Myth busting

The Obvious?

I found myself thinking about New York this morning and how wonderfully ordinary and “cosy” it always feels when I visit it. This is in stark contrast to its media image. Probably more than most cities our sense of it is conditioned by the many hundreds of movies it has featured in, many of which emphasise its seamier side and almost invariably involve wide shots of its soaring sky scrapers and apparently inhuman scale.

But real people live there. People I know. Sitting in a local park on the lower east side feels like sitting in a park in east London. Mothers entertaining their kids, older blokes dozing on benches, people walking dogs. Reassuringly human.

We pay people to create the stories that make our world feel unreal. How odd.

We do the same in our organisations. We pay people to make up myths about our place of work, creating air brushed, gender balanced, multi-ethnic, happy to the point of insanity, images of “typical staff” spending a typical day happy at the administrative coal face.

The reality for most of us is very different from this. Fraught with very human challenges and struggling to make sense of what is happening around us.

Do the air brushed images help? Or do they exacerbate the sense of disconnection from reality?

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Subject Matters: Why speaking publicly is all about preparation

  • Friday Apr 15,2016 07:40 PM
  • By External Author
  • In Tips & Tricks

Public Speaking

When you think of public speaking, chances are you feel a little flustered. You start to get sweaty palms and you want absolutely nothing to do the idea of standing in front of an audience, whether you know them or not, and deliver a speech that needs to knock them dead, when that’s exactly what you’d rather be when it comes to public speaking.

Fear not, however, as even the most exceptional public speakers don’t deviate from one golden rule as it relates to that ability, just the way a person who hasn’t done it or isn’t good at it whatsoever.

That is preparation and subject matter, and how they work as one to achieve the best possible speech, even if you’re not in your wheelhouse of comfortability.

If you’re tasked to speak publicly, the first question you want to ask if who your audience is. Are you speaking to colleagues in the same department that you work in? Is this an audience of your superiors, who want to know how the latest and greatest project is coming along? Is this a group of people who you’re trying to sell on a product, service or merger.

Knowing what you’re walking into makes the structure of the speech and speaking engagement all the more relevant to the subject matter and how you’re going to frame what you’re saying.

If you’re talking to people you don’t know and you want to sell them in your direction as a company, you might want to steer clear of industry jargon or interoffice jokes. No one cares if Ted is a chatty, water cooler talker; that might be a better joke for the speech that happens with your peers.

The trick to the speech itself is not going to far overboard with the laugh factor, but not having a droning, uninteresting speech because your topic matter is there but you lack examples or anecdotes that help draw conclusions for whomever your audience might be.

Finally, if you’re not practicing, you’re not trying, and that goes for everyone who has to speak publicly. Whether you’re standing in front of a mirror or just go over your note cards in the privacy of your own home, in the office or just before you go out to speak, the practice element is often overlooked because you might know your subject matter and audience, and decide that practicing won’t make perfect.

That thought, along with ignoring preparation in total, is only going to lead to a poor performance and more trepidation the next time public speaking is brought up.

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Intentional marketing

The Obvious?

I am increasingly asked to work with marketing departments and run workshops for them on social media or “digital”. This despite making no claims to expertise in the “profession”. Listening to the conversations about their day jobs I am frequently surprised at the degree to which process takes over and thinking stops.

A senior group or individual in a corporation decides on a new branding exercise or new angle on a product which may, or may not, be based on the interests of the customer. This then ripples down through the ranks until someone commissions an agency to tick this particular box. The agency process then kicks in, unleashing their “creatives” on the world, and too often the end result is the bewilderingly inappropriate crap we have thrust at us while trying to go about our daily lives. If they stopped to think many, maybe most, of the people in the chain know that it is crap.

I have no problem with being better informed, in a timely and appropriate fashion, about products or services I might be interested in. I am going to buy stuff, I might as well make better informed decisions about it. But this is isn’t the intent of most marketing which appears to be about shouting at me about stuff I don’t want while I am trying to do something else.

Intent matters. Think about it.

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The Obvious?

When we got going with blogs inside the BBC we had seemingly endless conversations about whether bloggers should be able to use their own designs and add their own plugins etc. I was all for it, believing that differentiation makes it easier to navigate not harder. Others felt that it was important to make them all look the same in the name of some ideal of consistency.

Reminds me of the analogy I used to use. Networks of blogs linking to each other become like old villages. No one enforces an overall architectural style or signage, but we find them easy to navigate because there are well worn paths between the church and the pub for instance. We feel comfortable with the human scale and quickly learn our way around. Over controlled shiny corporate blogs, and most intranets, are like Milton Keynes. Efficient on the face of it, but bewildering if you don’t understand the system. I get lost in Milton Keynes every time I go there even with a sat nav!

I occasionally hear of marketing or internal comms teams trying to assert control over individual bloggers who have “found their voices” and in some cases attracted significant audiences. In doing so they risk compromising the very qualities that made the bloggers trusted, successful and, most importantly, discoverable in the first place.

What are they so afraid of? That we won’t be able to work out that the blogger works for them? That we will think that they have lost control and staff are running amok?

We love differentiation. Why not embrace it and try to get good at it?

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Culture change

The Obvious?

Every time I hear that an organisation is hoping to bring about culture change, or perish the thought “driving culture change”, my heart sinks. You can’t change culture. You can change things that affect people in the hope that doing so gives them a good reason to adapt their behaviour, but culture emerges from the collective behaviours of the people in your organisation over time.

The worst scenario is when those “driving change” don’t change their own behaviours but start producing shiny posters telling everyone else how to behave. Doing so is likely to bring about a rapid change in your culture but not in the ways you intended!

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NYT > Public Speaking

Social media and more demanding passengers have moved the cruise line lecture beyond a couple of talks made in exchange for a discounted cabin.

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Hello world!

Philip de Lisle

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

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The Obvious?

When I was growing up my parents were forever taking us for “trips” whether locally or further afield. They still set off, in their eighties, in my Dad’s sports car, to explore Dorset where they now live. My wife Penny shares this inclination to go places and discover new ones we’ve not been, so we have visited and got to know much of the wonderfully varied countryside of Britain and beyond. Needless to say the girls are growing up with the same willingness to follow their natural curiosity and see more of the world than is brought to them via their TV screens. In contrast many of their friends it seems never go anywhere except for school, shopping, and the annual foreign holiday.

And it’s not just going places, it’s exploring ideas. The girls will often comment that their fellow pupils seem incredibly blinkered in their ideas as well as suffering from a lack of travel itch. Even basic questions about why things are the way they are, why people behave the way they do, and inquiry into different philosophies and world views appear to be virgin territory. They wonder what sort of conversations take place over their schoolmates’ breakfast tables and contrast this with our willingness to pick up an idea, through it around, and leave it gasping for breath on the floor as we tussle with everything from politics to religion and everything in between.

This lack of curiosity seems to me to be at the root of so many of our problems. Yes it may be easier to pass through life asleep, and yes they may be happier not being riddled with self doubt and existential angst as we can sometimes be, but we all only get one shot at this. The willingness to wonder why, to explore beneath the surface, to break away from the norm out of a desire to explore the world and to address its problems seems so important and the more of us who do it the more likely we are to cope with our unpredictable futures.

To miss so much of what life has to offer seems a shame individually, and a willingness to sleep through the sort of challenges facing civilisation at the moment, seems a waste at the very least and an avoidance of responsibility at worst.

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Do you wanna be in my gang?

The Obvious?

Reading Mollie’s post yesterday about religion, and reading today about Krishnamurti’s rejection of any form of authority other than your experience when exploring truth, got me thinking again about tribalism and dogma.

The instinct to find and apply what Krishnamurti calls “false universals” is so strong. The successful case study, “best practice”, or for that matter The Ten Commandments. Having chosen our formula we then identify with those that share our “truth” and reject those who don’t. The sense of comfort we get from having found our answers is reinforced by our dengration of those who have come to different conclusions.

But they are all made up. They are all stories. Whether at work, or in the world at large, we cling to these stories with such desperation that we will fight holy wars over whether my story is more true than yours. We form gangs around our stories and exercise control over membership, who’s in and who’s out. We threaten eternal damnation to those who fall on the wrong side of that line.

But I will say again, they are all made up. They are combinations of made up stories passed down by our ancestors or new stories made up by our experts. We need to be forever sceptical about other people’s stories.

For that matter we need to be forever sceptical about our own…

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Frozen Dope: How to overcome anxiety of public speaking

  • Friday Mar 25,2016 06:17 PM
  • By External Author
  • In Tips & Tricks

Public Speaking

You’ve heard the expression that, aside from fear of dying, people are afraid of public speaking more than anything else they can imagine.
For those who are adept at public speaking and do it as if it is just as natural as breathing, they can’t really fathom what exactly the big deal is when you talk about talking in front of others.
What that group fails to understand is that they’re good at public speaking because they’ve done it over and over again, and that practice in this case makes perfect, or at least more competent than the average person dealt the hand of speaking in front of a crowd.
So how exactly can public speaking anxiety be over come? Or is this something that you’re either good at or bad at, with little to no middle ground whatsoever?
The truth is public speaking should be something that most business professionals should at least be able to do without being not only fearful but efficient enough to more than just get by, but getting to that point means not only practice but perfecting the art form of speaking publicly beyond just doing it over and over again.
For instance, your practice shouldn’t just be trying and failing or trying and doing fine, but devising a speech and actually practicing at home in private or in front of a mirror. While this might sound mundane to some or even a little silly (as if you’re playing dress up or make believe at home), this technique is sound and effective.
In addition, when you’re putting together a speech or even volunteering to do one for the good of the company or your team, make sure it is a topic you are passionate about or at least one you know enough about that your proficiency in information can overtake and masque your inability to speak publicly all that well.
And whatever you do, don’t tell joke or let the audience know you’re nervous. It’s not only unprofessional but you aren’t Jerry Seinfeld or George Carlin, and making jokes, especially the ones that don’t land, aren’t going to help with the situation whatsoever. If anything, the bad jokes and canned humor is going to lead you to be even more nervous than you were the first time around, and thus take away from what’s left of your speech.
Speaking in front of a crowd, for some, is never going to be easy. That doesn’t mean, however, it has to be so difficult that you’re incapable of doing it, particularly if you dial it down and follow basic principles to pass the public speaking test.

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