Monthly Archives: July 2020

How to beat overwhelm

How to beat overwhelm

 

 

10 tips for getting going on the one thing we should be doing and avoiding the overwhelm

I’ve recently been pruning rhododendron bushes in my garden; ones that had got completely overgrown. It wasn’t a five minute job, but an overwhelming task I’d been putting off for months.

As I was sawing through one of the branches I was getting more and more frustrated that the saw was not up to the job. But instead of stopping to sharpen the saw or get another one from the garage, I kept on going. It was only when I finally relented and went to get another newer saw I realised just how blunt the other one was.

If you’re familiar with Stephen R Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” you’ll know the 7th habit is “Sharpen the Saw”. This was (quite literally) what I was failing to do, and the result was frustration and the task taking far longer than it should.

I was also reminded at the weekend of another book “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, who pose the question “What’s the ONE THING you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

In this case, stopping the task and sharpening the saw or finding a replacement was the one thing.

How often do we not do the one thing we should be? Particularly when we are faced with so many potential tasks we could or should be doing. All those urgent and reactive tasks often take over and mean that we never step back and do the things that could be saving time and effort later.

Such as:

  • Training people in our team to do routine tasks so we can delegate them in future
  • Setting up new systems or procedure everyone can follow to ensure consistency and things don’t get forgotten
  • Rewriting parts of our website so it provides additional useful information for our customers which answers their commonly asked questions

Often the reason these pro-active tasks don’t get done is because they can be overwhelming, or we don’t know where to start.

How to beat overwhelm

So here are 10 tips to help you – or any of your team members – to beat overwhelm – as you prepare to re-open or in the aftermath of your first few weeks of trading.

  1. Make a list of everything that needs doing. Involve your team as they’ll often highlight things you’d otherwise miss. Or, if you’re new to your role, you may even discover some of the work has been done already
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  2. Prioritise your list focusing on important tasks and those which add value opposed to ‘the nice to do’s’
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  3. Often tasks are only overwhelming because they are too large to do all at once. Break tasks down into the smallest possible action. This makes it easier to chip away at the task
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  4. Identify tasks that can be easily delegated and brief the appropriate person. Better still, review your task list with your team and ask for volunteers
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  5. Prioritise and schedule the tasks that must be done by you. You don’t always need to start at the beginning! Identify some relatively easy quick wins to get momentum going
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  6. Set yourself a time limit for the task. If you tend to be a perfectionist, decide up front what will be good enough (and make a commitment to stop when you’ve achieved this criteria, instead of investing a disproportionate amount of unnecessary time and effort into making it perfect)
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  7. Decide how you will reward yourself when the task is completed (even if it’s as simple as allowing yourself a coffee break)
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  8. Make a commitment to someone who will hold you accountable, and agree when you will review progress
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  9. Remove distractions and focus on that task for the time you’ve allowed. Setting a timer and keeping this visible can help
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  10. Stop and review at the end of the time set aside, and reward yourself accordingly 🙂

If you only do one thing

Teach your team how to beat overwhelm. Share the above tips with any team members who may be suffering from overwhelm, or need help getting going on any tasks they have been putting off or are struggling to started.


Show you value your team

3 ways to demonstrate you value your team members

Even under normal circumstances it’s important to show you value your team members; I believe we all like to be valued and our team are no exception.

But, now more so than ever, particularly if they are still on furlough.

This was one of the topics discussed on last week’s Fresh Start programme.

So here are three areas to consider to demonstrate you value your team members, whether they are still on furlough or now back at work.

Respect

One way to demonstrate you value your team is to show them respect. Whether they are back with you, or they are on furlough, but just all those little common courtesies of checking in to see how they are, saying please and thank you. To demonstrate personal integrity with them, to ask their opinion on things particularly the things that are going to be impacting them and things that where they are going to have a view.

Show that you actually care about them as individuals, so it’s not just about the business and your guests safety but also about their own safety when they get back to work.

Trust

If you want your team members to trust you, start by demonstrating your trust in them.

The easiest way for you to be able to demonstrate trust is giving them things that you know that they’re going to do a good job with. So, play to people’s strengths give them things where they can demonstrate their strengths and you’re going to be confident that they’ll do well.

Empower your team to make decisions on things which come under their responsibility; you can’t give someone responsibility but then not empower them to make those decisions. A classic situation is dealing with a customer complaint.

Give people the flexibility to do things in the way that feels most comfortable to them providing of course it’s safe. Very often the way which people work – it’s the end result that’s important not how they actually arrived at that end result.

When giving them responsibility – coming back to those things where they have strengths – if you give people flexibility and ownership then inevitably they’re going to do a better job because they know that the result’s down to them.

Recognition

The third way to demonstrate you value your team members is acknowledging their contribution.

For example putting people forward for awards; it’s amazing what impact that can have. It’s being nominated which is the important factor, not the winning… although the winning of course is really nice if it happens.

Thinking about how you celebrate success. Not necessarily just things at work, but also things which are happening outside of work; personal achievements to them as well. Many people of course while they have been investing in their personal development or maybe taking on new hobbies and interest whilst they’ve been on furlough. So it’s good to be recognising some of those things too.

One final thing I think with all of this which goes throughout the whole of the theme in terms of showing people that they are valued is to say a very sincere thank you. Not a vague and generic thank you, but actually thanking them for some specific contributions, so that they know that we actually do mean it.

So, those are three ways to demonstrate that you value your team members: Respect, Trust and Recognition

demonstrate you value your team

Demonstrate you value your team by Entering Awards

Video: Giving employees recognition



How people learn

How people learn

Creating Conscious Incompetence to help people learn

On last week’s Fresh Start programme one of the topics we discussed was how people learn, re-establishing our expectations and how we identify if someone is already up to standard. Something I’m sure a lot of managers will be doing as their teams return from furlough.

As anyone knows who has had to deal with someone who thinks they know it all already, it can be particularly difficult to get their attention and buy-in.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with how people learn and the Conscious Competence Learning Model.

These are the four stages people go through when they are learning something new.

The learner always begins at stage 1 – ‘unconscious incompetence’, and ends at stage 4 – ‘unconscious competence’, having passed through stage 2 – ‘conscious incompetence’ and – 3 ‘conscious competence’.

It’s not possible to jump stages, so when you’re teaching someone new we need to help them to get to the next stage.

The challenge comes when we dive straight in, but if someone is still at the unconscious incompetence stage – and not yet aware of any need to develop a new skill or behaviour.

Trying to teach somebody something new from this point is the fundamental reason why so much training and coaching fails.

I see this time and again when I’m working with clients. There is an assumption that team members are already at stage 2. In other words it’s assumed that they already recognise any shortfalls or gaps in their knowledge or skills, and the need for change or development.

For someone to learn something new or change their behaviour they need to be motivated to do so, particularly when it requires some effort on their part. Without that recognition they will not be receptive to learning and the barriers will go up thinking “this doesn’t apply to me”.

In some instances people may previously have been at other levels but have regressed to an unconscious incompetence over a period of time.

From conscious incompetence they may simply have forgotten what is involved; from conscious competence they may just have got rusty through lack of practice.

Or from a position of unconscious competence they’ve been doing it so long they’ve picked up bad habits. Or the short cuts they’ve taken on the odd occasion in the past have now become custom and practice.

Or as may be the case right now, you’ve introduced new standards which need to be met.

This can present a challenge for us at times, as to undo a bad habit and replace it with a new habit can be more difficult than creating new habits from scratch.

But a little time invested now, ensuring people are conscious of their ‘incompetence’ and the need to change can save a lot of time and frustration later.

Take action

If you only do one thing: Nip bad habits in the bud to avoid people regressing from unconsciously competent back to unconscious incompetence

Related blog post: Old habits die hard

Related video: Creating Conscious incompetence



 


Spotting problems

spotting problems

Drip, drip, drip

Have you been spotting problems?

During the lockdown you’ve no doubt had to carry out some tasks you’d normally have delegated to others in your team.

I know I have.

And it’s only when you perform those tasks yourself you realise that they’re not as straight forward as you thought…

Maybe the system is cumbersome, the equipment used doesn’t function as well as it should, or the process simply doesn’t deliver the result you want.

Has this happened to you?

If it has, I bet you’re left wondering “Why didn’t they say anything?

When you perform a task every day or every week you probably don’t notice when it takes longer than it should, or doesn’t work as smoothly as it used to. It’s a gradual change so you simply fail to spot it.

So bit by bit it gets worse and worse and we’re blissfully unaware.

It’s only when we stand back and reassess that we notice.

This gradual decline can happen in all sorts of situations:

  • the fabric of your building
  • the effectiveness of your equipment
  • the quality of raw materials
  • a system that’s out of date
  • short cuts or cutting corners on processes which have become the norm
  • IT infrastructure overload, meaning slower and slower response times
  • the morale of your team

Any of these can impact your team’s effectiveness, their well-being and most likely your customers’ experience too.

As we get back to business, as new procedures are put in place and people take on different tasks, now is a good time to review and amend.

Where you’re performing tasks normally covered by others:

  • What works OK but could be improved
  • What is simply no longer fit for purpose
  • Where has the system become cumbersome
  • Where have corners been cut by others
  • What’s missing
  • What’s no longer relevant
  • How can we improve this

Where team members are returning to existing tasks:

Once it’s been a certain way for any length of time unless it causes us a major inconvenience we simply get used to things that way.

Flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a brilliant job or impacts the customer in some way.

This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.

So, ask:

What would they improve if they could? To help people feel comfortable to make suggestions ask questions that allow them to take off the blinkers.

Such as:

  • What would you do if it was your business?
  • What would you do if we had an endless supply of cash?
  • What would you do if you had a magic wand?

Although all these question might result in ‘pie in the sky’ ideas nine times out of 10 you’ll end up with some ideas you can use in some way, and because they’ve suggested them you’ll get far more buy-in to implement them.

Where team members are taking on new tasks:

You have a fresh pair of eyes on the task so make the most if this.

What questions do they have on why they are doing the task or why is it done this way (often it’s simply because you’ve always done tings this way – which isn’t a valid reason!)

Ask them to suggest how they could approach it.

Can they suggest better ways of doing things?

When it’s your own department it’s easy to become protective, oblivious to some of the challenges or frustrations others may encounter. So it’s really important that team members don’t feel intimidated if they suggest improvements.

Prevention is better than cure

Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.

Have a system in place for spotting problems and for regular maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. Encourage team members to report problems promptly when the equipment isn’t performing on all four cylinders, or gets damaged, rather than apportioning blame on them for causing the problem.

Have a process which makes this quick and easy.

Listen to what they have to say

Unless followed though promptly they won’t bother telling you next time.

The longer problems are left unresolved, the less emphasis it places on the importance of their welfare or the customer experience in their eyes and the less importance they will place on their contribution to your business.

Old habits die hard

The longer you live with something the more you become accustomed to it being that way, and the longer it will take for people to adjust to the new way.

Make allowance for this, and test and measure to check the ‘new’ way is working.

Culture for continuous improvement

Keeping on top of these issues is as much down to your culture as it is about the systems.

A culture where it’s OK to speak up if you think something isn’t up to standard.

Where people won’t take offence if someone suggests a better way of doing something.

Where it’s accepted that mistakes happen, the important thing is to learn from it and prevent it happening again.

Take action

If you only do one thing

Spotting problems and making continuous improvement comes from incremental changes. Identify one small change you could make today that will save time, help a customer or reduce effort in the long run.

Related articles: When you stop noticing the cracks 

LinkedIn article: Making continuous improvements