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review

I’m a parrot with a splash of eagle, hint of dove. What about you?

Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.

There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?

You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.

Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.

However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.

I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.

But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.

It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.

The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.

I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.

If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.

The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.

I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.

Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!

No, I'm not a peacock..I'm a parrot....

No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….

 

 

 

Review of two films in UK cinemas now – what do you think?

I love the cinema – really, really love it. But I don’t always get time to see all the films I’d like so recently I had a cinema day – yes I went twice in a day. It’s a quite surreal thing to do, especially at this time of year. It can feel like you’ve had a day in darkness….with the added benefit of popcorn!

The first film was Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part Two. This was a necessity as I’d read the books, watched all the other films (more than once) and had two daughters nagging endlessly.  I have to say on a scale of one to ten – I’d give it a seven. Plus points were that it rounded off the saga really well, in many ways better than the books where everything seems to end so weakly. Also Bella actually took on a bit of colour and energy – as there were many times in the previous films when I wanted to almost punch her for being so insipid. And of course there was plenty of Edward and Jacob, which always helps. Though frankly Carlo and Jaspar weren’t too shabby either, though almost inconsequential.  I was mulling over my favourite character in all the films and decided that Alice probably came out near the top.

After lunch it was Skyfall. Friends had raved about the film to me so I was really, really excited to see it. There was much talk of a big secret. Also it included Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench, so who couldn’t be bowled over by them? But I’m afraid this film didn’t match my expectations. It just didn’t have the action sequences that I have come to expect from recent Bond films. and it seemed to have a bit of a copycat theme – I got a strong feel of the Bourne series here, but just not handled as well. Like the recent follow-up of the Bourne trilogy – tried hard but just lacked that raw drama.

The storyline was reasonable, bit too personal for me, and it featured Scotland which helped. But overall I felt a bit let down. So much emphasis on everyone being too old – and a baddie who was personal but less ‘big picture’ and having a very, bad hair day.

Overall a film which lacked the creativity factor of other films, Casino Royale was much, much better in my view. I probably will buy the DVD just to see if I’ve been a bit too harsh but both me and my better half felt the same. Seven out of ten is a generous score I think.

But I’ve still got the film of the year to go – The Hobbit. One of my favourite childhood books, alongside Lord of the Rings. I’m expecting a nine or ten to take me into Christmas and to prepare me for the annual local pantomime. We’ll see…….

Cheetah sitting on anthill in Mara Kenya

Waiting for the next big film to come out – The Hobbit…

 

Are you on strike next week? Review my thoughts on industrial action….

I had a text this week from one of my children‘s schools – it’s going to be closed for a day next week due to industrial action.

Trying hard to be relaxed about next week's industrial action....

So as a self-employed worker, I cannot work that day because my child will be at home on a school day. As it happens, I was planning to have that day for boring stuff like house work any way. Now I’ll have a little helper.

But I still felt put out, inconvenienced, cross.

 

But it made me reflect on the day of action next week that seems increasingly likely to go ahead. I’m feeling very torn over it, to be honest.

I absolutely defend the right to protest. It’s part of what makes us a democracy and I do always find it very hard to cross a picket line – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever done so.

I’ve also been on strike myself, as a journalist, back in the early 1990s in Bath.

It was a very unpleasant experience – we were abused verbally and spat at more than once. It reminded me of my grandfather who often talked about taking part in the 1926 General Strike and being spat on as he, and others, marched down the Wellsway in Bath. I didn’t believe him. Now I know he was telling the truth.

In the 1990s,  we felt strongly about newspapers introducing personal contracts for each individual journalist and abandoning the structured system of levels where you moved up the pay scale gradually. We won a short-term concession but over the subsequent years the personal contract system was introduced,  by the back door.

How do I feel now 20 years later. The truth is, very different.

Striking over less generous pension settlements is very hard to swallow when you’ve worked most of your life in the private sector and you know that your pension income will be very low.

Many people in the public sector will say, I know, that they’ve paid a high amount into a pension for many years. So have I some of the time – when I’ve earned enough. But I could not hope to have the kind of pension that many public service workers will have even if these proposed changes come in.

There will also be the argument that if you work in the public sector you earn less than in the private sector. Really? Possibly in some sectors but not in the media. I’ve worked in both sectors for periods of time and I’ve always been paid more in the public sector.

So I still feel torn by it all. I can’t quite bring myself to condemn the strikes because I know so many good people who work in the public sector and who do a fantastic job for others. But I also know people who frankly would struggle in a more competitive environment.

What I do know is this – look to Greece and learn. Cuts have limits. People will take to the streets and will reject austerity measures eventually, no matter what the political or economic argument. The ordinary man will, if pushed hard enough, take action and say enough is enough. Do we want that to come here?

As a journalist, a working person, a human being I’m watching and wondering….

Ever made a mistake? Review it!

Make sure that mistake doesn't bite!

What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made? I’d love to know — and what did you do about it?

I recently read in my local newspaper a letter from a new restaurant owner in Swindon about a review written by a journalist. She’s attended his/her restaurant and had a meal.

The letter said that while there were many positive comments, the reviewer was unreasonable in her criticisms. One was that she’d asked for a vodka mixer and no vodka was available – however the journalist should have been satisfied with the 32 types of wine on offer on the extensive wine list.

What? A journalist doing a review is no different to any other customer – and customers can be hard to please. If I want a gin and tonic or a beer – sod the 32 choices of wine – that’s what I want.

The clue is in the world ‘review’ – it’s an experience, it’s about fulfilling expectations. Some may be fulfilled, others may not.

If this happens to you, bleating about it in the letters page and slagging off the journalist is hardly maintaining a strong relationship with your local press – something you need if you are a local restaurant. Also what do you think as a reader? A reader like me? Well, do I want to go to a restaurant where my choice of  beverage is ridiculed? I don’t think so…

So, what should that restauranteur have done?

Taken the positives, learned, maybe invited her back again in six months time…keep the lines of communication open. Turn something negative into something positive – a cliche but true.

 

A review is very powerful and, unless there’s a bug in your food or the chicken is raw, will almost always put bums on seats. Don’t diss it.

 

This is not a journalist’s mistake, it’s an opinion based on experience.

 

So what is a mistake?

 

Consider the following:

Any journalist who claims never to have made a mistake is from another planet.

All human beings make mistakes and if you are banging out 3,000 words a day for a publication – it will happen.

 

However if a journalist makes a mistake the consequences can be huge – the power of the written or spoken word cannot be underestimated.

So if you are talking to a journalist and a mistake is subsequently made what do you do?

 

It’s easy – talk to the journalist about it.

 

Be sure before you do, that the mistake came from them. (Remember that a mistake in a headline or sub-heading might be done by an editor – and the journalist may have not seen it yet. Equally a mistake in a picture caption can also be done by a third party) But the journalist can help put things right.

There’s nothing more embarrassing than having a difficult conversation with a journalist and then finding out that your press release was inaccurate – or your press office/pr consultant was the source of the mistake.

Also remember that journalists are taught that ‘inaccuracy kills’ – there’s no defence if an inaccuracy leads to defamation. So journalists should be open to those kinds of conversations.

Discuss what the mistake was and how you wish it to be rectified.

For example, a simple mistake like a name spelled incorrectly may be embarrassing but it’s not going to be the end of the world. A small correction or repeat of the story (if it’s short) may be sufficient.

A good friend of mine who’s first name is Spencer was captioned in a photograph as Stella – he’s never forgotten it and neither have I – it’s hilarious.

But if a teacher say, at a school, is charged with abusing a pupil and a journalist names the school or the wrong teacher then that’s a serious mistake and much harder to put right. That gets into the realm of defamation and possibly contempt of court.

For something serious such as the latter, seek advice before talking to the journalist so that you know where you can go with it.

However it’s always advisable to give a newspaper, tv, radio or online publication the opportunity to put things right before getting heavy with lawyers’ letters.

Apologies will be given quite prominently in a serious matter, it’s actually quite rare that a media outlet does nothing when a genuine mistake has been made.

 

Tip: always talk to the journalist if she/he has made a mistake. Keep the relationship going by avoiding getting heavy. Expect a rational response in putting right that wrong.

(next week, I’ll tell you about a mistake I made and the consequences)

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