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.

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.

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

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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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

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

 

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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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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Emotions at Work are Just Data to Get Better Results

Emotions are Just Data – Understand Them for Better Results at Work

There’s a common opinion that business is just about the facts, being rational and that it’s not personal. And we’ve all seen the following at work whether in others or ourselves:

• Disappointment about a project or promotion not coming to fruition,
• Stress about an impending deadline,
• Frustration about someone ‘s delay in getting you information you need,
• Excitement about a project about to launch, and
• Tears/crying.

So, emotions are present at work!

Emotional Intelligence at Work

Success at work requires intelligence – both intellectual and emotional. As people advance in their organizations, their role and success are more about how they motivate, inspire and collaborate with other people and less about “doing the work.” For example, a CFO’s success is not how well they complete a spreadsheet, it’s rather how well they lead their teams, influence other stakeholders and co-pilot with the other leaders.

Emotions as Data

Emotions are data. Just as sales, staff turnover, and market research are all data. The data needs to be analysed to become information that you can then action. Say your company is below the sales target this month. You analyse the data to determine what’s causing the low sales number until you identify the root cause, so you can find the appropriate solution and act on it.

And emotions are the same. They tell you something. The emotions we think of as “positive” are emotions we feel when our needs are being met. The emotions we think of as “negative” are emotions we feel when our needs are not being met. Same for other people. When someone is engaged and attentive, a need of theirs is being met (they are intellectually stimulated, hopeful about an idea, or being valued for example). When someone is frustrated, a need of there is not being met (they are not getting the answer they want, or fast enough for example).

Emotions at Work

According to research¹ by Cynthia D. Fisher at the School of Business, Bond University the most common negative emotions experienced in the workplace are:

•  Frustration/irritation
•  Worry/nervousness
•  Anger/aggravation
•  Dislike (of someone)
•  Disappointment/unhappiness

It’s these “negative” emotions that are perceived as more problematic at work so that will be the focus of this article, how to manage those emotions.

Managing Your Emotions

Managing your emotions at work is critical for your success as it allows you to have the impact you want to have.

1. Notice and name the emotion you are feeling. State (internally or externally) “I feel …” This allows you to accept the emotion rather than avoid it. Avoiding the emotion will have it linger longer. Try to notice your emotions as early as possible, before you are blind- sided by them.

2. Allow yourself to feel the emotion in your body. Again, this is counter-intuitive, and it will diffuse the emotion, for example you’ll feel a shirt and a sense of calm will arrive.

3. Ask what the need is behind the emotion. Ask what is the message in this emotion? Once you’ve identified the need you can then find a productive solution to satisfy the need. Often it can be as simple as asking for what you need (from yourself or another) with the emotional language removed as you don’t feel it anymore.

4. Discover your triggers. We are often ‘triggered’ by other people. When we’re triggered it’s rarely that person that is bothering us, it’s usually something about them that reminds you of a previous experience. Notice the people or their characteristics that bother you. Write them down.

5. Express your emotions in an appropriate way. Saying you are angry or upset by someone in a calm voice is okay, yelling or belittling someone is not okay. Focus on your feelings rather than assuming their intentions.

More ideas can be found here.

How to Manage Others

I believe a big part of a leader’s role is to help people feel good at work, have “positive” emotions about their work, their contribution and the organization. Here are some ways of dealing with “negative” emotions before building positive ones.

1. Notice people’s emotions. In school we are taught language and numerical literacy, start to learn emotional literacy so you can notice emotions and ‘name’ them (even if just to yourself initially). Here’s a link to a previous blog on Myths about Emotions. Being able to name something helps to start to understand it. Saying to someone “you seem frustrated” can make people feel seen and saying it in that way says you don’t know or assume, you sense.

2. Ask people how they feel then go deeper to find the unmet need. Don’t accept fine, great, ok – those aren’t emotions. Asking and really listening to understand means people don’t lose time or energy ‘stewing’. Ask them what they need to find out what’s behind the emotion. Once you (and they) know the need behind it, both of you can determine how to satisfy that if appropriate. Do this in private for psychological safety.

3. Acknowledge someone’s emotion. You can’t change their emotions; you aren’t responsible for making the emotion go away. Just as was recommended to you above in managing your own emotions, allow them to feel their emotions so it can dissipate, and they can move on faster rather than let it fester. Get comfortable with the discomfort, you’ll build loyalty and help them move forward faster. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

4. Encourage and support your staff to build up their emotional resilience. Provide programmes promoting physical and psychological wellbeing if possible. Encourage healthy eating, sleep, exercise, proper breaks during the workday, connecting with friends and family, going out in nature and talking about thoughts and feelings.

5. Give space. If things are heated or someone is consumed by their emotion, suggest a break or pause. Allow them to compose themselves or have them go out for a walk. Come back to the discussion when they are able. Talk to them about possible positive intentions of those involved and focus on solutions not judgements and accusations.

In summary, emotions are nothing to fear. In fact, you want to encourage emotions in a respectful way so that people don’t waste time worrying or being angry or frustrated. Freeing people of their “negative” emotions allows them to focus their emotional energy on more productivity. When dealing with the negative emotions you can then ask what’s needed for them to feel inspired, engaged and loyal?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in how to handle or manage emotions at work? What would make you more effective?

¹ “Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel and How Should we Measure it?” by Cynthia D. Fisher. School of Business Discussion Paper; No. 63, February 1997. © Copyright Cynthia D. Fisher and the School of Business, Bond University.

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Balancing Strategic Focus vs Operational Execution

Balancing Strategic Focus vs Operational Execution

This topic of strategy vs operations has always been a discussion point with my Executive coaching clients. It’s comes up even more now with the uncertainty of the pandemic and ever-changing guidelines. For example, working with people in retail has meant that one day the stores are open and the next day the stores are mandated to close, with differing requirements by region. Having to respond to these types of operational changes is mandatory, time consuming and draining. How does a leader prioritize time, energy and headspace for strategic initiatives with this constant operational firefighting, let alone get others on-board?

Strategic vs Operational Thinking

Never has a company asked me to support their leader on being MORE operational. It’s not their operational thinking and focus that needs to be developed, especially if they’ve just been promoted to a more senior role. It’s usually about helping the leader develop their strategic thinking.

Operational thinking is required too. Strategic thinking is of no value if it doesn’t get implemented operationally. Ensuring operations are well-thought through and running smoothly is important to success. If operational thinking isn’t happening during the execution there won’t be any operations or business to worry about in the future.

A successful business needs both sound strategic thinking to chart its course while having optimal operational thinking to deliver the day to day requirements.

What is Strategic Thinking?

It’s the intentional thought process a leader does to figure out how to achieve long-term success for the organization, team, initiative or project (depending on the leader’s scope). It’s about focusing on the future and working back how to lay the foundation for success. It involves lots of critical thinking skills like analysis, conceptualizing, identifying patterns and options, synthesize making choices and engaging. It’s about creating connections or links between different ideas, sources of information and opportunities for greater synergy or success.

Big A vs Little a Agendas

The concept of Big A and little a agenda is from my coach training and I teach my clients about it too.

When I work with clients we define their leadership development goals for the coaching. The ‘Big A Agenda’ is this bigger, overarching goal. At each session, the client brings situations and topics from their work life for which they want coaching. These daily topics are the ‘little a agenda’. In the coaching we create links between the little a agenda to the Big A Agenda so that each coaching session progresses them towards their leadership development goal. It’s the notion that every step you take is one more step in your legacy.

This concept gives you an opportunity to link operational topics or issues back to strategic priorities and opportunities while working with people on the execution. It’s a great chance for you as the leader to re-affirm the link between the daily operations and the businesses strategic goals (as there should be a link).

Tips to Balance Strategy vs Execution

There are no hard and fast rules on this, as it depends on the business and its current situation. Here are some ideas:

Remember this is a big part of your job. If you’re not doing this type of thinking for your business, area or function than who is? Every leader has some level of responsibility for strategic thinking. This means delegating and empowering others to do what they need to do so you have some time for this priority.

Set aside thinking time in your schedule before other people fill it up with operational topics. Put time in your calendar for your priorities before other people take your time for their priorities. Book it off. Call it something that doesn’t sound dispensable to others if they can see your calendar. Make it a “meeting” rather than solo time as solo time is easier to relinquish. Time is reported as the #1 barrier to strategic thinking.

Change your location. Take yourself out of your usual environment to trigger your brain that this is different than daily business. Also, it will minimize interruptions and distractions. Go for a walk. Sit in another room. Be in nature. Watch traffic in an intersection of traffic. Sit in your car (in the driveway even).

Stimulate thinking through a different lens. Strategic thinking is about the future. How can you put yourself into a different perspective than today’s position to think differently? A client and I once went to a museum together (when we could) and walked around assessing what we were seeing through the lens of his business. What would this museum piece tell me about my business? How could an exhibit inform my business’ future and/or success? What can I learn from this museum theme?

Talk to people who are outside your regular circle. My last 2 articles have been on bias – the Fundamental Attribution Error and Confirmation Bias. To minimize bias, it’s helpful to have an outside perspective, a person very different from yourself to highlight blind spots of which you’re not aware. Also, read information and data from different sources to broaden your input and perspectives.

Listen with an open mind and question, question, question again. Listen to what is being said while suspending your own judgment and assumptions. Listen to what is said and not said. Question what you hear, what is underneath what is being said. Be deep in your discussions, curious, not superficial, not taking what is said on face value.

In summary, prioritize your time to do what only you can do which is the strategic thinking for your area of responsibility. Delegate and empower others to execute so you can deliver on your responsibility. As you deal with operational issues, how could you do it strategically when possible thereby getting the best of both worlds?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership to balance the strategic vs operational. What would make you more effective?

 

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