Build support networks

Stress and burnout will manifest themselves in a number of ways that could have a negative impact on those around you. When you are tired, exhausted and feeling critical you are more likely to snap irritably at the most innocent of bystanders. When you are overloaded and there is too much going on in your mind, you are more likely to disengage from meaningful and valuable communication with colleagues and co-workers. You may be quick to blame others when it was really not their fault  and you will certainly not be in listening mode for those who have something important to say to you. The result? People are likely to become disenchanted and they might avoid you altogether. Having no-one to talk to can be very isolating. Having a support network is always helpful but it is particularly important when you are feeling stressed. Sometimes you may just want to voice your thoughts out loud and have the other person listen, other times you may need advice or help from a peer or an expert who understands your work environment and occasionally you may even want to seek out the company of someone who is totally neutral and unbiased. A support network does not create itself overnight – you will need to be proactive and invest your time and energy in nurturing your relationships. Here are three ways you can make sure you have a support network when you need it the most. 1. Create positive work relationships by being there for others You often need the support of others carry out a task or to achieve certain goals. ...

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...

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...

Feedback as an opportunity for coaching

Prepare to step into a coaching role and switch from just telling to asking There is always likely to be some resistance to top-down solutions no matter how well-intentioned – and this is definitively one of the limitations of the STAR model. The approach of the STAR is essentially one of telling and this may have a negative impact on the engagement and potential creativity of the person receiving the feedback. Applying the model simply as written also leaves no space for the person being given the feedback to come up with their own suggestions. The result is to close the door to the exploration and integration of any more creative options that, after discussion and consideration, might lead to an even better outcome. We encourage you to make the switch from the traditional way of giving feedback to a process that permits you to step into a coaching role, using questions to nudge the person to whom you are giving feedback towards their own solutions and multiple options for moving forward. This means retaining the first phase of the traditional STAR model for feedback and then diverging to allow active participation in the process from both people. Here is an outline of the kind of conversation this would entail: STATE THE FACTS: objectively and non–judgementally, describe the Situation, the Task, the Action and the Result (impact). DEFINE A (NEW) MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME: discuss and agree any essential revisions to the previously achieved Result. Sample coaching questions: “What would have been / be a better outcome?” “What is it that you / we would like to achieve now?”  ...

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...

Make a brand new ending for yourself

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the ending” CS Lewis When I applied to compete in the round the world yacht race, I had never sailed before. When I completed my application, I nearly typed “I can’t sail” and that’s a great example of the power of your mind. If I had truly held that belief, then I would never have signed up. I certainly did not know how to sail a 70 foot racing yacht. Yet I believed that due to the transferable skills I had from my various life experiences such as the ability to learn new languages, then I could certainly learn the language of sailing vocabulary. Also, if I had learned how to race up hills on my road bike and ride for over 150km, then I definitely had the skills of balance, stamina, strength and resilience which would be invaluable during the race. I had never even tried to sail, so how would I know that I “couldn’t” do it? As it turned out  I am pretty good up on the foredeck, not so good up the mast and in a racing scenario someone more adept than me would be better on the helm. I did in fact race over 43,000 nautical miles in 11 months – not bad for someone who nearly wrote that she “can’t” sail! Do you sometimes have that monkey on your shoulder – also known as the negative voice in your head – that tells you that you shouldn’t or can’t do something? That voice might stem...

Be clear about your outcomes…

         …and how to get there! This article and the tips in it have been contributed by our guest writer, Alysoun Sturt-Scobie. How often have you said to your partner (or vice versa) something along the lines of “It’s cold in here,” and they disagree with you. And then that disagreement leaves you frustrated whereas if you’d asked, “Would you mind closing the window (turning off the fan etc….) because I feel cold,” the outcome would probably be much different. They might suggest that you go and put on another jumper but at least you will have been clear about the outcome you have in mind for yourself – to feel warmer. It can be easy in this kind of situation to cloud your communication by falling into patterns of behaviour that are not very helpful when it comes to finding mutually acceptable solutions. Perhaps you’re familiar with the drama triangle, a situation in which three roles play a part: The Rescuer: this is the person who often likes to “make things right”, to sort things out for others. The Persecutor: the person who tells you it’s always someone else’s fault (and if you’re the rescuer, it’ll very often be you) The Victim: the person for whom everything goes wrong, “It always happens to me”, “I just can’t, it’s impossible”…. Recognise any of those characters? I certainly used to be the Rescuer; I loved helping people out of their difficulties or ‘rescuing the situation’. I used to think it was a good thing to do until the Persecutor told me that I was wrong and that my advice hadn’t...

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...