Reflection, Relationships, and Resilience – The title to a bad holiday novel

LogoThis sounds like the title of a good holiday novel and in some ways, the parallels are not dissimilar.   Usually, in the holiday novel, there is controversy within a relationship which takes us through the emotions of betrayal, mistrust and hurt; as experienced through the eyes of the main character in the book.  Upon reflection, the parties are able to find common ground, learn to honor the differences between them and in doing so, find acceptance and compassion.  This builds resilience within the relationship and they get to live happily ever after (sorry to cut your holiday experience down to one analytical paragraph).

These three R’s make up the basis of emotional and social intelligence.

There is now overwhelming evidence to support the claim that emotional intelligence is the leading factor in successful relationships, both personally and of course, within the workplace.   The more developed we are at self-regulation and our ability to integrate that self-awareness into our daily interactions will directly determine the outcomes that we experience. 

So if this is such a huge tool for us to have on board, why is it that we, as a culture are so resistant to learning more about this?  Why do we write it off as some ‘Airy Fairy’ social experiment relayed to us by the ‘intellects’ that have no experience in the real world and certainly have no idea of the pressures within the business sector?  Why does this subject make us feel as though we will be seen by others as weak and vulnerable?

Isn’t it interesting that we are seeing an increase in the demands placed upon workers, where schedules are tight and expectations are higher than ever before.  We have mobile devices to aid our efficiency and yet we race around with no time at all and the standard fob-off line is “I’m too busy”.  We have a blurring of the professional and personal timelines, an absolute intolerance of others (in general) and mental health is on the rise.

And just as a wee side note, yes anxiety and burn-out in the workplace are included under the mental health banner just like addiction to coffee, sugar and your phone!

These are all ways in which we are attempting to cope, it’s as simple as that. Let’s talk less about KPI’s and forecast projections and more about why Sue from the office drinks just a little too much or why Pete had an affair last year.  Let’s talk about the anxiety in our youth and why we come back from a holiday and within two weeks, we need another.  We are slow to engage in ways where we could be interacting differently.  Without reflection, relationships and resilience we have chaos and/or rigidity both of which are present everywhere you look.

Soooo, my request, my desire, my absolute pleading to anyone and everyone who can step back enough to see what is occurring in the present world,  have the curiosity to explore how there could be a completely different way of interacting while in fact being more successful!  Please please please explore this subject just a little more.  Step forward as today’s leaders, with an open mind, seek further education into how these three R’s could be the change that we all desperately need.   Rant over, if you have read this far, I truly thank you!

Receiving criticism in the workplace

– part of the professional development series

LogoNo matter how experienced we are in business or how mindful we are during meaningful conversations within the workplace, whether you are an employer or employee, I’m pretty confident that we all could do with some additional help when receiving criticism.

The workplace is a hotbed of personalities, often thrown together without choice and somehow all of the different personalities and life histories are expected to get along.  But what happens when your performance is critiqued? when a work colleague finds fault, is confrontational of defensive?  And what are you going to do about it?

For many of us, confrontation within the workplace causes strong emotions and it’s often hard to be objective when you’ve been bailed up and criticised.  It’s important to remember that nobody is perfect and unless the person is extremely self-aware of the catalyst (what is really generating the feelings behind the criticism) and why they’re feeling that way, then the potential for criticism to be delivered in a way that is offensive, intimidating or even confrontational, is relatively high.

When it comes to dealing with the other person, and their criticism you have three choices:

  • You can take it on the chin, say nothing about the criticism and legitimately let it go
  • You can complain endlessly to friends and family but never really do anything about the problem
  • Or you can step up and confront the issue with honestly and in a professional manner.

As I see it, the person that ‘lets it go’ will, upon repeated experiences, quickly becomes the complainer, a position none of us really want to be in.   And with that in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of ways you might want to address this with the other person.

1.   When do you want to approach the subject with the other person?  Do you want to set up a meeting and talk about the overall pattern, or do you wait for something to happen again and then deal with the single instance? The second approach is more direct but it’s also riskier as the other person may well feel on the back foot invoking defensive, confrontal behaviour.  The first is more structured, both parties enter the conversation prepared to talk and if the other person usually holds the position of power, then this is definitely the better way of ensuring a positive outcome.

2.  It is important for you to define the other person’s actual behaviours that are causing you to feel criticised. It may be that you agree that you could have done something differently and/or better but it was the way that they said the words or the environment that they said it in that really bugged you.  Get specific about the behaviours and focus on them in the meeting rather than bring in other things that are just not helpful or relevant.  It’s very easy to make it personal, especially if you’re feeling vulnerable or angry so once again, be clear on the actual behaviour. When my children were growing up I found it extremely important to be clear when addressing an undesired action, that it was what they ‘did’ that was bad (the action)…not that ‘they’ were bad (the person)… see the distinction?  “It’s not that you told me I had done that wrong, it’s that you said it in a demeaning way in front of another colleague”. 

Don’t describe more than a couple of behaviours that you’d like to see change. Anything more will feel like you’re piling it on.  And don’t dump your grievances out all at once, address each one in turn so the other party doesn’t feel attacked and remains engaged.

3.  If the person that you have issues with is in a position of authority, you may want to ask for permission to hold a discussion where you’re giving feedback. (It’s not exactly in your job description.) To do so, make it safe by sharing common ground. “I wonder if we could talk about something that I think would help us work together better.”

4.  Now that you have gotten yourself this far, be very careful with the words that you use.  Remember the need to separate intentions from the outcome. This sounds something like this: “I’m don’t think you’re intending this, but on several occasions, it’s felt to me as if you’re critiquing me for simply following orders or doing my best to follow a policy. You suggested that my approach was aggressive/not client focused/not good use of company time [insert your situation here] when you didn’t actually give me the opportunity to explain”.  When you legitimately seek feedback such as “In your view, how could I/you have done that differently” or “next time, how would you rather I carry out that task”, it takes the heat right out of the situation and invites the other person to participate in finding a better solution.  More often than not, when you use this approach the other person can reflect on the way they handled the initial situation and you can move to a healthier discussion of what you’d prefer to see in the future.

If the stakes are high, your power base is low, and you want to broach the issue with the least amount of risk, start with you, not the other person. This tentative approach may seem a little ‘airy fairy’ for some but in remaining calm, demonstrating respect and mutually discussing the best solution, you have a strong chance of achieving the desired outcome for both of you.

Developing trust and respect within the relationship allows you to transition the more tricky elements, including exactly what the other person has said and done and how that made you feel. 

So, remember, it is important for you to be specific about what you want to address, choose you words carefully and play it out in your mind.  Pick your moment wisely, and of course…good luck!

Leadership- The profession of listening

Logo We are living in a different time, one where life is busy, business is fast paced and leadership is moving away from hierarchical structures to a more collaborative team approach.  It is no longer possible for the boss to know how to do every task or to keep daily tabs on events occurring within the business.   Today’s business calls for its leaders to feel comfortable that they have hired talented people and to listen to what they are saying.  Today’s leader is in the profession of listening!

Richard Branson says “Any organisation’s best assets are its people. You move things along just by paying attention to what employees are saying”.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? We all think that listening is important in business and many of us would be quick to point out that we do listen to our customers and our teams, however,  true listening is far more difficult than you think.  Many business leaders are strong minded people, they have high standards and often have a pre-determined outcome in mind, prior to asking the question.  I have come to realise that many business leaders truly perceive themselves as good (or at least fair) listeners so let me ask you, truthfully, do you listen to those people on the frontline and do you listen with a completely open mind?   As business leaders we have to learn how to ask the right questions, the hard questions and honest questions in order to receive a correct and true response. 

Here’s what you gain when you start asking the right questions, and really listening to the answers:

Better performing employees People who are engaged, more focused and committed to the best possible outcome.  When employees feel listen to and attain greater ownership of their work, you will see a new level of performance as that person’s professional identity becomes synonymous with the outcome.

A more comprehensive view of company performance – If you are not asking the right questions, you won’t get the answers that you require to make your company performance excellent.  Often in hierarchical structures people will only tell you the good news when what you really need to hear about are the areas that don’t work so well.  Remember, you hired intelligent, experienced people that are working on the coal face, every single day.  They are a fantastic resource for you if you choose to listen.

A stronger more flexible business – It’s a competitive world out there and you need ideas, solutions, and people able to implement any new initiative, with a professional integrity that aligns with your company values. As leaders, confidence in your team is enhanced when the entire team is working to a collaborative model.

A better company culture – Engaged, focused and committed employees are happier people.  They feel more valued, more heard and more able to contribute to the overall growth and success of the company.  The company culture will be positive and healthy as a result.

As a leader, a new approach to listening is required.  Take the opportunity to drop into casual office chatter more often, in addition to the more formal meetings and one-to-one reviews,  ask questions and be open to suggestions, so that your team feels comfortable giving honest feedback.  Modern leadership is all about listening, give it a go and watch your business flourish.

Can you describe what self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem feels like?

LogoSelf-confidence means different things to different people but one thing that appears obvious in today’s busy world, feeling good about ourselves can become a serious challenge.

Do you wake up some days, bounce out of bed, feeling fully in control of the day, thinking that I am going to totally master being ‘me’.  Other days, you may think to yourself, “How long until the whole world figures out I’m a fraud?” .

When you are still building self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem it’s easy to be pushed and pulled by events going on in your life and it makes sense that when things are running smoothly, you tend to feel more confident but when things are total rubbish, It affects your perception of the day, and more importantly, it affects your confidence. 

So how do you stop your life from feeling like a rollercoaster ride?  Do you really want other people to control the events of the day and how you react to them.  Should how you feel about yourself be decided by someone else? 

For me, the quest for self-confidence has become more about discovering who I am and learning to be comfortable with that.  Feeling deeply comfortable about who you are and what you stand for is a bit like building muscle.  The stronger you feel and the easier you are able to flex your muscle, the less events around you will impact your day.  So here are some ways in which you can build your self-confidence muscles.

Take some time building knowledge about who you are.  Reflect, research and regularly revisit with questions like;

  • What do I love to do and why do I love to do it?  It’s likely that you’re good at it because what you love to do reflects who you are as a person.
  • What do people tend to compliment me about in my life?  Other people see things in us we don’t see in ourselves. If you can’t remember or you’re blocked on this one, ask someone who treats you well.
  • What I have recently accomplished?  This doesn’t have to be big. Actually, a growing pile of small wins is easier to recognise. Small wins also add up to big wins, done consistently and over time.  Be kind to yourself, go on list them all.
  • What do I already know how to do?  Don’t say, “nothing.” It’s not true. Keep looking until it comes to you even if you think it’s simple and irrelevant.
  • What am I envious of?  Often we are envious in an area where we have desire to expand our lives. Being envious tells us what we want more of. Identify your envy, it will motivate you towards achieving a desired goal.
  • Where do I have momentum?  We tend to focus on areas of our lives where we feel inadequate and neglect to acknowledge other areas of life, where we are actually managing quite well.  List the areas of your life where you are doing ok or even doing quite well at.  Once again, list the small things as well as the big, they all add up!
  • Am I in touch with my inner voice?  I saved the best for last….When we base everything completely on our everyday “self” (some call it our ego) and that “self” feels low, we don’t have help to climb out of that hole. But if we take the journey from our minds to our inner being, we’ll sense a knowing within us, often described as our intuition or instinct and it is this inner being that offers us answers to our questions and a way forward if we’ll listen. 

It takes time to get to know your inner being; to learn to appreciate the value of your inner wisdom and trust that you know the path forward for yourself.  Sometimes we think that our intuition gets it wrong and then we begin to mistrust our wisdom; not realising until much later that the journey travelled has bought powerful lessons that have strengthened our resolve and the sense of who we are.  You may still be in that place of learning. Maybe the lesson has not become obvious to you yet.  Maybe you haven’t done the work required to see the value or perhaps you are fighting your lesson, not listening.  If so, that is fine, acknowledge that is where you are for when you are ready to move on, you will find the strength to do so. 

Remember – feelings will come and go.  Treat your emotions with respect; acknowledge how you feel without letting them affect your self-confidence or dictate who we are.  I invite you to go on a fact finding mission, ask the questions above (and lots more) and discover who you are and who you wish to be.   Let that guide you on those days when you would otherwise faultier and take a hit to your self-confidence.  Over time you too will know what self-confidence looks like as you learn to sit comfortably with the essence of ‘you’.

Is your OCD limiting the growth of your business?

LogoAs a Business owner, have you created systems whereby members of staff are required to check in at various times throughout their daily tasks, despite having extensively trained them?  Do you often change systems or policy as a result of one small, completely human mistake, or even just in case someone makes a mistake?  Is your day filled with long hours, team meetings, discussions with multiple people on the same subject and then more review meetings and /or systems changes?  When questioned, do you explain away your constant checking by proclaiming that you want to ensure the best possible service for your clients or that you need to make sure that everyone (in the team) are doing their tasks correctly?  Maybe you feel that you are providing support to the members of your team but let me suggest something to you.

You are allowing your fears to run your business.  OCD is defined as follows;  Acts or rituals carried out in response to fears generated by obsessions.  As sited at Anxiety UK website.

These behaviors, which you think are hard working efforts to grow your business, are in fact limiting the growth of your business.  Let me explain why.

You are dis-empowering your staff.  You have taught them, guided and supported them but now you are saying that you don’t trust them to do their jobs correctly. Disempowered staff, over time, will become one of three things; despondent and disengaged, dependent and incompetent, or ex- employees.

You can not perform all functions within the business.  If you could, why would you be paying people when you are doing all of the work yourself?  Teach them and let them step into their own power.  If they make a mistake, teach them again, support them in fixing the problem and then let them do their job again.

You can’t be a good leader if you are running around trying to be everyone else.  You will not be there to support and guide your team when you really need to be.  You will be distracted or simply absent when you are needed the most; resulting in your staff feeling unheard and unsupported.

You will be so exhausted and burnt out that you simply will not see the potential for new opportunities within your business. 

So If this sounds like you (be a little honest with yourself here) at this stage you have but a few options;

  • You can continue on in the hope that we can outrun the monster.  You could even convince yourselves that the daily chaos means that you are busy and productive and successful; both as a person and a business owner.
  • You can burn out which often results in the sale the business.
  • OR You can choose to change your current behaviors. 

Busy-ness doesn’t equate to productivity!  Trust in yourself that you have the ability to create a good strong team and don’t allow the obsessions generated by fear to govern your business. Stop working in the business for you have hired people to do that already, and start working on the business.  Lead, grow, support and guide your team to a better, bigger, stronger business.  Get out of the way and allowed your business to grow.

Gina Munro – SuperviseMe.  Support and facilitation of your professional learning.

Mental health in the workplace

LogoOne of the big areas of concern for business owners and leaders nowadays is that of mental health.

We talk a lot about physical Health & Safety, however, there is a gap around how we support those who are struggling mentally. There is a rise in mental illness in the workplace today, for a number of different contributing factors, and as leaders, there is a need to get better at identifying this and providing the right level of support for our people, as they work through things.

It’s staggering that 47% of people will experience a common mental illness in their lifetime and 18.6% of adults will be diagnosed with a mood and/or anxiety order …

For me, it’s about pre-emptive leadership before things get to the crisis stage. Professional Supervision provides people the opportunity to sit in a safe and trusted space once every month and discuss whatever is causing them dis-ease; allowing them to work on the issue and move forward.

Mental health in the workplace is paramount, not only for the care of our teams but also for business productivity, customer service, and the company culture… in addition to employee retention, which I’m sure you would agree, is a real hidden cost for businesses.

What is your Story?

ButterflyWhat happens when you desperately want to achieve something but then you get in your own way?  Often our past experiences create a certain mindset in what is otherwise a strong, powerful and creative adult and these mindsets (or stories) create conflicting emotional drivers in us when trying to achieve our goals.  These mindsets can affect us in subtle ways, like procrastination over a much-loved project, good old self-doubt or for some, you may experience more debilitating emotions, such as depression.  For many of us, these stories can continue for many years, and often, when we hold on to a story, we can even find examples to justify our way of being, in order to support our current story and stop ourselves from achieving our dreams and desires.

Let me give you an example.  I left school early in life, moved to another city and walked the streets until I secured my first job.  Now 30 yrs later, I still have the story that I am not intelligent enough, that my skills must come into question all because my education was cut short.

Over the years, I have learned to acknowledge the presence of that story so that when it comes up (no, it’s not quite gone yet), I can choose a different one.  You see, we always have a choice when it comes to our story.  In any given example there are in fact two stories and we get to choose which one plays out.

To expand on my example earlier,  one story is that I am under-educated as a result of leaving school early and the other story could be that I was extremely resourceful to move to a new city and walk the streets until I found a job, being such a young age at the time; That shows a certain strength of character right?  You see, one story leads you to pain and limiting behaviors while the other, to fulfillment and happiness.

In supervision we get to explore some of your emotional drivers, enabling you to move forward…. we change your story. Your story is not a part of who you are, it is just that…a story, and once you acknowledge that and let it go, you get to create what happens from then on.  For me, I went on to own and develop several businesses, to travel the world extensively, have beautiful children and at the age of 45 yrs, achieve a Post Graduate qualification.

Everyone has a story and often these are a result of something painful that has happened to us in life.   When you realise that every human being goes through pain and injustice, (some more than others) and that everyone has had someone hurt them deeply, or betrayed them, and as painful as that experience was, it seems, that is how we grow as people.  Without having had the experience you wouldn’t have developed the power, intensity, strength or confidence that you have now. If you had not experienced that moment in your life, then you wouldn’t be the person that you are today.

So what is your story and more importantly, are you ready to let it go so that you can create a new one?