My Third Reinvention

business card at July 1 2015

My Third Reinvention

The time has arrived for my third career reinvention. To be truthful, I feel like I have been preparing for this reinvention my whole life, especially when you consider the strength of the early influences from my mother and what I have been doing the last 20 years.

I spotted this infographic recently and realised that I am well along on the pathway. My reasons for considering a career path change are 1, 2, and 3.

This career matches my interests as I am an “Analytical Promoter,” based on a personality assessment test.

This career area has great future predicted growth and all my strengths and skills are transferable.

Undertaking the Gastronomic Tourism classes in the Masters program with SCU and Le Cordon Bleu fills in the knowledge gaps. A huge bonus to taking on Master’s level study at this age is that I am fascinated by the subject matter and this makes the challenge to my brain much more pleasant.

I am enjoying re-establishing and building new connections in food tourism, council and tourism in my region and I have found a new mentor in Barossa Baron, Barbara Storey.

Offering my services gratis and sharing my old and new found knowledge as a speaker is something I really enjoy. My local tourism authority’s training arm (for small tourism businesses and volunteers) are always on the look out for speakers and have already been asked to present a talk on food tourism with one of my current clients.

Studying online has meant I have had to re-embrace the habit of reading and doing lots of research online. During this process I have ample opportunity to keep up with the trends in this industry – and they are very interesting.

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The Learning Myth – Why You Should Never Tell Your Child They Are Smart

Frimageom a Post by Salman Khan:

“My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra — it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.

And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.”

Source

 

Mastering the Art of Small Talk – Tips for Networkers

Small Talk

From an article by James Adonis for the SMH:

“For those like me who are too shy, too awkward, too bored or too incompetent to engage in small talk, here’s a selection of tips courtesy of Debra Fine from her bestseller, The Fine Art of Small Talk, published a decade ago.

Talk to a stranger: Rather than waiting to be introduced to someone, just walk up to a colleague you haven’t met and start chatting. Make an effort, too, to remember their name and to insert it occasionally into the conversation.

Arm yourself with icebreakers: A few suggestions from the author include:

  • “How did you come up with this idea?”
  • “What do you see as the coming trends in your business?”
  • “What’s the most difficult part of your job?”

She suggests a question should always be prefaced with a statement so that it doesn’t sound too full on. The first bullet point, for example, can begin with “I love your idea”, before leading to an enquiry about it.

Infiltrate a group of people: Fine recommends this can be done by standing close to them and making it obvious you’re listening. Then, and this is the important bit, be cognisant of signs they want you to join them, such as when they start “asking your opinion”. An easy one to miss, that one.

She has many other ideas, many of them useful. Ask open-ended questions (those that can’t be answered with just one word). Ask probing questions (those where you seek to hear more about a particular point). And observe what people are wearing, how they’re acting, where they’re working, and ask questions about that stuff as well.

There’s a theme here, I think. It seems to be linked to the old truism that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/managing/blogs/work-in-progress/master-the-art-of-small-talk-20140912-3fem4.html#ixzz3D3PdsUT8

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers!

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Anyone who knows me well, would be aware that I am a cheese lover. Pathological cheese lovers have an overwhelming desire to share their passion and so I have provided cheese tastings with all the trimmings for my children since they were quite young. These included palate cleansing, pear, cabernet, quince pastes and tasting notes.

Yes, I am the woman who scans the imported cheese case in Woolies every week hoping to nab a special and  yes, I am the woman who almost every week will have 8 or 9 cheeses in her trolley – camembert or brie, ricotta, haloumi, parmesan, mozzarella, cream cheese, gorganzola or goats cheese, feta, bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella.

The gift from my partner for my recent birthday was a Cheese & Wine Appreciation Experience at Fort Denison on Sydney Harbour. The regular experiences are run by McIntosh and Bowman Cheesemongers. Claudia Bowman was our hostess for the two hour event and it was truly a rapturous and memorable occasion for me. Think kid in a candy store….

We caught a bus from home to the city (about an hour) and walked quickly (ran) the 700m from Wynyard Station to Circular Quay to meet the Fort Denison Ferry. Claudia greeted us there and informed us of the sequence of proceedings. There were 23 of us in all – all couples but one lady with ages ranging from early 20’s to mid 60’s.

Claudia’s passion and knowledge of all things cheese just oozes from her like the heart of Normandy room-temperature Camembert. She is passionate without being over-the-top and shares her knowledge and opinion without pretentiousness or arrogance.

On disembarking our ferry we are served sparking wine to take up to the top of the Fort where the canon is and the wind was. Photos with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background were pretty much obligitory.

We then repaired to the tasting room which was beautifully decked out with our 10 cheeses, three wines, sour dough roll and later Coopers Ale and chocolate ganache.

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We had range of fresh, bloomy, washed rind, hard pressed and blue veined cheeses with Australian and European of the same type to compare. Cheese for tasting is arranged clockwise from 12 o’clock – mildest to strongest. We are encouraged to taste the effect that a dry fruity white, a bold red, a dessert wine and a Coopers Ale has upon the cheese and the effect the cheese has on the tasting of those beverages.

Some QI’s that stayed in my head after the event included:

  • There are no buffalo herds in Australia. All buffalo milk is imported from Europe to one of the 6 producers in Australia
  • Holy Goat Matured Skyla is an award winning Goat’s cheese of $240 per kilo from Sutton Grange, Victoria. They have only 68 milking goats and cannot keep up with local demand – thus the price.
  • Australian Camembert appearance and flavour bears no resemblance to the real thing from Normandy, France largely because we use food grade chlorine to clean cheese making equipment and different rennets etc and this radically effects the resultant product. French Camembert, when ripe, smells a little like cooked cauliflower or broccoli. This distinctive smell took me instantly back to my days in France as girl of 18.
  • There are 7 types of cheese: Fresh, Bloomy, Washed, Semi-Hard, Hard Pressed, Blue Vein and processed (everything else) from 4 types of milk: cow, sheep, goat and buffalo.
  • The highest fat cheeses are the hard pressed because, of course, any fat has been concentrated in them. This then is my license to gorge on buffalo and fresh goat’s cheeses.
  • Chocolate and blue vein cheese together taste amazing – seriously – you need to try it.

My partner who is not as big a cheese gourmand as I and who is quite particular, enjoyed this experience and felt it was excellent value for money.

Claudia let me take home a set of cheeses in a little container for my 13 year old daughter to try. I set up a simple tasting for son (22) and daughter. Son devoured them before I could finish the tasting notes on each one, but daughter, after telling him to slow down, savoured hers like a true gourmande. It’s good to know the cheese/brain washing has not been wasted on her.

Hiring Older Women is Good for Your Share Prices – Keep Calm and Avoid a Terrible Waste of Human Capital

50It is a serendipity, I suppose, that the Diversity Council Australia released its Older Women Matter: Harnessing the talents of Australia’s older female workforce report today, the day after my 50th birthday. This has not been an easy birthday for me. My 30th and 40th did not affect me so acutely as this one has, and frankly I can’t wait till all the hoopla in my head is over and done with and I can move on.

A Terrible Waste of Human Capital

In the report, older female workers (defined as 45 years plus) represent a significant employment participation group of Australia’s workforce – 17% to be exact.

Relative to their male counterparts, older female workers have lower labour market participation rates, higher underutilisation rates and Australia’s performance in this regard lags substantially behind comparable countries.

With one of the highest life expectancies in the world, most people, particularly women, need to work for many more of these extended years to ensure their financial security.

As Australia ignores the huge pool of talent and experience represented by older women, it is not only a terrible waste of human capital, it undermines the national imperative of growing the economy which results in significant loss to businesses and it impacts the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of the many women who are consigned to unwanted early retirement.

The Government responded to public interest in the challenges facing older workers by introducing legislation to extend the Fair Work Act 2009 ‘right to request’ flexibility provisions from parents of young children to any employees with caring responsibilities and mature aged workers 55+.

Women’s employment also continues to be a focus for government, as evidenced in the recent passage of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and the implementation of government-provided paid maternity leave and parental leave schemes.

The Benefits of Hiring Older Women – It’s A No-Brainer

The proven benefits organisations experience hiring older women include: sustained job performance, high motivation levels, high reliability, improved retention and accumulation of experience, knowledge and skills over working lives, reduced attrition, enhanced innovation, group performance, access to target markets and financial performance, and minimising legal and reputational risks.
  • Market share – organisations that align workforce and customer demographics will better understand changing market needs and demand, and therefore customer service and product development. It is said that in customer service areas it is best to hire staff that are 7 years either side your target/ideal customers age. Given the massive actual spending and spending potential of baby boomers hiring older women for these roles just makes good business sense.
  • Retention – Workers aged 55+ are five times less likely to change jobs than those aged 20-24, and organisations stand to gain an average net benefit of $1956 per mature-age employee per year, via lower attrition, absenteeism and recruitment costs.
  • Innovation – Research examining 15 years of panel data of management teams of S&P 1500 firms, has found that more women in top management improved the performance of firms which were heavily focused on innovation.
  • Reliability – Research reviewed in the World Economic Forum’s report Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise? suggests that mature age workers may be more reliable than younger workers, being less likely to engage in theft from their companies, be absent or quit their jobs.   ABS surveys have found that a smaller percentage of women employees aged over 45 have days away from work, either because of their own illness or to care for others, than younger women.
  • The Bottom Line – there is a large body of research showing a correlation between gender diversity in management ranks and improved organisational financial performance. One US study found that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales (ROS) by 16% and return on invested capital (ROIC) by 26%.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) – ACCI guidelines highlight the better return on investment in human capital businesses can experience by retaining or recruiting the advantages’ of significant length of service, investment in training and wealth of accumulated experience. To illustrate in relation to ROI on training, research shows 45% of workers aged 45+ intend to remain in the workforce until the age of 65-69, representing a potential 20 year investment in training, while those aged 30-39 are likely to remain with an employer for an average of only 5.8 years.
  • Productivity – Research shows workers aged 65+ have the highest productivity and motivation levels, and that workers aged 55+ perform at their best for seven hours out of eight per day (an achievement unmatched by workers in other age groups)
  • Reputation – Research in the US has found that when a diversity complaint goes public, the company’s share price drops within 24 hours, and when an organisation wins a diversity-related award, its share price rises within 10 days.

Does all this positive data make me feel better about being 50? No, because one report does little to break down the fundamental societal attitudes that underlie age and gender discrimination. The fact that Australia has to legislate in order to force employers to recognise the realities of being older and give women a ‘fair go’ the workforce is a tragedy.

Influence Through Great Storytelling Online/Offline – Tips from Aristotle et.al.

AristotleSince attending the Content Marketing World Conference in Feb this year I have been thinking a bit about the art and science of ‘storytelling.’  In the last couple of weeks I came across four references to storytelling in my reading and thought they would be valuable to share. My favourite revelation is this one from Aristotle:

Aristotle (Greek Philosopher 384-322BC) said people needed three things to successfully influence: logos (logic), ethos (credibility) and pathos (emotional connection). Emotion is a fast track to the brain, so storytelling is an effective way to create memorable messages.

Business Storytelling

Management Consultant Yamini Naidu says two things matter in business storytelling: The first is how engaging your stories are – that is, do people hang onto every word you say? Can they remember it? Can they repeat it? The second is how purposeful you are – that is, What message do you want your story to contain?

Most people (90 per cent) in business use the “reporter” (logos) style, because that’s the behaviour that is reinforced, but contemporary research suggests ethos, followed by pathos, is more important. Logic informs, but it doesn’t influence and change behaviour. If it did,nobody would smoke or speed and we’d eat right and exercise.

Here is how Naidu described the four main types of storytellers in business:
Avoiders – low inengagement and low in purpose.These people either don’t tell stories, or they tell the wrong kinds of stories – usually about “the good old days”, or war stories, and they’re the person you want to avoid when you’re in a hurry.
Jokers – highly engaging but low on purpose. These people have lots of funny stories; they’re life of party at work, but they miss an opportunity to convey a message with their stories.
Reporters – lots of purpose but low on engagement. These people are really purposeful with their stories; they have absolute clarity on what message they want to tell. But they’re using a lot of data, stats, facts and figures, so they’re low on engagement
Inspirers – highly engaging and highly purposeful. Inspirers, are “not rah-rah evangelical hyped-up storytellers, but people who connect authentically, and are able to influence action.

Storytelling To Get In The Press

Amber Daines has written a book called “Well Spun – Big PR and Social Media Ideas for Small Business.” In a story in the Sydney Morning Herald where she gives tips about how to get your story in the press, she talks about the importance of understanding what is a newsworthy story. That means, making sure your story emphasises the ‘new’, the ‘big deal factors’ such as ‘how is this changing lives?’ or ‘how much money will this save them?’ and aligning your story to relevant cyclical events.

Storytelling to Get Sales

In a recent Sydney Morning Herald story on the resurgence of people making handmade goods and finding a market online, Anna Blandford, a successful etsy.com seller says she likes knowing the personal story of the creators of the handmade products she buys for herself. She says when you buy at a shopping centre, there is no personal connection.

Angela D’Alton the community manager for Etsy says people have always yearned to have a connection with those they trade with and the web has ultimately broadened the boundaries of the traditional town market. “Its the personal stories shared online that are bringing us back in touch.”

Here are some of tips provided for making a handcraft business work and which include elements of storytelling:
* Share your personal story – online buyers love to know a bit about you, so spend time writing the page about yourself and the things that inspire your work.
* Good photographs are essential  -A picture’s worth a thousand words, so you can tell a story without using words.
* The descriptions of your products can also improve your sales: make your descriptions appeal to the senses (What does it feel like? What does it smell like?) Here again  is Aristotles’ ‘pathos’ for influence.

Story Telling to Attract a Listening Audience

Here are some thoughts from John Paul Media’s Blog:
If you can master the art of storytelling on the radio, you’ll probably always have a job  and a huge audience. People want to hear stories, not reports. Stories don’t have to be long winded. You can tell a story in just a few lines and still be riveting, but it takes practice and a plan. Here are a few storytelling tips that I’ve learned along the way:

  • Stories are not reports
  • The subjects are about common and relatable life events
  • Have moments of genuine humor
  • Are delivered one-on-one and allow for interactivity
  • Are rehearsed so they have maximum impact when told
  • The listener should think of you as a friend. The best way to do this is to open up and share personal stories, experiences and opinions with your listener.
  • Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself. Self-deprecation is not only relatable, but endearing.
  • Good story telling not only has the ability to make you stand out and be remembered, but it also can help you feel better

 

 

How A Man in an Orange Suit and Another in Heston Glasses Rocked my World

Jay Baer, me, Joe Pullizi - Content Marketing

In mid-Feb 2013 I saw an ad for Content Marketing World at the end of  a marketing blog. I was delighted to find that two US gurus of content marketing were hauling themselves and their team the 20 hours to Sydney to share insights and emerging trends over a 2 day conference in the CBD.

I fondly remember the days 15+ years ago when my employers in Australia and the US, routinely (and happily) forked out $1000 a day for a one or two day seminar on the fast moving Marketing trends of the time. Yes, I did Relationship Marketing in 93, Telemarketing in 94, Database Marketing in 95, Positioning Marketing with Trout & Ries in 97 and 98, Strategic Communication in 98 and then more recently, Social Media Strategy in 2011.

And when I got back from each of these inspiring events, I breathed all that I had learned back into the organisation and whipped up the staff in a frenzy of new ways to market. My employers really did get value for their $1000 or $2000 which is no doubt why they continued to send me.

When I studied the speakers and topics of Content Marketing World, my heart began to beat faster and I thought:

  • I would get to meet Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer in the flesh! (Photo op.)
  • I would get to hear their American accents which would remind me so much of my youth in California!
  • I would get to hear great speakers that would inspire me with their challenging journeys and subsequent victories with content marketing!
  • I would get to talk to grown-ups that understood the storytelling marketing I had been doing for 10 years! (but was called something else)
  • I would get to meet suppliers of content, software, hardware and other fantastic content related services – some of which I could use!
  • I would get brewed coffee, 6 kinds of tea, 2 kinds of juice, delicious morning/afternoon tea treats on tap, as well as lashings of luscious lunch offerings!
  • I would get to fill out dozens of “rate your speaker” surveys! (breathe now)
  • I would need to get a bus from Kellyville at some ungodly hour to get there and then get home to my kids at some ungodly hour! (sigh)
  • I’m too old for this now. I bet I will be the oldest one there? It will be full of Y and X gens and they will snicker at this old duck turning up at such an event! (double sigh)

And then I decided not to go…

Two days later I was at my 40 year old accountant’s house to sign some documents. I happened to mention the Conference to him and how much I would love to go. I told him how it was hard to keep up with the mountain of reading I should do, the emerging technologies and strategies, stay focussed and inspired about what I was doing while working from home and being a proactive mum and carer of 2 dogs, 6 cats, a 12, 21 and 51 year old. I told him that I was too old to go to Conferences now, at my age I was really downcycling now.

And then he said, “Rubbish!

“You should go, you need inspiration, you have another 15 years you will have to work – you should be ‘cranking it up’ not ‘cranking it down’!”

And then I decided to go…

So then what happened…?

  • I got to meet, listen, chat, laugh and have my photo taken with Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer in the flesh!
  • I got to hear American accents which reminded of my youth in California – and I felt young again!
  • I got to hear great speakers from all walks of business, that inspired me with their challenging journeys, wisdom and “in-progress” victories with content marketing!
  • I got to talk to grown-ups that understood the storytelling marketing I had been doing for 10 years! (but had been calling it PR)
  • I got to meet suppliers of content, software, hardware and other fantastic content related services – some of which I could use!
  • I got brewed coffee, 6 kinds of tea, 2 kinds of juice, delicious morning/afternoon tea treats on tap, as well as lashings of luscious lunch offerings!
  • I got to fill out dozens of “rate your speaker” surveys!
  • I got a bus from Kellyville at an ungodly hour to get there and got home to my kids at an ungodly hour!
  • I discovered I’m NOT too old for this game.  I was NOT the oldest one there. It was NOT full of Y and X gens and they did NOT snicker. (not that I saw)

I guiltlessly gorged myself on inspiration, insights and ideas over the two days. And to keep the high going, Content Marketing afficionados know I will be able to “shoot up” with Joe and Jay’s blogs until March 2014.

Thanks guys – you rocked my world!

Slam Dunks for Credibility Visibility

crediblityYour credibility is very important to prospective customers. Many times your actual expertise is irrelevant and your success rests on your ability to prove your credibility. Your customers must believe you have the ability to provide the desired product or service.

 

Assuming you do have skills or product required to do the job, the following will give you a credibility refresher.

The thesaurus uses words like” belief, credence, credit, assurance, faith, trust, truth, confidence, presumption, dependence and reliance” to define credibility. A customer considering your product or service is taking a risk and therefore must believe you can satisfy their needs before they will move forward or have an appreciation of the value your price offers.

The Basics of Visible Credibility

Physical demonstrations of credibility include maintaining an image which is credible means that your physical office/store space must be reflective of success in your chosen occupation. Tatty and worn furniture or carpet, a dated equipment, decor, dirty windows or bathrooms and an unswept entry do not inspire confidence when your prospect arrives at your business premises.

Equally, your vehicle – if you take clients in your car and your and your staff’s dress, grooming and manner are also instrumental in building credibilty in your ability to deliver. More subtle, but equally important is the display of your qualifications, diplomas, degrees and certifications in your reception or office. There is no doubt that press and magazine clippings with articles and pictures of you shown in a positive light are extremely impressive. We are well aware of  the inherit credibility given someone or something if it is in print.

Credibility Built Offline Feeds Credibility Online

With the internet has come the need to broaden your credibility footprint in cyberspace. Today, a small business without a website is not considered a really serious business. A website that looks professional, reflects your business brand effectively and stands out among your competitors is a matter of basic business survival today and can be acheived without huge expense.

The clippings you get from the magazines and newspapers can be rendered as pdf’s on your website, you can write up stories on conference you attended to keep your skills current, your own public speaking, charity and other activities. You can write or video a blog and publish it via your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube profile.You can set up groups, webinars, discussions and guest blog for other bloggers.  You can produce and send an email newsletter to your clients and prospective clients. You can write a hard or soft copy book and sell it or give it away to qualified prospects/clients online or offline. There are a myriad of  platforms in which to build your online credibility and translate you offline credibility activities to the online world.

Check out my video on How to Maximise Your PR Pings here.

 

The Mauve Marshmallow or A Formal Dress for a 12 Year Old

Well, the time has come. My daughter is having her Yr 6 School Formal at the end of this month. If you are one of those highly organised mum’s you did all your research on the internet and found you can buy a flower girl dresses up to girl’s size 12, from Hong Kong for around $25, no postage, in any colour of the rainbow. Here is an example of what I call the mauve marshmallow dress.

The brief I got from daughter was periwinkle blue, long and flowy. We could not find anything on the internet that met the brief exactly. Then 21 year old son pipes up and says in front of daughter, “Mum, don’t buy off the internet, what if it looks terrible on her?”

This meant a trip to our local formal dress shop. The shop had forewarned me that they did not have much stock for 12 year olds, but that some styles in an adult 8 sizing may work. I was a little stunned to see the styles that she was offering me. She would say “this one was purchased by a Yr 6 mum for xxxx school” and I would shudder. I would look at the price tag and shudder some more. (The average 12 year old does not have a lot of call for a formal dress and so to spend upwards of $250 on a dress that would be worn less than 3 times seemed outrageous to me.)

I informed her very nicely that my daughter was not a street walker and asked if we could look at something long, blue and flowy. We found a bit of a bargain in cobalt blue (daughter’s other favourite colour) with a one shoulder adjustable strap (one shoulder’s all the rage at the moment apparently), ruching on the front bodice and shirring with a zip on the back bodice and then flowy from the hips.

We then found some funky silver chain in my sewing nik naks to use as the other strap. After removing 20 cm of excess hem on the under and over dress, plus hemming about 3 metres by hand, then teaming this with a handmade co-ordinating long silk scarf made in a silk paint class 2 years ago, we will have a very decent frock which can be cut down to cocktail length as she grows older.

We got some simple silver sandals to go with the dress and I will do a mani/pedi the night before with clear nail polish. My daughter has long straight hair down to her bottom. On the day of the formal, daughter is booked in for  a steam pod, trim and some ringlet curls around the face, will dress at the hair salon, throw on some lip gloss and go straight to the formal from there.

My daughter’s high fashion switch has not yet been flicked.
I hope this formal does not flick it!!

 

 

 

The Quality of Service is Not Strained – On Cruises

I went on my first cruise in January – 10 days in the South Pacific. It was a most interesting experience. Not the least of which was the people-watching value.

Quite coincidentally my Y gen son decided to take a 10 day South Pacific cruise with friends on a different cruise line. While extracting any details about the cruise was impossible for the first three days, on the fourth day, in the five minute drive to drop him at work, he commented on some things that had impressed him about the staff. I wanted to draw life lessons out for him on the spot, but alas he had to go before I got the chance. (Methinks there is method to his madness). So I get the chance to tell you in my blog instead.

If the title of the blog sounds somewhat familiar then you may have studied Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at school. The actual quote was, “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…”

My son’s first observations were about the characteristics of the dining room maître’d. He said he felt special having a person dressed in a suit clearing tables and enquiring if everything was alright with the food. There were plenty of vest-wearing staff to clear tables, but the matire’d did it with dignity and grace. The way the maître’d carried himself was also noticed – smiling, chin in, chest out. “He reeked of professionalism,” was how my son described it.

He went on to explain that their dinner table head and assistant waiter’s were very experienced and had travelled the world on ships. They were always willing to have a joke and were not just like smiling robots. They did not seem like waiters, but more like friends. These are the examples he gave:
• One night the assistant waiter brought a guitar to their table and asked if anyone could sing. They volunteered one of their female friends and another waiter joined her with written lyrics and they all sang together with the guitar.
• The wait staff regularly asked how they were feeling. One night one of the girls said she was feeling sick, upon which the assistant waiter disappeared and reappeared with a green apple presented on a plate, neatly sliced through almost to the bottom so it stayed together in segments. He explained that green apples were good for sea sickness.
• The wait staff told us jokes and gave us brain teasers to solve between courses.
When my son first boarded and went to his stateroom, the room steward introduced himself, asked everyone their name and then asked if they all had their luggage. All did except my son. The steward went immediately to the luggage area and collected his luggage so he could unpack and get settled with the others.
I asked him in what other ways he was surprised and delighted by the service onboard. He said:
• “Everyone was so personal. The Cruise Director and his staff were self-depreciating, placed themselves at the same level as the guests by making fun of each other, which set us at ease and made us laugh. They wandered around onboard always smiling and very visible.
• It was happy to read in their posted profiles that the Executive Chef was world class. He had worked on the QE2 and some of the biggest ships in the world. He had been head-hunted as one the best.”
What can one learn from this experience about serving patrons?
• You can express your professionalism and pride in your role on the outside through uniform, posture, smiling, modelling the behaviours you expect of your staff.
• A personable, friendly attitude goes a long way
• Be truly human and show genuine care and concern , Caring is not just lip service, it is demonstrating you care
• Be engaging, warm and have an easy humour – don’t be stuffy or superior
• You can minimise a patron’s potential displeasure in delays by engaging them in conversation
• Anticipating a patron’s needs and going the extra mile is always noticed and appreciated – even if nothing is said at the time
• Be visible and available to help as much as possible. Don’t disappear when things aren’t going as planned.
• Smile often. This is the single most powerful non-verbal cue that you are genuinely pleased to be of service

None of these service gestures came across as forced or insincere. They were spontaneous, genuine and made my son’s cruise experience enjoyable on a whole other level.

The quality of service is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…”