Friday, 21 August 2015

The Value of Networking

Several years ago a business associate of mine recommended that I "do more networking".

I took his advice and I can honestly say that I have never looked back, in fact a lot of my work now involves organising and running networking events.

When I talk to people (especially senior managers) about networking they often say "I need to get out to more events" and yet they soon forget and return to the daily grind.

Then there are those who see no benefit in networking as "it's just a load of people talking".

So as one who has observed the benefits of networking, particularly during the eight years of running events I am going to outline some advantages of regular networking.

Firstly though, let's agree what networking is and isn't in a business environment.

Networking is about renewing or building relationships with like-minded people. It involves supporting acquaintances with work-related matters and asking for support when needed.

Attending industry specific networking events helps individuals to learn and grow and should apply to all levels within an organisation.

Networking isn't about attending events with a 'hidden agenda'. Nor is it about being 'pushy' and/or hard selling your products or concepts to others. I hear a lot of stories about individuals who have become renowned for their persistent, pushy approach to networking, don't let that be you.

So why should we all network on a regular basis?

Ten Important Reasons to Network...

  1. Connect with fellow professionals from other organisations
  2. Enjoy a day in different surroundings
  3. Build long-term relationships
  4. Meet industry influencers face to face
  5. Ask questions of colleagues and industry figures
  6. Stay 'current' in terms of trends and knowledge
  7. Listen to speakers and enjoy inspirational presentations
  8. Build self-confidence
  9. Build a professional contact database
  10. Collaborate on specific projects

Plan Your Networking

Once you have decided to act and you commit to networking more regularly you should plan your events carefully. Choose those that relate specifically to your work and try to find out who will be attending.

Carry on Networking

Don't forget that networking can also continue away from events. Remember to pick up the phone every now and again. Some of the best networkers plan calls over a period of months, this helps them to maintain rapport with colleagues and associates.


The short and long term value of regular networking is almost immeasurable. Whether it helps you in your current role or enhances your future career prospects it should not be ignored.

So make a plan and get out there and make connections!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Fear of Mirrors

It's that time of year...classes are full, car parks overflowing and gyms crammed full of people wearing their new gear and gadgets. It's also the time of year that personal trainers and fitness instructors get excited as a sudden rush of business leads to a renewed energy and a feeling of success.

As we all know this phase lasts just a few weeks as people return to 'normal' life routines and the fitness habit fades away.

Image courtesy of

Why is this?

Let's start with the basics, people are busy and they mean well when they start a new regime in January...but life gets in the way.

So the first thing fitness professionals need to do is to remember that the majority of people DON'T live and breathe fitness. In fact many don't even want to go to the gym or to a class, they just feel that they have to.

For most people life away from the gym is much more enjoyable than life at the gym.

The Fear Journey

Please don't think that once a person has been for an 'induction' that they are now part of the #fitfam and are going to take 'selfies' in the club loo. Sometimes the fear never really leaves, it just diminishes a little as time goes on. So please stop and think hard about something I refer to as 'The Fear Journey'.

The Fear Journey is a little like the industry favourite 'member journey', except that it is located in the mind of each individual consumer. If you are a fitness professional and/or manager I implore you to read these points whilst picturing each different scenario in your mind.

ALL of the points below are taken from comments made at focus group sessions I have run for clients.

It starts with the fear of not being fit enough to visit a gym and then leads on to...
  • the fear of walking through the main door of the club
  • the fear of meeting a grumpy receptionist
  • the fear of being laughed at
  • the fear of being amongst strangers (all of whom are very fit)
  • the fear of meeting a 'hard-sell' sales person
  • the fear of buying a membership without really knowing the contractual implications
  • the fear of not knowing how to 'work the lockers'
  • the fear of not knowing where the loos are
  • the fear of undressing amongst all of the fit people in the changing room
  • the fear of forgetting something (trainers, shorts, t-shirt, knickers, socks...)
  • the fear of getting lost in the changing room (and never being found)
  • the fear of getting lost after leaving the changing room
  • the fear of not knowing how to use the gym equipment
  • the fear of not remembering how to use the gym equipment
  • the fear of doing that first-ever class
  • the fear of opening the studio door
  • the fear of being unable to hide from the studio instructor
  • the fear of being unable to hide from everyone else in the class
  • the fear of being laughed at (again)
  • the fear of mirrors
  • the fear of your wobbly-bits wobbling
  • the fear of being shouted at by the instructor
  • the fear of being the most unfit/overweight person in the room/club
  • the fear of not having the trendiest gym clothing
  • the fear of still not being fit enough
  • the fear of returning to the gym to do it all again...

Now I am sure you could add a few to the list above but these are some of the things that cause real fear and panic to new visitors. So what can you do about it?

My view is that you can make the journey much more fun and friendly. Start with the attitude that most people do feel uncomfortable in a new environment until they get to know it and the people within it.

Most importantly you must remember that it's the little things that make the difference.

How you tackle each point is entirely up to you and your team but I encourage you to do it as soon as you can.

After all, it is already the time of year when New Year resolutions seem like a distant memory!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Coaching vs Training - A Perspective

I’m writing this as I prepare a presentation for a forthcoming LFX event.

Our first event focused on Recruitment, Selection and Development and our second (November 27th) is especially aimed at facility managers and duty managers. 
As part of the day I will be addressing the topic of ‘Managers as Coaches’.

During my preparation for the presentation I started to think about the benefits of coaching when compared to what I shall term ‘traditional training’.

Having both received and delivered traditional training during the early and mid-stages of my career I have become accustomed to people arriving at training events and saying "I'm not really sure why I'm here, my boss sent me" or “What’s this course about”?

Hardly a ringing endorsement of a well planned and communicated team development strategy!

So why do I believe that coaching offers a better return on investment?

Firstly let's consider the way in which a lot of training decisions are made.

The main factor often seems to be the cost of training programmes as the cheaper they are, the more people you can send! If they are free or 'funded' then that's even better as it helps us to tick the staff development box. Unfortunately this misses a hugely important point, the return on investment.

When I coach clients we work together and use a variety of tools and exercises to understand how things are and how things could be in the future. We spend quality time together and I provide homework and work-based exercises to help the individual or ‘coachee’ learn about themselves, their behaviours and strengths.
This is active learning rather than the more passive approach that occurs during traditional training sessions or with the recent ‘get qualified quickly’ online courses.

Coaching creates action and I can’t honestly think of a session I’ve done where a client has left with no action to take or work to do to develop their approach to work and life. Coaching is also about discovery. The discovery of natural strengths and talents is almost guaranteed to boost confidence and improve performance.

As a coach I also get to know the challenges that my clients face at work and occasionally at home. These aren’t usually the kind of things that are raised during a training course. By working together to solve problems we develop and strong, trusting bond.

As the trust grows my clients are able to scrutinize their own behaviours and abilities without fear of criticism or judgement. By asking appropriate questions I find that clients will evaluate their actions, tactics and attitude and will ultimately commit to making improvements, wherever such improvements might be required.

With regard to questions it sometimes amazes me when a simple question can stimulate so much thought and such a variety of responses.

A question as simple as “What would you need to happen for you to improve your performance at work”? can generate a huge amount of self-evaluation.

Another factor when comparing coaching to traditional training is that even the most quiet, timid person has a voice. During group training sessions the more vocal individuals can dominate a session. When individuals are coached on a one to one basis simply doesn’t happen and some incredibly intelligent thoughts and ideas arise.

So think about traditional training for a moment, is it always the solution?

If your favourite sports team decided not to have a coach and instead sent players on a series of training courses would it be a good move? Would individual and team performance improve?

Coaching is proven to be effective in improving performance, just ask some of the world’s most successful athletes.

Think about the training sessions you’ve attended during your career, there are bound to be a number of benefits that you have enjoyed but I think you would take a lot more from a personal coaching programme.

Interestingly there are still a considerable number of senior executives who feel that they don’t need coaching as they are at a ‘higher level’ than their colleagues. This is a great shame in my opinion as no one is beyond being coached; in fact those that say they don’t need it are usually the ones who need it most.

Let me finish with some evidence as to the power of coaching…

“A study featured in Public Personnel Management Journal reports that managers that underwent a managerial training programme showed an increased productivity of 22.4%. 
However, a second group was provided with coaching following the training process and their productivity increased by 88%.
Research does demonstrate that one-on-one executive coaching is of significant value.”
F. Turner, Ph.D.

I rest my case.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Can't Wait to Return

During my recent coaching work I have been banging the 'extremes' drum because people always seem to remember extremes.

Think about this as you go about your business and as you lead your team.

Whatever you do people will remember you for being exceptionally good or just plain old bad.
I am sure you have had a fantastic service experience or seen an outstanding presentation that was memorable for all the right reasons.

We easily forget the stuff in the middle.

Think of Trip advisor for a moment, which reviews do you remember? I suspect it will be those with headings like 'Dream Holiday, Can't Wait to Return' or 'Holiday from Hell'.

It is important to remember that people are now making purchasing decisions based on the reviews and opinions of others. I quite often use my phone to check reviews on some items before I buy and I am immediately turned off by anything that is extremely negative.

Average really isn't good enough, we should all do our utmost to ensure that we've made someone's day by helping them beyond what was expected.

There is a member of my LFX network who regularly sends me wonderful emails, she thanks me for some of the little things we do for our members. She now stands out in my mind as someone who excels in communication and as a result I will one day recommend her when the appropriate role appears. She is at the top end of the extreme scale because her emails are a joy to receive.

So my advice to you is really simple, don't be caught in the middle and definitely don't be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to the way in which your customers feel about their experience with you.

Whether you are a personal trainer, hairdresser, landscape gardener or CEO you must stand out as being wonderful to deal with.

Strive to lead a 'can't wait to return' business, you'll enjoy the journey.