expectations

Advice to My (Not So) Younger Self

Posted on August 13, 2017. Filed under: coaching, expectations, Leadership and teams, my career |

Yes you may think you’ve seen this before and perhaps you have. The question is have you acted on the hints, tips and insights gained from others.

You can’t put an old head on young shoulders

That’s not what this is about. What it is about is aiming to help others to not repeat the mistakes that I have made – I’d much prefer it if you learned from mine before forging ahead and making your own mistakes in a new area.

mentor-2062999_1920

Hence the theme of advice to a younger self.

As you can see from the title of this post, this one is a lesson that I feel that I am still learning.  Like many people I have a tendency to work hard, especially on topics and issues that I am passionate about. In fact I work really hard when I am passionate about something. The question is whether “working hard” is actually the right thing to do.

Anyone who has experienced burn out or the fact of working yourself into ill health will resonate with this idea. There are times when we get really frustrated, burned out or unwell because it feels like “I am the only one who cares about this”

Pinterest popped up this little gem – Everybody Somebody Anybody Nobody

Are you familiar with it? It’s a little story that pops up in all manner of places.

Workplace lunch rooms or kitchens – especially when doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher seems to be done by one person

Meeting rooms of sporting clubs or volunteer organisations – when the committee members are tired of not being able to stand down from a role because there is no-one willing to step up

I admit that in some voluntary organisations there are people who hold onto their roles and don’t offer anyone else any training so they kind of create their own frustration, but let’s move on.

So what is the advice to myself?

If I am doing something because it needs to be done but no-one else is willing to put their hand up to do it.  There may be a good reason!

If something needs to be done an no-one is willing to do it, 1. why does it need to be me who does it and 2. what will really happen if no-one does it

 

woman-1733891_1920Usually the “worst case scenario” plays out inside my head. Also known as the guilt trip.

The advice is when in this situation what else can be done other than throwing yourself under the bus, or on the hand grenade. (side bar – I thought that was a great scene in Captain America by the way, but I don’t have superhuman powers)

If you are dealing with frustration and burnout or fatigue from taking on too much, then perhaps the piece of advice in this blog is just for you at just the right time.

My lessons learned?

I confess that I am still learning – we are all perfectly imperfect – yet these are my tips

  1. Catch yourself in the act of doing something merely because it needs to be done and no-one else will do it. To avoid frustration and burnout there has to be a meaningful outcome for me in doing that task (the good old WIIFM)
  2. When taking something on be very clear with yourself and others about any terms or conditions. If you are stepping in to an interim position for 6 weeks then make it clear that at the end of that 6 weeks you will stand aside.
  3. Be prepared for the consequences of acting on your “conditions” Learning to let go of things can be as much of a challenge as not taking them on in the first place. We all know examples when someone has started something “just until a replacement is found” and it has hone on as a permanent arrangement.
  4. Be prepared to get a coach or a mentor who can help keep you accountable to yourself. I confess that this is really hard for me as I don’t like to “give up” or to take advice or feedback about what needs to improve – but that is where the power is and where the new insight comes from. So yes I have a coach and yes I take the feedback.

If you enjoyed this or got something out of it, please let me know and please share it with someone who you think may get some benefit.

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Lessons from a Lawnmower

Posted on September 20, 2015. Filed under: coaching, expectations |

Yes that’s right. today’s blog is about how a lawnmower can share insights about coaching and how you might be undermining yourself.

At the moment as I write we are experiencing the beginning of Spring. Which also means the start of the season in which everything in the garden grows and grows.  It’s also the season when we realise that the lawnmower has sat idle and unused in the garden shed for many months. In my case, well over a year as I have been paying someone to cut my lawns for a while. Lawnmower

My lawns had grown and were out of control as I have not been happy with the most recent lawnmower guy (he compared my lawns to those of a neighbour saying I needed to do what they have done and sow my lawns – when he was referring to a neighbour who had re-turfed their lawns! There is a large and visually obvious difference between recently turfed and recenly sown lawns.) in whom I had lost confidence and comfort with paying him to cut my lawns.

So here I am with a big task ahead of me (weeds and grass at least 4 inches high) and doubt in my mind because the best tool – the lawnmower – has sat unused for a long period of time.

Reference One – how often do we do this to ourselves at work, thinking that we will be unable to effectively tackle something because it has been so long?

Now I’ve also succumbed to a lurgy at the end of winter which had me doubting my physical capacity to pull start the mower. We all know how exhausting those things can be. don’t we?

Reference Two – we base our expectations of effort and anticipated effort on what has happened in the past rather than an accurate and fact based assessment of the current situation.

Me feeling some self doubt plus the assumption that a mower not used for a long time would be hard to start led me to conclude that it would not start. This was supported by the fact that my fuel can had been damaged and I knew I had no petrol for the mower. And so I gave up before I had even tried.

Reference Three – all too often people give up on a task before assessing it realistically let alone trying

And here is where it all gets interesting.

I decided that the lawn had to be mowed and that I did not want to use the same guy who had been doing it in the past. And therefore (oddly) that led to a belief that I ought to do it myself (not call another lawnmower person) and based on the fact that I knew that I had a manual push mower in the garden shed.

Doing the Hard Manual YardsYes one of those old, outdated, hard to find manual, hand push mowers that have metal blades and no catcher. A steel handle and a tendency to jam – especially when trying to plough through weeds that are as high as the wheels of the push mower. The blades kept jamming and I had to keep stopping to un jam them and it was really had manual labour to push that mower through the weeds and grass.

As you can see from this photo. Now let me also say that my total lawn area is probably the size of 1.5 tennis courts. That’s a lot of square metres of greenery to be pruned or mowed. In fact I had weeds that were so big Big Obstancles and Toolsthat it seemed more sensible to pull them out whole or to clip them with the hedge shears.

My neighbours must have had a good giggle at me on my hands and knees cutting greenery with shears rather than using a mower.

One neighbour, and only one, commented that “Gee, that looks like a good workout” while all the others who saw me said nothing. They probably think I am insane or have a problem that results in me doing things manually.

Reference Four – beware of the assumptions that you make when you observe others doing things that seem unusual or unexpected

Now I am not really crazy – although I did persist in mowing almost half my total lawn area with the hand mower before taking the other mower o a friend and asking for some help to check that it would start. And guess what? Two pulls on the starter, we checked and confirmed that it was totally out of fuel. Perhaps evaporation or perhaps that I’d put it away when empty the last time it was used. No drama, let’s fill it with petrol and see what happens.

So, with a bit of fuel and following proper start procedure the mower started on the second pull. Yes that’s right.  After at least 18 months of being idle and untouched, all it took was a little fuel and proper procedure for the motor mower to start.

Reference Five – sometimes it takes less input than we think to get something started.

The moral of this post? Please do not allow yourself to fall victim to the same set of assumptions, beliefs and limits that I show in this story when you are at work or working with people. Make good use of the critical friend who can:

  1. Make sure you follow a good process to get things going
  2. Ask if you have tried things rather than allowing your assumptions to limit you
  3. Encourage you to give it a go even if you have doubts
  4. Believe in you and your dusty skills at times when you may think that they have passed their use by date

And so the lawnmower is now my personal analogy for how I can make sure I remain open to coaching and mentoring in the same way that I ask my clients to allow me to coach and mentor them.

It may not be the perfect story for all situations as there are genuinely circumstances where old and unused skills have become rusty and redundant – that’s where a coach can help you establish if they are genuinely out of date or if you are limiting yourself. It’s too easy for us to limit ourselves.

Now I shall complete my lawn mowing with the motor mower. (insert happy face perhaps?)

 

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Why Procrastination is Your Friend

Posted on September 27, 2014. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams |

It feels a little odd to type this title, especially as most sources label procrastination as a thief and a detractor.

To me procrastination is a perfect example of an age old magicians trick. Not sleight of hand, but the misdirect. A misdirect is something that attracts your attention (such as the magician’s pretty assistant) with the goal of drawing your attention away from the real goings on.

Procrastination is like the mind’s way of distracting you from what you really ought to be attending to.
If you procrastinate you could gain some great insights by noticing when you procrastinate. Then if you can identify the trigger for the procrastination you will have clarity on what needs to be done, and perhaps why you are attempting to avoid it.

For example, many managers that I have worked with procrastinate about conducting staff performance reviews. There are many reasons in this procrastination: not enough time to do them all, too many staff, some awkward conversations may need to be had, there will be questions about company decisions that are out of your control or that you didn’t like either.

Once the reason for the procrastination is clear then you have the gift and why it is your friend.
If a performance feedback process is too time consuming, then could the process be adjusted so there are shorter and more frequent discussions?
If there are too many staff, can someone else who works closely with them be engaged in the process of gathering insights about performance and then supporting the delivery of the feedback?
Any conversation that is anticipated to be or expected to be awkward needs to be had before it goes ignored for so long that it becomes a major problem. A topic that is awkward now will have additional awkwardness in 6 months time because the staff member will (and rightly so) ask why it has taken six months to be mentioned.

Just like a friend who will tell you that you have something stuck in your teeth after sharing lunch, procrastination tells you where a challenge may be. Once you address and resolve the challenge, then the need for the misdirect of the procrastination goes away.

in some cases procrastination about leadership tasks is a way of uncovering that a person never wanted a leadership role and will have far better personal job satisfaction doing what they did before they were promoted into a leadership role.

In anticipation of comments and your thoughts.

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Small Steps Get Big and Consistent Results

Posted on January 27, 2014. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, personal leadership |

This past week I have really been struck by the message that “Doing the small things will save time and money”.

It fits every part of life

– keep your garden trimmed and it is not as big, time (and energy) consuming or expensive to get it in shape.

– eat food that is good for you every day and exercise moderately and there’s no need for fad diets etc

– communicate clearly and often with loved ones to build and maintain those good relationships and trust.

Thinking about work,

– do the filing and email clean up weekly rather than waiting for that quiet time over Christmas (that never seems to arrive anymore! and is also such a big horrid task to tackle that it seems better to just leave it)

– keep in regular contact with suppliers and clients so that when you have a big question to ask, it does not come out of the blue and feel to both of you like you only call when you have a favour to ask

So why don’t more leaders give frequent feedback to their teams?

Let’s think about that a bit more. If a leader gives small and frequent doses of feedback to their teams then people will know what is expected from them, how well they are doing, what results they are getting and how well the team and company are doing. It is also like any human relationship – build up the small pieces to build trust and rapport and that avoids the impression that you only have really good or bad news to share.

I realise that sometimes leaders are so busy doing all the tasks of their management role that the small, yet important things, slip to the back of the queue until they build up, or until they are finally scheduled.There are so many issues and people demanding attention from you every day (and sometimes well after hours) that it feels like you are pulled from pillar to post.

Even so, the delay between contact can create more work for you and so saving a few minutes here and there can then require hours later on.

Let me share the event that caused this train of thought for me, and it serves as a non work analogy.

Late last year was a busy time for me, and one of the things that slipped to the back of the queue of things I do was washing my car. Now that might not seem all that important, and I thought it was ok too.

I own a dark grey car and the dirt didn’t rally show up that much – or so I told myself.
My car does however have nice shiny silver alloy wheels. Well at least they are nice and shiny when they are clean. By the end of 2013  were the same dark dull shade as the now dirty paint work. In fact they did look pretty bad, but I knew that it was going to now be a really big job to clean them and so I left it. (yep, doing nothing never makes anything better)

And still I thought I could leave it until I had time.

Naturally something happened to shake me out of that approach of doing nothing – I got a flat tyre.

And yes the spare wheel was shiny and clean.

So I had one clean wheel and three grubby ones on my car.  Hmm, can you think of a better way to make it obvious that my car really needed a good clean?
That one shiny wheel really made it obvious that my car was desperately in need of a wash. Or at least the wheels were.
So one day I sat down and cleaned one wheel.   It took about 40 minutes and I was exhausted, but now I had two clean and two dirty wheels. So I went back the next day and cleaned the other two dirty wheels and yes it took about 40 minutes  each wheel. And I was exhausted at the end of it. It was hard work out in the summer sun, but it really could not wait any longer.
The rest of the car stayed dirty – cleaning the wheels was enough hard work, so the paintwork could wait. For about another week when I thought I should go to the car wash and do it properly. Now I have a shiny car again. That took a bit of effort too, and I decided that I need to keep my car clean during 2014 and be more frequent in my washing.

Now the interesting thing is that I go to a self serve car wash where I put in a dollar at a time to pre soak, spray wash, rinse and  spot free rinse my car. Yep, a full car wash for four dollars. Nice work. Sometimes if the car is dirty I need to use the foaming brush (another dollar) and this time I had to do two rounds of the high pressure soap to get the grime off (another dollar) and then the high pressure rinse needed a second application to clear off the suds (another dollar)

So my car wash that usually costs me four dollars turned into seven, but I was still pleased that I had washed the car.

And then I looked at my shiny car and those wheels that had been shiny by comparison, but now I could see the places that I had missed. Because it had taken so much effort to get rid of the major grime, I had missed the fine details. Those wheels still weren’t quite right.

I got home and decided to wash each wheel properly. Two buckets of water – one with soapy water and a brush and another bucket of clean water and a sponge. About an hour later I was done and the wheels looked fantastic. As did the rest of the car.
Fantastic. Brilliant. I had properly cleaned those wheels in about 15 minutes each – faster and better than the last time because I had less grime to get through. It was a smaller task that I was tackling.
In terms of the theme of this post, so far it has cost me not a lot of money but several hours of my time. And there are a few points that are really relevant for effective leadership.
I decided that I would schedule a little time each month to wash my car so it never builds up that crusty, stubborn layer of grime again.Earlier this week I had about 15 minutes between meetings and went to wash my car. And guess what? Because it has been less than a month since it was last washed, it took me about 3 minutes and cost only two dollars at my usual place.
Half the money.

That sounds like a good principle – schedule in your own diary to have small informal catch ups with your people – mark it in your diary and then do a walk around the site, or sit in the lunch room with people, or walk around briefly chatting with each team member.
Small regular attention prevents build up of any angst, and hence you have fewer issues to deal with and the ones you do can be cleansed pretty quickly. If you speak with people regularly they may mention something that is annoying them, but if you leave it a month or two it may have escalated to be a real concern and serious issue.
Any money that you need to invest will be spent on fewer issues and so it will cost less. You may buy staff s morning tea at the end of a busy project or month or after a big win and they feel part of the company and appreciated.  If they feel appreciated during the year they wont be expecting all of your appreciation to be shown in their salary review. And if you need to invest in coaching or training to develop skills, improving the small skills may be what is needed to prevent things blowing up into big issues that need legal attention and time off.

And if you address things early they will not generally get any bigger, and so you spend less and avoid the later problems. By cleaning my car wheels more often there is less build up of road grime to be cleaned off and so the job is easier and takes less effort.

Approaching tasks when they are small gives you a greater sense of satisfaction and reduces the anxiety or dread that you may feel. I can tell you that the thought of washing those wheels was really off putting because I had left it to the point where it was a big tasks, needing lots of effort, energy and time. And who has loads of that to spare?  Now I am committed to going back to the way I used to keep on top of keeping my car clean so the task of washing is not so much a dreaded chore but becomes a time to relax and do something I enjoy. Talk to your staff regularly and you will build rapport and you may enjoy catching up with them, whereas if you leave it until there is a problem both of you will dread the conversation that is to come.
Yes it may seem odd that washing my car created this analogy, and yet it seems a good fit.

US Hall of Fame coach/player John Wooden sums it up best “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

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RUOK is more than a question and more than a day

Posted on September 13, 2013. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, personal leadership |

A question and a philosophy

I’m writing this post during suicide prevention week, and on the day when it is encouraged to ask RUOK . Writing because of an experience I had today.

When asked if I am ok I typically say yes,  even if I feel a bit stressed.

And that’s true statement.Because a little bit of stress is OK. Even though some days, as we all know, the (higher) level of stress on tougher days means that I can go from ok to not ok based on different factors. For example, a sad song is just a sad song on most days, yet every now and again I have a day where a sad song makes me sad or even tearful.

Based on my observations, conversations and experiences over the years, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this.

So why this post?

This morning I was ok, even if after a bit of an unplanned start as I overslept and felt I was running late, but it turned out ok. Rushed but ok.

(for those of you who know me, that may be a surprise because the thought of running late sends me into stress mode, let alone being late and for a client activity – but I was earlier than the client arriving and was all set up when they did arrive, so no-one knew!)

photo 1.JPG

Floral theme in the first inland town surveyed in Victoria, Australia

And this afternoon I was ok because I took some time out on a 200+km drive to stop several times to take photos and pause in a lovely little town.photo 2.JPG

Great views, nice sunshine and several stretch breaks as well as taking the pressure off me a little.

Ahh, nice.

And then I had an interaction with someone I will call Thoughtless Employee or TE.

That interaction was not ok and it made me wonder how many other people have had a similar experience.

My mum has lived with me for the past 20 years due to her poor health and I am her carer.

The role of carer has intensified in recent years as her health has declined, and as an only child I’m her main family and social contact. We do have periodic visits from one sister and one brother of hers which is wonderful, but even so, she still sometimes grumbles about having to get up out of bed to see them.

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The end of it is that I provide significant emotional, financial and practical support for my mum.

And I don’t begrudge a minute of that.

Mum and I have always got on well together  and part of it is because we are quite alike. Yes we’re both stubborn, and determined, and we also like a laugh and doing crosswords. In fact mum taught me how to do cryptic crosswords. But we have lived comfortably together in the same house (separate bathrooms and living areas though!) for 20 years. I love her loads, yet at times it can be tiring being her primary contact with the outside world and being the only person she relies on for her shopping and medical supplies.

Today I called her to let her know what time I’d be home – yes I know 🙂 – and I asked if she needed anything.

She said that she needed something today, that she couldn’t wait until tomorrow for. It would not last the night and she relies on this item daily.

Now, with the right paperwork we can get this item for half price. But it was too late in the day for me to go home, get her paperwork and get back to the store we usually/always use before they closed.

(I am being deliberately generic here because the issue is not about the store or the industry, my point is about how we communicate with each other.)

I assured Mum that I’d pick it up on the way home, and thought I’d be doing the right thing by going to our regular (ie only) provider with whom I’ve been dealing for some years and where I am well known to the staff at all levels because I’m in there so often trying to find a solution to a challenge/problem that mum has. And they are usually most helpful and we work well together.

Today I saw a regular staffer,  now known as “thoughtless employee” or TE who I have seen most of the other times I’ve been there which is pretty much weekly. So I’m not a stranger and as I said usually the staff are friendly and helpful.

I walked in to the shop just before 5pm and explained my havign been away and the drive today before asking if I could get this item for mum but on the discounted rate for which I’d not be able to bring in the paperwork until the next day.
Yes I understand the rules and protocols etc, but I am a regular customer on behalf of mum and they have her full details and list of what they provide  her which they update fortnightly. I thought it would be ok to ask, and was willing to hear No, because all I was trying to do was to save mum paying twice the price for her item.

So back to the story, i asked my question and said that id just returned from one day away and mum had an urgent need. TE

responded that she’d have to ask, and I said that it was ok I didn’t want to cause a fuss, was just trying to save mum some money and that I did not have time to get home to pick up the paperwork and get back before they close. I thought it was worth a try.

TE went to the store manager and from several metres away, in front of other staff and several customers, I heard her say that I

Once it's said, or typed, the words can't be taken back

Once it’s said, or typed, the words can’t be taken back

was asking because I “couldn’t be bothered” going home to get the paperwork.

Wow

“Excuse me, it is not because I cannot be bothered it is that I won’t be able to go home and make it back here before you close” was what I said across the store.

Firmly, calmly and politely. But loud enough for everyone there to hear.
Because everyone had heard what she had said. About me. About the priority that I place on caring for my mother.

I also said, in front of everyone,  to not worry and just get one off the shelf.

By now I knew it was clearly a wrong question to ask and that TE wasn’t willing or able to help. Yet, she stayed over with the manager a little longer.

TE walked back over a minute of so later and rang up the full price sale, at a register at the end of the counter away from the other customers.
As she did so I told her (quietly and politely) that I had found her comment hurtful.
TE said she hadn’t meant it.
I repeated that her comment was hurtful and that I was upset by it because I love my mum and do as much as I can for her. To say that I couldn’t be bothered was untrue and unfair.
TE said it wasn’t her intent to be hurtful.
I commented that regardless of her intent, I was hurt and upset by her comment.
TE then said  “well I’m sorry then”

(and no her tome was not indicating that she meant it at all)

I paid and left.

Those who know me, know that I am assertive and probably more so than most. So I am one of the few people who would speak up at the time.

And I’ve been wondering how many people may have not said anything and left in tears.
I managed to speak up.

The point of my blog and telling this story  is this: On RUOK day it’s not enough to just ask that question.
Because when you ask I might be ok, but still vulnerable to the thoughtless comment of another, or even you might make. (I’m not immune either and need to be conscious of what I say – I realise that TE may have had a tough day as well)
What might leave a positive or a negative legacy with someoneEvery day, and especially on RUOK day we need to take responsibility for what we do and what we say to others that will help them to be OK and aim not to say thoughtless things that might hold them back from being ok.
Words linger longer than we know. Be careful what you say, and how you interpret others because your  meaning might not be the same as theirs. (I think that is what happened with TE and I)
As managers and co workers, be aware of times when you rephrase something, because the rephrase may change the meaning entirely. That’s what TE did with my words.

To the TE at the chemist, sure I was asking a question that had little chance of success, and may have breached a whole heap of rules.  No problem – tell me that is the reason why you can’t help me.
I’ll understand. Just don’t make statements about whether I can or can’t be bothered to do something – that’s judgemental. It is wrong, it is untrue. It’s hurtful.

To the TE at the chemist, thank you for reminding me that I could have been clearer in my wording – saying “I don’t have time to get it done today”  may well have been interpreted as cant be bothered, especially if you’ve had a day of dealing with people who can’t be bothered. I just meant that I could not make the round trip before they close, and given than mum needed the item right then for that night her health and needs came first.

To the TE at the chemist, I hope you will understand if there  are days in the future where I ask “would you mind if someone else served me today?”
It’s nothing personal, just that if you’ve had a bad day and I have too then your TE comment might cause me tears and pain that I prefer to do without. There are enough other things going on that cause that kind of grief.training and endorphins and stress relief

FYI readers, I made sure I went for a nice long run at a steady pace to get the emotion out of my system and to get some endorphins in. Then I sat with my mum for a while and we had dinner together.

To all of us, can I ask that we be thoughtful when we speak (or post on social media). Not censoring ourselves, just being mindful that our words can (and do) wound others. Often unintentionally, but the hurt is still there.
To all of us, can I ask that we be mindful of our own emotional and stress states and be able to either ask friends for a little support or to put in place your self care strategies early.
To all  of us, we all need to take good care, ask yourself if UROK, and be ok when some days feel tougher than others.

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What do Missy Higgins and Good Managers Have in Common?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, leadership legacy |

Well Missy took a 5 year break from music because she’d “forgotten why I wanted to write music in the first place”. For her, losing the connection with her music and her purpose turned her passion into a business and a job.  For an artist and a musician that can be a hollow place to be.

Actually, it can be a hollow feeling for anyone to feel their joy and enthusiasm for what they do melting away.  Or worse, realise that it has gone completely and then to feel stuck or trapped.

Does that sound like anyone you know?

Are you a manager who has lost some (or all) of your passion and enthusiasm? Does working with people drain your energy rather than inspire you to be the best leader you can be?

Some people say that it is life’s greatest pleasure to work at what you love.  I say it is essential to love what you do – even if that is only part of what you do – otherwise it is a grind or a rut.

An old favourite phase of mine is

“The only difference between a rut and the grave is the depth”

Because when you get into a rut things lose their life and colour and passion.  It doesn’t really seem that far off being completely cut off from life itself.

Can you feel how that may happen?  Many people I meet for career guidance tell me they feel stuck or trapped.  Being a career advisor and manager coach means I have a lot of conversations with a lot of people – and the majority of those conversations relate to people who feel that their work is a j.o.b. (or just off broke).  Can you imagine how that comes across to people you work with?  When you feel frustrated and unhappy in your work it does come across to others, even if only in subtle ways.

And that is why I believe Missy has been very wise to take a break.  Her music is her passion.  Her music is enjoyed because she sings and plays and writes with passion.  If there were no passion where would the joy be – for her as a performer or for her audience?

I recall seeing a well known band perform live – there was no banter or interaction between the members, there were no smiles and no apparent enjoyment of the gig.  Some people say they are a great band because their sound is perfect on stage and in the studio.  For me, there was no passion and it was a technical display only. That is not why I wanted to see a band perform live.

Enough with the imagery about boredom and death! Although one final comment on the picture – how many people do you know who believe that if they work harder and longer than anyone else that they will reap the rewards?  And how many of those people subsequently get ill or suffer stress – especially if they are overlooked for a promotion.  The hardest working people in a company can be the least visible – think about the cleaners, the admin and support staff, those in back office jobs: they all work very hard and with little recognition.  Those of us in more customer facing roles work hard also yet our direct connection with customers usually provides us with some recognition.  Don’t fool yourself – working yourself into a grave may get you the Unknown headstone too – and that’s about  it.

Back to Missy – she clearly knows that you need to be true to yourself to be good at what you do.

Does that make sense to you?  It’s a pretty deep concept – happiness comes from being true to yourself.  Being good at what you do involves (usually) enjoying what you do – so that you’ll keep doing it – and therefore the more you do it the better you get.  This phenomena is also known as the 3 Ps – practice (creates) prefeence (increases) proficiency.  You (and I) practice what is preferred and that leads to proficiency. So we do what we like and then get better at it because we’ve practiced and then we develop an even stronger preference or liking for it.

Yes that’s why I work with lots of managers and people seeking career counselling because I enjoy it, which I hope makes me easier to work with and then get great results with people, and then I want to keep doing it because it helps people.

So to be really good at what you do you need to enjoy it.  Enjoyment comes from being true to yourself and knowing what you like.

Managers are the same – most of us become leaders or managers because we like people and think we can make a positive difference.

Now for my tough question – Why did you become a manager?

What were the reasons you signed up to lead people? Are you still doing it for those reasons or has your role become lost in the blur of budgets, reporting, deliverables, projects and problem solving?

If that notion cause you to feel sad, then I ask you this Is the despair or frustration that you feel, showing in your work and to your team?

If so – it is surely not how you want to be seen and remembered.  And now perhaps you are in a dilemma.  I love my company and my team (and let’s face it, the wages are probably a positive influence too) yet the job has lost some (or all) of it’s appeal for me.  Now what do I do?

Well you do not have to resign or quit!

I hope that is a relief.

Unless that is really what you want to do, and have been thinking about for some time – in which case I suggest have a chat with a career advisor and then do it if it is right for you! Very little is to be gained for making a rash decision, however the theme of this post is also that continuing to do something that makes you unhappy is also not a good thing.

My suggestion is to rediscover what it is that you love about what you do – why did you get started in the first place.  See if you can reconnect with that passion and enthusiasm. And then let it shine.

Personally, I have resigned from jobs before because there was no longer a fit between what the role/company required and what I love to do. And like Missy I knew that if I stayed in that role that all I’d be doing was being bad for my health, lowering the results I could achieve and leaving a less than brilliant impression of myself with people I worked with. To do my best I need to be in the right frame of mind – which comes when i do what I love.

One role that I resigned from was a head of learning and development, and it had lots of training/workshop facilitation, career advice with staff, skill and development planning with managers and some great projects as well.  It was my ideal role at the time. Well the company went into a consolidation period and wanted to do fairly standard training for about 12 months and then review whether they would resume the staff skill and career development aspect.

For me I did not want to be a contract manager for 12 months – that is not the type of work that really makes my heart sing.  I realise that there are people out there who love contract management and so I decided to resign from that job and let someone in who would really, passionately and diligently do what was required.

Now some folks would say that’s a pretty brave move and not something that just anyone could or should do.  We are all in different circumstances which need to be weighd up. It worked for me and I knew that I would not do myself or the job justice if I stayed.

My view is that your well being also needs to be weighed up.  If you work in a job you hate then it could well be eating you up from the inside. And maybe you would be better off doing something else.

Something you feel passion for. Something you enjoy. Something that helps you be a great person to work with. And makes you a happier person to be around outside of work.

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Is it easier to discipline managers than team members?

Posted on April 25, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams |

Gee I wonder what you are thinking as you read that headline and then start reading this blog post.  Given that my work in the area of people and human resources management this may look like it is going to be an opinion piece on the Fair Work Act and its application.

Not a US football team – just an image!

Well not really. I saw an article this week http://www.nola.com/saints/index.ssf/2012/04/suspending_new_orleans_saints.html about a US football league team.  The point made in the article is that it seems to be quite easy to suspend or in other ways discipline managers and coaches, yet it is far harder to discipline players.  Their example was of player transgressions where players are able to keep playing perhaps for up to 2 seasons before (if proven) the “offence” can be actioned.

It set me to thinking – again – about what parallels there may (or may not) be between sport and business. (this is a bit of a sub text of mine as I feel there are some really strong connection points).

My first thought is whether this perception of ease is real or not? What makes it easy – the fact that you can take obvious and immediate action on a complaint?

I believe that having a process to investigate and follow up complaints is a good thing.  Taking immediate action to suspend someone on the basis of an allegation seems like a knee jerk reaction rather than an appropriate response.

The article raises the point (as has our own political situation this week regarding allegations made against Peter Slipper) about whether the subject of a complaint should be stood down while the investigation occurs.  Well, if the matter is serious (ie fraud by a cashier for example or violence) then perhaps an immediate stand down is appropriate.

As is a quick investigation.  Let’s not drag out the investigative process and reaching findings.

What happens though if, as in a sporting realm, an allegation is made and not substantiated – isn’t there a high risk that this could be a strategy to remove a player from a critical match/event/game?  If your rule is that complaint leads to suspension, how would you feel if you’d suspended a player or employee by mistake?

In motorcycle racing for instance complaints (or protests) are investigated at the time and the intention is that a decision or outcome is made before the competitors involved are in their next race.  Sure it places time pressure on people (the officials), yet it also works to prevent a strategy for one competitor to remove their main rival from the next race. Do you see what I mean?  If a rider can protest knowing that you will be automatically out of the racing then the first rider may get an advantage out of that. (I call that playing the rules rather than playing by the rules)

Still in motorcycle racing, it has been suggested then that both parties should be suspended from competition until the protest is heard and resolved. Well, this could still leave an opening for a friend of a competitor to lodge a protest and them being excluded along with the rival, thus “taking the fall” or excluding themself from the race so their friend can race and have a greater chance of winning.

Does this make sense?  An immediate and automatic exclusion and suspension may be mis used rather than used well.

OK I admit that I may be being quite speculative here – and probably a bit cynical – yet stranger things have happened in sport.

Who remembers Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? (heres the wikipedia link if you need to check it out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonya_Harding.)  This was a prime example of the desire of some competitors that overwhelms usual customs of fair play and fair competition – it is intense rivalry to the extreme.  Talk about taking someone out!

By the way, such intense rivalry is not limited to the sporting arena either.  I am sure many people reading this will have experienced rivalry in the workplace – people spreading rumours about others especially if there is a promotion coming up, or efforts to sabotage someone’s reputation or even claiming the work of a colleague as their own.  Fortunately most people I have worked with have been healthy and fair and enjoyable to work with.

And so, back to the start point, should a player/employee automatically be stood down or suspended when a complaint is made. Not in my opinion unless the nature of the complaint is serious and the alleged offender would be causing more injury/damage/problems if remaining on site.  Next question – is it fair for a manager/coach to be automatically stood down.

This may be why it appears easier to suspend or discipline sport team managers – they are immediately stood down pending the result of the investigation of the allegation.

And I do not believe this is fair either.

In my view the same set of rules should apply to managers/coaches as do to players/employees.

Everyone has the right to a fair hearing.

Both players/employees and managers/coaches may be subject to rivalry and competitiveness.  And therefore there is a chance that an automatic suspension or stand down process breaches principles of natural justice:

– it creates an impression of guilt

– it is subject to misuse and could be an act of bullying or harassment in itself

– it limits the right of reply of the individual

– it creates a bias of right and wrong

– the old adage of when mud is thrown some will stick appears relevant here

– one party seems to be receiving less favourable treatment than the other

So is it easier to discipline managers than team members – only if your processes of discipline are inequitable.  If managers are subject to an immediate stand down when employees/players are not then it is the system that is wrong.

In my experience in workplaces processes apply equally regardless of seniority/position and therefore the answer to the question is No.

In sport where it seems the answer to the article is yes, then I suggest that the processes be reviewed quickly.

What we want to achieve is a level and fair playing field for all.  Isn’t that anout human and individual rights?

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How and why loyalty counts

Posted on September 21, 2011. Filed under: culture, expectations, personal leadership |

It’s been a while and I have a few draft posts waiting – yet this one has come to the lead.  Why?  Well, last week in Australian Football League – not the round ball football – there was a fair bit of media coverage and criticism of one coach in particular who changed teams.  His team had been eliminated from the finals, it was (allegedly) thought he was contracted for next year and suddently we get two announcements.  First that another team’s coach has been sacked.  Secondly, within an hour, news that the first coach is being appointed into the sacked coach’s role.

Can you see how thi slinks to loyalty?

Coach A was seen to have been disloyal (or deceptive) to his team by going to another club despite his contract, he was probably seen as disloyal to fellow coaches as he stepped in while the seat was still warm – in fact I have heard it said that negotiations must have been going on before the sacking which sounds like someone is implying that he was more than disloyal.

There was lots of talk back radio chat about this being what happens when sport becomes business – loyalty goes away to be replaced by money.

I’m not so sure I agree with that.

According to dictionary.com, loyalty is  

1. the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.
3. an example or instance of faithfulness, adherence, or the like: a man with fierce loyalties.

My question in a business context is how well we define loyalty and communicate that definition and expectation. 

If an employee works with a company for 5 years, attends skill development activities and is an important part of the team – and then resigns.  Do we question her loyalty? 

Some will.  Why?  I think it is point 2 above where differences really come into play – employers seem to tacitly expect loyalty to the CEO or team leader above all else.  What about an indiidual’s loyalty to their family – the expectation that I do the best I can to provide as best I can for my family – including changing job to reduce my stress/live closer to home/earn mor emoney/have better future career prospects.

Yet that person, let’s call her Madge, considers herself loyal and will be hurt and angry when it is said that she has been disloyal.

If we as business owners and mamagers fail to define what we expect from our employees – on any level including loyalty, performance, work role – how can we realistically expect people to meet our expectations.  If others do not know what is expected of them then their chances of meeting those expectations become more like a lottery and game of chance.

Personally I believe some people are also not quite clear on where their own loyalties lie and so they find themselves making decisions all over the place.  What are you loyal to? What drives and inspires you?  What or who do you put first above all else – I mean really put first?

Loyalty is something I think we all have, it’s just that different people define it differently.  And because it is often unspoken we assume that other people share the same loyalty as us OR that they understand our personal loyalty.

It’s not so and like many expectations, trouble can come from a mis match.

In terms of work (and probably sport) let’s focus on value and delivery.  What is the work that is done.

And by the way, according to Aristotle:

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.

And

Our actions and behaviours are our morals in conduct

I think sometimes we get loyalty and morals confused – but either way, it is what we do that speaks volumes and not just only what we say.

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Trek to Nepal – two months exactly

Posted on March 7, 2011. Filed under: expectations, Inspired Adventures, Nepal trek, personal leadership |

This week marks the countdown at eight weeks until departure. Amazingly it is only 2 months – getting easily into the realm of how milestones as motivation or notmany days to go (yet I’m not going to go there just yet)

Milestones are a funny thing – some people get really motivated by the approach of a milestone – especially if they have prepared well and are tracking development and progress. For instance, I am noticing some health benefits including my body toning up so that clothes are fitting much better than they have for quite some time. And the meditation is also having an effect although not as much as I had hoped because I am not practising as much as I had planned.
Others around me are counting down to different milestones such as major trips or events and I have been fascinated by the variation in approaches. One friend is excitedly counting down the number of days until his wedding – a simple daily statement of number of days to go. No more and no less is said yet his excitement and enthusiasm is clear. Another friend is counting down the days to a holiday and has been crafting new words to go with traditional tunes so the rest of us count down how many sleeps while humming the tune of a well known song. And yes I can tell you exactly how many days to go – she has effectively used multiple senses to lock the milestone into her mind and also into the minds of others.

There’s a tip I guess – use as many of your senses as possible to lock something into your mind and focus. If I just visualise it then that is one sense, whereas if I visualise along with sound (like music or people speaking the language) then my brain gets the message on two channels which gives it a higher impact.

So my training has been physical and mental – for obvious reasons – and I have been practising my meditation and focused attention while hiking. Attending to the feel of my feet on the ground, noticing the smells and the sounds – which I know will be very different in Nepal yet still something I treasure about hiking. I especially love the smells after rain. It’s fresh and clean. Almost as if the world has been cleansed.

A bit spiritual in a way. Just like a trek in Nepal has a spiritual element for me. It’s a chance to connect with a place of beauty and astonishing scale, that has at least the percpetion of being untouched. I am under no illusion about how hard this is going to be – and in fact the past 2 weeks as I have found it hard to fit my target level of fitness training into my schedule I have begun to feel some doubt about how I am really going to cope on this trip.

Will I make it or will I need lots of help? Am I going to enjoy it while I’m there or will it be a struggle that only becomes a positive on reflection?

These sort of thoughts have some similarities with the way we celebrate the approach of milestones. If I feel ready and prepared then I am excited. When I feel under prepared and concerned about my capability to do it then I feel nervous and may even think about delaying or denying it. Of course that is one of the reasons why a group trip is so powerful – the external drivers mean that no one person can defer the trip. Of course an individual can withdraw however the trip will still go on. Now it is about how I use those nervous feelings – to spur me into action or to generate a sense of lethargy.

Can you see the parallel with work or a personal goal (such as getting fit)? Often a small setback or variation to the plan becomes the seed that puts the whole thing off kilter.

physical and mental challengesSo where am I? Still feeling a little nervous about my level of preparedness yet turning that into a motivator to stick to my fitness plan or revise my focus – so the last 2 weeks where I have not done as much physical work as target, I have focused on mental preparation (ie some meditation) and also the logistics (ie vaccinations and visas) and my diet (yes I am following the Blood Type diet) as well as making the most of what opportunity I do have. Last week I had to be outside for 6 of the 7 days standing around. So I made sure I did lots of walking to and fro, along with squats and lunges and stretches. Building some strength in the quads and working my knees – because they are going to get a workout in 8 to 10 weeks time.

The other lesson is learning to forgive myself for not being perfect. Accepting that I can only do my best and that one bad week does not a failure make. (I will have failed if I give up now)

With eight weeks to go I believe that I have the equipment I need, and have tested it all out – with success. Vaccinations and visas are next. And then it will be keeping up the good work.

And being prepared to take lots of photos and sharing them when I return.

My journal is ready for me to make notes while I am there.

The photos will tell a picture story.

And perhaps the greatest story of all will be the one that I live while I am there and what I learn about myself and my fellow travellers.

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Trek to Nepal – 12 weeks away

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership response, Nepal trek, personal leadership, Plan Fundraising |

What a difference a week makes! Suddenly an adventure that seemed so far away and with plenty of time to prepare for is just around the corner. In fact in some respects there are two complete months to go – given that we are one week into February.

Wow.

What a different perspective this creates. Perhaps not in my mind as much as in the minds and responses of others. This past week when speaking with people about the trek (especially related to my fundraising targets) the responses have exclusively been “wow that’s really close”. It has been a sudden and complete shift.

In my mind there are still many weeks to go and I am tracking well on my fitness and training goals, preparing the right equipment, having test runs of all of my gear within the next few weeks and keeping up with the timing of progress payments for travel costs and fundraising donations as well. Lots of things going on yet all weaving together to form a complete tapestry of what will be a trip of a lifetime. A trip that will benefit me, will benefit Plan and will benefit communities. A trip that will also connect some of my friends and colleagues – and people who do not know me that well – with Nepal and a passion for helping others as the thread that joins us.

And that is what has really struck me about this week: many things seem to have shifted. It is not just the reactions of others, my own actiity and focus this week also shifted. It has been really hard this week to fit in the physical training due to weather and work commitments  and so I have shifted my focus to my mental and emotional state. Lots of meditation work and mindfulness. Rather than being physically active I have been mentally aware and focused. And perhaps mentally aware of what I have not been doing before I was able to turn that into what I have been doing. Making the switch from physical to mental activity initially felt like I was doing nothing and that was disappointing. Then I realised what was happening – the focal point had shifted slightly. It is all still very related to being ready and capable of trekking in Nepal. Just different.

For me one of the challenges has been that very thing: keeping my mindset positive and not lapsing into a self deprecating dialogue of how I have allowed the training to slip and what sort of risk that now poses to my making the trek safely and effectively. Progress physically has been so far great. There are lots of things I have improved greatly over the past month and persistence has been one of the kesy. For me to have a week of difference was probably a timely reminder that this trek is going to be filled with the unexpected and unanticipated. It was also a stark reminder that this is as much a mental and emotional challenge as it will be a physical one. And emotional and mental control is something I pride myself on highly.

Control. There are only certain things we can control in life – the main one is our views and mindset or beliefs about something. That’s where my personal focus has been this past week. And it has been a very different experience. There are things I cannot control and need to accept that. As Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

And I did – early in the week I realised I needed to change my attidtude. Actually it was closer to mid week. And as soon as I did so the change was startling. Letting go of that expectation and pressure allowed me to make better progress with what really needed to be done. For example, I was going to have fruit and yoghurt for breakfast this morning (as I usually do) when I realised that there was no can of fruit opened. Not planning to breakfast at home for most of this week I initially thought it was not worth opening a can and not wanting plain yoghurt that I would have toast. With homemade jam. And then it struck me: I have homemade jam because there is lots of fresh fruit in the house from my own backyard trees. And so I had fresh fruit with my yoghurt today.

A small example of how focus that becomes fixation is not healthy or helpful. So a little bit of letting go while still holding the bigger goal is the optimal way.

Self awareness is one level, the deeper levels are where I have been. A useful event I feel as Nepal and trekking is likely to pull on all of those resources and practices. And probably even more.

I’m amazed at how even preparing for a trip like this has pulled certain issues to the fore – the past week has been full of distractions and so my focus has been tested. As has my ability to retain a level head and clarity on the end goal while also being patient with myself (personally being patient with me is a major challenge!). I’m a firm believer that life throws at us what we need – and here is an example.

trek to Nepal

For the coming week I am reconnecting with my intense physical training while also continuing the mental focus.  A coming week of continuing with the small steps while charting progress to the big one.

Being focused without allowing myself to fixate and judge.

Preparing and being prepared.

My first fundraising event was quite successful. I need to do more, much more, yet have proved that it can be done and whilst having a good time.

Experiencing and being on the journey – because the journey is just as important as the destination.

Beginning to get more excited by the prospect of the trek.

It is quite close now.

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