A-Z of Workshop Minigems part 4 – Tools to Zone

Here at last is the final instalment of my minigems! There are so many things about workshops that I could share, but these are just a small selection of quick pointers for you to think about when doing workshops. Enjoy!

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I’d love to know what you think of my top tips, and if you have any of your own please share!

For further information on future workshops click here or sign up to be notified of next dates and more hints and pointers designed to make your workshops run more smoothly.

Sorry About the Meetings….What Should we Change?

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I came across an article the other day, talking about something that is, I think, fairly well known, about the way women often struggle with meetings, are perceived as bossy when they speak up and often use apologetic language. I am sure it is not just women that encounter difficulties participating in meetings in crushingly corporate environments. Meetings are a fact of life and teaching people ways to survive and perhaps thrive in such situations (such as those discussed in the article) does sound like a very decent plan . If this was me I would probably love a lifeline like the Get Heard in Meetings Course – workshops in how to do things differently, how to learn poise, speak louder, get yourself listened to. I am a sucker for a good workshop, and this does look fun!

I read this not long after another article about the Google App “Just Not Sorry” that helps women to stop saying sorry via e-mail. And I watched again a brilliant sketch by Amy Schumer “I’m sorry – A Conference Goes Awry” I have seen this several times – it’s also about women saying sorry. This made me cringe and laugh out loud at the same time.

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It is a thing. Women do often say sorry a lot. And it’s not just that, there are many many things about the way we communicate that are vastly different from the way men do. Women fitting into predominantly male environments is not a new topic of discussion. I know that it’s not just about communication and not just meetings, there is far more to these kinds of workplace difficulties where men and women in particular clash. That is a bigger conversation…..

But I confess to being the proud owner and purveyor of “soft skills”, I am a people person and I like it when people get on. I am a facilitator and my job is very much about adapting the environment to include the people. Not the other way around.

So I can’t help thinking that when looking at the bigger picture, this is all slightly back to front. Like most people I have been to all sorts of meetings in my life. Some I have felt comfortable in, some less so and for all sorts of different reasons. True, I have never been employed in a male dominated highly corporate environment, but I have worked and networked with plenty of men. I have facilitated workshops on many occasions where I am the only woman. I have also facilitated meetings. So I do know the scenario, it is not a myth.  And in many situations where you have clashes of communication, culture and style things can be tricky to say the least, and soul destroying at worst if this is your norm.

But it doesn’t make sense that women (or anyone for that matter) should have to learn to behave differently in order to be a part of a meeting. Presumably the people attending the meetings are skilled in their fields, expert and knowledgeable. Is it reasonable to expect them to learn something extra just to be able to share that with people?

I would say no.

Meetings themselves are very often at the heart of the way businesses are run. They are also the bug bear of many. They can be a necessity and a time waster, an efficient way of delivering and discussing information, or completely fruitless. A way of informing and feeding back or a lot of hot air. They are that double edged sword that many people loathe, but we all have to embrace on some level.

What about focusing on running meetings better? Managing meetings so they make space to include the people that need to be included, women and men alike. Rather than sticking to a format that excludes people, necessitating them to learn how to cope, wouldn’t it be better to revisit the way the meeting functions? Using some well founded techniques to encourage people to feel like they want to go to meetings, that they will get a lot out of them and will be able to put a lot in to them is surely a good idea. Much has been written about ways to run meetings better. A good chair or a facilitator, a focus on engagement and a clear agenda are a good start. Teaching people to listen is also a valuable skill that we could all work harder on, and something that goes far beyond meetings. Focusing on the people in the meeting is, I think fairly fundamental – after all, the people are what make the meeting.

Knowing there is a place to learn skills to enable you to get on better in meetings is great. Tools that are out there to help women “manage” their communication (whatever the format) are clearly important. But encouraging people to run better meetings in the first place would be a much larger win, have far wider implications and a much deeper impact. After all, it’s better for everyone when we are all less sorry!

A-Z of Workshop minigems part 3 – Momentum to Reflection

When I first released Workshop Essentials into the world back in November I did an A-Z of workshop minigems; little tips to help you all get into the zone. I spread these far and wide into the twittersphere and onto my facebook page but only half of them made it onto my blog! Part 1 was Aims to Flexibility, and part 2 Group Work – Listening.

Now, for your continued delight and to get you in the mood once more for my workshops on workshops here are some of my top tips.

If you have your own tips why don’t you put them into the comments box below? I’m always interested in learning new things.

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If you want to know more about how to actually put these tips and more into practise, then book onto one of my workshops now!

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Looking back to move forwards into 2016

It’s here again, that end of the year feeling. Whether a sinking or floating feeling it’s that time when many people are either looking back and reflecting, or eyeing the horizon and looking to what next. We are often encouraged to create a vision, a goal, plan and perhaps a strategy to move along and achieve new things for the coming year. This year will be the year of …………….? 2016 will be amazing, awesome and incredible! I resolve to do many fantastic things. Of course we need goals, and we need to embrace the newness that is embodied in a brand new year. We like to have a marker of some kind to denote that the old has finished and hail the new and exciting opportunities that are ahead.

Moving forwards

But we shouldn’t leave out the reflecting. If we don’t look back and learn, we won’t know which parts of 2015 are to be ditched, not repeated and left to one side. We won’t know what worked so well that we need to carry this on into 2016, to repeat, to grow and to strengthen.

The start of a new year shouldn’t be when we draw a line under last year, say goodbye and forget it, even if on the face of it it was the most hideous year ever. It should be the time when we cast an eye over what happened last year. To separate out the good things and work out how we can hang on to them or adapt and build on them, to help us with what we want to achieve next.

This is the kind of approach I take with many of the review workshops I do. When you complete a project or piece of work, it doesn’t make sense just to close it, file it away and forget about it. It makes much more sense to see if you can learn from it and put that knowledge and experience into the next piece of work.

So rather like these workshops, I like to think about:

What worked well?

For me starting up my own series of workshops has worked very well, and is something to be repeated and grown. I have all kinds of (hopefully) brilliant ideas for new workshops and thoughts on how to improve and expand the ones I’ve done. But I also know I need to do this one at a time, walking not running.

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What didn’t work so well?

I would say that spreading myself too thin and trying to do too many different things has definitely not worked so well. I know I am not alone and that other “ideas people” also have difficultly taming their impulse to get going on far too many things at once. This year it will be out with the multitasking and in with the prioritising and focus!

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What have I learnt?

I have learnt to not assume what is known and understood by other people. When you are passionate and involved in something you do it is often hard to differentiate between the intrinsic, common sense, and universally understood, and the unusual, specialist and fascinating. We all have our different skill sets, experience and knowledge, and recognising that is important.

And lastly a funny memory…..

I do often talk about the importance of finding a good workshop venue. So thinking about the last workshop of 2015 that I did in a client’s office kitchen (strangely the best place in their office to work with a group) most definitely brings a smile to my face. Finding a good venue is important, but being adaptable even more so!

What are your moments of 2015, good and bad? And what have you learnt?

I wish you a wonderful 2016, full of ambition, promise and fulfilment and full of new experiences to take forward into the future…..

And if getting your workshops spot on is on your 2016 “to do” list then I invite you to take a look at my next workshop……..

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What gives you your Focus Fix?

 

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What makes you focus the best?

It’s a constant struggle these days for us to stay “in the zone” and to filter out the things that we don’t need. Or rather filter out those things that don’t matter for that particular moment in time. We are constantly bombarded with information, news and updates and when we are not being bombarded, when it doesn’t come to us, we go seeking it. It’s as if we’re not quite happy with the peace and quiet anymore, we are so used to living such frantic lives that we don’t know how to be in the moment. We have so much going on, we can be a part of so many things that it’s hard to switch off from the external noise and just focus on one thing.

I am most certainly guilty. I am a huge over multi tasker. My brain is always on three or four things at once and I often end up either flitting between them, half doing them or returning to them later in a not entirely productive way. As a working parent I juggle family life with my business. To this I add the fact that I am an absolute expert in getting myself involved in things I most definitely don’t have time for! The consequence is that I often find it hard to really focus.

And I have this belief somehow that if I stop juggling all of this there will be some kind of catastrophe.

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Or will there?

Actually I know that stopping the juggling for a short period to focus on something important is enormously rewarding. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

For me one of the things that I stop the juggling for, to establish a lazer like focus on something that needs my entire being is when I do a workshop. You can’t half do a workshop. Well, not if you want to do it well.

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It is one of the things I love most about delivering workshops, it necessitates absolute and total dedication to the moment. When I give a workshop, I am in the zone. I am utterly focused. I have full concentration on what is going on in that workshop. I am 100% in the here and now.

After the workshop it feels like I am not quite ready to think about other things and want to enjoy basking in that bubble of being “in the zone” for a while longer. I get an enormous buzz from the intensity of the moment, the adrenaline that comes with the focus. It’s like I’ve put a “Do not disturb” sign on my head. Do not bother me with anything that is not to do with the inner heart of this workshop, or else……….you probably won’t get much sense out of me.

So that’s my thing. That is the time when I focus the best. I come out from the workshop and get back to my normal juggling. I see that the balls are still there, no catastrophe has occurred. I continue with my multitasking because that’s who I am and that’s the way I do things. Until the next time.

Anyone that has focused so intensely on something like that will tell you it’s pretty exhausting. It’s a good kind of exhausting if there is such a thing, like feeling tired because you’ve exercised rather than just tired through lack of sleep. And with a little time to regroup, plan, prepare and arrange the next workshop, it’s never long before I’m ready to do it all again. It’s  the thing I need, the antidote to the multitasking and most definitely my Focus Fix!

If you want to learn more about how I do my workshops, and watch my highly focused self in my element, come along to one of my next Workshops!