So exactly how do we value time?

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I recently had breakfast with a senior partner of an exceptional accounting firm in London, he is a personal friend and associate, we often meet to discuss many strategic topics and met to discuss my new book, “Meaningful Conversations”. During the course of breakfast we decided to focus on one of his questions: ‘What is the most valuable commodity we all have today?’ The answer I gave was ‘time’.

So, what exactly is time and how do we qualify time?

According to Wikipedia, Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as the fourth dimension, along with the three spatial dimensions.

Actually, time is something none of us can get more of, so the management of time is one of the most important aspects of what you need to do as a purposeful leader.

One of the best analogies you can use in your company regarding time is asking your employees to equate one hour of time to one pound. When I was in corporate management, I would ask my directors who entered my door:
1. Is that a one pound decision?
2. One hundred pound decision?
3. Or a one thousand pound decision?
If they would answer option 3 they could take a seat.

It really is helpful to look at your time just as you look at investing your money. Because, in essence, you are looking for the same result: you are looking for the best return on your time.

Taking this thought process one step further, let’s ask the question, “Who am I spending my time with?” All too often, managers spend their time where the problems are, not where the results are. While we need to deal with problems, we want our focus to be on results. Our job as leaders puts us in a position where we have to deal with problems and poor performance. But we need some parameters to help us understand both the issue of time and the investment of time.

One of the most touted management/leadership teachings out there is: “Spend 80 percent of your time with your top performers.” Another is: “Your team should be measured based on the 20 percent top performers, 70 percent role players and 10 percent poor performers.” In theory, I agree. But I think these teachings fall short. Not enough is written, or taught, about the critical 80 percent of your workforce and how to improve their performance through minimum performance standards.

Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country.

In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples.

In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy.

Thai’s do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In the UK the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind.

Let us begin with the American concept of time, for their’s is the most expensive, as anyone who has had to deal with American doctors, dentists or lawyers will tell you.

For an American, time is truly money. In a profit-oriented society, time is a precious, even scarce, commodity. It flows fast, like a mountain river in the spring, and if you want to benefit from its passing, you have to move fast with it. Americans are people of action; they cannot bear to be idle. The past is over, but the present you can seize, parcel and package and make it work for you in the immediate future. In the U.S. you have to make money, otherwise you are nobody. If you have 40 years of earning capacity and you want to make $4 million, that means $100,000 per annum. If you can achieve this in 250 working days, that comes to $400 a day or $50 an hour. With this orientation American’s can say that their time costs $50 an hour. Americans also talk about wasting, spending, budgeting and saving time.

This seems logical enough, until one begins to apply the idea to other cultures. Has the Portuguese fisherman, who failed to hook a fish in two hours, wasted his time? Has the Sicilian priest, failing to make a convert on Thursday, lost ground? Have the German composer, the French poet, the Spanish painter, devoid of ideas last week, missed opportunities that can be qualified in monetary terms?

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The Americans are not the only ones who sanctify timekeeping, for it is practically a religion in Switzerland and Germany, too. These countries, along with Britain, the Anglo-Saxon world in general, the Netherlands, Austria and Scandinavia, have a linear vision of time and action. They suspect, like the Americans, that time is passing (being wasted) without decisions being made or actions being performed.

These groups are also monochronic; that is, they prefer to do only one thing at a time, to concentrate on it and do it within a fixed schedule. They think that in this way they get more things done — and more efficiently. Furthermore, being imbued with the Protestant work ethic, they equate working time with success: the harder you work — the more hours, that is — the more successful you will be and the more money you will make. This idea makes perfect sense to American ears, would carry less weight in class-conscious Britain, and would be viewed as entirely unrealistic in Southern European countries, where authority, privilege and birth right negate the theory at every turn. In a society such as existed in the Soviet Union, one could postulate that those who achieved substantial remuneration by working little (or not at all) were the most successful of all.

Richrd Lewis who wrote “When Cultures Collide” has a view that in countries inhabited by linear-active people, time is clock- and calendar- related, segmented in an abstract manner for our convenience, measurement, and disposal. In multi-active cultures like the Arab and Latin spheres, time is event- or personality-related, a subjective commodity which can be manipulated, molded, stretched, or dispensed with, irrespective of what the clock says.

“I have to rush,” says the American, “my time is up.” The Spaniard or Arab, scornful of this submissive attitude to schedules, would only use this expression if death were imminent.

In a Buddhist culture (e.g., Thailand, Tibet), not only time but also life itself goes around in a circle. Whatever we plan, however we organize our particular world, generation follows generation; governments and rulers will succeed each other; crops will be harvested; monsoons, earthquakes and other catastrophes will recur; taxes will be paid; the sun and moon will rise and set; stocks and shares will rise and fall. Even the Americans will not change such events, certainly not by rushing things.

Cyclic time is not seen as a straight road leading from our feet to the horizon, but as a curved one which in one year’s time will lead us through “scenery” and conditions very similar to what we experience at the present moment. Observers of cyclic time are less disciplined in their planning of the future, since they believe that it cannot be managed and that humans make life easier for themselves by “harmonising” with the laws and cyclic events of nature. Yet in such cultures a general form of planning is still possible, for many things are fairly regular and well understood.

As a business leader, you must understand the value of making a time management decision on where to spend your time to get the most beneficial results for your company. Your top 20 percent will always perform at a high level, and you do need to devote time to coaching them to even greater success. That’s a very good use of 80 percent of your time and effort. The other 20 percent of your time, focused on the remaining 80 percent of your workforce or team, should be used to establish, communicate and promote the minimum standards for working at your company. The message you want to communicate is, “You have to work at a certain level if you want to work here.” You must clearly establish that you no longer allow employees to come to work and just exist without being accountable to minimum standards.

If you adopt this concept, you will find that 80 percent of your employee base will contribute to the growth and success of your company or department, and your top 20 percent performers will be inspired to try even harder. The point is, your top performers will always perform at a high level. You do need to invest your time with them to coach them to even greater success. Using the remaining 20 percent of your time to raise the standards of the other 80 percent of your employees will create an environment of incremental growth through your largest body of employees.

What is the conclusion around the true worth of time?

My belief is, know your value and do not accept being treated in a way less than you deserve. You must have realistic expectations, demands and a sense of entitlement. I am saying that as an individual you need to be treated the way you treat others, and vice versa. The minute you negotiate your self-worth and accept less, you say to the universe that you do not deserve any better, and the vicious cycle/patterns will start to begin. Change for yourself and of course, friends and partners are a great mirror reflections that help you grow.

Finally, time is not money, the truth of the matter is ‘the time is money’ adage has got us all into a lot more trouble than we realise. Because we live our lives based on the misleading premise that time is money, we attempt to do more in less time. We begin to confuse activity with productivity, as if the ‘doing’ will grant us ‘being’. Inadvertently, we jump on the hamster wheel, running as fast as we can with a competitive mentality about the clock and what it supposedly represents in our lives and in the lives of others. We have a negative relationship with time that gives us a sense of time starvation instead of abundance. Even our precious vacation time is not immune from the time-money equation.

This quote is an inspiring reminder:

“But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you, you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

Why is customer service constantly so bad in the UK?

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Possibly one of my biggest push buttons in business today is customer service – businesses are so focused on enticing new customers that they often disregard the value of their existing ones. The impact of this is highlighted in new research which estimates that UK businesses lose £12 billion every year as a result of poor customer service.

The research, conducted by NewVoiceMedia, shows that 93% of respondents have switched business at least once in the last year because of poor customer service and a third of 16 to 24 year-olds will post online if they are unhappy with the service they are receiving.

The statistics are impressive, but not surprising. For years companies have focused on making customer service as cost effective as possible, rather than providing a genuinely valuable service. Now that social media has given consumers a public and increasingly powerful voice brands are paying a hefty price.

The flip side of this is that after receiving good service, 71% would recommend the company to others and 44% would use the company more frequently.

In social media, customer service has been something of an afterthought and is still very much in its infancy. Research tells us that whilst 70% of Marketing departments are involved in social media, only 19% of Customer Service teams are using social channels. As the buying power of Generation Y increases, brands will have to think carefully about whether they can afford to ignore it any longer.
Some companies, O2 being an obvious example, have really taken to Social Customer Service and are succeeding in treating customers as individuals and responding in a human voice. What we need is for that to be applied to all Customer Service channels and to see a joined up approach between them.

A quarter of adults believe the UK’s general levels of customer help are under-par – with telecoms, energy companies, banks and building societies coming under fire for providing the very worst service of all.

Customer satisfaction in the UK is at its lowest level since July 2010. Across all sectors the goalposts have moved and customers now expect to be involved in a real dialogue with brands – they no longer accept one-way communication. Yet many organisations are struggling to grasp this shift from a transactional to a relationship economy .

One key indicator of this dissatisfaction is how customers view the responsiveness of organisations. According to The Institute’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) some of the biggest frustrations that customers have relate to the speed of complaint handling and the attitude and abilities of staff. Under these two metrics, organisations are still scoring, on average, lower than they were in 2013. In a new economy this deficiency must be addressed, given that it is speed which plays such a significant role in customer service.

The reputational risk of inaction has never been higher, with evidence suggesting that one in three customers will turn to social media for a resolution if they want a rapid response.

On top of these pressures, many businesses have struggled to make the necessary significant investment of time and money in customer service, as budgets tightened during the global economic downturn. A short-term approach will not make an impact on revenues and profitability, so where should this investment be focused?

good-service-makes-the-difference

But why is British customer service so bad?

Customers should be at the heart of the sales process, empowered by technology. Yet in most cases it seems as though technology is taking on the role of dealing with customers. Even when you navigate the myriad of options on the phone and get through to a human, most answers that they provide are robotic.

So, what is the conclusion:

First and foremost, a customer service culture needs to be led from the top so that there is a clear and visible objective. There is no quick fix – its importance must be instilled across and throughout the business. After all, the impact on the bottom line is significant. The retail food sector demonstrates this – our research shows that companies performing above average in terms of customer satisfaction outperform their below average competitors by up to 3%.

Leaders must ensure that all employees have the requisite skills and authority to deal with difficult customer complaints. Customers can come into contact with any member of staff through social media, telephone, email or a face-to-face meeting, making it crucial that employees are supported and have the emotional intelligence to deal with issues in a consistent, appropriate manner.

For this to happen, management must also give greater independence to individuals, allowing them to manage the speed of response that will win customers over and ensure their loyalty. For too long, customer-facing staff have been seen as a low paid and low skilled group that can be brought in seasonally. But they represent the organisation at the most important time – when dealing with customers.

With over 70% of the UK’s working population working in customer-facing roles, making customer satisfaction central to any business’ objectives should be obvious. The likes of Morrisons and Halfords have led from the top on this issue with appointments of customer-focused CEOs, but there is a long way to go.

If the UK is to accelerate growth, businesses of all sizes must appreciate the changing dynamic of the customer-brand relationship. If they do not, they will lose market share to their competitors that get it.

John Russell once said:

“The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.”

Has technology killed love and romance?

love-and-romance

The London transport system commonly renowned for ‘The Tube’ and ‘Mind the Gap’ reliably transports 1.34 billion people a year across its network and the busiest train station in London is Waterloo station which commutes 95.1 million passengers a year (research provided by transport for London http://tflgov.uk). The most common factor in any commuters possession is a mobile device, catching up of online dating, facebook, linkedin, email or an embarrassing phone call for everyone to hear to the date, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband about what is wrong with the relationship.

The facts, do we actually have time for our most precious relationships, do we give the time to build lasting, loving relationships around trust and values or do we constantly feel we can always do better with the latest api or technology app?

As children, we are taught that there will be one true love and that they’re going to solve all our problems and we’ll be happy forever, we are taught to wait for our perfect fit. But that’s not really how it works, is it?

Staggering advances in technology, communications and sciences across the world is one of the defining aspects of the last few decades. From social media websites to free video calling services from anywhere in the world just being a phone’s click away it would appear that the millennial generation has it all. But if we move past all the smartphones and gadgets and websites and take a hard look at the lives of Gen Y, we will notice that dating has become harder than ever.

Some people find it easy to fall in love, others not so much. We tend to fall in love with people who meet a certain criteria in our mind. This subconscious criterion is based on our past experiences, relationship with our parents or events that have happened in our lives. Based on each individual’s subconscious criterion, the reasons vary from person to person on why it’s so hard to fall in love.
When you think about it, despite feeling difficult, the problems people struggle with in dating sound pretty trivial.

For instance, we have been walking and talking our entire lives, yet walking up to an attractive person and opening our mouths to say “hi” can feel impossibly complex to us. People have been using a phone since they were children, yet given the agony some go through just to dial a person’s phone number, you would think they were being waterboarded. Most of us have kissed someone before and we have seen hundreds of movies and instances in real life of other people kissing, yet we still stare dreamily into the object of our affection’s eyes hour after hour, telling ourselves we can never find the “right moment” to do it.

Why? It sounds simple, but why is it so hard?

We build businesses, write novels, scale mountains, help strangers and friends alike through difficult times, tackle the thorniest of the world’s social ills — and yet, when we come face-to-face with someone we find attractive, our hearts race and our minds are sent reeling. And we stall.

Dating advice often compares improving one’s dating life to improving at some practical skill, such as playing piano or learning a foreign language. Sure, there are some overlapping principles, but it’s hard to imagine most people trembling with anxiety every time they sit in front of the keyboard. And I have never met someone who became depressed for a week after failing to conjugate a verb correctly. They are just not the same.

Generally speaking, if someone practices piano daily for two years, they will eventually become quite competent at it. Yet many people spend most of their lives with one romantic failure after another.

Why?

What is it about this one area of life that the most basic actions can feel impossible, that repetitive behaviour often leads to little or no change, and that our psychological defense mechanisms run rampant trying to convince us to not pursue what we want?

Why dating and not, say, skiing? Or even our careers? Why is it that a person can conquer the corporate ladder, become a militant CEO, demanding and receiving the respect and admiration of hundreds of brilliant minds, and then flounder through a simple dinner date with a beautiful stranger?

As children, none of us get 100% of our needs met. This is true of you. It is true of me. It is true of everyone. The degree of which our needs are not met varies widely, and the nature of how our needs are unfulfilled differs as well. But it is the sad truth about growing up: we have all got baggage. And some of us have a lot of it. Whether it is a parent who did not hold us enough, who didn’t feed us regularly enough, a father who was not around often, a mother who left us and moved away, being forced to move from school to school as a child and never having friends — all of these experiences leave their mark as a series of micro-traumas that shape and define us.

The nature and depth of these traumas imprint themselves onto our unconscious and become the map of how we experience love, intimacy and sex throughout our lives.

Psychologists believe that romantic love occurs when our unconscious becomes exposed to someone who matches the archetype of parental love we experienced growing up, someone whose behaviour matches our emotional map for intimacy. Our unconscious is always seeking to return to the unconditional nurturing we received as children, and to re-process and heal the traumas we suffered.
In short, our unconscious is wired to seek out romantic interests who it believes will fulfill our unfulfilled emotional needs, to fill in the gaps of the love and nurturing we missed out on as kids. This is why the people we fall in love with almost always resemble our parents on an emotional level.

AppleMark

AppleMark

The attributes that have come to define us and the overexposure that the 21st century human is subjected to leaves no dearth of psychological problems. More and more people each year are diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety problems. This becomes a detriment when it comes to dating. With dissatisfying home, office or academic environments the relationship in many cases become the dumping ground for emotional baggage.

While sometimes it is good to share and spell out feelings as they stand, it is not healthy to keep using your date as an emotional crutch over and over again. It is therefore advisable to work on your trust, abandonment or other issues before embarking on healthy dating choices.

We as human beings have a nasty tendency to crave for more in every aspect of our lives. Before we desire more, we have to learn to be grateful with what we already posses, only that is going to help us obtain more.

Life is confusing, and dating nowadays is more confusing than it has ever been.

Everyone is a commitmentphobe, everyone has attachment issues, no one takes anything seriously.

Maybe there aren’t any right or wrong answers, maybe nothing is black or white. Maybe life is just a big grey blob and you’re meant to create your own rules as you go along; not what that dating book said, or the advice your friends or your therapist gave you.

The fact of the matter is, romance isn’t dead – we’re just in danger of neglecting it. My advice? Visit your Grandmother and Grandfather and have them re-tell stories of how she was wooed by your grandfather; how they spent evenings dancing on the kitchen tiles and how a love note said it way better than a sweeping 140-character tweet.

Brene Brown puts these words into gret prospective:

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Quantity business relationship vs quality business relationship

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While businesses tend to want as many clients as they can get, what good would getting the client be without the ability to retain them? If a business is busy taking on too many projects to produce quality products and services for their client, it’s likely that they will lose them. On the other hand, if a business paces itself and spends quality time making new connections and building relationships, they are more likely to retain the relationships and be able to move forward with the next ones.

Even though large quantities can appear as an alluring and successful sign of business, it’s easy to imagine how many clients of a quantity-focused company are not satisfied with the product or service and will not return to or stay with the company. Taking the time to build rapport with clients will increase your company’s substantial business, in turn building your company’s brand and clients’ trust. In a competitive business world, quality leads to quantity.

Michael Simmons’ Forbes article titled “The Most Important Decision You Need to Make When Building a Network”, I feel tackles the questions we are all wondering when it comes to establishing relationships. Creating an extensive network, both personally and professionally, is tempting, but it brings up the age-old dilemma: “Quality or quantity?”

Initially, growth is both essential and inevitable. But at what point does expansion begin to hinder progress?
Research shows, after immense growth, it is essential to re-evaluate your network. Once you have reached capacity, a large-scale network becomes inefficient and difficult to maintain. In order to combat this, it is important to understand that as networks increase in size, quality becomes much more important than quantity.

Instead of forcing expansion, it becomes more beneficial to establish close, valuable relationships. At that point, we must then decide which relationships are most important so that we are best able to foster and encourage their growth.

Focusing on quality should be foundational for any business and extend from the design of the website to the latest product hitting the shelves. The quality vs. quantity debate can be relevant to every aspect of your business. Do you want to optimize your sales processes, marketing efforts, employee happiness and every other attribute of your business? Of course you do. Here are 5 tips to increase business whilst maintaining quality relationships

1. Increase sales with higher quality leads.
The quality of your customer data affects every subsequent step in your buyer pipeline. It’s about more than just accuracy. Low quality leads waste your team’s time on research, data entry and chasing dead ends. High quality leads facilitate better reporting, automation and segmentation.

2. Ensure all products/services are flawless.
One quality product or service is often worth at least 100 mediocre alternatives. Have you ever noticed that luxury boutiques have many fewer shelves than the big box stores? Not only do boutiques usually have higher quality, but they also have more loyal customers, higher sales points and are generally a much more reasonable venture for a startup or the small business owner.

3. Don’t take SEO shortcuts.
If you know about search engine optimisation (SEO), you have probably heard about black hat tricks. These are illegal moves to falsely bolster the apparent popularity of a website, and they are almost always a short-term hack until search engine algorithms catch them and penalise them. A common trick is duplicate content and/or duplicate sites. You might suppose having multiple sites with the same content can boost your SEO rankings, but it can ultimately be your undoing. Focus on one very high quality site instead of several lower quality ones.

4. Nurture relationships with premium employees.
Both high skilled employees and mediocre ones may leave your company, but the loss of top employees could hurt much more. You know who your most talented workers are, so do what it takes to keep them long term. Offer workplace programs and benefits that show employees you respect their personal growth and long-term professional goals. This will help to ensure they don’t move on before you expect.

5. Go with targeted marketing campaigns.
Be a sharpshooter with your marketing. It’s more effective to take the time to research, pinpoint and create a marketing campaign for an appropriate demographic rather than pay for thousands of inserts in the biggest newspaper in town. It’s the difference between hunting your prey in the wild and setting up for that perfect shot, or wildly shooting a machine gun into the woods.

In conclusion, quantity versus quality applies to almost everything in your business. When you think of quantity versus quality what comes to mind for you?

When I think about quantity I think about things like McDonald’s – fast food, get through fast, inexpensive, fast paced, high volume.
When I think of quality I think about The Cinnamon Club – slow, nice high-quality environment, higher price point, more luxurious, more elegant.

The reality of those differences is what makes one a quality experience versus a quantitative experience.

Quantity is really important – it may not be too exciting, but if you learn to get intimate with your numbers and you learn how to break them down, your quantitative numbers will show you a direct correlation to qualitative behavior that can drive the quantitative results.

Calvin Coolidge once said:

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity”.

Launching “Meaningful Conversations” with a book signing at Waterstones, Presentation and Party

My second book, “Meaningful Conversations” was finally launched on 28th January 2017 at Waterstones, and it has been an incredible journey. One that I am so proud of and I sincerely hope you will enjoy reading it.

I would like to thank Mark and Jackie, Sylvia and Liam, and Lisa my wonderful friends who allowed me to dream and who never stopped believing in this book. Without their love, support and constant belief, this book would not have been possible.

Below you will find some reviews and a gallery with snapshots from the launch.

In the sidebar on the right I put some links to selected booksellers – all other related posts you can find here: “My second book”. Also, check out my dedicated site: Meaningful Conversations Book.

REVIEWS

“Meaningful conversations is a brilliant follow up to Geoff’s first book Freedom After the Sharks. Although it is quite different Geoff’s passion and commitment are clearly present!”
Mark F Herbert, author of Managing Whole People

“Geoff has demonstrated his unique awareness and experience of how to succeed in business (or indeed any other human endeavour) by identifying 3 essential success factors. Simple as it sounds, it makes logical sense. Starting with the complexity of communication, he reminds us that without it nothing can move forward. His next step is all about the need for a clearly thought out strategy. Of.course, this is much more difficult to define and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the strategy will only be identified after implementation. The final leg is Growth and Planning. Providing there is good communication and a good strategy, then growth and planning will deliver the results. It is clear that Geoff is talking from a position of knowledge and experience and his thoughts and ideas make a lot of sense. All in all the book is packed with lots of useful nuggets and suggestions. A useful guide for any budding entrepreneur or indeed many CEOs.”
Amazon Customer

“Great book! Brilliant combination of practical guidance on key aspects of business development & growth as well as fresh look at some of the main challenges and opportunities facing businesses of our time. Strongly recommended for corporate managers and entrepreneurs.”
Amazon Customer

“Extraordinary insight into whole range of issues that face those in positions of responsibility. Completely accessible and invaluable guide.”
Simon Halstam

GALLERY