Archives for posts with tag: Behaviour

There’s a scene in the film Jack from 1996 where Robin Williams plays a child in a prematurely aged man’s body. After describing why he was late for something – I haven’t actually seen the film but I remember this scene just from the trailer – using words and hand gestures to describe his visit to the toilet, the lady he’s talking to says ‘well that’s more that I needed to know.’

There are of course many variations on the TMI or Too Much Information phrase where we reveal too much personal information for the comfort of whoever we’re talking to.

I heard one the other day, used by one of my sisters-in-law and I expect you’ve been using it yourself already. It’s the act of ‘oversharing’. I thought this was hilarious, and it describes exactly what’s happening.

Our social adroitness attunes us to what is acceptable in terms of sharing information on ourselves. For some people who don’t have the social calibration set quite right for a given situation, this balance between sharing too little and sharing too much is a hard one to strike.

It has its parallels in work as well, by which I don’t mean social interactions between the individuals in a company or companies, but more the exchanging of information between people as part of a deal or project.

You can share too little, or undershare I guess – which doesn’t seem to attract the level of opprobrium that its generous counterpart does – or you can overshare, providing the other party with more than is useful for them, forcing them to waste time getting to the good stuff.

Often a simple ‘thank you’ is all people need for the acknowledgement of their work. Someone remembering or taking time out to tell them that their efforts are appreciated.

So it is with ‘please’, the mannerly corollary to thank you. Simple, thoughtful manners go a long way to getting what we need, and sometimes what we want too. It makes the person we’re asking feel better about donating their time too. I always try to say please when I’m asking for something, no matter how insignificant the ask is. It’s a basic human courtesy.

In my view, we should be demanding that voice activation technologies like Siri and Alexa be reprogrammed to only comply with our commands when we say please. ‘Alexa, can you play Ten Story Love Song by the Stone Roses on Spotify, please?’ How hard is that?

Much more importantly, especially with youngsters, what great behaviours would those engrained manners encourage for interacting with other human beings?

Automation exists to make our lives easier, or sometimes to make our supplier’s life easier. We adapt our traditional manual behaviour to new behaviours on the basis that the new behaviour, thanks to the automation, is easier or less effort, or both, for us.

A few months ago I was in a gallery in Dublin and went to use the facilities on the way out. never waste a chance to use the facilities of the facility you’re in – no double pun intended – especially when you’re in a big city.

After completing my task and washing my hands, I moved across to the automatic hand dryer and hovered my hands under it and waited for the sensor to pick up my presence and whizz my hands into a dried frenzy.

Nothing doing, damn thing was broken I concluded, after several experimental variations of hand position.

Turns out I had mistaken an empty paper napkin dispenser for an automatic hand dryer. Learned behaviour, on auto-pilot, had let me down. Back to the drawing board, or rather another dispenser with a napkin or two in it.

One of the most difficult challenges with sales training or sales effectiveness – and in fact any kind of change – is overcoming engrained behaviours. It’s only through repeated application of the new way, with all the pain and discomfort that comes with it, that the new way eventually becomes the accepted way and a second nature thing.

I was reminded of this recently in my table tennis endeavours. I’ve been playing competitively for decades, and I’ve always concentrated on putting the ball in different corners to move my opponent around. It is deeply and completely subconscious, after a million-plus repetitions.

I’ve been studying a lot of table tennis matches on youtube over the last few months, as I look for new ways to compensate for my gradual decline in fitness and sharpness due to Father Time’s relentless advances. I’ve noticed that a lot of the top players hit a lot of shots into the crossover, which is the awkward spot on the right hip – of the right-handed player – between the forehand and the backhand, effectively jamming them up.

This is not new. One of the first things we were taught as kids was hit to the corners against a short opponent, and into the middle for a tall player. Maybe twenty years ago our local club had a coaching session with a guest coach who again stressed the crossover tactic and quoted the statistic that the then star player in England, Desmond Douglas, would hit up to 40% of shots down the crossover.

I’ve been trying this with renewed effort over the last few weeks and – it’s really, really difficult! The sport is very quick and you don’t have much time to plan and execute. I find myself instinctively following my subconscious, time and time again.

The answer? As with sales, I need to practice more, and compete less, to untrain and retrain myself.

Many of us are in the business of imparting knowledge or experience. Teachers, lecturers, supervisors, mentors, trainers, consultants, managers, advisors. I think we all hope that what we impart is useful, in that it can be used.

I was reminded of this when I met with a colleague the other day. We were exchanging information and insight on various luminaries in the sales effectiveness and sales training business.

She shared an anecdote from a session she had attended with an internationally renowned sales trainer who is known for speaking her mind. After the keynote had finished, my colleague complimented the speaker on the session and said her talk provided much food for thought.

The sales guru, paused for a moment and said, ‘or food.’

And that’s a very important distinction. Food for thought means that we might think about what we’ve listened to and learned, but not necessarily act on it. We might not change our behaviour and ‘do’.

Food is something we actively consume and use, which gives us energy to progress, and do work. It influences our behaviour.

What about you? Are you providing food for thought, or food?

In 1990’s Scotland there was a great series of TV adverts designed to reinforce our recall of the Tennent’s lager brand by judicious use of words ending in their big red capital T. Younger readers may also be familiar with the summer festival T in the Park, which does exactly the same thing.

Anyway, these ads featured the pouring of half of a glass of Tennent’s in front of someone, who either laughed with joy or cried with sadness, depending on whether they were an glass-half-full optimisT or a glass-half-empty pessimisT.

These days we’re under increasing pressure – perhaps it’s our gradual Americanisation – to be incorrigibly upbeat and optimistic about everything. Our positive outlook alone will affect the outcome. It’s the positive spin we put on life and especially in marketing. This is true in parts. I’ve always described myself as a realist, occupying the halfway house, a hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst space in between the two characteristics.

The other day I was chatting to my son who can sometimes be sweepingly downbeat in that glum teenagerish way. I told him he was sounding like a pessimist. ‘I’m not a pessimist Dad,’ he countered, ‘I’m a non-delusional realist.’

Which opens up a whole new can of worms. Is that the same thing as a pessimist, or is it a qualification of a realist, or is it suggesting there are many shades on the pessimist-optimist spectrum, or many grades to the axis?

I know, thinking too much…

Content marketing, the business of producing and promoting online the kinds of materials which educate and edify rather than overtly sell what you have, relies on an endless stream of idea and information, even in an era where constant recycling and repurposing is not only the norm but considered a best practice.

I do quite a bit of content marketing, paid and unpaid. In fact I suppose what you’re reading right now is a form of content marketing. It demands quite a portfolio of skills, like creativity, writing ability, attention to detail, and organisational prowess to name but a few. There’s one thing above all else, however, that it needs in my opinion.

You have to have a hunger. A hunger to acquire. Content marketing hunger is what drives you to devour information in the hunt for inspiration you can turn into information of value to the people who want to read your stuff. It’s a kind of inquisitiveness that has given me 599 ideas and counting for blog posts, and that’s just for my hobby, not my day job.

The information doesn’t have to be about your domain of expertise either. Information from all areas helps spark ideas that you can synthesise and shape into meaningful new content for your audience.

If you stay hungry, and stay curious, you’ll always have the catalyst for content.

Why do so many of us strive to be normal, to fit in? Is it our natural herding instinct, the safety in numbers? We don’t want to stand out too much, do we?

But what is normal?

Is it a basket of behaviours that can be grouped into a standard, a category or a stereotype? To me, normal is rather like ‘average’. Calculating an average number, or an average person can be a useful yard stick for grouping people or things, if it’s interpreted correctly.

But who is average? Who wants to be average? No-one is average. Average is a mathematical nicety describing a group, not an individual. It’s like when someone says ‘well most people would do that.’ Well, I’m not most people. Besides, how could I be?

So who wants to be ‘normal’? What is normal? Can one person really be normal?

I don’t want to be normal. I don’t want to be thought of as normal either.

In 2000, I was in San Diego, California, for a conference. The day before the conference started, I had some time to kill and I needed a new travel bag with wheels and one of those extendable handles. So I went to the local mall with a colleague to do some research.

We split up and I went into a couple of shops. I nodded my hellos to the staff and I didn’t speak any more to a sales assistant. In the second store found the bag I thought I was looking for. I left the store and went to go find my buddy for a second opinion, as he travelled for work more than I did.

20 minutes later we came back into the store. ‘Welcome back’, said the sales assistant, a handsome African American bloke in his late-20’s. The store was Sharper Image.

What struck was that the guy remembered me. When he said ‘Welcome back’, I took the unspoken part of this to mean:

  • I noticed you come in before
  • You’re important to us
  • We pay attention to our prospects and customers
  • I want you to know that
  • We want to serve you so that you can become a customer

I bought the bag.

I still have the bag.

Some time ago, quite a long time go, I wrote about fear and greed.

It was my Dad’s basic premise that much of human behaviour can be distilled into the explanation that it’s driven by these two forces.

If you look around what’s happening in the world and in your country today, or at least the stories that are being selected and channeled to us by the media, an uncomfortably large number of them are still confirming this basic hypothesis. It’s all a bit depressing if you spend too much time on it.

Then again, the vast majority of attention is hogged by leaders in their field: world leaders and politicians, army generals, captains of industry, entertainment a-listers, terrorists and arch criminals all make the news. Maybe it’s the people who have got to the very top of their group are the ones exhibiting these base characteristics. Maybe they’ve had to.

When I look around at my fellow human beings that make up the 99% of us, I don’t see the fear and greed so much.