3 ways to inspire your people


An easy way to inspire you people is to see what others do that works and then copy it. Here’s an example that you might like to copy.


Recently I attended the Annual Leadership Conference of our client, Intelligent Office. I was there talking to them about objectives, appraisals and feedback. The conference was so impressive I wanted to share it with you.


Of the many excellent aspects to the conference, I’m going to focus on three that really inspired all those there:


  • How they strive to provide exceptional service
  • How they care for their people
  • The quality of the marketing objectives and why that can make such a difference to you


How they strive to provide exceptional service


Intelligent Office provides administrative services for legal firms. They are the oil that keeps the engine going. See last week’s blog Admin – how hard can it be? For more about that, see the blog.



They want to inspire all their people to provide “exceptional” service. When we got to this part of the conference, I confess I was a little sceptical. How could you possibly give ‘exceptional service’ in admin? And how can you get people to do it? Then we got the examples. Here are just three.



Broken belt


A client who had arrived for a meeting, and his belt had broken. The team member in question gave the client his own belt.




Delicious toast

Delicious toast


A client was overheard saying how good the toast from the café smelt. The team member went and got him some of the toast.





Here’s my favourite example. A visitor arrived for a meeting with the client, but at the wrong building. He’d already driven for several hours to get there.  The correct building was a 15-minute walk away, but the visitor had an injury that made walking that far quite painful. The directions to drive to the other office were complicated, so the Intelligent Office team member hopped into the car with the visitor and directed him, then walked back in the rain.


As someone who finds it especially easy to get lost I particularly appreciated this last example. (Having said that, as someone who loves toast, I’m thinking I really like that example too….)


As I listened to more and more of these examples it was easy to imagine how their clients really value this approach. And sharing those examples is a great way to inspire others to do the same and think of new opportunities to meet the needs of their clients.



How they care for their people


At the beginning of the conference we had already seen including a long succession of people who had been promoted over that year. This really underlined the opportunities in the company and the fact that they really do put these ideas into practice.


When did you last give someone in your team an opportunity?


And when are you going to do it again?
This were the questions Margaret McPherson, Chairman of Intelligent Office asked of all the people at the conference in a very thought provoking session. I urge you to ask yourself the same questions.



The quality of the marketing objectives and why that can make such a difference to you


You may be wondering why I have included comments on these. It’s because these objectives really inspired confidence. They showed that the people at the top know what they are doing, where they are going and how they are going to get there.


When this happens in any organisation it makes you much happier to work there. You feel they can trust your leadership team, so you can get on with your job and stop worrying about whether the company will still be there next year.   


So often I have seen feeble and fluffy objectives in this area, objectives that inspired no confidence at all. You know them:


  • Improve market penetration
  • Raise awareness of our brand
  • Improve sales


You look at them and resign yourself to another pitiful performance.


But not at Intelligent Office. Their objectives were completely clear and easily measurable. What’s more, they are well on the way to achieving them. Anyone at that conference could leave feeling completely confident that the marketing department was doing an excellent job and would continue to grow the company.


It’s really important that you have confidence in other departments in your company. Knowing that they are doing a good job and can be relied upon makes you more confident. This means you can get on with your own job without fear of being let down.


So including this in the conference was a masterstroke. I’ve seen this before in conferences, but I’ve never seen a marketing department do it anything like as well as this.


The ideas I have shared with you are not rocket science. They are things that most companies could do. So why don’t they? More importantly, do you?

Admin – how hard can it be?


Admin – how hard can it be?

7 Tips on how to manage admin properly, and a great poem


I was recently a guest speaker at a superb conference. It was the annual conference of one of our clients: Intelligent Office. They specialise in providing administrative services for the legal profession. Getting the admin right is a vital leadership skill. You need to be able to delegate admin effectively.


I’ll be telling you more about why the conference was so impressive next week.


This week I’m going to share something very different with you. At the end of the conference one of the Intelligent Office Team Leaders performed his own poem about filing. It was excellent. I asked Anthony if he would mind sharing it with you. So take a moment out of your busy day and enjoy this short treat. You won’t regret it.


Here is the link here for you: “The Admin Assistant Blues”. It’s a clip from a live performance so please excuse the sound quality. And he has also given me a few tips on admin that might help you and make you smile.


I guarantee you will never think about filing in quite the same way again.

The Admin Assistant Blues



Meet Anthony Fairweather

Anthony Fairweather, poet, performer and admin expert

Anthony Fairweather, poet, performer and admin expert


Anthony has worked for many different companies including supermarkets and legal establishments in the field of admin. He’s an expert in this field and has encountered most of the admin problems you could imagine.


And he is also an amazingly talented performer of his own hilarious poetry. Just listen to this.


Most problems, he told me, occur when a manager who is responsible for admin doesn’t actually know anything about admin (no surprise there). Getting the admin right is a vital leadership skill. You need to be able to delegate admin effectively. So I asked Anthony if he could spare a couple of minutes to give me a few tips and thoughts on admin and how to get it right. Here they are, exclusive to Grapevine.



What problems are caused badly done admin?


“Admin is like your company’s central nervous system. Each part of your company, like each part of your body is incredibly specialised. Only your hand can do what your hand does. What some companies do when times get hard is start hacking at admin to try to save money.


If you started hacking away at your own central nervous system to try to save money your hands, feet etc wouldn’t work properly. In your business your accountant might think you had saved money because you were no longer employing so many people. But the admin people who are left are rushed off their feet. You are then wasting loads of money because jobs are taking longer to do, they are being done wrong and as a result you are compromising the services you are supplying to your clients.


That won’t show up till a few months down the line, when you lose those clients and now you are in a worse state than you were in before, but it won’t necessarily be obvious why, because admin ‘sort of just happens’ doesn’t it?”



What are your top tips for getting your admin done well?


“1. Don’t assume admin is easy.


2. Don’t assume you know about it (if you think admin is easy, you don’t know about admin).


3. When you give instructions on how to do a job, it’s no use saying ‘Just photocopy this’.


How do you want it photocopied, single sided, double sided, stapled, hole punched, paginated, in colour, black and white, do you want the A3 pages scaled down to A4 to make them easier to handle?


If you give the wrong instructions now, you’ll get the wrong thing back. Make sure you are extremely clear in your instructions. Then you will get what you asked for, rather than what you wanted them.


A really good admin person will ask you how you want your photocopying done, so don’t get annoyed when they ask.


If your knee-jerk response is ‘it’s obvious’ the answer is ‘no’ because if it was, we wouldn’t be asking.


4. Photocopying documents takes longer than you think


A lever arch file of 400 black and white single-sided A4 sheets of paper which are unstapled, can be done in about 15 – 20 minutes, if the same file is stapled every 2 – 3 pages it will take 2 – 3 hours, especially if you want it re-stapled afterwards. (If you want 2 copies it will take even longer.)


5. Trust your admin people to know how to do their job. But whilst they have many skills, clairvoyance is not one of them.


6. A good admin person will never be offended by instructions that seem to be oversimplified because the less ambiguous they are the better. For example: if there are a couple of pages in your document that need to be in colour, it’s a great help to let your admin person know in advance. This means they can keep an eye out for them.


7. Admin people are very often easy to blame when things go wrong. Try not to do it unless it really is their fault.”


 See Anthony Fairweather Live

If you are anywhere near Stoke Newington, London UK on Thursday 28th November then you will be able to see Anthony performing live at “A Unique Night Out” at Ryan’s Bar, 181 Church Street, Stoke Newington N16 0U1.



You can get more details from his website here:



(There are a couple of technical issues with his website at the moment, but they should be resolved soon….)

How much more could you delegate?


You could be delegating so much more than you think…



Have you ever noticed there are things your manager needs to delegate? Things that you could do (possibly better than he or she does them)?



Well, it may be the same is true for those who work for you…. Delegation is a vital part of

your leadership skills. So you need to make sure you are getting it right. Especially if you

Are you really busy?

Are you really busy?

are really busy.



Start as you mean to go on


When we are working with clients on recruitment, we also help with the first few months after your successful candidate starts. The way to get a new hire off to a flying start is to ensure the induction programme is good.



How do you design a good induction programme?


The answer is – you don’t. You get the new hire to do it.



Why would you take such a risk?


Well, it’s not really a risk if you do it properly. And it gets your new starter off on the right foot. The new starter immediately understand that he or she needs to take responsibility for their work right from the word “Go.”



How do you delegate the induction programme without making it really risky?


The same way you delegate everything else.


Get the objectives right. You sit down with your new team member and go through their objectives. Ideally you would have the objectives for the next year mapped out and be clear what needs to be achieved in the next week, month etc.


Then you ask the individual what they need in their induction programme in order to achieve those objectives.


Then you ask them what resources they need (who do they need to get to know, what equipment do they need, what do they need to learn about and so on). You give them all the contact details they require and then ask them to come back to you when they have worked out a plan.


Now it may be that you want to email a few people to let them know your new hire will be contacting them, and you probably ought to arrange for them to have an email address, a computer and a desk for when they start, but the rest can be organised by them.


When they come back to you with the plan, all you have to do is check through it and make sure it is aligned with the objectives. If there is anything missing (or superfluous) you can make changes.  Then agree dates to review their progress.


The whole purpose of our recruitment process is to reduce the amount of effort and time involved for you, whilst helping you to find exceptional new people. This is just one part of that process. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want to go back to all that extra work you used to do. Try it now.

A valuable skill that’s often ignored


When we are recruiting for our clients they often want dynamic, people with lots of enthusiasm, passion and energy. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.

But let’s look at another, far less glamorous, and yet very useful skill that can be extremely valuable. One that many recruiters (and managers) ignore.



What candidates look like at interview


You’ve met them; those candidates who could solve all the world’s problems in a week and still have time go out walking on water at the weekend. They are completely convincing and they tell a great story. Everything sounds impressive and heroic. In fact, rather like a film.


These people are attractive and charismatic. You just know they would fit into your team.
But when you hire them, they don’t deliver on the promise. Yes, they have loads of ideas and they can enthuse and motivate people, and have lots of passion, but they don’t have persistence. I can’t remember the last time a client asked me to find a candidate with persistence.



Our cat


I would be the first to confess that our cat, Pearl, is not the brightest of creatures. She is happy to spend time chasing a point of light on the wall, or just basking in front of the fire, and you can almost hear the tumbleweed drifting by when you look into her eyes. But the one thing she does have in abundance is persistence.

When our daughter got her dwarf hamster, Pearl’s eyes lit up like the lamps on a lighthouse. Here was obviously one of the tastiest morsels it was possible to imagine. Pearl would spend hours just gazing at Hoshi’s cage. Gradually, over several months, she found a way to jump up and reach the cage (which we had thought was too high). We moved it to the top of the bookcase. She still sat patiently watching it, waiting for her opportunity.

Then one day our daughter was cleaning out Hoshi’s cage after carefully placing the hamster waited safely in a small box.

When Amy was ready to put Hoshi back in the cage this is what she saw.

Pearl in Hoshi's cage cropped

Pearl, our black cat, waiting in a hamster’s cage


No doubt Pearl assumed that Amy would carelessly post Hoshi through the tiny door straight into her mouth without noticing.

The thing I really admired about this was the complete and blind adherence to a goal. The ability just to keep going and try anything to achieve it.



The dogs at the airport


You’ll have seen those dogs that are sniffing out drugs at airports. They have to be trained to do that. Guess what distinguishes the dogs that are really skilled? It’s not the sense of smell – most dogs have a great sense of smell. It’s the ability to maintain concentration and just keep going without being distracted.


Just like our cat.




It’s easy to be deceived


It’s easy to imagine that the best people are those who have lots of fabulous ideas that will solve all your problems at a stroke. But the truth is that many problems require long term hard work, some of which is quite boring. People who can do this are extremely valuable.




How do you pick them out?


You have to stop being blinded by flashy, impressive answers to your interview questions, and instead, probe into what people have accomplished and how they achieved it.  Find out what the steps were, what the problems were, how they overcame them and how long it took. Don’t worry if they don’t make it sound very exciting.


When you ask questions about these things you’ll soon notice a difference between them and the more flashy individuals.