Some thoughts on positive mental health in a young busy workplace

mental healthworld mental health day

When the phrase ‘mental health’ is used we immediately picture a person with a problem  and what’s worse a problem we can’t see.

But mental health is like physical health and conditions, like fitness, can come and go depending on what you are proactively doing to encourage it.

From a workplace perspective 30 years of managing a large number of people has given me some clear pointers as to what can be done to engender and promote positive mental health.  Here are 10 very unscientific maxims we use at ComXo.

1 Master of my own destiny

If during my day I am in control of any part of my work no matter how small it might be I will feel personally valued and responsible.  Responsibility builds self worth and self worth promotes positive mental health.

2 Personal responsibility to deliver excellence

Being part of a team that aspires to be excellent and having an attitude that excellence is one’s own responsibility gives individuals a sense that their work has a higher purpose.  Being encouraged to have personally high standards that are difficult to attain and maintain rather than low standards that anybody can achieve builds esteem.  Esteem promotes positive mental health. 

3 Somebody loves me

We all need to know that the tribe we are in (workforce) know who we are and value and respect us for who we are.  The freedom to be the personality we are with all our human frailties means we do not have to keep up an instagram like facade of what we might think others would like us to be.  Permission to be yourself builds personal respect and that promotes positive mental health.

4 Tell it as it is…don’t wrap me up in cotton wool.

I challenge you to ask anyone this question:  “I can tell it like it is or I can wrap you up in cotton wool, which one would you like?”  My experience is people will always ask to be spoken to honestly with no kid gloves. In a caring workplace honesty and tough love builds respect, resilience and firm foundations that someone will tell me when I am not delivering value.  Knowing you deliver value promotes positive mental health.

5 Independence not dependence please

Everytime we mollycoddle someone we create dependency.   Dependancy might make the giver feel worthy and caring but it makes the taker feel small, weak and worthless.  The taker might take for a number of reasons but often they are not given the choice by the giver.  ” Let me do that for you as I can see you are struggling” , “you are not coping I will take over”.  If you are not allowed to struggle you can never win your battles and if you dont have any battles you will have no grit and determination.  Grit and determination promote positive mental health.

6 Failure is not failure its learning

We dont tell a toddler when they stumble “right that’s it you are never walking again” everyone stumbles as they learn…that is how you learn! A workplace culture that encourages experimentation and failure will be dynamic, fun and creative.  An atmosphere that is free from blame builds personal confidence and confidence promotes positive mental health.

7 The best skier is not the one who has never fallen over.

If you are not failing you are not trying hard enough.  Freedom to push yourself to the limits and have no fear of falling gives you freedom to try.  Freedom promotes positive mental health.

8 The power of routine

Feeling that you are in charge of your life begins with routine that you are in control of.  This may be simply the time you get up, it may be a daily walk, it may be a daily exercise or a daily meal choice or a daily refusal of something that you know is not good for you.  You may say “I dont have the time” but even the busiest person can get up half an hour earlier.  Routine requires discipline and personal discipline promotes positive mental health.

9 Morale scores

A workplace communication structure that regularly asks “how do you feel? how is your morale?” enables any group of people to look out for someone who is having a hard time and to offer tough love support.  Tough love support never takes the problem away or assumes it knows the answer it simply asks the question “what can we do to help you”.  Knowing there are people around you who care gives you mental strength to get through hard times.  Mental strength promotes positive mental health.

10 Happiness is about smiles

Laughter is the best medicine.  So my father used to say.  If your day is interspersed with banter, a shared joke or story we can relax and laugh together.  Laughter can get us through the most adverse moments of our lives it helps us take life for what it is and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.  Creating a workplace where relaxed banter and people congregating is encouraged will create smiles .  And smiling promotes mental health.

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4 key pillars of Customer Experience (CX) that will turbo-drive your sales

Inst cust servThis week is National Customer Service Week (https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/events/ncsw ) and in light of the Brexit uncertainty the Institute of Customer Service are encouraging UK PLC to get on board.

So what exactly defines ‘Great Customer Service’?   We have spent 30 years asking that exact question and we have 4 key pillars that guide us in servicing some of the most demanding customers in world.  We call them the 4 p’s and they are our company values.

 1  Politeness. Politeness is a key value at ComXo and is more than saying your P’s and Q’s.  Politeness is about respect of others and that is at the heart of great CX.  Listening to the customer and helping them define exactly what they want rather than giving them what is the cheapest or easiest thing you can get away means always delivering a delightful outcome to any request.

Professionalism.  Seeing yourself as a professional in whatever job you are doing is key to great service.  Whether you are a waitress or a surgeon, or the office manager or CEO, seeing yourself as an expert and taking ‘Personal Responsibility IDelivering Excellence’ is key to how any internal or external customer will see you.  having job specific expertise of how the best professional would do the job for the best outcome of the customer is a key step to delighting them.

Proficiency.   Using the tools of your trade for the best possible outcome to your customers means that any technological advantage you can give the customer will delight them even more.  We all know what an amazing experience it can be to have a great barista expertly and proficiently make us the coffee of our dreams.

4 .  Personality. Exceptional customer service is about integrity and integrity is about being authentic and being authentic is about being yourself and adding a little bit of smile.  Humans do not like an automated or robotic experience they want a happy human one.  Some of the greatest customer service moments come from unscripted moments of unexpected surprise and delight that say to a customer: I hear you, I understand you and I am very happy to help you.

These 4 P’s are the foundation of what makes exceptional customer service at ComXo the single most important thing we strive for.  It is not about a single week of focus it is about a way of life!

Our values..lived by NOT lip service

Our values..lived by NOT lip service

 

 

 

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Papplewick wins Tatler Prep school of the year 2018

Congratulations to Papplewick school Ascot who won the coveted Tatler Prep School of the year 2018 this week.

As both a governor, an old boy and a parent it makes me incredibly proud to be part of the Papplewick community.

Papplewick

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Young Actors of Windsor have a Dream

I never liked learning drab old Shakespeare at school.  Trying to understand metaphor, iambic pentameter and learning quotes by heart to regurgitate on to exam papers was all rather dull.

We few..we happy few..we band of brothers...

We few..we happy few..we band of brothers…

So imagine my surprise when I finally saw Henry V, played out on a country house  lawn on a summers evening.  With a glass of fizz in hand I was transported back 500 years to the field of Agincourt and as the sun went down, so I walked with ‘the young and war like Harry’ amongst the campfires before the great battle and as he watched his men asleep before the dawn and certain death …understood that ‘but for ceremony, such a wretch, Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep, Had the forehand and vantage of a king.”

Tipee and castle

I was converted!  So for the past 10 years ComXo have sponsored a mini Shakespeare Festival at a wonderful location at the Old Ruins, St Leonards Hill, Windsor.  We have frolicked in the forest with The Merry Wives of Windsor, ridden with the King at Agincourt, watched as murderous Macbeth makes his fiendish pact, sparred with wit with As You Like it, cried with grief as Romeo and Juliet , the ‘star crossed lovers take their life’, and of course entered the magical world of A Midsummer Night Dream.

Macbeth 2008

Macbeth 2008

This year we have taken the festival in a new direction by sponsoring Young Actors of Windsor (YAOW) to once again stage this wonderfully evocative play.

Henry V 2007

Henry V 2007

The hill is the perfect setting for the play as we will move from in front of the old ruins (Athens ) to the fairy magical kingdom beneath our very own 1000 year old oak tree.  YAOW have gone all out on this production hiring in an experienced and well versed cast to portray the play in full Shakespearean costumes.

For the first time this year the event is open to the public and will run for 3 evening performances on the 5th 6th and 7th of July at 19.00 and one matinee on the 7th at 14.00.  People are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy in the beautiful private gardens from 5pm.

To get an idea of what it is like press the link below

"It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear

“It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear

Details of the event and tickets can be found at www.yaowtheatre.com.

Shakespeare

 

 

 

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Office Dress…whatever you fancy!

It is National Telephonists Day! NTD_March_10th_lr_copyright_Gill_Aspel_(058_of_211)

What I hear you say…another bland excuse for a PR company to create a story…well no actually.  At ComXo we provide some of the largest companies on the planet with Virtual Personable Assistants (VPA), available 24 hours a day and able to support, enable and facilitate our clients workforce’s.

Dealing with globe trotting executives requests and requirements around the clock requires a very special type of person.  A ComXo VPA has access to a company’s full suite of business services, FAQ’s and help desk capability.  They are quite literally plugged into the global capability of an organisation.  That means that a telephone call could be anything from the CEO needing support to book an executive car to a corporate customer wanting to do business.

The next call could be a clients most important call all year, the difference between winning an account or loosing it.  Every call could be a million pound call so being alert, engaged and capable is essential.

At ComXo this is driven by the combination of exceptional people, brilliant home grown technology and culture.  Culture is what National Telephonist Day is all about.  The opportunity to spoil our VPA’s, to serve them as they serve their customers to let them know how important each one is as they deliver their exceptional service call after call.

So what do we do…dress up of course!

dress up

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A new year…a new me?

new yearAs I embark on the first week of the new year I am, like everyone, filled with the good intentions of resolutions.  I am minded however of how many of last years good intentions were so woefully kept including doing a regular blog post…the last one I contributed in May!

resolutions

So here we are again.  There are however some things in my life that I do mange to do every day that have quite literally transformed my life.  The power of routine is immensely powerful and simple to achieve if you can schedule it to occur during parts of the day you have control over…for me this is first thing in the morning and last thing at night….before and after the one other activity which I always observe…sleep.

Over the past 12 years I have changed my habits and enriched my life by simply creating an hour and a half in the morning (by getting up earlier) and just recently capturing 30 mins before I go to bed (by watching less TV). tv

 

It began by me taking my then dog Bear for a 40 minute walk rather than a 10 minute walk.  I live near a park and the walk is beautiful anyway.

Come on 'old boy'! The Bear...almost 15 and still going

Come on ‘old boy’! The Bear…almost 15 and still going

But the real benefit of this has just been made clear to me as my beloved other half, Vicky got me a fit bit for Christmas…a fit bit for her fat bit…or that is how it felt on Christmas morning after a month of business and social revelry. xmas

But to my surprise, though I was at least a stone over my normal weight, my general heart health showed as excellent with a resting beat of 59 (excellent for a man of my age according to the Fitbit app).

But here is the point, 7 years ago Vicky and I started a family and I haven’t done any aerobic exercise since then.  So my relatively good state of health is put down to…simply going for a 40 min walk every day before the rest of the house is awake….simples!

View on the way up....

View on the way up….

But over the years I have squeezed other routines into my morning quiet time which I observe every week day come what may (I over indulge and sleep in at the weekend like everyone).

In 2012 I started to do the plank for 2 minutes before my shower, in 2013 I started doing 10 minutes of sun salutations everyday so I would remain nimble for the skiing I love so much, in 2014 I started listening to audio books on my walk , in 2015 I bought a small electronic upright piano and began doing 20 minutes of piano each day and in 2017 I bought a skipping rope and now do 100 skips.

None of these little pockets of time make me break even the slightest of sweats but I feel on top of my health and feel each day I improve just a little.

So what will I add to my routine this year…. write a blog post at least once a month…. lets see!

 

 

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AI yore thyme is hear!

Workplace of the futureMy company ComXo is at the forefront of helping companies create the workplace of the future .  We do this by centralising and consolidating 3 key functions of business support services (navigating the organisation, reserving services, escalating help requests) and creating clever channels to access them.

More and more we are asked about the bogeyman of the moment “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) so here is what I have learnt so far.robot

AI is real and it will change your life from here on in.  Whilst our grandfathers might  remember the first commercial plane flight and our fathers the first personal computer we will bore our kids about the first time we experienced AI.

AI is a learning algorithm that gets incrementally better at a task the more feedback it has regarding the outcome’s proximity to perfection.  This can be brilliantly demonstrated on a repetitive task where a large amount of data needs to be mined and analysed.  scribe

In the past this sort of work was the preserve of an articled clerk or more recently an off-shore service centre and in truth these jobs will be replaced as sure as the scribe was replaced by the printing press and the printing press replaced by the laser printer.

But I marvel at the furore being whipped up by an imaginative press about the breath of jobs that will disappear.  Perhaps formula based jobs such as actuaries or insurance risk managers will feel the heat but anything that requires judgement, interpretation or the slightest understanding of a human is for now beyond the horizon.Jobs joke

ComXo is busy experimenting and integrating AI in as many areas we can apply it to and the experience is interesting, frustrating and funny.

Our most recent experiment involves an app our R&D team created to allow me to create a to-do list every morning whilst walking the dog on the beautiful Long Walk in Windsor.

View on the way up....

Just an excuse to get a picture in of this amazing place…see the other photos on this blog if you like it

I requested the app be voice activated, record my voice, transcribe my memo to text and email me the text and the voice file to my desktop such that when i get into the office my list for day lies before me….simples!

memo

Here are a couple of choice transcriptions using the most well known voice to text AI engines available.

“get hold of Mark Fitch and chase up the customs and excise” came through as

“I’ll get back in touch with fish on a substance in Texas”

“print out the Guardian top 300 list and get in touch with facilities managers” came through as

“I print out the Guardians 360 getting in touch with a Dirty Sanchez.” .

Who says the robots have no sense of humour!

 

The reality is that when the app is used in the quiet controlled confines of the office it works pretty well but when it has to manage any other environment it gets it wrong 95% of the time.

This is the most basic of AI interface needing no appreciation of nuance, context, humour, irony, sarcasm or ire.  Emotion is uniquely human and it powers core behaviour way before logic gets a look in.  As happened with automated voice response menus in the 90’s and outsourced Indian call centres of the last 10 years customers get very funny when being interacted with by someone or something they cannot develop rapport with.

So if your job has anything to do with end user human service where rapport, trust or explanation is needed…I reckon you are safe for now!Team Pic

 

 

 

 

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Business Process Transformation


outsourcingBusiness Process Outsourcing…your time has been!

Business Process Outsourcing has been the watchword for headcount and overhead cost cutting for a decade.  But times are changing quickly and old school thinking at certain outsource companies mean a miss match with the expectations of the more forward thinking corporate boards.

time for change

Six key fundamental influences are creating a landscape that will change the way business is conducted and the traditional working practices we have taken for granted for the last 30 years.

drivers

 

Over the past 20 years many of these drivers have been independently addressed with solutions that tackled them as a particular problem.  However this has left many business processes as a hodge podge of partially adopted systems and technologies, siloed information, inconsistent working practices, work arounds, single points of failure and bottle necks.

confusion

This creates friction in processes that cause inefficiencies.  The old style of outsourcing took a process as it stood and transferred the same number of FTE (full time equivalent) to a cheaper labour location and thereby cut costs.  What has often failed to evolve is the process its self since the outsourcer is rewarded on FTE’s.  Anything that cuts head count is not in its interest and such a commercial model is typically devoid of innovation and service agility.

transformation

Business Process Transformation looks holistically at the process outcomes that need to be achieved rather than the current process.  With an understanding of new capabilities  both in technology and working practice, services can be consolidated and centralised and provided as a composite self serve and/or managed service.

The cost benefits are considerable even when re-shoring services to increase the customer experience and savings of 30 % + are not unusual with payback timescales of under a year.

“I am presenting a series of breakfast briefings in the City of London over the next 12 months.  If you are interested in topics such as Outsourcing, Artificial Intelligence, Business Continuity Planning and more email the ComXo team at wearehere@comxo.com

 

 

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21st Century Account Management Program for an Outsource Service Provider


legalComXo provide outsourced managed business services to almost half of the UK’s top 100 law firms.  Because of this I spend much of my time speaking and presenting to managing partners of legal and other global professional service firms.  As an outsource service provider I am obsessed by what makes for a successful partnership and what drives real value.

themes

Over the last year some key themes have come up time and again and seem to define the near future of outsourcing.  These key words include: Collaboration, innovation, globalisation, new ways of working and specialist insight.

Traditionally outsource contracts involved procurement taking an internally provided service and have it delivered by 3rd party contractor.  The value add being cost efficiencies and service improvements inherent in a specialist provider.

I think this dynamic is changing.  The future of the legal sector is becoming much more difficult to predict.  Technology and its possible impact to disrupt at a profound level is creating a sense of anxiety at a strategic level.

lawyer

ComXo recently sponsored The Lawyers Business Leadership Summit and I spoke to 14 C suite leaders of separate major law firms.  Each one wanted to know what clarity and insight I could give them into how my services would evolve. How new technologies and new working practices would enable a diverse generational workforce be productive in an increasingly changing workplace.

At ComXo account management is a key deliverable of our service.  Many of our customers use us as a collaborative managed service technology partner to deliver new solutions.  So after the summit I pulled together a team to creatively come up with a new ‘account management programme’ for our customers that would drive insight and service evolution as a key deliverable of our contracts.

Here is a share of our process

process

The idea is to deliver a joined up approach of collecting market intelligence, driving discussion around hot issues, creating white papers and thought leadership, delivering content back to customers, engaging key stake holders with insight at breakfast briefings and driving their agenda around the services we provide with a road-map based approach.

The process driven by the account manager is set around a key client execution road map that defines key strategic needs annually and then drives the agenda around the service innovation across the year.  In practice this might deliver a single key innovation every year but one tied into the strategic deliverable set by the company.  The idea is that this process inherently delivers customers opportunities to Collaborate, innovate and evolve around a key outsource service.

Here is a view of the front side of our programme.

 

 

account-plan

 

Back of our process sheet

accoutn-plan-2

Case study

3 years ago our SWOT questionnaire identified security and online fraud as a hot topic.  Research was done around security on voice conferences, VoIP and hacking into private conversations (see report 2013). This was then shared in round tables and fed into the development road-map for Multivoice our professional services specific conference solution.   Delivering a key innovation roll out for later that year.

Whos on the line

 

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What I learnt about the legal work-space of the future from the Lawyer Leadership Summit….

lawyer-summitLast week we sponsored The Lawyer Business Leadership Summit in the City of London and over 2 days I participated, chaired and observed discussions about the future of the  Legal industry.

I spoke at length to Managing Partners, COO’s, CTO’s Directors of Strategy and Innovation from some of the largest Law Firms in the world. What I came away with is further evidence to my previous blogs that the sector is in rapid flux.  What is more fascinating is the amount of factors a managing partner has to grasp to create a meaningful medium term strategy for their firm.

Here is an insight into one facet the sector is grappling with.

Office Space…Open Plan, cubicle, coffee lounge or home office?

So Google has a slide in its head quarters…is that relevant to lawyers? How many more times will I have to listen to West Coast US tech firms extolling the virtues of funky playpens because Generation Z are now joining the workforce.google

Tech firms are left brain places full of techies writing software.  Tech firms build their businesses on clients trusting code and logic to process tasks.  They are  all about replicating human functionality without the need to deal with human emotion….robots nor techies for that matter are well known for their empathy and communication skills.geek

Law Firms on the other hand are right brain places.  They build their businesses on the clients trusting in them to sort out complex emotional problems.  They are all about human emotion, relationships, integrity.  Insight rather than information.smiley

If one is right brain and the other left brain should their workplaces have anything in common at all?

If I came away with anything from the conversations I had with more than 10 managing partners of top 50 firms is that human relationships remain the foundation of the client firm dynamic.  This is no better demonstrated by the fact that business follows lateral team hires.

A firms work space needs to be one that creates an environment that forges, nurtures and develops relationships.  I think the future work space will move towards a campus based approach mimicking that of a university with different zones being used dependent on the function being performed.

So a lawyer might drop into the canteen coffee zone for a breakfast project team huddle, moving on to a meeting room suite for client presentation or video conference, following that an auditorium briefing on a new development in legislation or a talk from an industry expert, then a drop in to the library to get some thinking and stand alone emails done and following that a project group meeting in a collaborative or creative zone and finally a client dinner in an entertainment zone.workspace

At any point the lawyer would be supported by a range of self service or human support services giving instant access to video and voice conference calls, meeting room booking, ground and travel management, IT or Facilities help desk or business concierge.  All services accessible seamlessly by phone, instant message, kiosk or app.

This campus facility might also be available to customers to educate or work on collaborative projects.

This approach would un-tether the fee earner from the desk top and deliver a true agile work space based on functions important to customer engagement rather than one designed around onsite business functions which would happen in regional, near shore or even giga economy centres.

I think the successful firm of the future will be defined by its brand not its lawyers.  It will be a firm that provides an unrivalled environment for creative, collaborative problem solving not just a desk for a fee earners.

 

 

 

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