Energy Drainers

Energy Drainers

Making a change – those who drain your energy

Energy drainers – if you are involved with any kind of change you will find it drains your energy. Energy will drain as you come to terms with new situations. energy drainersand deal with confusion. You will have to deal as well with anxiety – your own, and other people’s.  You will find yourself giving out lots of your energy in support of others.  But some people seem to take just a little too much – more than you can afford to give if you are going to stay fit for the task ahead.

We all feel insecure in the middle of change but energy drainers are usually people who are insecure and negative in their everyday life. Quite often they find it difficult to tolerate their own company. You may find people like this start to depend upon you to help them make all kinds of relatively simple life decisions.  They may phone or text you several times a day on any pretext – they can eat you as well as your time and sap your life force!

Energy drainers don’t know how to tap into their personal energy reserves to survive

Very often these sad people are stuck in “Survival Mode.”  They don’t know how to tap into their personal energy reserves to survive. Like children, they haven’t accepted responsibility for their own lives. But they find many ways, including emotional blackmail,  to persuade you to give them the emotional support  and the reassurance they need.  Life is frightening and they are very scared indeed!

We all know people like this. They might be old friends, family or work colleagues. You want to help but their needs are overwhelming.

So, what do you do?

Keep in mind that you may need to conserve your energy to manage a complex change.  If they are part of the change, you are certainly not going to be in a position to cut them out of your life.  Anyway, at the end of the day, most of us would actually like to be in a place to help.

The stance you take depends upon your relationship with the person and the level of your energy reserves. However, your first responsibility is to yourself. You, too, may have to adopt a “Survival Mode” attitude.

It is certainly much easier to deal with someone who is an acquaintance or a work colleague. You have no personal commitment to them and you have every right to say goodbye when you finish work.

Dealing with energy drainers

Always try to stay in a neutral space when talking to them.  Give neutral responses and try not to get drawn into their, or your, emotions.  When you deal with them, imagine you are wearing a breastplate to defend your energy – withhold your energy behind your breastplate. Deliver a neutral, and deliberately, low energy response. Offer no more and no less than is necessary to carry out the transaction.

As a personal survival technique, this approach is also applicable for family and old friends. However, you may choose to take a more compassionate and supportive stance by demonstrating “tough love.” Your goal here is to move them on from negative to positive. You want to move them back into using their own energy resources. In this way, you can help them to become self-sufficient.  Get them to think through their own options – to make choices and plan.  When they do so give them lots of quiet praise – move them on from whining to thinking about concrete ways they can help themselves!

Dealing with emotional blackmail

Be aware, though, that energy drainers will resort to many forms of subtle emotional blackmail to get access to your energy. Don’t let them! Let them know, through your actions, that your energy is no longer accessible to them. Encourage them to make decisions on their own and to enjoy their own company by simply not being available: physically or emotionally.

It will not be easy for you or them. You are breaking established patterns of behaviour and setting a new precedent. But eventually a new dynamic should be established. They should begin to take responsibility for their own life and their own decisions.

You may have to support them through a change as part of your role but do so in a managed way! With friends and family, if they will not take action, success will be impossible. So recognise when you have banged your head once too often against that proverbial brick. It may be the wisest step is simply to “let go.”

If you need help dealing with your energy drainer, please get in touch

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link



Job Search and Personal Values

Job Search and Personal Values

Sometimes these days job search seems to take such a long time that when you do find something that looks a good in terms of role, other considerations go out of the window. This can be dangerous.

So you’ve seen this advert for a wonderful job. It is just what you have been looking for the last three months.

It’s a global organization that is doing well in the current market and the part of the organization you are considering is expanding. You have the skills, knowledge and experience they are asking for.

So where is that doubt at the back of your mind coming from – why have you got reservations? Surely at this point you can’t afford not to go for it?

Please pause for a moment and take a few deep breaths. Now sit quietly and think about what is really troubling you. Might it by any chance be about fitting in?

You have been around long enough to know that getting a job is usually about more than simply demonstrating the right competencies. You know there will be some unwritten rules they will apply that have to do with what they regard as your “organizational fit!” Note; I’m not talking here about discrimination on grounds of race or sex, although I do think age discrimination is often an element.

This is about your compatibility and how their conception of the organization’s values and their mode of operation will influence the panel. You know that scrutiny at job interviews and possibly an assessment centre is going to give them lots of opportunity to find out about you and your values, and whether they think you are right for them. And of course if that doesn’t provide all they need what about the reference checks?

How can you prepare to make to make the most of the opportunity and get that job? Well, in my view you, unless you are an actor at Oscar standard, it really isn’t wise to try to fake it! Nor do I think faking it is ethical – but that is something for you to think about.

But, as you are a wise job seeker, you will be researching the company before you get to interview stage. You will look at what they stand for and how they interact with the environment outside the organization. You can also find out something about their operating model and how they treat their staff – this is where having a wide network of contacts is a real advantage.

Then spend some time thinking about what you need to help you succeed in a job. Most of us need to have some belief in an organization’s purpose and vision to feel comfortable. Moral compass sounds a very old fashioned expression but it really does matter that you understand your own values and what you stand for. Is your moral compass compatible with theirs? If not, what is working with them going to do your self esteem?

Do you now think this is truly a good fit! Has that uncomfortable feeling gone away or got stronger? Think very seriously about how much you want this particular job and what it really means to you! Clashing values can lead to lots of frustration on both sides.

When you have made your assessment and committed to the interview, think about how to articulate who you are and what you stand for – how to make your values clear in what you say.

Wendy Mason is the The Career Coach – helping you to find fresh perspectives on your Job Search and Career. She helps you work towards your goals and aspirations, in a way that fits in with both work and home life. Email her at,  find her on Skype at wendymason14, or call +44 (0) 2081239146 (02081239146 for UK callers) or +1 262 317 9016 if you are in the US.

A free trial/consultation allows you to try phone coaching from the comfort of your own home and without risk. Don’t forget to ask about the Summer Special Offer 

Related articles

  • How to Leverage LinkedIn and Get Recruiters’ Attention
  • Job Search:Do you include a “profile” in your CV?
  • WiseWolf’s Wise Advice for Monday – Being good at your job requires much more than just being smart.





Dictionary Definition;

1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.

3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.” – Lee Iacocca

The most effective way to behave in work and business (including large banks), as in life, is to act with integrity.  Note the definitions above which talk about wholeness, soundness and completeness – this is a definition of health?

That means being as honest as you can and being fair.  As Lee Iacocca says, tell your team the truth and tell them what you are doing about it.  Be a model for honesty, openness and fairness and show that you expect all in your team to follow

Be as realistic as you can about the risks    When you can, help your staff prepare for bad news.  But combine all of this with being scrupulously fair.  They will know if you play the favorites game or, for example, take the opportunity to pay off old scores if you have to  lay people off or reduce hours.  You will lose good will and that extra contribution you need from those who stay.

In the good times share bonuses fairly and for good reasons – nothing is more de-motivating than seeing a colleague who doesn’t really deserve it, getting a bonus. If the bonuses you pay will not stand up to public scrutiny – don’t pay them.

There are major advantages in acting with integrity in all parts of the business in  terms of competitive advantage.

  • The public, and that means your customers, are increasingly concerned about ethical standards
  • Customers and good staff are more like to be attracted and retained
  • Shareholders are more likely to invest in those they trust, now more than ever
  • Staff and your own morale will be higher
  • Your reputation will be something you can be proud of
  • (At its crudest) You stay out of jail and believe me in old age, the money will not make up for the shame.

Here are some ideas for acting with integrity! If you can’t get your head round it, hire someone to advise you on good governance – there are plenty of us around and it isn’t hard to put it in place.

Some principles for making decisions with integrity!

  1. Make sure those in management know how to step back from every critical decision before they make it and look at it objectively.
  2. Understand the risks in your own culture.  Monitor those likely to get swept along by excitement or urgency to the point where they lose judgment .   Personal power, ‘winning’, strategic plotting, high drama, etc. feel good – they are exciting – but they rarely lead to real long-term business advantage
  3. Strive for fairness and the long-term, and not short-term polarized ‘winner takes all’ outcomes that threaten the organization’s long-term survival.
  4. Learn from history and earlier situations. Reviewing how previous situations were handled, reduces the risks of making daft mistakes:  Also history is a superb store of already invented wheels, which can often save you the time and agonies of trying unsuccessfully to invent a new one.
  5. Understand the long-term consequences.  You need to build in time, and structures, to think through what these might be. Try to make sure there are no unforeseen consequences which work to your, and other people’s,  detriment. Ask;
    1.  What do I get out of this? If you directly address how you benefit it’s easier to spot biases and blind spots.
    2. If we do this, what will happen? Play out the effects of the  decision. Be alert to the impact on stakeholders you may not have considered.
  6. Make sure what you do is legal, but think about the spirit of the law as well as the words.  No one really respects or trusts someone who is known to “bend” the law and that includes your customers and share holders
  7. Consult widely –  not just your staff, but your customers, if you can,
  8. Above all, resist the delusion and arrogance that power and authority tends to foster. This is especially important to guard against if you live and work in a protected, insulated or isolated situation, as many large-scale leaders and decision-makers tend to do. Being a leader for a long time, or for any duration in a culture of arrogance, privilege and advantage, provides great nourishment for personal delusion. Many unethical decisions come from arrogance and delusion. Guard against becoming so dangerous.

Acting with integrity doesn’t just help you to sleep at nights but you also stand a chance of leaving a real legacy – someone who is remembered and respected in your community and beyond for a very long time!

Wendy Mason is a Life and Career Coach.  She helps people have the confidence they need to be successful at work and to change career while maintaining a good work/life balance. You can email her at

The Leader’s Way: Business, Buddhism and Happiness in an Interconnected World – Leadership Lessons from the Dalai Lama

Effective leadership is an underlying theme throughout the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

Cover of "The Leader's Way: Business, Bud...

International managerial consultant Laurens van den Muyzenberg identified the business leadership undercurrent in the 1990s after he was hired to advise the Dalai Lama.

Realizing the great potential in combining their respective expertise, van den Muyzenberg and the Dalai Lama co-authored The Leader’s Way, applying Buddhism to business practices.

“Most of my clients do face difficult ethical problems,” says van den Muyzenberg, who consults leaders. “It’s hard to find somebody with the kind of ethical prestige that [the Dalai Lama] has.”

Professor  C.O. Herkströter, former CEO of Shell and Chairman of the Board of ING wrote this when reviewing the book.

“This book examines capitalism and Buddhism in a fascinating way. Everybody in business who is seriously interested in responsible entrepreneurship will recognise the issues. The book adds a valuable dimension to the values and ethical standards that form the basis for responsible leadership in business.”

The approach represents the synthesis of East and West and provides an inspiring manifesto for business change. The first part of The Leader’s Way two-part message is this: in order to lead, you must understand the reasons for our actions then you can act to  solve problems through integrity, respect and sensitivity toward others.

Lessons in Leadership from the Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...

Recently the Dalai Lama spoke about compassion and global leadership.  He said good leaders today needed to be warm-hearted and practice open communication. With compassion, he believes we gain self-confidence and rid ourselves of our fears. “Then we can have honesty, then we can have trust.”

What does this mean for us in the work place?

If you look at the roots of the word compassion you begin to see how it can apply.  It meant to suffer with!  That has huge implications in the present economic climate doesn’t it?  It means to feel another’s pain.

What a burden that could be if we lead a large organisation.  Does that mean we have to feel the consequence of the every decision we make?  Well yes, I believe we do!  We need to be able to feel it and weigh it in the balance but it should not disable our ability to make hard decisions

A former colleague told me the following story.

“Some years ago I was invited to a funeral.  The person who had died had worked at quite a junior level in my division in a UK government department.  He had loved his job – his whole world had been centred on his work.

But he became ill.   In his role that put the safety of others at risk.  But there wasn’t any other work available for him to do!  It was the time of an earlier round of UK Government cuts. So I made the decision we couldn’t keep him on

He was devastated.  It is probably fair to say he lost the will to live.

I went to his funeral but it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.  I didn’t know what to expect!  But his family were just delighted that a senior manager from the Department had come along.

Did I regret my decision?  No!  Was I pained by that decision?  Yes, deeply!  But then no one said being a senior manager or a leader was always going to be easy.”

The person who told me that story was a well loved, trusted and very effective leader.

Tenzin Gayatso could be the last Dalai Lama, but his message is timeless.

Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her or ring ++44(0)7867681439

The World Needs You! There has never been a better time to be a Transformational Leader

Transformational and ethical leadership, together with emotional intelligence, are the key factors in emerging leadership culture.

The father of Transformational Leadership was Bernard Bass.

When Bass died in 2007 he was a distinguished professor emeritus in the School of Management at Binghamton University. He was also the founding director of the Centre for Leadership Studies at Binghamton and founding editor of The Leadership Quarterly journal.

As well as being an academic, Bass was exposed frequently to the realities of corporate life. He worked as a consultant and in executive development for many Fortune 500 firms. He lectured and conducted workshops pro bono in a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations. These included religious organizations, hospitals, government agencies and universities.

Bass believed Transformational Leadership occurred when a leader transformed or changed his followers in three important ways.

The Transformational Leader;

  • Increased awareness of the importance of tasks and the need to perform them well
  • Made people aware of their need for personal growth, development and accomplishment
  • Motivated them to work for the good of the organisation, rather than personal gain.

These changes lead to trust, motivation to perform and a commitment to achieve the leader’s goals.

His work was taken forward by Noel M Tichy and Mary Anne Devanna.

They found that Transformational Leaders;

  • Identify themselves as agents of change
  • Are courageous
  • Believe in people
  • Are value driven
  • Are lifelong learners
  • Can deal with complexity
  • Are visionaries

With the advent of social media (Twitter, Facebook etc), corporate behaviour is now more transparent than ever!

Injustice anywhere in the world is becoming more and more visible! People are no longer prepared to accept exploitation, dishonesty and oppression in their national leaders. Nor are they prepared to accept them in their corporate leaders. In corporate life, the behaviour of the banks in particular has changed public opinion and probably forever!  It has unleashed a re-shaping of expectations and standards.

There are now real incentives for doing the right thing and real penalties for doing the wrong one.

This, together with the emergence and recognition of the Transformational Leader, means more and more organisations have woken up to reality.  They are beginning to come to terms with social responsibility and the need for ethics!

As never before, there are huge advantages from behaving

  • ethically,
  • with humanity
  • with compassion
  • with consideration for employees
  • with consideration for the world outside the organisation

There has never been a better time to be a Transformational Leader! The world has never needed them more!

Wendy Mason is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439


Are you going to listen to me? The delicate art of communication! Giving bad news!

This week my posts are going to be about Communication and I start here with how to give the bad news – in this case seriously bad news, for example, about redundancy.

About a year ago I published a version of the post below!  It has been one of the most popular items on this site!

I started my working life as a nurse.  In those days we were given no preparation for giving bad news.  I can still remember feeling totally undone by the prospect of having to tell a young husband that his wife had died!  I was the only person there to give the message.  I did my best but to this day, I know that I could have done it better! I still remember every moment of the encounter with that poor man! So here is the advice which is now usually given to medical students in the UK and I believe nurses in training receive similar advice! It can be equally useful in the workplace.  Don’t under estimate the sense of loss and pain that accompanies news of redundancy!

This post is going to be concerned with, what John Nettles’ character described in a recent edition of Midsomer Murders as, ‘the delicate art of delivering bad news’

I covered giving feedback in a recent post and this is closely related, so you may wish to read that as well.

On most occasions when you give feedback your hearer is expecting a message of some kind – good or bad.  Bad news often comes as a shock, even if it is expected!  The reality and the details may be very hard to bear!  There is, and should be, a lot more to it than just saying or writing the words!

If you want to ensure there is the best possible outcome then you will need to prepare and to follow-up, as well as delivering the message itself well!


Preparing to give bad news is almost as important as actually giving it. For instance, where are you going to have the meeting?  Where you sit or stand in relation to the hearer and even what you wear is important, if the news is seriously bad.  If you have to write, then you need to think about the medium – this is not the time for a very brief email! You will need to think about how you are going to follow up and provide an opportunity to handle questions

When choosing a place, you should make sure it’s quiet with little or no chance of interruption. Make sure it’s some place you can make the person feel as comfortable as possible.  If possible, sit close to the person at eye-level with no barrier between you.  Studies have shown that many people feel isolated and alone if you sit behind a desk or some other barrier. They may also perceive you as cold and uncaring if you sit too far away.

Knowing how you should comfort really must come from what you know about the person!  For instance, if you’ve found they don’t like people sitting too close this may make them feel uncomfortable rather than at ease.

One thing that is important is for you to be very clear about the facts, the explanation behind a decision, for example, before you begin.  You also need to know the options open to the person.  In case of redundancy, what support can the person expect from HR?  In this example, identify an HR contact so that you can pass a name and telephone number onto the individual?

The worst thing you can do when giving bad news, is to give the individual the impression that you didn’t even care enough to find out the facts.  Know your material and don’t work from notes, if you can, on this occasion!  Notes can provide a barrier and you will not be able to judge their reactions so well!

Work out what your own feelings are about the situation before the meeting, and how to deal with them!  You want the person to know you are sorry but it isn’t fair to overwhelm them with your own grief!

Giving the news

Watching the person’s reaction and listening are very important while actually while giving bad news. Just from body language or the extent of eye contact, you can tell if they understand and accept what you’re saying and what emotions they are experiencing.   Be prepared for anger or despair with serious news.

It is really important to remember to speak clearly and slowly.  Don’t jump straight into the news – go through the usual courtesies at the beginning of the meeting.  In a letter warn them that you have bad news and say that you are sorry about it!

Throughout the meeting, ask them if they have any questions and if they understand what you’re telling them.    Don’t let your feelings weigh on the listener!


After you’ve given the bad news, don’t end the meeting abruptly. Ask again for questions or if they need any information repeated. Offer additional sources of information like pamphlets or the names of support groups if they are available. Make sure to pass on that name and contact details for HR.

Most of us feel somewhat lost after receiving very bad news.  One way to deal with this is to schedule another meeting shortly afterwards or to ring them to discuss how they are going to manage the time ahead.

At the very least you will want to make sure they understood what you told them and that they can respond to it as necessary. Then you may want to allow them some time alone! Just don’t rush them out of your office or wherever the meeting is taking place.  Take time to be kind – compassion costs us nothing!”

I would very much welcome your own tips on handling bad news and to hear your own experiences

I hope to publish the next post in this series on Communication on Wednesday 2nd March 2011

King, Queen or Pawn – the Joys of Office Politics

Politics – activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization Oxford Dictionaries

I don’t play chess.  I admire those who do but for me the game is too slow to enjoy.  But I do know the rules!

For me Office Politics is just like that.  You may decide not to ‘play’ but you need to know how it works.

This is particularly true if you manage a project or a change programme.  If you don’t manage your stakeholders, your project or programme may be shot down in ways you never expected.

Stakeholder management doesn’t work if you don’t make sure you understand the politics of the organisation.

Wherever you have a group of people you will have a degree of politics operating.  People will usually jockey for position, form alliances, decide who they do like and who they don’t!  People will come to the group with different personalities, sets of values and opinions. Over time a group develops a set of norms or standards and ways of working. They develop a pecking order – a hierarchy of status and influence.  This will not necessarily reflect the organisation chart.  For example, the person who controls the stationery cupboard can have quite a lot of power to disrupt their colleague’s day, if they choose to do so!

If you don’t understand the influence hierarchy you can find it difficult to get things done, particularly if you are new to an organisation.  And the hierarchy will change over time, as people strive successfully and unsuccessfully to achieve greater influence.  You need to understand the office politics even if you find the concept distasteful. You will be very lucky indeed if someone actually tells you the rules of the game!

It is far better to adopt some useful strategies to keep the effects of office politics on you and your work to a minimum.  At the same time it will be useful to be classed as inside the influence group, as opposed to being on the outside looking in. What you are probably best to aim for is to manage any effects of office politics that directly relate to you!  Then turn them in your favour, or at least minimise their effects on you and your work.

Office politics in its crudest form usually occurs when one, or more than one, person holds (or is seen as holding) a significant amount of power within the office.  This may be formal power – the CEO’s private office is usually a hotbed of office politics – or informal power.  Formal power is pretty easy to read.  Informal power is much more difficult.  Informal power can arise in a number of ways! Someone with depth of knowledge of the organisation, the key subject matter expert, PAs to top managers,  may all wield considerable power and they are fairly easy to discover.  Far more challenging are the ‘office bully’, those in a relationship with someone holding formal power and unscrupulous players of the office politics’ game.  You need to listen and observe the group you work with and its surrounding organisation to find out more about these!

What can you do? Try to get to know the politically powerful within your organisation.  Don’t be afraid of them – they are often much, more receptive to people who aren’t intimidated by them!  Make sure they understand what you are trying to achieve.  Deal with their reservations and make sure they understand that you are taking on board their views.   If someone does try to undermine you, don’t get drawn in. Simply be bold and assertive, but not aggressive.  Make your points clearly and offer good will.  If their negative behaviour persists, then ring fence them – make sure they have as little as possible to do with your work.

People often play office politics because they are unsure about their own abilities and achievements.  They try to conceal what they believe are their shortcomings behind a façade and to make others feel they are less worthy. Don’t let them undermine your self-esteem – be proud of your own accomplishments and make sure that your efforts are recognised by those who matter.  But don’t get into direct competition if you can avoid it – it’s a waste of your time! If people know you are doing a good job consistently there is far less opportunity for you to be undermined.  Forming alliances with senior managers and using them as sponsors and champions for your work can increase your own informal power.  If you have a formal sponsor, make sure they are well informed and really up to date with your project or programme and can talk about it fluently to their colleagues.   As with all stakeholder management – targeted communication of  good quality of information is key to you and your project or programme’s success.

If you want to know more or do want to play the office politics game then here are some books that might be useful!

‘Office Politics: How work really works’ by Guy Browning

‘100+ Tactics for Office Politics (Barron’s Business Success)’ by Casey Hawley

For the really evil!

’21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win at Office Politics’ by Mike Phipps, Colin Gautrey

What is it with Networking? How should I make those vital connections?

How many times have you heard the expression ‘It’s not what you know but who you know that counts!”?  Or perhaps you have heard references to the ‘Old Boy’s network’! Such a network is often blamed for an apparent high proportion of former pupils of public schools (usually male) in high status positions in government, business, and the professions. Networking has a long and somewhat chequered history.

I suppose for many of us in business, we can look back to the trade guilds for our inspiration and, of course, most of us have our professional and trade associations.  Networking has clearly stood the test of time!

At the moment there are a number of well publicised business networking organizations that create models of networking activity that allow the people to build new business relationships.  They are supposed to generate business opportunities at the same time.  So why, oh why, do I feel so uncomfortable when attending what are advertised as networking events.  I’ve thought about the issues and what would work for me and here are the rules I’m going to set myself in the future.

  1. Values – I will be true to myself and not behave at networking events differently to how I behave in the rest of my life.  I will be my usual pleasant self but I will not become an over- ebullient superwoman with a constant and somewhat inane smile on my face!  I will value the people I meet and listen to them, rather than simply seeking an opportunity to promote myself!
  2. Volume – I will attend fewer events that are focussed in my areas of interest.  I will work hard to contribute to them instead of ‘doing the rounds’ like a coach tripper ‘doing’ Europe in ten days – ‘Oh dear is it Venice today or did they say Vienna?’
  3. First View – Most people know by now that first impressions are very hard to undo!  I will show up looking as good as I can.  I usually turn up for work and social events that way anyway, so nothing too challenging there then.  Oh yes, in future, I will trot to the washroom when I arrive to check that the hair is still in place and that I don’t have froth, from the coffee I grabbed on the journey,  still on my bottom lip!
  4. 4. Verify/Research – I will do my best to research the event and who is likely to attend!  If I know who is going I can work out who I would like to meet.  This will save my feet and other people’s time! Meeting one or two like minded people is likely to be far more use than exchanging business cards like confetti and never following up – see below!
  5. Vision not version – I will share who I am and, if it is appropriate, my vision for the future and what I want to deliver.  I will not simply roll out a version of an advert for my services.  If I think I can add value, then I will say so!
  6. Vital – I will follow up! There is no point in spending time at networking events if you don’t actually follow up.  An entry in your contacts database is of limited use!  You need to reinforce your first meeting with something more substantial as a follow up.  Send the contact details you mentioned!  Find that book you referred to on Amazon and send the link.  If nothing else, send a thank-you note for their time and the interesting conversation.  Otherwise you are in danger of just becoming another name in what is probably a very long list!

So I am going to make a fresh start!  I shall be out there following valiantly my list above.  I hope I meet you on my travels in where was it?  Vienna, Venice, Oh Dear!

Alice down the rabbit hole – or customer service and schizophrenia in the downturn!

I’m reading ‘Surviving Change – A Manager’s Guide’ from Harvard Business Press. It advises on managing in the downturn and opens with a discussion of different survival strategies – hard and soft!  In fact, most change is a mixture of the two and the strategy chosen usually reflects the underlying culture of the organisation!   How the mix works is critical because if it is not well managed it can become fraught with conflict and demoralising for people in the organisation; it can lead to a schizophrenic approach to customers.

The ‘hard’ approach to change is usually short-term and about economics  – cut costs and increase cash flow! If a unit, or an employee, cannot demonstrate how they add financial value, out they go with very little ceremony or concern for personal well-being. The change is usually hard driven from the top with little wider engagement.  Often consultants advise the magic inner circle and HR consultants deal with casualties that might cost the organisation.

Soft change focuses on developing the organisation to meet new conditions with high engagement across the piece from the leaders. Employees trust in the informal contract they have with the organisation and work towards its well being.

Sadly experience shows that neither soft or hard approaches work in isolation.  The hard approach works in the short term but with that alone you are usually left with a demoralised and disloyal workforce – your best employees probably left at a rate of knots when you started the change.  The soft approach can take years to embed and the market doesn’t stand still!

Most successful change is a combination of hard (rationalisation well managed) and soft (employee engagement and encouragement to learn new skills).  But if change is a reflection of underlying culture and that has conflicts within it, a change can put the whole organisation out of kilter.  What I’m thinking of here is an organisation that pays lip service to soft but is really hard.  I believe in the downturn this is likely to be an increasing problem, particularly in the service sector.

Clients of service companies, particularly in the UK public sector, like to hear how well the company manages its employees.  A tender panel may take great interest in training and development approaches but, of course, the final decision is usually made on the keenest price.  In the present climate the client is likely to continue to seek cost reductions, which mean lots of change to be managed.  This can lead a company into a kind of schizophrenia.  It flags up all the good things its HR team would like to do but finds itself increasingly having to make hard, and very short-term, decisions.  As a consequence, its own employees and its middle managers in particular, become confused and a little cynical!  In turn this impacts on the service delivered to the client – so the client pushes harder!

What is the answer.? Well maybe it starts with a little more honesty on both sides!   Perhaps clients should start being more realistic about how they expect their service companies to manage for the price they are prepared to pay.  Perhaps the companies should be a little more honest with clients, and  with themselves, about the real costs of delivering ‘cuts’  At the end of the day, a client gets what they pay for and it they want to see services well managed with employees committed to the services they deliver, they need to recognise there will always be a cost even in the downturn!