LISTENING – WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?

I remember my boss at the time once asking another member of staff to bring him the report on his clients by the end of the week, in the middle of talking to me. Dave said: ‘Yes, of course,’ and carried on to wherever he was going. My boss turned back to me and said: ‘He won’t, you know..’ And he didn’t. And the boss was angry with him. Yet he knew that the verbal agreement was not what was really going on with Dave.

Do you recognise this syndrome? I have since seen it repeated many times, and it still seems daft to me that we will all sometimes accept words alone as being the communication with us, and then complain because the words were not fulfilled.

If we take a moment or two to notice what’s really going on with the person, we can respond to their full communication. The tone of voice, the language used, the manner of speaking all give us more information about how that person is, and how they are reacting to us, or the particular message. Their body language tells us even more. That ‘knowing’ that my boss had, was because he had picked up more information about Dave’s response, yet he chose to ignore it, to everyone’s cost.

In that instance, Dave was distracted and about to go into an important coaching session, and he just forgot. It could have been that he was unsure how to do the report, or already feeling he had too much to do, or resenting the way in which the boss had asked him. We don’t necessarily know why we’re getting a mixed message from someone, just that it is a mixed message.

If we take the time to notice what’s going on, and check it out, we can do something about it. We can ask them if there’s a problem, and if we can help with it. That way we can avoid the likelihood of failure on one side, or resentment and annoyance on the other.

And of course, if we know we are the one giving a mixed message, we could take the time to say: ‘I’ll do my best, but I’m really busy this week, and I’m not sure how I’ll fit it in’, or: ‘Can you put a note on my computer – I’m just going into a meeting and I might forget.’ Or whatever may clarify our response.

Words are great and we can’t do without them, but they are never the full message. Just take a moment to notice what’s really going on, and you can save yourself a lot of extra hassle.

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LEARNING FROM THE GOOD STUFF – A MODEL OF EXCELLENCE

We’re told that we need to learn from our mistakes, and there’s no doubt we can, if we can get over feeling bad about making them in the first place, and if we can then work out a better way of handling whatever it is. It isn’t the most effective way to learn and develop though. If it were, we wouldn’t need teachers or role models!

However, the prevailing culture is one that emphasises mistakes and problems. We analyse them to death: why did it happen; what caused it; whose fault is it; and eventually, what can we do about it. If something has worked, we usually just tick it off the list and return to problems.

Excellent people take a different approach – they learn from what went well. Imagine if we spent as much time on those things we do well, asking similar questions: what worked; what helped it to work; what contributed to the success; what made the difference; and then, where else could we apply what we’ve realised.

When we do begin to analyse what went well, we discover good practice that can be used in lots of situations, in terms of the approach used to achieve this specific task or project. Most things work well when the people involved are motivated, and really clear about the outcomes they want to achieve. People usually need to feel it’s something worth achieving – there’s some benefit or value to it. It also tends to work better if those involved work together well and all value each other’s contributions. The list goes on, and each point identified can be used to enhance the likelihood of success in other aspects of work.

This form of analysis gives us immediately useful information for planning the next project or task, as well as making us feel even better about our achievements!

I’m not suggesting that we stop paying attention to mistakes and problems. It just might be useful to give an equal amount of attention to the good stuff – it has rich information to give us.

Di Kamp
Leadership Director of Meta

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A THANK YOU GOES A LONG WAY

Last month I wrote about using your critic more effectively. This month I am looking at the other half of the story: continually growing the habit of appreciating all the helpful things that others do.

It is easy to take for granted the everyday things that people do. We notice the big gestures of course, when someone goes out of their way to be helpful, but we don’t tend to pay attention to the smaller, more routine things that people do. Yet these are the building blocks of relationships, which create the environment for successful teamwork.

On any given day, it is likely that some of the following happen at work:

  • Someone does their part of a task and hands it over on time
  • Someone makes a cuppa at just the right moment
  • Someone lightens the mood when things are tough by making you laugh
  • Someone takes a message for you while you’re away from your desk
  • Someone has cleaned up the office before you arrive for work
  • Someone has made sure the technology is working
  • Someone has solved a problem that could have landed up on your desk.

(And of course, there is a long list of things that ‘someone’ does which make it easier for you to be at work; the chores that you don’t have to do, whether that be gong to the supermarket, looking after the kids, or driving the bus or train you catch!)

We forget, sometimes, how reliant we are on other people to make our lives easier; and, of course, you do some of the same things for others as well, so we can justify not always appreciating what others do by saying that it balances out. However, we re missing out in thee big ways when we don’t show appreciation to others.

  1. Positive appreciation of what others do creates that environment of helpfulness and cooperation, and encourages people to do those helpful things even more. We all like to be appreciated, and respond positively to it.
  2. Everyone involved gets a boost to the feel-good factor – those you are thanking, and you as you thank them. And this encourages more people to appreciate others more often, continuing to build that useful environment.
  3. Our lives get even easier! People are more likely to help us out if we appreciate what they do already.

And it doesn’t have to be a grand response: ‘Thank you for..’, ‘It made a difference when you..’, ‘I notice that you…’ Just a simple sentence can make a big difference. Just for one day, notice all the little ways in which others make a positive difference to your life, and say thank you whenever possible. You will be surprised by how much others make your life easier.

Di Kamp, Leadership Director of Meta

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USING THE CRITIC IN US WELL

We have all learnt to notice what others do wrong or don’t do, and we’re good at it! This is not surprising, because we live in a culture where the media reports predominantly on the mistakes and wrongdoings of others, so that ‘flavour’ is constantly in front of us. What’s more, most of us have been brought up and ‘educated’ through having our faults, weaknesses and wrongdoings pointed out to us – they are what drew attention to us more than our good behaviour.

However, the fact it’s normal doesn’t mean that it’s effective. Being critical of others doesn’t make us feel any better about them, nor does it improve the situation. It also makes them feel bad, if we voice it, and often resentful of us.

So what can we do that would be more effective?

Firstly, we need to ensure that whatever we are criticising is in perspective. Do they always do it? With everyone? Is it in certain circumstances? Or is it a one-off? And when are they getting it right? In most cases, the focus on their bad behaviour causes us to forget to notice the things they do well, and the times they perform well.

Secondly, we need to think about what outcome we want. Do we just want them to know we’ve noticed, or to feel bad about it? Or do we want their behaviour to improve? I assume that most of us would prefer the latter!

Thirdly, we need to consider what might help them to improve. Often, people don’t realise the impact their behaviour has had on others, so they don’t see it as a problem. For example, someone who leaves things till the last minute may not be aware that this makes those who pick up the next stage of the task anxious, in case this time they don’t deliver. Since the negative impact on others is not deliberate, it is important to just make them aware of it, not use it as an accusation.

The other aspect of helping them to improve is to identify what exactly would be an improvement. I find it useful to complete this sentence: ‘It would make a real difference if you could..’ For example: ‘It would make a real difference if you could show that you are going to complete your part of the task on time, instead of dismissing queries about it from others.’

Finally, having expressed a clear positive step to them, it is important to check out what might help them to do that. After all, if it were obvious to them, they would probably have done it already.

And of course, we also all notice our own faults and mistakes and beat ourselves up about them with our inner critic. Wouldn’t it make sense to apply this same process to ourselves?

  1. Get it in perspective: It’s not my constant or only form of behaviour.
  2. What outcome do I want? I want to feel better about my own behaviour.
  3. What might help me to improve? What is the one thing I can do next time the same situation occurs that would make a difference.
  4. What would help me to do that?

Our critical voice can be really useful in helping us and others to develop, if we use it as a starting point, an identification of a possible improvement, rather than as a finishing point, a judgement.

With that in mind, we wish you a wonderful month ahead.

Di Kamp, Leadership Director of Meta

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WORK – WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Do you love your work?

I ask that question every time I have a new group. I tell them it’s a challenging question, but what’s interesting is that almost everyone finds something that they love.

It might be the team colleagues that they work with, it might be that they do something that supports or helps others in the organisation, it might be that they love the challenge, that no two days are the same, or that they have an enlightened boss who is a great leader to work for – there are many different things to love about almost ANY role.

I remember when I was younger working in retail. I used to work in the formal wear department of a large clothing store in the west end of London. I loved selling suits. I loved finding someone that special suit and shirt and tie combo that would make them stand out from the crowd. I loved serving people, finding what was just right for them. I also loved to create the displays, matching ties to formal shirts, and shirts to suits – it allowed my artistic creativity to come through. I rose through the ranks until I ran my own formal wear department and then I loved sharing my love of suits and I loved mentoring and sharing my knowledge with the new staff members. I took a pride in my work and although the work wasn’t particularly amazing and I knew it wasn’t my life’s vocation, I made it work for me, by deciding to find things that I could love about it.

As soon as you mention the word LOVE and business in the same sentence you can literally hear and see people switch off. Oh boy, here we go – more hippy stuff; he’ll be talking about hugging trees next!

Actually no, it’s about time that we did bring the word LOVE back into the workplace. Most people don’t work just for the money; they need something more purposeful than just money to stick at a job. So if work has got a bit boring for you, or you feel that you’re stuck in a bit of a career rut, now’s the time to start noticing what you LOVE about your job, what you enjoy doing, what makes you feel that what you do is worthwhile.

Over the past 17 years of doing this work, I’ve come to realise that people love the strangest things! Some people LOVE the pressure of a full-on work day, some people LOVE proving people wrong, some people love to be challenged, some people love punching in code. Some people love doing something that makes a difference, some people love filling out excel files with data, some people love to be strategic, some people love to support and care for those around them. Some people love the fact that they have no idea what to expect when they arrive in the morning, some people love the order and repetitive nature of the work they do.

We’re all different, we all love different things.
That’s what makes work, WORK: the fact that we aren’t all automatons and all have different preferences for how we work and what we do.

There is a universal in this though, and that universal is LOVE. If you don’t choose to see what you LOVE, you’ll see what you don’t like, what’s wrong with what you do in your work.

It’s all about what you filter for. Do you filter your work experience in terms of what you love about it or what you don’t like about it? Do you collect the evidence that you hate work or the evidence that you LOVE work? Whatever you look for, will generally be your experience.

So I’m suggesting that in February, the month of LOVE, you change your filter when it comes to your work. How many things can you find that you love about your work? The world is so doom and gloom these days – just turn on the news and there are so many reasons to be fearful, to focus on the negative. I think it’s about time we focussed on those things that we love. It’s time to bring work back into balance.

Call it a re-frame, call it a re-balance or just call it what it is – a reason to be cheerful, a reason to get up and out of bed and go to work in the morning.

Now I’m saying look for the things you LOVE in what you do, but what if you don’t find much, no matter how hard you look? Well, I’m not an idealist, I’m a realist and if you can’t find enough to LOVE then it’s time to find something new, to move on, to create the next chapter in the book of the story of your work-life.

I’m just saying that it’s time to stop looking for what’s wrong and finding that, and start looking for what’s right and find that!

LOVE is one of the greatest motivating factors there is and when you love your work it’s amazing what you can achieve. When you love what you do you can not only deliver, but you deliver at a higher and higher quality. And those things you don’t love? You find creative ways to get around them or reduce their impact, because you know that ultimately you DO love your job, and so you find more and more creative, innovative ways to make it a job you love even more.

So why not write a list about what you LOVE about YOUR work?
Open a file on your desktop, and keep a note of the big and small things that help you to love what you do.
Then when you’re having a bad day, or finding work a real challenge, why not refer back to that list and remind yourself why you do what you do?

LOVE motivates, inspires and brings meaning to everything in our life, so let’s use this month to look for what we love in our work.

Have a wonderful month everyone,

In peace (and love! :P)

Jo
CEO of Meta

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YOUR NEW NORMAL

As you restart ‘normal service’, how about making it a new normal? We’ve all slipped into habits that are not useful to us, so let’s not fall back into those same habits as we begin our normal life routines again.

Have you been working too hard and exhausting yourself? Work smarter: take breaks, do something different when you’re fed up, get more sleep.

Have you been feeling stressed? Take more care of yourself: allow yourself to stop sometimes, give yourself some treats, do something that relaxes you.

Have you been finding it hard to fit in time with family and friends? Timetable them in your planner: make one night a week your social time, your family time, and stick to it.

Have you had so many items on your list of things to do that it’s overwhelming? Pick three out each day that you’ll do and leave the rest on a different list in a different place. Choose one that has been hanging over you, one that really matters, and one you fancy doing. And if you have time to spare, do a bonus one from the other list!

Have you had days where you didn’t have a moment of happiness or laughter? Make it a priority to find something that makes you smile, gives you a warm glow every day.

Above all, remember that this day is your life – keep some perspective. Each day can give you a sense of satisfaction, of achievement, and of loving and being loved. If you put off the things that really matter to you until you have time for them, they may never happen.

Make each day count in making your life happy and fulfilling – we never know if it may be our last chance.

Happy New Year – and new normal!

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IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

Every year in December, we like to just remind you that this is a time of year to take more care of yourself, rather than become even more frenetic and busy.

We are heading towards the shortest day, and those extra hours of darkness do have an effect on us. Biologically we are still designed to sleep when it’s dark, so when we push ourselves past that internal ‘clock’ we are using extra energy, even if we don’t realise it. It takes a toll on both our bodies and our emotions.

And we have the added pressure of getting ready for Christmas – it’s supposed to be a celebration not a pressure! Yet all around us are adverts suggesting that others are choosing the perfect (and expensive!) gifts for each other and preparing to give their loved ones a banquet fit for a king.

Christmas also seems to create a deadline for all sorts of work and home projects. We tell ourselves we have to get stuff finished and give ourselves even more stress before we have those few days off.

 

We can take a different perspective:

  1. Give yourself a little more leeway, to account for the extra stress of our natural reaction to shorter days and cold weather. Sleep a little more, take a few more breaks, have that cup of hot chocolate, sit in front of TV and watch a good movie.
  2. Remember that, above all, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, being loving, having fun, and relaxing. No one has that perfect Christmas – it’s a myth – and it certainly won’t happen because you’ve spent heaps of money – it’ll happen if you decide to make it enjoyable and full of love.
  3. You are going to have a few days away from the computer, the emails, the projects. If you use those days well, you will come back to it all refreshed and re-energised, and it will be easier to be productive. Everyone else is doing the same, so nobody is waiting for you to do your bit. Most of your ‘deadlines’ can be relaxed.

We all need to revise our perspective and take it easier at this time of year. Be a little kinder to yourself, take a breath, and prepare yourself to have a relaxing and refreshing break for a few days. Make this a fun time of your year and take some care of yourself.

 

We at Meta wish you a peaceful and joyous Christmas period..

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CREATING THE [BRAIN] CAPACITY TO LEAD

Capacity. Right now we’re all fighting the problem of capacity. In organisations as they have become more streamlined there is just no extra capacity other than that which is quantifiably needed to deliver what needs to be delivered.

There is NO spare capacity in organisations anymore. No buffer, no extra capacity or resource built in for when for example something unexpected happens in our business plans, no spare capacity in our teams when we have more than one person off longer-term.

The simple fact is that now most of you reading this will be doing the workload of more than one person. Admirably doing your best to fulfil a role that was originally done by two or more people. That means that what once was delivered by two must now be delivered by just one – so now more than ever we need to be working at our best, making sure that we have the maximum internal capacity available to deal with the day-to-day issues that will inevitably come our way.

When we are at our very best, when we’re firing on all cylinders, it’s amazing what we can achieve. When we are on form, there’s almost nothing that phases us and we can deal with almost any issue or problem that comes our way. That’s why in this busy, even crazy world of work that we currently live in it’s more important than ever to build our own internal capacity so that we can be at our best more often.

OK so here’s where I get a little technical, a little ‘science-y’ and explain why it’s so important to look after yourself and more importantly understand how your brain works in order for you to be at your very best. Don’t worry though, if you, like me weren’t that good at science at school, this is what we call – ‘Blue Peter Science – it should be pretty simple to understand.

During our working day we use both our conscious and sub-conscious parts of our brain. The conscious part of our brain, helps us to reason things through, communicate effectively, problem solve, be creative, make multi-level decisions, make pro-active choices, prioritise, decipher what needs to be done when, pay attention, concentrate (amongst many other things). Effectively the conscious part of your brain is VITAL for you as a leader to do pretty much everything that needs to be done in an average working day. The subconscious and unconscious control everything else, they control your neurology, all your body functions like breathing, digesting etc. and your automatic responses to things, things you don’t have to even think about, what some call your ‘auto-pilot’.

What is useful to know here is that the conscious part of your brain, the bit we all need to function effectively in our working day has a very small capacity. It is tiny in comparison to the total capacity of the brain and is comparable to your smartphone’s memory and processing ability compared to a super-computer’s.

During every night, just like your computer at home the content from the day that has been filling your conscious mind is downloaded into the sub-conscious. Both the factual content and the emotional content is downloaded and stored in the internal hard-drive of your brain.

The problem is that most people right now are interrupting their sleep at the most important part – the R.E.M, second deep-sleep stage of sleep, which means that the all important emotional download is interrupted and you wake up with your storage capacity still half–full from yesterday’s content.

Think about this a moment – What happens when you put too many photos, videos and songs into your smartphone? What happens when it gets close to full capacity, it’s memory is full? – It GOES SLOW right? It starts to stop functioning properly. It takes a long time to load information or process anything.

Well, in simple ‘blue peter science’ terms it’s EXACTLY the same with your brain! When it’s running close to its capacity, that’s when we struggle at work with even the most basic of tasks. You’ve all been there, reading that report late at the office, you know the one where you read it over and over but it’s just not going in? That’s because you’re brain is running at pretty close to full capacity. It needs downloading; it needs rest and space to recover itself.

The GOOD NEWS is that the brain is a remarkable instrument. It’s incredibly adaptable and when used well, it will serve you brilliantly. The fact is that right now, we’re not looking after ourselves or our brains well enough and as a result we’re all suffering from a loss of performance, just like our smart phones do when we’ve loaded too much content on them.

So what can we do?
Well first thing to do is to just bear in mind that your brain (and body) just like your phone or pad or computer needs energy in order to work.

What happens if you don’t charge your phone, plug it in for 24hours? Likelihood is, unless you’ve got an amazing battery life on your phone, that it will run out of juice and stop working. And yet, what do we do at work now? Most of us don’t listen to our bodies telling us to stop and take a break and most of us don’t take a lunch break anymore. Is it any wonder that we run out and can’t read that email later on in the day?

Here are some principles to follow that that should enable you and your brain to build capacity and lead at your best:

PRINCIPLE 1: Your brain (and you) need fuel to work at their best

If we are expected to work like the computers we sit in front of, then we, just like our computers need to be fuelled on a regular basis. Remember this isn’t just food and drink, it’s energy, and so anything that gives you and your brain an energetic boost is good.

PRINCIPLE 2: Take your breaks – give you and your brain some rest

I want you to think of your brain as a muscle. (It isn’t a muscle strictly speaking but go with me, it’s a useful metaphor). When you go down the gym, or you want to get fit, if you want your muscles to perform at their best it’s important to warm them up, warm them down and to take breaks between sessions. It’s just the same with your brain, give it time and space to ‘warm up’ and take regular breaks. When you take a break it clears capacity and enables you to come back more refreshed and work at a sustainably high performance level.

PRINCIPLE 3: Move your body, move your mind

When you get stuck on something or if you have something that you need to come up with a creative solution to, MOVE. When you move your body you move your mind, so use this as a conscious technique to get out of your ‘stuckness’ and into problem solving mode.

PRINCIPLE 4: Download and unwind at the end of your day

Because we are working later these days we are eating into what researchers say is a key part of every working day – The wind-down. This 1-1.5hour post work slot is a vital part of your day. Use it to download (write or record) anything that’s still buzzing around your head from the day and to consciously unwind and relax yourself. It will help you to get a better night’s sleep

PRINCIPLE 5: Get a good night’s sleep and let your brain recover

Sleep is our most important resource of all. Sleep is when our brain (and our body) regenerates, repairs, recovers and downloads. Follow the principles for a good night’s sleep in my previous linked in article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sleep-your-most-vital-leadership-resource-all-part-2-jo-clarkson – and you’ll find that just by getting a good night’s sleep you will increase your brain capacity’s ability to deal with everything that a challenging day at work can throw at you.

PRINCIPLE 6: Be kind to your brain and your brain will be kind to you

Trust me when I say you want your brain to be your buddy not your enemy. Right now we are being unkind to our brains and as a result our brain is sometimes not there when we need it most! So don’t let your brain go on strike, treat it kindly. Look after it and it will most definitely look after you. The good news is that generally things that make YOU feel good make your BRAIN feel good, so do things that make you feel good and you’re half the way there.

In conclusion…

So there you have it, 6 principles that should enable you to get the most from your brain and as a result, increase your capacity to lead. Don’t run on empty anymore, don’t run yourself down, now is the time to be kinder to yourself and to your brain

The result? You’ll be able to function and perform at your best, and when you’re at your best? There’s nothing you can’t achieve and nothing you can’t deal with.

At Meta we’ve been supporting leaders and their organisations for nearly 20 years. We’re passionate about what we do and we’re passionate about finding the research that enables the busy executive and the busy workplace to become a more effective one. We think that with some simple shifts in working practices, some simple principles of smarter working, every leader and every workplace can excel.

We hope that you found the blog useful and if you’d like to find out more about what we can do for you and your organisation, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always happy to talk about the principles of smarter working and we’re always happy to support enlightened leaders like you, because that’s what we’re in business for – We do what we do because we’re on a mission to change the world.

Happy capacity building everyone!
Jo x

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Pushing back the TIDE – re-establishing the boundaries & balance of work & life

Since the financial crisis in 2007/8 there has been a gradual erosion of our boundaries between work and our personal lives. I rarely these days meet a senior leader in an organisation these days who is happy to report that they’ve got their work/life balance sorted, in fact I’d go as far as to say I’ve not met ANYONE in the last year in a senior position who felt they’d got that any kind of balance at all!

The simple fact is, that with the flattening of structures within organisations and the year on year reduction in head-count in most organisations, we’re all feeling that increased pressure to work harder and get the almost impossible workloads completed. That means working longer hours in the attempt to get more done, it also means going beyond our natural limits, and letting the overwhelming pressure of work dictate the pattern of our lives.

Almost everyone I meet is a hard-worker; they want to give of their best and they try their utmost to get everything done, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that within the normal working day. So, we do a little extra work on the train home, a few things off our to-do list after dinner; check our emails on Sunday evening, just to make sure we’re ahead of the curve come Monday morning. Which is fine, I guess, IF (and this is a BIG IF) we got that time back, if we got those hours that we don’t spend with our friends, families and loved ones back in lieu! As one of our favourite authors Ricardo Semler writes in his excellent book ‘The Seven Day Weekend’:

“..If we’re expected to answer emails on a Sunday, why can’t we leave work and go watch the tennis on a Wednesday afternoon?”

He’s absolutely right of course, but the tide of work is one that has gradually seeped in over the last 8 or so years since the last financial crisis, and it’s a tide that doesn’t ever seem to go out!

So what can we do about this lack of balance in our lives? What can we do to stem the tide and get work back into the right place, as a PART of our life, not the whole of our lives?

The first thing is to set what I call the HARD BOUNDARIES – the NON-NEGOTIABLES. To use the sea/tide analogy these are the sea walls that protect from the extreme tide incursions. Stop and think for a moment. Where has the tide of work seeped in over the years that affect your personal/family life? Is it that working on a weekend has become normal? Is it that you’re no longer home in time to put your son or daughter to bed? Is it that you spend some evenings doing an hour or two of work? Is that you’ve lost some of the quality time that you used to have with your family? Is it that you no longer have time to go to the gym or exercise? Or that you no longer have any breaks during the day?

Whatever the things that occur to you write them down now and make sure that these hard boundaries are enforced and kept to. I know that is easier said than done, but if you diary them in for the next three-six months (go on, do it now) you’ll be ensuring that you begin to change the habits of working you’ve gotten into and started to create a more healthy one. Seriously you don’t want to end up in the place of one senior director I was working with who told me whilst working with him –

One evening he’d gone home at his new ‘usual time’ of around 730pm and his young daughter was already in bed. He’d missed her bedtime again. It had become a pattern, not one he was proud of, but it was just the demands of his position, he felt he needed to be at work to get everything done. The following morning his daughter (aged 6 or so at the time) said:

‘Daddy why don’t you read me stories anymore? Where are you? I miss you when you’re not here, I wish you were here to help me get to sleep at night’

BOOM. How’s that for a dose of honest feedback? Doesn’t that cut straight to the heart of this? – Rest assured that particular executive made being home in time to put his daughter to bed one of HIS non-negotiables, and do you want to know the interesting thing? He told me that going home that extra half-hour or so early made NO DIFFERENCE to how much work he actually got done.

This is the delicious irony. Working harder, working longer hours doesn’t mean that we get more done. In fact there is a lot of research out there (don’t just take my word for it, do your own research) that says that those that work longer hours are not being effective, and the quality of the work done severely decreases the longer you work without breaks.

Back to that idea of balance, back to that tide that always seems to be coming in and never going out. Now you’ve put in your non-negotiables, your hard boundaries now come the soft boundaries. Soft boundaries are those that are more flexible, once you have got into the habit of making sure the tide stops overwhelming you, then you can begin to peg it back further, so that you can start to work at a more sustainable pace.

This might mean that you go home early on a Tuesday so that you can pick the kids up from school or from their post-school sports club. It may mean that Monday morning you give yourself an extra 15 minutes in bed and turn up 15 minutes later to work. It might mean that every Wednesday and Friday you go to the gym before work or that on Thursdays that you bike into work for a change. It’s about making sure that you take your breaks at work, ensuring that not only do you take your 30 minute lunch break but that you also take it away from your desk and maybe even get a breath of fresh air! You won’t get these things ALL the time, but once you see the benefit to them (e.g.: you’re feeling better, feeling more productive, more in balance) you’ll do what you can to diary them in. Of course flexibility is the key to the soft boundaries, sometimes the tide of work dictates we must work a little later but we are more in control of that tide than we think. Balance isn’t just about work and life, it’s about work and rest whilst at work.

We forget that actually simple things can make a big difference to how ‘in balance’ we feel. Listening to our favourite piece of music, flicking through some photos of our loved ones, getting out in the fresh air and having a walk, choosing something different and tasty to have for lunch, having a natter with our dearest friend on the phone, making sure we end the day with something that makes us laugh.

It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense when we stop and take the time to think about this isn’t it? So I’d encourage all of you to look at your life and how big a part work has become. Isn’t it time to stem the tide? To push back and get your life back in balance? It’s important, not just for you, but for those around you too! When you are happier, when you feel like your life is in better balance, then that happiness spreads and infects those around you, those people you love. So don’t just do this for you, do it for your son or daughter, your mother or father, your sister, your brother, your work colleague, and yes, even your organisation! – You’ll be more effective, productive, creative, positive and just a nicer person to be around.

At Meta we’re on a mission to change the world of work. We think it’s about time we all started working at a sustainable pace, working in a smarter more effective way. We write these blogs to help start to shine a light on current outdated working practices and invite you into a more enlightened way of working. It’s our job, our mission to help and support leaders and organisations that want to work in a smarter way, so if you’d like to find out more about us, please feel free to contact us.

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BREAKING THE SILO-MENTALITY – 4 ESSENTIALS FOR CROSS-FUNCTIONAL WORKING

When we have lots to do, never-ending tasks on our lists, it seems easier to just get on with it and stay in our own silo. But if you stop and reflect on it for a moment, you will realise that a lot of the obstacles you encounter in your work are caused by ‘them’ – the people in other teams or departments. ‘They’ don’t respond quickly enough; ‘they’ don’t understand how important something is; ‘they’ are not easy to get hold of; ‘they’ are asking for something urgently that you haven’t got on your priority list – because of course, ‘they’ are also working in their own silos!

Most of us cannot effectively do our work by staying in our silo, because the majority of projects these days involve a network of different roles in the organisation, so working cross-functionally is built in. Unfortunately the habit of working together cross-functionally isn’t.

Instead of resisting the cross-functionality, it genuinely makes our life easier if we work with it. It’s not difficult and it saves us time and energy in the longer term, if we choose to come out of our silo and work collaboratively and co-operatively with all those involved.

 

4 ESSENTIALS OF WORKING CROSS-FUNCTIONALLY

  1. Building your cross-functional relationships

The first essential is to build your cross-functional relationships. Get to know the people whose work interconnects with yours. Find out what matters to them, what their obstacles to progress are, what makes life easier for them. A bit of time spent having quality conversations with them is well worth it, because it means that now you know them as more than just one of ‘them’; they’re a human being, they’re John not that ‘guy in accounts’.

  1. Planning what needs to be done together

The second essential is to plan with them the work you need to do between you. Again, time spent talking about how you can respond to each other, taking account of each other’s workloads, can save time and energy chasing each other up.

  1. Having an agreement of how you’re going to work together

The third essential is to have an agreement of how you’d like to work together. So few people when working with new people actually tell them how they like to be worked with. Do you like it direct and to the point? Or do you like someone to give you a general pointer in the right direction? Do you like to do things last minute or are you someone who likes to do things before deadlines are looming? All these are useful bits of information if you’re to work together effectively.

  1. Got a problem? Talk it through!

The fourth essential is to have a conversation when a problem arises – and I mean talk and listen, not exchange emails! Problems can often be resolved on the spot if you voice them early enough, before they become too big to deal with. Even the biggest problems are more quickly solved when two heads are working on it rather than one and it’s easier to come up with ways to avoid it happening in the future.

 

An organisation is a living system of inter-connected parts. It is only successful if those parts work smoothly together. And we are the embodiment of those inter-connected parts. The simple fact is that the more we come out of our silos and start to view others’ perspective, the more effective we will become. If we actively improve the way we connect with others whom we help and who help us to make the whole thing work, our work life will get a whole lot easier.

Over the years at Meta we’ve developed some really effective ways to break down the barriers between departments, and help people to get beyond their silo mentality. There is no doubt that it is essential in today’s slimmed down organisations to be working cross-functionally, in order to be more productive and effective – so if you’d like help getting your organisation to work more cross-functionally, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’d love to help.

Have a great month everyone,

In peace,
Jo & Di xxx

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