Be inspired by Nadiya today

nadiyaquoteToday, we all have a new inspiring female figure to look up to. Nadiya Jamir Hussain won the Great British Bake Off last night in stunning form. But it was the speech she gave after winning that moved viewers to tears, as she articulated the change she now saw in herself.

“I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say maybe. I’m never going to say I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”

This quote is being republished all over the media and internet today, and for good reason. Nadiya’s journey, from nervous, self-doubting hopeful through to confident, glowing winner, is the same as the transformation many of us have faced in our lives. But it is rare to hear someone articulate that moment of wonderful self-belief so perfectly, and it has inspired the nation.

One of the most common reasons that people ask for training and coaching is because they need some help finding their confidence. They want to get to that stage of saying “I can and I will”, as Nadiya did. So how do we help people get there?

For Nadiya, she grew in confidence as the weeks progressed and she was given good, honest, constructive feedback about her performance. She started to recognise when she was doing well, and what she needed to stop doing. She said at one stage that she almost felt she was battling against herself, needing to remind herself of what she had done so far.

This focus on the positive, and battling the internal doubting voice in your head, is the essence of that journey toward confidence.

That is why we believe that all good training and coaching is built around feedback. When we are given useful information about our performance, in a supportive environment that is tailored to our needs, we can exceed our wildest expectations.

When you think about her win, remember this one thing. Nadiya has revealed that her husband had encouraged her to apply for the Great British Bake Off two years ago. She told him “Look, I don’t have the confidence to do something like this”. He kept trying, and eventually persuaded her this year, asking “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Lacking confidence can hold you back from finding out how truly brilliant and exceptional you are. Listen to the supportive voices around you. Be a bit bolder, a bit braver and you might really surprise yourself. And if you want someone to help you take those first steps, get in touch and we will help set you on the road to “I can and I will.”

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Use your voice, use your vote

Tomorrow we all have the chance to cast our votes, electing a new Parliament and in many areas, new Councillors too. We know that many people may feel there is no point in voting, but we urge all our Midas Training friends and clients to make the effort to go to the polls tomorrow. As a training company we have a lot of clients in politics – in Councils, Assemblies and Parliament. We have worked on democracy building projects around the world, helping under-represented groups to engage in politics. We care passionately about democracy, and so we have jotted down 3 great reasons why you should use your vote this Thursday:

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1. Votes are the way in which we hold politicians accountable. 
Every MP is up for election this week – every single one. The threat that hangs over every elected person’s head is that if they don’t do their job well, they will get voted out. Even if your MP has a huge majority and it seems impossible that they will lose, you can show your approval or disapproval of their work and record by voting in the General Election. If all your fellow voters agree and vote with you, even the best known MPs sometimes lose their seats. If you don’t vote, then there is less reason for that MP to care about you in the next few years.
2. The right to vote is a hard-won right.
Most people know that women only won the right to vote in the early part of the 20th century after a long, hard fought campaign, but sometimes we forget that most men did not always have the right to vote either. We still see countries around the world erupting into violence because people are denied the chance to have their say in free and fair elections.
We know that this may not feel important to you in your everyday life, but the right to vote is important. It means that our country is a democracy, where the will of the people is the force of government. If we stop voting, we are giving up our voice, and giving up our hard-won civil liberties.
As trainers, we have worked in countries that don’t yet have full democracies. We have worked with people who have been physically attacked, lost their jobs and homes, even been imprisoned for speaking out against the government of their country. They are prepared to lose everything for the right to have their say about the way their country is run. Here in the UK, people are forgetting how important the vote is to a society.
3. Extremism triumphs when good people stay silent.
If good people like you don’t vote, then the only ones who do go to the polls will be the people with extreme views. For democracy to work, it needs everyone to turn out and cast their ballots.
If you want to express your disappointment with everyone offered, you can spoil your ballot – writing “No-one” across the whole sheet for example. But remember not to do this lightly – people with extreme views will be voting for their candidates, so if you are a moderate minded person, it really is best to choose between the moderate candidates who are standing. Remember, if you don’t like what’s currently happening and you want to see things change, then you need to vote.
But I don’t know who to vote for!
We have clients in all the main political parties, and we can tell you from first hand experience that most people who stand for election to Parliament or Councils do so in order to make the country a better, fairer place.
If you aren’t sure who to vote for, just think about your local area, and see if there is someone you recognise as having done good work locally. If not, think about the politicians you see in the news – who do you trust? Who do you find yourself agreeing with, and who makes you shout at the TV in annoyance?
It’s ok to vote without knowing much about politics or the people standing. It’s great to look information up online to help you decide, and the main party websites are listed below if you want to read more, but the system is built for all voters with all levels of knowledge. Plenty of people vote on the basis of who they instinctively like and trust, and very few people read party manifestos.
We suggest you have a quick look online and see which party seems to speak about the things that matter most to you. Or just go to the polling station and go with your gut instinct. Either way, please use your vote.
Polls are open from 7am until 10pm, you don’t need a polling card or any ID to vote. If you have a postal vote but haven’t filled it in, complete it at home, seal it up and take the completed envelope to your local polling station.
Whoever you decide to vote for, please use your vote and make your voice heard.
Party websites (in alphabetical order)
Conservatives – www.conservatives.com
Labour – www.labour.org.uk
Liberal Democrats – www.libdems.org.uk
Plaid Cymru – www.partyof.wales
SNP – www.snp.org
UKIP – www.ukip.org

The Great British Bake Off is a recipe for successful feedback

cheese rollsOnce again the nation is gripped by Great British Bake Off fever. The Baked Alaska fiasco prompted such outcry that it featured on Newsnight and set social media ablaze. Each episode is now critiqued and dissected by both viewers and journalists. What is it about the show that gives it such emotional pull?

Part of it is the feedback cycle that is on display for us as viewers. We get to see the bakers putting their heart and soul into each bake and we can each judge for ourselves how successful we think they have been. Then we get to see Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood give their professional feedback about the bake as well.

Paul’s style is of course famously direct. He pulls no punches and says exactly what he thinks – but always stops short of being unpleasant or mean. Mary’s style is far more charitable and kind, always trying to compliment what is good about each bake as well as saying what has not gone well.

And here lies the charm of the Bake Off. The feedback the bakers are given is exactly that – feedback. They are told that next time they should up the spices, or let it prove a bit longer, or take it out of the oven sooner. The feedback is very specific, both praising what has gone well and noting what is bad. The bakers are never shouted at, humiliated or treated unkindly. It is respectful and acknowledges that they tried their best.

These are the principles that lie at the heart of all good feedback, whether you’re a contestant in a competition, a manager in the workplace or leading a team of volunteers. Using those principles will mean that the recipient of your feedback will see you as a source of help and instruction not a constant critic. Look at the bakers’ faces when Paul and Mary say something tastes really good. It means the world, because they both have complete integrity – you know you can believe what they are saying 100%, because they are happy to give both good and bad news.

Compare this with other popular contest TV shows. All have judges offering comment on contestants, but they are there as part of the entertainment for the crowd. Those judges are actually giving a performance too when they give their verdicts. Bake Off is different because the judges don’t have to amuse a studio audience with witty one-liners. They can offer sincere, balanced feedback instead.

If you don’t follow the Bake Off, try tuning in on Wednesday night for a while to watch how Mary and Paul deliver their feedback. They have different styles, but by sticking to the core principles of being specific, honest and looking at the good as well as the bad, they have found the perfect recipe for feedback success.

How much can a personality test tell about you?

midas_new_logosmallOne of the most famous personality tests has come under fire in the news this month. The Myers-Briggs test is used by many employers to help recruit, promote and train their staff. But just how useful are these tests?

Personality testing began to take off in the 1920’s as a method to help recruit soldiers for the armed forces. Recruiters were keen to identify potential Officers, as well as rooting out those who sought violence rather than service. However, society has always been interested in predicting behaviour –  in the 18th and 19th centuries phrenologists would assess the shape of people’s heads and give predictions of behaviour based on the characteristics they saw.

The field of personality testing has been beset by criticism and controversy from the start.

Almost every test has problems. It may be that candidates deliberately try to answer so that they try to appear to be “better” than they are, or there is low reliability, with candidates getting different scores when they retake the test a few weeks later. There are also arguments as to whether some of the classifications these tests produce are valid distinctions in themselves – the supposed characteristics of introverts/extroverts alone have filled many textbooks already.

We won’t go into a dissection here of what is thought to be wrong with Myers-Briggs. If you are interested, we have given a link at the bottom of this post to a well argued article.

Instead, let’s talk about what these tests more generally.

Our company specialises in personal development, and most of our team have backgrounds in psychology and science. We are fascinated by how people learn, and by what motivates people to act in a certain way. We love hearing about new theories, new ideas and tools, from the most rigorous and scientifically supported to the most casual observation from a popular journalist or public figure. After all, every idea started somewhere with an idea or observation!

But we think it’s important to see and accept each idea for what it is. A scientifically proven fact, or a new observation that seems to be true for some groups, an empirically rigorous tool, or a fun quiz to get you thinking.

We think that personality tests are best seen as useful tools that help get people thinking about their strengths, weaknesses and instincts. Some have scorings and analysis that can also be helpful in provoking discussion and thought, others are most helpful simply for posing questions to get people started on a topic.

Several clients have asked us to include a range of personality tests (and other psychometric tests) in our workshops, and we are normally happy to do so – with a big health warning attached.

The moment you start to say that any single test can define a person completely, you are going to come unstuck. People are too contradictory, too complex, too changeable for a single test taken once to be definitive. Think of photographs of yourself people have taken over the years. I bet there are some that you have found look very “unlike” yourself. A snapshot taken at one moment in time won’t always accurately reflect how we look every day. Personality testing is the same, because our personalities go through changes too. Some days we are more or less cheerful and outgoing, confident or anxious, tired or ambitious. One short test is one small snapshot that cannot capture our whole self.

However!

A snapshot can be useful, so long as we remember it is a mere glimpse. One bad photo would still be enough to help us pick someone out of a crowd with a fair degree of accuracy. At Midas, we use personality tests in various forms in order to generate a discussion with our participants. We ask them to reflect on how true that test’s results might be of them in more general terms. Very often, people report that they find something helpful in them. Some tests give vague results that an individual can read their own results into (the Forer, or Barnum, effect). This is poor science, but if it helps an individual to reflect on their behaviour it is still a tool with merit in our eyes.

So, how much can a personality test tell about you?

Well, as much as you want it to. In our view, all these tests are a useful part of an internal dialogue where you perform a self-assessment. But if you think any one test can guarantee you that someone will act in a particular way, well, we haven’t seen it yet. If someone does manage to develop one, then fame and riches will surely follow.

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Here’s the link to the article we mentioned which argues that Myers-Briggs is fatally flawed:

http://www.vox.com/2014/7/15/5881947/myers-briggs-personality-test-meaningless

Poor David Moyes!

 

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From the moment that David Moyes was appointed to be Alex Ferguson’s successor as Manchester United’s Manager, the media were watching and waiting for him to fail.

But beyond the finer details of football strategy and player selections, Moyes was up against something even more powerful than the tabloid press. Something that aspiring managers in other lines of business also need to consider.

That something is the principle of Group Dynamics.

When a senior figure in any organisation moves on, whether by choice or by design, it has a big impact on the remaining members of the team. Alex Ferguson left very big boots to fill – and even people who did not like him knew that his departure meant big changes at Man U.

So while Alex Ferguson was invited to give lectures at Harvard about how to be a successful manager and leader, poor David Moyes was being spun by the PR people as “Ferguson Mark II”.

A banner was draped across the Old Trafford Stadium which read ‘The Chosen One’. Clearly a gifted manager in his own right, Moyes was expected to coach like Ferguson, manage like Ferguson – and keep the team winning just like Ferguson.

However, Group Dynamics tells us that a high performing team faced with a new boss is often so shaken up that it regresses in terms of team formation to Stage 1 of Group Dynamics – Forming.

That means a heady mixture of excitement at the prospect of a new boss, tinged with nervousness about the implications of the change.  It also means that plenty of mistakes will be made.

Sadly for Moyes, the team clearly moved swiftly into Stage 2 – Storming. Tales of discontent soon surfaced from the locker room – and more importantly in the football world these days, from the Boardroom. Instead of Moyes being allowed to work through the problems with his team, the Board and the Club’s American owners took fright and he was sacked.

David Moyes never had the  chance to take his team on to the next two stages  where the team could have settled down (Stage 3 – Norming) and finally returned to their winning ways  (Stage 4 – Performing).

So what could he have done differently? Perhaps using a different style of leadership might have helped.

Helping any team, be it a sporting team or a business team, move through all these stages needs a very responsive, flexible and dynamic leadership style. It also needs a massive degree of Emotional Intelligence to fine tune the right type of leadership styles for the fight person at the right moment.

Was it his leadership? Or perhaps David Moyes just ran out of time… I am sure that is something he will reflect on at length and the sports pundits will talk about for years.

There is a moral in this story for managers in any field who are about to step into a large pair of boots.

Be clear in your own mind just what you are taking on and how your style of leadership differs from that of your predecessor.

Use your Emotional Intelligence to recognise and respond to the Group Dynamics stage your team is in both as a group and as individuals.

Most important of all, get out there and use your own leadership skills, flexing between different styles to reassure, to develop and to inspire. Remember that you need to use those skills with the people above you in the structure as well as with the team below you!

Last but not least, make sure you have help and support from a skilful and supportive mentor or coach – it can make all the difference and help you come out of this critical process leading a loyal, motivated and successful team.

I wish for David Moyes sake, that he had had a coach of his own, who was able to help him do just that.

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spring 2014 crocuses

Welcome to our new Midas Training blog! If you haven’t yet met us in person or been on one of our courses, check out our website to learn a little about our company and what we do.

We will be posting thoughts here every so often that touch on topics we train, or we are particularly passionate about.

As always, get in touch if you would like to know more about us or talk about how we might be able to help you!