Who Are You?

Who are you really?  Who are you when you are in the dark… when no-one is looking….?

When I first heard this question from Michael Neill (my personal model for coaching excellence) I smiled to myself. Then I noticed the goose-bumps. And then I began to wonder……who am I really?

Sure, I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a colleague, a friend and all those other tags that attach to us over time.  But that’s not who I am. Those are the representations I have accrued in our social structure over the last 50+ years I’ve spent on this earth.  Lots of labels!! But I am not quite sure that those labels represent MY true identity.

Finding My Identity

First, let me tell you what I am not. I’m not is a singer. I’m completely tone deaf. I can’t hold a note; my singing would turn milk sour.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to sing, but I do it in the car, or in the shower, or when nobody else is around to suffer the horrible sounds coming from my throat. Even my husband turns up the radio volume if I start to sing along to something when he is around.

I am not a singer.” Or at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for most of my life.

As a kid, my mum would ask me to sing for her, telling me how lovely it sounded. Although she later told me she was tone deaf and I knew her singing voice was a bit ropey. Either way, I really enjoyed singing to her. But my mind would sometimes wander. It made my singing even worse.  I was in the junior school choir, my young imagination going to all sorts of wonderful places evoked in the songs – I had no idea that Quinquereme of Nineveh was from a John Masefield poem, I was simply entranced by the story of the 3 ships on their journeys.

In the local Salvation Army choir my friend and I would really belt out the jolly hymns and songs of praise whilst rattling our tambourines with gay abandon as we celebrated the uplifting music.

Soon afterwards I went to senior school and tried out for the choir, but they didn’t want me – or at least that’s what I assume, since I can’t recall the session, only that I wasn’t in the choir.  Maybe one day my adult brain will remember what my 11 year old mind experienced at some point, but so far it’s a blank.

It may not have been so traumatic, since I did find the courage to go into one of those “record your own record” booths. How could I not go do my own recording? I’m from Liverpool and it was the 1960’s after all.  I put my money into the slot and cut my one and only disc – a bit like the Tenacious D video for “Tribute”, but without the devil….or the guitar….

Petula Clark was very popular at the time (Tenacious D probably not having been born yet) and I recorded her song “Downtown”.  Proudly I took my vinyl disc home and played it on the record turntable – it sounded flat and out of tune, so I vowed that it would never see the light of day again.

Of course, you can always rely on your mother to embarrass you in your teenage years and mine decided to play the disc for my first real boyfriend.

Embarrassed?  I was HORRIFIED!!!

I screeched at her.  I RIPPED the disc off the turntable and hid it somewhere she would never find it again.  Aaaggghhhhh!!! Later I took a rusty nail and mercilessly scratched the plastic so it could NEVER AGAIN be used to torture anyone’s ears – or make me feel such an idiot.

With this wealth of evidence growing to support the fact that I simply couldn’t sing a note in tune, I fed this belief with lots of other convincing experiences over the years and I had a 100% etched-in-stone- limiting belief – it was all mine and nobody was going to take it from me.  I would stick with singing in the car, in the shower, around the house when it was empty, and so on.  It was a small price to pay for continuing to do something I loved to do.

And then in 2007 I found out that I had been adopted as a baby and that my genetic parents were a singer and a pianist/composer.

Hmmmm……THAT was interesting……I had a whole new history to play with…..and I could invent pretty much all of it

Shifting Gears

After a while I looked in my local yellow pages and found a tutor for voice and piano. I told her the snapshot version of my story and made an appointment to see her. She was interested to hear that I can find my way around a piano by ear (although I am still on baby steps for this one, as there is a limit to what you want to play with two fingers only….)

I was more than surprised to do the breathing and scales exercises with her direction to stumble into a new voice that I really didn’t know I had.  Apparently because I sang every day (to myself, of course), I’d kept the muscles of my vocal chords reasonably fit and I had 2 octaves of very good notes.

So now I don’t care if my husband turns up the volume on the radio (he’s a bit deaf anyway). I’m going to sing my heart out when I feel like it.  Now he uses my singing as a measure of how good I’m feeling with life and that tells him all is right with the world.  New communications!!

Expanding Horizons

Then I started to look around and see if there were any other areas in my life where I might have been holding back because of some limiting belief, or fear.  Yes, there are a couple more, but those are for another day….

So now, in the dark, I can add a new tag: I am a singer! Well, I’m an ok singer. And if I practice enough, I might even be able to play the piano properly some day. How cool is that?

Do you have any beliefs that might be holding you back from realising a dream – or maybe even frustrating your leadership goals in some area? Have you ever observed that in a team member – knowing they can achieve something magnificent if they’d only let go, or wondering how best to guide them to their greatness? Can you think of ways you might challenge those limiting beliefs in yourself or your team?

Who are you – really? Who are you in the dark, when nobody else is looking?

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Joy Griffiths is Director and Owner of Joyous Solutions Ltd
She helps clients with Executive Coaching and Business Development
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Skype: joy.griffithsjsl | +44 7884 311081

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Did Somebody Move Your Cheese?

Unless you have been living in a cave for the last year or so (which actually may turn out to be a good thing,) you will be very aware that the world economy has hit a bit of a rough patch. The doom and gloom reporting of the media reminds us daily that we are suffering a global recession that could take years to end.

If you are familiar with Spencer Johnson’s allegory called Who Moved My Cheese? you could be forgiven for thinking that your cheese definitely got moved!

Now, most of us will have some opinion of how this sorry situation came about.  Hot contenders for blame range from the greed of the financial institutions to the inadequacies of the lending processes, from the outrageous bonuses promised to bankers to Joe Public who went way over his credit limit when he borrowed money to buy a house he just couldn’t afford.

Governments have bailed out failing lenders using taxpayer’s money and the taxpayer will be hit again when taxes are increased to rebuild treasury funds and public spending gets cut because the cash isn’t there any more.

Whilst financial institutions are challenging and/or grudgingly accepting proposals for increased regulation of compensation and bonuses, many of them (including some of those heavily bailed out by government) are complying with new rules to reduce bonuses whilst increasing base salaries to compensate staff that would lose out.

We have to retain good staff

Accountability is Key

Let’s put the word “Accountability” on the lab table and dissect it so that we can explore the complete understanding of the word.

Business Dictionary defines “Accountability” as:

Obligation of an individual, firm, or institution to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.

My old copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “Accountable” as:

Responsible; required to account for one’s conduct (accountable for one’s actions).

Which is echoed in the online version of The Compact Oxford English Dictionary.

So, in the great scheme of things, whatever happened to accountability?

Personal Accountability

When I was in my 20’s I worked in a hospital – I was responsible for the safe and exemplary treatment of my patients, whilst the hospital board was ultimately accountable for liability.  However, I held myself personally accountable to the patient, their relations, to myself and to any higher being who might be interested.

When I moved into the commercial sector I began to understand more of accountability for sales revenues, for knowing about my territory and customers needs, and for being a responsible and honourable representative of my company.  I understood that commissions (i.e. the cash in my pocket) would increase or decrease in line with my activities and results, so that I was also accountable for my take home pay.

Organizational Accountability

When I became a senior manager I learned more of operational accountability and performance bonuses, both individual and for team achievements.  I had “soft” targets about how I did my job, but the cash still followed the overall revenue and profit budget locally, regionally and at a corporate level.

Again, I held myself personally accountable for the well being and development of my staff, but their pay and bonuses would be awarded based on mutually agreed targets.  All of us were subject to a corporate ruling that poor results = low or zero bonuses and the possibility of a pay freeze until the next year.  Each year we would receive the rules that would be applied to our particular situation, changed as necessary to reflect corporate drivers.  After all, if the corporation didn’t survive none of us had jobs!

One year we had achieved very average local results, so although the sales commissions were not badly hit for some people, the management performance bonuses were negligible. Another year we did ok locally and the reps all received good commissions, but overall the corporation’s operating results were below projections so the manager’s performance bonuses suffered.

Yet another year we massively exceeded all our operational targets locally and received substantial rewards in line with the annual guidelines, even though other groups suffered because their results were not up to the mark.  Our local performance had boosted the overall corporate outcome on that occasion, allowing bonuses to be paid.

Did we retain our good staff, even in the lean times?  Yes we did, because each of us took ownership of the part we had to play in the success of our worldwide team, as well as locally.

Nobody likes to be blamed for bad results and as leaders the buck might really stop with us.  By acknowledging our own levels of accountability and clearly identifying to our team the expectations for their deliverables, we are more likely to stay ahead of the game and maybe even spot new cheese (opportunity) in times of change.

What are you personally accountable for? Are you willing to stand up and be counted when something goes wrong – then take corrective actions whilst learning from the experience? And when things go right, do you also try to learn something from the experience and pass that knowledge on? Do your team members also know what they are accountable for and understand the consequences of their performance in relation to themselves and to the wider organisation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Joy Griffiths
is Director and Owner of Joyous Solutions Ltd
She helps clients with Executive Coaching and Business Development
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Skype: joy.griffithsjsl | +44 7884 311081

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Foot In Mouth Disease – Part 2

In my first post, I discussed what I called the Foot In Mouth Disease. It got me wondering this: Have you ever had one of those moments when you say something that you believe to be absolutely true, but the person you’re talking to insists that you are completely wrong?  And, of course you consider them crazy and wonder why you simply can’t understand why they don’t get it?

What is Going On Here?

Many years ago, in my first job as a new sales rep, I was thrilled to be selling a pharmaceutical product that I truly believed to be best in class for medical imaging.  I was driven to tell everybody how great it was and how their patients’ experience and outcomes would improve by using our product.   As I learned more about my craft, I was able to increase sales by working with each customer to satisfy their particular needs.

I did things like:

  • Including how to make dosage choices that didn’t take them over budget
  • Demonstrating our flexible pack sizes as compared to the competition
  • Showing them how to communicate the benefits to the consumer

I had happy customers and happy bosses.

Trouble Brewing

However, as hospital groups merged, I found myself with one site where I had all the business in one department from an existing customer, but no business at the other end of the corridor where the head of the group had her operations. I quickly became the person representing “the competitive product” in the eyes of the new purchasing agent. My new prospect was going to be a big nemesis for me in trying to get my product line sold. The new sales contact for me was sizing up to be quite the challenge…

This lady was known to be a tough cookie.  She was a well-respected Professor whose time was precious. She also didn’t suffer fools well.  In approaching my new contact for a sales call, I knew that I had to be very well prepared. I needed to be armed with concise and convincing arguments to sell her on my wares. If I was going to win her over from the competition, I had to convince her that my combination of dosages would save her money and that would be reason enough to switch to my offering.

Preparation meets Preparedness

Eventually I felt I was ready, I had anticipated her objections and knew how to answer them – I was going in there……

We talked. I was concise. I answered her questions and presented my cost calculations to prove the benefits of switching to our product.  I thought I did well. That was until she told me that she didn’t believe me.  She thought that I was lying; or ill-informed; or down-right stupid.

She was right, I was wrong.  End of discussion.  Go away.  Ouch!!!

I tried again several more times – I believed I was right, I had the best product, why on earth could I not convince her?

~ What was I missing here?
~ Was she getting sponsored by the other company for some research work?
~ Did she have a family member working for the competition?
~ Had one of our groups somehow offended her in the past?

All the usual thoughts that can go through one’s mind when you’re in sales and trying to figure out why your pitch is just not getting the results you expect.  After all, I knew that my arguments were correct……didn’t I???

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” W.L. Bateman

Finally – before the imprint of the brick wall was permanently etched on my forehead – I sat down to really look at what I was presenting.  I had been given most of the information in my early training and had those messages reinforced by my line manager during field visits.  He had been through the same process: surely the facts must be right???

I took out my calculator.  I checked the dosage and cost calculations that I had prepared.  I rechecked them, and again…….until eventually the light bulb came on.

I was horrified… She was absolutely right.

The way I had interpreted the data meant my arguments had been flawed every time I had tried to persuade her to my point of view.  How on earth could I ever face this woman again???

It took a little while for me to pluck up the courage, but I made an appointment to go and visit, saying that I had something new to tell her. I had to set things straight.

“Professor, I won’t take up much of your time, I’ve come to apologise.  You were right, I was wrong.  Instead of regurgitating the same facts I had been taught and believed to be true, I finally interrogated the detail myself and discovered an error in my calculations.   The information I gave you was wrong and I should have checked it earlier.  Now I understand why you thought I was lying to get the business.  Thank you for having the patience to keep seeing me all this time.”

I never did get my product used in her practice, but one of her colleagues began to use a small quantity for specific examinations and I retained my original business.  More importantly I had learned some valuable lessons.

How easy is it for you to say “Sorry, I was wrong?”

Can you think of a time when your relationships or credibility suffered because you had trouble with the S-word?

Can you think of any area in your life where changing what you’re doing will get a different or better result?

Do members of your team know to measure twice, cut once?

And, in this time of seasonal reflection, remember to be kind to yourself and to others, so the ripples can spread far and wide.

Happy Holidays!

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Joy Griffiths
is Director and Owner of Joyous Solutions Ltd
She helps clients with Executive Coaching and Business Development
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Skype: joy.griffithsjsl | +44 7884 311081

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Foot In Mouth Disease

Have you ever had one of those moments when you said something that seemed perfectly reasonable inside your head, but the minute it came out of your mouth you wanted to fire your scriptwriter…?

Recently I was very fortunate to attend a workshop run by Clive Gott for people with an interest in professional speaking.  Clive is entertaining and inspiring, liberally using humour throughout his many stories with authenticity and integrity. Like me, Clive is from the northern part of England, where we tend to tell it like it really is – so he really was speaking my language.   (That said, we also know when to do subtlety, tact and diplomacy, especially in a professional setting, but I digress…)

The Workshop

“It’s not all foot lights and fat fees practical day” was the working title for the workshop, so not a training course as such, but with Clive’s gift for laughter and story telling it promised to be a great day, filled with fun and insight.

In his informal and open style, Clive simply shared with us how he does presentations, the mistakes he has made in the past, and the lessons learned as he celebrates 10 years as an inspirational speaker. He really is excellent at what he does.

The session started traditionally enough with each delegate introducing themselves – name, business we’re in, what we were looking for from the day, the usual sort of thing. This would be a seemingly easy thing to do. A simple task you would think, unless you were suffering from acute FIMD (Foot in Mouth Disease), an embarrassing but non-contagious condition which I had apparently contracted driving up the motorway that morning.

So, when it was my turn to introduce myself and make a great impact on the group, all I could get to come out of my mouth was this:

“Hi, I’m Joy Griffiths, my company is Joyous Solutions and I help people to reach their goals faster….”

The Doctor’s Diagnosis

So how did my introduction go? How was it received? Clive was not impressed. He quickly pointed out that this is such a well-worn and hackneyed phrase that it really doesn’t do it in today’s competitive marketplace. It was clear that I was under the weather with FIMD.

Of course he was right, I was totally lackluster and missed the mark with my introduction exercise (…but  in my defense, I can only say that it didn’t sound anything like that in my head before I opened my mouth….) My sickness defeated my open slavo.

The Patient’s Response

In a previous life, I might have taken Clive’s challenge very personally. I would have felt self-conscious and would have been trying to decide what went wrong. I would be running my “debut” over and over in my head, wanting to run out of the room immediately and go home to hide.

How dare he say that?” I would think. ” What right had he to make me feel bad?

I was taken aback for a few moments with his critical comments. I felt very bad about what I had said and the “judgmental” comments coming from someone I admired. But rather than dwell in doubt, fear, or self-pity, I took the time to reframe what I was thinking long enough to distance myself from the words and really consider what was going on here.

I thought to myself “But I’m a big girl now, right? Why should he not challenge me when he knows it is for my benefit? Did he really make me feel bad – or did I do that to myself?

Objective Information

What was the intent behind Clive’s comments – was he saying these things to deliberately hurt me?  Absolutely not. His intention was to help me improve my marketing messages by providing objective information to me. In recognising this as constructive criticism, I could let it go of the negative feelings that I generated. I could be liberated to really be present for the rest of the session. I won the internal battle and was able to continue enjoying the group interactions.

I was able to get over my feeling by employing some things I have learned about communication performance. Some of you (especially the NLP buffs) will recognise:

These days I have the resources to really consider the actual words I used and how I could have delivered a better message.  Instead of getting upset about saying “the wrong thing” I chose to consider what exactly I could learn about improving my own communications to get responses that are closer to my expectations and desires.

Language is extremely potent. It has the power to create within us truly wonderful or dreadfully awful feelings. Language is capable of making our spirits soar up to the heavens, or plummet our psyches in flames to the ground.

These feelings can lead us to show useful (good, positive) – or less useful (bad, negative) – behaviours.  In our personal lives this can make or break relationships. The same can be true in our professional lives. As leaders we surely aspire to creating positive cultures and outcomes.

Can you think of a time when a leader you know created good or bad situations by the language they used? How did this impact the culture? Can you think of a time when your words didn’t get the response you expected from somebody? What could you have said differently? And when you get it absolutely right, can you duplicate that formula in the future? How have you overcome the dreaded Foot In Mouth Disease? I would love to hear your stories!


Joy Griffiths is Director and Owner of Joyous Solutions Ltd
She helps clients with Executive Coaching and Business Development
Email | LinkedIn | Web| Skype: joy.griffithsjsl | +44 7884 311081

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