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22 Days Left

The count down to my 30th is only 3 weeks away and plans have turned to dreams. Vision without action is little more. If I look back over the last couple years, to sum them up, has to be inspire and support. Whether it’s my team or family, growth in others has supported growth in me.

I choose to focus on this.

Books and Movies

My Kindle broke, suddenly,  just pulled it out my bag one day and damage screen. At the time I couldn’t pin point when it happened, just that I couldn’t go back to not having a Kindle, even though I couldn’t have actively used it for almost a week. Lucky for me, Amazon were amazing and replaced two months out of warranty.  Now like someone with a second chance at life, I’m reading daily.

I do most of my reading on the underground, this is not ideal for educational material,  its too hot and I loss interest easily.  Sad, even at 29 I struggle to focus. So my current theme is reading books,  which have been made into a movies and then comparing. I wouldn’t mind but they seem to centre around post apocalyptic or mental illness, not very cheerful. To simply to jump on the Shade of Grey, I’ll leave that for post 30, for my Stella got her Groove Back trip to the mother land.

Reading List

Hunger Games Trilogy

Warm Bodies

I Am Legend

World War Z

Silverlining: Play Book

Beautiful Creature’s

I’m also reading Prince 2 Project Management,  due to the current weather its on pause,  unfortunately there isn’t a movie.  However,  if there was it wouldn’t do the book justice.

Guilty pleasure

My new tablet that I’m yet to finish paying for, was meant to, support a productive downtime routine. Complimenting studying on the Kindle, exercise and a vibrant social life. It started well, I learnt how to create CSV files and upload a database online. Got my head around search engine optimisation and put it to practice and have a better understanding of Google online tools. I just didn’t factor in three things, how little downtime I have, the limitations of a tablet and how many more distraction are available on a tablet compared to a PC.

The main procrastination tool of choice is Pinterest, where I cook everything from scratch, exercise daily and wear designer to go to the market. Not to mention I look amazing every day and alway know what to say. I have an alternative life, where I can have access to what I want, without judgement and more importantly time/money is not a barrier. It’s not a total fabrication of my life, more a slight exaggeration, an extension of me with less limits. I use it to expand my choices, I have no intention to give up meat, but I have go to vegan recipes. It does ‘interest me, how many fellow Pinners’ do the same? Would my followers be surprised to see more conservative me?

The beauty of Pinterest is its Google with pictures, you can get links for most things, from marketing to dessert ideas. Storing them for later in conveniently labeled folders, waiting for the day you find the time/money to complete.

All Change

Blaming my tools for not keeping up the plan of world domination by 2015. Until I’m 31, with a whole year of being 30, why waste it. Finally, I bought a new phone, just not that phone. Or the other one. If you don’t work in the mobile industry, or male, 28 – 36 year old office worker, you may think only Apple and Samsung make mobile ‘devices’. It’s a British, maybe a London thing, or it just not the case in the countries I can afford to travel to. Every other person has an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy ……

Apple sales purely on their brand, which they spent years building, but has launch on at least two occasions with hardware issues. They keep it simple release a phone at a time and tell you this is the best ever. Samsung, on the other hand, brings out a range to please ‘everyone’ to confuse you. Then release a single killer handset to rival the Apple equivilent, which will perform amazingly, as long as you don’t want to take a picture while making a call. Nothing is perfect.

New Year Again

We’re a couple days in, a safe distance to review last year, without lingering in its regrets and new year premature optimism. My French is worse, if possible and with only three months left of my e-learning course to run. In my defence I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet with the intention of completing the modules on it. Eye roll, no Flash app and seven browser app’s later, I just can’t be asked. Stupid smart device. It allows me to watch ’2 Broke Girls’ while working on Excel on a train, standing…can’t view flash content on the web. To be honest it just that one site, which needs upgrading, but that not going to help me become bilingual.

Still in the same job role, different location, wouldn’t mind, but the location doesn’t happen to be New York or Paris just London. However, I have been trying out web design, e-commuce and SEO on the side. Watch this space for world domination. On a less positive note, a higher level maths refresh is over due, I gain one skill, loss two I’m not using. Never fair, Google’s here, failing that, there is an app.

My only wish for the year is to do more of what I want and less of the other stuff. I’m thinking less sleep to get the more done, as I don’t think there be less of anything. Up to and including chocolate.

Near Miss

Today, I had a moment of clarity, while walking under a tree that on a closer look, clearly had some unwell tenants. Just as it dawned that this route wasn’t the best idea of the day. Plop, plop! Either side of me, directly in between two ‘birds’ simultaneously pooping. Centimetres in either direction would have lead to a very different post.

It perfectly illustrated how being distracted puts you in unpleasant situations, but more times than not it will be okay. It just the times we remember are when it’s not. Life is great, but it could be better. It also could have had poop on it.

“You Get What You Put In”

Being an 80′s baby, unlike 00′s children, I’ve grown up seeing if you worked hard, made sacrifices and/or failing that, money or a little sucking up, you can succeed. With the help of TV and the internet, a good back story only, can get you started. I might be a little naive, but I thought a good company (not a great) would manage this expectation.

To be fair, I have had, for the best part, great managers who believed in succession. This meant moving location often, but I could see the development opportunities, even if it required a financial loss. The benefits to him were great also, as he promoted for the majority of his vacancies, filling post were quicker. For his development he gain new skills and it always looks good on a review.

We knew are hard work would be acknowledged. (Yes, it was hard work and commitment and not the latter, which got me this far.).

I have followed the same logic myself, with four of my precious direct reports in management and working with my fifth.

However, last year I wanted to try something new and applied for a secondment. I enjoyed it but the role was temporary, so when it ended I returned to the sales floor. I wouldn’t mind but, my new line manager has stepped up to his role and needed a year to find his feet. At my age with no children, I don’t have a year to wait. I was only away from my store six month and my career has transformed to just a job. Imagine return after a year of maturity.

Knowing this, all there is to do, is to stay focus and teach myself new skills. It would just be easier if me and boss was on the same page.  Hard work will get me to my dream position, unless it kills me…….which it might.

When Harley Street is on Groupon…..

I love getting a discount, knowing that I share the same item as someone else, which they valued more than I had to pay. For nearly a year I have been enjoying salsa, for only £30 on 22 lessons. It not as if £7 a time isn’t worth it, but why pay more than I have too? Groupon has been good to me. I have started learning a language, sampled new restaurants and purchased gifts. It got to when I no longer check the daily newsletter as it was getting anti-productive. I was spending way more than I saved!

However, even a loyal customer has to think, tummy tuck, really. Even I have to draw a line on what has to be non discount-able. My rule for a service; what is the worst long-term consequence, if the attention to detail is also 75%. Now it is very unlikely that this will be the cause as the surgery will be on Harley Street and it worth adding that the discount, if any, isn’t detailed. It could be a new way for them to show how affordable, easy and normal saying goodbye to muffin top is. Nothing says normal more than being advertised next to discount tapas for two.

I personally will pass and stick it our with another 59 days of ‘Insanity Workout’. With three more days till the deal expires verse how hard the workout is….. I nearly forgot you need the £3000 plus, for the pleasure. Push-up jacks it is. All the best to the three who have purchased. Who knows, these purchases could be incremental and the start of a new trend.

20 Hour Vacancy

Forgive my tongue and cheek, but recently I had a part-time position to fill. Given the current climate, in a space of 10 days, I had 32 applicants. How do you find the perfect person without having to do 32 telephone interviews; on average 15 minutes per call? You screen. If you are or know someone looking for a job, keep this in mind. The applicates who gets an interview are those who make it easy for the recruiter. Those who don’t get an interview,  it could be as simple as ‘i’ for I.

On my shortlisting journey I took only two applicants to interview. Offered to one and referred the other to another store. You can teach someone how to sell and deliver good customer service, so in retail, experience comes second to the right attitude. If you have both your in a perfect position. This can be reflected in a number of ways like mentioned above, taking care with the presentation of your CV. Sounds like common sense but it not going by the sample I had the pleasure of going through. Tip: print out the document and look for corrections, it easier than doing on the screen and spell-check can be a frienemy at times.

Have a real hobby, going by the number of people who listed swimming and badminton, we should have had more gold medals…that all I am saying. I can’t speak for everyone but I want to work with interesting, honest people. Whether your thing is spending time with your kids or following Ryan Bailey around the world. It shows you have a passion and a reason other than paying bills for getting up for work.

My favourite ‘really’ moment was when a applicant listed attending an open day under education. Sometimes less is more. If you have a lot of, a couple months working here and there, it could raise more questions then it answers. Display your best well, have confidents and make it easy for the recruiter and you will get a job. Hopefully soon and the right one. Let’s face it we’re all in the same boat.

Oxford Summer School Foundation – Year 1

Welcome to Keble

Recently completing a secondment at my Head Office and returning to store, I had been struggling to remember what made me a good manager. The Retail Trust had attended a couple of my company employee forum meetings and I regular suggest them as a support to my colleagues. On the Retail Trust website I noticed the count down to the first Foundation Oxford Summer School (OSS). They were offering a scholarship to attend and I figured it would be a great opportunity to meet managers from other companies to compare notes.

First day of school, it just happened to be Keble College and I’m 28 years old. Attending the orientation day at Bira with Jeannie and Kay, I was well packed, informed and ready for an intense 5 days. Last minute nerves, I stopped in Sainsburys for apples and chocolate. Accessorising my office dress, with a chic orange plastic bag. I didn’t think much of it until I saw the coach of smartly dressed delegates. Very conscience of my appearance, chocolate and plastic bag hidden away and apples in pocket. Why? We were all retailers and Sainsburys was well represented.

Darren Blackhurst was a great introduction to the week as his approach to leadership is very reassuring. All the characteristics highlighted as being associated with a leader were demonstrated on stage, very inspiring. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a very ambitious person, but I do enjoy improving myself. I came away feeling okay that one day, with vision, I can have it all. Once I decide what ‘all’ is for me.

Having completed my Insights profile questionnaire online and discussed it with my line manager and a couple in my team. I was interested to know what I could learn about myself from the evening session about Insights. It was scary how true some of the statements were. More so, when my line manager now has a copy of a ‘how to manage’ my colour type, in his possession. On meeting my fellow delegates it was a common theme. I guess we all wanted to know how this was going to benefit us. However, by day five we were all talking in colours. Green’s seemed like the underdog, but maybe it just felt that way as we’re so sensitive. Insights does have it practical applications within team dynamics. How you chose to communicate with different types can lead to less conflict, ideally. Blues preference types like facts, where yellows love details, get it wrong and people switch off.

Tackling the case study, four hours sounds like a long time. We completed it, but had some learns as a group. We had to overcome working with a new team, an unfamiliar project and presenting to even more strangers. The difference not planning makes is often missed in the day job. Even with the comfort of knowing Alan Sugar wasn’t sitting across a table waiting to announce ‘you’re fired’. Relaxing wasn’t an option. Traci my Group Director (GD), on more than one occasion, gently reminded us of the time requirement.

Philip Hesketh talk gave a different spin on maintaining all types of relationships that was usefully to the task on the day. Knowing what is important to your customer and those around you, saves time. Just ask, sometime we make things more complicated than necessary. Not anymore I hope.

Move over Gene Kelly, the City Challenge was one of our proudest moments as a group. Well, once we got over not being first, third is respectable. All the planning, strategy and determination kicked in. Believe me; I didn’t expect to be running around, regardless of what it said in the planner. However, you get out, what you put in and Nick our task team leader for the challenge, made his vision clear. The change of pace, from being inside, was welcomed. There was a lot to do, but mostly in a room of some description.

Toni Eastwood talked about succession planning and how this builds the face of your organisation, it was interesting. A poor plan can negatively impact on performance. As someone who has progressed in their company I can see why. Tying into people, the theme of the day, Patrick Marr from Leading Edge and the team who worked with us on Insights covered the importance of good coaching technique. I thought my coaching was good but learnt I need to listen more. That is one thing I’ll be able to use with my team.

Team Meeting RoomSelf praise is no recommendation; however by Thursday lunchtime we had cracked building a proposal and presenting it back. We had gone through the GROW model and were ‘performing’. The change in our team was visible and not just the pictures. We were more confident, from learning each others boundaries. Our objectives for the week covered and a City and Guilds certificate on its way. Having attended on a scholarship in my own time, I want to come back for the Academy. With what Toni Westwood said in mind, when I debrief with my line manager I will put my recommendation forward to have delegates on the Foundation next year.

Nearly nine years, with the same company, it’s nice to come away with contacts from varied industries to bounce ideas off. Getting to know each other over the course of the week was made easier with the socialising around classes. It’s not often I will talk to a trainer from Swarovski about how to lead my team. It helped to make it an experience. Back in store I am already putting my action plan into practice. Hopefully next month I will see the results. However, of all the speakers Kate Barrett, Retail Weeks 2012: Rising Star was the most powerful for me, as I could see how her career path related to mine. Showing the possible opportunities available in the retail sector.