Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins has a B Sc degree in Psychology from Edinburgh University and over 20 years of management and consulting experience in the African corporate world. She started her career in the mining industry with Anglo American in Zambia before coming to South Africa in 1976 to join AECI. She then worked for Afrox and the Barlow’s Group before joining the FSA Contact consulting group in1985. From 1995 to 2006 she was an Associate of Gateways Business Consultants. She now consults independently as Straight Talk.

Maureen has consulted extensively in the chemical and manufacturing sectors and in other organisations such as Telkom, SARS, Harmony Gold Mining Company and TFMC. Her current clients include Wesbank, Safmarine, Rand Air, Aberdare Cables, Ovations, Johannesburg Securities Exchange, Nedbank, Development Bank of South Africa, Gauteng Department of Health, and Multichoice.

Maureen’s experience is in management and leadership training; team building, and handling change and transition. She has trained managers extensively in performance management. The challenge of improving the quality of performance feedback given by managers to their employees lead to her interest in the field of emotional intelligence as a means of improving communication in the corporate world.

In designing the Straight Talk material she has drawn on her own experience and a broad range of resources to help people improve their communication skills in the difficult conversations they encounter in their professional and personal lives.

Wednesday, 09 April 2014 10:06

No quick fixes

More than ever, organisations need people with the EQ skills to work productively in teams, communicate clearly and exercise effective leadership. We allocate resources to learning and development in these fields because it’s clearly the right thing to do.

But as soon as financial belts have to be tightened, whatever has been allocated to these areas is first to be taken out of the budget. Is development of the so called ‘soft skills’ a worthwhile investment?

Skills training is still underpinned by two beliefs, both of which are misconceptions. The first is that people will do something when they know how to do it. They don’t. Consider how many accidents are caused by highly trained people who know the correct procedures but haven’t followed them.

The second misconception is that people will do what they know they should do. They don’t. If they did, no-one would walk across a highway instead of using a pedestrian bridge, or smoke regularly.

When we need people to change their behaviour, providing skills development on its own does not provide an effective fix. It’s one of the influences that can change behaviour, but it’s seldom the most important, and on its own, hardly ever changes anything.

Before any skills training takes place the specific behaviour it is designed to change must be identified. Participants must value that change in their behaviour. There must be practice opportunities, with coaching and support back on the job. It’s fine to reward results but incentives for small changes along the way keep people on track. Finally, if the behaviour change is to be sustainable, the environment must support it, not work against it.

Skills training that follows these guidelines is a worthwhile investment: the apparent quick fixes, not so.

Friday, 28 March 2014 11:26

Just one thing

Life is complex and pressurized, every moment occupied by the need to respond to the incoming storm of requests and data. Multi-tasking is in: time to think is out.

I’m convinced that if we took time to think, we’d find it can be simpler: that there is often just one thing that can make all the difference, create the change, or drive the improvement we’re looking for.

Mostly, what we don’t need are more tools, technology or another set of policies and procedures. Rather we need to change how we behave, especially in the moments when careless words or inappropriate behaviours have the power to produce wonderful results or cascade us into failure.

The notion is not new. The 80/20 principle has been around since time began. We’re familiar with moments of truth, hot spots and key behaviours. We know that when we focus on them, they have an enormous leverage in solving problems and moving us toward success.

• What’s the one thing you must do to achieve your primary goal?
• What one thing that you can change, is holding you back in your career?
• What single behaviour could make most difference to your team’s effectiveness?
• What one thing can you do to improve your most important relationship?

Now you’ve got focus.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 18:35

Change behaviour: change the future

Our personal histories are full of diet plans that haven’t made us thin and gym memberships that haven’t made us fitter. The corporate world is strewn with failed change initiatives: each crisis brings a new organisation structure, but people carry on behaving as they’ve always done.

We’re not good at changing our behaviour.

Extensive social science evidence supports a methodology that brings the factors known to influence behaviour change together, into a cohesive strategy.* Applying the methodology increases your ability to influence behaviour change tenfold… and to keep it changed.

If you’re serious about changing your own behaviour, or that of your business, you need to learn about this process. It will take you out of a world of quick fixes that don’t work into one where change becomes inevitable.

In the workshop participants apply the process to their own change goals.

  • Decide what you really want and the key behaviours that will give you most leverage 
  • Develop tactics for building personal motivation
  • Apply skills building principles 
  • Use positive peer pressure and coaches
  • Identify and neutralise the effect of ‘bad angels’
  • Use rewards and incentives to good effect
  • Manage the physical space to make new behaviours easier

Course fee: R17 500 plus VAT, includes:

  • One day, or two half days, of training for 8-10 people 
  • Training materials, including a self-diagnostic and a planning template
  • E-mail feedback on personal plans for up to 8 weeks after training
  • 20 minute Skype coaching session per participant within 8 weeks from the training.

Contact Maureen on 082 6012807or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to book a workshop or for more information.

*www.vitalsmarts.com
See also http://maureenstraighttalk.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 18:28

Straight Talk: conversations that get results

If you are unable to handle conversations about sensitive topics, with difficult people, in circumstances where the stakes are high, it is likely that your career and the quality of your relationships are suffering.

Straight Talk is a one and half day skills development process in which people at all levels learn to handle the conversations that can make or break careers and personal relationships: confronting inappropriate behaviour, handling disagreement and conflict, managing sensitive topics and emotional people, speaking up to a superior and negotiating personal boundaries.

Each workshop includes:

  • generic principles for handling conversations in which the stakes are high
  • guidelines, tools and tips for planning and managing conversations, with practical examples and practice opportunities at each step
  • an influence model for ensuring behaviour change, to use with the Straight Talk behaviours
  • template for planning conversations: email feedback is given on as many conversations as participants wish to submit after training
  • 20 minutes of Skype coaching for each participant after training. 

 

The workshop fee of R28 500 plus VAT includes:

  • One and a half day workshop for up to 16 people
  • Straight Talk book for each participant
  • E-mail feedback on personal conversations for up to 8 weeks after training
  • One 20 minute Skype coaching session per participant up to 8 weeks after training
  • Subscription to monthly e-mailed Straight Talk Tips

 

"Maureen is an excellent facilitator and speaks from the heart; thought provoking and knowledgeable; uses great practical examples." Regional Manager, Insurance services

"Straight Talk can benefit everyone who has people reporting to them, especially in managing performance and coaching." HR Manager, Financial Services

Contact Maureen on 082 601 2807 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to book a workshop or for more information.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 18:24

Quick Coach

There are some fields where a lack of skill is virtually guaranteed to slow you down and limit your career. You know you need to develop skills in these areas, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Quick Coach is designed for you.

It is a series of four hour workshops designed for four people. Each workshop provides a wealth of practical tools and tips on topics of immediate importance.

Quick Coach workshops are currently available on the following subjects:

1. How to give a confident and persuasive presentation
2. How to run meetings that stay on point, make decisions and get commitment to action
3. Reclaim your life: how to say no and set personal boundaries
4. How to get the most out of a performance appraisal interview
5. Become productive: how to focus on what’s important, handle multi-tasking, and reduce stress
6. 5 essential skills for creating better relationships

The workshops are arranged at times to suit small groups of friends or colleagues. Each one distills proven experience into practical models and tools you can put to use immediately and with confidence.

The workshop fee of R9 950 plus VAT includes:

  • 4 hour workshop for 4 people
  • Learning material
  • Electronic copies of models and templates for your immediate use
  • One 20 minute Skype coaching session per person within 4 weeks of the workshop.

"Fantastic training! Easy to follow and understand. I’ll definitely be using it." Realty Manager
"Wonderful training…life changing…a lot to think about." Director of NGO

Contact Maureen on 082 601 2807 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to book a workshop or for more information.

Monday, 24 February 2014 15:35

Change your behaviour - change the future

When you know how to change behaviour, you can change almost anything, in your personal life, and at work. There are no quick fixes but this workshop shows you how to make sure your efforts bring results that last.

Monday, 17 February 2014 15:34

The Changing Experience of Our Clients

We recently asked a group of clients to consider how their efforts to create change, both at work and in their personal lives, become derailed. Their three main reasons are as follows.

The first is lack of really strong motivation from the outset. In organisations, the good business reasons for change and the consequences of not changing tend to be understood by some, often senior people, but not others. There isn’t enough work put in to create the same understanding and conviction amongst everyone else, especially the employees whose day to day behaviour is going to be most affected by the change.

When your motivation to change isn’t really strong, an initial burst of enthusiasm doesn’t last very long, especially when it’s faced with the hard work of real behaviour change. It’s the time you take out gym memberships or buy expensive bicycles. Organisations invest in extensive training programs and road show style communication exercises, none of which are followed through to the point of real behaviour change.

The second reason why change isn’t successful is to do with social influence. The influence of people around you is very strong; your peers, people you love and respect, people senior in your organisation. They can hold you back in old habits, or encourage and support you. You can seldom change your personal behaviour without help and you certainly can’t change an organisation on your own, even if you are the CEO.

Managing rewards and incentives, and the importance of changing the physical environment to make change easier, are the other factors that contribute to unsuccessful change programs.

Not surprisingly, the group felt that where they had been most successful in the change process was in identifying and learning new skills. This is the easy, visible part of changing behaviour. Applying the skill on the job or in your life doesn’t necessarily follow.

If you’re serious about changing behaviour, I’d like to talk to you. I offer personal coaching, in house training and public workshops.

Contact me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +27 82 601 2807

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 10:57

Everybody influences somebody

Your influence on others may be unconscious and unintentional, and you realize too late the impact you’ve had; but it is happening all the time, whether you know it or not. As a parent you may have been horrified to hear your two year old swear at a toy that is misbehaving, using a word… well, there’s only one person from whom they could have learned that one…

You’re constantly a model for someone. You model criminal behaviour when you steal hotel towels or bribe a traffic officer. You’re a positive model when you show respectfulness or generosity.

At work you send out messages that influence the behaviour of people around you each time you speak up with an opinion – or don’t: in every meeting you attend; every leadership position and decision; every toxic outburst of emotional drama, or the way you manage your emotions and step back to consider the viewpoints of others.

The amount of personal influence you exert depends on your role, position, and personal power, which as we know is a function of many characteristics. Becoming a positive model requires self-awareness and the ability to change your own behaviour. Others will follow.

Do you realise how much influence you have on others?
Are you aware of the positive – or negative – effect you have on their behaviour?
Is that the impact you want to have?

Join us for our next breakfast on 20 June. Topic: Everybody influences somebody. Click here for the invitation

Photo courtesy of Brendon Cremer©

Monday, 13 January 2014 15:58

Good intentions

It’s not difficult to start the year with good intentions. Most of us do it every year. But how many of your resolutions ever make it past the end of January?

We know that the road to hell is paved with New Year’s resolutions and all our other good intentions. You need something more if you want to change bad habits to good. You need a change in your behaviour.

As well as spending time on goals, identify the behaviors you’ll have to change to reach them. For example, lack of time often torpedoes good intentions. If your goal is to get fit, you have to find time to exercise: leave work earlier, get up earlier, or give up watching TV. Which behaviour will you change?

Start small; be realistic, not ambitious. When you start out with high expectations, you’re likely to give up in disillusionment when you don’t achieve them. It’s better to walk regularly three times a week than to have an unrealistic plan to walk every morning.

Get support. Find a child with a bicycle, or a dog who would like to join you. Commit to meeting a friend so that getting up in the morning feels easier. Join a class or a club. Social support from your family, friends or colleagues can make or break any intention.

Reward yourself. Track your own progress, get feedback from others and reward yourself when you reach mileposts. They will all help you keep going until a new habit is in place.

If you want to change your habits, you have to start by changing your behaviour. Remember Einstein’s words:  Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.