LESSONS FROM COVID – HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR ‘NEW NORMAL’ TO BE

As the lockdown begins to ease, we hit a new phase of the Covid Crisis and a new change journey to deal with. Once again the change is being ‘put upon us’ we don’t have a lot of choice about it, it’s happening whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not. It is inevitable, then, that we will again find a ramping up in pressure and stress, on TOP of that which we’d already been feeling and dealing with. It’s been one heck of a series of lessons, has this lockdown period, so what do we take away from it all? Surely there’s got to be some positives to come out of this time. Can we really see this phased return to work and ‘normality’ as an opportunity? At Meta we’d strongly urge you to do precisely that… let me explain why.

Look, this lockdown has been a really strange time for us all. It’s been WEIRD, MESSED UP – let’s face it, it’s been pretty RUBBISH. However there have been some really interesting shifts in our collective behaviour as a result of it. Sure, some of it was enforced (i.e. social distancing and self-isolation, home educating the kids). However some of it evolved naturally over time, as individuals and families got used to being in lockdown – going out into nature, listening to birds, taking time to be together and doing activities together as a family, spending more time virtually with extended family and friends, doing things WITH our neighbours and community, helping others in the community.

All in all, there’s been some really good things that have come out of this extended period in lockdown, some work related, but many about the way we lead our lives. So before we launch ourselves back into the lives we used to have, before we go back to our old patterns of working and busy, busy, busy lifestyles – let’s take time to do a review of what we really want to take forward with us and what we’d really like to leave behind. Then perhaps we can look back on lockdown as the time we really started to LIVE our lives, the way we wanted to, not the way that we felt we HAD to.

There is no doubt that for me and for Meta the Covid-19 pandemic has been tough. Not just because of the experiences we’ve all been sharing, but as I have mentioned before we’ve also had the extra stresses of Di’s house fire (and her consequent living with me for the last three months) and the fact that my wife’s mother died unexpectedly a month or so ago. Combine that with a virtually empty work diary and no income to speak of, oh and the fact that my mum cracked her rib a few weeks back, and all in all it’s been a challenging time! However I’m naturally a positive person, and I’ve always seen everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn and grow. Sure sometimes the lessons come thick and fast, and maybe they’re not exactly what I’d have chosen myself (certainly not in the quick succession they’ve been in) but that’s how it is, so you do what you can to deal with it best you can and to use it as an opportunity to reflect, review and learn from it all.

At the end of the day, we all want to feel like we are moving forwards, that we are evolving. Sometimes that comes from carrots (the lovely things) and sometimes it’s with sticks (the not so lovely things).

NN2

About two weeks ago I decided it was time to wrestle back control, to reflect on what had been happening and use a review to figure out how I wanted my ‘new normal’ to be. It’s really simple to do, but it’s a really POWERFUL exercise, so I thought that this month I’d share that with you, and perhaps this is something that you can do. It doesn’t take long AND it’s something that you can do as an individual and do with your partner/family.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic period:

  1. What would you like to leave behind and not take into your ‘new normal’ life?
  2. What have you learnt about others? – This could be your family, your relationship, friendships, your kids,  your fellow workers, your organisation, your community whatever feels appropriate..
  3. What have you learnt about yourself? – What lessons will you take away from this time?
  4. What has not been so good for you? – What are the things that have not worked for you?
  5. What has been good for you? – What are the things you’ve enjoyed?
  6. What have you enjoyed or found good in the way in which you’ve been working? – Not just during the pandemic, but before the pandemic too
  7. What have you enjoyed or found good in the way you’ve been living your life? – Not just during the pandemic, but before the pandemic too
  8. What would you like to take forward into your ‘new normal’ life from the way in which you’ve been working? – What’s been your best practices?
  9. What would you like to take forward into your ‘new normal’ life from the way in which you’ve been living your life? – What’s important to keep?
  10. How can you ensure the changes that you want actually happen? – What support and encouragement can you put in place to make your ‘new normal’ a reality?
  11. What are THREE things that you can do now to make sure this HAPPENS?

This is quite a comprehensive REVIEW. There’s deliberate overlap between the questions, however each is designed to encourage your mind to give extra bits of useful information to create a more complete picture of how you’d like your life to be in ‘the new normal’.

Sure there will be things that are out of our control, of course there will, however because you’ve taken the time to do this REVIEW to really create a vision for how you’d like your life to be, it’s much more likely to happen. It becomes within your control, and when you hit up against something, you then have a choice as to whether this is a part of your ‘new normal’ that you’re prepared to compromise on, or not.

With life and work there are always compromises. However if you have got clear about what you really want, then you can make more informed choices about what your ‘non-negotiable’ boundaries are and your ‘negotiable’ boundaries are.

The review I’ve put forth here, is a starter for ten – it will most certainly give you a good chunk of information to use, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s the starting point for the bigger conversation – ‘how do I want my work and my life to be going forwards?’

It will, however, ensure that you don’t miss the opportunity that this pandemic has given us to reflect, review, learn and grow. It also reminds you that there is more than we think that is within our control, so why not use today’s blog as a prompt to design how you’d like your ‘new normal’ to be?

Jo Clarkson, Meta CEO

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IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK

We’ve been in an enforced lockdown now for over two months as I write this blog. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have good days and not so good days. There’s so much to take in, from the daily governmental briefings to the sheer scale and likely long-lasting effects of what we’re going through. It’s not easy and in fact I’d say just because there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and the government is easing restrictions, doesn’t make how I’m feeling much better. So much of this is change that has been forced upon us, but that means we’re all on an ever shifting change journey, and just as I was getting used to being in full lockdown, and just about accepting that as my ‘new normal’ – we get the announcements that our new normal will be changing again and soon!

When it comes to change, the most difficult change to deal with is the one that is out of our control, or the change that is forced upon us. We all take time to adjust and adapt to change, especially one that affects our lives so totally as this one has. So, in this blog, I just wanted to acknowledge that what we are facing is NOT NORMAL and, as a result, all of us will be experiencing a mid-high level of stress most of the time. It’s constant, it’s not going away and, as a result, we definitely need to be kind and forgiving to ourselves and to those around us. We’re not going to feel normal when things aren’t normal, and that is OK.

Everyone is experiencing this lockdown in their own way, in their own family and friends bubble. Actually, everyone I have spoken to is experiencing lockdown in a virtually unique way – one family unit is never quite the same as another and indeed, in my closest friends, I don’t think there is one who is having the same experience of lockdown. One consistent message that cuts across all the experiences though, is that it’s a bit of a rollercoaster! I’d concur with that; it’s definitely been a rollercoaster for me and for Di.

There are so many lovely positive things happening out there, from family and friends spending more time than ever together (even if it is virtual, it’s still a good thing), communities coming together, people smiling and saying hello to each other as they walk past, when normally they wouldn’t (being positive ripples!), more families doing things together, spending quality time together, and the fact that almost everyone has been getting out into nature, exercising and finding time to literally smell the flowers! It’s lovely but it makes the down days, the dips in the metaphorical rollercoaster ride that is the COVID-19 ride, even more of a challenge. When you see so much positivity around and you’re feeling rubbish, it can get to you – and cause you to feel even worse.

So, I wanted to use this blog to say: IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK.

In fact, it’s more than OK, it’s to be expected. Of course it is, what we’re experiencing is UNPRECEDENTED (Gosh how many times have we heard that word in the last couple of months??!) and therefore there is no ‘right way’ to be, there is just the way you manage to make it work for you. Now more than ever, we need to be kind, forgiving, compassionate and understanding of ourselves. You see we can be quite harsh on ourselves sometimes. I know I can be on myself, and I also know that it’s not useful to be like that. It just makes me feel worse, not better, and I have come to understand, in this lockdown period especially, that even as Mr.(Meta)Positive, I too have not been OK a significant amount of time!

It’s only natural to be out of sorts, when things are as they have been, and that’s not likely to change as we move into an easing of lockdown measures. We’re going to have to be constantly adjusting ourselves, changing what have become established routines to incorporate new freedoms and new changes to the rules. The ground is constantly shifting, which will mean it is inevitable that you will feel a bit ungrounded, and a bit (and here comes the science bit..) ‘WOBBLY’. Things aren’t going to be the same, they are going to change and so we’re going to most likely return to a more up and down rollercoaster ride – so whilst the highs will be higher, the lows will, at times be lower.

So being NOT OK, is perfectly OK – indeed there should be a self-help book called ‘I’m not OK you’re not OK, and that’s.. OK!’ – because right now we need to know that it’s OK to not be OK!

Let’s make a pact you and I today – I’ll be kinder, more understanding and compassionate towards myself if you’ll do the same. Let’s agree that, actually, we’re going to have some down days in the coming weeks and months and that it’s OK to not be OK sometimes.

We all deserve a DUVET DAY sometimes! So next time you’re really not OK – how about you treat yourself to a movie and a duvet day? Get out into nature and lose yourself in a local wood. Go to the sea and watch the waves as they come into the beach (a lovely metaphor for our own emotional ups and downs) Or maybe you’d like to clear out the garage or the loft? Nothing like a good clear out of clutter and a clean-up to shift your mood! Or maybe just spend time on YouTube watching videos of your favourite comedians and laugh your way to feeling a bit better.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling out of sorts, under the weather (even when it’s warm and sunny) and indeed it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves and to those around us when we’re NOT feeling OK. That way those around us can give us a bit of space or a bit of loving up (nothing like a big CUDDLE from your kids or your partner when you’re not feeling OK) AND they can bring the popcorn and the treats to make your duvet day a real fuel tank filling experience.

I want to make another pact with you, and that’s that when you ARE having an especially NOT OK day, that you can always call on us here at Meta (in between popcorn and films), and we’d like to feel that we can do the same with you. Indeed, I’d like to personally thank so many of you who have offered support and help in this lockdown period to me and to Di. It’s so lovely to know that this Meta family will come out stronger from this time, and we want to say a BIG THANK YOU for cheering us up on our down days and celebrating our up days with us.

So whatever is to come, the ups and downs and all arounds, we’re in this together – we hope this blog has been useful for you, and we hope that we’ll get to see you all again soon – be that virtually or hopefully in the not too distant future in the flesh!

In peace and love,

Jo & Di xx

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TIGGER’S BOUNCE – IN WHICH POOH LEARNS FROM TIGGER THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP (AND BOUNCING)

Pooh was wondering what to do. All this self-isolation was beginning to get to him and, even though he had stocked up his store-cupboard of honey last time he’d been to the supermarket at Hundred-Acre Wood, he still felt unsettled and ill at ease.

It reminded him of another time when he’d been ill at ease – when he’d nearly caught the heffalump with Piglet. That was a scary adventure! But he’d done it with Piglet and it reminded him of how much he missed his friends.

“Oh bother!” said Pooh “I don’t like not seeing my friends – seeing them on Zoom is just not the same.” Just then Tigger called…

“Hello old friend!” said Tigger, as he bounced to and fro across the screen. “Hee hee hee! HOW ARE YOUUUUUU?” he said, as he bounced off his head and perfectly landed on his tail in his armchair. Tigger always had a big broad smile on his face and was perennially cheery – laughing and giggling and ho-ho-ho-ing!

Tigger really was a positive ripple in Hundred-Acre Wood. Getting a call from Tigger was always a highlight of anyone’s day.

“Well, to be honest…” said Pooh “I’ve been a little down on things these last few days, so I’m delighted to hear from you Tigger. Could you perhaps share how you keep so positive and happy in these challenging self-isolating times?”

Just then Piglet joined the call…

“He… he… hellooo??” Piglet sounded frail, and he struggled to get his video working, but finally he was there with his two best friends.

“Did I m-m-miss anything?” he asked bravely, whilst sipping his tea in front of the fire.

“Hallo Piglet!” said Pooh, “Oh gosh my little friend, it is SO GOOD to see you!”

“And you,” replied Piglet. “I was getting rather lonely and scared here by myself, but seeing your face has cheered me up no end!”

“Tigger was about to share how he keeps happy in these challenging times,” said Pooh to Piglet

“Oooh!” squeaked Piglet in excitement, “Please DO carry on and let us know Tigger, I’d love to find a way to keep positive, I do so struggle.”

“Helloooo Piglet!” said Tigger, as he bounced across the screen again, before sitting zen-like cross-legged on his sofa.

“Well, if you gather in, I shall begin…” said Tigger in his trademark lisp and fun-filled voice, “I find that when I’m not sure of things, there’s one thing I can always rely on…”

“Yeeess?” said Pooh, wondering what it could possibly be and wishing that Tigger would get on and share whatever it was.

“BOUNCING! Because that’s what Tigger’s do best!” And with that Tigger started bouncing, gently at first, encouraging Pooh and Piglet to join in with him, not in an exercising sort of way, but more a jolly dancing kind of way.

At first Pooh worried about his belly bouncing, but soon that turned into seeing how HIGH he could bounce, or how FAR across the room he could bounce and, before he knew it, he was smiling… and then that smile became wider and wider until he was laughing!

Piglet found it a struggle at first (him being a very small animal indeed), but soon he’d got the hang of it and was bouncing here and there and everywhere. Very soon he was feeling like he’d bounced himself out of his bad mood and was getting happier and smilier with every bounce

“Oh TIGGER, this bouncing is wonderful!” he exclaimed, whilst bouncing on and off his sofa and onto his bed.

“The secret is…” Tigger said mysteriously, “To keep bouncing until all you can think about is the next bounce… it’s meditat-tat-tat-tive. Just focus in on the bounce, and the ho-ho-ho and ha-ha-ha will surely come, because when you bounce there is only that bounce and the next bounce and the next – there’s no space for any negat-tat-ive thoughts.”

Pooh stopped bouncing and thought for a while… He found he had no thoughts, but a lot of happiness rushing around his body in ripples. He thought that what Tigger had said was probably very profound, very profound indeed – but all he could think of were the honey pots that were calling him from his store cupboard. His belly was rumbling in an ‘it’s nearly time for honey’ kind of way.

“Thank you Tigger. Next time I’m feeling down I shall remember to BOUNCE. But right now, if you don’t mind, my honey pots are calling me, and I’d like to fill my fuel tank (and my perfect bouncing belly) with delicious HONEY!”

“And I’m going to dig into my store of haycorns,” chuckled Piglet, whilst smiling and whistling a cheery tune to himself. “Goodbye dear friends!”

And with that they all left the Zoom meeting, Tigger bouncing off for his one-hour permitted exercise in the Hundred-Acre Wood, Pooh replenishing his fuel tank with much needed honey fuel and Piglet, well Piglet was just as cheered up and merry as he could be!

JC, after AA MILNE.

We’ve all got a friend who’s a bit of a Tigger and we all have good days and not so good days like Pooh and Piglet. I wanted to write something a bit different for this month’s blog, because extraordinary times call for different thinking and different approaches to this thing called life.

Am I advocating bouncing? Maybe… Give it a try (especially those of you who have young children) – you might find it makes you giggle and laugh like Pooh and Piglet. Mainly though, I’m reminding you that although we are self-isolating, we are not alone.

Now more than ever we should call on our friends and our support network. So who are your Pooh bears and Tiggers in your friends’ group? Who are the Piglets who perhaps need a bit of support in these trying times? Who are the Rabbits who are rushing around trying to get everything done and getting stressed in the meantime? Or the Eeyores who are feeling miserable and lonely but don’t dare ask for help?

We all need a pick me up and someone to talk to, it’s one of the keys to resilience and excellence – knowing WHEN to ask for help and when to reach out to support others and be supported ourselves.

The psychological effect of not being able to BE with people is a significant one too. We’re social animals, us human beings, and I’m sure like me you’re missing that social and physical contact side of your life right now.

So why not spend time in the coming month really re-connecting with your friends and support network? If you’re struggling, then reach out to the Tigger or Pooh Bear in your friends’ network. Or perhaps there’s a Piglet or Rabbit that needs a few calm and sage words of wisdom from you? We won’t know until we ask, and even if it’s been a while, most people will appreciate the fact that you’re checking in on them and that they were in your thoughts.

And remember that you’re absolutely a part of the META FAMILY too – and we’ll happily be your friend in your times of need – because that’s what family and friends are for!

Take care everyone!

We hope today’s blog has brought a smile to your face, I certainly enjoyed writing it!

Much love to you all,

Jo & Di xxx

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SMILE AND BE A POSITIVE RIPPLE

What unprecedented and challenging times we are living in – the Covid-19 pandemic is currently in full flow and we as a country are in lockdown. We’ve all heard the voice of fear in the last few weeks and I’m sure for many of you reading this, these are going to be a difficult few months – I know it certainly is going to be for us here at Meta – so we wanted to use this month’s blog to spread a little RIPPLE of META POSITIVITY.

In times such as these, there is no blueprint, no ‘way we did it last time’, as there has never been a time like this! We have seen the worst of behaviours and we’ve seen the best of behaviours. Sure we may all have got an extra toilet roll or can of beans when they finally came back in stock, and sure we all may have got caught up a little in the fear that job and financial uncertainty can bring us – but now as the dust settles and we hunker down to our new lives in lockdown, we need to make a conscious decision about how WE are going to be moving forwards.

There’s not much we can do when we’re being told to socially isolate ourselves. We’re (rightfully) deterred from leaving our homes only in the most essential of circumstances, and yet there is ONE thing that we can all do when we do have our morning exercise, walk our dog, or take an afternoon trip to get essentials at the supermarket – we can SMILE.

A SMILE is actually contagious (the best type of contagion) and we are neurologically designed to respond to a smile (and any facial expressions actually). So, when someone smiles at us we are automatically programmed to respond by our own mirror-neurons in our brain.

The mirror-neuron response is quicker than any social filter our brain may have to stop us smiling – and so, even if the person you are smiling at does not respond, your very act of smiling DOES stimulate their smile muscles. Did you know you had smile muscles?? You do! They are around your mouth and are called the zygomaticus major muscles.

Now what is brilliant is, because the mirror neurons are instinctive and instantaneously activated with a smile – whether or not the person you are smiling at ACTUALLY smiles, their zygomaticus major muscles are still being tweaked and stimulated, they are literally smiling on the inside. This might sound mad, but it’s actually true, and we’ll provide a link to one of our favourite authors, Dr.David Hamilton (a bio-chemist by trade), who talks more about the science and research behind this phenomenon in a brief YOUTUBE video HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHQBghevMLw

Isn’t it amazing that a smile can be so contagious? We might have instinctively thought as much, but it’s wonderful to know that the science is there behind it too.

Just as smiles are contagious, so are frowns… the mirror neurons don’t just reflect positive facial signals, but also negative ones. So, then the question becomes this, what do you want to be? A negative ripple out into the world or a positive ripple?

Being a positive ripple doesn’t just limit you to smiling of course, there is so much more we can do and that’s why in these times, we can all do our bit to be a positive ripple, be that through a SMILE (the simplest way to do it we think) or indeed through other positive gestures and kindnesses.

Here at Meta HQ (aka Jo’s house) we’ve dropped letters into our next-door neighbours, just checking to make sure (a) they’re OK and (b) they know they can ask us for help should they have to self-isolate as a family.

Talking of isolation, we must all be mindful of our own mental health too. Actually building our own social-networks in these times of self-isolation is important too. I’ve WhatsApp messaged all my friends – checked in with family around the world and have plans to have virtual meet ups both with customers, family and friends in the coming weeks and months. Once you start thinking about it and getting creative, it’s pretty amazing what you can do virtually. So, once you’ve got your head around the reality of the situation, how about getting together virtually with your friends and family?  And be creative! We’re going to be doing a virtual wine-tasting with a couple of our friends, for example, as part of our virtual social evening together (we bought the same wines to try together).

The thing is, strengthening your social network is not only good for your own mental health, it’s also being a positive ripple out to those that are in your social network too – and ripples go out and they come back. They’re metaphorical positivity boomerangs – as you put it out there, it will come back.

And of course, this is an opportunity for ALL of us to come TOGETHER – as partners, as family, as friends, as a community, as a team, as a workplace, as leaders, as an organisation, as a country and as a world.

Being a positive ripple, can be as simple as a SMILE.

So, when you next go out of your home, make sure at the very least, you are wearing YOUR SMILE, and when you’re at home, be a virtual positive ripple – and see what a difference it makes. Positivity makes us FEEL GOOD and others FEEL GOOD, and right now we all need to FEEL GOOD.

Me and Di want you all to know, that we’re always just a phone call or email away. You’re a part of our Meta family and as such we’d like you to know that we’re here to help and support you in any way we can. So please do call on us – we’ll do what we can to be a positive ripple for you.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

In peace and love

Jo & Di xxx

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AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM DI & JO RE: COVID-19 – META IS HERE FOR YOU

META – YOUR SUPPORT FOR LIFE

At Meta we have been wondering how best to respond to the current extraordinary situation we are all facing. It’s easy when watching the constant news updates to get caught in fear, to worry about uncertain times ahead, to isolate oneself and go into protective lockdown – but fear is never a good voice to listen to, let alone follow its advice.

It’s love and kindness, generosity and compassion that will get us through this period. It’s a time to put aside difference and come together as a larger community. It’s at times like these that you go back to your core-values, what are you HERE FOR? What is your real PURPOSE? And that’s what we’ve been doing here at Meta.

I’m going to be honest here: I’d been caught by fear and I’m sure I’m not the only one. With a small business consultancy like Meta it can go from everything is good to everything is gone very quickly! But there’s only so long that you can listen to fear and this morning I decided to have a stern word with myself whilst looking in the bathroom mirror:

‘Jo, it’s time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get yourself out there. Meta is a company here to help change the world – get back out there and do what you can to help – that’s your purpose, that’s your mission! Go and do what you are here to do, go do what you can to make a difference and support those in your Meta family’

So here we are with this very simple message to every single one of you reading this:

“WE ARE HERE TO SUPPORT YOU ANYWAY WE CAN – PLEASE CALL ON US.”

Meta has always talked of giving ‘support for life’ to anyone who has been on a programme or part of a group that we have run.

Yes we will be exploring ways of making Meta virtual (please stay tuned for video tool-kit exercises and invites to virtual Meta sessions and more) but first and foremost we, Me and Di, wanted to say that we are here to support and help YOU, your leaders, people and organisations in ANY WAY we can.

In the challenging days and months ahead, it’s useful to know that you can talk to someone, that you can get some guidance and support in the extraordinary times we are facing from someone independent but understanding of your world. We will all need to talk to someone, we will all need a ‘rant buddy’ – and we are GREAT rant buddies!

Meta is in business to support people like you. Now more than ever it’s time to be there for your family and YOU are OUR FAMILY.

So please do call on us. We are always just an email or phone call away.
We love what we do, and we love you, our Meta family – so let us help you, that’s what the Meta family is for.

We wish you all the very best in the coming weeks,

Be safe, be healthy & please take good care of yourselves.

Now more than ever we need to be filling our fuel tanks and looking after ourselves as well as being a positive ripple in the world.

Please keep an eye out for further Meta announcements in the coming weeks & for direct emails from Jo + Di – we’ll be reaching out – and if you’re no longer on your work email address, then get in touch and we’ll find a way to get the Meta announcements to you!

All our love,

Jo  jo@metapositive.com

& Di – di@metapositive.com

xxx

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RUNNING ON EMPTY? – How to re-build your resilience in six easy steps

Resilience is an interesting word that’s being used a lot right now in the world of work – it comes originally from the latin word ‘resiliens’ which means ‘to rebound’ – and in modern usage it means ‘to bounce back after adversity or difficulties or challenges’. 

I like to think of resilience as like your emergency power source, it’s what keeps you going when everything is falling apart around you, it’s the back-up battery that allows you to come back after a knock back, or run that bit longer even though your actual internal fuel tank has run out.

We’ve all seen the scenario in your favourite medical drama. The operation is in full swing, the surgeon is about to complete a complicated procedure, and then ‘poof’ the lights go out. The room is plunged into darkness for a few seconds, you can sense the panic rising, but then the emergency generator kicks in with an audible ‘click and whirr’ of power and calm returns, the operation can continue.

It’s just the same with us, it’s our internal resilience battery that enables us to bounce back after the metaphorical energy blackout, it’s what allows us to deal with the unexpected, the unforeseen, the almost impossible task, and finish what needs to be done even though we’ve run out of energy. It’s also what allows us to bounce back time after time when we’re faced with another shortened deadline, another project to add to our already burgeoning portfolio of projects, the next round of budget cuts, or the next knock back in our career prospects.

Over the last 18 years of being in business, we’ve seen a change in the patterns of working that have led to most leaders in our extended network working longer hours, having greater responsibilities, and managing almost impossible workloads.

Then there is the constancy of change within organisations – change is important and necessary, but it’s non-stop in many workplaces, just as one change is implemented so the next one begins, as one structure is beginning to be imbedded so the next restructure is announced. Can you remember the last time there wasn’t a restructure or cost-saving exercise going on somewhere in your organisation?

It’s that CONSTANCY that is the issue – a constant pressure to perform and adapt as leaders to the next structure, the next process improvement, the new system implementation, the budget review, the reduction in headcount etc.

It’s never-ending. And that’s the problem.

Our resilience battery has run out, the constant draw on our resources over the last 10 years or so has has meant that we’ve never been able to plug in and properly re-charge our back-up battery. It means that no longer do we have that reserve energy that we can pull on when we need to. When we switch the power supply to ‘back-up’ the red light is on, and there’s not much left to use before we completely run out.

When the emergency back-up is gone… then what?

Well, that’s when the stress hormones kick in and take over, that’s when our body starts to rebel and shouts at us to stop. I have seen far too many leaders in my network have serious health problems in the last few years and that’s why I’m writing this article, it’s why I get up on stages around the world and talk about stress and resilience – it’s personal, and it’s time to put a stop to it.

It is essential for the modern-day leader and worker to focus on their resilience as a top priority, to make time to re-charge, and re-build their resilience.

I know, I know, all very well for me to say, but what does that mean in practice? Well, here are a few practical suggestions that should help you to get your resilience back, a few tools for your leadership resilience toolkit:

  1. TAKE YOUR BREAKS AND REFILL YOUR FUEL TANKS

Our own empirical research at Meta has seen a marked change over the years in people’s relationship to breaks. When we first started 18 years ago, most leaders and workers we came across understood the value of breaks and took at least a 30-minute lunch break every single day. Now we find that in a group of 20 leaders and staff, maybe three or four might take a lunch break away from their desk every day. That’s a huge shift away from taking breaks and trying to work through so as to get more done.

Now what’s very interesting (and counter intuitive I’ll grant you) is that when you work through your breaks and are not re-fuelling, your brain hits its operational capacity point and that means that it cannot process or perform at a high level. This means that although you are working for longer, you may well get less done and the quality will most definitely suffer. The latest research on brain and working performance suggests that working 50-55 minutes and taking a five minute break each hour (along with a more substantial break at the middle of the day) is the most effective and efficient use of your brain’s processing power – it essentially is the secret to getting the most out of your working day.

  1. ANALYSE WHAT TAKES UP YOUR TIME AND CAPACITY

How often do we truly stop to think about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it? We’re so busy trying to get everything done that we rarely analyse what is taking up our time or our capacity, and whether it’s at a level in keeping with our leadership role within the organisation.

What we suggest is that you analyse your next two weeks of work. Be honest with yourself and get everything down. How much time does it take and how much of your internal capacity does it use up? Remember some things disproportionately drain us and some things we really shouldn’t be doing at our level at all! Look carefully into what you should and shouldn’t be doing, in some instances it’s a case of delegation, in some cases training others to do the tasks, and sometimes it’s just a case of saying no. Also look at what you don’t currently have time and capacity for, and make sure you make time for the things that are really important to you as a leader.

  1. CREATE SPACE AT HOME TO RE-CHARGE

As the tide of work has come in, one of the important parts of our day that has got squeezed out is our ‘unwind time’ – the time AFTER work when we get home, where we can download our day, re-set and switch off. For many of us now we come home and we’re immediately into doing our home chores, cooking, cleaning, taxi-ing the kids around. Recent research by the University of Surrey has shown that by re-introducing that 30-mins to one hour unwind time the body (and mind) can get back to normal after the stresses of the working day and, as a result, we have improved physical and mental health along with improved sleep.

  1. SLEEP – YOUR GREATEST RESILIENCE RESOURCE OF THEM ALL

Put simply, sleep is the most important thing you can do to build your own resilience. I’ve talked a lot about sleep in my LinkedIn articles. In a nutshell sleep is when your mind downloads the content from your day and frees up its internal capacity, it’s when your body rebuilds, regenerates and repairs at a cellular level. and it’s when we have a DEEP recharge of our batteries. Aim to get seven-to-eight hours a night. And for more info on how to improve your sleep, see my LinkedIn article on the nine principles for getting a good night’s sleep – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sleep-your-most-vital-leadership-resource-all-part-2-jo-clarkson

And if sleep is a particularly illusive thing for you, then please do get in touch we have a wealth of information that can help you.

  1. BUILD YOUR ALLIES NETWORK

When we are under stress we tend to isolate ourselves and try and get everything done ourselves. Whilst it’s admirable to be like superman or superwoman, even superman and superwoman eventually run out of juice. It’s important to build our social and support networks. Research has shown that the more social network connections someone has, the more likely they are to be positive, happier in life, more productive, less stressed and more resilient. It’s also important to build our support networks so that we’re not just relying on our partners or closest friends. At Meta we talk about your ‘allies’ network’, because with allies you don’t necessarily have to be best buddies, you just need to be able to ally and support one another in a particular area or for a specific thing. It might be that you have an ally at work who is someone you can go to for advice, or perhaps it’s an ally at home who takes you out for a drink and a good rant! So, who is in your allies’ network? And whom would you like to bring into your allies’ network that perhaps isn’t in there now?

  1. MAKE TIME TO STOP AND/OR DO SOMETHING SPECIAL AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK

Work and life can feel like it’s non-stop. As soon as one ends the next one takes the baton and it’s off rushing to the next appointment, to pick up the kids, to go do the shopping, to make that morning meeting. Every week it’s important that you either make time to stop, OR do something special. I say either/or because sometimes we just need to STOP, relax and recharge that way. And sometimes we need to do something special, something that will give us a real turbo-charge, a really deep re-fuelling. What’s important is that we create time in our diaries to do this – find a time slot in your week and stick to it, make it ‘your time’ and, by the way, it’s kind of fun to make a list in advance of all the ‘special things’ that you’d like to do, that way you’ll have a menu of turbo-charges to choose from that are guaranteed to fill your fuel tanks.

YOUR RESILIENCE TOOLKIT – A NEW OFFERING FROM META

At Meta we believe it’s important to be talking about our resilience and talking about the stresses we face, day-to-day, in work and in life. Right now, more than ever we need to be re-building our resilience and looking after ourselves and our staff.

We believe it’s time to work smarter not harder, and that’s why we have developed a programme we’ve called ‘your resilience toolkit’.

In this programme (suitable for anyone in your organisation from senior leaders to frontline staff) we explore the three key topics that affect our ability to be resilient and perform at our very best:

The Bio-Chemistry of Stress

The Science Behind Working Smarter Not Harder

#HAPPY SLEEPING

We combine latest research with practical, easily applied tools that will help you, your leaders and your staff to re-build your resilience, and improve your organisational well-being, mental health and performance.

If you’d like to talk to us more about how Meta can help you, your team or your organisation build a ‘resilience toolkit’ that really works (even on the most challenging work-days) then please do get in touch.

We’re passionate about helping leaders and their organisations to perform at their best and that’s why this year we’re focussing on helping organisations to build resilience and look after their greatest resource – their people!

We hope this blog has been useful to you and we have so much more to share, so do drop us a line to find out more.

Enjoy filling your fuel tank this month!

In peace,

Jo xxx

Jo Clarkson, CEO of Meta

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WHAT’S YOUR VISION? What will the new decade bring for you?

At the beginning of a new year, a new decade indeed is a GREAT time to start thinking ahead, not just for this year, but for the decade ahead.

All too often we think short-term, tomorrow, the end of the week, until payday, by the end of the year. But when was the last time you thought about anything beyond the next year?

Life is a journey, so they say, and you know what? I like to think of it as an adventure too! The question is, what journey will you be taking in 2020 and beyond, where will you be headed?

I’m asking these questions because all too often one year just merges into the next if we’re not careful. If we don’t stop, reflect and think about what we really want, we just go with whatever we return to work to find is on our new to-do list (which isn’t often ‘new’, it’s just where we left it at the end of 2019!).

If life is a journey, then it’s important to make sure that you’re headed somewhere you actually WANT to go. If life is an adventure, then it’s important that you’re clear what type of adventure you’d like your life to be!

That’s why I’m inviting you to think about your future, there is no better time than now, the beginning of a new decade, to envision the future life you’d like to have and the future work you’d like to do.

So schedule yourself in some time to look at your future – do it now, go on, get into your online diary and pencil in some time. About 2 x 1hour chunks should do it (or at least be a good starting point).

It’s time to think beyond what’s feasible and start creating the space for what is almost certainly possible (which is pretty much anything if you put your heart and soul into making it happen).

Together we’re going to create a beautiful vision together – a vision of a new way of life and working. Imagine anything were possible, take away the restrictions and dare to dream.

So find yourself a space (perhaps the kitchen table, your sitting room floor, somewhere with a view), get the biggest bit of paper you can find (flip chart is ideal for this) and lots of colour pens, and start drawing. You can draw key words, phrases – draw pretty pictures, it’s your vision, you draw it however you’d like to! Don’t worry about getting it perfect, you can always re-draw it or ‘write it up’ (if you’re a perfectionist like me).

Then, with a cuppa or a glass of wine in hand (we’re no judgers here at Meta) answer any of these questions that appeal. They’re designed to stimulate thought, and provoke your heart, mind and soul to respond – you don’t have to answer all of them, just use them as a starting point.

MY VISION 2020-2030

In the next decade:

What key words will define life for you in this next decade?

What will you leave behind in the 00s?
What will you bring in that is new?

How would you like your life to be?
What would be in it?
How will you be feeling?
What adventures will you have?
What would you love to learn?
How would earn your living?
How would work be different?
What did you dare to do, that you wouldn’t dare do now?
Where will you be when the next decade begins?
How will you spend your time and who will your spend your time with?

In 2020-2030 – what will you achieve?
How will you grow?
What will make you feel special?

What will you have learnt and experienced?

These are just a few questions to start your vision, to start your thinking.
There will be plenty more as you begin to create your vision for 2020. As things pop into your head, add them in – this vision should be a living breathing thing, not a stale statement of intent.

Remember nothing is impossible – after all you’re all grown up now, not much you can’t achieve when you put your mind to it.

So Dream BIG.

Because when it comes down to it… as a favourite teacher of mine often says: “ALL IS POSSIBLE”.

We wish you an amazing 2020 and a magical, adventuresome decade ahead!

Jo Clarkson, CEO of Meta

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YOUR NEXT CHAPTER – WHAT WILL YOU LEAVE BEHIND IN 2019?

As I sit here in the Meta office, with the end of the year drawing near. I have been reflecting on my working year and am already thinking about how I’d like 2020 to be different.

It’s been a challenging year, but a year of significant progress in the world of Meta and when I think about it, there’s not a lot I would change, but I would change one thing – how HARD work has felt this year, and how much permission I give myself to stop, rest and take time off.

It’s not easy when it’s your own company as Meta is for me, the buck ultimately stops with me, and if I don’t put in the work, well work doesn’t come in! However there’s a balance to be struck, and this year that balance has been slightly skewed, but I don’t think I’m alone in that one.

Remember when there was some balance in your life? Do you remember the time when you didn’t rush around quite so much? Do you recall being able to wind down at the end of your day and not collapse in a heap on the sofa fit for not very much at all!?

The end of a year is a great time to do a review – a ‘progress report’ on your working life and life as a whole. These days years can just blur one into another and I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel that this year has positively whizzed by!

If we don’t stop and reflect, we can get caught in the same old work patterns and get stuck in ways of working and living that don’t really work for us. So I’m going to suggest that this month of December, as well as enjoying yourself, unwinding and relaxing, you also do a bit of a review of your year.

How was 2019 for you? Here are some questions that you could ask to stimulate some thought:

IN 2019 @ WORK:

  • What did I do well?
  • What didn’t I do so well?
  • What good things did I start but then let slip?
  • What stopped me along the way?
  • What would I do differently given the chance?

IN 2019 IN LIFE:

  • What did I do well?
  • What didn’t I do so well?
  • What good things did I start but then let slip?
  • What stopped me along the way?
  • What would I do differently given the chance?

This should give you a fairly comprehensive review of 2019. Have a look at what you’re written; would you change things next year given the opportunity?

Well, that’s precisely what I’m now going to encourage you to do!

We are the authors of the story of our lives, no one else. So it’s time for all of us to decide how we’d like our next chapter (in this case 2020) to be.

As you look at your review, start to write your next work chapter for 2020. The ending of a year is a great time to metaphorically leave behind the bad practices and embrace and bring in new, more healthy and positive work practices. It’s a time to dare to dream again, and celebrate all you have done well, along with acknowledging the obstacles that have hindered and stopped you along the way.

Are you ready for your next chapter? If you are, then here’s a few prompting questions that will help you to create that next chapter:

  • What would you like to leave behind in 2019?
  • What will you continue with into 2020, as it is?
  • What will you bring into 2020 that is new and exciting?
  • Is there anything you’d done previously that worked, that you’d like to bring back in 2020?
  • What things which you let slip in 2019 are you going to recommit to in 2020?
  • How will you ensure that the things that stopped you in 2019 don’t stop you in 2020?
  • What will you tell yourselves when things don’t go how you’d like them to?
  • What things will make work and life fun and enjoyable for you?
  • How will you keep yourself well-resourced in the year to come?

When we stop and think about it, we are the difference makers in our own lives. If we decide to take back control, and become the authors of our own lives again, no one can stop us. If we decide we want to be happy, we want to be positive – no one can stop us being that either.

Life and work are about choice. We can’t change the past choices we have made, but we can use them to inform how we choose to be going forwards. Whatever 2019 was for you, you can make changes, and I hope now WILL change how 2020 is going to be for you.

I know I am going to be making those choices.
I hope you will too.
I’m choosing to make 2020 an awesome one – what will you choose?
Have a wonderful Christmas everyone!

In peace and love
Jo x

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WHY COOPERATION WORKS

Our Western culture has a tendency to encourage individualism and competition, except in times of emergency. This creates tensions because everyone has to prove their individual worth, and looks to blame others if anything goes wrong.

In the workplace it is counter-productive to say the least! Most organisations are designed in an inter-connected way – the word organisation means ‘a living system of inter-connected and inter-dependent parts.’ If one part isn’t working properly, it has a knock-on effect throughout the system, and equally, if one part is receiving more resources, more recognition than others, it unbalances the system.

What is more, the effect it has on individuals in the organisation is generally negative. We find it stressful to be always ‘fighting’ with other teams, other departments, other leaders – it is not our natural state. We are hard-wired to cooperate with others, because that is how we were able to survive and thrive throughout the evolution of humanity.

For example, an individual couldn’t hunt and kill mammoth for food, but a cooperating group could, and thereby feed themselves for a lengthy period of time. And in the agricultural phase of our evolution, if another village helped bring in the harvest, then everyone benefitted. The effect of cooperation was the improvement of life for all.

We are also living proof of the value of cooperation: our bodies work as well as they do because our personal ‘living system of interconnected parts’ – we are a perfect example of cooperation in action! Our 60 trillion (or so) cells work together to produce and distribute the elements we need for health, and puts the extra resources needed in any area of our body for specific types of activity, or diverts resources to any part which is not functioning as well as it might, to help it to heal and play its part again. Our bodies constantly monitor and adjust, to ensure that the whole system works as well as it can. This is cooperation in action, every moment of our lives.

 So what does this mean in the workplace?

When we have a culture of cooperation, then individuals will work together for the goals of the team, going beyond individualistic or isolated working to benefit all. It means that team members help each other out when needed and use their strengths to be as effective as possible as a team. This is what we call at Meta a truly excellent team, one that is more than the sum of its parts.
When teams cooperate well together in this way, it leads to a similar approach to the work which requires cross-functional cooperation, working together to find effective ways to hand over from one team to another.

How do you achieve such a culture of cooperation? It all starts with the leadership team exemplifying effective ways of working together for the greater good of the organisation, rather than just building or defending their own empires. The leaders also need to encourage their teams to do the same, giving recognition and valuing the cooperative work they do.

There is also a bonus that will automatically begin to show when there is a culture of cooperation in an organisation – people begin to do more than just cooperate with each other: they begin to collaborate.

Collaboration means working together from different points of view or skill sets in order to develop something even better. It is the synthesis of ideas or perspectives or particular skills, in order to innovate. This is where you get more effective ways of cooperating, improvements in process that really work, new ideas for products where real creativity begins to flourish.

As human beings, we find work and life less stressful when we cooperate with each other, and that enables us to be more productive and creative in the way we approach our work – it also means that we enjoy work more and that has great knock on effects not only to our fellow workers, but also to our customers, our organisations and yes, our family and friends at home.

When you think about it, it just makes sense to cooperate doesn’t it?

In our experience, everyone want to give of their best, everyone wants to cooperate – its just that when you are incredibly busy and under the constant demands and pressure of almost impossible workloads, it’s not easy to see the wood for the trees, we tend to focus on what we can get done ourselves, rather than see the bigger picture.

So it’s vital as leaders and as teams to get away from the office, we recommend at least a couple of times a year, to get some perspective and refocus on what’s important for the upcoming year. We all want to work together more effectively, because we understand what a difference it can make to us when we’re working together as a team. Cooperation is our natural bent, collaboration will always work better than isolation – we know that in our heart of hearts, and we know that on whatever level we are within an organisation.

It’s time to get that ‘living system of inter-connected and inter-dependent parts’ that is your organisation, or your team, truly working in harmony again. So why not treat yourself and your team to an away-day in the New Year? Now’s a perfect time to include it in your budget projections for 2020, and it might just be the best budgetary decision you make this year – not just for your team, but for you and your organisation as a whole.

At Meta we’re passionate about helping people to get back to a more natural cooperative approach to work. We work with leadership teams and teams within organisations to help them become more excellent teams. If you’re interested in developing your team, and want to develop a culture of cooperation and collaboration that allows you to excel, then why not get in touch? We have developed a unique approach to working collaboratively and we can help you bring that more natural way of working back into your organisation and your team.

 Di Kamp and Jo Clarkson

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MY DAD’S WORDS OF WISDOM – TAKE THE GOOD STUFF HOME WITH YOU

In my early 20s, before Meta existed, I trained to become a drug and alcohol counsellor, working with the charity ADDACTION. After completing my counselling qualification, I started work in earnest in a project in Willesden, London and quickly found it very overwhelming.

Working with those suffering from addiction is not easy work; the people who came through the door were often in crisis and in the depths of despair. I found it hard to switch off, and often took my work home with me, especially since I had a project manager who was always on my back, criticising me for my approach. In just 9 months I felt like I was approaching burnout.

In a phone call to my dad, who had worked as a youth worker and care worker all his life, I poured my heart out. I told him all about how hard I was finding things and how hard it was to ‘switch off’, and how often I brought the negative aspects of my work home with me. My dad had worked as a youth centre manager in many rough areas. He worked with kids that no-one else would work with, and was a brilliant youth worker. Now in his older years, he was a care worker, working with some very challenging young people in care. I asked my dad how he dealt with the constant pressure and stresses of his work, and if he had any wise words to share with me.

My dad paused and asked me some questions:

‘Jo, what do the clients you work with look like when they come off the streets and into your project?’

‘Well, they often look like death-warmed up. They’re at their lowest ebb, they’re in the depths of their addiction, they look desperate and lost’

‘And when you’ve had your session with them, and they’re leaving the project, going back out the door what do they look like then?’

‘Well if it’s a good session, they’ll at the very least feel heard and have some options going forward, and at the very best, they might even have a smile on their face.’

‘GREAT SON! That’s what you take home with you. Take that smile on the face of someone who was in despair, and leave the rest – at work.’

Think about yourself for a moment. You may not work as a counsellor, but I bet that it’s often the not so good stuff you take home from work each day!

It’s a strange human trait that we’re often our own worst critics, and so rather than take home the vast majority of a work-day that is at worst OK and at best, brilliant – we take home the ONE snotty email we received or the ONE bad conversation we had with our boss.

I think this is something that we need to address, and get back into perspective. If you were to analyse your average working day, you’ll find that even in a ‘bad day’ you get one heck of a lot done, and you’ll have plenty to celebrate if you look for it. So it’s time to start collecting the evidence that says, actually, overall, you’re doing an amazing job, considering the circumstances, pressures and stresses that you’re all facing.

Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect: we’re not MEANT to be perfect, we are human beings after all!

DO start noticing (and recording) the GOOD things you do in your day: the positive meeting you had, the new idea that you had that your boss really liked, the time you made your colleague laugh when they were a bit down, the tea-round you got for everyone when things were getting a bit fraught, the way you managed to ‘wing it’ in that meeting, the kindness and compassion you showed when you gave one of your team a day off.

All too often we store the negative videos from our day, rather than the more positive ones. Sure, it’s important to learn from our mistakes, so some time to reflect on what happened and see how we might do things differently in the future and learn from it, is absolutely a positive thing to do. However let’s not dwell on it, and let’s certainly not take those horror stories home with us. Let’s leave them at the office, where they belong!

Work is just a part of life, it’s not the WHOLE of life, and yet if we focus on looking for the positive in what we do, then that has a knock on effect in our home lives too. It makes life feel better and we feel better because of it.

Some 20 years later, and my dad’s words of wisdom still ring true with me now. When I find that I’m obsessing with the one not perfect comment in an overwhelmingly positive set of feedback from a group I’ve been running – I’ll remind myself that I should be taking home the positives, and that it is 99%+ positive!

I find that taking home the GOOD stuff helps me get my perspective back, and it also motivates and inspires me to do the best I can in all that I do.

I suspect that if you were to do the same that you might find it makes a difference for you too.

Have a wonderful month,

In peace,

Jo x

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