Hidden Signals – What Is Your body Language Saying?

We all speak a second language and we speak it fluently, though we don’t often acknowledge it.

I was seated on a packed tube train, wondering how I’d get out past the woman squashed directly in front of me standing in the aisle. As I gathered my things she made the subtlest move, she shifted her hand holding her bag just an inch toward the exit. She did nothing else, but I knew immediately that she was going to get off.  True to her body language, she moved off ahead of me.

How did I know she was leaving from such a small movement?

That language is your non-verbal cues or body language. It’s vital that you tune into it because it can speak louder than your words.

Make your conversations stand out
According to Alton Barbour, author of Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication, the total impact of your message breaks down like this:

7 percent verbal (the words you are using)

38 percent vocal (volume, pitch, rhythm)

55 percent body movements (including facial expressions)

That means the tone of your conversation is working five times harder than the words you are using.

And all your non-verbal cues are making an astonishing impact that is eight times stronger than your words.

We choose our words carefully, thinking them through and wanting to send the right message. Are you thinking as hard about all the surrounding signals that wrap those words?

How you can increase your impact
Want to know more? Click here for Dialogue Works 12 easy tips to body language that can improve your communication.

Then step it up, use body language to give you courage
Another bit of fascinating research about body language is from Amy Cuddy. She has found that if you stand in the superman pose, legs wide and arms strongly up above your head, you can literally change your body chemistry.

Her research found that two minutes in this position raises your testosterone, which helps you feel brave and lowers your cortisol which makes you feel fearful.

Not only do you feel more confident after you’ve done this, her research implies that other people perceive you as more confident. This is a win win situation when you are going into a stressful meeting or know you’ll be talking to someone senior that intimidates you.

Give it a try. Jump into an empty stairwell and give yourself 120 seconds of Superman posing to jump start your confidence.  See her 15 minute Ted Talk about her research here.

As I can’t express anything more than mere words on this page, I’ll leave you to develop your own spin on the hidden signals you use to make your point.

Are You Managing Someone That Isn’t Responding?

Sometimes we hire or inherit someone that has the right skills but you just don’t click.  Often they are doing the job, the work is ok, but they aren’t connecting with you, as their manager.

The good news is this doesn’t happen very often. The majority of people who report into you will build rapport with you, learn to work in a collaborative way and trust will be built.

But sometimes that doesn’t occur, you may have someone that just isn’t responding to your usual approach.

You’ll sense it in their resistance, maybe they say things are ok to your face, but then confide their misery to someone else on your team.

So what do you do?  How do you shift gears and reset the relationship?

Management issues can be caused by a lot of things so I won’t pretend this post is the solution for everyone.  What it will give you is a couple of tools to think about.

It takes both of you
First, take a step back and look at it less personally.  It takes two people to build a relationship and your staff person needs to meet you part of the way.

If they have cast you as the sole and complete reason they aren’t happy, then they are probably building their own defence mechanism. They’ll use this to justify why they quit that great job they were so excited about and blame it on “the boss.”

You can help reel them back but they have to be willing.

Break it down
Take a moment to figure out their preferences, this can help you manage them differently.  I like using Myers Briggs preferences, as a concept, because it gives us some place to start. Continue reading

How Do You Recover From A Bad Boss?

Having a difficult manager can really damage your self-esteem.  It wipes away years of confidence and makes you wonder if you are good at anything.

When you are in the throes of it, you have to make a decision to stay or to go.  You may also be wondering if you can flex enough to make the relationship work.  Those are tough decisions and you may want to talk to someone that can help you think it through.

Eventually, the crisis will pass.  Either your boss moves off, you leave the company or you change departments. In some rare instances, you find a better way to work together and continue on.

Now what?  How do you get yourself back up to speed, feeling confident and able to face the new challenges?

Start with an honest evaluation of what you do well 
This is no time to be modest, clear your head of the negative comments your boss tossed out like crumbs.  You need to remember your strengths.

Picture yourself when you felt positive, sure and professional.  Hold that picture in your head. Now, ask yourself, what am I really good at?  Think about where you add value and what you bring to the business that helps.

What would your colleagues say they appreciate about your work?  Are you the one that can picture the strategy? Are you the safe pair of hands and great at delivering?  Are you the person that pulls everyone together with a rallying cry?

You have a career you’ve built one project at a time, think about the best ones and what your role was in making it happen.

Find a support system
While you are putting some balm on the bruised areas, this is a good time to reconnect with the people who have been positive and supportive in the past.  Touch base with old colleagues, your favourite boss, the friend that always says you’re clever. Continue reading

Your Conversation Can Change The Nation

The holiday season has traditionally been a time of peace and goodwill.  We’d rise above the daily hassles.  We spend time with family, see our friends and connect with our colleagues over gifts, mince pies and parties.

I hope we still do all those things, but this year feels different.

We’ve had a cultural earthquake.  First Britain cracked, then the US broke apart, now we’re seeing tremors in Europe.

It’s exposed big cracks between people that were previously united.  There are such drastic differences of opinion that we fear the other side and what they want for our shared future.

When did we stop working together as a nation?  When did we lose the ability to have a conversation, discuss our differences with respect and find a middle ground?

It feels like the middle ground fell into those giant cracks and we are all waiting to see if we stay standing or fall over.

Can you make a difference?
If there is a single belief behind my coaching and my posts, it is that we have the ability to change things. We aren’t passive riders on our life’s raft; we can decide where we want to go and steer that direction.

Change takes two things, the desire to put the effort in and a plan for how to go about it. Continue reading

Is The Meeting Culture Killing You?

“I spend my day in meetings… I have to work late to get anything done… meetings run my life.”

Does any of that sound familiar?

We don’t have enough time to do it all and meetings somehow triumph over everything else.  This is something you can change, even if your company is meeting-tastic.

 5 Tips to put time back in your day
1.  Every Monday morning look at the meetings across the whole week.  Which ones would be cancelled if you weren’t there?  Be honest and brutal, everyone would like you there but often it’s status more than input.

Keep the ones you are essential to, for the rest, think about who could go for you occasionally.  Brief them on their role, what they need to know and ask them to report back with an update.

By passing the meeting to someone else, you are allowing people in your team to gain experience and exposure within your company. It’s not shirking responsibility, it is managing responsibly.

2.  Change the length of the meetings.  Continue reading

5 Verbal Habits That Undermine You

When we spend time with people, at work or personally, we start to notice their speech habits.  Sometimes it drives us nuts, like the American that says “Awesome” when it isn’t, the teen that says “Whatever” in answer to everything or the person who throws in “I mean…” as a junction to every sentence.

I was talking to a woman who had a pleasant, although slightly confusing habit. When she was sharing her thought, she would interrupt herself to say “…and you’re right.” and continue on with her thought. I had no idea what I was right about but I felt nice.

In the last few months I’ve found myself noticing verbal habits that I’m certain are holding people back.  They are things people toss in completely unconsciously, but they deter from the image of professionalism and experience that they’d like to portray.

5 Habits to watch for
Here are 5 things I hear, that you might want to watch for in your own speech.

1.  “It’s difficult”
It would surprise you the number of people who use this as their filler while they think.  When asked a question like “What do you think he expected?” they answer “It’s difficult, maybe he thought…”

When “It’s difficult” or a version like it pops up several times in a conversation, the listener begins to doubt this person’s ability to solve problems.  The irony is they often follow it with a good answer but it is already tainted by the sense that they are finding it a struggle and would rather walk away from the issue.

If you hear yourself using the word “difficult” fairly often, try something neutral like “It’s interesting…”   that makes you sound considered and that you’re contemplating the options.

2.  “The problem is…”
Similar to the one above, when someone peppers their conversation with “The problem is, the company…”  “The problem is, Bob isn’t willing to…”  “The problem is, you can’t count on the trains…” it all sounds like you’re laying the blame. Continue reading

The Coach You Need Depends On Your Destination

When you google “Coach” you get a lot of options.  For most people, who haven’t experienced coaching, it can be a quagmire trying to figure out what you want.

If you’re looking for a turbo boost for life, career or business, here is a short explanation of the different kinds of coaches that might suit your situation.

Executive Coach – this is the kind of work I do.
Exec coaches started out in the domain of CEOs.  Senior Managers discovered that the more senior they got, the less people were willing to question, challenge or encourage them.  They looked to a coach to help them recognize how they add value, to encourage new thinking and to become aware of their blind spots.

Now exec coaches work with all levels of people, in a variety of jobs.  They focus on helping people shift their thinking, behaviour and habits in the work arena.

Coaching helps you move forward quickly, because you are setting the agenda.  You identify the area you want to change and your coach helps you move beyond the limits of your current thinking.  The goal is to gain a new perspective and discover new ways to be more effective.

Exec Coaches will help you make the most of what you’ve got.  They help you recognise your strengths and build on them in a way that stays true to you.

Their aim is to help you be happier and more effective in the job you choose.  That might mean becoming a more inspiring manager, figuring out what’s next in your career or resolving a relationship issue with a client, your boss or a team member.

We work by using the most relevant questions we can come up with. It’s the unexpected question that helps you think differently, and the big reason you can’t coach yourself.  My job is to help you see things in a new light, observe things you may take for granted and look for what hasn’t been said.

Your coaching time is an oasis to think, a precious commodity in today’s offices. It’s thinking magnified, because we will both be completely focused on how to approach this area differently.

Normally, coaching has a limited number of sessions, I prefer 4-6.  These are usually one and a half to two hours and are spaced out with a few weeks in between so you can try out your new thinking.

The results come quickly, are usually noticed by your boss and can make a big difference.

Business Coaches – these are consultants who use their experience to help resolve problems and improve your business, rather than yourself. Continue reading

1943 Guide To Hiring Women – What’s Changed?

guide to hire
Kevin Roberts, the Chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi, unexpectedly unleased an avalanche with his comments on gender equality in the ad industry. It cost him his job.

Now, the news is filled with industry figures and advocates offering their comments on how to get and keep women in the agency world.

I came across this “list of helpful tips” on hiring women from 1943.  Let’s see what we can make of them today.

Quick caveat – I’m the first to admit these thoughts need to apply to all staff, in all their variations, but I’m aiming them at women because that’s the door Kevin Robert’s opened.

July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine on how to hire women during WWII.
Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:

1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2016- If you pick young married women, then hang on to them as they have a family.  Don’t let great talent slip away because they’d like a little more support and flexibility when they have kids.  This is the connected age, find ways to make working flexible.  Companies can accommodate the occasional sick child or school play.  We don’t need conventional hours and daily face time in the office as a measuring stick for good work and commitment. Continue reading

Brexit-Adjust Your Sails For The Winds Of Change

There is no getting away from it.  The Leave vote took us all by surprise, even the people who voted for it.

There has certainly been drama to accompany it; lots of hand wringing, political manoeuvring and a massive desire to find someone to blame.

There’s been a focus on the differences in the voters and their attitudes – stereotyping them into urban and global versus patriotic and community minded (that’s the nice version, some of the name calling has been nasty.)

The rehash, London protests and so called experts saying we don’t have to leave, isn’t helping anyone.

It just highlights that the Remain group have the attitude “You are different from me so you are a threat.”  This is the same attitude that drove the Leave camp to want to pull out of Europe

I voted to remain because, selfishly, I am worried about the toll this will take on my small business.  But now, it is time to put the values we espouse into action.

This is bigger than any individual, bigger than my job.  If I fight to protect what I’ve got, at the expense of everyone else, then how am I any different from the people who felt threated by the free movement of Europeans into our job market and our culture?

Some of the best advice I’ve been given is that your sphere of worry should be equal to your sphere of influence.  It’s time to regroup and think about what we can influence. Continue reading

Overwhelmed? Build Your Mental Muscles

We live in a full throttle, reactionary world.  Chaotic cities, a demanding job and trying to balance work with the rest of your life, means sometimes it feels overwhelming.  You need to be mentally strong and that takes work.

We all recognise we need to do some exercise to be physically strong.  We can’t count on occasionally taking the stairs and some weekend sport to be enough to build our strength; we have to work at it regularly.

It is the same with your mental strength.  If you want to feel in control, optimistic and resilient for what life throws at you, you have to do some mental exercise regularly.

The good news is you are already busy thinking.  Reshaping what you’re thinking about will get you in to good shape.

What saps your mental strength?
There are things that research has identified as Twisted Thinking.  These are the things that are NOT helping you.  In fact, they suck out the joy and use all your mental strength with no benefit.  Here are a few:

Mental Filter – Singling out the negative comments and dismissing the positive ones

Catastrophizing – Blowing things out of proportion and imagining the worst

Should Statements – Using critical words about what we think we ought to do differently.

Here is a link that outlines Twisted Thinking, from David Burns Feel Good Handbook. It also talks about how you can overcome those thoughts.

My 6 exercises to build mental strength
Put some of your thinking time, especially that down time when you are driving, taking a shower or watering the plants, to building strong mental muscles.

1. Know what you want, not what others want for you or from you 
Take time to think about what you want from a situation.  When you have clarity, you will be more likely to get it and much less likely to feel annoyed or taken advantage of. Continue reading

Staying “The Adult” At Work

Have you ever been maneuvered  into the “child role” at work?

You know the feeling, someone takes a strong or demanding stand with you and boom – you’re tricked into acting like a kid.

That might mean you try hard to please them, even though you know it’s not your job and they are making an unreasonable request.  Or you take the rebellious teen role and start arguing adamantly, a little out of proportion to the situation.  So what happened?

First, know that you aren’t alone.  I was chatting with a new client, a well-spoken woman with a lot of experience.  She explained the anxiety a senior colleague was causing her.  This person would spring meetings on my client and insist she attend, the colleague had asked to be cc’d on her correspondence and requested a weekly meeting to see what my client had been up to.

The colleague wasn’t my client’s boss. Continue reading

Managing Your Manager

A lot of us think our manager could do better.

I know this because I get to peek behind the curtain. Coaching gives people a place to talk about the things they can’t say to their boss.

This is what I’ve been hearing, does it sound familiar?

What I wish my manager understood
1.  I want you to ask what I’m interested in and where I think I’m heading.  Don’t just toss objectives at me at appraisal time. Continue reading

Content versus Advertising

I was talking to a friend recently who said “while agencies are trying to define and discuss content, consumers are just getting on with it.”

She’s a Creative Director, one smart cookie and she is trying to change that.

The reality is, as consumers we don’t care what it’s called.  If we are entertained, if the message feels relevant and interesting to us, we don’t care how it’s packaged and we don’t even mind some branding.

Here’s a great example in Jimmy’s Iced Coffee.  Jimmy founded the company, then went on to make his own video to promote it.

He said in an interview “It’s really rare for a product or service to have the owner as the frontman or heart of the marketing push, and it’s actually a really useful asset.  All of our communications come from myself – it’s not some agency doing its best to sound like a made-up person.”

The ad is simple, the message is clear and entertaining.  Is it a music video?  Is it an ad?  Is it content? Who cares?  It’s fun.

Use Your Imagination To Improve Your Life

I have worked with people that have the word “Creative” in their job title for most of my career.  They’ve taught me a lot.

I recognize patterns that they have trained themselves to do daily, which most of us could use.

It starts with a little respect for their own imagination.  Most people who are paid to think creatively appreciate that they need to allow some time and space to engage their imagination.   They don’t assume they will come up with the goods while standing on a crowded train, listening to other people’s head phone rumbles and being jostled around.

They also recognize that this is a discipline and not something you can try once and have the best result.  You have to train your brain to allow it to imagine, visualise and fill in the detail of a new idea.

The good part is that we all have an imagination, we can all visualize something new, if we give ourselves the chance.

Why Visualization is so great
Think of your imagination as an amazing cog that syncs perfectly with your subconscious. Continue reading

Images Aren’t Ads – Make It Do The Job

A stunning image is not the same thing as an ad.  One is art.

The other is supposed to inform, motivate and perhaps encourage you to purchase  or do something.

I have noticed that some creatives confuse the two and it is just a waste of the client’s money.

Equinox, Wieden + Kennedy, NY
Equinox Wieden + Kennedy New York

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for subtle messages, but what is Equinox and why should I care?  There is no message at all here.

There are a lot of clever print ads that make you think or make you laugh.  In every case, the good ones leave you with a slightly better understanding of what that brand wants you to know.

These ads don’t do their job.  I don’t understand what they want me from me. Continue reading

Is Confidence What You Need For A Better Future?

I love a good historical drama, I’m a sucker for anything that gives us a peek into the way life used to be.

It seems to me, in the Victorian era, that your Character was your most valuable asset.  Your word, your handshake, whether you honoured your agreements and paid your debts, was openly discussed in society.

Were you honourable?  That was the first question someone asked before they would do business with you or allow you to accompany their daughter.

In one drama a man had written someone a check and it bounced because of insufficient funds, that was enough to make him a social outcast. Imagine the implications if that were true of today’s banking.

From Character to Confidence
At some point, we shifted our values and decided that being honourable, “your character”, was not as important as being confident.

Now we’re in pursuit of this great attribute.  She looked confident, he presented to the Board with confidence, I want my child to feel self-confident, this elusive thing is what people strive for.

It doesn’t matter if a project isn’t well researched, doesn’t appear sustainable or carries hidden risk – if it is presented with enough confidence people will buy in.

We’ve stopped questioning and valuing that person’s character.  Donald Trump seems to personify this – he is supremely confident and people are attracted to that, do they think he’s honourable – I’m not so sure.

Where will Confidence lead us?
Confidence is important – please don’t get me wrong.  I do a lot of coaching to help people find their confidence.  It allows you to be heard when you have an opinion.  It helps you push away anxiety and try something new. Continue reading

The New Men’s Ads – Confidence over Cocky

In the UK, Lynx is known for its spray on sex appeal.  In all its ads an average guy gives himself a spray, girls get a whiff and are drawn to him like a magnet.  The guy does nothing but show up, the girls instantly forget their good sense and their panties.

They aren’t the only ones that capitalized on men being cocky without much substance.  Many brands used that image of young men out for themselves, doing their own thing, with a devil may care attitude for everyone else.

So what changed?
It would appear that there’s some new strategy, it looks like brands are doing their homework.  In this age of analytics there’s plenty of data – you’ve got every opportunity to understand your consumer.

It seems that young men aren’t the strutting, boasting sex magnets they’re portrayed as.   Some have a few insecurities .

Lynx has decided to act on that.  So have Levis and Heineken.

What I love is that they’ve been true to their brand personalities, still confident and stylish, but now the message is better. Continue reading

Your Sphere Of Influence

When I was working in advertising I took one of my clients, a marketing manager at M&M/Mars, out to lunch.

You’d think selling chocolate would be a sweet job but there is a lot of pressure. They have to keep the favourites top of mind, battle for space on the shelves, make the finances work and then develop and launch new things to entice us to try something different.

I admired this manager because he seemed to take everything in his stride.  He didn’t show the obvious stress I saw in others.

He was easy to work with and considered his answers.  He made good decisions that he could explain to us.  His team were helpful and they laughed a lot, making me think they enjoyed working with him.

So back to the lunch, I asked what helped keep him grounded and his answer has stuck with me.  He said he was told, early in his career, that his sphere of worry shouldn’t exceed his sphere of influence.   He said he used that to keep things in perspective. Continue reading

Kick The Habit

As January is the time to kick a few habits, I thought we’d have a look at some old fashioned cigarette ads.  You remember – the glamour, the sex appeal.

Here are two from the 1960’s, portraying the life you aspired to emulate as you smoked.  Back then the cigarette brand you chose said a lot about you, as you flashed your pack to the world.

Kool – Lady be cool

Marlboro Country

Cigarette ads, in their hay day, hoped to lure you to their brand with the imagery they carried.  You could be transported from cleaning your kitchen with just a flick of your Bic, and you’d become an elegant Virginia Slims woman – “You’ve come a long way baby…”

How they’ve changed
What a long way the advertising has come, to market today’s E-cigarettes.

Here are two commercials of the 2015 variety – one is focused totally on tech without a smoker in sight.  And the other, if this is the “glamour” they’re using to entice women into Blu, it’s just cringy, especially that reference to her “special someone.”

E-Lites Curv

Blu E-Cigarettes

It’s definitely time to kick that habit.

Do you have a favourite cigarette story? Jot it in the comments below.

A Merrier Than Usual Christmas

I want to wish you a holiday full of fun, laughter and a very special Christmas.

I hope you enjoy it just a little more this year, more than you ever have before.  I’ve realized joy is where we find our strength.

These last months have seen our news filled with acts of ignorance and hate.  That’s created a big cloud of fear.  You have a choice about whether you live under that cloud.

We’ve also seen courage, compassion, resilience, tenacity and hope.  Each of us has those in us and together we build on them.

I’ve been inspired, and a bit awe struck, by people’s desire to push back against the horrors and live their lives vibrantly and wholeheartedly.

They’ve shown us that we can deny the fear mongers their pleasure, by using happiness, enjoyment and celebration to express our defiance.

My hope for you this Christmas is that you find your strength, defy the fear and rejoice in the things you appreciate in your life.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


PS: Quick Christmas ideas
If you are still looking for Christmas gifts or a place to celebrate, here are two ideas from people who embody both an exuberance for life and a joy in creativity.

Try something new with London Drawing:  They have gift certificates available.  Their classes range from absolute beginners to life drawing experiences in amazing locations.

Experience a glamorous night at The London Cabaret Club:  A glorious show, great food, dance, music and cabaret acts.  You can even flash your own fancy moves on the dance floor.  This elegant new Cabaret has launched with a bang – celebrate with them this Christmas or as a gift for next year.