Have an Ambition Lurking in Your Mind? Don’t Procrastinate.

Have an Ambition Lurking in Your Mind? Don’t Procrastinate.

Kicking yourself for not learning a new language during lockdown?

Have a dream, goal or ambition sitting on the back burner? Or the back of your mind?

Have you ever had a dream and wondered ‘what if’?

“Don’t procrastinate” is a wish for you, not an order or accusation.

I sit here a couple of weeks from the (virtual) Business Book Awards ceremony shaking my head that I actually have a book out let alone being a finalist in the Business Self-Development category.

Two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had an idea, no know-how and little actual motivation or ambition to write a book. I hummed and hawed, thought a lot about it and did nothing. And less than two years later my book exists (Soft Skills HARD RESULTS).

There was no magic wand to get me from there to here. I didn’t all of a sudden feel motivated. It was a lotta luck, getting help and some self-awareness of works for me.
If you’re doubting yourself, wondering what if and giving up before you’ve started, don’t, you can do it too. That doubt is false. No matter how composed someone appears on the outside, like ducks they are madly flapping their feet under the surface to make progress.

How to Achieve Your Goals?

Imagine it might be possible. What would that be like? How would it feel? Feed the flicker of possibility before extinguishing it. Write a list of pros if it were to happen. Make a collage of what success looks like. A client yesterday said she diagrams the ideal state for her of her idea. Create a picture of success, dream it, our imaginations are powerful. Do this at a head and heart level – intellectually and emotionally.

Figure out what works for you. Does structure help you assess something? What helps you get things done in your life? Enact those things for your dream. Does accountability to others work for you? If so, find or create structure, be accountable to a buddy. I signed up for a 10-day book proposal writing challenge to actually see if there was a book idea in me because structure and accountability work for me.

Start with micro steps. What’s one thing that would progress your ambition? If learning a new language is on your list, a baby step would be downloading the language app, Duolingo. Another step would be to do a 4-minute lesson on the app.

Project yourself far into the future. Imagine you are 80-100 years old looking back on your life. What will you have wanted to achieve? How does this dream or ambition fit with the legacy you want to leave? Will you regret not having tried?
Seek out like-minded people. Find people who have the same passion or dream. Surround yourself with people on the same journey for the support, learning and companionship. Want to run a marathon? Join a running club. Download a podcast and training schedule. Learning from others that are either experts or ahead of you on the journey is an easier way to proceed.

Go public. Tell other people about your hope or dream. Firstly, by you saying it to someone else it’s no longer just living in your mind. And secondly, stating things to others creates accountability to delivery on what you said.

Make a plan. Having an objective, ambition or dream is great, we call than an outcome goal. Create some process goals to support that outcome. If you want to run a marathon – finishing the marathon is the outcome goal. Running consistently 3x a week is a process goal. You can often control the process more so than the outcome.
Make friends with discomfort. As you pursue a dream you might get scared, feel overwhelmed or doubt yourself. That’s ok. Everyone feels that way when we are going outside our comfort zones.

It’s natural to feel uncertain when pursuing something new. You’ve probably felt this on a new job, on becoming a parent, or learning a new hobby or sport. And you got over it.

Enjoy it! You are making steps to create your ideal life or at least pursue a dream. Enjoy it.

What is Failure?

The definition of failure is lack of success, not meeting a desired or intended objective. I think I disagree. Failure is not even trying. I like Thomas Edison’s quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The younger generation talks of pivoting; when you hit an obstacle, pivot to an alternate path to make progress. Your journey and progress do not have to be linear, most things in our lives aren’t linear and are still successful and fulfilling.

I have a whole chapter in my book entitled Living a Life of No Regrets. If you think you might regret letting go of your dream, ambition or potential goal, then don’t let go.

What one thing would you love to try?

Are you curious to investigate your ambition, even just a bit?

Read more of my journey about following my ‘hint of an aspiration’ by clicking here.

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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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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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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What Could You Give Up to be More Effective during Lent?

What Could You Give Up to be More Effective?

This week sees the start of the Christian time of Lent. Of note, this isn’t a religious post. It’s a post about being more effective as a leader and/or person.

What is Lent?

Lent is the 6 weeks leading up to Easter. Lent is observed in many ways depending on someone’s personal beliefs/convictions. Some people give up a luxury/treat item like alcohol, chocolate, meat etc. More traditional observers might follow stricter fasting of giving up meat, fish, eggs and fats. That’s why Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent starts, is celebrated with as Pancake Tuesday – pancakes use up eggs and fats you might have before abstaining.

What to Give Up?

For those who don’t follow the Christian observances, Lent still offers an opportunity of how to be effective, for you to give something up that would help you be more effective.

To get feedback on your performance, one question I suggest in my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, is: What should I stop doing? Often, we get in our own way. This question will invite people to tell you things you are doing that don’t serve you well. As an aside, it’s partnered with two other questions to round out the feedback you get:

What should I start doing?
What should I stop doing?
What should I continue doing?

To declutter your home, I’m giving up an “item” a day for the 40 days of Lent. Each day I will find something in my home that can be thrown out, donated to charity, re-gifted to someone who would love that item. It’s easy to do – when you open a drawer or closet each day just identify something that can go. For me decluttering makes me feel lighter and more spacious. Not sure I’ll go into my wardrobe this time though, as there are many pieces I haven’t worn in almost a year with the various lockdowns.

To clear your head, what are the repetitive thoughts you have that disempower you? Identify the reoccurring thoughts you have about yourself. We all have internal scripts that run underneath the surface that we don’t even realize how often we talk to ourselves. Notice what you say to yourself when something happens, especially things that are disappointing or frustrating. For example, I don’t have time. I’m stressed. I have too much to do. I screwed that up. I’m not good enough. Notice what your self-critical thoughts are and then reframe them. For instance “I don’t have time” becomes “I choose how I spend my time.”

To change a bad habit don’t stop it, change it. It’s hard to stop a bad habit so can be easier to change the habit rather than trying to abolish it. Instead of giving up drinking, substitute a sparkling water in a crystal glass with a slice of lime instead of alcohol. If you bite or pick your nails, chew on a toothpick instead.

The Challenge

What could you give up that would improve your effectiveness as a person or leader?

Don’t jump over that question – answer it. This is your chance to let go of something that’s holding you back. This will improve your leadership and potentially your daily life. Sometimes it’s even easier to let something go then to start something entirely new.

The 40 days of Lent gives you the chance to reboot your initiative each day for 40 days. Even if you “fail” one day, you have the next day to try again. Be kind to yourself depending of what you are giving up.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to help you identify what you could give up that’s holding you back. What would make you more effective?

 

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