Monday, 25 January 2016

Assertiveness, David Mitchell & Impact Factory

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to David Mitchell’s funny yet perceptive Radio 4 series Behaving Ourselves:  Mitchell on Manners do catch up while you can.

He takes a very broad brush to a fascinating subject and posits the question whether our manners and politeness are going downhill.  He looks at the history of etiquette and manners and how they have impacted on the way we behave.

I was delighted to be included in this series when David Mitchell came to Impact Factory to work with me on Assertiveness issues.

Now, of course, David has made a career of combining a razor sharp wit and self-deprecation, which allows him to be incisive and apologetic at the same time, which in turn makes his insights more digestible and fabulously entertaining.

As he says in the Assertiveness episode he was a bit sceptical about what I could do for him since he expected – as many people do – that our aim on our Assertiveness courses was to change him and turn him into something he isn’t.

This really is a common concern of people who are thinking about coming along to one of our Assertiveness courses – that somehow we will attempt personality transplants and transform a shy, apologetic, introvert into a bold, in your face extrovert.

Nothing could be further from the truth or what we do in the training room.

As I explained to David, you can be as apologetic as you want, you can give in and accommodate others, you can put yourself out – no problem!  The problem arises when you resent it; when you’re all smiley and pleasant on the outside and seething on the inside.

That’s what our assertiveness courses are all about; not to make you aggressive and rude but to help you align the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ behaviours so you aren’t in turmoil.

Manners are incredibly important and vital for all of us. One of the purposes of parenting, as far as I’m concerned, is to turn somewhat feral creatures into somewhat civilised ones, who know how to say please and thank you and don’t always wreck the furniture in other people’s homes. You know what I mean!

Seriously though, manners really do oil the wheels of interaction between people.  However, many unassertive people get hoodwinked (or hoodwink themselves) into thinking that good manners means giving in, obliging, making it all right for others while at the same time not making it OK for themselves.

Assertiveness is not selfishness, it’s not bad manners, it’s not demanding or being pushy.

What it is, is understanding that you have choice in how you react to what others expect of you.  If someone expects you to stay late to finish a report because you’ve always stayed late when asked then doing something different will be new behaviour for you and surprising for the other person.  When you do something different it may very well feel odd, even uncomfortable.

On our Assertiveness courses we unpick all of that and spend a goodly chunk of time looking at all the behavioural options at your disposal – rudeness and aggression are not included.

If you’d like to savour the same Assertiveness techniques that David Mitchell did, join us at our Assertiveness Breakfast Taster on Wednesday 9th March 8.30-10.00 am, where you can sample our assertiveness ‘wares’.

To book a place (space is limited to 40), email Rose Youssef at
Or Phone:  020 7226 1877

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

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Change Management - Getting Involved

One of the things that happens to quite a lot of people when change is on the cards, is that they become passive; indeed, some even become paralysed at the thought of having to make changes.

I’ve written before about Active vs Passive Choosing in terms of communication and the same is equally true about change.

The more passive you are when you know there are going to be changes in the workplace (or in your personal life as well) the chances are higher that you won’t have any say in what happens.

Now, of course, lots of times the decisions have already been made about what’s going to happen, but getting involved as early as you can (in other words, as soon as you hear about the changes), the better off you’ll be. 

When we run Change Management courses for large organisations people often feel really disempowered from the decision-making process; they feel that they have absolutely no influence because the decision-makers are so much further up the food chain.

Probably for the big things, that’s generally true; however, it is a rare workplace indeed that can’t be influenced in some way by the people being impacted by the changes coming their way.

Years ago we did a training for a marketing team that was supposed to be a team-building day; the intention was that the team would come together for a day of creativity and some energising fun.

When they arrived, they were all in the pit of despair, having just been told, on the way over, that their budget had just been halved.  They were depressed, angry and frustrated.  They felt they were powerless and impotent to make any difference whatsoever.  Their intention when they walked through the door was to prepare a case and go back and confront the ‘powers that be’ on how damaging these changes would be.

We first encouraged them to have a brief airing’ session where they discussed their shock and sense of despair; they needed to be able to acknowledge how they were feeling before we could do any practical work.

Needless to say, we chucked out the programme we had created for the day and focused on what they could do other than feel aggrieved and enraged.  Their belief was that there was nothing they could do, the decision had been made.

What we did do with them was all about managing the change that had been imposed on them and how to regain their sense of ‘power’ by working with them to raise their profile.  By using this route, it was all about developing their influencing skills where they clearly had no authority.

With a raised profile and up to date influencing skills they returned to the workplace far better armed and no longer feeling victimised by the decision that had been made.  They chose to stop complaining about what the change that had been imposed and decided to go back ready to ask ‘the powers that be’ what they could do to help.

Imposed change, which all of us experience at different times in our lives, can make us feel we have no control over what happens in our lives.  Yet, there is always something we can do, including deciding to embrace the change that’s been imposed.

That may seem counter-intuitive, yet in order to feel back in command of our lives, choosing to work with the changes that happen around us instead of fighting them, will definitely make life a lot easier and the changes a lot more palatable.
Check out Impact Factory’s range of Change Management courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory