A whistle-stop tour of the ‘This time it’s personal’ Howwow

Following the ‘This time it’s personal’ Howwow in November, our lead guru, Rachael Hurdman of Arch inspire, summarises the key points in this blog post. If you were one of the lucky few to come along, it will serve as a good check-in on some of the key skills you developed through the day, as well as some of the topics explored in December’s webinar. It may even prompt you to put those action plan commitments into place this year. 

It’s still worth a read, even if you couldn’t join your fellow Paraplanners. It may give you some new ideas or cement your thinking.

Feedback from the day was very positive and confirmed the high levels of interest in exploring many of the soft skills in greater depth. We’re scratching our heads on how to do this in 2020 and will let you know when we’ve hit on a solid conclusion. 

Time to hand over to the guru – Rachael….


Happy New Year to you all!

I’m hoping this post serves as a useful check-in for those who attended the event back in November, as well as providing food for thought for those who couldn’t make the event but are keen to develop their interpersonal skills in the future. I really enjoyed spending the day with a group of like-minded professionals who were clearly all passionate about developing themselves and others, and giving real time and attention to key skills which can often be over-looked when it comes to skills development within the differing paraplanning roles.  

On the day Sarah, Len and myself had the pleasure of working with a mix of roles including Paraplanners, Managers, Leaders, Outsourced Paraplanners and Operations Managers. They were all united by a passion, desire and belief that, by giving their time and attention to develop their interpersonal skills, they would not only help themselves but also their colleagues, their teams and their clients. Since the event I have had several discussions with participants who are putting their skills into practice and are seeing fantastic results. As I said on the day, and in the follow-up webinar, the value of attending any event can only truly be realised if you’re prepared to put in place the commitments and actions you set out on the day. It’s great to hear how this is working for those who are investing the time and developing new habits to put the skills into practice.

This post will give you a useful reminder and key pointers from each of the sessions. I’ve included my top tips from each campfire session.

Communicating with confidence, influence and assertiveness

We explored the key skills required to be an effective and successful communicator including questioning, listening and influencing skills, and focused on an understanding and – crucially – how an appreciation of others’ hilltops can help strengthen empathy and respect when building relationships. We also explored personality differences between individuals in order to challenge ourselves to consider how we can communicate, engage and understand more effectively when working with others. We focused heavily on the principles of ‘Contracting’ and the importance of this in relationship building, project work and teamwork. 

  • Use the example Contracting template to establish the purpose of working together, agree on the processes and principles you will commit to and the core elements of your working relationships. (Use words in this process that work for you). Re-visit your Contract regularly and re-contract when appropriate. The template can be used between two people, within a team or to guide a project where there may be several people working together.
  • Challenge yourself to listen ACTIVELY – encourage a speaker to continue and respect their time. Ask open and probing questions to gain a full understanding of what you have heard. Let people finish their sentences and stay in the moment to truly listen to what someone is saying without overlaying your ‘real-time’ interpretation of it.
  • Remember the importance of body language and verbal language when communicating with others. Keep language simple; avoid jargon; vary the tone of your voice; keep an open posture and, if you know you talk quickly, consciously work on slowing it down (proactively ask for feedback to develop these skills).

Developing trusting, respectful and effective working relationships in order to give and receive meaningful feedback

This campfire explored the important role that trust plays when giving and receiving feedback, as well as being assertive regardless of the role you perform.  

We also explored giving yourself time when you are planning to give feedback so you’re well prepared and can give feedback which is specific, meaningful and crucially can be acted on.  

We discussed the framing of feedback and focused on empowering people by ensuring that feedback is balanced, specific and means something to the receiver (not just to you). 

We also focused on how we ask for and receive feedback.  A common theme that emerged centred on the tendency to only ask for developmental feedback or to quickly skirt over the positives we receive.  This means that feedback can be perceived as only focusing on the ‘negative’ or developmental as I prefer to term it.  

We also explored the importance of proactively asking for feedback (not just at review time) and asking a variety of people you work with, including peers, advisers, clients, other departments, and signposting WHY receiving feedback is so important to you.  

  • When giving feedback, support it with evidence so it can be acted upon. Be specific and put yourself in the shoes of the individual receiving it. Ask yourself ‘Does this make sense’? ‘Could I act on it’? and ‘How does it help me’?
  • A core part of feedback is sharing what an individual is doing well so they can continually demonstrate a strength and even take it to the next level, as well as working on areas that would develop them further.  Balance is crucial to continually motivate and inspire people to develop. If all someone hears is the ‘developmental’ it can affect their overall confidence and impact their ability and desire to improve.
  • When receiving feedback, actively listen to what is being said to you. Focus on the strengths and areas of development in equal measure. If you are not clear on the feedback, question for understanding and ask for specifics so you can act upon it. Write down the two to three strengths you receive and two to three development areas. Don’t try to change too much at once. It’s far better to focus on developing one thing at a time and do it well. 
  • Ask for feedback on your feedback. Ask others how the feedback you give is landing and the impact it is having.  If you don’t ask this how can you improve your skill of giving it? Also ensure you ask how others want to receive feedback; what’s right for you may not be right for others.

Elevating your role by helping those you work with to understand what you do, how you do it and the value you bring to client relationships

In this session we explored the definition of the Paraplanner, Leader, Manager role and the reality that this can vary considerably from business to business – and even within one business. 

We also focused on challenging how others would define the role and the importance of helping others with this to ensure you can make it as simple as possible for them to explain what you do and the value you bring.  

We discussed the elements of the elevator pitch and how you can vary the elements of it according to your audience. We focused on articulating how the Paraplanner role adds value to administrator, adviser, director, other roles within the business and – crucially – to client relationships.  

We learned from others’ success stories and challenges they have experienced when articulating what they do. This provided a great opportunity to share learning and challenged people to think about how they can ‘package up what they do’ more effectively.

  • When explaining what you do focus on the value and benefit this brings to others – people don’t want too much detail – it’s the impact of what you deliver that’s important. 
  • Think about the elements of your elevator pitch like having ‘bullet points in your back-pocket’ that you can pick from according to your audience.
  • Challenge yourself and ask the following: ‘Do those I work with clearly explain what I do and the value I offer when sharing what I do?’ if not ‘What can I do to help them? And how can I make it as easy as possible for them to share with others what I do and the value I deliver?’
  • Revisit your elevator pitch elements continually – your skills, experience and strengths will develop and change overtime.  Ensure what you share and promote is current, relevant and reflects the value you bring.


A Powwow P.S.

Thank you for sharing those tips Rachael. 

One of the Powwow participants at this event shared her tips on making events accessible for people with hearing impairments. It’s a jolly good read and we learnt loads from it. Thanks Lindsey ☺ 

Chris Hindle shared his thoughts on the Howwow in this blog post and Andy Schleider wrote this review for Professional Paraplanner.

Rachael Hurdman is the founder of Arch inspire.