Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Worst day Of The Year??

So Wednesday 28th January is designated as the worst day of the year so far.  Supposedly.

Credit card bills from indulgent Christmas shopping make their appearance on the mat, you gulp as you realise your tax bill is due to be paid in three days, you reluctantly acknowledge that the seven pounds you gained over Christmas haven't budged, the days may be getting longer but it certainly doesn't feel it as the weather gets bitingly colder.

Now this calculation, this accumulation of supposed depression may indeed reach its apex on the 28th. But really now, for many of us there will be far more painful days - the death of a loved one, the collapse of a relationship, the hardship of unemployment, an illness or accident.

However, there seems to be almost an accepted satisfaction that this algorithm of misery reaches a crescendo on the 28th and you're stuck with it.

We at Impact Factory think there are a few antidotes to the worst day of the year, if indeed, it is so for you.

Get rid of stuff.

The first is a tried and true technique that's recommended by loads of people (including us big time),and that's to spend some time clearing space. If you spend just one hour clearing a desk drawer, a closet, the crap in your loft, the stuff on the back seat or boot of your car, the box shoved under the bed, you will feel better.

Get a Cathie.

If you want an even bigger boost, get a chum with no emotional attachment to your stuff to help. My husband and I have done this a few times (especially recently, as we are moving house) and our wonderful 'master organiser' friend Cathie Smart not only acts as a cheerleader, but as soon as one of us says, "I think I'll get rid of this." she whisks it away to either go to the Hospice shop, to someone else or to the recycling centre before we can change our minds.

Get realistic about your finances.

You can bury your head in the sand, but sure as apples is apples, your bum will be sticking out ready to be bitten.  Go to Citizen's Advice or the Money Advice Service; have a genuine discussion with your bank manager; talk frankly to a financially savvy friend. Whatever you do, you’ll need to face reality and there are people out there to help.

Get active.

We don't necessarily mean go to the gym or train for a marathon, though anything like that does help get those endorphins moving around. What we mean is don't just sit there bemoaning your fate, do something, anything, to shift your mental, emotional and physical dynamic:  bake a cake, go for a walk, feed the birds, take some photographs of wildlife, mend a broken relationship, start a journal.  

Just about anything that changes a negative pattern will do.

We talk a lot about change at Impact Factory and I've written about small changes in this blog before. Changing the status quo if the status quo isn't working is guaranteed to make a difference in your life; a positive difference.

Do it together.

This goes hand in hand with getting a Cathie.  Sometimes doing things alone is great and also quite nourishing; a goodly dose of solitude helps replenish the soul.  However, when you find yourself feeling miserable, sitting and stewing in your own juices doesn't usually end up making a tasty dish, it usually means creating more misery.

And we don't mean joining forces with someone equally depressed - misery may love company but it doesn't change anything.  Look around your friends and connect with someone who has some energy, some creativity, a zest for life and spend some time with them.

Then you can face the worst day of the year, if it indeed is the worst day for you, with far more strength, confidence and enthusiasm for whatever is going to happen next.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Friday, 16 January 2015

Backing Soft Skills

At last!  A company that is taken seriously is taking the lead to promote soft skills.

McDonald's is heading the campaign Backing Soft Skills to raise awareness of the massive impact of soft skills on the UK economy, but also to enlist more companies and individuals in developing soft skills within organisations throughout the nation.

Partnered by other leading companies and individuals , including primo entrepreneur James Caan OBE, Backing Soft Skills has undertaken detailed research which is a boon to soft skills training companies like Impact Factory.

For years training organisations (Impact Factory included) have often had uphill battles trying to convince companies that investing in soft skills will improve their bottom line.  Inevitably they ask for hard evidence, which has not been that easy to obtain.

Not any more.

Hooray!  Go on to the Backing Soft Skills website and download their comprehensive research undertaken by Development Economics) on the validity and  necessity of soft skills to improve the economy. 

The research sums up: "Today, soft skills are worth over £88 billion in Gross Value Added to the UK economy each year, underpinning around 6.5% of the economy as a whole."

Impact Factory has been running soft skills, interpersonal skills training for nearly 25 years and we know the efficacy of developing people's people skills.  We actually call what we offer Professional Personal Development as it develops the whole person, not just the work person.

Pretty much every organisation invests in hard skills before investing in soft skills (if they ever do), and yet the best processes, systems and techniques will never achieve their full potential if the people in charge of them don't reach theirs.

Everyone reading this blog will have had an experience of poor customer service or an appalling miscommunication with a salesperson who couldn’t be bothered or a frustrating conversation with a call centre, any one of which would most likely have ended differently if the 'villains of the piece' (which is how we see them when we aren't treated well) had had professional development training.

Soft skills training gives individuals a huge range of behaviour choices so that when they use these skills they are able to transform their relationships, whether they are with customers, colleagues or strangers at the end of a phone.

They provide people with increased confidence and self-esteem and insight into what works about themselves but also how communication works. When individuals understand how a thing works they have far more choice in the way they use that 'thing' be it face to face customer communication or driving a car.

And as the report points out and Impact Factory has been highlighting for years, interpersonal skills aren’t just for the workplace; they have an equally potent impact on families, friends and communities.  Everyone benefits.

We celebrate McDonald's for launching this campaign. We encourage companies to join the campaign and become part of the Backing Soft Skills movement.

If soft skills can have such an impact on the economy at the level it currently does, can you imagine what that impact would be if the use of soft skills doubled?

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication, Personal Impact, Leadership Development and Time Management training..

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Personal Impact

Just think about what makes a great first impression:  someone who’s very present, gives good eye contact, has a strong (but not too strong) handshake; someone who appears confident, has an engaging smile, has the capacity to be warm, friendly and professional; someone whose body language is open. 

Other things that make a god first impression are clothes, shoes, hair, scent that isn’t overpowering, obvious good grooming.

All those things go into making an impressive personal impact.

And if you think about it, everything I’ve mentioned touches on four of the five senses (I’m obviously leaving out taste!), all of which take in information at a phenomenally fast rate, process it in a nanosecond and voila! we make a judgement about someone practically instantly.

Which, of course, means that people are making instant judgements about you, too.

The question for you (and one which we ask our delegates on our Personal Impact courses) is:  are you making the impact you want?

The reality is that if you don’t choose the impact you want to make it will get chosen for you.  Here’s what I mean:  if you don’t pay attention to some of the things I mentioned in the opening paragraph – poor eye contact and not smiling for instance – even though you might feel as though you are engaging with other people, the impression you might be giving is aloof or unfriendly or even untrustworthy.

On the other hand, if you choose ahead of time the mark you’d like to make, you have to then think about what behaviour, attitude, body language would support that.  It’s not as hard as it seems and if any of you reading this have children, you know that they are terrific at changing their behaviour when they want to change their impact.

This is what we mean:  in your mind think of an impact you’d like to make – any one will do:  easy-going, efficient, authentic, no-nonsense, interested. Even as you read those words you might already be getting a mind picture of what your body language, attitude, verbal input could be in order to create that impression.

The transition from the picture in your mind to making it real becomes much easier if you stand up and take the posture of someone who is interested, no-nonsense, authentic, etc.

As humans we’ve all been doing behaviour change since birth so we are well practised at it.  As we become adults, we seem to get a bit distanced from consciously making choices that support our development.

In terms of personal impact, there are many simple, quite straight-forward little things you can tweak in order to present yourself the way you wish to be seen.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 12 January 2015

Broken Promises

If you didn’t heed my words before in my blog about New Year’s Resolutions, maybe you’re ready to now.

Did you join a gym, work out a few times and then peter out because it was so hard to get motivated?

Did you swear to do a month-long detox that lasted a week before the scent of chocolate proved too much?

Did you buy an e-cigarette in the hope it would help you wean yourself from nicotine addiction but you found yourself reaching for the pack after four days?

These situations are designed to undermine confidence, make you feel a failure and make it even harder to get going again.

Years ago Robin and I worked with a man named Dan Faucci and he used to use this analogy about how we set goals and the hard time we give ourselves by setting them way too high in the first place. 

He said setting unrealistic goals was like taking up running and on your first day setting out side by side with a clearly experienced and very fit runner who has all the right gear and footwear and then saying, “I’ll race you to the corner.”

Defeat is assured.

He said what you had to do (metaphorically) was to look for the tiniest ant on the ground and again say “I’ll race you to the corner.”

Victory is assured.

So how do you assure victory when you set unrealistic expectations?  The first step is to accept that they are unrealistic.  Once you’ve done that, then you’re ready to lower those expectations. “What?  Lower my expectations?” I hear you cry. 

There is a second step that goes hand in hand with lowering your expectations and this is to raise your stakes.  “Wait a minute,” I can hear you say, “lower my expectations and raise my stakes?  What does that mean?”

So here’s an Impact Factory example.  We run a lot of Presentation Skills courses; as a matter of fact, it’s our most popular workshop both as an Open Course and Tailored.  On nearly every course someone inevitably comes in with a picture of what a good presenter is supposed to look like.  They’ve fashioned their picture on an inspiring public figure or someone they heard who’s given a moving or stirring speech.

And then they want to be able to present just like that fabulous speaker.

Defeat is assured.

At Impact Factory we go right back to basics and our ethos isn’t to encourage people to become someone they aren’t, but instead, and far easier (for them and for us), we encourage people to become more of who they already are.

Let me explain.  Let’s say someone comes in with a regional accent and they say they want to be able to present without the accent.  That’s really hard to do – pretty nigh impossible unless you take a lot of diction lessons and even then, under pressure, that accent will seep out.  Not only that, the person will spend a lot of much needed concentration focusing on the ‘offending’ accent rather than on their actual presentation and connecting with their audience.

Our approach for this presenter is to help them make a feature of their accent – when to even beef it up when making a particularly important point. 

Victory is assured.

Now, this can feel quite risky to do.  It can feel quite exposing and can make the presenter feel vulnerable. This is good – the stakes have been raised but the impossible expectations have been lowered.

This is fundamental to the way we work on all our courses.  We jokingly say we don’t do personality transplants – you can only be who you are and the more genuine you are the more realistic your expectations become.

So take a hint from Impact Factory and from Dan Faucci, start setting and level goals and assure yourself of many victories.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Friday, 9 January 2015

Get a Coach

No one would ever question the need for every single sports person to have some form of coaching.  It goes with the territory of developing not just physical skills, but mental and emotional ones as well. 

Top players in just about every sport even garner headlines when they change coaches in the hopes they’ll improve.  A lot hinges on the compatibility and working relationship between coach and athlete.

Coaching and sport go together – it’s the norm.

So why isn’t it the norm for business people?  Why don’t the same criteria apply?

If you already have a coach, then this blog isn’t for you.

But if you don’t have one, read on…..

Coaches come in all guises – they don’t have to be ‘official’ ones.  While I was growing up I had a couple of fabulous teachers who retrospectively I can see coached me even though it wasn’t called that. 

And so it has been ever since; I have had – and continue to have – people who have coached and mentored me to support my development, encourage my choices, steer me when I veered off course.

I couldn’t/can’t do it alone, and yet so many people who have proper, grown-up jobs seem to think it’s a badge of honour if they ‘do it all themselves’ without any help at all; as though it’s a sign of strength.

It isn’t.  It’s a sign of not wanting to appear weak, of not wanting to show others that you need support.

Everyone needs support…unless you’re a hermit.  And quite frankly, I don’t see the attraction of doing it alone. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that a problem shared is a problem halved.  Well, I’m not entirely sure about the maths, but I do know that having a coach and/or a mentor makes carrying those problems around less burdensome, with more chance of finding a resolution.

My coaches and mentors over the years have guided, prodded, challenged, questioned and ‘called’ me on stuff so that from a very young age I was forced to think more clearly, gain perspective, manage my emotions (that’s a tough one!) and dare I say it, get wiser.

If you want to give a boost to your career, your confidence, your skills and your self esteem – get a coach!

Become a Coach

The flip side of using a coach is becoming one. 

You may be saying, “I don’t want to become a professional coach, I’m happy with what I’m doing.”


I’m not suggesting you change careers.  What I am suggesting is that you become a coach to some of the people around you.  This could mean working with a colleague, someone new in the organisation, a friend or someone you know in your personal life who could use the support.

You may already have a natural bent towards this kind of role already.  Do people come to you to discuss their problems?  Are you the first port of call when a colleague or friend is struggling?  Do others seek your advice when they have to make crucial decisions?

Key qualities of being a good coach or mentor are:

patience and the ability to let people find their way in their own time;
objectivity – the ability to step back and help others see situations from a variety of perspectives;
not taking sides – this goes hand in hand with objectivity; you want to avoid feeding the problem;
letting go of your picture of how they should be ‘doing’ it;
letting them make their own mistakes;
ability to acknowledge, praise and encourage;
courage to ‘call’ someone’s behaviour when needed

The satisfaction is boundless when you can be part of someone’s development; where you input has made a difference.

 This is one great definition of giving something back.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A London Must: Communicate with Impact – Presentation with Impact

As 2015 begins to wake up from its Christmas/New Year sleep many people will start to think:
"There has to be a better way"
A better way to achieve things that can make a big difference without a lot of pain and sacrifice or compromise. 

Well, Impact Factory has exactly that.

Two five-day, in-depth Elite courses that will transform the way you communicate or present without pain or compromise.  We won’t go as far as saying they are easy – they are certainly challenging and will require a commitment to change; they are fun, focused and are absolutely guaranteed to get outstanding results. 

Added bonuses include working alongside colleagues from around the globe, sharing and exchanging experience, wisdom and insight.  There are also a few ‘surprises’ built into each course designed to stretch and stimulate.

That much overused term ‘value for money’ is undoubtedly true for Communicate with Impact and Presentation with Impact.

Indeed, where else can you find two brilliant five day programmes to improve your Communication and Presentation skills exponentially, held in one the greatest cities in the world, run by a team of hugely experienced, vibrant and creative facilitators?

Impact Factory is all about small changes for a big impact and each of these five day courses is like having one celebration after another of small changes that create a bigger and bigger impact.

To succeed in today’s lightening fast world, make a genuine impression and feel confident and accomplished, two key areas that people need to develop are Communication and Presentation skills.  We excel in both and take great joy in facilitating people to achieve the best of their abilities.

Delegates give feedback such as :
“I’m still speechless – I was shown the DNA of communication”“Our leaders were phenomenal communicators”“I took away a truckload of wisdoms”“My presentation skills have been given a blood transfusion”
These two courses aren't one-day wonders, they are five day extravaganzas of skills, fun, challenges, dynamism that offer participants support, encouragement and tangible, immediately usable take-aways. 

We love talking about our courses, so we’re more than happy to have one of our ‘phenomenal communicators’ give you a ring to discuss these terrific courses.  Contact us on +44 (02) 7226 1877 or email natasha@impactfactory.com

Click for more details on Communicate with Impact and Presentation with Impact.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 5 January 2015

Not More Bloody New Year’s Resolutions

Here it is the first week in January and we are being bombarded by ads on the telly, in magazines, newspapers, Facebook, etc., urging us to quit smoking, lose weight, get fit – BE A BETTER PERSON for goodness sake.

Wouldn’t you think by now that people would just give up on setting New Year’s Resolutions?

Granted, they have been going along in some form or another for centuries so they did have some genuine purpose at one time.

Now they seem to be primarily about punishing yourself with guilt because the impossible goals you set are unattainable for at least 88% of people who set Resolutions.

Most Resolutions centre around losing weight, stopping smoking, cutting down on the booze, getting fit – all very self-focused and not a lot about contributing beyond the self.

If you have already set a Resolution or two how about changing them right now to ones like smiling more, resolving a long-standing conflict, being kinder to the grumpy neighbour.  All ones that do contribute beyond the self and connect with other people.

The thing about those self-improvement resolutions is that for most people, they represent big changes – big physical changes, big psychological changes, big emotional changes.

And big changes are just too hard to be sustainable for most people.  Of course there are those who shrink during the diet of a lifetime, have healthier lungs because they’ve beaten the habit, have muscles that have muscles when they work out at the gym.

Just not most of us.  Most of us charge full steam ahead on January 2nd, determined to stick to ‘it’ (what ‘it’ is) this time, only to fail either right away or about three to four weeks in.  That’s the average, because sustaining big change is hard. 

The journey of a thousand miles may start with the first step, but it’s usually step 10,023 that causes us to falter. 

Small changes work better.  Here’s an example.  Years ago my co-Director Robin would answer the phone and write messages on little pieces of paper that would then get lost.  The ‘normal’ thing would have been to berate Robin for losing the pieces of paper and then to try to get him to be more organised. That would have been a hard change, a big change.

What those of us working with him suggested was that he have a brightly coloured large notebook that he could spot across the room when he was on the phone and write messages in the notebook. 

Hey presto!  That worked.

Fast forward quite a few years and I had the same problem with my husband – messages on little pieces of paper that just got eaten by the house.  So I tried the large, brightly coloured notebook thing and that was a dismal flop; what worked for Robin most definitely didn’t work for Fred.  So I tried something else, which was to have stacks of large colourful post-it pads dotted around the house near the phones.  He’d write a message, tear it off the pad and stick it on the kitchen table where they could be easily spotted.

Hey presto!  That worked.

In each case, the solution was a small shift in what they did rather than expecting they would be able to sustain big shifts.  Not only that, like all the work we do at Impact Factory, each solution was right for the individual, rather than one solution being right for both.

This is how we work:  small changes tailored for each person.

So once again, if you’ve already set your New Year’s Resolutions, make some new ones: small goals that once you achieve them will make you feel ever so much better.  In addition, make sure that any you set are right for you and not simply doing what you think you ought to do.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Personal Impact and Communication Skills Training.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory