27 Jul

How are you?

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Chatting with a wonderful client today, we discussed the word ‘busy’. It seems that it’s a word much in use. It’s not a ‘bad’ word, nor is it necessarily a ‘good’ word. It’s just a word. A word which increasingly seems to have hidden meaning.

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years. As a normally polite person, I tend to start client conversations with “How are you?” I do care what the response is, hoping that my clients are experiencing wellness and contentedness in their lives. If they are having a good day, I want to share their energy and enjoyment. If they have a cold, or their child is sick, I want to empathise and wish them well. If they are feeling a little low, I want to support them.

Probably nine times out of ten I get a response using the word ‘busy’. Busy is sometimes a hard one to respond to. Is busy exciting? Is busy stressful? Is busy fulfilling? Is it draining? Does being busy mean that they are experiencing the fullness of life, or does it mean they are in distress?

The definition of busy as an adjective is ‘having a great deal to do’. That sounds like daily life, and could be positive or negative.

When did ‘busy’ become so popular in response to a question about our well being? It seems to have become almost an expected response. Sometimes I detect a challenging tone that might indicate “Are you as busy as me?”; sometimes frustration “I don’t have time to answer this question!”; most of the time the tone is fairly neutral, almost like an automated response.

Do we EXPECT people to be busy now? Is this what success looks like in our modern world? Does ‘busy’ equal “I’ve made it!”? Do we sometimes say it because we’re too embarrassed to say “Well, I’m great!”? Are we worried what people might think if we are not busy? Or are we using this word as an implied cry for help in a stressful world?

Some days I am ‘busy’ – I have a great deal to do. Most of these days I am content, I feel healthy, and am grateful to have a good job. Sometimes I do feel overloaded – that usually means that I have taken on too much or agreed to unrealistic time frames – to me it’s more than ‘busy’, it’s a little stressed out and tired.

Some days I have less than a great deal to do. Most of these days I am content, I feel healthy and I am proud of the fact that occasionally I am committed to take time out to relax and recharge. This actually makes me more productive.

Many years ago a colleague I hadn’t seen for a while asked me “How are you?” I responded “Good – busy.” She laughed and said “That’s not what I asked you – I asked how you are, not how much you have to do.” This comment had a big impact. It made me realise that busy was a vague, ‘relative to what?’ word that did not convey my true self.

Personally I think I used the word ‘busy’ because somewhere along the way I had attached meaning to it – that busy equals “I have value in this world”. At times I’m sure I used it because I was stressed and didn’t know how to ask for help.

Now when people ask me “How are you?” I try to respond with a true refection of my well being. This, I believe, is what the question is designed to uncover.

An additional benefit of responding with words other than ‘busy’, is that I think it makes me different to what is fast becoming the norm – I don’t want to be the norm. I don’t want to drag people down by loading them with everything I have to do, or create competition with them to see who is the busiest. I want to have a meaningful conversation and I’m not sure ‘busy’ is a good starting point.

And remarkable as it may seem, I also am ok with not being busy at times. In my opinion (for what it’s worth!) life is not a world-wide competition to be the busiest. Sometimes I’d rather have much less than ‘a great deal to do’. Not least because that means that most times I respond to “How are you?” with “I’m feeling great, life is good.”

So how are you?

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, facilitation

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

16 Feb

Feeling the Feb Fade?

 

Small Cute Pet Chihuahua Having A Sleep

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

Feb (as in February) Fade – not a technical term! It’s what happens when we are just over one month into the year and  one or more of the following thoughts occur:

  • “The holiday season feels like it was ages ago. I’m tired!”
  • “The year is flying by – where did January go?”
  • “Oh my goodness, I’ve fallen back into the drudgery – where did my enthusiasm go?”
  • “When’s the next public holiday?”
  • “Another year, same-same happening…yawn…”
  • “Oh yeah, New Year’s Resolutions…fail!”

‘Feb Fade’ does not happen to everyone, yet on anecdotal evidence, it is relatively common. In coaching and training sessions, we find many people who were refreshed from holidays early January and inspired for the year ahead, are slowing down and missing that motivational buzz come February. They’ve often arrived back at work to a mountain of work they’d forgotten about, tasks put off from last year, or projects being given by their boss who has just realised that the year is slipping away and there are things to achieve!

The priorities of a new year at work, the possibility that those New Year’s Resolutions have been harder to stick to than first thought, and the prospect of many weeks or months until the next holiday, can all take their toll on motivation.

While there is not a magic cure-all for Feb Fade, here are a few tips to help turn Feb Fade into Motivated March…

  • Take a pen and notebook (or mobile device) to your favourite accessible relaxation zone – it might be outside, a comfy lounge chair, or a cafe. Allow yourself 10 minutes to answer this question…“What would make this a great year?” Once you’ve done that, now ask yourself…“What do I need to do to make this happen?” It’s simple self-reflection, yet we generally don’t do it. How can we be motivated if we don’t know where we want to go/what we want to achieve?
  • Prioritise – whether work or home tasks – “What are the 5 things that need doing before the end of February?” and “What makes these tasks priorities for me?” Just taking time to identify these will often spark us out of procrastination.
  • Find room/time for exercise – your body and your brain. To motivate yourself out of Feb Fade, you MUST find the time to engage in physical and mental exercise. Find something that works for your abilities, commitments and enjoyment. Walking, doing Sudoku or a crossword, playing tennis, playing chess, going for a jog…You know what works for you better than anyone. Don’t overdo it, make sure you are checked by health professionals if that is warranted and then get started.
  • Plan something special. Like exercise, time-out is a critical and often neglected facet of our lives. Having something to look forward to often helps motivate us in other life/work areas. Plan a holiday, a short break away, a dinner party, a night out – whatever it is that you’ve been putting off because of work or other commitments!
  • Take a 5 minute break. All the latest research shows that we are least productive if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and drowned by all the ‘stuff’ to do. So make sure you get some fresh air, walk around the office or just get out of your chair regularly throughout the day. You’ll be amazed at how this will refresh you for greater productivity.

These ideas are not new and no doubt you would have heard them all before, we are sure! Sometimes it just takes a little reminder and gentle push into action… Only you can do something about Feb Fade… what will you do?

Here’s to Fabulous Feb!

 

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

08 Aug

The management brick wall

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

As a manager, have you ever felt like you are hitting your head against a brick wall? Do you feel like your team ignore your suggestions, directions and advice? Do you find you have to explain the same things to them over and over?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, you might be hitting what we could describe as the management brick wall. Rather than keep hitting your head against it while thinking it’s your employee’s fault, how about considering what you could change in your approach to improve the situation.

Consider the following tips that might go part way to knocking down the wall.

1. We all learn differently

Each person in your team is unique; they are not (and nor should you want them to be!) a replica of you. As such, they each will have slightly different ways that they prefer to learn a new skill, seek knowledge and gain experience. Some people learn best through reading and reflection in a quiet environment, some like to read and then discuss, some like to get stuck in and give something a try, some like to watch a demonstration, some like to hear from an expert, some like to talk to different people…and so on. Often learners are described as Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic, yet many are a combination of two or more of these categories and there will be subtle differences amongst even learners with the same ‘type’ of learning style. Understanding how each team member likes to learn will help you understand how best to approach teaching, instructing, coaching and guiding them in new areas. And understanding how they like to learn is as simple as asking them!

2. Our motivations vary

As with learning styles, we each have different things that will motivate us to perform and succeed at work. For some it is having new challenges, for others diversity in their work, for some it is working in a team, for others it is to be able to work autonomously. Strange, but true, research in this area has found that money is not the prime motivator for most people – sure it’s often important, yet not the main thing that inspires them to achieve. Looking for opportunities to tap into people’s motivations will help you to build their knowledge, skills and experience more effectively than just giving them a task to do or telling them how something should be done. For example, if you want them to develop their networking skills, you will only get so far by telling them they need to interact more with other staff members. On the other hand, you might find their skills grow if you explain how developing these skills will enhance their chances of future promotion (if that is a motivator) and that you are asking them to sit on a cross-functional team (working in a team may be a motivator as well) because you feel it will give them more opportunity to learn about the company and to network with colleagues.

3. Sometimes there are other ways

It may be hard to believe, however sometimes our way isn’t the only way. In fact, sometimes there might even be a better way! So be open to your employees’ ideas. As long as they are clear on expectations, know what the boundaries are, and assuming there is no significant risk, there will be times when asking them how they would like to approach a task might be an effective strategy. People learn much more effectively when they need to tap into their own ideas and take responsibility for their actions – they learn when it works and they learn when it doesn’t. As a manager, if you set the expectations, then coach and support them, you might be surprised to see positive results!

So if you feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall, take 5 minutes to think about what you can do differently to get the best out of your team.

Happy managing!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

19 Jan

2011 – the year of success (with a positive attitude)!

 ” Two men looked out from prison through the bars – one saw mud, the other saw stars” – Unknown

Happy New Year!

What does 2011 hold in store for you personally and professionally? A brand new year, a fresh start perhaps? A new job? Renewed enthusiasm for work? Building on 2010 for even greater success?

No matter what you hope for in 2011, to make it ‘the year of success’, you must have the right attitude. A positive attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but a negative attitude will be a big barrier to achieving (have you ever noticed how a negative thought or comment can lead to another and build on itself?)

The great thing is that you have the ultimate control over your own attitude. So for all of us who are high achieving control freaks, this is a good thing! We are in control of our attitude. Granted, it’s not always easy when we come back to work after holidays to find 5,000 urgent emails, but we do still own our attitude towards those emails!

There are three things to try at the start of this year to help with choosing a positive attitude:

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve – having goals or visions for success will help you stay focused on the positive outcomes you are looking for
  • Know what motivates you – understanding what you love about your work and life will help you seek out those positive opportunities
  • Have a strategy for when the negative attitude seems like the easiest option – using simple techniques can help reduce negative emotions and thoughts

This final point is critical. Right now the year might seem like a clean sheet of paper that you will fill with new year’s resolutions and positive experiences. If we are honest, we all know that there will be times this year when we feel a little negative – a structure change at work, a busy day, unresolved issues, conflict with colleagues – all examples of when we may give way to negative emotions and thus impact our mindset for success.

There are thousands of books and experts to consult about coping with frustrations and situations where negativity can take hold. A simple Google search will give you plentyof options for resources. In the interim, here are some steps that might help on the precipice of negativity.

  •  Breathe! When we feel stressed, frustrated or disheartened, we have an immediate and sometimes powerful emotional reflex, which triggers many physiological responses – heart rate, sweating, headaches. The emotion can also lead us to act in a ‘flight or fight’ mode without always thinking through the consequences. Or, it can lead to a spiral of negative thoughts that lead us to build an issue into a catastrophe. So, in the heat of the moment or even during a long period of stress, we can help ourselves immensely if we just BREATHE. With that breath, we have the opportunity to calm the mind and the body before we deal with the issue.
  • Smile! This is not always easy to do (and on rare occasions may be inappropriate) yet it can help us refocus on our positive attitude. A smile is an action that will release stress. Even if it is a determined, gritty smile to say – “I can deal with this and be positive”. Exercise those facial muscles and get the endorphins flowing!
  • Choose! Tell yourself that you choose to be positive about the situation, no matter how hard that is. This might mean that you decide on positive action – “What are our options to solve this problem?” Or that you make an effort to think more constructively – “I can overcome obstacles and achieve my goals!” Or you may choose to try to empathise with a ‘difficult’ colleague – “They are only trying to do their job, just like me.” Or you might even remove yourself from a negative discussion “It’s hard, but I want to take a positive approach, so I don’t want to spend the day talking about all the bad aspects to this.”

Whatever  your technique for ensuring a positive attitude, if it truly works then it will put you on the path of success. So here’s to 2011 – the year of success!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd