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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The best way to PERMANENTLY improve your communications




If you want to permanently improve how you communicate, you have to identify:

  • What you want to improve; and
  • How you’ll make it permanent

Sounds obvious, yes?

But I’ve seen plenty of people think of the former (“I want to be better at delegating”); but not the latter (“I know I want to improve my delegating. But, I’m busy so don’t have time to think about it now”)

So, instead of thinking “what do I want to improve now?”, then changing for a couple of days and then reverting back, use my Halve-It Approach:

  • Identify what you want your communication skills to be like at future date X (Let’s assume you want to become a brilliant presenter, and X is 16 weeks from now)
  • Halve-It: ask ‘what must I be able to do 8 weeks from now (it’s 8, because 8 is half of 16), to ensure I’ll be where I want to be 16 weeks from now? (In this example, it might be that you will have delivered a few presentations to large audiences and have had good feedback, but have clear areas to improve
  • Halve-It: ask ‘what must I be able to do 4 weeks from now, so I hit my target of where I need to be 8 weeks from now?’
  • Keep halving it: ‘And what must I be able to do two weeks from now? One week? Half a week?....’
  • ‘…so what must I do today/tomorrow to get going? Because, if I don’t, I already know I won’t hit my 16 week goal’

This approach is more likely to lead to permanent improvement. Of course, you’ll need to give yourself lots of help, to increase the chances of it working:

  • Follow the steps
  • Put all the relevant things in your calendar, so you give it the right time and priority
  • In addition to your calendar, think what/who else will help you on the journey – your colleagues, boss, peers, available resources, and so on

One thing I’m known for is that all my presentations are very interactive. My audiences always interact with me and/or each other and/or exercises I ask them to do.

But they weren’t once. In fact, nobody asks me why my presentations are so interactive now. But if I hadn’t used the Halve-It Approach a few years ago, they wouldn’t be.

So, what permanent change would you like to make?

And how will you ensure you do?

Action point


This week’s actions go back to the top two points of this week’s Tip - identify:

  • What you want to improve; and
  • How you’ll make it permanent (for example, by using Halve-It)
Without the first, you won’t improve. Without the second, it won’t be permanent.Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

It’s easiest to influence people who KNOW you and OWE you



Do you see your important contacts often enough?

Or are there some you haven’t called for far too long?

If this sounds familiar, there are a few problems with this, of course. One being that, when we don’t talk to people enough, they don’t know us enough. And, when this happens, it’s much harder to influence them.

In fact, it is always easiest to influence people who KNOW you and OWE you. In other words, they need to speak with you often enough for their liking. And, when they do, it has to bring them value.

So, how to achieve both?

1. Knowing you

A simple way to ensure you speak to your important contacts more: KITE them. Where KITE stands for Keep In Touch Every. There’ll be some you should Keep In Touch with Every week; every other week, every month; and so on.

Once you know who the ‘weeklies’ are, group all their names in a recurring weekly diary entry, reminding you to call them. Put your monthlies in recurring monthly entries; and so on.

And, as for what to say when you contact them…

2. Owing you

People like to reciprocate (you know this to be true – ever received a Christmas Card and not felt a strangely obsessive compulsion to send one back immediately? Thought not).

So, when you give to people first, there’s a good chance they’ll want to give back – great for both of you.

This means, when you’re KITE-ing your contacts, always bring unexpected value to them. For example:

  • Introduce them to someone useful
  • Invite them to an event that will help them
  • Teach them something they didn’t know they didn’t know, which will make a big difference to them
  • Offer to help them
  • Suggest you come out to see them
  • Remember what they talked about with you last time you spoke, and ask how things are going for them with it
  • And so on

It all sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? All I’m saying is to (1) speak to people more, and (2) help them when you do.

But, with our increasingly-busy lives, it’s easy to get out of the routine of doing this. Recurring KITE diary entries help ensure you fit things round them, not the other way round.

Action point


Review your main contacts, and identify how often you should be speaking to each of them. Group all the weeklies in recurring weekly diary entries, monthlies in recurring monthlies, and so on. And then make sure they get something out of every interaction with you.


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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hate your inbox? Try these…




One of the most common grumbles I hear:

“I hate my inbox”



When I dig into this a bit, I find that people – in effect – think this:

“Well, there are only two problems – finding the time to craft all my brilliant emails; and being forced to read everyone else’s rubbish ones”

Sound familiar?

If so, you might think there’s nothing you can do. But, fortunately, there’s ‘more than nothing’ you can do. Here are a few:



- When you get an email that looks like it’s going to be complicated to reply to, visit/telephone the person who sent it, and ask what they want you to do


- Empty your inbox as often as you can – put things in folders… or the bin

- Want to get good emails? Then, send good emails:

  • Review your sent items – when you re-read your emails, ask yourself whether others will find them useful? If not, how could you improve them?
  • Ask your colleagues for feedback on how good your emails are

- Unless it’s appropriate, don’t “reply all” – that just clutters everyone’s inbox (and often leads to them hitting “reply all” and cluttering yours)

- When you receive a lengthy email, reply/call with “Thanks for this. I’m short of time today. Very quickly, what is it you would like me to do with it?”

- If you need an email to act as evidence/audit trail, have a chat with the person first, get verbal agreement and then send an ‘audit trail email’ confirming your agreement (much quicker than seeking agreement in an Email Chat)

- When you get a long email chain, delete all but the most recent one – there’s lots of repetition

- When you’re struggling to identify how best to phrase an email, pick up the phone

- When someone sends an email that you can reply better to verbally than in writing, pick up the phone

- It’s probably worth you picking up the phone more often than you do

- Just pick up the phone

Emails are weird things. They should help – they’re fast, convenient and provide an audit trail. And when used correctly, they are helpful. But when they aren’t, well… they aren’t.

Action point


Since there’s ‘more than nothing’ you can do to improve your inbox, then do ‘more than nothing’! identify which of the above points will have the biggest impact, and do it.



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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

People’s personalities can change when they’re driving… and writing




We’ve all seen impatient drivers beeping their horns at other drivers they feel are too slow.

If they weren’t in cars, this would be Faster Person A, standing behind Slower Person B, leaning into their ear and shouting ‘OOOI!’

It wouldn’t happen.

Or those drivers who rudely, dangerously cut people up.

That would be like a supermarket shopper jumping from queue to queue barging others out of the way, to get to the front more quickly.

It wouldn’t happen.

And it’s not just driving that changes personalities. Writing can too. I mean, when you’re talking to someone, have you ever said – actually said – phrases like:

  • I attach herewith
  • Please find enclosed
  • Prior to the commencement of
  • We were founded in 1922

It shouldn’t happen.

Here’s a simple, very useful technique to improve your writing: before sending it, read it out loud to yourself. If it sounds ‘normal’, send it. If it doesn’t, think “how would I say this if I was talking?” and edit it before sending.

And one final one: if you’ve written an email in a bad mood, absolutely definitely don’t send it until you’ve calmed down a bit. The email will last a lot longer than your temper!

Action point


Get a recent piece of written work – an email, document, report etc – and read it out loud. Does it sound as if it’s coming from you? Or some weird corporate thing? If it sounds like you, great. If not, you know what to do…


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Song of the day: 60's





1) Watch the music video 

2) Close your eyes and listen to the lyrics  

3) Read the song lyrics  

4) Read the song lyrics whilst listening to the music video at the same time




Leonard Cohen - Suzanne 

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river,
You can hear the boats go by you can spend the night beside her,
And you know that she's half crazy but that's why you wanna be there,
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China,
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her,
Then she gets you on her wavelength and she lets the river answer,
That you've always been her lover.

And you want to travel with her,
And you want to travel blind,
And you know that she will trust you,
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water,
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower,
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him,
He said "all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them,"
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.

And you want to travel with him,
And you want to travel blind,
And you think maybe you'll trust him,
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river,
She is wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters,
And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbor,
And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers,
There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning,
They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever,
While Suzanne holds the mirror.

And you want to travel with her,
And you want to travel blind,
And you know that you can trust her,
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.

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