Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

In 1996 my journey began, quite literally actually. I started driving long distance haulage and going to night school to improve my German. This was because to get where I needed to be, I had to attain the top 2% in Maths, German and English. This, in essence, was the start of my real love of languages and all because I wanted to complete my degree in IT Sales and Marketing, in Germany, in German. The pre-requisites for starting this “fully funded from the union” retraining program was pretty tough to swallow at first. However, when I came to start the course, it became abundantly clear as to why.

I completed my consolidated 5-year course in just short of 3 years and was awarded the highest ever marked paper in the whole of Germany for my paper on “Selling KVM switches to the German market, from England, using a distributor network”.  (99%)

I attribute a large portion of this success to my German and English tutor during this period of my life, as she was so passionate about the subject matter of language it was impossible to not absorb it by osmosis, never mind anything else. And this passion now runs through me today.

Had it not been for the fact that these pre-requisites were strictly adhered to, I would not have been able to be taught to such a high level in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue. Being able to impart knowledge on another, as any coach, teacher or professor will testify, is not an easy job. Having to do this when the person receiving that knowledge is also limited by their lack of language within which it is being taught, makes it near impossible.

So on to my question of the day! Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

I ask this for a number of reasons, not least of which because of my very own personal experience; which I believe places me in a very unique position of authority.

  1. Companies, organisations, schools, universities, sports clubs, hospitals, small business, in fact, every organisation who could be in contact with the general public, in whatever means, are mandated to deliver health and safety training to all of their staff.
  2. Not all of the staff in these companies/ organisations are native speakers of the companies’ corporate language.
  3. Financial cuts to both public and private sector companies/ organisations.
  4. Brexit
  5. Trump
  6. Polarised political views
  7. And I could continue!

It is quite alarming, when I’m talking to potential prospects about their language requirements for their corporate e-learning material, how many say “well they should speak [INSERT LANGUAGE] because they live in this country” or “It would cost us far too much to do this in all [INSERT QUANTITY] languages of the people we employ”, or something else along those lines. Yet they are all willing to take on these employees because of their work ethic and their acceptance to work at a lower pay grade than most of the domestic low-cost workers in that country. Not only is this practice putting the lives and welfare of these workers at risk, but all that of the general public too. How can they expect an employee, who does not have the corporate language of that company as their mother tongue, to be able to be schooled on Health & Safety?

So in these times of e-learning, where it is now being used consistently for cost saving purposes as well as ease of deployment on a global scale, wouldn’t it be “SAFER” for all involved, if the most critical of training is at least conducted in the mother tongue of the scholar?

Is “Death by Blockchain” coming to EDI?

Blockchain! The latest in a long line of modern technologies to take the headlines by storm. If you’re new to this then a really informative read on how it works and where it can be applied can be found here. It is a section from within this document and as a result of viewing a promotional video from a high street bank here in the UK, that I paused for a moment and came to the realisation that this technology could become the most serious threat yet, to our beloved EDI!

The Premise

The premise is simple, Blockchain technology is secure, fully auditable and totally transparent. Where EDI has it’s downfall is largely the complex nature of the mapping and cross mapping reference tables coupled together with the multiple VAN/ FTP/ AS2 (etc) message transport protocols and no single agreeable global format for communication exchange. I mean, ANSI X12  is still being widely used despite a call for an EDIFACT standard to be incorporated and quite frankly there is only one winner in this world of confusion, the EDI integration providers. Even the introduction of PEPPOL, which was halo-ed as the “VAN KILLER”, has done little more than adding further complexity to an already mystifying and cross-industry expense-inducing business requirement. Even the most remote African farmer is required, by the larger super market chains, to be EDI compliant or they incur a financial penalty for not being so, hence why Fax to EDI became yet another protocol!

So why is it that this laggard seems so irreplaceable?

EDI has been with us for over 30 years now and, in my opinion anyway, should be awarded a major resilience prize, but it is not without help from us. By “us” I mean human-beings and our immunity to change. To this day, an EDI industry colleague of mine informs me, companies are still requesting email orders to be integrated into their ERP as a quasi EDI form.  We are inherently sceptical of anything new and frequently apply the rule of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” EDI, however, has actually been broken for quite some time, not to the extent that it doesn’t work, but it certainly doesn’t work efficiently anymore. It was built in a digital era where less was more and by that, I mean less in terms of bits and bytes. The smaller the message the less it would cost when being transmitted over the VAN (Value Added Network for those not familiar with this acronym). A well used, but still very valid, argument for the use of EDI is the comparison of the cost of postage versus the cost of a digital transmission. ROI is demonstrated over the software set-up costs and, depending on volume, this initial cost can be easily recouped within the first 6 to 12 months. It has taken years of persuasion to take on this worldwide adoption of technology and when we consider that in today’s digital world, mindset changes over 30 years are equal to 300 years of the pre-digital era it can surely only be a matter of time before the laggards of the EDI move forward into a new era of document exchange. On the flipside, and probably another reason why there is such an immunity to change is the capricious nature of software and product development by the likes of Google. It was only a few years back that I was forced to move to a more stable multi platform note taking environment because Google decided to can theirs. And similarly, that happened to my blog a few years prior to that too.

So in short, I do believe that Blockchain will add real value to the world of document exchange. It will create a more transparent, secure and robust environment upon which businesses can develop their own unique document exchange programs, which can freely and simply interface with another organisation and reduce human error, by reducing human interaction and simplifying the communication. However, it is the human at the end of this chain, the one like you and I, who will ultimately decide how quickly this happens and also the one who decides if they will allow their jobs to be taken by AI. As the old saying goes, “to err is human, to completely mess it all up requires a computer!”

Exposure of a Sales Professional

A few months back I ranted on about mobile phones and the lack of attention the sales staff were paying to the passing trade on their exhibition stand – you can read it here. However, I was not doing this to elevate me as having superior knowledge about sales and sales processes, no I was doing this to highlight the lack of attention we pay to real life when we get our heads stuck into our mobile devices. Moreover, it followed on from a previous blog where I offered some practical tips and advice on how to conduct ourselves more professionally in this situation, all in the vain hope that it would resonate with some of my peers.

In the last few weeks, I have seen an alarming increase in “sales bashing”, especially on LinkedIn. People with a vested interest, of course, exposing poor sales pitches for all the business world to jeer over and pass hurtful comment about. It feels like it has become a game of “Expose the Sales Professional” and one where they are clearly hoping to gain new clients for their own sales training businesses.

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that ridiculing somebody because of a poorly written email is a surefire way to find yourself in the firing line at the first slip of your own keyboard. It is very easy to pick holes in other people’s work and though the examples exhibited were particularly poor, it does not mean that these people are worthy of such scathing criticism. For all we know they may have been given this list of sample emails to use by their manager and could face serious consequences if they’re not used to the letter. And I know, that this could open the door for more sales training but you get my point.

Personally, I’m not in the business of coaching sales but I am a coach and I know that it is my role to impart the techniques necessary for the people I’m coaching to be able to improve and turn those techniques into a skill. In the same way, I know that the sales trainers and influences I have the most respect for, do exactly the same. Quite often these industry leaders, offer a whole heap of training advice for free as a means of demonstrating how proficient they are in this field.

So here’s a little humble advice, from somebody who has been in all positions on the sales continuum. Whenever I purchase sales training, and I do so on a personal level quite regularly, I think hard about who I am prepared to invest my money in. That individual or company has to have an integrity about them that I can relate to, a strong character who does not feel the need to ridicule anyone because of their lack of knowledge or understanding and one who would not expose my weaknesses in the WorldWideWeb for all and sundry to scorn upon and make fun of.

Nobody is perfect, nobody was born a genius and nobody should be publically hung out to dry for not being either of those two things, especially by those very people who are supposed to be helping them to get better.

TGL

 

 

Why is it I feel so worthless?

The simple answer is I’m in sales! – Should I just leave it there and let you all fill in the blanks? OK maybe not!

It is systemic in today’s society that you’re only as good as your last success. A sportsperson strives to become number one only to realise that once they’ve got there, there is only one way to go and in sales, it is no different. You strive to be the best in your company, to achieve or overachieve your targets and each time you reach a pinnacle point, you either drop back or find yourself with an even greater target to work towards.

I am painting a pretty grim picture about life in sales, but it is an honest one and in order to enjoy this profession you have to break things down into smaller steps and be prepared for some significant setbacks along the way.

So let’s start with expectations! Setting expectations is an important part of the process. Over the years I have been guilty as charged when it comes to feast and famine sales. A consequence of varying factors but one in particular. I have found, over the years, that I am extremely good at getting a week’s worth of work completed in just 1 or 2 days. I rush headlong into a day with to-do lists longer than a Shakespearean novel and by lunchtime, I’m done. I’ve rattled through them in order to get finished and in so doing I have rarely had time to breath. At this point, I fall over in an exhausted heap on my desk and spend the rest of the day procrastinating because I physically and mentally don’t have the energy to do anything else. I usually find that the day after follows with a major slump in the morning, before the guilt of procrastination initiates the next bust of “get it all done quickly”! By the close of business on the second day I’ve completed a week’s worth of work and feel drained for the rest of the week. By setting weekly goals I find myself falling into this trap week in week out, however, in sales you need to plan your week. In fact, you really need to plan bi-weekly 1/4rly, half-yearly and annually. So what should I do to stop this?

My Q1 this year was “off the chart” amazing and having just closed out Q2 it has become apparent that my weekly intensity programs have manifested themselves into 1/4rly ones. Q4 last year was intense, and this is why Q1 allowed for some amazing results to land. Whilst this was happening I was tied up with the detail and as Q2 approached I realised that my attention was not in the right place. Q2 was therefore spent in the same vein as Q4 last year and in reality, Q3 is looking pretty good right now, but what about Q4? In order to ensure that this doesn’t slump in the same way Q2 just has, I have to change my 1/4rly feast-famine approach and set myself some more realistic expectations.

The Simple Seven:

  1. Sales is fluid and there will always be seasonal and organic fluctuations
  2. You cannot work at 100%, 100% of the time
  3. You don’t have to be the best
  4. Being consistent is much harder than being the best
  5. Don’t rely on others to help you, if you need help ASK for it or do it yourself
  6. Allow yourself time to enjoy the journey, it is the getting there that’s important and not the destination.
  7. Remember that you are not the right solution for everyone you meet

Using these “simple-seven” will empower me to keep going, but more importantly to slow down. With a whole 6 months left before the year closes, there is more than enough time to close out another successful year and then prepare for the next one. And all this whilst still taking time out to enjoy the journey and celebrate the successes along the way. Maybe I shouldn’t feel so worthless after all!

TGL