Bust your stress

Even when you are on top of your to-do list and hitting your deadlines, life at work in a fast-paced environment can still be stressful. For example, you may be constantly under pressure to make decisions without a lot of time to consider the likely impact; or you may experience days when nothing seems to go your way for reasons you find hard to fathom; or you might be getting frustrated when others seem slow to get on board with ideas that seem perfectly obvious to you. As a consequence, the risk of burnout will be heightened. This is when you might find yourself becoming cynical about the job you once enjoyed and your motivation sinks to an all-time low.  You might also experience physical changes such as tiredness, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep or emotional changes such as irritability or depression. Take care of yourself by putting a few strategies in place to bust the stress levels before it leads to full and proper burnout: Understand your own stressors – identify the root causes of what stresses you disproportionately. Prioritise these areas for “de-stressing” – draft in help, delegate, do things differently. Learn to recognise the signs and triggers – when stress kicks in, take preventative action before it is too late. Manage your time and priorities effectively – with “Quadrant II” thinking and behaviour. Stay in the moment – give your full attention to the important task in hand that you have prioritised and don’t fret over what you cannot do. Learn to say “No” – be realistic about what you can take on and be honest...

Master your priorities

“It is not enough to be busy…The question is: what are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau A tale of time (mis)spent A recent coaching client complained that she works long hours, and struggles to fit everything into the working day. Her days at work are either taken up with responding to emails, or spent running from one meeting to the next. These meetings – which often overrun – usually end up with no concrete results. Quick fixes are constantly being sought to overcome problems. In fact, the same problems keep re-occurring and are revisited several times every year. Does this all sound familiar to you to? What are the major problems in this client’s organisation? Many interesting facts emerged from our discussions. There seems to be a distinct lack of forward planning and the tendency within her team is to adopt the first, easiest and most obvious solution when faced with an issue or challenge. They are falling back onto habitual responses which might seem like a way to use less energy and consume less time when situations seem urgent but they are all deluding themselves. This client  – and her whole organization – are allowing themselves to be driven by circumstances and are constantly running to catch up. It should come as no surprise to find that people who operate like this are constantly stressed and worn out from patching over the cracks. The focus of their attention needs shifting and bad habits need replacing with good ones so that they can get their priorities in the right order and organise their time accordingly. Their challenge is...

Receiving feedback as a gift

Many people avoid feedback at all costs and view any review of their performance at work with fear and trepidation.  Whilst there is clearly a need for those who are tasked with giving feedback to develop their skills and competences in this area, the truth is that a lot of us simply fear what we perceive as criticism and all that this implies. There are many psychological reasons for this such as being worried about failure, denial of reality, concerns about accepting responsibility or the negative personal impact any consequences may have for us and our work. A number of things can support you on your journey to not only receiving feedback well when it is offered, but to ultimately seeking it out whenever possible. There is no failure – only feedback – Reframe how you think about feedback and view it as a learning and personal growth opportunity. Even if you performed a task to meet all expectations, there is nearly always something that could have been differently to come out in an even better place. Listen with an open mind – You are under no obligation to automatically agree with what the person giving you feedback is saying but don’t become defensive and automatically reject it. Repeat back what the other person has said – Paraphrasing what has been said allows to you time to digest the feedback and take it on board. It also shows that you have heard what the other person has to say. Stay focused on the facts – Not everyone is skillful at giving non-judgemental feedback. Remain aware of this and try...

If at first you don’t succeed…

This article and the tips in it have been contributed by our guest writer, Alysoun Sturt-Scobie. Perhaps sport and raising children have similarities to managing individuals and teams. When a child is learning to walk I imagine that you would want to encourage them to keep going with a big smile and positive words and energy. Consider the impact if instead, you turned to them after the first, second or third tumble and said, “Okay, that’s it; no more walking for you! Walking really isn’t your thing.” I can look at the details of a long-distance cycle race and think ‘Yikes, that’s going to be tough!’, and that will trigger a train of thought that suggests it will indeed be tough. Yet if I break the race down into different components, assess the hill profile, the distance between feeding stations, the flat ‘recovery’ sections, work out a training plan that supports what I want to achieve,  then my attitude to the race changes and I know that I can do it. I might not be the fastest but I will finish. When you fail to achieve something at the first attempt are you automatically a failure? I don’t think so. On a racing yacht you can often spectacularly fail with very obvious visible and audible results. Our skipper and crew created an environment in which mistakes could be openly shared and learned from; it was key to improving everyone’s opportunity for success and in fact that of our racing performance. Here are my tips to get the best out of yourself and the team: Know your own strengths and...

Have an all-round perspective and aim for outcomes in the common ground

If you stay rooted in your own opinions and have a narrow perspective on things, it can greatly limit your room to manoeuvre. Choosing to take a different view of a situation can greatly increase your choices and options about how to deal with it, increasing your confidence in dealing with potentially ‘difficult’ issues and relationships through a deeper understanding of what is going on. By having an all-round perspective, you can more easily identify the common ground where agreement and WIN/WIN solutions are likely to be found. Consciously choose to take a different view 1. First Position: Your own thoughts, feelings and attitudes from your own perspective. 2. Second Position: Stepping into the other person/s shoes, seeing, hearing and feeling the world as if you are the other party.  3. Third Position: Metaphorically stepping outside of the relationship and seeing both parties as if you are an independent observer. 4. Fourth Position: Taking the ‘systems’ perspective. In other words noticing how this relationship is linked to other systems, and creates ripples and effects in them. Here is a seven step exercise that will help you to practice changing your perspective on things. 1. Think about the situation from your own perspective. How do you see things? What do you think about the situation? What do you feel about it? What has been said by you / by others in the context of this situation? 2. Now step into the world of the other person and think about the situation from their perspective, from where they are, as if you are them (same questions a above). 3. Metaphorically step...

In a challenging conversation, speak and listen mindfully

Being true to yourself in a difficult conversation is both important and hard to do. You will get the best results and move forwards towards the best solutions if you can do this in a way that demonstrates empathy and compassion for the other person. Here are our top tips to enable you to both speak and listen mindfully.   Know your purpose and what you hope to accomplish – be realistic. Be clear about what you want to discuss but leave space for the other person too. Be open to listening and try not to make up your mind in advance. Have an inquiring stance – listen, watch, observe without judgement and without taking anything personally. Understand the other person’s perspective but base your thinking on as much evidence as possible and not assumptions. Be direct, honest and constructive. Take responsibility for your views, words and actions and don’t dither about getting any bad news out in the open. Give the other person space to react and express their views, even if they do this in way that perceive as negative. Listen respectfully to the other person without interrupting – repeat and paraphrase what they have said to acknowledge their contributions and make sure you have understood correctly. Empathise with the other person’s viewpoint (this does not mean you have to agree with it) and focus and what you are hearing. Separate out emotions from the people but acknowledge and respect any emotional energy that emerges. Give the conversation your full attention – stay neutral, supportive, compassionate and solutions-focused. Be aware of any cultural differences or variations in...