Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories Our podcasts aim to help you, the listener, to get a personal development tip that will make you better at work. Help you to improve your time management skills, nail your negotiation skills, or to be the best at Category Management. Every episode of this podcast will enable you to do one thing that will improve your efficiency and effectiveness at work.| We (MBM) are the soft skills training provider to the UK Grocery Industry, helping Suppliers to win more business. They choose us because of our money back guarantee, our relevant experience, and because we make their learning stick. The problem suppliers face is that they are investing money in training but are not seeing a measurable return on investment. Our 5 level evaluation provides a ‘Chain of Evidence‘ for each training course. Our trainers have worked on both sides of the fence and know the challenges of working with the UK supermarkets and being a supplier in a very demanding environment. Our unique training method, Sticky Learning ®, ensures that your Learners are still using their new skill 5 months later and this is supported by a money back guarantee. Mon, 17 Feb 2020 18:46:15 +0000 en-GB © 2019 Making Business Matter Be the best version of yourself by listening and implementing these tips Making Business Matter (MBM) Limited. Trainers to the UK Grocery Industry. Experts at Making Learning Stick. #stickylearning ® episodic Our podcasts aim to help you, the listener, to get a personal development tip that will make you better at work. Help you to improve your time management skills, nail your negotiation skills, or to be the best at Category Management. Every episode of this podcast will enable you to do one thing that will improve your efficiency and effectiveness at work.| We (MBM) are the soft skills training provider to the UK Grocery Industry, helping Suppliers to win more business. They choose us because of our money back guarantee, our relevant experience, and because we make their learning stick. The problem suppliers face is that they are investing money in training but are not seeing a measurable return on investment. Our 5 level evaluation provides a ‘Chain of Evidence‘ for each training course. Our trainers have worked on both sides of the fence and know the challenges of working with the UK supermarkets and being a supplier in a very demanding environment. Our unique training method, Sticky Learning ®, ensures that your Learners are still using their new skill 5 months later and this is supported by a money back guarantee. Making Business Matter (MBM) Limited clean Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories E12 – MBM Expert Interview with Professor Damian Hughes Tue, 17 Dec 2019 13:47:20 +0000 Jo Palmer 12 1 Professor Damian Hughes: A Change Management Catalyst and Professor of Organisational Psychology and Change

Read the Interview Transcript Below:

Jo Palmer: ‘We are doing an expert interview, and today I’m with Damian Hughes. We are talking largely about organisation development. So rather than me introduce your credentials, Damian, I think you’d do a better job than me.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Well, thanks for inviting me on, Jo. It’s a real honour to sort of chat with you. For anyone listening it’s probably easier to explain the jobs I do, to give some context. So I’m a professor of organizational psychology and change, that’s my main role. But I work as a consultant psychologist across a wide range of organisations from business to sport to education. And then the third job I do is I write. So I’ve done a number of books very much around the topics of high performing cultures and how and how to make change happen.’

The Barcelona Way

Jo Palmer: ‘Fantastic. Before we get into organisational development, let’s touch on your most recent book, The Barcelona Way, which is currently ranking on Amazon’s best sellers. Damian, what was your inspiration for writing this book?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, so I got approached a number of years ago by a publisher who asked if I’d be interested in writing a book on the topic of culture. And I said I’d love to do it. They said, would I be interested in trying to make it a little bit more accessible by viewing it through the lens of a sports team?’

DH: ‘Now, while that sounded an intriguing challenge, the reality is, like a lot of businesses, a lot of sports teams sort of pay lip service to the topic of culture. So they’ll tell you how important it is. But their genuine level of investment, or interest, or focus tends to be quite minimal. So we narrowed it down to three teams that genuinely use culture as a competitive advantage. So the first one was the New Zealand Rugby Union team. The second one was the New England Patriots in the NFL. And then the third one was FC Barcelona.’

‘Choose Barcelona’

Damian Hughes: ‘So I think it was air fair costs that meant the publisher said, “Choose Barcelona.” But the reality was, it was the one that I felt had almost been unexplored and it was really rich to link it. So what the idea was was, I looked at culture through the lens of how Barcelona had decided to follow this process known as a commitment culture. And a commitment culture is where you have a really clear set of principles or behaviours, and you’ve got a really clear sense to why you exist. And what all the evidence says from all the research on the topic is a commitment culture tends to be a lot more successful over a sustained period than any other type of culture.’

DH: ‘So I look at the different types of cultures, but then specifically this idea of a commitment culture and how that can be used and harnessed within any organisation, so anywhere where people are coming together for a common cause, how you can use it to then drive competitive advantage.’

How Long Did it Take?

Jo Palmer: ‘Fantastic. Brilliant. How long did it take you to write it, Damian?’

Damian Hughes: ‘It ended up being about three years. So I was back and forth from Catalonia for about 18 months, back and forth doing interviews and things like that. But a lot of the research in terms of the most recent research and the papers, that took an awful lot of wading through to be able to give people sort of the idea that it isn’t just about sport, it’s about people that just happen to work in sport in this case. I’m lucky enough I’ve done a number of books, Jo. So what I’ve realised now is that you have to really be intrigued and love the topic, because it ends up dominating an awful lot of your waking hours. So it was a real three-year labour of love.’

Favourite Book

Jo Palmer: ‘Wow. Out of all the books you’ve written, Damian, which has been your favourite and why?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Oh, that’s a difficult one, that’s like asking to choose your favourite child. I love them all they’re all subjects that I really am passionate about. They often remind me of certain times in my life. The book I wrote previous to The Barcelona Way was a book called The Winning Mindset, and that was a whole series of interviews that I did with elite sports coaches, but looking at the topic of engagement, so how do you get people switched on and engaged? But we again, we viewed it couldn’t lens of the sporting world. I’d probably say particularly fond of that because I almost wrote it… So it’s a bit of a love letter to my dad.’

‘A Love Letter to My Dad’

Damian Hughes ‘My dad’s quite poorly now, but he was in elite boxing coach all through my childhood. So my background is I grew up in a boxing gym. While he’s poorly now I wouldn’t to sort of pay tribute to some of the stuff that I’d seen him do. So I include some of the stories from his own career as well. But in my head, it was a bit of a love letter to my dad and the sort of work he’d done.’

JP: ‘Oh, how lovely.’

DH: ‘Yeah. But I’d say The Barcelona Way is a love letter to my professional life as well because that’s where I’ve ended up spending a huge proportion of my working life has been working around this topic of creating high performing culture. So yeah, I’m just as fond of that as well.’

JP: ‘Yeah. Well, I won’t make you choose one then, Damian. That’s fine.’

DH: ‘You won’t what? Sorry.’

JP: ‘I won’t make you choose one.’

DH: ‘No, yeah, it’s a brilliant question. I’ve never really thought about it. But like you say, when I reflect on it it is like choosing your favourite child, which is not something you could really do.’

JP: ‘I get it. Because if someone said to me, “Jo, pick your favourite child.” I wouldn’t be able to. I love that answer.’

DH: ‘Thank you.’

Organisational Development

Jo Palmer: ‘Thanks for that, Damian. Let’s talk about organisational development.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Okay, brilliant.’

JP: ‘What is organisational development and what are the key values?’

DH: ‘So organisational development is the idea of how do you create an environment where people can flourish and blossom, and subsequently perform at their best? That’s the purpose of it. Now, the best way I would describe that is it’s like an ecosystem. There’s a whole series of different strands that have to come together to be able to facilitate people for performing at their best. So there’s no silver bullet answer to this. There’s no one size fits all. It will always be unique to the organisation. This will range from things like your guided behaviours. It will be about your speed and ability to transition quickly. This will be the things that you get that are most important in terms of delivery, people development, leadership development, all of this comes together. So it’s quite a complex area.’

‘Start at the Idea of Behaviours’

Damian Hughes: ‘But I think that when you work with teams, a lot of organisations that are looking to understand organisational development and how it can be a competitive advantage, the place I would urge anyone to start is start at the idea of behaviours. Now I make a distinction here between organisational values and organisational behaviours. So what I mean is that values are quite an abstract term. You can say that you want people to adopt a value of being fair or demonstrating trust. But the reality is people can just say, “Yes, I agree with that.” Without ever needing to give you any evidence of it. A behaviour is something that you have to clearly demonstrate.’

DH: ‘One of the big things that I find often inhibits performance in organisations, Jo, is ambiguity. So when things are ambiguous or when things are a little bit opaque and not particularly clear, you get confused reactions, people behave in a subjective way. When people behave subjectively, you get lack of consistency, which is a big frustration, whereas high performing organizations consistently deliver.’

DH: ‘So that’s why I think behaviour has become really important to be able to articulate, what are the non-negotiable behaviours? So the phrase I use is I talk about, what your trademark behaviours? So the behaviours that define you when you’re at your very best.’

‘What Elite Cultures Do Is They Prioritise’

Damian Hughes: “The second mistake I see a lot of organisations do is though they might go down the behavioural route, they come up with a big long shopping list of all the behaviours they want people to adopt. What elite cultures do is they prioritise. So they don’t have any more than three behaviours, three non-negotiable trademark behaviours. And a nice way of doing this, if there’s anyone listening to this that think they’d be interested in maybe adopting it in their world, the exercise I encourage everyone to do is something called success leaves clues.”

DH: ‘Now, what that means is you start by answering the question, “When we’re good, why are we good?” When you’re able to articulate what good looks like in your world, you will find consistently present behaviours that exist. And then they become almost your foundation stone to build the culture on this. So the idea is, how do you then create an organisation that facilitates the delivery of those behaviours at the highest level as consistently as possible?’

JP: ‘Wow. So it’s about simplifying it to get the best of the behaviours.’

Types of Cultures

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, and that’s often a big challenge for all of us, like I say, that what you find is that I’ve made reference from, we’re talking about different types of cultures, and one type of culture that often can exist is a bureaucratic culture, the bureaucratic culture is almost where it’s driven by rules and regulations and policies and procedures. So decisions tend to be made by a consensus. So you’re trying to keep as many people happy as you can. And that means you often end up being quite political about behaviours and that’s where you end up getting a really long list.’

DH: ‘Now commitment cultures, as I say, they simplify it. So there’s a great phrase that we were talking off-air before about organisations like Disney. And one of the things that Disney often talk about is that they say, “When you joined Disney, you don’t join a business, you join a culture.”‘

DH: ‘And the idea behind it is that they’ve got three non-negotiable behaviours. If you’re in a customer service role, they give you three behaviours, and they take it a step further, they even give you the behaviours in order of priority. So they say that if you’re ever confused if you’re ever in a situation where there might be a number of options you can take if you applied the behaviours in the order that they’ve ranked them for you, it gives you a clear way of being able to know how to respond and have confidence that everyone else will respond in the same way as well.’


Jo Palmer: ‘Wow. Okay. Fabulous. Why is change important in an organisation?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Well, change is important just because, I mean, change affects all of us in every possible way. One of the things that I say, I encourage people to look out for in their organisations is, you’ll often hear people that resist change, and they’ll do it in subtle ways. So they won’t say, “I hate change.” But they’ll tell you things like, “It was better back in the day or years ago.” Or, “This place has changed.” And it’s often not said as a compliment. I encourage anyone that’s charged with the responsibility of making change, not to allow comments like that to go without comment.’

DH: ‘So when there’s somebody say, take a silly example like when you hear people say, “Oh, kids are different these days.” I often stop and say to them, “Compared to when?” And you’ll stop people in their tracks, they’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “I’m asking you, when do you think kids are different compared to when? When are you comparing it against?”‘

‘Well, When I Was a Kid…’

Damian Hughes: ‘What you’ll often hear is grown adults saying, “Well, when I was a kid.” And these may be people that are in their 50s. And you go, “So you’re talking about your childhood, which was 35 years ago.” And they go, “Yeah, yeah.” And you say, “So do you not think society has moved on? Do you not think society has changed? There have been no other changes in the world around you in those 35 years?” And the answer is, “Well, of course, there has.” You say, “Well, why do you expect children to react in a different way?”‘

DH: ‘So we all deal with change, like when we become parents or when we embrace new technology, we got a new phone or something like that, we’re actually skilled at dealing with change. It’s when change is done clumsily or we don’t feel that we have any input in it that people will often try and resist it.’

‘All Organisations That Need to Be Able to Adapt and Transition Quickly’

Damian Hughes: ‘So one of the things that all organisations that need to be able to adapt and transition quickly, because the question of, so how well are you equipping people to make change take place? Because what might appear common sense doesn’t always appear to be common practice. So actually invest in people with the skills to understand how they have already successfully dealt with change, but equally the replicable skills that they can use to deal with change again and again and again is a really necessarily scale for all organisations. Unfortunately, he’s not always recognised as a priority. It’s almost a case of, tell people what to do and then try and deal with the fallout of them not doing it. Whereas if you can give people the skills before you ask them to change, you can often make it happen a lot easier.’

JP: ‘Yes. So the change happens, then it’s the fallout after, it’s quite difficult then to get everyone back on side.’

Targetting the Right Problem

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah. Yeah. Very much. I’ll give you an example, I’ll sometimes get calls from organisations that the theme of what they’re looking to develop amongst their staff is resilience. And the first question I always ask, or the challenge I give to them is, “Well, tell me because I’ve yet to meet anyone that needs to be resilient in the face of kindness or decency or understanding. But I’ve met plenty of people that need to be resilient when they’re in an organisation that is pretty unforgiving, relentless and unpleasant.’

DH: ‘So is it genuinely resiliency you need? Or is it a cultural problem that you possess?” Because the challenge is what you’re suggesting otherwise is you’re going to armour plate people to deal with a difficult environment. So the reality is, if you can give people the skills to manage change, but do it in a sensitive manner that still acknowledges the human being underneath the role, that’s how you create high performing cultures that can adapt quickly.’

JP:  ‘Yeah, right from the start as opposed to having to try and do it after the fact.’

DH: ‘Yeah, exactly.’

Change Objectives

Jo Palmer: ‘Damian, what are the main objectives for any company going through a change?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Wow, that was a really good question. So I’d say the main objectives for any company is, first of all, be able to articulate why the change is happening. Because what you often find is that one of the big frustrations in organisations where change is often happening is, they say that people can gossip about it. When I hear people gossiping about the reasons behind change, I would challenge the leaders to say, “You haven’t communicated good enough or effectively enough.” And in the absence of your communication, people are making up their own stories of what was going on instead.” So if you can articulate why the change is happening and not just give people…’

The Three Fs

Damian Hughes: ‘So a big mistake I see is, people use fear, facts or force to get people to change. I call it the three Fs. So you frighten people into changing to say, “If we don’t do this, we won’t exist.” So you have that ridiculous phrase of creating a burning platform. The second reason you do it is you just give people stats and facts and figures, that doesn’t mean really speak to them. It is the emotion that we need to tap into. Or the third reason is when you just tell people, “You’ll do it because I’ve told you to do it.”‘

The Three Rs

Damian Hughes: ‘Now all three of those tactics work in short term situations, but they are not sustainable for long term change. So instead I counter it with almost like, for an organisation that wants to induce change, you talk about the three R’s So, first of all, you have to relate to people and give them the sense that you understand them and you tap into that. Then you have to reframe it and get them to understand the benefits of what you’re looking to change. Then the third R is you need to repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, and repeat it, so people are comfortable with it and getting to grips with it.’

DH: ‘So what most organisations do, to summarise the answer to that is, they use the three Fs to induce change. What successful cultures and organizations do is, they use the three Rs to remedy it instead.’

Jo’s Example

Jo Palmer: ‘Do you know what, that’s really resonated with me because in a previous company we went through quite a big change, it wasn’t communicated well, we were all talking about it between ourselves, it almost feels weird because you don’t know what’s really going on.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you think about it like an easy way to illustrate how people gossip is you think was like conspiracy theories. So when an attack happens or there’s a disaster, one of the first things that you will hear is people’s conspiracy theories emerge to try and give you a story of why it happened. The reason is is because the human part of our brain, our prefrontal cortex doesn’t compute that the world is random and chaotic and occasionally a dangerous place, so to counter that we try and make up stories that allow us to navigate through change in a comfortable way. If we can justify it and understand it, we can deal with it a lot easier.’

‘Gossiping Is the Equivalent of Conspiracy Theories’

Damian Hughes: ‘So when I see it in organisations, gossiping is the equivalent of conspiracy theories. So it’s about being able to communicate the why of change just as much as the what.’

Jo Palmer: ‘You’re absolutely right. It’s good to know.’

DH: ‘Well, thank you. I’m glad it resonates.’

JP: ‘Because I’ve been through it myself, it all makes absolute sense. And then subsequently I ended up leaving because I didn’t like the change, and at no point was it communicated well, so I had quite an impact on my life because of a change not being communicated.’

Applying the Three Rs

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, exactly. I said, you often see, like I say, if you applied the three Rs to it, and you say, “Did they relate to me? Did they understand my affairs as a human being? Then did they reframe what the change was about and what benefits I’d get?” And then finally it’s that idea of, “Did they repeat it and repeat it until they knew I was comfortable with it?”‘

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah, no, you’ve simplified it. You’ve made it so it’s just easy to understand.’

‘I Do Try and Invest a Lot of Time Trying to Think of Ways to Explain It’

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, well thank you, cheers. But again, I appreciate your kind feedback there, Jo. But a lot of this is about, I do try and invest a lot of time trying to think of ways to explain it, because like you say, often what appears common sense to a leader, for example, because they’re immersed in the reason behind that and they understand the subtlety and the nuance, the ability to communicate is a different skill than the ability to understand why you’ve done it in the first place.’

Jo Palmer: ‘Wow. Absolutely brilliant.’

DH: ‘Well, thank you.’

JP: ‘Fantastic. You’ve really simplified it. I get it. I really get it. And I can now be sitting back and thinking back what five years ago for me, where it all went wrong.’

DH: ‘Right, okay.’

JP: ‘Yeah, fantastic.’

‘Well, Why Did It Happen?’

Damian Hughes: ‘And again, once you understand that, the idea is, what you’re doing, what you’re describing, the process you’re going through is, you’re engaging in that reflection to say, “Well, why did it happen?” So when you understand that, that then gives you the skills to be able to say, “So how would I deal with it again next time?”‘

Jo Palmer: ‘Damian, had I not spoken to you, I would probably never have thought about it again. It’s only speaking to you now, and I’ve been able to relate to something that happened to me in my previous position, to gosh this is why I was where I was because of that. At no point did anyone speak to us about it. No one checked to see if we were okay with it. It wasn’t communicated at a level we understood. It was communicated at a very top level. And what came across too, the whole thing was that they were doing it because of the needs of the business as opposed to the needs of the people.’

Freeze Mode

Damian Hughes: ‘Yep. So some of the predictions that you can follow up again, so without knowing the example, because I know we’ve not spoken about this before the callers, I guarantee that some of the dysfunctional behaviours that followed from colleagues on not was that some people went into freeze mode, which is very much we’re all being very apathetic and stop caring. Some people would have gone into a very cynical mode and been aggressive and abrasive, which is the fight response. And some people like you’ve described, went into flight mode, which is disappearing, gone off. The sickness rate goes up, and then some people decide, “You know what, I’m better than this, I’ll go somewhere else.”‘

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah, absolutely. It was absolutely like that. They were trying to change our contracts and a lot of people didn’t agree with it. Some people just went along with it, and they subsequently left because they didn’t want the changes but wasn’t prepared to stand up and say, “Actually, don’t like your changes.” But there was a good proportion of staff that did say, “Actually, I’m going to stand up for my rights.” You’re not going to change this, that and the other.” Because they were entitled to do that. But it then caused, believe it or not, between the team, it divided, so some people agreed, some people didn’t. So all of a sudden these people that are your team, you almost feel individual and alien to them.’

How Much Time Did They Invest in the Understanding Change Bit?

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah. But then again, that goes back to the idea that I’m sure those people were smart, intelligent people that had a clear rationale. But then the question I’d ask is, how much time did they invest in the understanding change bit? So they would have understood what the change they wanted to implement was. But how much time did they do the bit that proceeds it of understanding the human impact of how change fails and how you can mitigate and do your best to put plans in place that you make change appear a smoother transition.’

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah. Well, it’s really made me think and made me understand as to why I was where I was at the time. But yeah, thanks, Damian.’

DH: ‘That’s great.’

Who is Responsible for Organisational Development?

Jo Palmer: ‘Who’s responsible for organisational development?’

Damian Hughes: ‘That’s a great question. Again, this goes back to that ecosystem answer that I gave you, that there’s no one person. So if you relied on just one person to do it, you’ve got the culture that develops there is an autocracy. So you’re relying on one or two people to force change through.’


Damian Hughes: ‘Again, a commitment culture says leaders play a big part in it, but I like quoting the stat to leaders that says, it was done by a Dutch economist that said that he’d looked at the question of how much impact the leaders have on the bottom line in terms of the ultimate performance of an organisation. And what he found was it was about 10%. I like that stat for two reasons, because one, sometimes you can use it with some leaders that maybe have a bit of an ego and stop them getting carried away, because you say, “You’re important, but you’re not that important.”‘

DH: ‘Or the other reason I like it is because he allows leaders to focus and say, are you maximising your 10%? So they play a big part in it, but then what I also say is that it is the role of the… Another phrase from that research I was telling you about Barcelona is, cultural architects. These are people in an organisation that are leaders, who just don’t have the title of being a leader. But they’re people that when they speak, they speak with real credibility, that people engage and switch on and listen to them. So you need to develop people like that, that really identify with the culture, that care about it, and that are prepared to champion it as well.’

Development Plans

Jo Palmer: ‘Thank you. When and why should an organisation use a development plan?’

Damian Hughes: ‘When should they use it? It should be a constant thing. So if you think about, when I was talking about interviewing those coaches for that book, The Winning Mindset, we were looking about how sport does it. Sports coaches don’t deliver feedback once a year in an annual appraisal or do it every six months. They’re doing it constantly. So they build feedback loops into their whole environment.’

DH: ‘Feedback loops are if you give people evidence that’s directly relevant to the job that they’re doing, and it has a clear consequence, it either delivers results or it doesn’t, you give people the opportunity to change their behaviours a lot quicker. So if you can think about like we have a mental model in our head of development plans are often sitting down in an office and having an afternoon’s worth of conversation, they’re valuable, but they’re not developing plans on their own, it should be a constant process.’

A Simple Analogy

Damian Hughes: ‘So I’ll give you a really simple analogy for it, or one that works for me is if you think of road safety laws, so how do you get people to stop speeding on roads anywhere around the world? What they’ve found is the most effective way isn’t punishing people with speed cameras or having police officers try and catch you.’

DH: ‘The most effective way is using radar displays. So when you drive through a radar display that flashes up your speed and gives you a smiley face, what we know is that people stick to the speed limit for about 7.2 miles longer than any other method. And the reason is is because you’re going through a feedback loop, so you’re getting evidence of the speed you’re driving at. The relevance of it is about the road that you’re travelling on. The consequence is if you’re going too fast, you might hurt somebody or yourself, and therefore you’ve got the ability to just take your foot off the pedal and change your behaviour. So it just gives you a reminder.’

DH: ‘So again, in organisational development terms, I often encourage people that are looking or are interested in this to say, how can you develop feedback loops all the way through your organisation that tell you whether you’re on track to deliver good performance or not? And get people to think about ways in which they can do this.’

JP: ‘Fabulous. Thank you.’

DH: ‘Pleasure.’

Techniques For Change

Jo Palmer: ‘What key techniques do you recommend during the change process?’

Damian Hughes: ‘The key technique I’d advocate, I know we referenced it before, so apologies for doing it, but I would start with this idea of success leaves clues. So I would start in any organisation by asking the question, “When you’re good, why are you, good?”‘

DH: ‘Now, whether you want to analyse it through, it might be the best feedback you’ve ever had, or it might be the best year’s results you’ve ever achieved. Whatever it is, rather than take it for granted, do a proper dissection of it and have a look at the DNA of, “When we were good, why were we good?” Like I say, out of that, you will get a series of behaviours that have been consistently present, and that’s where you start the process of saying, “How do we deliver those behaviours more consistently across the board? Because when we deliver those behaviours, if we marry that up with the ability we have to do our job, those two factors will drive foolproof performance.”‘

How to Find out More

Jo Palmer: ‘Thank you. What extra material could you recommend for people wanting to find out more?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Extra material. I’d encourage people just to read, read, read, and read. It almost doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t particularly advocate any specific book for it, because that’ll be dependent on the individual and their interests, but I would say, there’s always something you can learn if you’re prepared to read about it. So even if it was, you’re interested in reading, for example, autobiographies of successful people, find out, read it with a discerning eye to say, “Well, what lessons are they sharing with me here? What were the behaviours that they were constantly demonstrating?”‘

Pay Attention

Damian Hughes: ‘Or just pay attention when you go into places where service is good. So it might be you go to a restaurant and you get really good service. Rather than take it for granted, stop and think about it, “Well, what was that service? What was it that made it good?” Because what you’ll find is that a lot of high performing cultures will often bring people in from outside of their industry because they’re not hidebound with convention or rules.’

DH: ‘So this is a nice way of articulating, the role I play sometimes with sports teams is, my job isn’t to be there to make technical… So say, for example, working with a rugby team, my job isn’t to go and make some comment about the rugby playing ability of the players in that environment, because that’s not my job. My job is to maybe come in and share ideas from different organisations about how you can create a culture where those rugby players can get the best out of themselves.’

DH:  ‘So just pay attention to where success is happening, when good performance is happening in any context, I’d encourage people listening to say, either read about it or go and explore it in more detail.’

Three Take Away Tips

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah, I like that. Thank you. Last question, if you could give three top take away tips, what would they be and why?’

Tip 1

Damian Hughes: ‘Wow, that was good. The first tip I’d give is, be kind. I know that might sound a little bit unconventional when we’re talking about organisational development, but I think kindness is such an underrated virtue in organisations. I made that observation before about, people don’t need to be resilient in the face of kindness. So when we start by being kind and showing a level of understanding and decency to both other people, and just as important, to ourselves, I think that’s a really powerful way of getting people to embrace change, because they will naturally do it if you know that you’ve got their best interests at heart.’

Tip 2

DH:  ‘The second tip I’d give is, this idea of starting from the premise, when you’re good why are you good? Because I find that that’s an inclusive exercise rather than exclusive. You’re not looking to punish anybody, you’re looking to involve everybody in answering that question. You’ll find that most people have got an opinion on why success happens, so it’s worth listening to them and involving them.’

Tip 3

DH: ‘And then the final quality is courage. What do I mean by that? I mean, it’s just a willingness to actually do something different. So not just following the herd and doing what others do. It’s having the courage to ask questions without knowing the answer or go and explore something without necessarily knowing the result that you want to get. Because it might take you into an area that has some real value for you.’

DH:  ‘So they’re the three things I’d say, Jo. First of all, be kind. Secondly, look at you’re good, when you’re good, why you’re good. And thirdly, just have the courage to act on your intuition and your understanding.’

Thank You

Jo Palmer: ‘Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I resonate with all of that, absolutely.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Well, thank you.’

JP: ‘Damian, thank you so much for your time today, it’s been really nice to speak with you.’

DH:  ‘Yeah, likewise as well. No, thank you, thanks for inviting me on.’

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

clean no 00:33:48 Jo Palmer
E11 – Don’t Be a Cabbage Butterfly – Stop Task Switching for Better Time Management Wed, 20 Mar 2019 11:56:18 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 11 1 E11 – Don’t Be a Cabbage Butterfly – Stop Task Switching for Better Time Management

You start a task and another one comes up. You do that, and another one comes up. So, you then do that. Until – you guessed it – another one comes up! You are task switching.

This, according to the time management gurus, adds 50% to the original task. In short, by switching concentration and having to adapt your thought processes from task to task, you are adding 50% of the time to it. This is because your concentration needs to adapt. Different skills are required to complete different tasks. It will take time to adapt your thinking and understand the new task.

According to the Harvard Business Review, task switching can take up to 20 minutes. Managing emails being the biggest culprit for creating distractions.

We are losing vital minutes from our already busy days.

Task Switching, Cabbage

Listen to this podcast to stop task switching and losing these vital minutes. Focus on what is really important. Remember why you’re on the payroll and consider the seven big things that help get your job done.

Read the Transcript Below:

“You’re jumping from one task to another all day long, switching between this and that and the next thing to do. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at the Home of Sticky Learning. We’re going to talk about Short and Sticky Stories.”

“When I was about six years old, I remember my dad took me into the garden every Saturday. He was very proud of his garden. We only had a small garden and it had a veg patch. Two levels to the small garden and we’d go out there and on a Saturday it was that father-son bonding time. I remember I had those red wellies on that I think you bought from Woolworths called ladybird. Anyway. My dad and I are in the garden and he’s proud of what he’s achieved in that garden. I guess for him it was a way of reducing stress from what was quite a tough and demanding job.”


“His veg patch was something he was particularly proud of. Imagine a six-foot by three-foot veg patch and it grew carrots, runner beans, cabbages. Now, don’t tell him, but the runner beans, you could have used them for dental floss. They were stringing and every Sunday we would have those runner beans because dad had grown them and the kids would eat them on wait mode because they were stringing. But let’s come back to the cabbages. The reason I wanted to tell you this story was because in time management, we have a term that we call the cabbage butterfly.”

“Imagine my dad’s got on his cabbage patch 12 cabbages and he grabs me, grabs my hand, and he says, “There you go.” Well, we used to dig around the cabbages. So I’m digging around the cabbages with my plastic little fork, my plastic little spade. What I said to him is, “Dad, these ones have got holes in them.” And yeah, of course, the white cabbage butterfly had eaten the cabbage.”

“Now, what it tends to do is it eats a leaf of the cabbage and there are holes of see-in-it and then it looks up and sees another cabbage and flies over to that one and it’s the next cabbage. And whilst it’s chewing on that tasty morsel, it then looks up and sees the next cabbage. And this is the metaphor we use through time management because it’s very, very similar to what we do as knowledge workers, as people in offices. We start a task and then another task comes up and we do that. We start that one and then another task comes up. Them, we do that.”

Task Switching

“Now, the biggest problem is that task switching, according to the gurus, costs us 50% of that task. By switching from task to task, you are adding 50% of the time to it. This is because your concentration needs to move from one piece of skill of a task to another where you might need a different skill and you need to understand that task in a different way. Harvard Business Review did a piece of research where they’re talking about the amount of time from switching from one task to another as being up to 20 minutes.”

“Now, I’m sure that’s right because they’re Harvard Business Review, but let’s say even for you and I, it’s only a few minutes. It’s still a vital few minutes we’re losing between each task in what is an already very, very busy day. So why are we doing this? Well, we’re doing it for the endorphin rush. We’re doing it because we like starting something new, getting our teeth into it. But then something more interesting comes along, and the biggest culprit that drives this behaviour is email.”

Email Management

“I’ve talked long and hard about other ways you can deal with email management in other podcasts, so we’ll not tackle that for now. For right now, all we need to know is that task switching consumes a lot of our time and we call it cabbage butterfly. That’s eating one cabbage, looking up and seeing another one. You’ve got email management, which is something we need to fix. And the Hare and the Tortoise Tool, which you can read or hear about, will help. My purpose here is to help you focus on what’s really important.”

“Putting the emails to the side, what we need to do is start with a blank sheet of paper and that blank sheet of paper, we need to write the seven big things that will help us get our job done. Now, as a piece that comes just before this, which is, why are you on the payroll? An easy question to ask, and in my experience, 99% of people cannot answer it. Maybe that’s one for a separate podcast, just for now you need to be able to answer, why are you on the payroll? And if it’s not something to do with the bottom line, then I’m going to challenge that you’re probably wrong. And then that target you come up with needs to be smart.”


“So let’s move on to projects and having the seven big things that will make the biggest difference to why you’re on the payroll. Take a sheet of paper and list down maybe more than seven to start with, but certainly, put a list of the big things. Now, you all know what they are because they’re the things that you’re putting off. You’re busy doing the shallow work, which is moving from one task to another, getting some almost superficial things done, largely email. What we’re trying to do here is help you focus on the big stuff, the things that really make a difference to your job.”

“Those things that when you walk into your appraisal, should you have one, in the year you can say, “I’ve nailed this. I’ve nailed that and I have nailed some other things.” And they are big things that will make a difference because no one’s going to thank you for getting through your emails all day long. Now, there might be some people that chase you and some people who shout or maybe if you’re in line manager, but the thing that they’ll really thank you for, particularly your line manager, is nailing while you’re on the payroll. And that has to be done by doing the big work, the deep work, the project work.”

Back to the Piece of Paper

“Let’s come back to our piece of paper. You’ve written several more big things that you need to get done. We’re talking about a horizon of three to six months maybe, depends on your job. Let’s then filter that into seven big things that we need to get done. You’ve got number one, project ABC, number two, project DEF, and so on. All those things that you’ve been putting off because they’re too big and too ugly and you’re busy, but you’re busy getting all this other stuff done, which is shallow work, and this is the big stuff.”

“Now we’ve got our seven projects, the big things that will make the biggest difference to why we’re on the payroll and what people pay us to do. The second piece I’d like us to do is under or next to each one of those projects, I’d like you to write a simple practical action, i.e., what are you going to do next? Let’s take number one, which is project ABC. The simple next action might be, book a meeting with Bob, or review the Excel spreadsheet or my map, the objectives of this project. What are we trying to achieve?”

Rolling a Snowball

“Now what we’ve got is our seven big projects and a simple next step for each, and that will begin the snowball. Rolling a snowball down the hill, the actions will start to build because as you go to that meeting until you have that chat with Bob or you write the objectives, the next step will come to you slightly easier, and then you’re on your way with your projects. The third and last step is that you need to incorporate the projects into your time management system. And yes, a lot of people say, ‘But I don’t have a time management system,’ but you do, because you turned up for work and you’re getting stuff done. So you do have a system, whether it’s effective or not, only you will know. All I can say is it can a lot more effective than it currently is.”

The Last Piece…

“The last piece that I want you to incorporate into your time management is to review your seven projects at the end of the week. This is probably lasting on a Friday. It could trip over and be the first thing on a Monday. It doesn’t matter as long as you do it, and it should only take about 20 minutes. And what you’re doing is going through each of your seven projects that are the deep work that makes the big difference to why you’re on the payroll and you’re looking to see whether you have nudged them forward. And we’re talking about a nudge, not a huge amount of work at this stage, but you are nudging them forward, which is a big difference to what you were doing before, which was trying to do almost anything else and task switching.”

“This is the big stuff. So on a Friday afternoon or a Monday, I’d like you to take 20 minutes, maybe book a meeting with yourself for those 20 minutes. The Pomodoro Technique is really good for this. I’ll leave you to look up Pomodoro Technique. And what you’re doing is reviewing and assessing whether you are moving forward each of those seven projects. And if you’re not, why aren’t you? What are you going to do next? We’re not going to accept stumbling blocks of you just don’t know, because if you don’t know then you should have asked someone for some help. These are your seven projects that will make a big difference. You’ve written them down and identified them. That’s a big step forward. You’ve written a simple and practical next step for each and you’re reviewing them on a weekly basis.”

Final Thoughts

“In summary, the metaphor we use in time management for people who move from task to task is cabbage butterfly. We know that this has a huge cost to it and we know that the biggest challenge is getting the big stuff done, the things that we put off because they’re big and ugly. As Brian Tracy would say, the frogs. Eat That Frog is an excellent book to read.”

“You now have incorporated into a time management system only 20 minutes, but an excellent 20 minutes a week where you’re going to see whether you’re moving these things forward. This will be your prick of conscience where you are pushing and poking yourself to say, “I know I need to get this big stuff done in these 20 minutes.” Hopefully, you’re putting a tick against the small steps that you’ve done for each of the seven projects. This was Short and Sticky Stories by MBM. My name is Darren Smith, and I look forward to creating the next podcast for you. Take care.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more time management tips.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:11:43 Darren A. Smith
E10 – Learn How to Build Confidence and Re-Write That Post-It Note on Your Head Mon, 24 Dec 2018 10:16:13 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 10 1 E10 – Learn How to Build Confidence and Re-Write That Post-It Note on Your Head

You’ve spent months preparing for that date with destiny. The presentation that will make or break your career. You know you are ready, yet somewhere deep inside there’s a voice that says you’re not good enough. You don’t belong. In short, there’s a metaphoric post-it note on your head saying, ‘FAIL’. You need to learn how to build confidence and change that voice.

Learn how to build confidence: Man with word-on-head post-it note

Consider, for a moment, how that impacts upon your approach, your tone, your body language and your confidence.

Listen to our latest podcast to learn how to build confidence by using the ‘word-on-head’ influencing technique. Take back control, write your own metaphorical forehead post-it notes, and change that voice to something more positive. Change the script to ‘SUCCESS’.

Read the How to Build Confidence Podcast Transcript:

“I’d like to share a sticky story with you about putting a Post-it note on your head, on your forehead. My name is Darren and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning MBM, Making Business Matter, Trainers to the UK Grocery Industry. I used to work for one of the top four supermarkets in the head office. Worked there for many years, thoroughly enjoyed it. I had started as a deputy assistant cottage cheese buyer. I have reached the lofty heights of buying cottage cheese, so that was my first job. That gave me a good understanding of buying off supermarkets. I guess I was always destined to go into that role because my father worked there for 40 years. Also, my brother worked there, my uncle, it was almost the family business.”

The Big Job

“I travelled four hours a day on the train, commute, and Tube and walk. Travelling from where we lived in Oxford into Stanford Street, London. As I’ve progressed through my career, various buying jobs, there was the big job that everyone looked for, the one just below the senior manager who reports to the director and they called it C6. C6 was, I guess in nowadays terms, it was a senior buyer or trading manager or a category manager. They were the sort of people who would look after the whole of fruit and you could be responsible for buying a billion pounds worth in a team of maybe 12 or more.”

“I was a C5, I was looking to get my promotion and for this promotion, what the company had put in play was that you had to pass a panel. And that panel was about gathering evidence in the six months to that panel and then presenting your case for why they thought and you thought you to be worthy of a C6, this role, where there weren’t that many in the business and it was a higher profile role and only the best and most successful people would go forward. So, my date was set, six months time, I think it was about November and that will make it about May, so around my birthday. I’d been busy gathering evidence from people around me asking the open question of, “What could I do better, what do I do well?”

KPIs and Metrics

“They were telling me some good stuff and some things I’d work on and it was important to get the things that were good that I could share with the panel in six months. And it was also important to get the what could be better so I could show that I was developing and improving. That was one of the key things that I needed to demonstrate. As well as, of course, delivering the business KPIs and metrics. I built a very large lever arch file, one of those the things, the lever arch files, and I had evidence. Projects I’ve done, my team were behind me, how I change, my personal development plan. I thought I’d had enough.”

“Now, not everyone passes that panel and they get one more chance, one more opportunity to try it again a month later. I thought I was ready, I’d asked my boss, I’d taken him through my evidence and so I was ready for my pitch to the panel.”

“I didn’t get it. And there wasn’t a huge reason as to why I didn’t get it. There was good evidence, it just wasn’t enough and I was okay with that. I hadn’t majorly failed in any particular area, they just wanted a bit more convincing and give me a couple of pointers, and that was okay. The date was set for a month later. Could I go and find this, ask some people about that, get some more evidence here, prove a couple of things? Yes, of course, I could do that.”

Moral of the Story

“Now here’s the moral of the story. I stood outside that meeting room and I could see inside the panel of six, where I’d stood before. I had under my arm the lever arch file and I thought I was ready. I’d answered the questions that had come up in the previous panel four weeks earlier. But there was an overriding thought that was going through my head, “Last time you stood here and you went in, you failed.”

Post-It Note on My Forehead

“What I didn’t realise then, but I realise now by working with some very great trainers on soft skills is that I had a word running through my head. I had a word, a metaphorical Post-it note on my forehead with a word on it, and that was ‘fail’. Even though I had the evidence, even though I’d spent four weeks gathering it and answering all those questions and checking in with my boss, my overriding behaviour was ‘fail’.

“I’d walked in, I did that stuff really matter. Well, I know now that it does, and back then I didn’t even understand that I had that word in my head. I walked in to the panel, Post-it note metaphorically on my head, the word ‘fail’ written on it.”

“How did that affect my body language and my tone on my words? It did because I failed again. I know now what I need to put when I go into those pressured, challenging, important situations. I need to write the Post-it note for my head, I need to write the behaviour. So what would I have written on my head had I had my time again? Well, I did get an opportunity another six months later, which is a whole other story. This time I was successful, but what I would have written on my head is ‘success’ or ‘win’, building my confidence. 

A Positive Post-It Note

“And when we train with suppliers and the accountant has just talked about negotiating with buyers and we share the story of the Post-it note on your forehead and we actually get them to do it because it’s a safe environment in the training room, they have subconsciously written on the head fail, battered or one guy wrote murdered, because they are all going in knowing, believing that they are going to fail, get battered, get murdered, as one guy put it. And what if we changed that language? What if we changed that program, that script that runs through them? Will it change their behaviour?”

“All the research set it, well, all I know from 16 years plus of understanding this talk and the research behind it, it absolutely works. Because for those that don’t believe it, I said, “Okay, I am going to program you by talking with you for a few minutes before you go into a very challenging pressured situation. I’m going to put fail in your mind. Is that okay?” And they said, “No, no, no, you can’t do that.” Why? “Well, because I’ll fail.” Okay, so if that’s true then is the opposite true? Well, it could be then. What’s the downside of trying it or not? And then what we hear back later after the training, in months to come, from learners is, “Do you know that pink and fluffy stuff that some of you guys teach? Actually works,” and it does.”

Final Thoughts

“So my top practical tip is next time you go into something that is important, a buyer meeting, a presentation, somewhere where you might be promoted like I was, my question is what word do you have on your head? We call this influencing technique Word on Head. When you practice, maybe just between you and the meeting room around you with no one in it, when you’re practising have the Post-it note with the word on your head and look in the mirror. How does that change your content, what you’re going to say? Your behaviour? Do you find you’re more confident? And your tone? Because those things will change according to the script that’s running through your head. So next time you go in, maybe build your confidence and go in with the win Post-it note firmly stuck to your forehead. Thank you.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Presentation Skills and our Presentation Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Presentation Skills Tips and articles.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:08:48 Darren A. Smith
E9 – Procrastinating, Frozen Peas, and the Snowball Mon, 24 Dec 2018 09:41:57 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 9 1 E9 – Procrastinating, Frozen Peas, and the Snowball

Do you have a looming deadline that still seems a long way off?  Do you occupy yourself with ‘clearing the decks’, convincing yourself that you’re being productive anyway? After all, you still have plenty of time… Yet you still feel the stress of it weighing on you. Do your health a favour, do your best work and stop procrastinating!

Stop procrastinating: Snowball being thrown

Perhaps you tell yourself that the looming deadline isn’t urgent or important enough to make a start. You simply put it off.

In fact, you know that you have too much time. If you got a jump on the deadline and made an early start on that presentation you will undoubtedly tinker with it until the last minute, wasting more time!  Listen to our podcast to learn some useful tips to help you stop procrastinating and start learning to trust yourself.

Read the Stop Procrastinating Podcast Transcript:

“I’d like to share with you a sticky story about being so stressed on the topic of frozen peas. You’re at the home of Sticky Learning, MBM making business matter. I’m Darren Smith and we’re trainers to the U.K. grocery industry. I worked in the corporate world for many years at the head office of Sainsbury’s, I was the frozen veg buyer and one of the things that the buyers were asked to do at that time was to present as a subject matter expert on a topic. And it was a bit about presentation skills, a bit about raising your profile in front of senior people and a bit about sharing what you knew about your category. And that was fine.”

The Presentation

“So the schedule was published, there were about three, 400 buyers and a few of us got chose to go first. That’s great. And the schedule said that in six weeks time I was due to speak about my category or one of the frozen peas. I did what most people do. I put it off, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t put off the stuff that they just don’t like doing or they consider isn’t urgent and important. That’s if they’ve gone through that conscious decision-making process to arrive at is this urgent and important Eisenhower’s Boston Matrix well worth looking up. I hadn’t done that.”

“Subconsciously. I think I’d gone, Hmm, that’s not as hard as this stuff I’m doing right now at work. I need to negotiate prices, have supplier meetings and so on and so on. Manage the category that can wait and I did what most people did and put it out of my mind.”

Days Go By

“Coming up to the six weeks and a few days before the thoughts wore of, Oh, I must do that presentation. I really must get that done and my days in the run-up to that went like this. I’d arrive in the office, let’s say 7:30, 8 AM. Grab a cup of tea, coffee and then go to my desk and I just have a quick look at my inbox. I’m looking through my inbox. Someone would come over that just joined. Hello. Hello. Good morning and I was still looking through my inbox, just getting a sense of what’s going on. But then I’d look up probably an hour and a half later. I had a couple of people at my desk and answer their queries. I’ve done a lot of emails or so thought I had time. And then into my half, nine, 10 o’clock meeting.”

Running Around Like a Headless Chicken

“That would last an hour and a half, a couple of hours I’d spin out of there and just have another quick look at my emails knowing that I must get this presentation done. It was coming to the front of my mind and someone, my boss had asked me about it. Are you ready for Thursday’s presentation yet? Yep, yep, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ve just got to do these meetings and get this done and clear the decks. I even think I said.”

“So I’m checking my emails. This is just before lunch. Okay. And then I’ll have a sandwich with one of my team. We’ll talk about our project. Good. We’ve done that. We’ve had a sandwich. I’ve just had another check of my emails before I go into the two o’clock afternoon meetings. If I can just get that out of the way. Then I know I’ll get stuck into this presentation and of course, I came out of the meeting. My boss called me into another one, so the half-past three just ended. I then go into one at quarter to four.”

No Time, Leave It to Tomorrow

“I was in there for an hour and a half knowing that I must come out and just get this presentation done. Spun out of that meeting, went and checked my emails again, got stuck into a problem that had come up on email and before I know it, it’s half-past six. I must get that presentation done, I must get it done. It’s on my mind now. Okay, it’s tomorrow. Must get it done. It’s 4:00 PM tomorrow.”

Stop Procrastinating

“Now what happens is we’re putting off, we’re procrastinating as the time management gurus would say. What my subconscious has done is it knew I had six weeks to do it, but here’s one of the reasons why it put it off because it knew if I’d started it, let’s say two weeks in, and that’s a Wednesday for instance, and it took me about eight hours to write the presentation.”

“What would happen is I don’t trust myself as we all don’t. Meaning that if I’d started that presentation four weeks out from the deadline and I completed it in eight hours. I know what I would’ve done and it’s what you would have done as well. You would have started to tinker with it, play with a format, put a few more slides in. Maybe we’ll get some dancing people on stage. Wouldn’t that be fun? Dressed up as frozen peas.”

“It’s because you don’t trust yourself to stop procrastinating. You don’t trust yourself that you knew it would take about eight hours to do. You wouldn’t finish at the eight hours. And you would continue. Whereas if you have a hard deadline as in it’s four o’clock tomorrow, I’ve got to stand on that stage. I’m then going to start it at 6:00 AM tomorrow. You’ve worked out in your subconscious. I will just get it done just over the line, ready to go.”

We Don’t Trust Ourselves

“So I want to raise that awareness with you. That’s why we put staff off, or at least one of the reasons I’ll come to another in a moment. But that’s one of the reasons we put things off because we don’t trust ourself, that we won’t continue to tinker with it, whether it’s a presentation or a meeting or whatever it is. So let me plant that seed for a moment. Let’s come back to the story.”

“So in a panic that night, I think it was about half-past six, seven o’clock, I had a very good friend, an account manager who worked for Birds Eye. And I phone. Mark.”

“Mark, I’ve got this presentation tomorrow. Great, great Darren. Would you lead from me? Well, I’ve got this presentation. I need you to write it. What is half six I’m out tomorrow? I’ve got, I’m seeing Tesco or whoever tomorrow, which you mean you seeing Tesco and then obviously that conversation happens. When did you know about this? Six weeks ago. Well, why didn’t you ask me then? Ignore that. We need to carry on. Can you help me? I tell you what I’ll do. Mark says, “I’ll try and get some stuff over to you. Some facts and information. We might have a couple of bits, but you know I haven’t got much time now.” Okay, give me what you can.”


“I go home. I check my emails at home. Mark sent me some things, but it’s not what I need. My brief wasn’t clear. It was panicked. Mark didn’t have much time and what I got was about 10 facts of peas. Panic, what am I going to do? And I did what everyone would do, I pulled an all-nighter. I knew I’d made things tomorrow that I couldn’t cancel. I hadn’t thought far enough ahead and I worked and I said to Gail, my wife, “I’m going to have dinner. Then I’m going to go into the study and I’m working all night.” And that’s what I did and I worked all night. And the pressure that comes with that and the stress is not good for anyone and we’re starting to learn more about that with wellbeing, now. Mindfulness.”

“Now some people say, “Ah, but you don’t know I work better under pressure.” No, you don’t. The research says you don’t work better under pressure. You just work faster and more stressed and it’s not good. It’s not good for your health and you won’t do your very best work.”

The Snowball Theory

“So I had a big presentation with some senior people. The audience was about 180 in our auditorium at Sainsbury’s and I had to present this and I’d been up all night and all I got was 10 facts from Birds Eye, not their fault. My fault, absolutely. Now the presentation went very, very well, but that’s certainly not the moral of the story. Yes, I can pull it out of the bag and wing it with the best of them, but that’s not how I want to work. That’s not how I want to lead. That’s not the example I want to set for people. I don’t want people who work for me to do that. So what am I trying to teach them? What am I trying to help coach them to arrive at? The Snowball Theory.”

Alan Lakein

“Alan Lakein said, and he was the original grandfather of time management back in the 60s. He said, “That starting something you’re putting off your procrastinating on. It’s a bit like Swiss cheese. You just need to poke the first hole in the cheese.” He’s other metaphor, which is more my favourite is, “It’s a bit like taking a small snowball and rolling it down the hill. Once you start the snowball will gather and before you know it you are making a huge hole in the cheese.” You’re making a big dent in this project. You are nailing it and you are nailing it without the stress and you’re perceived by others to be more in control, calmer.”

“Let’s give that project to that guy. He gets it, he’ll do it. He gets stuff done. We all want that reputation. We don’t want the reputation of, Oh my God, there he comes. He’s stressed out his eyeballs, it’s probably something he knew about three months ago, but he’s now starting on it now and the impact on his team or other people is that they’re now going to be stressed and working late because he hadn’t thought about it far enough out.”

An Example

“When I was training a few years back, I was talking about Alan Lakein’s example, metaphor around the snowball or the Swiss cheese, whichever one floats your boat better and one guy was having that reflective moment. His learning style was a reflector and I just said to him, “I get you staring at space. I do that hugely when I’m learning. I just wanted to ask what’s hit home?”And he said, “I’ve had on my to-do list.” He had a to-do list, which was great. He said, “Move house.” And then I went into sort of coaching mode. I said, “Okay, now you know what we’ve talked about in the last 20 minutes. What are you thinking?” And he said, “It’s wrong.”

Woolly Mammoth

“And he was right. What he’s writing on his to-do list is what the time management gurus called a woolly mammoth, something big and horrible that you’re never going to touch. And I said, “Okay, so what would you do?”

“He said, “Well, I don’t know.” And after a while, we got him there and he said, “Okay, this is it.” And he wrote two words on his to-do list rather than move house. He wrote phone solicitor and he said, “I can do that.” And the joy in his voice was amazing. So he said, “It’s been on my to-do this forever, but it was always so big. It was that big woolly, mammoth. He said, “But I can phone solicitor.” In fact, he’ll do it at lunch. I’ll phone them and see what mortgage I need or what legalities there.”

“He had something that had to do around that and he came back from lunch. He phoned the solicitor and he said, “Yeah, the papers were on their way. Then I can phone the estate agent tomorrow and they’ll no doubt somebody houses through the post all day long. And then I’ll go and see one. And that was it.”

Final Thoughts

“The snowball was rolling down the hill. So if you are procrastinating, it’s normally based on an emotion of fear, fear of getting it wrong. Fear of not doing my best fear of, I don’t really get this, I don’t really understand it. My top tip to stop procrastinating is to start very small, a very small practical action that you can do like phone solicitor. And what I should’ve done with that Birds Eye, frozen pea presentation is not wait to six weeks of course. The first thing I should have done within that week and getting the brief was to phone Mark and say, “Mark, can you help me with this? You guys have got all the data. I can turn it into a great presentation, but can you just get me the data?”

“And that’s the term we use. Get the hairs running. Just like in the greyhound where you want to get the hair out of the track first before the greyhounds come after it. So in summary, start small on the snowball we’re wrong. Thank you.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more time management tips.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:12:46 Darren A. Smith
E8 – Email Writing Is Not like DIY! We Simply Can’t Be Bad at It Mon, 17 Dec 2018 10:55:04 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 8 1 E8 – Email Writing Is Not like DIY! We Simply Can’t Be Bad at It

Unfortunately, email writing isn’t like DIY. We have to be good at it. We can’t put it off or avoid it altogether. Also, we can’t just pay someone with better tools and skills to do it for us.

Email Writing DIY

Each person receives about 87 of them a day. Emails are, therefore, a huge part of our working lives. We spend hours each day trawling through our inboxes.  They are an essential tool. Yet, we were never really trained on how to use them. Listen to our latest podcast to learn some practical email writing tips to help you improve your email effectiveness.

Read the Transcript Below:

“I’d like to tell you a sticky story about a house alarm and how I think that relates to your emails. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at the home of sticky learning. MBM, Making Business Matter trainers to the UK grocery industry. My name is Darren Smith. I worked in corporate for a very long time for one of the big supermarkets and then about 16 years ago I set up founded MBM, we do soft skills training.”

“Many years ago we lived in a house when we were a young family and we decided that we needed a house alarm. There weren’t any particular burglaries in the area, but we wanted to be safe so we didn’t get a guy in or we didn’t get one professionally fitted. I thought I’m in my early thirties I can do this. I should be able to do it yet, I know that my DIY skills are poor.”

The Alarm..

“Anyway, we move on. We bought a Yale alarm. Imagine a great big box turning up a few days later. Rip the lid off. It’s about the size of the kitchen table and it’s full of this house alarm from PIR detectors to the great big yellow box that goes on the front of the house that says Yale, hopefully, to deter any would-be burglars.”

“So I get up one Saturday morning and I know in the back of my mind that DIY is not my thing, but I’m quite determined and I’m motivated to sort this because I think I can. So I spend too long figuring out how to put this alarm together and getting it to work with the house. And you can imagine there’s me with a step ladder, a ladder, a drill, screws. It’s awful. The drill is probably 10, 15 years old. I still got it now.”

“The drill bits are broken, the screwdrivers are blunt. They are not the tools of a professional work person. So I’m there outside the house and the step ladder and the ladder won’t reach high enough to put this box where I wanted it to go at the top of the wall. But I’ve got one foot on the top of the ladder and I’m sort of dangling, hanging onto the window seal with my left hand and in my right hand I’ve got the drill held up as far as I can above my head about another three feet and I’m trying to drill the holes to put this alarm on.”

“I’ve done some of the other bits I’ve done the wiring and wireless wasn’t a thing back then and it’s taken me ages. I am hating the job. So I started at about nine o’clock and it’s probably now 7:00 PM”.

Terrible at DIY

“My wife is ‘Why is this taking so long?’ Well at the heart of it, what I didn’t want to tell her is, I’m rubbish with this, but I persist being quite motivated and driven. We finish, it’s dark. I’ve had enough. The stress was immense. I put the tools away. I’ve got a few spare bits from the Yale box left, which I’m sure ought to go somewhere, but the thing works, that night I have a few beers. I sort of half celebrate, but I know it’s not a great job done.”

“I should’ve got someone in but we couldn’t afford it and we go to bed. We’ve got one young child at the time. Then about how past one in the morning, this noise goes off and it is excruciating. I leap out of bed. My young daughter wakes up. She’s screaming, running around the house trying to figure out what it is, but of course, it’s the alarm.”

“I put some jeans on, I run downstairs. How do I get this thing off? The keypad doesn’t work. Nothing seems to work to fix this thing. I go outside, “Oh, it must be the yellow box on the wall.” I get the step ladder and the ladder. Then, I put it up against the wall and I reach for the yellow box, but of course, I can’t reach it. So, I run in, the alarm is still excruciating. The neighbours are now awake. I come in, grab the broom, go to the top of the ladder and whack the Yale box straight off the wall. All that hard work, the noise continues. I walk back inside the house and say, shout to go. What is going on? The noise is still continuing, but I’ve taken the thing off the wall and then we realize it’s the smoke alarm.”

We Don’t Have the Choice to Be Bad At Writing Emails

“All that work for nothing. Now, I don’t need to be any good at DIY. We can now afford to get someone in to do a few of these things, but, a bad workman blames his tools. I didn’t have the normal tools. I didn’t have the training. Nor the inclination. With email writing, we don’t have a choice. They’re a part of our working life. As any knowledge worker will tell you, they’re either working half their time in their inbox or they’re never out of it. How does this relate to emails? We never were really trained to use emails. Now the tool itself is probably quite good. It hasn’t changed that much in 20 years since it was introduced, but it’s not bad. I think it’s the operator. It’s us, but who can blame us when we were never really trained to use it.”

“Well, I want to share with you just three points that might make us use emails slightly better, make us more effective. If this is a tool that we need to use half or more of our time, then we’ve got to get better at it because it isn’t going to change as a tool. We’ve got to learn to use it better. Unlike DIY, I’ve got a choice. With emails, we haven’t.”

“So, here are my three practical tips of just many that you could use to improve how you operate your email. Number one, and this will sound like a theory out of a business book. What’s your objective? We’re going to move on from that really quickly from what’s your objective to what the hell are you trying to get from the email that you write. Now, I know from the research I’ve read as a time management trainer that people want to vigorously cross stuff off their list and they do that because there’s an endorphin rush.”

What Do You Want to Get When Writing an Email?

“The challenges, they quickly bang off a quick email scribbling off their list, forgetting that it’ll grow arms and legs, particularly the four or five people that are copied in who really shouldn’t reply, but they’re going to anyway because Hey, they’re stuck in their inbox as well.”

“So my first question is what do you want to get from the email? You either want someone to do something, I action this all you want to get some information there. Broadly, the two things you want to give, get from an email. The third one is, I just alluded two is to give some information, but email isn’t always the best format. So you either want to get someone to do something, you either want some information back or you want to communicate something and you wouldn’t be surprised the number of people who don’t know which one they want to do because they’ve just fired off a quick email. Move on to the next task. So what do you want to get from the next email that you write?”

“Aristotle had a great way of putting together speeches. He said, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you,” then he tells them. And then, at the end of the summary, he tells them what he has already told them. Now that’s speeches and that’s Aristotle with emails. There’s a very good way of figuring out how you know what you want from them by writing it three times. Once in the subject heading, once at the start of the body of the email and once at the end, and I don’t mean repeating it exactly, but I do mean being really clear. I want five slides by Friday. The answer’s this objective. That will be the type of thing that you want to say. The second practical tip is using the subject heading.”

Use the Subject Heading like the Headline of a Newspaper

“Remember each person gets about 87 emails a day and whilst you spend hours possibly crafting a long email, they spent seconds reading it and possibly dismissing it and remember that a lot of emails are opened on mobile devices of course now. So the subject heading is really important rather than meeting.”

“What I’d like you to do is use the subject heading like the headline of a newspaper with credibility. I don’t mean Freddie Starr ate my hamster, which was an amusing The Sun headline some years back. But I do mean meeting Friday leisure expert and inputs, please reply by Thursday. So use the subject heading to really grab the reader’s attention to get them to read your email and do something about it. Either reply with the information that you want or to go and do some action for you. And my third and final practical tip is the layout.”

“No one likes to read a wall of text. It’s hard. You’ve open books in the past and they’re just a wall of texts. They’re not broken up with any white space. They’re not broken up with images. And they’re not broken up with anything bold or paragraphs. That’s what it’s like reading some people’s emails. Don’t give them the excuse not to read it. Make it easy for them. Paragraphs can act like a fog light in deep fog using bold, underlined a few words or a sentence can act as a signpost. White space between paragraphs can just give the reader a breather, particularly if it’s a complex or technical email. Try and help them to help you, get away from needing the endorphin, endorphin rush that comes with just rigorously crossing off your to-do list.”

Final Thoughts

“So in summary, DIY is not my thing. I’ll never be very good at it. My shed of tools is not something to be proud of, but thankfully I have no ego around tools and DIY, I do around cars. DIY, I can find a different solution. I can get someone in to do it, or I can do some of the small jobs or actually my son is starting to get very good at these things.”

“With email writing, we don’t have a choice. There are going to be 50% or more and increasing of a knowledge worker’s work. You’ve got the tool, you need to be able to use it better. So my final question is, when did you last improve the way you use the biggest tool that you use? I’ve given you three tips. There are many, many more, and we run a webinar of 21 mistakes most people make in emails.”

“Thank you for listening.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more time management tips.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:11:25 Darren A. Smith
E7 – You Do Your Best Work Under Pressure? You’re a Tight Deadline Junkie Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:41:34 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 7 1 E7 – You Do Your Best Work Under Pressure? You’re a Tight Deadline Junkie

Do you leave everything to the last minute? Do you find yourself burning the midnight oil time after and time to meet deadlines? Yet, somehow, every time you pull of a masterstroke of genius and deliver. You deliver, not just on time, but you deliver your best work. You might just be one of the many tight deadline junkies. Listen to this podcast to learn more.

Tight deadlines: Egg timer running out

Read the Tight Deadline Podcast Transcript:

“Deadlines are a fundamental part of working in business. Are you one of those people like a baseball player? Running for the home run, and you slide in on the last base just as the umpire says, “Yep, you’re home”? My name is Darren and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry, and experts in making learning stick.”

“Today I’d like to talk to you about tight deadlines. A lot of people are one of those baseball players that just slide in and get the home run, and you might say, “What’s wrong with that?” I’d say nothing, except the stress that it causes. Then people will say to me, “Ah, but I do my best work under pressure”. I’d say to them, “Research disagrees”. In fact, when we’re stressed scientists have proved that our IQ drops to that of a teenager. So when the adrenaline is running, when the cortisol is going around our body, what’s happening is we’re getting ready for fight or flight for the sabre-toothed tiger, but of course, they don’t exist anymore.”

Leaving Things to the Last Minute

What happens at work is when we really need to be our best, make our best decisions, what’s happening in our IQ has dropped. So, you think that you do your best work under pressure, it’s not true. What happens is you get very stressed under pressure and you seem to get a lot done, but let’s look at that a whole different way. A lot of people slide in, getting their deadlines done just on time. A bit like when they go for a train and they’re almost proud to jump on the train having run across the platform as the doors are bleeping. “I made it,” and yes you did, but let’s look at the stress that that caused, and was it really worth it?

“There is an alternative, and it’s not going to be an alternative that you’ll want to embrace, because part of you really likes to the rollercoaster ride of that adrenaline rush. Here’s my challenge. You’ve got a manager who is erratic, disorganized. Often sliding in at last base just to get the deadlines done. Whilst that’s quite exciting, is that really the person that you would want to work for? Would you prefer someone that’s more measured? That knows what they’re trying to achieve? Let’s call it strategic thinking, and has a really good understanding of what the plan looks like for the next 12 months or the next few days, but isn’t trying to hit deadlines just as they happen or passed.”

The Last-Minute Multiply Effect

“That’s exciting, but the stress is huge, and multiply that as a cascade from top to bottom in a company. The guy at the top is working on a last-minute tight deadline. Because he couldn’t think further ahead than a few weeks. That cascades to the next level down. The next level down. And by the time it gets to middle management or below they’re running around like headless chickens. Stressed, making decisions at last minute on something that’s probably pretty important for that company. This would not be the image I suggest you want to portray.”

Why Do People Just Hit or Just Miss Their Deadlines?

“So, let’s look at why. Why do people just hit or just miss their deadlines? Why not turn in a report a few days before? Well, the reason is they don’t trust themselves. Let me say that again. The reason is, they don’t trust themselves because let’s imagine a scenario. You’ve got to write a presentation for a customer in two weeks time, Thursday by 5:00. The meeting happens on Friday at 9:00 AM. Now, you’ve had this for a couple of weeks and you’re very busy. You’re working on emails, and voicemails, and meetings. And all those other things that you’ve got to do. So, you put it off and put it off.”

“Then what happens is you get to Thursday, you know this thing has going to be done, and you want to work on it but you’ve been taken off to this meeting, or that meeting or this sudden idea has come in that you’ve got to work on, or this project. So, you stay late on Thursday. You’ve missed your own tight deadline but you’ll stay late, and now you’re working on your own time. You’ve had a really long day, probably a nine, 10 hour day, and what’s happening is you’re trying to do your very best work when you’re most tired. When you have the least energy. That can’t be good. It’s an important customer meeting, yet you’re not giving it the energy that you should because you were busy.”

A Hard Deadline Prevents Tinkering

“Now, the reason you do that, you probably have a late-night or pull an all-nighter into Friday morning, is because if you had started that piece of work, which let’s say took six hours, if you had started it on the Monday previous you would have finished the piece of work six hours later.”

“Here’s what happens next. You start to tinker. You start to play with the font, you start to look at the images, you start to have some great ideas about other things that you could do to make it really, really powerful, and they’re great. That is the reason why you don’t trust yourself to do it beforehand, and almost subconsciously your mind has worked out that if you do start it Thursday at 7:00 PM and you pull an all-nighter, you’re constrained by the deadline of the meeting the next day. So, you can’t tinker with it. The tight deadline is a hard deadline.”

What If You Could Start It Before?

“What about if you could start it before? If you could trust yourself to only work the six hours or, let’s say the seventh hour, the last hour being something really fabulous because you’ve got the time. What you would end up with is a perception by others that you’re organized, you know what you’re doing, you’re not a stress head.”

“A lot less stress for you. Maybe you just added that little something extra to that presentation too. Because you had a little bit more time. Not playing with the font or the image because they’re not overly important but there’s one idea, maybe this roleplay that you did with another colleague, to make sure that your messages came across. Because presenting shouldn’t just be about the slides, it should be about how you present, what body language you use, what tone you use. Anticipating the questions is more important than just the content.”

There’s a Better Way to Do It

“So, moving from being because it’s very stressful and you are perceived to be disorganized and not really know what’s going on, yet you’re sliding in on the home run. Feels great. I’m suggesting that there’s a better way to do it, and that is to trust yourself. To trust yourself and become aware that if there is a deadline, you’ll start the piece of work way before the deadline, and you will commit to yourself not to tinker with it but only to work on really great ideas that help dramatically improve, in this case, the presentation.”

“If you do that, you will find you start pieces of work earlier, you can get more done, you’re more productive because you’re using a higher IQ. It’s less stressful, and you will rise up the ranks quicker. Because you are perceived to be someone who gets things done calmly, organized, and with an edge that makes your presentations in this case even more effective.”

Final Thoughts

“So, this is me leaving you with a challenge. Don’t be a stress head. Don’t slide in like the exciting baseball player because you like the rollercoaster. Instead, do what we encourage you to do, which is a term called get the hares running. Get the hares running is about, “I’ve got a presentation to do in two weeks. I need to get some data. That’s the bit that’s going to take the most time, so I’m going to get the hare running. Just like the hare at a greyhound race. And I’m going to ask Bob to get me the data for three days time”. That way you can begin the presentation with the data in three days time.”

“Give yourself a deadline of, “I’m going to do it all of this day, and then I will stop because I haven’t had any other great ideas, and the font is fine, and the images are great.” Then leave it alone. Trust yourself that you can leave it alone. Then move on with another piece of work. Knowing that piece of work is ready to go when you pick it up on Friday. So, get the hares running and don’t be Thank you.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more Time Management Skills Tips.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:09:56 Darren A. Smith
E6 – Not Having Effective Meetings? Are You Wasting Valuable Time? Answer: Have More Meetings! Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:41:02 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 6 1 E6 – Not Having Effective Meetings? Are You Wasting Valuable Time? Answer: Have More Meetings!

We spend most of our working lives in them. Yet, they are rarely an effective use of our time. In short, we simply aren’t making the most of them. In fact, the problem is we aren’t having enough of them! Listen to this podcast to learn how to have more effective meetings.

Effective meetings

Here, we argue, that shorter and more regular meetings will keep your team on track. This will allow your meetings to be more effective.

Read Effective Meetings Podcast Transcript:

“Meetings, you’re having them all day long and they’re not as effective as they could be. You know this. My name is Darren and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning, MBM, Trainers to the UK Grocery Industry. This is another short and sticky story about meetings. Along with emails, you spend most of your time doing either those or meetings and they’re not as productive as you want. Most people feel this, they could be a lot more effective and maybe in the past, you’ve reached for a book or you’ve done some research online to try and figure out how to make meetings more effective. And what you’ve probably found is that the advice is about setting objectives.”

Setting Objectives

“Objectives are good advice, it’s just not great advice and that’s because of how many people really set objectives for meetings? They do for the really, really important ones, but beyond that, the day to day meetings, they don’t. Smart objectives would be ideal, but for me it’s the difference between if you’ve seen the film, A Few Good Men, it’s the difference between paper law, as Sam says, when he’s fighting a court case with Tom Cruise, the difference between paper law and trial law is the difference between someone writing a book who was intellectually right. You should have objectives for meetings, but in reality, it ain’t going to happen. So let me see if I can share a story about how you might do it differently and I’ll follow up with some practical tips that I hope will help.”

Have More Meetings to Get More Done

“When I was a kid, we had maybe more changes of seasons than we seem to now. We had extreme summers, it seemed, and extreme winters, although maybe I look back at my old childhood with rose-coloured glasses. I remember going to school one day and it had been snowing all night. I’d woken up, I was probably about nine years old, and how excited I was that snow was on the ground, and walking to school was really exciting. You’ve probably had that feeling. And throwing snowballs at each other all day, going out to the playground, fabulous.”

“Over the next couple of days, the snow fades and it’s not as exciting, but playing with snowballs, the best place to get your snowballs to get them into a ball was at the bottom of a tree where the snow had drifted up against the tree. You probably know what I mean.”

“So you’ve got up to the base of the tree, grab a load of snow, make it into a snowball and throw it at the nearest kid. Fabulous. My point of saying that is if you were to look at a tree when it’s snowed, you’ll see that the snowdrift is on either side. I’m suggesting that to have more productive meetings, you should have more meetings. You won’t find that in any book. And if the tree is a meeting, then what happens is the actions, and the things that get done, are the snow to the right and the snow to the left of the tree.”

Making Meetings More Productive

“So if you want to get more done from the meetings, you want people to take more actions, you’ll find what they do is think, “Ah, I’ve got a meeting today at two o’clock. Damn, I should have done the action from last week.” And people do their actions either just before the meeting or they come out of a meeting and think. “Okay, I’ll get that done while it’s fresh in my mind.” So they get their actions done just before the meeting or just after the meeting.”

“So if you want more productive meetings, make them shorter and make them more frequent. So instead of an hour every two weeks, I’d have half an hour every week. Because what that does is hold people’s feet to the fire. They do it for themselves and you can do it. The meetings coming up, they’ll get their actions done or you hold their feet to the fire.”

“Why didn’t they do their actions in the meeting? Or they’ll come out with a meeting and think, either because you have said it, or because the action is fresh in their mind, they need to get this done. The metaphor is, imagine a whole row lined up with trees and the snowdrift either side, the snow represents the actions that people do just before or just after, and the trees represent the meetings. In summary, if you want to have more productive meetings, make them shorter and make them more frequent. So that’s the snow tree metaphor.”


“The other part I’d like to share with you is something called ACE, if you can imagine the ace of spades playing card. The books say that we should have objectives before we go into the meeting and they’re right. We’re unlikely to do that, although we know it’s intellectually correct.”

“My suggestion, if you’re meeting is typically an hour and typically six people, as you’d go into that meeting, take the role of chair. All that means is grabbing a piece of paper and taking the first 7%, seven minutes of a meeting and writing down the agenda points that you want to know in that meeting. So the first part is, what do we want to nail in this meeting? Agenda point A, agenda point B, and you’re writing them down and you write a full list. The second part of that is only once you’ve written a full list, do you then agree with the group what the top three that we want to get done and you start those, and it might be C, F and G. It doesn’t really matter.”

A: Agenda

“The important part and this is where your facilitation skills will be challenged, is when you write the list, don’t allow the group to debate the list. Just get a full list of what everyone thinks we ought to cover in this meeting. Great. You’ve written that down and made a full page in front of them. The second part is what do we absolutely need to crack? Take Pareto’s Law, the 80/20. What’s the 20% that will make 80% of the difference? And it’s normally three things, and make a star by those. Again, you must stop the group from debating and having the meeting. This is just structuring the meeting of what we want to get done. So the first letter is A of ACE and that’s agenda. Make sure you take the first few minutes of a meeting to write the agenda.”

C: Capture

“The second part is C and that’s capture. Absolutely make sure that someone captures the actions. We’ve all been in meetings, which were great and then come out of those, there are no actions, no one knows what really was supposed to be done, but you think Ron or Bob should have done it, and then guaranteed, you come back to the next meeting and Ron and Bob both look at each other and thought and say, “I thought you were doing it.” And the whole meeting was non-productive.”

“So the C is for capture. Make sure someone captures the actions and really, really simple if they capture it on a piece of paper, three columns. The first is the what. So the first column is what. What is the action? The second column is who. Who is the person that’s going to get it done and caught? The next column is when. When are they going to get it done by? So you’ve got the what, the who and the when.”

E: Evaluation

“Ideally for speed, you want someone to type that straight into their laptop. Bear in mind, there is a risk with that, that whilst they’re typing actions that maybe they’ll just have a glimpse at their emails. So you’ll need to be the judge of whether they can write it down or type it straight into their laptop. So that gives us the C, which is capture. And the last one is taken a few moments at the end for E, which is evaluation.”

“This is all about continuous improvement and making the meetings better for the future. It shouldn’t be a 20-minute debate, it should be a few minutes, a maximum of about three, four minutes. What one thing could we do from this meeting next time to make it more effective? Well, we should get Bob to attend, or we should make it 45 minutes, or we should hold it in venue B, whatever that thing is. You as the chair then take that, it gets added to the actions for next time, and what you’ll find is you’re continuously improving that meeting and it’s productivity output. So that’s ACE. So imagine the ace of spades, you’ve got A for agenda, C for capture, and E for evaluation.”

Number the Action

“When someone captures the actions, just the last point to note is to make sure that they number the action. So when you come back to them next time because remember this might be a conference call, we’re going through action one, action two, action three. And the very first thing we ought to do at the next meeting is to pull out the previous actions to see if they have been done. Let’s not create another 20 actions before we figured out whether the first 20 we created in the last meeting have actually been actioned.”

Final Thoughts

“So in summary, snow trees, because people do their actions just before or just after a meeting. So if you want more productive meetings, have more of them, but make them shorter. Remember, outlook defaults to either half an hour or an hour, but there’s no reason it can’t be 20 minutes or 45 minutes. And then the next part is, remember the ace of spades. A stands or agenda, C, capture, and E, evaluation. Hope you’ll have many more productive meetings. Thank you.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more Time Management Skills Tips.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:10:17 Darren A. Smith
E5 – The Annual Appraisal is Lost – Avoid the Surprises and Make it A Useful Business Tool Sun, 28 Oct 2018 18:13:36 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 5 1 E5 – The Annual Appraisal is Lost

In this podcast, we discuss a simple technique to make the annual appraisal useful at work. One of the mainstays of business has always been the annual appraisal.

Annual appraisal: Effective business tool

Since time and memorial business people have struggled to use them as an effective tool for business. There is a better way.

Read the Annual Appraisal Podcast Transcript:

“Annual appraisals just don’t work the way you’re doing them. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning, MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry.”

The Traditional Annual Appraisal

“I worked in the corporate world for many years, commuting to London, working for one of the top four UK supermarkets. It was time for the annual appraisal, and what happened at this time where people were taken into rooms in pairs. The line manager took the report in for these long going meetings around the annual appraisal and the documentation was huge.”

Has it Changed?

“That’s probably no different to what you’re doing today. You’re either a report or a line manager knowing that the dreaded annual appraisal adds very little, yet they’ve done year in year out at most companies.”

“So let’s call him Richard. We’ll change the names to protect the guilty. I go into a room with Richard, my line manager at the time. I’m a cheese buyer. We sit down and we begin. The first few minutes of this is an annual appraisal. We’re here for maybe an hour, an hour and a half. We’re going to talk about your performance.”

Don’t Start With Feedback

“Now what we should have done at that point is taken the objectives that I’d been set and run through those. But Richard started with feedback. What he then did was pull out a book. Now, I’d seen this book over the last 12 months. But, I didn’t really know what it was apart from he’d written some things in it. I thought it was what some time managers call a daybook, where you just sort of jot down meetings and notes and so on.”

127 Things I Did Wrong

“Well, this book, he opened it, I think he was on about page 12 or so. He opened it on page 12 and my name was at the top. What he’d done and been doing over the last 12 months as he had captured 127 things that I’d done wrong. 127 things that he hadn’t told me until my annual appraisal that these are the things you could do better or you’d done wrong were his words.”

I was shocked. Now, in my early twenties, I didn’t know that this wasn’t the right way to do appraisals. I had no idea. And what happened over the next, I think it was an hour, hour and a half, he went through each of the 127 items and asked me why I’d done it wrong.”

Give Feedback Regularly

“Now that’s an extreme example, and you’re probably thinking, yeah, that would never happen to me or I’d never do that, and you’re right, it probably won’t or you won’t do it to another individual, to one of your reports. The point is still the same. You should not wait 12 months to give feedback.”

“Lord Mark Price, who used to be the managing director for Waitrose for many, many years before he became deputy chairman for the John Lewis Partnership, says that on average people get feedback once every four months. Now I think that’s really better than where it was back then in the early nineties, but it’s still not good enough.”

What the Objective of an Annual Appraisal Should Be

“The objective of an annual appraisal should be a summary of the feedback over the last 12 months to support the individual to find the themes of things that are good and could be better in order to improve that individual’s performance.”

“So I was sitting there. Richard opposite me, and we’re running through 59, 60, 61 of these things that I’d done wrong, and some biggish and some small. And what did I take away from that? Well, I took away that this was the way to do it, but actually, as I learned over time, I realized you can learn as much from a bad boss as a good boss.”

Best Practice in What Not to Do

“And the one particular learning I took from that annual appraisal was I knew how it should not be done. Every instinct in my being knew this can’t be right because the obvious, why didn’t you tell me these things 11 months ago when some of them had happened or 10 months ago when a few more because I could have improved my performance. I could be a better person. A better worker. A more effective employee for you and this company by now. But, you’ve waited 12 months to tell me these things. That can’t be right.”

“This is how the annual appraisal was set up. You give feedback at this time. Then you talk about how the individual performed against their objectives. You did not do it any other time. Crazy. Absolutely crazy.”

How it Should be Done

“Feedback should be given regularly, and feedback can be used as the F word, but if we can get beyond that to feedback can be good. Feedback can be constructive. It’s all feedback.”

“If you can let people know what they do right, what are they going to do? They’re going to do more of it. So let’s tell them when they get something right.”

Shamu the Killer Whale

“And that reminds me of a story from one of our trainers. Sally, who talked about Shamu the killer whale. When it was a baby and it was learning, you could imagine it swimming around its great big swimming pool.”

“What happened was every time that Shamu crossed a red line, which was a piece of rope on the floor of the swimming pool, they gave it a fish. And what then happened over time was they raised the rope. So what they were effectively saying to Shamu was every time you go over this thing, you get a fish. Okay, there’s the reward action circle going on.”

“Then eventually, what you see at Sea World is a giant killer whale, or just a killer whale, one of those big whales jumping over a rope.”

People Need Constant and Regular Feedback

“And we need to do more of that with people. Tell them when they’ve got it right and they’ll do more of it and yes, you’ve got the flip side of that coin. Tell them when they’ve got it wrong or it could be better and they’ll stop doing less of that stuff. We all want to be better at what we do. No one comes to work to do a bad job. They need that constant regular feedback. We don’t need to wait 12 months to give it to them.”

A Simple Tool

“So here’s the very, very simple yet effective tool. You can use as a line manager, but actually individuals can do it with each other. Let’s say you’re a line manager. The simple tool is you’re good because blah, blah, blah, you’d be even better if. So it might be an individual’s just finished a piece of work or a project, or you’ve come out of a meeting and let’s say maybe they’ve seen a customer or seen a buyer.”

You were really good because when you presented the slides, you had real enthusiasm. You would have been even better if you had prepared some questions that might’ve come our way so that you didn’t stutter. A simple piece of feedback.”

Try and Do a Piece of Feedback Every Couple of Week

“And over time, you’re giving that feedback. Let’s not say once every four months. But, let’s try and do a piece of feedback every couple of weeks. Or, at the very least once a month. Then by the time, we get to the annual appraisal, here are the themes that are running through the feedback for the year.”

“Number one, you’re presenting very enthusiastically on slides. Fantastic. Number two, you could prepare better and then what you’ve got is more of a summary of performance rather than the great big surprising reveal that often goes on. That shouldn’t happen.”

Neither the line manager or the report should come into that appraisal and be surprised with a big rabbit being pulled out of the hat. It should be more, we roughly know what we’re going to say to each other. Let’s work on what the themes are. We can figure out how we can help you to improve your weaknesses. Let’s celebrate your strengths and off we go.”

Final Thoughts

“So if you have to do an annual appraisal, and many corporate companies still do, although there are a bunch moving away from them. If you have to do the annual appraisal, let’s make sure it’s a summary of feedback over the last 12 months and has no surprises. And the simple tool is, you’re good because of XYZ. You’d be even better if ABC.”

“Thank you for listening to our short and sticky stories.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills and our People Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more People Management Skills Tips and HR Management Tips.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:09:12 Darren A. Smith
E4 – Do You Attend 1-Day Training and Do Nothing with It? Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:31:07 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 4 1 E4 – Do You Attend 1-Day Training and Do Nothing with It? Are You Failing to Make Learning Stick?

Have you ever attended a 1-day training course, returned to the office and done nothing different. You’re one of many who fails to make learning stick.

The return on time & money invested is therefore zero.

In this podcast, we discuss this common story; You work in the corporate world, you attend 1-day training courses. You come back and get on with your work. Nothing changes. We spend 10 years at school going to lesson after lesson. Yet, we then get out into the big wide world and expect to learn a skill between 9-5 in a training course. It simply can not happen.

Make learning stick: Time flies by and nothing changes

Similar to when you learnt to drive. The average person takes 40 driving lessons. And then they pass. In the science of learning, this is called, ‘Spaced Repetition’. It simply means that we learn, we take a break, we learn, we take a break, and so on. Also, we are applying what we are learning all the time, as we drive. In short, we are making the learning stick. Yet on 1-day training courses, we learn the theory, there is some practice, but not enough.

Read the Make Learning Stick Podcast Transcript:

“People go on one-day training courses, come back, and nothing’s changed. My name is Darren Smith, and you’re at home with Sticky Learning MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry. So I spent 15 years in the corporate world and I attended one-day training courses. HR would come along or you’d have your appraisal and there’ll be a list of courses that you could attend, my team could attend, and you’d worked through some sort of very complex process to arrive at Bob needed time management skills, or John needed negotiation skills, and the date was set with HR. These guys went on a training course normally with a bunch of other companies, but it could be internal.”

No One Questions Why Our Behaviours Don’t Change Following Training

“Now here’s the surprising thing. We go to school, we have double English every week, if not two lots, for many, many years to try and get us to understand that topic and then when we leave school, we go to the corporate world, spend a huge amount on training. I’d expect our behaviours to change and of course, they don’t and no one really questions it. You’d go on a course, you come back, your manager might say, “How was it?” That was fine. And you try and get on with the rest of your day, which was piling up. And that’s all you really thought about whilst you were on this one-day training course.”

“So for 50 plus years, who can blame anyone? The norm is you go on a one-day training course, you come back and nothing changes. Nowadays, the learning gurus understand about blended learning or 70/20/10, but what I want to talk about is really simple. It’s doing learning or training and then changing behaviour. Because if you’re not, all that’s happening is learning transfer. You’re going on a course or you’re talking to someone or you’re learning something and they’re passing on that information, but you’re not doing anything with it. As someone once said, information without application is just entertainment. And whilst the courses that I’m sure you’re going on aren’t that entertaining, that’s all that’s happening. You’re being entertained. Because we’re not achieving that crucial behavioural change. Aye, you’re doing something different when you’re at work.”

Three Simple Steps to Get the Most from Your Training Investment and Make Learning Truly Stick

“So I want to talk through three simple things that can be done in order to get the very most out of your investment in training, be you were learner or an HR manager and we talk to a lot of HR managers that are fried, frustrated because their people come back from training courses and nothing has changed. Yet they’ve ticked a box, and if ticked boxing is all you want to do, then this isn’t for you. If you genuinely want the learner to get a better return on investment from their time, and you for your company getting a better return on your money spent, then doing something different is crucial. Let me take you through these three steps.”

My New iPhone

“A few weeks ago I got a brand new iPhone, a seven. I’m not quite up to date with the kids, but a seven isn’t bad. When I opened that box, I’m excited and I’m turning it on, pairing up and I’m trying all these different things. I’m using the different apps, the bits of technology, the heart function on it. I’m interested. So I’m interested, so my individual learning objective, whilst not quite conscious, was I want to learn it because I’m excited, because I’m interested, because I think it will add some value to my life and also it’s a little something to talk about. So my individual learning objective, my ILO is I want to understand it for me. Everyone needs an individual learning objective. Now once we get to that point of people understanding I’m going on a course or I’m doing a piece of learning or it’s a seven-day course, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s a piece of learning. Once they understand that they need to know what’s in it for them, what are they want to get from it?”

Simple Individual Learning Objectives to Make Learning Stick

“And what I don’t mean is I want to be a better time manager. That simply won’t work because they’re ticking a box. It has to be truly about them. I want to go home at five every night. I want to be less stressed. Also, I want to manage this project so much better and deliver it on time. That’s what we want. Now they’ll learn a whole bunch of other things. What we need to make sure is that they have what they truly want and it has to be a problem. The problem is this. And it has to be specific, ideally a smart individual learning objective, but let’s just start with something specific to them that’s a problem. I don’t get this iPhone phone thing and how it works, therefore I’m going to go and fix that. I keep getting beaten up by my bar in negotiation skills and I don’t want to be beaten up anymore. Let’s fix that. So, part one is the learner needs an individual learning objective or put really simply, what the hell do they want to get out of the time that they’re investing in this learning?”

Learning to Drive

“Part two. I was 17. I’m at home. Mom and dad were excited. We’re in the living room. It’s my birthday. Now, as a surprise present, they said, “Look out the window.” And there it is. The car with the L on top. My heart sank. And I didn’t know then what I know now, the reason my heart sank. So mom and dad have bought me a present. Of course, I went outside. Talked to Dave, my new driving instructor. He said, get in the car in the driver’s side. He pretty much went through, there’s the steering wheel, these are the pedals, that’s go, let’s… Off we go.”

“I came back after an hour. Mum, Dad said, “How was it?” I just said I’d hated it. Now, I didn’t want to say that, it was my birthday present, but I did. I absolutely hated it. And what I understand now, but didn’t back then, is that my driving instructor was an activist. Now there’s a lot of research around whether learning styles exist or not. Let’s not get sucked into that. Let’s say there is something about how we prefer to learn with a particular activity and it can change. So my driving instructor was an activist, which was pretty much, there it is getting on with it. My learning style’s reflector, which means I want to have a think about it. I want stuff to be explained and then me to go slightly daydreaming and then I’ll come back. There is some science around the mnemonic, P-A-R-T, which is pragmatist activist, reflect to theorist, which suggests you go through all four of those learning styles, but you just join that roundabout at a different place.”

People Learn in Different Ways

“For now, let’s just say that people learn very differently and they need to consume the learning in the way they want to consume. So for you at your desk, if you’re teaching someone Excel, you might not get the best out of them if you show them how to do it. They might need to do it, which is an activist or you might need to explain it and then they’ll come back later and say, did you mean this? That’s a reflector. So allow the learners to consume the learning in the way they need to learn it best. And they may not even know it, but introduced an activist and reflector at least we start that common language.”


“The last one comes back to some old research, we’re talking mid-1800s, by a German psychologist called Herman Ebbinghaus. Now broadly, what he said was that if you don’t use what you’ve learned after 30 days, you’ll lose it. Now, there’s a lot more to the science that you came up with, but we’re talking very old science that’s still very useful today. So, if you’ve go on a one-day training course and you don’t use what you’ve learned within 30 days, it will be gone. What a waste. What a shame. You will have failed to make your leaning stick. So, we need to use what we’ve learnt.”

Creating Habits for Long Term Change

“B.J. Fogg is a professor at Stanford. He’s the grandfather of habit formation. I’m introducing him because I want you to understand that you need to create a habit. So for me, I broke my foot some years ago playing volleyball, a fantastic leap in the air, at least eight feet off the ground, or at least I thought it was, came down, broke my foot. The doctor gave me exercises to get my ankle strength back. The best way to do that was for me to tack the habits, the behaviour onto an existing habit. So imagine me brushing my teeth every morning, toothbrush in my right hand, toothbrush in my mouth, left foot, swinging around for the two or three minutes it took me to brush my teeth.”

“If you want to change your behaviour because you’ve learnt something new, piggyback it onto a current habit. Like me brushing my teeth, I did my ankle exercises. For you, it might be time management. You need to write your daily to-do list. So before you open the lid of your laptop, and maybe your to-do list is in the lid of your laptop, and that’ll remind you to write your to-do list before you get stuck into your emails. Try and disrupt your behaviour. Try and add it on to a current habit.”

Final Thoughts

“So in summary, one-day training courses don’t work. They fail to make the learning stick. The science proves that. If you want to get more out of your learning, one, figure out what’s in it for you. Two, begin to understand how you want to consume the material. And three, do something with it within 30 days, ideally adding it onto a current habit that you do. Thank you.”

Read more about how Sticky Learning will make your learning really stick and improve your return on investment from training. Haven’t got time? Simply watch our short video.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:11:06 Darren A. Smith
E3 – Don’t Start with a Powerpoint Presentation! – Do More Effective Presentations that Achieve Your Objectives Fri, 05 Oct 2018 16:54:57 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 3 1 E3 – Don’t Start with a Powerpoint Presentation!

Do you always start with a PowerPoint presentation? Are they engaging?  Recent research says that audiences either go on their phones or fall asleep in presentations.

Powerpoint presentation: Man bored on phone

In this podcast, we discuss the fact we need to make our presentations much more engaging. Presenting is a key business skill. If we are not good at this skill, we will fail to engage our audience and sell, gain buy-in, or achieve our objectives.

Read the Don’t Start With a PowerPoint Presentation Podcast Transcript:

“Presenting and presentation skills are one of the key skills we need to have as a knowledge worker in the digital age. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at Short and Sticky Stories. We’re making business matter the home of sticky learning.”

“So I worked in corporate for about 15 years and commuted into London there and back four hours a day. Okay. Hey, it was what it was. I was a buyer for a large UK supermarket and the story I want to share with you is of frozen carrots. Yes, frozen carrots. They don’t turn over very much, but hey, it was part of the portfolio that I bought. So we had a carrot supplier, a frozen carrot supplier, and the meeting was coming up. So this was about consumer research. They had been out and done some work on understanding shoppers. So my ethos was around cash flow management and understanding shoppers, not surprisingly.”

Frozen Carrots

“They had taken this and run with it, not quite what I wanted them to do. I expected something a little different, but hey, good on them for trying. So the meeting day came. I booked a meeting room and there were about eight of us.”

“So eight of us in this room, teas and coffees ready. We just grabbed a brew and this guy stands up. So he’s in front of a screen and the first slide with the name of the supplier comes up. He says, “I’m going to talk about shopper research on frozen carrots and I’d welcome questions at the end.” Now I wanted to be a polite buyer, so I checked in. Okay, so you want questions at the end. So no questions during, no. And then what happened made my heart sink, because as he just was setting up a bit more of the tech, cause he’d forgotten something, which is fine.”

122 Slides

“I just saw that giveaway on the bottom right of the screen of PowerPoint. One of 122 slides. Yes, you heard it. 122 slides. 122 slides on shopper research of frozen carrots. Now I’m all for understanding the shopper, but that was ridiculous. So where had he gone wrong? Well to my mind, he’d done an awful lot of work and fair play to him. The challenge he hadn’t considered was making that stick. We’re not talking in this context about a learning stick, but we talking about a stick in terms of what actions we’re going to take away from this and implement.”

“Over the next two and a half hours, two and a half hours, this guy took us through slide by slide, shopper research of frozen carrots. He went into baby carrots, he went into wonky carrots. He went into the packaging. To his credit, it was exceptional.”

The Best Worst PowerPoint Presentation in the World

“It should be framed as probably the worst presentation in the world based on the best piece of work. And here’s the rub. We often do great pieces of work, but then let ourselves down in the execution, and that’s what this guy did too. He’d spent weeks pulling this together. He’d asked the shoppers everything you could ever want to ask about frozen carrots and then fall at the last hurdle because he wanted to share with us every fact that he found out and how he’d arrived at that fact. Now in the nicest possible way, we didn’t care. Even his boss didn’t care. Because as I looked around that room, people started to doodle, they started to fidget, and in body language terminology, there was leakage. Which means, people are tapping their table, they’re fiddling with their pen, they’re touching their ears, which means I don’t want to listen to this anymore.”

Don’t Start with PowerPoint for Your Presentations

“I was too young or too polite to stop him. Someone should’ve stopped him. Here’s the practical tip. Don’t start with PowerPoint. Yeah, I’ll say it again. Don’t start with PowerPoint. PowerPoint can be a fabulous tool and as the phrase goes, it’s a bit like a tramp. You don’t use a lamppost to lean on, you use it for illumination. Use PowerPoint to bring your presentation to life, not as opposed to lean on. But let me try that again. If you don’t start with PowerPoint, what do you start with? Well, we do have a download on our blog. The article is called, Don’t Start with PowerPoint. What essentially it says is take an A4 piece of paper and start with your objectives. What are you trying to achieve? Is your objective to sell five million pounds worth of product? Is it to convince the audience to do this one thing?”

What Do You Want to Achieve?

“What is it you want them to do at the end of this meeting? And then the page moves into, “Okay, how are you going to split your time up? What questions do you have? What questions do you think they have?” So you start with this one-page piece of paper, which is a template, which prompts you to think about this presentation before you open PowerPoint. One of the key things it asks to do is consider the format. Because I’ve seen presentations which have been fabulous, just using an A3 mind map, or an A1 board on the wall that everyone stands around, or maybe a handout of two or three slides. Because as soon as someone stands up at the screen, people lock their necks in a certain position and they’ll just almost listen for that time. But they’re just listening. They’re not interacting, they’re not engaging, they’re not adding value, and that’s what you want.”

Information Without Application Is Just Entertainment

“You don’t just want to give information. As someone once said, “Information without application is just entertainment.” So are you just there to entertain them? I doubt not. So what we can take away from this, “Begin with the end in mind,” that Stephen Covey said, who was the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So what’s your end in mind? What do you want to achieve? And then work backwards. And our A4 template can certainly help you do that, or you can write it yourself. What are my objectives? What will their questions be? Will there be any barriers? What do I want them to do? What’s my format? What are they thinking?”

“Those sort of questions are the right ones to ask yourself before you dive into PowerPoint. Now here’s the crazy thing, it can actually take you a lot less time to do one engaging, interactive A1 board than it can to write a lot of slides. Now you’ve got to … if you are going to do slides, you’ve got to allow three minutes per slide. So if you’ve got an hour meeting with the buyer, there are 10 minutes at the start and you probably want 10 minutes, in the end, at least 10 minutes of Q&A, or maybe 20 minutes of Q&A, but let’s call that implementation and action.”

Final Thoughts

“Then you’re probably only doing about seven slides, but they’ve got to be a rich, good seven slides. So three tips to take away. One, don’t start with PowerPoint. Two, begin with the end in mind. What do you want to achieve? And three, leave enough time in the meeting to discuss how you achieve what you want to achieve. This action, this piece of behaviour that you want to happen, make sure there’s time to make that happen and discuss it. Thank you.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Presentation Skills and our Presentation Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog to see more Presentation Skills Tips and articles.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:08:34 Darren A. Smith
E2 – Putting Off the Important Stuff? Identify the Important Stuff & Get it Done Tue, 02 Oct 2018 09:11:26 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 2 1 E2 – Putting Off the Important Stuff? Identify the Important Stuff & Get it Done

Stop putting things off. Get beyond being just busy and be able to make the deep impact on your results that you want.

Putting things off: Asleep on a tree

You are doing shallow work only. Working as a knowledge worker in the corporate world can be tough. The danger is that you are busy. Busy doing the shallow work. The work that doesn’t make a big difference. This Podcast will help you learn how to identify important tasks. And know how to get them done. More importantly, it will help you to stop putting things off.

Read the Putting Things Off Podcast Transcript Below:

“I bet you’re busy, really, really busy. Well, busy nowadays equal to sjob. No one has a job where they’ve got a few hours spare to yeah, let’s have a look at that new thing.”

“My name is Darren Smith and you’re here at Sticky and Short Stories, the home of Sticky Learning, MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry.”

My Commute

“I worked in corporate for about 15 years and commuted every day, four hours a day to London, two hours there, two hours back. Often, when I walked into my office and there were another 20 emails which I barely touched and yet another email from marketing with 15 attachments to get done within 48 hours. Of course, I hadn’t read the last lot, plus voicemails, plus back-to-back meetings. I could not get my head above water.”

“I was stressed, overwhelmed and it felt like the email monster was just growing.”

Putting Things Off, Procrastination

“Now having left, and run time management courses for 15 years, I had to learn and I learned the hard way. I learned what works and what doesn’t work. The time management gurus call it procrastination. We call it putting stuff off, putting off the big stuff.”

“So you have one of those days where you come in, let’s say eight o’clock. I’ll just have a quick check of my emails and you do. An hour later, a cup of coffee you’ve had, maybe a chat with a few other people that have come in and you’re off to your first meeting around half past nine, 10:00 o’clock. That meeting overruns. You come out of there about quarter past 11. A quick check of your emails, a quick catch up with Bob down the corridor and all of a sudden it’s time for a sandwich at your desk whilst you read a couple of reports, and maybe catch up with one of your team.”

The Busyness Continues

“And then you’re coming out of lunch, you’re into the two o’clock meetings. They’re overrun and you must get some of this important stuff done. That’s what’s in the back of your mind, but you never do because you’re running from meeting to meeting or email to email.”

“So you do the quality work at the end of the day when everyone’s gone home and at that time when you’re at your most tired and you have the least energy is when you start to do that work that makes the real difference.”

Brian Tracy

“Brian Tracy, the time management guru from the States wrote a fabulous book called Eat That Frog. The basic premise is that if you can identify the biggest and horrible thing, the frog and get that done first, then the rest of your day will be easier because you’ve got the worst thing out of the way.”

“Now, I never did this in 15 years in corporate, but I wish I had. Because what we’re trying to achieve is we’re trying to get the things done that make the biggest impact. Now that sounds easy.”

Why Are You on the Payroll?

“When I coach a lot of people, I ask them, why are you on the payroll? And they write very proudly a very long list of why they’re on the payroll. They’re there to manage people, lead people, run meetings, organize projects, manage projects, deal with customers and so on and so on, and they are all very true. I’m certainly not taking those things away.”

“What I am saying and my challenge back to them once they’ve finished their list, is if they work in a commercial organization, one that makes money, then they are there to make money. And the more connected, and the more steel chain link there is between the reason you are on the payroll to make 500,000 a million, whatever it is and the task that you do every day, the more successful you will be.”

Deep Work

“Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, fabulous book and what it essentially says is that if you work on the deep impact task, you’ll make a bigger difference. Now, we didn’t need a book to know that, but he brings up a lot of research and a lot of examples which further push forward the thought that Pareto was right. 20% of the task will deliver 80% of the difference in your job. The trick is knowing what the 20% are and doing them when you have quality time.”

“So here’s the practical tip. When you start your day, write a list of all the stuff you’ve got to get done that day. Don’t be over-enthusiastic and write five days worth. Yes, I know you’ve got a lot. Put that on a separate piece of paper. This is just the stuff you’ve got to get done today. Then identify the biggest horrible thing that you need to do and put a star by it, a circle around it, highlight it, whatever you need to do and do it first. Don’t put it off.”

“Now here’s the other practical tip that will help you get started. The best way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. Or as Alan Lakein put it, who was the grandfather of time management back in the sixties. He described it as a Swiss piece of cheese. You just need to poke one hole in it.”

Breaking Things Down

“So, someone, I was coaching a while back, they were talking about them trying to move house forever. They hadn’t. It was a big job and they’d written on their list, move house. Now that’s got a lot of tasks within it.”

“The very first thing they decided to write after some coaching was phone the estate agent. They phoned me the next day and said, do you know, I did that. And then what happened was the snowball started to run, started to go down the hill and gather speed because they’d done the first task. They poked the hole in the Swiss cheese and found that the next task was easier and the next task was easier after that.”

Simple, Practical Tasks

“So for your biggest horrible thing that you need to do, write a simple practical task, and it might even be open email x and read it. Just write that down and it will start. Don’t find every reason you can not do it.”

“What your brain does when it’s got something horrible to do, there’s almost this radar on the top of your head that says, someone, talk to me, anyone distracts me. This is horrible, and then all of a sudden you start talking to Bob down the corridor.”

“But actually you’ve got to get on and do this task. You’ve got to blank out everything around you, and you’ve certainly not got to look at other people to talk to you, distract you away from this task because yes, you’ll describe yourself as busy. It’s easy to be busy. It’s much harder to be busy on the stuff that makes the difference.”

Final Thoughts to Help You Stop Putting Things off

“So in summary. One, identify the horrible thing you’ve got to get done today. Two, write on your to-do list the first practical step to start it. And three, be aware that as soon as you want to start getting this thing done, your brain will go off and look for distractions. Don’t let it. Good luck.”

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read our review of ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:07:34 Darren A. Smith
E1 – Email Overload? Try ‘The Hare and the Tortoise System for Managing Emails’ Fri, 28 Sep 2018 07:48:45 +0000 Darren A. Smith full 1 1 E1 – Email Overload? Try ‘The Hare and the Tortoise System for Managing Emails’

Get on top of your emails, and get the deep work done with this new technique for managing emails.

Email overload
The email Monster is taking over. He is out of its cage. Listen to this podcast to find out about the hare and the tortoise technique. A new tool required in this digital age to manage the daily onslaught of emails. Tame the email monster once and for all.

Read the Managing Emails Transcript Below:

“I want to share a story, a story about the hare and the tortoise. But the hare and the tortoise are having a race about email. My name is Darren. You’re at The Home of Sticky Learning NBM.”

“You’ve all heard about the hare and the tortoise. Well, it’s about email overload. It’s fast becoming the main reason of stress and it’s overwhelming. Most people, they can’t get away from feeding the email monster. It just keeps growing. No matter how much you seem to clear the emails, they just don’t stop.”

We’re Not Getting the Deep Work Done

“The challenge is that we don’t get the deep work done. Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, and it’s all about doing the stuff that makes the big difference. It’s very easy to skim across the day being busy in inverted commas getting stuff done, but just clearing the emails.”

“Now the problem with that assumption is that doing the emails delivers the biggest impact, and it doesn’t because whatever comes in on email, comes in on email and it’s not necessarily what makes the big difference to why you’re on the payroll. You’re on the payroll to make money for your business, and the emails don’t necessarily do that.”

About the Hare and Tortoise Method of Managing Emails

“So the hare and the tortoise is all about splitting up the clock face, and it’s deep work and shallow work. So imagine a clock face 12:00 around to 12:20. That 20-minute segment in an hour, that’s when you can do the hare work. Run really quickly, getting emails done, as many as you can and as effectively as you can 12:00 until 12:20. Now in the other 40 minutes of the clock, 12:21 right around to 12:59, that’s when you do the deep work. That’s when you’re like the tortoise. You’re making a big difference.”

How It Works

“So the clock face is split into two, the right-hand side, 12:00 to 12:20 is the hare, and from 12:21 the 40-minute segment back up to the top is tortoise time. Now what this does is a number of things. It gets you to consider that there is deep work and shallow work. It gets you to not check your emails as often as you do. Some people are checking them every 15 minutes, although I know some people who are never out of it.”

Turning It into a Habit

“In order to make this a habit, you probably need to draw a clock face on a Post-it note and stick it on your laptop. There are some images we’ll put on our website, so you can see this. Simply look up the Hare and the Tortoise System for managing the email overload.”

“And the third reason this works is that what it only could do is realize that by doing the tortoise work, you’ll make the biggest difference because this is the work that takes the time. It takes the thought. It takes you away from emails. And getting that stuff done is really important because that’s why you’re on the payroll. Delivering your job won’t happen through email. It just won’t. It happens by putting the thought and the time into the big projects that we all procrastinate and put off because they’re hard.”

Final Thoughts

“So good luck with the Hare and the Tortoise System. We’ll also help you by writing that up on our blog, so you can see it with some images. So again, just look up the Hare and the Tortoise System for managing email overload. Best of luck.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read our review of ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport.

We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

clean no 00:04:09 Darren A. Smith