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THE COVID HANGOVER – DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE TO ACT

You’re probably fed up of hearing about Covid. I know I am. And yet, it’s a big mistake to ignore the longer-term effects of Covid on your leaders, your workforce and your organisation. 

At Meta we’re seeing more and more people in our network suffering from the effects of what we’ve termed the ‘Covid Hangover’. So, we wanted to use this month’s blog to talk about what you can do to help mitigate the longer-term effects of that ‘hangover’ on your people and your organisation. 

It’s important to state here that it’s not too late! However, we’d urge you to not wait much longer before you start investing time and yes, resources, to ensure that you, your team, your organisation and your people don’t end up suffering from one almighty ‘Covid Hangover’.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a real game changer in the world of work. Now, more than ever, we need our leaders and our staff to be performing at their best, to deliver organisational Covid recovery business plans, but, after 18 months of the pandemic (supporting their organisations), the simple fact is that most of us have run out of energy. We’re working such long hours, working harder than ever before (this is borne out of the data in research conducted on working hours since the pandemic began), and almost every person we have talked to in the Meta network over the last few months is tired (at best), running on empty (most of the time), exhausted (more times than not) and, in the worst cases, close to burnout. 

That’s a concern to us, because we genuinely care about you! We also know that, with a small amount of help, support and development, you can prevent the worst-case scenarios, and get you and your organisation into a good place – ready for the next chapter of working in a post-Covid world. 

Organisational resilience is a serious risk to every business right now, perhaps the greatest risk – and your organisational resilience (the ability to bounce back and recover post-Covid) is absolutely dependent on your people’s resilience (their ability to bounce back and recover themselves post-Covid). 

As you know, at Meta we love etymology (the root meanings of words, what they originally meant).

The word ‘ORGANISATION’ comes from the same root as ‘organic’ and ‘organism’, it means ‘a whole consisting of inter-dependent parts, a living system’. 

Your organisation (and on a smaller scale your team too) is a ‘living system’. Its success and ability to recover post-Covid is 100% dependent on your people (the ‘living’ part of your system). As it’s an interdependent system, if one area fails (or in the case of the team, more than one person is off longer term, or you experience staff turnover), then unless the rest of the system (or team) can adapt and pick up the work, the system comes crashing down. 

With very little (if any) spare capacity in organisations anymore, as we’ve streamlined our organisations down to the bare minimum of people needed to deliver what needs to be delivered, it is doubly difficult to maintain the balance in the living system that is your organisation. What once was done by ‘two’ is now done by ‘one’ – if that ‘one’ is missing, who picks up the work? 

Then throw in the mix of a hybrid working model, with some people working virtually and some in the office (rarely at the same time), and this means that more and more work pressures are not shared amongst the team (as they were), but rather fall on the individual.

So how on earth do we tackle this? 

Well first of all, we need to start acknowledging that we can’t work how we always used to. We’re working on average four hours longer a week than we did before the pandemic, and the truth is that, although we are working longer and harder than ever before, we’re still not getting everything done (at least not at the level we’d like to get it done). 

We’re working longer hours, and working harder – working through breaks, doing back-to-back (virtual) meetings, re-visiting our laptops and emails in the evenings, and yet, it’s still not enough. 

We need to be working in a smarter way. But what is smarter working? We’ve heard so much about it, but what does it mean in practice? 

Be very clear here, it doesn’t mean using more technology. Having more technology in our organisations has not lessened our workloads. If anything, it’s just led to an expectation that everything should be done, responded to, solved and completed, quicker and faster. It’s just made us go faster and try and do more. 

Smarter working is about understanding HOW WE WORK AT OUR BEST, as individuals, teams and yes, as organisations. It’s about understanding we’re not robots, we’re not machines, we’re humans and, as such, have to manage our performance and our workloads/tasks in a way that matches our natural peaks and dips in an average working day – and matches our own brain’s ability to perform. We need to understand HOW our brain works: how it stores, processes and performs at its best. Then you can instantly improve your own performance and productivity as an individual. 

Then there’s self-management – the bit where we make sure that we’re in the best state possible to do what needs to be done. When we’re flat, when we’re stressed, when we’ve not slept, when we’ve worked through lunch, we’re just not going to perform at our best and so our ability to do what needs to be done suffers. So does the quality of what we do, so does our ability to be creative, to come up with innovative ideas or innovative solutions. An organisation which delivers poor quality, struggles to be creative or innovative, is not an organisation that will thrive in the post- Covid world. 

We need self-management tools that help ensure we get a good night’s sleep, that we understand our own stressors and have ways of reducing the impact of stress on ourselves. We need to understand and work with our human being-ness – really maximise practical ways of improving our performance. 

Then there’s smarter working practices, proven techniques from academic, scientific and real-life smarter working experts, which help you to manage, prioritise, delegate, plan and organise your tasks and workloads so that you can be more efficient. You need to make sure that you’re assigning the most complex tasks to when you naturally perform at your best in the day, and the easier tasks to when you’re not. It’s about carving out the time to do the things that you don’t get time for, but you know are important – this is especially relevant for the leaders reading this. When was the last time you felt you had proper time to reflect, look to the future, think strategically and do more, rather than being reactive? 

We’re so busy, that we struggle to find the headspace or thinking time to look too far into the future, to plan our routes ahead. So, we end up firefighting, putting out fires that we probably could have foreseen and made sure didn’t get started up in the first place – if we’d had the time and space to think. It can feel, as a leader, that it’s nigh on impossible to get everything done, but having worked with many senior leaders and executives over the last five years, I can promise you that with some smarter working tools in your toolkit you’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make. 

But this is not just for leaders, there are so many smarter working tools that can help you, whatever level you work at in your organisation, and now we’re moving to a more self-managed way of working in the hybrid era, we can all benefit from a few smarter working tools in our toolkits and in our working practices. 

Then there’s the problem of capacity – as leaders we need to focus on how our people work going forwards. The likelihood is that, for the foreseeable future, we will not be getting any extra resources while we are in the recovery phase of the Covid journey. So, this means INVESTING in your people, up-skilling the organisation at every level (that you can) to help you through this challenging next phase. 

That future isn’t a long way away. You can start working towards it now – creating a new way of working that works for you and your organisation. The future of work is coming, and in order to make current structures work, there will be a need for a multi-skilled workforce – one that works cross-functionally and has a flexible structure that enables the movement of ‘floating resources’ that can help you maintain the living system (the organisation) and keep it working at a high level no matter what comes your way. 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First of all we need to take some preventative measures, to ensure that we don’t experience the worst effects of the ‘Covid Hangover’, as individuals, as leaders, and as organisations. 

The first thing you need to do?

STOP.

Yep, you heard me. You really need to stop and take time out. 

I was working this week (and last) with a senior leadership team in a large metropolitan council. They felt that, even though we were coming out of the Covid tunnel, they were still in ‘emergency mode’. They hadn’t stopped (quite literally in some cases) for 18 months straight. Meta had offered to do a free workshop with them around smarter working practices, and one of the most common pieces of feedback from the leaders was how good it was to stop and take time out for themselves and reconnect together as a leadership team.

It’s not just leadership teams, it’s all teams and all of us. We need to stop, create a little time (in your busy work diary) for reflection. Can you really carry on the way you are working? Or is what you’re doing, and HOW you’re working, unsustainable? Are you finding it really tough to do everything that needs to be done in normal working hours? Are you stressed? Overwhelmed? Run out? Is it affecting your work-life balance? Are you struggling with your sleep? Is it affecting your home life? 

If the answer is YES to any of the above – then please, please PLEASE don’t ignore your own intuition that says something needs to change. 

This is preventative medicine, it’s like taking a glass of water and a paracetamol BEFORE bed when you know you’ve overdone it a bit. It means that in the morning you’re likely to be OK, rather than struggling to function. 

Although I’m using a humorous metaphor here, let’s be clear, there’s nothing humorous about the risk to you as an individual, you as a leader, or to your business that the ‘Covid Hangover’ brings. There’s nothing funny about your leaders’ and staff’s mental and physical health being affected by what is to come – it will seriously affect your business’ ability to function. 

META – WE’RE HERE TO HELP SUPPORT YOU

OK so don’t stop reading, but this is where we do a bit of self-promotion. Why? Because we KNOW that we can help you! Be you an individual, a team leader, a CEO or organisational leader – we can genuinely help and that’s what we’re in business to do.

At Meta we’ve always been on a mission to change the way people work, and support leaders and organisations to do that. 

Most of you will know Meta as a business consultancy. You’d have come across us through a team, leadership or organisational development journey that we’ve done in your organisation, that you’ve been a part of.

What you probably DON’T KNOW about us is that, at Meta, we do a lot of research. We’ve been (for example) researching smarter working practices for over ten years now. We understood, earlier than most, that the way we were working wasn’t sustainable, that we needed to develop a new way of working – so have an extensive library of smarter working resources based on the research we have been using in the organisational work we have been delivering these past ten years. 

You probably also don’t know that, during the last 18 months, we have been working with frontline organisations and developing a programme we have called ‘Your Resilience Toolkit’ (see link to download information at the bottom of this blog) – a programme of workshops that brings together the very latest scientific research and simple-yet-practical tools (from our years of trying and testing out what really works in the busy workplace) that enable anyone who attends to re-build their resilience, combat stress, and work smarter not harder. 

We believe we have something really special here, and we’d really love to share it with you and your team or your organisation. We’ve had amazing feedback from the organisations where we have delivered this programme.

SO HOW CAN META HELP YOU? 

If you are an individual – If you’re reading this and you are struggling, or finding it challenging/overwhelming to do everything which needs to be done, or if you’re worn out, run out, exhausted – then PLEASE get in touch to talk to us about how we can help you develop your own personalised Resilience Toolkit to help you perform at your best (and mitigate the worst of your hangover side-effects!) You might have been on one Meta programme YEARS ago, but it doesn’t matter to us how long ago it was, or whether you’ve stayed in touch – if we can help, we will, so get in touch! 

If you are a team leader – It’s time to do something with your staff. Don’t delay, don’t put it off. Don’t leave it too late before you act. If you’re too busy, if there’s not enough time, then that’s a sure-fire sign that you really DO need to carve out a space to do something with your team. How about arranging a team away-day facilitated by Meta? We could share some of our Resilience Toolkit with you and your team and, together as a team, you can support each other to implement those tools back in the workplace. We’ve done lots of team away-days over the years and we’re really good at them. 

If you are an organisational leader – We invite you to have a conversation with us. It might be that you ask Di or Jo to coach or mentor you as a leader, or do something wider with your leadership team or organisation. It’s so easy, you just drop Jo an email and say “Jo, we’d like to talk about how we help get our organisation through this next stage of the Covid recovery.” Then we have a frank chat to talk through your options. We will always be honest with you, and make sure that what we propose is tailored just for you (and yes, works for your team/organisational budgets too!). We promise you that it will take less time and will cost WAY LESS than you think to do a really effective re-building organisational resilience programme. 

If you are a CEO/leadership team – During this crisis the biggest pressures have fallen on CEOs and their leadership teams. It can be lonely at the top, especially as most leadership teams have been working virtually. It might be that, as a CEO you arrange some coaching or mentoring with Meta, or it might be that you take time out as a leadership team and do some work to reflect and think about how you create the ‘what next’ in your organisational journey. Whatever it is, please do call on us, we’re here to help. We’ve been working with a number of CEOs and senior leadership teams with their Covid recovery plans since the beginning of 2021. We all need to turn the page on Covid: we need to learn what worked, what didn’t work, and create a new way of working. That’s not easy to do with everything else you need to get done. You need to take time out, away from the office, and have some quality facilitated sessions where you really work together as a team to envision and plan your transition strategy to your ‘new normal’ as an organisation. 

The transition out of Covid is an incredibly important period to your business, and we can help you to create an organisational strategy that works best for you and your organisation. 

IN CONCLUSION

We have deliberately made this month’s blog serious, and provocative, because we think this is something that we all need to be talking more about. We HOPE that it’s stimulated your thoughts and made you think a bit differently about your current working experiences. We also hope that you will now see Meta a bit differently and call on us whilst the worst of the ‘Covid Hangover’ is still preventable. We will do what we can to help and support you. 

That’s what Meta’s mission has always been, to support lovely people like you – so don’t delay, don’t wait until it’s too late, just get in touch. The help you need is only just an email or phone call away 

You can contact Jo direct: jo@metapositive.com

Or call: 07976 262352

In peace,

Jo & Di xxx

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LEADERSHIP TEAM AWAY-DAYS: Why NOW more than ever you need to find the time to reflect, re-set, re-focus and, most importantly, get RE-SULTS!

We’ve been working with a quite a few organisational leadership teams in the first half of 2021, running away-days to help them review, reflect, re-set and re-focus after the challenges they faced in the 2020 Covid pandemic. It’s reminded us of just how important it is to get your team away from the office, especially leadership teams, so we wanted to share why we think now is absolutely the perfect time to book in your leadership team away-day. 

During the last six months we have found that we get the same feedback, over and over again, from the leadership teams we’ve worked with:  

  1. How useful it was to get away from the office (be that your virtual one at home or indeed your organisation’s office now).
  2. How good it was to have some time for reflection and how it helped them to re-gain perspective.
  3. How important it was to reconnect properly as a leadership team and remind themselves how much they have in common – the goals they share.
  4. How they felt re-charged as leaders and how the day away really had re-invigorated the team spirit.
  5. How it helped to give a renewed focus and set clear priorities for the year ahead – a chance to re-set after the difficult year they’d had.

We take that as pretty positive feedback, and of course we love doing these away-days, because it’s absolutely part of our purpose and mission at Meta to help support leaders to be at their best, no matter what sector or organisation they come from. 

Yet so few leadership teams give themselves that time away from the office. Why? 

Simply put, most feel there just isn’t enough time to go away for a day, there’s too much to be done and not enough time, so how can you possibly justify taking your leadership team away for a day? 

There is no doubt that 2020 was a trial by fire for leaders of organisations. There is no ‘handbook for dealing with a pandemic’ in most organisations’ risk analysis and so, as many of our leadership confided in us, most were making it up as they went along, doing the best they could to make things work in incredibly challenging and ever-changing situations. Every leader we’ve talked to said they’d used pretty much every tool in their leadership toolkit to try and get themselves, their staff and their organisation through the unprecedented, unrelenting, non-stop challenges that Covid brought. 

And you know what? In our opinion, you’ve all done an AMAZING JOB! We have been astounded by the incredible resilience of the leaders that we know in our Meta network, and we’ve been so impressed by how you’ve got through this. You made it, you got through – sometimes by the seat of your pants admittedly, but by gosh you DID IT. You should be incredibly proud of all that you’ve achieved in the last 18 months and you absolutely deserve to celebrate now we’re starting to come out the other side of the Covid tunnel. 

But of course the world of work doesn’t stop, and indeed the pressures and demands that were put on you before and during the pandemic haven’t gone away. Many of you had to postpone work or projects because of Covid, and now you’re having to play catch-up and get the organisation back to where it should be. The simple fact is, the rest of 2021 is likely to be as challenging as 2020 for the leaders in organisations because, although we are nearly through the tunnel, Covid will continue to cast its long shadow. 

As a result most of you are still running on empty. You gave 100% and more to get things done and, frankly, now there’s not much left to give. Sure, finally you’re starting to take the holidays you never had in 2020 and yes, you are managing to re-fill your fuel tanks with your week-long stay-cations. However there’s still a way to go and most leaders I know feel that they’re not able to give as much as they’d like to, and know they’re not being as effective or performing at the level they’d like to be. 

That’s where an away-day really does pay dividends – it really is worth your investment of time. Getting away from the office, literally physically moving away, helps you to get more perspective, get out of the detail (or ‘out of the weeds’ as one leader expressed it to us recently) and reconnect to the broader vision. It’s a chance to think more strategically, be less re-active and more pro-active. You can identify what really should be a priority, what needs to be done and when (as a leadership team) rather than just doing things (as individual leaders) because it’s the next urgent thing that comes across your desk. 

This is why it’s so important for leadership teams to get away from the office: to re-gain perspective, re-set priorities, identify potential obstacles and issues that may lie ahead and do a real RE-SET of what really matters and what really needs to be done.

Even just one day away (when properly facilitated), can make a world of difference. It helps remind you that you ARE a leadership TEAM (not just a bunch of individual leaders all trying their best but ultimately not really being a team) and that actually you have a shared vision for how you’d like things to be. There’s a reason you’re working where you are, and there’s a reason why you got to the leadership level you have. One of the great joys of facilitating such days is that we can help remind the leadership team just how much they have in common. How they want the same things, share the same fears, have similar issues, and how between them they have enough knowledge and combined wisdom to sort out pretty much ANY ISSUE that comes their way, and THAT TOGETHER THEY ARE ALWAYS STRONGER.

It’s not easy being at the top. It can be lonely, with everyone looking to you for the answers, for direction, for inspiration. It’s not easy being part of a leadership team either – no-one really teaches you how to work together at the top table. This is made even harder when you’ve been working through one of the most stressful experiences for many generations! However you DID make it through and we think that now, as the return to the office begins in real earnest, and the new hybrid models of working begin to be implemented, is a really GREAT time to take time out for you as a leadership team. 

You’ve given everything to your organisation to get through this Covid pandemic, so we would encourage you to give a little something to yourselves. Not because it’s a nice thing to do, or the right thing to do (although both are true), but because your business, your organisation, your share-holders and your staff NEED YOU TO – it makes sound business sense to. Now, more than ever, you need to be firing on all cylinders, you need to be strategic, future focused and working effectively, not only as individual leaders but also together as a leadership team. 

If you are to make your post-Covid leadership recovery quick and relatively painless, you need to be able to up your game, not just as an individual leader but as a leadership team too. It’s about further developing your way of working together, using the Covid experience as a truly great opportunity to grow and learn and be the best leadership team you can be. That can’t be done at the office with everything else that needs to done, you need to get away, you need… to have an away-day. 

In just one away-day you can re-view the Covid period, reflect on your successes and learn from your Covid experience, re-connect as a leadership team, re-focus on the year ahead, re-invigorate the team spirit, re-prioritise and have a complete re-set. It’s amazing what you can achieve – one day really does get you RE-SULTS. 

So then the question becomes – why the heck WOULDN’T YOU? 

We’ve been facilitating leadership team and team away-days for over 20 years (and Di has been doing this for over 35 years!). We know how to get the most out of your time away, making it practically useful and ensuring that you get the outcomes YOU want from it – it really is amazing what you can get done in just one day. We also do it in the ‘Meta way’, which means not only will you have a lot to take away from the day, but you’ll also have had fun and enjoyed yourself along the way. 

Why not use this blog as the excuse to prompt your boss, your CEO, or your director to start thinking about getting your leadership team away-day organised. Or if you ARE ONE of those bosses, senior leaders, directors or CEOs or CFOs then get in touch and give your leadership team an away-day to remember. 

On Tuesday this very week, we did an away-day with the senior leadership team of a manufacturing organisation, we asked the leader if he’d give us a few words of how the day had impacted him and his team – this is what he sent us: 

“Today we had a day as a leadership team where we focused on how to be an excellent team which was facilitated by Jo from Meta.  It is my belief that people can do anything they set their minds to, so when a collective team are all focused on how they want to work together, then targets will almost certainly be surpassed.  Having worked with Jo and Meta a number of times over the years, this was another great day where he was able to stretch the thinking of the team in a positive and engaging manner that left everyone extremely motivated and wanting to deliver more together. If you want to be part of and lead excellent teams I cannot recommend Jo highly enough to help support you on that continuous improvement journey.” – Simon Coss, Fauretia.

Have a wonderful rest of your month and we look forward to working with you and your team soon!

In peace, Jo and Di xx 

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

META – YOUR SUPPORT FOR LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All our love,

Jo  jo@metapositive.com

& Di – di@metapositive.com

xxx

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WORK – WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Do you love your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a wonderful month everyone,

In peace (and love! :P)

Jo
CEO of Meta

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YOUR NEW NORMAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year – and new normal!

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IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

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

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

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

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

 

We can take a different perspective:

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

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

 

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

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CREATING THE [BRAIN] CAPACITY TO LEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRINCIPLE 3: Move your body, move your mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion…

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

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

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

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

Happy capacity building everyone!
Jo x

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

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

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

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

 

4 ESSENTIALS OF WORKING CROSS-FUNCTIONALLY

  1. Building your cross-functional relationships

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

  1. Planning what needs to be done together

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

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

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

  1. Got a problem? Talk it through!

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

 

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

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

Have a great month everyone,

In peace,
Jo & Di xxx

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IF YOU WANT TO FEEL VALUED – VALUE OTHERS

Feeling valued for the work you do is a foundation for wanting to give of your best. We all respond to being recognised for what we have done, what we contribute.

Yet for many of us, feeling valued is a rare commodity. What tends to get noticed is what we haven’t done or any mistakes we make. After all, if the boss asks us to go and see him or her, few of us are likely to think that they want to acknowledge our good work – we are more likely to worry about what they might say we have done wrong.

So how do we increase the likelihood of being valued for our work and our attitude? We would suggest that you start to value others more: those colleagues you can depend on to do what they said they’d do; that manager who trusts you to just get on with your work without interfering; that person who always makes you smile with their cheerful attitude; that more experienced team member who will explain something to you that you haven’t come across before; the one who speaks up in a meeting, voicing something you were thinking but didn’t want to say.

There are hundreds of everyday examples where someone else makes some form of positive difference to your day. By overtly recognising it, and thanking them for how they’ve contributed to making your day go better, you not only help to make them feel valued, you also are setting an example of valuing others that becomes infectious. By drawing attention to what someone does that is right, you are encouraging them to notice the same thing with others, including you!

I remember being asked by a senior manager to undertake some executive coaching with two of his team. He told me that they were great people to have in the team, and he wanted to encourage them to develop further because they would both be senior managers one day.

When I started to work with them, I realised that they had no idea he thought they were good at their job. In fact, both of them thought they were being coached because there was something lacking in their work or performance – It was a perfect example of not telling people that you saw them as valued members of the team.

I asked them how they felt about him as a manager and they both said that he was a really good manager, and they liked working with him. I suggested that they found an opportunity to tell him that they valued the way he managed them and had learnt a lot from hm. At their next coaching sessions, they both said that they had done what I suggested, and that he had been both surprised and pleased when they had said it. Moreover, he had told them both that he in turn appreciated the way they worked, and that was why they were being given the coaching – a great turn-around for both sides.

So why not try it out yourself? Go and find three people you work with today and tell them what they do that makes a difference to you. Why not make showing someone else that you value and appreciate them one of the daily things to do on your to-do list? There’s a great sense of well being to be had when you genuinely thank someone or let them know that they’ve made a difference to you. And interestingly, just by that subtle act of gratitude, you’ll be spreading that feeling of well being around your team and organisation too.

Have a wonderful month everyone!
In peace,
Di & Jo xx

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SPENDING OUR PRECIOUS TIME MORE WISELY..

We talk about time in the same way we talk about money: saving, spending, wasting, giving, and taking. And of course, time is like a form of currency. We have a set budget each day of 24 hours, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Fortunately, we get a new budget the next day, so we have plenty of opportunity to become better at spending it wisely.

So what does that mean in reality – spending it wisely?

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep is essential to our health. While we’re sleeping, our bodies have a chance to heal and renew, and our minds can process our day and relax. We all need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night for these processes to happen properly and leave us refreshed for the next day. For more information on why we need sleep and getting a good night’s sleep see Jo’s excellent articles on LinkedIn –

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sleep-your-most-vital-leadership-resource-all-jo-clarkson

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sleep-your-most-vital-leadership-resource-all-part-2-jo-clarkson

2. Identify what’s important to you and make it a priority

At work, these are the tasks that matter most that will make the most difference, both to the organisation and to your state of mind. At home, this is the reminder that time spent enjoying your children and your partner and your friends is more valuable than tidying up. I always classify as important those things I would regret not doing if I found out I was going to die next week!

3. Make sure you have some energy boosters in your day

If we have regular energy boosters during the day, we can be more productive and committed to what we’re doing, and we don’t get so exhausted. The first obvious energy booster that sadly most people are missing out at the moment is your 30-minute lunch break! It’s a GOOD use of your time to take that break, not only does it re-fuel you, but it also allows your brain time to re-build internal capacity that allows it to function at its highest level again for the afternoon, which means you.. Get more done! Other energy boosters are things like – 5 minutes laughing with someone, the 10-minute walk round the block, getting some fresh air, talking to a work colleague about non-work stuff, grabbing a coffee with a friend, sit down with a good book or TV programme for 30 minutes. Di had written a great blog all about energy boosters – www.dikamp.com/your-energy-bank-2

4. Be social

We all need human contact. We are wired to connect with other people, and it boosts our immune system to have friendly interactions. That brief conversation with someone at work, having a cuppa with a work colleague, talking with the check out lady at the supermarket, or having a natter on the phone with a friend is time well spent.

5. Have some fun!

Life is too short to miss out on the enjoyable bits! Whatever is fun for you will help to energise you, will enhance your positive attitude – well, it’s just good for you! It may be doing a puzzle, having a laugh, being silly with your children – just make sure you do laugh every day, and build in fun into your every week. Fun is for grown ups too, and having fun and laughing is SO good for your body, your mental well-being and your overall health.

Now even if you do all these things every day, you will have plenty of time left for those necessary things that don’t fall into these categories. In fact, if you do spend some of your time each day wisely, you will probably find you can do more of those necessities more effectively, because you are keeping yourself in a good state.

Now let’s look at some of the other ways we use to describe time.

Wasting time

We often describe something, as a waste of time because it hasn’t been productive – there is no clear result at the end of it. By this we mean a task done, something off that list of ours.

We need to extend this definition because sometimes it is good use of time to do something that has no clear end product. Many of the wise uses of our time come under this heading: being social, talking to work colleagues etc. The basic rule is that if it makes us feel better – more positive, more energised – it is not a waste of time.

Saving time

When we talk about saving time – by going to the supermarket in our lunch hour, by multi-tasking at home, by shopping online – we also need to consider what we’re saving the time for. Since we can’t ‘bank’ that time and save it for another day, I think we could decide to spend it on something that makes us feel good, rather than cramming in a bit more of the responsibilities and duties. Maybe you could just sit in the garden and daydream for a while, or do something else you find relaxing and pleasurable.

Spending your time wisely is making the best possible use of it, so that at the end of each day, you can say to yourself: ‘That was a good day.’

Let’s make the most of our 24-hour budget of time each day – Let’s make the time to think about how we do spend our time, and spend it well!

have a great month!
in peace,
Di and Jo xxx

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