Professionalism should never be underrated

Sometimes it is only when one is working with people who are unprofessional that one realises what being professional is all about. I have tried to define this a number of times but fail to find a definition that works completely.

Is it about wearing a suit? Sometimes

Is it about complying with industry standards? Yes but so much more

Is it about being paid to do a job? Not necessarily

Is it about knowing it all? Definitely not!

Is it about paying attention? Yes

Is it about caring about the quality of your work? Yes I think so

Is it about how other people define you? Important perspective but not vital

Perhaps if we look at those we consider to be professional we can get a clearer picture of this. David Cameron? Richard Branson? Karen Brady? We might not like them or agree with them but I think all are professional in their fields. More locally, I look at people like Toby Parkins, Sarah Trethowan, Allyson Glover, Michael Rabone and Simon Tregoning who are consummate professionals in their fields. Successful, yes but also have integrity. They always get back to you when they say they will. They don’t belittle the new emerging talent in their industries, but rather foster it. When you meet with any of them, they pay you full attention. They are honest and believe in what they do wholeheartedly.

And I think most of all, true professionals are those who rise above the challenge of working with those who are difficult, obstreperous, stressed, thwarted and encumbered, to focus on achieving objectives and creating positive impact in all they do. Importantly, they also recognise that sometimes we fail and that this is ok so we learn from it and move on. Professional people find a balance between not taking things personally but taking valid points on board and they are brilliant at managing and developing the people they work with, partly by setting a good example and partly by recognising their own strengths and weaknesses.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events homepage

New is Good For You

Steve JobsI attended the AEME conference hosted By Mackerel Sky’s Claire this week and had the privilege of sitting in on a key note speech by Dr Jen Otter Bickerdike. The conference, and Jen’s talk, was themed ‘Creative Risk’.

I really liked the sound of those two words together despite the fact they could be seen as polar opposites; one suggesting innovation and excitement whilst the other, well, scares the living hell out of most of us.

Google tells me that ‘risk’ literally means “a situation involving exposure to danger”. This alone is terrifying – why on earth would anyone willingly expose themselves to danger?! ‘Creative’ means ‘To use imagination or form new ideas’. So for me, the two words together are a perfect union and bring about a whole new meaning, that is; Embark on the new. New thinking. New action.

It is not a revelation that new is what drives business forward. New is what makes sales happen, connections form, careers develop, businesses start and grow. Every new step is arguably a risk, moving from the comfort of where you currently are to where you haven’t been before with absolutely no guarantee that things will work out (oh hi danger part!) But what Jen outlined in her speech is what is key here – Things don’t work out… ‘as you planned’ but they always, always work out. The risk becomes then a challenge to trust that the new will leads you to places you simply can’t imagine… and that’s ok. What’s the worst that can happen?

There is a youtube clip that made a real impression on me a few years ago and inspired me to take a significant risk in my career and personal life. It’s a fifteen minute video of the late Steve Jobs addressing Stanford University at their graduation ceremony. He speaks of, amongst other wonderful things, how the worst things that happened to him in in his career (*getting fired by apple) led to his greatest achievements (*starting Pixar… and then being re-employed by Apple!) He talks of how you can’t connect the dots between events in life looking forward, only looking back – and I love that. I bet there are situations or experiences you can look back on now and say ‘wow that was painful/risky at the time but my god I’m glad it happened because it lead me here’. Maybe you met someone, started something, did something amazing as a result of that experience.

Taking a risk is scary. Risk is putting yourself, your ideas, your business out there. The danger is fear of the world rejecting or criticising you, or it all going wrong. But what if we viewed risk creativity and realised that staying the same could actually be more dangerous to us either personally or to our businesses. What if we take away the concept of fear (the danger) and see risk as a creative action to invite new experiences and opportunities into our lives and trust that it will lead us to places we simply can’t imagine.

Taking a risk doesn’t have to be as grand as starting Pixar but it can be something that puts you out of your comfort zone. Writing this, my first ever blog post to go up on my new employers website, is utterly terrifying but this is my new, my risk. SO, here’s the challenge for you today – do something that scares you and put yourself out there; pick up the phone to your dream client, send that press release, go to that networking event you’ve been putting off. Take a risk. Be creative. Somewhere along the line we may realise, when we look back to connect the dots in our lives and careers, that the ‘dots’ are in fact when we’ve taken creative risks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

 

Joey Hulin, Business Development Manager

 

Positivity Can Be Infectious!

Photo from theguardian.co.uk

Photo from theguardian.co.uk

Firstly, a huge congratulations and well done to all those who took part in the London Marathon this weekend. I truly respect your determination, spirit and fitness to make it round and raise so much more for your causes.

Passion is a vital part of success in any field and sometimes it really takes all we have to make it work, to make every wish, dream, ambition come true.  There are always set backs but we learn by overcoming them and our passion keeps us going, believing that what we are trying to achieve is creating a positive impact.

At our recent Company Gathering, we talked about many things but the over-riding theme was our intent to enable positive impact in all we do. Whether that is through training or event management, through consultancy or project management, everything we do it about enabling positive impact on people, places and projects.  This enabling purpose is something that engages the passion in all of us. To help, to make stuff happen, to achieve, to make a difference.

On Tuesday, Claire is speaking at the Institute of Fundraising Conference in Bristol on the theme of making money from events. The focus here is not just on making the cash though, but rather about creating positive impact and in terms of charity and fundraising events, generating both money and social impact.  Imagine what the positive impact is of all the money raised at the London Marathon – around £50m for a huge range of charities! So, again, well done, congratulations and thank you to all those who have raised money by being passionate and putting themselves through physical challenge to make the world a better place.


Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

We Can Be Heroes

bowie

We all need a hero….and we can all be heroes…

In creative problem solving methodology, there is a technique called superheroes. A technique that I introduced to the second year event management students at Falmouth University this week.

Think of a superhero. It could be a cartoon figure, a real person, a celebrity, an Imagined character.

What are the characteristics that you admire about them? Perhaps think of superheroes who complement your own skill set or bring new abilities.

Think about the problem you are facing. How would your superhero deal with it? What would they think about it? What would they do?

Perhaps view the problem through their eyes. What insight or fresh ideas does that give you?

In Mackerel Sky, we have a whole team of superheroes that everyone in the team has been involved in selecting. We use them as additional collaborators in our strategising, problem solving, performance management and evaluation. It might seem a bit bonkers to have this imaginary squad of heroes but it is just a creative (and enjoyable) way of gaining perspective and extending our thinking,

Bear Grylls is one of my superheroes and he is a member of this unique cohort because I value how he approaches life.  That is, the idea of being comfortable in your own perspective but being able to appreciate others by having confidence by being in your own natural habitat. When Bear is out on a mission of some form, he is in his natural habitat and he is confident. That confidence enables others to be comfortable with the challenge and to feel the fear and achieve.

The process of enabling one’s team to thrive and achieve is a fundamental aspect of leadership in any context so I utilise Bear’s perspective to help me see how I can be comfortable and confident in my natural habitat in order to support and enable the team.  I also keep Bear’s voice in my head supporting me and enabling me to take on the next challenge, feel the fear and achieve.

Helping someone else is a pretty heroic thing to do so I think this definitely qualifies Bear as a superhero. Who would your superheroes be?

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

No man is an island they say

group-01I think we can all agree that, in business, and specifically in events, people are our greatest asset.  This is true but only really so if we manage and develop that team and wider network to play to our collective and individual strengths.

What I mean is that, like any asset, if they are not used they can never be effective. You snooze, you lose! This gauntlet is laid down to all of us, irrespective of job title. Even if you are the office junior or an events assistant, you still have access to and use of this asset to gain support, to learn, to develop skills and to build your own network of useful people. And for anyone further up the chain of command, we have responsibility for this asset. We spend a lot of money on our people in terms of salary/fees, facilities, incentives, our time, knowledge and effort so we simply cannot afford not to manage our teams well.

In order to get the best value from our investment in our teams, we need to understand and appreciate them, their skills, approach, communication styles, needs, wants…and it can seem that all we do is service other people. In fact, that is exactly what we need to do to get the best from our teams. We need to design teams that have complementary strengths and skills to ensure that the client and wider stakeholder groups get the best possible experience.

At Mackerel Sky, we have a fantastic team of Associates with a vast range of experience and a great body of skill and ability that enables us to take on almost anything! Our business model enables us to draw together an appropriate team for each project that ensures that we will deliver to the highest possible standard within the brief and budget.

Internally, we all have individual growth plans that focus on developing the skills and experiences that each member of the team wants to and that are necessary to expand the reach of the company and individual project teams. Each person in the company is supported to undertake training and we plan our workload so that we have the right balance of confidence, skill and experience with learning and development opportunities.

But is takes time and effort and consideration. It also reflects on the value that I place on our team and on their commitment and involvement with the company. It is vital to take the time to notice each person’s work, to thank them, praise them and equally hold them accountable when stuff happens. Not shout and scream but recognise that it hasn’t gone well or that there were issues, and enable the individual or team concerned to learn from it and move on to the next project.

By investing in our teams and taking the time to be present in all of it, we are doing all we can to engage with the individual to gain collective benefit, to build the business and to deliver the event successfully.

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Who would be in your Top 5 of inspirational people?

As I write this, we are driving down the A30 heading home (I’m not driving!) and someone on the radio asked ‘how did you get here today?’. It made me think not just about the multifarious transportation options available to us in the UK but also about the journey I have been on to get here, to this moment in time. In the words of the immortal CJ ‘I wouldn’t have got to where I am today…’ without the inspiration and input of the following people:1. Sue Wyatt
Sue was Chief Executive of Rambert Dance Company when I was there and she taught me a huge amount about management, decision making and leadership. She is always calm under pressure; she is strategic in everything; and she invests in talent.  I didn’t always agree with her decisions but I truly respect her. She turned the company around from accumulated deficit into surplus and enabled Britain’s oldest dance company to continue and thrive.2. Clare Hearn
Clare and I started Event Cornwall (now Mackerel Sky) together in 2007 and we were friends before that. One of the many qualities that I respect about Clare is her ability to balance personal and professional. She has taught me the benefit of pausing, of creating space in which to think and she has the most extraordinary brain. I love her different perspective on a situation that means together we generate a much more effective solution.3. June Gamble
June is Executive Producer with Plymouth Dance as well as being a life coach. It was June who first enabled me to pick up the pieces after my life changed quite dramatically and she enabled me to craft a future that I have now made a reality. Time with June is incredibly useful and positive and yet she never says what I should do but facilitates my finding my own solution. She has been through all kinds of stuff but she has found a way to channel this into supporting other people and making life changing projects happen.4. Helena White
Helena is one of the best vets in the UK. She has studied hard, developed her surgical skills to be in the top 5% of UK vets and is now the only female Director of Rosemullion Vets. She is also my sister and is the only person in the world who can really tell me to get a grip! She has been and is going through some tough stuff personally and at the same time is figuring out her role as a leader and manager as well as being brilliant! Helena is strong, generous, intelligent, and a natural skipper. I respect her integrity and time spent with her is always a pleasure.5. Allyson Glover
Ally is utterly lovely. To everyone! She is genuinely interested in every business and every individual who she works with in her role as Director of Unlocking Potential.  She is one of my role models, particularly in terms of how she engages with people – clients, team, funders – and I am inspired by her direct impact on the business sector in the South West. She is another strategic leader who motivates and inspires everyone around her. Again, not someone who provides the solution for me but rather connects me with someone who can help. She also gives me honest feedback which I really appreciate.

You will note that this is an exclusively female list but this wasn’t deliberate! It may be that women are inspired by women. Or maybe I have just been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people who happen to be women.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Never mind PR – all feedback is good feedback, even when it’s bad!

sleepingjudgeOne of the hardest things about what we do as event managers is that we create projects and events that are ambitious and creative and when these take place in the public domain, our audience become judge and jury. More often than not, that judge and jury are happy, wowed even by the whole experience but just sometimes we find that in their view, we are wanting. That our work isn’t up to scratch from their perspective and that someone (I.e. You) should be held accountable.

The process of receiving that feedback from our audiences can be incredibly difficult to accept and process. We naturally fixate on the negative comments and our first response can be defensive. We put our hearts and souls into these projects, even more when they are community based events, and when we get negative feedback it can feel like it’s all being thrown back in our faces, so it’s perfectly normal to be defensive.  However, it’s not a particularly productive response.

Considering the opposite extreme, we equally shouldn’t dismiss such feedback as not having any value, especially if we are only saying so to preserve our own ego. All feedback is valuable – someone has taken the time to share their views – so we need to take it on board and as a minimum incorporate it into the evaluation and reflection process post-event.

This is hard work because emotions are involved and they are involved because we are creating experiences and setting expectations in our marketing that sometimes don’t come to fruition in the same way for everyone. So people are disgruntled. They may perceive that something hasn’t been thought through when the opposite is true – the solution that has been found has been thought about in great detail because there isn’t an easy fix and what’s been agreed is a compromise. The more complex the project, the more likely we are to have negative feedback.

We need to be grown up about it, even when they are being hostile and making it personal. We have to swallow our pride and ego and listen to them. This is vitally important. Don’t assume that you know what their complaint is before they have said it. Listening to the complaint is a valuable part of potentially rebuilding the relationship with them and it means that you will get all the detail of the issue which means you can do something about it (potentially).

We can promise to take their feedback on board and include in evaluation; we can promise to adapt the plans for next time; and we can apologise for the offence or disruption or upset caused. An appropriate apology goes a long way in re-engaging that person and the conversation opens an opportunity to explain some of the decisions made, particularly those of a practical nature. This grown up approach is a means to ensure that we get the truth out of the complaint that we can do something about and enables us to bring our audience closer to the project, maybe even bring them into the project, moving them up the relationship ladder (Christopher et al, 1991).

So we can be as grown up as we like, not everyone will reciprocate and sometimes journalists misuse it to create non-existent news stories, so I recommend getting some media training and building a support network who will help to pick you up afterwards and remind you of all the good you have done.  For every complaint I have ever had about an event, there have been tens of not hundreds and thousands more that have been overwhelmingly positive. So my last suggestion is to train your brain to balance the positive and the negative to get a real picture of your success.

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events