Category Archives: Personal Development

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.

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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!

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!