We are Tangent

My team leader returned a particular student’s exam paper to me and told me that despite the answer being relatively eloquent and logical that I had over marked it and I was required to reduce. Although my instinct was to argue the case, I ceded to my superior and dutifully did as I was told. What a pity.

The pity is not that as a mature person I kept qTangentLine_1000uiet and obeyed, it’s that students, especially in the humanities arena often score lower than they should because they ‘fail to answer the question’. Ever since I was that type of student myself the rebel devil in my head has thought: Actually mate, I have answered your damned question but I’ve taken it upon myself to add something else of interest. What you asked is limited and predictable and as an arty person I’m giving you more. More in fact than you deserve.

Nothing has changed, least of all the continuing conspiracy that places a science template over the bones of creative thought with the sole aim to ‘straighten it all out’ because as we know, ‘they’ have never liked deviation and tangential ideas.

When I was young…I declared myself a romantic thinker in the vein of Goethe and Shelley, I subsequently signed up to Surrealism and Existentialism. I bought into everything I could to demarcate myself from my friends who were homing in on business and science. The main problem though was (and still is) that I had too little talent to be a really great artist and despite my medalling with a guitar, a few pastel on sketchbook etchings and an attempt to make Mime the new language  of global communication I pulled back from faux creativity and became an observer.

I’ve been marking exams for about 6 years and have seen all kinds of variations on the correct answer. The easiest ones to mark are the blank pages because zero is zero in any language and by the way kids, that old wives’ tale about scoring 1 for spelling your own name properly is incorrect. We don’t see or even care about your name and in true ‘Prisoner’ terms you really are a number and not a name.

But I digress.  Students who put nought get nought. Waffle/padding is easy to spot and is not worth including. Eventually what leaners need to put is the right answer. I enjoy reading the extra stuff and once in every two hundred the candidate persuades me to give them extra marks. I however resist that temptation because although I may think it’s deserved, my performance too is being watched and if I were to unilaterally add bonus points I’d be sacked very soon after.exams

The pity then is that the 1 in 200 extra bit of inspiration evaporates. The student probably forgets what she wrote and the assessor can only focus on the correct stuff. Brilliant, inspiring spur of the under-pressure moment ideas arrive and depart in a flash. Tangents are erased and words like plan, focus and quantify continue to maraud the future.

Photo credits
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/TangentLine.html
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1354174/University-blunder-exam-papers-handed-answers-stapled-back.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Zuckerberg, over 2U!

 

More and more frequently I am finding myself falling into the Facebook trap of liking (their word not mine) links to the support of people with disabilities and I sometimes even get channelled over to signing online petitions. I don’t normally like ‘liking’ and I avoid overt political statements and things that might come back to haunt me one day, but when it comes to acknowledging things such as bullying and mental health I find an upsurge of a need to scream ‘injustice’ coupled with the as-yet-unnamed emotion ‘World, please see me as a good guy’. hide and seek

I suspect one reason for all this is that I feel guilty for being ignorant and guilty for not being helpful to people I ought to be helping. I also suspect I am not alone in this and that by opening our Facebook souls we are somehow assuaging this guilt. If you think I’m about to say this is wrong and shallow, I’m not. Indeed although a public airing does little to immediately support those that might benefit by creating awareness, which in business terms is a chief function of Marketing, a first step is being taken. But it is only a first step.

The mention above of my own ignorance comes from a specific incident that happened today. One of my daughters was offered the chance to attend a free training programme (run indeed by a credible organisation) to help her set up her own business. My reaction was immediately upbeat and positive (i.e. pushy) and when she displayed reticence I went into the predictable parental assault/tirade about ‘missed opportunity’ and ‘it’s a once-in a lifetime chance’ when I ought to have realised, as pointed out by an observing third party, that she was basically scared and I ought have taken another more paternal approach.

Recap: Here I am; a writer, a Facebook sympathy giver and somebody who wants to look like a good guy failing at entry level Emotional Intelligence. I cannot even read my offspring’s feelings.

And yet again, I am sure I’m not alone. What is happening in this Facebook age is that many of us are taking to the touchscreen and demonstrating our nuanced skills of empathy and advocacy. This is a reaction to getting more information and hopefully (but with no guarantees), more knowledge about topics like depression, self-harm and cancer. A cost of this however is that some of us are creeping away from real-life interaction and hiding behind the cleanliness and safety of the keyboard. I don’t think we are to be blamed. So much of the modern world turns us towards selfish and egotistic behaviour and I believe the internet and its stable mates (smart phones, tablets, on-demand viewing etc.) all enforce and consolidate the message ‘you are alone, buy into it and act alone’.

At this stage I am not proposing a solution, I was the one that wanted to sacrifice Tim Berners-Lee  at the 2012 Olympics ceremony rather than celebrate him, but realistically had it not been him it would have been somebody else. I do think however that perhaps Mr Facebook himself could look into turning his behemoth into something that actively helps people to actively help. Mark ZUck

Mark Zuckerberg over 2U,

 

 

 

 

images:
https://uk.pinterest.com/susanjn/childrens-books/
http://metro.co.uk/2017/03/10/mark-zuckerberg-and-wife-expecting-second-child-despite-fears-they-would-not-conceive-again-6500466/

Travel Coach Weekend Thought WANTED: Time to Create

Dear Travel Coach

Q. The good news is that my classic-car rental business, that I began during the recession, has done well. The difficulty is that as it has grown, I spend more time being the administrator and less time coming up with new ideas. Also, I get loads of emails requesting internships and money requests from needy charities. I believe in CSR but it’s all too much. How can I address these issues?

Sid, Northampton.

Dear Sid,

A.  It looks like you need a ‘right-hand person’. You will need an assistant that shares your passion and knows everything about the business. This will help in two ways. Firstly when you need to brainstorm and bounce thoughts around, it’s good to do it with someone who reflects your normal self, allowing you to play devil’s advocate. Secondly, you need a trusted person to be able to step in either when you take a well-earned break or if you get run down by the proverbial bus or more likely, a dose of the ‘flu. Invest time in selecting the right person and be prepared also to invest substantially in their wages. You are appointing a professional and not just someone to fill a gap.

Hertz advert

Once your ’emissary-on-earth’ is in place you can shut yourself away and get back to developing schemes, meeting creative talent (designers, web-builders, young tech experts etc). Your team will soon get used to arranging their own lunch breaks, sorting appointments and returning forgotten baby-seats and roof-racks without having to disturb you at all.

Forward non-urgent e-mails to a second, secret (known only to you) mail box that you can look through in your own time. It’s good to support students needing work advice and it’s important to consider the needs of various charities, but do these things on the way home or indeed at any time that you choose.

 

 

If these strategies are designed to show your team where their interaction with you halts, you need to do something that allows you to engage with them too. The best way to achieve this is to hold a weekly scheduled meeting. As always, it needs fixed start and finishing times and has to be structured. Although this may initially feel a little too ‘bossy’, a viable agenda is to allow your staff the chance to ask advice and opinion and for you to answer their queries and to agree their goals and strategies.

Ensure somebody takes notes of what has been agreed and make it clear that there ought to be no reason to revisit what has been said unless there are problems. Remember, the aim here is to empower each person to have total control over what they do, in order for you to be free to do what you want to do. These strategies are for everyone to benefit and that in turn will benefit your business. apple advert

Many artists, creatives and innovators find their idea gets swamped by their business admin – don’t let it happen to yours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(originally featured in Travel Bulletin’s Travel Coach /Ask Renato-October 2009)

 

 

Photo credits:

Hertz: q=Vintage+cars&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCjJPtnurTAhVnLMAKHdwNAYgQ_AUICigB&biw=1094&bih=487#tbm=isch&q=Vintage+car+rental+advert&imgrc=d5EyWNKrvHUqFM:
Apple advert:
i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/01/15/article-0-16F3902B000005DC-58_634x919.jpg

 

What Now

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought:

Q. I am a student on work experience with a travel agency that is set to merge. What is the point in starting a career in travel when the future looks so bleak for me and the other members of staff?

Dorothy, Nottingham

A  Dear Dorothy,

There is no quick answer because despite all the changes in booking patterns in the trade, nobody really knows where our industry is heading. The speed of change is rapid and many of us find it hard to keep up with, let alone get ahead of the game. As a coach however it is my duty to focus on the positives, so here goes

 

Youth equals choice. Being a student means you can still select your career direction. If you develop I.T. skills, you will be in great demand because the industry uses technology a lot. Previously being a computer person meant being a background figure, but now and in the future, you have the chance to be much more centre stage.

A White Star passenger list cover from 1930

 

If you fancied front-desk work in a travel agency, why not use the same skills in a hotel or a conference centre? When I coach agency staff that looking to change career, I emphasise the great range of prospects in Hospitality. If you start at reception and become good at it, you can soon be on the route to management. The same applies to Food & Beverage and restaurant work. There are some really fantastic jobs in the Conference and Meetings side of the business and the support provided by organisations like ABPCO (https://www.abpco.org/) is way ahead of what has been available to retail travel.

Experience also equals choice. Your more experienced colleagues can take a similar view, because even if they may not have your exuberance and youth, they still have gravitas and know-how. Loads of people are achieving great success with the excellent satellite travel agencies (the term home-worker is being used less because many do not now work from home.) This way of working suits those who enjoy being their own boss, have an entrepreneurial spirit and are content with being alone for long stretches – it is not for everyone.

Travel agencies will not vanish completely. They will however become more specific in whom the serve and in what they offer. Your senior colleagues should focus on their individual skills and strengthen them. An example would be someone who is very good at selling a particular product such as cruises, or a destination such as Florida. They need to home in on what they are good at and become as indispensable as possible.

None of these ideas are guarantees of job tenure but it is important to remember that although there will be fewer jobs as a travel agent, the broader travel business will actually offer more prospects than ever before.  Opportunities are out there, but not as you knew them.

Photos:

http://titanicbelfast.com/Discover/Titanic-Stories/Secrets-of-ocean-liner-passenger-lists.aspx

thechronicleherald.ca/sites/default/files/u23/westinbellboy.JPG

Originally published in Travel Bulletin – What Now? Travel Coach 28 March 2007

©Renato Fantoni

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought: Be visible not invisible

Dear Travel Coach,

I sell loads of holidays in our travel store and am a loyal worker but I don’t get any recognition. How do I improve my profile?

Penny – Blackpool

Dear Penny,

Get physical. An easy way of becoming noticed is to be aware of your body language and to use it deliberately. Therefore, if you happen to be making a cup of tea and someone strolls into the kitchen, don’t move aside but stand your ground, and then offer to make a cup for them too. This brings you right into the picture as strong yet thoughtful.

Set the mood. Every work place has its own mini-culture, its own way of doing things. If you can start affecting how other people feel, you will be noticed e.g. say “well done” quite loudly when somebody makes a big booking. Focus on good things and colleagues will begin to see you in a positive light. Invisible_Woman_Recruited

Suggest new ways. Once you have nudged the old culture-shake it up a bit by actually doing something differently e.g. sort the marketing emails by types of holiday previously taken instead of by post-code.

Volunteer and over-deliver. Ask for responsibilities and take on projects. Some people may think you are showing off, but by and large, they will appreciate that you are lightening their load and will soon start turning to you as a first resort when help is needed.

Get an image. Become known for recycling used toner cartridges or for saving stray cats. It doesn’t really matter what your cause is, so long as it enhances your personal brand and is inoffensive (unlike becoming involved in politics or a crusader for religion.)

Be a gentle rolling stone. If you are a career hunter, try to move on and up every three years. This shows the right blend of stability and ambition to make you appealing to potential new bosses.

Be good but be modest too. Whether in an interview or a casual conversation, try to strike the right balance when talking about your achievements. By all means describe what great things you have done but also emphasise when you have been assisted by somebody else. This shows you know about working in a team and that you are neither arrogant nor one who craves the limelight.sinatra

Pay attention to detail. If your client is about to drip coffee onto their lap, quickly hand them a tissue. If they show interest in an out of season destination – pull up a weather map. Do little things that show you remember people and are interested in their well being.

Carry out your promises. When you say to somebody “I’ll call you next week”, ensure you do it. If you offered to pass on a referral or some information do as you said you would to keep their attention.

All these things are designed to put you in a good light because they are all good things to do. They combine positive deeds with being seen to be doing them.

Invisible woman:

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/avengersalliance/images/f/f9/

Invisible_Woman_Recruited.png/revision/latest?cb=20130416194931

Sinatra: http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2043064.1418401656!/

img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/sinatrapath13a-2-web.jpg

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought: Staying true while all around you changes

Dear Travel Coach

A large company has just swallowed up my small independent car hire firm. I am sure that with my experience I can move up the ladder but need some tips on being genuine and standing out from the crowd. Any ideas?

Michelle, Ipswich

Dear Michelle,

The overarching aim here is to be yourself and avoid becoming an anonymous cog in the machinery. Here are some strategies:

The past counts. Be proud of your small company background and let it shine through. Because you previously multi-tasked you are in a great position to empathise with a broader range of people in this new set up than the ones who only know the big company environment.

A quiet revolution. There will be a corporate way of doing stuff. (Pretend to) adopt it and then tweak it your way. The important thing is to abide by rules and policies but to give them a unique spin. Some people may think you’re showing off – they’re right, you want to be seen to be different but still ‘on board’.

Grafting

Do as I say… By keeping true to your word you will maintain respect. If for example you want your sales team to promote rentals of electric vehicles, drive around in a one yourself.

Be clear and visible. In a small outfit it is difficult to hide when things go wrong. Because the opposite can be the case in a big set-up (such as in governments) you will do well to take the blame when you’re at fault and helping sort it out whenever you’re not. People will see you as reliable dependable and trustworthy.

Embrace the big. This new environment can offer many fresh angles. Although some of them might be scary (such as taking a qualification for Continued Professional Development) push yourself to do them and enjoy the ride. Your enthusiasm will be noted and will work in your favour.

Split personas. Successful people have a knack of using different bits of their personality in different situations, being a leader with their teams one minute and then showing deference to their bosses the next. The great skill here is to maintain consistency. It’s a bit like being an actor except that you are always being ‘you’- just that it is the ‘you’ that has planned what you want to say and is able to react in the same style.

Un-hidden persuasion. Once you have worked out the genuine ‘You’ you need to work out how other people are buying into it. Listen out to reactions and watch people’s faces. Do they smile back? Do they always answer immediately and willingly when you say their name? These are all clues as to how well you are being perceived. Be prepared to adjust – but make sure you are always being true to yourself.Devil & Angel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the IP owners object to these pictures appearing here, please advise me and I shall take them, down. This is a non-commercial site.
photos: 

John Hoppy Hopkins men and cog https://hoppyx.com/grafting/

Angel/Devil photo
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/3f/97/45/3f974504272a5f6ce48ed2ef95a83401.jpg

 

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought: Meeting in the Middle

Dear Travel Coach

Our weekly agency staff meetings are becoming challenging because this current Pre / During / Post Brexit climate is leading to vulnerability and team arguments. How can I alter my approach to make people calmer and better?

Kind regards

Sean, Taunton

Hi Sean

  1. Fail to prepare…

Be sure of your objective/agenda before the meeting and any ensuing conversation. This will help you get back on track when the discussion heats up and gets emotional. People under pressure tend to challenge, blame, threaten, and curse. By knowing where you are taking the conversation, you can allow their (important) emotional outpourings, yet still move them forward.office 1950

 

  1. Don’t fudge it. The first thing is to demonstrate you are not fazed by the climate by tackling the key issues straight away. Subjects such as disloyal customers, double-dealing suppliers, and the Sterling unfriendly market really should be talked about. Even if you don’t solve the actual issue, the team will respect your awareness.
  1. Reality first. (Group) conversations include three elements; facts, emotions and suppositions. By starting with the facts (“profit is down by 26%”) moving through the emotions (“I feel insecure too”) and keeping assumptions (“You just don’t seem to care enough”) until last, you have a better chance of stressing your own feelings which in turn will the bring out the group’s empathy for you.
  1. Respect the varying speeds of osmosis. Otherwise known as learning styles, people take in information in different ways and at different speeds. Let them know they can say (or scribble or email or text) their piece at any time-it doesn’t have to be right now.Happy Boys
  1. Stay neutral. When people share their feelings with you try to maintain a ‘clean’ position. Clearly, you have feelings too but by showing you have no axe to grind and that you’re not being defensive they can unload more easily. Once they know that you have understood they will be much easier to communicate with.
  1. Common Ground. Great negotiators, sales people, and mediators have a natural ability to discover what they have in common with the other person. They invest time in learning about their inspirations and priorities. Once you have shown you are interested in the members of your team individually they will trust you more.
  1. Talk about real occurrences. Some leaders have a habit of placing bad news between a good news intro and a good news outro in the hope that it will be easier to deal with. Your people however are not stupid and would see this technique as fake. By discussing the actual behaviours of clients, markets and colleagues you will deliver a more coherent message.
  1. Have an agenda and keep to time. Because team meetings usually last around half an hour, it is vital not to get bogged down in any one subject. If a conflict arises, a good way of diffusing it is to make a note to return to it-and to swiftly move on. Do however deliver on the promise, people are wise to the ‘Let’s park it here for now’ lie.

 

Sources:

Office: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/05/a1/d7/05a1d7a8145eebd9a7e2e8b7d3bccb10.jpg

Young Men: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a8/ed/39/a8ed39051c6f6391ef6202094a7a625a.jpg

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