How to handle difficult people

Oh man what a thing. Nobody likes working with difficult people right?

There are however one or two tips you can use top make life a bit more bearable and hopefully change things for the better.

So look let’s start with a fact – there are some people who you are never going to get along with. Never.

So you need to accept that most people you’ll be able to get along with, some people might need a bit of work and for others (a very small number hopefully) you may need to just find coping strategies!

It’s not them it’s you!

This is a really difficult one to handle but some times the difficult person isn’t them it might be you.

I’m afraid you have to have more self awareness than the average British MP and actually look at your behaviour.

Are you doing stuff that might be insensitive, annoying, irritating?

If so then the so called ‘difficult behaviour’ may simply be someone reacting to your actions.

So stop it.

Shift your paradigm

Dontcha just love a management buzz phrase?

In real world talk this just means seeing the world from their point of view.

Try to understand their motivations, is something bothering them? Do they have personal problems? Do they feel under pressure or insecure?

I remember once I worked in an office that had a lady who was the most objectionable, moody, angry person I had come across up to that point (Brexit has changed that).

One of the managers had a chat with her and it became clear that all her anger was simply that she was spending all her hours either caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s or worrying about her mother.

All of a sudden her moods became understandable and her anger at being delayed at the end of the day by 5 minutes was natural.

Once we understood the problems she was having we were able to make changes that allowed her to be more flexible in her work hours, we could take some of the load off and we could cut her some slack.

It was a horrible situation for her but I’d like to think she knew then that we were there to help.

Speak to them

I know right?

And not just about a work thing. Take the time to have a quick chat, find some common ground.

So often we blaze through our working day just hammering out one task after another that we rarely get to know our co workers.

It’s amazing how helpful people become once they know you have a shared interest in trains, newts or Star Trek. (I love Star Trek)

5 Don’ts

Ok so there are some things that you really shouldn’t do when dealing with a ‘difficult’ person

Don’t get defensive.

For older viewers this is like the cold war arms race with one side upping the ante and then the other being forced to respond.

Don’t get angry.

I know that this is often the emotional response we all feel but you need to engage your logical brain and remember that it won’t achieve anything.

Don’t judge them

you’re in no position to judge people if you don’t know what’s going on.

Don’t criticise or belittle them to other people

This will not end well. It makes you look small and if it gets back to them then it will just make the situation worse.

Don’t demand that they play ball.

It just builds in resentment and frustration.

People have to choose to do something to make it a positive development.

5 do’s

Do Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person.

Let them know that you respect their opinion and that they matter,

Do look for what they really need.

They may be complaining or obstructive about a project you are working on but it might not be this that is upsetting them.

Do respect personal space

getting ‘up in people’s face’ might make you feel big and clever but I guarantee that you’ll regret it

Do set limits and boundaries

Yes you want to make the situation better but you shouldn’t have to put up with people swearing at you or shouting.

Let them calm down and then tell them that their behaviour wasn’t acceptable.

Do give yourself a chance to de-stress

If you have been in say a meeting with a diffcult person then take a 5 minute walk around the block or go for a coffee but just allow yourself time to get over the situation.

Then take a look at how you are going to handle it.

And the best coping strategy is…

If there is someone who you just can’t get along with and who you are forced to interact with then ask yourself

Will this matter in a year’s time?

If not then don’t worry about it. Just smile to yourself and move on.

If it will then you’ll need to speak to your manager (or their manager).

I hope these have been helpful – there some more tips on how to handle conflict here

How to handle conflict

If you’re like me then you probably hate conflict.

It’s nasty, messy and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

From a management point of view if there’s conflict in the workplace then I feel I have failed (because I probably have)

But it happens, and sometimes, despite your best intentions it can’t be avoided.

So what should you do?

It’s not conflict – it’s communication

Number one has to be to talk with the other person

So often conflict is just a matter of miscommunication.

A misunderstood email

A misunderstood intention

Speak with the person and I’d say 70% of the time it can be cleared up really quickly.

Understand the other persons’ POV

Sometimes conflict arises simply because two people have a different point of view on a particular event.

I remember a row that started because a fellow manager had moved someone’s desk.

The person involved thought they were being pushed further away from the manager because they were being ‘eased out’

The manager thought they’d like a desk closer to the window!

In this case it was important to understand why the person involved thought the company would possibly want to get rid of them.

(this is genuinely a management failure)

Find common ground

It’s important to build bridges, so discuss areas where your thoughts overlap.

You’ll probably find that actually you agree about most things but it is just a couple of points that might cause issues.

Agree on a priority list

Look at the areas of disagreement and decide which things are the most important to solve.

Agree between you what things are actually important to deal with and what things don’t matter in the cold light of day.

Apply the 12 month test – ask yourself “Will this matter in a year’s time?”

(note this isn’t the same as ignoring it, see below)

Then prioritise which things you absolutely need to get done and…

Work on a joint action plan

Agree ways in which you will make things better.

This is the tricky bit mind you.

It will involve compromise and swallowing your pride.

But you can do it, and your life will be better as a result

Remember – keep your eyes on the prize

Things not to do

Don’t interrupt

Don’t belittle their opinion or feelings

Don’t generalise (“you always do this”)

If you’ve setup a meeting to discuss the issue the DON’T cancel or rearrange

And most importantly


Things to do

Maintain a collaborative approach

Focus on the future

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying then

repeat back what you think you have heard and check that your understanding is true

Make sure you jointly celebrate successes along the way

Why bother?

Isn’t life too short to spend time arguing?

Wouldn’t things be much better if you could just get on with it?

If you are a manager then sorting this out will be to your credit

If you are managed then I can promise you’ll be more respected for the mature way you handled the situation

And one final thought.

There have been people who I have worked with that I have loathed initially but actually, after working with them in this way we have become firm friends.

Everyone can use more friends.

Is your Business Partnering not delivering? How to give it a boost

Well if you are in this situation then you are not alone.

For a number of years Business Partnering was the phrase on management’s lips.

People spent time and money assembling a team of business partners and giving them the tools to do their job, but often the results fell flat.

From the various business partnering set-ups I’ve seen over the years they tend to have the same basic issues.

Paying lip – service

If the CFO isn’t fully invested in business partnering, and if the board don’t support them then frankly you may as well go and do something else more productive.

Sure there will be one or two forward thinking managers who will love to get their numbers and have a direct line into finance but most will take their lead from the top.

If you are a CFO who hasn’t put their weight behind the initiative then you need to make a decision, and soon.

Action – get fully behind the function, get fellow board members and senior managers on side, relaunch the function.

A business partner isn’t just for Christmas (or month end)

Often the only contact the BP will have with the department they look after will be once a month (or even a quarter) when they present a bunch of numbers.

Business partnering is all about relationships.

If you have a big organisation then sitting the BP with their department is ideal, but if not then making sure there is regular contact and inclusion is vital.

The managers (and staff) need to feel comfortable asking their BP questions and feel like they have someone who actually understands the real issues they are facing.

Action – make sure that your BPs either sit with the department or are regularly meeting with them. Try and get them involved in more operational meetings rather than a regular finance update.


Garbage in – Garbage out.

A famous phrase from the early days of computing but in terms of business partnering it relates to information provision.

If your business partners can’t get quick and easy access to accurate information then they are going to quickly lose credibility with their department.

Action – BPs need the tools to do the job, so ask them what they need and sort it out.

Square pegs

Business partners have to have a combination of technical knowledge, ability to present information in a digestible way and a bit of a personality.

I once saw someone operating as a BP who was the stereotypical accountant but more so.

He was an amazing technical accountant who could quote GAAP for any given situation and was totally across the numbers.

The only problem was he really didn’t like talking to people – at all.

He was miserable as a BP and frankly ineffectual. Luckily we were working with a very big company at the time and he got moved to a place where he was much more at home and effective.

So make sure your BPs are the sort of people that thrive in this environment.

Action – assess your team and make sure that they are the right people for the job.

Give them a chance

An effective business partnering relationship won’t just spring up overnight so you need to give the situation time and space to develop.

Check back from time to time, find out if they need anything but give it time to grow and you’ll be rewarded.

Actions – monitor and assess but apart from giving encouragement just let them get on with it.

Give them a chance 2

I’ve seen many companies set up a business partnering function thinking that all they need to do is to say the words and it will magically be so.

When people get moved or promoted they need to be given training and support in their new roles otherwise it’s likely to fail.

Just because someone is good at one job doesn’t mean that they will be amazing at another without any training whatsoever.

You also need to set it up as a proper function with all of the communication and backup that this requires (see point 1).

Actions – sort out training for your new BPs, make sure they have the information and the facilities they need.


So in short, get the right people in place, give them the training and kit they need, place them in the right areas, throw your weight behind the project and then give them the time to develop and grow.

A business partnering ability within your finance team will give you much better visibility, coordination and will improve the depth of your reporting massively and make your life much easier!

What’s not to like?

Always remember to look backwards

So I’m a pretty keen photographer and one of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is to always look behind you when you are walking along.

You never know what brilliant shot you’ve just walked past because you see it from a different angle.

What on earth has that got to do with management?

One of the things I have learned to do, especially working in change and transformation is to have a method of looking backwards.

At the start of a job I will write down all the things that are wrong, the major issues, annoyances, petty frustrations.

At that point (looking forward) it looks like a massive and daunting mountain to climb.

Because there will be some hard days ahead.

Whenever you are working on any type of project there will always be difficulties ahead of you.

If nothing else there will be a two thirds slump where everyone gets demotivated and can’t see an end in sight.

This is when I bring out my little piece of paper and remind people how far they’ve come.

I remind them that although they are annoyed because they have half a million in uncollected debts, three months ago they had 3 million.

Or that the frustration they feel because it takes 30 minutes to process an auto-invoicing file is fine when you realise that it used to take two days.

Being able to look backwards, from a different angle is really useful motivation.

And at the end…

It’s always good to give your ego a bit of a stroke and show how much good you’ve done for the company.

If you’ve been working for three months or three years on a project you have deserved the chance to celebrate your success.

But you have to have the means to be able to look back.

Why not write your little piece of paper now and in a few months time have a look back and see how well you’ve done?

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Nobody cares what you say – they care what you do

Years ago I had a manager who always used to say that we’d get together every Friday to have a 1-2-1 and discuss how the week went.

We’d have a chat about what was coming up, any development opportunities for me and any issues I had that week.

Sounds great eh?

Except it never happened.

Not once.

The poor guy was really busy, so I didn’t blame him.

And you could see that he was uncomfortable in personal situations.

And there was always something that came up that was much more important than me.

So it was understandable really.


The problem was that I pretty soon learned to disregard most of what he promised to do because he was always busy

Always uncomfortable.

Always reactive.

So did the rest of the team.

People notice when you don’t live up to your promises

If you say you’ll be having a 1-2-1 on the Friday then have it.

Or don’t say it.

But don’t say you will and then don’t.

Because people value actions more than words, and if you constantly break your promises then frankly your worlds mean nothing.

I can’t believe someone thinks these are the best ways to retain staff!

So like many people I’m on a big bunch of mailing lists and one post today caught my eye for all the wrong reasons.

I won’t say which body sent it out, but it was on the subject of talent retention and two of the ways they suggested were to pay more than the competition and then tie the person into a strict study and non-compete contract.

Why is this so wrong?

Well legalities aside ( I’m pretty sure non-competes are really hard to enforce), it sends entirely the wrong message and in my opinion would probably hasten departure, not prevent it.

Paying people more doesn’t get them to stay much longer

Yes you may have to pay the market rate, or even slightly above to get great talent but here’s the problem, there’s always another company with deeper pockets.

You can bet that as soon as someone who joins you for the money gets used to their new salary you’ll either need to keep paying them more or face the prospect that they will always be looking around.

It’s a fact that we get used to our income level very quickly and it ceases to be a motivator.

Strict contract? – what is this 1950?

Sure you can get people to sign their life away on the prospect of getting a good salary and a different job title but these kind of contracts often don’t hold water.

There’s legal precedent that mitigates against these non-compete clauses or covenants but the problem here goes much deeper.

The company, by getting an employee to sign a non-compete on day 1 is actually putting the thought into their head that they will leave one day.

It’s a bit like putting a red button on someone’s desk with a sign next to it saying ‘do not press’.

All you’re going to think about is pressing that button.

It also shows a massive lack of confidence that the business can retain someone and it shows a lack of imagination as to how that could be achieved.

So what should you do?

That’s the 64,000 dollar question!

What I should say here is that I run a course on building awesome teams so if you want to know then come along to one of them.

But I’m not going to say that.

My first and probably best piece of advice would be not to go to the market with just a wad of cash in your back pocket because that’s only going to encourage mercenary behaviour.

It’s far better to find people that share the vision for your company.

Maybe you want to build the best construction company (pun intended) in the world, or perhaps you want to save the Dorset cheese industry* and start up an artisan dairy?

Whatever it is, if you want to retain staff then they need to feel that they are part of something. In other words they are with you on your journey and they belong.

Sure having a great football table, superb coffee and free parking are nice-to-haves, but they aren’t why you want to go to work in the morning.

Remember the old adage that a person who does something they love will never have to work a day in their lives.

Instead you need to build a sense of belonging, safety, a shared journey and personal growth.

Because it’s really difficult to leave a job you love and a team where everyone is like family, but it’s easy to leave behind a paycheck for another one somewhere else that has better parking.

Why not sign up for my tip of the month? It’s free and might even have some useful information in it!

*I have no idea if it needs saving

How to set up a new training programme

It’s really important that when you are looking at training for your company, whether it be technical, CPD or management training that you take a moment to think about your programme.

A programme can be produced using Instructor Led Training (ILT), online resources or any number of different methods used individually or in combination.

Before you start

So as Simon Sinek says – start with why!

Why are you thinking about workforce training?

What do you want to change as a result?

You’re better off doing a number of smaller programmes that are tightly focused rather than one. massive and unfocused one.

So for example you may have a CPD programme, A compliance programme (GDPR etc.), A management training one or a cost saving training programme.

Understanding exactly what you want to get out of it before you start makes it much more likely that you’ll have a good outcome.

Work out the resources at your disposal

Yes this means money but much more than this.

So for example are you confident that you could gather together all the senior managers to do a three day strategy course? Would you be better offering half day workshops?

Do you have facilities in-house to do this or do you need external help?

Will you have to hire a meeting room or can you do it at work?

Answering these questions guide you towards the sort of provider you need to engage.

Getting resources in

So you know what your outcome is and you know you have a budget and facilities and that you can get people together – now to find a delivery partner.

Look for specialists in the field. Very often training companies (especially the bigger ones) tend to be a bit sausage factory like.

I’d suggest speaking with 3 and asking a few salient questions.

What they do, How they deliver it, What backup they give.

Do they seem like the sort of people who can deliver but have a similar mindset to your business?

Once you are happy then contract them to deliver the parts of the programme you want them to do.

Don’t worry about asking specialists to do different parts of the programme, most decent training companies will provide what they know about and be happy to coordinate their work with other good providers.

Running the programme

Number 1, and this is based in your work right at the start, decide how you are going to measure the effectiveness of the training.

In an ideal world there will be specific and measurable differences in your business after the training but for some things, like management training you may have to go on feedback from the attendees and from their managers.

You can always work with your provider to identify suitable metrics for this.

Make sure you have planned out the sessions on a calendar and publicise in good time. Send out calendar invitations so that people have it in their diaries.

Check with your provider to see if there is any pre-work that needs to be completed and make sure it gets done.

Send out reminders a week before the event and the day before to make sure people have no excuse!

After the training

Make sure you get feedback. Both on the day from the staff but also form the trainer.

How did the day go? Any problems? Set up good?

Once a suitable amount of time has elapsed then you’ll need to track your metrics and see if the training has been effective.

After all the results are in you can use this as a basis to tweak (or completely revise) your programme for future use.

Afraid of being found out? How to cope with Impostor Syndrome

Ever had that dream where you turn up at work and you’re suddenly naked?

Weird right?

Well here’s what Dream Moods has to say about it; “With all eyes on you, you fear that some flaw will be brought to public attention. You fear that people will see through your true self and you will be exposed as a fraud or a phony”

And that pretty much sums up Impostor Syndrome (or to give it its correct title Impostor Phenomenon).

First identified by in 1978 by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes it is essentially a feeling that somehow you are about to be found out, or that people will see through you or that if you just have one more qualification then you’ll be ‘good enough’.

Typically people will be unable to take praise, somehow feeling that their achievements are not noteworthy or they are unworthy of someone’s admiration.*

If this sounds like you then you’re in good company because people like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou have also reported feeling like this

“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.  I’m really not very good.  It’s all been a big sham.” – Michelle Pfeifer

So if Michelle Obama and Tom Hanks don’t think they are good enough then you certainly aren’t right?


Now I’m not going to go into detail about the proposed causes of this but let’s just say, the things that your mind is telling you are very likely to be wrong wrong wrong.

So what can you do about it?

Here’s a few things that you can do that may well help.

First off you need to try practising accepting praise.

People are pretty miserable nowadays and so if someone tells you that you’ve done a good job then you can be pretty sure you have.

Accept the praise, feel good about it. I can promise you are not ‘getting a big head’ just because you take justifiable praise for a job well done.

It takes work but you need to keep at it.

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ “ – Maya Angelou

Secondly reframe the things your mind is telling you.

So when your brain says ‘I’m not sure I can do this’ then reframe it into ‘I know I can do this’.

Again this takes work and discipline but after all you can do this!

Third – try mentoring someone.

When you are able to impart your knowledge and experience to help someone on their way it does at least two things; it gives you a tremendous sense of satisfaction that you are doing something worthwhile and it proves in a practical and visible way that you do know what you are talking about.

Of course mentoring someone also gives a great new skill that you will be brilliant at.

Tip four – get a mentor.

This can help massively because they will be able to give you clear guidance as to what you actually need to do to improve which probably won’t be the things that you think you are awful at!

Word of warning though, make sure you get a mentor that is supportive and positive and that you feel comfortable with.

The bit where I realise I should have called this entry “12 ways to stop imposter syndrome”

Five – stop comparing yourself with A.N.Other. It makes no sense.

This is particularly important if you use Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or any other social media that shows you EDITED HIGHLIGHTS of other people’s lives.

Trust me, people haven’t got more friends, a better job, more money, a faster car than you and even if they have who cares?

Six – Write down the stuff your brain tells you.

This is like magic because when you see it on the page or screen you suddenly realise how crazy it sounds.

Seven – Give yourself the ability to be wrong.

Imagine the thing you are doing is a test, or a trial or simply a suck it and see. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t but if it’s just a test then it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong.

Eight – Turn the situation around and ask how hard you would be on someone if they did what you did or if they were anxious about what you are.

Would you give them a hard time? Would you laugh? Would you refuse to talk to them ever again?


Nine – remember this is just impostor syndrome.

Give it a name.

Then when you see it rearing its head just say to yourself ‘oh that’s just Colin being a dick. Stop being a dick Colin’.

Ten – tell people what you don’t know.

I learned this from a professor at University but the way he phrased it made me realise what a massive idiot I had been.

You see I assumed that when people said I was an expert at something I had to know everything about that particular subject.

In the middle of a lecture, where he clearly was an expert, the prof told us of a massive big black hole in his understanding of a subject and how he was really looking forward to finding out about it

Did I think any the less of him.


I was enthused by his joy of learning.

11 – Refuse to listen to negative people.

I promise, there are plenty of people out there that really only ever want to tell others how awful things are and how things are all going to be bad.

The Two Andys (Cope and Whittaker) called these people ‘mood hoovers’ and that’s the best description ever.

These people will hoover up your self belief and pride in your accomplishments.

Don’t let them.

And finally – Do something for charity.

Maybe you have some skills that would be useful, maybe you could run a course or paint their office or do their books or redesign their website.

Whatever it is we should all give something back and going and doing something valuable, for free for someone that needs it is a great way of defeating Colin.

Let me promise you that if you told me all the things you’d achieved in your life I would be amazed and think you were brilliant. You are.

Good luck.

And finally finally…

Here’s what Colin told me about this blog

No one wants to read it

No one WILL read it

They will think you are just making it up (I am)

You made a mistake in the numbering and changed format at 11

You should write more formally

You writing is boring

No one cares

No one will comment

I bet the SEO if awful (it is but I don’t care. Did you know my subheading distribution is terrible?)

Don’t tell them about the MBA they will think you are showing off

I bet you made a spelling mistake because your attention to detail is soooo bad.

*So a few years ago when I went and graduated with my MBA I convinced myself that it was no big thing, despite getting great marks, really enjoying it and putting in heaps of effort and learning loads along the way.

One of my best friends got his on the same course on the same day from the same university and I thought he was amazing.

See how illogical it is?

Made a bad decision – give yourself a break

We’ve all asked the question “now why did I do that”?

The fact of the matter is that if you make decisions then you are going to get some of them wrong

There is however a pretty big problem with this. It’s what I call the Facebook effect.

The Facebook effect

Have you ever noticed how when you go on Facebook everyone is having a much better time than you?

Everyone is better looking, doing great in their job, partying hard and have a fantastic family.

They are always out mountain biking with their friends or having a wonderful meal on the banks of the Seine.

Except they are not. In fact most people are just busy doing stuff and all you are seeing is the edited highlights.

The problem with decision making is that you are seeing the edited lowlights.

Yup that’s right. We all focus on the decision we get wrong and not on the ones we get right.

I bet if you think about the decisions you’ve made you can recall loads where you had a poor outcome.

But you can’t remember the time you made a great investment choice, or went the right way round a traffic jam or chose exactly the right clothes for that occasion.

So what are bad decisions?

People don’t generally make ‘bad’ decisions. In general we don’t choose to do a thing that will have a negative effect on us, so the first tip is to stop categorising your decisions as ‘bad’ or ‘good’.

And stop beating yourself up. Remember the Facebook effect. We ALL make choices that turn out to be negative but we do it for the right reasons.

A BAD decision as far as I am concerned is one where you make the choice based on information you know to be faulty, or make it purely on gut instinct (although sometimes you have to do this), or where you make it based on your prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Instead of feeling bad about your decisions, why not change your point of view?

View the ‘bad’ decision as a learning opportunity.

Take a look at your decision making process

Could you have got more information?

Did you give more weight to someone else’s opinion than you should?

Did you base your choice on anecdotal evidence?

Did circumstances change after you made your decision?

And the golden egg here is – Could you do it differently next time?

Here’s the key takeaway – if you make a ‘bad’ decision but it leads to you making better decisions in the future then actually it was a good decision after all!

Dealing with the finger of blame

Many years ago I was sent to a management training meeting with the top guy in our company and he told me about the ‘finger of blame’.

At the time I thought he’d invented it but as I’ve seen it all over the place since I suspect that was merely naivety on the part of a very young manager!

Put simply the theory is that when the finger of blame points outwards, three fingers point back.

This is very useful because it shows the ratio that you should use when not only apportioning blame but thinking about remedies.

So look, as far as I am concerned blaming someone else for something that has gone wrong is largely counterproductive*. In fact there’s very little (if anything) positive that can come of it.

Blaming someone else for a problem just means that you can absolve yourself of all responsibility for making sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

Blaming someone else for a problem just means that you can absolve yourself of all responsibility for making sure it doesn’t happen again

A little story

This is a true story although I’ve changed the name to protect the not so innocent.

I saw Dave in town and asked him how it was going.

“Terrible” he said, “I’ve just been flooded out at the factory and the water has destroyed loads of stock.”

“It’s all the council’s fault” he continued “they should have made the banks higher round the river”

“Oh” I said

“and British Waterways, they should have dredged the river so that it flowed faster and didn’t break its banks”

“Oh” I said

“And as for that manager of mine, Steve, he didn’t even bother to lift all the stuff off the floor. And don’t get me started on the weather forecasters, they said there wouldn’t be any more rain!”

So by the time he’d took a breath he’d blamed Steve, BBC Weather, British Waterways and his local council. It certainly did sound like everyone was against him.

I tried to find a positive “At least you’ll have the insurance money to fall back on” I said.

“Oh I don’t believe in insurance” said Dave.

Taking something positive

So Dave was in a really bad position.

Now he COULD have made alterations to the building he was in to avoid being flooded.

or he could have asked Steve to raise the stock off the floor or he could even have insured his business but none of that would help now.

The only positive thing that Dave could take from this situation is to learn something.

But whilst he was blaming everyone else he wasn’t thinking about how he could do things differently in the future. So he wasn’t learning.

And the whole situation was negative.

So what should you do?

Whenever something bad happens you should resist the temptation to blame anyone else.

I know it’s hard, we all struggle with this but you need to get something positive out of your very own flood.

The technique I use is to simply ask myself “What could I have done differently that would have affected the outcome”?

Caveat here: you can’t always predict or avoid bad things happening. Sometimes you have to give yourself a break.

Bad things happen to everyone and you’ll never be able to avoid them.

So next time something bad happens to you, resist temptation and just ask yourself what you could have done differently and get something positive out of a bad situation.

*So here’s some of the bad things that happen when you blame someone else; They get defensive, They bear a grudge against you, you look petty, it fills the air with negativity, your team think that’s the way to behave, you look like a really crappy manager and a really crappy person, nothing actually gets fixed.

Please comment below if you can think of any others.

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Accurate Vs Useful – is more accurate data a good thing?

If you’re an accountant (like I am) then you live for accurate data. We love it.

We put it into our spreadsheets, model it, graph it, present it and it makes us feel warm inside.

But sometimes we go a bit over the top.

Accuracy is really important. But it’s not that important.

You see there’s a trade off between accuracy and speed of delivery. Very often it takes forever to get really accurate data and in the meantime the world has moved on.

The opportunity has passed us by

So let’s look at a graph.

The problem with accuracy

There’s an ‘S curve’ of accuracy. The more effort we put in then the more accurate our data becomes.

At the start, if we just get a data set and use it without checking or cleansing then it is potentially suspect. (we could always substitute ‘reliability’ for accuracy here).

The problem with accuracy is that it takes time. If we want to spend forever getting accurate data then we often have to spend time making sure it’s right especially if our systems and processes aren’t great.

The longer we spend cleansing and checking our data then the more accurate it gets, although I’d argue that very few data sets are 100% accurate.

We can also suffer from decision paralysis through data collection.

Drawing conclusions based on crappy data is a bad thing to do.

So we spend time making sure it is correct. We cleanse it, we check it by eye, we cross match elements against other sources, we put it through statistical analysis and we sacrifice a chicken and read its entrail to make sure the gods approve ( we don’t really do the last one, much).

But this all takes time. And truthfully by the time we’re choosing Henrietta from the run the amount of accuracy we’re adding is starting to reduce rapidly, hence the S curve.

Meanwhile the business moves on apace.

While we’ve been doing all this our competitors have launched a new product, we’ve employed a load more people, the Bank of England have put up interest rates and Leicester City have won the Premiership title (they really have).

And suddenly our data set has stopped being as useful.

What we need here is another graph

Data can be useless

The longer we take over getting our data accurate then the less useful it can become.

And when we are presenting our data then we have to add in all sorts of caveats about data age and our credibility starts to wane. Oh dear.

Let’s put this into a business setting.

Imagine you are head of an accounts department and you normally close the month on the 24th.

You’re really proud of your work because you’ve taken almost a month to make sure that your books are as right as they possibly can be. You’re king (or queen) of the world!

The problem is that it takes a day or so to get the management pack out and then it’s a weekend and then people are doing stuff and before you know it your managers and directors are making decisions on information that is a month old!

It’s lost a lot of its usefulness and instead of being a hyper useful decision making document it has become merely an historical record.

It’s interesting but still…

So what to do?

We need to assess individually the requirement for speed and the requirement for accuracy.

So do we need something ‘quick and dirty’ to make a relatively unimportant decision on photocopiers?

Or are we making a (business) life or death decision on the pricing mix?

In other words are we launching The Space Shuttle or putting fuel in the car?

In the first case making a good decision based on bad data could be catastrophic, in the second it could mean we have to fill up again before the end of our journey.

We also need to add in a bit of top quality management here.

We’re being paid to choose the point at which data collection stops and the information we have is reliable enough to make our decisions.

It’s not an exact science it’s more an art, but don’t tell people that.

The best tip I can give is that once you have assessed your speed and accuracy quotients that you make a regular review of whether putting more effort into the data collection process is actually worthwhile.

Sooner or later you’ll get to the point where you say ‘no’ and that’s the point you write up your powerpoint.

8 tips to revive your HR department

When companies grow, and as people move on, the Human Resource department can often be left behind as the business concentrates on operational excellence.  Refreshing your HR department will not only make it more efficient it will also make sure that your people processes are adding value to the organisation as a whole.

As a way of helping you on this journey we’re presenting a few tips to assist you with revitalising your HR crew and getting them on the road to being world class.

Tip 1 – decide what you want great to look like.  It seems simple but it’s surprising how few people have really decided what a world class HR department looks like. You need to sit down and sketch out how things should operate in the new world. Make sure you take in the thoughts of your senior managers as the ‘customers’ of HR.

Tip 2 – communicate your vision. It’s no good having a vision of how you want your department to look without telling anyone about it.  Communicating your vision of how you want things to be will do two things. It will instil confidence in staff that they are not forgotten after all and when they understand the plan and their part in it you may be happy to find that they begin to take action themselves to make it happen.

Tip 3 – Put the right person in charge. HR is a difficult discipline to master and too often people in charge are simply the people who understand it best. It is a fact that a top class department needs a top class manager. Putting a livewire, motivated HR professional in charge who has experience in business partnering for example will encourage the staff to think a little wider and start to add value to the business.

Tip 4 – Make sure you have the right staff and the right skills in place. As businesses grow they find that they outstrip the skills that were once perfectly adequate. Take a look at what skills you need for the future and the skills that are currently in place. Then assess whether you can invest in training your staff to increase capability or whether you need to bring in specialists from outside. A small investment in some training for staff will also help motivation. You also need to be fairly realistic about the potential of the people in place; are they square pegs in round holes? Do they have the capability of rising to the challenge?

Tip 5 – Get the basics right. Make sure that you have a sound footing for your department by having a comprehensive and legal set of policies in place. If you have to then spend money on a top class consultant to get them in and sort out your policies and procedures as a great foundation for the future.

Tip 6 – Include your HR staff. When meetings are set that don’t necessarily involve personnel then it’s natural not to include them but inviting a member of the team, whilst it may not add anything directly to the meeting (although often it does) adds intelligence back into the department. HR staff not only feel included but also gain valuable background information for when they are recruiting and setting up training for instance.

Tip 7 –  Think about your systems. This is another area that tends to get forgotten when a company expands but that can often end up being more of a hindrance than a help. Get a specialist in to look at the systems you use and advise whether you need to change and what the benefits will be. The best HR departments run the simple functions of the role automatically, leaving staff to concentrate on the areas where they add the most value.

Tip 8 – Put HR at the centre of the business. People make businesses and relegating your HR department to being simply a functional area that processes staff is to miss the most valuable aspect of the profession. HR is the first part of the company that many staff see and having successful committed people in place simply sets your employees off on the right course for a great career with your business.

This is not an exhaustive list but it will give you a start on the road to having a great HR team which can add massively to the management of the business. A little time spent understanding and communicating how you would like things to be can pay terrific dividends to the firm.

5 Employee perks which don’t cost the earth

Team training

If the experts are to be believed then we are due for another period of slow down in the economy.

That being the case it is likely to become all the more important for employers to be able to give their staff valuable perks that don’t eat up the cash.

Here are 5 ideas for perks that we love and that you might like to try in your company.

Perk #1 – Fruit

As office dwellers it’s very easy to fall into the bad habit of an afternoon chocolate bar so employers that keep a few enticing bowls of fresh fruit about the place are not only looking after their employees health but also telling them that they are valued through the medium of food.

Ok so the odd cake is allowed and an occasional bottle of beer but in the main try and go for some generous bowls of fruit to pique people’s interest. And make sure they are available for visitors too.

The great thing is that it costs very little to do, especially if you find yourself a really good independent greengrocer.

We love food!

Perk #2 – Be flexible

More than ever it seems that the world is awake 24/7 so it seems silly that in the Western world we tend to enforce strict 9-5 hours.

Allowing your employees the flexibility to vary their hours is a win-win situation for both employer and workers.

We’ve all worked with people who are useless before 10am in the morning. Similarly there can’t be many people who haven’t met the early riser. Allowing people to vary their working hours around a central core means that the office can be manned during the all important middle of the day but lets people have a bit more of a work-life balance.

Think also about letting people bank hours to use for a duvet day, have their birthday off or have a weekly or monthly ‘work from home’ day.

Apart from the obvious advantage of much more engaged and awake employees the business will also benefit from the office being manned for a longer stretch of time. You’ll find that people are much more receptive to the 2am call to Thailand if they know that they can bank some hours to use later on.

Set some core hours – say 10 – 3 then allow people to vary around these. It doesn’t need to be monitored too closely either, most people act like adults and end up doing longer than their contracted hours anyway!

Perk #3 – Pets at work

Research has shown that offices are happier when dogs are allowed in so think about allowing your staff to bring in their pets.

Maybe not every day, but a weekly or monthly ‘bring your dog to work day’, is something that people really value and costs the employer nothing.

There needs to be rules of course, so angry dogs or disruptive iguanas may need to be banned. You’ll also need to have a system in place for making sure that half of the office doesn’t bring cats and the other half doesn’t bring in dogs otherwise you may have your own version of Tom and Jerry going on!

Perk #4 – music

If you are looking to create a lively and vibrant workspace then having great music playing in the background certainly helps.

Think about getting a Spotify or Deezer account and making up a shared playlist that everyone can contribute to and watch the office debates begin about Beyonce and Mahler!

It costs the grand sum of £9.99 per month and in the UK employers will need to buy a PRS licence but it’s small beer compared to the extra engagement that it produces.

You may also become a fan of Taylor Swift.

Perk #5 – shared experiences

If you want to increase employee engagement then getting people together regularly is a great way to produce team spirit.

Think about getting in a yoga teacher to do an hour session once a week so that everyone can have a go, or look for a masseur who will ease those tired shoulders and necks.

We’ve seen companies who invite potential suppliers in to do a talk about their area of expertise such as a wine and cheese night and a fantastic book club.

One surprising by product of this sort of thing is that it gets talked about outside of work. You’ll find that people will be posting on social media and talking about it in the pub. Before long your Google page ranking will increase and people will already have heard of you when you mention the company name.

These are just a few ideas for ways to add a little bit of spice to your employee’s day but don’t let it end there.

Be creative and come up with ways to liven up the day without it costing megabucks. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much fun it is.

8 tips for success

It doesn’t matter whether you are aiming to be successful in your business or personal life, successful people all have similar habits so we’ve put together 8 of the best for you to put into action.

These are aimed at business users but you can apply them to anything, sporting success, home life, hobbies or any area of your life you’d like to be more successful in.

Aim – decide on the aim of the business

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your aim should be the same as anyone elses or that there is a standard aim of a business that people have.

The aim for your business should be something that excites and motivates you – after all you won’t have a boss telling you to go to work in the morning so you need to want to work in your company. See our Aim setting guide for more information and methods to help you set your aims and goals

Strategy – work out how you will achieve your aim

An Aim is just a dream unless you have worked out a way to achieve it. Your strategy is your statement of how you’ll go about it. Whilst the aim of your business is unlikely to change, your strategy may.

Tactics – what will you do to put your strategy into action?

Tactics are the day to day actions that you’ll take to build your strategy leading to you achieving your aim. These are the smaller tasks that will definitely change from day to day or week to week depending upon conditions.

Planning – put them all together in a robust and living business plan

This is a really important step and one that many people leave out. The discipline of having to write down all the things you’ve decided upon in the previous sections will really sharpen your focus. But your plan has to be a living document. Things change, you’ll reassess and re plan and so you should keep your plan up to date

Mentoring – find someone you can trust that will tell you the truth and has the experience to offer positive alternatives

One of the key success factors of new SMEs is having access to experienced and positive backup. Big companies simply employ high powered executives full time – smaller companies need to be a bit smarter about it.

Learning – don’t stop learning and make sure you are open to change

It’s vital to keep up with the latest trends in your technical field, but it’s also vital to ensure that wider business events add into your planning. So having access to someone who’ll alert you to new things is a must.

Flexibility – keep your business agile, it’s one of your greatest assets

The world is changing quicker than ever. Building in flexibility to your business is key. It’s just as important to build the flexibility to cope with downturns as increasing sales.

Review – build in a regular review process to ensure you are on track and adjust your tactics

You’re not just the person who works in your business. You are also the MD,CFO,COO and cleaner! Make sure you take time to think about your strategic direction, preferably with an unbiased input from your mentor.

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