Category Archives: Personal Development

MYP Breakfast Seminar with The Mind PT

There is no doubt more so than today, that we are living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. Swamped by technology, social media, fake news, political and economic upheaval, whilst having to cope with the frantic pace of modern life, is very overwhelming. Along with the surrounding negativity and fear, this not only takes a heavy physical toil, but it can also have a detrimental effect on our mental health, sometimes with serious consequences.

Earlier this month, I attended MYP’s (Merseyside Young Professionals) breakfast seminar, held at the offices of Tilney in the Royal Liver Building. This seminar featured a talk from Phil Steele from The Mind PT, on developing resilience and learning how to manage stress. In recent years, I have become more aware of the need to look after myself, by developing a keen interest in learning and developing techniques to manage stress. Therefore, I was looking forward to learning some useful tips from this seminar.

I found Phil to be very knowledgeable, and I was able to interpret and understand him clearly. Phil not only introduced his background, but he also explained and delivered plenty of good practical advice, to apply to my personal and professional life.

From this seminar, there were three key points that I learned, which clearly stood out for me. The first and most important point, is that resilience is the most important trait required for any successful individual. Crucial point number two, is that body language is one of the greatest ways to influence people, meaning it is vital to understand it.  Point number three, is that you need to be comfortable with saying the word “No”.

In addition to the above, there were other useful tips that I learned from the seminar, of which I have included below:

  1. Anyone can develop resilience.
  2. You can deal with a situation, by reframing and looking at it from a different angle.
  3. Even if you fail fast, see them as opportunities to learn and grow from.
  4. Self-limiting beliefs hold you back, but these can be overcome by changing your personal mindset.
  5. Open body language is crucial.

On reflection, I was delighted to have attended this seminar, as I certainly learned some useful advice from Phil. In these turbulent and stormy times, resilience is a necessary quality to succeed and survive, both in business and in life. Therefore, I am delighted and grateful to Phil, and I would like to thank him very much for sharing his knowledge and experience. Finally, I would like to thank everyone at MYP and Tilney, for organising an important seminar. Thanks for reading!

Linea Connect – Aspire to Greatness

Training is about investing time and effort in yourself, to consistently strive to be the best you can be. I was reminded of this when I attended last month’s Aspire to Greatness event at Hope Street Hotel, organised by Linea Connect. This event featured an excellent speaker in Rory Underwood MBE the former England, Leicester Tigers and British Lions Rugby Union player, who also runs Wingman Consulting Limited, which is a performance consultancy business.

On hearing about Rory Underwood speaking at this event, my interest was piqued immediately, so much that I had no hesitation in registering. To have the opportunity to listen to the stories of a sportsman who made 85 England appearances, scoring 50 international tries, and appearing in 3 Rugby World Cups (1987, 1991 and 1995) was very appealing to me, and too good to miss out on.

With a very good turnout the event was opened, by a dapper looking John Haynes of the International Coaching Academy. As one of the most enthusiastic coaches I have ever met, John talked about how your inner world reflects your outer world, which set the tone for an evening of learning, listening and storytelling.

Following on from this, Rory went on to talk about what he has learned from inside and outside sport. Although well known for his rugby career, Rory mostly talked about his 18 years serving in the Royal Air Force, as a fast jet pilot with over 3,000 flying hours, which I was very interested and rather surprised to learn about. I found this to be a bonus, because having experienced life outside of sport, this made for a more interesting talk.

Rory was an excellent orator, relating his sporting and life experiences, giving a colour and balanced texture of interesting eloquence. From this, Rory emphasised several important points with regards, to the importance of working as a team, changing poor business behaviours, and consistent training and development. These were points that Rory had applied successfully to his careers in rugby, the RAF and also with his consultancy business. In addition, Rory also had a warm and funny sense of humour with a few anecdotes from his pilot training in the RAF. For example, Rory talked about when on his Hawk jet training, an Anglesey farmer left a rude message painted on his barn, due to being constantly irritated with the continuous flyby of Hawk jets overhead.

Along with leaving the audience spellbound, Rory also made some excellent points, based on his rugby, flying and business experiences. These points relate to self-development, some which made me look inwards and think about my own personal characteristics. In order to give you an understanding, I have included some of these key pointers below.

  1. Training is an investment and not a cost.
  2. Successful people and businesses work effectively with others as a team.
  3. How do you know if the success of your business is down to the people under you?
  4. How you walk and talk is very important.
  5. Seek to understand first, before being understood.
  6. The hardest thing to do is change your behaviour.
  7. The only mistakes you ever make, are the ones you never learn from.
  8. It takes a long time to develop a skill to the point of competency.

Reflecting on the event, I was glad to have attended. This is because to have the opportunity to listen to a speaker of Rory’s calibre and experience was something completely different, and one that was informative, and full of useful wisdom. With his experiences inside and outside of rugby, I found Rory easy to listen to, entertaining and extremely knowledgeable, as well as down-to-earth. In addition, he was also kind, humorous and a gentleman too.

To conclude, I would like to thank Rory for his inspirational contribution, and to John Haynes for opening with his customary wisdom. My thanks also go to Ian Chambers of the Linea Group for kindly inviting me to such an enjoyable event, full of networking and conversation. My thanks also go to the staff of Hope Street Hotel, for their kind and generous hospitality.

Rory Underwood MBE the former England rugby player standing on the left, with me standing on the right.

LinkedIn Local Liverpool – A Review

Have you ever tried to get to know the person behind their LinkedIn profile?

As a social networking site, LinkedIn is popular with professionals. With the platform’s ability to connect with colleagues, prospective clients, recruiters and acquaintances amongst others, it is easy to connect and build online relationships. However, this overreliance easily leads to offline networking being seriously neglected. Therefore, it is important to combine online networking, with getting to know your LinkedIn contacts through offline networking.

Last week, I attended a brand-new event called LinkedIn Local Liverpool, which was held in Hinterlands in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. Devised by Leon McCowan of Your Business Mobiles, who is a prominent networker in Liverpool, the purpose of this event was to allow local LinkedIn users to meet and network face-to-face, build relationships and learn from a variety of speakers. As well as being a networking event with a difference, it also included a charitable element, with registrants donating to The Whitechapel Centre, which is a charity that supports homeless people in Liverpool.

From left to right: Dave Verburg, Pam Case, Leon McCowan, Jeanne Hatton and James Wallis.

The event opened with a brief introduction by Julianna Petkovic from The Whitechapel Centre, on the important work they do in supporting the homeless. This was followed by a series of brief, educational and energetic talks by Pam Case from LinkedOffline (who host really good events), Dave Verburg of Asentiv (another of the most connected networkers in Liverpool) and finally James Wallis and Jeanne Hatton from Wirral Digital. From listening and taking in the knowledge and insights of each speaker, I was not only able to consolidate my own LinkedIn knowledge, but it was also a timely and useful reminder of the importance of offline networking, as the effects can be rewarding when both are combined!

I have previously mentioned how you can get the best out of LinkedIn. Therefore, I found this event to be a useful and rewarding experience, as it is important to balance online and offline networking, and there were other takeaways, which I have learned and added to my networking armoury. To give you a flavour, I have included some examples below.

  1. Try to get to know the person behind the LinkedIn profile.
  2. Remember to be your genuine self both online and offline.
  3. Build relationships first, as networking is about collaboration.
  4. Turn your posts into conversations, ask questions and include pictures.
  5. Remember to listen and respect the opinions of others.
  6. With the LinkedIn mobile app, you can search for others using Bluetooth technology.
  7. Make use of filtered LinkedIn searches, as this is a powerful tool.
  8. Storytelling is everything.
  9. LinkedIn and offline networking are about how you can help others.

From what I learned and have taken away from the evening, I was delighted to attend the event. For a networking enthusiast like myself, I was delighted to attend and catch up with many familiar faces. It was also a pleasure to make new connections, including Alex McCann and Kirsty James from LinkedIn Local Manchester (hopefully a potential and prosperous future partnership linking both of our great cities, and the Northern Powerhouse).

I would like to thank Leon for devising the event, which also helped to raise over £450 for The Whitechapel Centre. My thanks also go to Alex Clark and Ciara Hutchison of Professional Liverpool, Elaine Courtney of Courtney Recruitment, photographer Arthur Gold, and to Dave, Pam, James and Jeanne for sharing their expertise. This was an event of positive energy which was so infectious, that I loved it, and I certainly would attend another one very soon.

To conclude, I would like to leave you with the following questions.

  1. How do you use LinkedIn?
  2. What value can you bring and add to the lives of others?
  3. Does your LinkedIn profile accurately reflect who you genuinely are?
  4. How do you want your LinkedIn audience to interact with you?
  5. Do you try and measure how productive your networking relationships are?
  6. Do you get to know LinkedIn and other contacts offline?

Thanks for reading!

The Joy of Work by Bruce Daisley – A Book Review

Following on from my review of March’s BIMA Liverpool event featuring Bruce Daisley, who is Twitter’s European Vice-President, I have recently finished reading The Joy of Work. This was a book that offers several fun and imaginative ways to enhance the workplace culture of businesses, which made an incredible impression on me.

I enjoy reading books about business, self-help and personal development. From contemporary to classics, I have read several titles from authors such as Tony Buzan, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and Professor Steve Peters. After reading The Joy of Work, I can honestly say it is up there with the best of them, as I found it to be a delightful read, and full of ideas to improve workplace culture. Even better is that the ideas listed are fun, sensible and practical, whilst also based on solid and meticulous research.

The book is structured into three parts, which are Recharge, Sync and Buzz. Recharge looks at twelve ways to help in making you feel happier about your work. With Sync, this looks at eight ways to make teams closer, whilst Buzz looks at ten secrets of teams that are motivated and energised in what they do. Each of the three parts is broken down and clearly explained in simple terms, which are straightforward to understand and easily digest.

There was plenty I learned from reading the book. In fact, there is so much to share that I could write forever, which is why I have listed the key learnings below that I have learned and that resonate with me.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Concentrate on one task at a time.
  3. Go for lunch away from your desk.
  4. Ban phones from meetings.
  5. Remember to know when to leave people alone.
  6. Suggest a tea break and laugh.
  7. Focus on issues and not on people.
  8. Have pre-mortems, rather than post-mortems.
  9. Champion diversity.
  10. Admit when you have made a mistake.

From the points listed above and more, I was able to understand how work can be joyful and fulfilling. The book has also reiterated what I learned at the BIMA event about creativity suffering when under pressure, and what can be done for it to thrive in the workplace.

It has given me plenty to think about, and I have since successfully applied some of Bruce’s suggestions to my professional life. These include focusing on issues faced, being honest about mistakes made, and having lunch away from the desk during lunch breaks. By applying these ideas, I have been able to maintain a positive attitude to my work, as well as learning from my experiences to develop as a person.

If I could conclude with why I recommend this book, it is for the following reasons. Firstly, it is intelligently written and concise, making it easy to read and understand. Secondly the ideas suggested are simple ones, which can be tried and applied to your organisation. Finally, these ideas can also be applied by anyone, from office workers, cleaners, shop workers, CEOs, managers, company directors, entrepreneurs and many others.

I recommend purchasing the book from Amazon, any other bookstore, or even download the Kindle version. You can also download the audiobook from the iTunes Store. I have since downloaded and listened to the audiobook, and I enjoyed listening to Bruce speaking the words. Suffice to say The Joy of Work is now a permanent fixture in my collection.

If you enjoy Bruce’s book, you can also listen to his highly successful Eat Sleep Work Repeat business podcast.

My Blogging Journey – What Have I Learned after 100 Posts?

Hello reader!

Well goodness me, this is my 100th blog post!

Since I first started writing this blog back in September 2014, I honestly never thought that it would still be going. Looking back, what has enabled me to keep this going is a love of writing about my passions and interests, just like any other writer. My blogging journey has allowed me to express my love of writing and to learn about many topics and themes, whilst sharing my written thoughts with many other people.

When I mention my blog, I am often asked what I write about. My blog is not about one subject or theme, as it is about my personal and professional interests (strictly non-political) and positive experiences, that have motivated, educated, entertained, inspired or even moved me. You could compare my blog to a box of Quality Street, as there is something for everyone, or at least I hope that is the case.

Over the years my blog has evolved. From originally writing about networking, to technology, business, personal development, social media, data security, health and fitness, and even poetry and literature, my blog has become diverse in the sheer variety of topics that I have written about and published. I enjoy writing about different things, and I consider the diverse nature of my blog, to be an important part of its longevity, as well as the fact that I write from the heart too.

Over these last five years, I have learned so much on this journey that blogging has enriched my life and added to my skills, whilst giving me great joy. I have included some points below, to give you an understanding of what I have learned.

  1. Enjoy what you do.
  2. Quality is more important than quantity.
  3. Write for yourself and from the heart.
  4. Keep learning and never stop.
  5. Create and share content that resonates with people.
  6. Accuracy of research, language, spelling and grammar is important.
  7. Get straight to the point and keep jargon to a minimum.
  8. Keep away from politics if possible!
  9. Be yourself and let it shine through!

As individuals we continually learn and develop, as our personal and professional lives change. Through the events and seminars attended, the experiences I have encountered, the books read, the people I have met, the technologies and subjects I have learned, has continuously provided me with the creative fuel and enthusiasm for ideas, to create and publish my content. Therefore by continually keeping up-to-date with what is happening professionally, or just sharing my personal experiences and knowledge, I have become a more rounded individual.

Is there anything I could have done better? Having put so much effort into this blog, I feel whilst I have been extremely satisfied with my blogging journey and producing quality content, there are two key areas I can improve upon. These include sharing and commenting more on blogs written by others, as I believe it is important to help bloggers and other people. Secondly I must confess I have not promoted other articles written by others on my blog,whilst publishing my own. This has given me plenty to think about, and recognising these shortcomings will not only help me become a better blogger, but also to help more people.

Do I have any favourite posts that I have written? To be honest, this is a very tough one to list, as I have enjoyed writing each one and sharing them. However there are some I consider to be my best and memorable, of which I have listed below.

  1. The Benefits of Apprenticeships.
  2. Networking Lunch with Lawrence Kenwright.
  3. GDPR – Are you Ready?
  4. Windows 10 – What Businesses Need to Consider?
  5. Busting the Myths of Data Security.
  6. Networking Breakfast with Nicola Forshaw.
  7. Getting the Best Out of LinkedIn.
  8. Recollections of my 1stLiverpool Half-Marathon.
  9. Running the Scouse 5k for Charity.
  10. BIMA & Microsoft Roadshow in Liverpool.
  11. What Does it Take To Be Successful?
  12. What Have I Learned from Networking?

Writing this post and the previous ninety-nine has been a pleasure. I would like to thank everyone who has read, commented, shared, or even just had a quick look out of curiosity. I hope you have enjoyed and found my posts to be interesting, educational and at times entertaining. Therefore I am looking forward to writing and sharing more content with you in the future.

Thanks for reading, and here is to the next hundred and beyond!

Yours Sincerely

Ben Cross

BIMA & The Joy of Work with Bruce Daisley – A Review

In every organisation, the workplace culture has a considerable effect on the productivity of employees. This is because if a working environment makes them feel good and positive about what they do, they will be more productive. However, if the environment is infected with negativity, this has the opposite effect on employees feeling disillusioned and stressed, sometimes to the detriment of their health.

I recently attended an event organised by BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) at The Plaza in Liverpool. Presented by Bruce Daisley who is the European VP of Twitter, the purpose of this event was to look at how workplace culture affects an employee’s productivity. The event began with a delicious lunch, followed by Bruce’s talk, a Q&A session, before finishing with an opportunity to have a free copy of Bruce’s new book The Joy of Work, signed by the man himself.

Following the lunch, Bruce introduced the talk by starting with his background. This was before speaking in detail about how the modern workplace environment is becoming increasingly permeated with stress, affecting not only the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, but also the creativity and productivity of organisations. Reasons include the changing digitalisation of the business world, the feeling of being overworked or underutilised, and the constant daily overload of information. In simple terms, as the modern workplace has changed, the levels of stress has soared through the roof.

I was impressed with how Bruce talked about how stress and negativity in the workplace affects creativity. This is because when under pressure (e.g. sitting at your desk waiting for ideas), the thinking of fresh ideas when under the microscope destroys an individual’s creative capacity. I have always believed that good ideas only come to you when you are relaxed, and this certainly reaffirmed this for me.

Bruce also made other interesting points related to stress, and the negative effects on creativity. These gave me plenty to consider about what the workplace environments of the future need for employees to feel positive, and for creativity to thrive.

These points include the following:

  1. Modern working systems thrive on overwork.
  2. Physical productivity goes down when we are overworked.
  3. We are very close to a burnout generation.
  4. Creativity gets killed when put under the gun.
  5. The human brain is configured to make a certain number of decisions per day.
  6. Mental fatigue is when the quality of decisions made drops.
  7. In order to be productive, it is vitally important to recover well.
  8. Weekend e-mails are a fast way to workplace burnout.
  9. Sleep is a real performance-enhancing activity.
  10. Creative offices have more face-to-face conversation between people.
  11. Time when travelling is creative.
  12. Stress lingers in the mind like a hangover.
  13. Creativity is the last competitive advantage.

To promote a working culture that embraces creativity and encourages new ideas, there is plenty for organisations and individuals to consider. These include providing a workplace environment that supports employees by managing stress, promoting wellbeing and preventing overworking to maintain productivity and quality of decision making. Communication barriers must be removed to prevent individuals, teams, departments and groups from working within silos, by encouraging face-to-face communication between all parties.

On reflection, there were several takeaways that I learned. The first and most important was that stress kills creativity. The second is that being relaxed and loose in thought is when creativity happens. A third takeaway is that creative magic happens when humans work together. My final takeaway is the importance of mental recovery and replenish through sleep, relaxation and even mindfulness. What I have learned from all this and more, has given me a better understanding of what is required to be creative.

I loved every minute of the event. From the talk given by Bruce, to the intelligent and insightful questions asked by the audience, it was an experience that I gleamed so much learning from, of which I am truly grateful.

The event also allowed me the opportunity to network, mingle and share notes, experiences and compare understandings, with many familiar faces. These included Andy Kent from Angel Solutions, Ian Finch from Mando Agency, Gavin Sherratt of Mashbo, Phil Adams from Langtons, Alex Clark from Professional Liverpool, Leon McCowan from Your Business Mobiles, Nicola Forshaw from Mindfit and Sarah Lowe from Bruntwood. An added bonus was that I got a taste of using AR (Augmented Reality) technology provided by Holdens Agency, which involved viewing the venue surroundings in real-time over a superimposed image, which was an amazing experience.

My thanks go to Bruce for a thought-provoking talk, and for signing my copy of his book, which I am looking forward to reading and reviewing. Finally, I would like to thank everyone at Bruntwood, BIMA and LCR Activate for organising a terrific event.

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!