Keith Fowler

Work like a dog

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘to work like a dog,’ but what does it really mean? And, is working like a dog always a good thing?

When someone has a high degree of diligence, they will work tirelessly to complete any job set in front of them, and they will do it right. No cutting corners, no skimping on quality – the task will be completed perfectly, on time, and they will go the extra mile. They ‘work like a dog’ to do the best job possible each and every time.

So, naturally you want an entire staff of highly diligent people to work for you, right? After all, they will do a great job every time! Not so fast. While we will detail the positives of this personality type, let’s first start with the cons.

The cons of a highly diligent employee

While you certainly want someone who is willing to go the extra mile and work to the best of their ability, a high level of diligence is not always a good thing. Here are some of the cons you might notice with this kind of individual:

The pros of a highly diligent employee

From the list above, you might think ‘working like a dog’ is purely a negative trait, but that simply isn’t the case. Here are the pros:

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Top 3 podcasts for International Podcast Day

Nowadays, content comes in every form imaginable. Gone are the hours of idle time staring out of the train window or listening to the traffic report every 15 minutes on the daily commute.

If you haven’t started listening to podcasts, then I’d encourage you to do so on #InternationalPodcastDay this Sunday. Here are 3 that I consider to be a great listen.


The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing with Daniel Pink

If you’re envious of Mark Wahlberg’s early-morning routine and getting stuff done before others have even woken up is your aim, then The 5 AM Miracle Podcast has you in mind. This episode includes an interview with the excellent Dan Pink discussing the science of perfect timing and the hidden patterns that make up our day.


Dan Heath — Moments That Change Lives

Chip and Dan Heath have written several New York Times bestselling books. The latest being The Power of Moments, and this interview looks at how to best craft experiences: be them for customers, team members, users or even your own children. Entreleadership is a great all-round podcast with some excellent interviews too.


Long Distance Parts 1 & 2

Although ‘your computer has a virus’ calls have become less frequent, there were points over the last few years where I’m sure they interrupted your day. But have you ever thought about from whom, how and why you received these? The team at Reply All produce some great investigative journalism and this award-nominated episode is a great example of their storytelling skills.

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Nelson Mandela – lessons we can learn from an emotionally intelligent leader

We recently passed the anniversary of what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, and at that time it seemed as though the whole world was reflecting on his impact. In my view, one of the most important aspects of Mandela’s personality was his emotional intelligence, and it’s something that I strive to learn from.

Mandela served 27 years in jail, in the notoriously vicious prisons of the apartheid era in South Africa, but he was able to use this experience for the positive. Biographer Anthony Sampson writes that during his time in jail, “he developed the art of politics: how to relate to all kinds of people, how to persuade and cajole, how to turn his warders into dependents and how to become master in his own prison.”

This is no mean feat. Most of us would fold under this immense pressure, but Mandela’s emotional intelligence helped him to rise to the occasion and prepare himself for a life of politics and to continue his human rights activism. So, if like me you’re keen to build your own Nelson Mandela sense of EQ, try focusing on developing these following points.

Nelson Mandela was one of the 20th century’s truest heroes, and we can learn so much from his leadership capabilities. Reflect on what you can do today to emulate his example.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Communicators: What questions should you be asking yourself?

The international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold millions of copies around the world over the past 30 years. Stephen R Covey’s book has come to be a bookshelf staple for entrepreneurs, savvy academics and driven individuals who value its approach to problem-solving.

Previously, we have looked at how the world’s greatest communicators champion Covey’s seven habits. In the lead-up to this seminal book’s 30thanniversary, I look again at how you can apply these strategies to the way you communicate and consider the questions you should ask yourself in order to achieve this.

Habit 1) Be Proactive

To achieve Covey’s first habit – be proactive – you need to ask yourself a few key questions.

Habit 2) Begin with the End in Mind

When Covey says, ‘Begin with the end in mind,’ he means that your communication needs to be clear about your final objective right from the beginning. Failure to be so will mean that your project could easily drift off course.

Habit 3) Put First Things First

Covey advises us to structure our communication from the top down: put your most important message right up front. That way, everything that follows will be placed in the right context.

Ask yourself:

Habit 4) Think Win-Win

By giving your audience what they want, you will also end up with what you want. It’s a true win-win situation.

Habit 5) Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Being a good listener is a skill that all good communicators need to cultivate. To truly be understood, Covey warns us that we must first understand.

Ask yourself:

Habit 6) Synergise

Covey describes synergy as ‘working together’ so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. By this rationale, working effectively with a team will always yield better results than working individually.

Habit 7) Sharpen the Saw

Covey states that effective communicators consistently gain new skills, hone their existing skills, and engage in refresher exercises.

While you may have read Covey’s book in the past, you might not have entirely internalised its messages. By asking yourself these questions, you can truly harness the messages in the book and get the most out of its content.

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Personalising your company learning programme to increase engagement

To stay relevant, you need to focus on providing tailored learning programs to help your team develop a wide array of skills. This will help you to build and maintain a resilient and adaptable wider team.

What is a personalised learning program?

In order to implement a personalised learning program, you need to focus on putting the learner at the centre of the education process. In the past, corporate training has been focussed on sharing knowledge in generic categories, rather than developing individuals’ skillsets. Personalised learning turns this on its head and utilises technology alongside traditional teaching methods to empower and develop employees’ skill sets. Your employees can then learn in the best way for their needs and at a pace that best suits them.

What tips should businesses keep in mind when tailoring their education programs for each employee?

What factors do you need to consider before developing a learning program?

Before you get started, you need to remember to consider not only your own corporate culture and learning scenarios, but also each individual’s unique skillset. You might want to consider the fact that millennials tend to be more familiar with and committed to their own learning than older generations, and they excel with electronic devices. In today’s modern day and age, employees of all ages are used to accessing the internet for answers and information in a split second, and they will be unlikely to respond positively to long, narrative based training. Presentations and training courses should be designed with this in mind.

Soft skills are more important now than ever

More and more, it is becoming clear that academic achievement is not always an accurate prediction of a person’s workplace performance. Tailored coaching solutions are more important than ever. While technological prowess and skills are important, a study by McKinsey Education into Employment shows that ‘soft skills’ make the difference between average employees and top performers.

These skills include:

Using feedback, coaching, mentoring, self-assessment and shared goal setting, you can move the training conversation away from hard skills (such as technical knowledge) and towards a stronger sense of self-reflection. This will allow your team to build upon their soft skills, something that will transform and disrupt your organisation both now and moving forward into the future.

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How To Leave A Positive Legacy

When an important member of your management team, or even you, plans to move on from the company or to retire, it is very natural for remaining team members to feel nervous or apprehensive. After all, they are used to working with a specific management style and will naturally move back into the ‘forming’ stage of Bruce Tuckman’s model of how teams perform.

When a new person steps in, the ‘old guard’ can feel like they are scrambling to understand their role anew. At this point, it is not uncommon to see an exodus of talent as employees decide to follow suit and seek new opportunities.

As the individual leaving (or the person directly responsible for this individual), the most important thing that you can do to ensure your organisation’s continued success is to create an effective succession plan. Not only will this plan help things to run smoothly in the days, weeks and months after your departure, but it will help you retain the talent you have worked so hard to develop.

5 tips on how to create an effective succession plan and retain your talent

1. Understand the ‘medium term’: We often hear about the long term, but these predictions often become out-dated and irrelevant. No, in order to leave a truly effective and useful succession plan you should become well familiar with the medium term goals of the organisation.

2. Plan for these goals: With the medium term business needs in mind, you can then assess what will be required in your absence. Remember to prioritise innovation, curiosity and comfort with change, and then leave specific plans with those in mind.

3. In this case, ‘playing it by ear’ will lead to failure: It can be tempting to think that your replacement will simply be able to ‘play it by ear’ and figure out how to pick up where you left off.

4. “There is no way I can be replaced”: We all like to think that we are completely unique, and that there is no way to replace our presence. Not only is this not true, but this mentality will lead to failure in your absence. Leave all relevant information for your successor – they will move on from when you ended and add their own twist and flair to the position.

5. Instil a sense of trust in your successor: If your employees don’t trust you, you will fail – and the same goes for your successor. The best thing you can do for everyone involved is to work to build a bridge between your replacement and your team. If you demonstrate that you trust them, your team is far more likely to trust them as well.

What other tips do you have on leaving a positive legacy?

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Are Psychometric Tests Outdated?

We are living in the age of ‘metrics.’

Everyone wants to find a way to measure their efficacy in every aspect of their business life, from the number of views they get on their LinkedIn Profile, to the number of steps it took to take the stairs rather than the escalator on the commute into work.

That said, the collection of certain ‘metrics’ has been around for much longer than wearable technology devices, and now experts are starting to wonder – do they really have any use in today’s world of Big Data?

One of the most common forms of testing comes in the form of psychometric testing. You may have undoubtedly been subjected to a battery of psychometric tests in the past that are designed to measure your individual mental capabilities and behavioural style. The idea behind these tests is that they can shed valuable light on who is best suited for specific roles or cultural fit.

Tools to explain, describe and predict human behaviour

While certain capacities, strengths and weaknesses might not become immediately apparent during a face to face interview, the additional administration of psychometric tests can help to shed light on hidden proficiencies (and deficiencies).

As Richard Mayson, Director & Executive Coach of Black Isle Group, says, “Certain personalities suit certain companies and roles more than others. Smart employment decisions are made by considering many factors, including personality.”

However, while the core tenets of personality assessment are strong and evidence based, the industry itself has what we refer to as a “reputation problem.” The industry of administering personality tests (often referred to as psychometric testing) is not regulated in any way.

Despite the problematic flimsy tools available, there are still certain providers out there who administer powerful and accurate tests that assess (and predict) behaviour in far more reliable ways than purely conducting interviews alone. If you utilise reliable and time-tested assessment tools, they can detect regularities (and of course, irregularities) in a candidate’s thinking patterns and behaviour over time.

Rely exclusively on interviews and be prone to an incomplete understanding

The small slice of behaviour that you see during your interview can’t give you the same amount of important data that a properly administered psychometric test can provide.

While some people claim that psychometric tests are outdated and irrelevant, more businesses than ever are choosing to use them. Here are just a few of the main reasons that modern businesses are electing to administer psychometric tests to both internal and external candidates:

Do you have any experience with administering psychometric tests to potential candidates? In your experience, does this work better with new recruits, or those within the organisation who are looking to advance? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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How mindfulness helps at work – take your first pause

We’re all guilty of it – rushing around like headless chickens, trying to accomplish all our goals but failing to succeed in all. Delivering the most value at work, maintaining a happy family life, having a fulfilling romantic relationship and working on our physical fitness – it can all be a bit much. That is why increasingly experts are recommending the use of mindfulness to give our cerebral cortex a change of pace.

One of the most respected voices in the mindfulness field is Jon Kabat Zinn. Through a meditation and mindfulness practice that spans more than 5 decades, he has been able to influence an entire generation and turn them on to the benefits of pausing, slowing down and watching the breath. 

Kabat Zinn (along with others) pioneered the teaching of mindfulness back in the 1970s. He spearheaded the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979, teaching people to overcome and manage their chronic pain, the aftermath of industrial accidents and even cancer.

Though he himself takes his inspiration and teachings directly from Buddhism, he is not afraid to downplay this aspect in order to reach a wider audience and help more people. He has defined his brand of meditation as

“the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

So, what does Kabat Zinn and mindfulness have to do with success in business? 

Simply put, if you are stressed beyond belief and acting like that proverbial chicken, can you really be on top of your goals and targets? Can you really assess your SWOT with a clear head, or are you always reacting to new problems and trying to race around putting out fires?

Just a few minutes of mindfulness each day can truly help you to regain your composure, find calm and maintain a clear head. Sitting in a comfortable upright position, close your eyes lightly and focus on your breath. You might even find it helpful to think, “In, Out. In, Out.” as you breathe. When you notice that your mind is wandering (and it is always ‘when’ and not ‘if’) just gently bring your mind back to your breath. 

Remember – there is no “good at meditation” or “bad at meditation”. Some days it will feel easier than others but remember that the same is true for even the most seasoned yogis. By simply making the time to pause and slow down, you are rewiring your brain and doing your business a world of good. Go on – give it a try! What do you have to lose?

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The Quiet Networker

One of the credos for business success that you will often hear is: network, network, network. For an extrovert, this advice is welcome – extroverts are naturally good at walking into a room, assessing the mood and shaking hands with as many potential contacts as possible.

However, for an introvert this advice can seem like a harbinger of doom. Introverts naturally prefer to keep to themselves when in large groups, feeling more comfortable exchanging ideas with a small clutch of individuals. The idea of approaching a group of strangers can be very intimidating indeed. So, if you’re an introvert, how are you supposed to make the most of your networking possibilities if you dread the very idea?

Well, our Networking for Introverts event last week aimed to tackle this very challenge.  As well as creating the perfect setting that appealed to an introverted professional it was the perfect opportunity to upskill and expand their networks.  As well as the key advice shared on the day here are a few extra tips to help you introverts embrace your inner networking genius.

1. Practice makes perfect – If you were in an improv comedy troupe, you would run through different scenarios hundreds (if not thousands) of times. Why should a networking event be any different? Think of the experience as a chance to become an improv master. You don’t know exactly what the other people will say or do, but by practicing many different scenarios you can gain confidence and feel more comfortable. Think of a few standard openers that you can use – “what brings you here today?” is always a good one.

2. Search out local meet ups and networking events – Now that you have some ‘go to’ openers and feel more confident mingling with strangers, you need somewhere to go! Hop onto Google and start searching for “Best Blockchain Meet-ups in BLANK city,” or “Local Networking for FinTech professionals” etc.

3. Work on your elevator pitch – Continuing on from your basic openers and practice sessions, it’s time to really make a difference – you need to work on your elevator pitch. If you don’t have a strong and concise pitch, you are likely to blow your one shot with a potential mentor, client or colleague. You should have a 30 second intro in mind that succinctly explains who you are, what you do and why you are at the event. Here is a great YouTube playlist about crafting the perfect elevator pitch.

4. Be reasonable about your limits and pace yourself – If you are a natural introvert, you might find it quite exhausting to attend networking events. Rather than trying to be ‘on’ for the entire event, remember to take a few minutes now and then in order to take a breather and relax. Similarly, don’t attend too many networking events in any one month – pace yourself and know your limits. You should also choose only the most suitable and strategic events on which to focus your attention.

5. Follow up! – It seems like an obvious point, but so many people attend networking events and then never follow up with the people that they connected with. This means that all of their hard work and practice was for nothing! While you are at the event, collect business cards from everyone whom you connect with and jot down some notes on the back so that you can remember your conversation.

Over the next few days, connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Then, take your annotated cards and send each person a personalised email.  “Hello, it was great to meet you at the BLANK EVENT. Your work/project sounds very interesting, and I would love to be involved in BLANK WAYS. Best regards, YOUR NAME.” Simple as that!

With these simple tips you can change your perspective about networking and start to leverage these events towards your success.

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It’s not your sole responsibility to come up with a solution

We all want to be at the helm of a successful business. When our businesses are doing well, and everything is going to plan, and exceeding expectations, managers and owners seem prescient and brilliant. But we all know that the most successful minds in business aren’t really doing it all themselves.

One of my favourite quotes has got to be from Martin Hall, the Head of Marketing at Honda Motor Europe – “the single biggest area where managers can go wrong is thinking that it is their sole responsibility to come up with a solution.”

I could not agree more. We oversee the overall operations and success of our enterprise, but when we take on too much of the burden of short term problem solving, we lose sight – and control – of the bigger picture.

Leadership, leadership, leadership.

You’ve heard it before – ‘leadership skills are important.’ But have you truly taken this to heart? Leadership does not have to entail being right all of the time and always knowing what to do in every situation. No, true leadership is about creating an environment of respect and a place where ideas are encouraged and fostered to grow.

You need to facilitate the work that is happening beneath you without being a helicopter boss and feeling like you need to make every single decision. Start by setting clear goals and expectations and let your team go from there. If you have the right people on your team, they will make the right choices and help create solutions you would have never dreamt of.

Hire the right people and delegating decision-making becomes easy

When it comes to keeping our businesses strong and successful, smart hiring practices are key. One of the best things that any manager can do is bone up on hiring practices, interviewing skills and training procedures. Hiring, training and keeping the best talent in your industry can be the difference between sink or swim. After all, who do you want to rely on to help you make decisions and keep your business afloat – a top performer or a middling average Joe?

Inspiring trust – and learning to give it

The ability to inspire and build trust is one of the foundations of transformational leadership. While you could send out endless requests and give orders like a drill sergeant, winning the confidence of your team is going to yield much better results.

Being a good leader is about nurturing and developing your team and bringing out their best qualities. While you may set out to do this, in practice it can be difficult. People are complex, with many different priorities in their lives and rewards that drive them. Taking the time to learn about your employees and finding out what makes them tick will engender far greater results over time. Not only will this encourage them to trust you, it will allow you to trust their judgement in return.

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