One night in Porto

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It is early November and for me working at CPSL this can only mean one thing, a corporate weekend away with my second family. It is one of the highlights of my year and one where I make every effort to ensure my participation.

As a remote worker, being given this opportunity to meet all those with whom I interact with on a daily basis is an amazing gift and one that I am eternally grateful of and can’t thank the senior management of CPSL enough for providing us with it.

So this year the chosen destination of our annual event was Oporto in Portugal. With family members arriving from across the globe our HR manager had one of the most challenging tasks in the company to coordinate everything. To make matters worse, the collapse of Monarch Airlines late in this organisational process threw an extra spanner in the works but she did an amazing job and the resulting event was an absolute credit to her determination and professionalism.

The arrival plan was carried out in stages, I mean we still have a company to run. So people began to arrive on the Friday with the remainder of us landing on Saturday. For me, this meant a very early start, 02.30 to be precise. So having received various messages about the previous journeys on the day before, I sent a WhatsApp message to the group to let them know I was on my way. What I wasn’t aware of was, that unlike me, most people didn’t have their phones on “DO NOT DISTURB” during the hours when they are sleeping and consequently nearly everybody shared my early morning start, albeit they did go back to sleep whereas for me, driving down the motorway with your eyes closed still wasn’t an option (come on Google hurry up with the driverless car will you).

Upon arrival in Oporto, I was greeted by 14-deg and hazy winter sunshine (we call this summer in the UK) and this painted a smile on my face which never left for the duration of my visit and is still there now, as I write this words. The warm greeting was enhanced by the heartfelt warmth of the greeting I received from my colleagues when I arrived at the hotel and despite the early start, a short walk around the city preceding lunch was taken and most thoroughly enjoyed.

The breath-taking beauty of the city is exaggerated by the contrast of buildings of grandeur from previous exuberant wealth to the dilapidation of others which have fallen upon hard times in recent years. Despite this crass side by side historical painting the heart of the city is one where work is key. You can see that all the hard work its residents put into the place is spawning the new roots of wealth, with restoration projects being undertaken in all quarters and this is a very symbolic metaphor to CPSL’s own revitalisation in recent years. As with all global organisations, we have felt the pinch of the financial crash in the last decade but through sheer grit, determination and hard work we are now emerging as one of the strongest LSPs on the market in today’s ever-evolving business world.

So with the backdrop of the location mirroring the company’s ethics and direction, the scene was set for an event of significant importance to take place. Work hard, play hard. A moto of many but rarely executed in the right proportions. Not so with CPSL, the balance of the two on these weekends away is calculated with precision and it started this time around with a welcome glass of dry white port (when in Porto and all that). Personally, I didn’t even know that White Port existed, such is my ignorance of this staple part of my Christmas dinner cooking experience, so to be educated with the first sip of the day in such a pleasant manner ensured that my thirst for knowledge (and port) was wide open. The welcoming aperitifs were followed by a light lunch and then the main event.

The big reveal of the direction CPSL is taking over the next 3 years was magnificent. Gutsy, realistic and, with the help of all our family, very much achievable.

I “LOVED” every minute of the 4 1/2-hours we were together in this company vision and by this time I’d already been awake for 17-hours but such was the energy in the room that I still felt wide awake and raring to go. It was a good job too, with just 1/2-hour to get ready to head out for dinner there was little time to hang about.

The walk to the restaurant took just short of an hour. Guided by a magnificent, near, full-moon the heavens lit up the way to a musical-dining experience that encapsulated and cemented the messages of the day. As with all good things, days like this have to sadly come to a close, for me this was a little early than I would have liked but after 23 hours of being awake, it was certainly the best decision.

Sunday morning came around quite quickly and part two of the corporate weekend lay before us. As with every year, this entailed immersing ourselves in the history and culture of the city we find ourselves within. Oporto has this in spades. Our city guide was a local lady who both grew up and studied in the city. Her passion and admiration for her hometown was oozing out of every pore of her being and enabled us all to absorb the beauty that unfolded around every turn. From Kings and Cathedrals to peasants and derelicts each image told a story and when asked, we were also given the recent history about the shamed St John statue by the waterfront. A boat trip under the bridges whilst basking in glorious mid-day sunshine made for a wonderful interlude before lunch and then on to the final group experience of the day, a winery tour.

Parting is such sweet sorry, it has been said, and this is always so true when these weekends draw to a close but luckily for me, I did have the pleasure of one final night in this magical city, which gave me time to reflect and decide that Porto, I will be back.

Thank you, Oporto, thank you CPSL and thank you to all my second family for sharing this wonderful weekend with me. I’m already looking forward to next year whereupon we will do the same again but different.

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How life lessons can help you in business

There are pivotal moments in everyone’s career and recently this has happened to me. Having suffered a number of forms of adversity over my 1/2 century on this planet, this last bout has been by far the toughest. Whilst I am still suffering intensely with the grief of my current situation, I am still obliged to and moreover, really need to continue working. The focus this situation has gifted me for my day job has been immense and whilst I don’t recommend it to anyone, it has certainly brought some significant clarity to all areas of my life.

I will not open up my private life for all to read, the word private in that opening sentence cannot be emphasised enough, I will, however, be drawing some parallels from a situation which some of you may or may not be familiar with. At the beginning of last month, I was delivered a bombshell and one which ripped the very soul out of my being. The impact hit me with the same magnitude as the hurricanes that were battering that the coastline of Florida at that time. Whilst all this was going on in my personal life, I was also expected to perform, at my very best, at the number one conference of my business calendar this year. It was awful! Multiple uncontrollable outbreaks of emotions in any given hour of every single day made for an extremely challenging 4 days and to cap it all, I was living in a small hotel room on my own in our capital city. To be surrounded by over 20 million people and feel so alone was such a devastating feeling, made even worse by the guilt of singling out that the homeless seemed to have it better than I did because at least they had each other to talk to. I was at the lowest point of my life to date and knowing how low I’ve reached in the past, this meant I was pretty darn low.

Each day that I trudged to the exhibition hall, I swore to myself that today would be a better day and each day my situation worsened. Within the exhibition walls, however, there was a different tune being played. Born out of this adversity, rose a fearless ability to tackle some of the most difficult of tasks in the murky world of prospecting. Direct questioning (so I didn’t bubble up in an emotional wreck in the halls) and concise reasoning for my being there were never more present than during this time. I was confident, courageous and creative. The conversations I had were all relevant and, after the feedback I’ve been given since then, nobody I spoke to walked away feeling that they had wasted their time. Quite the contrary, in fact, I’ve even received some very complimentary correspondence from a number of new contacts expressing their gratitude for the knowledge they’ve attained as a result of our meeting. What’s more some of these new opportunities discussed at the event, have already progressed further into the sale cycle and I am really enjoying delivering on the promises I gave during those 4 frightful days.

Since then I’ve had some time to reflect on the unfolding of both my personal life and my business one. And whilst the horrors of my personal life continue to shift at unprecedented vigour, I’ve managed to find a space where I can put these continued bombardments of emotions into neat little categories and consequently separate them from business life. Equally, I’ve been able to utilise the lessons I’ve learnt for the greater good of serving my clients.

So here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned over the last few weeks:

  1. Learning to stop in the middle of a discussion and ask for a time-out because the clarity of your thinking is being clouded by emotional attachment.
  2. Learning to not be satisfied with the first answer given but deepen the understanding with further questions.
  3. When you feel the most uncomfortable, you’re actually beginning to get somewhere.
  4. Status Quo is the single biggest killer of any relationship.
  5. Daily journaling and meditation allow for space in the mind to get the real work done, one day at a time.

Integrity

Here in the UK, it is the day of our general election and this latest “buzz word” has become one of the most over-, and misused, words during a dirty and personal campaign. One where honesty and morals were certainly not on the top of everyone’s agenda. Not surprisingly then, upon hearing someone tell you how honest and moral they are, your initial reaction is one of mistrust. Politicians certainly have a lot to answer for!

But is it just politicians who are to blame? No, is the short answer. They are the ones who are “en vogue” right now but just a short step back in time provides us with evidence of other “supposable” reputable groups of people doing the exact same thing. Bankers, the Police, Lawyers, Priests, Kings, Queens, celebrities, in fact, the list goes on and on and all of whom have somehow been entangled in some reputation damaging scandal that has resulted in mistrust. We’ve created a whole new generation of scepticism.

In my industry, as a language service provider, we too have had our fair share of scandal and bad press. You don’t have to do too much Googling to uncover some highly amusing bad translations, warring factions within a company causing irreparable damage to it and its ultimate demise, and stories of rabbits becoming accredited court interpreters. Is there any wonder then, when a sales person, who also carries with them a professional stigma too, approaches somebody about being able to help them with their language needs that they get a very frosty response? It is, quite frankly, a difficult one to overcome. Especially as within this industry there is a very strong human bias in the final delivery of the service. Linguists, Project Managers, File Technicians, Vendor Management Teams, Salespeople and then all the usual company administration teams, all mean that, at some point, mistakes are inevitable. Therefore a strong emphasis on how you, as a company and a salesperson, deal with these human errors is something that can truly distinguish you from your peers.

It is herein that the word integrity is of real value! Do you have an integrity DNA strand in your professional and personal lifeline?

In a world where social media places your life on public display, it can be very easy for somebody to take a look at what you’re saying and doing almost 24/7. In fact, when somebody doesn’t have a social media presence, they are often seen as “wanting to hide something”. So here’s the rub, whenever you’re online, be that on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or wherever, you have to be aware that this is going to become your digital DNA, both as a person and as a company. If integrity doesn’t shine through here, then you might as well have a 1-star review on Amazon.

Inside the hurt locker!

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, I was a fortunate participant in my cycling club’s annual Humber Bridge Audax. Every year Huddersfield Star Wheelers meet up at Huddersfield train station and set off on an epic flat ride (flat for us anyway) out to the Humber Bridge and back in a day. In the previous years, I’ve not been available to join the ride as it has always been on the late May bank holiday weekend, but this year we had nothing planned and I was given the proverbial “day pass”. This year was also different too, it was now an official open Audax and therefore open to all clubs so a total of 90 riders were expected to join in the fun.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it either! My training, in the build-up to the event, had been marred by illnesses and a severe lack of time in the saddle, raising my concerns of even completing it, nevermind being able to keep up with my usual riding partners. As the day grew ever closer, a watchful eye on the weather for the event turned up the paranoia one notch further. We were forecast an outbound tailwind, but a fairly brisk headwind on the return leg and every cyclist I know knows what that means when you’ve already got 120km in your legs before the turn. So throughout the week preceding Sunday’s epic adventure, my inner voice was formulating all kinds of excuses as to why I could fail and why it might not be a good idea to even embark upon such a journey.

It was Thursday, however, when I set my mind somewhat at ease. I completed my last “hard” short training session and smashed an arbitrary goal I’d been seeking for years, on my VLC (virtual lunchtime commute). I felt good that evening and at least the weather forecast hadn’t gotten any worse since the beginning of the week so I settled the argument with the voice and told him I was doing it.

Friday I coached, Saturday I coached, Sunday I woke early and had a VERY large portion of porridge. The day had finally arrived and I set off on a cool and drizzly Sunday morning for the 8am station meeting point. I set off in good time so I took it fairly steady, as it was going to be a long day out. When I got there, I met up with a whole bunch of familiar faces telling tales of the suffering of years gone by and I was all on, to tame the “told you so” voice in my head. I also heard that the “Steady Eddies” were already long gone, as they had taken it upon themselves to leave at 6.30 so as not to be returning way after dark, so my get out of jail free card of riding at a more sedate pace had already been used up, unless of course, we could catch them up.

We set off and the large group was very quickly split with a pacier bunch making a break due to traffic signals riding through town. By the time we reached the roundabout at Grange Moor, there were a number of very distinct groups and I found myself at the front of the second one of these groups. As the undulating terrain through Flockton began, it became clear that a couple of the riders our group were new to this form of riding and this caused for some early concertina-ing, which can be quite energy sapping. After the second rise, when the front two riders rapidly scrubbed off speed as opposed to just digging in a little, I let my momentum carry me through and then put in a few strong pedal strokes to carry me to the top of the hill. This quickly formed a gap of around 200m, after continuing at that pace on the flat for a while, and as I came round the corner I caught sight of the leading group, about 250m ahead. I was between a rock and hard place. I decided to just keep on pedalling and hoped that I would either be able to tag onto the back of the leading group or get swallowed up by the trailing second group as my energy drained. Fortunately, my good friend Steve had registered what had happened and picked up the pace of the trailing pack and they caught me about 100m out from the leading group. We made up ground towards them fairly swiftly and before we reached West Bretton Roundabout the leading group was now around 24 or more strong.

Using the tailwind to our advantage we made great progress out to the first checkpoint and took a wise decision not to hang about more than to get our cards stamped and fill up our water bottles. By this time the sun had also come out and what started out as a grey drizzly morning turned into a wonderful sunny day.

The halfway point of Humber Bridge was the next stop and, having lost a couple to the lure of a longer rest and ride out at a more sedate pace, we set off again around 22 strong. The pace was, once again, pretty stiff but even with an unbalanced load sharing on the front it still made it attainable for everyone involved and we arrived at the Bridge ahead of the Steddie Eddies. They did clock us though! And sneakily snuck into the cafe ahead of us whilst we took a photo opportunity 🙂

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Refuelled and ready to go, although my food arrived delayed and I was forced to leave 1/2 a coffee cake and 1/4 of a baked potato as a result, we started our return journey.

The headwind very quickly made itself known and we had to arrange the group on the fly to balance the load sharing much more evenly. To a large extent this worked well and our average speed, although taking a hit, didn’t diminish too much. It did, however, take its toll and there were a few who could no longer take their turn at the front. On one occasion this was me too, as two of the stronger riders in front of me pushed up the pace so much that I was struggling to hold on whilst directly behind them and so when it came to me doing my bit I lasted no more than a minute or two before having to own up and calling for some assistance from behind. We reached the final checkpoint at the same time as this same group in the previous year had only just left the Bridge, and Dick wasn’t going to allow us much time to breathe before rallying us all back together to continue. With one energy spent casualty having to stay behind at the stop, we received a rousing and very clear instructional speech from Jonny asking those who could do their bit to do it, but to, this time, keep the pace more reasonable as we all needed to get back together. At this point, I held my hand up to announce that I would struggle to do my bit but I’d give it a go as did two or three others, honesty was needed at this point.

It was in this final leg of the journey which found me sat inside the hurt locker. I’d done 2 turns on the front, despite announcing I probably wouldn’t be able to, but with 30 miles (50km) left to go, I was hurting badly. The next 15 miles (25km) I was in a pretty dark place, every slight elevation caused me pain but I managed to work through it and by the end of it I still managed to enjoy the final 15 back to the starting point and didn’t hold up the group all too much either.

After 7h44m34s in the saddle, I’d managed to complete 237km at an Avg of 30.6kmh making this the longest ride I’ve done to date. It is a credit to the group that I rode with, as much as anything else, as to why I accomplished this in the way that I did and I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their encouragement, support and laughter when it mattered most. You are a credit to your clubs and yourselves and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the day. And yes, even when I was sat in the hurt locker!

Cheers

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Taking myself away

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions over the last few months, I’ve been practising mindfulness meditation since the beginning of the year, and I’ve found it to be extremely powerful. So when I awoke to the horrific news from the centre of Manchester this morning, just 35 minutes away from where I live, I was grateful that this practice has become part of my morning ritual. As the morning’s news later unfolded and the details of the trauma and devastation it had caused to the family, friends and public services were unveiled, there was nothing more needed than an extended lunchtime walk into the Pennines.

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These hills are just 15 to 20 minutes walk away from my front door and I am eternally thankful that I returned to them in 2003, after an 18-year absence. I find an immense amount of peacefulness when I’m alone in them and today, solitude was just what I needed.

It is during these times of nationwide sorrow that I believe the practice of inward reflection is such a valuable skill to have. It is all too easy for people to start accusing one thing and another for the atrocities that have occurred and in so doing, stirring up more tension in an already snare drum taught situation. I don’t exempt myself from this either, my initial emotions of pure hatred towards the perpetrators were so violently charged that I was shaking with rage. However, I applied my acceptance principals, not of the act but of the feelings, and was later in a position to uncover where they really came from and why. This did not, in any way, diminish the abhorrent levels of disgust for the ones who carried out this mindless act of inhumane violence towards children, but it did allow me to not fuel their crusade by vowing for revenge. Violence has never defeated violence in any situation ever, over the long term. It has always been love and compassion that has finally conquered.

Whilst the horrors of last night are still so raw, it is hard to believe that there won’t be violent repercussions of one sort or another and there are those who will justify their actions on a world stage. However, I make a very humble plea to everyone, please, don’t fight fire with fire! We are not going to resolve this with bombs, guns and reciprocating violence. Anyone who has had any form or military training knows, that the most effective way to neutralise your enemy is to take away their communication lines and their funding.

So these awful examples of the human race thrive on social media and electronic messaging. Please, before you re-post ANYTHING, check the source. Don’t allow their network of followers to grow through inadvertently advertising for them.

And finally, to all the leaders of the world, there is enough anecdotal and physical evidence available to your country’s intelligence services to allow you the luxury of understanding who is funding these organisations, so just STOP trading with them! Regardless of what that means to your GDP. One parent’s child’s life is worth more than the world’s GDP combined and the sooner we accept this the sooner we can quench the radical fires of terrorism.

Take your time, if you want to speed things up.

I am a fairly recent meditation convert! For me, it has become a habitual part of my day and without it, I no longer feel as though I have maximised my potential for that day. It is quite astonishing how much more I have been able to achieve purely by taking more time out to complete a human defrag.

Keeping on topic about AI, which we’ve been covering over the last few posts, I think the analogy of a defragmentation is perfect. Most of you will have experienced the effect of running a defrag on your PC at one point in time and you will have experienced how much quicker it becomes as a result. So imagine doing this on a daily basis in your head. The time spent doing it is such a positive investment as results are increasingly demonstrating to me on a daily basis.

The mind is, of course, itself a computer and one which is far more complex than the manufactured ones we use in our daily working life. So imagine how many broken fragments of information are scattered within it and how crazy the filing systems and archives are which are used to retrieve this information. By taking the time to become more present and to start registering thoughts without acting upon them, we gain an amazing ability to reset and restore those fragments in a much more balanced environment. This makes the recollection of them more readily accessible and is the main reason why the art of slowing down to speed up works so well.

When you continue with this practice, the mind, body and soul all gradually begin to work in unison and things that were previously viewed as highly important, frequently end up on a metaphorical leaf floating away down the river into the infinity of “none-pertinent”

So in a similar vein, the decluttering of my CRM over these last few months has revealed some significant leaf floaters, ones where my energy of the past has been misguided and has consequently now been refocussed on areas which are far more important. This has been one of a series of recent exercises which have yielded far more progression than my previous status quo of trying to do a little bit of everything for everyone.

So yes, my life is still very busy and prioritising is still a must, but by slowing things down and taking time out to meditate I have found that I’ve managed to find more time and not lost time. If you haven’t tried it, don’t knock until you do and if you have tried it but it didn’t work, then maybe seek some professional guidance because I can assure you, it really does work.

Remember! In sales the only real finite resource you have is time, so use it wisely.

The power of communication and what this means for Article 50

So last week I wrote about the dimensions of communication and I was flattered by the response I received. But the biggest impact by far was that only a day or two after first releasing the post that I was hit with the epiphany about what it is we provide in the language industry.

Synopsis:

Over a number of years now I’ve been asking myself what it is I actually do that helps others. Don’t get me wrong I know that I help people and businesses but what is it exactly that they get from me? After writing my, to date, best blog of the year last week I had an epiphany. Whatever way you want to frame it, the answer to long term question has been answered and the answer is pretty simple, but still very profound. I help people communicate in such a manner that they build trust with people who do not speak their language.

With the submission, today, of Article 50 there is never a more important time in our country’s recent history where communication in multiple languages is going to be of utmost importance. And building new foundations of trust are absolutely paramount.

The power of communication

Throughout our entire lives, we’re influenced by our environment and those who communicate within it. It is initially how we gain the knowledge of our first language, but it goes far deeper than that. Our political viewpoints, our life lessons, our futures all begin with how we are communicated to and from where; making things extremely complicated when we get older if our views later differ from those of whom we uphold the greatest amount of respect. When this happens it demonstrates a level of adult development beyond that of the majority (72%), as they have begun their transition into Postconventional Understanding.

If you find the time to read the paper on Ego Development Theory by Susanne Cook-Greuter you’ll gain significant insight into this fascinating area of behavioural science. In short, those who can “break the mould” and begin thinking individually, and further, are the ones who have a significantly more grounded understanding of how important communication really is and rather than impose this upon others, they are more likely to listen and question their own views in order to further their own understanding and development.

Volume of noise

As we here in the UK enter into the next phase of our country’s history, there is going to be a huge amount of rhetoric from both divides rebuking and counter claiming the other sides “body of Truth”. Sadly for us to be able to hear the real discussions we have to filter out all this noise and begin to look for those individuals who demonstrate a far greater propensity to listen and review than they do posturing as “know it alls”. It is often said that the ones to be more mindful of are the quietest in the room and this is very sound advice. All of that said, Article 50 has now been instigated and there is going to be some significant shouting to filter out over the coming 2 years but we, the United Kingdom, need to also become the most attentive listeners throughout this period.

Communication channels

Throughout the Article 50 process, we’re going to be engaged in negotiations with countries who’s primary language is NOT English. (Oh yeah, that old chestnut!!) Well yes, in fact, older than you may think. Religious or not what was written in the 1 Corinthians 14: 10-12 is probably more important on this, 29th March 2017 than ever before.

Quote: “Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.”

We HAVE to ensure that over the next 24 months our message is clear, concise and in a language that the receiving party understands. This does not just mean the translated text it means the context of what we are saying needs to be expressed within that text. The people we are negotiating with, need to believe us, trust us and moreover have a positive emotional connection with us. If the information we provide them with does not convey these messages then our future, and that of our children and grandchildren will be in serious jeopardy.

Conclusion

To keep this short I will say this, never has the importance of my job seemed so significant. And never before has an epiphany of that importance arrived in such a timely manner. Accurate communication creates trust, and trust is what builds long-term relationships.

TGL-2017

Did you already hit your quota for the year? – March 2017

It is trade show fever right now! The beginning of the new financial year is around the corner for some, and it is the end of Q1 for others, but one thing is for sure, everyone is out touting for new business. – Well almost everyone.

I certainly am, I’m attending event after event and typically ones where existing clients are exhibiting. I’m using this time to visit some of our existing clients to ensure that we’re doing all we can to help them and then scouting around for new business in areas that I know we have a catalogue of demonstrable success and consequently very happy customers.

It is actually a really exciting part of my job, albeit a bloody tiring one. Travel, coupled with poor sleep and lack of my usual exercise regimes, all contribute to this depletion of energy but the buzz from speaking with people who I’m certain we can help, more than makes up for it. It is my personal business vice.

So this week I’ve been in our capital city, London. I enjoy my short trips to the capital, however, I have to say that I am glad that I don’t have to live there. The exhibitions I visited this week were very well attended on both days I was there and I had a number of thoroughly engaging dialogues with a great number of potential new clients, notwithstanding some amazing feedback from our existing ones. This clearly added to my good mood, which was established over the weekend prior to it by a truly exhilarating and totally awe inspiring concert from the incredibly talented Laura Marling.

Being in this mindset has enabled me to be present, attentive and empathetic with everyone I met, both at the event as well as travelling to and from it and whilst dining out throughout the 3 days I was away from the office. This presence also allowed me to become an observer from time to time and it was during this observation phase that my blood boiled over once again.

You may remember my rant– no sorry blog post — about mobile phones a few weeks back and my list of dos and don’ts whilst working a booth at a trade event. Quite evidently these guys didn’t get the memo.

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN

I spent approximately 5 minutes watching them before taking this photo and during which time I estimated somewhere around 20 to 25 people stopped and took an interest in their products/ services, picked up a brochure and then walked on. Not once did any one of the 3 sales guys manning the stand look up or engage with anyone during that time. I can only assume that they had all hit their sales quota for the year and were simultaneously closing 3 individual million dollar deals on their phones……No???? Yeah me neither!

So come on, is it any wonder that our profession gets a bad press when this kind of attitude is deemed as acceptable behaviour during an expensive show in the heart of the London Docklands.

I must also say that this wasn’t the only exhibit of poor booth practice I experienced during my time away, but fortunately, I was also blessed with the other end of the spectrum too, a casing example of which was Brother UK.

All in all the quality of the show, exhibitors and new client leads generated was exceptional this week and the follow-up work it has generated should keep me out of trouble for a month or two.

TGL

Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS)

Over the weekend I was privileged to be able to offer some of my time to helping others in a sport I adore. As some of you will be aware I am a qualified British Cycling level 2 coach and throughout the year I have the joy of sharing my passion with all kinds of people from all walks of life and in all age groups. I regularly feel like this is pure selfish indulgence as I can pretty much guarantee that I get just as much out of it as those do who I am honoured to coach. Nonetheless it is purely a voluntary position and therefore it does have to fit in around my other commitments and getting that balance right can sometimes be a challenge.

When Sunday morning arrived I wasn’t entirely rested as the night was a little shorter than usual due to a late night with my lovely wife and then an early wake-up call from my energetic little 3 year old son resulted in some very tired eyes. After a quick breakfast I embarked upon the trip over the Pennines to the the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to be greeted by a very friendly face and a VERY welcomed cup of coffee.

After a short introduction we were split up into 2 main groups and logically all the coaches were together in one group whilst the volunteers were in another. We, the coaches, were then taught the latest in coaching techniques to facilitate the further development of FMS.

So what is FMS? – For those of you who remember the youthful days of climbing hills and trees, jumping in and out of back gardens and kicking a ball around an empty field; you’ll be subconsciously more than familiar with FMS. It is, as the name suggests,  “Fundamental Movement Skills”. What is very sad about having to be taught how to teach these is the fact that we now have a second generation growing up in the western world who do not have them. As for the first generation it is already too late for them to ever reach their full sporting potential in a large majority of cases, but it ISN’T too late to reverse a significant portion of the damage already inflicted; if we all take ownership of what it is we’re failing to do right now.

FMS then! The ability to perform simple tasks such as jumping, skipping, kicking, hopping turning, twisting, balancing, catching, rolling…. the list goes on. It is brutally alarming that we’ve already got one generation arriving into their adult life who are missing these basic skills and a second generation already in the making with the same deficit. Why?? well the simple answer is us! We are to blame really. We’ve allowed our children to not become bored, we’ve wrapped them up in cotton wool and we’ve created a society where protectionism prevails over common sense. We give them electronic entertainment devices to feed their need for everything to happen right here and now and they rarely go outside, especially if its raining, to enjoy simple playtime with their peers.

It has therefore become my job, and coaches like me, to help children find their FMS so that when their raw talent does shine through, and they are picked to progress into the elite training environments of our sport, that they do have a chance to attain their full potential because they’re no longer lacking the Fundamentals.

Applying this same logic to the world of business I wonder how long it will be before we realise that we’ve also got a “fundamental management skills” deficit and that this selfsame protectionism (or as I like to call it the “passing the book” attitude) has resulted in a wave of talent coming through who no longer know how to take ownership. They’ve never been allowed to fail as somebody has always found an excuse for them, “Oh the resources weren’t available sorry they couldn’t deliver on time” or “Ah yes the power went down so they didn’t have access to the internet” or “Actually they did deliver 2 out of 4 so I think that’s good enough don’t you?” Consequently they have now been attuned into finding the blame elsewhere rather than looking at themselves first, and all this from a very early age.

I really don’t want this to be viewed as a “When I were a lad” post, because it isn’t. I’m actually taking ownership of this outcome. I want everyone who reads this to think about their own situation, as a parent, as a business owner or as an employee and ask yourself a simple question. How does what I do make a difference?, and more importantly, what is the difference that it makes? Once you’ve rekindled yourself with this then apply a few basic foundation building skills of your own so that our younger generation can grow up and gain a full and extensive experience of real life, with all it’s beauty and hardship that comes with it. Encourage them to take ownership of their own outcomes and give them the confidence that they can tell you when they’ve messed up without the fear of you blowing your top and then covering up for them. Together we can help realign the next generation of talent with reality, because the world they are going to be living in will be far more demanding than the one we’re all living in right now. It is our duty to ensure that they have the Fundamental Skills of Life to prosper in it.

Feel free to let me know how and what you’ve done.

TGL

English is our lingua franca

It has always been somewhat of a mainstay objection which I come across when talking to potential clients about their need for linguistic services, that English is the company’s lingua franca and therefore all their training and internal documentation is done in English.

How shocking then to see that in one such industry sector (Aviation) that over a 1000 deaths can be attributed to miscommunication between native speaking English air-traffic controllers and non-native speaking pilots. Read more here

It was a Harvard Business Report which highlighted this to me in an article last November Upon a more detailed scrutiny of the data there’s actually an alarming amount of non-conscious (I hope at least) arrogance running through the whole idea that everyone in business speaks English. My hat, however, is most deservedly doffed to the German trade unions, who’s country fair quite highly in the list of proficient English speakers in the workplace, but who insist that delivery of company learning the material to their German workforces is in German regardless of the level of their English competency.

In fact when I made the decision to study in Germany way back in the mid 90s I was told that before I could embark upon that journey in my chosen subject matter I would have to attain a mark that was within the top 2% in Germany in German, Mathematics and English ; and to do this I personally had to go to night school for nearly 4 years. Fortunately, my many sleepless nights were worth it and I managed to get the prerequisite grades required. This level of minimum requirements felt pretty harsh at the time, but I was being re-trained by, and entirely funded by, the Union so they weren’t going to just let anyone do it.

All of this is quite eye-opening but what I found most interesting about the results from the Harvard study was not just the lack of English competency across the board, but the alarmingly low scores in the industry sectors where I repeatedly hear the objection that English is the lingua franca of that industry.

I can personally see that, in light of the recent politic shifts, a new wave of language standards are on the horizon; with many countries from across the globe taking on the German principles that in order to do business with them, although you may be able to conduct every meeting in English, when it comes down to documentation and finalising of the contracts then they will want it  all in their own language, bitte!

Now we don’t want any miscommunication now do we?

TGL