Category Archives: Learning

We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika.

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We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika, all in the name of productivity.

Having spent many years in large corporate companies, massive giants with 50,000-100, 000 employees, I don’t even dare to estimate how many of my working hours were spent locked up in meetings, or my favourite part, preparing slides for meetings. Since I started my first own company, we don’t do that anymore. Ever!

So how do we make sure everyone is informed, is up to speed and delivers a stellar performance? With a few simple house rules around respect and integrity, and three key important methods:

1. We Fika – The Swedish coffee break where my employees and I (often across companies since several of the companies I own operate from the same address) have coffee and tea and eat cake. It is an informal break to the day, and it is usually spontaneous.

It doesn’t happen every day, but it is a simple way to stop and reflect on the day in a relaxed environment. It helps us talk things through and get each other’s input, it gives a relaxed place to iron out potential misunderstandings and it fosters communication, sharing, understanding and collaboration. And we get to eat cake.

2. Group brain exercises regularly. Just like any employer who promotes employee wellbeing, we encourage fitness and healthy lifestyles, but we also encourage exercising the brain. After all, that is the body part we use the most in our job. We have training sessions several times a week, and work both individually and as a group.

A great example last week was when our marketing assistant needed to work on her tone of voice to become more assertive when discussing with suppliers. We spent 20 minutes using body language, observing each other, making physical adjustments and shouting at each other to learn how the body position influences the voice. Loud shouting and then loud laughter. Good for everyone!

3. Walking meetings – going for a walk instead of sitting down to talk; These work best with only two or three people. It helps with energy levels, concentration and clarity. It is more difficult to get frustrated and angry while walking than while sitting in a chair so it can really take the edge off any challenging or sensitive topics that you may have to discuss with your team.

7 considerations for aborting mission

When you’re working on a project, it is sometimes easy to get emotionally attached. From time to time, that means that decisions are taken differently during than they would have been before the start of the project.

Usually when I ask people about their exit strategy, they think I mean how they will sell their company and retire. Not at all: I am talking about how to know when to abandon the plan.

Let me give you an example.

Marianne had been working with her Dance school for years, and she had made it a second home for her three girls who had spent pretty much every day after school in the studio. As a leak in the building made her financial situation strained, the smart move would have been to cut it lose, and to relocate to a different venue.

But, because her day to day business and personal life was entangled with emotional ties, she endured 5 really difficult years in the same location, before she finally gave up, having lost most her savings. Had she been making the same decision if this was identified as a risk and had a mitigation plan before she started? Probably not.

An exit strategy should contain the following considerations (…as a start. There will be more that are specific to your business):

Ask yourself this:

  1. TIME: How long am I willing to go before I say this isn’t working? 1 year? 3 years?
  2. MONEY: What is the maximum financial figure I can commit to putting into the business, and when do I cut my losses?
  3. OWNERSHIP: What are the areas of the business that I would be willing to give up to take in financial support (if any) if I needed to? What’s the maximum shares I am willing to sell?
  4. ILLNESS: What do I do if I or someone who depends on me get really ill? What is my contingency plan?
  5. RISKS: What are the top 10 risks in my company and current set up, and how do I mitigate that?
  6. TRADE OFFS: At what point do I decide the risks are not worth the (potential) rewards?
  7. COMMITMENTS: Are there commitments that I am not prepared to sign? Long term contracts, legal obligations, other?

The above is tremendously useful things to consider and have a plan for. Discuss them with your business partner if you have one – more often than not we have very different views on things like this, and it is good to be VERY specific. And make a plan for what happens if you disagree. Write it down. It may all change, but at least you have a starting point when things get rocky.

Also discuss this with your family. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you, and after all, he or she is one of your most important stakeholders as you embark on a new venture.

Good luck. You have taken a whole list of unknowns and turned them into something tangible. Of course there can be surprises you haven’t planned for, but you have narrowed that down tremendously.

And hopefully you will never have to use any of this!

Lie to me. But do it with some EFFORT.

6 ways to impress me

There are a several people whom I have the utmost respect for, and then there are people who have impressed me. The difference is important. I have had the (debateable) pleasure of coming across people who have impressed me, but that I don’t respect at all. I still learned from them, and I wouldn’t want to be without the experience. Sometimes NOT learning from a situation is the best lesson of all. Here is how to impress me:

  1. Be true to who you are

Like the guy at Johnson & Johnson who didn’t give a rats about the fact that his spiky hair and colourful socks made him stand out from the rest of the ambitious crowd. Over 10 years ago, this was quite a talking point in corporate and conservative blue chip companies. He told me to never ever let work change what I liked about myself. Good advice that I wasn’t always strong enough to follow, but now something I won’t ever compromise on, and certainly never forget.

  1. Do good

If you can do good, you should. Simple as that. I don’t care in what format: give someone change for the supermarket trolley, compliment a stranger, build a children’s hospital, found a charity, give your time and knowledge. Pay it forward, and you’re my hero. Teach your children (or someone elses) the joy of giving.

  1. Work hard at what you have committed to

There are a LOT of things that will make you great at what you do, and talent is only one of them. Be on time, study your topics, be polite, be coachable, keep deadlines, look for solutions, help your colleagues. If you’re unhappy, get out.

  1. Be brave

Are you afraid? And still doing it? Then you rock. I am not saying that those who just do things without being worried about it aren’t brave – I am sure they have areas where they have to be courageous as well. I am just of the firm belief that true bravery is best proven by those who are terrified…and do it anyway. I met an inspiring woman called Marta on Thursday who told me her next meeting was to donate blood; her way of getting over her fear of needles!

5. Lie well
I can’t stand bad liars. I know this is a weird one…most people don’t being lied to, but I actually don’t mind. People lie for all sorts of reasons, and it would be arrogant of me to think that I deserve honesty that may be uncomfortable or painful for people to share. That’s fine. But I do have one request; if you’re going to lie to me, put some effort in. Half ass lies that are easy to spot, where the liar really has neither skill or finesse. See Point 3.
6. Find your element
When I see someone who is passionate, knowledgeable, engaged, excited and “in the flow”, I always need to take a deep breath. It is SO powerful to see someone who have found their place, their space in the universe. Nothing is as attractive as when you watch that magic happen, and the force coming from individuals like that is pure power. “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” How you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. See Point 4. Last time I saw someone do it was when I watched a candidate in an interview with me last week. I think I may have to hire her.
Thanks for reading.
Angela
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler

Death of international scientific meetings

20 years ago international scientific meetings used to be a source of great learning for doctors and nurses, but also a lot of fun and a bit of a break from the daily routine.

The change in regulations made sponsoring less available (a good thing, for many reasons) so fewer people could afford to go. And of course, a trip half way around the world (in some cases), being gone for most of a week, with hotel fees and registration costs makes it a big investment. But…it was all worth it, and even necessary; This is where the greatest research was presented with the latest updates from the most experienced thought leaders.

Today the world doesn’t function like that anymore.

Social media and online news makes innovation and clinical data instantly available to anyone across the globe.

So why would doctors still fly around to meetings if there really isn’t anything new?

There is always a big win from meeting and discussing…but most international congresses are not designed that way. They are dinosaurs from the old times, when professors sit at podiums and a presenter stands at a podium and reads off data from a powerpoint presentation.

Health care professional attendee numbers are declining and so are sponsors. No manufacturer can spend a fortune paying for stand space, shipping expensive exhibition materials and paying company representatives to attend a 5 day meeting…especially not when so few of the customers are attending. And if they don’t  have anything new to launch (and why would they? Innovation cannot wait 7 months for the next international meeting), they are just showing the same things that they can show customers at home.

I believe we need to rethink the whole concept. Accept that the old days are gone, and so are the old ways.

Come on, brilliant marketing agencies and event organisers. Take us all into present time?!

How Lack Of Ego Drives Growth

It helps growth tremendously to not have to be right. I find it intersting that when new people join the team, it takes  a couple of months until they realise that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a different view than me.

It may be because I deliberately hire people who I think can do a better job than me. But if that is the case, I am either wrong about the individual (has happened, obviously) or they have worked for a long time without realising their full potential. So let’s for arguments sake say that everyone in the team has worked at 75% before they Image result for people growingcome here, and I employ 10 people. That is me theoretically adding 0.25 x 10 people to the team, just by making sure each person gets the space and support they need to spread their wings and fully contribute to the best of their abilities.

And the best thing? Those 2,5 extra people doesn’t cost me a thing — quite the opposite. Employees love not being told to swim in their lane, and the environment we have is tremendously encouraging. I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated team.

This is working really well for us, and I wonder what else I can do to further improve it? Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!

Who goes there? Your Twitter followers?!

Twitter followers come and go for me. Sort of like tide.
I am competitive, so I like the ups, and I am trying hard not to take the downs personally. After all, it is not a goal in itself for me to have followers on my twitter or blog. I sell nothing, want you to sign up for nothing and basically have no interest in your money at all.

I am however keen on helping. Sometimes, only sometimes, I have felt that amazing feeling you get when you see something click for someone. They just saw things in a different way, from another angle, and it made them better. If I can do that, I am happy. But I digress.

audience following why

Point is: do you know who your followers are and why they are following you? Perhaps that question is worth a thought not just for twitter, but for real life as well. And then….how can you help them?

Remember that movie “Pay It Forward”? Call me naive, but that’s what I am doing.  What do you think? Am I just a bit too blue eyed?