Author Archives: Caroline Cooper

How important is happiness at work

happiness at work

How to create happiness at work

This week is “Week of Happiness”, so I feel it’s appropriate to talk about happiness at work today.

I am a firm believer that the happier your team the happier your customers.

Happiness spreads and a happy team makes for a better place to work, lower staff turnover, fewer absences, your team are more productive and work better together, and it’s easier to recruit, all of which adds up to lower labour costs.

Although I’m not suggesting that happiness and engagement are the same thing, I am sure the two go hand in hand.

I know I talked about “Mood Hoovers” a couple of weeks ago; the ones who don’t like it when you are full of the joys of spring, when they’ve got out of bed on the wrong side and made up their mind to stay in their miserable state all day, determined to burst everyone else’s bubble and literally suck your good mood, all your energy and all your happiness from you. None of which is conducive to creating happiness at work.

Anyone who knows me well, will know I’m not a great one for formality. But I do recognise that informality is not an excuse to be unprofessional. I believe you can still have some fun and create a happy team whilst remaining professional.

Helping people be happy at work makes them more receptive and engaged (which is important for you) and enjoyable (important for the team).

Although you can’t force people to be happy, you can create a culture where happiness thrives.

Here are 10 ideas towards creating a culture of happiness and making your team more productive.

  1. Like so much in your business, it starts with you. If you are moody, unapproachable, or take yourself too seriously, this inevitably rubs off on others. But I also believe the same can be true if you are happy, that happiness spreads.
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  2. Understand what’s important to each of your team members. Take time to talk and listen to build relationships, and show an interest in them as individuals. Clarify expectations, not just what you want from them, but what they want from you and the job.
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  3. Involve your team. Seek their views and ideas on things that impact them particularly in areas where they have more involvement than you.
    E.g. many of them will spend more time with customers than you and often spot things you might miss.
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  4. Show you care. Be approachable for people to talk to you, but still listen and observe, so you can pick up on and deal with any concerns quickly. Identify where people need support, where they need more resources or a better system. Use problems or mistakes as a learning opportunity rather than apportioning blame.
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  5. Do something fun but with a serious note in aid of charity. It might be a one off to mark an awareness day such as Red Nose Day, Children in Need, or Macmillan coffee morning, or maybe in support of a charity with special meaning for one or more of your team. Or a longer term project in support of a chosen charity throughout the year. This is a good opportunity to bring people together from different departments, and gives people a sense of purpose.
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  6. Add variety. Create opportunities for the team to do something different to what they are used to, to make their day more interesting.  Take people away from their usual environment occasionally (as long as this doesn’t make them uncomfortable or become a distraction) such as holding meetings outside. Break up routine activities with fun energisers and ‘right brain’ activities. These might seem trivial, but getting your team members involved keeps them energized and in a better state of mind.
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  7. Recognise and acknowledge people’s contribution. Remember to say thank you at the end of a busy shift, when someone has helped a colleague, or gone out of the way for a customer. The more specific your thanks, the more value it has. Celebrate successes, not necessarily just things at work, but also things which are happening outside of work; their own personal achievements, or causes for celebration, such as gaining a qualification, passing their driving test, having their first child or grandchild, a big birthday, etc.
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  8. Show you trust your team members by empowering them to make decisions on things which come under their responsibility. Give them the flexibility to do things in the own way, the way it feels most comfortable and natural 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. Particularly with customer interaction, this allows people to be themselves.
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  9. Show your commitment to helping people develop. Not everyone wants to progress, but that doesn’t mean to say they don’t want to be stretched or given opportunities for new challenges.
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  10. Have some fun. Do something as a team (or whole company), whether it’s 5 aside football, a quiz team or trying something nobody has done before, such as I did last year in an archery competition.  Let them choose, but give it your backing, cheer them on and celebrate their successes. Even better if you can combine it by celebrating with a treat. It can be as lavish or as little as you like: afternoon tea, wine tasting, pizza night. Create some light hearted competition with quizzes, games or league tables. Copy some of the gamification ideas you see on apps such as awarding badges, progress charts, treasure hunts.

Take action

If you only do one thing: pick just one of the above ideas that you don’t do already and make a point of focusing on that one thing today.

Video: Happiness in Creating a Service Culture



Managing Performance

managing performance

It’s that time of year again when the acorns are falling, and the squirrels are stocking up for winter.

But, what’s the connection between acorns and managing performance?

Having several large oak trees in my garden I know only too well what can happen to acorns if you leave them on the ground. Either the squirrels bury them, or they get covered over by leaves, and before you know it you have a small forest of oak saplings.

And not too easy to pull up once they’ve got their roots down.

So, the connection with managing performance?

Dealing with performance is a bit like picking up acorns.

If you pick up on problems early enough they can’t “germinate”. But left to fester they become much harder to deal with.

I often find junior or inexperienced managers in particular tend to avoid dealing with poor performance.

Below are 10 principles you can share with them to give them support, but if your team would benefit from some more in depth guidance, this is what I’ll be covering on my Managing Performance Workshop next week.

It’s 3 bite size session of 90 minutes each, over 3 consecutive days (Monday 21st – Wednesday 23rd), and designed with junior managers and supervisors in mind (although any managers who shy away from dealing with performance would benefit).

And if you register before 16th September  you’ll benefit from the early bird rates.

So, what are the 10 principles?

  1. Set expectations, so everyone in the team knows what’s expected of them and why
  2. Be consistent so there are no mixed messages
  3. Address any issues straight away
  4. Conduct regular 1:1’s with team members where you can review performance and any support that’s needed
  5. When feeding back on performance stick to facts, not your interpretation of the facts.
  6. Recognise not all performance shortfalls are down to the individual – there may be other factors at play beyond their control
  7. Use the ‘3E’ structure (i’ll be covering this in detail next week)
  8. Focus on the end result. Your goal is to resolve the issue and improve performance in future
  9. Be mindful of your tone and language
  10. Recognise that failing to take any action about poor performance sends the message to everyone else that it’s OK

Of course, every business should have its own disciplinary process, and I am not suggesting by-passing that. But if you nip issues in the bud hopefully you won’t need to get as far as the disciplinary process.

Take Action on performance

If you only do one thing. Share this list with your junior managers and supervisors and give them the support they need to nip poor performance problems in the bud.

p.s. Book before Wednesday 16th and get the Early Bird Offer of £27 per
person or £97 for a group booking (up to 5 attendees).
After this date registration will be £47 per person or £197 for up to 5
attendees from the same business. (All prices subject to VAT)

Book here now to get the benefit of the early bird:
https://www.naturallyloyal.com/resources/managing-performance-workshop/

Related Video



Suicide Prevention

suicide prevention

Spotting warning signs

Being told a colleague has committed suicide is sickening. This has happened to me twice, and I sincerely hope it never happens again. It was bad enough for me; I just can’t begin to imagine the pain for these people’s families. You keep going over in your mind if there is anything you could have done to prevent it, had you seen the signs, but subconsciously dismissed them?

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 800,000 people take their own life each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. That’s tragic.

This Thursday (10th September) is Suicide Prevention Day. We know that employees have had the added stress of Covid-19, so now more than ever we need to be on the lookout for the warning signs.

I am no expert on mental health, so I asked my colleague Ase Greenacre, a mental health counsellor, if she could share some insights and tips with us to reduce the risk of ever having to hear of a colleague’s (or anyone else’s) suicide.

Ase wrote:

Suicide warning signs to look out for:

Change in appearance: weight loss or gain, lack of personal hygiene, increase in minor illnesses.

Change in behaviour: Increased alcohol intake, drugs, aggression, self-harm, putting affairs in order, emotional outbursts, risk taking that are out of character, sleeping a lot more than usual, stop attending activities that used to be important, stop seeing friends and family.

Intense feelings: Sadness, shame, loneliness, desperation, hopelessness, anger and disconnection.

Here are some tips on how to approach someone you might feel concerned about:

  • Create a safe space for the person/s who needs to talk
  • Find the right time and place Assess the situation – make sure it’s safe for you to approach
  • Approach in as normal a way as possible
  • Listen and communicate non-judgementally
  • Give support and information only (not advice / don’t try and fix!)
  • Pay attention to body language. Use attentive posture, comfortable eye contact, and gestures, expressions, and intensity that match the speaker’s
  • Use thoughtful, open-ended, empathic questions to invite deeper thought and consideration: “How did you feel then? “
  • Remind yourself that respectful empathetic listening is a gift you may giveand it does not mean “I agree with you”
  • When the speaker pauses, you can briefly summarise what you heard in your own words, without solutions (this is the hardest part). When you need to say something: introject, don’t interrupt

MHFA England – Mental Health First Aid in the workplace

Ase also recommends every business should have mental first aiders, in the same way you have a normal first aider.

Mental Health First Aid training is a must for all organisations.  The optimal quota is 1 mental Health First Aider for every 10 employees to provide adequate staff support.

As companies return to the workplace, awareness of the mental health of staff is even more prevalent as the experience and feelings around Covid-19 varies from person to person. There will be many different reactions and behaviours that will require understanding, empathy and patience. Some might also require more attention, and this is where a Mental Health First Aider come in.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course which teaches people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis.

MHFA won’t teach you to be a therapist, but just like physical first aid, it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis.

Adult MHFA courses are for everyone aged 16 upwards. Every MHFA course is delivered by a quality assured instructor who has attended our Instructor Training programme accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health and is trained to keep people safe and supported while they learn.

To become a MHFA you need to do a 2-day training course. Sessions include activities, input and discussions in a small confidential group.  All learnings have value for your work environment as well in your private life.

There is also a 1-day Champion MHFA course which is also a great step towards awareness and support within the company.

You will gain:

  • In-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Learn how to spot warning signs and triggers of mental health concerns
  • Gain confidence in how to approach someone, assist and support them
  • Focus on real skills as well as tips and tools to feel able to engage with this very complex area.

You will receive:

  • Mental Health First Aider certificate from MHFA England
  • MHFA manual
  • MHFA workbook
  • MHFAider badge & lanyard
  • MHFA line managers guide where applicable

How will attending an MHFA course help?

Research and evaluation shows that taking part in an MHFA course:

  • Raises awareness and mental health literacy
  • Reduces stigma around mental ill health
  • Boosts knowledge and confidence in dealing with mental health issues
  • Promotes early intervention which enables recovery

Thank you Ase for your tips.

To learn more or book onto an Adult MHFA course contact Ase directly at : ase@mrtconsultants.co.uk or go to https://mrtconsultants.co.uk/

If you only do one thing towards suicide prevention:

Get yourself or at least one of your team booked onto a Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace course. In the meantime don’t ignore the signs. If you don’t feel you can help, at least point people in the direction of those that can.


How to earn trust

earn trust Why you need to earn trust

According to a recent Harvard Review Survey 58 percent or people say they trust strangers more than their own boss.

This is truly shocking.

If your team don’t trust you, imagine what impact that can have on their performance, your staff turnover, your customers’ experience and your bottom line.

If you want your team to thrive, stay engaged and wow your customers start by ensuring you have their trust, and that people believe you and you will do what you say you will do.

I’ve written previously about demonstrating your trust in your team.

But trust is two way.

How to earn trust

How can you earn trust, and get team members to put their trust in you too?

  1. Show you genuinely care about them, and always have their best interests and long-term well-being at heart, not just business interests.
    A specific – but probably counter intuitive  example – is not giving in to the excessive or unreasonable demands of a customer who is having a negative impact on the well-being of team members.
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  2. Keep commitments. Do what you say you’ll do and avoid making commitments you will struggle to keep; breaking a commitment or promise is a major way to destroy trust, particularly when it’s somethings that’s important to the other person.
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  3. Lead by example, so there are no mixed messages. If you aren’t seen to adhere to the same principles and behaviours you expect from your team this is a sure way to lose their trust. Be of service and support to others in the same way you’d expect your team to be of service or support to their colleagues and your customers.
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  4. Don’t play favourites. No one likes a teacher’s pet and if one person gets recognised more than others or gets singled out for recognition it will certainly not go down well with those who don’t get the same attention (as well as potentially embarrassing the person who gets all the glory).
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  5. Show personal integrity. Lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create trust. It goes beyond honesty.  One way of manifesting integrity and earn trust is to be loyal to those who are not present.
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  6. Demonstrate trust. When you demonstrate your trust in your team you will usually earn trust in return.
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  7. Play by the same rules. Sincere appreciation is an essential ingredient to earn trust. Ensure all your management team all use the same criteria for rewarding and recognising the team’s contribution, so people don’t get confused or feel deflated when something worthy of recognition gets ignored.
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  8. .Habit forming. It takes time to build and earn trust, so if you have new members in your team or you are new to the team, focus on small daily commitments.
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  9. Apologise when you’re wrong. It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it. Saying “I’m sorry” or admitting when you’ve forgotten something or messed up will go a long way to avoid losing trust.
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  10. Trust yourself. Earning trust from others is not enough if you don’t have trust in yourself. If there’s something you really believe to be right you have to show others what you stand for and what you stand against

Take Action

If you only do one thing to earn trust:

Treat your team with the same care, courtesy and respect as you’d like them to show your customers. Listen to them and take on board their requests, and work with them to make their lives easier (which invariably helps productivity and frees up time to improve service levels).

Related video: Do your customers and team feel trusted?



Mastering your Motivation

mastering your motivation

Four strategies for Mastering your Motivation

Mastering your motivation and how you feel determines your behaviour, your results, and effects the people around you. If you want your team to be motivated it starts with you.

Do you ever get those days when it seems the world is conspiring against you, when it’s a struggle to find your motivation?

I know I do!

I’ve left the back door open and my kittens have escaped, a red sock has got mixed in with the white wash, a saucepan boils over, I burn the toast…

Particularly after a long week or a few late nights we can all get a little tetchy, and it’s very easy to start to apportion blame, even if it is just blaming our tools. As the saying goes “a bad workman blames his tools”.

But as I know, there was only one thing to blame, and that’s me!

Although on each of these examples it is just down to me – operator error, we can’t always control our experience.

But we can control is our response to it and therefore the outcome.

Examples of this are when we allow others to influence how we feel, for example when someone criticises us personally, when a customer complains, or when a colleague snaps at us. Or when something happens that’s not aimed at us personally, but we know it will mean more work, or impact the business, such as new government guidelines. Or it could simply be something as mundane as the weather.

I’m sure we can all think of people we live or work with who are “Mood Hoovers”; they are the ones who don’t like it when you are full of the joys of spring, when they’ve got out of bed on the wrong side and made up their mind to stay in their grumpy state, determined to burst your bubble and literally suck your good mood and all your energy from you.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can hurt you without your consent”.

As a trainer and coach I know only too well how the way I feel determines my behaviour, and therefore my results, including the knock on effect on the people I’m working with.The  ‘trick’ to mastering your motivation is to decide, irrespective of what happens on the outside, that I choose to feel good on the inside. We can’t control the wind, but we can learn to set a better sail.

Easier said than done? Here are my top four strategies for mastering your motivation:

1. Start by being outcome focused.

It’s inevitable we get more of what we focus on, so if I’m focusing on something positive, for example “how can I make today a great day?” opposed to “I know today is all going to go horribly wrong!” I know I have a much greater chance of having a good day. My mind is focused on the things I do want.

This strategy also translates well into the workplace, keeping people focused on a positive outcome If people know what’s expected of them, and more importantly the outcome, there is a much greater chance that they’ll achieve it. We start to pick up on the knowledge, skills and behaviours that take us further forward towards the goal, and can adjust our course accordingly.

2. Always playing from a 10.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, that if we approach things from a position of negativity the chances are we’ll end up with a negative result.

So instead of approaching challenging tasks or people from an unresourceful state such as self-pity, lethargy, lacking confidence, confused or expecting failure, approach from a resourceful state such as creative thinking, how you can have some fun, being confident, enthusiastic and energetic.  It’s amazing how this rubs off on even the most reluctant people!

The same goes for problem solving in the workplace – if the boss implies that it’s tough, it probably can’t be done, or that people aren’t up to the task, guess what? They’ll prove the boss right. This doesn’t mean to say that they should make everything out to be easy, but let’s think about how much doom and gloom we’ve heard of late and the impact this has on us.

3. Reframing

When problems arise, (let’s face it, even with the best laid plans things can go array from time to time) rather than trying to blame others, approaching these from a place of independency. Asking “what can I do to improve the situation?” “What’s in my control?” Rather than focusing on what’s gone wrong, seeing it as a failure.

Take the approach that Thomas Edison took, by establishing what you’ve learnt.

This is also a useful technique for anyone lacking confidence coaching situation; learn from it and move on. Developing this approach in the workplace can engender a learning culture, where it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you learn from it and don’t make the same mistake again. What better way to develop people and foster creativity and innovation.

4. Emotion is created by motion

The way we feel emotionally affects the way we feel physically. The reverse is also true. When we move physically, we move emotionally, too. So, our physiology will influence our feelings and the feelings of people around us. This means, if we mooch around all day lethargically, we’re far more likely to elicit negative emotions, than if we’re smiling, making eye contact and making gestures. It’s difficult, if not impossible to be depressed if you stand tall, head up, and with a smile on your face and with deeper breathing. Smiling and laughing make us feel good and happy.

The energy we put into our actions will be reflected in the energy of those around us.

It is remarkable to see how our behaviours (winning or not) have a knock on effect on the people around us, and the results we ultimately achieve. And I’m sure that if you were to ask any of your colleagues they can certainly tell when you’re playing from something other than a ten.

What winning behaviours do you, or could you, adopt to master your motivation?

Take Action to Master your Motivation

If you only do one thing: The next challenge you face today ask the question “What’s within my control, and what can I do to resolve the problem or improve the situation?”

Related video Choose your Mood

Related article Misery Loves Company



How to engage employees returning to work after furlough

How to engage employees returning to work

Conducting return to work one to one meetings to engage employees returning to work after furlough or working from home

As more of your team return to work, they will probably be returning with a mix of emotions. Some will welcome getting back to some routine, others may have missed to social aspects of work, and others are just relieved they still have a job to come back to.

But despite that, many will have concerns about their long term future. Some may be uncomfortable about changes to their role, and some may be anxious about their safety, either within work or on their journey to work.

If left to fester, these concerns can have a big impact.

Not just on the person concerned, but as this gets picked up by colleagues, it can have a knock on effect on how they feel and how engaged they are too.

All of which ultimately has an impact on productivity and your customers’ experience.

One way to help engage employees returning, is to conduct return to work 1:1 meetings with everyone. This is something I’ve been helping a couple of my clients with over the past few weeks.

Unlike a regular one to one (which are always important to engage employees at any other time) these won’t focus so much on reviewing performance, but will be geared towards looking forward.

Here is the 7 step CLEARER framework I’ve created to engage employees returning to work

1. Connect

The easiest way to make a connection is to ask about their time on furlough. What have they been up to? What’s been good about their time at home? Have they taken up any new hobbies, discovered or rediscovered things that are important to them or activities they enjoy, have any of their priorities in life changed as a result of time away from work?

2. Listen

It’s important to discover how they feel about being back at work. What concerns do they have, what questions about the business, their role, new ways of working? Some people are very good at putting on a brave face; listen to their tone and watch their body language. Listen out for the things they don’t say or any questions they avoid answering. You may need to do some ‘fluff busting’ to get to the heart of any concerns. (Fluff busting works well in any situation when it’s important to get to the heart of the matter)

3. Establish expectations

It’s inevitable that some ways of working and duties will have changed. If there are duties that used to be part of their role that are now less of a priority, explain why this is. If these were tasks they did well or took a particular pride in doing, be sensitive to how you handle this, so they don’t get the impression that their previous efforts were not appreciated.

4. Agree any actions

As a result of your discussion they may have some suggestions, so make it clear how these will be actioned, by whom and when. Check what they need from you, and your commitment to do what’s needed, so you both know where you stand.

5. Reassure

Let them know you are there to support them, and to come to you with later questions, concerns or suggestions. Reassure them of your commitment to their safety and ongoing support.

6. Enthuse, excite and energise

It’s all too easy to dwell on the past few months. Behaviour breeds behaviour, so demonstrate your enthusiasm and excitement about the opportunities ahead.

7. Review date

Set follow up dates with everyone. Even though you’ve told them you are there for them, some would never initiate a conversation or come to you for help unless it’s in the privacy of a scheduled one to one meeting.

Of course, don’t forget those team members still on furlough or working from home. It’s still important to maintain regular contact with them too.

If you only do one thing to engage employees returning to work:

Get a date in the diary today to sit down with each of your team on a one to one basis. Then stick to it!

Here’s a short video on conducting back to work one to ones (which I recorded before creating the CLEARER framework)



I didn’t have time

I didn't have time

 

 

How often do your team tell you “I didn’t have time to do that”?

Now more so than ever, with extra demands on your team with additional safety procedures, you’ll probably hear “I didn’t have time”

Irrespective of Covid precautions, how often have you asked someone to complete a task only to discover some time later that it’s not been done because they tell you “I didn’t have time”?

I’m sure it’s happened to you, and I’m certain your managers and supervisors hear this ‘excuse’ all too frequently.

And no doubt at some point you’ve been the one saying “I didn’t have time”!

In fact, it’s one of the biggest barriers I come across when I’m helping businesses make improvements either in their customer service culture or with management development; i.e. when people believe they don’t have enough time to devote to the actions they know they need to take.

It can be very frustrating for anyone when they know what’s expected but they feel under pressure to do the task to standard. And when they feel under pressure one of four things can happen:

  • They simply don’t do the task in hand
  • They do it, but cut corners in that task or try to make time by cutting corners elsewhere, either way resulting in silly mistakes or not completing either task to standard
  • They drop another task to make time
  • They complete the task but only by having to put in extra time, which puts them under duress

In last week’s blog I shared some tips on helping people get going on overwhelming tasks, but what if it’s simply routine recurring tasks which aren’t getting done?

If you or your duty managers are hearing “I didn’t have time” from any of your team it’s quite possible that the person doesn’t see the value of the task in hand, in which case it’s important you highlight why it’s important.

However here are 5 other considerations to help you see that the task gets done:

1. Conflicting priorities

Assuming people in your team now have additional duties since returning to work, what tasks have you dropped to make way? People who have been doing the same job for years, will no doubt have a set routine and tasks they’ve always carried out, and unless they are clear which of these are now a lower priority, they’ll very likely feel the need to carry on with these.

If these are tasks in which they’ve always taken a pride in doing well, these may be things it’s difficult to drop.  Telling them not to bother with It any more can give the impression these tasks weren’t valued, or the standards they’ve maintained aren’t appreciated. So tread carefully.

If team members report to different managers on different shifts, ensure each and every manager is placing the same level of importance on each task.

2. Reactive tasks, distractions or interruptions

All too often important tasks can take a back seat due to the number of re-active tasks people have to deal with.

As with the overwhelming tasks discussed last week, https://www.naturallyloyal.com/how-to-beat-overwhelm/ help team members schedule time for important tasks, which might mean that others in the team have to be the ones dealing with the reactive tasks at that time.

Distractions can of course come in the form of time wasting activities such as extended breaks, too much socialising, or running errands for people that have nothing to do with their responsibilities, in which case it may be necessary to go back to the importance of the task or review conflicting priorities.

3. Takes too long

If you believe there should be ample time to complete all their tasks, it’s worth analysing how people approach their tasks and if any (or all) are taking longer than they should.

Are they approaching the task in a round about way? If so maybe some retraining or guidance is needed. Or their expectation is for perfection, above and beyond what is really necessary. Are they disorganised so have to keep to-ing and fro-ing to gather the tools or resources they need for the task?

4. Poor systems or equipment

Tasks can take longer than they should (or simply be put off indefinitely) if people have tools or resources that aren’t up to the task. (see last month’s post on Spotting Problems

5. Bottle necks

If your team members are dependent on others – colleagues, suppliers or customers – are these causing bottlenecks in the process?

For example, if someone can’t finish a task until a supplier has delivered one of the tools or resources for the task, and this doesn’t arrive until minutes before the end of their shift, that might leave the task incomplete when they leave. So the issue here is more to do with when orders are placed or delivery times with the supplier.

Take action

If you only do one thing. Next time someone tells you they have not had time, ask questions to analyse if it’s down to one of the above reasons.

Related video: I didn’t have time on YouTube


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