Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Talk To Each Other Instead

Saw this sign in Robin and my favourite Japanese restaurant on Upper Street. 

Made us both laugh.  Of course I’ve talked before about going out to dinner with my husband and at the adjoining table was a family of five with mom and dad and three children of varying teen years.  Every single one of them had a device and none of them were talking to each other.

What was sad-funny was that they kept ignoring the waitress every time she hovered and asked if they were ready to order and then got het up when they finally lifted their heads from out of their electronic clouds and realised they were hungry.

You could say that with all the devises around and all the avenues for ‘connecting’ we are communicating more.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Talkbook, Facegram, Chatsnap, etc., are all ways for us to connect.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of them; for some people they are a life-line.

But I do think the sign makes a good point; people who’s heads are buried in their electronic gizmos aren’t having conversations with the people they are with, though they may very well be ‘conversing’ with someone at the other end.  It’s often that they’re playing games, though.

Like the family I witnessed at dinner, everywhere I go where people are eating, I see that most have their phones on the table if they aren’t already poking at them or have them to their ears.  There’s an unspoken and probably completely unintentional message being given when that happens which is, “Something more important than being here with you may come up, so I have to be at the ready.”

Personally, I find it incredibly annoying to sit with someone (even if it’s not at a meal) who continually glances over or prods their phone to get the screen to wake up.  

I know we’re all supposed to get better at multi-tasking but when I’m at a meeting, in a workshop or indeed, out for a bite, I want to be able to converse with the person I’m with and not have this sense that they’re only half present.

‘Talk to each other instead’ is about being fully present so you can engage with the people you’re with; ‘talk to each other instead’ is about looking people in the eye and hearing what’s going on for them; ‘talk to each other instead’ is about finding connections face to face.

Leave the electronic stuff for when it won’t interfere with communication.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication courses and our Elite Five Day Communicate with Impact Training.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 29 June 2015

Bold Leadership

A few months before the General Election Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse of the Royal Society wrote that politicians are cowardly in their repeated ignorance of scientific evidence that may be unpopular with the public.

He went on to say that it indicated a total lack of leadership on the politicians’ part.

This got me thinking about leadership in general and the difference between holding a vision and working within it and for it, and having an agenda and manipulating information in order to fulfil that agenda, which often remains hidden.

Here's what I mean, when a leader, any leader in any sphere of work, has a clear vision, then he or she creates a forum to invite others to share that vision and contribute to it. This allows for flexibility, the building of trust, making mistakes and learning from them instead of trying to cover them up or blame others.

On the other hand, if a leader has an unspoken agenda it often creates a climate of mistrust, the need to find allies and take 'sides', misinformation, outright lies, rigidity. All because the agendas in these cases are often self-serving and are about keeping a job, going higher up in an organisation, building power and empire, doing someone else down – you get the picture.

The thing about being transparent, accepting ‘evidence’ that may refute what you want to present to those you lead, and inviting input from others is that you don’t know where it all might lead.

I think of this as bold leadership because it’s really brave leading from a place where you don’t know the outcome. Politicians want certainty so that is one very good reason they ignore what the scientific community says because it won’t – or they believe it won’t – win votes.

Other types of leaders who do the same also want certainty and they become controlling, authoritative (in the worst iteration of the word) and need to engineer what happens around them. 

Their leadership is patriarchal because it tends to be all about telling people what to do rather than persuading, influencing and creating buy-in. Patriarchs don’t feel the need to create buy-in, they just push their ideas onto other people.

In turn, people who are treated in a patriarchal way often become infantile in their behaviour – they display the traits of a compliant or rebellious child.

Bold leaders want to hear what others have to say, they can admit when they’ve got it wrong, they try things out and often fail.  But the great thing about this kind of leader is that they usually still have loads of followers because the more authentic they are, the more human they seem; the more human, the more they can connect with people who work with them.

Let’s look at the global stage for an example.  Right now Alexis Tsipras is displaying all the qualities of a bold leader.  He doesn’t know the outcome; he asked his Parliament for their backing; he is asking his citizenry for their input. 

This isn’t lip service, which we get from so many leaders.  This truly is a leap into the unknown with equally unknown consequences and yet he feels compelled to do something to break the deadlock and shift the status quo.

Not every leader is an Alexis Tsipras - leaping into a potential void without an obvious parachute – but status quos, if they aren’t working, can be shifted, need to be shifted for things to progress.

I’m with Sir Paul Nurse:  ignoring evidence is cowardly and self-interested; bold leadership is about working with what’s real not a manipulated picture of reality.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Leadership Development and Communicate with Impact Training.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 22 June 2015

Influencing & Negotiation: Does It Have to be so Calculated?

That’s a question we get a lot on our courses.  Some people seem really uncomfortable with the idea that to be good at influencing and negotiation it all has to be premeditated.

There seems to be such a negative connotation to the idea of being deliberate, pre-planned and indeed, calculated. It’s as though being calculated is ‘bad’ form.

Here at Impact Factory we look at this issue from a far more positive angle that’s all about being considered, thoughtful and communicating with intention.

First off, influencing and negotiating are two different skills, though there’s obviously an overlap.  

Influencing is usually a soft skill; far more subtle, not as obvious and often the people being influenced don’t even realise it’s happening. 

At Impact Factory we talk about the difference between overt and covert influencing.  When it’s overt everyone knows what’s going on, there’s usually a shared agenda, mutual goals can be agreed, there’s a lot of transparency, people tend to be more up front.

When it’s covert you may be conscious of what’s going on but you may be dealing with people who have different agendas and therefore you have to be far more delicate. Then it’s all about understanding where other people are coming from, taking those differing agendas into account and being a lot more accommodating.

Negotiation, on the other hand, is almost a ‘hard’ skill and a strategy is a must. You have to be prepared knowing what your bottom line is, what isn’t negotiable, what is and what you can give away for ‘free’ that looks as though you are conceding a point.

Is that calculated?  You bet it is. 

Our whole focus in terms of negotiation is to make negotiations less stressful.  If you’re someone who doesn’t think you’re good at it, you will be stressed every time you have to enter that arena. 

OK, here’s a good example:  if you know that you usually cave in at some point in your negotiations, pick something that you know will cost very little to surrender and deliberately act as though it has greater importance than it does. Then when you feel yourself caving in, cave in on that one.  This way you haven’t had to change your entire way of being – you will still cave in – but by planning ahead and having a clear strategy in your mind, you can yield in a way that suits you.

Then you can move on to the issues you need addressing.  It’s very rare that someone doesn’t concede something back when you’ve been the first to ‘blink’.

If you start thinking that being calculated, deliberate and premediated is actually good for both ‘sides’ your ability to influence with flair and negotiate with ease will improve enormously.  It will also become a lot more fun because part of you will able to be objective and observe what’s happening instead of being entirely in the middle of the scrum.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Friday, 19 June 2015

Change Management: "I Hate Change!"

If any of you have been watching Kay Mellor’s brilliant The Syndicate on the BBC you will have a picture of Godfrey (the totally fabulous Lenny Henry) rage, “I hate change!” even in the face of having won millions of pounds on the Lottery.

That’s how strongly some people can feel about change – even if it’s wonderful, exciting, beneficial, some people just don’t like messing about with the status quo.

The last couple of blogs that I’ve written on change have focused on the fact that change happens, our lives are always evolving, the world around us is always evolving; change is inevitable.

What I haven’t looked at is another whole aspect of change and that has to do with how we are physiologically built to respond to patterns. Patterns are part of the very nature of our physical makeup:  our heart beats to a pattern, we inhale and exhale to a pattern, our organs exist through patterns of creating and divesting themselves of cells.  And these patterns happen without our consciously thinking about them.

If you know anyone with a heart condition or a breathing condition or any ailment that interferes with the body’s natural patterns, you know how potentially devastating it can be when those patterns are disrupted.

We are also geared to rely on patterns every day of our lives other than our bodily ones:  most people have the same routines: they get ready in the morning the same way and tend to eat the same thing; go to work via the same route; read the same newspapers and magazines; shop at the same stores. There’s nothing at all wrong with this, it’s just that repeating routine reinforces our patterns and can make it harder to change them.

Here’s a nifty little experiment you can do to demonstrate how unconscious we are about the patterns that ‘run’ our lives. Choose any two drawers you have:  they can be in the bedroom or the kitchen for instance. If the two drawers are next to each other or one above the other, all the better.  Now switch the contents.  What was in Drawer Number 1 you now put into Drawer Number 2 and vice versa.

Then sit back and watch the results. Every time you want a pair of socks you will open the underwear drawer and vice versa; every time you need cutlery you will open the gadget drawer and vice versa. 

See how long it takes for a new pattern to become embedded so that you automatically go to the ‘right’ drawer. The length of time will be different for everyone.

The reason we encourage this little experiment is to illustrate that we rely on patterns to function smoothly but also why change can be so disquieting and unsettling. Our minds are attracted to patterns as it frees bits of it up to do other things at a more conscious level.

It helps to understand that for many people who look as though they are being resistant to change may just be responding to their unconsciously entrenched patterns. Going on and on about the benefits of change won’t ‘change’ their minds.

This is especially true if you’re introducing something major within your organisation. When significant changes are in the pipeline we know that a lot of time, effort, energy and money will have gone into the planning stages to make it happen. Therefore, those who have been part of that process will have been living with the impending changes for some time. They will already have projected themselves into what the new will look like.

Not so everyone else. They will have heard rumours or been told that something big was going to happen, but because they won’t have been a big part of it all, that adherence to patterns will spring into action and fear or anxiety or discomfort will be the order of the day.

Of course, the most straightforward way to deal with this is to involve people early and often so they feel as though they are contributing to the changes and there’s a far greater chance of getting positive buy-in.

If you’re beyond the consultation stage at this point, then it is imperative that you acknowledge the variety of emotions people are experiencing so they don’t then feel ‘bullied’ into doing something they’d rather not.

Helping others manage change is as important as the changes themselves.

By the way, at the end of the experiment, if you decide to do it, see if you are inclined to put the drawers back the way they were in the first place!

Check out Impact Factory’s Change Management courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Presentation: Fear and Failure

We run a LOT of presentation skills courses.  A LOT.

Indeed, it is our most popular course and we also run quite a lot of one-to-one work for people preparing for a big event or who would prefer individual tuition rather than working in a group or who can’t take the time out for a whole one, two or five days.

Over the years, we’ve been contacted by people who have failed at a previous presentation and are now terrified at the prospect of ‘getting back on the horse’.

We completely understand where they are coming from; there is nothing worse for someone’s self-esteem and confidence than to fail. Not only fail, fail in front of others many of whom may be colleagues.

Crawling out from under the rock of humiliation takes a lot of courage.

Our starting point for any course or one-to-one coaching is empathy. There’s no point trying to push someone into doing something they are terrified of if you don’t reassure them that what they are feeling is normal. Even if they haven’t failed, it is normal to be frightened of standing up in front of others, be it strangers or colleagues, and presenting.

From reassurance we progress to giving people an insight into what actually physiologically and psychologically happens to most people when they present. The more you understand what happens to you in the presenting ‘arena’ the more in charge you will feel.

Nerves create all sorts of sensations and thoughts that can make you feel out of control. When I’m nervous my knees shake which of course means my legs shake.  If I start concentrating on how much my legs shake then I start fearing that my hands will shake and my voice will tighten and everyone will be able to see how scared I am.

It’s a vicious circle because all the attention is focused on my nerves rather than on my presentation.

That’s what happens to a lot of people when they present; their nerves take over.

Now another thing that’s as important as empathy for the fear people are feeling is that you can’t banish nerves by giving yourself a hard time about being nervous. I’ve heard people call themselves pathetic, a wimp; they should buck up; they should get over it.  That’s awful.  Bashing yourself will only make it worse.

Acknowledging what actually happens to you and accepting that you have nerves doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it, but acknowledgement and acceptance help you put things into perspective. What you are feeling is real, it isn’t a sign of weakness or a lack of professionalism.

Empathy, understanding, acknowledgement. All very positive and humane ways of dealing with a very natural and common anxiety.

Once those are in place, then we as trainers can actually look at how to build confidence and skills so that you can actually look forward to stepping into that presentation arena rather than crawling back under that rock. 

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Presentation Skills courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Conflict Management

A while ago someone at work said how difficult it was for her to handle conflict, how uncomfortable it made her but that it was obviously easy for me because I did it so well.



Conflict makes me feel just as uncomfortable as a lot, if not most people.  The difference is that I do it, even in the face of my clenching tummy and tightening throat.  And I do it because if I didn’t stuff would fester.

That’s what happens when people avoid conflict.  Problems don’t vanish all on their own; the longer conflict isn’t managed the more those problems get inflated till one day they burst. 

The bursting process is interesting because often explosive conflict arises over something tiny that creates the spark for a conflagration. Bursting can also take the shape of someone complaining about ‘the other person’ to everyone but the other person. And it can take the shape of people leaving their jobs, bringing ‘the other person’ to a tribunal, and other ways of making their life and possibly ‘the other person’s’ life a misery.

All because conflict is hard. So people would rather duck and dive than confront the issues head on.

Now confronting issues head on doesn’t mean there needs to be a shouting match or that you have to become aggressive. Those are certainly two of the fears people have – that they and/or the other person will get angry; that there will be tears; that someone will storm out; that there will be lots of defensiveness and of course our old friend, denial.

Any of that could happen and those possibilities become even more probable the longer you wait to bring difficulties into the open. The main reason to ‘nip things in the bud’ is to achieve some kind of resolution; relive the pressure that’s been building; bring into light things that have been hidden.

If you do screw up your courage to nip things in the bud here are a couple of tips:

Be really clear what you want to say and then say it. Often when people dance around the houses, prevaricate and never get to the point, the other person will know something’s up and will rely solely on what’s going on in their head to figure it out.

Avoid blaming the other person. People naturally get defensive when blamed and that completely shuts down communication.

Really listen to what’s going on for the other person. When people are listened to and feel heard they are far more amenable to finding a solution.

Look to find a solution together. We all have pictures in our heads about how we want things to look, but really, that’s usually coming exclusively from our point of view.  Working with the other person will create buy-in and more likely a lasting result.

There is no question that managing conflict can be an uneasy business. The payoff for not managing it will make things even worse, so take a deep breath, plan a strategy and despite the anxiety step into the conflict arena.

Check out Impact Factory’s Conflict Management, Assertiveness Skills and Personal Impact courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Storytelling: The Ancient Art That Touches Us All

Did you know that Forbes Magazine recently said, “The hottest trend in marketing today just might be the ancient art of storytelling”?

Why do you suppose that is?

The clue is in the word 'ancient'. Humans have been telling stories even before speech, through drawing and painting. Our brains are programmed to respond to stories in a completely different way than to facts and figures. Our emotions are engaged when we hear stories.

'Once upon a time' immediately elicits an expectation in the reader or listener and we unconsciously prepare ourselves for a story; we are more relaxed and open with stories.

Here's a really simple example from an imaginary company:

Version One. In this quarter turnover was up by 15%; expenses increased by 10%.  Therefore, profit increased by 5%. We expect profits to increase over the next two quarters.

Simple facts presented in a straightforward way.

Now for the storytelling version.

Version Two.  Everyone started the New Year full of energy and enthusiasm with some new ideas on how to build better customer relationships. These creative ideas clearly paid off because profits at the end of the first quarter are up by a staggering 15%.

Having got a sense of just how much energy there was, we anticipated getting more custom so we hired an additional member of staff and invested in some of the ideas the staff presented, so expenses increased as well - up by 10%.

But as Mr Micawber said, "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

And indeed our profit at the end of the first quarter is up 5%. Definitely happiness. Not only that, everyone's energy continues to thrive and since we've already made the investment we intend to for the next two quarters, profits should increase even more.

Obviously, in the first instance, it's all cut and dried and maybe that's how you have to present facts and figures.

The second version, however, takes you on a journey - which all good stories should do - and will better 'fix' the facts because of the descriptive language used. The language paints a picture and gives you a better insight into how the figures were arrived at, which in turn gives you a picture of what's happening inside our imaginary organisation.

Here's the best bit about storytelling:  if you're someone who's intrigued and interested in using stories in their business but don't think you're any good at it, think again.

Just about everyone is good at telling stories. You've been doing it from when you were wee, from when you were read to, from school days, from meeting new people and telling them about yourself, from nights out at the pub, or long gossip chats on the phone. You already know how to tell a good story.

What we've done at Impact Factory is to ground what people do naturally into something they can use really effectively in business. We've created an action-packed day that takes you on a journey from the personal (the best place to begin) to the business side of things; from the realm of the 'touchy-feely' into the realm of hard-nosed reality.

Check out Impact Factory’s Storytelling courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 15 June 2015

Customer Service

I’m a Customer Service nut.

By that I mean I can’t be part of a single buying or selling interaction without being highly attuned to the customer service I receive.

Here’s a for instance.  Currently I have a company car on lease which I have to exchange towards the end of the year.  I’m very happy with my current car and would happily get the same thing  again but it doesn’t fit into the drive of the house I’ve just moved to so I’m in the market for something different.  This means I’ve been making the rounds of various dealerships on my short-list.

Maybe it’s because I’m in  the customer service business, or maybe it’s because I grew up with a father who was a car salesman or maybe my customer service radar is particularly sensitive, but man oh man, I have been continually taken aback by how poor some of the customer service  I’ve received during this car-buying adventure.  Here I am – a live customer who has to get a car by October. 

I’m not window-shopping; I’m for-real shopping!

My father used to bang on and on about finding common ground with every customer who phoned or came in through the door. “Don’t try to sell anyone anything until you’ve found that common ground,” he used to say.  He also said, “Never let anyone leave without getting their details.”

The first two showrooms I went into, I felt I was infringing on the salesmen’s time – one chap took me out to the car I was interested in, opened it and then left me on my own without telling me anything about it.  The second one was finishing his lunch and every morsel of information I threw at him he managed to let drop to the floor never grabbing hold of a single one as it was clear he’d rather be eating than selling.

In each case I left the showrooms without anyone taking my contact info. They have no way to reel this fish in.

In great contrast, one dealership I went to not only took my details, showed me all the features of the car and made a follow-up call, they did that above and beyond thing.  My husband was with me and commented on a rather impressive automobile logo which was printed on fabric; he made an off-hand comment that maybe he could get the details of the printer. The people who were there at the time said they didn’t know but would find out.

And sure enough, first thing Monday morning we got a call with the printer’s details.

Now that’s what I call customer service.

What each experience said to me was that how I was treated when I walked in the door was how I would be treated from then on. 

What are the customer service lessons here?

Find common ground and build on it.  Common ground could be as anything from comments about the weather to where you’re each going on your next holidays.  Everyone except the most withheld person gives out clues that if you are attentive you can pick up on and ‘run’ with.

Do more than is expected.  Like getting us the printer’s details, there is always something extra you can do. What’s that terrific axiom?  Under promise and over deliver. Offer something before the customer asks for it.  In a couple of showrooms I visited I had to ask for the brochures and in one, the salesman was so distracted and there was no obvious brochure display that I left without one.

It’s all about relationships.  If you develop trust early on that’s the beginnings of establishing a relationship.  The relationship is far more important than the sale.  Going back to my dad, he not only built a loyal clientele who returned when they needed a new car, they introduced their children and grandchildren to him as the years went by when they needed cars.  People liked and trusted my father because he made human connections rather than just going after the sale. 

Customer Service is not difficult to do; if you don’t like people, you’re in the wrong business.  If you do like people and would like to get better at it, there’s loads you can do to develop your customer service skills.

Check out Impact Factory’s Customer Service courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Friday, 12 June 2015

Change Management

We can’t live without change

To begin with we all get older every day we’re alive!  If that isn’t change, I don’t know what is.

Organisations change – they have to in order to survive.  We’ve had a long recession and government imposed austerity measures and many organisations, whether they wanted to or not, have been forced to institute changes that they perhaps wouldn’t have chosen if the financial climate were different.

Change that evolves naturally can often be so subtle that people barely notice it and those changes easily get incorporated into the day to day. Changes that happen quickly is usually the type that throws people into turmoil and disquiet.

My previous blog on change in April talked about the impact of imposed change. Certainly most people who come on our Change Management Open courses or who bring us in to do tailored work are reacting to imposed changes that they now have to grapple with.

I also mentioned before that I’m a change lover so lots of change, even imposed change, doesn’t throw me the way it does others.  I kind of swing with the punches.

However, I began unpicking what it is that I do in order to swing with the punches that might be helpful to other people who struggle when change is imposed on them.

I’ve undergone a lot of change in my life and I expect my psyche is used to it so when I hear that something’s afoot, I mentally prepare without even realising I’m doing that.

More importantly, though, is I’m aware that I focus on one or two things that I think are really good about the change, even if a lot of it I might not be all that happy with. I’m not a positivity junkie by any means, but I have found that if I choose to like something specific then the things I might not like begin to fade into the background.

When people focus only on what they are unhappy about, then everything becomes miserable and things become more of a struggle. They also begin to attract other people who are miserable and they become a ‘misery collective’ moaning and gossiping about how it won’t work. 

We know that the brain responds chemically to depression as well as to optimism. It also responds to fear and often what accompanies change is fear of the unknown.  What’s ironic is that in a lot of the situations we hear about, the current status quo isn’t all that great, but the prospect of change suddenly makes the present seem rosy.

This is certainly one technique worth trying for yourself when managing change –either change you will be experience and/or that others will be:  look for one thing you can agree with.  It doesn’t have to be big or major; just one thing you can say, “I think that’s a good idea.”  Help other people to find one thing as well (and it may very well be different from what you have chosen).  Put your attention on that one thing while all the rest is happening and see how many times you can refer to it when you talk to others, particularly those who are doing the most complaining.

The nay-sayers in any organisation can drag things down; can even become toxic so you want to limit their influence and their willing audience. 

It also means that as the change comes into play you really do have something to look forward to.

Check out Impact Factory’s Change Management courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Train the Triner - Love them to Death

The blog I wrote on Train the Trainer a couple of weeks ago focused on why trainers need support for their own professional development.

Now I want to look at some of the issues that trainers encounter that make their job tricky (and exhausting at times).

Over the years we've worked with a lot of terrific trainers who work for large organisations as well as a good few free-lance trainers.  Common issues they present are:  dealing with difficult delegates, maintaining and creating energy, making somewhat dull material interesting, managing a room full of people with disparate levels of skills and disparate goals, among many others.

I like to think of working with trainers as the 'icing on the cake'. Most people who come to do our Train The Trainer courses already have a grounding in what it takes to stand up in front of a room and impart what they know, be it technical or soft skills training.

Occasionally we get novices - people just starting out - but even they have that special something that marks them out as being right for the career they've chosen.  

What we mean by ‘icing on the cake’ is that because most of the people we have on our courses are already good at what they do, our focus is on simple tweaks that will make their jobs a whole lot easier.

Take most people’s bĂȘte noir – the ‘tricky’ delegate.  We all get them every once in a while and without careful handling they can make the time in the training room somewhat hellish.  Less experienced trainers often fall into the trap of either confronting Mr or Ms Hell which can really backfire and turn a whole room against you because you come across as a bully, or side-stepping and ignoring which can also backfire and turn a room against you because you’re not taking care of everyone who might be affected by that one person’s behaviour.

It can feel like damned if you do and damned if you don’t .

The first thing to recognise is that one trainer’s difficult delegate may be another’s easy peasy one.

Sometimes we trainers get rubbed up the wrong way because someone reminds us of a schoolyard bully or the cousin we had a falling out with.  Sometimes we find it hard to have someone who talks ALL THE TIME and doesn’t let anyone get a word in edge-wise. 

And sometimes they really are downright difficult, objectionable, rude and inconsiderate and those people can make everyone’s trainer experience deeply unpleasant if they aren’t dealt with.

The first tip is to ensure you know whether someone is irksome because they simply are or because it’s your ‘stuff’ and their behaviour has plugged into something that has all to do with you and not them.

Even if you accept that it might be your stuff, you still have to deal with having that person in your training room.

Here’s our biggest tip – love them to death.  So what do we mean by ‘love them to death’?  Rather than create friction or pretend it isn’t happening use whatever your difficult delegates do to make them right.

Make them right???  Are you out of your mind?  I don’t want to make them right; I want them to not be there!

Making them right means acknowledging what they say (even if it’s grumpy and ungracious and even if you don’t agree with it), something along the lines of “John’s made a very interesting point; what does everyone else think?”  This opens things out to others in the room and gets the attention off ‘John’ without disagreeing with him.

You can even begin to ask John’s opinion before he offers it. 

And the best advice is to spend time with ‘John’ during breaks and lunch; find out more about him; dig around till you find some common ground. Find something in what he says that you can share with the rest of the group and when you go back into the training room make a point of saying, “When John and I were talking during the break he said something really valuable…..”

What you’ll be doing is breaking the pattern of what John creates in his interactions with others.  He’s used to people being exasperated with him; he’s used to creating tension or adversarial relationships.

By doing something unexpected, you change his expectations and his behaviour will change – we guarantee it!

That’s just one sample of the kinds of things a good Train the Trainer course will cover.  Those little extras that really can make a big difference when ‘running’ a room.

Check out Impact Factory’s Train the Trainer courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 8 June 2015


We’ve seen a trend over the years in the way that people in business have to influence others.

In many organisations people were hired for their expertise and were left to get on with it.  This was particularly true for technical employees:  finance, IT, engineering, etc. 

As the business world changed, the recession hit, redundancies were made, many of the people who were left have had to take on additional roles they hadn’t trained for and often believed they didn’t have a facility for:  influencing others.

The fallout from these changes is still being felt.

Many of these people have to attend client facing meetings which they didn’t have to do in the past.  They have to interact with colleagues from other departments and convince them to give time and resources to projects they may only be peripherally involved with.

The biggest issue these people have said to us that they have to grapple with is influencing people over whom they have no authority and who may not appear to be particularly interested in what’s being asked of them.

That’s one of the reasons our influencing skills courses prove so popular – because they give people a comprehensive range of tools and techniques to help them bridge that skills gap.

Here are a couple of examples:

In our experience people with highly technical skills are exceptionally adept at describing what they are doing….in their own terms.  The problem is that those terms are often gibberish to non-technical people and it’s easy for the techies to be misinterpreted or even ignored. 

What we look at is that in order to influence when there is that kind of communication gap, you have to start using the other person’s ‘terms of reference’, the other person’s point of view, rather than trying to get them to understand yours.  If you can really get your head ‘round the idea of seeing what ‘they’ see and talking from that place, your influencing skills will increase exponentially.

Another useful tool is about the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule.  Again, in our experience, when there is a communication gap the person trying to influence will ask a lot of questions.  A lot of questions.  In some contexts that’s OK and useful.  However, in influencing situations more than three questions begins to feel like the Spanish Inquisition and other people can often feel intimidated, overwhelmed or even cross.

So the first step we would be to limit the number of questions in a row you ask.  The second step would be to spend time practising open questions that require the other person to amplify their answers so that a conversation can begin rather than carrying on the uncomfortable pattern of question-answer-question-answer-question-answer, etc.

Getting a few simple hints and tips under your belt will make your influencing life so much easier and will build your confidence so that you enter this new arena with self-assurance rather than wishing you were hiding under the duvet.

Check out Impact Factory’s Influencing courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Friday, 5 June 2015

Communication: You May Be Talking But Am I Listening?

One of the key issues we are requested to deal with on our Communication courses is listening and responding skills.

More problems arise because of poor listening skills than nearly anything else. It’s astonishing how badly people listen to each other, or if they do listen they filter the information through their own biases, limiting beliefs, assumptions and expectations.

One common thing that happens is once someone gets the gist of what they think the other person is saying they are busy in their heads crafting a response before the other person has even finished talking.

We all do it!

We’re often so impatient to get our own point of view across that we trample all over what’s being said.

How many meetings have you been to where people talk over each other, interrupt, shout to make themselves heard, argue because they’ve got the wrong end of the stick?  Maybe the questions should be how many meetings have you been to where none of those things has happened??

What’s ironic is the number of times I’ve heard parents tell their children that it’s rude to interrupt, that they need to wait till ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’ is finished talking. Somehow we all forget those lessons as we get older and don’t always let other people have their full say because we’re so anxious to have our own.

No wonder there are sensible Native American tribes who use a ‘Talking Stick’ so that tribe members get a chance to speak and be heard without the mad rush by others to elbow their way in.  This also means that shy people who may be reticent about speaking their minds get a chance to be heard as well.

So how do we achieve the same results as the Talking Stick?  We know that good listening and responding skills can transform the way communication happens between people.

My first recommendation is that you simply observe how much you and other people interrupt, jump in, talk over others etc.; observe how much talking space you and other people take up.  Are you sharing the invisible ‘talking stick’ so that everyone gets a chance to add their input?  Or are you hogging the stick or even beating other people with it!

After you’ve observed and taken note of what you and others do, especially if there are set patterns in meetings, it’s now time to exhibit restraint. See what it takes to let people have their full say; see what it feels like to only consider your response after the other person has finished, rather than in the middle of their talking.

In terms of responding, one great tip is to begin by acknowledging what the other person has said, even if you don’t agree with it.  Something along the lines of, “I think Phil made an interesting point.  I’m not sure I agree with it entirely and here’s why….” 

Acknowledging other people’s contributions makes it clear you have been listening; it also makes you come across as fair and open.

Even just pausing before you speak once you’ve got people’s attention is a great way of coming across as thoughtful and considerate.

The great thing about improving your listening and responding skills is that it only takes a couple of small tweaks to make a significant difference. 

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication courses with Impact Training.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Monday, 1 June 2015

Personal Impact: Don’t Try to Change Who You Are!

The last time I wrote about Personal Impact (January 2015), I talked about making conscious choices about the impact you’d like to make and the behaviour that would go with that.

This time I want to look at the often unrealistic pictures we have in our heads about who we wish we were like.  I’m not talking about Role Models – people we look up to and who we’d like to emulate, or whose qualities and values we aspire to.  I think having role models is great but that’s for another blog.

Right now I’m talking about the fact that most of us at some point in our lives wish we were someone else.  And this someone else is invariably more articulate, better looking, more charismatic, more confident, more, more, more.  Then, of course, we feel worse about ourselves because we’ll never be that, even if we tried to imitate everything they do.

Can’t be done!

Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery but it’s not going to help you to make the genuine impact you want – it would be more like wearing someone else’s clothing that doesn’t quite fit right.

Making a good impact is all about knowing the best qualities and abilities you have and developing and enhancing them instead of trying to be someone you aren’t. 

For those of you who regularly read my blog you’ll know I’ve referred to five year old twins who are in my life and are great for observing how people develop.  Recently one of them said something that was so obviously not the way he spoke or even thought that all the adults stopped what they were doing and one of us said, “That sounds like Jamie, not you.” He admitted that yes, he wanted to be like Jamie.

So we know it starts young this wanting to be someone we’re not.  And there are all kinds of complicated reasons for that which are also for another blog.

Suffice it to say, the only person you can be is you so make the most of it!  Here’s a couple of tips.

Since you may be the worst judge of your positive qualities and abilities one thing you can do is ask a couple of people you trust what it is that you already do that makes a positive impact and where have they seen you do it.  Avoid doing that modesty thing of brushing aside their compliments. 

Write them down; put them on post-it notes; accept that what they say is true even if there’s a little demon inside you chanting “liar, liar, pants on fire!”.  See if you now can notice when you do something that makes the kind of impact you’d like.  Make note of those times.

What you’re doing is building a picture of yourself that reflects your best assets and characteristics. 

Then when you next want to make a good impression choose one or two of those positive traits and ‘feature’ them.  For instance, if your trusted person says you have a great smile, then smile more.  If they say you’re great at solving problems, then ‘feature’ that when you speak to people; let them know that’s one of your best traits.

This is what Personal Impact is all about – making the most of what you already have because more than anything else, it’s easier to develop what you are than to contort yourself to try to become someone you aren’t.

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

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory