- Discover how a VA could assist your business and your life
- Where to go to hire a VA for the particular skills you require
- How work with your VA and get the best from them
Bethan Trueman has been a virtual assistant specialising in design and digital marketing for five years. Here she talks us through the life-changing benefits of employing a VA and why you may not have realised you needed one – until now.
“For many of us trying to build a business or career, time is the one thing we’re short of. And, in the midst of trying to juggle work and life, we can often feel overwhelmed.
Imagine having someone else to take some of the pressure off by handling some of your workload or the personal tasks that drain your brain and your time. This is where a Virtual Assistant or VA comes in. By outsourcing your tasks, you can free up valuable time in order to do what you do best and focus on the bigger picture of your life and business.
A virtual assistant can help with a lot more than just admin tasks and diary management. They can play a huge role in your business and life, offering skills such as business management, accounts, marketing, graphic and web design, social media, book keeping, IT support, organising travel, and even managing your personal diary and the family calendar (all those school dates? Imagine them inputted and sorted immediately.)”
How to find the right VA for you
“There are an array of highly experienced VA’s to choose from with a huge spectrum of skills and backgrounds who are proficient in a variety of different industries and professions.
You can either go directly to an independent VA operating as a freelancer or business owner, or use an agency (Bethan works through Time Etc and has her own business, TEG Virtual). This way, you are using the services of another business and therefore establish a B2B relationship with your assistant. The alternative is to employ an in-house VA, which of course comes with extra responsibility, and potentially less flexibility than outsourcing.
Not only can a virtual assistant offer all of the support an in-house assistant would, they offer increased flexibility and often come at a fraction of the cost. And don’t think that just because they work from home that they are any less motivated than an in-house assistant would be – they are responsible for managing their clients and also themselves so tend to be highly organised and driven individuals.”
How your virtual relationship works
“With remote working on the rise, the demand for virtual assistants is growing fast. They can support you with anything an in-house person would, but instead of working face-to-face you simply communicate digitally, whether it be via email, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, or over the phone.
Assistants can be hired on an ad hoc basis, or you can choose to work with them long-term. Some might bill by the hour, per task or project, in blocks of time, and others might charge a monthly retainer. If you work with a VA through an agency you will probably pay a monthly retainer for a certain number of hours. How the assistant works and invoices should be established during your consultation, so that you understand the working process from the beginning and to ensure that you are a good fit for one another.
The relationship between a virtual assistant and their client should be mutually benefitting; the role of a VA is an incredibly rewarding one, and assistants often learn from their clients just as much as their clients can learn from them.
From the outset it’s important to discuss with your virtual assistant how much time you require of them, and how you would like that time to be managed. Your assistant should work with you to devise a schedule that works for the both of you, whether that involves weekly calls, blocking out hours or splitting hours over the weeks in a month.”
What a VA could take off your plate
“You can find a VA to help with almost anything. A virtual assistant might specialise in a specific area such as marketing, or website management, or offer their help with a broad range of administrative tasks. They can also respond to emails and take phone calls for you, essentially acting as an extension of you, on demand. But their skills don’t have to stop with just your business – VA’s can take a lot off your plate in your everyday life too. Have them act as your family assistant, organising travel, holidays, repairs, receipts, and diarising events such as your children’s school dates and occasions.
If you’re a busy mum, you could even hire a VA to help out with booking appointments, planning events, and even online grocery shopping. Personally, as a VA specialising in design and digital marketing, one thing clients particularly love is that they get all of the services they need in one place – there’s no need to find individual PA’s, graphic designers, and social media managers.”
The Do’s and Don’t of hiring a VA
With over 5 years experience, Bethan can sure share a thing or two that might help you in your quest for hiring a VA. We asked her as well as top Virtual Assistant business AVirtual for their ‘do’s and don’ts’
DO your research
“You can find virtual assistants via an agency, on social media (LinkedIn and Instagram are particularly great for this), by placing an ad or simply doing your own research. But if you do choose to work with a VA who hasn’t come recommended or through an agency, be sure to do your own due diligence before going ahead. Things to look out for include examples of their work, testimonials, their insurance and terms and conditions.” We at 35Thousand have worked with Time etc and AVirtual with great success.
DON’T think that you’re the only one who can do the job
“Many people resist outsourcing at first, reluctant to give up even the tiniest portion of their work for fear others can’t do it as well. Your business is your baby, and I get that, and trusting someone else to manage your social media, communicate with your clients, and manage your inbox can be rather scary. However, letting go of your task list and letting someone take the reins for you is often one of the best decisions you can make. Of course, you need to make sure that you hire a trusted individual who is the right fit for you and your business, which is where the due diligence part comes in.”
DO establish your communication preferences
“In a virtual world, communication is most definitely key. Good communication will be a determining factor in the health of your relationship between you and your VA. To avoid any mishaps, it’s good practice to establish your communication preference during the onboarding process. Do you prefer to use Whatsapp, email, a cloud-based project management tool, or have weekly calls? Make sure your assistant understands how you prefer to communicate, and how often.”
DON’T underestimate the time a job takes
“It might feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders once you start outsourcing but that doesn’t mean the task will be completed within half an hour. To avoid uncertainty and potential frustration, establish a time limit with your VA per task, and check with them whether the allocated time is feasible before they begin work.”
Virtual assistant business AVirtual says “Entrepreneurs and business leaders tend to work at lightning speed, but assistants are not mind readers. That job you sent through may require a bit more information. Especially in the beginning stages, it’s important to include too much information rather than too little. Ask for questions and make sure they are aware that you are expecting more questions along the way.”
DO be realistic with your expectations
“Obviously it depends on the size of the job, but in virtual assistant land, anything within one week is considered a fast turnaround, and you might find that some VA’s charge ‘rush fees’ for any tasks that require completion within 5-7 days. VA’s usually work with multiple clients and need to manage their workload accordingly.”
DO always check with your VA what other skills they might offer
“Before spreading out various tasks between various employees, check with your VA if they have the skills and capacity to help you first. For example, you might have a VA working with you on social media management but they may also be able to help you with the graphics and video content for your website as well. And if they can’t help you with a particular skillset they may well be able to find someone else who can.”
Do invite them to be part of your team
AVirtual recommends that you treat your assistant as part of your work posse if it’s appropriate, “Adding your assistant to your inter-company networks, such as Facebook, Slack Groups, etc. will make him or her feel part of the action. Scribing meetings is a sure way to increase industry knowledge. Invite your assistant to join off-site and company meetings remotely.”
DON’T refrain from sharing feedback
“As with any profession, it’s important to receive feedback in order to improve and provide a better quality of work. If you feel that your VA isn’t quite on the same path as you, it’s important to have a constructive conversation about what you’d like to achieve and how they can better support you. Also remember that feedback goes both ways, so if you’re assistant is doing a great job, tell them.”
“Everyone likes a pat on the back when they have worked hard” say the team at A Virtual
DO provide your assistant with everything they will need
“As part of the onboarding process, you should provide your assistant with anything they might need in order to complete work for you. This includes logins and passwords, email access, shared folders, etc. If you’re hiring an assistant to do design work for you, whether that be a website, flyers or social media graphics, make sure you give them your media kit including brand guidelines, logo and font files.”
DON’T expect your VA to be at your every beck and call
“Understand that a good VA will be in demand. Although we are very efficient, we do have other clients and each task needs to be managed and prioritised accordingly. Please do not expect your VA to reply to every email within minutes of you sending it. Your VA might consider a reasonable response time to be within 24-48 hours during busy periods, but you might think otherwise. This is why it is important to establish these expectations during the onboarding process, so you can set up your working relationship for success.”
DO organise yourself
“Finally, have your business processes and systems ready to set your VA up for success. By investing in an assistant the right way, you’ll be able to see the value of your investment. Get those ducks in a row and it’ll make the onboarding a smoother process.”
Take a look at Bethan’s website here and her company here.
Time etc and AVirtual both offer highly skilled VA’s with a variety of skills as well as maternity cover and temporary staffing.
If you love reading this article then you will also be inspired by our feature ‘How to Boss your Work Appraisal’ here.
How to maximise the potential of your performance review
Learn to take constructive criticism
What to consider when asking for a pay rise
Appraisals leave you cold? You’re not the only one. Global companies from Accenture to Adobe to Deloitte have ditched the annual performance review model in favour of more frequent one-to-ones and conversational feedback sessions, with increasing numbers of businesses and bosses following suit. (If you are an employer read our ‘Guide to Giving a Great Performance review’ here)
Whether your company has transitioned to a more flexible performance review schedule or is sticking to the yearly thing, an appraisal can be a golden opportunity to steer your career in the direction that most lights your fire while also receiving valuable intel on how to excel in your role (or nab another one). With these perks in mind, performance reviews are something that you can learn to love, actually. Just take the following steps to turn the review process into a meeting of minds rather than a combat exercise.
Avoid ‘recency bias’
Normally scrabble together your year of professional highlights reel at the last minute? A bitesize approach to performance review prep will not only prove far less stressful but it’ll also evaluate your hard graft in the very best (and most accurate) light. 35 Thousand founder, CEO and executive coach Misty Reich explains why timing is everything:
“Recency bias is the phenomenon of overweighting the work that you’ve done not long ago while neglecting to consider earlier work, for better or for worse. This tends to be more of an issue when we leave it to the end of the year to reflect on and assess our performance.”
Nip recency bias in the bud by adopting a more on-the-go approach to career progression, setbacks and learnings. Misty breaks it down (quite literally):
“Start making notes in your phone at the beginning of the year, bullet pointing your goals and objectives. Drop in at regular intervals (every fortnight or monthly) to add notes about significant achievements or struggles. Be sure to capture any quantitative data as you go so that you can easily cite key numbers when your review does come around.”
A chronological account of your performance since your last review will help to get both you and your boss on the same page from the get go and ensure that you don’t forget any of your stellar accomplishments. It’s tortoise over hare, every time.
Market research is powerful, especially when you apply it to yourself. Gathering feedback from your peers will help you to see the wood from the trees when reflecting on your performance. Here’s how to go about it according to Misty (sidling up at the office party is not the one):
“It’s a natural human tendency to believe that our truth is THE truth. This is never riskier than when we’re looking inwards and evaluating ourselves.
“Commit to regularly seeking real-time feedback from colleagues around you throughout the year to make your self-reflection as objective as possible. It’ll make you much more comfortable when it comes to unpicking and analysing anything that went wrong in your actual performance review as you’ll be more likely to approach tricky issues with an open and constructive mindset. It also gives you time to course correct and solve problems that you might not have been aware of before your review even comes around.”
Foraging for feedback needn’t be a painful ordeal either – keep emails, messages and notes of praise from colleagues and clients together in a folder for both easy performance review prep and a daily boost.
Ask the right questions
A Q&A session could very well unlock the key to a coveted promotion or pay rise, but as ever, strategising and drilling down on the specifics will go further than vague endorsement. Misty has a few starters for ten up her sleeve to help you on your fact-finding mission:
“Identify a few peers who have a good line of sight of both you and your work throughout the year who you would trust to give you honest feedback. Then ask them a few questions, perhaps every quarter, to get a scope of how things are going.
“Questions to pose could include:
- What am I doing that’s working well and that I should continue with?
- What is something that I could stop doing in order to be even more effective in my role?
- What is an area that I haven’t yet mastered but that would be possible if I worked on it?
- How would you describe the impact that I have on both the team and the business?”
This kind of intelligence gathering is especially important if your company doesn’t implement a 360º feedback review process in Misty’s view – there’s nothing stopping you proactively exploring where you stand, how you’ve progressed and how you could tweak your performance to the benefit of the business, your wider team and crucially you as an individual. Put the same questions to your boss and you’ll be even more enlightened – just don’t go in on the defensive…
Let your guard down
Whether you sense that a touchy topic could come up, or if you’re looking to raise a potentially awkward issue yourself, go in with grace and keep things neutral. Even if you feel that your boss’ criticism is unjust or unfounded, Misty advocates gleaning the nugget of truth within what’s being said, disregarding the delivery or framing of the situation if it’s exaggerated:
“Bear in mind that managers could be just as nervous about having these discussions as you are – as a result they may choose their words poorly, or they simply may not have had adequate training in how to deliver constructive feedback.”
Relate what you think that your boss is trying to communicate back to them in more objective terms to clarify their meaning and try to focus on the call to action, letting any spiky comments roll off you if you can. That said, Misty emphasises that there’s a line when it comes to poor line management:
“If the situation becomes inflammatory or gets out of hand, look to a trusted HR specialist for support and counsel. If you don’t have these resources available to you within the company and/or the scenario doesn’t improve, work towards finding another role within or outside of the company. Don’t stick around until it becomes an intense stressor if you can navigate yourself into a far more fulfilling position.”
If it’s you that’s broaching a sensitive subject, Misty advises first examining your own motives to make sure that you’re bringing an issue up for the right reasons. “If you’re essentially trying to take a colleague down a peg or two, it’s probably best to get to the root of the problem in a different setting”. If you do put it out there, be sure to seek out the broader context of any conflict first and actively welcome your boss’ point of view. Don’t expect an immediate response or solution either – it’s likely that your manager will need to reflect on the information that you’ve shared to best handle the matter at hand. Misty recommends not carrying the burden beyond this point. Passing on the baton allows you to let it go, at least until the next follow-up.
Know your worth
Doing your homework prior to any conversation about pay is essential, not just in terms of your personal position but also that of the company. Presenting a forward-looking ‘business case’ for a promotion or pay rise is as vital as selling your strengths and achievements thus far – Misty highlights that your boss wants to know how you plan to troubleshoot and continue to improve in order to co-create a path towards your ultimate career goals.
Consider also where the business is at:
“If your company is struggling for cash it could be the case that a pay rise isn’t possible right now, so consider motivating factors aside from financial rewards too. Be prepared to offer ideas – chances are that there’s a real desire to retain your talent so they might be only too delighted to hear your suggestions.”
Still not getting your dues? Ask your manager for a roadmap:
“Rather than demanding an answer or outcome on the spot, ask your boss about any specific gaps or opportunities that stand between where you are now and where you want to go. Request to work collaboratively to craft a plan to get you there.”
If you loved reading this, then ‘How to rock your LinkedIn profile’ may also be one for you. Read it here
You’ve agreed to deliver a speech or talk, put in the hours preparing and writing said speech and the day has come to knock it out of the park/ Zoom meeting. Except that you’re feeling…pretty petrified, actually. No matter how long you spend trying to craft a seamless slideshow or getting your head in the game, this public speaking business is prone to push your self doubt and freak out buttons, even if you’ve nailed pitches and presentations in the past. Here are our top tips for public speaking perfection.
Firstly, heed the considerable speech giving wisdom of author and lecturer Mark Twain:
“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.”
Secondly, know that those jangling nerves combined with your run-throughs in front of the dog will most certainly pay off – you’ve done the hard graft and now’s the time to let your peers in on your considerable wit and insights. Just bookmark the following expert tips and give them a once over next time you’re feeling daunted by the prospect of stepping up to speak. This lot will give you the edge and put your pre-speech heebie jeebies to bed.
Use fear as fuel
It turns out that there’s power in those public speaking jitters. Trust Phil Waknell, Chief Inspiration Officer (what a title) and Podcaster at global presentations specialist Ideas On Stage, TEDx speaker and author of the upcoming Business Presentation Revolution:
“That nervous energy can make your talk really fantastic, it’s just a question of controlling it. It’s the simple things that can make all of the difference.
“Most vital of all is that prep time – give yourself space to thoroughly get to know your talk and consider whether it achieves your objectives and will resonate. Rehearse it several times (five is the sweet spot) so that the words come not from your head but your heart. Even if each version is different, you can guarantee that the fifth will be much better than the first.
“From there, visualise success rather than failure: imagine that the audience has absorbed your call to action and is giving you a big round of applause. If possible try to make a connection with members of your audience before your talk if you haven’t already – it helps so much to know that you’re presenting to a friendly, receptive crowd rather than a potentially hostile audience.
“My final piece of anxiety-busting advice is to avoid coffee before a big presentation if you can. In my experience it not only ramps up your stress response and makes you speak faster than you ordinarily would but it also tends to dry out your mouth and throat, weakening the impact of your voice.”
In essence, hold the latte – your nerves will give you all of the pep you need.
Think like a rock star
Less smashing up a hotel room, more spontaneity and setlists. We’ll let Phil explain:
“Instead of reading your speech aloud, or worse, reciting a PowerPoint presentation word for word, imagine that you are a rock star writing out a playlist before a concert. You’d just decide on the song titles and order in which you’re going to play them to the best effect; you wouldn’t write out all of the lyrics.
“Take the same approach to notes and cue cards for your speech. Write key words rather than full sentences and keep your notecards to hand. Chances are you’ll remember the structure and flow of your presentation and won’t need them but knowing they’re available if required can make you calmer and able to deliver the most compelling speech possible.”
Feel as though you’ve lost the plot? Chances are that your audience will be none the wiser according to Phil:
“If you forget what you’re supposed to be saying, remember that no one else has seen the ‘set list’ and that you’re probably the only person in the room who knows! Pause, breathe and begin where you left off.
“If you say something that’s clearly wrong or very off-piste, by all means have a laugh about it, correct yourself, smile and keep going. Nobody expects you to be perfect – they would far rather you were human than robotic and unrelatable.”
Speaking of which…
Personality over props and PowerPoints
Especially in a digital setting, Phil highlights that it’s important to prioritise passion, positivity and authenticity over static slides or polished PowerPoints:
“In online contexts in particular speeches need to be shorter and punchier as retaining people’s attention spans is tricky. Your audience may not be able to pick up on your body language as they would in person so focus on being as passionate and charismatic as possible in order to convey your points.
“Sometimes this might mean choosing to avoid slides completely so that your audience can see you in a larger window; people tire quicker if they’re being presented with a reel of slides and a tiny speaker next to it, so big up your natural presence.”
Just keep the emphasis on the au naturel element:
“Don’t think of yourself as an actor performing a monologue as someone else: you need to be yourself. Present a speech as a conversation with an audience (even better if it’s interactive) and you’ll be convincing without having to put on a show. Everyone wants to see the real, imperfect you rather than a fake imitation of what you think they want to see.”
That extends to your environment too – set up your space exactly as you want it if you’re presenting from home. Experiment with lighting beforehand, attach a post-it near your camera to prompt you to look your audience in the ‘eye’ and stand up as you would if you were giving a speech IRL to amplify both your voice and physical poise.
Sail through scrutiny
Don’t quiver in terror when question time comes. As always, going in with a game plan will steady the public speaking ship if unexpected subjects come up. Take Phil’s word for it:
“Prepare two lists of potential questions in advance – those that are most likely to come up and difficult queries or debates that could arise. Even if you do get a question that’s not on either list, chances are that one or more of your ready-made answers will help you to respond.”
Still stumped? Phil’s all about owning it:
“Be honest, apologise and offer to look into it and respond offline afterwards once you have all the facts to hand.”
Don’t be harassed by hecklers
Finally, if you’re facing hecklers, don’t let them throw you off course:
“If someone is being hostile or disruptive bear in mind that it’s not just awkward or unpleasant for you but also for your audience. You’re not alone here.
“Don’t get angry or be tempted to raise your voice in response to a heckler. Remain calm, smile, let them speak for long enough but definitely not too long and then thank them for their contribution. State politely but firmly that you’ll be happy to discuss their concerns later but for the benefit of the rest of the audience you need to move on. It’s rare that a single disruptor will continue to cause problems when it appears that the rest of the crowd is on a different page.”
Don’t feed the trolls and kill it with kindness – that’s wisdom for life, not just the podium.
If you found this article really useful we have many more tips in our public speaking series. Part One is ‘Getting your Mindset Right,’ Part 2 is ‘Pro Tips for a Knockout Speech‘ and Part 3 is ‘How to write a whip-smart speech.”
Whether you are in the market for a new job, are thinking about moving, are promoting your business, or are happily employed, nearly everyone has a LinkedIn profile these days. In fact we would go as far as saying it’s as important as your CV or Resumé. Like a digital shop window for you or your business it’s there for all to see 24/7 and is incredibly important to get it right to maximise its’ far-reaching potential. How you write your profile and what you write can increase the number of potential new bosses/ connections it reaches.
Here at 35Thousand we’ve been on a mission to find out how to create the ultimate LinkedIn profile, and because we don’t mess around, we went straight to LinkedIn themselves (no one knows better than them right?). Here, Lauren Jolda, Senior Manager at the ‘Rock your Profile Program’ at LinkedIn spills their secrets.
Craft a standout headline
First things first, LinkedIn gives you the option to add a ‘headline.’ This, says Lauren, is important “Because it’s the first thing your audience will see when they search you on LinkedIn, before they click into your profile.” And if you don’t update it then it will just default to the latest position in your work history. It’s your chance to promote your brand, write something really compelling that represents you and your unique talents.
You can learn how to customize your headline here. But the key elements to include are as follows:
- Make sure you have used 3 industry keywords that describe your job ie coffee barista; programmer; designer
- Explain what you do eg if you’re doctor it could be ‘transforming patient care’
- Add in any special skills (eg experienced computer coder) or side hustles that set you apart from the rest.
Think of your ‘About’ section or ‘Summary’ like an elevator pitch
“It’s a personal way to introduce yourself to people who visit your profile,” says Lauren. “It’s a great place to summarize your professional story and also share what you’re looking for.”
However it’s important not to ramble or write an essay of your life. Attention spans are short so make sure your story is to the point. If you can “Keep your summary to about 4-5 sentences,” says Lauren. “Consider including relevant skills and keywords featured in descriptions of jobs that seem interesting to you – this can boost your visibility in searches. Make sure you focus on your career aspirations and accomplishments.”
Bear Lauren’s following points in mind when you are putting your summary together:
- “Provide an introduction to who you are and what you do”
- “Explain why what you do matters and the value you add or contribution you want to make.”
- “Don’t be afraid to build several drafts of your summary and review them with people in your community who know you well.”
Do not leave your profile picture blank
You may be in introvert or shy away from social media but LinkedIn research shows that adding an image of yourself will help you receive up to nine times the amount of connections than those that don’t one. “Your profile photo represents you, and is a simple way for your colleagues, friends or former classmates to recognize and discover you on LinkedIn,” says Lauren.
Whilst it’s probably not a good idea to add a holiday snap of you in a bikini (unless your business is bikinis) you also don’t want your image to be lifeless. Lauren has the following advice “Make sure your profile photo embodies who you are as a professional, but also makes you approachable and shows a bit of your personality.”
These are her three top photo tips:
- “Make sure you snap a high-resolution photo on a neutral background with great lighting that just features you.”
- “The picture should be recent and look like you and your face should take up around 60% of the frame.”
- “You can also use LinkedIn’s photo filters to help polish up your photo.”
Breathe visual life into your profile with a background image
Your background photo is another visual element that runs across the top of your profile. It’s a great way to showcase your product if you have one, or the brands you work with, or you could add your logo. Lauren says “It’s a great way to customize your page and show a little bit about your interests and passions.” If you are feeling artistic, you could create a layout here that fits with the colours and images of your brand.
Always be authentic
Obviously you can ‘enhance’ the truth on LinkedIn as you can on a resumé, but authenticity is obvious, especially if you have the experience to back it up. Lauren says that, “A great way to add authenticity to your profile is to use the first-person narrative when highlighting your career, accomplishments and skills. This helps you to own your professional story and build credibility,” she says. She also flags that the language you use will reflects who you are as a person,” Make sure that you use language that tells your professional story accurately, authentically and represents your personal brand.”
Don’t fall into the buzzword trap
Depending what industry you work in there are particular in-the-know buzzwords and lingo that your tribe use. Lauren’s advice is not to use buzzwords for the sake of it but to use the language that you genuinely use on a daily basis. “There are a lot of buzzwords out there, but my recommendation is to always describe yourself, your experience and your goals authentically. In your ‘experience’ section, talk about your strengths, accomplishments and the value that you added to your team and company.”
How do I grow my network?
LinkedIn is all about the network – about connecting with others, showcasing your work to your following, posting about company news etc. If you are new to LinkedIn or you don’t have much of a following, Lauren has the following pointers:
- “First, start by connecting with people you know and trust, like friends, family and colleagues who can speak to your strengths.”
- The “People You May Know” feature on the “My Network” tab on LinkedIn is a great way to find and connect with others.”
- “If you want to send an invitation to connect with someone outside of your immediate network, customize your connection request and be specific about why you want to connect with that person.”
Focus on quality connections, not quantity
Whilst great to have a community of followers on LinkedIn, it’s important you don’t get carried away with befriending everyone that tries to follow you. “You get to determine how you build and leverage your community on LinkedIn” says Lauren.“We recommend building a network of quality versus quantity so that you have a professional community you can tap into when you need help and give back to when you can.”
Hone your skills…
Lauren says “Members with five or more skills listed on their LinkedIn profile are discovered up to 27X more in searches by recruiters. That’s why, it’s important to list your skills — both hard and soft — on your profile. You can showcase your proficiency for hard skills with Skill Assessments and earn a badge which gets added to your LinkedIn profile. Our data shows that members with a Skill Assessment badge on their profile are 20% more likely to get hired.”
…but keep them relevant
The problem however with having too many badges (especially if you are looking for a job) is that you may be spreading your talents too thinly. “The key here is relevancy,” says Lauren, “I would make sure you set aside time to review your skills on a regular basis and list the ones that are relevant to your experience. 87 percent of recruiters consider skills to be a critical factor when it comes to vetting candidates. So, list skills that you’ve picked up in past roles or currently have and are aligned with jobs that you are seeking. In addition to your primary job, it’s also good to think about skills you’ve acquired through projects at school, internships or volunteer work that could be applicable for a particular role – like communication or adaptability – and list them on your profile.”
Be SEO savvy
There are particular insider tricks and tips you can do on LinkedIn to make sure that you are ‘discoverable’ in searches. Here are Lauren’s top tips
- “By turning on the ‘open-to’ feature on your LinkedIn profile, you can either quietly signal to recruiters you’re open to work or you can engage your entire professional community in your search. Turning on this feature on your profile increases your likelihood of getting a recruiter message by 2X.”
- “To let the broader LinkedIn community of 722 million professionals know you are looking, just add an #OpenToWork photo frame on your profile photo. When your profile comes up in a search or shows up in their feed because you comment on or “like” a post, professionals beyond your LinkedIn connections will see your #OpenToWork photo frame and can connect you to job openings they’re aware of or facilitate an introduction to a hiring manager. Members who choose to use the #OpenToWork photo frame receive on average 40% more recruiter in-mails.”
- “If you’re a job seeker, listing keywords featured in descriptions of jobs that seem interesting to you can help attract attention from recruiters and hiring managers.”
“Once you’ve added a skill to your profile, your skills can be validated by 1st-degree connections in your LinkedIn network to reinforce their weighting. These are called skill endorsements, which are different from recommendations. When a connection endorses your skills, it contributes to the strength of your profile, and increases the likelihood that you’ll be discovered for opportunities related to the skills you have.”
Fill in the featured section
If you click on the top of your profile you can choose to add a ‘Featured’ and ‘Publications section’. ‘“The ‘Featured’ section is a new area on your LinkedIn profile where you can showcase examples of your work that you’re most proud of,” says Laure. “The Featured section enables you to showcase posts that you’ve authored or re-shared, articles you’ve published on LinkedIn, and even external media like images, documents and links. All this helps bring your work to life,” says Lauren.”
It’s important however not to confuse this with the activity section, “Which highlights all your activity for the past 45 days, ordered by recency. This includes your articles, posts, comments and likes on other LinkedIn posts. If you choose to enable it, you’ll find your Activity section located just below the Featured section on your profile or under your Dashboard.”
Promote your Publications
Another way to showcase your skills is to utilise the ‘Publications’ area. “This is part of the ‘Accomplishments’ section of your Profile and allows you to add any articles, books, news or other media you have published. It’s a great way to highlight your key professional achievements,” says Lauren.
Be a multimedia maverick
Don’t just fill your profile with text, the more you vary it with multimedia, the more interesting it will be explains Lauren. “Rich media helps bring your story to life and connect your audience into what you do. You can add photos, videos, articles, website links or even presentations that help tell your career story. Pin work samples you’re most proud of at the top of your profile in the ‘featured’ section or simply add it to your work experience.”
“Use your profile as an opportunity to tell your story, showcase your accomplishments and highlight your skills. Remember, it’s different than your resumé and should be more like a digital portfolio that constantly changes as you evolve and grow in your career. Make sure you set aside time to update your profile on a regular basis to bring your career story to life.”
LinkedIn is also offering more than 600 LinkedIn Learning courses for free to help members build skills for in-demand jobs and hone fundamental soft skills needed to navigate the challenging work environments many are currently facing.
If you enjoyed this article then you will love reading about “6 of the best podcasts for entrepreneurs” here
It goes without saying that 2020 has been one of the toughest years most of us will (hopefully) ever experience and we wouldn’t have got through it without the support, inspiration and positivity of our 35 Thousand sisterhood. We asked 14 of them to tell us which wise words they will choose to live by in 2021. Here’s what they said….
Whitney Bromberg-Hawkings, CEO and founder of flower delivery business FLOWERBX
“2020 has been a huge lesson in operating out of my comfort zone; and it is, simultaneously, the year in which I’ve grown the most, both personally and professionally. So, while I hope that 2021 won’t present all the challenges that 2020 has thrown at us, I do hope I will continue to push my comfort zone and do things that terrify me.”
Visit FLOWERBX here
Susannah Taylor, Content Director of 35 Thousand.com
“A friend once wrote this down on a post-it note and left it in my house about 20 years ago and it has been my mantra ever since. It resonated so strongly with me and still does in that I feel that you create your own life and that it really is possible to do anything if you walk/ edge/ hustle your way towards it. It also says to me ‘Be who you want to be’ and ‘Live that dream,’ whatever that is because we may as well live this life best we possibly can. I felt this strongly even before the Pandemic hit.”
Read Susannah’s article on ’15 ways to find more balance in your day’ here
Andrea McDowell, founder of dahlia business Dahlia Beach
“When you consider that success is 20% skill and 80% mindset, why do we even entertain the idea of imposter syndrome? The notion that we are inadequate or that someone is better than us has got nothing to do with it and isn’t actually true. Carry on and we’re likely to reap the rewards. 2020 has taught me that NOTHING in life is certain except change and if there’s ever a good time to say ‘F*ck it, what have I got to lose’ it’s now. Fortune favours the bold and so I’m going for it. 2020 was a plot twist so there a lot of making up to do.”
Go to Dahlia Beach here
Sophie Theakston, jewellery designer
“I think the one thing I have learned from this time of COVID, is that whilst there are some rules we cannot break, there are many self-imposed ones we should question . I think habits form sometimes in one’s life without our really questioning them or challenging them. Ask yourself if there might be a better, fresher and more positive outcome from changing things up a bit. I have done it with my handling of business matters and in my handling of my kids when challenges have presented themselves during this period. And it felt great to try a different way and face things with an alternative energy. In both cases it also reaped huge rewards. Wishing everyone a refreshed outlook and a productive 2021!”
Visit Sophie’s website here
Misty Reich, founder of 35 Thousand
“I’ve got big dreams (life and business) but I can hold myself back from fully throwing myself at them head on because I feel like it might swallow me up or take me over. In 2021 I am making the biggest bet I have ever made on myself and my future, launching amazing products that I have spent 4 years and all of my savings to create. Now’s the moment and I’m going all in to make it great.”
Read Misty’s advice on ‘How to give a great performance review here
Millie Kendall MBE, founder of Brandstand commuNications and CEO of the British Beauty Council
“My mantra is really based on this amazing quote I read. I can be feminine, hard working and powerful, and just because I like to have my hair and nails done, or wear a splash of make-up or have a revitalising/relaxing facial doesn’t mean I am frivolous or flippant, it means underestimate me at your peril. 2020 has taught us things, we need to adapt and put to good use the learnings of this past year. My mantra is to know more, learn more and fight more.”
Visit Brandstand here and the British Beauty Council here
Debbie Wosskow, OBE, co-founder of The Allbright Collective
“I know this one off by heart after the year that has been 2020. It’s written on a Post-it on my desk – a positive mindset has been essential to come out of this year fighting.”
Visit The Allbright Collective here
Julietta Dexter, Founder and Chief Growth and Purpose Officer of ScienceMagic.inc
“These are our company values. The pandemic, the black lives matter movement together with the real issues of climate change are things we can learn from to build a better world for everyone.”
Visit ScienceMagic here
Sacha Newall, CEO and co-founder of My Wardrobe HQ
“With small niggles such as being grumpy that there are no parking spaces, I will reposition to ‘I’m lucky that I’m in a car and it’s warm’. When a big unexpected bill comes, I’ll say ‘I have work and I’m improving/fixing something that I need to live my life’. When it comes to the bigger things, like when someone really lets you down or treats you badly, I’ll say ‘It’s good that I know this now so that I can adjust my life’. 2020 has been a strange year of challenges and disappointments, and also a rare and precious time with the kids. Family time with none of the pressures of work, routine and sports fixtures have been a huge positive that feels like a strong foundation for the rest of the decade, whatever it brings.”
Visit My Wardrobe HQ here
Sarah Vine, newspaper journalist
“I think my mantra for 2021 – and beyond – has to be the oldest in the book – ‘Seize the day’.
It’s been a tumultuous year, and it’s not over yet. People have had to face the prospect of mortality, either their own or that of loved ones, in a way that hasn’t happened for several generations. Life suddenly seems so much more tenuous, and more precious for it. So live it well, and live it your way. And do it now, before it’s too late.”
Read Sarah Vine’s How She Carries On interview here
Ruby Hammer, makeup artist and brand owner of rubyhammer.com
“I feel like there is no better person to work on than myself. I want to be known and remembered for being kind, compassionate, humorous and awake – living every day to the fullest. In 2021 I am going to focus on enhancing all the good qualities I believe I have, and steer away from my flaws to try and live a more positive life.”
Visit Ruby’s website here
Karen Cummings-Palmer, integrative health and beauty expert and brand owner of 79Lux
“I think we have all learned that tomorrow (at least as we know it) is promised to no one. It can be a cause of anxiety, it can also inspire a fearlessness and sense of purpose to propel us forward – from the simple act of practising Pilates right here and now, to developing a business or calling a loved one.”
Visit 79Lux here
Anh Nguyen, medical physician at Houston Methodist Hospital
“I’ve spent many hours lamenting the lost opportunities in 2020, but in 2021 I want to focus on solid steps I can take to realize my goals. I will try to not focus on the lost time that COVID caused us in 2020.”
Read Anh’s How She Carries On interview about being a physician during COVID 19 here
Sara Quiriconi, actress and wellness warrior
“If 2020 has taught us anything, is that anything is possible. Our job as humans is to be flexible, fluid, learn from our experiences, and grow from them. This mantra comes from my own personal statement, the Live Free Manifesto, ways that I choose to live my life. From my own personal journey in 2020, so much has transformed, or (I prefer) has transcended. When we’re living in a state of “in the moment” where we’re learning from what whatever is present, there’s only one way to go, and that is up.”
Follow Sara here
They inspire dread in managers and employees alike but performance reviews can in fact be a gift for all involved – here’s why, and how to make reviews rewarding (really)
As annual treats go, a performance review (either giving or receiving) wouldn’t exactly be at the top of anyone’s list. Despite this, career coach Elizabeth Houghton is of the opinion that “feedback is a gift” – it just needs to be packaged and delivered correctly by both parties. Whether you’re due to give a performance review yourself or are nervously awaiting one, the following expert insights will make you see the often feared process in a whole new light. Follow these golden rules for giving great reviews and there will be no cowering by the kettle ever again.
1. Abandon annual reviews
This seems like a very counterintuitive starting point, we know, but the stats bear us out. A study by employee experience platform Kazoo reveals that workers whose managers engage in regular, “real-time coaching conversations” are 67% more likely to feel that performance reviews lead to better professional outcomes compared to those that only received annual reviews. Employees aren’t machines and a yearly MOT won’t cut it according to Elizabeth:
“It doesn’t make sense to wait months to give feedback – it’s most effective when it’s timely. Performance concerns or positive feedback should be given in the moment; this will ensure that feedback is more impactful. Why delay supporting the growth of a colleague? Why not support their improvement, now?”
Quite. Checking in regularly also removes a great deal of anxiety, build-up burden in terms of admin and assessment on both sides and the possibility of any unexpected topics coming up. 35 Thousand founder, CEO and executive coach Misty Reich stresses that, if there are any surprises at the end of a performance review, you’re probably doing it wrong. Keeping it regular is the key to reviews that garner results according to Misty:
“I would say the ideal timetable would be to schedule quarterly performance calibrations. If your company still utilises an annual review model, that ‘final’ meeting should be a culmination and tally of what the year added up to in terms of goals achieved and expectations.”
Company leaders assess finances by quarter, at the bare minimum, so it only makes sense to check in with the employees making up your balance sheets at least as often. Jo Clare, senior consultant at business and career development organisation The Oakridge Centre, affirms that a shift away from annual performance reviews reflects the nature of modern working culture too:
“Companies are moving away from annual or bi-annual performance review meetings as there’s a need for all of us to be more agile and flexible. We’re working in an increasingly ever-changing, fast-paced world, so on-going dialogue is essential.”
2. Prep like a boss
Because, you are one, and it’ll make appraisals far smoother from start to finish. Planning ahead has the potential to turn a scenario akin to pulling teeth into a literal meeting of minds if you adhere to a few key preparation precepts.
As well as regularly and honestly noting employee achievements, targets and areas of growth, Misty advises giving your direct report the time and space to reflect on their own performance prior to any formal appraisal.
“Ask your employee to send over a summary self-review in advance alongside any data or metrics that they feel is relevant to their performance. This will give you a hugely helpful insight into how to frame your discussion most effectively.”
Compiling a self-evaluation form with open-ended questions that encourage your report to give feedback on how they feel that they are performing as an individual and within the team at large will prompt meaningful, productive conversation and help you to tailor your agenda beforehand. Once you’ve gathered all the goods (and growth areas), set about structuring the meeting. Misty’s blueprint keeps things simple:
“Divide your thoughts and comments into two categories: ‘what I appreciate’ and ‘how you could be even more effective’.
“Begin walking through what you appreciate about your employee and their results – most of the time the positives far outweigh the ‘opportunity to improve’ elements’ and helping them to identify and continue doing the things that they are doing well is as important as course correction in areas that aren’t quite where they need to be yet.”
Whichever category you’re focusing on, Elizabeth recommends “Frequently revisiting how you would like to receive the feedback you’re delivering; ensure that you’re empathetic and supportive throughout.” Speaking of which…
3. Go 360º
Rather than top down assessments where you play judge and jury, senior consultant at The Oakridge Centre Judith Fraser emphasises that it’s vital to establish a “feedback culture” so that all members of your organisation feel heard. Rather than making assumptions about an employee’s performance or behaviour, prioritise asking questions and seeking feedback on your own management style and how you can best support your workforce. Two-way conversations take the guesswork out of expectations and tricky scenarios in particular, plus they foster respect. Misty notes that this is the cornerstone of effective communication, which in turn leads to rewards all round:
“Build an authentic, trusting relationship with anyone you will need to give feedback to in the future – everything is easier when it’s coming from a place of trust.”
Happily, the CIPD Good Work Index 2020 found that, among a sample of 5000 UK workers, 76% reported having a positive relationship with their immediate boss, proving that the majority of office alliances not only survive performance review meetings and the like, but thrive on them. We’re not denying that sticky issues can’t arrive, however.
4. Don’t drop bombs
The absolute worst way to deliver less than glowing feedback? Elizabeth calls it:
“Never just drop a bomb like ‘You’re not performing to the required level in x’ and then end the conversation or walk away. Your job as a leader is to support your team member’s development. Be clear and get straight to the point, but always in a constructive, empathetic manner.”
Misty agrees that “Making sure that your heart and head are in a good place before you go into the meeting” is fundamental:
“Few of us enjoy being evaluated by authority figures so if your team member does get upset or angry, my best advice is to create space for this.
“Don’t fill silences or rush your employee and, particularly if you anticipate that a subject could cause tension, perhaps adapt your approach and ask in advance how your report likes to receive feedback. This will make them feel more in control of how messages are delivered and how they feel in the meeting and in turn it will give you insight of how they might respond to points raised.”
We’re not always going to be on the same page personally or professionally, and that’s okay according to Elizabeth:
“Make room for dissent, disagreement and diversity of opinion. Be transparent, always explain your reasoning but above all communicate feedback as a development opportunity and express your ideas with warmth and compassion.”
5. Money talks
Finally, Misty advocates taking a clear-cut approach to talking cold, hard cash when initially scheduling the review meeting:
“Manage expectations from the off by stating that you will be discussing how the year went in terms of performance and what can be anticipated in regards to pay and reward, or that you will be discussing how the year went in terms of goals and and will arrange a separate, follow up meeting to speak about any salary changes or bonuses.”
Either way, Misty states that “It’s always beneficial to do your homework beforehand so that you know exactly where your team member stands in terms of compensation in comparison to peers”. If or when money comes up, Misty emphasises the importance of listening and, above all, being honest:
“Never play games – be as transparent as you can possibly be. People may not always be happy with the answer that they get but if you hear them out and communicate authentically then they’re highly likely to respect you and trust that you have their best interests at heart.”
In short, be fair, big up strengths over weaknesses (Jo encourages an 80/20 ratio) and do it all again sometime soon. The gains could just be huge for everyone.
If you enjoyed reading this article then you will definitely enjoy reading ‘How to win at difficult conversations’ here
In the third part of our public speaking workshop (Part 1 was ‘Getting your mindset right‘ and Part 2 was Pro Tips for Knockout Speech) we’ve asked the experts for all of the tips, tricks and teachings you need for a writing a speech or presentation.
You’re due to give a speech, whether at a wedding, work meeting or Zoom conference, and as if your pre-public speaking nerves weren’t enough you’re sat in front of a blank doc with writer’s block. Sound familiar?
It may be reassuring to know that the world’s most articulate wordsmiths can struggle with this exact same keyboard paralysis when it comes to putting a speech down on paper. Speaking aloud has a different rhythm to reading words on a page and it can be all too easy to lose your audience by way of meandering anecdotes, knotty language or complicated graphs and tables that distract from the point that you’re trying to put across (making no mention of recent PowerPoint fails at UK government press briefings).
Delivering an Obama (or Kamala) level speech may indeed be an art and there’s a reason why public speakers often hire a crack team of speechwriters to spin their initial ideas and concepts into public speaking gold. Luckily you don’t need to enlist a scribe to craft a speech that’s memorable for all of the right reasons – learn the surprisingly simple speech writing secrets of those in the know and you’ll have your audience eating out of the palm of your hand. Or at the very least, listening, which really isn’t something to be taken for granted according to the experts.
Knowledge is power
Phil Waknell, co-founder of communication and presentation agency Ideas On Stage, suggests getting out of your own head as the starting point for writing a speech:
“Tailor your speech to your audience: it’s theirs, not yours. Speak to them specifically and personally, using relevant examples and stories where possible.
“If you make it clear that this isn’t the same speech you would give – or have given many times – to other audiences, they will listen more attentively and appreciate the effort that you’ve made to adapt to them.”
In essence, everyone likes to feel special, even in a virtual room of avatars. Understanding your audience, where they’re coming from and what makes them tick will play to your advantage before you’ve even begun typing.
What’s the story?
This may seem like an extremely basic starting point, but establishing the story that you’re trying to tell (or sell) from the outset is key to the eventual success of a speech. Phil explains why consistent, engaging narratives are so important:
“People forget facts and general statements, but our minds light up when we hear real, concrete stories, meaning that we listen intently and remember so much more of the detail in the stories, and therefore the speech.”
We’re not suggesting that you go in with a ‘book at bedtime’ approach, but painting a vivid picture to illustrate your point will capture your audience’s attention and imagination while improving their retention of your speech in the long term. Phil advises focusing on the “emotional journey” of a speech rather than reeling off information or stringing together logical arguments. While the latter approach works well for a written essay, even the most formal of speeches needs to centre on emotional and attention-grabbing ‘hooks. That said, ensure that your register is appropriate for the occasion…
Set the tone
Before you fall into TED Talk induced overwhelm, retired paediatrician, university lecturer and now wildlife photographer Dr Mark Hunter underlines that there are fewer ‘types’ of speech than you might imagine:
“There are three main goals when giving a speech – to entertain, to teach/inform or to persuade. There’s limited crossover between these types and even ceremonial speeches adhere to this categorisation, for example the aim of a wedding speech is to entertain while a eulogy is an education about the life of the deceased.”
With this in mind, Mark emphasises that it’s vital to establish why you’re making a speech and briefly explain your credentials for doing so to the audience too:
“Introduce yourself (it’s rude not to), explain where you’re taking the audience and justify your talk before delivering the main substance. Then end with a summary, conclusion or punchline that’ll resonate long after you’ve left the stage or pressed ‘Leave Meeting’.”
As for that punchline, Mark has a pointer on comedy:
“Tread carefully when it comes to humour. If you’re going there, make sure that any jokes are genuinely funny (road test them on a close, captive audience beforehand) and that you know your audience well. Don’t let humour distract from a serious talk.”
That’s not to say that a phenomenal finale is off the cards…
‘Sandwich’ your speech
Creating a striking entrance and exit is the distinguishing feature of a rousing speech. Just as an audience’s attention is held rapt by a suspenseful, intriguing or heartfelt story, so a powerful catchphrase or statement will live on in your audience’s memory. Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 address to the UN highlighting every child’s right to education is one such compelling close (“one child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world”) while Greta Thunberg’s searing opener at the 2019 UN Climate Change Summit (“this is all wrong; I shouldn’t be up here”) had the world and its leaders hanging onto her every word from the off.
Phil affirms that how you bookend your speech makes all the difference between an attentive audience and an AWOL one:
“Aim to provoke an emotional reaction within the first 30 seconds. Grab their attention and make the audience realise that they will actively enjoy your speech as well as gain or learn something from it. Make them smile, make them laugh (if that’s appropriate), make them raise their eyebrows – just don’t make them bored.”
From there, Phil advocates taking a step back from Microsoft Office:
“When you’re writing a speech, don’t just reel it off verbatim in Word or PowerPoint. Begin with sticky notes or notecards and write down one salient idea per card. Assemble your ideas into a storyline that will reset the audience’s attention every few minutes.”
Mark adds that the average audience’s attention span peaks at between 15-20 minutes, so don’t try to stuff in too much – stick to three main points, max. He advises keeping props minimal (if you’re using them) and if you’re presenting slides opt for clear fonts written large and in monochrome, ideally with headings that ‘fly’ in to prevent your audience from reading ahead. Mark also urges you to construct your speech in a way that will work if tech or add-ons fail you. You don’t want to be held hostage by dodgy wifi.
Finally, if you’re still up a speech-writing creek without a paddle, heed the ultimate public speaking wisdom of former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt:
“Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”
If you like this article then you will LOVE the rest of our Personal Growth section where you can find articles on everything from ‘How to Feng Shui your Office’ to ‘How to keep relationships in tact despite despite differing political views.’
From the US election to Brexit and COVID-19, current affairs have arguably never been more divisive. The Twitter threads are feverish, there’s scrapping in the WhatsApp groups and frankly let’s not go there with Facebook, but how do you handle significant differences in opinion and home politics when the conversational fires are raging in your living room?
It’s an issue that many of us are increasingly contending with given the fractious state of global affairs and no one is immune to 2020 familial turbulence. In the US, former advisor to President Trump, Kellyanne Conway was subject to takedowns on TikTok by her daughter Claudia Conway owing to their contrasting political views, with left-leaning Claudia even tweeting that she was at one point “officially pushing for emancipation”.
To add further tension at the family dinner table, Kellyanne’s husband and Claudia’s father is attorney and vocal anti-Trump critic George Conway, who was a founder member of The Lincoln Project, a conservative group whose mission statement is to “Defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box”. Both Kellyanne and George have recently left their roles at The White House and The Lincoln Project respectively, to “Devote more time to family matters” according to George.
Things are no less strained for political families over the pond either. In a recent interview with 35 Thousand, journalist and wife of Rt Hon Minister of the Cabinet Michael Gove Sarah Vine described “Not always seeing eye to eye with government policy” as one of the most significant professional challenges she’s faced during the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the fact that “It occasionally makes things awkward at home”.
While most of us aren’t quite so directly embedded in the cut and thrust of day to day politics, heated disputes on the subject of everything from who to vote for to how to interpret COVID-19 restrictions can threaten to split up friendships and cause fault lines in family dynamics. A clash of views needn’t be insurmountable, however, and experts insist that exchanging and explaining opposing perspectives can in fact make relationships stronger and healthier. Just bear the following ‘minimal fallout’ advice in mind to keep things civil.
Start with the three ‘C’s
That’s compassion, common ground and curiosity. Dr Mara Klemich, Consulting Psychologist and Neuropsychologist, explains how to take on hot topics with extra TLC:
“The very best way to start any discussion is by looking for the good in the other person’s views. Even if there are only a few small things that you can agree on, begin the conversation from a position of agreement and emphasise the warmth, trust, and openness that your relationship is built on.”
Psychotherapist Dr Nicole Gehl agrees that exercising compassion will naturally lead to a more constructive conversation:
“Be respectful in your approach and gentle with your words. People generally respond far more positively to controversy when it’s presented in a gentle manner rather than with aggression. Speaking specifically, this means delivering your message without threats, attacks, judgment or disrespect.”
In short, don’t resort to trolling your friend or family member – greater mutual understanding and fulfilling dialogue is the aim, which is where curiosity comes in. Dr Mara highlights why asking questions is as important as getting your point across:
“Becoming more inquisitive is a brilliant way to live your life in general but it especially comes into its own when applied to relationships.
“When engaging in a tricky conversation, instead of first reeling off your viewpoints and evidence, simply ask considered questions such as ‘what’s your perspective about x?’ or ‘I’ve never thought about x like that – could you explain a little more?’. This can turn a potential argument into a much more reasonable discussion.”
Once you’ve demonstrated your curiosity, be sure to adhere to the next rule of peaceful conversation…
Be all ears
How often have you left a gap in conversation not simply to let another person speak but to plot your next whip smart retort? We’re all guilty of approaching an impassioned discussion as if it’s a verbal war to be won, but really listening to what is being said and expressed by the other party distinguishes a meaningful exchange from a ‘tit-for-tat’ tantrum. Just listen (intently) to Dr Mara on this one:
“Be willing to give the other person your undivided attention and they will be more willing to give theirs to you. Respect the other person and their perspective – after all, all we all have is a perspective, even though we tend to think that ours is the ‘right’ one. Listening actively and thoughtfully is vital.”
No matter how much you might disagree with what is being said, avoid interrupting the other person’s points – Dr Mara stresses that “All that this indicates is that you don’t care about them, only your own views”.
See opportunity, not catastrophe
Psychologist and certified therapist Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari underlines that your relationship isn’t doomed simply because you hold different beliefs on a particular issue – it could actually serve to spice things up:
“You likely wouldn’t spend much time with your partner, friend or family member if they weren’t a wonderful human being – the fact that you see a certain situation differently doesn’t take away from this.
“Try not to view a difference of opinion as a disaster and instead appreciate that it presents the opportunity for a really interesting discussion that will help you both to grow. Remember that you’re both equals, just with different perspectives and experiences of the world. Yourself and your friend or partner have a distinct history, upbringing and belief system that all contribute to influence your own unique opinions so see disagreements as reflective of your individual experiences rather than a personal attack.”
Retaining a sense of humour also takes the sting out of potentially inflammatory exchanges, but Dr Mara confirms that, in this delicate scenario especially, sarcasm really is the lowest form of wit:
“Steer clear of sarcasm – it mocks someone’s personal beliefs and it’s a not so subtle form of attack hiding behind a thin veneer of humour. It’s very damaging to relationships.”
Speaking of getting personal…
Read the room
Keep a check on rising tensions and tempers, both your partners’ and your own. Dr Mara explains that it’s no bad thing to be passionate about the topic at hand (“you have a right to be!”), but don’t let passion descend into powerplay, point scoring or button-pushing.
If emotional intensity steps up by way of insults or raised voices, keep your wits about you and cool off. It’s easier said than done but Dr Mara has some de-escalation tips to put into action should things get tumultuous:
“Take a deep breath, pause, slow down the pace of your speech and adopt a less emotional tone of voice. Bring the discussion back to the facts and if it’s you who has flown off the handle or picked a fight, be sure to apologise. A simple, ‘I can get really invested in this, I don’t mean to get angry’ is a good way to express your own humility and offer an olive branch.”
Still seeing red?
If you’re stuck in conversational deadlock, Dr Mara advises prioritising your relationship over persuading your pal or partner:
“Be the bigger person and recognise that you aren’t going to change their mind, and that’s okay. Close the conversation by affirming that your partner’s perspective has given you a lot to think about and thank them for sharing their views, even if you didn’t reach an agreement or achieve the ‘desired’ outcome.”
Take some time to decompress and then heed Dr Nicole’s suggestion to “Reconnect with your similarities and pay attention to what’s good about the other person and your relationship.” It could be convening over a funny cat meme or making a meal you love – whatever makes you both tick, do that. It’s how you move forward that matters (and we hear that emancipation is quite the process).
If you enjoyed this article then you will LOVE to read Dr Mara Klemich on dealing with difficult emotions here
We all know someone, whether real or famous, who can rise to any occasion, delivering killer quips and holding a rapt audience’s attention seemingly on a whim. Sensational speakers may appear to be imbued with some kind of magic magnetism or innate charisma, but there are no smoke and mirrors where public speaking is concerned; experts say that confident presenters are made, not born. We looked into the public speaking tips and tricks that can turn a reasonably good speech into a brilliant one.
It’s true that some of us are more prone to public speaking anxiety than others, but perfecting the art of public speaking is akin to flexing a muscle – the more practice, training and challenges you take on, the better you’ll become. Just bear in mind that you don’t need to deliver a ‘perfect’ performance. Public speaking PBs are achieved by putting in the hours offstage, just as medals are really won in the gym.
Ready to learn the secrets of Oprah et al? Here’s how to skill-up and step-up, one Zoom meeting at a time.
Eyes on the prize
Whether you’re aiming to inform, persuade or just generally charm your prospective audience, establishing a connection without eye contact is nigh-on impossible. Holding eye contact can, however, feel just as daunting as speaking itself, particularly if you’re on the shy side. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable in the eye contact department, at least initially, you’ll soon reap the rewards in a public speaking setting.
Begin by rehearsing your talk in front of the mirror, holding eye contact with yourself and noticing your mannerisms and body language. It doesn’t matter if your speech isn’t complete – experts estimate that around 80% of our communication is non-verbal, and seeing as eyes are the windows to our soul, it makes sense to let our audience in. The sooner that you can get to work on the physicality of your public speaking, the better.
That said, a fleeting glance doesn’t cut it, as only briefly catching someone’s eye can make us appear more anxious and less sure of what we’re saying. Aim to hold eye contact for between 2-3 seconds, first practising in the mirror and then focusing on maintaining eye contact with family, friends and colleagues in less formal settings. Even holding eye contact with your laptop camera counts according to communication consultant and author of How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking Shola Kaye:
“We needn’t physically be in people’s company to establish engaging eye contact – having cameras turned on you can be an even more intense experience than maintaining dynamic eye contact in person. In this way I think that video can provide an excellent means by which to practice and develop your presentation skills, both verbally and otherwise.”
Alongside establishing a rapport with your audience with a well-timed ‘smies’ (smiling with eyes), practicing breathwork can help to both alleviate nerves and improve the rhythm, clarity and energy of your speeches.
Catch your breath
You’ve been inhaling/exhaling since day dot, but have you been harnessing the power of your breath to get your point across? It turns out that breathing is as much a skill as it is a vital life function.
Breathing deeply and fully into our belly (as you might during a yoga class) not only calms the ‘fight or flight’ response that so many of us feel when faced with a captive audience but it also lends power to our voice, as presenter, actor and author of Improvise!: Use the Secrets of Improv to Achieve Extraordinary Results at Work Max Dickens explains:
“To gain an audience’s trust, how we present our voice and body must match the message that we’re trying to get across. It’s pointless trying to deliver interesting content without expressive body language and vocal power.
“Breathwork plays a big part in this. Practice ‘punching’ out the first and last words of your sentences with muscularity. This will deliver an extra layer of impact and it’s a technique used by some of the world’s best speakers and performers (Youtube is your friend here).
“Secondly, use silences between breaths to your advantage. Pause where you want to add emphasis. Silences show huge confidence, as long as you own them.”
Letting silences linger can feel awkward at first so rehearse using emphatic silences conversationally, allowing communication to be ‘digested’ and resisting the urge to fill the void. As for practising breathwork, everything from yogic breathing classes, known as pranayama, to joining a choir can help you to master the kind of diaphragmatic breathing that improves both poise and delivery. Speaking of which…
Join the club
There’s likely only so much talking to yourself in the shower that you (and your family/ roommates) can bear – joining a public speaking network such as Toastmasters will take your skills to a whole new level. The global organisation of 16,200 public speaking clubs may primarily be operating online for now but the support, learning pathways and opportunities to exercise your public speaking muscles in a friendly and constructive environment are as valuable as ever. You needn’t dive in at the deep-end to chair a meeting or deliver a speech during your first session – projects and presentations can be completed at your own pace, all with personalised feedback to help you to gradually up your game.
If you’re feeling even more brave, Max recommends bringing a bit of drama into your weekly routine:
“Taking improv classes is a gamechanger – they’re not just for actors. Improv classes will help you to shed your fear of failure, give you lots of practice talking in front of others in a safe and encouraging environment, and you’ll learn not to be afraid of the unexpected.”
Londoners can join Max at a socially-distanced improv session at Hoopla, but if the likes of impromptu stand-up has you quaking in your boots, hosting a book club or even encouraging daily dinner table debates using tools such as Table Topics conversation starters are fun ways to polish up your public speaking act. Just make sure that you keep it regular – as with a workout routine, little and often trumps the occasional marathon.
Lastly, when both warming-up in front of friends and giving a speech itself, don’t forget to listen as well as talk. Asking questions, presenting a group with an activity or remembering audience members’ names (a classic magicians’ trick) will take engagement and energy levels to fresh heights. Max reveals that professional comedians listen more than they speak – it might seem counterintuitive but it prevents them from getting stuck in their own heads and improves both material and audience response. Go ahead and break a leg.
It’s important to get your mindset right before a speech. We asked the experts for their tips in Part 1 of our Public Speaking Workshop
As the debate around returning to work continues, this much is clear: working from home as ‘the new norm’ is undoubtedly one of the most significant lifestyle changes to come out of this year’s global pandemic. In some form at least, it appears this shift is here to stay. So, how do we ensure our home office encourages the same productivity as our former work environment? And how do we combat low motivation levels without the camaraderie of colleagues? With negative vibes and poor energy flow believed to have a significant impact on performance and subsequently, success, the answer might just be Feng Shui for your office.
A key pillar of ancient Chinese philosophy dating back some 6000 years, Feng Shui is the practice of cultivating equilibrium and positivity in everyday life through the specific arranging of spaces. Priya Sher is a London-based Feng Shui consultant with an impressive corporate and private client list (she counts the Cloud 12 Spa in Notting Hill and the Macquarie Bank in London’s historic Moorhouse building amongst her many career accomplishments). Explaining Feng Shui, which literally translates as “wind water”, she says, “All living beings need water and air to survive. The key of Feng Shui is that we live in harmony with our environment”. Its aim, notes Priya, “Is to achieve balance in your living and working space, maximising your potential for success in all areas of life.”
Awarded the prestigious title of a Master, Priya has nearly 20 years of experience and is well-versed in the benefits of Feng Shui. On a universal level, “If the Feng Shui of your home is good, it enhances your life, supporting both health and prosperity”. It’s natural, she explains, that you’ll absorb the energy of any space you spend time in, “Therefore it’s vital to optimise the energy of these spaces so that they support you”. Priya observes that “Feng shui is a very intricate practice that takes years to learn and includes having a thorough grasp of the Lopan Feng Shui compass” (this is a Feng Shui compass – above – that determines the exact direction of a place or structure.). However, by following a few thoughtful steps, she believes we can all improve the energy in our home office, whether we’re working in a cramped area under the stairs or an airy room with large windows. “These tips may seem simple,” says Priya, “But they’re incredibly effective”.
Easy steps to Feng Shui for your Home Office
To begin, Priya recommends having light green present within your work set-up. “The colour green relates to the element of wood, which is associated with learning and growth, and is energy that rises upwards. This makes green a particularly good colour for business growth”.
Priya also stresses the importance of good light, suggesting“Lighting that is gentle on the eyes and always avoiding tube lighting as that is too aggressive” she says.
Layouts for leaders
Next, consider the layout of your home office. Where possible, “The desk needs to be positioned so that the back of your chair has a solid wall behind it. Priya advises against “Sitting with your back to the home office door or having a window directly behind you,” you should, she says, “Have a good view of the full room”.
In Feng Shui, this is known as the “command position” which enables you to take ownership of the energy of the space and retain a heightened awareness of what’s happening in it. In turn, this boosts performance and allows you to achieve your very best. If your home office is small, try positioning the desk diagonally from the door, whilst in large rooms, aim to place the desk more centrally, always keeping a wall behind it as a strong backing and for protective power.
Light a woody candle for personal growth
To further enhance the energy of the room, Priya advocates lighting a gently fragranced woody candle at the start of each working day. “Wood is springtime energy and directly correlates with new beginnings and freshness. It is about new ideas and projects”. What’s more, wood links back to trees which Priya says “Grow upwards but have roots firmly in the earth”. She states that we want to mirror this in our home office and work life, where strong foundations are important for good growth.
Add plants for workplace wellbeing
Plants are important too; a Peace Lily placed directly on the desk is “Great for soaking in electromagnetic stress” says Priya. As the name suggests, a Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides) will support your finances if located diagonally opposite the door. This specific position is a pulse point for wealth, so avoid putting clutter or a wastepaper bin here. For indoor plants check out www.patchplants.www.patchplants.com.
Declutter for an uncluttered mind
To maintain balance and calm, Priya proposes clean desks with minimal objects and papers. “As soon as you finish a project, file it away, make sure there’s no clutter and archive all old files”. This promotes greater focus and clarity of thought. In your haste to tidy away however, “Don’t place paperwork or books on the floors as it will reflect a deterioration in business or one’s career”.
If your space permits, you can add a small table-top water fountain in the southeast corner of your home office. This will boost wealth and create a calming vibe.
Add work structure
Finally, “Stick to set hours, take regular breaks, keep work within your designated office, and avoid bringing it into other areas of your home,” says Priya. A clear separation will help you to rest and fully relax.
Following these principles will empower you to successfully Feng Shui your home office, encourage a continual flow of good energy and sustain high output levels.
You can book a consultation with Master Priya Sher via her website, priyasher.com; for visual examples of Priya’s work, follow her on Instagram@priyasher.
If you are working from home and enjoyed this article you will also like 15 ways to add more balance in your day
Susie Pearl is a coach, mentor, author, podcaster and expert in positivity. Her recent book The Art of Creativity , was written after her cancer recovery and if about how to be more creative in your life. Having been diagnosed with a brain tumour a few years ago, Susie was told she had six weeks to live, yet has defied all the odds and is now living cancer free in Ibiza.
Incredibly inspired by the book The Artists’ Way, Susie wanted to put her own spin on the subject of creativity and spoke to Russell Brand, David Lynch, and Paul McCartney amongst many others to discover what makes them tick. Susie says that often, “The idea of being creative can strike fear into people (probably stemming back to art and craft lessons at school with a less than supportive teacher giving feedback on our work).”
Creativity doesn’t have to be about having the piano playing skills of Elton John or the artistic talent of Michelangelo Susie says, “Is about seeing the world in different ways and being flexible in your thinking. Its combining ideas in new ways and finding routes through blocks so that you can head out the other side. Creativity is not only about painting and drawing. It is many things including how we think and talk to others and how we choose to spend our time.”
“Creativity is about dancing with yourself, exploring your spirit and see what comes through the senses, without judging yourself,” she says “It’s not a bad way to approach life as a philosophy of living in this new world ahead of us. One thing this lockdown has created is a spring of new creativity flowing out of us while we spend time quietly at home wondering what to do. Inevitably, if we do nothing, something happens and our mind gets busy on new ideas. Just start somewhere with little steps, then keep going.”
Here Susie has put together some key points to remember to help boost your creative muscles:
We are all creative
“Sometimes we feel blocked but we can get past these blocks by going within ourselves – go inside. I have never met anyone who isn’t creative in some way. As humans, we all have the ability to pull in some creative flow to our life. The secret is about finding what you love and doing that.”
Discover your passion
“Decide what you like doing and turn up to your favourite craft regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s sewing, drawing, doodling, painting, making matchstick men, writing, playing or writing music, designing, putting images things together, doing a Pinterest board, making a vision board, acting, dancing, or playing a game with friends. Whatever you enjoy doing that involves losing yourself in a task that gets you putting ideas together in a new way, do that and get immersed. That is creativity. Forget about the time and lose yourself in your activity.”
Meet up with creative people
“Surround yourself with other creative people and talk about ideas rather than talking about other people or gossiping. Talking to others helps you to build on ideas and create something new that you wouldn’t have thought of perhaps by yourself. Expand your horizons, meet new people to get new ideas from, do things differently and to do different things. Get inspired and excited by new thoughts and plans.”
Think about projects that inspire and excite you
“Discover projects you feel like getting involved with locally – join a singing group, learn to write poetry, sing, learn a new language or take a drawing class. The way to know if it’s right creatively for you is to feel if it gives you joy and makes you feel good. When you get creatively immersed, time flies and the hours pass by without even noticing. “
“Play music while you daydream. You don’t have to be doing things all the time. Take some time, relax, chill, listen to some soothing music and let the music take you off into feeling good. You may feel like taking a rest and relaxing, or some music may get you energised so you want to dance. Let your body do what it wants to do. Resist responding to the strong voice inside your head and instead follow your flow, follow your intuition and go towards what makes your heart sing and what brings you joy.”
See new people and places
“Chat with people you don’t know well in your area of interest and you will learn and be inspired by them. If you like art and drawing, join a local group and see who you meet. Go to places where you don’t know anyone yet and make some friends and strike up conversations. The best adventures happen when you don’t have a plan. “
Have a beginners mindset
“Remember, that no one really knows what they are doing. Everyone is winging it and trying and experimenting. It’s good to make mistakes, fail at things and fall on your face trying something new. No one is really watching. The more you make mistakes, the more you explore and became inquisitive. The more you fail, the more informed you become about what doesn’t work, which helps you get onto the track of what does work.”
A final note…
Susie says that one of the main things to remember about creativity is that it’s meant to be fun and enjoyable, “Be light with yourself and your creative endeavours. None of it really matters – the only thing that’s important is that you enjoy yourself. Try out some puzzles and games, meditate and connect with your spirit and let ideas flow without judging them.” Amen to that.
Susie’s Book – The Art of Creativity – 7 powerful habits to unleash your full potential is out now
If you liked this article you may also like our story on ’15 ways to find more balance in your day.’ Read here
In the first of our series of public speaking workshops, Anna Lao-Kaim discusses the pre-presentation principles: ‘Getting your mindset right.’
The red face, shaky legs, dry rice cake mouth and stress sweats – most of us are familiar with the symptoms of a bout of pre-presentation nerves. For some, a fear of public speaking is akin to a kind of paralysis, with The British Council reporting that 75% of us experience severe performance anxiety while 10% suffer from a debilitating public speaking phobia (known as glossophobia).
The stats are equally revealing in the US, where The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 73% of the population experiences anxiety around public speaking. The knowledge that even Mark Zuckerberg blow dries his armpits to eliminate “anxiety sweat” before delivering speeches is testament to the fact that public speaking can strike terror into the hearts, minds and voices of even the world’s most successful CEOs.
I got a particularly acute case of the public speaking scaries last summer at the prospect of giving a speech at my wedding. In addition to pitching the tone and length just so, I knew that I would be delivering my speech to a large audience, with the inclusion of excerpts in Thai and Polish as a nod to my new husband’s heritage, after having had most likely not a lot of sleep and with the whole performance being filmed.
I was a rabbit in the headlights of my Word doc but understanding that almost everyone feels the fear, that few people are natural born speakers and that confidence comes in many forms helped me to step up to the mic. As did stand-up comedian and author Viv Groskop’s How To Own The Room, a book that examines and dissects the power of women using their voice and cheers readers on to do the same. Groskop emphasises that effective, exciting (yes, really) public speaking is really just a state of mind – here’s how to get yours in a great place before you grace the stage or start the Zoom call.
Flip the negatives
Even the most seemingly serene of speakers is likely paddling an adrenalin wave. Award-winning speaker and communication consultant Shola Kaye explains that a fear of public speaking is primal:
“We crave the protection and approval of the group. Back in the caveman days, if we were ostracised from society for doing something wrong we would die either from being attacked by wild animals or due to exposure to harsh elements.
“The primitive part of our mind still maintains these fears and that’s why, even though being laughed at, criticised or rejected won’t kill us, we hold onto that basic fear and overemphasise the impact of screwing up a talk.”
Negative self-talk may have protective prehistoric precedence but that doesn’t mean that you can’t challenge it. Shola has some ‘be your own cheerleader’ advice up her sleeve:
“It can be hard to shut off negative experiences but a great way to overcome them is to list all of the negative chatter and ‘flip it’. If your internal monologue is ‘I’m rubbish at speaking’, turn that statement on its head by switching it to ‘I’m a decent speaker and getting better all the time’.
“When you’ve flipped your list of negatives, throw away the original doubts and read the positives like a mantra. This will train your brain to expect success.”
Mantras not quite hitting spot yet? Shola advises workshopping your speech beforehand:
“Write a vivid script visualising everything going brilliantly. Perhaps you’re getting high-fives from the crowd, laughs and maybe even a standing ovation at the end. Record it and then listen back to it at night, during quiet moments or whenever imposter syndrome creeps in.”
Embrace the fear
Shola also advocates harnessing your natural ‘fight or flight’ response to a public speaking opportunity for good:
“It’s important to feel excited about what’s to come and to anticipate a great accomplishment rather than a failure.”
If nothing else, bear in mind that your crowd will have confidence in you to begin with, not to mention the fact that a fear of public speaking is so universal that they’ll have sympathy in spades if you do experience a bout of brain freeze.
Stand your ground
Hypnotherapist Malminder Gill emphasises that, if you’re giving a talk, you can glean self-esteem by focussing on the fact that you already possess something valuable that’s worth sharing:
“There will be a reason why you are choosing or have been asked to present. It is likely that you are giving a speech on account of your wisdom and/or life experience that you can communicate to others.
“Instead of putting the spotlight on your own anxiety, reframe your outlook to concentrate on what you’d love to share with your audience. Concentrating on the benefits of what you are doing and keeping this positive objective at the forefront of your mind will make your fear much less significant. Be the expert that people already know you are and you’ll exude confidence.”
Screen out the stress
Given that remote working is likely to continue well into the future, adding digital glitches and inevitable WFH interruptions into the mix could stand to make presenting even more daunting. Gill attests that the Zoom ‘room’ can actually play to your speech-giving advantage:
“Hosting a talk on video actually has some perks. You can keep notes just out of sight, open another window on your screen so that you don’t have to look at everyone’s faces as you’re speaking and tailor lighting and the angle of your screen exactly as you’d like it. Light a calming candle, set the scene and take your time getting ready rather than worrying about a frantic commute.”
If the dog bounds in it’ll only add to the energy of your speech, after all, authenticity is key to delivering a memorable performance. No one expects perfection and it’s the speaking and showing up that counts. Who knows, Fido’s entrance could even go viral?
For more advice, check out our Personal Development section. Learn how to win at difficult conversations here.
Today marks the annual United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Whilst it may seem incomprehensible to many of us, every year, all around us, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers both in their own countries and abroad. Whether used for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced begging, forced marriage, selling children, child labour or even for organ removal, people trafficking is now the third most profitable business for organised crime, following drugs and arms. It is also the fastest growing form of international crime.
As a global business with a passion for supporting the progression of women, and as a community of business people who have frequent exposure to venues where traffickers and victims might be more easily spotted (airports, hotels, public transport) we feel called to bring awareness and education to this issue and to identify ways that we can do our part in ending these horrible crimes being perpetrated against so many vulnerable people.
MODERN DAY SLAVERY – the facts
It can be hard to believe the scale of international human trafficking, but we believe that knowledge is power so here are some important statistics.
- According to ourrescue.org, the International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million modern day slaves in the world. One in four of those victims are children and 71% are women or girls.
- According to the UN, sexual exploitation is the most common form of exploitation (59%) followed by forced labour (34%)
- Two million children – the majority of them girls – are sexually exploited in the multi billion dollar commercial sex industry every year
- Sexual exploitation is the most common form of exploitation (58%) followed by forced labour (34%)
- Most victims are trafficked within their countries’ borders, and those trafficked abroad are often moved to the richest countries
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
There are many things we can do to assist in the fight against human trafficking – the greatest is having awareness of the enormity of this crime, acknowledging that it may be happening all around us, and being alert to the signs of traffickers and those being trafficked. Here are some important guidelines:
WHAT DOES A TRAFFICKER LOOK LIKE?
They look like you and me. Traffickers are not who you think they are. According to www.ourrescue.org they are not as elusive as you may think. “From blue collar to white collar and everything inbetween, they are boyfriends, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, neighbours and family members.’ Terrifyingly, 36% of trafficked children are trafficked by a family member and they say ‘If you expand to include intimate partners and friends, that number jumps to 56%. According to the global data set, more children are trafficked by family members for sexual exploitation than for forced labour.’
And whilst the majority of people think that traffickers are men, in fact 38% of convicted traffickers are women.
HOW TO SPOT THE SIGNS OF TRAFFICKING
According to Katie Amodei, Communications manager at BEST (Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking) says, “The story of human trafficking is not about how he or she is rescued. It is the end result of many years of vulnerabilities that have gone unnoticed and unaddressed.”
Amodei continues, “People who are susceptible to human trafficking have experienced vulnerabilities, including neglect, poverty, homelessness, family breakdown, disability, addiction, or a history of physical or sexual abuse. Traffickers look for these vulnerabilities and then groom their victims to convince, coerce, or force them into situations that victims do not want and can quickly become trapped in.”
It is important, she explains, to understand some of the tactics that traffickers use in order to understand why their victims don’t ask for help. “Traffickers will often threaten or use violence towards the victim or the victim’s family, threaten deportation, restrict contact with others, make false promises, or deprive the victim of basic needs if they do not do as instructed, she says.
INDICATORS OF TRAFFICKING
Earlier this month (July 2020), the United Nations took an important step forward with the launch of some online training guidance in association with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) to help cabin crew identify and respond to the signs of trafficking . There is much that we can all learn from it and below are some questions that we can apply to all communities, schools and workplaces that may indicate signs that a person is in trouble:
Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship?
Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behaviour?
Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of psychological abuse?
Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
Is the person fearful, anxious, depressed, timid, submissive or nervous/paranoid?
Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep or medical care?
Does the person show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture?
Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers, or someone who seems to be in control of the situation (e.g. where they go or to whom they speak)?
Does the person appear to be coached on what to say or adhering to a scripted or rehearsed response?
Is the person working excessively long and/or unusual hours?
Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Are there persons with identical tattoos in similar locations which may indicate “branding” by a trafficker?
TRAFFICKING SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN TRAVELLING
The below are warning signs that the ICAO has shared with cabin members. It is helpful that we all know them when we are travelling to increase public awareness of trafficking
Does the person…
Avoid eye contact and social interaction?
Avoid and distrust authority figures/law enforcement?
Seem not in control of his/her documentation and/or have false identity or travel documents?
Do they have language barrier with the person he/she is traveling with?
Do they have no money, personal items or carry-on baggage?
Are they not wearing appropriate clothing or his/her appearance may not fit the route of travel or weather?
Do they come from a location or state known as a source or destination for trafficking in persons?
Are they unaware of his/her final destination and travel plans in general?
Are they unusually submissive to the person he/she is traveling with?
Are they not allowed to speak for his/herself and if directly addressed, someone else insists on answering/translating for him/her?
Do they provide inconsistent responses from person(s) traveling with him/her when asked questions?
Do they not have the freedom on the aircraft/ carrier to separate him/herself from others (e.g. to use the lavatory unaccompanied)?
Do they speak of a modelling, dancing, singing, hospitality job or something similar in a foreign country (without knowing who will be meeting him/her upon arrival, and with few details about the job?)
Do they exhibit unusual behaviour that just does not seem right to the crew member?
EMPLOY THE CONCEPT OF ‘DO NO HARM’
If you fear that someone may be being trafficked, it is highly important that you employ the concept of ‘Do no harm’ to ensure that the potential victim is not further jeopardized and to ensure your own safety. The ICAO have worked with the UN to come up with the following advice on acting on your suspicions:
· Be discreet with the discussion and relaying of information so as not to raise suspicion.
· Do not confront the trafficker.
· Do not attempt to rescue the victim.
· Act normally. Do not display unusual concern or alarm.
The advice from BEST is that if you witness what you think is a trafficking situation in the US, you can report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and they can direct the situation to local law enforcement or social service agencies
Text BeFree (233733)
Anytime a child is involved in a commercial sex act or if a child is in danger, call 911 (or local emergency services) immediately.
To join the movement and support the nonprofit work to help prevent human trafficking, you can donate to Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking.
CHILD TRAFFICKING AT HOME
Whilst the general perception is that trafficking happens at airports and at borders, it could potentially be occurring at home or in peoples’ homes close to you. In fact according to a survivor survey in 2018 14% of survivors met their trafficker online. According to the ourrescue.org article What is online child exploitation?’ ‘Child traffickers have learned to harness the full powers of the internet.’
With so many children these days having such easy access to the internet, it is very easy for predators to engage with children online, often when posing as people of the child’s age. Our Rescue also states that in addition to being groomed online, thousands of children are actually sold online with predators taking advantage of child exploitation material that they send far and wide. One man in South East Asia, they report, was recently found to be selling child exploitation material from his own children to 14,000 subscribers.
This is not a problem that’s restricted to improverished countries. The Internet Watch Foundation reports that Europe is in fact the top host of child exploitation imagery, with North America in second place. A sad fact is that the IWF assess web pages every two minutes and they find a webpage every five minutes where a child is being sexually abused.
The greatest advice is to talk to your children about the dangers of online, report suspicious activity and educate yourself.
Some important resources to look up are:
WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO?
Please share this article in any way you can because the more people that are aware and that know the signs, the more we can end these horrific crimes.
Also head over to our Instagram account www.instagram.com/35thousand on social media, share our human trafficking story and use the hashtags #endhumantrafficking and #humantrafficking.
For more information on human trafficking, head to UN.org, BESTalliance.org and www.ourrescue.org
We at 35Thousand also stand firmly against racism. See our support for Black Lives Matter here
We don’t know about you, but most people we speak to are finding this time post lockdown particularly tough. The idea of things going back to ‘normal’ is at odds with the general anxiety we feel about the Coronavirus and the mess it has left behind it. Many lives have been tipped upside down over the last four months and currently it feels like trying to scramble out of the rubble blindfolded. Many of us are juggling more than normal – for example, many have work as normal but with limited childcare, whilst others are trying to run businesses with fewer staff or minimal suppliers. The juggle of work/ family/ health and life is overwhelming at the best of times but add to that all the ‘unknowns’ rolling around in our heads and we’re heading for overwhelm.
‘Finding balance’ seems to be a pretty elusive quest but experts suggest that the answer isn’t in taking hour-long baths infused with lavender oil or embarking on a whole new fitness journey. Many experts say that the key to being more Zen lies in small bite-sized hacks that help us find a little more breathing space throughout our day.
“Right now, after all we’ve been through, it’s the small wins that makes you take back the balance,” says life coach and author Susie Pearl. “Step by step in the right direction is what is needed, and being kind to yourself. This is about the best way to find your balance in your new routines.”
We spoke to Susie and other top experts to discover their tips below…
Mara is a neuroscientist, psychologist and co-author of Above the Line: Living and leading with the heart. She works with many businesses about unlocking our true potential, creating our best selves and changing behavioural patterns that might be holding us back. Read her advice on managing our emotions through difficult times here.
1. De-clutter: trick your brain into some certainty
“Can tidying up really change your mood? It appears so, yes. According to the Mayo Clinic, clutter can lead to more stress and anxiety, and when people describe their spaces as “disorganized,” they’re more likely to have higher levels of cortisol, the hormone related to the stress response. It can make you feel more distracted, and may even affect your sleep.”
The solution: “Little things that you can control to increase certainty, even in small ways, actually have quite a non-obvious positive impact, both physiologically and psychologically.
Taking 5 (up to 15) minutes to tackle the messiest part of your work space, or your home, even if it’s just a “junk drawer” that’s always full, will create a feeling of certainty, achievement and control over chaos.”
2. Take a few minutes for yourself
“In our busy lives, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed. A solution is to create some boundaries for “alone time” for everyone in the family including parents, young kids and teenagers. Don’t feel bad about taking a moment for yourself, even if it’s just to step away for 15 minutes. Go for a walk around your block, lock the bathroom door, or sit by a window and feel the fresh air on your face. Alone time doesn’t have to be about candle-lit long baths, it’s about spending some time to gather your thoughts and relax. Even five to ten minutes a day can help you avoid burnout.”
3. Schedule task-time in batches
“Think about your tasks for the day and break them into “batches” of time. That way you can manage your focus time “on” and time “off”. This not only gives you a little more balance to your day, but you can decide on a quick or longer break each time you reach the end of a “batch” of time. Allowing yourself intentional choices helps us to feel in control and intentional with our time and balance of a day, rather than reaching the end of the day feeling controlled by circumstances.”
DAME JESSICA ENNIS-HILL
Jessica is an Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion Heptathlete. Her brilliantly thorough pocket PT fitness app, jennis fitness , was created with her personal fitness team that have trained her throughout her career.
4. Fitting in Exercise
“It’s always too easy to say you’re too busy or too tired to fit in exercise, but it’s vital, not just for your physical health, but your mental health too, to look at exercise as time for you – almost like a date with yourself. Scheduling specific time just for you, to move your body – from simple stretches to long runs, to lifting a few weights – has a dramatic impact on your mental wellbeing.”
Some tips include:
“Plan your sessions in advance and put them in as dates for yourself. I always used to do my plan on a Sunday night, even when I was pregnant. You should see it as ‘me time’.
The Jennis sessions are only 20 – 30 mins, so they are easy to squeeze in – I designed them deliberately to be short, so they could just be slotted in, as well as needing minimal equipment so they can be done anywhere, anytime.
If you can’t do 20 minutes, doing 10 mins is better than nothing, so just get going. It’s amazing how good you feel after even a small amount of activity.”
Jennis is available to download on iOS and Android for £9.99 per month.
Alister Gray is an Executive Leadership Consultant, Mindset Coach, Founder of Mindful Talent and co-founder of the Mindful Talent Coaching Academy.
5. Go on a ‘no news’ diet
“Don’t watch or listen to the news. We have, on average, 70,000 thoughts or more running through our minds each day, 80% of these thoughts are negative in their nature and 95% of them are repeated each day. We don’t need to compound these thoughts with any more negativity and fear, so switch off the news and feel a greater sense of peace.”
6. Try the ‘bathroom breath’
“Every time you have a break (popping to the bathroom, getting a drink) use the opportunity to take 6 deep breaths into your belly and exhale slowly through the mouth. The average person takes 6-7 bathroom breaks per day, offering some mini moments of ‘me-time’, and enabling you to take between 35-45 conscious breaths each day which can reduce your cortisol levels.”
7. Slow down to speed up
“Pause throughout your day to reflect, plan, think and/or meditate. We are far more effective, productive and balanced when we take some time to slow down. This sounds impossible, however, the benefits are incredible.”
Susie Pearl is a life coach and author. Her book the Art of Creativity – 7 Powerful habits to unlock your full potential is out in August. It provides a practical programme to help you harness your full creative potential both personally and professionally.
8. Ask yourself if you are spending your time in the best way
“Is there an equal focus on work, rest / sleep and play / social life in your week? Try to get equal measures of these 3 throughout. Journal about how you spend your time and what is really important and urgent, and what is not. Make good decisions on how time is spent.”
9. Try to exercise / meditate each day
“Schedule this in the diary like it’s a meeting and show up for it. You wouldn’t break a meeting with someone else, so don’t break a meeting for something that helps you. Put self care high up in your priority list.”
10. You are in charge of your time, take control of it
“Cancel things from your diary if there is too much on and take back control of your time and remember that you don’t have to do everything that comes your way. Choose and curate the shape of your day. Cut out the unnecessary journeys, tasks and phone calls. The more down-time we have, the more in control of life we feel. Learn to curate your time like a master.”
11. Do emails once a day
“Do them for an hour – read them, batch them, deal with them and delete. Don’t spend all day looking at emails, set up a time to handle them at a specific time of day.”
12. Say no
“Say ‘no’ to most things, and only do the things you really want to do or that you feel are essential. Build in space into the diary and don’t overfill the days.”
13. Cancel things in your diary
“If there is too much on, take back control of your time. Notice you don’t have to do everything that comes your way – you can choose and curate the shape of your day.”
Misty is the founder of 35 Thousand as well as an executive coach, her career in wireless telecoms and the global food retail industry spans over 20 years.
14. Do something hard first thing
“Something that you need to accomplish to “win the day.” This could be a work out, tackling a presentation you need to write or even just making the bed. Decide that accomplishing this = winning the day which has a knock on effect on the rest of the day for mindset and productivity and reduces the chances of you beating yourself up for “not doing enough” in the day which can sabotage our sense of balance.”
15. Make some part of your morning routine feel indulgent
“Maybe its that you take the time to froth the milk for your coffee or you have a shower gel that you splurge on because the fragrance just makes you feel great. I keep a small vase of flowers by my Nespresso machine and the whole aesthetic of the coffee machine and flower just makes me feel great and the flower often looks different in the morning. Stopping to appreciate that is a little mindfulness moment that just makes me happy.”
For many of people, (especially those who are non-confrontational and introverted), the idea of having a difficult conversation with a boss, employee or a colleague is positively terrifying. Yet the tsunami of the Corona-crisis will undoubtedly leave many companies in chaos over the coming year and there are going to be many difficult conversations to be had.
You may be an employee and wish to change the way you work for example, you may feel you aren’t getting paid enough (are you doing the work of two people whilst they are furloughed?), or you may have a new desire to work partly from home having done so successfully for the past three months. On the other hand you might be a boss and have to make the very stressful decision of restructuring your team.
Whichever situation you find yourself in, at some point over the coming months you may have sleepless nights about a necessary but awkward discussion that you can’t avoid. We spoke to the founder of 35 Thousand and top executive business coach Misty Reich to find out how to tackle these conversations with confidence.
SHIFT YOUR MINDSET – How to move your mind from a state of fear to a state of calm confidence
Know that everyone finds these conversations difficult
When we have something stressful to discuss, we can often berate ourselves over the fact that we are finding it difficult and can even question how capable we are. But according to Misty, nobody finds these situations easy. “Unless you are one of the miniscule percentage of people who don’t have any empathy, you should know that these conversations are difficult for almost everyone. They just show that you have a heart and you have empathy which is a good thing because it means you connect with people.”
Once you recognise that you are not alone in this, you may stop layering fear on top of the important conversation you need to have.
Preparation is key
It’s probably true to say that most of us spend more time getting ready for a Zoom party than we do preparing for an important work conversation. However, it’s just as important to prepare for these chats as it is an important interview. “It’s a real skill and it takes proper preparation,” says Misty. (See the below ‘toolkit’ for ways to prepare)
Question that tape playing in your head
Misty explains that we can all have ingrained tapes in our head that replay over and over because of past experiences. “Some people for example, may have grown up believing that it’s not right to highlight issues,” she says, “Whilst others fear that the person they are speaking to won’t like them, or perhaps they are scared at the thought of upsetting others.” Many people she coaches feel they are not qualified to be having the conversation they need to have for example.
Misty explains that it’s a good idea to question these negative beliefs, and to ask if they are in fact valid. She suggests pausing also to ask yourself why this conversation is important to you and what is triggering your beliefs over it. Through this process you can then reframe your thinking to something much more positive.
Shift your mind from a place of negativity
If you have to deliver bad news to a colleague then it’s important that you shift your thinking away from the negative. “You have to instead speak from a place of love and positive intention,” says Misty. She suggests that instead of telling yourself that you are doing this ‘to them’, to remind yourself that you are doing it for a bigger purpose/ for your integrity/ to improve a working relationship.
This also works if you have requested a conversation with your boss – ask yourself the reasons why you want this conversation and let that good reason drive your attitude in your meeting.
YOUR TOOLKIT – Practical tips for conversation confidence
Get a coach or counsellor
Firstly Misty says if the conversation is really important, then not to think twice about asking a coach or a counsellor for advice. Often two heads are better than one and a fresh perspective can really help to shape your own.
If in doubt, write it out
Many of us assume that most people are good at having difficult conversations. That’s not the case, but the people who are best at it have often prepared in advance. Misty suggests journaling out the conversation and writing down what you want to say. ‘If you are really worried about how it’s going to unfold,” she says, “Play through the conversation. If the conversation took one direction, how would you respond, and if it took another, how you might respond to that?” This can help you to feel prepared for anything that is thrown at you, plus “The act of doing this takes some of the hot air out of the balloon in your head” says Misty.
Roleplay the conversation
If it helps, then find someone that you can trust and go through the conversation with them.
Misty’s tips on diplomatic phrases to use
For when you will be having a two-way dialogue…
If Misty is going into a difficult discussion and it’s going to be a two-way dialogue, she will start with “I want to share something with you that’s happening for me. I want to then hear what’s happening for you and discuss a good way to move forward.” By saying this, you are implying that somehow you can move forward together, and that you want to hear their side of the story. This will also prevent the other party from feeling immediately defensive.
If you have to make someone redundant…
‘There are some discussions,” says Misty, “That are not a two-way conversation, such as a job elimination.” If this is the case, then Misty starts off as follows: “I want to share something with you that’s happening and a decision I’ve had to make as a result. I then want to talk through what that means for you.”
By saying ‘I want to share something that’s happening’ you are taking the conversation away from being their fault, but by saying that it’s a ‘decision’ , this implies that there will be no back and forth.
For diplomatic negotiation…
If you are in a situation where you think that your colleague or your team can improve on something then Misty uses the following equation: Appreciate/ More effective
This means that you can frame up your wording so that you tell your team that you appreciate what they are doing but then go on to say how we could be more effective.
This also works if you are negotiating something with someone more senior. For example:
“I just want to say that I hugely appreciate how supportive you’ve been to me, but I feel like going forward, my roll could be even more very effective if…”
Specific conversation advice
When you are negotiating money…
It’s not the best idea to bulldoze into a meeting telling your boss that you deserve more money with no justification of why. Misty says the best way of looking at this conversation is to put yourself in the company’s shoes and ask yourself how they might see you. Ask yourself how valuable are you to them? Then you will be in a position to say “Here’s why I think this makes sense for the company, you and me…”
Misty also thinks it’s a great idea to think creatively about whether there’s anything else you can take on and can you offer as part of the discussion. For example, “I’m seeing that my pay isn’t what I want it to be and I have brainstormed some options and thought of some things I can do in exchange for that.”
If you fear not being able to get your point across
If you are terrified of an important conversation because you are worried about getting tongue-tied or not getting your point across properly, then you may be an introverted thinker. Misty says that for these people, the preparation is absolutely non-negotiable. “Give yourself the chance to practise,” she says. This means making notes, going through the conversations as above and really mapping out the key points you want to say.
If you are scared of your boss
We’ve all been there with an intimidating boss who makes you feel you don’t know what you’re talking about. Here Misty suggests doing some journaling about that boss and what makes them feel comfortable and confident. It’s important to remember that despite their important role, they are only human – just like you – and in that respect you are perfectly equal.
There’s no doubt that we’ve all experienced the COVID-19 lockdown in very different ways both practically and emotionally. Most of us likely never want to hear the word ‘unprecedented’ ever again and it’s true that very few of us have ridden out anything like a pandemic-induced quarantine in our lifetimes. Yet, despite the vast difficulties, being rooted to the spot has made us consider the life lessons from lockdown and how we want to progress. Meanwhile the highs and lows have impelled us to weigh up what truly matters to us both individually and as a collective.
Speaking of highs, a recent poll of 2000 British adults by LG Electronics revealed that almost half felt that lockdown has “changed their ways for the better”, with the same number reporting that they’ll continue to practice healthier behaviours after lockdown lifts. Those surveyed cited everything from better sleep to learning new skills and speaking to friends and family more often as positive aspects of lockdown life that they want to retain well into the future.
Meanwhile in the US, Accenture emphasises that social distancing measures can in fact engender greater feelings of social intimacy, with colleagues sharing more personal stories on work calls and regular virtual meet-ups helping us to rediscover social ties with more people than ever before. Here’s how to discover the beneficial aspects of lockdown that have worked for you and how to take them forward when the merry go round of modern life starts spinning again.
Identifying positive habits from lockdown
Capture your ideal day (on pen and paper)
Whether in a journal, notepad or even on a post-it, business coach and founder of 35 Thousand Misty Reich recommends “Detailing your ideal day to identify the positive habits that you want to stick with.” You’re aiming to summarise a regular uplifting day rather than a beach holiday utopia, and putting pen to paper is essential according to Misty:
“Whether you’re mind mapping or simply making a list, it’s critical that you do this exercise using old fashioned pen and paper. Scientific research strongly indicates that the physical act of putting pen to paper has a favourable neurological effect when it comes to helping you to remember a goal or intention and keeping it at the forefront of your mind.”
When journaling your ideal day, take it hour by hour. Note down your wake-up time and how you got up, considering who was with you and how you started your day. If you’re working, think about how and when work came into the day and whether you took breaks to recharge your batteries. Detail how you wound down at the end of the day and what your perfect bedtime routine involved. Finally, reflect on how you felt at lights out and what parts of the day gave you the most energy.
Misty then advises mulling over any common day-to-day energy sappers so that you can “Build your days around elements that give you energy while minimising, reworking or eliminating things that drain you.”
Keep savouring the slow
Health and wellbeing coach Susie Pearl emphasises that, prior to the pandemic, “Achievement and self-worth were often framed around being, or seen to be being, very busy”. The lockdown meant that the ball stopped rolling and many of us appreciated that success can actually entail doing far less. Susie highlights that this is far from a new concept but one that’s begun to dawn on many of us after our usual daily infrastructure has been transformed:
“Spiritual leaders have been championing slowing down for centuries, but it’s only during this lockdown period that many of us have discovered that we can do less in a day and be more content for it.”
You’re likely to be more appreciative of the ‘little things’ than you ever have been – clearing our diaries of events and commutes means that everything from a hug to a chat with our neighbours and having time and space to eat breakfast in the morning are no longer ‘little things’ at all. The world has been turned off and now is being turned on again and the reboot is presenting us with precious moments that we likely neglected beforehand in favour of rushing about.
This needn’t mean working on a masterpiece or nurturing a sourdough starter. Taking an innovative approach to everything from professional development to how we spend our spare time can turn the ‘fear and dread’ narrative of the current time on its head.
From a work perspective, Misty points out that this is the perfect window in which to overhaul networking. If this term triggers anxiety, Misty advocates letting go of the term altogether and instead “Focusing on its objective, which is to expand your knowledge and exposure through connection with others.”
We have an unprecedented (…sorry) opportunity to start more meaningful conversations and there’s an increased societal emphasis on helping each other, whether by way of volunteering, mentoring or sharing your insight and skills. Honing your specialisms and polishing up your professional profiles has benefits beyond the practical too:
“As well as helping you to find a new avenue if, say, you’ve been furloughed, made redundant or are looking to change your career path, sharing or writing down your own expertise and achievements can also give you a psychological boost by making you reflect on your capabilities.”
Far from being an ‘add-on’ to our lives, getting creative can also foster cultural change. Susie notes that “Cooking more has led to many of us being more conscious of where our food is coming from, whilst getting into a flow with writing or drawing has made us realise that we needn’t spend wads of cash or be seen at the right parties to make our evenings and weekends fulfilling.”
Susie surmises that we were just all a bit too serious and concerned with keeping up appearances before the pandemic hit. Now we’re ready to work and play in a whole different way.
Read more about Misty Reich here
A statement from our founder, Misty Reich
The past weeks have given us all a chance to consider where we stand. 35 Thousand was born out of a desire to support women progressing in their careers. ALL women. As a brand we cannot be who we are setting out to be unless we step forward and step up to help level the field when we see that the path is blocked for some on their journey. For too long certain groups of people have been held back by prejudicial and unjust systems as well as complacency by those of us who have wished for, but not actively worked for it to be different. This is therefore our statement in support of Black Lives Matter.
We stand with our black sisters and brothers and we accept the accountability to move from passive support to proactive advocacy. Our journey as a brand has only just begun which means that it is 100% within our gift to build a business that walks the talk in the opportunities we give, the partners we give business to, the way we represent beauty and community and the way we represent women. No excuses, it is time for lasting change.
We are grateful to have you on this journey with us and hope we will look back to this moment as the point in time where we collectively fought for justice and won.
As we commit to change we will share our ideas and actions for your review and commentary and – we hope – support.
There’s a remote working revolution afoot – here’s the expert guide to working remotely. How to boost everything from productivity to morale to work/life balance when your work style is more nomadic than office-based, by Anna Lao-Kaim.
Working from home is no longer bookended by sarcastic “bunny ears” or considered a euphemism for a raging hangover – thankfully, and not before time, global companies are recognising the economic, social and environmental benefits of implementing flexible working policies. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s also a clear and urgent health rationale for remote working too.
Working remotely is far from a temporary measure or transient trend for many of us, however, as the dab hand freelancers, entrepreneurs and contractors among us will recognise. Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis reveals that the numbers of employees working at home has soared by 173% since 2005. Remote working is now so popular that 37% of workers would be prepared to take a 10% pay cut if it meant that they could continue working from home or away from a traditional office setting. That glossy corner office setup simply doesn’t carry the same kind of cachet that it used to.
With the emergence of efficient new tech not to mention sky-high rents and congestion levels in inner-cities, the industrial revolution 2.0 is go, only this time we’re taking business back to the kitchen table, enabling greater gender equality, commute-free flexibility and enhanced productivity (a 2019 report by Owl Labs found that remote workers are 24% more productive than office staff). Now that WFH is a respected acronym, how do we go about the ‘making it really work’ part?
Here’s how the pros get the job done…
If you’ve not yet discovered this seamless video conferencing app, your virtual meetings with colleagues and clients are about to become Oscar-worthy productions. It works at a low bandwidth without making you sound like you’re dialing in from under the sea, functions well on mobile when you’re out and about and allows cloud recording so that you can catch up on meetings if you’re on the run or in another time zone. It’s also invaluable for 1:1s and really appreciating how your team is getting on both in terms of workload and wellbeing. Let’s face it, Whatsapp et al. don’t always tell you the full story, but slick and speedy Zoom puts the soul back into catching up with fellow solo workers.
On the subject of video meetings, having the entire family plus dog audibly crash your crucial online AGM is never ideal. Download Krisp to quite literally cut the noise – the app allows you to both remove background noise when calling others and cut interference from the callers’ end when they speak to you. You can use it for calls, video conferencing, recording and even to create a noise-free online classroom if you’re a teacher, which will be no doubt quite the revelation for most educators.
This smart notebook is an innovation that fell straight from the pages of a Harry Potter novel. Whether you love to sketch, are partial to a mind map or just love the feel of ye olde pen and paper, Rocketbook allows you to jot to your heart’s content on durable, reusable and recyclable kraft paper with a digitally enabled pen. The Rocketbook app then scans your pages to create JPGs, PDFs, GIFS and all other manner of digital files. From there you can wipe your pages clean with a microfibre cloth and begin a new masterpiece. It saves both trees and time, not to mention stops you from going square eyed in front of a screen all day long. One that’ll appeal to the arty remote workers in particular.
I conducted a wholly unscientific wisdom whip-round of work from homers and Slack was overwhelmingly the first app named as the key maintaining effective day-to-day communication and #watercooler chat. More concise than email with built in Zoom and GIF-sending functionality, it allows you to easily divide topics and tasks into channels and you can let people know if you’re on a call, having a day off or hunkering down to the task with the click of a button.
A tool that allows you and others to keep on top of to-do lists, work fluidly through project stages to make deadlines and upload collaborative files from cloud based apps such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Beats post-its and panic texts, hands down.
A JBL Bluetooth Speaker
Portable, waterproof, compact and with some seriously silky sounds, a JBL Clip speaker looks more like technical climbing gear than the boomboxes of old (the carabiner ‘clip’ can be attached to pretty much anything). A built-in microphone allows you to answer calls even if your phone is AWOL and the battery life is nothing short of epic. It pairs with all smartphones – for the perfect ‘hustling at home’ backdrop use it in tandem with the Brain FM app, designed to create the ideal ‘functional’ musical backdrop to whatever you’ve got on your plate.
Freedom (and a pair of trainers)
One downside to remote working is often the lack of a concrete divide between work and home – use the Freedom app across all of your devices to block out digital distractions according to your schedule. Also, seeing as you won’t participate in a mass office exodus during the lunch hour or have the ‘stop working’ impetus of Simon leaving the office at 5pm, keep your trainers by your desk as a visual trigger to go for a stroll and get some fresh air and freedom IRL.
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One of the toughest things you can ever do (besides parenting) is start a business. Unfortunately (like parenting) ,there’s no manual for a new business, and whilst one of the best things you can do is listen to the advice of other inspiring businessmen and women, very few people have a mentor who can be their guide or know where to find one.
Thankfully, there are now a host of podcasts that focus on entrepreneurs and their real life experiences. Starting a business isn’t just about a good idea, and there are so many factors that come into play, from choosing a team, to leadership skills, to resilience, to managing workload, people and suppliers.
Here are our favourite podcasts, that feature some of the best business people on the planet. Not just for entrepreneurs, they are also helpful for anyone anywhere in the workspace whether freelance, part of a bigger company, in creative or more corporate industries.
How I Built This
Podcast duration: 30mins to 1 hour
Probably one of the most well-known podcasts on the planet, How I Built this with Guy Raz, delves into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies and entrepreneurs. Creating a narrative story in every interview, Raz speaks to innovators, founders and idealists about their personal start-up journeys and the movements they have built. From Andi Puddicombe, the monk who created the app Headspace, to Emily Weiss founder of cosmetics brand Glossier, to John Foley creator of Peloton, Jen Rubio co-founder of Away Luggage, and Anthony Caselena whose website tool business Squarespace is now valued at $1.7 billion. Hear how Joe Gebbia of Air BnB started his business thanks to a chance encounter with friend as a way to pay his rent, and how Sara Bakely, founder of Spanx was selling fax machines before she started her seamless underwear brand that is now a household name or how Michael McKelvey started WeWork when he convinced a friend to share an office space in Brooklyn. Fascinating listening.
Build Your Tribe
Podcast duration: 15mins to 1 hour
Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or desperate to quit your day job, this show by New York Times bestselling author, business coach and TV presenter Chalene Johnson and her son Brock will have something for you. Each straight-talking podcast drills down into the a subject related to business building such as ‘My personal strategy for content promotion’ to ‘How to manage young kids and build a business’ and ‘The difference between a mentor and coach.’ Whether you’re looking for top tips to build your social media, want to know how to grow your email list, how to build your following on Instagram, how to work on a budget or need to develop digital marketing strategies but don’t know where to start, then Build your Tribe can help. With lots of practical tips, back-to-basics advice to take away and fascinating interviews, one of our favourite sections is Quick Tip Tuesday where they give lots of practical in-depth tips on a particular topic in under 15 minutes.
Monocle 24: The Entrepreneurs
Podcast duration: 30 minutes and under (some are just 9 minutes)
Monocle magazine was launched in 2007 to provide an intelligent briefing on global affairs, business, design, culture and much more. Their podcast, The Entrepreneurs is aimed at anyone who is starting up or is running a business. Short and succinct, each podcast is under 30 minutes long and consists of insightful interviews with entrepreneurs that you may not always have heard of but who always have a fascinating and inspiring story to tell. Those companies include AllPlants, a vegan delivery service in the UK, Vivobarefoot the lightweight running shoe brand, Dishoom who have modernised the Indian restaurant in the UK, the beauty entrepreneur Jo Malone, and the wonders of streetwear label Folk. In each interview you learn as much about running a business and their reasons for being, as we do about a fascinating new subject you didn’t know about before.
Podcast duration: 40 minutes to 1 hour
Hosted by business coach Alex Judd, the Entreleadership podcast features lively discussions and tips on leadership and business by some of the cleverest minds in the world. Every week is a different subject matter with a different interviewee such as ‘Are you Indispensible?’ with Seth Goldin, ‘How to celebrate your team’ with Chris Hogan and ‘Studying Failure’ with Jon Erwin. Whether you want to scale your business, manage your team better or sort out your finances, there is a podcast here that can guide you through it.
The School of Greatness
Podcast duration: 5 minute Friday sessions to 1.5 hours for longer interviews
Lewis Howes is a NYT bestselling author, former pro athlete and world record holder in football. His career as an athlete was stopped short by a devastating injury. Howes’ aim in the School of Greatness is to share inspiring stories from the most brilliant business minds, world class athletes and influential celebrities on the planet and to therefore discover what makes the great people great. With awe inspiring interviews from the likes of the late Kobe Bryant on ‘Life, Love and Legacy’, Gabby Bernstein on ‘Healing Trauma and Spiritual Freedom’ and hypnotherapist Derren Brown on ‘Mindset and Persuasion’ Howe has also created an amazing library of podcasts where he anchors each chapter with a lesson he learnt from his own teachers. This podcast is life enhancing for anyone in business but is packed with life lessons for outside of the office too.
The Tim Ferriss Show
Podcast duration: 30 minutes to 3 hours
The Tim Ferriss podcast is often the number one podcast on all apple podcasts and it is the first business/ interview podcasts to succeed 100,000,000 downloads. Ferriss himself is an early stage tech investor/ adviser and the author of 5 bestselling books including The Four Hour Work Week and Tools of Titans which documents the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers. Selected as the best of Apple podcasts for 3 years running, in each episode, Ferriss interviews world-class success stories from various eclectic areas including sports, investing, business or art. Ferriss is a master at extracting the tools, tactics and routines they use to make themselves successful . These could be morning routines, books they read, exercise, time management tricks and so much more. With past guests including actor Edward Norton, burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese, former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt and athlete LeBron James, it is a fascinating deep dive into what makes people tick. There are also business targeted podcasts such as ‘Two Questions every entrepreneur should answer’ and Howard Marks on ‘How to invest with Clear thinking’ is unmissable.
Podcast duration: 50 minutes to 1hr 20
Start-up Microdose is a hugely inspiring podcast that focusses solely on entrepreneurs, giving us a chance to learn from some of the brightest brains in the business. Set up by Ed Stephens who is Global Head of Brokerage and Partnerships at Angel Investment Network who has helped some of the UK’s best entrepreneurs raise money for their businesses, and host Oliver Jones who is Head of Marketing at the Angel Investment Group, this is the world in which both inhabit daily. Each episode focusses on a new entrepreneur from the likes of Julien Callade, co-founder of interiors company Made.com who gives a meticulous account of the Made.com journey from concept to success, to Will Harris founder of Entale Media on revolutionising the podcast industry and Lord Karan Bilimoria who is CEO of Cobra Beer. Split into chapters, it gives the listener a chance to skip sections or go to the chapters they want. Each episode is also filmed and added to the Start-up Microdose YouTube channel if you want to put a face to the names behind the interviews.
Founder of 35Thousand Misty Reich is also an executive coach. Here she reveals the self development books that have changed her life for the better.
Books for Figuring out What you Want and & How to Make it Happen
How to Get off the Fast Track and Live a Life Money Can’t Buy, by M.M. Kirsch
‘Nearly 30 years old, this book is a practical step-by-step guide to determining if you are equipped to step out of a fast track career, and if so how to make a big life change to a more fulfilling life’ says Misty. Kirsch explains clearly how to cope with the change that comes with this and how to make it all work financially. Misty, who used to read this book once a year when working in the corporate world, says that there is a check list at the front which determines whether or not you are ready to get off the fast track. ‘I failed it for years’ she laughs.
Great for anyone feeling stuck or hankering after change, some of the best bits are about people who have left a job they didn’t love, followed their heart’s desire and gone on to great success. ‘It’s an old book, and dated,’ says Misty, ‘But it really earned a place in my heart. In fact, I’ve just ordered another copy in case they ever take it out of print,’ she says.
Available on Amazon here
The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Written by entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, Misty is a fan of this New York Times Bestseller. For people who are committed to making change in their life, ‘It’s aimed at helping you figure out how to live the life you want now rather than waiting for retirement’ she says. And whilst you may not be able to implement everything, it’s packed with great takeaways for saving time, money and helping you become more self-sufficient and efficient. ‘Ferriss has some great ideas that use your readily available resources which are inexpensive to implement,’ she says. ‘One of the most useful parts however is about how to outsource the things you don’t like doing, leaving you with the things that matter the most, and that only you should be doing.’ Off the back of this book Misty employed a virtual assistant – which she has had ever since, ‘Over the years she has handled everything from shipment of my pets to holiday planning and doing my expenses,’ she says.
Available on Amazon here
Books for Self-Belief, Self Confidence and a Positive Mindset
Change your Questions, Change your Life, by Marilee Adams PHD
‘I use this book all the time with my clients,’ says Misty, ‘It is especially helpful for people who struggle with what I call ‘The spiral of doom,’ or self-critical thinking, those people who make a small mistake or say the wrong thing and then spend the next day beating themselves up about it.’ Written much like a fable, but grounded in solid neuroscience Misty says there is a particularly helpful mind map in the middle of which enables us to see that trigger happening and how our subconscious kicks in as either a ‘learner’ or a ‘judger’. Our brains often take an autopilot process and Adams outlines questions that will enable us to question how we are responding and change our internal dialogue towards more constructive, observational thinking.
Available on Amazon here
You2: A high velocity formula for multiplying your personal effectiveness in quantum leaps, by Price Pritchett PhD
‘Small but mighty, this is a great little book for kick-starting a step change in your level of achievement,’ says Misty. More of a pamphlet than a book (it’s just 36 pages), the brilliance of You2 is in its brevity and ability to get to the crux of the topic. Geared around rewiring your mindset, ‘One of the first concepts is about quitting trying harder and it unpacks the idea of working smarter’ explains Misty. ‘It teaches us to step back and reframe our thinking and shows that solutions should come with ease.’ If you are in any doubt of your abilities, this is a great book to pump you up to know that you can do anything.
Available on Amazon here
You are a badass – How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, By Jen Sincero
‘This is a swift, funny, kick in the butt for anyone looking for inspiration to pull themselves together and make things happen’ says Misty. Here, success coach Jen Sincero serves up 27 chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice and easy to do exercises which can help you change self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviours, create a life you love TODAY, and make some money in the process. Encouraging you to take a journey you have never been on, Sincero lives by the advice that if you want a life you have never lived you have to do things you’ve never done.
‘In my executive coaching practise, I find my coaching style is very aligned with Sincero’s’ says Misty, ‘In that nothing is too serious, and this book really demystifies how big our problems really are.’ And for times that Misty feels stuck herself, this is a great book for untrapping her mind, “I find I have to work on the tapes playing in my head at times,” she says, ‘And find this no bullshit way of talking very helpful, “I often go back to this book over and over and re -read all the pieces I highlighted,” she says.
Available on Amazon here
Books for Understanding Why We Do What We Do and how to Shift our Behaviour
Above the Line by Stephen Klemich and Mara Klemich, PhD
‘Everyone should read this book and take the indicator assessment,’ says Misty, ‘It will totally open your mind as to why we do what we do and why people react to us and to situations the way they do. Not just applicable for work, it will make you a better human, parent, friend, spouse and leader.’ Written by a husband and wife team who are a leadership coach and a neuroscientist and psychologist respectively, they have devoted their lives to helping others discover insight for transformation. “I use their psychometric test when I coach people’ says Misty. ‘The tests most businesses do, don’t take into account how we are triggered, and how people are experiencing us which is hugely important,’ she explains. This book values both the heart and the mind so you can change long ingrained behaviours.
Available on Amazon here
A Book for Selling and Sales Confidence
Sell it Like Serhant by Ryan Serhant
‘Gratuitous I know, as this is my brother’s book, but it has genuinely impacted the lives of thousands of people ,’ says Misty. Once a shy, jobless hand model, Serhant entered the real estate business in 2008 and nine years later he emerged as one of the top salespeople in the world and a big US TV star. An authority in the art of selling (people have said of Serhant that he could sell milk to a cow), whether you’re selling footballs or life insurance, Serhant reveals how to close more deals than anyone else. With useful lessons, lively stories and a big dose of humour, this book is extremely helpful to people wanting to up their business game. ‘It helps you look at yourself and be a more successful sales person and tackle the barriers that get in the way,” says Misty. The thing she most loves about this book ‘Is that Ryan shows real vulnerability. You think he has it all – a TV show, a book, a flourishing business, lots of money, and he has a beautiful wife and family – yet at the core he shows he battles insecurity like the rest of us. He goes on to unpack how he has harnessed this and made the most of himself.’ Not only beneficial for real estate professionals, anyone can benefit from Serhant’s mindset and inspiring approach.
Available on Amazon here
Books for Inspiring Creativity
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
‘A lot of my coaching clients have insecurity about creativity,’ says Misty, ‘And they don’t see that we can all seek our own and tap into it.’ Written by Pressfield, a prolific historical writer, he identifies the enemies each of us face during the creative process and reveals that even he battles with his own creativity every day. ‘Pressfield talks a lot about resistance, the discipline required to tackle it and how creativity isn’t just transferred via magic pixi dust,’ says Misty. ‘This is a quick read but with really powerful concepts.’
Available on Amazon here
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
‘This is a 12 week programme of exercises and explorations to help stimulate creativity’ says Misty. With a step by step approach, this book guides you towards discovering your creative self whether that be through words, music, projects or paints. ‘My biggest takeaway,’ says Misty, ‘Are The Morning Pages, a daily journaling practise where you sit and write. I really struggled at first to know what to write (I wrote shopping lists) but eventually my whole business came to me in this process.’ Loved by many including some famous names such as Russell Brand and Martin Scorsese, author Elizabeth Gilbert says, ‘Without The Artist’s Way there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.’
Available from Amazon here
A Book for Effective leadership
The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business, by Patrick Lencioni
‘Patrick Lencioni is my go-to for leadership and organisational effectiveness’ says Misty, ‘This book pulls together Lencioni’s prior work including The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team and gives a practical step by step approach to building/rebuilding organisational and team effectiveness.’ With easy-to-follow processes, the crux of this book is about how to unify the heart and minds of a team, maximize their potential and engage them towards a goal. A must-read for employers and employees alike, Misty says, ‘It’s brilliant for people running a team or a business, for building trust and creating a rally cry so everyone knows what they’re aiming towards.’
Available from Amazon here