Consistent Service

Andy

Hi there, Andy here, and here's my Easy Three on being consistent in delivering brilliant service, consistency being the key!

My first one for my Easy Three is a really simple one.

Know who your customers are and what they want. Whether that be through market research, whether it be through feedback, know who they are and what they want. What is your typical client, your target market average and what do they want from the service you offer? What are they looking for, number one. 

Number two, with that in mind as your core of your customer service setup, be clear that you can set processes policies supply chains, whatever it might be up to deliver what they want. So manufacture yourself around their requirements and make sure that everything you do aims to deliver the service that your customer expects based on your target market average customer.

The last of my Easy Three, so number three of my Easy Three is you must keep checking what your customer wanted. Two years ago could be different to what your customer wants in two years time. Dare I say in this marketplace right now, 2022 what your customer wanted last month could be different to what your customer wants next month. So define it at the beginning, set your policies and processes up around it, but always check that you’re still delivering that and that their needs haven’t changed. And guess what, if their needs change, you’ll go back to step to number two and redefine your policies, and your processes to maintain delivering.

Delivering to them consistently what they expect!

That’s my Easy Three on the consistent delivery of good or great service, thanks for watching!


Problem Solving

Andy

"We cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Albert Einstein

I was listening to a Simon Senik’s podcast on the train the other day and heard him delight in the story of Lalia Ohlgren with the guest he was interviewing, I thought the story was great too and have since done a little research into Lalia.

Laila Ohlgren was the first female engineer to ever receive the Polhem Prize which I am informed is like the Nobel Prize for engineers in Sweden. Laila was an engineer who worked at the Swedish Telecommunication Authority during the 1970s, she was their first female engineer and a real pioneer.

At the time all telephones companies in Europe and the States were in a competitive race to develop the technology that would enable the shift from the old rotary dial telephones to phones that could be used on the move – what would become mobiles but more likely then what would become car phones. Much of the infrastructure was in place, they could see how it would work, Sweden had already built cellular towers around Stockholm that the phones could be connected to but there was one problem they couldn’t seem to overcome.

If you are able to cast you mind back, the old rotary phones worked by picking up the receiver, waiting for the dialling tone and then dialling the number, which could take a while as you dialled each individual number in turn. The problem was that when you did this in a moving car, a building may get in the way which would cause you to lose connection with the cellular tower, or you may drive between towers and again lose connection – this would mean you would have hang up and start the process again – not ideal.

They struggled with this problem for some time – but it was Laila who found the solution – and once understood, as with many good ideas it was very simple but it required someone to come at the problem from a different angle. Rather than speeding up the dialling process, Laila discovered that you could store the number in a microprocessor (which was new technology for the time) this way you could dial the whole number first and then pick up the receiver and send the whole number in one go – thus not losing connection. Laila built a prototype and then drove round Stockholm all weekend testing her idea. We know her idea worked because it seems so obvious to us now, we all utilise this approach multiple times everyday day but it was a breakthrough, it was the birth modern mobile telephony.

At On Track Learning we really love to solve our clients problems through learning. We love to find simple and easy to use ways to provide great learning outcomes that engage the learner and are cost effective for the employee. One example is our mobile training unit COLIN – standing for Compliance Online Training In Situ.

We developed COLIN for a client that were sending all their staff off for three days of annual training every year and who then had to back fill those three days with overtime. We broke the courses, First Aid, Lifting and Hoisting, Epilepsy Medication, down into their component parts and created a programme of online learning that covered the knowledge, the theory and the understanding and we then turn up at all the clients individual sites in COLIN (a retired Ambulance with a bed and hoist in it) to run a short in person practical session and assessment to ensure the learning can be applied. Far easier for the learner and hugely cost effective for the client.


Defining Values

Andy

"When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”

Roy.E Disney

Last Friday we got the team together for our summer BBQ. We are not all based in the office, so it is fabulous to get almost the whole team together, relax, drink and even dance. We did talk about some work stuff in the morning but even that I found enjoyable as we were outside the work environment which meant we were talking without the constant pressures and noise of the office. We went through the progress we have made against our strategy which was considerable, and it was so undeniably clear to see the integral contribution every single individual had made towards delivering it.

We then talked about defining our values. I found the conversation really interesting as we didn’t even get to the part where we were choosing what our values should be, what words we should use. There was clear feeling in the team that we want to know why we are doing something, who are defining our values for, for what purpose are we doing it, who will see it, how will we use them, how do we hold each other accountable to them.

As a small business our values and ethics are really important to us but they are perhaps seen as innate in us so the conversation was all about how we make sure they are genuine, authentic, lived as there was fear they could become contrived and as such undermine the very essence of what we have built so far. I have witnessed a number of business where they have done a great PR job on culture and values but because there is perhaps a gap between what they say and what they actually do – the ‘good’ sell done on the values had become counterproductive.

If our culture is our shared beliefs and values and if people’s beliefs are built through what they experience, then any gap between what we say and do, any misalignment of words over actions can very quickly erode trust. If you don’t hold to your values, what do you hold to?

Trust is key – there was a recent global Ipsos survey which showed only 30% of people thought that most people could be trusted. There was also a clear correlation between the level of trust and personal happiness. So we are starting from a cynical base but if you get trust right your people will be happy. In a further PWC survey from last year – called the complexity of trust – the top four factors that contributed to trust were – protecting people’s data and security, treating people well, ethical business practices, admitting mistakes. Protecting people’s data and security, treating people well, ethical business practices, admitting mistakes. All of those are doing something – it matter less what you say far more what you do – as well as being open about it when you inevitably get it wrong.

I’m interested to see where our values conversation goes, perhaps weirdly I am less interested in the actual words we end up choosing as I know they will be fine but I am more interested in how we agree to hold to hold each other to them – over and over, , how we call out when we have gone against them – without hesitation and consistently, every time – then defining our values becomes valuable.


Leadership Styles

Andy

Hello there and welcome to my Easy Three on Leadership Styles.

There are tons of them, we we use six here at On Track learning but I know there are many organisations and companies that use a lot more.

Here's my Easy Three on Leadership Styles...

My first one is you don’t have to do a questionnaire to figure out what your style is. Consider situations and think, would I be more like this than that.

It’s quite straightforward, if you’re in the army and you need to be very directive, you could give that a name if you want it to, that’s because there’s command and control. Do you like to be more like that than you would to ask everybody what direction they would like to go in? That’s my first Easy on a Leadership Style. Think about yourself in different situations and think what’s your preference.

The second one is think about other leaders you’ve worked with who you’ve totally disliked and why. Typically they will apply only one style all of the time and that doesn’t always work, and again you don’t need to give the style a name you’ll probably know what you didn’t like about that style and then you need to think about yourself. Think what aspects of what they do, do I want to avoid?

So the first one is have a look at yourself, second one is consider what others do particularly who you didn’t like. 

My third of my easy three about Leadership Styles is, you need them all. There is not one style that works in every situation so don’t pigeonhole yourself as being an Authoritarian leader, a Democratic leader, whatever pigeon holes people want to put you in.

You will have a natural style which you’ll have developed if you listen to my first two Easy’s.

What you need to do is understand when you need to use a style which is out of your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use that, it means you probably should. So think about the styles that you struggle with the most. If it’s getting people involved, if it’s being very decisive and leading the way, and consider how you can develop those skills because that will widen your style of leadership.

My Easy Three on the complicated world of Leadership Styles.


Menopause Awareness

Andy

"Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."

Howard Zinn

I am acutely aware that as a white, privileged, middle aged man there are some things I just cannot experience first-hand. Of course I can show compassion and empathy but I cannot truly or fully appreciate others life experiences. What I can do however, is act with humility and kindness and I can educate myself.

Sadly there are clearly still a number of areas in the world were we have a long a way to go when it comes to humility and kindness, which simply shouldn’t be the case. The Black Live Matters and the MeToo movements both brilliantly put up a mirror and reflected a very ugly picture back at us. Another area where I think this is true, very naturally impacts 50% of us, yet it is still somewhat of a taboo subject, it is still something people don’t know how to talk about and it still something that many people suffer in silence about, I am talking about the menopause.  

The menopause is clearly a normal part of ageing for women. Most women will expect to go through the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, it usually lasts about 4 – 7 years but can last for up to 14.   The perimenopause is the phase leading up to menopause when a women’s hormone balance starts to change, this is when symptoms can start but they continue to have periods. Woman are said to have reached the menopause when they haven’t had a period for a year. Whilst the average age of undergoing the menopause is 51, 1 in 100 women can experience it before they are 40, this is known as premature menopause.  

The impact can be massive with the reduced hormone or oestrogen levels leading to a range of symptoms from mental health ones: mood changes, anxiety, low self-esteem, memory issues to physical ones: hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, sweating, palpitations, head and muscle aches, urinary tract infections to changes in body shape, weight gain, dry skin and reduced sex drive.

A huge 9 out of 10 women say the menopause has affected them at work from brain fog, tiredness, lack of energy or loss of confidence. And whilst there are things woman who are suffering can do to ease their symptoms including regulating what they eat and drink, vitamin supplements, exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy this shouldn’t just be their issue to manage and suffer in silence. As managers, partners, colleagues, children or friends there are things we can do too.  

We can be become more aware and look out for symptoms, we can listen, we can support, building trust so people feel they can talk about what they are experiencing,  we can have an open dialog without making it awkward (remember this affects 50% of us directly and other 50% of us indirectly), we can be patient and understanding,  we can check in regularly, we can remove the taboo and put people at ease, make people aware they are not alone, this isn’t something that they need to hide from their colleagues or partners or feel isn’t anyone else’s problem. This wouldn’t be case with anything else. If need be we can make adjustments – it may only be a little thing like providing a fan that can make difference,

As is normally the case for us our online Menopause awareness course is evolved around a story – in this case involving Tracey and Dave and the impact Traceys menopause has on her work, her home life, her love life and her confidence. It also looks at the impact Dave can have if he is more supportive and understanding. Whether you are a partner, a manager, a colleague or a child there are things we can do to support people going through this inevitable phase in their life. A little awareness is perhaps the start.  


Modern Day Slavery

Andy

“Human rights are of universal interest because it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality, and dignity and they have the right to achieve it.”

Dalai Lama

My friend of mine, who I am going to call Helen, was walking to work the other day and a van pulled up ahead of her, she expected it to be a delivery (as that is seemingly half the traffic on the roads these days), but she was really surprised when 5 people got out the back of it.

She was then quite shocked when she followed them into her place of work and she recognised the 5 people as new contractors who started the day before.

She was obviously concerned and when she really looked at them recognised they appeared nervous, even frightened and weren’t making eye contact with anyone. She said ‘Good Morning’ to them but they didn’t respond.

She told me she felt really uneasy about the whole thing but wasn’t sure what to do about it. So she decided to go and talk to them but when she approach the group, they were always together apparently, one of them told her they had be told not to speak to anyone who actually worked there.

Now this really started to set alarm bells ringing for Helen so she shared her concerns with her manager. Apparently initially he tried to reassure her that all the proper procurement checks had been done but also admitted that whilst the business owners had come across well, the contractors themselves looked exhausted. They therefore decided to call the Modern Slavery Helpline and report their concerns.

Now I don’t really know Helen and I have taken this story from our online Modern Day Slavery course, however, sadly this story is very real. According to antislavery.org, 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery worldwide, 1 in 4 of whom are children, and over 10,000 were identified as potential victims by the authorities in the UK but this number is thought to be grossly underestimated.

This problem is wider spread than we perhaps see, we recently heard Sir Mo Farah sadly revealing that he had been a victim of child trafficking. I am proud to say my Uncle Andrew was Chairman of the charity, Anti-Slavery International, who are one of a number organisations dedicated to eliminating all forms of slavery and slavery like practices throughout the world. The more awareness we have of this issue the more we can all do to help. I hope you remember Helens story and take action if you see anything that concerns you.

At On Track Learning we use storytelling in our online courses as we believe this makes the learning more digestible, memorable and therefore more likely to be applied.

Helen and her boss Steve appear in a number of the course’s as do other characters like Shanice – because they are ordinary people going about their work they put the learning into context and make it relatable.


Goal Setting

Andy

Hello there and welcome to my Easy Three on Goal Setting.

Now we use SMART like a lot of businesses do but SMART is five, and I've only got three so I'm going to distill some things down and make it a little bit simpler, hopefully so that anybody can apply it. 

So my Easy Three on Goal Setting is number one, only think two weeks in the future. You might have a longer term goal which is fine but if you think goal setting in two week increments. In two weeks from now what could you have done, that’s my first in my Easy Three on Goal Setting.

My Easy Number Two is how will you know you’ve done it? What will you measure? Will you be more of something? Less of something? Faster or slower? More accurate than?So, how will you know you’ve achieved it, is my Easy Number Two. 

My Easy Number Three is what’s going to stop you doing it starting today? And if you know what those things are, have a plan to defeat them.

In two weeks I want to be two pounds lighter when I stand on the scales, I need to stop eating those blooming crisps and chocolate biscuits that are in the cupboard! If that’s all you have to do, do that, measure it, set the plan, two weeks! Make it simple.

My Easy Three on Setting Goals – achieving them isn’t as easy, but stick at it, every two weeks you will see a difference. You will succeed!