#1 Public Speaking Secret

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I am aiming to be one of the best public speakers around. Arrogant? Maybe. But I am working hard to be the best I can be, using fanatical discipline, productive paranoia and the BAED training programme (see card at end of this article). By breathing slowly, rhythmically and evenly, reading more than I thought possible and learning more than I thought possible. But to be a truly great public speaker you need to exude passion. One of the most famous catchphrases of motivational guru Tony Robbins is, live with passion! He is spot on (of course) and that is how we all should live. That is also how we should all speak, with true passion. As a professional speaker, if you lack this passion, you’ll never fully convert your audience members to your point of view, no matter how much innovation, how exciting, how revolutionary, or invigorating your topic may be.

So what is true passion in public speaking? Passion is about being authentic and charismatic. Passion is also an exchange of energy. It’s about emotional connection with your audience. It encompasses truth and vulnerability. Passion is not easy to accomplish. We don’t fully trust people until we’ve seen them get emotional (angry, sad, ecstatic) because these moments allow us to take the measure of their values.

My 3 secrets (and for any aspirational speaker) for success are:

  • Purpose
  • Passion
  • Presence

You’ve got to show up and be present in order to reach people through communication, and that takes passion. Otherwise, don’t bother. The most important thing is being passionate about what you’re doing and always give it your all. That is the key to success. Under the right conditions, you and your audience can feed off each others’ passion and excitement, and you’ll create something special that will change their lives and yours.

So if you run your own business, you know that at some point or other, in some capacity, you’ll need to be able to speak in front of a crowd. The word, enthusiasm, derives from a Greek term that translates as possessed by a god. In English, this means you’re inspired, given breath, by whatever you passionately believe in and your business is your passion. Allow it to come out in your speech and your actions. Whether your audience is one or one thousand, one thing does not change: that passion for your business.

My advice is to do everything you can to transform your presentation from ‘ordinary’ to ‘unforgettable’ and it all starts with doing simple things well:

  1. Loving Your Topic. Find the one thing that makes your heart sing about your presentation and that will elevate your passion on topics you don’t care about. If you can’t believe in the topic so intensely you love to talk about it, then you’ll have trouble communicating your points to the audience. At the very least, find some aspect of it you can learn to love: a key takeaway, strategy, or story that makes your heart sing. Believe in what you’re saying, because most audiences can detect a fake almost instantly. Prepare carefully, and understand the topic so well you can’t help but be enthusiastic about it.
  2. Live Your Passion. Whether you love your topic or want to run it over with a rusted-out pickup truck, you need to believe in what your saying. This strikes at the heart of authenticity. If you believe in your message, your audience will believe in it too.
  3. Exude That Passion. The point of being a passionate speaker is to serve your audience. I’m always infinitely grateful for whoever will give me an hour of their time to listen to me speak. It’s important to keep your audience’s best interest in mind. It’s critical to serve them. It’s vital to not waste their time. Think what are your giving them. Enthusiasm requires energy, so give it everything, every time.

Sincerity of emotion shows up in nonverbal conversation through, perhaps surprisingly, stillness and openness. While the strong passions like anger, joy, excitement of various kinds, can all be signaled with energetic body movements, sometimes extreme stillness can be just as effective. Think of it like the voice where the point is to establish a baseline and then vary that to exhibit the emotions.

Great actors have something they call the offstage beat that they use just before they go onstage. Mediocre actors just walk on and deliver their first lines. But the great ones are already inhabiting the character offstage before they go on. The result is a fully believable character, and one you can’t take your eyes from. You need to develop a little of the same magic, and the way to do it is to prepare, just before the communication, not only what you’re going to say but how you feel about it: strongly, fully, and with all your physical being. Breathe – slowly, rhythmic and even. That, after all, is where passion originates. And that’s how you radiate passion, align the two conversations, and convince audiences large and small of your authenticity.

Being a passionate speaker (and one of the best) is a brilliant, noble and fantastic goal. If you love your topic, believe in your message and that it is the only message for those people, and finally give the audience the respect they deserve. You are on your way to passionate speaking. If you do it with enough conviction, you will be charismatic.

I will be Amazing Every Day.

Your Vast Prediction Machine

Think of the brain as a vast prediction machine. I drove my car to the station this morning; what colour is it?The brain’s desire to know the answer (I don’t have a car but to help your brain, let’s call it red) and indeed what the future holds in general is a powerful motivator in everyday life. We know that massive neuronal resources are devoted to predicting what will happen each moment.

Using research by the neuroscientists at Cal Tech it is becoming clearer that the brain needs to resolve some difficult and seemingly opposing issues to thrive.

Much is known about how people make decisions under varying levels of probability (risk). Less is known about the neural basis of decision-making when probabilities are uncertain because of missing information (ambiguity). Yet we know the brain loves certainty. This is the assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure (or even comfort). Some people pursue this need by striving to control all aspects of their lives, while others obtain certainty by giving up control and adopting a philosophy, faith or belief system.

Your brain is doing something quite remarkable right now. There around 40 environmental cues you can consciously pay attention to right now. Remember we have at least 27 senses (see here). Subconsciously this number is well over two-million. That’s a huge amount of data that can be used for prediction. The brain likes to know what is going on by recognising patterns in the world. It likes to feel certain. We learn much more than we ever consciously understand. Most of the signals that are peripherally perceived enter the brain without our awareness and interact on unconscious levels. This is why we say that learners become their experience and remember what they experience, not just what they are told.

Jeff Hawkins inventor of the Palm Pilot and more recently founder of a neuroscience institute explains the brain’s predilection for prediction in his book (On Intelligence),

Your brain receives patterns from the outside world, stores them as memories, and makes predictions by combining what it has seen before and what is happening now… Prediction is not just one of the things your brain does. It is the primary function of the neocortex, and the foundation of intelligence.

Meaning is not always available on the surface. Meaning often happens intuitively in ways that we don’t understand. So that, when we learn, we use both conscious and unconscious processes. In teaching, you may not reach a student immediately, but two years later he / she may be somewhere else and suddenly join the dots and get it.

The brain requires at the same time as this certainty a measure of uncertainty, causing variety. This is to avoid the boredom reflex and requires our brain to look for distraction. The evolution of play and creation of novelty stem from this quest for uncertainty. The need for the unknown, for change and new stimuli also makes us feel alive and engaged. This is in part caused by the hunger for information, just for the sake of it. Often that information doesn’t make us more effective or adaptive, it just reduces a sense of relative uncertainty.

Your brain loves a quick burst of dopamine we get when a circuit is completed. It feels good – but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us all the time. All of this explains many otherwise strange phenomenon. Knowing that we automatically avoid uncertainty explains why any kind of change can be hard – it’s inherently uncertain. It explains why we prefer things we know over things that might be more fun, or better for us, but are new and therefore uncertain. It might also explain why we prefer the certainty of focusing on problems and finding answers in data from the past, rather than risking the uncertainty of new, creative solutions.

This means that we are naturally programmed to search for meaning. This principle is survival oriented and is the basis of why your brain wanted to know the colour of my car (which I don’t have). The brain needs and automatically registers the familiar while simultaneously searching for and responding to additional stimuli.

We want to know what things mean to us. The brain likes to think ahead and picture the future, mapping out how things will be, not just for each moment, but also for the longer term. The paradox of certainty and uncertainty combined with significance and meaning.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Silence Your Brain!

Peter was after a talking parrot, so he went to the local pet shop in the hope of securing such a find. He was in luck. The shop assistant assured her that the parrot would learn and repeat any word or phrase it heard. Peter was delighted. However, a week later, the parrot still hadn’t spoken a word. Peter returned to the shop to complain, however, it appeared that the assistant was accurate in what he had said and refused a refund. Why didn’t the parrot talk? [answer at the end, but remember the parrot repeats every single word it hears].

Shut up! Like the mute button on the TV remote control, our brains filter out unwanted noise so we can focus on what we’re listening to. Most of us will be familiar with the experience of silently talking to ourselves in our head. That inner monologue usually conducted in silence. Self doubts, insecurities and a general soundtrack or commentary to life.

Have you ever been at the supermarket and realise that you’ve forgotten to pick up something you needed. You might say (outloud), ‘saugages!’ or whatever your temperoary lapse of recall was. Or maybe you have got an important meeting with your boss later in the day, and you’re simulating, (silently in your head) how you think the conversation might go, possibly hearing both your own voice and your boss’s voice responding. This is the phenomenon that psychologists call inner speech, and they’ve been trying to study it pretty much since the dawn of psychology as a scientific discipline.

Our Brain’s have a built in filter for unwanted noise. When it comes to following our own speech, a new brain study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that instead of one homogenous mute button, we have a network of volume settings that can selectively silence and amplify the sounds we make and hear. They discovered that neurones in one part of the patients’ hearing mechanism were dimmed when they talked, while neurones in other parts lit up. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, offer clues about how we hear ourselves above the noise of our surroundings and monitor what we say. Previous studies have shown a selective auditory system in monkeys that can amplify their self-produced mating, food and danger alert calls, but until this latest study, it was not clear how the human auditory system is wired.

With this in mind it might make more sense when we need to really listen to something that is important. Say you have to listen to fill a prescription or enter data that is potentially life threatening if you get it wrong. When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second more surprising thing we do is stop moving altogether. This strategy helps us hear better by preventing unwanted sounds generated by our own movements.

This interplay between movement and hearing also has a counterpart deep in the brain. Indeed, indirect evidence has long suggested that the brain’s motor cortex, which controls movement, somehow influences the auditory cortex, which gives rise to our conscious perception of sound. A new study, in Nature, combines cutting-edge methods in electrophysiology, optogenetics and behavioural analysis to reveal exactly how the motor cortex, seemingly in anticipation of movement, can tweak the volume control in the auditory cortex. The findings contribute to the basic knowledge of how communication between the brain’s motor and auditory cortexes might affect hearing during speech or musical performance.

And the parrot? The parrot was deaf. Therefore it couldn’t repeat a single word it had heard – as it had heard no words at all.

Be Amazing Every Day

78% Negative Tweets on Premises

To address this astonishing modern-day phenomena, it is worth looking at some real word examples while recalling the old fashioned power of empathy. Empathy is a term that is often misunderstood. Empathy is perhaps the most advanced of all communication skills. If you are reading this and 100% of your reviews on Trip Advisor are negative (see below), you may have to accept that hospitality is not the profession for you.

The truth is that most hotels, bar and restaurants should have a healthy mix of good, bad and indifferent reviews. It seems that the secret to a successful hospitality business is being empathic in dealing with poor feedback. Responding to your (potentially poor) reviews with humility and honesty will prove you have that this highly professional skill and may change the mindset of your customers (for the better).

One way forward in dealing with these potential problems, is by keeping on top of your social media feeds. It provides an ideal opportunity to turn potentially negative experience into a positive one. The other way of course, which I don’t recommend, is trying is to BAN NEGATIVE REVIEWS.

In December 2014, the Broadway Hotel in Blackpooltried prohibiting bad reviews which only gives further credence to the issues raised and will encourage further negativity from other visitors. They charged retired van driver Tony Jenkinson, 63, and his 64-year-old wife Jan £100 extra after they described the establishment as a ‘rotten stinking hovel’ in their damning online review. The review sparked a row between the couple and the hotel, which said it operated a ‘no bad review policy’, as stated in its terms and conditions.

TripAdvisor spokesman, James Kay said, ‘While, thankfully, such instances are very rare, it is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience. ‘Where we find evidence of a business doing so, we will take action to protect the integrity of our site.’

The hotel is still (amazingly) open for business. At reception there was a large notice stating:

We no longer take verbal abuse as tips.

Their policy was only ever likely to create enough negative press for the story to go viral and no one wants that. Far from putting off hoteliers and restaurateurs, I would actively encourage hospitality leaders to engage with their customer feedback, across all social platforms, come rain or shine.

Most modern savvy gurus in the areas of communications, management and self-development refer in one way or another to the importance of empathy. Being able to step back and achieve a detachment from our own emotions, is essential for effective, constructive relationships.

While you should always treat complaints and bad reviews with a certain amount of seriousness and professionalism, there’s no harm at having a joke at your own expense. Indeed, some cafes and restaurants reference bad reviews on their sandwich boards (see above) or digitally on their website or social feeds. Again that word, empathy, is the key. All the research shows that it’s easier to relate to companies making light of their imperfections and making sure they correct them (as well).

Empathy is the ability to see the world as another person, to share and understand another person’s feelings, needs, concerns and / or their emotional state.

Empathy is a skill that can be developed and, as with most interpersonal skills, empathising (at some level) comes naturally to most people. So try this to improve your empathetic levels: Next time you eat out or go on holiday, write about it and post to your preferred site. While writing try and recall the feeling of reading a piece about your establishment: I bet it makes you think twice about the language you use and how you expect your review to be handled. Empathy is a selfless act, it enables us to learn more about people and relationships with people – it is a desirable skill beneficial to ourselves, others and society. Phrases such as being in your shoes and soul mates imply empathy – empathy has even been likened to a spiritual or religious state of connection with another person or group of people.

Being an empathetic leader requires just three basic components:

  • effective communication 
  • a strong imagination
  • shared experiences 

Part of this empathy journey is establishing real trust and rapport. Creating trust and rapport helps us to have sensible adult discussions. Establishing trust is about listening and understanding – not necessarily agreeing (which is different) – to the other person. Listening without judging. A useful focus to aim for when listening to another person is to try to understand how the other person feels, and to discover what they want to achieve. Dr Stephen Covey (of ‘The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People’® fame) is one of many modern advocates who urge us to strive deeply to understand the other person’s point of view.

There are plenty of methods that encourage good customer reviews to put against the less pleasing ones. Leaders need to decide which strategy best suits their main customer base and implement it now. It is difficult and rarely appropriate to try to persuade another person to do what we want; instead we must understand what the other person wants, and then try help them to achieve it, which often includes helping them to see the way to do it. So start by asking:

  • Does your website have a section (or links to areas) where customers can leave comments?
  • Do you mention reviews while customers are paying the bill or (better yet) on your business card?
  • Do you incentivise customer reviews with discount offers?

If your answer was no to any (or all) of these questions, then you need to ask an expert (try me!) what you need to do now. If we learn to work with our critics collaboratively, to see what they really want and then help them to get it, we can change everything. The act of doing all this establishes trust and maybe, just maybe those 78% of on premise tweets will become positive.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Leadership Excellence: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Leadership Excellence: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants



Don’t look back in anger. Leaders (and potential leaders) will do well to remember their past and quote it correctly. While not being limited by dogma, they might be wise to acknowledge the body of work that has proceeded them.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

While this quotation can be traced to at least the 12th century and is often attributed to Bernard of Chartres (in Latin, nanos gigantum humeris insidentes), its most familiar expression is by Sir Isaac Newton. It is found in his 1676 in a letter to Robert Hooke. Sir Isaac Newton used this expression with respect to his own accomplishments and he accepted that his scientific breakthroughs owned much to those who had gone before him. Despite centuries of scientific progress, Newton’s discoveries and theories continue to influence today’s generation of scientists. Indeed Stephen Hawking’s compilation of works by the greatest minds Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein is entitled On The Shoulders of Giants. The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy, (Running Press 2002).

There is a common misconception among some leaders that you have to do everything all by yourself: you are the leader, you are responsible and it’s all you. This is, in my humble opinion, misleading, dangerous and wrong. Business leaders operating within the new economy are often quick to dismiss the received wisdom and practices of an analogue age. Every generation likes to challenge the views, conventions and behaviour of the previous one, but we appear to be experiencing a particularly profound generational shift within the world of business.

Leaders have to understand that they have a very talented team around them and it’s only the collective whole of the team that can result in a win, not any one individual effort. The smart business leader also knows when to borrow from the past and to recognise that despite the almost limitless possibilities of a digital age, the core business principles and practices, developed and codified by earlier generations of business leaders and theorists, are just as relevant as they have ever been. Google Scholar has adopted the motto, Stand on the shoulders of giants.

In the great book What’s Next, Gen X, Tamara Erickson describes how,

Today’s businesses are facing new, unpredictable challenges. What we’ve thought of as leadership skills – setting direction, having the answers, controlling performance, running a tight ship – are less relevant in an environment of constant change. Increasingly, leadership is about creating a context for innovation and inclusion in the face of ambiguity and the unexpected.

Not only should this resonant for leaders and potential leaders, it asks some fundmental questions. Warren Bennis is an American scholar, organisational consultant and author who is widely regarded as the pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership. Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at USC. My favourite two quotations are:

1. Three words leaders have trouble dealing with:‘I don’t know.’

Good leadership will often start with questions whose answer is: I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.

2. None of us is as smart as all of us.

I think that both these quotations have the quality of If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Sir Isaac’s wisdom is in challenging us to remember and use the nuggets of those who came before us; Professor Bennis’ words invites us to use the people around you. The smart business leader also knows when to borrow from the past. They recognise that despite the almost limitless possibilities of a digital age, the core business principles and practices, developed and codified by earlier generations of business leaders and theorists, are just as relevant as they have ever been. Indeed if too much ego or too little discipline prevents us from showing we care about those with whom we work, we are taking up room where giants are needed.

If you ever forget the importance of this nugget (and you live in the UK), the £2 coin bears the inscription STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS on its edge. The challenge for all of is to find those shoulders to lift others up to see more, and to be all they can be. If we don’t invest time in knowing the needs, values, and passions of those we lead, we by omission invalidate their real worth. Great Leaders in my opinion need to:

  • Develop new leaders, not followers.
  • Will invest in management training and development.
  • Learn from best practice and develop new strategies.
  • Be humble enough to stand on the shoulders of business giants.

Using Newton’s principle of standing upon those broad shoulders, perhaps we should look to Aristotle. He was the first genuine scientist in history and every scientist is in his debt. Aristotle writings cover many subjects including: physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Aristotle is often quoted as saying:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

The sentiment certainly sounds great, but the trouble is that he did not say it. These words were actually written by Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers. After quoting a phrase from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions), Durant sums it up this way…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit. This is an example of the way that provocative words tend to gravitate toward famous mouths. As the great quote-sleuth Ralph Keyes says, clever lines … routinely travel from obscure mouths to prominent ones.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Be Amazing Every Day.

The Ostrich Problem


Question: Why do Ostriches stick their head in the sand? Answer: They don’t.

There will be plenty of people over the Christmas and New Year period whom will not check their online bank balance, despite wanting to be in control of their money. If your bank balance is going into the red, you wouldn’t be the first to deliberately avoid a statement and scientists now think they know why. Interestingly they call it (wrongly) the Ostrich Problem.

The much maligned common ostrich (Struthio camelus) is a species of large flightless birds native to Africa. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and can run at up to about 70 km/h (19 m/s; 43 mph), the fastest land speed of any bird. Despite holding the title of the largest living birds; they stand 7 to 9 feet tall when fully grown and their heads are relatively small. This is important because from a distance, ostriches nibbling at food on the ground may appear to have their heads in the dirt.

The expression bury your head in the sand apparently comes from the supposed habit of ostriches hiding their heads when faced with an attack by predators. The story was first recorded by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder. But the more likely root of this claim has to do with ostriches’ nests. Male ostriches dig a size able hole up to 6 to 8 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep, which is plenty big for their puny heads—in which to stow the eggs. During the incubation period, both parent ostrich take turns rotating the eggs with their beaks, a task that requires them to submerge their heads into the nest, thereby creating the illusion that their heads are buried in the sand.

An interesting take on this story (without much support, however) is that ostriches are not smart and believe that if they can’t see their attackers then the attackers can’t see them. Of all the many forms of protest over the years, this head-in-the-sand action is the most inspiring. In beaches and in sand piles across the world in 2014 protestors buried their heads to draw attention to the inaction of world leaders on climate change and the outright denial by many about the existence and extent of the problem.

We tend to bury our heads in the sand because we feel guilty when confronted with reality, say psychologists led by Dr Thomas Webb at the University of Sheffield. The study, published in the Social and Personality Psychology Compass journal, suggests that people are actively motivated to avoid information. Dr Webb says that promoting lasting changes in behaviour is one of the most significant challenges facing science and society. His four-year project, which ends in 2015, seeks to understand why people avoid monitoring their goal progress and, by so doing, find ways to promote monitoring and help people to achieve goals. Dr Webb also cites a 2012 survey which found that only 10 per cent of people who worry about their finances daily check their bank balance at least once a month.This active ignoring of information about one’s current standing relative to one’s goals is part of popular culture, yet current scientific perspectives assume that people will actively monitor and seek information on their progress. They call this the ‘Ostrich Problem’ ignoring the obvious biological and physiological errors.

Despite evidence that self monitoring can be good for us (classically stepping on the scales when trying to lose weight) there are times when individuals intentionally avoid such information.The researchers think people ignore what is going on around them to avoid negative feelings, often of guilt, that accompany being presented with reality. Dr Webb said: ‘The Ostrich Problem is the idea that there are times when people would rather not know how they’re doing.’ Avoiding monitoring may allow people to escape from negative feelings associated with an accurate appraisal of progress. The socalled Ostrich Problem includes situations in which people receive relevant information but intentionally fail to evaluate the implications for their goal progress – in other words, they reject the information. It concluded that the Ostrich Problem is now part of popular culture, giving rise to the terms bury your head in the sand and ignorance is bliss. Just remember the wonderful quotation from Martin Niemoeller,

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no-one left to speak for me.

The need for creative and committed leadership, sustained over the long haul, has never been greater. There is not just a need to get others to pull their heads out of the sand but for each of us to wonder about the warm dark places we burrow into.

Heads up!

Be Amazing Every Day.

Webb, T. L., Chang, B., & Benn, Y. (2013). “The ostrich problem”: Motivated avoidance or rejection of information on goal progress. Social and Personality Psychology Compass7(11), 794-807. DOI: 10.1111/spc3.12071 onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/spc3.12071/pdf

Are You Ready for Service Excellence?


Organisations Exist to Serve. PERIOD.In December I had a problem with a well known ‘new’ UK bank. In their flagship local London store, my cards were cloned and overnight, all my money was extracted in Guatemala and Honduras. Their USP claim is that they don’t have traditional bank rules and poor service. It was a car crash of system to get my money back; I was on hold for 3 hours. Consider Howard Schultz talking about Starbucks,

At our core, we’re a coffee company, but the opportunity we have to extend the brand is beyond coffee; it’s entertainment.

It’s 2015 and we really do live in a service economy. In most western countries, service accounts for more than 75% of GDP, a share which will continue to increase. Service is therefore important for all types of companies, because they now compete primarily on the service that they provide.

So why is there so much bad service? Why do so many companies struggle to deliver even the most basic services let alone give great entertainment (except in not doing what they claim is their USP)? If all companies effectively compete on service, the key differentiator then lies in the service management model and the ability to execute it. The key reasons why a service company fails to deliver excellent service are:

  • The Knowledge Gap. They don’t know or understand what the customer expects.
  • The Design and 
Standards Gap. They don’t have the right service designs, processes or systems to execute a plan.
  • The Performance Gap. They are not delivering to its own service standards and rarely show Excellence, always.
  • The Communication Gap. They are not matching performance to service promises – expectations and values are not explained.

So what is the basis of service excellence? Leadership and culture now play a greater role in effective service organisations today than ever before. Many claim to have cracked this particular problem. Some suggest that excellent service is where service is:

  • reliable
  • timely
  • personalised
  • memorable
  • unnoticeable
  • remarkable

The trouble is that this has such a narrow focus on how service is delivered (the internal processes ) or on the service itself. It is also very short sighted and exists in a world that no longer exists. Service Excellence can be understood by this simple function (taken from Service Management 3.0 – the next generation of service by Morten Kamp Andersen and Peter Ankerstjerne)

Excellent Service Customer Perception minus Customer Expectation

When customers evaluate a service they will compare their perception of the actual delivered service to what they think it should be. This process is often done at a sub-conscious emotional level. So try this de-stilled formula (with help from Tom Peter’s Excellence Paper ) and apply a small droplet of wisdom:

  • Excellence, always. From now on do nothing less than excellence behaviour. The small stuff matters and you can change everything with this philosophy.Don’t forget to tuck the shower curtain into the bath tub. Conrad Hilton
  • Great Execution of the Emotional Signature Do more than is required, and remember Drucker’s view on great leadership: They do … ONE BIG THING at a time. 
  • Positively Engage with your customers at every opportunity. Your plan for engagement is meaningless without excellent execution.

Execution is strategy —Fred Malek

  • First Class Communication is vital because your customers want to feel valued and respected. They’re also looking for peace of mind that they can trust you will deliver what you promise
  • Understand Your Market and anticipating your customers’ changing needs will enable you to think and stay ahead of the competition. Monitoring the wider economy and analysing how changes will impact your customers. They should be your number #1 focus always.
  • Get Current Feedback from survey and asking great questions so you get an honest assessment of your business from the people that matter – your clients.
  • Flexibility and Innovation so your clients get exactly what they want, in their way, every time. Exceed expectations and make their lasting memory amazing.
  • Mentoring encourage staff members at all levels to mentor newer team members. Not only does it give them pride and drive to unlock other people’s talents, it develops stronger teams.

If you want staff to give great service, give great service to staff —Ari Weinzweig

  • Have an Amazing Training Programme so that staff can see how their development will progress step by step. Service companies who desire to be excellent, do not only have great people, they also have great processes for how to induct, introduce, train, manage, develop and promote these people.They have a system and a culture of processes which are founded on a great respect for human character and a belief that an individual can do wonders if he/she is just provided with the right tools and management processes.

Believe the difference the little unexpected extra can make. It can come in different shapes and forms, such as a smile, a positive and fun remark, random acts of kindness or the additional effort by the service professional going the extra mile. The old models of service are are no longer sufficient. Their future focus should be on the service delivery system and the power of the human touch. Frontline service employees should be empowered to create appreciated service moments and through their service performance influence and preferably leverage the purpose of the customer organisation.

Maybe take on board Tom Peter’s wonderful formula:

K = R = P (Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.)

EXCELLENCE. Now. EXCELLENCE. Always. Thanks Tom.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Your Brain Can’t Handle New Year’s Resolutions

Your Brain Can’t Handle New Year’s Resolutions





The neuroscience is indeed interesting; the brain cells that operate willpower are located in the Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC), which is the area right behind your forehead. This area of the brain is also responsible for staying focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract tasks. When you set a New Year’s resolution, it is this PFC area that goes into overdrive, as an enormous amount of willpower is required. It is this surge in activity at that your brain simply can’t handle. Imagine your Pre Frontal Cortex as a simple muscle; it needs to be trained, developed and worked on. If you decide to train this ‘muscle’ at the start of the New Year, with a resolution to say quit smoking, add to it start going to the gym and then lose lots of weight, that’s the equivalent of doing an world record squat lift without any previous training. It’s no surprise that your brain can’t do the heavy lifting.

Look into my eyes and just do it. So you can blame your overloaded brain for it’s lack of success on seeing through you resolutions. There is a secondary problem about trying to tackle a goal because someone told you to (or because you simply think you should). It seems that taking on a goal because of outside pressure just makes people want to rebel. There’s an important distinction to be drawn between goals that we feel that we should accomplish and those we believe we truly want to accomplish. Rarely do we attain goals unless we truly embrace the goal. Make sure you’re only picking goals because you’re ready and eager to fulfill them.

So what strategies might work in helping you achieve your NYr? The latest research into the psychology and the neuroscience of goal setting and willpower offer some surprising non-cliché tips for making your resolutions work for you.

1. Pick Only One Resolution. Start with the biggest goal you have for 2015 and let’s focus on that one. Exclude all the sub goals and mini resolutions. In an experiment conducted at Stanford, one group of students was given a two digit number to memorise while the other group was given a seven digit number. Afterwards, they were asked to walk down a hallway while holding that number in memory and presented with the option to eat a slice of cake or fruit salad at the end. It turns out that the seven digit memorisers were nearly twice as likely to choose cake over the fruit salad. It was as though memorising the extra numbers took up ‘good decision making’ space in their brain. Pick one key goals to focus on and you’ll be much more likely to follow through. Then, let go of everything else, otherwise you’ll be picking the chocolate cake for every situation, instead of the choice that you set out to make.

1. Start on Monday. I know that New Year is on a Thursday this year, but think about the 5th as your key day. The turn of another year tricks us into seeing our big-picture selves, our slates wiped clean. Take advantage of it. People commit to their goals more fiercely after a major benchmark like New Year’s Day. If you are an I-don’t-believe-in-resolutions person who nonetheless wants to break a bad habit, wait for a Monday. It’s the most popular day of the week for starting diets and stopping smoking, studies show.

2. Focus on the carrot, not the stick. A new powerful study from the University of Chicago outlines how clearly positive feedback on any of your new habits will increase the likelihood of your success with your new habits and resolutions. Hand in hand with this goes the fact that rewarding yourself for advances with your habits with things that make you feel great way to increase your success rate.

3. Pick a Round Number. George Wu, Professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and his colleagues recently looked at marathon runners at the end of their races. A huge number of people finished in times that clustered around ’round’ numbers, the researchers discovered e.g. a 4-hour marathon. Marathon runners feel a lot worse just missing these really arbitrary reference points: the round numbers. So when people are really, really close to just missing their round-number goal, they’re much more likely to speed up at the painful end to beat it. People who are projected to beat it comfortably, however, actually slow down.

4. Chunk it up. My hero, the late Professor George Miller came up with a theory about short term memory ( 7 +/- 2 ) that helped people learn and recall more efficiently. Use the same ‘chunking up’process for your NYR. You know how good it feels to tick off an item from your to-do list. Put that to work by hacking a massive goal (reading 24 books a year, say) into parts (two per month).

One very comforting and important last fact is that having strong willpower is not something we’re born with, as opposed to popular opinion. So just like your muscles have to be trained in order to grow stronger, so does the Pre Frontal Cortex in your brain. The key is to make sure not to start lifting too heavy, as then we’re bound to drop everything on the floor with our New Year’s Resolutions.

One goal, 365 days, Be Amazing Every Day.

Happy New Year.

I Quit! Neurobiology of Overcoming Fear

Slide3Fear may be one of the oldest emotions we know. Well before we knew happiness, before grief and sadness, before joy and long before the desire to start a new business, there was fear.

It has been said that the 3 most addictive substances in life are: CarbohydratesCrack and the end-of-month pay Cheque. The reasons are becoming clear and generally are associated with the emotion of fear. Although the word fear is hard to precisely define, everyone knows how it feels to be afraid. The fear of quitting a good job and starting a new business can be crippling. Can we ever truly get rid of these fears? Neuroscientists are trying to find out the neural pathways of this powerful emotion. There are a few useful tricks that can really help overcome fear.

Human anxiety is greatly amplified by our ability to imagine the future, and our place in it, even a future that is physically impossible. – Joseph LeDoux

But fears very much like fire; our best friend when it isn’t raging out of control. It is essential for your survival, allowing an organism to detect a potential threat to its life. Too much fear, however, can lead to pathological conditions such as anxiety, phobia, paranoia, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Please note that fear is definitely not anxiety. Fear is an emotional state that exists in the presence of danger and ends once that danger has passed. Anxiety exists when we anticipate a danger or threat, regardless if one is present or not.The physiological response to fear is called the ‘fight or flight’ response, was first described by the American physiologist Walter B. Cannon in the 1929. The response is caused by the actions of adrenaline, noradrenaline and the steroid cortisol, whose release is triggered by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. The following physiological responses will happen, that you will have experienced:

  1. Your heart rate increases
  2. Your breathing speeds up
  3. Your pupils dilate to let in more light
  4. Your metabolism of fat and glucose in the liver increase to provide the energy
  5. Your production and release of endorphins is greatly increased
  6. Your brain’s decision-making areas become primed for action.

On top of this (and it is surprising), your brain doesn’t want your conscious awareness to override your fear response. This is a result of millions of years of evolution. If I ask you, right now, to get on stage with no preparation and be funny (with a big, ugly audience whom are restless and hostile), you may have an evolutionary response to protect you and help you survive. It turns out that it was a helpful survival mechanism in our cave dwelling days but is distinctly unhelpful at The Comedy Store. What your brain does next is very interesting. It does two things simultaneously.

Firstly, is the powerful Primary Response. This is both innate and unconscious and very fast (a few milliseconds).

  • The sensory thalamus receives some sort of a sensory input, like seeing rows of unfriendly people sat there, staring at you.
  • The sensory thalamus then passes that information to the amygdala.
  • Your brain isn’t even sure what exactly it’s seeing here but knows that you might be killed or eaten.
  • Your amygdala recognises that the input is a threat and prepares your body to respond.

The Secondary Response takes a few seconds, is both conscious and rational.

  • Your sensory thalamus also sends information to your cortex (which gives you context to understand what you are seeing).
  • Your higher brain, the cortex says, OMG, that is a lot of people. They really do look aggressive. I might die out there.
  • This information is sent back to the amygdala, where your fear response takes over: your heart rate further increases, your pupils dilate, and you sweat more.
  • You may feel sick, forget your lines and run off the stage screaming.

This neural circuitry, which processes information about fear is now well mapped, but otherwise, little else is known about the biological basis of this emotion. In recent years neuroscientists have understood some of the cellular and molecular mechnisms underlying fear. Your brain is set up to allow fear to take control. The evidence is in the wiring: there are a good number of pathways from the amygdala to the neocortex. There are far fewer pathways from the neocortex to the amygdala.

What can we do about this fixed pathway of neurones and circuits? Research indicates that just admitting what fears you have can help you get over them faster. The research shows the ability of the brain to restructure our fear pathways and heal itself throughout life. This discovery alone tossed out centuries of scientific belief which previously held that we cannot do much about the damage caused by trauma and certain set patterns such as those labeled mental or behavioural disorders. Known as neuroplasticity, the findings show you have an innate ability to restructure the gray matter of your brain. Change the primary and secondary response pathways with your mind and conscious-mind action. We can then challenge these fears and barriers to success.

Because your fear responses are largely unconscious many people have struggled to think that they can change them. The become bound by unwritten rules and don’t change. It is these poor decisions (or fear of making them and non-decisions) that stop us achieving our potential. The evidence is that we can change and help re-wire our circuits with some simple actions. The first thing you need to do is bring awareness to what is happening for you right now. By being honest and asking some good questions about the basis for your fear you have the capacity to change the basis of your fears. So ask the following questions and right your honest answers down:

  • What am I actually afraid of? [Specific / Detailed / Thoughtful]
  • What triggered this fear? [Look at the timing, circumstances and previous traumas.]
  • What is the worst that can happen? [When I ask this question, many people start to exaggerate the actual real risk and consequences. This end of the world scenario needs careful re-framing and a reality check.]

You may think these questions seem silly or indeed obvious, but it’s not about the complexity of the question, it’s about unravelling the fear. By untangling it from our minds we can get control of it. The thing about fear is that it often makes us believe things that just aren’t true.

So back to the title question, why do people fear quitting and start out on their own? What do they need to do to be fearless and courageous? Maybe it starts by resolving a fundamental fear and changing those neural pathways.

For example, If I quit my job, I am a quitter.

  • What am I actually afraid of? [ List, sort edit and amplify]
  • Am I afraid of not being good enough? [To whom? When? Where? Why?]
  • Am I afraid of letting people down? [About? Where has this come from?]
  • Am I in fear of not living up to my potential? [ Analysis and Honesty]

If you can understand this, you can use evidence to contradict your fear. It’s also extremely beneficial to talk to others about your fears.

When you start to ask the right questions and reframe them, challenge what you think, say or do in response to an event or situation, you change inner emotional states. As emotions are molecules that transmit the what to fire and wire messages, whenever your felt experience of an event changes, accordingly, this physically restructures the neural pathways of your brain.

By disputing fears and reframing them, you can covert them into something that isn’t a scary abstract beast. Break the fear apart by questioning and understanding; dissect it, smash into small pieces, then you can control it Your brain will do the rest if you can change your physiology (start with your breathing) and if you ask the right questions.You can quit that job and become an entrepreneur, a business leader or your own boss.You can achieve anything you want in life if,

  • You have the courage to dream it,
  • The intelligence to make a realistic plan,
  • The will to see that plan to it’s end.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Hospitality: Just a Beer Light to Guide us?

If you own or run a restaurant, bar or hotel and you’re not already thinking about the next generation technology, you’re already too late.

Believe it or not hospitality is already technology-driven and if you don’t have it, you’re not doing smart business. Whether you like it, or not, technology is moving faster than you can move.The effective use of this technology can either make your business faster, leaner and ultimately, it can help you deliver a guest experience they’ve never had before.

New advances in technology pervade nearly every aspect of our society, and hospitality is certainly no exception. Eating out is already undergoing a digital revolution with 70% of restaurants due to accept mobile phone payments in 2015. We are already surrounded by computerised point of sale, bar management, hotel reservation and front office, energy management, menu scoring, and accounting and inventory systems, along with computer-controlled cooking equipment as friers and digital microwaves.

New technology is here to stay, and it’s high time the hospitality industry moves along with it. To be able to do this efficiently and effectively, however, we need to understand the reasons why difficulties presently exist and how they may ultimately be resolved. So what’s the best way to integrate technology into a restaurant, hotel or bar? I have been looking in detail at the current state of technology in restaurants, bars and hotels and the changes that are on the near horizon. While future scanning (see also super forecasting) is very tricky there are some undeniable trends in innovation, from the internet of things / internet of everything to the way we train staff to be Excellence, always. Here are some key waypoints to start you thinking:

  • Just a Beer Light to Guide Us. Websites and social media are the biggest drivers to restaurants, bars and hotels. If they can’t find you fast they go elsewhere. Local footfall needs a great big digital sign: Enter Here. What is your digital strategy to highlight your establishment? What are the next generation location finders that will keep the customers coming?
  • Training Gets Smart. Training is a critical issues for hospitality particularly if there are multiple sites. I have seen some attempts at introducing systematic training with eLearning – most of which are clunky and very last generation. Mobile learning is the way ahead. World Manager® is I believe, the first all-in-one corporate communications platform allowing CEO’s to train, track and communicate with every employee in the world, by the minute. Currently it is use in over 22,000 business locations in 51 countries. In 2013, according to BRW, over 25% of the fastest growing companies in Australia are using World Manager®. Companies such as Billabong, G8 Education and Goodyear Dunlop Tyres use World Manager every day and their teams can access World Manager from their Smartphones, Tablets or Desktops, on both Apple and Android operating systems. It effectively delivers online training, face to face recording, policy sign-offs, manages live workshops and tracks national training stats. It has job ready and vetrack integration, tracks and report staff completion of topics and enhances and sustains trainer messages. Cool and very smart.
  • Back-end Gets Smarter. Scheduling and inventory management control systems. Technology is needed because restaurants will eventually become a paperless system, eliminating things such as credit cards and payrolls. The use of next generation stock control and the Internet of Things will require more broadband and better software.
  • The Age of Accessible Data. As long as the value exchange is enticing enough, consumers are more willing than ever to allow hospitality brands access to their data.
  • Fast Free Wireless Access. If there’s no Internet connection, there will be no repeat business. It’s all about bandwidth. Businesses need a bandwidth plan.
  • The New eMarketplace. eMarketing, sales, public relations and advertising are some of the key elements that are changing rapidly. However, this approach seems to be insufficient with the introduction of digital marketing trend, to generate leads and improve online customer experience.
  • The ES Customer experience. The emphasis should be on delivering excellent customer care throughout the buying process. So simple things like apps letting you know your table is ready eliminate the need for restaurant pagers, which are limited by distance. Digital measures of the emotional signature and metrics helping the design of excellent service. See alsoHospitality Must Change.
  • Smart Technology Branding. The immense growth of mobile world (smartphones and tablets) is s quickly surpassing the age of desktop, laptop and personal computers, which enabled hoteliers to create a cohesive brand experience across all the mobile devices taking into consideration content compatibility with limited screen resolutions.
  • TMS (Not test match special)…Table Management Systems that track turnover and available seating, help keep tabs on customer flow. From the art of being the Host who gets flow and turnover, to the science and algorithm of management and peak flow.
  • Mobile phone payment. Fast food chains are currently the main place where mobile is accepted as payment, with many restaurants still relying on cash or wifi enabled electronic-point-of-sale (EPoS). 68% of restaurants planning to accept the payment next year via Near Field Communication (NFC) . Credit card security is a major issue for hospitality. Customers can pay right at the table without ever losing sight of their credit card.
  • Swipe it Now. Tablet-ready menus, as opposed to paper menus, can be updated immediately and in real-time. Customers’ ability to customise or change their orders via apps eliminates the need to chase down waiters or waitresses.

In the hospitality industry, it is important to be vigilant and on the move and aware of the fast change environment and technology out there. There is a need to be agile and continually trying to explore new territory with fast evolution and adoption rates.Innovation with purpose and authenticity. Consider these quotations and compare them to the cost of moving forward with your technology:

  • If you make guests unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.
  • If we don’t take care of our guests, someone else will.
  • One Guest, well taken care of, could be more valuable than £ 10,000 worth of advertising.
  • There is only one boss. The Guest. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
  • A Guest is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependant on us, we are dependent on him.
  • There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
  • Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
  • Guests may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.
  • The purpose of a business is to create a mutually beneficial relationshipbetween itself and those that it serves. When it does that well, it will be around tomorrow to do it some more.
  • Guests don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
  • Our greatest asset is the guests! Treat each guest as if they are the only one!
  • Treat every guest as if they sign your pay cheque, because they do.
  • Guest complaints are the schoolbooks from which we learn.

Finally, here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get.

Be Amazing Every Day.