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Mind-mapping – like a Magic Eye picture for a jumble of ideas

I’ve used mind-maps for myself for years when writing reports, planning holidays, events and major projects – and during Covid-19 lockdown. I have now used it with a client for the first time to conduct an online session. It was terrific – definitely my go to tool for a fact finder, and worked so well to get to the heart of the issue.

I cannot recommend this enough as way to capture everything that may or not be relevant to just get the ideas down, follow all the swerves in the conversation and, most importantly, leave nothing out! You can park random ideas, dead ends and gradually move them around until at some point they tend to emerge as a pattern, a little like those 3D reveal pictures.

The mindmap generated acted as the minutes for the call, and gave my client plenty of food for thought, and an easy way to see the strands for further consideration before our next session.

For me, this initial mindmap creates a checklist for when I’ve made more concrete plans – checking that all the original ideas, concerns, risks, stakeholders have been incorporated into the final version, and not strayed from the original objective of whatever that first conversation was about. It’s been a lifesaver so many times.

In my opinion, simple software helps far more than any books or theories – just pick one and start playing. (Mindjet my current favourite, though it’s not cheap after the trial). The important features are the ability to move whole chunks of ideas into groups, or park outliers, which you can then drag into place as some form of hierarchy comes to mind.


The Listening exercise

Thanks to my connections with Volcano Theatre, I have had the opportunity to be involved in workshops and performances that have made me rethink the way people communicate.

We did a wonderful exercise where, in pairs, we had to talk about a topic for a solid 5 minutes without interruption. It’s very hard as a listener not to interrupt, to clarify, to agree or disagree, to somehow make the conversation all about us.  As a speaker it’s very effective in terms of making us delve deep into the one topic, exploring our stream of consciousness.  I learnt more about my new colleague and gave more of myself away in one single cross-conversation (different topic each) than I think I would ever have done and our business interactions are that much more connected.

The session was beautifully curated and put together (you have to be there to truly get it I think) but the lesson is a simple one – take the time to listen, and be generous with your honesty.

5:1 – Stay positive

I went to a seminar recently which reviewed how as leaders we can take advantage of Neuro Plasticity  (put very simply, it’s never too late to learn, and never too late to change). The course itself reinforced my belief that great leaders and coaching can really inspire people to let go of their self-limiting behaviours and I’m going to bring more of that into my personal and private life (my poor kids are forever being subjected to my new ‘just been on a course’ Kool Aid’ techniques!).

This was the evidence which most struck me however:

Evolution-wise, humans are 5 times more driven to protect themselves from danger than they are to pursue comfort.  The theory therefore is that we are (times 5) more inclined to notice, or act upon, or expect a bad outcome than a positive one. Who amongst us gets an  invite to an unsolicited meeting with our boss and expects it to be good news, for example!

As leaders, we can mitigate this fear, and the natural defensiveness that is felt by challenge by ensuring that we NOTICE and PRAISE 5 positives for every 1 ‘could do better’ that we comment on.  The brain then adjusts to accepting these in the way they were intended and becomes more open to all feedback.


Bringing your message to life

Imagine a room where everyone is hanging onto your every word, checking in with each other and bringing an energy into the room that sets you up for a great discussion. Feels good doesn’t it? I’ve just demonstrated a simple technique you can use to get people interested in your meetings, presentations and workshops: ask a question or set a scene that transports the listener into your story.

Whether presenting or running a workshop, the surest way to get someone from drifting off into shopping lists, to do lists, “why was I sent here” is to make the discussion about them. Ask them to imagine something that fits your agenda and they will be with you for the duration!  For example, if you have the unlovely task of persuading people to follow GDPR principles (it’s 2018… is there any other topic?!) – What happens if you start with a scenario such as “imagine you’ve just mistakenly sent your boss the most embarrassing photo or you, or email thread… what would that be?”. Everyone goes a bit white – everyone is making the story about themselves and from now on… they are listening!

Try it – just don’t then ask them to tell you what it was they imagined… that’s really going in a whole new (dangerous) tangent!. The point then is to get back to your “look after data, keep only what you must and think who can see what” principles. They will still be listening, but now…. they care, because they are still feeling the shame of their own imagination.




Business to IT – the translation gap

My career has been driven largely by my ability to recognise the gap between what users (or clients, or employees, or any stakeholders) what, or think they want and what technical staff (networkers, coders, designers, DB developers) want to deliver. The levels of frustration between the two camps used to hit heady heights during the early Internet years – not surprisingly given the fast pace of technology change and the ambitious plans of customers based on hyperbolic news articles during the dotcom crazy years.  Each was operating based on the news and trends used within their niches (for techies and creatives: Creative Review, Wired, .Net, … for our clients they were the standard industry papers, depending on their sector: Timber Trades Journal, TES, BMJ, Industry Week – the list was endless. )

Understandably – the tech teams wanted to push forward the latest and greatest, and coolest, that’s what turned them on, that’s how these self taught IT wizards came to be operating at this level – no University courses existed to give them these cutting edge skills. By contrast,  the clients wanted what had already happened, because that’s what *they* knew – they relied on recent launches, on already proven successes.

There’s a fix though! Motivation is the common bond – it’s a cliche, but it applies here: look for the win win situation, usually via a mediator such as an account manager or business relationship manager that understands the drivers on both sides. The right person can translate the requirements, and the blockers and most importantly piece together a common path that each side cares about.



People don’t b…

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it

— Simon Sinek