All of this leads to a build-up of pressure and often the slightest distress will send them over the edge so they explode outwardly or implode inwardly.

See – it’s not fun being unassertiveness.

On the flip side, our experience over the years has shown that unassertive people are often considerate, attentive, respectful, intelligent and really nice in the best sense of the word. They know what’s happening to them but they don’t feel able to change it.

Being assertive

The key to really good Assertiveness Training is to take those two extremes (getting taken advantage, giving in, etc. VS. being thoughtful, caring, etc.) and make them work together.

Here’s an example. 
Let’s say you’re someone who says “I’m sorry” a lot. People who apologise a lot generally are pushovers; other people sense those weak points and pounce so they can get their own way. That’s why you end up staying late, doing the extra school run, changing your plans to suit someone else’s agenda.

Instead of trying to find the courage to “just say no” and stand your ground, we’d recommend doing more of what you already do: apologise. But this time, we’d suggest over-apologising. “I really wish I could stay late. I’m so sorry I won’t be able to tonight.  What a shame you didn’t let me know earlier. I’m really so sorry.”

At no time have you presented yourself as difficult, obstructive or unwilling. You’re still being your lovely self, only this time through over-apologising, you haven’t given in.

It might feel quite odd at the beginning; odd but not necessarily bad. This is what we mean about making your comfort zone bigger. You’re doing something you already know how to do – you don’t have to learn a new skill – you’re simply turning up the volume, as it were, on behaviour that’s familiar.

We also recommend that you practise as much as possible so that this new way of behaving becomes second nature. When you ‘revert to type’ as you inevitably will do, you have a new ‘type’ to ‘revert’ to.

This is just one simple exercise that helps you change your behaviour slightly in order to achieve a different outcome rather than asking you to take on a whole new personality.

On our Assertiveness Training courses we have numerous uncomplicated processes like that one to build confidence, make life easier, help you feel more in charge of what happens to you and supports who you are.

Find our next Assertiveness Training Course - this one-day open course explores issues around assertiveness. 

We also offer a two day Assertiveness Skills Course - designed to help people recognise the patterns of thought and behaviour they have acquired which leave them feeling disempowered. 

By Jo Ellen

Friday, 7 February 2014

Time Management

I’m one of those people who would rather arrive at an appointment an hour early and sit in the car park than be five minutes late.

Sounds extreme and I certainly have got very familiar with certain car parks over the years. However, it’s indicative of how I manage my time. Yet, for others, they are chronically late and it doesn't seem to bother them at all.

Is the world divided between those who manage their time well and those who don’t?

Probably not quite so black and white, and yet if you don’t manage your time well it affects more than just yourself. Bad time management has ripples that impact on projects, colleagues, customers and of course how you are perceived by employers, friends, family and even how you perceive yourself.

Impact Factory has been running more Time Management courses than ever before and feedback from those who book is that since the beginning of the recession people are under increasing pressure to do more on fewer resources. Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone but we do know that those who come on Time Management are often highly stressed and usually feel they are already doing everything they can to manage their time better.

Given that seems to be a common theme what else can people do to help them manage their time more effectively?

Be more visible. 
If you are someone who just gets on and does your job quietly we bet you are most likely not being noticed which means employers and colleagues aren’t necessarily aware of how much you are actually doing. Becoming more visible means blowing your own trumpet, not a very British thing, but it will make a huge difference. Let people know what you are doing, what you have done and what you are planning to do.

This might seem like overkill, but this really will help to raise your profile and others will see you as more productive.

Take care of yourself. 
All the while you put other people’s needs above your own, your time management will most likely unravel. Letting people know what you can and cannot accomplish will save everyone aggravation. By saying yes when you want to say no, you are inviting more work without letting other people know the impact this will have on your work-flow.

Be a problem solver. 
Alongside being able to say ‘no’ more effectively, be someone who’s great at offering solutions that you don’t have to do yourself. Being a creative member of your team will also raise your profile.

Turn the Tables on your Time Robbers. 
We all have them! People or situations that eat away at our precious time. Take some time to identify those time robbers and plan a strategy for deflecting them. These are your habitual interrupters, people with loads of drama and crises in their lives, people who need rescuing. This is the time to set really firm boundaries so people don’t wheedle their way in and feel they have the right to snatch your time.  

Have some fun. 
We are such believers in fun at work but we also know that people who feel under the cosh don’t always have the best time, let alone have any fun. Look for opportunities to be more playful, take more breaks, don’t work long hours which is counter-productive.

By Jo Ellen - Impact Factory Founding Director

Find Impact Factory's next Time Management course in London.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Communicate with Impact

Never before has it been more important to communicate effectively and with impact. In today's pressured world, being able to be clear, adaptable and match your intent with your impact is key.

Communicate with Impact grew out of the demand from our clients for longer courses that would allow delegates the time to really understand and develop the way they communicate. 

This five day course is not for the faint hearted – it’s practical, memorable, challenging and still fun!

Introduced to our repertoire in 2010 and one of our Elite Programme of five day courses, the response has been fantastic.

The elements within the course look at Communication and what already works. How to be a more effective and adaptable influencer. Managing difficult conversations – the true test of any great communicator. Presentation, being able to make your material memorable and engaging will have a huge effect on your audience and the way you are viewed. An off-site challenge to test your mettle and see how you handle being taken out of your comfort zone. The reward from this challenge is one of the highlights of the course but remains a secret!

Finally, the element of one to one coaching to empower the individual, ending with a group pitch to look at Team work.

We are proud of this course and feel it makes a difference.

Communicate with Impact attracts executives from all over the world, so every course has an international flavour.

I am drawing your attention to this course as the calibre of delegates and the organisations they come from may resonate with you. Companies such as BP, JP Morgan, Danone, Anglian Water, DSM and Visa Europe have sent participants and seen immediate results.

Here’s what some previous delegates say about the course:

  • "Over the five days I was shown the DNA of communication, it was the decoding of a blueprint with all its levers, bolts and details." Delegate from BASF, Germany
  • "I can honestly say that in my twenty years of working life this course was one where I have taken so much away and learned a great deal about myself and my capabilities.. .." APM Terminals, Dubai
  • "Our leaders on the programme were very, very good, they stood out from the crowds of people who purport to be communicators because they were phenomenal communicators; they were very effective and ultimately they delivered huge impact on us."  BG Group, UK
Find out more about Impact Factory's Communicate with Impact course: 
  • Five day programme
  • Next available course begins 17 March, 2014
  • Based in London or call us on +44 (0)20 7226 1877

Post by Tina Lamb