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

If the copyright holder of any image has an objection to use of their IP please contact me and I shall remove them immediately.

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Travel Coach Weekend Thought: The Brand Me

 

Dear Renato,

After having worked in the High Street for 14 years I’ve recently become a home-based travel agent. Given that quarterly conference is coming up and I also need to network with prospects, how do I go about presenting myself? Do I need a brand?

Sharon – Middlesbrough

Hi Sharon,

 

To start let’s put the ‘brand’ thing to bed. A lot has been written around this concept. All it means is that you have thought about what you do and how you do it and that the way you come across reflects this process. End of story.

Cattle branding
This is the true beginning of branding ‘My Cow, hands off’

 

You’ll have to choose to what extent you wish to identify with the company behind you. Naturally all the due diligence stuff like handling money and only selling approved suppliers is (rightly) inflexible. However, you do have latitude as to how you portray yourself e.g. are you part of a large professional set-up or are you an independent expert who is truly the best in their field? There is no right or wrong here but you do need to contemplate which makes you feel most comfortable as this will affect your confidence when dealing face to face with new people.

Head tattoo
…and developed into something really sophisticated

You asked about how to present yourself. I suppose you are thinking of what to wear –more of that later. Let’s now examine Social Networking. The facilities offered by Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Word Press, About.Me and whatever else will appear in 2017 are amazing ways of adding to your self-portrait. By working with them you will actually begin to know yourself better. Because these media thrive on users writing with brevity you’ll soon find you are better at discussing what interests you. This in turn will inspire you to research subjects you have a passion for and in time, you will become even more expert in them. For instance one person I follow on Twitter divulges how many seats particular airplanes have. Although the subject matter is somewhat niche (by which I mean boring!) it does help me think of this person as an air seat specialist. Social networking consumes both time and money but has become the marketing method of choice simply because people gravitate to these sites with the same verve as they delete both solicited and unsolicited emails and recycle paper mailings they have not even bothered to open.

So, when you have decided how big or small you are and have become a self-knowing maven you are ready for launch. Before you leave home however, remember that a conference with your peers is different from meeting potential clients. At the company event you are among trusted friends and you’re only selling a smile and a listening ear. However, being among customers is altogether more difficult. You do it because you need to sell to and through them.

And what will you wear? Actually, it doesn’t really matter. The purpose of selecting the right clothes and make up is to suggest competence and expertise. What you put on is secondary to the way you carry it. If a certain styles make you feel confident and good about yourself, then wear it. As a person who is now working for herself you are the boss and you should enjoy the freedom.Mrs May

 

If the owner of any of the images used wishes me to stop using them please do not hesitate to contact me. This site is not commercial.
Sources
Cowboys; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Cattle_branding_(Grabill_1888).jpg
Lawnmower head: http://toetagtattoo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/15-odd-and-weird-tattoos-funcagefuncage-elegant-tattoos-design-ideas.jpg
Teresa May Heels: http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2013/03/by-paul-goodman-my-old-friend-and-former-premier-league-triallist-daniel-hannan-has-a-party-piece-in-which-he-reels-off-the.html

The Overview Effect, (the manifesto anteprima*)

Ever heard of Spacex?

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

I hadn’t until I was recently struck by an audio bolt from the radio blue and learnt from the excellent presenter@NickyAACampbell that it is a private company at the vanguard of commercialising space travel. It aims to launch, literally, within months. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTIYPzfThps&feature=youtu.be

The radio discussion then morphed onto the Overview Effect which seemed so interesting…I had to learn more.

The Overview Effect appears to be a new(ish) awareness. It is a combination of thoughts and feelings around looking at Earth from space and realising:

  • Our planet is so small, it is probably only significant to the organisms that live here.
  • The only divisions on the globe are the ones of physical geography e.g. mountain ranges and water (lakes, oceans, rivers). Any political or national or human interventions are false constructs that despite the best efforts of ancient China or Hadrian are basically meaningless.
  • The human species’ desire to build fences and stake out ownership of land walks hand -in-hand with our communal actions of abusing land by chopping down oxygen giving greenery, melting polar ice caps, exploding/testing nuclear warheads and challenging animal species to cope with whatever we feel can be thrown at them.

The effect can probably be summed up; the planet in space is fragile and beautiful and perhaps godly. Yet ‘we’ prioritise other things and take it all for granted, probably because there is no such thing as ‘we’, just me plus me plus me…

This blog however is not a pro-eco clarion call. You can read that kind of thing anywhere (although if you want to cut out the chaff go straight to http://www.monbiot.com/

What I’m writing about is more akin to the exclamation (though neither the film nor its sci-fi context; “In SpaceNo One Can Hear You Scream.” (Alien dir. Ridley Scott 1979 sci-fi) and how, in effect, Space is the last quiet place. Alien

Some of my blogs over the last year have dealt with my Silence Project. It is something I find myself constructing piecemeal and it’s like building a jigsaw puzzle with no guarantee that the all the pieces are present and the box top picture is almost certainly a different scene from the one I am making.

Two weeks ago I went in search of silence in London. My plan was to visit an obvious silent place and then find a less obvious one in its shadow. I began at the British Library (my thoughts from there are at the foot of this page) and although I found a lovely art book on the topic (which I then bought online) my doubts about the existence of silence were confirmed as soon as I explained my project to a librarian called Ulmila. Her unprovoked reaction was something like ’Silence? In a library? You’re joking. This place is full of background sounds which are amplified by the voices of complaining people who want quiet.’

I left the magnificent building with every intention of going to at least one nearby park but my ardour was so dampened by the angular London rain, I returned to the Library and had Silence IMG_2387a coffee and high-sugar bun until I went home. It was in this café however that I had a mini revelation in the form of a flashback reverie.

I thought back to six days before when I had attended a wedding in a deconstructed brewery in the City of London. I recalled the moment my wife and I ambled towards the bar to say ‘hello’ to somebody and somebody. The bar was by the wall and the whole area was bathed in purple lights that jumped to this sick beat (so sue me Swift!) of the darkened vibrating room. The noise was nauseating and I didn’t hear a word that ‘we’ uttered to somebody and somebody, nor what somebody and somebody said back to ‘us’. Acting under previously dealt instructions not to abandon my spouse, I took a sidestep shuffle and propped up the once keg-lined wall. Seeing that somebody and somebody and my wife were merrily gesturing above the noise to each other I grabbed the moment by the ears, tipped my head forwards and shifted my gaze down at my non-dancing feet.

Aah…silence. Of sorts. In a room with 220 people competing with the pumping line of the hellish bass thumps I managed to crawl into the snail shell of my mind. I timed 26 seconds of respite. I snapped a mental photo of my shoes atop the light wood dance floor and although the music was present, I managed to subdue its relevance by allowing it to become wallpaper. Sure my ear drums were still being struck towards terminal deafness and no doubt any observer would have thought of me as a sad loner but I had stolen some hard-to-find thought time against the odds and in a throbbing environment to boot.

I have long argued that silence is more a state of mind than an absolute and now I have experienced it. I suppose my version of silence is a subjective truth rather than an unequivocal one but I am confident that with this rather muted revelation I have found a way forwards with the Silence Project.

Perhaps this is the birth of an Inner/Under View Effect or maybe it’s simply the overview as seen from inside. Either way, it’s no less valid.

True silence is impossible to find. Experts confirm this and add that even in a scientifically silent place you can hear your own blood careening through your system.

My staring point therefore is that silence is impossible. Extreme quiet however is possible and can bring about similar benefits. I’d actually go on to say that it’s preferable because it is natural and more comfortable for thinking beings to deal with.

Photos:

Earthrise; http://www.ecology.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg

Alien Poster: http://www.pxleyes.com/images/contests/movie-poster-recreation/fullsize/movie-poster-recreation-52953fe575c29.jpg

*anteprima=preview

15 / 02/ 2017 Rough notes

Facts: 11. Feb 2017 British Library, London 10.16 am. 22 degrees C Humanities 1. Thirty Two fellow readers, 65% female.

SOUND: A/C hum, padded footsteps on looped carpet. The soft slide of my borrowed pink pencil (TATE: [not sweet}). Low female voice with a non-local accent, brief punctuated coughing. Key board clicks. The low ecru suspended ceiling swallows bigger sounds and bounces them out through its holes.

SMELL: Cool tinge to a bookish musk

FEEL: Deep paged paper (this book!) smoothly springs up against my writing right hand. My own unshaven face.

SIGHT: Blanched people moving at slow pace and purpose. A woman breaks into a march and a bald male (professor?) follows suit. He slides to his chair, positions four books at jaunty angles (Blue one on the top) and flicker/reads the pages. Broad wide room, up lights shine up and move the white to grey.

Light wood modern desks consume the floor. A library, this one too, a centre of knowledge. These walls house data, opinion. Old news and accidental history (when I write now I’m not thinking of becoming the past).

My own concentration — as ever — is fragile and waning and the SILENCE is only a truth in outer space and earthling death.

Realising upon flickering and reading (flickerding?) that SILENCE (Kamps, Said Menil collections 2012) turns phrases of non-sound to pictorial art. Once concept represents another and my problem with (love of) art is that it borrows its stabilizers from philosophy and intellectual impulse. My project needs to come in at a non-intellectual level.

Person I met: Ulmila, female library assistant who once worked in ASDA and the library in Colindale and at once misses the buzz of retail yet appreciates the calm of the British Library. She also -now that she is older -likes the detail of handling book loans. She agrees that true silence is an unrealistic concept, even in the BL. People complain about human generated sounds, but it is futile.

Travel Coach Weekend thought: Network-Notwork

 

Dear Travel Coach,

I run an independent agency and want more clients. I have been advised to start networking and to join a breakfast group. What is networking and would you recommend it?

Agatha, Bury.

Hi Agatha,

The big idea behind networking is that by regularly meeting people and building personal rapport, and trust with them you will increase business opportunities. This is done by promoting yourself (instead of your company) with the largely, but not entirely, truthful adage in mind that ‘people buy people first’.

At its simplest, networking is the attitude that when you are at a work-related gathering, many of the other people there are either potential clients or capable of referring you to potential clients. Be aware however not to treat everyone as a prospect nor make it obvious you are viewing them as such, otherwise they will keep a distance from you (think how unpleasant it is when somebody thrusts a business card in your hand). To maintain a balance you need to listen, show genuine interest and obtain the other person’s card (this also gives you the power to contact them).english-breakfast

Your stated reason to network is to acquire more customers. This is fine, but don’t assume everyone else has the same motive. I met a university librarian at a networking skills event. Unable to guess her commercial motive (after all, libraries lend – they don’t sell), I asked her purpose and she explained that success for her was having empty shelves. If her books were out on loan at the Universities of Helsinki and Rio, she was doing well and networking was a way of achieving this goal.

So, by tuning in to their definitions of success, you can assist other people before they help you and thereby gain credibility and the right to request their support in return.

On the back of this ‘mutual support’ idea, some entrepreneurs have formed ‘open to new members’ networking groups. They have a tendency to posture as ‘professional’ associations but are businesses and profit is central to their aims. There is nothing wrong in this, but do remember where their priority lies when you consider signing up. Their profit comes before yours so look at the fees involved with care.

The term raison d’etre of networking groups is to gain business for members. They can be successful, but be aware that people whose services are used out of desperation (plumbers, electricians, roofers) or legal obligation (lawyers, accountants) fare better than the others. Unfortunately, travel agents, like insurance brokers, are one of many competing channels and you will need to work much harder than other nominally equal members to get business referrals and loyalty from your cohort.knife-in-the-back-118x150

Lastly, networking companies’ regulations and habits foster a ‘team’ ethos. This is often a false construct to make you feel that membership is worthwhile even when it actually isn’t. Fine if you obtain gratification from being among ‘mates’ in a group but do consider if it is really worth being part of ‘We’ if it is at the expense of ‘Me’.

 

Photo: http://flashbak.com/the-communist-party-of-great-britain-and-the-red-menace-1920-1991-34573/

Graphic:http://thedomesticmama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/knife-in-the-back-118×150.jpg

The Travel Coach Weekend Thought: Workplace bullying hurts us all.

I am a male car rental specialist working in a female only office. My male friends think that I’m lucky, but I disagree. Sometimes it feels like my co-workers gang up on me and make comments based on me being a man. I try to shrug it off and act like I’m not bothered thinking they will get bored but it only seems to make it worse. What tips do you have so that they appreciate I’m not willing to be the butt of their jokes?

George.

Dear George
This is tough to answer because I can only guess at how your colleagues gang-up and how they ridicule.

What is interesting about your question is that we are so used to hearing about harassment the other way around that our immediate reaction, as seen from your friends, is to ridicule the scenario. The fact is that your situation is as important as that of a female worker subjected to innuendo from men and you have every right to want this to be taken seriously. df3f9d4f94923d0a43ce96eaa23e0b7c

Unfortunately your mates typify what is wrong in so many places.

They listen to you talk about work, but are imagining your job as a fantasy sexual arena.

Ganging-up against the odd-one-out begins at school and sadly never really leaves us. It is a sick part of human nature. My first piece of advice therefore is to try not to take it too personally. If you were the only left-handed person in an office or you were the only red head you would still experience stupid and senseless prejudice.

Try to clarify in your own mind what your colleagues are doing that is really offensive. Write down examples and maintain a log. Sexual harassment can be tricky to define, so before you start reporting your colleagues be sure of your facts. Do they touch you or make frequent comments about their own or your sexual activities? Do they force you into doing “men’s” chores such as lifting heavy brochures more often than are prepared to do?

Divide and rule: lash_on_demand_091

Do they really act against you as one consolidated unit? Surely at least one of the women is worth talking to alone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are all they same. I am sure that most of them are decent when apart from the group. Work on building a friendship with one person. It would be better with someone to whom you have no physical attraction (and vice-versa). You will then develop a professional relationship that is built on what you have in common. In time she will distance herself from the remarks of the others. Once the other people realise that you can be taken seriously, they will follow.

Overall I’d say this is a human rather than a gender issue and please don’t allow it to influence the way you think about women. The truth is that anyone can be horrible to anyone else and we should maintain awareness of this. hqdefault

As bad as it is for you, neither you or I (as men) have experienced the pressure of wearing certain types of shoe or ‘flattering’ clothes to work.  Women continue to treated worse than men and as a victim yourself you now have the awareness that avoids most men. Maybe you can use it to broader advantage.

 

 

 

 

Lady Gaga image: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/7Siugif5Wes/hqdefault.jpg

Ship Image: http://www.pulpinternational.com/images/postimg/lash_on_demand_09.jpg

 

 

Travel Coach Weekend thought; How to begin coaching at work

Dear Travel Coach

I am responsible for a group of thirty shops. I was having a drink with one of the managers and she said that my style was wrong and that I should be more like a coach and less like a boot. What does she mean?

TC, Walsall

Dear TC

This is a lengthy subject, but I’ll summarise it to enable you get a basic idea of what coaching is, and more importantly – how to implement it. Implementation is the key because business coaching is very much a doing rather than a thinking skill.

coffee-irony

Your colleague was commenting on your overall management style. You probably use phrases like “If you do what I say, you won’t go far wrong” or “Don’t question me, I’m the boss”. In the modern working environment people who once said little are now “allowed” (empowered/encouraged) to express their thoughts and feelings, and although as their manager you may find this challenging, you will find that in the long run that everyone benefits.

Firstly, think of all the people who work for you as capable beings. Next, see your job as someone who has not only to find these capabilities but also to bring them to the fore. You will find that instead of giving orders you are asking questions. So if a booking agent is having problems in locating a file, resist the temptation to get the file yourself (or shout at her), but keep asking her to go through the filing process until she teaches herself where it is. The process may be slow, but ultimately you will save time because your people will learn more about their job and about themselves.

I read an article that said that as a manager I should spend more time coaching my staff  – but if I do this I’ll have no time for other things like the accounts.

What’s your view?

MR, Croydon

Dear MR,

You make a good point, if you run a small enterprise you are responsible for finance, information technology, operations and marketing. My view though is that without the people, there is no company and so they have to be regarded as the main asset. A coaching approach (as described above) is the best way to get more out of them.

To coach well and to find time for the other important tasks, try to develop a “hands-off” approach.

Start by taking some one to one sessions with the staff. Establish who has good people skills and then get them to take over the coaching. You should also encourage all the people to support each other. Your time will be tight at the beginning, but will improve after a few weeks.

You should find that a culture will grow whereby your staff look out for each other and by you helping them to select areas for improvement, will all develop together too. Keep yourself within the process too – even a coach needs coaching.

image: http://www.911trainer.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/blog-full/

 

 

Love, lost past and loneliness.

 

In 1975 I had a Saturday job in a North London travel agency called Frames Travel. It wasn’t so great because all I did was rubber stamp the holiday brochures and put them on the shelves. An exciting day was when I took the old brochures off the shelves and threw them away. Such fun.

During the ensuing forty years and as I grew up, that branch of Frames became a Thomas Cook travel shop. Since my own business transferred to North Finchley in 1990 I have walked past this shop every working day and every working day therefore has offered a connection to my past.  nostalgia

This week Thomas Cook closed the shop down. The building is still there but the erosion begins instantly. The interior colours will fade, the furniture has already gone and my personal connection will wither from a time spanning umbilical cord to a frayed thread of rain sodden parcel string.

I’m not complaining about the past being cut away from me. After all, it’s not necessarily desirable to be in daily contact with one’s yesteryears and it can be argued that being surrounded by your youth can hold you back as it offers the comfort of familiarity that may in fact be a false friend.

On the other hand, I recently visited the hotel in Rome where I worked and lived many years ago. The changes to the locale had been so total and complete that it left me feeling abandoned. There was nothing recognisable at all. Although the upper parts of the buildings were, I presume, the same the street level shops and office fronts were all new and nothing was familiar. The sadness from this experience was sharper than the slow evolving changes that occur daily in North London.

People have different levels of nostalgia. I suffer from it quite deeply and am one of those who looks for his own past and scratches the surface of time in the vain hope of finding small ways to re-trace what once was. My suffering however is a philosophical luxury. I have always had freedom to live where I wanted and have only every moved when I elected to. I imagine that refugees and people that move around because of their work e.g. army personnel, develop an immunity to nostalgia as pragmatism and survival instincts take over. The sub-conscious probably kicks in knowing that if you cannot be sure of where you’ll be tomorrow why upset yourself by connecting to the now and the past?

At a time when the media has ‘moved on’ from reporting on migrants in Northern France (and presumable elsewhere in Europe) it makes me wonder how people from stable and rooted lives are coping with reality of being cut adrift. It also makes me wonder that with President Trump appearing keen on shutting the door on people flying BACK to the USA how they cope with being told on arrival that their country is now in their past. The human timeline is a fragile thing.

I recently learned about the condition of ’separation anxiety’ and this week I felt it vicariously when I saw this story about the kidnapping of baby chimps to be sold as pets, my primal reaction was disgust towards the ‘nappers with subsequent thoughts that their lives are actually worth less than the monkeys’ and the planet would be better off with fewer useless hunting humans and more cuddly animals. This however is not the point. monkey

The point is that we feel so much for the little chimp because we can relate to his loneliness and isolation from his tribe and his home.  Very shortly, maybe even today, you will see a homeless person or somebody meandering with symptoms of dementia and remember that like the loveable chimp, everything about them before this moment has been smashed and effectively deleted. Judge them after you have helped them and I shall try to do the same.

 

b/w photo; http://i1.examiner.co.uk/incoming/article12361723.ece/ALTERNATES/s1200/JS107379643.jpg