Why do boneheads get bonuses?




Being seen means you’re keen

Andy was seething between slurps of his Americano (formerly known as plain old ‘black coffee’).  “There’s this guy at work and he got a massive pay rise this year and now he’s managed to hop over to another company and he’s on £95k a year. He’s not heading a department or anything. He’s got a team of two and he’s coding and stuff.”

“He must be damn good then.” I suggested.

“No. He’s a bloody idiot, actually”

“So how come he’s doing so well, financially speaking, anyway?”

“One thing,” said Andy. “Visibility.”

Visibility is the key. Every time this guy – let’s call him – Guy (yep, my imagination is on freefall today) – achieved a milestone, set something up, resolved a problem he’d send an email out to managers.


Snatching credit vs. giving credit

Sitting with me was Andy’s girlfriend, Yolanta who voiced something that many of you may share:

“Doesn’t that make you an utter tosser, announcing every single thing you’re done. I mean, that’s like the whole Facebook thing: ‘look at me in a restaurant/on a beach.’ It’s so smug.”

I’d say there’s a thin line between having high visibility and being a total cretin and Guy crossed it regularly, appropriating a Wiki initiative that was set up by Andy as his ‘own project’.


Protecting your achievements

Since our conversation, Andy has created coding for a huge client with Guy regularly hovering over him wanting to know when it was ready so he could let management know about it (for which he’d take the credit, not Andy).

Andy lied, telling Guy he wasn’t sure the coding worked and there were a few bugs, thereby protecting his intellectual copyright.  Time passed and Andy suddenly announced the successful completion of the project to all.

What made Andy look more like ‘leadership material’ was not only the fact that he informed senior management of a completed milestone, but that he also named and thanked his team for helping him, copying them into the email.

As a result of his increased visibility, Andy has been rewarded with a handsome pay rise.

As for Guy the thieving Magpie, snatching triumph from below the noses of others, we’re sure that his high paying role is nothing but danger money for he has flown unknowingly into a highly adversarial atmosphere: no ping pong in the canteen there but a magpie fest of feather pulling where Guy comes off looking rather forlorn and burned out.

There now, that’s better: a little schadenfreude to help the coffee go down.



4 Jobs Guaranteed to be Worse than Your Own

You may feel unmotivated, unexcited, and unable to open your eyes at your desk. You’re begging for an apocalypse on your commute.

Granted, there are some rather poor jobs out there and managers aren’t always natural born leaders. But if we step back a few years (or a few hundred), you’ll realise that your yearly appraisal isn’t actually the worst day of your life.

1) Leech Collector

It can be tough in an office environment. The window may be sealed shut, the air conditioning may be broken and Sarah has had a cold since last week and refuses to take any time off.

Why not put all of this aside and become a leech collector? You’ll be walking through marshes and bogs using your delicious blood supply as bait for leeches which you’ll sell to the medial profession. It’s not all glamorous though, you’ll routinely suffer from infections and the excessive blood loss will in due course damage your health. But what job comes without a few kinks?

2) Fuller

Have you ever wanted to become closer to nature and experience the great outdoors for a living? Become a fuller, and get yourself out of that lifeless office!

Once the shearer has deprived the sheep of their wooly coat, your job will be to saturate it with urine and constantly tread it with your feet. The end result is a lovely piece of cloth that you can be proud of.

You can’t argue that this job takes the p***, it requires you to use it skilfully as a cheap alkaline solution.

3) Violin Maker

If music is more your thing, become an 18th century violin maker. You’ll have the pleasure and pride that comes with being part of the noble art of constructing the instrument of the gods.

The 18th century was a time of religious strife and civil upheaval but you could easily put this to the back of your mind whilst cutting into a dead sheep to recover the lower intestine for use as strings.

Cleaning out the intestines thoroughly and squeezing out the bile by hand is most certainly a doddle compared to creating that presentation for the Oxford account next week. And don’t forget, manually scraping off the blood vessels can be considered therapeutic in some way. Just like ironing, or hepatitis.

4) Match Maker

This job is only suitable for those who are not fond of their jaw bone. People who require the ability to chew need not apply.

Spend your day dipping short pieces of wood into a vat of phosphorus. We know this sounds too good to be true, which is why you’ll be doing it in a room that those unlucky folk outside can’t see. We know they’ll want in on the action.

You’ll learn a lot about efficiency and space-saving measures as the dipping, drying, mixing and heating of the poisonous compounds are all done in this one room alongside you.

A trivial drawback to this position is you’ll likely end up with what the regulars call “phossy jaw” in which you’ll develop a toothache and then your jaw will start to glow because of the phosphorus. It’s a problem easily solved however and the removal of your entire jawbone will eliminate all issues moving forward. Every cloud has a silver lining – at least you won’t be surrounded by chatterboxes! We know you hate it when Paul keeps bringing up his holiday in Tenerife.

4 steps to kick ass in 5 minutes


Hit the target in Job Interviews

You’ve researched and practised all the really important questions for your impending interview— and then, as soon as you’ve sat down, they hit you with it:

“Tell me about yourself.”

You knew you’d get that, but why prepare for it? It’s only a warm-up question.

Well, actually it’s not.

Sure, while some interviews might ask it to break the ice or because they don’t know what else to ask, most people ask it for a reason: to get a quick idea of whether or not you’re right for the job.

Really, if you get this right, the rest is just filling in time.

So, instead of regurgitating your cover letter or rambling on about your year spent trucking around Asia, or your home renovation project,  follow this four-step process to impress the interviewer in the first 5 minutes.


1. Identify the competencies you want to show

Go through the role description and jot down how you can match your experience with the required competencies.  For example:

Project Manager:

What they want (the Competency)

What I’ve got (the Experience)

1.Work to understand the customer’s point of view





2. Devising and maintaining complex project plans

  • client request to introduce completely new system in order to cut transaction process time by 30%.  Persuaded them to better use existing systems.  This decreased client spend by 20% and cut transaction process time by 40%


  •  with xxxx client, liaised with 3 teams on 2 continents to draw up client project plan, to facilitate merger affecting 10,000 staff.  Liaised closely with project team and client to keep them informed of scope, budget and timing changes.  Teams completed project to time and in budget despite client scope change throughout the project.


For each competency, you may have a few examples, maybe mixing up the personal with the professional to vary the stories you tell.


 2. Choose stories that show your competencies

Once you’ve identified the competencies that the role requires, you’ll want to match them up to three points relating to your own experience.  To start with, pick three of the following to talk about:

  • A personal achievement
  • A professional achievement
  • A (future) professional challenge/A (future) personal challenge
    (something you will be dealing with and need to solve e.g. getting your Prince II exam; keeping cohesive communication when new partners enter the picture)
  • Hobbies and interests – you may wonder why this is relevant but remember they’re taking ‘you’ on as an individual and they want to see if culturally you are the right fit.


Mix up the personal and professional

Using examples from the both social and professional spheres helps interviewers see if you’d fit into the cultural framework of the business.

For example, with a ‘future professional challenge’, for a Business Development role, you may mention your desire to forge stronger links with local businesses both on and off-line.

For the same role, mentioning your solo hiking trips reflects resilience as you reach your goal: 15 km, 3 valleys and 2 mountains down the coastal path.

Note that many of these experiences may not be on your CV.  You are more than a couple of sheets of a resume so build in what’s not on there or embellish what is.  You’ll be on your way to standing out from the other candidates.

Example outline

So for a Project Management role, you may mention:

1)   a personal achievement – your own wedding plan

  1. what you organised
  2. timescale
  3. challenges

2)   a professional challenge – setting up a department abroad,

  1. how many people involved, timescale,
  2. extent of your responsibilities
  3. any particular obstacles e.g. lack of resource and mention solution

3)      personal interests and hobbies.

  1. Your hiking
  2. Sightseeing
  3. painting


3. Add ‘a tail’

At the end of each section of the “Tell me about yourself” question, draw out more explicitly the competencies that you’ve demonstrated with a simple sentence—a “tail” to your story.

This way, you’re making it more obvious to the interviewer how you meet the needs of the role for which you’re interviewing. Many people can feel uncomfortable with this because they think it sounds like bragging, but using the following phrases at the beginning of the ‘tail’ can help you:

  1. “So, what I learned from this was… ”
  2. “This helped me to develop… ”
  3. “What I got from the experience was… ”


Tailing in the examples I covered above could look like this:


  • “I learned how I could apply my knowledge of motivating people to real situations and ones where there was a genuine risk.”


  • “This helped me to develop the ability to plan projects in fine detail.”


This way, you’re bringing the story full circle, ticking the boxes for your interviewer and, sounding less braggy than if you’d said “I’m obviously highly resourceful and an excellent leader.”


 4. Plan the introductory sentence

I’ve put the ‘intro’ sentence as the last step because this part is generally easier to draft at the end, even though it will be your beginning.

This is the sentence (or two) that introduces the whole piece, acting as a springboard for your three stories.

A good way to come up with this is to think how you’d complete one or two of the sentences below:

“I have a background in…’; I trained at..’, ‘I’ve had several roles in..for…’

then go into your first story, marked in the example below with the last sentence:

“Since leaving college, I have had several roles in both online and offline business development for start-ups and big corporates. I think one of my greatest challenges was…”


5. In a nutshell

  1. Firstly, define the defined competencies, before picking the three areas you’ll talk about that show off these competencies.
  2. Make sure you conclude each section with the tail, so that you tick the boxes for the interviewer.
  3. Finally, then, and only then, write your ‘intro sentence’


You’ll have the interviewer eating out of your hand in the time it takes to boil an egg.



The Job Interview Translation

We’ve all been there, sat in a job interview, heart pounding, palms sweaty awaiting the impending doom of the first question.

And then it arrives…

 “How was your journey here today?”

Your chest tightens, you feel like you’re at Guantanamo Bay. What do they mean? Are they assessing your ability to navigate? Are they probing you for your capability of making small talk? Is the prostate exam next?


There is the distinct possibility that they may actually be asking you if your journey was eventful or otherwise. But we’ll gloss over that fact and translate some potentially cryptic interview questions from “interview speak” into English for humans.


When they say: “So, tell me about yourself.”


They mean: “Please take this early opportunity to destroy your chances of working here. Here’s a noose.”



When they say: “You seem to have a gap in your employment history, could you tell me about that?”


They mean: “What did you go to prison for?”



When they say: “What’s your greatest weakness?”


They mean: “I googled ‘interview questions’ 10 minutes ago when I remembered you were coming. I insist you humour me and my tortuous job title”



When they say: “Why do you want to work here?”


They mean: “Obviously the money’s great and you get a swivel chair, but I need you to put your head in my backside for a few minutes. Go ahead.”



When they say: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”


They mean: “Despite that fact that I know the outcome of this interview will change your answer, and that you’re not thinking far beyond this Friday evening, please pull out your crystal ball and answer my question.



In an economy with so many people applying for so few positions, the pressure is really on in interviews as the chances are whatever experience you have, there’s somebody else who has been doing it longer and knew how to polish their shoes better than you.

Going into an interview with some coaching can put the odds in your favour as being prepared can make you feel confident and collected, two qualities that can make even the most unlikely candidates look appealing.

What’s More Important in Your Presentation? Content or Delivery?

Rubbish wrapped in a ribbbon?

Rubbish wrapped in style?

Presentation day looming? You’re Eddie Izzard, you’re Margaret Thatcher, you’re a children’s storyteller! Unless your aim is to induce a coma on your poor audience, your presentation needs to be more than just words. Your job is to entertain, to enlighten and most importantly, get your message across.

It’s not uncommon to be nervous about speaking in front of a group, but a sizeable chunk of these nerves can be put to one side if you’re prepared and know your stuff. You want to be able to walk out in front of your audience and before you’ve even said a word, convey the message – “shut your mouths and listen to my face, I’m wonderful!”

Of course, you should never say this out loud.

Let’s take a look at a few ideas that emphasise the importance of the delivery.


Does Your Powerpoint Presentation Have More Personality Than You?

Slideshow software is fantastic for demonstrating key points and showing information in a clear and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s a substitute for human interaction and end up giving their audience nothing but lumbar pain and an unnatural compulsion to book in with a Swiss clinic.

In the world of academia, Stephen Ceci, a university professor at Cornell improved his evaluations over two terms simply by changing the way in which he delivered the content. What’s noteworthy is that the content did not change, only the delivery. In the second term of teaching, with a new group of students, he added more gestures, used his tone of voice tactically and generally become more enthusiastic when lecturing.

After he introduced new delivery techniques, the following happened:

  • The professor was perceived as being a more effective lecturer
  • He was considered to be more open, to others’ ideas
  • He was viewed as being more organised
  • Even Ceci’s textbooks were perceived to be 20% better than with previous classes
  • The students’ believed had learned more

But the content didn’t change, just the delivery. Are you getting the point?


Men! Evolution Not Your Cup of Tea?

According to primary school history lessons, men used to spend their days fighting wild animals and eventually eating them. But unless you’re from certain parts of the country, chances are you’ve evolved and now chase fewer beasts through the street.

Men, unless an irate pterodactyl is gazing at you from behind the whiteboard, there’s really no need to cover your throat with your hand. This is a primitive gesture that men make when faced with a threat, which a few thousand years ago may well have been an angry bird with serrated teeth but nowadays it could equally be Jane from accounts who is eager to talk to you about the Weatherspoons receipts you submitted on expenses.

Either way, when you’re trying to instill a sense of confidence in your audience, gestures like this will not be welcomed. Another example is the “penalty shoot out pose” where your legs are shoulder width apart and your hands covering your crotch. This is absolutely fine if you’re delivering your presentation 18 yards from the goalposts at Wembley, not so great if you’re living in the real world.


Women, Are You Shrinking?

Standing with your feet together like you’re in choir practice is not a confidence builder for your audience.  And while we’re at it, leave your hair alone! Women tend to be guilty of this sin and often need to be told to adopt a more authoritative stance.


To Sum it All Up

The fact of the matter is, your audience is human and as such will fail to separate the delivery from the content, which is why it’s your responsibility to deliver the right content in the right way. A presentation should be seen as a way to add some flavour to what you’re trying to say so there’s no excuse for delivering what could be said using words on a page. Text is vanilla, presentations are mint choc chip.


To see what we did to shape up content and delivery in academia and business, click here for the case studies


8 ways to get what you want from presentations

follow uupYou’ve just finished a fantastic presentation and people are gurgling with joy about you/your content/your services.

You get back to base expecting the phone to ring, your diary to be heaving at the seams and working out whether you need an office in New York and Hong Kong.

But it all falls flat as a pancake. Nothing. Nichts. De Nada. And you think ‘Was I imagining that enthusiasm?’

It’s very likely you weren’t but we’re goldfishes: as soon as we come away from the context of the talk, we remain with the shadow of the impact, not the full-on spirit of the moment. This means that you need to be proactive, if you want to pick up on opportunities to:

1. gather support for a plan;

2. acquire further knowledge or spread your own;

3. win business;

4. build networks of influence.

What I’ve gathered here are 8 ways you can create opportunities to get what you need.

The presentation may feel like a main course but often it’s the starter: the prelude to actually doing business. In conferences, you may have so many speakers that they all blend into each other.

Make yourself stand out and keep in the minds of your audience and influencers. Here are several ways that you can do this:

  1. use slideshare.com to post slides to them (the transcript of the slides appears underneath);
  2. post a survey.  Surveymonkey.com can do this easily and send it out to social networks;
  3. send an opt-in form to register interest in products or services. Research has shown that by getting people to indicate interest before you start ‘the sell’, sales can increase by as much as 50%;
  4. write a blog or, even better, have a member of the audience write and post one for you if you don’t have time. Sharing your knowledge with the audience, means that you can then catch it in your own blog, in the time it takes to buckle a belt;
  5. offer a follow-up webinar with a small group, individuals who want to go further into the details;
  6. arrange one to one’s with interested individuals or individuals you’re interested in meeting up with (scanning the audience list for opportunities before the presentation will allow you to catch your prey);
  7. catch names of attendees and have them on your mailing list so you can keep them as warm leads, instead of waiting for them to go ‘cold’;
  8. set up and invite attendees to a forum – online or offline – to exchange ideas and opinions about your content;

One or any combination of the above can help you to benefit from the opportunity of presenting so, no matter what happens on the day, you can still seize the moment and maintain the momentum, and who know: New York and Hong Kong may just be starting points…next, The World!


2 quick tips for productive meetings

Only too often, we sit in meetings, bored to tears by the tangential conversation, the conversation hoggers and the lack of relevance to the agreed agenda.

I’ve put together two magic tips you can use in your next meetings to save your time, increase engagement and maximise productivity.

How not to leak when you speak

‘How not to leak when you speak’ isn’t  about waterworks – yours, or anyone else’s you’ll be relieved to know – but how we unintentionally make certain gestures that unwittingly betray our messages.

Watch this 3 minute clip to find out what gestures you may make and how to overcome the seepage/leakage.

Either way it sounds disgusting. It’s not, though – you’ll see what I mean…


Want to add something on how we can seem more convincing and confident when communicating?  Drop your comment right down there:

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How to increase your ‘Presence’


It's all about connection

It’s all about connection

Some people seem to find catching the attention of others effortless, be it in a job interview, presentation or a meeting.

What is it they’ve got that other people haven’t?



What are the qualities that make some people more trustworthy, authoritative and persuasive?

The good news is that these qualities can be learnt…read on if you’re interested in getting other’s attention (without shouting or doing the Shimmy Shake).

Let’s imagine Eugene needs to stand in front of his business partners and persuade them to pool resources on a new venture.  He needs to appear more authoritative, trustworthy and persuasive so what qualities do you think are vital?

According to work conducted at the University of Lausanne. lead by Professor John Antonakis,  there are a set of twelve communication habits that Eugene would need to adopt.

When Antonakis was conducting the study of what would give people like Eugene that extra ‘zing’, he was actually looking at ‘charisma’.

The Latin root of ‘charisma’, ‘charis’ means ‘favour’ and the whole word therefore translates as to ‘exhort favour’.  In other words, ‘being influential’.  Not every leader or manager needs to be – or can be – ‘charismatic’ with its ‘wow the room’ implication but to be engaging is vital.

Eight of the techniques of engaging others, are verbal:

  1. using metaphors;
  2. easy-to-remember three-part lists;
  3. telling stories;
  4. drawing vivid contrasts;
  5. asking rhetorical questions;
  6. expressing moral conviction;
  7. reflecting an audience’s sentiments;
  8. and setting high but achievable goals.

The rest are non-verbal: raising and lowering your voice, letting your feelings show in face and hand gestures to reinforce what you say.

All these skills are based on Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric that can be broken down thus:

  • Ethos – establishing your credentials and building rapport;

This could be done during a presentation, by Eugene sharing his experience through anecdotes, for example, and reflecting the audience’s concerns and language.  Credibility may be established beforehand through reputation. Eugene may have a harder job if his audience think he had his hand in the pension fund, in which case, establishing credentials through colourful stories may be as productive as skiing uphill in slippers.

  •  Logos – persuading through logic

By showing cause and effect, before and after, theory next to experience, Eugene will be using logic to influence.

  • Pathos – persuasion with emotion

Try talking about something your are looking forward to in a flat, unmodulated voice with no movement. Then do this with gesture to underline points your emphasise with vocal colouring.  That is the addition of ‘pathos’.  Do be aware of cultural variations, though.  For example, more open, expressive movement would be expected in southern Europe than Northern Europe.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter,  a Professor from Harvard in her blog ‘Why you need Charisma’,  says that it’s how well you listen as opposed to being heard, that will make you influential.  For her, ‘charisma’ is the quality of silence as well as speech.

According to Professor Kanter, active listening is vital:  the questions you ask to seek understanding, reflecting back key phrases, steering a conversation through non-verbals.

Whether in a presentation or the Q and A afterwards both the verbal and non-verbal engagement will be vital.  In meetings, pitches, and interviews getting the balance between active listening and speaking in an engaging way will mean that you have presence.  Both Professors Antonakis and Kanter are spot on.