BEING A LEADER

We often think it’s someone else’s job to be a leader, but when we look around, it seems that many of those who are called leaders don’t behave like leaders at all.

Rather than complaining about it, I think it’s time we all played our own part in being leaders. Essentially being a leader means setting the example of how to behave in a way that enables all of us to follow our values, to be positive and constructive, and to fulfil our potential. And we can all take the lead in the way we behave.

So let’s all make an effort to:

  • Think before we speak (or tweet!)
  • Treat others with respect
  • Be honest about what we can and can’t do
  • Take time to sort ourselves out if we’re a bit frazzled so we don’t inflict our mood on others
  • Bother to greet people properly and pleasantly
  • Assume the best rather than the worst
  • Let others help us and offer help to them, so we each use our strengths
  • Allow people space to explain their point of view
  • And above all, take care of our own state of mind and energy, so that we can be at our best

If you think about it, these aren’t just excellent leadership qualities: they also make both us and those around us feel good about ourselves, and respond more positively and constructively. They are downright useful!!

Can you imagine how transformative it would be, if we all did our bit towards leading in these ways? So let’s not wait for someone else to show us the way – go do some leading today.

Di Kamp

Comments are closed

TIME – ISN’T IT TIME TO ADMIT WE HAVE A PROBLEM?

Is it me or has time apparently speeded up in the last few years? OK so I’m a 40 something and I guess this is the time in my life where time does move more quickly. However in the world of work, time has become our enemy: we battle impossible timescales; we try and beat time by coming in early and coming home late. We try to be efficient, we try to get everything done, but the sad fact is that for most of us leaders out there, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Time is not our enemy, it’s our friend. Our very lack of it suggests that we’re just not paying it enough attention. It slips through our fingers because we’re trying to desperately hold onto it, but time is ethereal, there’s nothing to hold onto, so as it slips through our fingers again, isn’t it time to admit we’ve got a problem with time?

We live in a fast paced society: everything is needed NOW; everything is urgent; everything is (allegedly) important. We need it today, not tomorrow, this quarter not next. As we have embraced the immediate delivery systems of technology – be that through our Amazon account, Facebook account or even our emails – so we have begun to expect that our own human thoughts, reactions and decisions will be almost as immediate. We fire off an email and expect a quick response, we leave someone a message and we are disappointed if they have not got back to us that day. We have a two-hour meeting to make decisions that may shape a whole year’s business plan.

We are not the technology we use. It’s designed to be beyond human capabilities. Its processing power and speed are exactly what differentiates it from its human users. Computers and search engines aren’t there to be emulated; they’re there to be used, intelligently by the more thoughtful, slower and brilliant minds of their users. They are a tool, used by an evolved being – just as fire was for the first human beings. Technology should add to our world, a servant tool to enable us to live in this world better, not a master dictating the speed at which we should live our lives.

There is no doubt that in the last 10 years we’ve all hit the fast forward button on our own internal remote controls. We try to get too much done in too little time, we try to achieve it all, but all too often we are trying to achieve the impossible. This isn’t just in the workplace but at home too! It’s time to take stock and evaluate what we are doing.

It’s time for us to admit that we’ve got a problem with time.

Time is precious. We all know that we’ve tried our best to make everything we have to do fit into the extended timetable for work we give ourselves, and yet consistently we feel as if we’re running behind time, that’s there’s just not enough time to get everything done that needs to be done!

We need to stop thinking of time as our enemy and start conserving time like any other precious resource we need to conserve. We need to get serious about time, and serious about what takes our time.

There are many time-hungry things out there in the world, and the question is, with the finite resource of time you have (no matter what you do, there can never be much more than 24 hours in any one given day) – how do you use it?

  1. STOP!

Stop what you’re doing, right now. Go on. Stop. Hear that? That’s the sound of nothing happening. When was the last time you heard that? We don’t stop nearly enough, we move from one task to the next. We don’t stop, take stock, check in with ourselves and see what’s actually going on with us. Stopping is one of the most important ways of keeping check of time. If you stop, you can re-schedule, re-arrange, re-prioritise – if you don’t stop, you’ll just plough through and often times be inefficient by doing so.

  1. ANALYSE WHERE YOUR TIME GOES

It sounds daft, but how many of us have actually analysed our own working practices. We think that we’re always busy (because we haven’t stopped) but actually ARE WE? What DO you spend your time on? Both at work AND at home? Be honest with yourself and you’ll probably be shocked at just how much time is spent preparing for or being in meetings, and how much time you spend sending emails or surfing the internet/being on social media. I find analysing a two-week period should give you a pretty accurate reflection of your average working patterns.

  1. ASK YOURSELF WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU AS A LEADER

NB – from this principle on, we’re going to focus in on you as a leader, but you can also use these principles for your home life too. We’re not just workers, we’re human beings with families that need more of our time too, so I’d strongly suggest that this is something equally as valuable for your home-life as well as your work-life.

Now before you launch into the next stage of saving time, it’s important to stop and think what you WANT to be spending your time on as a leader. You’ll probably have found that much of what you are doing isn’t actually at the right level in keeping with your level within your organisation, and that many of the leadership things you should be doing (planning, strategy, team development, personal development etc) are squeezed out of your busy diaries in favour of the more immediate demands from the business.

By looking through the lens of what you SHOULD be doing, you can then identify what’s the most important things for you to be doing with your time. Give them a ranking from 10 (most important) to 1 (something I really shouldn’t be doing) – this will give you a good starting point for re-prioritising your time going forward.

  1. RUTHLESSLY RE-PRIORITISE

Once you’ve decided what’s important for you to do as a leader, it’s time to get ruthless both with your task-list and what you assign time to. If there are things that are not worth your time, take them out. If there are things that take up too much time, then see what you can do to cut them back. Too many leaders are at the beck and call of their online diaries, rather than being in control of them. As a leader of certain seniority within your organisation you really do have more influence than you think. Take meetings for example: maybe it’s time you took a lead and starting pruning back the amount of meetings back to something more manageable.

  1. MAKE BREAKS NON-NEGOTIABLE

At Meta we’ve been researching into how to work smarter not harder and have been doing do for the past 18 years of being in business. As a leader it’s so important to take your breaks if you are to be effective and work smarter. Fuel is a fundamental to your success – even the computers and smart phones we spend our lives on need fuel (in their case, electricity). They don’t last long if we unplug them from their power source do they? So let’s make sure we stay plugged in and topped up too!

‘But Jo, surely that’s time that I could be doing work. That’s what, nearly an hour everyday that I could be using?’

This is perhaps the most common misconception in modern business. Thinking that working through your breaks and working more hours means you get more done is just plain WRONG. There is ZERO research out there that says it is true. Take your breaks and you recharge and refuel your brain and body that enables it to work at a higher performance level, which means you get more done, not less.

  1. USE YOUR DIARY TO DIARY IN TIME FOR EVERYTHING!

Part of the problem with online (and accessible) diaries is that we don’t put in the things that actually are on our leadership to-do lists. If we did, the likelihood is that people wouldn’t be so keen to fill our diaries fuller. You don’t need to put everything in your diary, but you do need to assign and diary time for things that you have deemed important (in principle 4). Have you diarised IN time for planning? Have you made sure you have thinking and preparation time ahead of that important stakeholder meeting? If you don’t diary in the time to develop your strategy and team development plan, when will it get done?  Excellent leaders understand that it’s important to make time for thinking and reflection – that’s where inspiration and creativity comes in, in those downtimes.

   7.  DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO

Let me re-introduce you to a word in the English language that is woefully underused right now within organisations – NO. It’s time as leaders to say NO more often, not in a negative sense but so that those above you can understand what IS and what ISN’T possible. You will need to be brave, admittedly, but a polite no, with reasoning/explanation as to why, can help to at least make those in power stop and think before launching into the big what next.

  1. SAVE TIME – GO TALK TO PEOPLE

Since the advent of emails, communication in organisations has got worse not better. Spend one week analysing how much time on average you spend composing and writing emails and you’ll quickly realise that it’s one of the top drains on your precious time.

Go talk to people! Not only will you spend less time doing that, but you’ll also be building the relationships that will enable you to have a short-hand with those that you need to work with to get stuff done. A workplace is a social-network, it’s a living system – so be a positive ripple and get out there and be social!

  1. USE YOUR PEAK & DEAD WORKING TIMES

We are human beings, and as such we have peaks and troughs in any given day. However research has shown that actually we have pretty consistent PEAK and DEAD working times. In the 3-hour PEAK working time your brain is functioning at its absolute best and it’s a great time to put all the more complex tasks and tasks that require that bit more brain processing power. Your DEAD working time is when your brain is flagging. This is the time in your day to be doing the more menial and less challenging tasks from your leadership to-do lists. What is fascinating is that research shows you can get up to twice the amount done in your PEAK working time as in the whole rest of your day – so make sure you’re maximising your effectiveness by building your diary and task lists around them.

  1. MEETINGS WITH M.E

In your new smarter working week, the most important meetings you will have will be with M.E (me). These are the meetings that give you breathing space in your work diary, the 2 x 1 hour windows in any given week that can be used for whatever emergency that week throws up that put extra demands on your time. It means there’s time for the unexpected, should you need it, and if not? Then there’s time that can be utilised to do those things that you’ve never quite got around to doing. It’s quality time, for you to use the way you see fit.

It’s important to state here, that I’m not encouraging you to go rogue, to be the maverick leader who’s always saying NO, but to start showing those that matter in your organisation that by following these simple principles  actually you can deliver more at a higher level by working smarter not harder. Follow these principles and your organisation will see the benefit, because you will feel more in control and be using your time for that which matters most – to LEAD.

At Meta we want to challenge what has become ‘normal business practice’. We want to ask the questions, provoke thought and reflection. Yes! AND we want to provide the tools that can help leaders like you to work smarter not harder and be the amazing leaders that the world needs right now.

We are on a mission to change the world of work. It’s a grand mission, but one we take very seriously. We want to support leaders like you to shape and create the workplaces of the future. We want to help organisations like yours to be the example for others to emulate and follow. We help to develop evolved working practices for the modern world. There is a revolution coming in the form of the next generations. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we became the example, the role models, to our children, and our children’s children?

At Meta we want to share our research, our tools and our learning with leaders and organisations that want to excel. If you’re one of those leaders or one of those organisations that want to lead the world, why don’t you get in touch? We’d love to hear from you.

Jo Clarkson – META CEO

Comments are closed

MOVE YOURSELF!

Once upon a time – well, a generation or two ago – we were much more physically active. We walked to school, we played outside, we wandered the streets as children. Our parents used cars less to get from A to B, looked after their gardens, did more physical household chores, watched less TV, and weren’t sat in front of a computer screen for hours at a time.

The change to being more sedentary has been gradual but it has become prevalent, and it is not good for us.

Studies have shown that many people spend hours at a time just sitting in front of computers, in front of TVs, looking at phones and iPads, and in their cars. Our bodies do not respond well to this level of being static. They need physical activity to help keep our organs working properly, our muscles toned, and our digestive and immune systems effective. And our minds benefit from physical movement – when you move your body you move your mind.

Now, this is not the visit to the gym or dance class or swimming pool once or twice a week, although of course those are good for you and help to keep you healthy. I’m talking about regular physical movement during the day, in amongst your work and life occupations.

It has become quite popular to have some from of step counter – a smart watch or app on your phone – and that can be a great way to prompt yourself to move, as long as you spread it out throughout the day rather than cramming most of your target into one small part of your time.

And we need to stretch ourselves to relieve the tension in muscles held in the same position for a long time, give our eyes a break from staring at a screen, and give our minds a break from focussing on specifics.

As well as the benefits to our health, we will also gain other benefits.

We will probably directly interact with others more, which is part of building good relationships. We all know that going to talk about a work issue with a colleague is likely to sort it out more effectively than pinging emails back and forth. And just having a brief chat with someone makes more focussed interactions easier in the future.

And our level of attention on the task in hand drops dramatically after a maximum of 45 minutes, so moving away and taking a short break from it actually increases our productivity.

We can all find ways to move more:

  • Take stairs rather than lifts
  • Go and see work colleagues rather than mail them
  • Make drinks for a few people and bring them into the office two at a time rather than on a tray
  • Go outside for a little while at lunchtime
  • Walk round the block when you get home
  • Move your chair back and stretch every so often
  • And if you need an excuse to move, pick up some papers and walk looking business-like – no-one will question you moving away from your desk!

If you already have built in regular movement in your day, know that this is good for your health and well-being and helps you to work smarter.

And if you tend to sit still for long periods, do start moving yourself a bit more – you will notice the benefits.

Di Kamp, Leadership Director of Meta

Comments are closed

LEADERSHIP INTEGRITY – WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR AS A LEADER?

Integrity is something that no one can fake. No amount of coercion can convince me that you are a person of integrity if you are not. As soon as you ‘relax’ your own values, as soon as you ‘allow’ the bending of your own morals or ethics, as a person or as a company, you can no longer be ‘in integrity’.

So many companies espouse wonderful values: ‘do no evil’ (Google); ‘be open, connect people’ (Facebook); ‘integrity – we work with customers openly, honestly and sincerely’ (Enron – remember Enron?!) – but how many LIVE to those values? The problem is that living to values creates ethical problems – we want to be the biggest and best organisation in our sector, so if we live our values, does that mean we can’t compete?

Integrity etymologically comes from the Latin ‘integritas’ meaning ‘wholeness, completeness’ and figuratively, ‘purity, correctness, blamelessness’ – its very etymology lets you know integrity is not something you can be ‘partially’. It’s all or nothing when it comes to integrity, and sadly more and more organisations are falling short when it comes to integrity.

The modern meaning is even more explicit – ‘honesty, honour, of the highest standards, ethics, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, truthfulness.’

If you have to go ‘find out’ if you’ve opted into something, or find out whether your interest rate has changed this year, that means that your bank or your search engine provider has not been completely honest with you.

Honesty does not mean we’ll tell you if you ask. Honesty means we tell you and are as open and transparent as we possibly can be in our dealings with you – full stop.

So what’s this got to do with you – The LEADER that is reading this?

Well, the latest leadership research points to the fact that the leadership value that people hold above all other things is ‘authenticity’.

Authentic comes from the Greek ‘authentikos’ which means ‘original, genuine, principal’ and its original meaning gives you a clue that when you’re authentic, you have to be clearly ethical and live the values you espouse – i.e.: ‘principled.’

And guess what the second most important leadership characteristic is?

Yep, you guessed it – ‘Having clear ethics and values’.

Authenticity in leadership means being who you are, not trying to be someone you’re not. It’s an acceptance of self and an acknowledgement of strengths and weaknesses. It means being open and honest whenever possible, admitting mistakes, acting with honour and being a ‘real human being.’

So as a leader, it’s important that you have integrity in all that you say and most importantly in all that you do. This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect; it just means that it’s important to be true to who you are and treat all others as you would expect to be treated.

The problem is that right now we are not living our values in organisations, and as leaders we find ourselves constantly having to bend and corrupt our own values in order to stay in favour.

Almost every organisation has a published set of values – go into any organisational reception and you’ll see them framed and up on the walls. Go into the office and you’ll see them on office walls, hanging over desks, on mugs, on mouse mats and, a popular one right now, on screen savers on the computers – they are everywhere!

However, ask the average employee to state the company’s values and the likelihood is they’ll remember a few but rarely will they know them all. Ask that very same employee whether they believe the senior management LIVE to those values and act in accordance to them, and the likelihood is that they’ll say quite simply, ‘No.’

Now I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture of organisational practice right now, but we are seeing a worrying trend of previously value-led organisations beginning to wander away from the path of truth and integrity and allowing their values to slip.

So what can you do as a leader? Well, you can make a commitment today to be a more authentic leader: a leader who admits their mistakes, puts their hands up when they’ve got it wrong or stepped out of line. You can be a leader who stands up for the little guy and tells the truth even when those around you don’t seem to be.

When was the last time you thought about what your values and ethics are? By making a list (and by the way, I strongly urge you to do this as an exercise) you can refer back to it and decide those values that are most important to you, those that you cannot bend or waive.

Most leaders I come across in organisations right now are finding themselves at times hitting up against their values – perhaps it was being party to someone getting a roasting in front of everyone else in the last executive team meeting you took part in. Or perhaps it was watching a staff member being on the wrong side of a badly handled restructure or pay review. Maybe you watched a bullying leader get away with flagrant misuse of their power?

With your own written set of values and ethics you can refer back to, you can instantly remind yourself of what matters to you, and why that particular incident troubled you as a leader.

The problem for many of us is that we are conflicted. We want to speak up, we want to make a stand for what we believe to be right (and by the way, make a stand actually in most cases for the values that are on the wall behind us in that meeting) but we don’t want to rock the boat, we don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker and we don’t want to lose our jobs!

The irony is that I come across VERY FEW (I can count them on one hand still, in the 17 years I’ve been doing this!) leaders who do not want to live to the values that we all hold dear as human beings. Most people areprincipled and want to do the right thing where possible. So it is my belief that by being an authentic and principled leader ourselves, we encourage others to be so too. And for those that forget or slip, I find a gentle (and appropriately timed) reminder will often quickly allow them to come back to their core values.

When we are under stress and overwhelmed, there is no doubt that our behaviours get worse not better. We get grumpy, uptight, snappy – and that’s OK! No-one wants a perfect leader – they want a human being. All that’s important is that we don’t ignore our own behavioural transgressions and we stick our hands up and say ‘my bad! I’m sorry I was out of order yesterday’ – and you know what? Almost always that will make you a more endearing and authentic leader to your staff not less.

In this blog I’m not asking you to go beyond what you feel comfortable with doing. I’m asking you to stop and think what YOU stand for as a leader.

You have influence, at the very least with those that you lead in your team or department. Your staff will look to you to be the example, you ARE the role model to them, and so have a think about WHAT TYPE OF ROLE-MODEL you are being right now.

Are you rushing around like a mad thing, going to meeting after meeting? Are you available to them? Do you take your lunch breaks? Do you create time to prioritise your workload properly? Do you work all hours god sends? Do you work on weekends? Are you open and honest in your dealings with your staff? Do you celebrate your team’s successes? Are you guilty of pinging emails to everyone and rarely talking face to face? Are you exhibiting the behaviours that you’d like to see in your team? Do you admit your mistakes? Do you work well with your leadership team peers? Do you live to your values? Do you protect and stand up for your staff? Do you tolerate behaviour that perhaps you shouldn’t?

As a leader, it’s important to remind yourself that leading isn’t about getting everything done at all costs. Leadership means to LEAD – to forge a path for others to follow. It’s also about reminding people (and you yourself may need this too) what path they are on, and when they wander off path to bring them back to the right path, a path of integrity, that leads to a better place and a better organisation for all.

Integrity isn’t something you can fake. Authenticity in leadership cannot exist without a clear set of lived values and ethics. As a leader you have influence, and you have power – Use that power for GOOD.

At Meta we’ve been helping organisations re-connect to their values and live them. We help leaders like your good self in organisations to become authentic leaders who use their power to empower others. Now more than ever, it’s important to return to the values that enable creativity, innovation, quality, integrity (and yes, profits!) to flourish.

We believe it’s time to work in a way that engages, encourages and empowers your greatest asset (your leaders and your people) to be the very best they can be. It’s time to work smarter not harder and be a force for good in the world. If you’d like to find out more about the work we do, then we’re always up for a conversation, just get in touch – we’re in business to support leaders like you in any way we can.

Jo Clarkson

CEO of META

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed

SEEING THE WOOD FOR THE TREES – WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO GET YOUR TEAM AWAY FROM THE OFFICE

The reality is that, right now, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You’ve got so much to do on your to-do list that there’s barely enough time to get it all done. It’s one thing after another, each more urgent than the last, and time is so precious we feel as though we don’t have the luxury of time to ourselves to think, to reflect, let alone getting time away from the office.

Yet on a personal level, most of us find that it makes a difference when we stop and consider things before we just bash on, and even more of a difference when we talk things through with others, and get some perspective on what’s really important and what really matters.

Yes, there are lots of meetings to go to in most workplaces, (probably too many!) but these are not generally for sharing or exploring ideas and possibilities, they are for information giving, reporting and dealing with immediate issues.

This ‘meetings culture’ in organisations results in several things:

  • People still tend to work in silos – Despite being in a team, most people still do their work primarily on their own, and don’t use the benefits of working together or develop the relationships with others that make that easier.
  • Urgent gets done rather than important– People deal with whatever seems most urgent, and often neglect the important things that would make a positive difference to the culture, their effectiveness, and help to reduce the number of immediate issues in the future.
  • We lose the wider perspective – If people are focussed on what needs to be done next, they lose their perspective on what they are trying to achieve overall, and the consequences of their actions for others who are involved in the process.

What’s the alternative? – Most teams have an away day at least once a year. Too often these are just a lengthier and more complex version of the meetings they have back in the workplace.

But what if they were to use that time differently? – To do things that they don’t have time for in the office, like think things through, reflect, generate ideas and be creative? What if we used those away-days to help us work closer together, develop our skills and build a real team culture?

The benefits of space and time away from the office can be enormous:

  • The team can develop their relationships with each other in a relaxed environment
  • They can look at ways of enhancing their effectiveness in working together, so they get all that stuff done more easily
  • They can reflect on the bigger picture, what they’re trying to achieve overall, and develop ideas on how to do that more effectively
  • They feel valued enough to be given the space to think about something other than their immediate list of things to do
  • The team can make important decisions together, so that priorities are clarified and do not get confused
  • They can explore how best to work together, in order to achieve their goals for the year
  • They can develop particular skills across the team that will enable them to deliver their departmental objectives more easily
  • These developed skills become a shared learning, a common language of development that all the team share, something that brings them together
  • They have the opportunity to look at things that perhaps they don’t have time for at the office, things that are important to the team as a whole, but just not important enough to make the top of individual to-do lists
  • They can come up with more innovative solutions to problems because they are away from the BAU (business as usual) tasks back at the office and have time to reflect and THINK
  • Teams are a living system, a social network, being away from the office reminds everyone that they are not just their job titles or roles, but real human beings and that those human beings are actually rather nice to work with!

We at Meta have facilitated such days for teams in organisations over the past 18 years, and we know just how valuable they can be in helping to create sustainable success in the workplace.

Time and time again we hear the same things: ‘It’s just so good to get away from the office together’, ‘I feel like this has really brought us together’, ‘I thought it was just me that thought like this, it’s nice to know we are all on the same page’, ‘It’s nice to have some space and time to think!’ ‘I can see how we can make this work if we work together on this’.

We all instinctively know that time away from the office together as a team isn’t a ‘jolly’ – (unless you decide that go-karting is the way to go!) – it isn’t a luxury; it’s an essential to the long-term success of the team. Without away days teams become fragmented and individualistic. It is no longer about the team and what the team needs to deliver but ‘how can I get done what I have on my to-do lists, so that I am in the clear’. That may sound harsh, but for many of us that is the truth.

At Meta, we want to change that story. We want to help you to create a team that grows and develops together. Having your away days facilitated by an independent, someone outside of the team dynamics, who is not involved with the organisation, has been shown to make a real difference to the effectiveness and longer-term success of a team away day.

So think about your team away day this year. Firstly, do you have one? If not, you might want to think about setting one up.

Would you like to get the most from that day away from the office? Would you like to develop the working practice of your team? Would you like your team away day to be fun, enjoyable, motivating, productive, inspiring and different? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes please!’ then why not get in touch with us here at Meta?

At Meta we’ve been running staff and team away days for years. We’ve worked with teams at every level within organisations, global to start up, from CEOs and directors to people working on the shop floor. We know what works and over the years we’ve developed and refined our programmes, so that they are practical and easily applicable back in the workplace, thus overcoming that traditional ‘that was a nice away day, and now we’re back in the office, we’ll revert back to the way we’ve always worked’.

Now more than ever we need to be investing in our teams and giving proper time for their development. We love helping teams to realise their potential, and we don’t want your away day to be wasted. We want it to become a way for you to sustainably change the way your team works for the better.

At Meta we truly believe that its time to utilise this opportunity away from the office to its fullest, so that your team comes back raring to go and ready to give of their best. So why not use YOUR away days this year to get more? Use YOUR team away day to motivate, develop and inspire your team – you’ll be so glad you did.

Have a great month everyone,

Jo and Di xx

Comments are closed

BREAKING IT DOWN

The saying goes: ‘The only way to eat an elephant is to cut it into small pieces and eat them one at a time.’ What a horrid saying! It conjures up revolting pictures, doesn’t it! Yet it does capture a truth about working smarter: if anything looks too big to tackle in one go, you break it down.

Now, apart from the unpleasant thought of eating an elephant in the first place, the saying implies that you only need to do this breakdown to objectively big things. Yet in our minds, even smaller tasks can seem daunting. So I would change the saying to: ‘If anything feels too big to tackle, break it down into small chunks.’

Sometimes we put off that phone call or email because it requires more than one step. We have to check our diary first, or find the right phone number or document to refer to. And we’re not that keen on sorting it out anyway! In these cases, break it down: check the date, find the document or phone number, and be pleased with yourself for doing that much. Then you can do the next step a little later.

Almost any task we have to do can be broken down into smaller pieces, so rather than putting it off, and leaving it hanging in the back of your mind – or forgetting completely to do it! – we can just identify the first step we need to take, or one thing we could do to reduce its size or complexity.

And often, when we just set ourselves to take that first step as a task, we find that, once we’ve started, we feel OK about doing a bit more of it. This works because, instead of failing to do it all, we have now done what we intended to do, so the bit more is a bonus – we can praise ourselves twice over!

I find that I get twice as much done if I only set myself easy small tasks as goals, because I feel good that I’ve achieved them so I do some more. It’s so much easier than building up the dread of doing that long, tedious complex task.

So next time you feel your own resistance to starting on a task, why not ask yourself: ‘What’s one thing I can do to get this started?’

 

Comments are closed

THE RIPPLE EFFECT – WILL YOU BE A POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE RIPPLE TODAY?

At Meta we’re always interested in scientific research that backs up our own ideas about how organisations work. Recently we were made aware of some really interesting research done in America on social networks, by the excellent author Dr David Hamilton.

During a recent seminar we attended Dr David Hamilton referred to on-going research that shows that how we interact with others has a lasting and surprisingly big impact on others. This impact is what is known as the ripple effect. This quantum physics term essentially says that how we are in any interaction, has a positive or negative ripple outwards. The surprising thing is just how far that ripple ripples out!

How we are in all our interactions with others (e.g. happy, sad, positive or negative) ripples outwards into our social network. Our mood is like a stone when dropped in a pond. It has an initial impact as it hits the surface and then that ripples outwards across the pond, and actually our mood can affect someone we’ve never even met.

In research done at Harvard University on a social network of 12000 people (that’s a real social network, not a Facebook one) they tracked and measured how the mental health changed in individuals in response to mental health changes in their social network. There were some really interesting results! For example, if a close friend or partner of yours becomes depressed for any reason, it increases the likelihood that your mood will be affected negatively by 93%. It works the same with happiness. A happy friend can increase the probability of you becoming happy by 25%, and a happy best friend can increase your likelihood by 63%. The fact is that we transmit our moods to those around us, in fact that ‘emotional contagion’ can be measured up to three steps away in your social network – that’s your friends’ friends’ friends – And you may not even know your friends’ friends’ friends, but how you are has an effect on them.

Let’s just think about that for a moment in the work environment. Our workplace is also a social network. Every day we interact with different people. Some are in our immediate sphere of influence, our own team, then there are those in the wider team, other departments, other management levels within the business, and then there are those outside of the organisation, our customers, and our business partners.

Many studies show that the success of teams is heavily influenced by the mood of one or two individuals, if a leader is happy, it can lift the mood of a team, and if they are upset or angry, it can lower the mood.

This leads us at Meta to think more deeply about this. To us, it seems there is a simple choice to be made, and yes, we always DO have a choice about this. Every day, remind yourself that actually every interaction is an opportunity to spread a positive contagion through your team and through your organisation.

Think about it, if you’re friendly and positive to a colleague that has the potential to ripple outwards to not only them, but also their team, and anyone else that comes into contact with them through that day, up to three degrees of separation.

Let me put that into some figures for you: Let’s say that there are 10 people that you are close to at work, and let’s say that each of those people have 10 people that they are close to, that’s already 100 people that you have the potential to effect positively, in only 2 degrees of separation. Now when you see it like that, you begin to realise that how we are at work really does make a difference.

So let’s get back to the most basic choice of all. What kind of ripple do you want to be? Do want to be a negative ripple or a positive ripple in your organisation? The research shows that actually the effect you will have will be pretty much similar, so if that were the case, why would any of us choose to be a negative ripple?

In the busy, pressured working environment that many of us find ourselves in these days, it’s sometimes easy to fire off that angry email, or perhaps are curt with a team member or colleague in front of other people. And that is OK, as we are only human, and we’re not expecting you to be perfect here! We are just making you aware of the fact that how you are in EVERY interaction that you make be it face to face, on a phone or indeed virtually via email, has an effect.

So think of the ripples you’re making. They are not just affecting those that you interact with, but also their work colleagues, their department, their customers, and even their family!

Oh yes, that ripple doesn’t just stay at work – it also comes home with us. Think about it, when you’ve had a bad day at work and you come home frustrated and angry, how does that mean you are with your family? Maybe you get a bit snappy with the kids or maybe you aren’t your normal loving self with your partner? This ripple effect thing is a bit of a bugger when you think about it!

At Meta we hope to be a positive ripple in the world of work. We believe that the most productive, effective and excellent teams and organisations are the ones that understand that these things do matter. They see the value in their interactions, and see every phone call, meeting, 1-1 or emails as an opportunity to spread a more positive, friendly ripple out into the world.

If you’d like to know more about the ripple effect and how it can help the culture and working practice in your organisation then get in touch, we’d love to talk to you more about it!

Have a wonderful month!

In peace,

Jo and Di xxx

Comments are closed

CELEBRATING

Meta has just had a party to celebrate 18 years as a company. We are confirmed believers in celebrating and would encourage you to look at what you can celebrate.

It gives everyone a boost in morale, and it reminds us to pay attention to our successes and progress, rather than just focussing on what hasn’t worked or has gone wrong.

Celebrating doesn’t have to be a party. It can just be a cup of tea and a bun for the team at the end of a tough week, to celebrate getting through the toughness. It could be telling everyone to go home half an hour early because you’ve hit a target that week.

It really works well as an agenda item for meetings, where each person says something they’re pleased with or proud of. This reminds people that progress is being made, and also helps to make sure that the team stay aware of what each other is doing.

As well as celebrating progress with the work, you can also celebrate the way your team behaves. I know of teams who nominate a team member each month to have the ‘trophy’ for the person who has best demonstrated the values of that team. This is a great way to recognise that how we behave contributes to our success as much as what we get done.

We all respond to recognition positively. It’s a great motivator. And it doesn’t have to involve great fanfares. Just knowing that someone has noticed that I did a good job, that I handled something well, that I behaved in a way that was helpful and constructive, encourages me to do more of the same. And it contributes positively to the team spirit, helping us through the more difficult bits.

Work can sometimes seem like a hard slog, with just the ‘lowlights’ being paid attention to: when things go wrong, when someone messes up. Let’s balance that by noticing the ‘highlights’ as well, and remind ourselves that, on the whole, we do a pretty good job!

Di Kamp
Leadership Director of Meta

Comments are closed

NEW YEAR AT WORK

As you resume your work after the Christmas break, it is a good time to resolve to work smarter this year than you did last year.

Working smarter is a theme that runs through all the work that Meta does – it is essential if you want to be at your best and stay productive and healthy.

It is not difficult, in fact it is common sense, but we often forget to apply it when there seems so much to do. So what does it mean in practice?

1. Take breaks

If we stop and take a break when we are running out of energy, we give ourselves the chance to recover and become more productive again. Just a tea break, or a short walk can make all the difference.

2. Do what is most important not what is next on the list

It’s easy to just keep going through those mails and wear yourself out with the less important things. If you take a few minutes to decide what you really need to do that day, you are more likely to ensure that what matters most is what gets done well.

3. If it’s a big job chunk it down

If the task you have looks daunting, break it down into smaller chunks. Everything becomes more manageable if we don’t try to do it all in one go, but set ourselves part of the task to do each time, and we have a better sense of achievement.

4. Talk to people rather than email them

It is not only often more effective in resolving things to have a conversation with someone rather than try to do it by email, it is also good for us to have proper human contact in the course of our day.

Even if we only applied these principles to our workdays – and maybe our lives in general! – we would make it more likely that we didn’t exhaust ourselves, and that we enjoyed what we do more.

Keep them in mind as you launch into 2019 – it would be great to make this the year you enhance your care of yourself.

Happy New Year from the Meta team.

Di Kamp
Leadership Director of Meta

Comments are closed

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

This month we have the shortest day of the year and the Christmas period: two things which add to the normal everyday stress.

We all know that Christmas can cause us extra stress: thinking about presents and finding the extra cash for them; preparing the expected feast; and the often obligatory visiting with various family and friends – which also sometimes means travelling in bad weather. A time which was intended to be a celebration and originally a mid-winter time to relax and enjoy yourself can turn into a flurry of activity and duty and cost.

What we tend to be less aware of is the stress of our short hours of daylight. No one likes getting up in the dark and coming home from work in the dark, as far as I know. However, our bodies like it less than our minds. It disrupts our natural rhythms, because our biology is designed to work in synch with nature, not against it. So we have to force ourselves to be active, even though it’s dark, because our bodies respond to lack of daylight as downtime.

So please, be a little more kind to yourselves this month.

Simplify some of that Christmas madness

  • Agree with other grown-ups in your life to just give token gifts to each other
  • Make sure some of your Christmas break is me-time, and just relax
  • Agree to do some of your visiting relatives at a more pleasant time of year

Give your biology some allowance

  • Let yourself have lazy evenings for December
  • Sleep in at the weekend, so at least sometimes you get up when it is light
  • Top up your fuel tank with good comfort food, things to make you laugh, favourite warm clothes – you’re using up more energy than usual

Give yourself the best possible Christmas present this year – be kind to yourself for a month!

May you have a delightful and peaceful Christmas period.

With love

Di and Jo

Comments are closed