Category Archives: Personal Development

Professional Liverpool – Networking Breakfast with Nicola Forshaw

By constantly dealing with the pressures of everyday life at breakneck pace, we put ourselves under plenty of stress. In these chaotic times of this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world that we live in today, the feelings of busyness, tiredness, as well as being distracted and overloaded can be overwhelming, to the detriment of our physical and mental health. This means we need to be non-judgementally aware and feel what is happening in the present moment all around and inside ourselves, which is also known as mindfulness.

Last month I attended a networking breakfast organised by Professional Liverpool. Held at the Cotton Exchange, this was delivered by Nicola Forshaw of Mindfit, which looked at mindfulness. I was curious to learn about how I could personally incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life. A second reason for attending, was I also saw this as an opportunity to develop a mindful approach to leading and helping others.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast3

Nicola was a superb speaker with a great passion for her business. From start to finish, Nicola delivered a talk that was succinct, easy to understand, clear, knowledgeable and reassuring for the entire audience. Indeed, I was impressed with how Nicola clearly showed her expertise with a smooth tone and flow, leaving myself and everyone mesmerised.

There was plenty that I learned from Nicola. From using mindfulness personally in everyday life, as well as using mindful leadership to cultivate, nurture and support others, I learned and gained an understanding of mindfulness.

Below are some examples of what I learned about mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness is a practice of living in the present moment without consciously passing judgement.
  2. If you worry or dwell on the past and future, you will miss out on the present.
  3. Drop into the present to get a sense of calm.
  4. The threat is in the mind most of the time through overthinking.
  5. Overthinking makes you ill.
  6. Meditation is clear seeing of the mind.
  7. Mindful listening involves being comfortable, connected and happy. This is required as you need to feel able to express yourself thorough your presence, clarity, focus and compassion to others.
  8. The quality of your presence has a diverse impact on another person’s thinking.
  9. Mindfulness is not a quick fix, as you must be committed to it for the long-term, and it requires patience and practice.
  10. Being a mindful leader not only improves your resilience, but also improves complexity, communication and collaboration with others.

From the above, I now understand that is important to make the most of the present, and not worry and overthink about the future. The latter is especially true with some things in life and business that you have no control over, as it is easy and understandable to feel concerned about what may or may not lie ahead.

To summarise my thoughts, I found the event to be a fascinating introduction to mindfulness. From this I have learned plenty of interesting points on mindfulness and mindful leadership, and how I can apply this to my own life and to assist others. I can pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast2honestly say this has been extremely useful to me as part of my personal and professional development, and I have since been trying to apply mindfulness in my daily life, by applying a few minutes every day to practice.

Overall the event was excellent. From meeting Nicola who was delightful to speak and listen to, from networking and catching up with several familiar faces including Chris Burgess, David Wafer, Lee Parry and Leon McCowan, there was plenty of conversation and opportunities to strengthen networking relationships. The breakfast provided was also delicious with fresh fruit, bagels, cookies, croissants, meat, cheeses and plenty of tea and coffee, giving a cultured and continental taste.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast4

In conclusion, I would like to thank Nicola for being a wonderful speaker, and for opening my eyes and ears to the power of mindfulness. My thanks also go to Alex Clark, Emma Rittenberg and Keri Stanistreet of Professional Liverpool for putting together a fine networking event, and I certainly hope my fellow attendees got as much out of it as I did.

Thank you very much!


MYP Networking Masterclass with Dougal Paver – Thursday 26th April 2018

When networking, one of the pleasures I get is learning from the experiences and stories of others more experienced than me.

Last month, I attended a networking seminar jointly hosted by Merseyside Young Professionals (MYP) and the Chartered Institute of Securities & Investments (CISI). Held in the lavish surroundings of Signature Living’s 30 James Street hotel, this was hosted by Dougal Paver of Merrion Strategy, regarded as one of the most networked people in Liverpool. I have heard several great testimonials about Dougal’s networking skills, so I was looking forward to learning from a master.myp_networking_masterclass1

From start to finish, Dougal delivered a first-class tour-de force seminar. Drawing on his vast experience with humour and wisdom, I was taken by the scope and breadth of Dougal’s networking knowledge, especially on the technical aspects, some of which I had never known previously. As a result, I not only found myself listening with great interest, but I also mentally related Dougal’s knowledge and understanding of networking to my own.

Along with consolidating my own knowledge, there were other useful techniques that I learned. Some of these were completely unique to me, as I had never thought about them, when attending past events and seminars.

These techniques included the following bellow:

  1. As the world changes you need to stay relevant, which is where networking helps.
  2. Small talk works as it helps to find common ground.
  3. Pay attention to what’s happening out there.
  4. Read the Economist and subscribe to your client’s trade magazines, and your industry’s newsletters.
  5. Networking won’t always deliver business, as it is about delivering long-term relationships, based on mutual trust and respect.
  6. Never dominate others, so remember to back off!
  7. Keep your social media activity professional.
  8. Plan what you can add to an event.
  9. Ask for the guest list.
  10. Evaluate what you got from an event and plan for the next.
  11. In theory, 150 is the maximum number of people you can maintain a relationship with.
  12. Demonstrate your capability and worth over time.
  13. Be reliable and always remember to follow-up.
  14. Your existing network must be nurtured with care.
  15. Remember to show your gratitude by saying thank you.

Dougal also explained about a key aspect of building and sustaining relationships. These include sending relevant articles, reports, and white papers, along with introducing clients to people who may help them, as well as inviting them to events. Another method to build relationships is to promote the work of your clients, e.g. blogs, articles and their businesses. Whilst I have applied some of the above, I have not always been consistent, meaning this is an area of personal development that I will need to address.myp_networking_masterclass3-crop

Overall I was very impressed with Dougal’s presentation of a true networking masterclass. From sharing his knowledge and experience, I was completely mesmerised by his performance, content delivery, humour and storytelling, which captured my attention throughout. In fact, I was so spellbound that I came out the seminar afterwards, feeling I had learned from a master networker. Such an experience is always a sign of a fine speaker, which is high praise indeed!

I would like to thank Dougal for presenting a magnificent seminar, MYP and CISI for organising a first-class opportunity for myself and everyone, and to the staff of 30 James Street for their hospitality. To conclude, I would like to end on the following point that encapsulates what networking is about.

Networking is what you make of who you know, and what use you let them make of you!


What Does it Take To Be Successful?

This is something I have thought long and hard about. Yet it is a difficult question to ask, because there is no single or sure-fire way to be successful. In my opinion, success is a combination of positive factors and behaviours working productively together to reach a positive outcome or achievement.

Success can be defined as anything that an individual, team of individuals, or an organisation have achieved and feel proud about. They can be big or small, and either personal or professional. These can be from businesses winning multi-million pound contracts, entrepreneurs running their own successful ventures, or even of a personal nature such as raising a family, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

To be successful requires you to commit maximum effort to whatever goals you have set for yourself. Secondly you must also have the belief and mental resilience to withstand the inevitable obstacles that you will encounter along your journey. It is through the above that successful people and organisations are driven by heartfelt passion, in addition to having the commitment and steel to rise above and overcome the obstacles they face.

There are also other important qualities required to be successful. I have provided some examples of these below, many of which are also applicable to your personal life.

  1. Never be driven solely by money as it is derivative and highly destructive.
  2. Think how you can help others first.
  3. Remember to always listen before speaking.
  4. Ensure you have the necessary skills required and continually learn new ones.
  5. Know your capabilities and limitations.
  6. Understand yourself as a brand as we are all marketers.
  7. Learn to be resilient and manage stress.
  8. Make the most of opportunities presented to you.
  9. Don’t be afraid to fail, but remember to learn from them.
  10. Be honest with yourself and others.
  11. List personal goals that are achievable, realistic, and that also ignites your enthusiasm.
  12. Be prepared to be flexible by constantly realigning your goals, with where your business/organisation is going.
  13. Communication is important to develop good personal and professional relationships.
  14. Learn how to deal with office politics.
  15. Treat everyone equally and with humility.
  16. Treat your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.
  17. Network with people from different professions and backgrounds.

You must also remember to take the time to relax. Focusing entirely on your career, can neglect your physical and mental health, as well as relationships with family, friends, colleagues and even business clients. Even the successful ones, realise the importance of not only spending quality time with family, but also have a hobby or two that brings enjoyment and allows them to release stress. Having hobbies and interests outside of your career also helps to show you as a more rounded person.

There is no easy path to success. As the world changes, from politics, technology, economics and others, you will encounter many obstacles, both personally and professionally. These will test your personal belief in what you strive to set out to achieve. Overcoming them will not always be easy, as there will be occasions where some will grind you down. In addition, there will also be mistakes and failures that you will make and encounter, as you venture along your chosen path.

The key to succeed is to keep believing in yourself, your values, who you aspire to be, and to help others on your journey.

Anyone can be successful with courage, and a dogged determination to keep going through the good and bad times.

Thanks for reading!

What Have I Learned from Networking?

Throughout this blog, I have made no secret of my enjoyment of networking. Over the years, I have attended many networking events, seminars, public lectures, as well as various professional gatherings, of which I have met hundreds of people from various backgrounds. From politicians, chief executives, solicitors, accountants, entrepreneurs, and many others, I have had the pleasure of listening and learning from many interesting conversations and discussions.

With job security at a premium these days, today’s professionals need to develop relationships with clients from other industries. This is where the ability to network with other people becomes an important skill to learn, however it can also be understandably intimidating for many.

Networking is more than just about meeting people and exchanging business cards. It is actually about getting to know people through the art of conversation, and to develop a sense of rapport, through listening and understanding the needs of others. Through this, professionals can discover what they have in common with others, and this helps to lay the foundations for successful networking.

There are so many resources on networking, from books, online articles, podcasts and more. With so much information available, I have drawn on my own experiences, and condensed my thoughts into some brief, but hopefully useful starting points, to help others in their networking endeavours. From the points I have listed below, I hope these will not only be beneficial for networking newcomers, but also for experienced networkers to consolidate their own skills.

  1. When introducing yourself, relax, smile and warmly shake hands.
  2. Develop relationships over a long-term meaningful basis.
  3. Think about how you can address somebody else’s professional or business needs.
  4. Understand your values, strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Remember to be honest and genuine!
  6. Respect the opinions of others.
  7. Conduct yourself in a professional manner.
  8. Avoid speaking about anything commercially or politically sensitive.
  9. Listen first and then speak.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  11. Keep politics to a minimum.
  12. If you exchange contact details, follow up straight away and keep in touch.

To summarise the points made, successful networking is simply showing your authentic self, and connecting with others. This is done by listening, learning and understanding what you have in common with other people that you meet and converse with. Although it is intimidating to converse with strangers at first, remember that networking takes practice, so don’t worry if you struggle initially. With time and patience, you can become better and more confident at networking.

So what I have learned through networking? For a start, I have become more comfortable with conversing with people from different backgrounds. It has also allowed me to broaden my horizons and understanding of other industries, outside of my own. As a result, networking has pushed me out of my comfort zone, enriching my professional and personal life, which has given me more confidence. Finally it has also allowed me to listen and learn from my peers, and from those more experienced than myself.

In conclusion, I have not only developed my networking and communication skills, but I have also been able to create and carefully nurture professional relationships. It has also allowed me to create and share online content produced on this blog, as well as promoting professional content created by others. Therefore if I can benefit from networking, then you can also benefit from it too!

Thank you for reading!

The Art of Hostage Negotiation – An MYP & CISI event

In all aspects of our professional life, the ability to successfully negotiate is an essential skill. This can be for various reasons, from negotiating with potential clients, to get a pay-rise, or a better deal with a supplier.

Last month, I attended a joint event organised by Merseyside Young Professionals (MYP) and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), called “The Art of Hostage Negotiation”. Delivered by Richard Mullender, a former hostage negotiator and coach, I was looking forward to a fascinating event, with the opportunity to learn from an interesting and experienced coach. As it turned out, I was not disappointed at all by my experience of the event. Indeed it would have been even better if Richard had given a glimpse into his personal background in hostage negotiation, having worked with Scotland Yard and the FBI.

I am very happy to let the above pass, as I learned plenty from this worthwhile investment in my own time and personal development. From the importance of listening properly, talking normally and building trust, Richard spoke with a quiet intensity, authority and humour. This commanded my attention from start to finish, and I also understood Richard’s teachings with a straightforward ease.

In addition, I also learned that professionals sell successfully when working as a team, and not as individuals. Listening to Richard speak about all of the above, I realised and understood that everyone sells every day, by persuading, influencing and motivating.

Other interesting points that I learned included

  1. It is important to understand what motivates potential clients when selling, therefore it is crucial to know their values and beliefs.
  2. When people give their opinion on something, they reveal a lot about themselves.
  3. Rather than asking too many questions, it is better to talk in normal conversation.
  4. Through listening to clients, facts and secrets can be collected from them.
  5. Professionals must always be honest with their clients, as trust is everything!
  6. Clients need to feel comfortable with others, before business relationships can be built and nurtured.

Upon reflection, I enjoyed listening to Richard share his knowledge and expertise. The best compliment I can give is that I have since re-evaluated what I have learned about what is effective communication. For instance when listening, it is less effective to write down notes, as it is important to concentrate on the speaker’s facial movements, emotional expression and tone of voice. Finally I have learned that rather than asking multiple questions, communication needs to be natural.

Personal Thoughts on 2016

2016 will be remembered for many things. From the European referendum, a new Conservative PM, party leadership wrangles, Donald Trump becoming the next US President, the perception of 2016 is of chaos, panic and serious worry. However, as I wrote about last month, it is important to retain perspective and appreciate the simple things in life.

Reflecting on the last twelve months, I feel satisfied with what I have experienced and achieved. This is because I have been through several experiences this year. Such examples include moving to a new IT role in LCC, taking part in a poetry slam, and running the Scouse 5k charity run. This has allowed me to push out of my comfort zone and learn new skills in the process, to grow personally and professionally.

I have also had the pleasure of attending many events. Examples include IFB2016, Weightmans, Downtown in Business, Professional Liverpool and others, where I have met, talked and listened to plenty of interesting people, from Liverpool and beyond. These include coaches, innovators, company directors, chief executives, marketeers, enthusiasts, artists, poets and other inspirational storytellers. It is has been delightful to listen, socialise and document my experiences in this blog. Therefore I wish to sincerely thank all who have inspired, encouraged and supported my blogging endeavours. Writing gives me great pleasure, and I am looking forward to publishing and sharing more in the future.

And what for 2017?

My intention is to continue pushing myself, by learning and growing to become the best I can be. This includes my work for LCC, my blog writing, poetry, helping others and devoting time to family and friends.

On a final note, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you all in 2017!

Appreciating the Simple Things

These are very difficult and testing times that we face today.

From the uncertainty of Brexit, the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump as US President, to the economic anxieties we face, makes for a very uncertain world. Added to the many personal and professional demands placed on our shoulders, modern life is a whirlwind that keeps spinning.

As professionals, we are consistently focused on performing to the highest standards that are expected by businesses, organisations and ourselves. In addition, we are also expected to grow and learn new skills. This is good and vital, as it means that we are kept on our toes, and maintain a regular incentive to grow and perform better.

The downside is that sometimes we can easily forget the simple things in life. Because we are in a continuous mental state of autopilot, we rarely take time to think about and notice what is happening around us. Whilst maintaining a single-minded focus is important for our professional development, there is a risk of neglecting other important things close to us all. These include our personal health, as well as relationships with family and friends. Such forgetfulness and neglect has the potential to cause physical, emotional and mental pain.

It is important to balance working to the best of our abilities, whilst also taking into consideration the need to relax and unwind. The mind and body together can be compared to a Formula One racing car, which needs to be looked after and maintained with tender-loving care. Therefore by making time to recuperate occasionally to recharge our batteries, we can feel positive and energised professionally.

This can be achieved, though practically anything that makes you feel good and happy about yourself. Examples include spending treasured time with family, taking a well-earned holiday, engaging in personal hobbies, or even meeting up with a close friend for coffee or lunch. Taking time to appreciate the simple things in life, not only helps to mentally clear your mind, but it also helps to reaffirm who you are as a person.

Why not give a try?

Thank you for reading!