Monday, 30 November 2009

No.191 Of Dancing Dramas

Oh bum! I've lost my pool routine. I climbed out my pit this morning at 6.30a.m. to get to the pool for 7.15a.m. only to be informed that it is closed until next year for essential maintenance. Does this mean I have an extra hour in bed each day or that I should replace 40 lengths in the morning with a steady jog to work or something?

I watched the docudrama last night on Margot Fonteyne and Rudolf Nureyev followed by a documentary which showed them performing together. Their dancing together was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It was one of those moments when you actually regret not being much older so that you might have had a chance to have been there to experience it in person. A bit like the last Beatles concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco. Margot danced until she was in her 60s and died in 1991 in poverty looking after her dirty rat of a husband, Tito. That bit the docudrama never seemed to explain. But then life is full of unexplained complexities I suppose.

No.190 of Sir Reg

Well it was a mad week last week but a great one. We had the last of our Annual Reviews - this time at the Ramada and it was a rip roaring success.

We also skipped along to Hillsborough Castle to pick up our Investors in People award. Yours truly should pick up an award himself for best faux pas of the year. I thanked the Minister Sir Reg personally for the support he has given Legal-Island and for speaking at one of our events. I wanted him to know how much his support meant to us. It was only when back in the office that staff reminded me that he's never actually spoken for us and that he pulled out of an Annual Review because he was unwell. Poor guy probably thought I was a sarcastic b.......d.

Loads on this week including inhouse trianing on Mindmapping - should be interesting.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

No.189 Sitting in the Dock of a Bay

It's been a manic day today. It started at 5a.m. with breakfast and a shower then into work for 6a.m. I spent an hour on the laptop prepping a breakfast seminar duly delivered at 8.40a.m. at the Ramada, Belfast. I then raced down the motorway for a meeting at 11.30,a.m. a second at 12.15p.m. a third at 2p.m., a fourth at 3p.m. a fifth at 4.30p.m. with the sixth and last due for 7p.m. in half an hour's time

As I bang this into the blog I'm sitting in the Burlington with my laptop docked into the corner of the Foyer people watching and tonight the "game" is plentiful. There's air stewardesses from Eithad airlines coming in from a flight with most likely their relief crew just checking out. They look rather fine in their blue grey uniform, but rather silly in their head scarves that drape down one side of their face only which looks mildly irritating to me. Also mildly irritating is the airline captain who leads the stewardesses around. They follow dutifully like ducklings behind daddy mallard. Unfortunately said captain is the spitting image of Leslie Neilson who once played the hapless captain in Airplane. I wonder if his ducklings realise this and are too polite to tell him. He takes himself very seriously.

Taking themselves seriously too are the bouncers mulling about trying hard without much success to melt unnoticed into the scenery. Others (not bouncers) dart about in fine dress on their way to what appears to be a rather well-to-do ball in the main suite of the hotel later this evening. There's an air of confidence about these people which they seem to have gained from this dressing up experience the same sort of confidence that I saw today at the Four Courts as I watched barristers parade up and down like peacocks in their wigs and gowns. Strange what costume or fine dress does to the psyche innit?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

No.188 Of Sir Reg & Awards

So there we have it. Legal-Island is now officially recognised as a holder of the Investors in People award. Said award was presented to us by Sir Reg Empey himself at a ceremony at Hillsborough Castle. This is a castle worth visiting if only for its toilets for they are quite special. Of course they're not signed toilets but cloakrooms at the castle.

Sat there waiting to be called for the photo I wondered just how many speeches that poor man has to do every week and whether he really wanted to be there. I say poor man but we shouldn't forget he volunteered for public service and the eminent post he now holds.

So where too now for the company and its people management? There are three more levels it seems bronze, silver and gold. I once got a bronze swimming award for jumping in a pool in my pyjamas and retrieving a brick from the bottom of the pool. I'm guessing Sir Reg's bronze award involves something a bit different.

Monday, 23 November 2009

No.187 London? What's Wrong with Antrim?

Wow! A weekend away in London. Friday night the English National Opera House and Bluebeard. Saturday night Royal Opera House and Sleeping Beauty. Throw in the rugby on a huge screen jaunts round Covent Garden Tafalgar Square and Camden Market and I'm left feeling do weekends come any better than this? Answers on the modern day equivalent of a postcard please...

Back to porridge this morning with one big event tomorrow and an even bigger one Thursday. Roll on Christmas or at least 7 days of doing not very much.

Friday, 20 November 2009

No.186 Oh No I'm a Celebrity

Oh No! I'm a Celebrity is back on and Oh No I've started watching it! I hate myself for this more than I hate the British obsession with celebrity. So why do I do it? Picture someone headbutting a wall if you will...

I'm finishing at 12noon today in advance of a long weekend in London. This means I have loads to do today and have to start deciding what's only urgent what's urgent/important and what can be left until Monday. Next week will be huge. Two Annual Reviews in one week and big meetings in Dublin Thursday and Friday.


Thursday, 19 November 2009

No.185 Of Front Crawling to the Weekend

The problem with having a big conference on midweek is that the following day you feel it's the end of the week and you're crawling to get to the weekend.

On the subject of crawl it was front crawl today 40 lengths this morning beginning at 7.15a.m.. A speaker from yesterday claimed she does 64 lengths every day and I believe her. In a spare moment I worked out that in the past 10 years she has swam 3,840 km. that's the equivalent of almost ten swims to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg if you could swim all the way. Mighty if you ask me. I bet she doesn't flag by Thursday.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

No.184 Of Big Days & Big Weather

Its another big day for us. Annual Review event No.3 out of 5. Today we're at the Radisson Dublin Airport - a great hotel with fine service. The speaker line up is great but lacks Marguertie Bolger SC who is court up in litigation. In for her is Claire Bruton not an easy space to fill but I'm sure she'll do well.

The weather outside is howling. I wonder if this will affect the mode of delegates. It sometimes does. I must ask the Chair to start with some gags just to lighten the mood. Rather him than me.


No.183 Of Naked Flames & Howling Gales

Dublin again. This time at the Radisson airport Hotel. They have a naked flame burning in the foyer here. It's the sort of thing you want to try and blow out when the staff are not watching or hang around to see if anyone catches fire who themselves are not watching and expecting a naked flame to be right where you queue to check out. I wonder how much they paid an interiour designer to come up with that idea.

I'm in a room which is really nice. There's a problem however. There's a howling gale blowing outside and somehow it's whistle is going right through my bedroom. This may be because I'm right by the lift and the wind is coming up the shaft. The only way to stop the noise for some reason it seems is to open the bedroom door a tad. This can be done without compromising the room's security by putting the chain across the door whilst ajar. But I'm not sure how advisable it is to allow all those coming out the lift on the second floor and turning right full view of his Lordship in his jammies.

There's loads happening at work at the moment. During the past few weeks I've had lots of people come at me with ideas. I've gone at lots of people with my own ideas too. Now I have to start working out which of them all makes sense, which don't and which are damn right foolish. But how and using what? Aristotle, Pythagoras, bar charts, Venn diagrams, the toss of a coin or Ib dib dob dib?

Monday, 16 November 2009

No.182 Of White Dogs and a Caine

Yesterday was a great day. I went hiking up the Sperrins with some friends and a dog (a white lab) which was to become more useful than I had first expected. The hillside was remarkably boggie and after a good deal of rain it was difficult to be sure that you were not about to disappear into a bog similar to the one that starred in Hound of the Baskervilles and accounted for at least one baddie if I remember rightly. Hence said dog was brought forward and ordered to lead the way as we duly marched behind watching carefully to see if four legs disappeared and become one head at any point. It didn't in case a member of the RSPCA is reading this.

Last night I went to the flicks and saw Harry Brown - Michael Caine's latest film. It was good. He was even better but the plot is a bit predictable and I've seen it in at least two films before.

I think I can now lay claim to be a regular 40 a day man having swam 40 lengths four times in succession. I believe I've conquered the sheer bordeom of it all by running through in mind the forthcoming day's diary. Yes I know not very exciting but marginally better than concentrating on the bottom of the pool for one direction then the other 20 times.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

No.181 Of YoYo Shopping Weekends

Yesterday was a shopping day and one of extremes with the worst shopping experience in my life ever immediately followed by one of the best.

It started out at the Outlet Centre near Banbridge. I had been wanting to go to this for a while to compare it with J1. I couldn't see much difference between the two. The lay out is more or less the same. The type of shops are much the same too.

First stop was for a suit so I ventured into a shop called Savoy Taylors Guild about halfway along the horseshoe curve of shops on the lefthandside. Within a few seconds a lady shop assistant approached to ask me if I needed any help. I said no thank you but I'd let her know if I did. A couple of minutes later she asked again and I said No thank you. Then her male colleague who has also been watching me asked and I said no thank you avoiding any eye contact. Then a third shop assistant (possibly the manager) walked onto the floor from another room and asked me if I needed assistance. Please don't explode and be rude to this woman I said to myself when I heard with relief the words coming out "Thank you but no I'm okay". Two minutes later the male colleague tried again and I barked "No I'm okay". Five minutes later and the first assistant asked "Do you need help with sizes?". I can't remember if I bought something or whether shoppers outside saw the Incredible Hulk burst out through the shop window of Savoy Taylors Guild covered in glass, rage and a whole lot of gear I was about to try on.

Less than half an hour later I was in a shop called Collar and Tie in Lisburn. This is not a shop I would normally have ventured into but for a recommendation from a friend. From the outside it doesn't really appeal and draw you in. Inside I was treated to a cheery good afternoon from a gentlemen called Ray who I assumed to be the owner. I told him I was looking for a jacket and matching trousers. He politely suggested that I wasn't and that to attempt a match was a mistake. Instead, he showed me how to "pair" a shirt and trousers. He showed me German trousers and how they compared to French and advised me that in his view I could get away with wearing quite a strong coloured shirt. He guessed my waist size perfectly and some great patter later he led me to the till and announced to the cashier "this gentlemen is first time in with us if we don't look after him he wont come back throw in 20% discount".

Ray, it's great to see someone so passionate and good at what you do and I salute you.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

No.180 Of Calm Storms and Comfy Sofas

Well it's nail ya kids to the floorboards weather in the South-West of England at the moment apparently but not at all windy here yet for some reason. May be the calm before the storm.

Last night I went to a dinner party and promptly fell asleep on the sofa - not sure if I'll make the cut again after that performance. Was a comfy photo though so they had it coming.

Today, I'm off shopping again to the outlet centre near Banbridge. It's one of these places I have always passed but never gone in to. Likewise the Bronte Centre, a sign for which I always see on the Belfast to Dublin road. This intrigues me. I always thought the Brontes lived in Yorkshire. I'll see if I can throw in a visit to this too just to check that Wuthering Heights was indeed set on the Yorkshire Moors and not in the Sperrins afterall.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Networking Tips

I've spent the last 6 weeks networking quite intensively. To do this I've used conventional means such as attending events organized by networking groups in NI. I've worked through referrals but I've also met quite a few people via social media and Twitter in particular. During this period I've met people who have delivered a masterclass in how to network and others who have demonstrated just how not to.

I thought I'd knock up my top tips on how to network well based on my experiences over the past 6 weeks. They're meant for discussion as much as anything else so if you think I've missed something please let me know.


1. Preparation is important - make sure you have the venue right, you know where it is and you have the person's mobile number in case of problems on the day.

2. It's an obvious thing to say but don't be late. If you expect to be, contact the person you are meeting to let them know. Lateness makes a statement that your time is more important than theirs and is an awful start to a meeting

3. Once in the meeting switch you mobile to silent. If you expect to have to take a call during the meeting tell them in advance that there's a really important call coming in which you simply must take.

4. Make sure you have some knowledge of what it is the person you are meeting does and their business. There's nothing worse than asking the question "So how do you think we might be able to do something together?" to get the reply "Well to be honest I don't really know what you do"!

5. Don't talk at the person or over them but listen to what they have to say. Ask lots of questions & probe around before you get as far as even a tentative proposal on something.

6. By all means talk about yourself but mix it. Ask questions about the other person, their business and what they do. Never ever just talk about yourself and leave a meeting thinking it was productive.

7. Practice your active listening skills by summarizing back to the person you're meeting key points

8. Ask yourself how the person might be able to help you but ask them how they think you can help them.

9. Try and remember something about them or their business so that next time you meet you return to a matter that you discussed.

10. Avoid negative remarks about competitors or anyone you might have a common interest in. What goes around comes around.

11. At the meeting summarise what it is you've each agreed do. This will help clarify all matters and make you look like you plan to carry out what is agreed.

12. Next day email the person with the summary of agreed points and any contact details necessary.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

No.178 Of Twittering Neighbours

I've finally met my match. Someone who can out talk me on Twitter. I met him at Shel Israel's presentation last night entitled "Twitterville". Top bloke and wow does he like to parlez Twitter.

Shel's presentation was great. He was very self deprecating and he gave it plenty of wellie which I always like to see.

Yikes! Someone has just Twittered to say how much I resemble Karl Kennedy from Neighbours. Wasn't he an inveterate womaniser? He was when I last watched the show about 15 years ago. He might have calmed down a bit since then.

Finally another day of no meetings except one with a blonde : my hairdresser. Wonder if she thinks I look like Karl Kennedy...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

No.177 Of Chips & Good Cheer

Last night I took a notion as they say in Northern Ireland. Took a notion that is, for a bag of chips. Only here I'm not too well versed in chip shop terminology and I wasn't sure whether I should be asking for a portion of chips (sounds a bit posh to me) a bag of chips or just chips. So I hedged my bets and said "a load of chips please" quickly and a tad slurred in case it sounded a bit out of place. The woman on the till promptly and loudly converted the request into something the fryers behind her would understand and they and everyone else in the chippy knew what I really meant which was "single chip". Single chip by the way is £2.10. They don't make it sound like you get a lot for your money that's for sure.

This morning I got up to 40 lengths in the pool. Hurrah someting to cheer about with my new fitness regime. I'm hoping that if nothing else when I do only 30 tomorrow it will make me feel like I've had an easy swim rather than a hard one.

No meetings today just a seminar this evening by Shel Israel author of a book on Twitter. Time to finish this blog, Tweet and then do some proper work.

Monday, 9 November 2009

No.176 Of Red Cows & Orange Faces

We finished last week exhausted but on a high. The feedback from delegates who attended the first of our Annual Reviews of Employment Law at the Red Cow was astonishing. Everything averaged well over 4 out of 5 with hosting weighing in so far with a 4.97! The overall results are here. Rock on Legal-Island.

Saturday I spent shopping. Yuk! Belfast was mobbed as was Boots. There must have been an explosion in the cosmetics department of Boots shortly before I walked in because all the assistants were covered in orange face paint. Handy if there's a black out I suppose - just look for the glows behind the tills. I was in there for 10 minutes but I'm not sure if I could have done another 5 without exploding myself. Why is it that people at the top of a queue can't understand the words "Who's Next Please?" or are too busy chatting to each other to hear "Cashier No.6 please?" Then when you try to assist by telling them there's a cashier free they look at you like you're some kind of Morron. Rant over.

Sunday I spent with friends on the North Antrim coast. I don't think there's anywhere more beautiful when the weather's good at this time of year. Driving back from the coast through Bushmills I got caught right in the middle of the Rememberance Parade. There was some war vets, followed by some marching members of the girls brigade then me in the MG. I wondered if onlookers thought the MG had played it's part in the war or something.

Friday, 6 November 2009

No.175 Of the Big Five

Yesterday we hosted the first of our Big Five. "Annual Review of Employment Law 2009" started this year at the Red Cow Hotel, Dublin and what an opener it proved to be. The Hotel was in top shape and really looked after us as we looked after our delegates. The notes were first class and the programme, (though devised almost six months ago) was right on the money.

The day however belonged to the speakers who were on blistering form and one in particular, Marguerite Bolger S.C who took the second session on equality issues. When eavesdropping at the first coffee break the talk was all about Marguerite's presentation. When I asked delegates over lunch what they had enjoyed most that far they answered Marguerite's presentation. When I checked the scores today from the delegate evaluation forms it was Marguerite's name topping the list. When I asked the hosters who they enjoyed most they replied Marguerite. The only person not to answer Marguerite was our sound engineer Arnold. He answered "I can't remember her name but she did the second session".

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

No.174 Of Big Gaffs and Big Days

I've been out networking this week. I had a meeting with someone who was keen to supply us with a service. All was going well until he said "Who is it you work for again, The Law Society?" There's nothing like holding a grenade in one hand and pulling the pin out with the other.

The big day looms. Today I predict furious activity as we gather all the gear for tomorrow's conference stuff it in two vans and head for Dublin. We've done this event many times but each time we try something new so it's never boring. Tomorrow for the first time we have a mindmapper working with the audience, presentations that are recorded for one-to-one feedback from a presentations coach as well as workplace psychologists mulling around. Bring it on!

Monday, 2 November 2009

No.173 Of Ten Green Bottles

I'm always forgetting my shower gel when I go swimming. Usually I leave it in the shower at the swimming baths. Occasionally I forget to take it altogether. Today was one of those days.

This is serious matter when a shower after a swim without any means of scrubbing off the chemicals leaves you itching all day. I asked the lady at the counter if by any chance they sold soap. She said she didn't but went to a lost and found cabinet to reveal about 10 bottles of shower gel others had left behind - 3 of which I immediately recognised as my own. "I'll have the green re-energise gel" I said. She seemed surprised that I could read the label from such a distance.

It's a big week this week here on the Island with the first of our Annual Review Conferences in Dublin where everything will be discussed from redundancies right through to discrimination and equality issues. It's a sell out so it's in at the deep end stuff. Hold tight everyone here we go....