Ten Metres of Courage

Swedish directors Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson  have made a wonderful little film that highlights human emotions in a totally unexpected way.  The premise is simple enough, people at a swimming baths in Gothenberg climb up a ten metre diving platform and then jump into the pool, or they don’t.


These aren’t divers but regular people who have never jumped from such a height.  With an unwavering camera, and an absence of commentary we focus on the decision made by each jumper.  Some single jumpers talk themselves through the process, some swear their way through.  People climbing in pairs talk to each other, which may or may not help with the decision.   A microphone picks up what they’re saying, and subtitles translate, but it’s not really necessary, their body language shouts loud.

If you want to see raw human body language, showing fear, courage, doubt, regret and indecision, it’s all here.

Trailer: TEN METER TOWER by Axel Danielson & Maximilien Van Aertryck from Plattform Produktion on Vimeo.

Each participant was a volunteer, and about seven out of ten went ahead and made the jump.  30% made the slow climb back down the stairs.  The number of jumpers is probably a bit higher than it would otherwise have been as people felt some pressure to jump as it was all so obviously and visibly being recorded, and having seen older people jump, younger people felt they should, and some men felt that as women had jumped they had to.


You can find the full film, which is only 16 minutes long at The New York Times Documentary Channel.  It’s well worth the time.

How Would Joe Biden’s Memo Play In Your Management Team?

Today is Joe Biden’s last full day as Vice President.  Whilst most of the internet will be mourning the loss of some great meme worthy photos, others will be reflecting on what his contribution to American life has been over the last 44 years.  For many employees and mangers the recent publication of his November 2014 memo to staff will be the action they’ll be thinking of.


Here’s the text of what Joe Biden Said in that memo:

To my wonderful staff,

I would like to take a moment and make something clear to everyone.  I do not expect nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work.  Family obligations include but are not limited to family birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, any religious ceremonies such as first communions and bar mitzvahs, graduations, and times of need such as an illness or a loss in the family.  This is very important to me.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that if I find out that you are working with me while missing important family responsibilities, it will disappoint me greatly.  This has been an unwritten rule since my days in the Senate.

Thank you for all the hard work.

Have you seen a similar memo or email from your boss?  How would such a memo be received in your workplace?

It’s worth thinking about the memo in the context of the differing working environment between the US and UK.

Here in the UK employees have far more holiday time to book out for family responsibilities,  parents get maternity and paternity leave to care for babies and themselves, and the right to request flexible working to manage family commitments, none of which are common in the US.  Europeans are generally horrified when they learn that in the USA there is no legal right to paid holiday, only Sri Lanka (in countries with a population over 150,000) has the same rule, and even there retail and office workers have a 14 day minimum.

On the map below the darker the colour, the more paid leave employees are entitled to (except white, where no data exists). Click the map for more.


Here’s Joe Biden talking about why he sent the memo, and how his experience of single fatherhood shaped his view on how to manage his work life balance and help his employees manage theirs…

Eleven Smart Questions To Ask

When you feel a little stuck in a meeting or interview, it’s great to have some go to questions that get the other person talking and give you the kind of answers you need to gain some insight and think clearly.


Here’s eleven of the best that you can apply to all sorts of meetings and situations.

·         How would you compare “X” with “Y?”

·         How would you evaluate success in “X?”

·         What are the three most important difficulties you face in achieving “X?”

·         You said that “X” and “Y” are important.  Is there also a “Z” that fits with these two?

·         What does the problem with “X” cost you in lost opportunities?

·         If you could organize this operation in any way you desired, how would you do it?

·         Suppose you had no financial constraints in the next two years.  How would you do “X?”

·         Suppose you could write an ideal equipment specification for this product.  What would it include?

·         How do you feel about the trend toward “X” in your company?

·         You said that achieving “X” will be an important goal for the next year.  How do people in the division feel about your company’s ability to achieve “X?”

·         How does top management feel about the problems you have been describing in completing “X?”


Just remember to switch out X, Y and Z with actual words!

80 Ideas for Sales Meetings

Sales Managers are often nervous of kicking off yet another dry sales meeting.  Here’s some ideas that recent participants have shared for adding an element of discussion and debate at sales meetings.

Topics marked * are great for getting people talking and sharing ideas – get a flipchart or whiteboard ready to capture ideas or have a stack of Post-It notes ready to stick on the wall.


  1. Discussion of results against targets
  2. * How can we use teamwork to sell more
  3. Discussion of costs against budget
  4. * How can we reduce sales expenses/costs
  5. Discussion on product prices
  6. * How can we get better prices/reduce give-aways
  7. Planning selling time
  8. * Planning to improve prospecting for new customers
  9. * How to plan for more effective territory coverage
  10. Pre-planning calls on buyers and non-buyers
  11. The purpose and value of company paperwork
  12. The importance of keeping adequate customer records
  13. Writing more creative and helpful reports
  14. * How could we simplify company processes
  15. * How to sell the full range of products/services
  16. Using current advertising to support sales presentations
  17. * New products needed to ‘plug holes’ in current range
  18. Selective selling: setting product priorities
  19. * How to find and attack competitors’ strongholds
  20. * Comparing the product range with competitors
  21. Discussing future plans for major exhibitions
  22. * Possible advantages of holding in-company exhibitions
  23. * How to develop and use Case Histories
  24. Re-opening dormant accounts (except bad payers)
  25. How to identify slow payers in advance
  26. * The best way to ask for money owing to us
  27. Individual self-analysis to improve effectiveness
  28. Individual team members’ plans for own self-development
  29. Individuals to give summary of book read about selling
  30. * Additional group training needed to improve effectiveness
  31. Making appointments by telephone
  32. The best ways to improve email management
  33. Getting beyond email communication
  34. Difficult types of buyer and how to handle them
  35. How to deal with ‘I’ve never heard of your company’
  36. * Best methods of introducing company and products
  37. How to capture attention from start of meetings
  38. Questions to develop the customer’s interest
  39. Using your website to support the sale
  40. * Ideas to improve the company LinkedIn profile
  41. Painting word pictures which increase need
  42. Questions which encourage buyer to discuss needs
  43. * Translating product features into benefits
  44. Benefits: How to present capital or revenue savings
  45. How to demonstrate a product
  46. * Developing a survey check-list: getting the facts
  47. Overcoming customer objections and resistances
  48. * Developing best answers to the most frequent objections
  49. Techniques for closing the sale
  50. * How to select the most appropriate close to use
  51. Handling complaints about products: quality, etc
  52. Handling complaints about service: deliveries, etc
  53. * How to reduce customer complaints
  54. Effective presentation of proposals
  55. * How we could improve company proposals
  56. Negotiation techniques: exchanging concessions
  57. * Listing concessions which buyers usually try to get
  58. * Listing concessions we can make which are not too costly
  59. Making more effective customer presentations
  60. * Individual role-plays on product presentations
  61. Introduction of Customer Care programme
  62. * How to improve customer relationships
  63. ‘Professionalism in Selling’
  64. ‘Good Human Relations in Selling’
  65. ‘Developing a Reasoned Logical Approach to Selling’
  66. *The Power of Enthusiasm in Selling’
  67. ‘The Development of a ‘Service’ Attitude to Customers’
  68. ‘How to Sell a Service’
  69. ‘Eliminating Negative Language and Attitudes from Selling’
  70. ‘Influencing with Integrity’
  71. ‘The Best Sale I ever made’
  72. ‘The Most Difficult Sale I ever made’
  73. ‘The Greatest Selling Mistake I ever made’
  74. ‘My Recipe for Selling Success’
  75. Invite speakers from other departments in the company
  76. Invite outside speakers or buyers from business/industry
  77. Hold Brains Trust meeting with colleagues and outsiders present
  78. Organise revision and quiz on specific product knowledge (with prizes)
  79. Select individual salesperson to organise/administer meeting
  80. Select individual salesperson to chair meeting (with manager present)


  1. What’s on the agenda for our next sales meeting

What would you add?


How To Ask High-Leverage Questions

High- Leverage questions are a unique kind of open-ended question.  They require people to do more than respond and carry on a conversation—they require people to engage in high-level thinking that may produce new insights or value.  In their simplest form, High- Leverage questions may ask people to evaluate or analyse, speculate, or express feelings.


Evaluate or Analyse

  • How would you compare “X” with “Y?”
  • How would you evaluate success in “X?”
  • What are the three most important difficulties you face in achieving “X?”
  • You said that “X” and “Y” are important.  Is there also a “Z” that fits with these two?
  • What does the problem with “X” cost you in lost opportunities?


  • If you could organize this operation in any way you desired, how would you do it?
  • Suppose you had no financial constraints in the next two years.  How would you do “X?”
  • Suppose you could write an ideal equipment specification for this product.  What would it include?

Express Feelings

  • How do you feel about the trend toward “X” in your organisation?
  • You said that achieving “X” will be an important goal for the next year.  How do people in the division feel about your organisation’s ability to achieve “X?”
  • How does management feel about the problems you have been describing in completing “X?”

As ever, your questions should be brief and clear, open ended, relevant and phrased to encourage a thoughtful answer.

Use them when selling complex products and services, or when you are emphasising the value of your offer rather than price.  Make high-leverage questions part of your sales toolkit.

G7, G8, G19, G20 Who’s In Who’s Out

Russia has been booted out of the G8.  It’s a big deal, and now it’s a G7, so what is the G8, or the G7, or the G8+5 or the G20, and is it the G19 now?  And what does the G stand for anyway?


Let’s start with the easy bit, G stands for “Group”, yes it’s that simple, this is a group, not a non-governmental organisation, just a group.  There’s no organisation, no offices, no staff.  Think of it like the most powerful book group in the world, except people don’t talk about books, they talk about issues that affect everyone on earth.

It was a group of 6 when it started out, the six biggest economies on the planet in 1975:

  • France
  • West Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Then Canada was invited along, because Canadians are nice.  Russia joined in 1998, but are sitting it out on the naughty step right now.  The EU gets a seat, but isn’t included in the number, four of the countries already come from the EU.  That G8 group accounted for half of the world’s GDP.

Then there was a +5, taking account of some of the fast growing and hugely populous countries.

  • Brazil
  • China
  • India  
  • Mexico
  • South Africa

You may recognise some of thee nations from our primer on the Brics, Pigs and Mints.


The G20 brings in

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Indonesia
  • Saudi Arabia 
  • South Korea
  • Turkey

But when counting up to get to 20, the EU does get a seat this time around.

MINTs, BRICs, PIGS and HIDeCs – Who Are They?


If you invested your money in the BRICs early, took your profits and got out of the PIGS in time you may now be wondering whether to put your money into MINTs or keep it in the HIDeCs.  We’re not about to offer you investment advice, but we do get asked what all of these mean so here goes …


BRIC(S): Brazil, Russia, India and China (South Africa).  Countries which were tipped for high growth 10 years ago.

PIGS (or PIIGS): Portugal, Italy (Ireland), Greece and Spain.  A group of countries at the edges of  the Euro zone.

MINTs: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.  The economies tipped to provide great growth over the next 10 years.  “MINTs are fresh, unlike BRICs”.

HIDeCs: Highly Indebted Developed Countries.  Odds are you live in one of these.  Not to be confused with …

HIPCs: Highly Indebted Poor Countries.  A group of countries eligible for special assistance.


What will the next acronym be and what does this mean for businesses in the UK?  As the UK can be known by any of the three initials BUG (Britain, United Kingdom, Great Britain), we’re more likely to appear in the next acronym than a country less useful for spelling.


Creating A Person Specification Before Hiring Someone New

A really useful document to create when you’re thinking of hiring someone new is the person specification.  It specifies the kind of person best suited to fill the job.  The real value is in the conversations you have whilst creating the specification.  That allows you to really think through what you need for the role.


Here’s some help from our archives …

In completing the person specification two disciplines must be observed, both of which are essential to the recruitment and selection process.  First, one must ask oneself again and again “What attributes would one like to see in the job-holder?”  and “What attributes are essential?”  Secondly, one must keep constantly in mind that the attributes needed to do a particular job are only part of a whole person’s make-up and that this person will probably work in a social setting where relationships with others may influence effectiveness.

Classifying The Information

A number of methods have been produced to classify the information; two of the most widely used methods are the Seven Point Plan and Munro Fraser’s Five-Fold Grading.

Seven Point Plan

Developed by Professor A Rodger, the plan ensures that no aspect of the person is neglected and prevents irrelevancies from being introduced.  The Seven Points are themselves divided into a number of sub-sections, not all of which will be relevant to every job, i.e.

1.    Physical

What are the occupational requirements in terms of physique and health?  You’ll have different ideas for an air traffic controller than for a systems analyst, but both will have specific requirements.  Be clear about what’s really necessary and what isn’t.  You can easily widen the pool of available talent.

2.    Attainments

These relate to the knowledge and the skills required to do the job, i.e.

  • What level of general education is required?  (Wherever possible, and if appropriate, define in terms of specific qualifications)
  • What professional qualifications are required?
  • What specific job training is required?
  • How much experience in a similar job or in other kinds of jobs is required?

3.    General Intelligence

If expert help is available, specify a minimum level.  You may be able to get someone with a masters degree to help out picking stock from a warehouse, there’s plenty of intelligent people available, but are they really who you want to do a good job month in, month out.


4.    Special Aptitudes

What special aptitudes does the job demand and to what extent?  Consider here mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, facility in the use of words and figures, artistic or musical ability.  If one or more of these aptitudes are required, remember that candidates can only be properly assessed by the use of selection tests.

5.    Interests

How far are any leisure interests really relevant to the demands of the job?  Consider here intellectual interests (crosswords, chess) practical constructional interests, physically active pursuits, social interests (e.g. involving influencing or persuading others) and aesthetic interests (e.g. music, drama, painting).  It may be nice to have someone who shares your interests, but check they’re relevant.  An encyclopaedic knowledge of Cthulhu Mythos is perfect for someone who works in a game or comic store.  Such an interest may not help a dentist much, but it wouldn’t be a detriment either.  Watch out for bias here.

6.    Disposition

How important is it that the job holder should be good at working with others and at what levels?  What capacity is required for leadership?  What importance is attached to stability and to self-reliance?  Don’t rule someone out of a job where they’ll mostly be working alone because they are not outgoing and gregarious.

7.    Circumstances

What requirements does the job demand in terms of personal circumstances?  You may need to think about whether the person will need to be willing to work away from the job location, ready to work irregular hours, or happy to relocate.  What personal circumstances could prevent someone from taking the job?

To boost your organisation’s ability to recruit more effectively, take a look at our Effective Recruitment and Selection course, and our Speed To Competency programme for getting new hires to full effectiveness quickly.

The Only Problem Solving Technique You’ll Ever Need

When solving problems a common mistake is to do things the wrong way round, that is to spend too much time (and often money) on possible resolutions rather than the problem itself. Resolution searching feels like problem solving but it isn’t really, no more than agonizing over  a new item of clothing is going to solve the problem of  not having any friends.


Effective problem definition is critical to being successful in solving problems.   Physicist  Richard Feynman   is supposed to have developed the Feynman Problem Solving Algorithm;

Write down the problem.                                                                                                 

Think very hard.

Write down the answer.

This seems factitious, but on closer examination it makes a very serious point. Writing down the problem involves deciding what is is and what it isn’t. It requires the separation of symptoms and causes and understanding their relationships. It also forces a proper confronting of the problem rather than talking about it in nebulous terms.

Then comes the tough but fun part –  thinking very hard. Thinking productively requires the courage think divergently, to allow abstractions and adjacencies  to wash around  the written problem. To apparently not be thinking directly about the problem at all. This mode needs to transition into convergent thinking to bring the relevant thought and ideas to bear on the problem. Rapid and frequent iteration of these early ideas  is required sometimes the only next step is to start from scratch because the thinking is led to dead-end. Sometimes these cul-de-sacs are no more than false endings, barriers that can be broken through allowing you  to connect to the next piece of the solution map.

Soon (or perhaps later) you will be ready to articulate the answer , and write it down for testing. Often you will have to go back, sometimes all the way the problem definition and begin again.  Great problem solvers don’t see this as failure but as part of the process.

Go problem solve!

The Challenge Of Remotely Managing Virtual Team Workers Who Are Not Direct Reports

We have been involved in some interesting projects recently where organisations have the sometimes frustrating challenge of managing the delivery of work with remote team workers who are not their direct reports. This kind of set up is becoming increasingly common; organisations with diverse operating structures and multiple delivery channels, often have complex ‘dotted line’ reporting matrices that can have an adverse impact on business efficacy.


We noted in a previous article  some of the critical behavioural and process dynamics required to form an effective psychological contract for managing remote teams.  This becomes even more essential when members of the remote (or virtual) team actually report in to another management structure, often a ‘local’ (or ‘extant’) reporting channel with competing strategic goals and objectives. This can occur when the remote worker is not necessarily working from home but may be based in another business unit and only a percentage of their time has (supposedly) been allocated for the remote-working activities.

Networks and Influence

As well as the need for establishing a relevant psychological contract with the remote worker, other psychological contracts need to be agreed with the key stakeholders involved. These people, managers and co-workers, may not have a vested interested in the specific aims of the remote-working team and often negotiations are required to establish methods of working; communications, monitoring, measuring and reviewing that are compatible with potentially conflicting interests, as well as contributing to the organisation’s strategic aims.

The remote manager needs to build strong channels of influence at different levels; through their senior managers (the business leaders), their direct peers and also through colleagues across other departments. In fact anyone who may impact on the allocation of resources – time, money, equipment, processes etc – needs to be cognisant of and engaged with the remote team’s objectives. As we have commented previously, effectively managing remote teams has a lot more to do with leadership rather than management. Good leaders demonstrate a high level of diplomatic skills; taking time to understand and empathise with the needs of others as well as positioning their own requirements positively and assertively within the ‘bigger-picture’ context. They use their extended networks proactively to influence positive outcomes rather than relying on traditional ‘command and control’ management.