JamBerry Ltd

Tuesday 30 September 2014

7 Ways to Start a Story...

Storytelling in business has really taken off in the last few years, but whilst we may understand the need to tell a story knowing how to start it can sometimes be a bit trickier. So here are a few tips on ways to start a story:

1.       Imagine…

Probably one of the most evocative ways to get someone’s attention is to get their imagination working.  Imagine... works really well if you want to tell a “visionary” story, taking people to a place that perhaps they haven’t explored before. And depending on the follow up words you can take them to a wide variety of places and times. Imagine if… Imagine when… And then to make the story really powerful you need to show the audience the link between their leap of imagination and the reality of where they are now. So for example, imagine there was a new fuel to run cars on – and then show them a picture of a prototype and a path to take it from now to the future.

2.       I remember when…

This opening invites the audience to look at where they have come from and how much has changed (hopefully for the better). This a great way to remind people of the obstacles that they have already overcome and the put things into perspective. Sometimes people need reminding that they are making progress.

3.       I was walking down the street the other day…

You were in the middle of doing something ordinary when something extraordinary happened. It happens to people all the time, they are getting on with their lives when something happens that changes, interrupts and generally makes an impact. This can be a great starter for a story which is about a journey or about getting from where you are and going to where you want to be.

4.       It is a universal truth…

Starting with a provocative or unusual statement which makes the listener stops and think. They may or may not agree with your statement, but either way they will be tuned in to what you say next.

5.       Life is like a box of chocolates…

Here we have both a quote and a metaphor. Quotes are great (but don’t over use them). Metaphors are a way of getting people to think sideways and open up their thinking to the story you are going to tell them. They can help provide some distance between the same old thinking and a new approach.

6.       I get really mad when…

This starts with an emotion – an emotion you would like to draw your audience into. This is an invitation to get mad, to get excited, to get involved. It draws people in to what you are about to say next, particularly when delivered with passion.

7.       We are at the beginning of the end…

Paradoxes, where a statement seemingly contradicts itself are a way to show how two different contradictory thoughts can be held at the same time. In doing so they help change perspective and help open up our minds to alternative options.

The start of a story does not have to be “Once upon a time...” There are lots of alternatives. How does your story start?

See also Using stories in business (part 1)

Friday 8 August 2014

Three Types of Learning

Learning usually takes place in one of 3 different of timescales:

Just too late: Learning after the event – not the best option as you are always playing catch up and can be downright dangerous! In Health and Safety for example, just too late was too late to stop the factory burning down.

Just in time: Quick, bite sized learning where you have access to it when you need it. Characterised by short videos that show you HOW TO: eg repair something, improve your interview skills before the event, deal with giving feedback to a colleague, or even how to use a fire extinguisher.

Just in case: Learning in advance skills that take time to master. For example: leadership skills are not something that you can learn over night as they consist of many parts. Some skills take practice such as Presentation Skills and often benefit from having a coach or someone to “hold your hand” during the learning process. Even with H&S learning how to have the right culture and signage prevents accidents from happening.

What sort of learning takes place in your organisation?

Wednesday 5 February 2014

A Good Listener is Like a Good Dancer

Remember Aunty Rose who doesn’t stop talking? Or Uncle Jack who loves to tell funny stories? How many times have you heard the story about….?
A Good Listener is Like a Good Dancer

A good dancer works with their partner, making the moves seem seamless. It is a skill that takes time to develop as anyone who has watched Strictly Come Dancing will know.
Active listening is also skill which takes time and effort to develop. It is not passive and takes commitment from the listener. Active listing shows that you value what the other person has to say and can encourage other people to talk.
Active listeners have freed their minds and made a commitment to absorb what the other person has to say so that they can respond appropriately. They do not make assumptions about what the other person is going to say – and therefore allow them to finish their sentence.

Active listeners:
·         Show interest
·         Request information
·         Obtain understanding

Here are the five rules to active listening

·         Pay attention.

o    Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that what is not said also speaks loudly.

o    Look at the speaker directly.

o    Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!

o    Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.

o    “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.

o    Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting.

·         Show that you are listening.

o    Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

o    Nod occasionally.

o    Smile and use other facial expressions.

o    Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.

o    Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.

·         Provide feedback.

o    Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.

o    Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back.

o    Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?”

o    Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.

·         Defer judgment.

o    Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.

o    Allow the speaker to finish.

o    Don’t interrupt with counter arguments.

·         Respond Appropriately.

o    Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.

o    Be candid, open, and honest in your response.

o    Assert your opinions respectfully.

o    Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.

Active listening is just one aspect of good communication skills. The more you practice the better you will get at it.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Three Sources of Conflict

In my experience working with organisations there are three factors behind most organisational conflicts:

1. Differences in behaviour and communication styles

2. Differences in priorities and values

3. Workplace conditions, including poor communications from leaders

Some personalities just seem to clash. It's important to determine why two people rub each other the wrong way. Do they have opposing behavioural styles?

For example, an extrovert who is open and expressive could view an introvert as hard to read and perhaps untrustworthy. Likewise, a time-conscious, highly organised employee may harshly judge a spontaneous colleague. Someone who is highly analytical and precise might view an intuitive person as impulsive and flaky.

Teaching team members to understand basic human differences can help them overcome tendencies to judge and make assumptions. They can learn to accept coworkers’ differences. Consider using any of the commonly accepted assessment tools, such as PRISM or Belbin.

Workshops provide another option. An extrovert can learn to ask questions to draw out an introvert. The highly organized team member can learn to set more realistic deadlines.

Understanding personality differences can help prevent clashes and conflicts before they become ongoing problems.

I offer several options for learning about personalities in the workplace to help deal with differences and conflicts.

Expectations and Assumptions

People have different needs, values, beliefs, assumptions and cultural frameworks. Our expectations are fed by past experiences. If you erroneously assume that others are essentially mirror images, your lack of clarity can create strife.

Leaders and teams must explore others’ expectations, assumptions, underlying values and priorities. This can be accomplished in group or individual sessions, led by a manager or coach.

When there is an elevated degree of conflict, it's wise to retain a professional who is trained in interpersonal skills and mediation.

Behind every complaint is an underlying value that goes unsatisfied. Asking questions like “What’s really important here?” often allows people to uncover competing values and priorities. You will facilitate more authentic conversations when you ask the right questions.

What do you think about these ideas? What do you see as a major source of conflict in your organisation?

Thursday 6 June 2013

7 Things to Consider to Ensure your #TeamBuilding Event Hits the Spot

Are you planning a TeamBuilding event? If you are here are some of the things you need to think about.

1.       What do you want to achieve? When arranging an event it is important to ensure that you are clear about your aims and objectives for the event. Is it an event where you want the team to get to know each other better and have some fun? Is that your sole objective? Or do you want something more? If it is something more what are the desired outcomes you have for the event?  And how are you going to measure if the event has been successful?  All of these are questions you need to ask before you can decide on the type of event that you are going to arrange. If you are not sure, talk it through with your facilitator and event organiser to help you to clarify the intentions.
2.       How long have you got available? Realistically there is only so much you can achieve in an afternoon or even a full day. So don’t set your ambitions too high, but make sure they are realistic and practical. Remember that if you are not holding an event onsite (which is always the best option) you may need to allow travel time. In fact, why not make the travel part of the day and book a coach or mini bus to pick everyone up?
3.       Budget. Whilst money may not be your main concern, everyone wants to feel that they have got value for money. When organising your event, make sure your event organiser has a realistic understanding about your budget and be prepared to discuss it with them. Good professional organisers will not try and sell you something you can’t afford and will help you to maximise your budget to get the best possible event.
4.       Number of people. The number of people you have coming to the event can make a big difference to what works and what doesn’t. Make sure that your event is suitable for the size of your group
5.       How adventurous are your team? There are vast number of different types of team building events available now, so you don’t need to run outdoor activities if indoor ones are more suited to your team, or the weather! Climbing mountains maybe the right answer for some, but not all. And indoor events need to be equally carefully considered. Whilst some people love music and drama others may prefer cooking or painting. Remember that it is not always possible to please everyone in the group, but a general consensus is helpful. Always bear in mind however, that any experience outside the norm may make some people uncomfortable – after all that is how we learn and grow as people.
6.       Choose professional facilitation. A professional facilitator will not only ensure that the day runs as smoothly as possible, but will also add to the experience by bring his/her knowledge to the event. Good team events include good set-up and de-briefing by a professional facilitator. If you are not sure who to choose ask for recommendations from others.
7.       Follow up after the event. Make sure that you and your team take on any learning points from the day and start to work them into your daily routine wherever possible. This might be a different way of working together or recognition of someone’s skills that were not appreciated before. Whatever it is, make sure that the team event is part of an on going process in your organisation. Not a one off jolly!

Team events should be productive, energetic and fun. Make sure yours gets your team fired up and enthusiastic!

Monday 25 February 2013

Why do teams get stuck?

If your team is struggling or seems to have got stuck, it may be for one of the following reasons.

1.    Inappropriate Leadership. Lack of structure or clear leadership can lead to a team becoming  dysfunctional and/or resistant. This in turn can lead to a high turnover of staff and without intervention disbandment of the team as being non -performing.
2.     Unqualified team members. Teams need to both have the appropriate technical skills as well as a balance to the necessary roles. If team members are lacking in basic skills, they need to have the appropriate training or be moved on.
3.     Unconstructive Climate An effective team needs to have an open climate that bridges differences and encourages individuals. If team members become defensive or secretive the team will struggle to thrive. Important issues must be openly discussed and resolutions found wherever possible.
4.     Projection and scapegoating  where the teams problems are being caused by "external influences". By making others part of the problem the team is adopting a "it wasn't me" attitude.
5.    Dominance of one or more personality/ behaviour types. It is not uncommon for the leader of a team to recruit "someone like them" or "someone who fits in" who consequently adds to the teams skills and strengths in a particular area, but does not necessarily address any gaps the team may have. Lopsided teams can often find it difficult to move forward.
6.    Teams , like the people within them, have a sense of self-esteem. Low self esteem can be a result of many things but might include: lack of drive, lack of recognition, lack of pride in their work. If their perception is  one of low self esteem, they will find it difficult to develop and move forward.
7.    Low creativity. Teams that are allowed to explore their creativity are more flexible in their approach and quicker to solve problems than those that are asked to deliver things in a fixed and rigid way. There is a difference between setting and measuring standards for particular tasks and preventing any creativity in achieving them. Harnessing creativity requires a level of risk and clear risk assessment should go hand in hand with the creative process.



Friday 18 January 2013

Training trends 2013

Whilst over the past few years organisations have been sitting on their budgets and rationing training more heavily than usual, the trend for 2013 seems to be that new spending is on its way. Training (and marketing) your way out of a recession has often been quoted as the way forward and as new shoots of growth begin the appear, this can be expected to rapidly take off.

But the recession has changed the training world. Here are 5 trends that we expect to see more of in 2013.

Trend #1. No longer is it as common to have a class full of participants who have been sent because "it might be useful". Far more is the trend towards personalised learning using a wide range of resources, from classroom based training to on-line and on-mobile resources.  In fact, a training manager is now far more a resource manager providing knowledge based learning opportunities. Their role is to find and disseminate learning opportunities and reinforce learning to ensure it is embedded in the organisation.

Trend #2. Senior executives are taking more interest and applying more influence in the learning requirements. The potential impact of learning on project outcomes is being seen as critical as organisations move forward. Learning initiatives are about increasing the productivity and effectiveness of the organisation.

Trend #3. Another trend has been the rise of the knowledge repositories. Using social media, such as closed and open groups on Facebook and Ning, members of the organisation can share information with their colleagues. Whilst file sharing has been around for years, opportunities for sharing content have become much easier and more widespread. Content creators and curators will become far more important as they collate and collect libraries of information for use in the future.

Trend #4. All things video are set to dominate over the next few years. Video traffic reached 51% of online activity in 2010 and is set to climb to 70-80% by the end of 2013. And with the growth of smart phones and tablets enabling us to watch video anywhere and everywhere it has to be the key trend of the year.

Trend #5. And finally, we are seeing the rise of virtual online video based training. Products such as Livestream, which allow you to join and watch live events are becoming all the rage.

So where will your learning take you in 2013?