Uncharted Times Calls for Different Thinking About Outplacement Support

With so many employees already work casualties of the Covid crisis and many more still furloughed and awaiting their fate, HR, Operations and Finance have some key questions to consider:

  1. Will you treat all employees the same i.e. a ‘one size fits all approach’?
  2. How will you differentiate support for your executives and senior managers?
  3. Will you offer extra support for long serving staff?
  4. How will you take account of employees who either want to or will inevitably be forced into having to re-evaluate their careers and lives during these unprecedented times?

These are not easy questions, are they? However, I’m sure much will depend on the scale of your redundancy programme and your company or organisations resources.

Your decisions are also likely to be a balance of doing the best for your employees, affected by redundancy, whilst also looking after your company or organisational reputation.

In these uncharted times, options 3 and 4 are likely to become ever more important considerations of Outplacement support

Why? Firstly, because, in the Covid and post Covid era, not only will many jobs disappear, but many may never see the light of day again or certainly not in the same way.

Secondly, because during lockdown, it gave many people time to think about their jobs and careers, especially if furloughed. Interestingly, what became very evident, was how many people started questioning the work they were doing. Maybe as a result of enforced home working, focus was shifting away from climbing the career ladder and all the materialistic trappings. Instead, wellbeing moved to the top of the agenda. Also, having a job or career that provides for a positive working lifestyle, sense of meaning, doing work that they love or enjoy.

What does this mean for HR in terms of Outplacement Provision?  

Considering the two key points in the previous paragraphs, providing a ‘one size fits all’ approach might seem to be a simple solution and will be helpful to a large percentage of employees. However, it is unlikely to be the best use of your company or organisations budget.

Why? Because, at a time when people will likely need more help than ever to decide on their next career step, forward thinking employers (especially influenced by HRDs and HR Managers) should consider providing a range of support for ‘outplaced’ employees, which will help them to re-evaluate their career and life. As mentioned, for many people, this is likely to be of much more value, rather than ‘typical Outplacement’, such as Job Search strategies, CV, LinkedIn profile etc.

It’s my belief that companies and organisations who are prepared to invest in their departing employees by willing to provide the right range of Outplacement support, will be valued more than ever. Such a positive gesture will enhance both internal PR within the company or organisation and externally amongst suppliers and other stakeholders.

Outplacement Support for Executives & Senior Managers

Your senior managers and executives will rightly be expecting to be treated differently and feel entitled to bespoke Outplacement options, which can be tailored to their needs. In my experience they also value being able to choose the Outplacement provider that can deliver their specific needs.

How Will You Manage the Outplacement Provision for Employees Looking to Re-Evaluate Their Careers & Lives?

As an employer, if you are looking for an alternative low cost but high impact digital Outplacement solution (which can also be combined with coaching from a career transition specialist) there is now a unique option which is proving to be invaluable for professional employees looking for inspiration and proven, practical strategies to re-evaluate their careers and lives, as a result of facing or being at risk of redundancy.

Repurposed from my Internationally acclaimed ‘Winning Through redundancy – Six steps to navigate your way to a brighter future’ book, Winning Through Redundancy & Layoffs’ online course brings the book to life in a powerful way. The course is created under my Career Catalyst personal brand, rather than company brand. This way it has appeal to both companies sourcing Outplacement provision and individuals looking for an inspirational and potentially transformational course, with the knowledge and confidence they will be following a proven and empowering process.

If this sounds interesting, or you want to know more, here is the link to the course information page: https://courses.steveprestonthecareercatalyst.com

Steve Preston is known as The Career Catalyst ® MD of specialist Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd, leading Career Coach to executives and professionalsmotivational speaker, Internationally acclaimed Author of Career and Personal Development books and products, including Winning Through RedundancyWinning through Career Change, Portfolio Careers – How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit

 

 

How Will Your Business or Organisation Decide on Outplacement Support?

We are in unprecedented times with companies and organisations needing to cut costs and downsize staffing levels to meet the new challenges that lie ahead, due to the impact of the Covid crisis.

There will clearly be many challenges for HR, Finance and Operations in the months ahead e.g.:

  • Decisions on staff who are currently furloughed
  • Plans for redundancies/layoffs
  • Plans for supporting staff being laid off with Outplacement
  • Agreeing budgets for Outplacement support
  • Making decisions on Outplacement providers and provision
  • Making decisions on which employees will receive Outplacement support

Clearly not all companies will be in a financial position to be able to provide Outplacement support. However, for businesses or organisations who can, it will be important for HR to ensure the best use of your Outplacement budgets to meet the diverse needs of your departing employees.

In these challenging times, there will be a whole army of employees who will be experiencing redundancy for the first time who are likely to be in various stages of emotional turmoil. Also, there will be many employees who will either want to or need to completely re-evaluate their careers and lives, due to the nature of the work they have been doing and the future need for this type of work in the Covid and post Covid eras.

How Will HR Keep Outplacement Costs Down Whilst Still Providing Essential Emotional Support and Proven Successful Career Transition Strategies?   

Recognising the importance of both cost and providing Outplacement support that can really help employees learn to manage the emotional aspects of redundancy, I have repurposed my internationally acclaimed book ‘Winning Through Redundancy- Six steps to navigate your way to a brighter future’ into a highly practical and what is proving to be an inspirational and breakthrough online course, created under my Career Catalyst personal brand.

Feedback from initial clients suggested the course lends itself perfectly as an Outplacement option for forward thinking employers looking for something different, for departing employees, in these uncharted times. I have therefore created a second version, which is now available to employers, with a different welcome message, especially for funded employees.

As an employer, if you are looking for an alternative, affordable, high impact digital Outplacement solution (which can also be combined with career coaching options) ‘Winning Through Redundancy & Layoffs’ online course is a unique, empowering, option for professional employees, who are looking for inspiration and proven, practical strategies to re-evaluate their careers and lives, as a result of facing or being at risk of redundancy.

At a time when people will likely need more help than ever to decide on their next career step, rather than a typical job search Outplacement focus, employers and HR who are willing to provide the right help to support employees who are casualties of redundancy, will be valued more than ever.

If this sounds interesting, or you want to know more, here is the link to the course information page for employers: https://outplacement.smp-solutions.co.uk/

Steve Preston is known as The Career Catalyst ®. A leading Career Coach to executives and professionals, MD of specialist Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltdmotivational speaker, the Career Coach’s Coach and Internationally acclaimed Author of Career and Personal Development books and products, including Winning Through Redundancy, Winning through Career Change, Portfolio Careers – How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit

Transitioning from Academia into Employment

Transitioning from academia into employment for graduates

Are you one of the millions of young people looking to transition from academia into employment but unsure how to move forward? Have you got the ‘graduation blues’?

If this is your first foray into the world of work, after enjoying university life, for most people it is a scary situation. The dawn of reality! Regardless of whether you have any previous work experience, you have now reached one of the first milestones in your life and in order to make a successful transition into employment, there are several key questions that you must first ask yourself.

Be totally honest, otherwise you are likely to make key mistakes before you have even really started on your journey!

  1. How important is your degree to you in a future role or is it just something that you can utilise to give you a better chance of employment against the competition?
  2. Do you have any real idea of what job you would ideally like to do?
  3. Are you looking for a job (possibly any job to get you started) or a career?
  4. Have you researched the entry criteria?
  5. How aware are you of your marketability and what you have to offer?
  6. Do you know any contacts who might be able to network you in?
  7. Do you have an up to date CV that really sells you in the best light?
  8. Have you thought about what is important to you in your job?
  9. What type of organisation do you ideally want to work for?
  10. How far are you prepared to travel to work?

Before you can start down the road of making this key transition in your life, from academia into employment, you must first address these (and many more) key questions. Your answers will provide many clues as to what action you need to take to help you move forward.

10 top tips to make a successful transition from academia into employment

  1. Manage your transition like any project and develop a plan, as what gets measured gets done!
  2. Clearly define your goals, set realistic timescales to achieve them and review your plan on a regular basis, what is working, what isn’t, what additional help you will need and how you will access this
  3. Even if you can’t secure a full-time job, get part-time work, temporary work and as much work experience as possible, so you can show your tenacity and positive attitude to a potential employer
  4. Research, research, research. Use your skills from university life to establish as much as possible about specific jobs of interest, the organisation, the culture, the vision, the opportunities, the recruitment process, their competition and anything else that can put you ahead of the pack
  5. Learn how to sell and market yourself effectively by matching yourself to the job and organisation with your skills, attributes and attitude both in any job applications and interviews.
  6. If you know people who work where you would like to work or know people who know other people who work there, ask if they can get you an introduction or some initial work experience. Once you have a foot in the door it is so much easier to make an impact. This way you have a great opportunity to influence whether the employer offers you a full-time job
  7. Seek help and advice to get you the best possible CV, as this could make the difference between making the yes pile for an interview!
  8. Although it may go against the grain, be prepared to start ‘at the bottom’ and work your way up, especially if the employer only recruits via graduate schemes or internships
  9. There are many types of interviews nowadays. How well you plan, prepare and practice and how confident you come across will make the difference. Research how to win at video interviews, Skype interviews, telephone interviews, face to face formal interviews, group interviews and informal ‘coffee shop’ type interviews
  10. Ensure you have a backup plan in case ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work but remember persistence pays, providing you channel your energy in the right way!

For more information, Lin Preston is a leading Education & Career Coach with our specialist consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd, having helped hundreds of young people (and take away the stress from their parents!) to transition from academia into employment and make key education and career choices to get their careers off to the best possible start.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Are leaders born or made? This is one of the most frequently asked questions in all leadership development and one I was asked to write about for a leadership journal a few years ago.

But what is this question really asking? Is it asking whether someone will emerge as a leader among a group of peers, or is asking whether someone will perform effectively in a formal leadership position?

This is one view from US leadership guru, Warren G. Bennis:

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.

You could argue that if leaders are born, then why would so many organisations around the globe invest so much time and money on leadership development programmes and leadership models?

Nature V’s Nurture

Another interesting view is that nature gives you the natural ability /talent, which can then be nurtured as a result of your life experiences and learning from other great leaders. Even if you are born with certain leadership traits, these still need to be nurtured, otherwise you won’t unlock or fulfil your true potential. Personally, I’m attracted to this way of thinking. I have always believed a key reason I became a successful manager and senior manager was, not just as a result of any professional development training but by taking the learning from both good and bad examples of leaders I experienced in my early career. Also, as a result of many amazing adventures, life experiences and working on my own growth and personal development, I believe these factors have helped to position me as a key thought leader in the world of Career Development, especially around Changing Careers and Portfolio Careers.

Therefore, leadership skills and traits can be learnt and developed but how much people enjoy using them is arguably the part that you are born with. This suggests that leadership is a mind-set.

What is a leader?

From my perspective, this is the start point and the there are numerous definitions:

  • Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality – Warren G. Bennis
  • Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others – Jack Welch
  • Leadership is working with and through others to achieve objectives
  • A leader is someone who others want to follow (this could be for good or bad reasons, as history has shown us)
  • A good leader is someone whose actions and communications have a positive impact on how others feel and behave

When it comes to leadership there is no one size fits all. Every leader has his or her own personality, style, and approach to leading teams. However, when thinking about great leaders, most people immediately relate to well know people such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Alex Ferguson or other captains of industry or sport.

Why? Because these are usually powerful, charismatic people, who have all achieved great things in different walks of life. They have also had a real sense of purpose, vision, great drive, determination and focus on making things happen.

How Important is Charisma?

Many people believe that to be a great leader you have to have oodles of charisma. This clearly helps, as the above examples demonstrate but what about Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and many successful European CEO’s?  Often such people are brilliant visionaries but are greatly lacking in the charisma stakes!

Do leaders have to be at the top of the ‘command chain’?  

Clearly many leaders will be at the top of the command chain in politics, business, public services, the military, sport, shipping etc. However, if leadership really is about ‘working with and through others to achieve objectives’, then given this definition, anyone in a position whose achievement requires the support of others, regardless of their level of authority or influence, can play the role of a leader. This could be a supervisor, junior or middle manager in the workplace who always have the knack of making their teams feel valued, making things happen and delivering.

Equally, I’m sure we all know people who always seem to be the centre of attention or who are always the one to organise others and events for family, friends, groups, colleagues etc. Often these might also be the person people turn to for advice or comfort in times of personal crisis, playing the typical agony aunt or uncle. I’m sure you will agree that such people are also great leaders, albeit not at the top or part of any command chain.

What is the link with Emotional Intelligence?

The work of Dr Martin Newman and others in this field, suggests that the best leaders are those who understand and develop their Emotional Intelligence and Capital. This is EQ as opposed to IQ.

Much of the coaching that my company does, to either help turn around underperforming managers and leaders or help good leaders to become even better, involves an element of work around Emotional Intelligence. Why? Because, can you imagine the impact of having achieved such a high level of self -awareness of who you are, what you want to achieve and an understanding of how what you say and do influences how other people feel and react? Such emotional intelligence sets apart the good from the great leaders!

What other key traits do good leaders have?

  • Authentic – WYSIWYG… what you see is what you get!
  • Positive /optimistic
  • Inspire trust and respect
  • Key influencers
  • Empathetic
  • Good communicators
  • Good listeners
  • Willingness to learn and put learning into action
  • Accountable
  • Role models
  • Willingness to put their head above the parapet
  • Ability to see the bigger picture

I will sum this up with the 3 L’sListen, Learn, Lead, all of which suggest that leaders are made. However, by developing and maximising natural born talents and emotional capital, people who naturally gravitate to leadership roles, have the potential to become great leaders! The jury is out!

Steve Preston is MD of independent Career & People Development Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd, Internationally acclaimed Author and Speaker

 

Ten top reasons why people want to change jobs

Ten top reasons why people want to change jobs

There are many reasons why people want to quit their jobs. Here is a list of very common ones:

  1. I want / need more money or a better package
  2. I’m bored and I’d like a new challenge
  3. There is no career progression
  4. It’s too stressful
  5. I just hate it
  6. I’m having to work too many hours
  7. I’m not learning any new skills
  8. I don’t feel supported by my boss
  9. I want to be my own boss
  10. I want to change industry / career

Now ten top reasons why people hold off leaving their jobs

  1. I really like my current team or company
  2. I’m not confident enough to apply for other jobs
  3. Applying for new jobs is too time consuming
  4. I’m worried I don’t have enough experience
  5. I don’t want to leave my current team in the lurch
  6. I’m scared of interviews
  7. I’m worried I won’t get the flexible working hours / flexibility I need at a new job
  8. I’m worried about working with a new team or different technology
  9. Updating my CV/resume is too daunting
  10. I’m just procrastinating!

What other reasons can you think of why people want to quit their jobs? Also why they resist from doing so?

What reasons do you want to change your job or career and maybe we can help you achieve your desired career change or transition?

It costs more to get the wrong solution

Cost of not getting the right solution

I had an interesting chat about the cost of services at business networking event. My contact was keen to share how he had met someone who offered him ‘a great deal on some social media marketing‘.  I responded by saying that the cost sounded good but also asking him what the service included and how it benefited his company marketing strategy and business goals?

The silence was deafening, followed by ‘what do you mean by strategy‘!  I was lost for words but quickly realised the reality of the situation i.e. he was totally blinded by ‘the deal‘ and hadn’t even established what he was getting for his money and whether this service was actually what he really needed for his business.

Why Cost Shouldn’t Be The First Question

This bizarre conversation got me thinking about similar situations, not just for business owners like me and him but when potential customers or clients are looking for a suitable company or provider and look to buy from you. How often is the first question ‘how much will it cost?’  Many times, I’m sure you will agree!

By solely focusing on cost often means looking for a quick fix to your problem e.g. we have a problem or need, so what is the cheapest and quickest way to fix it. This might work fine when you are looking for the supermarket who offers your typical weekly shop and you can compare like with like to get the best overall value for your money.

However, more often than not, when comparing  service providers, you are not comparing ‘apples with apples’. If you, as we do, provide a very flexible, bespoke offering, then how much your service costs will depend on a number of factors.   A good example…if my company is approached regarding providing Career Transition (outplacement) to support a programme of re-organisation and redundancies or Coaching services to improve individual or team performance, there are usually many flexible options to solve their problem and provide the best solution. Of course, cost will be a key consideration for most companies, organisations or individuals but just focusing on cost won’t necessarily provide the best solution, will it?

We like to work collaboratively with our clients, so feel it is important to develop the relationship first, by understanding your key requirements, before we start talking money.  There are a number of key questions to consider e.g.

  • What are you looking to achieve / key objectives/outcomes for your project?
  • How many people are involved?
  • Timescales to start and complete the project?
  • Finally …..How much budget do you have for the project?

It Ain’t What You Do, it’s the Way That You do it!

Why ask all these questions first? Because, the answers will determine whether the personal calling or emailing has really thought through how best they want the project or problem resolved, how much say they have in choosing the right provider or understands what they can achieve for their budget. Such questions also open up more meaningful discussions, rather than just focusing on cost, which is no different to my opening example!

Whether you are a company, organisation or individual client, what you get for your money, how and when the service is delivered and how this meets your desired objectives and outcome is surely of the utmost importance, is it not? If you need some building work done on your home, it is likely you will get a few different quotes. However…

As the song goes: “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it” .

So, when making key decisions to determine the right company or provider to deliver the service you require, I’m sure you will want to know the answers to some or all of these questions first, wouldn’t you?

  • What is their pedigree?
  • Do they come recommended?
  • What is their approach?
  • How will they help take away any ‘pain’ or pressure from you?
  • Do they have the right expertise for your project?
  • Do they work collaboratively with you to provide you with the best solution/s for your money to achieve your objective/ outcome/s ?
  • How confident are you about the provider delivering your project in the way you want and when you want?

How much does it cost to get it wrong?  

The cost of not achieving your key objectives or outcomes or receiving bad PR by choosing the wrong company or provider will ultimately cost you much more than spending more time and effort and maybe investing some additional budget to get the outcome/s you want. This is no different to choosing your builder purely on cost and finding you have to get them back to make good the job or worse still, having to find another builder to sort out their mess!

Steve Preston is MD of independent Career & People Development Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd

Outplacement or Career Transition?

Supporting Organisational Change with ‘Outplacement’

You might be working for an organisation that is looking at laying off staff due to the need to cut costs or because you want to become more efficient. If so, what are your thoughts about how you might support the staff who will be leaving as a result of such organisational change? For many people in HR and Operational management roles, aside of ensuring that correct policy and procedures are adopted, to comply with appropriate employment law, the word ‘outplacement’ is likely to spring to mind, when considering both the process for laying off staff and also the support required.

What’s in a name?

I have never liked the term ‘outplacement’. However, here’s the thing…as a company that provides such support, in order to be found on web searches and for marketing of our services, we are arguably obligated to still use this term, if we are to be found by organisations and especially HR managers looking to source providers. SMP Solutions takes great pride in our reputation and caring approach, so we sought the views of a number of our clients and key contacts and took the decision to change of our focus, preferring the term ‘Career Transition‘ instead. Not an easy decision, in view of the comments above. However, as a people focused company we felt this was a positive move.

Why? Because ‘outplacement‘ very definitely has negative overtones i.e. someone is being ‘outplaced’ of their organisation or the organisation is ‘outplacing’ a number of employees. In essence people are having something ‘being done to them’. ‘Career Transition’ by comparison suggests a journey or movement. Yes, it is a time of change but from something to something else, rather than one way enforcement ‘out’. ‘Transition‘, can also certainly be viewed as a positive experience and many people associate this with ‘transformation‘.

You may feel this is all semantics, as whichever way you look at it, the organisation will be laying off employees, so what difference does it make what you call the process or support involved.

But what if it really does make a difference?

Just think about the difference it could make to both the employees affected and the organisational psyche by starting such a difficult organisational change process in a more positive vein? I will be sharing more thoughts about this in future blogs.

Definitions of Outplacement

Knowing that ‘outplacement’ is a term mainly used in HR, operational circles and by people who have been on the receiving end of it, I decided to check out definitions via a Google search. They were easy to find and here is a sample. You can make up your own mind about what message you feel they send out:

  • “Counseling and assistance in finding a new job, provided by a company for an employee who has been or is about to be dismissed
  • “The process of assisting a terminated employee find a new job”
  • “The process of finding new jobs for people in your company who have been forced to leave because their job no longer exists”
  • “A service that offers counselling and careers advice, especially to redundant executives, which is paid for by their previous employer”
  • “Outplacement is the efforts made by a downsizing company to help former employees transition to new jobs and help them re-orient themselves in the job market”

Can you imagine an employee who wants to know more about outplacement and does a similar search as I did? The words above in italics, are some that will clearly rankle with an already distressed employee and could ‘add fuel to the fire’! Whilst some of the text in each comment has merits, the definitions are generally demeaning and inappropriate. Comments about being ‘dismissed’, also ‘former’ or ‘previous’ employer are written in the past context, so are inflammatory and inaccurate.

So, by focusing on offering ‘outplacement support’, although an employer may have the best of intentions, the result could be that the very people who it is aimed at and who will benefit from the support, could turn their back on the opportunity. Unfortunately, the reality is it that the only loser in such acts of defiance are the employees who choose not to  take up the support.

The benefits of a well planned and delivered ‘career transition‘ programme

Managed well, focused ‘career transition‘ support will provide your departing employees with the tools they need to have the best possible chance to find the right next job for them.

For an employer laying off staff, providing a well planned and delivered programme of ‘career transition‘ support, will do much more than help overcome the immediate needs of your departing employees, to find another job. Such an approach can also become be an invaluable source inspiration for those affected to re-evaluate their careers, open up a whole new world of opportunity and possibilities, so they can look forward to the future with confidence.

While cost is a key consideration for most organisations, a ‘one size fits all’ approach, although better than nothing, is unlikely to produce the best results for the affected employees.  Showing a caring attitude and having a programme of career transition support to reflect people’s differing needs, should ensure that employees leave on good terms, whilst also sending out positive signals to the rest of the workforce.

The result…..

A win, win for both the departing employees and for the employer by creating positive PR, which is likely to aid employee engagement, productivity and staff retention.

So, do you now, like me, also think that ‘outplacement’ is an outdated term that should be made redundant and consigned to ‘room 101’?

The jury is out! I would love to hear your views :)

Steve Preston is MD of independent Career & People Development Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd and Author of the internationally acclaimed ‘Winning Through Redundancy- Six steps to navigate your way to a brighter future

Why everybody is in Sales, even you

Have you heard the saying that ‘everybody is in sales’? If not, you might be wondering how this can be and where this is going?

Sales Perception

For many people the very mention of ‘sales’ is a dirty word and sends shudders down them, conjuring up visions of pushy double glazing salesmen, estate agents (real estate) annoying spam phone callers or emails.  Does this sound like a familiar perception?

You might also be thinking that in your job or career you have nothing to sell, especially if you work in the public sector/services. However, the reality is that you don’t need to be in a ‘sales job’ or have a product or service to sell. Regardless of whether you are in HR, IT, Finance, Marketing, private, public or charity sector or running your own business, you will need to ‘sell yourself’ in numerous work situations e.g.

  • To win at an interview and get the job
  • Secure a contract or project
  • Gain promotion
  • Get approval for training or development you are aspiring to

Let’s face it, as professionals, we spend our lives ‘selling’ ideas or decisions you want your boss, staff or team to buy into e.g. a better way of doing things, the need for change, who you should hire, fire etc.

Selling Yourself at Events

When you attend conferences, seminars or networking events, depending on your job or situation, you are likely to be selling what you or your company/organisation has to offer and how this benefits others. I’m sure you do this almost as second nature, without thinking about this as selling? I experienced a wonderful example of this at a networking event which I will mention later.

Selling Yourself to Progress Your Career

You might be an aspiring executive or manager in which case you will need to sell yourself in many ways in order to achieve your desired goal by way of:

  • CV/resume
  • Job applications
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Interview/s
  • Networking meetings

Again, the reality is that people who are good at selling themselves, get on in life. I’m sure you know people like this who always seem to get promoted, move into better jobs or be successful in their careers and life. So what do I really mean by ‘sales’? After all ‘selling’, for many people, means forcing people to buy something they don’t really want doesn’t it?

A different take on ‘Sales’

What if I substituted ‘influencing‘ instead of sales’, how would this feel? Quite possibly this might put a different perspective on your views?

But what do all successful sales people have in common? Think about how they make you feel? They make you feel good, don’t they? Why……because of these:

  • Sincere – Great empathy, engaging and no bs!
  • Attitude – Enthusiastic, positive, encouraging, confident, passionate
  • Likeable – People ‘buy’ people or from people they like
  • Energy – Nothing is too much trouble, always going the extra mile
  • Solutions focused- Looking for a win, win e.g. right fit, right product, right answer to the problem or challenge

These are clearly all highly positive personal attributes. Therefore, use this SALES acronym to help you think differently and reframe how you feel about ‘sales’ and selling yourself, your company or organisation.  

What if you had a simple approach to selling yourself in any situation? 

That would be great, wouldn’t it? 

Well, here it is…….practice the ‘RUB’ approach, as a super simple way to influence people and achieve more of what you want and win, win solutions:

  • Rapport –  Learn how to build a bond naturally so you are quickly on the same wavelength to achieve a mutual ‘meeting of minds’
  • USP/s – Your unique selling proposition/s . Might be considered an old hat term but focus on selling what makes you different or better and stand out
  • Benefits – ‘Sell’ what value you can add/ how you can make a difference/ solve the problem or take away their ‘pain’. Get people or prospective clients to imagine how this would look or feel so they almost have to say YES!    

The RUB

Living Proof!

The wonderful example I mentioned earlier, was in fact a young intern who so clearly had all these ‘SALES’ attributes and was unwittingly using the‘RUB’approach to great effect.

Despite their young age, they absolutely stunned me with their rapport building skills, commitment and determination, travelling hours and miles each week for only travel expenses. They were going the extra mile literally! They had also gone to great lengths to research the opportunity, understand what was required and make sure they secured the internship.

They had a great energy about them and enthusiastically ‘told’ me all about the product they were helping to develop and why it was so useful. I was ready to buy it from them if it had been fully developed! Having learnt what I and my company does in the Career and People Development field, they then went onto share great maturity and wisdom about what they wanted to achieve in their future career. Also, why they felt it was important to follow your passions, doing work you love, rather than focusing on purely financial gainThis was clearly from the heart, without any bs as they gave me a brilliant example of how they were making ‘sacrifices’ to be able to save what little money they did have, to be able to create the working lifestyle they wanted. It was evident they hadn’t read my current book either!

I was so impressed I have asked to interview them for my next book project on Portfolio Careers, as they are a great example of a young person with great entrepreneurial skills who is likely to earn a living from multiple talents and multiple income strands. I am sure they will be a great success because they clearly know how to sell themselves and what they believe in, which is great!         

Reframing the sales process

Many sales organisations, courses and business gurus spend much time focusing on ‘closing the sale’. What if you turn this around so your focus becomes that people choose to buy from you instead? How much pressure would this take off you when you are selling yourself at interviews, business meetings etc? There are clearly some key techniques and skills involved such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which can all be learnt and like most things in life practice and persistence pays!

So, you might not have thought about it before but do you now see that you are ‘in sales’? Why is this so important? Because ….The more you develop and hone your influencing skills the better results you will achieve in your career and life!

 

Customer Service Optional – The Computer Says No!

You may well know this brilliant turn of phrase from the infamous Little Britain comedy sketches. However, this is a real life customer service ‘nasty’, albeit in very abbreviated form to be of more general interest with some real learning points!

Does your system drive your people or do your people drive your system?

This is a really fundamental question, don’t you think? Why?…Because….if your company or organisation has this the wrong way round, then your people are forced to behave in a certain way to meet the requirements of your system, rather than your system having to meet the requirements of your people and business. Does this make sense for good customer service? It seems logical to me, so highly illogical that it could take three months to get a new mobile phone upgrade resolved!

Corporate silos

Can you imagine a situation where you find an error on your mobile phone bill and call to discuss which then causes a chain reaction of different departments being unwilling to help? ‘This was the fault of the store, so you will have to go back there to resolve this‘. ‘We can’t help‘, ‘you must‘, ‘we don’t’ and ‘no you can’t speak to a manager, as they will tell you the same thing‘, were responses thrown back at me repeatedly. Are you not one and the same company? The bills say so but the call centre clearly thinks differently, as passing the blame to another part of the company is the way they do things around here!

Reactive and inconsistent customer service

Isn’t it galling that only the threat of making a formal complaint spurs some action in many organisations? All of a sudden the same unhelpful call centre person calls you back immediately with a ‘peace offering and a special upgrade deal’.  Not exactly consistent customer service, is it?

The upgrade department couldn’t have been more helpful and all was looking good until my agreed ongoing loyalty discount was conveniently overlooked. This was finally sorted and I had a potentially excellent new contract lined up, or so I thought! Bad move on my part as I followed the advice and did go back to the store, as I like the human touch, which was why I went there previously and they had been most helpful. Not so this time, as they checked on their computer and ‘couldn’t possibly offer the same deal to me in the store but they could give me a phone to contact the call centre’. Yet again, the computer says ‘no‘ and customer service was ‘optional!’

After a long and heated exchange and finally managing to speak to a ‘supervisor’, I was told that ‘we cannot have made such an offer’, which eventually changed to ‘the upgrade offer was only available from the person you spoke to on the day you originally called’. Was this ever mentioned? Of course not! Still I had their word that they would email the people I had previously spoken with and we agreed a date and time I would receive a call back to resolve things.

And so the days and weeks went by and Christmas came and went. Despite repeated messages and making a formal complaint the call still never came. I am a very patient person and I still had a phone that was working on a good tariff, so it wasn’t critical, just highly frustrating, unnecessary and downright inefficient!

How to get action!

Here’s the thing…. if you want action it appears that you have to make a complaint against how your complaint is being handled! This is now the third example I have come across recently, where action only happened after taking this route faced with problems in large organisations. Remarkable, don’t you think? Whatever happened to the Customer Service department taking your complaint seriously first time round? Do they hope that people will go away if they don’t respond? It would seem so.

Resolution or…...

The day of reckoning finally came and lo and behold a helpful human being who was keen to resolve my crazy saga. I finally received a call to confirm that my original upgrade offer would be honoured and I would be getting my new phone within 48 hours. Progress at last and only three months late! Maybe not …….Three days later and still no phone. Yet another call to the Customer Relations Manager, who I was now on first name terms with and guess what? …..’The computer says no!‘ I was given all sorts of technical reasons why the system wasn’t accepting the dispatch order. Sorry but do I care about this? All I want is my new phone which I was finally promised and now your systems are stopping you sending it to me? Unbelievable, isn’t it? ‘I’m sorry but we will need our IT department to override the system, as we can’t do it’. How long will this take? ‘We can’t say as it could be at least a day or two or longer’. Both the Customer Relations Manager and Dispatch Manager were mystified by the problem. However, I still didn’t have a new phone, as the system still ‘said no‘. Finally, another week later, I received a call and the computer now said ‘yes’ and the phone was on the way to me and this time, duly arrived!

Attention to detail

So, I finally had my phone and thought this was the end of the saga but oh no! Despite numerous emails and texts, the system wasn’t showing the correct tariff, with the agreed discount, which had triggered the saga in the first place! More calls to the Customer Relations Manager, who finally made the changes to the system whilst on the phone to me. Interesting, as if this could be done, why could not all the other much needed changes be made on the system by ‘humans’ right from the start or is it easier to say ‘no’ and blame the system?

Learning Points

It is not my aim to bore you with my unbelievable ordeal, as this is just the tip of the iceberg but more so to highlight what can and is going wrong in so many large organisations. How can such unbelievable inefficiency be allowed to happen? Why don’t different parts of the organisation speak to each other, look to understand and help resolve each others problems? Do you not have forums to encourage working together, rather than in silos? Why is the computer saying ‘no’ all the time? Is the system driving the people and constraining the business or are the people and the business driving the system so customers get what they want when they want it with the minimum of fuss? Clearly so many questions, which cannot possibly be answered when ‘the computer says no’.

Can you now imagine how great things might have been and could be in the future, if the computer said YES first time round? How great would the customer service and this company be, rather than customer service being ‘optional’?

Meetings bloody meetings?

Meetings bloody meetings! The ‘more mature’ readers of this blog will no doubt remember the infamous John Cleese Video Arts training video by this name! How times have changed since, as were are now in the 21st century digital age but how have meetings changed? Let’s take a closer look.

What typical research shows

A recent article on HR Grapevine highlighted that the average British employee will sit through 6,240 meetings in their career. The huge number consists of catch-ups, client meetings and appraisals. Of the 2,000 workers studied six in ten described meetings as “pointless”.

“There is nothing worse than being sat in a meeting that doesn’t really concern you,’ said Charlotte Gaskin, Marketing Manager at Sennheiser Communications, who conducted the study, “So it’s not surprising then that so many people zone out, nod off or doodle. Of the respondents we polled, many said that often a quick and concise conference call was more effective than a lengthy meeting which often resulted in expensive travel expenses,” Gaskin continued.

There must be a better way!

In my ‘previous life’, as a senior manager in a large corporate, I often got the feeling that that departments and functions were in competition to see who could hold the most meetings. When it came to major projects things got even worse, especially when there was a matrix management structure!

In my ‘present life’ as Managing Director of my own Career & People Development Consultancy, I have come across senior executives and CEO’s who have spent almost every hour of every working week in wall to wall meetings. They complained of how stressed out they were and wondered why nothing seemed to get done or it took eternity!

Whatever level you are working at, you need some thinking time in order to be able to plan, prioritise, reflect, make the right decisions, be sharp, focused and possibly creative, rather than thinking about being on time for your next meeting!

The 7 P’s Principle

In my latter employed days, I made it a rule of thumb that I would only run or attend meetings based on what I now call the 7 P’s principle i.e.

  • There was an agreed Purpose – no purpose, no meeting!
  • There was an outlinePlan / timescale agenda – no plan, no meeting!
  • Only the necessaryPeople would attend who could input / add value – no hangers on or wasted productivity
  • What Preparation, if any, was required – to avoid wasted time in the meeting
  • People selected to attend actively Participated 
  • From the agreed outcomes it was clear who had Points to action, why and by when – no opportunity for people to abdicate responsibility!
  • Agreed deadlines were achieved Promptly– no opportunity for slippage through a good follow up process

 Turning meetings bloody meetings into CLEAR Meetings = effective and productive meetings! 

Linked to my 7 P’s principles, here is a really simplistic formula to run effective meetings:

Clarity – Before any meeting consider:

  • Why do we need to meet?
  • How will this help to achieve our business objectives?
  • What do we need to achieve?
  • Who needs to attend and why?
  • What briefing notes / papers need to be sent out in advance?
  • What preparation is required by attendees?

Leadership – At the start of the meeting the Chair or facilitator:

  • Agree any ground rules e.g. desired outcomes, housekeeping, breaks, finish time, break out sessions
  • Give a quick overview of the agreed agenda
  • Allocate specific roles e.g. time keeper, note taker
  • What is required from attendees

Engage – During the meeting the Chair/ facilitator needs to ensure:

  • There is relevant dialogue
  • Active listening and participation of all attendees
  • The meeting is focused and on track to achieve the objectives

Actions – During the meeting:

  • Agree action points, who is responsible and by when
  • Action points are written up clearly for all to see e.g. flip chart, white board or Post It notes to avoid any misinterpretation
  • At the end of the meeting, action list photographed or transposed onto tablets, lap tops etc for circulation

Review – At the end of the meeting:

  • Have we achieved our desired outcomes?
  • What was successful and what was unhelpful?
  • How we can improve next time?
  • All agreed action points to ensure a common understanding
  • Deadlines for circulation of any notes
  • Deadlines for action points to be completed
  • What happens next e.g. follow up

So, instead of meetings bloody meetings, follow the 7 P’s and the CLEAR meetings approach and you might have less meetings, more productive meetings and start to see meetings in a different light and maybe even look forward to them!