Collaboration Post 3 – 15 Collaborative Behaviours To Change Your Group’s Outcomes

Collaborate or Die

We are meant to play nicely, work as a team and respect each other. In Part 1, we expanded on 10 reasons why this often fails to happen.

In this Part 3, we now look at the key desirable behaviours that, when practiced mindfully and regularly, WILL produce a team breakthrough, get the group to the goal and leave everyone alive, and, at least on speaking terms at the end.

As you move through the behaviours, ask yourself, “Do I do this? “Can I start doing this?” And, “Will I step up and do this regularly?”

15 Strong Suggestions

  1. Interrupt your dark defensive moments and fill them with light.

Experienced in so many ways as sarcasm, denial, anger, avoidance and justification, defensiveness – This is the burden suffered by most teams attempting to become more collaborative and effective.

Action

Borrowed from anger management training courses, the best method is to spot the symptoms of early on-set defensiveness and divert the behaviour, diminish it or reverse it. If you are beginning to feel your blood boil, take a walk to the balcony, go smell the flowers and take your imagination to a place of cool, calm tranquillity to “reset” your body’s distracting chemicals.

Young attractive business people - the elite business team

  1. Coaching your colleagues through any resistance.

The majority of people will not instantly get behind a fresh idea or new change. They will choose to wait it out, criticise it, or, mount an attack.

Action

Here, a coaching approach can be effective as you focus inside your colleague’s head to access both their imagination and logic circuits to help them do the work of processing change and getting on board for themselves. Questions that help to create different and contrasting futures are good – “What if we carry on as we are? What are the risks of this?” “If we had 10 times the resources available, what should we do next?” “If you were the team leader now, what course of action would you recommend?” Etc.

  1. Actively listening to your concerned colleague.

The problem with teams is that the confident, privileged and beautiful get most of the airtime. And this dynamic is actually reinforced by everybody in the team – even the oppressed, the shy, or, the outsiders. The reflectors, quiet geniuses and shy analysts are not prone to speak up, do not feel they have permission to speak and, thus, do not take up their share of the microphone.

Action

Related to coaching but intruding less, listening is about getting the whole story out of the coachee / colleague. We can employ minimal encouragement – “That is important, please tell us more” “You were saying…” “And, what does this mean for our team?” Quieter members of the team may be more sensitive. If you overdo it they will clam up – Maintain a positive, still attention with minimal non-verbal, para-verbal and verbal prompts. This will be good for evening out the group’s share of voice, listening to all and including their ideas and concerns as well as counting the vote of everybody to form an inclusive group dynamic that will be effective in taking a diverse group all the way to a stretched goal.

  1. Building muscular resilience.

We can see resilience as the ability to bounce back from pressure, stress or becoming knocked off balance, AND, still being about to function effectively. In the politics of the team, possessing greater resilience can take people all the way to the top. And a lack of resilience will see someone being relegated to the oppressed group, or demoted to basic executive duties. They are sent to eat at the children’s table.

Action

Resilience comes in 4 flavours – Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Teams or individuals can be encouraged to participate in simple and repeated exercises to stretch and build their resilience muscles. Physical – Regular exercise, monitoring diet and alcohol consumption. Emotional – Developing the habit of experiencing positive emotions through appreciation, gratitude and laughter. Mental – Simple maths exercises. Spiritual – Practicing your faith or thinking pure thoughts.

  1. Learning to resolve difference intelligently.

It is easy to sulk, withdraw and dismiss a different opinion from your own. This actually represents a form of defensiveness and will not allow a team to become optimally collaborative.

Action

Imagine learning to reconcile difference to a level where, “I am OK & You’re OK”, becomes the default setting for the group. (We discuss a positive exception to this later).

What difference would this make to the atmosphere and energy in your team? The simplest method when two parties are on opposite sides of an argument or behaviour style (e.g. direct communicators v indirect communicators), is to reconcile the difference. We ask first, what is the benefit and contribution of each style, acknowledging that a diversity of approaches is actually NECESSARY for success. We then work on how we can accommodate those two benefits in team communications or by putting them into the project plan. E.g. direct people tell the unvarnished truth, which can be invaluable when a crisis is looming. Diplomatic indirect people keep the channels of communication open, maintain higher levels of trust and ensure the probability of long-term communication. It is easy to see that both styles are required. The task then is to design simple protocols that allow both styles to operate with respect and appreciation within the team.

Colorful 3D rendering. Abstract shape composition, geometric structure block. Wallpaper for graphic design.

  1. Two heads are better than one when solving a problem.

If you are a hammer, your default mode is to bash things on the head. Not great when changing the batteries in your watch. Again a diversity of approaches will be more effective.

Action

Practicing problem solving can be a bonding process that deepens the respect and positive emotions of all team members. Weekly intellectual challenges involving abstract problems can be a fun team building activity that is secretly growing the team’s capacity to handle complex issue, resolve involved messes, and, operate smoothly and efficiently when a live business problem comes along.

  1. Trust underpins it all.

Without trust we have defensiveness, solo silos, and Machiavellian plots.

Action

There are 3 components to trust – Ability, Benevolence and Integrity. Each must be in play to ensure positive vulnerability and promote trust in a high functioning collaborative team. Ability – Giving recognition to the skills, competence and experience of each team member is a way that quickly establishing better communication and inclusion in any team. X becomes the go-to person on subject Y. Benevolence – By this we mean that each member declares and proves that they are not wishing a negative outcome upon their colleagues. They wish to allow a beneficial or, at least, neutral state to exist. Integrity – My word is my bond. It is essential to continually keep your promises in order to maintain confidence in the overall performance of any team. If there is a weak link, the whole side will feel let down.

  1. The Licensed Pessimist.

The risk to any team is Groupthink, where a strong personality is accepted as leader and their ego expands to a level where they propose actions that represent foolhardy risk taking. The compliant and passive nodders around them, allow and encourage adoption of this fast-track route to disaster.

Action

Challenging the precepts of 7. we deliberately create a rotating and official role that allows and encourages a critical view and gives full permission for that person to voice their concerns – The Licenced Pessimist. “What if the market does not recover? What then?” “Those numbers appear way too optimistic. How did you derive them?”

When immunity from revenge and animosity is established in the group’s ground rules, the role becomes effective and essential in stress testing all new input to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.

Team building. Group pf colleagues sitting in a circle and playing games and having fun.

  1. Holding everybody accountable.

Like a sulky child, the wayward executive defends their actions by saying – “Well I didn’t agree with the decision to go this route in the first place.” (Though they remained silent or did not actively disagree, when given the chance before the decision was made.) It is this lack of ownership that will lead to a suboptimal quality of work and poor outcomes.

Action

Asking everybody to say the word, “agree” can be enough to reduce the number of passive passengers on the bus and encourage everybody to process the information to form an active and personally held view. More people are then included in the process of building strategy, planning and problem solving.

  1. Regular Brainstorming.

Habits are quick to form and hard to change. It is easier to repeat what you did yesterday than take a different approach today in order to get a stronger result tomorrow. We are conservative, risk avoidant and take comfort in repetition. The zone we live in is far from comfortable – We stay in horrible jobs, relationships or houses not out of comfort, but out of habit.

Action

This activity will also count towards your resilience exercises. Brainstorming is about expanding the creative connections that you allow your imagination to make by expressing yourself freely. Exempt from criticism and editing, brainstorming moves in waves. There will be a burst of output, a lull, a second burst, and then a second lull. Keep going. It is often in the third burst that the gold is to be found.

  1. Turning passive to active.

What is written on the tombstone of most failed companies, “Well, we tried”. Not hard enough. Underperformance is supported in meetings and work by grey language, low energy sentences and half-hearted commitment. “I’ll try” is at the heart of all of them.

Action

Challenge sluggish, monotone responses to requests. Do not take “Maybe” for an answer. When you are asked, “How you are in the morning?”, upgrade your answer from a monotone, “ffiinne, I suppose” to, “SUPERB AND FANTASTIC. THANKS FOR ASKING.“

  1. Get rid of blame.

The best companies react intelligently to crisis, drama and adverse external circumstance. They do not start to defend, point the finger or avoid responsibility.

Action

The next time you have a company fire to put out and you follow the charter (point 15.) you will experience a difference in atmosphere and will have the chance to see the benefit of full-on collaboration in action. When people are scientific in their description of events this can be captured on a timeline. When they are objective in outlining the symptoms and measured in their analysis of likely causes, then you will experience the pay-off in investing to build collaborative mechanisms in your team.

  1. Moderation and facilitating collaboration.

The accidental hero boss can unintentionally ignore valuable input in order to maintain their hero brand. The neurotic and scared boss may shut down intelligent challenge, not because of the quality of the input, but due to their own insecurities. And, the time-scarce leader can move the meeting along, unconsciously, only asking group thinkers and fans for input, driven by a misguided and dangerous perceived need for peace and pace rather than quality and challenge.

Action

The job of a great moderator is to even out the debate and include a wider base of people, delivering a more diverse and representative contribution – Sampling a diversity of opinion and actively encouraging the quieter sources of wisdom to share their contribution, speak up and be heard.

  1. Good Conflict.

Many companies employ “nice” people who are expected to be “nice”. What actually happens is they become avoidant and this allows stupider ideas to become policy in action, leading to disaster.

Action

Promote the licensed critic, the robust challenger and include different opinions (and integrate these exotic gems via the process of reconciliation.) The smart move is to establish a protocol for allowed any civilised challenge within a robust but protected environment, to produce better suggestions, better processes, more considered solutions and a better customer experience. All this is done to generate improved products, services and engagement, the end result of which, will be experienced in higher income and healthier levels of profit.

  1. Capture collaboration in a charter    How many great training initiatives generated on a Friday are quietly killed off at the 8.30AM reporting meeting on a Monday? A. Most of them. It is easier to let innovation, change and challenge die on the vine and to go back to those old habits that are, actually not serving you well, but feel like an old pair of shoes – At least familiar. The problem is, they represent a slow company suicide.

Action

The formulation of a charter for collaborative team behaviours, formed collaboratively. Is that too obvious? It does not start with a stone tablet issuing from the CEO’s office. It does not come from an expensive off-site weekend jolly for Directors only. It comes from the floor. It evolves. It represents the voice and heart of everybody. And, it is signed up to by everybody – Volunteers stepping up, not coerced group thinkers just nodding along.

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a facilitator, trainer, writer, and public speaker, working with UK and International teams to get them beyond their blockages to create durable results in an exciting peer-to-peer atmosphere of exchange, fairness and excellence.

Contact Matthew on 075 40 65 9995 for a short conversation.

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Collaboration Post 2 – 4 Tools To Create Constructive Collaboration by Matthew Hill

Most people, most of the time, are not in collaboration mode – they are pursuing a totally different agenda

Tool 1 Active Listening

Before you dismiss this with a, “ ‘been there, done that, know it all already!” (that would indicate that you are overdue for a listening refresher course), let us remind ourselves that most people, most of the time are not listening actively. They are more likely to be;

*Waiting their turn to give their version of what has just been said, and, if they are super competitive, to story top and WIN! This is not active listening.

Team

Selfless Working

*Asking WIIFM? “What’s in it for me?” This person mines your data looking to extract personal gain and advantage from your content. It is a search function akin to selective attention. Test this by throwing in some test words, “Sex, beer and Netflix” and watch thier reaction. When they twitch they will know you are on to them. This is not an empathic activity.

*I know best. The Listening Observer Critic sits high up, even whilst standing, and allows their privilege to leak out with advice, constructive (or undermining) criticism to let you know that they are just a little bit better than you. These people lack empathy and their contribution may leave a bitter residue.

And now the real thing – Active Listening

The missing elements include;

*First attempting a broad understanding of what is being said and then taking a further empathic step – to understand the speaker as the SPEAKER intends to be understood. This is the Platinum level of listening.

*Psychological proof. This stage is not attained by the listener repeating what they have heard. A smart phone can do that. They are tasked with processing the information from their own perspective, attempting empathy and seeing the matter from the speaker’s Point of View – POV and, then, expressing what they think they have heard. Here we may add, checking for clarity and the confirming the intention component as well. This will sound like, “So, IF I have understood you correctly, I heard XXX. Is that the message you wished me to receive?”

*Letting them finish. The talking stick remains with the speaker for as long as they wish so they finally can feel they have said their piece.

Shocked girl eavesdropping.

Listening?

Miracle

The first time you try these ideas out with a passionate person, the results may overwhelm both them and you. This may be the first occasion when they have actually felt listened too with respect, depth and acknowledgement.

Good luck

Tool 2. Point of View – POV

This is a POV and reconciliation exercise that can be practiced as a training exercise and then used in real conversations. The training version is simple. Split the group into 3s. The first person takes the role of Finance Director, the second, New Young Executive and the third, the Project Delivery Leader. The context is set – The 3 of you are discussing the progress of a critical 90-day work project for your Golden Goose customer. As it stands, you are not going to hit either the quality mark or the tight deadline. Q. What do you do? The suggestion that you are now going to form an opinion on is; PAID OVERTIME. Are you for it or against it in this instance?

+ The first task is for the 3 to get into character and give a one-line opinion, yes or no, with, maybe, one line of explanation.

The answers are normally the expected ones – The Finance Director says, “The new money is not in the budget – No,” Etc.

+ The second task is to work out a strategy for how to reconcile the 3 points of view to reach the required quality standard, and, put in enough work hours to finish the job and end before the deadline.

There normally follows some creative thinking, challenge to opposing positions and a reconciliation that ends come up with a strategy that is, 1) paid for, 2) creates more hours of labour to complete the project, and, 3) can be agreed upon by the 3 people in the discussion.

This exercises mirrors what is required of a Collaborative Working Group – the robust exchange of truths, creating options, reconciling differences and mobilising around a common outcome to stay focused on the task, and, not get distracted by difference.

Once the training version has been completed it is time to have a go in the BWW – The Big Wide World.

Tool 3. Letting Go of Defensiveness

If there were just one freeing exercise that was mandatory for all boards, groups and committees, this would be it. Humans are emotional, primal and full of fear. It is mostly misdirected fear around the participant’s core needs not being met that causes so much grief and delay.

Group Of Young Business People

Stop crossing your arms!

When a board member’s core needs are threatened, defensiveness can easily follow. The 3 needs are;

*Significance – Privilege, status, power, importance or position – When this is threatened or exposed, defensiveness will never be far behind.

*Competence – Another key component of a board member’s identity tool kit is their ability and skill level. When this is challenged, called into questioned or undermined in real time, defensive will surely follow.

*Likable – To generalise – We all have a deep deep desire to be admired, liked and approved of. It is a critical part of most of us and the one need that is examined the most – “Do they like me?” “Will they like me?” “Am I being likable now?” Etc.

How does defensiveness manifest? We can make progress when we spot the symptoms of defensiveness, spot them early and interrupt the negative behaviour that will inevitably follow.

Examples include; plunging into sulky silence, The “poor me” victim script, All or nothing, polarised thinking, wanting and needing to be right, spreading the blame or shame, experiencing a sudden drop in IQ, experiencing energy ripping through the body, doom mongering / catastrophizing, needing the last word, obsessive thinking, Needing to pour out information or saying, “I don’t really get defensive.”

Action – With self-awareness, each board / committee member can learn to notice their own pattern of moving into defensiveness. The next move it to interrupt that normal course of events, reset, and, move in a different direction.

If you start to witter when you feel attacked – Stop, centre yourself and remain silent. If you suffer a drop in IQ, stop and focus on an intelligence enhancing strategy such as collecting symptoms from the recent conversations and attempting to derive a root cause that can be dealt with. If you feel like pointing the finger, interrupt yourself and focus on environmental causes not ones originating for any individual in the room. And so on.

Tool 4 The Licenced Pessimist

If you are familiar with Edward De Bono’s Six Hat Thinking Model, you will know that the Black Hat is tasked with thinking of the biggest risks and the worst outcomes. This function is essential if a group is to combat GROUPTHINK. Groupthink happens when overly homogenous groups, often lead by a strong or charismatic leader, get behind an idea and really go for it. When it is a particularly extreme point of view, risk management goes out the window and, suddenly, something bizarre ends up being carried out by an enthusiastic lynch mob. Remember the HSBC credit officer who saw the 2007 subprime loan property disaster unfolding in the US and spoke up. He was fired by the group-thinking board and disaster followed shortly after.

Asking people to rotate and take a turn to act as the devil’s advocate is a great way to stress test all ideas, and challenge all assumptions before bad outcomes occur.

Hint – It is best to keep rotating this role through the group or an unconscious bias will grow and that single Black Hat will begin to be seen as not playing a useful role but OWNING their tasked negative perspective permanently.

Conclusion

We hope you have benefited from these 4 tools and ideas and will implement them with your committees, boards and teams.

Please like and share if you are going to take action or think others could benefit from this input. Thank you.

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a trainer, facilitator, coach and public speaker helping executives and leaders uncover their soft skill talents, develop their communication competences and, whilst reaching their own personal potential, help others to enjoy a better work life and great business outcomes. Contact him by telephone;  07540659995

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Collaboration Part 1 – What stands in the way? Matthew Hill

                                    Are we making assumptions and mistakes?

Our many many assumptions only delay the building of effective collaborative structures and getting to positive team collaboration.

The assumptions about collaboration, and, how we should all be able to instantly achieve this nirvana like state, give insights into the difficulties we face, and, they often betray our cultural origins too.

In this, the first of 3 short posts, we will explore the barriers to collaboration in order to confront them, raise self-awareness and, finally, be able to put together a blueprint for effective collaboration across place, time and difference.

Teamwork and cooperation concept

What stops us from working collaboratively?

                                                10 Assumptions and Mistakes

  1. Its all about the goal – Action based organisations or individuals are all about starting fast and ending with the achievement of a goal – growth, profit or the production of a new object etc. Whilst this approach has been enormously effective (with only 5% of the World’s population, the US accounts for 23% of the World’s economy), the magic that creates collaboration happened between the start and finishing lines. We can easily find ourselves looking in the wrong place and focusing on the wrong things.
  2. Nail down the strategy – We are taking a large step closer when we talk about strategy and the HOW? How will we get there? Here, however, the focus, all too often, again, misses out the human, the relational and the emotional. The assumptions made are like an engineer in a factory – building a sausage machine, fill it with sausage meat and casings, and turn it on. We look at process and give emphasis to the technical, whilst again, overlooking the human.
  3. Measurement improves business – You get more of what you measure? Why? Because that is where you put your energy and attention. It is easy to manage activity, and compare input with output – Notice we are back with the sausage machine analogy. This risks drifting into Stephen Covey territory where we are super-EFFICIENT without being that EFFECTIVE. There is a critical difference we must become aware of. You can be driving in a super-efficient way – in the WRONG direction!
  4. Man management will get us there – So we have reached point 4. Are we finally, going to to deal with the emotional human and how we can get them to collaborate? Not quite yet! Historically, humans have been treated as muscle machines; expendable commodities whose freewill must be minimised and whose bodies must be made fast, and, whose minds must be made compliant. Take a moment and consider how obedient are you expected to be in order to continue to receive your pay? It is a little scary. There is an unwritten subtext where you must sublimate much of yourself in order for your face and behaviour to fit in.

I remember my Welsh English teacher, Taff Davies, beginning the year with exactly this metaphor. “What is the key characteristic of an efficient machine?” He asked. Silent running was the answer, he wished to extract from the class.

  1. Privilege – Do you notice who gets promoted? Class based advantage helps promote pale males ahead of others. This happens because of the two confidences – Theirs and ours.

Their confidence is drummed in – Noblesse oblige, duty, leadership, expectation (BTW – This is not a walk in the park – There is a large promise that must be delivered upon by our silver spooned chewing heroes.)

Our confidence comes in the form of preferring to deal with a middle class white male when it comes to anything important. We are ALL compliant in this skewed system.

Society has programmed us to accept a specific and prescribed minority as the dominant leaders in our community. This is historical, political and economic. We have spent much less time, money and energy working to create the conditions necessary for wider, productive and sustainable collaboration.

  1. Me me me – Either from the elite in point 5. or coming from the wide lands around them, the personal agenda of the individual can so easily compete for attention and resources as to undermine the chances of everybody playing nicely, collaborating for something worth achieving, or, the key audience being served at all. Just look at the ego of that person in your own group. You know who I mean.Collaboration - letters written in beautiful boxes on white background
  2. Defensive feelings – It is too easy to get passed people as machines model only to take everything personally. This leads to drama and personal battles that have little or nothing to do with the mission, the team or the service that is to be delivered. – Defensiveness is at the heart of most escalations, team malfunctions and litigation. It is a primal human reaction and will not lead to 1000 create collaborative moments.
  3. The oppressed marginals are included – The opposite of 5., those stuck in the margins have learnt behaviours necessary for them to exist, persist and survive. Their voice is quiet and avoids critical challenge, licenced pessimism or contributing their own innovative ideas. No risk – no punishment. That is the motto of the un-empowered came up with to keep on living.
  4. I don’t do bias – The problem with us humans, is that we think we are objective, intelligent and sophisticated creatures – That we are above the fray. We subconsciously dismiss the views of outsiders, outliers and those not in our gang. And we only vote for our own and take comfort in the tranquil voice of the social leaders as with point 5. We all have plenty of unconscious bias that has been programmed in via parental chat, education, entertainment and, particularly, with every political speech we have heard.
  1. Pleasing people pleases people – We end in irony. Groups comply rather than offer rational challenge for a reason. It is because they wish to enjoy harmony and for each member to be liked.

The assumption is that nice people, doing nice things for the needy is the way to go. It is not.

People pleasers don’t please people. We get nowhere and the wheels eventually fall off the bus. Group thinkers take wild decisions, create unsustainable levels of risk and cannot self-correct.

When we replace groupthink with licenced criticism, we start to create the conditions for GOOD conflict, robust exchange and the possibility of progress. This is challenging in most subcultures, where confrontation is actively avoided (How many times do the Brits say, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry every day?)

Being nice is not always a necessary condition for collaboration.

Conclusion – A raft of assumptions and mistakes stand in the way of forging effective teams, committees and communities that can act with purpose, from a strong based of shared values to achieve worthy and sustainable outcomes.

Next time we look at some exercises that can get us from the 10 assumptions and mistakes mentioned above and move towards behaviours supporting full-on collaborative teams working in a robust, courageous and effective way to fulfil their mandate.

About the author – Matthew Hill is a facilitator, presentation coach and leadership trainer, working with commercial and voluntary organisations to help them operate as robust executive teams, fulfilling individual promise and delivering overall results that are extraordinary.

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Come work with me…

*** SIETAR Congress in Malaga *** – Matthew Hill and Susanna Schuler will be running a workshop on the second day of the 1st SIETAR Spain Congress in Malaga. Saturday, 29th September 2018. After lunch. Do join us if you can…

Matthew Hill – 07540 65 9995

Research into how language and culture affect how multinational teams work –

Request for input by PhD Candidate Luisa Weinzierl

Luisa Weinzierl

I am researching for my doctorate at the Department of Management and Social Sciences, St. Mary’s University, London. I want to interview people who regularly work in multinational teams, where the language of discussion is not the mother tongue of several participants.

Here are some examples of what people in this situation say:

“People dismiss what I say at meetings because my spoken English is so slow and my accent is not very good. I often feel ignored so I give up – I stop going to meetings and just speak with my native Japanese colleagues. (Non-native English speaker at an American company)”

“Sometimes the English native speakers just ignore us. They forget that we are trying to speak their language. They become impatient with us when we are searching for words or go back to our native language – just to say what we need to say. Last week, our manager just left the meeting and told us to get a translator!” (Native Urdu speaker at an English company)

See Luisa’s YouTube Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl42meuJcEc&feature=youtu.be

With advances in technology and the increasing pace of globalization, multinationals rely increasingly the collaboration of teams around the world. These teams may operate virtually, across time zones and may be required to use a common language. But how good is the communication?

Research has uncovered serious negative emotions fueled by language barriers. Depending on language competence, team members can feel insecure and embarrassed when communicating with colleagues. A feeling of exclusion and even communication avoidance may lead to disruption in the team and loss of trust between native and non-native speakers. Usually, bridging the language gap falls to the team leader.

If you are a leader of one or more such teams, or a member of one or more teams where the meeting language is not your native language, or where the meeting language is your native language but there are several non-native speakers of your language, please take part in my study.

If you take part in this study, you will be interviewed for about half an hour, face to face or by Skype or a similar channel. If you take part in my study, you will receive a copy of my research report. To take part in this study, please contact me on:

Mobile: +44 7887 984874

Email: 176092@live.stmarys.ac.uk

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Luisa Weinzierl