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Why it’s Okay to Show Emotion (and even Cry) at Work

Why it’s Okay to Show Emotion (and even Cry) at Work.

Organizations, and if we believe stereotypes male bosses, often hold the belief that people should leave their emotions at the door when they come to work. Some leaders say business is logical, factual, and shouldn’t be personal. In working with countless organizations on leadership development and coaching hundreds of clients the truth is that organizations want and need emotions at work. The key is which and how to manage them.

Truth of Emotions at Work

When leaders tell me they don’t want emotions at work I ask, “you want them to leave ambition, loyalty, trust, calm and inspiration at the door?” Usually not. Organizations want those emotions and others (happy, grateful, practical), they just don’t want the ‘difficult or uncomfortable’ ones.

Crying at Work

Emotions such as extreme anger in terms of outbursts and sadness or frustration especially if expressed in tears are the ones people don’t want as they don’t know how to deal with them. We aren’t taught emotional literacy in school like we are taught language and numerical literacy. Hence, not knowing what they are (is loyalty an emotion? Yes) or how to be with them.

Emotions as Data

The idea that some emotions are welcome and some not highlights the belief that some emotions are good, and some are bad. Emotions are just sensations and data. Fear is good sometimes as It alerts us to danger. Anxiety is the belief something might hurt us, but we don’t know what, so it is good to keep us vigilant. Tears might be good to indicate passion/commitment or overwhelm and potential burnout. Many people report crying when frustrated at work. There are no good or bad emotions; they are just present. The key is how to use that data to improve your effectiveness in achieving the organization’s agenda.

Crying at Work

Crying in some work environments might cause others to think you are weak. Articulating verbally that you are frustrated, having the emotion below the surface in your voice for authenticity, can be very powerful. This is why storytelling can be so effective in motivating and inspiring people; it conveys and evokes emotion.
Depending on your environment if you feel the need to cry, do it in private. If you do cry in public, name it, what’s the emotion that prompted the tears. Be comfortable being with your own emotions and teach others with your example of how to be with them. Reassure the other person that you don’t need them to do anything with the tears, potentially you need them to do something about the situation if applicable.

Managing Emotions at Work

The key is understanding your emotions and eventually others’ emotions. What are the emotions telling you? How does that serve the work? What emotions do you want others to feel? What can you do or say to or how can you be with them to create that feeling? This is what can build trust, passion and loyalty. What emotion is someone feeling about a request you’ve made? Sensing this (or asking) will help you know how to influence them better.
It’s how you express emotions at work, how you influence others to feel and sense how others are feeling that is key to building your credibility, effectiveness and having the impact you want.

Do your emotions help you at work?

Do other people’s emotions throw you?

Click on the various free resources I offer on my website that I’ve listed here:

Gratitude Template

Creating Better Interactions

Giving Feedback Template

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore managing your, and others’, emotional responses further.

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How to Deal with Poorly Delivered Negative Feedback at Work

How to Deal with Negative Feedback (Ouch) at Work

No matter how well you perform at work everyone experiences receiving negative feedback (or at least they would in a learning or continuous improvement environment). Technically, feedback is feedback, we judge it as being positive or negative. All feedback, even positive feedback or the things we do well, is about improving ourselves even if that means continuing to do the good things we do.

Negative feedback can hurt. Our ego can be sensitive. It can go further and trigger feelings of shame or ‘not being good enough’ as some of my coaching clients experience. If negative feedback affects you in that way, then pay close attention to the BEFORE tips below to better prepare yourself (and consider working with a coach or therapist to get to the root of the issue).

Here are things you can do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER receiving the feedback (any feedback actually, positive or constructive).

BEFORE Getting any Feedback

1. Change your mindset about negative feedback. Think of it as constructive or developmental; meant to help you improve or be more effective (even if it’s delivered to you in a clumsy, less-than-ideal manner). Yes, this is a bit of mental gymnastics. Often, it’s said that feedback is a gift (imagine a beautifully wrapped box) think of it that way so when it comes you have that visual to ground you in the positive.

2. Identify what feedback would you give yourself. Proactively think about the areas you could improve to increase your effectiveness right now. Chances are you know the feedback others would probably give you (and sometimes we’re tougher on ourselves than others would be). What would you advise yourself to do differently to improve? How could some of your strengths help you make those improvements?

3. Reflect on your past experiences of receiving feedback. What did you think and how did you feel? What was it about that feedback that caused you to feel that way? What did it remind you of in your past? What did you tell yourself about that feedback? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their perspective in giving you that feedback? It can often be what we imagine or assume about the feedback that threatens us, more than the feedback itself.

DURING the Feedback Itself

1. Listen. Breathe. Listen. Listen to understand not to respond or defend. Breath while you are listening to stay present and not become reactive. Try to understand what the other person is saying. My executive coaching clients find simply nodding signals listening and buys them time to compose themselves and put their attention on what’s being said rather than the icky feeling inside.

2. Ask questions to understand better. As Stephen Covey, the famous educator, businessman and author said decades ago, seek first to understand before being understood. Ask them to repeat it again (in case you didn’t hear it the first time because you were listening to the little voices in your head defending yourself). Ask for specific examples to help you understand. Ask, in a curious tone, questions about what they see or hear you doing that’s impeding your performance such as:

• What behaviours am I doing that aren’t effective?

• What am I saying that has that impact?

• What specifically would you suggest I do or say?

• How should I do or say it differently to improve?

These types of questions can even help people that are poor at giving feedback to be better.

3. Acknowledge having heard the feedback. Restate what you have heard so you can confirm you’ve received it as intended. Tell the other person you will go away and consider how to act on their feedback. Depending on the feedback, the situation and the individual who said it to you, you might want to say you will come back to them to talk it through further or share your improvements. Say thank you (even if it’s thanking them for just caring about your performance!).

AFTER Getting Feedback

1. Consciously decide where to “take” the feedback. This tip relates back to the idea of feeling bad about ourselves when we receive negative feedback. There are different “lens” through which you can “see” the feedback. You can see it at a behavioural level (hence, why you ask them what they see or hear you doing, to focus them on giving you feedback about behaviours). At the other end, you can see it at an identity level, that you are a bad person or not good enough for the role. A useful structure to help assess where to take (and give) feedback is below. Its origins are from The Logical Levels, a tool or model in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) developed by coach, consultant and trainer Robert Dilts and Todd Epstein. Focus on receiving the feedback at the outer 3 levels and ask questions to get the feedback at those levels.

Copyright Anne Taylor, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, Practical Inspiration Publishing, London 2020

2. Decide what you will take on board. As with any gift, you can decide whether to receive it or not. Firstly, find the 2% truth in the feedback. You might not agree with anything the person is saying but often there is 2% truth in there somewhere. You had an impact, in the case of negative feedback, an ineffective impact. How that impact has been interpreted by the ‘giver of the feedback’ may not be entirely inaccurate. Putting your ego and self-doubt aside, what truth is in the feedback they are proposing? Secondly, decide if you will do anything with the feedback. Depending on the feedback, the situation and the giver of the feedback you need to consciously decide what’s best for you personally, for your performance and potentially your career. Lastly, if you decide all or some of it is relevant then develop a plan of action to improve it. You already have ideas from them when you asked what you could do differently to be more effective.

3. Follow up as necessary. You might want to follow up with the person that gave you the feedback to get more clarity by asking more questions. There is no harm in re-visiting it to understand more or to get suggestions on what to do better. You could also let them know what you are doing with the feedback, if anything. This very much depends on the situation, the feedback and who gave it. Some of the positives of doing this are: positively reinforcing that person to continue to give feedback, creating a feedback culture, showing you value them and their observations, and potentially having them think more highly of you as you take your impact seriously.

Remember, just as you might have struggled with receiving negative feedback others might too. Take that into consideration when you are giving feedback to others. Keep it focused on things they can change like behaviour, skills and capabilities. Don’t get personal, don’t give feedback at an identity level. Frame it as developmental and express your intention to help them improve their effectiveness. For more information on how to give feedback well see my blog, How to Give Constructive Feedback to Empower People.

What feedback would you like to address to improve your performance?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore feedback you’ve received and how you can become more effective, satisfied and successful.

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Why we feel zoom/video call fatigue & how to prevent it

Zoom Fatigue? What causes it and how to prevent it

Find you’re tired after a long day of video conferencing?

Noticing some dread at the prospect of jumping on another Teams meeting?

Zoom fatigue is a ‘thing’. We get tired of being on Zoom throughout a day. It’s not just from Zoom though, it’s from any video conferencing platform. Stanford University has conducted research¹ that concludes video conferencing is in fact wearing you out. Many office-based jobs have remote interactions that involve spending hours per day, even if not back-to-back, on video calls with others which will tire you out. The reasons in the research were from a psychological perspective, it’s about brain processing.

The researcher was quick to point out that this wasn’t meant to malign video conferencing, rather to educate and provide solutions so here goes:

Why does Zoom Fatigue Us?

1. Looking and Being Looked at.
We are looking at people almost continuously. People are looking at us almost continuously. Most people fear public speaking, often because of being scrutinized by others. It results in anxiety and fear. Yet video conferencing has turned us all into public speakers, even the audience members are “on show” or being looked at, potentially even when they are saying nothing. This means there can be an underlying sense of anxiety about being watched.

2. Disproportionate Head Sizes
That sounds weird I know. And if you are video conferencing with only one other person there’s a high likelihood their head appears on screen larger than in real life. Also, we usually only experience people that ‘close up’ if we know them intimately. It’s a closer sense of personal space then we would have with colleagues and strangers. Proximity often implies a force – either intimacy like romance or conflict with someone “in your face.” Our brain subconsciously processes this disparity and force versus what is ‘normal.’

3. Seeing Ourselves
It is not natural to stare at yourself in a mirror for long periods of time. That’s effectively what happens in many of the video conferencing platforms; our image is part of the view. It is tiring for our brains to continually process our own image. Other research does show that we are more judgmental or critical of ourselves when we see our image.

4. Restricted Mobility
Video conferencing restricts our physical movement as there is usually a fixed field of view for the camera. This is restrictive by definition. In-person meetings and audio calls allow more movement than video. Some emerging research is starting to show that cognition is better when we move.

5. Takes More Effort to Convey Messages
When we talk in-person it’s natural for our brain to subconsciously process body language and non-verbal cues and to project those non-verbal cues too. On video, we must consciously think about conveying those cues and transmit them. For example, in-person if we agree our head often nods in agreement without us having to think about it. On video, to ensure that agreement is conveyed through this medium we consciously decide to nod our head, maybe do a thumbs-up gesture towards the camera, maybe click on the ‘reaction button’ to say thumbs-up digitally and then we often want to check that our agreement was seen or received. That’s a lot of conscious thought. This brain processing is extra energy we do not have to expend in person, no wonder we are tired.

Top 10 Tips to Minimize or Prevent Zoom Fatigue:

1. Use audio only when appropriate. Just because we can video doesn’t mean we have to.

2. Do audio calls standing up, moving around or walking outdoors if possible occasionally.

3. Turn off your “self-view” if that’s an option on your video conferencing platform so you don’t see yourself. Or put a ‘post-it note’ over your image on the screen as another means of not looking at yourself.

4. Minimize full-screen views when videoing with only 1-2 people.

5. Take a break from screens in general. When you get off a series of video meetings to have a break, refrain from picking up your phone to check messages or scroll social media.

6. Move more, both on video calls and in general. Distance yourself from the camera so you can stand up and move around more.

7. When in long video meetings ensure there are proper breaks built into the agenda.

8. Periodically in long video meetings, when appropriate, turn off your camera for even a minute or two to be audio only to ease the burden on your brain processing. It’s analogous to putting your car in idle for a moment.

9. Look away from the screen for a few minutes, literally turn away, beyond just switching the camera off, to minimize the amount of visual stimulation you are taking in.

10. Set ground rules with your team or those you interact with about when to use video and when not to in order to increase everyone’s energy and performance.

Do you want to be more energized and productive at work?

Do you want your team to feel and perform better?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader in times of remote working and video conferencing.

¹https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

 

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How HR Leaders (Anyone) can Build Trust in the Workplace

How HR Leaders, any Leader actually, can Build Trust in the Workplace

Trust has always been important in the workplace – among individuals, departments, functions and hierarchy. It’s now more important than ever as uncertainty is rampant in many aspects of both work and life. HR can both role model and lead the creation of a high trust culture. Anyone can impact trust – positively and negatively – through simple (maybe not all easy) daily behaviours.

What is Trust

According to Collins dictionary, trust is your belief that others are honest and sincere and will not deliberately do anything to harm you. This definition encapsulates both trust and psychological safety described by Forbes. They describe trust as you are offering others the benefit of the doubt when you are being vulnerable. Whereas they say psychological safety is you believing others are extending the benefit of the doubt to you when you’re taking a risk.

A simple example of trust in the workplace is people doing what they say they are going to do. A colleague commits to doing a specific task for a project by a specific time and then does it.
A more nuanced example of trust is being able to disagree with a senior leader about a decision even in a group setting without the risk to your career or being ridiculed.

Benefits of Trust in the Workplace

There are obvious and less obvious benefits of high trust which apply in any relationship, not just those in the workplace. These benefits focus on the workplace:

  • Having different and dissenting opinions openly shared leads to better decision making.
  • Pointing out unconscious bias comments, patterns and decisions e.g. challenging potentially racist or sexist comments in a discussion, resulting in equality, diversity and inclusivity.
  • Transferring your efforts or resources to another groups’ project to serve the organization’s greater goals.
  • Improving mental wellbeing as emotions and stress are shared so better retention, fewer grievances, less absenteeism.
  • Feeling safe so energy can go towards doing the work rather than manipulating the political environment.
  • Taking risks and speaking out leads to more creativity, new ideas and better solutions.

How to Demonstrate Trust in the Workplace

These ideas apply to HR leaders, leaders across the organization and most people interacting with others in general.

    1. Listen – really listen to people. As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”¹ Many people listen to respond thereby they often stop actively listening as they start to formulate their response. In my coach training listening was one of the first things we were taught. How to listen at many levels – to what the other person says, and doesn’t say, to their body language and energy, to your own intuition about their feelings. Don’t listen for listening sake, listen to learn, adapt and understand.
    2. Get curious – pause your own thoughts and potentially your defence mechanisms to understand someone else’s perspective. Ask questions to understand. A specific action for HR is to learn intimately about the business. This will help you position HR policies to support the business needs and to step truly into their shoes when you consider your initiatives and language. Encourage others to be curious too.
    3. Interrogate your own mindset – what are your feelings about risk, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid and making a mistake. Adopt a more supportive mindset for yourself, changing your internal dialogue to “if I make a mistake I’ll at least know and will learn from it.” Ask your team to become more self-aware too.
    4. Show you trust – take a risk and show vulnerability. Risk making a mistake or getting it wrong. Acknowledge when you don’t know something. Give your time, support or resources to “competing” initiatives. Be generous to others verbally, publicly and even use the words “I trust you” when warranted. Give others the benefit of the doubt.
    5. Act with integrity – do what you say you are going to do. If circumstances change communicate quickly and gain alignment to the impact of those changes. In the hardest HR situations act with the upmost integrity and with compassion. Examples are not tolerating gossip, or blame, any negativity in fact by calling it out respectfully in the moment. Not laughing at others or dismissing their ideas.
    6. Ask for feedback – and then listen and take it on board. This will show people you are engaged, care about the impact you have. This is also a great measure of how much trust there is in you or the organization. People will give helpful, constructive feedback when they trust you. Feedback might be vague or overly complimentary when they don’t feel safe to share.
    7. Encourage healthy conflict – disagreement and conflict are not bad especially when done respectfully and with the purpose of getting to the best solution, not just to ‘win.’ Practice asking questions that challenge someone’s idea in a way that shows respect. Think about debate rather than win/lose or judging right/wrong. Healthy debate leads to more thorough investigation and understanding.
    8. Own your mistakes – admit if you make a mistake or get something wrong. You can then talk about the learnings from those situations. This shows humility, builds trust and makes it safe for others to admit their mistakes. This means things don’t get hidden and continual improvement becomes possible.

What would be possible by increasing the trust in your team? The trust between people across different teams and functions?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader by building more trust.

Endnotes:
¹ https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-5.html

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The Emergence of Spring. Change is Coming. How to Adapt?

With the Emergence of Spring, Change is Coming. How to Adapt?

I’ve been interviewing HR leaders for an upcoming talk I am giving to HR professionals about soft skills in the workplace. Many are saying the same thing – office employees have been working longer hours since working from home, some stating employees are working 1.5-2 hours more PER DAY!

As the UK restrictions are easing, facilities are opening. My gym and singing lessons could be face-to-face soon; how will I fit “commuting” to these facilities into an already busy day? How will office workers fit travel time for their activities, shopping and socializing into their back-to-back schedules?

Just as going into lockdowns and adjusting the pandemic necessitated change, so too will emerging from it.

The 4 Reactions to Change – SARA

There are often four stages to change, news or disruption that we navigate at different speeds depending on the situation and our experiences. The acronym is SARA:

Shock and disorientation – we’re knocked off guard.
Anger and other emotions– we don’t want the change, this disrupts our ‘normal.’
Rationalization – we start to process the change (sometimes if we’re in denial we might rationalize away the issue and hence be avoidant). We start seeing the future and not just what we’ve lost.
Accept – we accept the change and determine how best to move forward.

Coping with Change

Here are some ways to cope with the change at work that are coming as restrictions ease (at least here in the UK):

1. Breathe – breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to “rest and digest” responses to change. In contrast, our sympathetic nervous system leads to “flight, fright, freeze” reactions in the face of stress. This is about being present in the moment, not regretting the past or anticipating the worst in the future.

2. Talk about it – talk to people about the change and how you feel. Share your hopes and fears with those close to you.

3. Find the joy or positives – what are the positives of the change? What would need to shift in you to enjoy the change? Imagine looking in someone’s eyes rather than trying to connect through a video screen. Review all the changes you’ve had in your life and feel the enjoyment because life is just a series of changes.

4. Focus on your goal – what goals do you have for yourself, your work and your life? Focus on moving towards those goals. This will limit the amount factors to consider or be bombarded by. Look at a bigger picture of your life and see how to build that within this change event.

5. Recognize what’s not changing – building on the previous point, there are many aspects in any situation that remain the same. Identify the things that are not changing both externally and internally. Within yourself, your skills, strengths, values and abilities remain the same despite the circumstances. Lean into those things that aren’t changing for perspective and resources.

Adapting to Change

1. Self-compassion – have compassion for yourself through times of change. Compassion means accepting yourself and your feelings. Change can be hard, especially when it is thrust upon us. We are often harder on ourselves than we would be on another person, expecting us to behave perfectly despite the challenges. Imagine “what would my best friend say to me right now?” and heed that advice.

2. Empathy – have empathy for others. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. You might not have gone through the same experience but chances are you can still feel the feeling from one of your own experiences. Empathy creates relatability and makes people feel like they’ve been seen and heard.

3. Make a plan – with the easing of restrictions and the anticipation of this “new normal” what’s a phased-approach that would work for you? Prioritize what needs to happen first, or what you want to happen. Identify ways you’ve gotten through change previously and add those to your plan.

4. Self-care – change is stressful. Ensure that you have balance in your life to counteract the stress. The usual about healthy eating, sleeping, exercise, supportive friends, etc are needed all the time and especially in times of stress.

5. Reframe the change – I hear people say I don’t like change. I then ask if they have children to which they often answer yes. Well, if you don’t like change, don’t have kids. People don’t like change that is thrust on them, for which they don’t have control. People accept change that they initiate. What’s the opportunity that the change presents? What can you control?

What would help you emerge from lockdown and restrictions leading the life you want and being the leader you want to be?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader by building more trust.

 

Are You in Danger of Potentially Being a Workaholic?

Are You in Danger of Potentially Being a Workaholic?

Workaholic? Long working hours? Many people struggle with long working hours and a lack of boundaries between work and home, especially when working from home is now widespread. Anecdotal evidence from interviews I’m conducting estimates that white-collar office workers are working 90 minutes to 2 hours longer per day while working from home.

Workaholism Meaning

Workaholism is different than working hard or working long hours. It is an addiction, a mental health issue like alcoholism and drug addiction. Psychologist Wayne E. Oates created the term “workaholic” in 1968 as someone with “an uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” Like an alcoholic, it’s the compulsion, you must, not because the excess is good or enjoyable. It isn’t the quantity of work, it’s about how you engage with your work and predominately your inability to disengage from it.

Workaholics – Common Indicators

Workaholism is typically long-term, it’s not related to a short-term burst as you strive for a promotion or deal with the initial crisis of a pandemic. The key indicator is the amount of head space, thought, energy and in some cases time you dedicate to work.

Some indicators are:

• Work late and/or take work home often and unnecessarily

• Checking messages at home, maybe even in the middle of the night

• Working or continually checking messages on holidays

• Time and relationships with others are compromised

• Lack of sleep or poor sleep

• You’re defined by your work

A notable ‘test’ for workaholism is The Bergen Work Addiction Scale. It was developed at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen (UiB) in collaboration with Bergen Clinic Foundation and Nottingham Trent University and outlines 7 criteria for identifying work addiction. Score each criterion on the scale of: (1) Never, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Always:

• You think of how you can free up more time to work.

• You spend much more time working than initially intended.

• You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.

• You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.

• You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.

• You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.

• You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

Doctor Cecilie Schou Andreassen’s work at UiB shows that scoring «often» or «always» on at least four of the seven items may suggest that you are a workaholic.¹

Health Impact of Being a Workaholic

Research by Lieke ten Brummelhuis and Nancy P. Rothbard of 3,500 employees identified the differences between the behaviours of those who worked long hours and the mindset of workaholics and the effect on health. They also conducted medical checks on 763 of these employees to ascertain the health impact.

Among people who worked long hours this research found they suffered no adverse physical effects (of note, separate research shows continuous, stressful hours of prolonged work is harmful to cognitive ability especially in those over 40 years of age). Whereas, those who were workaholics, whether they worked long hours or not, had more health complaints and increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.²

5 Steps to Address Workaholism

Acknowledge you might have a problem. That’s the first step of any recovery programme. If those closest to you, especially if it’s multiple people, have commented on your work preoccupation consider that you might be workaholic. You can’t address what you don’t acknowledge.

Reflect on what might be the root of the problem. What might be the underlying reason(s)? One might be because you don’t feel good enough so you’re chasing ‘approval’ by achieving the next goal, doing the next task or being recognized for your ‘passion and commitment.’ Another might be perfectionism. Trying to live up to a self-imposed standard to prove you are competent or live up to an unrealistic expectation from a boss or society. Another could be to avoid other aspects of your life.

Imagine a balanced, successful life. The first step to any goal is knowing where you’re going. As an entrepreneur you have an idea and strive to bring that to life. You create. Do this with your own life. Imagine what a balanced, successful life looks like for you. What do you want people to say about you 50 years from now? What values, relationships and impact do you want to be known for? Once you have the vision, start working towards it.

Create boundaries. Success at work is impossible if you are tired and risk sickness and ill health. Put boundaries in place in terms of amount of time working and mental rejuvenation. Commit and schedule other activities that you can get lost in. What are your dormant passions? Learn mindfulness to be less obsessive about work thoughts and worries. Put reminders in your diary throughout the day to breath down to your belly, to walk around, to leave at a certain time.

Get support at work, from family, friends and professionals if needed. Professional help might be needed if you feel you are a workaholic, and/or you identified an underlying cause of the problem that isn’t healthy. Also, ask for support from friends, family and colleagues to disengage from work and be fully present with them and in other activities.

Manager of a Workaholic?

Whether you manage a workaholic or know someone who might be a workaholic, here are some ideas:

• Help the person find their intrinsic motivation for working that’s healthy. What makes the work meaningful? What enjoyment do they derive from work? As author, Simon Sinek, says great leaders inspire action by starting from the WHY, what’s the purpose? Leaders need to know why they get out of bed, and it usually isn’t to hit a target or make money.

• Point them to time management tools for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

• Foster a culture of appropriate boundaries, work/life balance and engagement as this will help everyone be productive, energized and creative.

• Communicate clearly about what’s acceptable and expected for after-hours communication and work.

• Show them this article.

To re-iterate, if you answered always or often on 4 of the Bergen Work Addiction criteria consult with a health professional to get support and a robust assessment. If you scored less and are struggling or want to create different working schedule get support.

What would improve with better boundaries at work?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your working situation, boundaries, or those of people that work for you.

 

Endnotes
¹https://www.uib.no/en/news/36450/driven-work
²https://hbr.org/2018/03/how-being-a-workaholic-differs-from-working-long-hours-and-why-that-matters-for-your-health?registration=success

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How to Say No to Your Boss While Still Being Credible

How to Say No to Your Boss While Still Being Credible

“Say no to my boss? Really? I can’t say no to anyone, let alone my boss,” you say. Ok, maybe you can say no to some people, sometimes. But when it comes to our bosses many of us struggle. And the problem is worsening in lockdown. Working remotely means many of us are working later than normal, finding it harder to keep a clear boundary between work and home and virtual presenteeism a real issue. Some may also be feeling worried about possible redundancies at work, which can put extra pressure on you to say ‘yes’ to everything that’s asked of you.
Actually, it’s key to our performance at work to be able to say no when we’re too busy to fit in a task. If we’re overloaded, exhausted and fed up, as it affects the quality of our work.

Ask yourself – ‘What’s Behind the Yes?’

The first step is to figure out what’s behind saying yes, especially when you don’t have the time, energy or mental capacity to do it. You’re already busy between work, life and family commitments (forget about personal time). Remember the last time your boss asked you to add another piece of work, task or project to your towering to-do list? In that moment before responding, what were you thinking and feeling? Ask yourself: What was my motivation for saying yes? What were my fears of saying no?

If I was coaching you I’d stay on those questions a long time. The insights from your answers would allow you to potentially identify some limiting beliefs. In absence of interaction, the most common reasons I come across in working with my clients are: fear of rejection, fear of disappointing, being seen as not good enough, feeling manipulated, too timid, jeopardizing your job and/or wanting to please. Those thoughts are the worst reasons to say yes.

A caveat, if you are worried about your performance, reputation or likelihood of promotion then deal with that directly. Review your recent performance appraisals – what do they really say about your ability? Is your boss aware you want a promotion? If not, tell him/her – ‘promote yourself’. If you have too much work or are close to burnout, have a discussion with your boss about workload and expectations.

Identify your priorities

We can’t do everything we want all the time. There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Step two is identifying your priorities. There’s always a balance between the number of priorities that are motivating and possible, versus burning out – prioritising is easy to say, harder to do. What are your work and life priorities? How much time do you want to spend at work to achieve the level of performance you want, given your priorities in the other areas in your life?
Write your priorities down. You need to be clear on what they are and how flexible you are about them. What are your boundaries? What’s acceptable to you and where do you draw the line? If you don’t know, you’ll have a hard time knowing when you’ve crossed them or when someone has tried to push them.

Say no, by saying yes

One approach is to say yes (to something else) – let me explain.

When you are ‘asked’ to do something there is the option of saying YES or NO. Very simple words and when talking about conscious choice and commitment they are very profound. Whenever you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else. When you say YES to working late, you are saying NO to joining your family for dinner. Often, you would be saying NO to meeting the deadlines of your own projects, your family or your wellbeing. So rather than focusing on the NO and disappointing the person immediately in front of you, say YES to your conscious priorities. If you are only willing, or able, to say ‘I guess I can’ to something, say NO. The enthusiasm and boldness of your YES or NO should tell you something about how wholeheartedly you are committing to it or not. This prioritization approach allows you to say project A is my focus, so I can’t do project B. A discussion is then possible – about changing your priorities or giving you an extension. It shows your boss you can prioritize and are committed.

Tip – put your priorities in your calendar, all of them. Most colleagues can see each other’s calendars on-line, at least when they are booked and when they are ‘available’. Book your time with your priorities, including thinking time. Booking yourself is even more important now with working from home as some of the physical boundaries we used to have (like the commute, or workplace vs home space) are gone. This shows you what ‘free’ time you do have left over to take on more work.

Be assertive

Another approach focuses on assertiveness and is derived from Manuel Smith’s book, When I Say No I Feel Guilty.

1) Acknowledge the request: “I really understand how important that is to you/the business…” (or words to that effect).

2) Own the refusal—I won’t, I will not, I am not going to. The idea is to avoid saying can’t or unable as they imply lack of skill or ability, which is rarely the reason for saying no. Use a respectful tone. Assertiveness isn’t aggression.

3) Give a TRUTHFUL reason.

4) OPTIONAL: offer an alternative (a date in the future, another person to ask).

Example:

I fully understand why you want me to do that as I am best suited for that job
and I am not going to do it

I am at capacity.

(optional: Ask me earlier next time and we can prioritize accordingly.)

Saying NO at first will be hard for both you and your boss because you have conditioned your boss to the fact that you say YES. The more often in the past you have said YES, the more likely they will be expecting you to say YES again. But it gets easier – and more than likely your boss will respect you for your assertiveness and dedication to achieving the projects and task you are doing well.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership. Where would saying ‘no’ more benefit you?

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How to be More Empathetic at Work and Why It’s Important

How to be More Empathetic at Work and Why It’s Important

Being empathetic or showing empathy is being mentioned by my coaching clients more and more lately. These leaders feel its importance has increased with new generations in the workforce, the focus on employee engagement and more so with the stresses and uncertainty of the pandemic. Research detailed below suggests they are right to make it a focus as 1 in 3 employees leave their organization for a more compassionate one.

Let’s start with some definitions because language does clarify.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. It’s putting yourself in the shoes of another, to see and feel from their perspective, not yours. You don’t necessarily agree with what they are feeling or their predicament. It’s an emotional link between people. Empathy doesn’t require me to have experienced that emotion before. It can be used for both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotions.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is a sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It’s the idea that you can be with someone, and with their emotions while keeping your own emotional centre. A leader would do well to be compassionate with an employee they are firing, rather than empathetic. Being empathetic might cause you to be in their perspective and feelings so much that you engulfed in their fear or grief.

What is the Difference between Sympathy and Empathy

Sympathy is sharing the feelings with another, often with the expression of sorrow or pity for their troubles. There’s a sense of agreeing with the other’s misfortune and sharing it. Sympathy does require that you’ve felt that way yourself previously in order to share it. For example, we say we sympathize when we hear about a death, that means we connect to our own feelings of grief and loss and feel those feelings so can share how they are feeling.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work – The Business Case

Annual research by Businessolver shows the importance of empathy on employee engagement, productivity and retention and even more so for Gen Z.

In fact, they’ve found each of the last 5 years that they’ve being doing the survey that employees would sacrifice pay or work longer hours to work for an empathetic employer. In 2020, 74% of employees said they would work longer hours for an empathetic employer, and 80% said they would switch companies for equal pay if the employer were more empathetic.

Their research found that empathetic organizations were even more important to Gen Z with 83% of Gen Z employees saying they would choose an employer with a strong culture of empathy over an employer offering a slightly higher salary. 83% of Gen Z would consider leaving their current organization for a similar role at a more empathetic organization.¹

Furthermore, the research shows that CEOs overestimate how empathetic their organizations are versus how employees perceive it. Same for CEOs views of themselves: 5% of employees view CEOs in general as empathetic— representing a four-year low—versus 87% of CEOs.

What Makes Empathy at Work Difficult?

• It takes time, effort (emotionally and mentally) and is vulnerable as you have to name emotions of another person which might mean you are wrong.

• Different beliefs about the focus hence management prioritize what they believe vs their employees thereby losing the benefit. CEOs think empathy improves the bottom line, rather than the day-to-day work environment. Versus employees who think empathy creates a better workplace which increases their productivity and loyalty. CEOs and leaders miss the opportunities for empathy in the everyday which is what employees want.

• Different beliefs about who is responsible for building an empathetic culture, employees say their manager vs senior managers and HR having it as an initiative.

• We are not taught emotional literacy at school or work. At school we are taught reading, writing and numerical literacy not emotional. Many of my generation, the senior leaders today, weren’t taught about emotions at home.

• It can’t be measured.

• Empathetic people in an organization can be taken advantage of or be expected to “be the empathetic one” taking time and emotional energy.

Showing Empathy at Work

There’s a 3-part structure that’s helpful for conveying empathy as follows:

Acknowledge what the person is feeling – name the emotion

State what is making the person feel that way – seeing it from their perspective

Hypothesize why they might be feeling that way – give the person a sense or guess of why they might be feeling that way, be humble as you might not be correct

Here are some examples:

“I hear you are frustrated, Lisa, with your interactions with your colleague, Teo. I guess that’s because he’s not giving you the information you need in a timely manner.”

“I see that you are angry about the fact I’m not agreeing with you. I sense that’s because you wanted to just get on with it. “

“You sound really pleased that your recommendation got approved. I guess it’s because it’s your first one.”

Tips for Empathy

Listen from their perspective, meaning you need to be silent to listen and sense their experience. Actively listen, take time, clear out your own thoughts, beliefs, opinions and listen to put your attention on the other.

Ask questions. Don’t try and solve things initially (if at all), seek to understand the root cause of the other person’s thinking and feeling. Probe don’t interrogate. Clarify your understanding especially if the other person isn’t as clear as you want or need.

Suspend your assumptions about the person, the topic or the situation. We assume multiple times a day, if not more. Assumptions are from our experience, they are probably not shared as everyone’s experience is different.

Prioritize issues wisely, not first-come-first-serve. Giving priority to critical or more pressing issues shows people you understand.

Give empathy to those who are empathetic, as they often carry a heavier load.

Give people the benefit of the doubt if they are having a bad day or struggling. Don’t assume the worse in others especially if they make a mistake or are being difficult. More on this bias of attributing people’s mistakes to their character rather than external causes in a previous blog here.

Be present. Smile at people. Remember their names and ideally those of their family. Turn off your notifications and distractions when you’re in conversation with them.

Being empathetic doesn’t mean their issue becomes yours. In fact, you trying to solve it or make it better might make them feel they haven’t been heard or understood.

Show your own vulnerability. Share some of your worries (those that are ‘acceptable’ given your role) and positive emotions too. Share a few acceptable personal things. This makes you more relatable.

The key to empathy is to see your colleagues as people with feelings. Those feelings can be because of work or what’s going on personally for them. Get to know people as individuals, it doesn’t mean you have to be friends rather it means showing some interest periodically beyond just the task at hand. This is not a quick fix, it will be a journey for you and the organization’s culture to compassion and empathy leading to greater loyalty and productivity.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership. Where would being more empathetic and compassionate benefit you or your team?

Endnotes
¹https://f.hubspotusercontent40.net/hubfs/378546/Empathy-2020/2020%20State%20of%20Workplace%20Empathy%20Executive%20Summary/businessolver-2020-state-of-workplace-empathy-executive-summary.pdf

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Asking for Help is a Leadership Quality - Really!

Asking for Help is a Leadership Quality, Really!

Think asking for help is a weakness? Especially if you are a leader? Think about when someone asks you for help, you are usually flattered and feel valued for the contribution you can make. Others often feel the same way. Also, there are few Solo heroes – even Superman had support from Lois Lane. We as humans are social beings, interdependent within organizations and life.

When I was writing my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, I had to ask for help often. I asked coaching clients’ permission to use their experiences as case studies (anonymously), asked target readers to give me feedback, and thought leaders and corporate leaders to endorse the book to name a few. Each time I did that my book was better and the people were grateful I reached out and chose them.

Few jobs or tasks can be done in isolation, organizational structures are complex, people are remote yet connected so there’s actually an inherent expectation in today’s organizations of working together in various forms.

Why is Asking for Help a Strength?

Self-aware – asking for help shows you are self-aware by knowing when you need support or information you don’t have. You are not blind to your gaps in knowledge or behaviour.

Resourceful – asking for help shows you can identify alternate resources to get the job done.

Confident – asking for help shows you are confident enough in yourself and your ability to reach out to others. You can overcome any associated fear. You have humility – you recognize you don’t have all the answers.

Results-oriented – asking for help demonstrates your commitment to getting the job done, to the best of your ability and actually beyond your ability as you involve others’ knowledge and abilities too.

What Stops Us from Asking?

Most of the barriers we have to doing something are self-imposed, few come from external sources and asking for help is no exception.

• Fear of rejection

• Worried about being seen as needy

• Thought of as incapable or incompetent

• Insecurity of not knowing, not being able to handle it on your own

• Personal shame/feeling you’re not good enough

• The issue didn’t seem worthy of getting help

 

When asking senior leaders to review my book I was fearful of rejection and being seen as needy. I knew I couldn’t write my own reviews or endorsements (obviously), so I wasn’t worried about being thought of as incompetent.

The bottom-line of what stops people from asking for help is vulnerability – being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, at work it’s about being thought less of. Vulnerability and courage are two sides of the same coin. As researcher, Brené Brown, shared in her book, Dare to Lead, firefighters are some of the most courageous people, running into danger, putting their lives at risk which also demonstrates they are vulnerable – to death, injury, risking others’ lives.

The Leadership Benefits of Asking for Help

Beyond the obvious benefit of getting the work done to the best standard possible as you’ve gotten help from someone, there are many other leadership benefits to asking for help such as:

1. Role model the importance of collaborating with others. When a leader asks for help it sets the tone for what’s accepted in the group, and demonstrates that collaborating, getting others involved is acceptable and desired.

2. Enrol others in your ideas and solutions. One of my coaching clients always did things on her own, to her own detriment at times, to appear strong, capable, able to handle anything single-handedly. She got feedback from people that she was closed minded when in reality she loved input from others. She started asking for help to solicit the input she loved, and a side benefit was that she engaged others. It’s worked brilliantly, she’s found people more engage in the projects earlier, gotten better solutions with their input, not only making it better for the business outcome but also easier and more enjoyable for her.

3. Allow people to play to or use their strengths. Not everyone can be good at everything, and ideally your organization has a diversity of skills, talents and abilities. Asking for help allows people to use their strengths not only for their work but to help others’ work. Imagine if everyone in your organization was leveraging their strengths? Happier people and better results.

4. Makes us mentally stronger. When we practice a skill, we get better at it. Asking for help is no exception. It gets us out of our heads to some degree thereby sharing the burden and lightening our load, both in terms of completing the task but also emotionally. This sharing makes us more resilient and saves energy for when we are required to deliver individually.

How to Ask for Help

Sometimes the very expression “asking for help” makes people cringe at the thought of saying it. If it does make you cringe, and we were in a 1:1 coaching relationship, I’d be tempted to probe what caused that reaction in you or how you could say those words in a way (tone, attitude, come from place) with which you could be comfortable (if that was of interest) and I digress.

There are ways to achieve the same end (better results with less personal angst) such as:

1. Have people ‘volunteer’ their strengths. Have your team members share what they are good at and what types of things they could help others with. Having people publicly share their strengths, offering them up to others creates a shared understanding of who can help with what. It opens the door to be of service to another.

2. Ask in a way that feels right for you. There’s lots of ways to ask for help. Can I get your input? What would you suggest about…? Can I bounce something off you? Would you have time to collaborate on…? Can I pick your brain? I’d like an outside perspective please on…

3. Create a buddy system. Rather than asking for help being a one-way exchange, create a give-and-take with another person. Find someone inside or outside your organization who is complimentary to you and create a buddy system for giving each other help. This can work for both intellectual and emotional help.

4. Get clear on what help you need if possible. Identify what the obstacle or problem is that you’re struggling with and therefore what you’d want help with. Sometimes identifying the problem is what you need help with – and that’s good to know when approaching someone so you can articulate “I’d like your assistance identifying a block I’ve encountered in this project.”

5. Get a mentor. Be a mentor. Mentors are people senior to you, outside of your reporting line, even outside your organization, that provide training or advice about career progression and professional development. I’ve done training sessions for formal mentoring programs and the mentors were all volunteers and thrilled/honoured to be involved. They also said the relationships ended up being reciprocal – they learned from their mentees and sometimes asked them for help (on using social media for example).

6. Be genuine. Ask for help when you need it or when it would benefit the project, don’t use it as a ploy to engage people or shirk your responsibilities. People can sense when you’re passing the buck or going to the trough too many times needlessly so make it a win-win – everyone feeling good about their involvement.

In summary, organizations are simply systems of interconnected people designed to achieve a goal, purpose or specific outcomes. Everyone in an organization is dependent on someone for something – payroll to pay you, IT to provide support, manufacturing to produce the product for the customer. Your need for help is no different, how can you engage with others, by asking for help when needed, for better results?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership. Where would asking for help make you more effective?

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How to Motivate Yourself to Keep Everyone Else Motivated

How to Motivate Yourself to Keep Everyone Else Motivated

Normally you’re self-motivated, that’s one of the reasons you’ve been so successful. What I’m hearing from many coaching clients is that the unrelenting sameness of the situation and the ever-changing playing field are leading them to feelings they’ve rarely experienced – lacking the BIG spark they usually have with which they ignite others. Feeling demotivated, weary or lacking your usual drive might be new for you.

To want or need to motivate yourself is not selfish. It’s akin to dawning your oxygen mask in a plane before assisting anyone else in putting their mask on (remember when we used to go on planes?). You can’t give what you don’t have. And in some ways, that’s why people are feeling fatigued – they’ve given more to others than they’ve muster in themselves.

Motivating yourself is part of EI or Emotional intelligence. It’s about managing your own emotions in an appropriate way for the situation. It’s also about navigating interpersonal relationships in the best interests of all the people involved and the organisational needs.

What is Resilience?

Firstly, this might be more about resilience than motivation. Resilience is the ability to handle adversity and bounce back after hardship. The problem now is that this hardship has been extreme, broad reaching and prolonged. So, there might be things to do with resilience that also will aid your motivation.

These might seem basic and many people struggle with these healthy practices. Try and be intentional to have these in your life now.

Look after your physical health.

Get a minimum of 7 hours of good-quality sleep a night. That means turning off screens and devices about 1 hour before bedtime (to clear the blue light from your system). Sleep experts advise not to have devices in your bedroom.

Eat a healthy diet. Drink 1.5-2L of water per day. Minimize or eliminate caffeine especially in the afternoon. Eat lots of varied foods, especially vegetables, pulses and fruits and less processed food. I suggest less sugar, alcohol and simple carbs as they have little nutrition and might trigger repetitive indulgences.

Exercise. Move especially when working from home. Get both cardio and strength exercise regularly.

Be in nature. There are physical and mental benefits of being outside, fresh air at a minimum and hopefully, among trees, grass, flowers if possible.

Have a support system and collaborate – personally and professionally.

• I’m working with a colleague and friend on group leadership development programmes and this has led to better ideas, creativity, more enjoyment, new business and companionship through a solitary time.

• I have a group of close friends, three of whom I meet with monthly on video. Last night we supported one friend on a dilemma she was having; we listened, asked questions, reflected back what we heard and sensed, shared the impact on us individually, asked what she needed, said we were here. These are ways of sharing burdens, feeling connected, being supported and being able to support another.

• I have an accountability partner that I work with to declare my actions around things I’m procrastinating on and she does the same with me. Sometimes those things are the same and sometimes different. That shared space helps.

Get mental health support as appropriate. There is no shame is getting professional support as you would a personal trainer at the gym for your fitness or a dentist for your oral care.

By following the basics you’ll have a better chance of being resilient and motivated.

How to Motivate Yourself at Work

These ideas can be implemented immediately, there’s no prework or extra equipment needed to start on these.

Use the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management technique of using a timer, often set for 25 minutes, to work and then a short break. Even just start with working 5 minutes on something important (not scanning emails). Commit to do only 5 minutes on a task and often you’ll end up working on it longer.

Get up and move around. Movement creates motion, take a short break and walk around to shake off the cobwebs. If you can go outside into fresh air for that short walk, do it. Stand up straight, head held high, open your chest with slow large in breaths. Movement changes your body physiology and your psychology.

Focus on feelings, not trying to persevere through will power alone. We are usually more productive when we are feeling positive feelings. What are some of the wins you’ve had lately that you can celebrate (no matter how tiny they are)? Focus on the contribution you’ve made, the progress that’s already got you to where you are (even if it’s just that you’ve now identified there is a problem). Fuel these feelings of accomplishment to move forward.

Why do you do what you do? Reflect on what value you add and what benefit you bring to others with the work that needs doing. What are the personal and professional reasons that you do your job? What difference do you make in someone’s life (customer, employee, family, etc)?

Reward yourself for making small steps. Research tells us that rewards are responsible for 75% of why we do things (punishment for the other 25%). That reward could be a coffee, a walk, a break, a huge congrats from a friend for your efforts. A Time article even suggested giving a friend $100 and if you complete what you said you would on time you got the money back!

Finish each day with a list of 2-3 priority things for the next day. This allows you to hit the ground running the next morning. By knowing the next step of a project or task you can get tucked in immediately, not have to retrace your steps to figure out what to do next.

Advanced Ways to Motivate Yourself

These ideas are more advanced because they take a bit more time and reflection to put into practice.

What’s the need behind the demotivation? Behind every “negative” emotion there is a need because it’s the unfulfilled need that is causing the “negative” feeling. When you’re frustrated because a colleague has missed a deadline, the need is probably for people to do what they say when they said they do it. Is the demotivation stemming from tired, afraid, overwhelmed, confused, angry? Address the underlying need.

Have a vision. Building on the idea above about why you do what you do; have a vision of success for yourself and your work. What’s your purpose at work? In life? Knowing the bigger reasons will help you get things done when you encounter smaller obstacles. My guess is that the covid-vaccine scientists were totally motivated to help people live and get back to a more normal life.

Get Positive. Research shows that being happy increases productivity and contributes to greater success. To nurture positivity, you have to notice it, create it if necessary and feel it. Everyday write down at least 3 things about yourself, your work and your life that are positive. Ruminate in those positive feelings. Feel them. At first you might have to really think hard about what those things are. Over time the daily practice will have you notice those positive events the moment they happen.

Surround yourself with people that inspire you and help you raise your game. We know that we become like the people with whom we hang out, that’s why parents are often concerned who their kids have as friends. If you work with people that are committed, motivated and inspiring you can tap into their energy.

Get a partner. Find someone with a similar blockage and support each other to move towards success. I’m doing this now around new business development. I have 2 vacancies in my coaching practice, as does a colleague so we’re supporting each other weekly to fill these. Just as you are more liking to go for a run if you are meeting a friend on the street corner than if you were on your own, partner with someone for the tasks you struggle to complete.

In addition to all the above ideas of how to improve your motivation, the other thing is to be kind to yourself. As is said, this is an unprecedented time and it continues. Motivation, productivity, and mood will ebb and flow in this situation. Be kind, patient and compassionate to yourself and others. Compassion is proven to get your further than harshly driving yourself based on research by Kristin Neff.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in motivating yourself and others to inspire and lead in the way you want? What would make you more effective?

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