All posts by Carmel O' Reilly

Hello, I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of Feedback Bureau. I’m a writer of online courses and articles, educator and speaker on the subject of everyday performance feedback. My work is about helping you establish yourself as a coach, not a critic, allowing your colleagues to see you as a champion of their work, and a trusted partner to help them reach their career goals. Because effective feedback is one of the greatest enablers. My purpose is to create educational programmes that are accessible to everyone.

Change Management Survivors Syndrome

imagesIn this current economic climate many organisations are forced to go through restructuring processes resulting in considerable downsizing. This can seriously impact morale and bring it to an all-time low. People are struggling to keep their heads above water but they need to somehow come through this and make it work if their organisation (and their roles) are to survive.

‘Survivors Syndrome’ is when the people who have remained in a job are challenged with delivering not only on their original roles/workloads but also stepping in and stepping up to fill the gaps caused by the loss of their colleagues along with their skills, knowledge and experience.

Low morale leads to negativity causing a ‘stuckness’ in people’s thinking. Fresh thinking is needed to be able to move beyond this, to explore ideas that stimulate. A useful technique to help achieve this is to work with archetypes.

Case Study:

Kate as head of Human Recourses is tasked with rebuilding morale within the organisation. She brings in Evolving Careers Players (ECP) to explore ideas that will be stimulating to the project and the team. A pilot team made up of 4 people across 4 functions of the organisation: I.T. , Finance, Sales and Marketing and Research and Development are selected work with the ideas before the project is rolled out to the organisation at large.

To be in a position to understand the 4 team members ECP need to take on their characteristics. Working with the core principles of ECP around the techniques, structures and methods of theatre, together ECP, Kate and the team are able to identify/recognise the team/themselves as the following archetypes:

The Brick Wall: This role specialises in stonewalling, it refuses to make any contribution to the interaction. It is the archetypal ‘no comment’

The Rescuer: This role is about putting the focus on to other people, calling for help to be given to someone else. This way the spotlight on the self is avoided.

The Mouth: This role likes to talk its way out of situations, saying anything at all, even complete rubbish, rather than have the focus of enquiry more meaningfully directed.

Mr Cool: This role likes to take a laid back approach to life, essentially articulating an arrogance that makes a mockery of any challenge.

The first scenario

The ‘big question/problem’ is raised: ‘How do we rebuild morale’ and is answered in a ‘round robin’ way in character.

This is conversational: by way of dialogue the players take on the identity of the 4 team members. This allows the players to gain an understanding of each person: to get under their skin, to feel their pain and to get into their minds to allow them to know how they think.

Kate and her team observe and the scene is filmed to be watched back and discussed. Each team member is asked to say one positive thing about themselves in the interaction, to say what one thing would they change about themselves to allow this to move on. Then the person sitting to their right is asked to say one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and to make one suggestion to their colleague of a change to be made to move on. They are instructed to keep this positive. Following on from this the second scenario is established. The team take on the role of directing themselves.

The second scenario

The ‘big question/problem’ remains. ‘How do we rebuild morale’

The players in their characters keep the two positive things mentioned and take on the two suggested changes they could do to move things on. The conversation continues, is observed, filmed, watched back and discussed. Each team member again says one positive thing about themselves in the interaction along with one thing they would change about themselves to allow things to move on. The person to their right once again says one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and one suggestion of a change to be made to move on.

The exercise was repeated as many times as needed for the team to be be confident they had a workable action plan which would help rebuild morale that could be rolled out throughout the organisation.

Evolving Careers Players can support your change management strategy and help you to rebuild morale within your team when times get tough. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

To Hire from Inside or Outside – That is the Question

imagesThe market during the downturn provided significant challenges for employers when hiring. Conservative decision-making became widespread, particularly in the form of narrow sector focus and an unwillingness to ‘risk’ transferable skills or experience, seeking the comfort of market expertise. Downsizing within organisations called for restructuring processes where employees had to compete with each other by interview for roles within the new business structure. How can these challenges be overcome in a recovering but ever changing market place.

Ultimately, we must respond to the changing dynamic of the market and look to exploit the opportunities that arise from it – just as hirers become less risk-averse, so do prospective candidates and this provides opportunity to attract candidates with real potential. Recognising potential is key for all companies striving to keep pace with this rapidly changing, increasingly complex world.

The argument for hiring from outside because people from different backgrounds can bring in new perspectives and opinions that will challenge the existing and sometimes stubborn organisations is strong, however promoting from within presents the argument that the inspiration it gives to other insiders helping to keep your talent pipeline strong and motivated.

When hiring from outside you’re forced to write a proper job-spec, consider a larger pool of candidates, grill them in well-structured interviews and conduct in-dept reference checks. This isn’t as easy with internal candidates who are already your colleagues and friends, who will naturally ask ‘aren’t my years of contribution and performance evidence of my qualification?” ‘don’t you know me well enough after this time?’ which in all probability is true but to make it a fair playing field everyone needs to go through the same rigorous process.

Start by defining the profile of the ideal person and consider a wide pool of both insiders and outsiders. To identify the best you need to recognise the people who have the right motives, qualities and potential to help you excel. You need to get past the polish to hire the best candidate. Using role-play for real-play workplace scenarios allows you to get to know each candidate beyond ‘canned’ answers because they’re having to react in the moment allowing you to find the right person that both fits your company culture and can refresh your business with new ideas.

There are many challenges when hiring, and anyone who strives to lead from good to great knows the importance of getting things right at the root which is the people. Focusing on hiring for insatiable curiosity and the insight to see connections, to achieve greatness in building and transforming companies that remain at the forefront of society is the key to success. Start from a fair playing field and consider the best people from both inside and outside, surround yourself with the best by seeking out potential because this is what will keep you at the forefront of this recovering but ever changing market place.

Evolving Careers Players can help you in your selection process. Through Corporate Drama role-play we enable real-play work based scenarios. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your requirements:

Top Ten Tips to Tell a Story that makes an Impact

imagesAll great communicators are great story-tellers, they use their own stories to communicate with power and impact. By doing this they have authenticity and presence giving them the ability to influence and lead. The following tips are intended to help you to tell the right story at the right time.

1. The most powerful communication has a human element. Share your experiences, your successes and your challenges, what you did to overcome them and what you learnt in the process. This gives insight into who you are, allowing you to break down walls and connect with people at a human level. In stories characters will always have flaws, and if you include a past failure, it will add another layer to your story and endear you to your audience.

2. Take time to think about an intriguing way to begin your story, you need to capture the attention of your audience from the very beginning. The beginning doesn’t just “hook” your listeners, it also sets the tone and launches the plot of your message. An example might be establishing conflict from the outset e.g. “we were halfway to Mars when our fuel tank blew up”. This helps to create a sense of urgency and you can go back and fill in the details once people are on board with the fact that exciting stuff is happening.

3. Take your audience on a journey, stories are full of events and revelations which take your audience somewhere new. All the best stories contain transformations. Think about what transformations you want your audience to experience by the end of your story.

4. Take your time, the pleasure is in the telling. Remember a pause, a look, a gesture can convey as much as words. Allow yourself to see the pictures, hear the sounds, smell the scents, savour the tastes and feel the emotions, and then your audience will too.

suspense5. To keep you audience on the edge of their seats, use …………. ‘suspense’. Not knowing what is going to happen next will make people want to sit up and listen. You could do this by posing a “big question” that will keep people hooked until the end. Maybe you’ll have a surprise ending, and who doesn’t love a surprise! A surprise can come in the form of a well-guarded secret revealed at the right time. This is guaranteed to get people talking and your story will spread like wildfire

6. At times when you have to deliver difficult messages, it’s worth remembering that listeners are more open to receiving when they hear the message delivered in a story format. They can lower their walls and defences because the message is coming to them in an indirect way. This helps to replace suspicion with trust.

7. Share your vision stories to inspire hope, stimulate action and raise morale. Telling a story first will guide your audience towards seeing what the future ahead holds and this is particularly important during times of uncertainty. Talk about the obstacles to overcome, when people know the efforts needed to achieve these goals they will appreciate them even more, the old adage of ‘not appreciating things that are easily attained’ comes into play here.

shoes-38. The greater the range of emotions in your story, the deeper the connection you will build with your audience. Empathy is important when storytelling, look at the world as though you are experiencing it from different perspectives, stand in the shoes of your audience. This helps to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and shows respect of other’s point of view.

9. Tell stories to inspire people who want change, to sustain positive energy over time. Stories will get people’s imaginative juices working, they will become curious about what else there is to find out and have a greater sense of being an integral part of that change.

10. Finally if your thought process has dried up and you’re struggling to come up with ideas to get your next story started, places you can find inspiration from include:

Family, friends, colleagues –having an innate interest in people’s lives is a core attribute of all storytellers.

Dreams – we’ve all been intrigued by a dream at some point and have been left frustrated by waking up and wanting to know what happened next. The solution – write it down as quickly as possible and you never know what a seed may germinate.

Ask yourself ‘what if’ – what and if are as non-threatening as two words can be, but put them together side by side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life’ (from the film Letters to Juliet).

Develop your  storytelling ability by making storytelling part of your daily life. After all storytelling is the best communication tool a leader can use, and as a leadership strategy, whenever you want to make an impact tell a story.

Evolving Careers Players can help you make an impact in all your communication needs whether its presenting, influencing or negotiating. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

How to Handle a Bad Boss: Strategies for Managing Upwards

One of the main reasons that workers become unhappy at work is bad management. A bad boss can turn even a good working environment into an uncomfortable and unhappy workplace. They are in a position of power, you however are not powerless, BUT you do need to take responsibility to speak up in an attempt to change the situation.

An essential strategy is to Speak Up: Having a frank conversation with your boss about the problem in a calm, and professional manner can help you work towards resolving it. The way in which you approach the conversation will be dependent on your relationship. Yes, there are bosses who are inherently bad and misuse their position of power but there are also bosses who have lost their way and are behaving out of character, and there are bosses who are unaware of the impact of their behaviour. The key thing is to prepare, and to approach it from an objective standpoint. To do this you need to:

Put yourself in their shoes to understand how they see the world and the workplace, to help with this consider:
What they’re passionate about.
What keeps them up at night.
What challenges they’re facing.
What they’d love to do more of/less of on a daily basis.

Plan what you’re going to say:
Be clear on the points you want to get across, and the overall objective you want to achieve from the meeting.

Be prepared for obstacles/objections:
Arrange a time to talk, keep it brief and to the point. Some bosses want to know the agenda before the meeting, other don’t, work with their preferences.
Anticipate their reaction/argument/defence – having put yourself in their shoes and planning what you need to say, you’ll be fore-armed to deal with this.

The important thing is to speak up and give your boss a chance to respond. Speaking up rather than cowering in silence for fear of an awkward conversation takes courage, but you owe that to yourself and your boss. Having a genuine desire to work collaboratively to make things work better can open a door to a new level of respect and trust. A door that will remain permanently closed otherwise.

Evolving Careers Players can help you to mange and develop your career, whether that’s managing upwards or navigating this ever-changing market place. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and real-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Brainstorming Techniques for the Creative Mind

Role-Storming is a brainstorming technique to encourage group members to take on other people’s identities while brainstorming. This reduces the inhibitions that many people feel when sharing their ideas with a group, and it helps people come up with ideas that they may not have otherwise considered, because they’re considering them from someone else’s perspective.

It’s a useful technique for #CorporateDramaRolePlay for developing problem solving skills.

Begin by presenting the problem to be solved to the group. It need not be a problem directly related to their work, in fact its probably even more beneficial to have a generic problem, because this demonstrates the transferability of problem solving skills which can be taken back to the workplace and applied to real problems.

Step 1. Brainstorm obvious ideas by conducting a regular brainstorming session with your group. Not only will this generate some good initial ideas, it will also highlight more obvious ideas. This leaves the group free to expand their thinking and push boundaries in later steps.

Step 2. Identify Roles: Ask each group member to think of someone they know – alive or dead, who they admire and respect for their problem solving skills. Ideally, they should know enough about them to take on their identity for a short time. The person they choose can be anyone, so long as it’s a person not in the current group.* Its best for it not to be someone the rest of the group knows.

Step 3. Get Into Character: For each role, allow group members a few minutes to get into character. ‘Hot Seat’ (put them on the spot with quick fired questions) using these questions to help with this:
• How does this person see the world?
• What is this person’s personality or attitude likely to be?
• How would this person solve problems?

Make an effort to support each member to get into the persona of the character: the more deeply
they understand this person’s feelings, worldview, and motivations, the better they can use this
perspective to generate good ideas.

Step 4. Brainstorm in Character: Present the same problem to the group and ask them to brainstorm in their chosen character.

Step 5. Repeat the exercise with as many different identities as you need, so that you can generate enough good ideas.

Evolving Careers Players can help you in developing creative and imaginative solutions to your problem solving skills. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios.  Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Top Ten Toughest Interview Questions Answered

Question Number 1

What is your greatest weakness?

This question is checking self-awareness and can come in many different guises e.g. ‘Describe something you should start doing, do more of, less of.’ It is asking you to honestly appraise yourself. To achieve this your answer needs to be personalised. A good way to do this is to consider it in terms of development needs and areas of improvement. It’s actually good to demonstrate you don’t have it all figured out yet and that you take a reflective approach to understand what you need to strive towards.

Your answer needs to be relevant to the role you’re interviewing for. In this current competitive environment to have been invited along to interview it is reasonable that you have demonstrated you have the ability to perform the essential elements of the role. You need to focus your answer on the ‘desirable’ elements, which may have been made explicit in the job description but you can support your answer even more strongly by demonstrating your ability to understand between the lines. Describe something you should start doing, something that you can strive towards that will also have a positive impact on the role, the team and the organisation.

The important thing is not to try to ‘spin’ it by turning a weakness into a strength but to own it. It is however ok to support your answer by relating it to an area of weakness in a previous role and what you did to overcome this, the impact it had and the learning you took from it.

Evolving Careers Players can help you through your interview process. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios.  Get in touch to discuss your needs: