Friday, 24 April 2015

The Number One Rule For Networking

I read somewhere that the opposite of networking is NOT working. Having recently returned from the Madrid WTTC Summit I reflect on these words and wonder if they still hold true. Social media channels are networking channels, so on-line networking is undoubtedly thriving. As for face to face networking...well, I said in an earlier blog that attending the Summit was a powerful reminder of the importance of relationships and of the basic human needs to connect and share. I found myself really enjoying meeting new people, asking questions about their background and their jobs and getting to know some familiar faces that much better. So is this networking? And to what extent has it changed?

I think we all know that the old-fashioned 'second-hand car selling approach' simply does not work. I run networking masterclasses and part of what I teach are the skills of building rapport, initiating conversations and asking 'good' questions. It is actually quite extraordinary how many people still consider networking as either 'scary' or 'sinful' and how grateful and deeply relieved they are to find out that networking is actually about giving much more than taking; about long term and strategic rather than short term and tactical.  But what I realise is that ultimately it is firstly something to enjoy, so that when you find yourself asking questions it is because you genuinely want to know about people, and when you engage in conversations it is because you actually enjoy them as opposed to rehearsing a script. Professional opportunities seem to be increasingly borne out of  conversations that are rather more personal, fun and not strictly work related. At least in my field of work 'people buy people' ahead of services/products and the marketplace is so crowded, information so pervasive and accessible that the only way to stand out is being yourself and truly mean it.      

Does this mean preparation has no longer a role to play in networking? That is not correct in my view. I for one  need to connect virtually, share and find out about attendees in advance of any networking event. What I am looking for are ways to make links, but furthermore ways to understand the story behind the person. This is indeed an important aspect I have understood,  that everyone, absolutely everyone has a story to tell which will be worth listening to - all they need is to be asked the right questions.

So in conclusion, do I believe that face to face networking still matters? Absolutely. Do I believe that it can work so much better when there is a genuine inclination behind it, when you are open to people and their stories? Oh, Yes. Do I also feel that it requires honesty and being-true-to-yourself? This possibly is important above all, because as poet Maya Angelou said: 'People may forget what you said and people may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel' . 



Tuesday, 21 April 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS - How To Make Your Mentoring Programme Successful By Asking 3 Key Questions

Mentoring is now an established learning and development tool used by organisations and individuals alike as a key component of talent management, performance management, on the job learning and change management to mention but a few reasons.
In many cases mentoring delivers what other more common interventions – such as training – cannot hope to achieve, but especially ownership and accountability – a key factor in organisational success!

However, mentoring is less intuitive than it is generally acknowledged when it comes to its implementation and even more, when it comes to keeping momentum in an established programme. That is why many mentoring programmes quickly fizzle out or disappoint the parties involved. 

The following three questions are not the only ones that an organisation should be investigating, but attempting to answer them will undoubtedly help in setting you and your organisation up on the pathway to success.          

#1 – Is the organisation ready for mentoring?

Let’s face it – mentoring is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and there will be organisations that are not mentoring-ready. Common reasons for this are:     

Ø  Internal communication channels are constrained 
Ø  Transparency, openness and trust are not practiced values
Ø  There are limited opportunities to nurture and develop employees
Ø  Education and learning is not core to the organisation.
As you take a long, hard look at your organisation you may find that enough of the above exists to make mentoring successful. This is also likely to happen when the organisation practices talent management and succession planning, has clear learning and development policy and values diversity. On the other hand it is possible that mentoring may have to wait a bit, until one or more of these areas are fully addressed.

#2 – What is the organisation hoping to achieve through mentoring and how?

As mentioned, mentoring programmes can be helpful in a variety of contexts but are no panacea. Thus, it is critical to think through which outcomes the organisation is hoping to achieve in the short, medium, and long term. Are you looking to mentor for performance? Are you providing mentoring to support an existing leadership programme? Are you perhaps hoping to achieve greater employee engagement? Whatever the reason, it will be good to thoroughly investigate your objectives in order to fully understand how mentoring will contribute to achieving the outcomes.   
Next is the format, meaning how mentoring will actually take place. Will it be one to one or group? Formal or informal? Structure or unstructured?   There are almost as many ways as there are organisations and no one-size-fit- all answer. So it may be worthwhile piloting a couple of different schemes to evaluate what works best for your purpose.

#3 What resources – including budget - does the organisation need to make available?

Any kind of mentoring programme will require support in the form of coordination, recruitment of mentors and mentees, training of mentors and mentees, communication/PR/Events, possibly an ambassador programme and so on. Even the most basic and informal mentoring programme will require some administrative support, as well as monitoring and review.
It is important not to underestimate these costs as without a budget - however small – the programme may never go further than the planning stage. A mentoring programme does not need to cost a lot, but it would be wrong to assume that it won’t cost the organisation anything, if only in terms of time and internal resources. It is also important to acknowledge that not all expertise may be available in-house and that taking short-cuts (such as not training mentors and mentees or not monitoring activities) will only increase the risk of not achieving the desirable outcomes.

In summary, any organisation looking at initiating a mentoring programme should ensure that context, purpose and resources are clearly aligned to support its successful implementation.    

Do you need any help with your mentoring programme? Feel free to contact me for an informal chat! 

Friday, 17 April 2015

3 Lessons From Madrid

I have just returned from the annual Travel & Tourism Summit organised by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a membership organisation gathering top CEOs in the industry. A great chance to hear some excellent speakers debating a range of subjects. The theme of the Summit was Disruption and Reinvention. A very relevant topic in this day and age and not just for the tourism industry. But what did I think of it and what did I actually learn? The answer is 'quite a lot' and on a number of levels. Below are three things I took away...

1. Of course, not enough women on stage. 

You would have thought that being the travel and tourism industry speakers would be fairly split between females and males, but noooo...we saw three high profile women in total, two of which were from finance and banking! Wanting to paraphrase Gay Vaynerchuck of Vaynermedia ( and more) fame who spoke (or better, had a real go at the industry about it) about content marketing the question is....In which century are you marketing in???? Because obviously if the industry is serious about raising the profile, attracting the talent and pursuing the growth, it needs to be a lore more inclusive when it comes to the audience! Part of the issue is that there are not all that many women in top roles in the industry so the issue is clearly greater than the actual WTTC Summit..But as many females were in attendance, they could scarcely feel the panels reflected their gender, let alone providing role models etc. BTW, it was ditto for race and diversity in general! 
Luckily the conspicuous lack of females speakers was noted by many so I do hope this will be addressed at the next Summit. 

2.  Disruption is the NEW norm

As AIG Travel boss Jeff Rutledge said, 'Disruption is the new disruption' which means our lives are forever disrupted and there is nothing we can do except preparing for it and learning to accommodate it everyday as the new normality. From economic recession to terrorism, these disruptors have a massive impact on the way we do business, deal with our customers or indeed behave in our life. And it is not just about the big business, individual or small businesses are just as impacted. If anything, as individuals and/or small businesses we have on our side the ability to be flexible, nimble and as much as possible proactive and dynamic. The other side of the coin is that we do not have the big budgets to help us, but actually, technology is a massive and relatively cheap or indeed free tool we can use for this purpose. It is interesting that technology at the Summit was treated as much as a disruptor as it was a reinventing tool, a saviour. I do believe that once small businesses understand the power of technology and in particular social media, we can actually rapidly become huge beneficiaries. Possibly more so than mammoth size businesses for whom staying close to the customers is a relatively hard feat...remember it is all about CONTENT, content and more content! 

3. Enjoy, discover, network, have fun!

Gosh, did I really need to fly to Madrid and attend the Summit to learn this? Not really, but being out there for 48 hours was a powerful reminder that never mind your industry, your business or your sector, it is all about the people and the human relations! I really had a great time making new connections, talking to people from all kind of backgrounds and uncovering their interests and their story. Everyone has a story to tell and something valuable to share! It is actually quite humbling - but also inspirational - to see how much drive, talent and passion is out there. 

So here is to people, places, passion and ...preparation! 

And if preparation is something you need help with...then contact me to discuss how I may be able to support your professional and personal needs either as an individual or as a business. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

7 Reasons Why Women Who Travel Make Better Leaders (*)


I will unashamedly admit that what you are about to read is NOT mine, but the summary of a longer article produced by brilliant adventure travel blogger duo @mappingmegan. I wholeheartedly agree with its content and encourage you to follow the blog, sign up for the tweets and so on because it is totally worth your precious reading time! Here is the link:

So what is the link between women, travel and leadership? Excelling as a leader “does not just entail past experience or hard skills; it also involves personality, life experiences, and everything that makes you who you are.” Mabel Lee.

Here are 5 reasons why @mappingmegan say women who travel become better leaders:
Invaluable People Skills  - Travel is one of the best things you can do to develop great communication skills, a crucial aspect of being a leader. A successful leader interacts and communicates well with others, relates to other people, and works well with those of all different backgrounds. There is no doubt about it, international travel teaches an appreciation of culture and respect for other races, backgrounds, opinions and thoughts, and these translate into people skills which are essential for a successful leadership.
A leader who understands that “different” does not necessarily mean “wrong”, that strange cultures should be explored and not judged, who keeps open mind to new perspectives and is willing to listen, understand and communicate with others; this is a leader who will go far.

Time Management & Organization - Anyone who has ever traveled will tell you that the secret to getting the most out of a trip is an effective use of time. Think organizing multiple forms of transportation, making sure not to miss any of the city’s best attractions or exploring a whole country in a short amount of time. All of this involves careful calculation, good attention to detail, prioritization, an incredible amount of organization, and the ability to set goals. A prospective leader who takes a career-break for travel will likely return a savvy planner, excellent at self management, and return more punctual and detail-oriented than ever before. Above all, they will know how to efficiently manage their time.
Develop Problem Solving - Travel is one of the greatest ways to develop your problem solving skills. If there is one thing international travel will teach you it is the ability to think on your feet and adapt to change. International travelers are constantly faced with new challenges, stressful situations and unknown circumstances, and the ability to react accordingly is what makes a leader great.
Common Sense - Travel teaches you to survive by yourself, and imparts a sense of practical thinking and street smarts. A traveler learns to always be observant of their surroundings, to make practical decisions in the moment, and to be ready for change. They learn good sense and sound judgement in practical situations, and can perceive, understand and judge a situation in a sensible and level headed way.
Travel Makes You Fearless - Nothing is impossible for those who have traveled the world. They have likely lived a life full of more adventure than most people dream of, and have had their mind blown wide open to a world of endless possibilities, creative thinking, and a world where anything could happen and reality can be negotiable.

As well as agreeing with the 5 reasons above I also want to add two additional ones of my own which are closely linked and incredibly important too. I believe that traveling really empowers you as a woman and provides you with amazing self awareness and self confidence. These are two qualities absolutely crucial to leaders. Which better way that understanding yourself and confronting your own weaknesses and strengths than during travelling? To travel we must leave behind our own preconceptions and adapt to others…this inevitably brings greater understanding of one self and greater belief in one’s ability to deal with challenges and opportunities.

So next time you interview for a position, make sure to fully use your traveling experiences as a way to highlight your leadership skills!

(*) I am re-posting this blog which I wrote as guest blogger for World Travel Market   

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS - 3 Things you need to know about Mentoring

This month I want to devote my #TuesdayTRIOS to a topic that is extremely dear to me…Mentoring!
Mentoring is now one of the most commonly used tools for entrepreneurship, on-the-job learning, youth employment, women’s empowerment and employees’ engagement….and the list could go on.  But it was not always like that and I believe that many people still struggle to understand how mentoring could help them and their organisation. So today I wish to focus on three things you need to know about mentoring , to ensure that you understand what mentoring is all about and why mentoring can benefit both individuals and organisations.

#1 Mentoring is NOT coaching and is NOT counselling and is NOT training…but at times can incorporate elements of the above. Traditionally mentoring is a one to one holistic relationship focussed on helping individuals grow, mostly on a personal level. The mentor is then understood as somebody wiser, perhaps senior in age to the mentee, because he/she needs to ‘show the rope’. Now a day, the mentor is somebody who can help in a specific area, being the personal or professional sphere. The mentor might have a specific knowledge, or background or experience that is helpful to the mentee at a certain time. The mentor may or may not be older than the mentee, but the mentor has often achieved a certain status or position or role or has gone through a certain experience (e.g. maternity, changing job, re-training, moving to a different country etc) the mentee wishes to know about. I have experienced long tem as well short-term relationships. Sometimes the mentee gets everything he/she needs to know in a call. Sometimes the relationship lasts a number of years…or a lifetime!    

#2 Mentoring can take you from GOOD to GREAT.  Mentoring is at heart an empowering tool that enables individuals to tap into their potential and achieve their best. Mentoring should never be seen as remedial or ‘gap-filling’. Even when the mentor provides knowledge based support, it is more about what you can do with that knowledge than the knowledge itself. It is about exploring, discovering and taking responsibility for the actions that follow, and ensuring that actions always follow from your mentoring conversations!
Mentoring is also about having the opportunity to ‘blue-sky’ in total confidence and safety. In a mentoring relationship mentees should feel free to ask any questions, think beyond limitations and boundaries and deploy all kinds of scenarios. It is often from these apparently ‘impossible’ discussions that very ‘possible’ ideas begin to emerge.

#3 Mentoring comes in many shapes and forms. Traditionally Mentoring is a face to face and one to one relationship. But having mentored hundreds of individuals I know that this is no longer the only way. Telephone and skype are all very easily used in mentoring so you can be on the other side of the world and still make it happen.  In-fact this flexibility works very well for example for women with childcare needs as they can talk to their mentor at times to suit their family needs. As well as one to one mentoring, facilitated peer- and group mentoring can work very well with groups within companies when a group has a common interest or purpose. The advantage in this case is that participants learn from each others as well as from mentors  and for those who find the one to one relationship slightly daunting, this can be an easier way to benefit from mentoring and begin to appreciate its value without feeling ‘ under the spot light’. 

Whichever way you look at it, mentoring is hugely beneficial to individuals and to teams. Whether your purpose is performance, engagement or empowerment, mentoring can support your aims!

If you want to know more about mentoring, or how I might be able to help your organisation in setting up a mentoring programme please get in touch!     

Friday, 3 April 2015

3 Wishes for the long weekend

Ahhhh ...finally the long Easter weekend is here!
I have been thinking about how I will make the best use of the three days ahead to take a break, recharge my body and also enjoy!

#1 On my list is reading. 

I have a pile of articles on social media, women and entrepreneurship waiting to be unwrapped! But also listening to interesting TEDTalks I have downloaded and never had the chance to play.

#2 On the list is family. 

In-fact family and outdoor. Running, cycling, kicking a ball. It is incredible how much you recharge simply by spending quality and relaxed time with the people you love.

#3 It must be food! 

I will be cooking and sharing lazy lunches with family and friends. Good food to heal the soul!

So these are my simple yet so important wishes for the long weekend. Let's make it a peaceful one too, for myself, my family and everyone else near and far!