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Bonus Post
28th February 2015
It's All About You

"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time." --M. Scott Peck

Yesterday I realised something.
I'm selfish.

I ask far too many questions because I actually want to say something on that subject as opposed to wanting to know what someone thinks. When someone is talking; all I can think about is what do I want to say next. And when someone changes the subject before I said what I've just thought of, I get really, really annoyed. Or, I just change the subject back and disrupt the flow of conversation.

Sound like anyone you know? Probably. I'm convinced it's not only me out there but I want to do something about it.

I want to be a better listener.
I want to be a better manager.
I want to be a better partner.
Hell, I want to be a better person.

So, today I did something about it.

Today, I promised myself, if you talk to me then it's all about you. I will listen to what you say without thinking about what I want to say instead. I promised I wouldn't start a conversation about myself. I promised I would ask questions out of an interest in someone.I promised I would listen to the answer.

And here's what happened:

I Learnt Stuff
Valuable stuff. Staff's career aspirations, about their life outside of work, about their educational aspirations. All of which helps me to be a better manager to the people I manage.

I Did Less
By listening to people better, even for a day, I was able to delegate more effectively. Give opportunities to the ones who wanted it, stretch the ones who could be stretched, and do less myself. Which, when you have a high performing team who can do their job better than I can do it for them, is only a good thing.

I Had Fun
I genuinely enjoyed today even more than I enjoyed yesterday (and yesterday was even a day off!). I made people feel special by doing what I should be doing and listening to them. Not just listening, but really listening.

And I Slipped Up
There were times I talked about myself without anyone asking. There were one or two occasions where I caught myself thinking about my response and then having to say "sorry. Can you repeat that?".

But that's OK.

Tomorrow's another day and today is just one small step in the right direction.

Over To You
Next time you're having a conversation with someone think, as McFly would say, "it's all about you".

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28h Febrary 2015
Going Japanese

“Success is 99% failure” - Soichiro Honda

We will cover three encapsulating concepts all originating from Japan. These are: Muda, Kaizen and Six Sigma. You will notice some, if not all, of these apparent in businesses around you even if the actual words are not vocalized.

Roughly translated, muda means “uselessness” or “wastefulness”. The idea is to reduce waste to minimize costs, time and resources and to increase bottom line profits. As with most things Japanese, the concept is wonderfully simplistic but taken very seriously. Companies such as Toyota are supremely efficient in employing this concept.

With my (extremely) limited Japanese, I do know Kaizen roughly means “creating change for the better”. Again, a single word for a big concept. The idea is that if you continuously improve as opposed to making step changes in products, solutions or manufacturing processes, you will always be one step ahead. Linked also with muda, the concept strives to eliminate waste. Under the kaizen umbrella you have quality circles, labour responsibilities and management teamwork. Well worth some additional Googling.

Six Sigma
Six sigma is said to be attributed to Motorola in 1986 (so says Wikipedia). This concept, again built upon continuous improvement, is aimed at eliminating defects within products. So much so that the target defect rate is 0.00034% - or more to the point the success rate is 99.99966%. The methods in this includes training ‘champions’ of areas requiring expertise, so that problems can be eliminated quickly and correctly.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time!

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27th February 2015
The Dark Side of Retail: Zero Hour Contracts

I thought I would take this opportunity just to draw some attention to some more darker practices that go on in retail. You've already seen how high I rate retail as a career with "Why Working in Retail is Not as Bad as You Think it is".

But now I want to draw your attention to zero-hour contracts.

Zero-Hour Contracts
So called 'casual contracts' have been in the news the last few years and not, generally, for good reasons. McDonalds and Dominos are said to have 90% of their staff on zero-hour contracts.

90%?! And this is on something that isn't even defined by law.

I truly think that risk of zero-hour contracts need to be taken seriously. A few people I know are not only on zero hour contracts but they're not allowed to take on other work. So, they're not guaranteed any work, they have to wait by the phone on the hope someone's phoning in sick or the shop is super busy and they need an extra hand.

Most of the time that phone doesn't ring.

The only jobs they can find also are offering zero-hour contracts, but they're not allowed to have two zero-hour contracts. It's disheartening, and from the business' point of view, how on Earth are you meant to engage your staff and get the most out of them when you treat them like that?

So, what do we do?

Now, there's always going to be someone that this arrangement works for: the worker who only comes back during half terms or the person whose getting into acting and wants the flexibility to turn down work if it doesn't fit in with their unpredictable schedule. But for the masses, I don't think it a positive working tool.

I would propose that zero-hour contracts should not take up more than 20% of any work force and there should be a minimum monthly payment in case of no hours been given. Clauses that disallow taking another job should be banned also to prevent chronic abuses because of someone's reliance on getting any work at all (if they're not already?).

What are your experiences? Do you agree? Maybe in my ignorance I have missed recent advances in this?

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James Markey

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