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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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

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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

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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