21 July, 2014

Preparing for PI insurance: have a desktop review

The term “Risk Management” has now been with us for as long as most of us can sanely remember.

But what is Risk Management? How can you make sense of what can work in your practice without ploughing blindly on and risking failure because you didn’t see that risk coming, or jumping at shadows and not fulfilling your potential?

Every practice is different but there are lines of latitude and longitude that run through them all and you can put sensible measures in place to manage risk robustly and dare I say, still make a profit.

The Law Society’s Practice Management Standard, Lexcel, is an excellent way to introduce structure, policies and procedures into your business and to ensure that everyone plays their part in making it work well. The fact that you must be independently assessed every year will give you helpful feedback, keep you on track and save you tearing your hair out.

It is a great business management tool.

You may have already achieved membership of other Law Society quality standards such as the Conveyancing Quality Scheme or the more recent Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme, but you need to be working to the Core Practice Management Standards and be confident that you will make the grade in an assessment.

• The SRA Handbook can be a rather daunting read, and Outcomes Focussed Regulation must be interpreted and applied effectively.
• There are straightforward and practical ways to help you to meet the required quality standards and give you peace of mind that you won’t fall foul of regulation.

You may be a newly authorised ABS who wants structure in place from day one; or a long established Partnership or a Sole Practitioner who has had, for a long time, good intentions of getting a handle on compliance but finding it bewildering so it keeps getting shelved.

You could be a criminal defence solicitor wondering if you dare take on privately paying clients for fear of accepting proceeds of crime; or a practice doing fast track work that only takes fixed fees and you are going dizzy trying to get your invoicing processes and transfers between client and office account working smoothly - do not despair, your business model can work and be compliant.

It is that time of year again when applications to the Professional Indemnity Insurance forms need to be completed and submitted which means your risk profile will be under the spotlight. So don’t exhaust yourself – seek advice, get help, address the issues and continue with confidence.

If you are interested in an initial, no commitment, meeting or desktop review, then contact Patricia Wheatley Burt and her expert team of Consultants and Coaches on: +44 (0)20 8870 9781 - it could save you hundreds of pounds, time and energy.

30 June, 2014

Survival of the Shifters-Paradigm shifts, drifts, rifts and gifts

Happy Birthday, Donald!

In the 1800’s, Charles Darwin wrote about survival of the fittest in our natural environment. Today, it may be survival of the shifters in our working environs.
I gaze down from the top floor of the National Library, honoured to deliver the Singapore Institute of Management’s 50th anniversary transformation lecture.
The city below has undergone phenomenal transition, itself, since rising from destruction after World War 2. In Year of the Horse, this country exemplifies getting right back in the saddle after a fall; a tiny county with no natural resources, forced to rely purely on human resources to transform into a dynamic nation.
What can I possibly add to the topic of transformation? I settle on the somewhat risqué title: ‘Shift Happens’; although Australians often omit the ‘f.’ Let’s face it-life isn’t perfect and sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same in terms of human response to such shift. Certainly, this may occur faster in today’s high tech world but in this Year of the Horse, I ponder the paradox that:

-My great grandfather rode a horse to work but was frightened of that ‘new-fangled’ technology called a train.
-My grandfather rode a train but was frightened of the horseless carriage we call a car.
-My father drove a car but was frightened of that new innovation called a plane.
-I fly to conferences all over the world-but can’t ride a horse. (at least, not very well!)

Yes, some things may go full circle but it remains constant that you can’t go forward if you are looking backward and tethered by outmoded paradigms.

Paradigm shift is a term familiar to most and basically refers to a change in a long established pattern of behaviour. But do we simply pay lip service to the concept without actually altering our modus operandi? Here’s a few variations to ponder on the popular phrase:

Paradigm shift or drift? Are you passive to go with the flow even when you can sense things drifting in the wrong direction-or will you be courageous enough to stick your neck out to help shift the course of events?
Horse sense: Don’t put the cart before the horse…unless that’s where the cart needs to be!

Paradigm shift or lift? Do you feel bogged down by changes outside your control-or do you embrace evolving environments and use your energy to focus on changes within your control; to lift yourself to a higher level and become a victor-not victim-of change .
Horse sense: If your work doesn’t feed your dreams, seek new pastures but beware-the grass isn’t always greener.

Paradigm shift or rift? Does your team work together for positive change-or is there a rift amongst peers who fight internally to protect their own little patch of turf? Never forget that the competition is external.
Horse sense: What sort of horse are you…a thoroughbred-workhorse-show pony-old nag -or wooden horse? Be bold and be unique to run your own race as a stayer-not just a sprinter.

Paradigm shift or sift? With the increasing volume of information cascading down on us in avalanche proportions, do you allow yourself to be buried in trivia or able to sift fads from fundamentals; to filter the urgent from the important?
Horse sense: Be sure to sift the wheat from the chaff so you don’t recklessly ride off in the wrong direction.

Paradigm shift or gift? Change is a threat to many but a priceless gift to those who welcome it. I’m reminded of the old fable of two young brothers who asked for a horse one Christmas. One received a beautiful wooden rocking horse but was bitterly disappointed and burst into tears. The other only received a bag of manure but excitedly told his brother: ‘With all this s**t , there must be a pony nearby’ And sure enough there was one waiting outside.
Horse sense: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Remain positive as every problem presents an opportunity.

Yes, shift happens-and will continue to happen in mother nature and human nature; in organisms and organisations, It’s how we adapt to those paradigm shifts, drifts, rifts, lifts, sifts or gifts that will determine our future.

It may be an old adage to pick yourself up and get back on the horse-or back on course. But, as in generations past, it remains true for everyone today. What are you waiting for?

Catherine DeVrye MSc & CSP Change-Teamwork-Resilience-Service-Motivation
2010 Australian Keynote Speaker of the Year-former Australian Executive Woman of the Year-Best-selling Author

09 June, 2014

How Novel does a 'Crisp' CV need to be?

May 22, 2014
IN TODAY’S tough job market, it’s important to stand out from the crowd.

That’s why Parisian Yves Bonneyrat decided an ordinary CV wasn’t good enough when he applied for a job with Tyrells, the English crisp manufacturer.

He decided, instead, to send his resume to the Leominster-based company printed on a packet of crisps.

I faithfully followed all Tyrells original design but instead of consumer information, I added my CV and a cover letter,” he told French employment blog blog-emploi.com.

“The idea came after I’d enjoyed Tyrells crisps on a weekend in London. I realised only five or six flavours are available in France, compared to many more in Britain,
” he said.

He decided to offer his services as sales manager in France.

But he didn’t just fire off an application. He put a lot of thought and effort into his unique CV. He told blog-emploi that he spent some time researching the company, its products, its brand and their market before putting his CV together.

He said that he even deliberately chose to duplicate the design of Tyrells product that is available in Britain but not in France.

It cost €300, but Mr Bonneyrat has high hopes his speculative application will pay dividends - as he said, it’s a unique CV, not one he is planning to send out several times. Now, he is waiting for a response to his application from the company.

What sort of experiences have you had with keen applicants? Do share them.

Best wishes

03 June, 2014

Paying it Forward – Wealth unused might as well not exist!

‘If you believe you can or you believe you can’t – either way you are right.’

Developing a culture of excellence only comes through imagining what excellent client care should be, the total experience as felt by each of your Clients - and then work towards making that experience happen; again and again. This isn’t about lots of training and development – but rather about applying intelligence, willingness to support others and that commodity that seems to be in rather short supply: common sense.

Amongst the various client organisations I am working with I have noticed recently a down-turn in genuine client service. With some it is that gentle slipping of standards, that slightly more churlish manner, maybe dismissive behaviour, or that completely unhelpful: ‘it’s our procedures, we can’t change them’: implying that we have to put up with poor quality or stupid rules as we have nowhere else to go. ‘Big mistake’ (to quote from Pretty Woman) of course we have choice.

Tragically, someone threw themselves under a train, which threw Kings Cross Station into chaos and then a standstill. Clearly the railway staff did their best to help – and I with many others were re-directed to take a train from St Pancras to Nottingham (and on to my destination). At the St. Pancras platform barrier the guards (there were 6 of them), proceeded to exercise their power (and insensitivity) by turning many of us away, refusing to let us use our tickets from their sister station.

Bizarrely in the many years I have used this station, I have never seen any guards check tickets at the barriers before. This is the worst kind of negative Customer Care experience. Just when everyone is feeling pressurised, are late for meetings, or appointments and need help. This behaviour just creates anger, riled feelings and an appalling view of the train operating company. Is this what the CEO of East Midlands trains thinks is happening? He or she should take note.

Maybe it is the pressures of the tightened economy, the more stringent requirements of legislation, or maybe Customer or Client Care is just a passing phase? We can all tell stories of the receptionist who continues to talk to her friend whilst ignoring us, or the drinks that take too long to arrive, or are not what you had asked for, but where are the good stories?

What do your Clients or Customers experience at the hands of your staff and managers? Co-operation, freedom to act and solve problems, independent thought, initiative, a delight – or those dull, uninspired restricted people who are unable to see that ‘what goes around, comes around’. We respond to the emotions given out – positive or negative, so if your staff are able to be positive and supportive, then they will have less hassle from their customers!! It really is very simple – bound up in having the vision and using common sense.

So get out there and check the quality of the experience your customers are getting, ‘be silent shoppers’ – because cream rises, the truly and genuinely excellent organisations are going to survive and thrive in this more competitive environment. Is it a wonderful, luxurious, smooth and efficient experience?

In Aesop’s Fables he tells the story of the Miser who buried his gold under a tree. Each night he would dig it up, gloat over it and bury it again. One night when he went to the tree he discovered it had been stolen. He howled and screamed out at his bad luck. A neighbour came and asked him if he had ever used his Gold, to which the Miser said ‘No’. ‘Well you might as well go and look at the hole, for all the good that Gold did for you! Wealth unused might as well not exist!’

If you allow your staff be visionary then you are using the Gold within your staff; if you do not, then you have a wasted resource, because we can all be excellent at delivering divine customer service. Get out there!

23 May, 2014

We have moved - and Mind The Gap

After being in the centre of London for over 10 years we have now decide to up-size(!) so have moved a little further out into the suburbs - but still within easy reach of all our clients.

Please note our new address and contact information
133 Elborough Street,
London SW18 5DS
Tel: 0208 870 9781

patricia@trafalgarpeople.com will still reach me

We provide a full management and people consultancy to professional, technical and commercial service businesses and would be delighted to meet you to discuss your business needs. People and their effective performance are the key, communication though, is critical and if the leader in the business doesn't communicate effectively, then 'things can fall through the gap'

If you find you are frustrated by others, that they are non mind-readers - then maybe we should talk? There are many ways to find the right solution as no one cap fits al.

Do contact us, best wishes and Happy Bank Holiday

13 May, 2014

An Asean Asset: is it contagious?

“Please please, this is not a good design of dress, let me change it, I want to make this dress fit you properly.” Said Mr. Wong, the tailor off Arab Street in Singapore and of course he was right!

When it comes to customer service, I have to say, that over the years of travel, has shown me that countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Jakarta and Burma have some of the most superb examples you could come across, and it isn’t just based on cheap labour.

At the dress material shop we were redirected to Mr. Wong, the most brilliant tailor. He and others like him, are so superb they even delivered the 6 shirts a friend of mine had had made for him, to the airport!

When I was in Bangkok, I was standing in the ladies lavatory, rubbing an aching shoulder after a long flight, when the lavatory attendant indicated she would give me a quick massage on my arm and aching shoulder. She rubbed some cream on to my arm and after a fantastic 10 minute massage, I felt infinitely better. Have you ever had that experience in a ladies lavatory at a UK airport? – mm; not me.

Over the years I have run training and development sessions on Coaching, Performance Management and Talent Management. These programmes include identifying business critical roles, establishing the criteria for the perfect candidate, and then exploring how to attract and retain those individuals, starting with some very basic cultural values.

The Dubai Islamic Bank believes that all their employees should be treated equally, regardless of race, level of job or country they operate in; the Telecoms business in the Philippines (some 32,000 staff) all receive a bonus equivalent to 3 months salary every year, based upon service and performance delivery. If you are part of IBM, they encourage individuals to seek career development and enhancement by applying for jobs in any part of the business. These businesses have adapted to not only hold on to excellent staff, but to also encourage an environment of contribution, and some very genuine personal service.

Western businesses can learn a great deal from the Asean culture, and maybe it stems from their religious rather than material start point which focuses on a complete way of life (rather than religion) and successfully pervades the way they behave. Now clearly this is not everybody and it is not everywhere however it was a very startling contrast to our return to Heathrow airport.

A few years ago we decided to enrol for Iris Recognition for Passport Control – to avoid the long queues – especially after long transatlantic flights. Unfortunately the Iris Recognition passport system wasn’t working at 5.30 am that morning. The man sitting at the imposing desk that was part of the Iris Recognition passport control desk just said: “It’s not my job”, put his pen down and walked away from us, his customers.

• Do you know whether your staff behave like that?
• Can you trust them to behave in a way that is successfully endemic and contagious within your business to provide superb and excellent customer service at any and all times to your customers?
• Do you develop and reward a culture of “Can do” attitudes?

Or do your staff just walk away from the problem?


24 April, 2014

Cross-Cultural Success

When he was flying the skull and crossbones flag, it meant he was running around naked, and when the Union Jack was flying – it was OK for me to bring my friends home;’ laughed Hugh, a charming 72 year old man I met at dinner recently, describing the rather eccentric behaviour of his father, back in the 1940’s.
What a clever way to let others know how you feel, and how they should behave towards you; if only we could all have a flag system. But it isn’t always that easy to communicate exactly what we mean or feel and it is even more difficult if we are from different backgrounds and cultures.

With true Mediterranean flair, Dario, CEO of an Italian IT company, raised his eyes to heaven, stood up and said:

“So that is what you mean by ziz Performance Management, Patrichia. It eez all about productivity, efficiency and profit (accompanied by graphic hand gestures) !
Why deedn’t you say zo before?!!”

We were discussing how to make the Performance Appraisal discussions (as part of the Performance Management process), really effective. I had been struggling to find the right way to express myself, and so gain his buy-in to the process.

Cross-Cultural thinking is now essential for almost every single organisation (unless you are living up a mountain or on an island that is smaller than a pin-head). Whether working in New York, Singapore or London what a wonderful multi-cultural world we live in – but how culturally very complex.

Many managers and staff have been ‘brought up’ to believe they should only do what they are told – and not use their initiative. When sharing the concept of empowerment, both for them and their staff it is quite a mind-shift for many managers, who still believe that Knowledge is Power, and Absolute Knowledge is Absolute Power: when the reverse is truer.

We happily parachute people in from other cultures and countries and imagine they will integrate with the team without perhaps considering the issues involved. What we often fail to appreciate is that to achieve any shift in culture i.e. attitude and values, (and in this case devolving decision making,) management have to actually alter the way they behave.

- Culture is what we say we would like to happen,
- Climate is what you do and so what your staff actually experience.

It is this reality we have to manage. So to have an integrated or Cross-Cultural environment, you have to do far more than just say you think it is a good idea. Some organisations have been using an International Cultural inventory, run independently and externally, to assess how aligned their culture and strategy are. ‘Most businesses describe their culture using generalities like ‘team-spirited,’ ‘ethical’, ‘collegiate’ or ‘client-focused’ but have not worked out how to measure these accurately and then to work out which drive profitability the most. Once you know this, specific action can be taken to improve performance’.

We are bombarded with how many staff in the UK workforce who have English as their second language. Each business has a responsibility to help their staff integrate into our society; we don’t have to change our British-ness although we may develop and extend our core values as part of a natural evolution.

Why not test your organisation:

- How multicultural are you?

- How imaginative are you to ensure you communicate in a way that all your staff can understand?

- Do your policies and procedures stand up to the SMOG test? (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) www.wordscount.info;

- How obedient or empowered are your people really?

It can be a sobering exercise to test your organisation. The benefits could mean you can employ from a far wider pool of candidates, that you get your message understood, not only by your staff – but of course by your customers and clients.

Can you afford not to be understood in all languages?