Active listening and social etiquette

by Magenta

23 July, 2018

By Paul Russell, a luxury lifestyle coach.

If there’s one skill we’ve all mastered, it is the art of fake listening. We do it all the time, nodding our heads, smiling in the right places but mentally we’re somewhere else entirely. It reminds me of a story about President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was said to like to throw in a complete curve ball at White House receptions to test whether others were listening. “I murdered my grandmother this morning,” he is supposed to have been fond of announcing whilst shaking hands and in a tone you might use to say “hello, how are you.” It is said that very rarely were his efforts to root out conversational fakers ever met with an appropriate response.

There are many reasons that we don’t actively listen, it may be because we are focused on something else entirely, be that meeting a president or what we’re going to order at Starbucks on the way home. It could be that instead of actively listening we’re actually planning what we are going to say, and poised like a diver on a board we are waiting for our moment to surge into the conversation. Whatever the reason that we don’t actively listen, the results are the same- ineffective communication, limited engagement and little development of rapport. Of all the new skills you could develop for Learn Something New Week, the most important one is probably the one that you think you already know how to do- listen.

The most difficult time to try and achieve active listening is when you’re hearing something that you don’t want to hear. The urge to break in is almost overwhelming, and very few people are able to withstand that impulse to snatch up a comment and utilise it as leverage within the conversation. If this is you, then conflict and disagreement is something that you are probably well familiar with, your conversations are more likely to be battle grounds full of invisible point scoring than anything that resembles a productive and useful conversation.

Everyone though can benefit from active listening and there are key steps to take. The first is to actually pay attention, it sounds simple but in the majority of cases we are far more focused on ourselves than on our conversational partner. Flip this dynamic, and give them your full attention. Judgement is the next trap that we tend to fall into, so whether we’re judging them out loud or just inside our own heads, this type of thinking inhibits active listening. Try not to jump into every available space in the conversation, instead allow the other person time to formulate their thoughts and fully express what they want to say. This is a particularly useful tactic in a situation of conflict as butting in can often escalate rather than calm a situation.

When you feel that there is a natural pause you can ask open ended questions to gain a further insight into the topic. This is the time when you can clarify anything that you’re not clear about and perhaps also acknowledge how the speaker might be feeling, saying something like, “that must have been terrifying for you.” Acknowledging feelings really helps someone to feel truly heard. For complex or professional discussions, this might be the point at which you would also summarise what has been said, giving your conversational partner the opportunity to add anything else that is relevant. From here you can show through gestures and words your understanding of the situation. Often, we think that we then need to quickly solve the problem, but in many cases active listening fulfils the primary need.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt smilingly proclaimed that he had murdered his grandmother, what he was asking for was to be heard. What he wanted was for someone to engage with this on a genuine level. To pay attention, to not (in the first instance at least!) judge, and instead of a tired platitude actually offer something of value in response, and with this utterance there are many, many open ended questions that could have been asked of Roosevelt! There is no denying that active listening is a lot more challenging than fake listening, but the rewards are infinitely greater. So this Learn Something New week, challenge yourself to do something transformative- actively listen.

Paul Russell is a luxury expert and etiquette coach who works with private clients and high net worth individuals in the art of correct behaviour. He is co-founder and managing director of Luxury Academy, a multi-national company, specialising in soft skills training for the luxury market. Luxury Academy have offices in London, Delhi, Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. Prior to founding Luxury Academy, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia.


The price of life: 2007 - now

The price of life: 2007 – now

by Magenta

12 July, 2018

In this guide, Robin Hood Energy discusses the rising cost of life in 2018, compared to 2007, and the journey in between.

Seemingly every day we’re being made to pay a few more pennies in our shops but this all adds up, especially over a period of years. Only recently, supermarket giant, Tesco, announced they won’t be price matching their products against competitors anymore. Prices rise. Brexit looms. Is it all just a big media scare though? Or has the price of life truly risen? Research from, energy supplier, Robin Hood Energy, analysed the price of common household goods and necessities, like petrol, from 10 years ago compared to now. Let’s see how much money the general public really has lost over the years.

1/ Petrol

In the UK, people are spending around 115.2p per litre on petrol, where has flit back to 2007 and you’d be paying 84.7p instead. Statistically, the UK person uses 1,377 litres per year which costs you £3,828 more now than it did back in 2007. We are definitely not getting the best miles per gallon there.

2/ The cost of education

Still a sore subject for many now-graduates who received the £9000 per year tuition fees compared to their predecessors who had the same education, same lectures and same opportunities for a third of the price. The numbers are quite simple here, if you did your degree 10 years ago, you’d be £18,000 better off, that’s not even accounting for debt and the interest that develops over time.

3/ Sweets treats

I’m sure we’ve all spoken to our friends and colleagues about how we remember when certain chocolates cost way less than they do now. On top of that, they seem to have gotten smaller too, the jury’s still out on that one though. The research specifically looked at Creme Eggs and found that if you ate just one a week, you’d be set back £33.80 now compared to £17.16 then! Deliciousness is expensive.

4/ How expensive is getting ill?

The NHS is one thing we take for granted in the UK, with prescriptions costing around £8.60 currently, however 10 years ago they cost £6.85. This is quite a reasonable price increase as a one off for what you’re getting anyway. However, if you had one a week it would’ve cost you £330.20 in 2007, whereas it costs you £447.20 in the present day.

5/ Staying in touch

Nearly everyone you know has an iPhone, it’s the most popular phone in history. If you were ahead of the trend 10 years ago, it would have at you back £297.67 precisely, however now, for the latest model you’re paying £999. In essence, it does the same thing, but the £701.33 increase is incredibly steep just to keep in touch with your social networks. Maybe it’s time we all went back to Nokia 3310s.

6/ Energy

To stay in touch, we need to charge our devices, energy bills seem to increase every other month with blame being placed on Brexit, trouble with sourcing materials and increased demand. In 2007 the price of a standard tariff would be around £1,039.23 but if you shop around today and lock in a fixed tariff you can get one for a similar price or even less around £959.95.

Life is always increasing in cost, of course, the price of living rises every day. So, it’s important as consumers for us to shop and compare. A great power which we didn’t have much authority over back in 2007.


Carl’s guide to saving money for new businesses

Carl’s guide to saving money for new businesses

by Magenta

27 June, 2018

By Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of dennisandturnbull.com and co-founder of taxgo.org

In fact, bootstrapping – the act of starting a business without or with very little external help or capital – can be an incredibly effective way to ensure a business’s positive cashflow.

Often, a startup is run on a minimal budget, and as such effective cash flow management is key. You don’t need to be an accountant to manage your cash position, but you do need to be aware of some key statistics within your business to ensure that a downward trend doesn’t leave you with more month than money!

There is an often repeated phrase in business, which you might have heard before: “Turnover is Vanity, Profit is Sanity, but Cash is King”. This saying highlights a key area that some new business owners forget: ultimately, your staff, suppliers and landlord will need paying, and cash is vital for the health of a business.

One of the first areas that business owners get confused on when it comes to financial matters is the difference between cashflow and profit. Did you know that a business could have £150,000 profit on paper, but be overdrawn with their bank and struggle with cash flow? Once you have an understanding of the differences, it is obvious, however many entrepreneurs don’t immediately understand this area.

There are a number of items that may be included within a profit and loss account that may not be directly reflected in your bank account. If you make a trade sale to another business, it would often have payment terms attached, and as such you might have to wait 30 days to get paid. Similarly, you would have payment terms on your purchases once you are an established business, and again your bank account wouldn’t reflect these expenses until the payment is made. This would all need to be considered when planning your finances in the early stages of a business.
As the popularity of bootstrap businesses shows, starting a business doesn’t have to cost a lot. This is especially true if you already have most of what you need. That said, by very nature, startups and new businesses usually have to spend a fair bit to get themselves set up. They need to purchase equipment, collateral, branding, perhaps premises – but as long as this is carefully budgeted for and factored into future plans, this shouldn’t be a problem. Keeping a strong awareness of your outgoings and stacking this against what’s coming in is key to ensuring you don’t run into problems. Hiring staff can be a massive cost, so I would recommend holding off doing this until absolutely needed.

Besides this, however, the first thing to remember about working to a tight budget is that it doesn’t necessarily mean not spending. It’s not about cash splashing; it’s about strategically and carefully choosing where to put your money. It’s about being lean, not mean – and this needs to happen from the start. Ditch the extras, focus on the essentials.

For some businesses, investment in a high-spec laptop might be a vital piece of kit. For others, they might only need a few low-cost items. What you need to work out is how to spend with careful discernment. Do you need every bell and whistle that is offered with a product? No, probably not – however bear in mind it needs to be fit for your business too. Don’t scrimp if it’s going to affect what you can offer your clients – because with no clients, you have nothing. That can be the make and break of a business – spending money where it matters and adds most value for you and your clients. Economise where you can, but don’t sacrifice your business and values.


10 facts about Lisbon

10 facts about Lisbon

by Magenta

20 October, 2017

By Esme Banks Marr

Team away days needn’t be a cliché. They don’t need to be full of trust exercises and team building activities. As long as you find time to re-group with colleagues, talk about work without the confines of the office and get to know team members you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to socialise with, then the trip or day will be worthwhile!

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in another country with your colleagues – as the Magenta team was in October 2017 – then it’s even more crucial you make the most of your short time there, by planning ahead. Plan your activities and set out some less regimented options, in case you don’t stick meticulously to your itinerary. But first of all, know the place you’re visiting! This year, Magenta, the b2b communications experts, swapped sunny Brighton for custard tarts, trams and tuk-tuks in sunny Lisbon!

Here are some facts about Portugal’s [unofficial] capital that gave the team a bit of background before they jetted off.


Lisbon isn’t the capital

OK, strictly speaking that’s not exactly true… But in fact Lisbon has never been declared or confirmed as the capital in any official document, unlike most other capital cities. It simply became the de facto capital when in 1255 Alfonso III of Portugal moved the court to what had become Portugal’s largest and most important city.

Perhaps to make up for this lack of official status, apart from being the capital of Portugal the city is now also the capital of the District of Lisbon, the capital of the Region of Lisbon and last but not least the capital of the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon.


Lisbon is older than Rome

And according to most estimates, around 4 centuries older. It is in fact the second oldest European capital after Athens, many historians believing that it was settled by the Phoenicians around 1200 B.C., and who used the excellent transport possibilities offered by the River Tagus. One of the theories for the origin of the name Lisbon is that it came from the term “Allis Ubbo” or “safe harbour” in Phoenician.


The flag of Lisbon flies over the city of Ceuta

Ceuta is located in North Africa, surrounded by Morocco, but is in fact officially part of Spain (comparisons with Gibraltar should not be made in the presence of any Spaniard  ). The first flag to fly over the city, and still used to this day, was Lisbon’s black and white gyronny (a shield divided into 8 triangular parts), due to the fact that the Portuguese occupied Ceuta in 1415. Not only that, Ceuta’s Coat of Arms is in fact that of Portugal! There have been slight changes over the years, but the similarities still remain, as can be seen above. As an aside, the black and white colours in the flag, and also used in the omnipresent Calçada Portuguesa of Lisbon’s pavements, is said to originate from the black religious attire worn by St. Vincent, the city’s patron saint, and the white robes worn by the Christian Crusaders.


The typical Lisbon tram is in fact American

Although their origins can be traced to industrial horse-drawn trams in the UK, the first passenger streetcars were built and introduced in the U.S. in the 19th Century. They were pulled by horses and some of the first routes were in Harlem, New York and New Orleans. The rails were initially installed above ground level on top of the street surface, and were the cause of many problems and accidents to pedestrians. They were then replaced by grooved rails which exist to this day. These rails are called “carris” in European Portuguese, and this is the name given to Lisbon’s public transport company that operates the trams today. Due to their origins, Lisbon’s trams were originally called “americanos” and the first operational route was inaugurated on 17th November 1873, running between the “Estação da Linha Férrea Norte e Leste” (now known as Santa Apolónia, just round the corner from our Alfama River Apartments) and the “Aterro da Boa Vista” in Santos.


One of the city’s best attractions is one you’ll (probably) never see

The “galerias romanas” or underground Roman galleries, said to be a portico crypt from the reign of Augustus (1st century BC to 1st century AD), are located in the Rua da Prata in Lisbon’s downtown area. They are particularly difficult to see, however, because they open for public viewing just once a year, normally in September. This is because they are almost impossible to access, much of the area being flooded, and it takes anything up to a month of work by specialised personnel to prepare this monument for public access. Naturally, during the few hours they are open, enormous queues form and waiting time can be up to 3.5 hours. And access is practically via a hole in the ground, located in the middle of the street and while cars and trams are passing by all the while. Well, at least entrance is free!


Lisbon’s landmark icon, the Torre de Belém, was a mere customs office

And also a jail. And also a lighthouse. And also a telegraph post. The Tower of Belém, whose construction was initiated in 1514, is arguably Lisbon’s best known monument and was chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal in a warm-up ceremony to the election of the Seven Wonders of the World in Lisbon in 2007. A World Heritage site, it serves as a legacy to Portugal’s glorious Age of Discovery and together with the Jerónimos Monastery helps make the beautiful Belém district one of the most visited in the city. What ignoble beginnings then for this majestic monument! OK, it’s true that it did originally start out as a defensive tower, guarding the entrance to the River Tagus and located off-shore totally surrounded by water (the riverbanks have shifted since then). But according to many historians the tower’s height and lack of integration into the surrounding landscape indicates that it perhaps was always meant to be a customs outpost. Its gunpowder storerooms were used as dungeons for political prisoners during the reign of Philip II of Spain, and in later centuries it served Lisbon faithfully as a lighthouse and telegraph tower. Today, what was originally seen as a fearsome and aggressive construction is a cultural reference and loved by all who visit its ancient sculpted walls.


lfama, traditional Old Town district of fishermen and sailors, was in fact an aristocratic spa-like retreat

You probably know that Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest district. You may have heard that it was the only district of Lisbon that survived the 1755 earthquake intact and of its reputation as the traditional neighbourhood of the poor, with a village-like atmosphere. But did you know that during muslim rule the western side of the “bairro”, around the São João da Praça street close to the Sé or Cathedral, was known as “Alfama do Alto” or High Alfama, and was inhabited by nobility and the rich? Since the origin of the name is al-hamma, Arabic for baths or fountains, it is likely they took full advantage of the local springs to maintain their health. During the Middle Ages the rich moved out, leaving the entire district to the inhabitants of “Alfama do Mar”, the area occupied by the fishermen, sailors and the poor. The local waters were channelled into public fountains or “chaferizes” (Chafariz de El-Rei is one such public fountain and Chafariz do Dentro is a street in Alfama), and had temperatures of up to 20ºC. As such, they were also used for public baths from the 17th to century to the start of the 20th Century, being classified at the end of the 19th Century as medicinal-mineral waters. Today the public baths are closed, but many of Alfama’s old houses and picturesque squares are being renovated, making it one of the most attractive areas of the city both to live in and to visit.


Portugal conquered Lisbon

The Siege of Lisbon occurred during the Christian Reconquest sweeping through the Iberian Peninsula, and was one of the most important battles during the Second Crusade, and in fact one of the few Christian victories during that time. The Crusaders sailed to Portugal with the intention of ousting the moors, but bad weather forced them to land at Porto, where they met with King Afonso I, Afonso Henriques. Having joined forces, they put Lisbon under siege and the moors eventually surrendered 4 months later. Portugal at this time was an independent Kingdom in the north of the country, having previously broken off from the Spanish Kingdom of Leon. Before that, Portucale was a Suebic Kingdom covering the north of Portugal and Galicia, then also the first county (Condado de Portucale). The name derives from the Latin “Portus” or Port and the Greek “Kalós” or beautiful. Another theory mentions that Cale or Gale was the ancient name of Vila Nova de Gaia (located in the Porto district), coming from the Celtic “Gale” which means foreign, and possibly originating with the Gallaeci tribe living in this area. In any case, the King of Portugal invaded and conquered Lisbon, and soon after ordered the large Mosque, called the Aljama, turned into a Cathedral, becoming Lisbon’s famous “Sé”.


Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe

The world record for the largest dining table was set when some 15,000 people were served lunch on the bridge as part of the inauguration celebrations.


Extra facts…

  • The Tagus is Iberia’s largest river and its estuary at Lisbon, up to 14Km wide, is said to be large enough to contain all the warships in the world.
  • Lisbon is ranked number 1 in the Portuguese most liveable cities survey published yearly by Expresso newspaper.
  • Lisbon has one of the mildest climates in Europe. The city is sunny throughout the year, with an annual average of 2900-3300 hours of sunshine.
  • The city’s spectacular Aqueduto das Águas Livres, the aqueduct which still brings water to the ancient fountains of Lisbon, has the highest ogive arch in the world, standing 65 meters high and 29 meters wide.
  • The Santa Engrácia church is in the Guinness Book of Records has having the longest construction time of all churches: it started in the 17th century and only in 1966 was the last dome completed.
  • The Benfica football club is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest number of fans for any one football club: an estimated total of 14 million worldwide and over 170,000 registered paying supporters.



The importance of learning from mistakes in business

The importance of learning from mistakes in business

by Magenta

18 October, 2017

By Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of dennisandturnbull.com and co-founder of taxgo.org

As children, we learn from our experiences, and the strongest way of learning what is safe and what isn’t is often driven more from painful events rather than any warnings our parents give us.

Whilst we’d all like to think that we’ve become much more intelligent and logical over time, as adults we also tend to learn in the same way. Any adult who has had a health scare will know that it speaks far more loudly than the preventative warnings from a doctor; in the same way that we all know that you only truly learn how to drive once you are in the car on your own, and are exposed to the real world of judgement calls, unexpected incidents and your own bad driving. This concept applies to business as much as it does to general day to day life.

There are many examples of businesses learning from their mistakes. In fact, a common word in the startup lexicon is “pivot” – in other words, look at what isn’t working and adjust accordingly. Even the very biggest corporates are now taking a much more open approach to learning nowadays, sourcing feedback from their customers and teams, and creating a collaborative culture to help them succeed.

To be able to do this properly, businesses need to be receptive to this feedback, and it is impossible to learn from your failures and implement the necessary change without embracing failure as part of your company’s culture. It’s not uncommon to find businesses with a fear of failure which has permeated through the ranks; leading to blame and avoidance of failure, rather than identification of failure and positive action being taken. This type of culture (often found in short-term KPI focused businesses) will tend to generate a defensive stance from the team members in any failure “post mortem”, rather than the open and constructive conversation that needs to take place to identify the issues and learn from them.

The reason for failure needs to be understood as there are different levels, with some being more unacceptable whilst others are actually a result of positive actions. For example, deliberate deviance from process (particularly if malicious), or failure as a result of inattention would result in an unacceptable failure; whereas a deliberate experiment to find a better way is almost always a “good” failure”. This isn’t a binary scale however, and failures have to be considered against the intention and reasoning behind them. A simple way of looking at these is to consider whether they are preventable negative failures or intelligent positive failures.

As with any corporate culture, embracing failure has to come from the top, and become part of the fabric of the organisation. The leader has to not only give permission for their teams to fail, but also admit failures of their own, and demonstrate how the learnings from any failure have been used. This is hard for many to do, as it is sometimes a perceived sign of weakness; however team members will soon realise if the culture is simply words in an operations manual rather than actions.

Just a word of warning though – it’s important to differentiate a failure from a mistake, to prevent the business falling into the trap of being underperforming. Failures are absolutely fine, and are part of the learning experience. A mistake is a failure either repeated or ignored.


Broaden your horizons during LSNW

Broaden your horizons during LSNW

by Magenta

27 September, 2017

Learn Something New Week takes place this week (25th – 29th September 2017), an annual awareness campaign that exists to stimulate a thirst for knowledge.

Aimed at working professionals who need an invigorative burst of inspiration, the goal of the week is to encourage people to broaden their horizons; both in the workplace and at home.

Research conducted by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School ¹ reveals that 65% of millennials consider personal development as the most influential factor in a job, with 1 in 4 deeming ‘training and development’ as the biggest benefit provided by an employer.

In light of this research, and to mark Learn Something New Week, ten experts have offered their thoughts on why it’s so important to encourage learning at work:

CJ Green
Group chief people officer, Servest

“If you wish to not only attract but retain talent, you need to give your employees something to get excited about. By focusing on internal learning and development, you’re equipping your employees with the tools that will help them fulfil and harness their potential, which will help the business flourish.”

Andrew Mawson
Co-author of the Workplace Management Framework report

“For people to be emotionally engaged with the work they do, managers need to create meaning and purpose for each and every member of staff, as a company is only as good as the people it employs… and ongoing learning and development is a key part of this!”

Sara Bean
Editor, FMJ magazine

“When formal education stops, you shouldn’t stop learning, which is why I love my job. In the last week I’ve learnt about the latest tricks used by cyber hackers, the definition of a social enterprise and the impact new data legislation could have on business. Talking to experts in these areas helps stimulate my own ideas and thinking and I often find I quote them back to others in everyday life. Life long learning such as this, is what helps keep me engaged and in touch.”

Angela Love
Director, Active FM

“Encouraging learning in the workplace presents a variety of benefits to a business. Not only can it improve employee performance within their job role, but investing in additional training for your staff helps to make them feel valued within the business, leading to improved employee satisfaction and boosting morale within a team.”

Dave Kentish
Director, Kentish & Co

“For any company to grow and increase its bottom line profits, it needs to grow its staff. And by that, I mean in the skillsets necessary for them to become engaged, valued and loyal members of the team. Make sure that your people get encouragement and access to the right training, technical and leadership and management skills, so that they can develop fully and have an influential long-term positive impact on your business growth.”

Natasha Maddock
Director, Aim for the Sky

“By nurturing talent within your organisation, you can create a highly motivated and engaged workforce with the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise to do their jobs well. Staff retention rates and job satisfaction are directly affected by the relationships between staff and managers. Leadership and management training is therefore an ideal way to create a high performance culture where employees feel valued and encouraged to achieve their potential.”

Claire Huish
Colleague service manager, Bennett Hay

“Learning something new gives us a sense of fulfilment that sparks joy and positive energy, drawing the best of us. At Bennett Hay, in addition to our formal training programmes, we encourage our colleagues to live out our company values including ‘being adventurous’ and having the confidence to do things differently. This keeps our teams engaged.”

Cathy Hayward
MD, Magenta

“Regardless of your role or level, you never stop learning – as a PR agency, we find this is the best way to keep the creative juices flowing. We actively encourage all team members to go to workshops, events and conferences to hear and learn about new developments that can impact our clients and help us deliver new and better ways of communicating.”

Karen Plum
Director of development and research, AWA

“Our latest research looks at the factors that most impact our cognitive performance, so individuals and organisations can understand and adopt best practices to get everyone’s brain in peak condition. Cognitive stimulation is one of these factors. Jobs that are cognitively demanding and varied, providing the opportunity to learn new things over time, can increase mental functioning and possibly reduce the effect of age-related decline.”

Marcus Franck
Founder, Franck Energy

“Truly ambitious people never stop learning, and never get tired of improving their knowledge and performance. The nature of people’s skills may change, and so too may their emphasis on areas of learning, but great employees always seek to advance themselves.”

For inspirational content to kick-start your learning, the Learn Something New Week website is packed full of resources to encourage you to take on a new challenge and learn something new this September.

Whether you’re looking to broaden your business skills, such as social media, public speaking or copywriting, or you’re interested in learning how to write a film review or match British beer with food – perhaps even make an origami swan! – there’s something for you on the website! There are also downloadable activity sheets to help organisations spread the love of learning and fuel better ideas, collaboration and engagement.

Got a skill to shout about? Get involved and teach us all something new with the #LSNweek hashtag!