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...

Give feedback effectively

What is feedback? The information given to an individual or a group about its prior behaviour and the consequent impact, so that the individual or group may adjust or reinforce its current and future behaviour to achieve a mutually agreed or desired result. There are many misconceptions about the practice of giving feedback. Some people see it as an opportunity to make a judgement about the other person or what they have done; they use it as a vehicle to tell them how to be something else or to do things in what they consider to be a better way. Very often feedback is only given when something goes wrong. To the contrary, feedback can and should be used as a tool to improve and maintain performance as part of an overall personal development process. The right kind of feedback can actually reinforce positive behaviour and actions, as well as draw attention to anything that is ineffective and that stands in the way of achieving good results. The fear of giving feedback is linked to a number of different issues: The practice of giving feedback is too often restricted to the annual performance review. This makes giving feedback more of an isolated event, separated by distance or time from the events to which it is related, and it is then approached with some trepidation by all parties. Replace this with the habit of offering regular and frequent feedback to those with whom you work.  Praise them for their accomplishments and achievements as well as making suggestions about how things could be done (or could have been done) differently. This...

How to approach a difficult conversation

No-one actually likes having a difficult conversation. Indeed, most of us dread it and freely admit to avoiding conflict (or even the potential of conflict) at all costs. However tempting it is to put things off, it is healthier for you and your relationships in the long run if you learn how to approach situations where discord or disagreement is likely. The two basic rules are (1) change your mindset and (2) plan ahead. 1. Change your mindset Swap negative thinking for positive expectations The usual thinking before a potentially unpleasant conversation is negative. The more we think it will be “difficult”, the more this tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Expect a good outcome instead. Approach the conversation as… an opportunity to clarify, clear the air, find mutually beneficial solutions, repair a damaged relationship, provide constructive feedback or to simply listen to what the other person has to say. Start from a place of respect and stay away from the “blame game” Truth can be subjective and there are often two sides to every story. Aim for respect and ask for respect in return. It is perfectly possible to empathise with someone’s emotional perspective and still agree to disagree. Focus on the facts not feelings; and judge actions, not the person. Look for solutions instead of just seeking to attribute blame Stop worrying about being liked and leave space for reactions Wanting to be liked can get in the way of delivering a tough message and make you nervous about how the other person will respond. You cannot control what the other person says and does, but you...

The importance of authentic communication

In this 2009 video Sheryl Sandberg, American technology executive, activist, and author reflects on the importance of authentic communication when it comes to being successful. In her view (and we tend to agree), your expertise alone will not get you to where you want to be. It’s how you interact with others that will make a difference. Here are some of the highlights from her talk: Great decisions cannot be made unless everyone is honest. There is no absolute truth – only a subjective truth, your truth or my truth. Stating forceful opinions and “being right” usually inhibits authentic communication. Sharing “your truth” and leading with belief statements is more likely to encourage authentic and meaningful dialogue. Authentic communicators use the active voice and take responsibility for their actions. Incidentally, what do think of the way she speaks herself? Do you find her authentic? We especially like the way she shares well-chosen stories, examples and anecdotes from her personal experience. This always helps to boost credibility!   The Training Box recommends: “Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future” (John Wiley & Sons, 2013) by Terry Pearce...

Networking: Be your own best advocate

“The medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan The contacts made in business networking will be useful in a number of ways such as growing your business, reaching new clients or in reinforcing your own professional reputation. However, like all marketing tools, for business networking to deliver a return you have to invest time and energy, polishing up some skills or perhaps even acquiring new ones. In order to be remembered for all the right reasons, it is especially important to hit the right note when you meet new people or when you are offered the chance to make a short pitch to the group. In business networking, the medium is you! Your name /your company: (essential of course…) What is special about you /the company: (awards, qualifications, experience…) What you offer: (in a few sentences with strong focus on the benefits for the customer…) What you are looking for: (referrals, new opportunities, meetings…) The sign-off: (repeat or emphasise a point you want the listener to remember…) It is important to practise and be able to deliver this pitch confidently at the drop of hat. However, remember that networking is not just about referrals and very rarely will a first meeting result in an immediate sale. Our advice is to approach networking as a chance to get to KNOW others: Look to build relationships rather than attempting to make a sale. Use positive and welcoming body language to maintain rapport. Be enthusiastic and friendly towards fellow networkers. Give people your time and show interest in what they do by asking questions. Follow-up on any promises you make. When it comes...