How to Communicate

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “how to”-style article and I thought it might be helpful to have a quick look at some tools that can help with one of the most challenging part of anyone’s job. The title is of course tongue in cheek but there are small things we can do that will make a transformative difference. Things no one told Phil Davison in the video above. Don’t be Phil.

It’s funny, as sophisticated communication is the one gift humans have that surges us far beyond all other intelligent life; yet it is the cause of so much confusion and uncertainty in both our professional and personal lives.

As an actor, I love communication. Like anyone, I don’t always get it right but when I was 17, performing in a Shakespeare lead for the first time at school, I discovered that the relationship between me and the audience was one I inherently understood. I felt powerful in that space. I had found where I belonged. My journey to Coach has been a long and winding one (politics degree, actor training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, professional actor, professional theatre director, coach, business leader) and I am passionate about sharing the thrill I felt as that 17 year old with others. I hope I can help them, if not love the dynamic created when speaking to an audience, to at least approach it without fear or trepidation.

So here are 10 perspectives on successful communication. Where I’ve italicised I am referring to a skill or technique to implement.

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Movement or progress?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about longevity – its impact on the modern workplace, our leaders, our health. All thoughts prompted by a great book called The 100 Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

And it’s funny how, as I’ve allowed this particular thread to lead me hither and thither, I’m increasingly struck by the sense that this brave new world perhaps isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I embrace my inner “grumpy old man” a little to easily, but bear with me.

Well being or being well?

As someone who works in learning, I’m very aware of our propensity, as learning professionals, to be taken in by the latest “shiny” thing, and I think it’s fair to say that wellbeing, mental health awareness, mindfulness and resiliance training are the sparkly new kids on the block…

And whilst I’m unconvinced by the claimed benefits of these “interventions”(which, by the way, is something only the UN should do) there’s a serious question to be asked about why, it would seem, people are so unhappy? According to the Trading Economics website, the average weekly hours worked in the UK are 32 – so we aren’t working ourselves into an early grave – and whilst we’re being sombre, the suicide rate is at its lowest for 30 years according to the Samaritans.

Yet, all I hear is how stressed people are, how much they have to do and how little time they have to do it in.  So, clearly, there’s a disconnect somewhere. The key question being – where? Which made me wonder if our problem is one of quantity over quality?

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Leader: A Master in resolving conflicts

Have you ever heard or met “a Master in resolving conflicts”? No. Well, you might be one yourself.

We are all Master of something

Like in every other aspect in life we can become experts in any field, by doing something right for a long time, changing your wrongs into rights to a point where you can give advice, create awareness, provide recommendations, or even give instructions on subjects that we master.

When it comes to conflicts, especially in the working environment, a leader should not become a Master in resolving those conflicts but rather a Master in avoiding, stopping, reducing the possibilities for such conflicts to occur.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, they will always be conflicts but in the same way a leader is prepared to resolve them his concern should be creating a team environment where conflicts are less.

I had leaders who created conflicts and that is even worse. They say it allowed different ideas to be known and keeps team on their feet. In my opinion that could not be further away from the truth, such leaders are only creating several momentums that will unavoidable end up in good valuable members of the team to leave and restrain new eligible ones to join.

A serious disagreement or argument if not handled on time, can linger to the point that it blocks creativity, participation and obviously there goes teamwork through the window. For me the biggest and most important part of resolving any conflict is not in how good communicator you are as how great listener you are.

When you really listen others is when the magic starts. The conflict might not be generated by what is being said but by what is not being said and in that case, if you are not paying attention you will always face the same issue no matter how well you think you handled it.

Listening will also allow you to find the root cause and eliminate it once and for all making you a real Master in resolving conflicts.

Viva la revolution!

The last time I blogged, I introduced you to “The 100 Year Life” a fantastic book, introducing a brave new world of longevity. Its theme being, that today’s youth can expect to live beyond 100 years of age – the key word there being expect – which in turn means our current three stage model of education, work, retire, is outdated.

The aim of my last missive was to ask how this impacts on our current leaders and what they need to do in order to flex their style and fit this new world order, focusing on an increase in empathy, the introduction of “strategic altruism” and the application of “beginners mind” to their thinking – if you missed it here’s a link.

But what about those who find themselves at the beginning of this journey? Can you imagine being an 18 year old faced with the prospect of living for another 80+ years? How do you even begin to think about planning to prepare for that?

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A High Tide

One of the greatest things about working in learning is the boundless curiosity of those around you; unfortunately it can also be one of the worst things about our profession too. We are, far too often, enamoured with the latest shiny thing and, as such, open to the accusation that we’re “fluffy” rather than commercial.

Yet our role in business is simple: to make it better. Our job is to improve the quality of our people and make the organisation better at what it does. As Sergei would say “simples”…

So why do we often get it so wrong?

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Reining in the horses


In Biblical terms, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse were Pestilence, Famine, War and Death.  An American psychologist, Dr John Gottman, who researches divorce and its causation, identifies four new horse riders that he names Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling. The adverse impact of these behaviours apply in organisational leadership just as much as marital relationships.

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Trains – going nowhere, slowly

It is the day of the 10th anniversary of the WOW! Awards gala at the Tower of London.  I thought it would salve my anger to write about the train “service” my local train operating company, Greater Anglia, “provides”.  As a  corporate entity it has about as much chance of winning an award as a chocolate remaining in a solid state in a furnace.

Today also saw the annual announcement of the increase in rail fares, 3.1% in January 2019.

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Leadership Interview: Martin Garcia ‘Believe in the Potential’

Martin Garcia

Martin says every coach should believe in the potential of their coachees. I worked with him on the Coaching Master Class programme in Maersk Line PRN Qingdao North China in 2012 where he was head of HR. ‘Coaching for Potential’ is one of the workshops I run as part of this programme. Martin worked very hard at the time to create a culture of constructive feedback and coaching among his peers in the management team. In this article Martin draws on his professional experience to help us see why it is so important for a coach to believe in the potential of people.

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Awards – which ones matter?

There are a great many awards schemes that businesses and organisations can enter nowadays.  But which ones are worth winning?  My experience as a judge highlights two schemes that are genuine and represent a true accolade of excellence.

What does success in these awards say about the organisation, its leadership and the team and/or individual who has won?  And what should critics of business and our public sector organisations take heed of?

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