“What is a weekend?” ~ Downton Abbey

It’s about that time of week when people start to ask that all-important question…

What are you up to for the weekend?

Well, if you’re anything at all like me, you probably answer with something like “Dunno, nothing really planned” and you might come in on Monday morning proclaiming “Where did that weekend go?!”.

I, for one, would like to see a lot more bang for my buck over the weekends.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for the relaxation. In fact, I’m promoting relaxation. 

I trawled around for something that works for me and how I view my weekends and found it in the most unlikely of sources – an article written by a time management expert…

Laura Vanderkam’s “How To Make The Most of Weekends” has me re-thinking my free time (and particularly liking the part about reducing the amount of cleaning you do on the weekends!)

Enjoy your weekend, wherever it takes you!

 

 

Customer Care… the undervalued superstar of soft skills

The front line. The dreaded call centre. The fear of hold music that sounds like an elevator from the 1970s.

From the point of view of a customer, facing the “dial 1 for receipts, 2 for refunds, 3 for tearing your hair out” rigmarole is a nightmare.

You wait patiently (or impatiently at times) through the long list of options, crossing your fingers that when the blessed “press zero to speak with an operator” comes up, you get someone who will actually help.

But have you ever gotten there and – cue the choirs singing and bluebirds flying – gotten a customer care representative that not only answers the phone in more than a monotone, but actually listens to what you need?

The relief. The absolute relief. Someone is going to help.

Faith in humanity restored!

The other side of the “hold” button

Now, I am a customer care representative, so I know what I’m talking about from both sides of the coin.

Most customer care workers do want to help, but a shocking amount of companies neglect to support or train their front facing teams, or streamline their phone support processes.

Seth Godin knows what’s what. His top 6 tips got me sharing, liking and forwarding to everyone possible!

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/06/your-call-is-very-important-to-us.html

In my experience, the most successful companies are those with the strongest customer care network. The only way to accomplish this is by supporting customer care teams. Train them, encourage them and once in a while – throw a high five their way!

What Next?

Even though I say it myself, we are pretty good at answering questions here on the customer care team at Professional Development…

However – since I’ve started working here, there was always one question that stumped me:

What can I do next?

Sure, for some courses, like Project Management, there’s a natural progression from beginner to advanced level. However, advising trainees on other courses always had me at a loss.

That is, until I watched Dave Conway’s recent video on Coaching Skills.

I’ve always had a lot of time for Coaching Skills as a course, but I naturally only recommended it for people wishing to work as a full time life coach. Dave’s insights to the skills covered opened up a whole new range of ideas for me as to who would benefit from the course.

He mentions that coaching is ideal for anyone who wants to get to a “deeper level of understanding” with other people. Wouldn’t that be perfect for someone who has completed a communications course and wants to progress those skills?

How about managers and team leaders who really want to build confidence and strong relationships with their teams? Yes! Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s another way to mentor people. To coach staff members through tough challenges or a transition within the company…. Wait, isn’t this an essential skill for change management?

Dave went on to talk about how coaching is a vital skillset for him as a trainer. More bells ringing! I think the most common question I get is “What do I do after Train The Trainer?”

I had worried in the past that Coaching may be too similar to Train The Trainer, but listening to Dave, I realised that, although the skills do overlap, training and coaching complement each other perfectly.

Many of our trainers also work as life coaches and they find that their coaching skills save the day when an individual is struggling with an aspect of their course.

Changing your mindset

Although Dave’s video was focused on Coaching Skills, the most valuable point I took from it was that to discover what course is best for you, you need to ask the right questions.

Since then, I have been changing the questions I ask people searching for a new course. Instead of asking “what course caught your interest?” or “what area do you want to move into?” I now ask “what do you want to learn?” and “what skills would make your life easier?”.

The answers are a whole lot more interesting….

Speak Up!

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Got a big presentation coming up?

Nervous about a speech you need to make?

Struggling to get your point across at meetings?

We all get it – that nervous feeling in the pit of our stomach when we have to speak up in front of a group of people.

No matter how informal the occasion, how small the group or how well you know your audience or subject material, for most people, public speaking is a part of life that we could happily do without.

It is however, something many of us need to tackle, especially in day to day business life. Despite our best efforts, short presentations at an in-company meeting or even making a speech at your best friend’s wedding will never fail to crop up.

The great news is that there is a light at the end of the public speaking tunnel. Help is at hand!

Our Presentation Skills course is 2 days of tips, test runs and – we promise – no pressure. Over the course of this programme, you will make short, easy presentations in a relaxed classroom environment.

Mary Larkin, one of our most regular Presentation Skills trainers confirms that, by day 2 participants are much more relaxed and open to standing up and speaking in front of the room. Mary says

“I have seen a complete attitude shift in people going from fear and trepidation on day 1 to ease and confidence on day 2.”

Our trainers provide constructive feedback based on each trainee’s needs and give everyone a DVD of their own presentations to take home.

So why not take the plunge? Feel the fear and do it anyway…

Our next Presentation Skills Course is taking place on June 17th and 18th so why not give it a go?

Call us here on 01 861 0710 to snap up one of the remaining places or click here to make an online booking enquiry.

Easy and certain

The lottery is great, because it’s easy. Not certain, but easy. If you win, the belief goes, you’re done.

Medical school is great because it’s certain. Not easy, but certain. If you graduate, the belief goes, you’re done.

Most people are searching for a path to success that is both easy and certain.

Most paths are neither.


Seth’s Blog

The privilege of being wrong

When you are truly living on the edge, walking on the moon, perhaps, or caught in the grip of extreme poverty–there’s no room at all for error. It’s a luxury you can’t afford.

For the rest of us, though, there’s a cushion. Being wrong isn’t fatal, it’s merely something we’d prefer to avoid. We have the privilage of being wrong. Not being wrong on purpose, of course, but wrong as a cost on the way to being right.

As you gain resources, the act of being wrong goes from being fatal to annoying to a precious opportunity, something that you’ve earned. You won’t advance your cause or discover new truths if you’re obsessed with being right all the time–and so the best way to compound your advantage and accomplish even more than you already have is to set out (with relish) to be as open to wrong as often as you can afford to be.


Seth’s Blog

The future of the library

What is a public library for?

First, how we got here:

Before Gutenberg, a book cost about as much as a small house. As a result, only kings and bishops could afford to own a book of their own.

This naturally led to the creation of shared books, of libraries where scholars (everyone else was too busy not starving) could come to read books that they didn’t have to own. The library as warehouse for books worth sharing.

Only after that did we invent the librarian.

The librarian isn’t a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.

After Gutenberg, books  got a lot cheaper. More individuals built their own collections. At the same time, though, the number of titles exploded, and the demand for libraries did as well. We definitely needed a warehouse to store all this bounty, and more than ever we needed a librarian to help us find what we needed. The library is a house for the librarian.

Industrialists (particularly Andrew Carnegie) funded the modern American library. The idea was that in a pre-electronic media age, the working man needed to be both entertained and slightly educated. Work all day and become a more civilized member of society by reading at night.

And your kids? Your kids need a place with shared encyclopedias and plenty of fun books, hopefully inculcating a lifelong love of reading, because reading makes all of us more thoughtful, better informed and more productive members of a civil society.

Which was all great, until now.

Want to watch a movie? Netflix is a better librarian, with a better library, than any library in the country. The Netflix librarian knows about every movie, knows what you’ve seen and what you’re likely to want to see. If the goal is to connect viewers with movies, Netflix wins.

This goes further than a mere sideline that most librarians resented anyway. Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library as the best resource for anyone doing amateur research (grade school, middle school, even undergrad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get better and cheaper as the years go by? Kids don’t shlep to the library to use an out of date encyclopedia to do a report on FDR. You might want them to, but they won’t unless coerced.

They need a librarian more than ever (to figure out creative ways to find and use data). They need a library not at all.

When kids go to the mall instead of the library, it’s not that the mall won, it’s that the library lost.

And then we need to consider the rise of the Kindle. An ebook costs about $ 1.60 in 1962 dollars. A thousand ebooks can fit on one device, easily. Easy to store, easy to sort, easy to hand to your neighbor. Five years from now, readers will be as expensive as Gillette razors, and ebooks will cost less than the blades.

Librarians that are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.

Post-Gutenberg, books are finally abundant, hardly scarce, hardly expensive, hardly worth warehousing. Post-Gutenberg, the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data.

The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books. Just in time for the information economy, the library ought to be the local nerve center for information. (Please don’t say I’m anti-book! I think through my actions and career choices, I’ve demonstrated my pro-book chops. I’m not saying I want paper to go away, I’m merely describing what’s inevitably occurring). We all love the vision of the underprivileged kid bootstrapping himself out of poverty with books, but now (most of the time), the insight and leverage is going to come from being fast and smart with online resources, not from hiding in the stacks.

The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.

The next library is a house for the librarian with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user serviceable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it’s fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.

The next library is filled with so many web terminals there’s always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don’t view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight–it’s the entire point.

Wouldn’t you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.

We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.


Seth’s Blog

An end of magic

Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Head back to the 1800s with a Taser or a Prius or an iPad and the townsfolk will no doubt either burn you at the stake or worship you.

So many doors have been opened by technology in the last twenty years that the word “sufficiently” is being stretched. If it happens on a screen (Google automatically guessing what I want next, a social network knowing who my friends are before I tell them) we just assume it’s technology at work. Hard to even imagine magic here.

I remember eagerly opening my copy of Wired every month (fifteen years ago). On every page there was something new and sparkly and yes, magical.

No doubt that there will be magic again one day… magic of biotech, say, or quantum string theory, whatever that is. But one reason for our ennui as technology hounds is that we’re missing the feeling that was delivered to us daily for a decade or more. It’s not that there’s no new technology to come (there is, certainly). It’s that many of us can already imagine it.


Seth’s Blog