Posted on

Winning and losing

Is “winning” always a good thing? Here we discuss the benefits of failure.

We’ve been having a discussion about ‘winning” and “not winning”. What does it look like in your business, school or community?   How do you respond when things don’t quite work out.

Sometimes it is not about competition – for some public sector organisations “not winning” maybe a downgrade in the audit or not achieving key goals.  For the last five years schools in Welwyn Hatfield compete in the Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge.   This year there was a prize for the overall winner.  The winning team didn’t raise most money from fundraising.  Neither did they have the best prepared presentation. It was the grit and determination of the team to succeed – at times in spite of the School hierarchy – that convinced the judges.

In a very real sense all of the teams that took part won.   Our latest video, shows some of the lessons that the young people took from their involvement with the Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge.

The message from our business judges was that in business, winning and losing are regular occurrences and cannot be disguised from the future workforce. Here at Red Potato we’ve had more than our share of failures, which have at times translated into costly financial losses and more importantly repetitional damage. Those failures were not comfortable but they have become deeply seared into the organisation. We have learnt from those failures to improve processes and procedures so the mistakes are not repeated. That is the very uncomfortable truth about failure: it can be a very powerful force that drives you to improve. Maybe Young People need to fail more in order to find their real success.

Posted on

The real reason for a Jobs Fair

For the last few months we have been working with colleagues at The Galleria shopping centre. That work will come to fruition this week at the Galleria Jobs Fair!

The Jobs Fair at the Galleria Shopping Centre will highlight the range of jobs that are available now.  Even though they are local jobs, for many local people this will be the first time they have considered working for the employers at the event.

The benefit is also for the employers who are coming to the Jobs Fair.   The event has been really popular with employers.  The event has been so popular that we quickly exceeded the maximum number of places available:  Last week we had to find more space for the extra employers who wished to come to the event!

The value of the Jobs Fair will be different according to whether you are a job seeker or an employer.   If you are a job seeker and you find your ideal job that is a result for you.  If you are are an employer and you find an employee to help your business that is also a result.

But wait!  There is also another reason this is a good thing.  There is a real reason that the Jobs Fair is good for the local area.  New ideas are created, aspirations are raised and change happens, by bringing together employers and job seekers under roof.   Here at Red Potato we are pleased to have been a part of this process

Red Potato will broadcast a live video stream from the event in Hatfield; so make sure you tune in to the show via Periscope!

Posted on

Mentoring for life: Are troubled teenagers and business entrepreneurs made from the same stuff?

When it comes to mentoring it can mean very different things to different people: ranging from social befriending through to a strict focus on shared objectives mentoring.   Befriending may include things like helping someone to take small steps to overcome a fear of open spaces for example.   The warmth, encouragement and support from befriending can be crucial in helping, as sometimes statutory services are more interested in measuring the output of their work and encouraged to maintain a professional distance from “clients”.     Other benefits such as building confidence may occur following from those first steps outside the home, but in the case of befriending this isn’t the aim.

In my opinion, strict enterprise mentoring involves working with the client on agreed objectives which are stated and agreed from the start – for instance how to prepare a business for trade sale, or entry to a new market.  Any social relationship achieved is incidental to the business objectives.  SFEDI (Sector Skills body for Enterprise) says that mentor/mentee relationship should enable the mentee to “develop goals that will have a positive impact on their business enterprise”.    There is a clear focus and aim for the mentoring relationship.

In contrast to the business objectives of enterprise mentoring, community mentoring is about helping adults and children develop as individuals, so that they find their true self.  To do this the mentor needs to understand their own personal boundaries.  Without an understanding of their identity, the mentor can end up confusing the mentee about who is the client!

So having established the differences between enterprise and community mentoring, I’m now going to say in many ways they are also very similar.  For instance building a relationship based on equality, openness and trust is common to all types of mentoring.    Perhaps less obvious though is the possibility that those same troubled young people could with the right form of guidance and mentoring  go onto to set up and run the next generation of enterprises.   Even if you ignore the other reasons to get mentoring, the powerful impact of mentoring on life chances and entrepreneurialism, should be a strong motivator for business people to get mentoring.

Posted on

Do the preparation, check the destination

The  project has been completed, the final report, finally approved, the diary is clear of project update meetings and the virtual team has gone its separate ways.

But what has changed?   How have things improved?   Have things got better for local people?   These are the questions which we need to be answered for any project involving public resources and aimed at addressing local community need.     Sounds obvious but how good is the sector at addressing these questions – from my own experience I think the picture is mixed.   There are some genuine efforts to communicate with residents about project outcomes and whether the initial objectives were achieved.      There are also some pretty poorly executed attempts at corporate back-slapping based on fairly limited progress.

The reason for this is measuring outcomes means we need to state clearly at the outset of the project “how will people be better off”.    Mark Friedman discusses the process of “turning the curve”; describing the outcome to be improved and what is likely to happen if nothing changes.   Actions are then measured against this projected baseline.  By taking effective and timely actions, improvements are made against the baseline.

The trick is doing the preparation beforehand to agree the metrics by which the project will be judged, including milestones to check progress along the way.    And regularly communicate with residents must be central to the project.

If people don’t feel that things have changed then the project can’t be claimed to be a success.

20140619-172204-62524436.jpg