Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
Inspiring Business North West
phone +44 (0) 161 209 3950

Webinars

I recently delivered my first webinar, something that I had previously resisted. I enjoy the face-to-face element of my work, whether it is a presentation, delivering a workshop, coaching or mentoring. I think understandably I had reservations about how I would transfer my skill of engaging others and retaining their interest without full visual contact.

When I face a challenge, my mantra is prepare, prepare, prepare! So I made sure to cover all bases.

I discovered that my first webinar would be using WebEx, so I had half a day's training from an expert, mainly focusing on the mechanics e.g. loading slides, recording the session, how to mute and unmute delegates, etc. I then had additional training on adapting my training style to suit webinars. Both of these training sessions gave me the confidence to deliver my first webinar.

At the end of the two-hour webinar, I felt euphoric! Most of the delegates participated, and I was able to gauge the needs of the group and create some interaction between them. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to delivering more webinar sessions soon.

In case you're thinking of running a webinar yourself, I thought I'd share some of the challenges I experienced:

  1. Technical Problems - Although in the introduction you do cover some technical issues, delegates can have problems that you are not in control of at their end, which impacts on their overall experience.

  2. Location - One delegate was taking part whilst sitting in a local café, which meant there was a lot of background noise when she was speaking to us.

  3. Engagement - Some delegates do not want to engage, so when you ask a question or ask them to type questions in the chat box, some are reluctant to take part.

  4. Distractions - Although you ensure that everyone is aware that you are not to be interrupted for the duration of the webinar, sometimes unexpected phone calls or someone accidentally knocking on the door can be distracting.

To avoid some of these teething problems, next time I will be less fazed if delegates have technical problems - it comes with the territory, and I can always send them some notes afterwards. In future, I will also email all of my delegates in advance and encourage them to participate, explaining that the session will work better if everyone engages. Additionally, I will suggest in the same email that delegates watch the session in a quiet environment so that they are not distracted. Lastly, I'll check that my own phone is on silent and put a 'do not disturb' sign up on my office door to remind people that I'm on air.

If you have any hints or tips that you would like to share with me on how to deliver webinars, please do get in touch.

Going Global

On 10th October 2017 in my role as a North-West Export Champion, I was invited to a joint event between the Institute of Directors and The Department of International Trade called 'An Introduction to Exporting'. It was a thought-provoking event hosted by KPMG Manchester.

It was a round table event with a variety of organisations, some already exporting successfully and some new to exporting looking for guidance. As a seasoned exporter having worked as a Learning and Development Consultant/Executive coach in 25 countries around the world, I was there to share my experience of working globally and to share some of the successes and challenges of working with diverse cultures.

The key points for discussion were:

Why should companies export?

There are myriad reasons including growing your market and increasing sales, it also allows you to reduce your reliance on the UK market. If your product or service is experiencing a downturn, being able to offer it globally means that you offset this by exporting, plus it could increase the shelf life of your product or service. I can confirm that this has been my experience of exporting. During the recession in the UK from 2008 onwards I identified clients who had an international reach and was able to win a contract which allowed me to work globally, thus keeping my business solvent during the difficult and challenging years. As someone who was born in Dominica in the Caribbean, the opportunity to see the world whilst working in a profession that I love has provided me with some amazing opportunities to build a global network of contacts.

Academic research confirms that exporting companies see the following benefits:

  • They are 11% more likely to stay in business
  • More productive and innovative than non-exporters
  • 30% increase in productivity in the first year
  • Higher profile and more credibility

I can confirm that if I had not won my international contract during the recession I would not be in business today. Being able to work abroad whilst the UK was in the doldrums allowed my company to withstand the recession and keep going. It has also given me a firm foundation in the global market with organisations offering me work in the countries where I have some experiences. For example, I have worked in Oman, Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Yemen on numerous occasions. I have also worked in Bangkok, Sarajevo and Uzbekistan. So, potential clients understand that I am versatile and have cultural awareness.

Barriers to exporting

The organisations that attended the event had quite specific barriers which they shared with us. We were also given some barriers reported to the Department for International Trade; which were finding customers, payment terms, logistics, communication and legal risks. One of the big issues is also around culture. I was very fortunate that a lot of my work was for the British Council. Part of their support for consultants who work for them involves sending you guidance prior to travelling which gives information regarding the culture and the do's and don'ts whilst working in a location. This information was invaluable in helping with dress code and language etc. If the organisation that you are working for does not supply this I would recommend the excellent services of the DTI who have 1,200 staff in over 100 overseas markets and around 400 people across UK regions, working locally with UK businesses. They can provide advice about culture, language and can also arrange meetings with potential customers on your behalf.

My lessons learned from 14 years of working globally:

Explore and immerse yourself in the culture.

I have always learnt how to say good morning, hello or welcome in the language where I am delivering training or working. This sometimes can cause amusement due to the accent, but I find everyone appreciates that you have tried. But also, it is important to dress appropriately and respect the dress code.

Learn laws and social etiquette

This is vital in order to do business that is sustainable, in some countries you have to build a relationship where there is trust, which means some face to face contact and delivering on your promises. This also includes your website, it is important that your website respects the social mores and culture of your clients. For instance, having someone with parts of their body exposed in your marketing material when selling bathroom equipment is not suitable for the Middle East.

Build your global brand by:

  • Using your unique selling point (USP) - what is different about you? What can you offer that others can't?

  • Presenting yourself and your product or service in a way that is tailored to your market.

  • Dress and speak appropriately - use humour appropriately. If unsure, leave it out rather than risking offence.

  • Know and use your social media channels. 88% of the Middle East's online population use social media daily. It is estimated that 58 million people in the Middle East use Facebook, with 6.5 million people on Twitter and 5.8 million on LinkedIn.

So, if you have not considered taking your business to a global audience, now is the time! If I can be of any help to you starting on your global journey, feel free to contact me - if I can't help you myself, I will put you in touch with Bobbie Charleston-Price, my international trade adviser.

Abraham Lincoln statue

I recently facilitated a session for a senior leadership team called 'inspirational leadership'. Part of the pre-course preparation was to identify a leader they admired and to prepare a short presentation on:

  1. Why are they an inspirational leader?
  2. What impact have they had?
  3. What is their legacy?

It was extremely interesting to listen to the different presentations and to learn about what each member of the leadership team felt that good leadership looked like.

The leaders selected were as follows:

  • Sir David Brailsford, Olympic Coaching Superstar

Brailsford once referred to himself as a conductor of an orchestra. His role as performance director of British cycling saw him recognising talent and encouraging professionals, experts and athletes to perform at their best.

His approach is a collaborative one, he speaks about creating an enjoyable environment for his athletes and rather than dictating the steps they take to success, instead he works together with them to help them on the way up.

  • Richard Branson

He was chosen because he has a sense of fun, he is not a remote leader but gets involved at all levels. He takes time to listen, is not afraid to take risks and he demonstrates respect for his employees. He gives to charity and one of his challenges is that he has had to overcome dyslexia, and he dreams big.

  • Winston Churchill

Dynamic, able to mobilise people using his great inspirational quotes. He was courageous and creative, he didn’t sugar coat the message he ‘said it as it is’.

His key skills were that he could: influence and engage, he was bold and had a unique style, he was team spirited and made powerful speeches.

  • Abraham Lincoln

Was known as honest Abe, he was not afraid of taking risks and he was a good situational leader. He could share his goal and vision, he took the blame when things went wrong, but was happy to share success. He was aware of his weaknesses.

  • Rosa Louise Parks

Was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, whom the United States congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

Rosa helped spark the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat in Montgomery.

Her strengths were: a keen sense of justice, a profound sense of conviction, integrity, she was quietly confident and she took a significant risk.

  • Emmeline Pankhurst

Was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. She was named one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. She shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back. She took drastic action to achieve her goals.

Her style was: transformational, visionary, charismatic, empathetic, goal focused and she left a strong legacy.

  • Lord Baden Powell

He was especially talented in military scouting and is best known for starting a worldwide scouting movement. He was also a prolific writer who often chose his military experiences as the subjects of his work. The legacy of Baden-Powell lies in the popularity of the scouting movement throughout the world.

Leadership Qualities

You may not agree that the leaders chosen by the senior leadership team are good examples of leaders, also certain styles of leadership used in the past are not practical for modern day, however, each leader named had a lasting impact and left a legacy.

After listening to all the presentations there are 8 lessons in leadership that are the common thread for most, if not all, of our leaders:

  1. Inspires and motivates others
  2. Displays integrity and honesty
  3. Solves problems and analyses issues
  4. Drives for results
  5. Good communicator
  6. Displays strategic perspective
  7. Develops others
  8. Innovates

I would love to know who you would have chosen as the leader you most admire and why - please contact me at olive@olivestrachan.com.

"A person without a sense of humour is like a wagon without springs, jolted by every pebble in the road." - Henry Ward Beecher

Humour in the workplace

Why I use humour in training

During my career, I have been fortunate enough to have worked for organisations who have invested in my development and sent me on many training courses. I always left home with a feeling of excitement, looking forward to meeting new people and learning something new, but often the way the training was delivered lacked humour, did not engage and I was often left wondering how soon it would be over.

The idea came to me that I could deliver factual, well researched, up to date content, but in a fun and engaging way. Hence the reason I opened my own training consultancy.

The benefits of using humour in learning

Research into neuroscience reveals that humour systematically activates the brain’s dopamine reward system.  Cognitive studies show that dopamine is important for both goal orientated motivation and long term memory. Also, research into Accelerated Learning Theory indicates that people retain information in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Humour is beneficial in the following ways:

  1. It can break the ice and enhance the enjoyment of the learner
  2. It can build a sense of community amongst delegates
  3. It can establish rapport quickly
  4. It aids knowledge retention
  5. It helps keep enthusiasm at peak levels

Dr Richard Bandler in his interview for NLP LIFE, reveals why humour is important in learning and coaching, he says, “Humour is a tool that, as far as I’m concerned, shields you from the stupidity that’s rampant on the planet”.  He goes on to say that he tries to get people to look from a different point of view, which is what humour is really about.

Possible pitfalls

Humour must be appropriate – we want to make people laugh but not to offend them. Avoid jokes around religion, race, gender or weight.  Also cruel or inappropriate comments, sarcasm and too many jokes. There must be a balance between humour and instruction so that respect for the trainer/facilitator is maintained.

Humour and culture

Nik Peachey, a trainer for the British Council wrote an article called ‘Sense of Humour’, he talks about how by understanding a person’s humour it helps to understand their culture and language. One of his ideas which resonated with me was to get students to try to translate a joke from one language to another and observe cultural nuances as often jokes can mask some negative underlying prejudices.

My experience of laughter and learning

It has been nearly 20 years since I delivered my first training programme based on my ethos of making learning engaging with humourous content. This has had a big impact on our success. Content is tailored to the needs of the learner, we encourage high participation amongst our delegates and all of this is underpinned by current research and theories.

We do live in a politically correct age, and sometimes unintentionally a word or a phrase may cause offence. If you have strong reservations then don’t do it. As a trainer/facilitator we ask for and receive feedback from our delegates, but also, we can read body language and facial expressions which tell us if we have got it wrong. Having delivered training to audiences in over 20 countries, I have built many contacts and networks who use my services because I am authentic and provide a safe environment where learning is energising, memorable and fun.

Olive Strachan with Packaging Automation

I recently received an exciting and unexpected email:

Hi Olive,

We are going to an awards dinner on 13th July because we are finalists in three categories, the whole management team are going and we would love you to join us, as you have been closely involved in our journey and our success.

This email was from Sam Ashton, Operations Director of Packaging Automation Ltd in Knutsford, who I have been working with on various projects since 2014. As a Learning and Development/HR Consultant I work for myself and we often work with organisations in various capacities. You know you have had a positive impact, but you don’t often have a chance to share in the success. It was lovely to be invited to the awards ceremony, sharing the recognition received by my clients.

The 2017 E3 Business Awards evening took place on Thursday 13th July at the Macron Stadium in Bolton. The winners were announced in front of an audience of over 500 business delegates. There were seventeen award categories. The winning companies and individuals came from organisations across the North West: from Cumbria to Cheshire, Merseyside to Manchester. It was an amazing evening with each business having the opportunity to speak on a video about why they deserve to be recognised.

We were not successful for two of the three categories, so as they announced the ‘Manufacturing Business of the Year 2017’ we sat there tense, with our hearts beating fast. Sam Ashton appeared on the screen sharing the company's many achievements with the rapt audience. This was a challenging category because the winner had to demonstrate:

  • Excellent sales performance and growth prospects
  • A strong pioneering spirit in new product development
  • Manufacturing innovation and the use of technology
  • Quality and continuous improvement
  • Investment in people
  • Evidence of staff training / mentoring

As soon as they announced Packaging Automation as the winner, our table erupted. I was invited to join the senior leadership team on the stage and we danced towards it cheering and clapping to the music. It was such a fantastic feeling. Everyone joined together their faces reflecting pride and elation. This was the culmination of all their hard work.

Packaging Automation at the 2017 E3 Business Awards

When we returned to our table with the award, both Neil and Sam Ashton spoke with pride about their staff, acknowledging that each member had impacted on the organisation’s success.

Neil paid tribute to his staff saying the following:

"I know the effort that’s gone into the last four years by everybody and these awards are not easy to win. Recognition from other industry and business leaders add to all the other positive feedback we receive and it’s great to know we’ve achieved another accolade.

"We have so much more to achieve and many more challenges ahead and with the belief we have anything is possible. We will continue our journey which can only mean more success.

"Well done everyone!"

So, what has been the impact of celebrating success?

  • Celebrating milestones does have a positive impact on employee well-being and engagement. Staff feel that they are contributing to the long-term success of the organisation.

  • It contributes to the stories and myths that will be told in the future about the organisation, e.g. 'Remember when we won that award?'

  • It motivates staff to focus on the next goal, the next award.

  • It helps build collaborative relationships - other organisations are now contacting them to ask for their advice and support.

  • It makes them an employer of choice. Success is contagious!

I feel an immense pride in working with this amazing organisation, who are leading the way in the manufacturing field.

Thank you again for allowing me to share in your successful journey.

With the start of Brexit, Theresa May and her team will have to hone their influencing and persuading skills, which after all, are the key tenets of any negotiation. In a change process or just in everyday work, leaders often come across situations where they need the support of people or groups around them.

One of the key skills of a Leader is the ability to influence others in order to get what they want. To do this effectively they need to be organised in the way they get you to think about the situation and plan their actions. Influencing is the process of gaining the support and commitment of others in achieving your goals.

Influence is about people not things – it comes to a person from another person and it develops through an awareness of what people think about that person and their ideas. What others think is partly to do with the impression a person makes, their manner and the way they speak.

Also, perceived power can give a type of influence, e.g. there is positional power – which is the power of authority or personal power – which is the power relationship building and interpersonal skills.

There are three stages to influencing:

A) Prepare the ground 

This is about building relationships and planning how to handle the situation. There are two sides to preparation, the first is about building relationships and gaining information. Effective relationships take time to develop. We need to invest in others so that they feel we can be trusted. It is also important to keep abreast of any issues which are coming up and could impact on a positive outcome.

The second part of preparing is specific to the situation. Always set yourself clear goals, it is not wise to go into an influencing situation without a clear idea of the outcomes or goals you wish to achieve.

Ask and answer the following two questions every time:

1. What do I want to be doing and feeling afterwards?

2. What do I want others to be doing and feeling afterwards?

You also need to think about how a person is likely to react to any suggestions you may make.

B) Managing the situation

During this phase, it is important to establish rapport to build confidence and trust, this is done by:

- Giving attention to the other person

- Maintaining eye contact

- Greeting people warmly

- Using people’s names

- Being aware of your body language

- Encouraging others to speak and avoid constantly interrupting them

Engaging skills

These are the behaviours which help us gain people’s interest; create empathy and common feelings about critical issues. Building trust and understanding between people includes the skills of: 

- Disclosing

- Listening

- Discovering

- Envisaging and empathising

C) Channelling skills, looking forward and concluding

When satisfactory agreement can’t be reached, highlight key points, summarise difficulties, suggest a way forward, seek reactions and agree how to proceed. It is important to summarise the agreement, decisions and actions, and check reactions and show appreciation.

9 Key Questions You Should Ask Yourself When You Are Preparing to Influence:

1. What do you want to achieve?

2. What are the range of things the other person could offer?

3. What would you be prepared to accept? (In other words, what is your fall-back position)

4. How will you approach the conversation? What tactics will you use?

5. What are the facts and figures behind the situation?

6. What objections may they come up with?

7. How will you overcome these objections?

8. When is the best time to influence?

9. Where will you influence?

If our Brexit negotiators follow a few of the hints and tips above, it should go a long way in helping to achieve a satisfactory agreement.  We wish good luck to Theresa May and her team!

Olive Strachan Resources announces their summer line-up of training programmes with a focus on inspiration and motivation.

Olive Strachan - OSR

Olive says, ‘Both of our country's leading politicians suffered from some rocky moments on the campaign trail, but it was Jeremy Corbyn who eventually smashed the polls to achieve a huge political upset. So how did he do it? The answer is, of course, knowing how to lead.’

But can you learn how to lead people? Does the ability to inspire and motivate people come naturally or is it something you can pick up? For Manchester-based entrepreneur Olive Strachan, it's definitely the latter.

For the past 18 years, Olive has been working to teach professionals how to lead, how to inspire, and how to engage their staff members at her firm, Olive Strachan Resources. She's just announced her summer training programmes and there's a clear focus on delivering the inspiration that managers need to refresh the energy of their staff over the summer months.

July will see OSR delivering training in areas including 'Influencing and Persuading Skills', 'Driving Performance', and 'The Strategic and Inspiring Leader'.

The summer months can also be a time of flux and change in workplaces across the country and that's why Olive will also be sharing her expertise in 'Diversity Inclusion & Unconscious Bias', 'Handling Difficult Situations', and 'Managing Change' towards the end of July.

From August, Olive and her team are slightly switching up their output to focus on how leaders can provide insight and inspiration to their colleagues. 'Delivery Through People', 'The Effective People Manager', and 'Effective Communicator' will all be running from OSR's Manchester office throughout August.

A full list of OSR's summer courses can be found on the OSR website.

Of course, the summer months can be a seriously busy time for some businesses and that's why OSR have announced that all their summer courses will be echoed in September and October. Even if you don't find the time to book a course in summer, there's no need to panic!

From their Manchester office, Olive Strachan Resources have worked with some huge clients including the British Council, Odeon, and CIPD, and has even broadened her horizons globally.

With courses aimed at managers, leaders, and anyone else looking to boost their intrapersonal skills, Olive has something for everyone. Perhaps Theresa May will be wishing she'd taken part in Olive's 'Influencing And Persuading Skills' course this week.

Commercial Director, Sam Ashton of Packaging Automation Ltd – a global engineering and manufacturing company says: “The effect of the OSR Employee Engagement programme has had on all the staff is truly rewarding and promising for the future.”

She adds: “The culture change is evident and everyone is more motivated, it has been an enriching experience for everyone involved.”

OSR's courses are accessible to anyone and very affordable, costing between £150 and £299 + VAT per session, and aim to exponentially increase your workforce's output, helping you to deliver real, workable solutions to every challenge you might face.

If your workplace has questions, then Olive and her team have the answers!

I have just read a report by the World Economic Forum called 'The Future of Jobs – Employment Skills and Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution'. As a Learning and Development professional, consultant and coach, part of my role is to prepare my clients for the future trends which could impact on their business, and the individuals that work in that business. This report together with the CIPD Megatrends report paints a picture of the future where changes in technology, emerging markets, the ageing population, together with a rise in robotics, mean that the jobs we hold dear may not exist in the future.  There may also be a shift in the skills required from technical expertise to interpersonal, soft skills.

The Future of Jobs report predicts that, by 2020, some of the core work-related skills will be overall social skills such as:

  • Persuasion
  • Emotional intelligence
  • The ability to teach others
  • Active listening

One of the most effective methods of preparing leaders, managers and individuals for the future is coaching. Coaching targets high performance and improvement at work, usually focusing on specific skills and goals. As an experienced coach, I see coaching particularly impacting on social interaction and confidence.

A great deal of my work involves delivering training to managers and leaders; so emotional intelligence, influencing and persuading skills are often neglected. Because of the years of austerity and ‘making do with less’, managers have had to focus on achieving goals by delivering on KPIs and aligning all efforts to the organisation's strategic objectives, ultimately ensuring that growth targets are met demonstrating return on investment (ROI). Sometimes, but not always, this can mean that the softer 'people' side of management is neglected.

Why coaching is an effective technique

  1. It focuses on improving performance and developing skills. The starting point is getting the person being coached to look objectively at all aspects of their present situation.  This includes looking at home life, personal life, friends, family etc. as often these impact on their ability to perform well at work.

  2. Personal issues may be discussed, but for business coaching, the emphasis is on performance at work. It is useful at the beginning of the relationship to use a profiling tool, which helps the coachee to better understand themselves and others. This often helps to clarify that the conflict they may be experiencing with others may be because of different personal values and beliefs.

  3. It provides people with feedback on both their strengths and their weaknesses. Working with a coach means that there can be a free and frank discussion, which helps to focus on how the person is perceived by others and their impact and presence.

  4. A good coach will work with you to achieve your goals, whether business or personal. They will sometimes hold you to account, allowing you to push out of your comfort zone to discover your true capabilities. Goals can become just written aspirations without a coach to keep you on track and provide support or challenge when necessary.

  5. The right coach can make the difference between success and failure. Coaching is a skilled activity, so it is important that the person doing the coaching has been trained to do so. Many organisations use internal coaches such as line managers - this can be a benefit or a liability depending on how committed they are to the coaching relationship. As an external coach, I am engaged specifically to coach a member of staff. Often, coaching is bolted onto a manager's job role with no training, so coaching becomes a chore that must be done.

Coaching is not the only way to develop the skills required for the future. In the Learning and Development profession, we recommend a blended learning soluton - this could include classroom, shadowing, a webinar, eBooks, etc. The possibilities are endless.

However, to achieve real behavioural change - particularly when focusing on the soft skills required to build strong relationships and influence others - I feel that at least one of the techniques used should be coaching.

To discuss your coaching requirements, please email info@olivestrachan.com or call +44 (0) 161 209 3950.

5 Reasons Why Taking a Break Increases Your Resilience

We live in turbulent and uncertain times, and right now you can’t look at Twitter, turn on the radio, or watch the news without being informed of some conflict that is either happening or about to happen somewhere in the world. As a consultant, trainer and executive coach, it is vital that I not only keep abreast of what is happening in the UK (e.g. our impending general election) but also maintain a global perspective.

I spent the entire month of March in the Caribbean, visiting the beautiful Nature Island of Dominica. This visit had two purposes: we have plans to establish a consultancy in the Caribbean, but it was also a time to reflect and enjoy a beautiful natural environment of mountains, natural hot springs and tropical rainforests.

I am now back at my desk in Manchester and feeling reinvigorated and refreshed, with a clear focus. I have returned feeling that I have prioritised my values. My break has increased my wellbeing and benefited me, my business and the people in my life - here are 5 reasons why:

 

Dominica

 

1) It allows you to replenish your energy

I recently read a factsheet from the CIPD on developing resilience in times of change. It recommended energy mapping, which involves completing tasks to boost your energy in and your energy out to boost the resilience of others. Energy sources are: Spirit, Mind, Heart, Body and Soul.

I was able to work on all of these during my month-long holiday. We rented a house in Laplaine, a rural community that's not too far from where my mum lives with my sisters and nieces and nephews. The house had Wi-Fi, but we made a conscious effort not to use our phones or watch TV; every morning we work up to the sound of a cock crowing and a friend of my mum's delivering some fresh coconut water and fruit. We would then sit with our morning coffee looking at the deep blue ocean, which was just across the road from us. There is nothing like standing on a boulder with the Atlantic Ocean roaring towards you to demonstrate how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. I was able to put business and life matters into perspective and clarify what was really important to me. 

 

2) It gives you a chance to spend time with people who care for you

In the world we live in, we sometimes feel that life is one big roller-coaster ride of activity - there are always more things to do, deadlines to meet, figures to improve upon. We are constantly being pushed to do more with less!

Make sure you spend time with people who love you and don't judge you. When you relax with friends over wholesome food in warm sunshine, your body relaxes and your sense of well-being increases. After feeling the warmth and affection of family and friends (and my mum's cooking!), I have come away renewed and feeling valued.

 

3) It allows you to connect with nature

I remember reading an article in the Guardian by Richard Louv in which he stated, "the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need". He went on to say that humans are hard-wired to love, and that we need exposure to the natural world. The same article discusses research by the University of Michigan, where researchers demonstrated that after just one hour spent interacting with nature, memory performance and attention span improved by 20%.

The delights of Dominica include visiting the Kalinago Territory. The Kalinago are the indigenous people of Dominica, and they live a simple, communal life, carrying on the many traditions of their ancestors. We spent a lovely day eating some beautifully-cooked local food and watching a carving demonstration, which was fascinating. Next came a visit to Scott's Head, a beautiful fishing village that's situated between the gentle, swaying Caribbean Sea and the scarily fierce and noisy Atlantic Ocean - all that separates them is a strip of land. We also went to Portsmouth, where we sat on the sand at Prince Rupert's Bay and swam in the warm sea while watching a beach wedding take place. We visited the amazing Trafalgar Falls, and I immersed myself in a natural sulphur bath at Wotten Waven, where the water coming from the ground and falling into the pool is as warm as a hot bath. All this while surrounded by Dominica's lush vegetation!

 

Waterfall

 

4) It inspires others

In the 18 years that I have worked for myself, I have coached many people and shared my experiences with a variety of acquaintances and friends. Since I returned from my break, many people have asked the question, 'how can you take a month off work?' But if I return refreshed, inspired, and infused with positive energy and a renewed sense of well-being, then I believe I can achieve a lot more! Sometimes, we need to take a step back to see a clearer picture.

 

5) It allows you to refocus on your goals

I am now at home, feeling gratitude for all I have but also with a clearer vision of what I need to focus on in my life - and what I need to let go of. I have made some immediate changes because, while taking the time out to reflect, I realised that some of my activities were not serving my purpose in life. Just those slight changes have already yielded positive results. As Tony Robbins says, "where focus goes, energy flows!"

 

Bath Tubs

Be sure to follow @OliveStrachan on Twitter!

Tools to Help Organisations Deal with Brexit

Every organisation will be affected in different ways by Brexit depending on their sector and specific circumstances, and Human Resources/Learning & Development have a key role to play in ensuring that employees are kept informed and reassured during this time of change and transition.

 

1. Present an unambiguous message from the top of the organisation.

This could come from the CEO or the HR function. There must be clear intent to address employee worries and concerns. It is important that this message re-focuses staff on the business, because during times of uncertainty we tend to focus on our own individual problems, which can cause conflict. For some staff, Brexit can have potentially positive outcomes - for example, some may see it as improving the organisation's competitive position, meaning more work and better job security. UK citizens working in the EU and EU nationals working in the UK - people who may be directly affected by Brexit - will need reassurance and support.

 

2. Make sure you have a strong communication strategy.

At this time, communication is key to building trust. It must be a blended communication approach encompassing:

  • A message from the CEO (which should emphasise the fact that 'we are all in this together')
  • Discussion groups
  • Employee forums
  • 'Town Hall' meetings

 

3. Make use of social media.

Social media has a strong part to play in the two-way communication process. A video message from the CEO shown across all social media platforms ensures that all employees globally receive the same message. Many organisations employ staff whose first language is not English, and a video allows these people to assimilate the message at their own pace and in their own time. Most organisations have their own equivalent of Facebook for employees, which is great for creating communities and allows staff to post comments and pose questions that are important to them. This allows for open communication at all levels of the organisation. It is important that this is monitored by HR to maintain understanding of employee needs and concerns. Another advantage of using a video is that millennials prefer videos that allow staff to listen to the tone of voice and also to see the speaker's face.

 

4. Reaffirm the values that are at the core of your organisation.

Many of the organisations we work with have 'integrity' and 'respect for others' as their core business values. Now is the time to keep staff on track - changes are happening, but you are still the same organisation and your values remain the same. Make sure that employees keep the connection and bring them together using the organisation's values as the thread that holds everyone together.

 

5. Equip line managers with the skills required to manage change.

Brexit means that line managers will have to maximise talent to help build a sustainable business. Some of the key areas that they will need to address are:

  • Inclusion & Diversity - Brexit has, in some instances, widened the cracks in society, emphasising our differences in a negative way. Now is the time to invest in Equality & Diversity training; help staff to celebrate our differences, be aware of unconscious bias, and work together to create a work environment where everyone thrives and feels included.

  • Staff Engagement - Managers need some specific skills to engage staff during these challenging times. Donald Trump's rallying cry is 'Putting America First!' During Brexit, some staff will feel threatened, and we don't always think rationally when our emotional brain kicks in. We start to think more about ourselves and less about others, which can impact on collaborative relationships at work. If we do not work well together, this ultimately impacts on team cohesion and productivity. Managers will have to work a lot harder to get a positive response from their staff.

  • Skills Development - As a HR/L&D professional, I recommend that you create your Brexit toolkit using all the hints and tips discussed above. We have found that this sets the foundations for the future and also alleviates stress, helping the organisation to get ahead of the issue. 
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