Monthly Archives: March 2013

Link-up or Lock out?

Link-up or Lock out-Blog
To coin a phrase from the gorgeous Chris Evans….”Here’s the thing”……….
I recently attended a women’s networking event; which was all rather strange in itself as this was advertised as a Women in Business Event but actually had men attending! This piece is all about inclusion and embracing the people you meet, so good on them, how brave I thought; albeit I also thought it rather belied the name and purpose of the event and in some cases diluted the messages of the lady speakers. After all this was a women’s networking event and I (and I know others) did find it a little disconcerting to have a man touting his wares and using the event to flog his services!

No matter, back to the plot….to “here’s the thing”………one of the break-out workshops was a session on ‘Personal Branding’ which unbeknown to me I had been assigned to attend. The speaker was fun and engaging but most definitely could not be described as a professional speaker; maybe it was the swearing that gave it away! Nevertheless this did not distract too much from the key messages she wanted to deliver.

There were of course all the usual personal branding messages about appearance, smiling, being open etc and also about how important it is to network, to get your brand ‘out there’; to create a good first impression. This speaker made a great play at not being afraid to take the bull by the horns and be master of one’s own destiny. As an example of this she stated firmly that when attending any networking event you should never leave a person you might have ‘touched base’ with, or been involved with in a longer conversation without exchanging business cards. Therefore when we met in the bar afterwards I thanked her for her interesting talk and gave her my card.

The next day she invited me to join her on Twitter and LinkedIn which I was more than happy to do. But ‘here’s the thing’……….when I accepted her LinkedIn invitation I noticed that she had ‘hidden’ her contacts from me. Now I always find it really odd that people join a business networking site and then ‘hide’ their connections!

I know and appreciate that LinkedIn has the facility to do this, however this lady met me at a networking event, she had spoken at some length for an hour in fact about personal branding and networking. I therefore don’t feel that I am being unreasonable to think it odd that she would hide her network from me. In my heart I don’t believe this is quite in the spirit of how LinkedIn is supposed to work!

Furthermore I truly believe that if one is brilliant at their job, if you have created a good first impression and people generally like you because you are open, honest and genuine and embrace the people you meet and do business with then nobody being invited into your network is surely a real threat.

I guess that there are givers and takers in this world and that when people who profess to be active net workers, purporting to be givers when in reality they are really takers, then sadly people like me get mugged, which is most irksome. As part of her talk this lady spoke about the importance of making a good first impression, well all I can say is that she has left a lasting impression on me. With one quick click of the ‘hide my contacts’ button this lady has wiped out all the good messages she had delivered in her talk, and in doing so has told me all I needed to know about her……..I will let you guess whether this was a good or bad first impression!

So …”here’s the thing”……..what is your view….Link-up or Lock out?


The Pretty Women Effect

Pretty Women099 Correction
The story of the film “Pretty Woman” centers on the down-on-her-luck Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts, who is hired by a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, played by Richard Gere, to be his escort for several business and social functions, and their developing relationship over the course of Vivian’s week-long stay with him.

There cannot be many women out there that can fail to remember those infamous scenes in the movie, where Julia Robert’s character (Vivian Ward) walks into a shop on Rodeo Drive. The shop assistants look her up and down disdainfully instantly adopting the “you don’t belong here” attitude, making the very attractive Vivien feel extremely venerable and out of place. Vivien leaves the shop with hurt feelings and no self-confidence.

There can be no doubt that many women will identify with this. Surely in today’s world every person, every customer should be treated equally as if they were royalty in fact! It really shouldn’t matter what you, or your bank account looks like. Sadly though we see the “Pretty Woman Effect” all too often; people judging other people by the first impressions they have of them or by their outward appearances; as in the case of this movie.

There are many people though that relishes these experiences, saying that it makes them spiritually stronger. They are of the belief that there are no such things as coincidences that every interaction such as this, everybody we meet, we meet for a reason, and that it is just a simple case of discovering what that reason is. This of course is not as easy as it might sound, particularly if you are being ridiculed like the character Vivien Ward in Pretty Women.

When interviewing women for my novel “Soulmate” several of them mentioned that they had experienced the ‘pretty women effect’ when searching for their “Soulmate”. When, as part of my research, I probed further I found that women more than men believed in this spiritual ethos. Women will readily tell you that they have experienced times when they feel alone and venerable or are alone in a room but just know instinctively that they are not alone, because they have an absolute sense of some unexplained spiritual awareness.

Through my research I discovered that the majority of people did not believe that spiritual awareness was related to any religious belief, as one might first assume; but moreover as alluded to above that it is based on the belief that that there are no such things as coincidences; as the Richard Gere’s character (Edward Lewis) explained in the film, endorsing the fact that he was meant to meet Vivien Ward (Julia Roberts), and as such they were meant to be together.

Fascinated by this belief that everybody you meet you meet for a reason, as additional research I read other books on spiritual awareness and started to believe in this principal even greater after reading The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield, which had such a profound affect on me that I have followed the principles within this book ever since. I also believe in “Karma Neutral”; by this I mean what you give is what you get, this belief also is partly based on my reading The Celestine Prophecy.

Although a work of fiction, The Celestine Prophesy attracts many readers because it deals with spiritualization, growth and even our reason for being here. This may at first be seen as quite “heavy stuff”; the learning though is interspersed within the story. In brief, this is the tale of a man who goes in search of ancient manuscripts in the rain forests of Peru, having been told about them by a friend. The book then follows his journey and as he finds each manuscript, he shares the insights and messages with the reader.

The Celestine Prophecy contains secrets that are changing our world and the way we think. Drawing inspiration from ancient wisdom, the book urges the reader to make connections amongst the events happening in their own life right now, which the book describes as not a mere coincidence, but a message or indication from a different energy level.

There are several insights that build on the above, below are the key ones that most of the women I interviewed resonate with:
1. Everything happens for a reason, there is no such thing as coincidence
2. We should keep ourselves open and should be ready to receive from others
3. Think about every meeting we have and be aware of the energy we give out and take from others.

So next time you experience or have a ‘‘pretty women’ moment just stop and think why it might have happened. Who is it you have met through this experience and why have your paths crossed. You never know you might meet your own Richard Gere…….your very own “Soulmate”

Givers and Takers

Givers&Takers098 Correction

As a general rule of thumb it is said that it is better to give than to receive; this ethos presumably supports the notion that we all follow the principal of treating others as you would wish to be treated ourselves.

Within my novel “Soulmate” I have research various ‘life lessons’ on false flattery, betrayal, injustice, deceit and the hardest lesson of all of course, the lesson of love; one aspect that quickly became clear was that without exception there are most definitely two types of people in life…”Givers”….and “Takers”

“Givers” are not only generous people by nature not limited to particularly in financial terms, but they ‘give’ endless, of themselves, or their time. We can all most probably think of the “Givers” that we know and have met through our lives. We remember “Givers” with a warm heart as their kindest stays with us long after they have left. We all like to think of ourselves as “Givers”. Every women I interviewed who was searching for her ‘soulmate’ wanted to meet a “Giver”.

On the other hand “Takers” are basically only interested in themselves, they only contact you when they want something and will rarely, if ever ask how ‘you’ are. They are by nature intrinsically insincere and will often display a very different persona in private to the one they show in public. “Takers” like to talk about themselves and have this somewhat unique and rather irritating technique of being able to turn any conversation, on any subject matter back to them and their needs.

Utterly ruthless, in both persistence and pursuance “Takers” chew away at the bone like a rabid dog until they get what they want.  The old adage of if you cannot say something nice then better not to say anything at all does not appear in the “Takers” mind-set. They speak negatively about people who don’t or won’t do what they want or who challenge them in any way. 

As hard as it may be to believe “Takers” are more often than not insure. They will endeavour to disguise their insecurities by being full of their own self importance, name dropping whenever possible to raise their perceived level of importance; because they like to talk about themselves they will brag about whose company they have been in, who they know and what they have done.

The bragging does not stop there as “Takers” truly do believe in their own propaganda, if they say that they are an expert, they believe it! It is rare for a “Taker” to wait for a compliment or acknowledgement of their skills because before you can comment they will have told you just how wonderful they are!

On the flip side they will compliment others; however such compliments are often regarded as ‘over the top’. “Takers” love a touch of ‘false flattery’, but beware as compliments deliver this ways will almost certainly be followed by a request for one favour or another. “Takers” are not ‘joiners’ and if they do join social or business groups it is to be seen to do so, they will rarely, if ever actively make any real contribution to blogs or debate. One of the prime reasons for this is that they find it almost impossible to ‘actively listen’.  “Takers” find it difficult to physically demonstrate that they are listening to play back their understanding of what has been said; to identify body language and gestures; to have any ability to ‘read between the lines’ and hear what has not be said and this is because “Takers” are so insular and myopic.

In my novel “Soulmate” there are “Takers”, both male and female. One character in particular I refer to as “Charm Syndrome Man” or in others words a “Taker”…an ‘emotional manipulator’.  These type of people are so hard to spot particularly as they think that they are normal and don’t believe that they are doing anything wrong.  What you have to remember about “Takers” is that at the end of the day they are only really seeking your opinion in order to valid and confirm theirs. “Takers” have an inbuilt sense of entitlement in order to get their own way……… no matter what.

So if you are dating or working with somebody that talks constantly about themselves, that never really appears to be listening to what you have to say, or that is always reliant on you for some favour or other then beware as you will most certainly be dating or working with a “Taker”.

So are you a “Giver” or a “Taker”?

Management Lessons – The Apprentice Final

Apprentice Final

With the Jubilee celebrations behind us perhaps it is time to reflect on the Apprentice Final and what the last programme of this 8th series has taught us in terms of management skills.

Overall Lord Sugar and his team covered most business bases bringing to the fore within the weekly tasks key management skills from ‘active listening skills’ to ‘decision making abilities’ whilst also identifying those with true entrepreneurial spirit and flair.

So to remind ourselves the four remaining candidates remaining were: Nick Holzherr, he of the ruffled hair look; Ricky Martin, the wrestler with those enlarged biceps; Tom Gearing, who only appeared to speak when spoken to, and Jade Nash, the last lady standing who always has plenty to say. (Picture left to right: Nick; Jade: Ricky and Tom)

Many viewers they say that they find the Apprentice Final quite boring because it tends to centre on a series of one-to-one interviews and a strategic, but insightful probing of the candidates “Business Plan”. Let us not forget that Lord Sugar has pledged £250K to the successful winning candidate to invest as an equal partner in a new business venture. For others, like me, it is the best show of all because the interviews get into the ‘under belly’ of how the candidates really tick, and how business astute they really are.

The Business Plans  – The final four candidates were called to theInstituteofDirectors, where rather like giving an ‘evaluator speech’ Lord Sugar asked them to pitch their “Business Plans” concepts right there on the spot.

Nick Holzherr: His plan was to set-up an online website where you enter whatever recipes you want to have for the week, and it purchases all of the ingredients for you.

Ricky Martin: Questioned by Lord Sugar when he first tried to describe his plan was to set-up a recruitment agency concentrating on recruiting technical and scientific skills.

Tom Gearing: Rather sensibly Tom decided to stick within his broader area of expertise and proposed a plan to set-up a wine-related hedge-fund.

Jade Nash: Completely left field Jade’s plan was to set-up a UK 24/7 cold-call sales centre.

 The Interviews – As always it was straight down to business with four interviewers namely, Margaret Mountford, Lord Sugar’s Company Secretary and trusted side kick, along side telecoms entrepreneur Mathew Riley, Chief Executive, Mike Soutar; and tough-talking trouble shooter Claude Littner all conducting their own individual one-to-one interviews. These four advisors scrutinised the candidate’s suitability to go into partnership with Lord Sugar. The candidates faced the ultimate grilling as their CV’s, ‘Personal Statements’ and Business Plans were criticised, picked through and generally blown apart by the interview panel…….Did this final teach us anything, oh yes indeed it did!

 1)      Don’t lie or exaggerate on your CV or Personal Profile – In any job application or career move one’s CV and/or covering letter, (in this case ‘personal statements’) are your face, and the very first thing an interviewer or prospective employee will see. Surely therefore you would expect that the candidates, knowing the format of the show and interview element, would want to create a good first impression. Well clearly not!…..

During the interviews there were a number of instances where the candidates were caught out ‘stretching the truth’ with regards to their CV’s and ‘personal statements’. Jade is an example of this as when she tried to imply that she had already set-up and ‘owned’ a number of website domains. Whoops, she was later caught out when interviewer, Mike Soutar went and purchased the same site for himself!

Then there was Ricky who, when being interviewed by the lovely Margaret Mountford, a woman who can destroy an overconfident apprentice with just the quiver of an eyebrow, admitted he was embarrassed hearing his ‘personal statement’ read back to him by her, in which he described himself as demi-god Thor.

Lesson learnt: As Managers one of the first attributes we need is to be ‘credible’, no matter what business you are in. Therefore claiming to be something or somebody you are not, or over embellishing your accomplishments simply aren’t going to cut it, and claims such as these diminishes your credibility.

 2)      Know how to construct a Business Plan – In show two I highlighted that several candidates had difficulty understanding the numbers, I referred to this at the time as ‘cringeworthy number crunching’. For Jade, of whom I have constantly said, ‘does not listen’, the lesson learnt on that show clearly passed her by. As the screen shot showed her Business Plan was literally full of holes, as in zeros! She had not amortized any income or expenditure across the length of her plan, simply showing one figure of revenue. Neither had she produced a cash flow forecast, fairly pivotal in any business, let alone a ‘start-up business’ being started in the middle of a double dip recession.

Lesson learnt: Not all of us want or need to have the same skills as an accountant, however if you are pitching for £250K investment common sense surely tells you that you need to table your finances in the appropriate way. Therefore the lesson learnt here is that if you don’t have the correct style of accountancy skills for the pitch don’t be too proud to ask for help when developing your plan.  

 3)      Know Client and Customer Base – Over the course of the show all the candidates have perpetually being telling us what good ‘sales’ people they are. You would think then, in this last task that they would all be brilliant at ‘selling’ when it came to the one-on-one selling of themselves, and their plan. This sadly was the case.  

Nick Holzherr: I believe Nick is a true entrepreneur having already set-up and successfully run his own coffee cart. What possessed him to think that Lord Sugar would be interested in his online recipe website? This was never going to grab Lord Sugar’s attention. That said Nick did get the IT element of this initiative right, which I rather suspect originally caught Lord Sugar’s eye, but regrettably Nick got the overall concept completely wrong. In my view he should instead market that idea somewhere likeAmerica.

Jade Nash: Her idea of setting-up a UK 24/7 cold-call sales centre was completely wacky and had no substance. It was so ‘left field’ of anything that Lord Sugar might even be remotely interested in that he probably never even gave it a second glance. Lord Sugar acknowledged in the Board Room just how much he himself hated the cold calling of cold centers interrupting his dinner and the like; and went on to say that he had no desire to inflict that type of misery on anybody else!

Tom Gearing: As stated previously Tom decided to stick within his field proposing a plan to set-up a wine-related hedge-fund concentrating on fine wines.  I have made no secret of having a soft spot for Tom. His Business Plan was so good that the nasty Claude Littner didn’t actually believe that he wrote it himself. Tom’s mistake was that he simply had not done his homework on Lord Sugar. If he had, he would have realised that Lord Sugar never puts other people’s money at risk; he only ever uses his own money to make money; as so many of the tasks show the delegates. This aside had Lord Sugar not been such a high profile public figure I rather suspect he might have had a punt on this idea.

Ricky Martin: Initially questioned by Lord Sugar on his concept of setting-up a recruitment agency concentrating on recruiting technical and scientific skills, this business idea was clearly ‘in with a shout’ for two reasons:

(1) Little investment in capital outlay

(2) The ‘technical’ emphasis is a good fit with Lord Sugar’s business portfolio.

Ricky had clearly thought about his initiative and it showed; it showed in his business plan and in the overall concept and how it would be attractive to Lord Sugar and fit in with his business portfolio. Simple, some may say boring, but clever nevertheless.

Lesson learnt: As a qualified and licensed trainer of “Sigma Selling” (a strategic selling programme) a key factor is to know, and equally important understand your client/customer base, the person you are ‘selling’ to.  Jade, Nick and Tom appear to have overlooked the fact that Alan Sugar as a ‘Lord’ is a high profile public figure; let alone fully understanding the link, model and shape of their business proposal to that of Lord Sugar’s various other businesses.

Tom and Ricky made it down to the final two. In week eleven, I said that: “Team Sterling’s (Tom and Ricky) “Gentlemen’s Toiletries” branding was simply awful and that if I was being cynical Lord Sugar saved Tom and Ricky because one of these guys is going to be his business partner”. Well nobody likes a ‘smarty pants’, but I was right! I admit to being somewhat surprise at Lord Sugar’s choice to select Ricky Martin as his new business partner, but once I thought about it, as outlined above, it all made sense.

And Ricky…..

Will the winner keep his tag name of Ricky Martin, after the Latino pop star, or revert to his given name of Richard. Reading the newspapers I gather that he has said: “From now on I’m still going to call myself Ricky, because that is how I’ve always presented myself in business”.

The Winner!  – Ex-wrestler Ricky Martin, possibly the surprise winner of The Apprentice, who has earned a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar.


risha Proud: Managing Partner: Partners in Solutions Ltd

Selling your soul

Selling your Soul

My novel “Soulmate” focuses on love, lust and psychology! It gets into the mind of the main character, Tillie, as she experiences the highs and lows of her life, when trying to find her "Soulmate" and all that this has taught her; Lessons about ‘selling your soul, lesson on false flattery, betrayal, injustice, deceit and the hardest lesson of all, the lesson of love; Was Pluto right do we only ever have one “Soulmate”?…….

So what did I discover about the lesson on ‘Selling your soul’?

It is often said that we, inadvertently or sometimes deliberately ‘sell our soul to the devil’ but what does this mean? According to traditional this was the pact between a person and Satan, the devil, or any other demon for that matter when a person offers his or her soul in exchange for diabolical favours. Such tradition it is said is where those favours vary, but tend to include youth, knowledge, wealth, or power. It was also said that some people made this type of pact just as a sign of recognizing the devil as their master.

Likewise when lovers believe that they have found their ‘soulmate’ all too often one partner becomes the ‘master’. The master is the person that quietly and skillfully manages to take control over the others life; leaving the other person feeling trapped. Regardless, of whether this person has or has not really sold their soul to the devil the position they find themselves in is an uncomfortable and dangerous one.

People that use the phrase ‘‘selling your soul to the devil’ will often say that they believe in the afterlife, as many people do; however believing in the devil, now that is another matter entirely. One many people find a little silly. When you ‘sell your soul’, to the devil or not, you begin racking up a type of human debt that must be paid back, not necessarily with money, but to be paid back in some way. This is because you have become indebted to somebody, this person may have got you out of a bad situation, leant you money, or done you a huge favour in some way.

Numerous people will undoubtedly say that this would be too high a price to pay; to owe another person in this way. To be beholden to another human being is most certainly a big price to pay and a large cross to bear. Selling your soul can result in hellish experiences as many people who have embarked on such a route have found out to their cost.

Selling your soul is selling your integrity, your values and your self worth. So before you consider doing so ask yourself these three simple questions:
1) What is the real reason you are even considering it, wealth, fame or power?
2) Is the eventual price really worth it?
3) Will the outcome (the price) scorched itself into your brain like a soldering iron, never to be forgotten?

Oh yes there are occasions when at first glance the rewards for ‘selling your soul’ may appear very sweet and therefore attractive. But do you proceed ask yourself if you really want to live like this, and above all remember that nothing in life is free, ‘what goes around, comes around’……..Choose your path wisely.

Have you ever been tempted to ‘sell your soul’?

False Flattery

False Flattery
I wrote my novel “Soulmate” for three reasons:

(1) I appeared to be a ‘mother confessor’ to most of my girl friends and discovered that under their outward bravado that they wanted to find a ‘soulmate’….and I wanted capture the similarities of their love lives.

(2) More interestingly they all, without exception talked about the lessons that they had learnt, about themselves, their friends and their lovers during their search for their ‘Soulmate’.

(3) I wanted to share with other women the lessons and experiences that my friends had learnt, to let women of the world know that they weren’t alone with their crazy mixed up feelings when searching for their one true love, their ‘soulmate’.

And there you have it the backdrop to my first chick-lit novel, which focuses on love, lust and psychology! 

So what did I discover about the lesson on ‘false flattery’?

This was one of the most fascinating elements of my research because it wasn’t just men that indulged in false flattery but women also. Most women I found expect a touch of false flattery from men, especially when they first meet them.  Several women I interviewed said that they actually looked forward to it; false flattery was often disguised within their first few initial ‘chat-up lines’; some of this false flattery was described as ‘cheesy and old fashioned’…”What a good looking girl like you doing in a place like this?” type of cheesy; to other types of false flattery that bordered on the hilarious……”It’s uncanny, you have a remarkable resemblance to my mother, you must meet her, she has just had a brilliant facelift and you really can’t tell”……..

These tales are amusing but on a more serious note false flattery can really damage a person’s self confidence. If you a lady looking for love, for your ‘soulmate’ then you instinctively want to believe everything you are told; as foolhardy as they may seem.

Whether it is a work colleague complimenting you on your new hair style or perhaps a piece of work you have delivery, or a man saying that you look great when in fact you have been up all night and look hideously tired with eye bags down to your knee caps! False flattery is just another method of lying.  It is manipulative, duplicitous, deceitful, insincere and downright two faced!  When you are told an untruth by a man such as “you look fabulous”, when you don’t, this is almost certainly a forerunner to an attempt to what my girlfriends called “a quick fumble of flattery”.

Not all flattery is bad, sincere compliments and genuine feedback is good and can boost morale and self worth. There is a distinct difference between a compliment and false flattery which is not always easy to detect.

Everyone lies, even if just a little bit. You don’t want to embarrass your friend by telling her what you really think of her dress, so you tell her you like it. You don’t want to risk telling your boss how dumb you think their ideas are, so you say the idea is “interesting” or “worth looking into.” As a society we recognize the need for these small departures from the truth and excuse them by calling them “white lies.” these, too, are attempts to influence by manipulation, but they are clearly more benign than the colossal fraud perpetrated by false flattery which is designed curry favour or gain an unfair advantage.

You have to think about and understand the psychology behind what is being said, or in some cases not being said; seeing the insincere compliment, the false flattery, for what it really means. All false flattery whether delivered by a male or female is low level communication, very often stomach churning, usually ingratiating and most definitely shallow. Never doubt that false flattery will lead to some form of doubt dealing, and if you are looking for your ‘soulmate’ beware, because as many of my girlfriends discovered, you will be hurt in the end.

My novel “Soulmate”, is definitely one for the ladies and gets into the mind of the main character, Tillie, as she experiences the highs and lows of her life, when trying to find her “Soulmate” and all that this has taught her; Lessons on false flattery, betrayal, injustice, deceit and the hardest lesson of all, the lesson of love; Was Pluto right do we only ever have one “Soulmate”?…….