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

03 Oct

Balance and leadership

 “…being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t be considered truly successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” –  Zig Ziglar

When coaching new and experienced managers, we have noticed a trend towards ‘burn-out’ and ‘over-load’ being discussed as serious issues in the workplace. Many people being coached are  feeling ‘overloaded’, with some also expressing concern for their direct reports. It is concerning to hear these managers talk about the long hours they work, the weekends lost to emails and reports and the subsequent strain experienced by their families.

Sadly, there is no easy answer to this problem. Businesses are being pushed to reduce costs and raise productivity, and the resulting restructures, budget cuts and redundancies means that people often find themselves with more work and less resources. To cope, employees are working longer, and often experiencing feelings of resentment, frustration and even anger for doing so. Many find that they strive to do a good job, yet are left thinking that they are never quite doing anything well, rather doing lots of things poorly. For the high achievers, this can be a major issue!

So if there is no easy answer, where do we start?

We must remind businesses and employees of the benefits of balance. In his book ‘The four principles of values-based leadership”,  Harry Kraemer  talks about the importance of balance from several perspectives. One such perspective is ‘life balance’ and “…the importance of diverse activities and experiences that keep you fresh, engaged and motivated.” Remember, if we focus only on work, our brains are not stretched or refreshed. How can we expect to be innovative, productive and positive if our brains are not working properly? How can we expect to solve problems and overcome challenges if we are feeling burnt-out? How can we as managers engage positively to motivate our teams if we are feeling resentful of the work piling up?

As leaders, we must be disciplined to get the balance right. It’s no good for us to tell our people to prioritise or leave work on time if we are not practicing what we preach. We must lead by example. It will take self-awareness, discipline and courage, yet what is the alternative? Some people seem to think that if they complain about the workload long enough or if they talk about the hours they work loud enough, that someone will make it all OK. This will never happen and we so often see managers spiraling on this until they spin  out of control – they might yell at their staff, quit their job, or worse still suffer mental exhaustion and breakdown.

When we talk about balance, it’s not just about leaving work on time or turning off the laptop over the weekend. It’s about replacing these behaviours with balanced behaviours; it’s about exploring  opportunities and experiences outside of the workplace. This might include reconnecting with something you enjoyed when you were younger, experiencing a loved activity with your family, or even stepping outside of your comfort zone with a new course or hobby.

If you do regain some balance, there is no doubt you will start to see benefits – feeling refreshed, focusing better at work, maintaining and growing positive relationships – the list goes on. [An aside: To be honest, when many feel overloaded at work, it is commonly exacerbated by procrastination – such as talking about how busy they are, spending hours writing to do lists (don’t get us wrong, to do lists are critical, yet they can be overdone!) or worrying about what there is to do. This post is not about time management, yet learning about some time management disciplines will help many to get the balance back.)

We all know the saying “Life is short.” well, it is. Imagine yourself at 80 – go on, visualise it! Can you see the wrinkles, the grey hair…? Now imagine yourself looking back at your life. Think not just about work, think about your LIFE. Will you be happy at 80 if you can say “Yep, I worked myself raggard and had no time for anything else…”?

  • What do you want to be most proud of?
  • What do you want to have experienced?
  • What do you want to be able to reflect on at 80?

Now, once you’ve thought those things through with your 80-year old self, consider the following:

  • What are 3 – 5 things you can do to take back control now and get a better life balance?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable when you neglect or forget the above actions?
  • Who can help you achieve these actions?
  • When are you going to start?

When you are determining actions, consider those that you can apply at work and even more importantly at home. At work you might need to reprioritise your work, talk to your boss about deadlines or aim to finish on time 3 days of the week. On the personal side, you might want to commit to learning a new language, play football once a week, take up meditation or join a book club. Whatever the actions are that work for you – the key is to be disciplined, monitor your commitment and reassess in a month or so. Once you are able to gain better balance, consider how you might help your team members do the same. But until you start with yourself and lead by example, you and your team will be left spinning on the ‘work harder and longer’ merry-go-round.

Here’s to a balanced life!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd