Search This Blog


Friday, 20 January 2017

Should we change Meeting's name?

Did you hear about Pavlov? He was researching salivation in dogs (as you do), and realised that, when he entered the room to feed them, and then later when he just rang a bell, the dogs salivated. That is they had an unconditioned response that meant seeing him (or hearing the ring of the bell) meant they automatically salivated without food being anywhere in sight (stimulus - response).

We do this all the time - it's what any phobia is based upon - there may be no logical reason to fear most household spiders in the UK but the person with a spider phobia over team has learnt an unconditioned response to feel fear when they see a spider, or perhaps the stimulus has to be the spider moving in order to illicit the response of fear.

Many of our bad habits continue as a result of such unconscious stimulus/responses:
  • We feel a particular emotion, and automatically, and every time we feel it, we start eating chocolates
  • We sit down to eat our tea, and automatically, and every time, turn the TV on
  • We go to the cinema, and automatically, and every time order an extra large bag of popcorn too 
  • We go to the gym, and automatically, and every time, go the pub straight after
It's the automatic, unconscious aspect to the response that points to it being unconditioned behaviour.

We also have unconditioned responses to people and places - we only have to hear their name or see their picture and will respond either positively or negatively. We didn't have to replay an event or think about the person consciously. Our stimulus response meant that unconsciously our body reacted to the image in a particular way - as it would every time it saw a picture of them.

In NLP terminology this process of stimulus/response is called anchoring, because we've anchored a particular response to a particular stimulus.

I wonder is that what we're now doing when we hear the word 'Meeting'.  
Over time what response have we built up unconsciously and automatically to the word 'meeting'. or perhaps it's the response we have to the sight of meeting room, or the response we have to certain people's meetings?

As with anything, if you're happy with your or others response to the meetings you hold, then there's no need to change anything.

The challenge comes when you know your meetings are not meeting expectations.

I read a post from Bernard Marr entitled Stop going to Bad meetings which provided some tips on how to improve the meetings you do attend. Subsequent comments have provided other suggestions - including my own to have a walking meeting.

I wonder however, what happens if we consider Pavlovian conditioning and apply it to meetings. What could we be doing that means we're generating an unconscious and automatic negative response from our attendees?
  • Calling it a 'meeting' may be enough to generate a negative response - the association over time between the word and death by powerpoint and boredom etc. In which case could you call it something else?
  • Similarly using the word 'agenda' may be enough to generate negative response in others.
  • Starting on the hour, and lasting an hour links it to other meetings people have attended - it's not highlighting it as a meeting with a difference, it's telling everyone's unconscious what to expect - a meeting that's just like every other meeting you've attended. Which, depending on the culture and success of meetings at your organisation, is either a good thing or not!
  • Starting the meeting with the most boring, lengthy and least interactive topic. "It can only get better" isn't a great thought you want your attendees thinking at the start of a meeting.
The aim for those leading meetings is not to allow the anchor to previous useless / time wasting meetings to fire up for attendees, and for it to then generate a response of expectant boredom. We must take responsibility for flagging that this meeting is different, purposeful, will be full of energy and run efficiently and effectively. I for example often invite people to consider what quality they are bringing to the meeting/training - but if I did that every time it would soon melt into the background noise of pointlessness.
What can you do to ensure your next meeting meets and even exceeds expectations, and starts to build a positive anchor for when you invite people to a meeting?

Words have power, that's why I love exploring the negative and positive impact the language we're using might be having on us achieving our goals. However odd it might seem using 'problem', 'solutions' or 'answers' could just be the difference between success and failure!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

More on the procurement consultancy, training and coaching services I'm offering in 2017 here - a clue - it includes soft skills, unconventional tools, creativity, language and inspiring change in procurement!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

That's just the way business is!

I started 2017 with an intention, or was it a plea, to ensure that Procurement didn't leave their humanity at the negotiation door. After attendance of a conference on mental health today I realise leaving humanity at the door is a challenge many in business face, not just procurement professionals.
The conference I attended was HeadTorch's #WorksMental in Glasgow. I was official tweeter sharing some of the snippets from the day, and connecting with other's from around the world also speaking about mental health whether at Davos, Westminster Palace's #Headstogether, or BellsLetsTalk over in Canada! (see the # link for more on the tweets shared).

The picture below shows us all are celebrating our #mentalhealth, and acknowledging that it's something we all have, 100% of us, with NO exceptions. Acknowledging that just like physical health, mental health is something where we all have good days, great days, meh days and bad days. 
The challenge is whilst physical health is generally talked about and accepted in organisations, there's still a stigma associated with talking about mental health.

As I heard the stories of managers reactions to those with mental health difficulties today I was appalled and saddened. Bullying behaviour, disrespect, abusive language all being validated by the words "That's just the way business is"!

Interesting to consider of course that those business leaderships wouldn't feel the need to justify their behaviour if they thought it was acceptable.

With January 20th, and the presidential inauguration fast approaching, I'm also reminded of similar bullying responses that seem to suggest "That's just the way politics is" too! The same self interest, protectionism, bullying behaviour that justifies inhumane treatment has been seen there too.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and change the situation - but I can't - not over night anyway.

Here's where my thoughts are on WHAT WE CAN DO:

If "it's just the way business is" then it's like that because people acted without humanity and people accepted it. Over time we learnt that the values that drive our actions outside of work are certainly not the ones that can or should drive our actions at work! Somewhere along the lines we all started to believe the lie "That's just the way business is" and started to act from that belief. We accepted or turned a blind eye to those actions that, if undertaken in our personal lives, would have us disowning or walking away from the relationship.

I often get told I'm naive to expect business to operate differently. I also get told:
  • You can't do that in business (about some of the unconventional tools I use) - when I do do that in business  
  • You can't be honest to a supplier - when I get GREAT deals from suppliers by being honest
  • You can't turn down work when you have no work just because it's unethical - when I did just that and survived to tell the tale, and didn't compromise my values as a result!
I also get told 
  • You're different - you're not like the wolf like purchasers 
  • It's a refreshing change for a purchaser to act like that
I'm not that different really - all I've done is not accept the belief that I have to leave my humanity at the door when I'm working.

Yes it is that simple.

Before you start with "But that won't work" or "If I do I'll get abused/harassed for it", please hear me out.

Firstly who is this "business" you're talking about - are you not a part of this entity called a business? And if so what are you doing to change your own actions to align with this better business we want to see in the world.

If you believe it won't work, and that's your reaction before you've tried doing it then you are still believing that business can not change - belief in the possible has to come first, otherwise change will never be possible.

I was the same over 11 years ago - I felt dis-empowered, bullied, and couldn't see that there was a different way for business to operate. Time and distance provides a perspective that says business can be all the positive things we want it to be - we just have to believe that it's possible.

It doesn't come, however, without making difficult decisions.

Just like the bullied wife, who can't see beyond the belief of her husband that she's worthless without him, and thus so far has stayed and put up with the bullying, disrespect, abusive language, self interest and protectionism, we each have a choice:
  • Leave and find a relationship that enables us to take our humanity to work every day
  • Have faith in the underlying humanity of the other person and work on the relationship, so it may grow into it's full potential 
  • Continue to believe the lies that "that's just the way it is", and accept the consequences of that decision  
Together we can bring humanity back into business - we just have to believe it!

To provide more evidence of the possibility of taking our humanity to work I'm wanting to interview organisations where humanity is embraced in all of its daily actions, and especially procurement. I'm hoping that will include B Corporations, and that The Elders may also be able to point me in the right direction. Any suggestions of organisations to talk do please do get in touch +44(0)7770 538159 

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Attendance at other #worksmental conferences have had me writing the following posts:
And some posts aimed at Procurement professionals:

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Nudges in performance

I've just posted a blog over on LinkedIn entitled:

Nudging performance with Just In Time(JIT) and In The Moment (ITM) Interventions

It encourages us to proactively plan for the nudges rather than wait for them to happen - after all if it's anything like a recent Excel nudge in my performance I'd been doing it the long way round for years!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out