Friday, 23 December 2011

3 Great problem solving stragies part II

Strategy 2 –Look from underneath
Often when trying to solve problem solving we think in one dimension. Straight at it. So I’m trying to decide what to buy my partner for Christmas. All I can see are things that I want him to have. Well he may not want those. So how to find a solution?
Reverse the problem or look at it from underneath If he is trying to find a present for me, what does he want me to have? Is that something he really wants for himself? If  I pretend its next month; what would he be really grateful to me for having given him. As I write I come up with all sorts of prosaic, useful things.. but maybe he really would prefer them to the nonsense I might buy!
So try to take  a really different perspective.. what would the fly on the wall see? What would the  Dali Lama do? What would he do in my shoes?

Right off to buy the snow shovel!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

3 Great ways to solve a problem...part 1

 Strategy 1 - sleep on it
Last night I was trying to do my Christmas mailer, but could I get the programme to do what I wanted? can I fly?  The format was all rubbish and the lines of text too long and…  and… and…..
I was getting so angry and cross and worked up. Then I ran out of time so rushed off to rehearsals, came home and went to bed. Woke up this morning with an image in my head of a little box at the bottom of the page which says ‘wrap text’ and the fact that I had unchecked it. Oh yes so easy.. into the mail programme and checked the box and hey presto it looked much better.
Now for those of you that received it, it was not the greatest but I did solve the problem. How.. switched off the conscious brain and let the power of the subconscious crack the code. Whilst I was getting so cross and angry there was just too much static in the brain; whilst I was relaxed and asleep… no static and up comes the answer.

So when you are struggling to see a solution .. just relax and sleep on it, as my mum used to say 'all better in the morning'.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Please read between the lines…

Please read between the lines…
I have been coaching a great chap who has been looking for a new job. He wants to be a Chief Executive and he works in local government. So we have been smartening up his presentation and applications.
Last week he rang me as he had seen a role for a CEx in the midlands, lovely part of the world.  So could I review the application. No problem.
The first line on the person specification was ‘senior management  experience in a large, complex, public sector organisation’ . My client duly started his application with a description of the senior civil service  role with 3500 staff, big budget and lots of departments, computers etc etc. Well that is a large, complex  public sector organisation. But is it what the £17m turnover district council is thinking of?
Probably not, they are more likely to be scared off by the scale of this. I can hear the phrases ‘oooh would he know how to operate in a district council? Will he be hands on enough with so few staff? How would he cope with the little budgets we have here? He probably had a chauffeur there; won’t be like that here!’
You see when people write person specifications they may not mean the same thing as you or I do. When they wrote this they probably (I don’t know who did write it but have sat in the room when such things have been discussed) were thinking; we don’t want someone from a Parish or Town Council, we don’t want someone from a small housing association, we don’t want someone who has not managed a range of services… There are quite a lot of public sector organisations that are smaller than this District Council. I don’t suppose they wanted a self employed accountant or a manager of a corner shop, or the marketing manager of a food manufacturer, or even the production manager of the local cheese factory.
Another client was thinking of applying to an international human rights pressure group. He felt he could meet the criteria ‘have influenced opinion formers and politicians at all levels’. And whilst undoubtedly they had done that in a local charity.. had they done it on the  international stage, had they been and done presentations at the UN? The context of the job was not really described by the person specification.
So when you are reading the person specification just read between the lines. What will the people in that organisation be thinking about? What do they mean by small? Who are the politicians that need influencing?
With my first client we were able to identify a different experience which was in another District Council, similar turnover, rural, tourism dependent and in a National Park that was going to press the buttons of the prospective employer. In the second, she was not successful in getting an interview.
When reading person specifications you have to read between the liens and understand the context of the job, anticipate the mind set of the authors and put yourself in their shoes. I could yet be proved wrong.. maybe they were looking for a former senior civil servant with a multi million pound budget and 3500 staff… but I suspect they will like my client whose experience is very directly relevant.

What will work be like in the future?

ILM's futurologist's predictions – could the following be coming to an office near you?
  • Artificial intelligence – towards the end of the decade, computer-based intelligence will provide much of the effort in many jobs. Employees will concentrate more on the human aspects of their work, which are harder to automate.Love one another....
  • Visors & 3D immersion – semi-transparent visors are coming soon and some of these will enable a fully immersive 3d experience, with a separate display in front of each eye. Together with fingertip tracking and gesture recognition, this will give a whole new interface to our computing, even with virtual keyboards.
  • Augmented reality – the convergence of the virtual and physical worlds. Enabling superposition of graphics everywhere we go will give marketers, games manufacturers, retailers, fashion designers, architects and social network designers a whole new platform to play with.
  • Restructuring – company structures are changing rapidly and this trend will accelerate as the web matures, automation increases, skill shortages increase, and global labour costs change, all in parallel with changing regulation.So we will all be waiting til 67 for a pension but with no work to do?
  • Miniaturisation – today's IT will reduce in size potentially to digital jewellery and smart dust. This is good for sustainability, requiring far less physical resource for the same functionality and quality of life value.That sounds good, but a phone implanted in my skull? maybe not
  • Cordless Energy – as well as wireless comms, tomorrow's electronic devices will almost all be cordless for power too. thank god i say, no more trailing wires or running out of power!

    How will you cope?
Thanks to the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Friday, 9 December 2011

How to do Abstract Reasoning tests

Many people are really scared of abstract reasoning tests.. they are really afraid that they will be ‘found out’.  These are the psychometric tests with the dots or the shapes. And maybe many people won’t do as well as they hoped. BUT you can.. there are lessons to be learned and YOU could learn them and do yourself justice and feel much more confident.
So what is abstract reasoning?
It is an attempt to measure raw intelligence? Like the CCof car. The car can go fast or slow depending what the driver does but the CC is the potential.  Employers want to know how much potential you have. The idea of testing your abstract intelligence is that it is thought to be fairer as it removes the influence of education and experience. But you will perform better if you have some education and some experience of the tests themselves!
Most abstract reasoning tests are tests of your ability to see the relationship between different shapes. They test your logic or your problem solving skills. 

So how can you improve your score.
Practice, practice, practice!  When I was helping my son practice for his 11+ exam we got really good at them!  There are lots of websites and books that you can buy which will give you different examples of different kinds of tests. There are several different types; find the next one in the sequence, identify the odd one out, what shape completes the picture, break the code… if you think about what you are being asked to do; you are being asked to solve puzzles.
And thinking of these tests as kids puzzles can really help take away the scari-ness of the test. These are brain teaser puzzles. Practice them and get faster and faster. You can learn how they work.   

For more advice and tips

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How can I find a public sector job?

How can I find a public sector job?
In these days of the WORLD WIDE WEB, it is seen as the answer to every question. So isn’t the answer to how do I find a job?  simply ‘on the web’. Post your CV  on a big jobs board like Monster and sit back and wait.
Well it may be and you may well find jobs  vacancies on the web. But there are other routes as well, even in the public sector.
You can use the internet to find a job.
  • There are Employers’ Sites – every local authority has a site and their vacancies will be on there, NHS employers, civil service jobs are sites where you can find those employers advertising.
  • Dedicated jobs boards – who only publish jobs for certain sectors- such as Careers for Leaders, or The Ladders which publishes jobs in certain professions about £50k
  • Profession specific sites- sites like People Management or Personnel Today, often attached to a professional institute will advertise a range of roles
  • Web crawler sites – sites like Indeed, Simply Hired  or can make life easy as they literally crawl the web to look at other sites and collect together all the vacancies.
There are some myths around  that all public sector or at least all local government jobs must be advertised. And they are just that, myths. The requirement is to get the best person for the job and to have a representative workforce. Together these two influences drove many organisations to advertise widely to recruit just such people. But it is not a legal requirement.
And think of the cost! Advertising in the press or on the web can cost a lot. So in these straightened times many organisations have changed their strategies. They may advertise only on their own website if at all.
So what sorts of jobs don’t get advertised?
The short term contract type, the temp roles, the ones where the actual employer is not the public sector organisation, the ones which are filled by contractors not employees.
So how can you find them?
Talk to the organisations that you want to target. Ask them how they fill such posts, do they have arrangements with agencies? Are they running their own in house agency/talent pool that you can join? Are they sourcing candidates through boards like Monster? Are they using FaceBook or Linked In?.
Talk to people who work within the organisations you want to work for. What they tell you about how people get to work there may be different from what HR believes should be happening. 
In spite of the tradition of open advertisement there are many opportunities that will never appear on the web.

for more career advice and tips on career advancement

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Eleven things you need to know about an organisation before accepting a job offer

In the current economic climate it is tempting to accept the first job that comes along but you do so at your peril. You may find that you have jumped from the frying pan into t he fire; that you find yourself back on the dole queue faster than you could imagine or worse still a captive of circumstances in a job you hate.  So before you accept any role that is offered think carefully about whether the organisation really chimes with your values and whether the role really meets your needs and fits your career plans.
So in researching a company what do you need to know? By the time the offer comes through you will already have amassed a wealth of knowledge about the organisation but here are some key issues that you should know by the time you make that big decision.
1.       Outlook; what are  the  future prospects for this industry? Is it growth or decline? Is it going to be in the UK in five years time or overseas?
2.       Health; what is the financial health of the organisation? Is it going to survive this recession? You might think that recruiting staff is an indicator of health but it may not be, especially if they are recruiting sales staff on commission only.. that could be a sign that they desperately need sales but don’t have cash.
3.       Business strategy; ties ion to the first two, what is the business planning t o do in the next few years? Are the owners thinking of selling, merging or expanding overseas? How might this affect the role you are thinking about? What opportunities might it bring you?
4.       Size and geography; again related to strategy, if you are being offered a job by a multi national what opportunities might that present, if their second plant is in a remote corner of Scotland, would you want to go? You can travel now to the office, what happens if they moved your function form one side of London to another?
5.       Learning paths; what sort of support does this organisation give to people who want to learn, to do qualifications, go on course, on conferences. Do they have a robust appraisal scheme and does it include learning?
6.       Career path: what are the policies around internal transfers, promotions and secondments? Will you be able to move around an get help to do so?
7.       Rewards; what are the policies about pay rises, benefits and bonus. Will you be on a fixed point salary with no way of increasing it unless you change jobs? How will your success be measured?
8.       Work life balance; is this company family friendly? Will they allow time off for critical family events? Can you manage your working day so that you can do pick-up sometimes, take mum to the hospital or catch the four o’clock to the county of a weekend.
9.       Culture; ask some test questions to see how much autonomy you will have in deciding how to do your work, how  many forms you might need to fill in to access some resources. Is this culture one of empowerment or rigid bureaucracy. Do they value creativity and off the wall or praise conformity and consistency?
10.   Management style; is there an open n door policy for managers, can you approach people with ideas or not? Does the company support social interaction with in teams or between teams?
11.   Workloads: what will you be spending most of your day doing? What determines when you have finished the day’s work? What happens if you have too much to do? How often do people in this team have to stay late?
Not everything on that list will matter to you very much, some of it may not matter at all. But if you know all the answers you can see a full picture of your potential future employer and decide if they are really are someone you want to work for… oh and don’t  just believe the company handbook.. get evidence from people who work there.. taking care not to believe just one person. It’s hard work to do this work but then making a mistake could be much more costly. for more advice and tips on how to advance your career

Thursday, 1 December 2011

How much would you pay to look the part of 'highly successful executive'?


Wardrobe Re-Vamp End of Year Offer – Not To Be Missed

A couple of days ago I was advised that someone had paid £1000 for a Wardrobe Re-Vamp days!
How does that sound to you? A lot? Worth it?
Yes, I had pretty much that reaction too!
But let me tell you the story behind this.
I was talking to a businessman that I trust and admire and he mentioned that he had paid £1000 for a similar service for his wife earlier this year. Not sure how well it worked.
But there is someone who can re-vamp your wardrobe.. make you look the part and save you money in the long run but without that price tag!
Make the most of the opportunity to save money – forever – on clothes that don’t flatter your shape or enhance the professional, stylish image you portray.
After all – first impressions count – for a lot!
She's called Sue Courteney and comes to your house and assess your body shape – then you try on every item of clothing you have.The sessions typically take 4 to 6 hours.
Some items will be great – keepers.
Some items will be great if worn differently, altered, mended or otherwise made to look different.
Some items will just have to go – with me to the charity shop or charity bank. Yes Sue takes them away, that day! so you can't offend again...
You will be left with a wardrobe of clothes that you will look great in – they will flatter your shape, colouring and work for your life.
She then goes home and puts all your notes – body shape, style tips, what to buy list etc – into a book so you have your own, personal, handy guide in a form that you can keep referring to.
So if you, or anyone you know, has ever opened the door of their full-to-bursting wardrobe and sighed “I’ve got nothing to wear!” Then this service is exactly what is needed.
And all this not for that huge sum but a very very reasonable, time limited offer of  £350
£350 is a bargain when you think of how much you will save over time (or maybe one shopping trip) in clothes that don’t work for you.
Don’t delay – email  and BOOK TODAY!

N.B. This offer is valid for women in UK only