Following on from my post yesterday, on the International Conference on Population and Development’s report’s finding that 1 in 3 women have suffered violence or sexual abuse in their lives, there’s an unrelated special issue of Humanitarian Exchange Magazine devoted to gender based violence in humanitarian crises.
A report published this week by the ICPD takes stock 20 years after ground breaking action plan agreed in Cairo
A new report from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) this week revealed that despite great progress towards better health, less poverty and slower population growth, women’s health, education and equality lags behind. Little there then, for women to celebrate and much to concern high level policy makers.
The IPCD set out to address issues arising from population growth, migration and urbanisation. They put forward an action plan and a programme of work for twenty years that would put women’s health and reproductive rights at its heart. There was consensus in Cairo that women’s reproductive health and access to contraception would be the most sustainable way to achieve better health and better lives for us all. Significantly, 179 member states supported the action plan. Twenty years later the ICPD have done a stock take. While their score card has a lot of pluses, but the minuses are cause of serious concern for us all.
Cause for concern
Women are still dying in childbirth. 800 women every day to be precise. And one in three of the world’s women and girls have experienced violence and sexual abuse, so who knows how many more live with it as a daily threat. Not unrelated, a further one in three women marry before they are 18 years of age – in a world where 158 UN member states outlaw marriage before the age of 18.
Death in childbirth – what it really means for women and children
Maternal death is painful, distressing and almost always preventable. Women die because of complications in pregnancy and labour – which for a woman means labour is more painful and prolonged – without skilled assistance (or pain relief) and because they are distant from healthcare services. They die of loss of blood, (haemorrhage) septicaemia (blood infections), obstructions causing ruptures and tears, pre-eclampsia (very high blood pressure) and failed abortions. Many of these women also die as teenagers, married young and quickly pregnant, often doing heavy physical work right up to term. Maternal deaths are tragic for the woman, but also leave orphan newborns and siblings for their grandmothers or other relatives to care for them. And they frequently leave children to care for each other.
Health interventions are saving lives
Maternal health programmes are making a difference. Programmes like Sure Start in Northern India have helped villages mobilise to make sure pregnant women get to hospital to have their babies if they need to and that they have a skilled birth attendant present at home. Charities like Women and Children First are making a difference, getting women to hospital for difficult births and saving lives. The Egmont Trust works with the problems that the statistics don’t tell us about – the children who are left behind. It supports children in sub Saharan Africa where maternal mortality is highest, who are orphaned by AIDS.
Immense progress has been made – we are living longer, in better health, and fewer of us live in extreme poverty – but the statistics from the ICPD report show there is a long road ahead to gender equality and access to health care for all. As the Millennium Development Goals draw to a close, this important report puts the reproductive rights of women back on the agenda. If we want sustainable development, we will need to tackle gender inequalities in health.
3 ways to make difficult conversations easier
Over the past few months I’ve been working on a project for cancer services. We’ve been mapping communication to patient experience to find out when the best times are to have difficult conversations and share complex information. We’ve been speaking to people who are living their lives with a potentially deadly disesase, but who are willing, with some personal risk, to help researchers find better treatments for cancer in the future. Doing work with these brave – and generous people – has been a privilege. I’ve learnt three things we can all use – in our personal relationships and in business – to help us make difficult conversations less stressful:
- Self interest
Trust is fundamental. In our work with cancer services we found that a patient’s willingness to engage in a difficult conversation was strengthened and supported by the trust they had in their doctor. Not only that, but trust in a doctor, was really supported by a larger web of trust built up from all the little trustworthy moments patients had experienced all along their patient journey. This greater trust in the NHS allowed patients we spoke to, to be willing to trust their doctors and be open to having difficult conversations.
We can all learn from this. It means that as consultants and coaches, small businesses and contractors, we need to strengthen our reputation and build trust with clients religiously. Trust is not automatic, it is a gift. It comes from demonstrating trustworthiness in every interaction.
- Be reliable – pay attention reliably delivering on the details
- Always do what it says on your tin – deliver on promises
- Delight, don’t disappoint – go the extra mile.
We know that there are good moments and bad moments to have tricky conversations with our loved ones. Getting the timing right for a difficult conversation in business is just as critical. With cancer patients we found a no go zone for difficult conversations – a time to avoid sharing difficult or complex information. Being sensitive not only to your client’s schedule, but also to events and changes in their workload or wider economic or policy environment can make all the difference between success and failure. Figuring out when a client is most approachable and open to discussion and when they are bogged down can make all the difference. Consider:
- daily routine – some people start early or finish late to work quietly and concentrate
- company routine – when are key board meetings or team meetings, do you need to speak before or after?
- business calendar – what events creating stress or opportunity are on the horizon?
We are all driven by self interest – even altruistic types enjoy a boost from their giving. The cancer patients we spoke to wanted to know ‘am I going to be alright’ and this single question filtered everything they could hear: it minimised the bad news and maximised the good. For those of us in business, we know ‘what’s in it for me’ is critical in sales. If we forget it once we have the job or make the sale, it’s always worth remembering that our businesses live or die by the bottom line. So no matter how difficult the conversation you need to have, always remember to present your problem from their perspective. Get into your client’s shoes and engage them in a compelling, value rich conversation. What’s in it for me isn’t just for sales, use it to shape all important communications and be sure to offer value, always.
My ‘thing’ is marketing – great promotion for business, pushed along by well chosen words and occasionally some insightful research, with a gorgeous image or two if possible. My business creates my income, and my services improve the income of my clients too. So part of what I do is about MONEY. And money is currently occupying a lot of my mind – having it, using it, sharing it, keeping it.
If you pick up my tweets you’ll know I’ve been engrossed in ‘Sacred Economics’ by Charles Eisenstein: a gifted scholar and visionary who’s book looks at money, its role in our civilization and forwards a vision of a future economy that handles and conceives of money differently. A society that uses money to create different outcomes , to bring us together to enjoy our abundant world, rather than forcing us apart through endless competition based on a crippling misguided belief in scarcity.
My interest in this and why I think it’s important to my business is that I honestly believe we need to recognise that the world isn’t going to recover from 2008’s financial crisis, at least we’re not going to get back to how things were before. I think we need to recognise that things will never be the same, that limitless growth is over and we are now living in a post-growth economy. If you’re reading this in the States, you probably think I’m a doom monger or that I’ve lost my mind – I know how hard you work and how strongly you believe the economy will be restored to growth. But bear with me. I’m curious as to what post-growth might mean. I sense that in a post-growth world we will begin to look at how we do business and how we add value – not just to the economy, but to our community at all levels – family, local community, professional and work community, intellectual and cultural communities and our global community.
I’ve been looking at how I do business and the value that I offer to those around me by sharing my skills and talents. This been part of recreating my business setting out my ‘stall’ and re-positioning my business since the beginning of March with a strong desire to find a more authentic voice and a way to help businesses doing good in the world reach a larger audience. I don’t profess to judge good and bad, but what I mean in essence is promoting businesses that are adding value to our lives, not diminishing it. This could mean something as simple as sharing a talent with true passion so that others are inspired to live their truth as well, or actively campaigning for an important cause, or creating products and services with a strong ethical and sustainable agenda.
This is a tremendous shift in the way I have been working as a consultant since the credit crisis of 2008. When Lehman Brothers went bust and stock markets crashed, work dried up almost overnight. Large companies, as well as public and charitable organisations suddenly saw qualitative research and product development– my bread and butter- as a luxury item and suddenly lost curiosity in understanding the consumer or user mind. Since then, I’ve done what many of us find ourselves doing when things get tight and pickings are slim: saying yes to the money, but not always to the clients core values.
Following money, without respecting my values hasn’t brought me joy. The last contract I had was simply stress, stress, stress and then at the end the client failed to pay for an entire quarter’s worth of work. It prompted a crisis in my working life – what am I doing I asked myself, working for people whose values are diametrically opposed to my own, on a project I wasn’t 100 per cent convinced about and having my skills and talents ridden roughshod over?
So now, I’m looking to do things differently and am living in a question about how to ‘hold’ money so that it serves me, and not enslave me.
I’ll be writing more about ‘Sacred Economics’ soon, I’m reading it slowly as there’s much to think about. For the moment though, here is part of the introduction, introducing the idea of how money and economics have become sacred in our civilisation:
“Ask the religious person what changes when a person dies, and she will say the soul has left the body. Ask her who makes the rain fall and the wind blow, and she will say it is God… It is hugely ironic and hugely significant that the one thing on the planet most closely resembling the … conception of the divine is money. It is an invisible, immortal force that surrounds and steers all things, omnipotent and limitless, an ‘invisible hand’ that, it is said, makes the world go ‘round… What we call ‘recession’ an earlier culture may have called ‘God abandoning the world.’ Money is disappearing, and with it another property of spirit: the animating force of the human realm… We do not realize that our concept of the divine has attracted to it a god that fits that concept, and given it sovereignty over the earth. By divorcing soul from flesh, spirit from matter, and God from nature, we have installed a ruling power that is soulless, alienating, ungodly, and unnatural.”
Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein 2011, pp xiii-xv
If you are a consultant, therapist or run an online business chances are that you are working on your tod – or with your partner – from home. Yes, it wins hands down over going to the office and working away on someone else’s’ business, but it does have its down sides. Overworking, loneliness and creative stagnation are just a few of the perils of the work-at-home dark side. Another nasty is the productivity drought – when you get to your desk but nothing happens, so you sit there for hours, staring at the screen, poking and proding yourself to get things done, but with bugger all success. A sense of yawning hopelessness ensues together with an irrational craving for chocolate that can only be quelled by frequent trips to the corner shop to buy chocolate digestives. Ok so that’s what happens here, am guessing it’s not too dissimilar for you.
So what to do?
Here’s a list, so take your pick.
Worried you may not get anything done at all if you take this advice? Put the kitchen timer on and give yourself an hour.
1. Take the dog for a walk. Yes you know you should. Have no dog? Take yourself for a walk. Or take the cat for a walk. But maybe not the goldfish.
2. Give yourself something to be smug about: roll out the yoga mat and do a sun salutation or two – notoriously difficult if you do have a dog. If you don’t know what a sun salutation is, try doing some crunches or press ups or even star jumps – woo hoo!
3. TURN IT ALL OFF. YES! Turn off all social media, email, browsers and your phone – re-ionize the air with a spritz of water with sage/lime/tangerine oil in if you have some and WALK AWAY FROM THE SCREEN – put your body somewhere else for a while and look at a different horizon, breathe some fresh air.
4. Take work out of your office – jump on your bike and go to the local cafe, hit the co-working space, sit in the park, or just take your work into a different room. Have a change. Don’t go back to your desk to work, try get some work done elsewhere.
5. PLAY pardon? Yes, PLAY. What does that mean for you? Go and do something completely different- visit a museum, walk on the beach, call a friend and do lunch, go into town and window shop (more interesting if you pretend you are shopping for the opposite sex), go swimming (water slides?), dance, paint a picture/yourself/your dog.
6. Give your house some love especially if you’ve been working like a maniac on the business – do the laundry/clean the bathroom/do the dishes/run the hoover round/wipe/sweep/polish/tidy/empty all the bins/clean your desk/etc
7. Write a letter/postcard/thank you note to someone special. Put something extra in the envelope – a five pound note maybe or a sticker but possibly not your overdue tax demand. Try writing in your BEST handwriting.
8. PLAN FOR SUCCESS – get everything that you need – absolutely everything – to complete your next big task ready. This could include setting up an out of office email for a day or two, getting your favourite coffee in, ordering a lunch/supper delivery, making sure you’ve got technical expertise on hand if you’re setting up or changing something digital: whatever. More on where this technique comes from later when I write about scrum project management!
9. Go for the low hanging fruit – if you are really struggling to make headway and freaking out all over the shop, write a quick list of very small steps then set your timer, give yourself 20 minutes and pile through the mini tasks as quickly as you can. Should get things moving again. If not, repeat.
10. Tune in to what’s going on with your body (yes, you do actually have one). Are you tired? Go have a nap. Are you hungry? Go make some GOOD food, and if you don’t have anything good in to eat, go buy some. Are you worried? What’s the fear/concern – what can you do to address it if only in part, now? Are you stressed? Can you delegate or outsource to reduce the load?
11. Mix it up a bit – explore a different sense or different way of thinking – watch something on video, plug yourself into an audio book, create a diagram or sketch out your ideas, smell something perky like sage or lemon, act out your project with objects (yes, let them talk to each other!!), write your CV as though the project you are struggling with now is finished and WILDLY successful.
This book claims it will change the way you work, FOREVER!
Candid, direct and assertive, Fried and Heinemeirer to put a series of guiding principles together that ooze good sense and demolish accepted business thinking.
The book is a manifesto for a new way of doing business, one that prizes simplicity, agility and frugality and it points a critical, wagging finger at the false god of finance that results in investor dependent, growth addicted, complexity-riddled start-ups.
Targeted at fledgling and small businesses and fueled by entrepreneurial spirit, this book surprises at every turn of the page. At its heart is a simple message –simplicity in all things leads to a good life and a good business. Its message of simplification is compelling and debunks thinking on everything from hiring talent to raising capital, from decision making to marketing.
In the Rework world of business,
‘Simple is good’
Because it gives control over product, process and delivery
‘Complexity is bad’
because it is unnecessary, wasteful, depersonalising and generally crazy making.
The authors have no respect for business’ holy cows. They challenge the compulsion to grow. They query the need for PR spend. They advise against big decisions. They urge you not to work longer than 9 to 5. And suggest you don’t employ someone if you can do the job yourself.
They say, stay anonymous, stay small.
They turn their backs to bragging, spin, puff and PR style pizzazz. And say, stay modest and stop talking the business up to inspire or win investment. If you want to deliver a great product they advise you to keep quiet, stay small, stay flexible and work to develop a product that is REALLY GOOD. They believe loving what you do is the driving passion that makes any business successful.
So, if you’re looking for advice on securing investment, beefing up your company, selling up and cashing in, then this is not the book for you.
Entrepreneurs of all kinds, with big or small ideas, will love it’s can do/must do mentality.
It is a call to action for getting up off the sofa and making stuff happen.
Anyone involved in business will find something in this book to make them think again about how they do what they do, if it could be done differently and more simply. It’s a book that will arm you with a new probing curiosity andwill have you questioning the way you do things and why, and then question them some more.
Rework represents a small investment for a generous portion of brilliant, fresh business advice. It may -or may not- change the way you work forever, but it will unquestionably change the way you think.
REWORK: Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, Vermillion, 2010 £10.99
What kind of a question is that?
Ugh. I hate the invasion of the west coast American buzz words and irritating intonation, it’s pervasive. Anyway, this isn’t a rant about cultural identity, I’ll do that another time: this is a short post on a mini-marketing campaign I came across in one of those non-descript business hotels just off a motorway.
I was there for a board meeting. A room had been hired. Teas, coffees, biscuits. The hire fee wasn’t exactly cheap, but wasn’t going to break the bank either. And the place was happily convenient for a group of people all coming from different directions. So far so good. Board meeting went off without too many terse exchanges between warring factions, which was also good. And then I went to the loo.
Trapped in a cubicle forced to look at the advertisement on the back of the door: What’s not to like? it demanded. Asking for a ‘like’ on the wretched Facebook.
I wasn’t in there long (only a pee, thank you very much) but long enough to think about the poster.
As you know I don’t like Americanisms (I just told you that at the beginning, come on concentrate!) – what’s wrong with good old Anglo Saxon? (Ok – don’t be so nit picky – with Latin, French and a bit of Greek thrown in for good measure.) So my heckles were already up.
Well, here’s what was not to like:
- The room was barely clean – the chairs were not in place and there was an old presentation on the flip chart from someone else’s meeting
- There weren’t enough cups for the places round the board table (had to get up and get more)
- The coffee was weak and cold
- There was not enough milk (had to get up and get more)
- The biscuits were nondescript things wrapped in cellophane you needed your teeth to wrestle open
- The room was down one of the longest corridors in the world and there was no signage to direct.
OK so the pencils were plentiful, there was paper to write on, there were sweeties on the table, the chairs were comfy (always a blessing for board meetings) and there were enough bottles of water on the table. The service at reception was delightful, personal, warm. The offending ‘ladies’ was clean, sophisticated and had nice posh hand cream, fresh flowers and a full length mirror. Oh and little soft-as-a-cloud individual hand towels.
But I wasn’t asked what I liked about the room, I was asked what there wasn’t to like – so that’s where my attention was directed.
See my point?
Where do you want to direct your customers’ and clients’ attention? To the things you do wickedly well? Or the things you may not have delivered on 100% this time?
If you think it’s smart to pick up a buzz word or phrase and plaster it all over your marketing materials then make sure it’s working FOR you and not AGAINST. Don’t take stuff at face value – think before you splash negative rubbish all over the place (loo doors, business cards, leaflets in reception).
What’s not to like (ughhhh) about this marketing?
Rant over, normal service will resume shortly.
I’m working with a brilliant therapist at the moment who struggles with attracting new clients to her business. We had our third meeting this morning over a punnet of blueberries and some liquorice tea (good for the liver she tells me). All her clients absolutely LOVE her and think she’s quite amazing (she really is) but she finds herself stressing over filling her courses, booking in one to one’s or getting the numbers together to make her fabulous raw food retreats profitable.
She’s beautiful, engaging, radiant, wise and generous. And she’s keeping her light tucked well and truly under her bushel of brown rice.
What’s going on here, I asked her. Where’s the struggle?
Of course if she knew the answer to that she wouldn’t have needed to come and get some help finding new clients for her business. So we talked about who her customers were and where they came from.
They are people like you, she said.
I knew that was true, because I had been a client. So we poked around a bit more in the ‘who are your customers’ bran tub of marketing insights. It turned out that almost ALL of her clients were friends or acquaintances that she’d met doing her own thing. That may have been people she’d met in a yoga class, or at a talk, or through friends, or in a meditation group, or workshop or event. They were all people who were impressed by her knowledge and expertise and delighted to be in her engaging and insightful company, because she is such a bright star.
So far so good: she had found a way to find more people ‘like me’ – a self selecting group of people who were also interested in optimum health and high level nutrition – people who already do yoga, are already engaged in health ergo are already waiting to become interested in nutrition if they aren’t already. This is the essence of marketing – identify a group of people who want your product and service, THAT YOU CAN REACH. The last bit is the important bit – a market is only a market if you can reach/communicate/engage/ with it. The wide group of friends my client had developed over the years were all potentially interested in my client’s service, and she could reach them – easily.
And very BIG BUT.
How many friends can you build a business on? Or to put it another way, can you build a business on friends?
What’s happening for my nutritionist friend is that she’s drawing on a relatively limited pool of potential clients and hitting on them over and over with invitations to join her events and courses. She enjoys a rewally strong core of support. But the same faces are showing up at her events every time. Yes new people do come into the circle, but the circle will always have to be group of people small enough for them each to have a personal relationship with my client. That means if she really wants her business to take off, she’ll have to find a new way to attract new clients and customers. She needs a strategy for winning new business.
Keep doing what you are doing, I told her.
But do MORE of it and do it mindfully and with purpose:
- Become aware of your way of working, your love of connection, relationship and engagement – own it, develop it, play with it
- Start to put MORE energy into working with this special strength
- Get out much more – attend more talks, more classes, more events and YES: can enjoy this!
- Find less intense ways to connect – give business cards, connect on twitter or facebook, make friendships less intense, lighten up!
- Start investing less in each one of these new relationships – you’ll never have the time to be a good friend to everyone you want to engage with – and widen your circle.
- Begin to start pushing out to meet different kinds of people, people that may not be quite like you and that feel a bit risky, take a few steps into the unknown
- Recognise this relationship building – or networking (the thing she says she doesn’t like doing) – is just ONE way of bringing new clients in, play with other ways of promoting yourself too and find things that you also enjoy.
And if you do all of that, you’ll learn to network from your heart to build a sustainable business you love.