Showing all pages regarding advice.
In a recent interview Mary Berry, food author and queen of cakes, recounted the first time she was asked to write a cookery column for a newspaper. She was terrified and had no idea how to go about explaining a new recipe to readers. However, she picked up on the advice of her boss who said “just write as if you were showing me how to cook” - and that is exactly what she did. It is this style of writing – giving clear and practical advice to budding cooks – that helped to establish Mary Berry as a popular and accessible food author. There is little doubt that, for Mary, the advice of her boss was life changing.
Most of us can remember a time in our careers when we have learnt valuable lessons from others, usually, but not always, from a manager or more experienced colleague. Little pearls of wisdom or remarkable acts we have witnessed tend to stay with us and help us to improve. I had a difficult and demanding boss when I was a young manager who, despite his faults, demonstrated to me the importance of regular communication with customers. ”It almost doesn’t matter what you say Jeanette” he said “so long as you say something to your customers, and often.” I was about 28 and hadn’t, until then, appreciated the benefits of good communication and the value of keeping all your stakeholders in the picture. I have never forgotten and continue to apply that advice.
Of course, learning from others and benefiting from good role models depends on having the good fortune to work with people who are willing and able to pass on their wisdom and knowledge. But it also depends on our own ability to observe and listen to what’s going on around us. When I am coaching I often ask clients to identify someone they have worked with who they admire and respect and then work out what these people do that makes them effective. Most of us work in environments which are a rich source of learning, but we will only learn if we are open to new ways of working and inquisitive about the nature of success in business.
Mary Berry could have remained a competent but unknown journalist if she hadn’t listened to and applied the advice of her boss. So be observant at work, listen carefully to others, be willing to consider new ideas or different ways of thinking about business problems. You never know, you might just learn something that changes your life.
Two male public figures have recently got themselves into trouble for their comments on sensitive issues. First George Galloway, not known for his tact, waded into the Assange affair by introducing the bizarre notion of “sexual etiquette” in the context of rape. At the same time, in the US, Missouri congressman Todd Aiken suggests that there is a special case to be made for ‘legitimate rape’. Both parties (Galloway and Aiken) clearly regret their choice of words and have since been engaged in damage limitation exercises. But the damage is done. In fact the damage gets worse for George Galloway who has just sparked another storm by using a derogatory term for disabled people on Twitter.
I have no intention of getting into the rape debate – that’s not the purpose of this piece. But I think these recent episodes demonstrate the importance of taking some time to think before you speak. Politicians are often caught out when faced with difficult questions without notice. But we are all at risk of humiliation and embarrassment (or worse) now that Twitter, Facebook and social media in general encourages spontaneous communication.
I worked with two senior managers recently who were aiming to improve their ability to present themselves with confidence. They wanted to be able to communicate clearly and fluently, so that they could influence others and gain credibility with peers and clients. Both were enthusiastic, intelligent people with a lot to say. When we first met I asked them to deliver a presentation to me. Both presentations were full of information and moved along at a fast pace. The managers spoke very quickly , sometimes deviating from the topic, sometimes stumbling over words and ultimately failing to get their message across.
When we reviewed their presentations they both admitted to being nervous. “The more nervous I get, the more quickly I speak” said one. “Then as I start to panic, I use all the wrong words and lose my thread entirely – I completely lose my confidence.”
I asked them both to rethink their presentation, paring it down to the most essential points and the key message they want to deliver. Then I asked them to deliver the first five minutes of the presentation to me at a snail’s pace. They had to speak as clearly and as slowly as possible, pausing properly for each comma and full stop. The result was remarkable. Both found that the slower pace gave them time to articulate clearly and to think while they spoke, so that they could anticipate the next sentence and the words they wanted to use. By giving themselves extra time they lost their nerves – and gained control.
Both managers have been practising the ‘slow’ technique regularly and use it when preparing for presentations. Obviously in real situations they speak at a normal pace (which is always going to be a bit faster than it feels) but neither of them rush or gabble as they used to. Neither do they end up getting the words wrong or losing the thread – they now have time to think before they speak.
My first piece of advice to Galloway and Aiken would be to stay away from the topic of rape in the future. But whatever the subject they might also benefit from slowing down a little rather than rushing to an answer. In fact perhaps we could all try a little less spontaneity and a little more reflection before opening our mouths.
10 reasons why you should get an MBA
Free lunchtime event, City of London, City Business Library
Thursday 10 May
12.30 – 1.30pm
Are you considering an MBA? Or are you wondering whether a member of your staff should take the qualification? The MBA is the leading international qualification and can represent a life-changing experience. Jeanette Purcell will offer 10 reasons (or more!) why you should get an MBA. But you need to understand what MBA study involves, how to choose the right programme, how to cope with the demands of the course. Before founding “Jeanette Purcell Associates” Jeanette was CEO of the Association of MBAs (AMBA). Her expert advice will help you to understand the MBA’s value and how to get the best return on your investment.
Free, but you must book in advance 020 7332 1858; firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been a flurry of discussion recently around women in the boardroom. This follows the publication of the Davies Report which called on the FTSE 350 companies to increase the percentage of women at the board table to 25% by 2015. Currently 18 FTSE 100 companies have no female directors at all and nearly half of all FTSE 250 companies do not have a woman in the boardroom.
The discussions have covered a range of questions: Are imposed quotas a good thing? (See my earlier blog.) Is there any evidence that companies with more diverse Boards are more effective? Why don’t women make it to the top? Do women simply have different aspirations and views of what success means?
These are all important questions, but I have seen very little practical advice emerging from the Davies debate. If a woman is interested in getting a seat on a board, what steps should she take? Here are some top tips (with thanks to Sue O’ Brien, CEO of Norman Broadbent for her input) . And guess what? This advice applies to men too!
- Do some research first. What industry and types of companies are you interested in joining and in what capacity? You need to be able to clearly articulate what it is you are looking for before you begin your search.
- Be clear about what you are offering to the companies you have chosen. Why should they be interested in you? What can you add to their Board? What are your distinctive skills and qualities and what evidence can you produce to support your past successes?
- Use Head Hunters to help you in your search. But be prepared (see above) before you meet them. They will respond if they can see you have done your homework.
- When dealing with Head Hunters don’t wait for them to take the initiative on the agreed actions and follow up. You need to do your bit and they will take you more seriously if you are taking the lead where you can.
- If approaching a company direct to enquire about a Board role consider sending them a short narrative in the form of a bio rather than your CV.
- Protect your CV. It is tempting to pass on your CV to anyone who looks like they may be able to help you. But hand it over with care. Your CV is your brand. Do you know who it is going to? How will it be presented?
- Make sure the Board role you are considering or are offered is the right one for you. Does the position really fit with your background and experiences? What will this company do for you? Do you subscribe to their values? Be brave enough to turn the position down if it doesn’t feel right.
- When considering a role seek out those people who have recently left the Board to see if they’ll chat to you. You might get a more accurate account of the company from them.
- Don’t under estimate the time involved. It is hard work if you are going to do a proper job. Experts estimate that you can expect to spend 25 days a year on Board work as a Non-Executive.
- Network, network, network. Make it known that you are looking for a Board appointment. Someone somewhere will be on the look out for talented Board members.
Good Luck! If you get the right position it will be a fulfilling and valuable learning experience.
If you’ve been shortlisted for a job interview, congratulations! You’ve obviously put in a good application and have demonstrated, at least on paper, that you have the experience and skills required for the job. Now you have to outshine the other shortlisted candidates and persuade the panel that you are the best person for the job. The interview is your opportunity to make a positive impression so don’t blow it! Preparation is key – here are six tips to help you get ready for the big day.
- Research the company you are applying to work for. Look at the website and the annual report. Do you know anyone who has experience of the company? If so, ask them for some advice or information that might not be in the public domain.
- Think about what evidence you can provide which shows that you meet all of the job requirements. Prepare some examples which demonstrate your experience and skills. It is not enough to say ‘I am really good at dealing with difficult customers’. Better to say ‘I dealt with a particularly difficult customer when I was at …….’; then give details of the situation, the action you took, and how the matter was resolved. This is often referred to as the “STAR” technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
- Anticipate all of the possible questions the panel might ask and prepare an answer to each one. You will probably find that, even if the question you anticipate doesn’t come up, the answer you have prepared will come in useful . Ask a friend or colleague to give you some potential questions (in my experience friends often think of much better questions than the interview panel!).
- Who is on the panel? It’s OK to ask for this information if you are not told. Do you know anything about them? Can you find out? It’s useful to know something about the people interviewing you – if you are familiar with their particular interests or areas of expertise it might help you to anticipate the questions.
- Rehearse! If you have been asked to give a presentation to the panel make sure you have rehearsed in front of a mirror. Time yourself so that you use all the time you are given but don’t run over. If you want to use power point, check in advance that this is acceptable. Print handouts of the slides – if technology fails on the day you can talk the panel through the handouts.
- If you prepare well in advance you will feel confident and positive about the interview – and that is very important. So don’t stay up late fretting and practising the night before. Get a good night’s sleep and, on the day of the interview, concentrate on staying relaxed, confident and positive.
Want to know more? Got some questions? Why not take advantage of our free consultation? Just click on the link above.
A recent two part BBC Radio programme (“Follow the Leader” presented by Carolyn Quinn) did a good job of exploring the concept of Leadership and some of the current issues facing Business Leaders. I was surprised though, that there was very little emphasis in the programme on the question of ethics or moral responsibility in business, particularly in the wake of corporate scandals, the banking crisis and environmental disasters such as the BP oil spill. These recent events have heightened the debate about the integrity of business leaders and have led to some interesting discussions about the subject of morality in business. I prefer the term ‘responsible management’ which goes beyond the rather tired notions of ‘corporate social responsibility’ and ‘business ethics’ and represents a deeper and more meaningful approach to the issue.
“Follow the Leader” began with various politicians and business people attempting to define leadership and what it is that makes a good leader. Rightly, the need for a clear vision and sense of direction was stressed. There was also general agreement that leaders need to be decisive, confident, strong, thick-skinned and with a competitive attitude. I wouldn’t argue with the value of these qualities in certain circumstances but it was disappointing that no one thought to mention the importance of honesty, integrity or conscientiousness in the context of leadership. How can a leader without these qualities hope to command genuine respect, or to inspire and motivate others? The programme’s second episode opened with a discussion about the greater visibility of leaders today. The rise of social media and aggressive press activity means that those with influence and power are much more exposed and that news of any gaffs or misdemeanours will travel fast, worldwide. Contributors to the programme suggested that, as a result of this increased scrutiny, leaders needed to be more mindful of their actions, pay attention to image and manage the risks to their reputation. Well, although this is good advice, it is again disappointing that the emphasis is on ‘keeping your nose clean’ rather than leading according to moral principles, personal values or an inherent sense of responsibility. Leaders are, first and foremost, human beings, with flaws and weaknesses as well as strengths. A genuinely effective leader puts effort into understanding themselves and others. Their leadership style and approach to business is informed by that understanding and is determined by their own moral code and set of values. These values are strongly communicated, drive the business and form the basis for all decision-making. Ask most people to think about a leader they admire or who has inspired them and I can guarantee that, although ‘strong’ and ‘thick-skinned’ might be amongst the admired qualities, ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’ and ‘concern for others’ are more likely to be at the top of the list.
While working with a group of MBA students in Dubai this month one of the students, Mohammed, a 35 year old engineer from Bahrain, asked me for help with a problem he was facing at work. He had applied for promotion to a position which involved line management responsibilities. Mohammed’s company was apparently apprehensive about appointing him to this new role, not because he didn’t meet the requirements of the job, but because they didn’t want to lose him from his current position – he was working in a highly technical, high risk area of the business and there was no one else in the company who could do that job. Mohammed wanted some advice on how he could persuade his employers to release him from his current role. His approach to me triggered a number of thoughts. First, I sympathised with the sense of frustration Mohammed felt at effectively being too good at his job and too valuable in his current role to achieve promotion. How many employees with potential and ambition are simply not encouraged to put themselves forward for promotion because, to do so, would leave their employer with a recruitment problem? This tends to happen in areas where specialist, technical skills are scarce or where the wealth of knowledge and experience that one person has accumulated in a role is difficult to pass on and no thought has been given to succession or contingency planning. The implications here are clear. Companies that fail to ensure that skills and knowledge in an organisation are shared and communicated (even documented if necessary) are putting the organisation at risk. In addition, those companies that fail to encourage talented staff to develop and to take on new challenges are likely to lose their good people or, at the very least, their motivation and commitment to the company.
But I was also struck by Mohammed’s question to me for another reason. Here was a mature, experienced male with an engineering background who recognised that he needed some help and advice to overcome the problem he faced. He was being honest with me that he didn’t know what to do. Far too often I am dismayed at how unwilling some people are to ask for help and how many opportunities to get great advice and new ideas are passed up. The reasons are not clear – could it be because of pride or is it arrogance?. I have always found that, when facing a difficult business issue, there is normally someone around who is willing to help, give advice or offer a new perspective. Just ask! As for my advice to Mohammed – perhaps I’ll make that that the subject of a future blog!
“As Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA), Jeanette had the courage and determination to tackle several challenges facing the Association in an increasingly competitive environment. Under her leadership the Association rapidly developed and established its international profile and reputation as the authority on MBA education and the most respected accreditation agency for MBA courses.”
Sir Paul Judge, President of the Association of MBAs
“Jeanette Purcell is refreshingly unpretentious. Her advice and support are built on the firm foundations of practical experience, knowledge and understanding. She listens to clients and stakeholders and builds on their strengths to deliver tailor-made, effective and sustainable solutions. “
Jane Scott Paul OBE, Chief Executive, Association of Accounting Technicians
“Having known Jeanette for some years, she was a natural choice when it came to developing a higher skills framework for the building services engineering sector. She readily understood the brief and that, together with her approachability and integrity, inspired confidence and co-operation amongst the participants. The outcome has been an acknowledgement of the importance of developing higher management skills amongst key industry players and the establishment of a collaborative approach to doing so.”
Iain MacDonald, Head of Education and Training, Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA)
“Marubeni, a Commodities Trading Company, appointed Jeanette Purcell to deliver a workshop for our 3 day European Training Event. Jeanette delivered a very interesting and interactive session. She is an excellent speaker, and demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in this area. The feedback from participants was extremely good, and we would definitely consider inviting Jeanette to deliver future training workshops.”
Rebecca Kemp, Marubeni Human Resources
“I first met Jeanette in 2000 when she was a student on our MBA programme. She was an outstanding student and graduated with a distinction. After graduation she took up an executive role and subsequently was appointed as CEO of the Association of MBAs. For the last five years she has been a visiting lecturer at Cass during which time we have worked together to design and deliver developmental assessment centres and a range of leadership courses for our executive MBAs in both London and Dubai. She is a skilled professional coach and excellent course leader and I recommend her without reservation.”
Paul Dobson BSc PhD CPychol CSci AFBPsS, Cass Business School, City University London
“As a new, full-time working mother I wanted coaching from someone who understood my situation. Jeanette was able to give me first hand practical advice. She also helped me set out a strategy to develop my client base. I now feel more in control, and focussed on my real priorities both at work and at home.”
Nicola Tait, Client Advisor, Capital Asset Management
“I have had the pleasure of working together with Jeanette on an international Womens’ Leadership Development program for one of the leading global organizations in the Pharmaceutical sector. Jeanette demonstrated an excellent capability to work with a large group of people from different cultural backgrounds, the design of her workshops was simply perfect, very well adjusted to the needs of the client, both pertinent at an individual level and highly interactive. Jeanette has the rare capacity to make leadership development a pleasant and an enriching experience. I only hope we can do more work together.”
Marc TimmermanPartner Axiom Consulting Partners& Managing Director Axiom Consulting Partners Benelux
“JPA undertook a piece of work for the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services. This provided a detailed analysis of national and international business school programmes for consideration within the design of an executive leadership programme for experienced Directors of Children’s Services. This work was delivered under very tight timescales, to cost, and proved highly valuable.”
Aidan Melling, Operational Director – Children’s Services, National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services
“As an Associate of Make Life Easy, Jeanette has designed and delivered training for our clients by focusing on their needs, and taking time to understand the people, culture and challenges for the company. Drawing on her business experience, her workshops are interactive, practical and fun. Jeanette has the rare ability to engage even the most reluctant participants, sending them away with new insights, skills and ideas to implement immediately. Jeanette has received excellent feedback from work she has delivered for Make Life Easy and has undoubtedly made a positive difference to the clients she has worked with.”
Fiona Hindle, Founder of Make Life Easy Limited www.makelifeeasy.co.uk
As Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA) for seven years, Jeanette succeeded in positioning the Association as the international accreditation and membership association for postgraduate business education. Under Jeanette’s leadership, the Association doubled its business school membership, extended its accreditation service to new international markets and to other masters programmes in general management. This move strengthened the Association’s influence globally and helped to establish the MBA’s reputation as the premier international qualification for business leaders.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. She spent 15 years in the field of further and higher education working in the political arena, educational policy development, qualification and assessment frameworks and quality assurance systems. Prior to joining the Association of MBAs, Jeanette was Director of Education and Training for the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the international professional association for accounting staff with over 100,000 members and 500 approved training institutions worldwide. In this role, she designed a range of new vocational qualifications in accountancy and led the development of UK standards of competence for accounting technicians.
Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school’s academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour. She still teaches postgraduate students at Cass, focusing on leadership and interpersonal skills development, and has contributed to the development of a series of skills development workshops at the business school. Jeanette has also delivered these workshops at Cass’s Dubai campus.
Jeanette is an Honorary Fellow of the Economics and Finance Institute, Sinerghia, Moscow (2007) and a Director of the Institute of Financial Accountants.
JPA include a select group of respected and experienced professionals drawn from the many business networks of which Jeanette is a member.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and was Chief Executive of AMBA for 7 years. She has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school's academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour... [read more]
Latest posts from my blog
Alex Ferguson’s leadership legacy
Tough, aggressive, uncompromising. Would Alex Ferguson's leadership style work in the real world?
What Margaret Thatcher did not do for women
Margaret Thatcher might have demonstrated that it was possible to shatter the glass ceiling but she failed to help other women into leadership roles. But what can women learn from her leadership style?
How do you think you did?
Just six opening words can make any discussion about performance problems relatively pain-free.
Obama couldn’t manage expectations. But Yes We Can!
We expect elections to be full of aspirational talk. But what happens when you don't deliver on your promises?
How to build successful business relationships
Jeanette's event at City Business Library on 2 November 2012 "How to build successful business relationships."
Women in the Board Room
The EU debates quotas for women on boards today. But is that the way to foster female talent? This post was first published in Marcy 2011.
How Mary Berry’s boss changed her life
We work in environments which are a rich source of learning, but we will only learn if we are inquisitive and open to new ways of working.
Say what you mean and mean what you say
Cameron and Milliband delivered professional, well polished speeches at their party conferences. So why did their presentations fail to engage the public?
Why diversity targets won’t help the Big Four
The pressure to address current imbalances at the top suggests that firms are placing more priority on the achievement of diversity targets than on the quality of their partners.
How to make a million jobs
Understanding the link between managing people effectively and building a successful business is fundamental to good leadership.