Archives for 2019

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Productivity Ninja

Zen-like calm meets stealth and camouflage

It’s fair to say that in our digital, on-demand age the weakest link in the chain is likely to be the human being in the middle of it all.  And there’s a subtle clue here in the wording: we’re human beings, not human doings.

The Productivity Ninja offers us a way to recapture that essence of being in an increasingly crowded workplace of overflowing inboxes, to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings.

Using a fascinating combination of mindfulness, zen-like calm and stealth & camouflage the Productivity Ninja aims to get your inbox down to zero, make the most of your attention (rather than your time) and teach you to work smarter, not harder.

The author Graham Allcott’s loftiest aim being to teach you how to love your work again by making the bold statement that “time management is dead.”  Attention management is the key to understanding productivity, and that means acknowledging that you have periods of low attention when you don’t have the mental focus to tackle the day job.

Allcott explains that there are 9 characterises of a Productivity Ninja and we’ll touch on a few of our favourites here:

Zen-like calm

If you want to remain focused and not be stressed by all the things you’re not doing, you’ll need to create a ‘Second Brain.”  Basically, it’s a system built around lists, checklists or productivity apps where you can store your ideas.

It’s there to share the load of a busy mind, helping you to think more clearly because you’re not getting distracted by all the other things you need to do.


Saying no.  Not something many of us are entirely comfortable with but if we first acknowledge that saying yes to everything is the beginning of our never-ending to-do list, we’ll soon feel a lot more comfortable with the word no.

Thinking like a ninja means being ruthless with your attention and focus.  And as other commentators have pointed out over the years, it’s helpful to consider what is most important to say yes to so that you feel more comfortable about choosing to say no to other things.


This is about using the right tools for the job.  Which tools save you time and don’t provide distractions?

The challenge we face with productivity software (in particular) is that it encourages networking and social sharing.  How often does that turn into a few hours fiddling with dashboards or instant messaging colleagues?  So we need to manage our use of such tools so that they help our focus rather than hinder it.

Stealth and camouflage

The introvert’s personal favourite and something the extrovert would be encouraged to consider now and again.  Get out of the chaos occasionally.

“One of the worst things you can do is always make yourself available,” writes Graham Allcott.

Research suggests that a 2-minute interruption to your thought process can take at least 30 minutes to undo.  Are there times when working alone and away from others, technology and the phone could be useful?  How could you build these into your day?

Making mistakes

It’s ok to make mistakes!  Perfectionism is a long way from perfect as we explored here.

Perfection is one of those wonderful ideas that we might aspire to, but it can often lead to drastically negative behaviour.  Perfectionism continually points to our failures, no matter how small, and it undermines our achievements.

Are you at your most productive when you are undermining yourself?

If you can combine that last point in particular with the other characteristics of a Productivity Ninja, we wholly support Graham Allcott’s view:

“You’ll feel more present in your work, more engaged, calmer and more at ease with the world around you.”

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Craving Certainty

Whether you like it or not your brain is full of hidden agendas…

We’ve had the pleasure of a little Neuroscience research recently, let’s give you a quick summary of our work…

Regardless of our philosophical beliefs about free will, neuroscience tells us that our brains are determinist. That is, everything that we do is determined, not by our conscious self making choices, but by our unconscious self, based on all our previous experiences and our natural impulses.

We’ll prepare ourselves for the inevitable barrage of emails on that point.

From producing chemicals that make you want that doughnut to watching another episode on Netflix (when you should be writing that important email), the brain’s inbuilt objectives are often very different from the goals we set ourselves in our most rational and motivated moments.

If we were able to recognise the things our brain naturally wants, we would put ourselves in a better position for understanding our decisions.

One of these innate desires that our brains has is for certainty.

The brain craves certainty in virtually the same way as it craves food, sleep and sex.  You get a kick out of getting information that makes you more certain, and alternatively have a strong threat response to uncertainty about what will happen in the future.

Consider the stress you feel when you show up for a meeting just to find that no one is there.  Your first response might be to check the time, then your emails to see if you got it right, ask if this is the right room, call someone who is meant to be at the meeting…

Throughout the ordeal you will probably be on edge and uncomfortable as your brain scrambles for ways of getting the information it lacks.

In the same way, the first thing people will do when they get to the airport is look for their departure time and gate on the information screens.  This is because your brain is a prediction machine.  It collects patterns from its environment, then it stockpiles these memories and uses them to make predictions.

It does this by transferring the things it has seen before and applying it to an event taking place.  In order to do this the brain draws on data from all of our senses. According to his book The Biology of Belief,  Dr. Bruce Lipton says there are about 40 environmental cues you can consciously pay attention to at any time, but when you include the subconscious – this number is over two-million!

Many accounting and consulting companies charge huge sums to executives in exchange for reassuring information through theories, strategies, data, and projections.  But the future is inherently uncertain and there is no crystal ball (as Brexit has shown us).

From our brain’s perspective, the ability to predict the future well is the difference between life and death and we take this subconsciously to work with us.

Companies need to be aware that uncertainty is unsettling for everyone involved and this can lead to indecisiveness and a loss of focus.

Giving people information is incredibly important for them to feel comfortable in the workplace, but the next step of our research suggests that we can train our minds to resist the effects of uncertainty.  Something we suspected a little while ago.

Watch this space as we’ll be publishing here all of our latest findings as we get to grips with the new insights coming out from the labs of neuroscientists.  You can sign up to our Pow Wow list to be kept informed.

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HR & Return on Investment

Can we really measure the impact that HR has on the bottom line?

This is a question we’re asked over and over again.  How can we demonstrate to you and your stakeholders that what we do has an impact on your bottom line?

Join us as we take the plunge into the exciting world of infographics, beginning with this on customer service.  There is an intrinsic connection between the work we do and improving customer service – and that could be both internal or external customer.

Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Profits
One mantra in our industry is that “Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Profits!”  Don’t take our word for it either, we’ve got some heavy hitters in our industry backing this up with research.  Follow the logos for more information:

And if you have selected, developed and engaged the right staff (our bit), you’ll take better care of your customers and generate more sales as a result (your bit).

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring in detail each point of research that demonstrates the Return on Investment metrics that make what we all do so worth while.  We’d encourage you to share this far and wide, we find that that the “ROI” conversation is the sticking point for so many HR projects, not just for our work as consultants to you, but your work as business partners to your organisation.

For your free copy of the 9 metrics, just click the image below.


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HR & ROI: Step One

The first in our ROI series – Existing Customers.

When people ask us about ROI in people development, our starting point is to find out what is being measured and what change business leaders are looking for.

Often the response is about culture or engagement, so the change is to improve staff retention, engagement survey scores or how people describe the company – is this a great place to work?

But making a more direct link to ROI means translating those people metrics into sales and profit.

Of course there are complexities with this as we can never determine which marketing, advertising, people development or new product launch etc has been chiefly responsible for a change in sales figures, but that does not mean it’s not worth exploring.

For a start, when introducing skills workshops, do we make clear enough why this particular skill is important?  Many workshops launch into teaching good management skills, giving feedback, coaching or personal effectiveness, emotional intelligence – without taking the time for delegates to understand why such behaviour is beneficial to them.

There is still the sense that these things are soft or added extras to the hard basics of getting the job done and delivering results.  So we would do well in learning environments to make more of the links for our delegates, helping them see why a change in their behaviour can impact them, their team and the bottom line (and therefore their bonus if the business works in that way).


The probability of selling to an existing happy customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.

- , Marketing Metrics

So how are your people making sure existing customers are happy?  What is the quality of service?  How are managers ensuring people are feeling safe and positive at work, enabling them to provide a better service?

We know from research on the service-profit chain that there are strong correlations between happy people, happy customers and happy profits, so let’s make use of those links in our people development.  Let’s help managers understand that the team spirit they create is having a direct impact on the bottom line through the quality of service and therefore customer experience – whether this team serves internal or external customers.

We may never be able to prove without question that learning has improved sales, but if we can get our delegates more bought into the need for them to change, it’s a great step in the right direction.

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