Nifty Negotiating

April 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

NiftyNegotiatingEveryone negotiates. It’s not just something procurement people do at work, on the phone with suppliers. And it’s not just about money – we all do our best to influence factors in certain situations in order to achieve certain outcomes.

I don’t claim to be a master negotiator, but thought I would share my 3-step game plan for negotiations with you, and would be pleased to think that later, you might consider what your own 3-step approach might be.

My ‘Negotiation 3-Step Game Plan’ is: 1. Engage 2. Understand 3. Co-create and I’ll explain what I mean for each:

‘Negotiation 3-Step Game Plan’
STEP 1. ENGAGE
Make sure both parties will be able to give the matter in hand their full attention. This might mean booking an appointment or moving into another, quieter environment.

Make sure you are both at the same eye level too. Face to Face negotiations are always more effective as you can benefit from eye contact and body language.

It’s often said that in face-to-face communications, the words we speak actually account for less than 10% of the message that we convey, while body language accounts for more than half of our message.

You know you have some work to do if you are trying to sell in a proposal to your boss who is sitting with his/her arms and legs crossed.

If (s)he’s sitting with his/her arms and legs uncrossed and is even leaning forwards – you’re on your way!

‘Negotiation 3-Step Game Plan’
STEP 2. UNDERSTAND
In order to be able to negotiate effectively, it is crucial to understand the other party’s motives and agenda. This can only be done through asking the right questions and actually taking the answers on board.

Outdated sales techniques provoke the worst possible type of negotiating, in my mind – have you ever had to buy double-glazing?

I had to go there recently – and it was every bit as painful as I’d anticipated. I had to take a deep breath even after booking the appointments on the phone – one company asked “Is there a Mr Piper who should be at the appointment?”! I had to set aside a whole day, just to listen to their patter and the ridiculous, sky-high quotes from 3 different sales guys, who all took the same tortuous approach.
When I told the third that I was only willing to pay half his estimate, I then had to endure the subsequent multiple and pointless offers…

If I had a promotional sign out the front I could get a discount (we both knew there would never be any such sign). If I sent my old windows for recycling I could get another discount (maybe I should have, but I didn’t care where the old windows went), if I took out finance I could get another discount (not interested)….

A day later I finally managed to place an order, for half the original price quoted, which was my budget. It all seemed such a waste of everyone’s time. The sales guys appeared not to listen, or worse still, didn’t believe what I was telling them, which just left me hoping that I never had to speak to any of them again!

This shouldn’t be the case, should it? People make deals with people, not with the products and processes. Shouldn’t I come out of the experience thinking – that guy, Phil – he was great to deal with and dealt with me in a really efficient and honest way, I’ll contact him again next time – and pass his details on to other people.

It got me thinking about that sinking feeling I had at the thought of it and the predictability of it all and hoping that I never have that kind of effect on anyone!

When I think about how I negotiate with Dylan, my 4-yr old, I play to his agenda, which is all about fun or sweets.

Which leads me into my 3rd step:

‘Negotiation 3-Step Game Plan’
STEP 3. CO-CREATE
Personalised solutions, which bridge the gap between what currently is and what is wished for are always more tempting than those, which are created for the masses.

Mash Island, with sausages as palm trees and beans for the sea, is something my son and I created together to get him to eat something other than boiled egg and soldiers! My initial suggestion of the red cabbage sea didn’t go down very well…

Beat the Beeps is the game we play so I’m not late for work. If he’s washed and dressed by the 7 o’clock pips on the radio, he gets to choose a sweet to have in the car, on the way to the childminder’s.

These are just a couple of examples, but you get the gist… It’s all about compromise and input to get the buy-in.

So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where there could be a battle of wills, you might like to try triggering the ‘Negotiation 3-Step Game Plan’ – just remember: engage, understand and co-create!

Starting School

April 15, 2017 - Leave a Response

After his first day at school, the boy’s mum asks, “What did you learn today?”

The boy replies, “Not enough. I have to go back tomorrow.”

Yes – that  age-old institution, which lays the foundation for the people we become – school. A magical place that provides you with five key skills you’ll need to use throughout your whole life: reading, writing, ‘rithmatic, queuing up for things and… kiss-chase.

The first day

How many of you actually remember your first day at school?

Nope, I don’t either – ‘infantile amnesia’ that’s called, before your brain has developed the capability for long-term memory. Nothing to worry about though, by all accounts – you’ve not blocked it out because the experience was so traumatic.

My 4-year old son, Dylan, just started school a couple of weeks ago, which was quite an emotional day, filled with expectation, excitement and energy.

Mind you, from a parent’s perspective, it’s not just about the first day, there’s all the preparation that goes into getting them ready for that first day. Making sure they’re able to go to the toilet on their own, get themselves dressed, unwrap their sandwiches, do their own ironing, make their own packed lunch…

My son’s class is called ‘Otters’ – with Miss Stokes as the teacher. Before he started, I thought it was probably also a good idea to get him out of the habit of calling her Miss Joke.

 

The classroom

Early education’s hardly recognizable from what it once was, back in the day when the classroom held the lingering aroma of pencil sharpenings and un-chilled milk. There was a time where you had to sit at a table and listen to what the teacher was telling you. The trend now is to make “learning fun”, and enable “learning through play”.

I’m beginning to wonder who is actually being educated though: As parents, we were all asked to sit down at the induction evening and listen whilst the head teacher requested that we refrain from calling the kids “clever” and call them “good learners” instead.

A couple of weeks in and I ask my son what he’s been doing all day. The only thing he can ever remember is “playing CBeebies on the computer”.

These days, teaching’s all based around the psyche of individuals and personality profiling. In the 70’s, Honey & Mumford identified 4 sets of personality types:

  1. Pragmatists
  2. Analysts
  3. Activists
  4. Theorists

If you’re interested in knowing which category you fall into, you can complete their Learning Styles questionnaire, which consists of a series of 80 questions, or the shorter version has 40.

However, I’ve come up with my own, much simpler, method for how to identify these 4 personality types within a classroom – it involves looking at how children engage with the universal currency of sweets.

OK, it boils down to this – think back to your classroom days and how you behaved around sweets. Which one of the following were you?

  1. The one who covertly brought in sweets in a bid to make new friends.
    [Pragmatists – seeks out solutions to problems]
  2. The one who asked lots of questions about those sweets – what they were, where they came from, who they were for…
    [Reflectors – gather data to analyse]
  3. The one who tried to ‘acquire’ the sweets without actually being given them.
    [Activists – impatient, bend the rules to get things done]

That just leaves the last type – Theorists

  1. The rationally objective one who informed the teacher about the sugary contraband.

Homework

Homework’s another thing I haven’t yet got my head around as a parent. We’ve also been advised not to call it ‘homework’, but ‘home learning’ instead.

I think there may be a gap in the market for some sort of hypnotherapy package, which eliminates the words; ‘clever’ and ‘work’ from people’s vocabularies.

My son hasn’t actually done any home LEARNING of his own yet. I, however, get a new book to read every night and had to spend an hour last weekend collating and labeling family photos for him to take into school!

I’m just waiting for the request to send him in with ingredients for cooking, so I can do what my mum did and send him in with random replacements for the actual ingredients that are needed. My experience in cooking class was a bit like the TV programme Ready Steady Cook – we’d identify the contents of my carrier bag and then decide that the carrot cake everyone else was making was perhaps not achievable with the flour, butter, cheese and pasta spirals my mum had packed me off with. I did, however, come home with the cheesy pasta bake for tea that mum had hoped for!

Still, the teacher got her own back on my mum – she sent me home with Bubble and Squeak – the tormented and twitchy class hamsters for the weekend!

Summary

So, the learning journey continues and, as the apprehension of the first day of school fades, and as I practice incorporating the word ‘learning’ into every other sentence, and think about changing the name on my son’s book bag to my own, I eagerly await the LEARNING that lies ahead.

A Cock and Bull Story

April 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

Image result for cock hotel stony Related image

I want to share the contents of the local treasure chest that is Stony Stratford; the place with a river, rooms and revelry, which I first encountered when I moved there in 1998.

Stony Stratford has long attracted people with its sense of community spirit and friendly atmosphere. This could be largely due to the fact that it has always played host to people travelling through and so has its roots firmly set around hospitality and entertainment.

The Great Road

On the Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire border, the old Roman road, called Watling Street, crosses the river Ouse at Old Stratford.

In Roman times, journeys through this particular area were made tricky in bad weather by (what was then) wide flood plains and marshland. So a causeway would have been formed, by laying a number of large, flat stones into the riverbed in order to raise the level for easier passage. This ford was of great importance for many travellers, as illustrated by the check-point which was established on the opposite side of the river (where Stony Stratford subsequently emerged as a town).

Watling Street was primarily a military road – one of the two great roads from London to the North. Legions passed along it on their way to and from campaigns or re-assignments to the various garrisons around the newly conquered country.

Anyone standing near the ford at Stony Stratford would have been used to the spectacle of disciplined marching cohorts of Roman infantry negotiating the river crossing, heading north or south.

Watling Street continued to be a major thoroughfare in the late medieval period. Like the Romans before them, medieval armies marched along it to and from London on campaigns in the English and Welsh regions.

The merchants and traders of Stony Stratford

Travellers may well have been delayed crossing the Ouse marshes as this was the first major river crossing since coming from London. The High Street in Stony Stratford widens on the spit of gravel extending towards the river, suggesting an early Norman street market, although it wasn’t until 1194, at the time of King Richard I, the Stony Stratford market first appeared in official records.

As demonstrated by the obvious success of the early street market, Watling Street and its important crossing over the River Ouse have, through the ages, created demand for service by travellers and pilgrims – and therefore opportunity for traders.

The earliest hospitality establishment was Grilkes Inn, which was most probably located near the south end of the bridge on the west side as far back as 700 years ago.

With the growth in the number of travellers, the number of inns began to multiply rapidly through the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The 18th Century saw the rise of the coaching trade and at its peak, Stony Stratford had over 30 stage-coaches per day passing through the town. All of these required servicing with food, livery for their horses and accommodation.

The inns thrived – this was their hayday! The sound of hooves on the cobbled street and the smell of hard-worked horses filled the air. As the coaches pulled into the town, the Ostler from the designated Inn would take care of the horses, providing hay, food, water, stabling and arranging any necessary blacksmith work. Coaches carrying mail would also stop off on their journey. The visitors would require overnight accommodation, food and ale, and any other services a traveller would need. Floods or bad weather meant that travellers were forced to stay longer in the town, which was good business for the merchants of Stony Stratford!

The Cock & Bull Hotels

The most notable of Inns amongst the town’s 50+ establishments were two hotels called The Cock and The Bull. During stops overnight, or for meals en-route, news and gossip would be passed on. Like all good stories, as they were passed on they were exaggerated and padded out as news travelled between the two Inns, and so the phrase ‘cock and bull story’ came to be applied to any such exaggerated story.

Stony Stratford became known as a stopover point for famous coaches such as the “Manchester Flyer”. An original timetable shows that the Flier left London at 8.30am, arriving in Manchester at 5.10am the next day with a 25 minute stop at the Cock for dinner.

Local legend has it that the Cock hotel is the ‘cock’ of the nursery rhyme ‘Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse’. The lady is thought to be Celia Fiennes, who travelled to every county in England recording her experiences in her diary as she went.

In 1742 a maid in the Bull Hotel accidentally scorched some sheets she was ironing. Having heard her boss approaching, she pushed the sheets up the nearby chimney, anxious to hide the evidence. The sheets caught light and flames raged. The fire spread quickly all the way down to the river and beyond, enveloping the whole town within billowing smoke. Following the great fire, the Cock Hotel was rebuilt with doubled capacity (40 men plus stabling for their horses).

Stony today

Although now relocated to the safety of higher ground, the Stony Stratford market still exists and the town is still home to an active and engaged business community made up of independent hotels, pubs, restaurants, retailers and service providers.

As vibrant as ever, Stony welcomes visitors with open arms and serves as a picturesque venue for many a special occasion. In 2005 the first StonyLive! festival took place and the 2017 StonyLive! is currently in the planning stages for June 2017. With events ranging from blues bands to barn dancing and barbeques and a riverside fair on the Saturday, there will be loads of entertainment all over the town:
https://www.facebook.com/StonyLive/

Ernie and his greens

August 11, 2016 - Leave a Response


Public Speaking Competition at School

D: Hello! Today I’m going to be talking about giant green sea turtles – and specifically one called Ernie [picture].

This amazing creature can live for up to 150 years – almost as old as your mum and dad!

Giant green sea turtles can be much much bigger than Ernie, who is about half as big as your car – and he is only 11!

Do you want to know why he’s called a GREEN sea turtle? Well, it’s because he eats lots of seaweed and greens – including brussel sprouts and broccoli – bleurgh! I don’t SEA (get it?) how he can eat those things. But, luckily (probably to take the taste away) he eats sea creatures like jelly fish. 

The reason why his species are greatly endangered is because they eat plastic bags like children eat fast food – because he mistakes this rubbish for jelly fish, floating on top of the water. It gets right into their guts and it takes ages to break down – as you’ll know from learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

This makes the turtles think they are full, but they’re not getting any nutrition from the bags at all, so they die. And then….REST IN PEACE turtles [rip picture].

But I don’t want to leave….

June 24, 2016 - Leave a Response

Me: Do you remember us talking before about the vote that people had about us working with the EU, the European Union?

D: Yes.

Me: Well, I want to listen to the news at 8 o’clock because that vote was yesterday and apparently we have voted to leave the EU.

D: But I don’t want to leave! Did you vote?

Me: Yes.

D: What did you vote?

Me: To stay with the EU.

D: Then we can stay can’t we? I don’t want to go!

Me: We don’t have to physically move anywhere, but we won’t work as closely with other European countries as we used to.

D: But DID YOU VOTE?

Me: Yes! By post, weeks ago. It’s not just about me – our country is a democracy, so however the greatest number of people vote is what happens.

D: Well I still don’t want to leave. What does “pound drops to lowest level since 1984” mean?

Marvellous Marking and Merits from Mum

May 8, 2016 - Leave a Response

It’s one way to get your mum’s attention when she’s marking Year 9 rendering homework: Do the same homework and add it to the pile with the request that it also gets marked! Fantastic effort, Dylan 👌

Car conversations: handwriting stress

April 15, 2016 - Leave a Response

 
“Your day will be full of luck”
D received this message in a fortune cookie he was eating in the car, as we zipped from childminder’s to karate.

D: Well that’s great – not. There’s hardly any day left!

Me: But has your day felt lucky so far?

D: No! I got told off for my handwriting.

Me: Oh. Why did you get told off?

D: We were told to do our best, and I did my best, but my teacher said: “Dylan, you need to do something about your handwriting. We can’t do it – only you can do it.” She said it in the voice that told me she was really annoyed with me and was telling me off.

Me: What are you supposed to do about it and when? Just try harder whenever you write anything?

D: I don’t know – I did my best. You told me my handwriting wasn’t that bad. 

Me: I said your handwriting’s a lot better than a lot of students’ work that I see in secondary school. Your handwriting isn’t GOOD, but it’s certainly a lot tidier than some that I see. I’ll show you some examples and you can see if you like? Shall I tell you WHY teachers get so worked up about handwriting?

D: Why?

Me: Because, rightly or wrongly – people will make a judgement about other people based on presentation. 

D: What’s ‘judgement’?

Me: So, if a new teacher was to look at your work and, even if it used some great words and sentences, if it looks messy, they might take one look and – without even reading it – they might think you’re no good. Sometimes it won’t matter what words you use. I don’t mean YOU specifically – anyone. It’s the same with speaking and giving speeches. You know about percentages? Well, if you write the best speech in the world, using the best words and what’s actually IN the speech is amazing, if you don’t present it well with body language and how you communicate verbally, people won’t listen. I think it’s something crazy like 80% body language and HOW you speak and only 20% based on the actual words and WHAT you are saying that people remember.

D: Well I think that’s wrong. It should be about what words you use. 

Me: I agree, but that’s just how people are.

D: But I can speak well.

Me: I know you can, and don’t you forget it – it’s one of your strengths.

D: So you’re telling me that if I write really bad words, but they look nice that I will get a “Well done, good work.”?

Me: Well, why don’t you test it out? I love testing things like that out – sometimes testing makes me feel better if someone is saying something I don’t agree with.

D: Won’t I get told off?

Me: Don’t write rude words, and promise that you will only do it for this and not give up on your amazing words which are your strength… but it would be an interesting test.

D: I wouldn’t write rude words! I’m going to do that. It makes me feel better when someone says something bad about me and I know it’s not the truth and so I can answer back saying something smarter – that makes me feel really good.

Easter Biscuits with orange & lemon icing

March 25, 2016 - Leave a Response

 
We made some awesome cookies today!!!🐣👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻P.S. the heart in the middle was called feathering.

Dylan.

100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a dollop (about a dessert spoon) of golden syrup

Gas Mark 4 for 10-12 minutes

icing sugar with lemon extract; orange extract & orange food colouring to decorate.

Easter Courgette Cupcakes

March 13, 2016 - Leave a Response

 
Some with fruit & all with veg! 

Makes 12 courgette cakes: 
50g soft brown sugar
50g butter
1 egg
60g courgette
90g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice

Buttercream icing (140g butter, 280g icing sugar & 2tsp milk)

Decorations to suit

Warning: Robin Hood will steal your house

March 11, 2016 - Leave a Response

 

This is what I did – it was a poster from the Sheriff of Nottingham:

Do Not Enter This Forest

Robin Hood is a mean, disruptive figure who has no care for you and will have no care for killing you. He has not paid his taxes and will do anything to get his house back. He will even dress up as you and steal your house. So beware – keep away from this maniac person! 

I did a picture of Robin Hood with a couple of trees in the background; one with apples on, one with oranges on and one just plain. I let his arrows show and his face was like this [does sly look].

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