Tuesday, 29 March 2016

3 Tips To Get The Most Out Of People

Good interpersonal skills are crucial to our professional and social lives. Engaging and motivating others is possibly the only long-lasting way to thrive in business and in one’s personal life. Yet, many (business) people still manage according to the ‘command and control’ rule! 

When asked about this, the most common answers appear to follow in one or more of the following three ‘Management Myths’:    

Myth Number 1

‘As a manager, I get the best results when I tell staff what I need or want’

Myth Number 2

‘By the time I have explained to people the results I am after, I often find I could have done it better on my own. So the following time I do not bother, I simply get on with it myself!’

Myth Number 3

‘What matters is the bottom line: numbers, not people’

Now, think of 3 people in your workplace who are successful at getting things done through others… If you were to write down their attributes and behaviours on a piece of paper you would probably come up with a list similar to the one that follows:

1.        They invest time and effort in building relationships with others

2.        They help others to become most effective by being supportive 

3.        They spend time listening and questioning others

4.        They keep their minds open and do no pre-empt, assume or pass judgment

5.        They accept and build on other people’s ideas 

HERE are some of the skills they use:

          Rapport building

          Active Listening

          Setting empowering goals

Building Rapport

People listen and respond positively to the request of people they like and feel comfortable this. Making people feel at ease is one way to create a good communication flow. With our communication we can influence people and get the outcome we want – but our communication needs to remain authentic and the feeling we express genuine. Mirroring is one technique used to build rapport. This means using mannerism and body language that mirrors the one of the person you wish to influence. This has to be undertaken carefully and ethically to avoid the opposite effect and it needs practice, to ensure that not only your posture but also your facial expression, your pace and tone of voice are taken into account.     


We listen at different levels. But when it comes to mentoring and coaching others, the only listening level that matters is what is called ‘Active’ listening. This is a combination of deep listening - one that enables you to focus on what is being said and to absorb all information provided by the other person, both verbally and non-verbally - and questioning. People who listen actively do not interrupt, pre-empt conversation or assume to know the content of the communication. They use silence to elicit further information as well as open, incise questions to develop further thinking. They take notes and paraphrase what is being said to clarify and confirm their understanding.  They also use non verbal communication – such as nodding, smiling and making sounds - to empathise and indicate that they are following what is being said. 

Setting Empowering Goals

Rather than telling people what to do, we can try to identify the outcome we want without suggesting the route to get there.  If we give somebody the challenge to come up with what he/she thinks is the best solution, we often can observe him/her step up to the plate with innovative, smart new ideas.  In team or group situations, brainstorming sessions will often produce best results because everyone feels able to contribute and eventually a totally new way of addressing an issue will be identified, building on a mix of old and new practices.  Setting empowering goals require trust, patience and a willingness to learn. Sometimes it is not possible or practical to take this approach but whenever learning is more important than time, this modus operandi will produce the most rewarding outcomes.    

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Guest Blog - Why Do Managers Need To Know Menopause in the Workplace?

Today's blog was written by the wonderful Pat Duckworth, award winning author of ‘Hot Women, Cool Solutions; How to control menopause symptoms using mind/body techniques’ . Menopause affects every woman at some point in their life and just like other wellbeing related issues has to be adequately addressed in the workplace in order to minimise its impact. 
Menopause is a workplace issue

Menopause is rarely discussed as a ‘health and safety’ or an ‘occupational health’ issue but a report  by The University of Nottingham for The British Occupational Health Research Foundation (2010)* found that 42 per cent of the women surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that their performance had been negatively impacted by their menopausal symptoms.
Pat Duckworth
Women make up half the workforce and there are an estimated three and a half million women over the age of 50 currently in work. The average age of menopause in the UK is 52 and symptoms may be experienced between the ages of 45 and 65. Add to that women who experience menopause symptoms due to medical treatment such as hysterectomy and hormone treatment for cancer.

Research by the TUC* in 2003 found that the working environment was responsible for making symptoms worse. Issues such as high workplace temperatures, poor ventilation, poor toilet facilities and lack of access to cold drinking water were identified in the survey.  Working hours were also cited as a problem for women working through menopause.

Menopause is not an illness. It is a natural stage of life during which the reproductive hormones are declining until menstrual periods stop. Some women experience relatively symptom free transitions to post-menopause but for others their symptoms can impact on their performance at work.

The symptoms which caused women the most problems at work were:

·         Hot flushes

·         Headaches

·         Anxiety attacks

·         Poor concentration

·         Tiredness

·         Poor memory

·         Feeling low/depressed

·         Lowered confidence

What can Managers do to support women colleagues?

Many women regard their menopausal symptoms a private matter.  They are concerned that discussing it with work colleagues could lead to negative perceptions of their competence and abilities.  However, they appreciate support from colleagues where appropriate.

The issue of menopause could become a managerial issue if either:
  • A woman employee approaches you and mentions that she is experiencing menopausal symptoms that are affecting her performance at work or
  • You become aware of changes in a woman colleague’s performance or attendance which may be due to menopausal symptoms
Do not delay having a discussion with your colleague until you are having a scheduled performance review.  If a colleague’s performance has deteriorated the issue needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.  Invite the person to come and see you for an informal chat.  Choose a time and place that is appropriate for a personal and sensitive conversation.  Prepare for the meeting by reading more about menopausal symptoms.   Make sure that you are aware of your organisation’s policies in respect of employee health and wellbeing.

Start the meeting by reassuring the person that there is nothing ‘wrong’ and then tell them what you have observed for example facts about their behaviour, performance or attendance.  Do not mention the word ‘menopause’ unless the person tells you that that is what the issue is.  Follow up by asking them if there is anything that you can help them with or if there is anything that they want to discuss.

If the person does not want to discuss anything, let them know that they can come and talk to you at any time.  Make a note that you have made the offer of a discussion.

If the person does want to talk to you about what they are experiencing, ask them what help or support they need at work or if they need any adjustments to their working environment.  If they mention something that you are not sure about, be prepared to say that you will need to seek further advice.  At the end of the meeting summarise the actions you have both agreed to take and the timescale for implementation. 

Following the meeting make sure that you carry out the actions that you have agreed to within the timescale agreed.

What sort of workplace adjustments might be appropriate?

The nature of the workplace adjustments that might be appropriate depends on the nature of the symptoms that the woman is experiencing and the type of work they are doing. Here are some examples:

·         Alterations to uniform clothes

·         Changes to duties if work involves a lot of standing

·         Risk assessment of the workstation changes

·         Ensuring that, if requested, the woman is close to ventilation, sources of drinking water or toilets and has provision of discreet storage for personal items

·         Flexible working hours

·         Flexible sickness absence processes that cater for menopause-related absence

Women who perceive that they are supported through the menopause at work have a better experience of this stage of their life and are likely to be more productive and take fewer days of sick leave.

You can find more information about menopause at:


*Women’s Experience of Working through Menopause 2010 http://www.bohrf.org.uk/downloads/Womens_Experience_of_Working_through_the_Menopause-Dec_2010.pdf

*‘Supporting working women through the menopause’ TUC, 2013

By Pat Duckworth MBA, NLP Master Prac, Dip Cog Hyp

Pat Duckworth is a menopause expert, author and inspirational public speaker. She career started in the voluntary and public sector where she rose to be a Senior Civil Servant. Pat discovered her entrepreneurial mojo in her mid-50s and since then has written three books including the award-winning, ‘Hot Women, Cool Solutions’. She is passionate about inspiring other women to get the best from their lives, no matter what their age

Friday, 11 March 2016

Why it is still very important to celebrate #IWD and its core messages

Oh, WHAT a week!

I spent the last five days celebrating International Women's Day with events, debates and festivals and for all its pros and cons, for all its detractors and supporters, my doubts and my faith, I can say from the bottom of my heart that I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I have networked, I have learnt, I have met an incredible bunch of interesting and dynamic people ( not only women Imhasten to add!) and I have had lots of fun too. 

The thing is, over the last 30 years I have seen this International celebration go from strength to near death to being reborn as a Phoenix from the ashes. Growing up in Italy I used to celebrate the Festa della Donna by joining some local feminist parade and receiving mimosa flowers according to the Italian tradition. But that was pretty much the end of it and although it meant something to me, nothing much was happening on a tangible, political or indeed societal level. Arriving in the UK in 1993, the disappointment was even worse though, as absolutely nobody celebrated, indeed knew about it as far as I could see. But over the last decade or so there has been a massive resurgence and IWD has gained a new lease of life, probably thanks to a number of concurrent drivers, such as economic crisis; political/refugees crisis; skills scarcity and war for talent; corporate social responsibility; the broader diversity agenda. All of this and probably much more, including extensive celebrity endorsement. 

But why should we care still, in 2016? 
Well, I am not going to repeat all the various bits of arguments, from inequality to pay gap, which have been discussed and written about at length over the last week and before. All those arguments absolutely stand and I bet you could recite them by heart.

The fact is, as some say, if we limit ourselves to a day, a day in 365 that make up a year, are we actually perpetuating the idea that we, the women, the other half of this planet, are in fact a minority? Should we not, as a matter of fact, believe that every day is international women's day? 

It is a valid point, but in my view not valid to the point of undermining the very existence of IWD.
It is a little bit like saying to a Christian that there is no point in celebrating Christmas because everyday we should celebrate Jesus. Or stop celebrating your birthday because everyday we should rejoice at our being alive. 

The fact is, everything that matters need to have a focal point, a greater momentum and an anchor. That is what IWD is for millions of women worldwide who want to see change, equality of opportunities, recognition. As women, we want that everyday, but here is a day ( indeed a week and possibly a month !) when we come together to really make noises about it and shout it from the roof top together with those important others ( i.e. Men!) who share our goals and hopes. Luckily there are an increasing number of them and we need them all because ultimately, as I have heard more than once this week, women issues are human rights issues are mankind issues. 
Besides, even if most people have forgotten this or never knew it, IWD was born out of a real incident, that took place in polish mines, when a bunch of women died due to terrible working conditions. Terrible working conditions still exist for millions of women worldwide, while on the other hand many millions too are not allowed to work.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Those who say that parity has been achieved have yet to waken up to the real world, would probably never spend two minutes thinking about it, and that is why having a focal point is important. As and when we can say 'mission accomplished' I will be the first one to shelve plans for celebrations. But until then, long live IWD and may this grassroots power, dynamic energy and great enthusiasm continue to engage the millions long after the actual day. Undoubtedly, we need all the help we can get! 

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

Friday, 4 March 2016

All about mentoring - My Interview with Saskia Constantinou, Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation

Alessandra Alonso and Saskia Constantinou discuss mentoring and why everyone needs one: 

You can listen to my interview by clicking the link and downloading the MP3 file

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

Why #Leadership Without #Emotions Is No Leadership At All

A couple of days ago I overheard this conversation on the underground.

Two gentlemen spoke, let's call them A and B:

(A) 'I am thinking of moving on from my work'
(B) 'Why, what's wrong?' 
(A) 'Well, last Sunday I sent a text to my boss, saying that I had been in hospital and up all night with my little girl and I was not going into work that morning'
(B) 'Goodness, is she ok? '
(A) 'Yeah, luckily she is although we were scared. But you know what he did?
(B) 'No, tell me'
(A) 'He sent me a text back saying Remember the job has to be done by Friday.
No hello, no how is your girl, no how are you, just the b****y work has to be done by Friday. I am fed up and I am not going to stay' 
(B) 'I don't blame you, mate' 

Well, I do not blame him either. Would you? I really felt for him and reckon that in his shoes I would be saying the same and probably acting the same. Who wouldn't?

The fact is as human beings we have a need to be understood, supported and encouraged and then the rest comes. Had the boss shown a little sympathy, demonstrated a bit of empathy and then asked how Mr A thought the job could be finished his absence notwithstanding, I am sure that Mr A would have felt not only supported, but would have chosen to resolve the situation as quickly as possible, finding a win-win solution. 

Instead, he is now ready to leave the company!

Unfortunately this behaviour is more common that we might like to think. There are some obvious mistakes to learn from and several lessons in here for all of us:

#1 Beware your communication medium of choice

What is it with technology? My view is that we hardly engage when we chose to communicate through a medium such as a text or an email. At best we inform, at worst we impart orders or directions. Often we cause misunderstanding and fracture.

In such a delicate and emotionally raw circumstance, a leader would have picked up the phone and made that human connection, extended a light and reassuring touch. Instead, the boss sends a text and trumples heavy footed all over his employee. The result is a disgruntled, disengaged staff who will leave at the first opportunity. 

#2 People NOT tasks

The boss is so enwrapped in his world that sees no link between dealing with his staff well and getting things done. Who is going to complete the task if a disgruntled employee decides not to come back? Ultimately whatever needs doing in the workplace will be done by a person (with or without the help of a machine or a gadget). So unless that person is understood and emotionally supported through a difficult period nothing will be executed, clients will be very unhappy, profit will be lost. Yes, it is that simple!

#3 Empathy is NOT a weakness

Indeed, showing that you have emotions is not a sign of weakness at all. But many bosses still think that showing empathy, or appreciation, or understanding or kindness will tell people that they are weak and soft and not worthy or their positions. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.  Research has shown us time and again that the best leaders are highly emotionally intelligent and that has never detracted from their ability to command respect and credibility.

#4 Emotions impact your personal brand

What is that boss all about? Employees who hear the story recounted by A will be wondering what the boss is made of. His personal brand will be enormously affected as staff begins to see a side that perhaps had been kept undercover. And when the magic is broken, it will be very hard for that individual to rebuild his reputation based on human kindness, authenticity and loyalty.

Is this somebody you want to work with when a similar situation might one day happen to you? The answer is a resounding NO and the boss had better be aware of this.   

#5 The cost of emotional negligence

I want to give that boss the benefit of doubt. Perhaps the text caught him unprepared, perhaps he was tired, or in the middle of something else. Let's say that this has been negligence rather than a pre-mediated response. Even so, what is the cost of its impact?

We have already mentioned the impact that his response is likely to have on his reputation. Next comes the cost of breeching trust and the consequence of losing an employee. Even if he does not leave now, it will be a matter of time as his engagement and loyalty to the company has been almost irreparably damaged. It is a very well documented fact that hiring and training a new employee is far more costly that keeping an old one. To this we must add that in the medium term other employees may be affected as the story burns good-will bridges.  

So all in all some dire consequences on the back of an apparently minor incident, hiding a rather large emotional gap.

Have you experienced the consequences of poor emotional intelligence? Have you on the contrary been at the receiving end of a highly emotionally intelligent boss or colleague? Your comments are always very appreciated!

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.