Thursday, 26 November 2015

Communication and Christmas 2015

In just under a month it will be Christmas, a time of celebration, joy, families coming together and in many cases, downright misery.

I’ve written about the way families communicate when they get together in last year’s blog, and in Family Heaven, Family Hell, How to survive the Family Get Together.

According to Google Books: “A recent survey found that 40% of people choose to have Christmas dinner with friends rather than their relatives.”

It’s no wonder! Family dynamics often erode any good communication skills people may have.

This got me thinking about awareness and communication.  Here I am sitting in our Impact Factory premises:  there are eight of us in an open-plan office and you could say that we are ‘like’ a family in a way.  The biggest communication difference, I think, is that we are more careful with each other, more concerned about finding common ground, more conscious of our impact on each other than generally happens in families.

I’ve noticed that if one of us is cross, for instance, we ‘own’ it and sometimes even announce ahead of time that we’re cross or down or out of sorts.  We also try to be aware of other’s moods and adjust our own behaviour accordingly.

Often at work, if there’s a breakdown in communication or conflict of some kind, then people tend to be more alert to take extra care when a similar situation arises again.  Whereas in families people fall into old patterns of behaviour and communication, and awareness doesn’t get a look in. 

The desire people have that it will be better next time everyone gets together far outweighs the reality that unless someone actually does something different nothing is going to change.

My experience is that differences at work are far easier to sort out than differences in families.  

People seem more willing to let go of resentments, and grudges aren’t carried from one generation to the next!  Obviously, this isn’t always true and there can be some very deep-seated antipathies that never get resolved. 

I’m speaking in generalities here, in the same way that loads and loads of families really do have a great time when they get together and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company and look forward to Christmas and other family ‘dos’.  I even know families like that.

However, loads and loads of families really don’t have a great time when they get together.  I know a lot more families that fall into this category.  Resentments and grudges are fed and hung on to and forgiveness is thin on the ground.  People look for reasons to stay angry, aggrieved, offended, and dare I say, even create the environment where the same old poor behaviour is replicated again.

If you are a member of one of these families what might it be like if you used the same care and attention talking to family members as you do with colleagues at work?

It might be worth taking some time to think about situations where you have deliberately, consciously chosen an appropriate communication and behaviour at work and unpick what you did and why you did it.

It may be that you wanted to tell someone to stop being so childish but you refrained and instead showed compassion and said something along the lines of, “Seems like you’re having a bad day today.  Anything I can do to help?”  I’m using that example as one I’ve used on many an occasions:  my insides were frustrated but I converted those grumbly feelings in order to show empathy. 

Just a couple of those kind of responses sprinkled into a testy family get together when you know your goat can be got can make a huge difference.

Good communication skills can do wonders at work; just think of the miracles they could create if you used them at your family Christmas!

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication One Day, Two Day and Elite Five Day Communicate with Impact courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Image result for procrastinating
Interesting little quiz in the Guardian Small Business Network this week.

I had what could be described as up and down results in the quiz.  According to them I’m doing some things right to avoid procrastination and others quite wrong. The premise does seem to be that there are obvious times throughout the day when procrastination is like a siren song, drawing you into its velvet clutches.

Of course, it’s a relatively superficial quiz but it did get me thinking about the whys and wherefores of procrastination.

Is it really such a bad thing?

I think there are different levels of procrastination

There’s the extreme procrastination where inertia sets in and nothing gets done. This is the under the duvet kind of lethargy that results in paralysis both mental and physical.

There’s the slightly less extreme procrastination where you emerge from under the duvet but your time is generally spent watching day-time or middle of the night TV.

There’s the displacement procrastination where you swap one activity that really does need to be tackled with another, less vital one, say swapping doing your tax return with cleaning the kitchen.

There’s busy-time procrastination where you look really busy and seem to be running around a lot, but truly, nothing is actually getting done.

There’s distraction procrastination where you make phone calls, check emails, play a few computer games, take a walk, all the while fully aware that there are things lurking quite near that need to be handled.

I call this last one ‘conscious procrastination’ and I think it’s the best kind, if you are going to postpone doing the ‘hard’ or must-do’ stuff.  Why I like this kind of stalling tactic is that I find when I consciously choose to do something other than the stuff that needs to be done, I don’t feel guilty. 

My justification is that my unconscious is actually working away whether I’m doing anything productive or not and when I do finally sit down to the pile of stuff I’d been putting off, I don’t feel resentment and I actually feel refreshed. Often, new ideas or ways of handling things will also bubble up.

I do believe that sometimes procrastination comes from having too much to do and putting unrealistic pressure on ourselves to get it all done. If we all practised conscious procrastination, life would be so much less stressful.  We’d be listening to ourselves more and acknowledging that we are indeed only human with only so much capacity.

We should definitely be taking more walks and playing more computer games and I guarantee we’ll all procrastinate less.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Time Management, Communication, Personal Impact and Influencing courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

PowerPoint: It’s You They’ve Come To See

Walking by one of the showrooms in the Business Design Centre where Impact Factory has its training rooms, I glanced in and saw a group of people in their mid to late 20s sat round a table facing a wall transformed into a screen for a PowerPoint presentation.

It was morning and the audience seemed attentive, sitting upright on their chairs, pencils poised. 

About 30 minutes later I walked by again, and everyone was slumped in their chairs; they were barely looking at the screen and the presenter seemed completely oblivious to the impact his presentation was having on his audience because his face was buried in his notes.

I looked at the slide that was up on the screen and it was all words, lots and lots and lots of words; no graphs or illustrations, and I made an assumption that the presenter was reading exactly what was on the slide.

This ubiquitous presentation tool has become an automatic choice for most presenters and unfortunately, most presenters really don’t know how to get the most from PowerPoint, thus creating audience turn-off.

A lot of people rely on PowerPoint and that’s where many of the problems lay – the dependence on PP to ‘do’ the presentation instead of the presenter doing the presentation. 

A few years ago I went to a lecture where there was a technical glitch and the speaker had to present without her PowerPoint.  She was really beside herself and got into an almighty flap which of course ruined her presentation.

She forgot one of the key rules about presenting – it’s you making the presentation not the technology. Technology is there to support, entice, enhance – it isn’t there (or shouldn’t be there) as the main event. The main event should always be the presenter so that if something goes wrong with the technology it’s no big deal.

It’s you they’ve come to see.

And that’s often the problem with how PowerPoint is used.

Most people don’t like to present; they’re scared of it.  Understandable as it always tops the list of what people fear most.

Along comes PowerPoint and either consciously or unconsciously people leapt at it as a salvation – they didn’t have to feel exposed or vulnerable; they could hide behind the PowerPoint, so over time the technology became dominant and people didn’t necessarily have to face their fears about presenting.

Additionally, because PowerPoint makes it easy to produce slides crammed with data another pattern emerged:  presenters indeed pack their slides with facts and figures and then read the exact words that are on the slides.  They don’t really present; they verbally replicate what the audience is staring at. Because people read faster than they can hear, a mismatch occurs with audiences finishing reading the slides before the presenter finishes talking and then they get bored waiting for the presenter to catch up.

Thus situations like the one I passed where an eager audience morphs into anaesthetised-looking zombies.

The sad thing is that PowerPoint can do a terrific job if presenters slashed the number of slides they produce and got more creative in how they use them.

PowerPoint would do an even better job if presenters stopped hiding behind it, came out from behind the slides, took centre stage and consigned the technology to its rightful place.

Check out Impact Factory’s PowerPoint with Impact, Elite Five Day Presentation with Impact and range of Presentation courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Friday, 6 November 2015

Why I’m Not Watching The Apprentice Anymore

I’m letting myself off the hook!

Last week’s episode when Ruth was booted off did it for me.

All the criticisms I’ve had about the programme were highlighted in last week’s and this week’s episodes and I’m doing my eyes and brain a favour my turning off the telly or watching something else (even Midsummer Murders re-runs are better than The Apprentice).

I’ve said it before – The Apprentice clearly has a formula that works for the BBC so why get rid of a programme that draws in the viewers?  It’s just that I don’t want or need to be one of those viewers.


I dislike the whole premise of the programme which is based on, to me, outmoded business tactics and outdated Leadership styles.

I dislike that the winning team is always based on who made the most profit without any weighting of team working, leadership, project management, communication and creativity.  Those are only addressed in depth with the losing team, yet sometimes those on the winning team win by the skin of their teeth.  They might be at daggers drawn, barely speaking to each other, let alone listening to each other, but if they make a penny more than the other team they are lauded and rewarded.

This puts all the value on the bottom line and devalues how people achieve their goals. 

I dislike that the programme forces the candidates to blame each other in the Boardroom. They usually spend a lot of time blaming each other throughout their tasks already so it just gets worse in front of Lord Sugar.

Leadership that relies on hectoring, shutting people down, barking at them, humiliating them and probing all their faults is not the kind of leadership I want to witness in my free time. 

I leave that to those who love the format of the show and enjoy seeing others squirm.

I want to see kindness and humanity; I want to see people’s unique qualities encouraged and developed; I want to see people succeed not by how much profit they make but for how they approach their projects, how they engage their colleagues and how they use their and other people’s creativity.

Now if you want to watch a programme that demonstrates all of that, catch Michel Roux Jr’s Kitchen Impossible, where he works with trainees with a vast range of disabilities and learning difficulties to become employable in the restaurant trade.  Tough but fair; reassuring not molly-coddling.

This is a programme filled with heart and humour, compassion and celebration.

To each his own and there are those who love The Apprentice and won’t miss an episode every Wednesday night.  Not me, I’ll have my feet up reading a good book!

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Personal Impact, Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Line Management.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory