Questionable decision making or good publicity

How often have you had to back down on decisions you’ve made or admit you were wrong? It’s a hard thing to admit because it always smacks of failure or inadequacy.

In the 1960s the late MP for Bristol South East and latterly Chesterfield Tony Benn famously changed his views on the nuclear industry, originally being a supporter and then becoming one of the labour government’s most ardent naysayers. I was always impressed with his reply to questions about his change in views – “I was wrong”. How many politicians and leaders would say that publically these days? How often does that happen in business?

There have been some extensive product recalls in the Japanese automotive industry recently due to ‘component failures’. Is that the reason? Or did someone decide to buy the wrong thing or ineffectively check the design of what was bought ? Was someone wrong?

There’s the ever-lasting banking crisis where having been told for years that banks are secure, successful, robust ‘no problems here’ businesses suddenly everything is falling around their ears, they’ve no money, people are making some very strange choices that result in huge fines ……..I call that decision making myself – REALLY bad decision making!

And now we have another very public volte-face. The Glasgow Organising Committee of the 2014 Commonwealth Games (hope I’ve got their name right) announced a few weeks ago that as part of the opening ceremony  footage of a live demolition of the Red Road flats would be included.

Now for me that felt somewhat counter-intuitive for a sporting event. Not the actual thought of demolition but all that dust in the air when athletes are trying to strive beyond excellence, win gold medals, get world records or just get involved….but what do I know, the closest I get to sport is from my armchair!

There was a huge hue-and-cry from the population of Glasgow about the demolition – which was a shame as it is recognised but most that the flats have been empty for years, some of the blocks have already been demolished and the rest WILL come down – it’s just a case of when.

So yesterday the powers arranging the opening ceremony have ‘decided’ (or maybe been persuaded) that including the demolition in the Games will not happen. A good decision in my mind. But something made me think this morning……hasn’t the Commonwealth Games had some excellent publicity over the past few weeks? Publicity is publicity after all, whether it’s good or bad. Maybe I’m just a conspiracy theorist.

But I say good luck to Glasgow. I’m sure they’re got other excellent ideas for the opening ceremony. They have some brilliant athletes planning to attend and I really hope we have some of the little heroes turn up as well to do their best for their countries even though they only took up the particular discipline a couple of weeks ago.

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Where’s your ice mountain?

So the 2014 Winter Olympics are nearly over and yet again Team GB have proven they are quite good at throwing themselves and objects around on ice. On snow we haven’t done quite so well  but we did get a medal and actually in world standings in snowboarding and snow cross and the like we’re up there with the good guys – well girls really. But it’s all made me think again.

Ice. Snow. It’s all really cold. Mountains with snow and ice. Arenas with ice and blades. It’s all really dangerous, exhausting – oh and dangerous! And those girls on the giant tea-trays! (that’s skeleton to the initiated). Totally insane!

So you have to ask yourself (and them), why do it? After all, they could all chose summer Olympic sports don’t appear to me to hold the same level of danger.

The answer that many might give is “because we can”. Some admit that adrenaline is addictive. Some say that it’s because the ultimate challenge is with yourself, to push yourself to the limits to achieve something no-one else can. Others will just come out and admit “it’s fun” or “because we want to”. But we bystanders all know that really it’s because they are different (oh, and mad).

Everyone looks (or should look) for challenges in their lives – Winter Olympians just go that extra mile. They look for the ultimate challenge – travelling at stupid miles an hour down an ice chute,  throwing themselves down an icy mountain and trying to avoid little sticks, skiing long distances and stopping to shoot at things, launching off into the air to fly like an eagle (to quote the closing ceremony of the Calgary Games and referring to the iconic Eddie the Eagle Edwards).

For rest of us mere mortals, challenge comes from different places; we don’t search for an ice mountain.

For some, the greatest challenge is leaving the house in the morning and confronting the outside world. For others it’s finding a job that makes them feel “human”. Some meet the challenge by picking up the phone continually through the day, knowing that 99% of the people are going to put the phone down on them. Others care for the sick and the elderly and get little thanks for their effort.  It could be that a huge challenge is meeting new people, or even worse standing up and talking in front of a room full of people. For some it’s writing,  anything, let alone sharing it in a blog. Challenges come from not shouting at the children who yet again have spilt the milk all over the floor that has just been cleaned, getting through the day without dissolving into a nervous wreck; from making it through the day – no seriously, just making it through the day.

I think I’m lucky. I’ve chosen the challenges that I want to meet. They may seem dull and mundane to some; they may seem scary and bold to others. But they are what makes my life for me and makes me who I am. So maybe we should be more considerate to the person in the queue who appears to be dithering and getting in our way, maybe today they chose to meet their challenge.

Everyone has a challenge that they need to overcome to get through the day – where’s your ice mountain?

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Cheerfulness

I love words. I love the sound they make. I love the feelings and images they can evoke when you read them. I love the impressions and impact that they have and can create when you use them in combinations (very often referred to as sentences or, more recently, as sound bites). I use words every day (hopefully effectively) in the job I do helping to write bids and proposals and I’ve often thought that the book I’d like to take to a desert island with me is a dictionary.  You can have hours of fun just opening a page, looking at the words that appear and learning new things about them.

So I thought I’d begin the new year by sharing one of my favourite positive words with you.

Cheerfulness: isn’t it a nice word. It’s got a wonderful group of vowel sounds that really make the mouth work and make you create a smile – well in my mind and the way I talk they do.

To give its true meaning I’ve split the word into its component parts (cheerful and ness) and turned to the Oxford English Dictionary – the concise version – to understand it’s meaning and being ever contrary I turned to the end of the word to begin.

“-ness” is a suffix which expresses a state or condition – exactly what I thought it meant, in a sense it’s way of saying “I am ” or “we are”.

“cheerful” is an adjective whose meaning is described in three ways:

  • in good spirits or noticeably happy
  • bright or pleasant
  • willing or not reluctant

So all in all it’s a pretty powerful word I think and I love that fact that I’ve just discovered that it can refer to a state of non-reluctance. I can honestly say I didn’t know that, but what an appropriate word for the start of a New Year.

Cheerfulness: I am in good spirits, I am bright and I am not reluctant to embark on the adventures that may come my way in the year to come. What new things can you learn about words you take for granted.

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The problem with punctuation………….

There’s a view held by some that punctuation is unnecessary, that in these days of instant messages, txtspk and, to be honest, the lack of a basic care of when and where to use the apostrophe, comma or semi-colon, we really don’t need to bother.

I beg to differ, not only because grammar helps give words a structure, a framework and very often proper meaning – but it can also keep your job.

I’ll explain.

I recently returned a signed contract to a client and as I had made a couple of minor changes to the content based on a discussion we had concluded, I initialled the amendments in the contract. Wanting to make sure that my client was completely happy with the amendments, in my accompanying letter to them I made the offer that if they wanted to update the contract to include the changes and send it back out to me again, I would be very happy to resign.

OK, so that looks innocuous enough doesn’t it?

The word I used was resign.

Did I mean that I wanted to walk away from the contract?

NO!! Absolutely not! What I meant was that I would be happy to sign the updated version – for which the word is re-sign! (Some would say I should have changed the sentence to avoid confusion but that’s another blog posting).

So for the sake of a little hyphen I could quite easily have inferred to my client that I didn’t want to work with them, and turned my back on a really interesting piece of work and a relationship that I have been developing over quite a few months.

As I always read everything I write again before sending anything, I recognised my faux-pas and quickly changed resign to re-sign and the potential disaster was averted – but you can see why I think punctuation is important.

I wonder how often these kind of issues slip through the net…………..

If you are interested in the “rules” relating to hyphenation of words with the pre-fix “re”, I’ll refer you to any good grammar guide, but one I found online that often helps me is called grammarbook.com in which rule 8 for using hyphens is:

Use the hyphen with the prefix re only when the re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word“.

I think it would have caused confusion………..and Happy New Year to everyone

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The problem with punctuation…….

There’s a view held by some that punctuation is unnecessary, that in these days of instant messages, txtspk and, to be honest, the lack of a basic care of when and where to use the apostrophe, comma or semi-colon, we really don’t need to bother.

I beg to differ, not only because grammar helps give words a structure, a framework and very often proper meaning – but it can also keep your job.

I’ll explain.

I recently returned a signed contract to a client and as I had made a couple of minor changes to the content based on a discussion we had concluded, I initialled the amendments in the contract. Wanting to make sure that my client was completely happy with the amendments, in my accompanying letter to them I made the offer that if they wanted to update the contract to include the changes and send it back out to me again, I would be very happy to resign.

OK, so that looks innocuous enough doesn’t it?

The word I used was resign.

Did I mean that I wanted to walk away from the contract?

NO!! Absolutely not! What I meant was that I would be happy to sign the updated version – for which the word is re-sign! (Some would say I should have changed the sentence to avoid confusion but that’s another blog posting).

So for the sake of a little hyphen I could quite easily have inferred to my client that I didn’t want to work with them, and turned my back on a really interesting piece of work and a relationship that I have been developing over quite a few months.

As I always read everything I write again before sending anything, I recognised my faux-pas and quickly changed resign to re-sign and the potential disaster was averted – but you can see why I think punctuation is important.

I wonder how often these kind of issues slip through the net…………..

If you are interested in the “rules” relating to hyphenation of words with the pre-fix “re”, I’ll refer you to any good grammar guide, but one I found online that often helps me is called grammarbook.com in which rule 8 for using hyphens is:

Use the hyphen with the prefix re only when the re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word“.

I think it would have caused confusion………..and Happy New Year to everyone

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finding the cat

black cat on black backgroundThis is one of my favourite pictures of the moment. It reminds me of the old saying “who can find the black cat in the darkened room without the light”. In a picture like this you can, because of the depth of expression, the excellent photography and the beautiful subject – and because the person who took the photograph wants you the see the cat.

My question to you all today is this: how do you help people find your black cat? or, not to put too fine a point on it, “how do you help your clients find the excellence of your solution, product and service when you put together a bid or proposal for them?

It’s important to recognise that in these days of instant messaging, 10 second sound bites and channel hopping during advert breaks, that everyone needs to help their readers find the information that you want them to remember. You cannot rely on your clients remembering what you said to them a couple of weeks ago when you met to discuss a potential opportunity. You cannot just hope that the client will find all the information they need in your documents. If you are the incumbent service provider or product supplier, if you don’t remind them of all the (hopefully) excellent service or products you provide you only have yourself to blame if they chose someone else who tells them how good they are in providing them in a competitive situation.

It sounds so easy to say and many will say it’s so difficult to do – but is it? Surely taking a little time to plan what you want your clients to remember so that you can win is well worth the effort it takes because the reward is the business you gain. And to be honest it’s not difficult if you plan to do it right, you just have to make the time.

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Should all cows be given names?

cowI tweet. Not often, I admit, but  I do tweet random comments and my blog is publicised through Twitter as well as through my website and LinkedIn. I read tweets more than I tweet myself. I often retweet and recently I even started replying to tweets or even tweeting people directly – I’m in awe of my technical ability. But enough of this; on to the point of this blog.

Today I found a tweet from the excellent staff at QI (UK TV show for those who don’t know), The QI Elves (@qikipedia). They have access to an inordinate amount of random facts that really are quite interesting which they share. Here’s one of today’s facts:

“Cows with names produce more milk than cows that don’t have names”

and because my brain tends to work this way, it made me think.

How well does anyone work where they feel they are just one of many and their efforts aren’t appreciated?  In some companies I’ve worked in there’s been regular comments from people who have said they don’t try hard because no-one notices them or the work they do, why should they bother? And equally members of management who are all too quick at taking the credit for the effort and ideas put forward by others, but are then surprised because “no-one tries any more”.

In the world of sales, bids and proposals, how good can your documentation, presentations etc really be if you don’t know who you are talking to? There are many who have written on this subject, but I don’t mind that I’m just reinforcing old messages because still it’s all too true. If you and your efforts aren’t appreciated you are less likely to put your all into any project or activity. If you don’t know who you are selling to and what is important to them how can you put forward proposition that meet their individual needs?.

Obviously to cows it’s important to have a name,  what’s important to your  staff and your contacts?

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