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Back to work – shiny shoes, sharpened pencils and a raised eyebrow

Among people’s concerns about going back to the office are: • Will my work clothes fit? • Will proper shoes give me blisters? • Do I really have to shower EVERY DAY! Of course, these are trivial and amusing but let’s make no mistake, FORTO (Fear of Returning to the Office) is real. Some are dreading the commute, others an oppressive corporate culture of presenteeism. And let’s not even think about all those lockdown puppies…… Very many people, though, have experienced the limitations of remote working: • Relationships are harder to manage (whether with more senior or more junior colleagues)…

Don’t fear failure, sing it out loud

Stuart the examiner looked slightly bemused when I walked in the room for my grade 3 singing exam. All the other candidates were under 10 years old. I was way out of my comfort zone. As was Stuart when I started belting out ABBA’s Thank You For The Music! But actually, part of the reason for doing the exam was to push myself into unfamiliar territory. To experience discomfort. Because what we know to be true is that going through hardship makes us stronger, more resilient and better able to deal with difficulties in the future. Robert Glazer writes about…

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Don’t make a drama out of small talk….

The Importance of Small Talk – Act one, scene one EXT. CLAPHAM JUNCTION TRAIN STATION, PLATFORM 9, EARLY MORNING Jayne notices a poster about loneliness. It’s a cartoon image of two people sitting on a bench. In front of them, on the ground, there’s a cute bird. In a speech bubble, one person says to the other, “did you see that?”. The caption suggests that people are missing out on moments of human connection because we’re on our ‘phones all the time and therefore not noticing what’s in front of us. Jayne smiles knowingly. Act one, scene two EXT. A…

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I don’t want to talk to my daughter but I must …….

One day soon I need to have a chat with my 16 year old daughter about sex, pornography, coercion and consent. The ongoing ‘Everyone’s Invited’ issue has propelled this topic on to our family radar. As tricky conversations go, I think you’ll agree that this is up there with the most challenging. I don’t want to do it but I will because the potential consequences of avoiding it far outweigh the embarrassment we will both experience. Coincidentally, I ran a training session yesterday with 100 graduates from a global bank, and one of the areas they wanted to explore was,…

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How to speak confidently when you don’t know what you’re talking about…

By way of preparation for every training session, I ask attendees to share with me their strengths and weaknesses, as communicators. The issue which comes up time and time again is this – “I’m ok when I know the material well but I really lack confidence when I’m not so sure about the content”. This lack of confidence manifests itself in a number of ways – a hesitant tone of voice; lack of eye contact; fidgeting; a high-speed delivery and lack of pauses (lest someone should jump in to ask a question); apologetic language (especially at the beginning). And then…

PURPLE SNOW DROP
TWO MINUTES OF LIGHT – how will you use yours?

My mum was vaccinated today. It took a couple of minutes. Her life is changed. I wrote a letter on Sunday to the ICU nurses at St George’s Hospital, thanking them for their dedication and sacrifice. That took me around 120 seconds too. I put it in with the muffins I’d made for them. Since 21 December 2020 I’ve been rather obsessed with the concept of two minutes because that’s how much extra daylight we get each day. In these difficult times, this has been making me happy. But then I thought – what to do with those two minutes…

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The one about the presenter and the hilarious awards

Once upon a time there was a presenter called Jayne who was asked to front an awards ceremony for a non-profit philanthropic organisation. Because it was during the annoying time of the Covid, it had to be broadcast on the Internet. It was a small budget, small fee event and the very nice clients had never produced anything like it before so Jayne knew it was going to be exciting. It was a really busy week for Jayne but she still made lots of time for preparation, sometimes late in the evening or early in the morning. She wanted to…

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A psychiatrist’s seven steps to happiness (and confidence)

Dr Anthony Clare was a respected psychiatrist and broadcaster who fronted the Radio 4 programme ‘In the psychiatrist’s chair’, interviewing prominent people from all walks of life (still available on the BBC website). I came across his seven steps to happiness and wanted to share them because I think they’re sensible and practical and achievable. And because the first one relates directly to my work helping people to communicate with more confidence and impact. Put on a happy face. Choose to be optimistic. Make a conscious decision to express positive ideas because that can change how we feel. In a…

Stranger Danger! Misreading someone’s demeanour can be disastrous

Light bulb moments in the training room are things of joy. I had one the other day during a session of interview practice. I asked my client (let’s call her Esmerelda) a question but just as I thought she was getting going with the answer, she suddenly stopped. I was slightly thrown but gathered myself and moved on to another question. The same thing happened again and then a third time, each answer getting progressively shorter. At the end of the mock interview we analysed how it had gone, and I referred to these abrupt endings. I revealed how uneasy…

Fear and Confidence – unlikely but essential bedfellows

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an ex Olympic swimmer who competed in Seoul when she was just 14 years old.  She didn’t fulfil her potential.  When asked why, her response surprised me. “I wasn’t scared enough”. Essentially, she attributed her poor performance to a lack of fear. Perhaps because she was so young, she hadn’t appreciated the scale of the event and the enormity of the opportunity. She’d experienced little pressure and therefore failed to rise to the occasion. The issue of fear came up again on the Today programme a couple of weeks ago. Dr Pippa Grange…

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