What does your voice say about you!


One of our most important tools as trainers or managers is our ability to vary the pitch, speed and passion of our voice, be it in meetings, tool-box talks or at presentations.  Your voice is a wonderful tool and should be used in all its varieties throughout the delivery of your session.

Interestingly I was in church just recently and the key message was about managing what you say!  It made me think about how such a small part of our body can manage to get us into so much trouble sometimes!!!  It is the strongest muscle in your body, proportionately.  So you need to manage both your tongue and the words that come out of your mouth with as much effort as you put into other forms of communication. Consider this…I bet you think about the report you have to write for your boss for considerably longer than you think about what you are going to say to your team!!

How often have we been in meetings, presentations or training sessions where the person presenting the information has been so passionate and alive about the subject you come away feeling inspired and motivated.  Equally we have also had the opposite experience…how do you want your delegates or team members to feel when you are talking?

I encounter many managers who bemoan the fact that they have to have team meetings and they never get any response from their team.  I question this: maybe this is about how you deliver your messages?  Your role as a manager or trainer is to ‘sell’ the concept, idea, new process or procedure to your audience; if you sound bored or non-committal what do you think will be the outcome?  What ideas do you use to liven up your team meetings? How do you get your team involved in the meeting?

Whatever your reason for speaking to a group of people you need to be convincing, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate so that you get your message across.  You need to take time to consider exactly what you are going to say and where you are going to put the emphasis so that you keep your audience engaged.

Remember the old saying; “think before you speak”.

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

Meetings…how wasteful can they be?

Meetings…how wasteful can they be?

How long do you spend in unproductive meetings wishing you were somewhere else getting on with your ‘to do’ list?

I don’t know about you but I find it very disappointing and frustrating attending meetings that are not well managed or planned.  What a waste of everyone’s time, which let’s be honest we can ill-afford to waste in the current economic climate.

Even more frustrating is when meetings have been arranged well in advance in your diary, you then check to confirm whether it is on or not as you get another opportunity on the same day as obviously you have to decide which takes priority. The person you contact makes out that the date was never fixed so you take it out of your diary and put in the other meeting and think nothing of it.  However, two weeks later you get an email inviting you to the first meeting again as the organiser could not organise the proverbial, in a barn!!  Oooh, makes me mad as you can probably tell!!

So, how do you ensure that the meetings you are involved in are productive and not time wasting, here are a few pointers that I find work well:

  • Every meeting should have a start and finish time
  • Every meeting should have a chairperson, a different person to take notes and a third person to watch the time
  • Every meeting room should have an accurate clock in it
  • Everyone who attends a meeting should contribute
  • Every meeting over 30 minutes in duration should have an agenda
  • Every meeting agenda should be issued at least 5 working days before the meeting, unless it is a weekly meeting with repeating topics for discussion
  • Every meeting that involves the same people should spend five minutes as the end of every meeting asking:
  • How well was the meeting chaired?
  • How effective was the meeting in its use of time?What went well?
  • What can we all do better at the next meeting?

When you have an initial client meeting it will probably only involve a maximum of four people (2 from both companies), but it is still good practice to confirm how long the meeting will be and what the key points that need to be covered are. Never assume that everyone is on the same page as you.  From a sales perspective you also need to know what the client’s agenda is and it is only polite to see how much time you have available.  It also shows that you are business focused, which will gain you greater credibility.

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

Belated birthday celebrations!

Here at Rubus Associates we have celebrated our 12th birthday!!

12 is often used as a sales unit as we buy a dozen red roses for loved ones; there were 12 apostles of Jesus; there are 12 animals in the Chinese horoscope and 12 signs of the zodiac along with 12 months of the years and there are 12 basic hues in the colour wheel and 12 people have walked on the moon!

So how are we celebrating being 12?

Well we have re-vamped the look of our website, not quite finished but nearly there, comments welcomed: (www.rubusassociates.co.uk).  We have also reviewed our portfolio of courses and are busy developing new material around key subjects that we specialise in such as training trainers and developing HR personnel in the area of talent management.

We are delighted to be able to report that we have now delivered over 1,020 days of training in the last 12 years with over 12,292 people learning & developing with us.  Many of our delegates stay in touch with us and it is great to hear their progress in their chosen field.  I recently heard of a graduate who had been on one of our programmes 9 years ago who is now running his own department with a team of 8 – great job!!

We are also growing our coaching business with a number of private clients working with us to develop their own businesses as well as themselves in their corporate roles.  It is a really interesting way to develop people and much more learner centred than a training course can possibly be just because it is so personal.  The targeted learning that comes out of a coaching session is much more powerful than attending a course with other delegates because the trainer has to meet everyone’s needs, when it is coaching the coache’s full attention is on one person and on their specific needs.

I believe that coaching has had quite a lot of bad press so if you are thinking of using a coach always check out their credentials.  Have they got past experience that they bring or even better are they recommended by previous clients and have they got formal qualifications which gives them credibility?  We do not advertise ourselves as coaches as we find that people will seek us out based on our reputation and personal recommendations.

So what does our 13th year look like?  Well the start of our teens has been great so far and we look forward to a busy and exciting year ahead, may be working with you!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth


Change – how do you cope with it?

Change is something that we all have to deal with and we often think about it in work terms but it is happening in our own personal life as well.  Wherever that change is happening it is interesting to see how people react to it and work through it.

Lets be honest we all like things that we know and are familiar with so when this is changed out of our control, it is very interesting to observe people’s reactions to it even in a social environment.  Just recently I have been away with a group of friends to a hotel that we have visited regularly over the last 10 years.  Since our last visit the whole of the ground floor area, lounge & reception have been refurbished….well it was not to my taste, nor to my friends but we bitched and moaned about it as it wasn’t like it used to be, not as good and why did they do this, why put that with that etc.

Yet after two days of being in that environment we had accepted the change, we were more used to the decor and the new layout, we still did not like it but we had explored used to it. So we had got to the point of acceptance and this is the same with all different types of change, especially if we cannot do anything about the changes.

If you then think about change in the work environment then it is ongoing, for if companies do not change and evolve, they will become extinct. These changes might involve changes of personnel, changes of premises or the amalgamation of two organisations into one and I am currently working with all three of these different types of changes and it is interesting to see the different reactions of the people involved, just like my friends and the hotel refurbishment.

What it shows is that whatever the change, people will react differently and you as a manager need to be able to support and respond to each different reaction as well as dealing with the changes yourself.  If you read around this subject it all comes back to regular and effective communication in all directions and from all levels.  You as a manager should not be relying on other people but getting the information to share with your teams.

I am sure you are all aware of the different stages that people go through with change from denial to resistance to exploration to commitment and as leaders of people we have to help people through these stages and recognise that it is not a smooth passage from one to another but people often go back and forwards a number of times, so you have to have patience.  This is especially important if you accept change readily.  I have known a manager who was like this who just did not understand why her team could not accept what was happening and the relationships got very strained to say the least!!

Sone thoughts on each of these stages that we experience during change:

During denial

Confront individual with information. Let them know that the change will happen. Explain what to expect and suggest actions they can take to adjust to the change. Give them time to let things sink in, and then arrange a planning session to talk things over.

During resistance

Listen, acknowledge feelings, respond empathetically, and encourage support. Don’t try to talk people out of their feelings, or tell them to change or pull together. If you accept their responses they will continue to tell you how they are feeling. This will help you to respond to some of their concerns.

During exploration

Concentrate on priorities and provide any necessary training. Follow up projects underway. Set short-term goals. Conduct brainstorming and planning sessions. Give direction and guidance with gentle persuasion. Allow people to explore.

During commitment

Harness commitment with objectives and goals. Concentrate on team building. Create a mission statement. Acknowledge and reward those responding to the change. Look ahead.

So whatever change you are facing, remember that you must be the best you can in terms of communication, support your people and be honest about your feelings as well.

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth


Leadership – are you a motivator?

So we have seen in the last week the election of three new leaders and how different they are in their style and personality.  The Pope appeared to be quite a quiet reverend man with a sense of humour, Xi Jinping now the leader of China is quite hard to read and Uhuru Kenyatta  who is now in charge of Kenya appears to be quite controversial.

So what does this tell us about leaders in the 21st Century? I believe that it tells us there is no one standard mould and this is something that we need to reflect on when we look around our organisations at who will be the next leader at whatever level. What we must not do is stereotype, but consider the appropriate competences that are required for leaders in our business.

Fundamentally leadership is not about structure and process but it is about your ability as a person to motivate and inspire your team, especially in this climate.  The people who work for you are looking to you for guidance and support. The motivation that you give to other people is not: ‘you should be grateful that you have a job’ type of motivation but you should be motivating your team with recognition, support and inspirational moments.

Recognition is one of the fundamental tools in your toolkit as a leader…it does not mean reward, it does not mean saying ‘well done’ every five minutes,  it means you recognising what contribution people are making to your business and the team and thanking them for it; it is remembering about them as an individual and what they have done and something about them personally.

So often I meet team members who repeatedly say, the only time they hear from their boss is when they have done something wrong! That is just plain bad management!

Why do managers & leaders do this?  Why do you only criticise your people? Why do you always concentrate on the 5% of my job that I am not doing well instead of recognising that 95% of my job I am doing well!!  If this is you, and be honest with yourself…..get out of the habit!!!

Think of it like this:

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Well neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily!!” Zig Ziglar

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth


The dog ate my homework!!!

Well it is one excuse for not getting your work in on time! As you know I deliver accredited programmes for both the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and in order for the delegates to gain the qualification they have to complete assignments or homework.

I recently sent a chivvying email to a number of these delegates to encourage them to complete the assignments. The variety of responses can compare with all the excuses that teacher friends of mine get on a daily basis. It is also interesting how many people just ignore my email in the hope that I might go away!!

It is just such a shame that many people do not complete the work as they lose out on the qualification. I wouldn’t mind but in most cases their companies have paid for them to attend and the government have part funded the programme to encourage the development of managers. I appreciate that people have pressures both personal & professional but there is also a responsibility of the delegates manager to encourage this development.

Part of the role of a line manager is to develop the people in your team, in fact you should be trying to develop your successor. You also have budget responsibility which is wasted on people who do not complete the qualification and this is not a great demonstration of leadership!   So how are you being measured? How are you measuring your people.  If all you measure is ‘yes’ they have attended the course that does not mean that the learning has happened it just means that the person attended the course. What you should be doing is ensuring that whatever has been learnt has met the originally identified training need.

If you complete the circle like this I will be a lot busier marking work that your people have completed!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth


I’ve got to the 21st Century!

So here I am, the proud owner of a brand new mini iPad!!

As I am an experiential learner I thought I would test out it’s usability for a small business like mine, so here I am on the move writing to see how doable this social media stuff is!!!  I am also testing out access and making sure that what I am doing on my iPad is being saved and I can access it from my desk top….and yes it works!!!

Now I know for all you techie people out there you knew that this was going to work but as someone who has to learn from experience I had to check it worked….and it did!!

I decided on a mini iPad as I found the original iPad too big, cumbersome & heavy to carry around. The mini is much easier to do this and is even small enough to get into all the handbags I use for work days! I know that is very girly but we are 50% of Apple’s target market so it is important.

One of the best bits about the whole IT set up is how everything is connected so that I have all my bookmarks from my desktop  here with me on the move which is just fab!! It means that I can keep in touch with my social media connections and also to maximise the use of my time.  Being someone who hates wasting her time the ability to keep up with blogging,tweeting etc on the move means while I am waiting for a meeting to start I can do a bit of connecting.

So how has it travelled? Well it’s easy and as long as there is an Internet connection, it is as good as being at my desk!  I have also taken it for a cover which amazingly Apple have not got round to making…so I’ve opted for one by Belkin which is great and allows you to read it at an angle etc and it is protected so I am confidently carrying it around and using it in some unusual places….currently in the kitchen!  Don’t think the bathroom will be wise but I now fully understand how everyone has got hooked on them!

On reflection I do wonder how I ever ran my business in the ‘old days’ without all these gadgets!!  Do you remember memos and real post!! It is all part of the evolution of the workplace and it makes being connected and in touch with your clients and world events so much easier.  However, it does not make you a better sales person, trainer or business leader.  That still comes down to how you develop your skills, behaviour and attitude to the people around you.

This is something we have to consider as the digital native generation (born from 2000 onwards) move into the workplace….they might be very savvy about the technology and connected to everyone via social media but when it comes to managing people that is still a face to face relationship (even via Skype) and comes with all the foibles that us humans have.  So thankfully developing managers and leaders to be better at what they do will still be required!!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth


30 minute training sessions

So here we are in 2013 with the prospect of the economy bumbling along much like last year…so what do you do as a manager who is trying to develop your people?  You only have so much money in your training budget, if any!

So how do you decide which is the best way to deliver the required training to your team?  Well in many organisations ‘tool box’ training is done on a regular basis, say once a week and takes only 30 minutes with the whole team. This is ideal in a shift environment at the beginning of a shift or at a team meeting or huddle as some people call them!

So what can you cover in 30 minutes I hear you cry…well quite a lot if you have planned your session well:

  • Clearly defining what you want your team to ‘know/explain/list’ etc. after the session is crucial
  • Ensure that all your people are engaged and involved…do NOT (yes I am shouting) talk AT your people for 30 minutes….get them involved in short, impactive exercises; get them discussing the issue…they might have a great solution that you have not thought about!!
  • Put some form of assessment into your session at the end like a quiz so that you can check that the learning has taken place

We ask people on train the trainer courses to run a micro-teach for 30 minutes and you would be surprised at what you can learn in that time.

So yes, in these time constrained and cost restricted situations learning can take place, you cannot use excuses, your people still have to be developed.  Why not get them involved in sharing their skills & knowledge with the rest of the team especially if you have spent some of your precious training budget sending them on an external course….get them to run a resume of the learning for the rest of the team.

If you do not help your people to learn & develop in their role with you when the market picks up they will go elsewhere because you have not developed their potential, which for you as a manager is your job!!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth


Too many cooks!!

It is quite interesting how different training organisations operate when planning ‘open’ courses.  For example we are involved in delivering a leadership course for a large group of people for an international partner in the coming weeks and it is amazing how the course content is decided upon.  We have been asked to deliver what is effectively 4 one day sessions in one day…so does this mean we reduce the content or extend the day?

The difficulty of this situation is that we are working through a third party for whom English is their second language, who are not learning specialists and who think that ‘chalk & talk’ is the ideal way for people to learn.  As you know we mix our style of training based around the needs of the learners and get our delegates to practice their learning through the use of exercises.  This has been a proven way of ensuring that the learning actually transfers to the workplace.

So how do you manage everyone’s expectations?  Very diplomatically is the answer!! This is where the skill of the trainer is critical to the success of the learning event as they should be able to flex the input and depth of the subject for the benefit of the learner.  What you cannot be in this situation is the sort of trainer who just runs a course based on a script and who does not have the depth of subject knowledge to go deeper or wider as the learner’s need.

The lessons here are:

If you are a buyer of training you want to buy trainers who have a great depth of knowledge of their subject and who can give you proven references of delivering on this subject on a number of occasions.  You want to ensure that you have clarified exactly what the learning outcomes you want from the training are and ensure that the trainer provides the learning programme to meet these and not what they want to deliver.

If you are a trainer you need to only deliver on subjects that you are an expert on so that you can go deeper as the learner needs, as well as wider on related subjects so that you help the learner learn.

The best example I had recently was delivering a time management course and we got onto the subject of performance management…not completely unrelated but not normal bedfellows! I have a wide & deep knowledge of both of these subjects so we were able to have a valuable discussion on managing performance, which the group found very useful and did not detract from the key learning of the day, but assists your credibility as a trainer.

So get involved in designing what you are delivering as early as possible and ensure that you are able to competently deliver on all the subjects!

Thanks for your time,

Suzanne Unsworth


That was 2012!

So here we are at the end of another busy and interesting year in the world of training and leadership development and just taking a few moments to reflect on the year and to look forward.

For us at Rubus Associates 2012 was the start of our next decade in business and it has been a great year.  We have re-developed our website which is now something that I can develop add content to without having to bother my web designer, this makes life so much easier and faster.  Mind you it was thanks to his patience that I know what to do!!!!

I have also developed my own blog this year which I have found very interesting and a great way to share thoughts and ideas with the world in a short document…I don’t think any of us have got loads of time to read pages and pages of stuff!!  I am also getting better at the whole social media by using Twitter and beginning to develop our Facebook pages, but I must admit that you have to be disciplined to ensure that it is all up to date!

We have also developed a number of different bespoke courses for our clients and delighted to still be working with some key people who have been our clients for many years…..long may that continue!

Now is also the time when as professionals we should all spend some quality time reviewing what we have achieved for our own professional development (CPD) and recording it so that we have that record to look back on.  It is also a time to consider what do we want to learn & develop within ourselves this coming year.   I did not think I would be this far down the social media path last year so I have it on my plan for 2013 as it is something I enjoy doing and I hope that you enjoy reading!

If you are not a great planner or you just like to go with the flow….more spontaneous use your diary to review what you have done this year.  I always find it amazing to look back and to realise what you have achieved over the 12 months, we do forget! So take that time and look back and then, if nobody else does, pat yourself on the back and say “Great Job”

Then the harder part is to say ok, ‘what am I going to achieve in 2013?’  Write a few ideas down or put together a vision board.  This is where you use pictures of what you would like to see in the future in your world or themes that you want for key areas of your life.  There is plenty of stuff about it out there on the web, but just get a few ideas or thoughts down on paper so that when you get to this time next year you will have done something you wanted to do because you made it happen, not just seeing what comes along.

So here’s to a fab 2013! Thanks for your time,

Suzanne Unsworth