I’m a Perfectionist…

Actually, not me. I am far from being a perfectionist. I do feel a little sad though, when I meet people in my coaching engagements and workshops who tell me that they are perfectionists. Perfectionism after all, is simply a strategy of procrastination. And it’s a strategy that can work ‘too well’ allowing people to put off doing and achieving the things they should.

Before I continue with this article, I would like to clarify: the type of perfectionism / procrastination I am referring to here is not the procrastination of ‘starting quickly and continuing slowly’ as described by Adam Grant in his TED Talk The surprising habits of original thinkers. There is great value in this concept of starting work on something and then taking a break (procrastinating a little) before continuing. I have learned the value of slowing down and have found my best ideas come to me when I have a problem or a concept to work on and then let it sit in the back of my mind for a day or two. The type of procrastinating I am referring to here is when you know you have something that you need to do or should do and continue to delay getting started, like Tim Urban describes in his TED Talk, Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

So, why do people procrastinate?

There can be many reasons. Sometimes it is because people want things to be ‘just right’; the right time, the right environment, the right person. Well, guess what? If you keep waiting for the right time, the right situation or the right person, it or they will never arrive. Never. Ever. You will always find some reason to put off what needs to be done. The stars are not going to align perfectly, signalling that now is the right time to do whatever it is you need to do. And think of all the potentially great opportunities and adventures you may be missing out on!

Let me give you an example. I have a friend who was engaged by a small business owner to market their products and services. This was an existing business that had done well for a while, and now they were struggling. There was one particular product that this business owner wanted my friend to market, as it had the potential to provide a great return on her investment. My friend dutifully began her marketing campaign and literally within days, enquires and sales for this particular product completely skyrocketed. The business owner then called my friend in a panic. She wasn’t sure that she wanted her to market this product anymore. My friend was perplexed? ‘But this is what you asked me to market. This is what you have engaged me to do.’ It turned out the reason the business owner was concerned was because she didn’t think her product was ‘perfect’ yet.

Oh my! It is incredibly unlikely that any product or service you ever produce is going to be perfect! Look, deep down you really do know that nothing will be perfect, don’t you? Sure, aim for excellent or fantastic or awesome, but the only way you are even going to achieve that is by getting out there and selling your products and services, starting to climb that mountain or writing that book/memo/report. It won’t be perfect. In fact, the only way you can get to excellent or awesome is to get started, do what needs doing and learn from the mistakes, feedback and suggestions you get along the way. My blogs and articles are not perfect and I don’t expect them to be perfect, but if I felt I couldn’t write and publish them until they were perfect; well, you already know the answer. They would never be finished and they would never be published.

If you do find yourself procrastinating, the first thing to do is to identify why you are doing so. There are generally three reasons for procrastination:

  • You are concerned that the finished product won’t be to a high enough standard (yours or someone else’s standard)
  • You don’t know how or where to start
  • It is just too boring or unpleasant and you would simply rather do something else

Awareness enables choice. One we are aware of our own behaviours and thought processes we can then choose to do something about them. If you recognise that you do tend to procrastinate, reflect on the reason why and then consider strategies to overcome this reason.

If you are interested in learning more, strategies for overcoming procrastination will be covered in my Working Smarter workshops, which will be available in 2019.

Jeff Bezos doesn’t play Candy Crush

Ok, so I admit, that is a fairly audacious statement to make. In reality, I don’t actually know if Jeff Bezos plays Candy Crush or not. (Jeff, if you are reading this, feel free to reach out and let me know one way or the other 😊 )

But think about it… consider people like Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Simon Sinek, Barrack Obama or ‘insert your own favourite Thought, Business or World Leader or Successful Entrepreneur here…’. Do you really imagine that they are spending their downtime playing Candy Crush or filling their evenings bingeing on Netflix? I suspect they are using their downtime a great deal more intelligently.

Most of us would love to be more productive, creative and innovative, and yet in our downtime we aren’t giving our brain the time, space and opportunity that it needs in order to be productive, solve problems and to innovate.

So ask yourself, how do the world’s busiest, creative and most successful people use their time, particularly their downtime, in a way that enables them to perform at their best? (I suspect that even Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t spend his evenings scrolling through his Facebook feed…)

Here are three suggestions:

Firstly, move more. Our bodies didn’t evolve to spend 8 hours (or more) sitting down, and, when you think about it, our lives were a great deal more manual and physical until about 100 years ago. It is only a blip in the history of our evolution that we have spent so much time sitting. Movement is the best exercise for your brain. Exercise reduces the risk of dementia, acts as an anti-depressant and regulates our mood (think how good you feel after you have been for a walk or a run). Going for a walk outdoors (without your phone, music device etc…) gets you away from the screens and into nature. You will do your best thinking then. I know some of my best ideas have come to me when out for a walk.

Secondly, create more uninterrupted quiet time in your life. We live in a noisy world and all too often have our phones within arms reach and our brains on high alert waiting for the next ping or buzz to let us know we have a new message or email. I see some people grab their phone when this happens as though their lives depend on it! Being on high alert all the time creates stress and too much cortisol (a stress hormone) which causes the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with learning and memory) to shrink. Try having phone free evening or weekend. You will be surprised at how often you go to reach for your phone at first. Spend the time instead reading or gardening or doing those odd jobs around the house that you never seem to find the time to do. Take the kids to the park and leave your phone at home (shock, horror!). But what if there is an emergency you ask? Just think for a moment about the last month or year, exactly how many emergencies did you have to deal with on your night off or your day off? And if you did find yourself dealing with countless emergencies in your own time, then that is a whole other conversation that we need to have. Let your brain have the break it needs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself with a solution to an issue that has been bothering you.

Thirdly, spend time connecting socially with others. Humans have a fundamental need for connection (yes, even us introverts need connection at times). Apart from being the number one predictor of longevity, social connection reduces the effects of stress and engages a range of cognitive functions such as thinking, feeling, reasoning and intuition. And when you are connecting with others; be present, be mindful and really be there. One thing I have read about Jeff Bezos is that he is surprisingly present and rarely distracted by his phone. In Jeff’s words ‘when I have dinner with my friends or family, I like to be doing whatever I am doing. I don’t like to multi-task’. So, I figure if one of the world’s busiest, creative and most successful entrepreneurs can leave his phone alone while enjoying time with his family and friends, then it isn’t too much of a stretch for us to do the same.

So, give your brain a break and switch off so that you can switch on all the learning and creativity centres of your brain. Who knows what you might be able to achieve?

Double your Life!

Would you love to have more time? Would you like to double your life?

Sounds pretty good to me.

Do you remember when you were a young child, say somewhere between the ages of six and eleven, when a year seemed to last forever? The school holidays, and in particular, the summer holidays seemed to last for a year? Now as an adult, the years seem to fly by, and every year seems to go by even faster than the last!

Well, I have a theory about this.

Children are naturally mindful. They are not thinking about what happened yesterday, they are not worrying about what they are going to do tomorrow or next week. They are living completely in the present. Enjoying their day and fully absorbed in whatever it is they are doing right in that moment. As adults, even when we are ‘taking time out’ we are still thinking about other things. The disagreement we had with someone the day before, or thinking about what we have to do either later that day or when we return to work. The truth is, we are rarely ever truly ‘present’.

Research by Harvard Business School has found that people are ‘lost in thought’ about 47% of their waking hours. According to their research, ‘people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.’

Our thinking is often consumed by the past and the future. From a mindfulness perspective, embracing the present is about learning to engage in the moment and be completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Our brain can drive us crazy with its myriad of thoughts, and one of the tricks to reducing our levels of stress is to recognise that we don’t have to respond to every single one. We can choose what we want to focus on.

Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept founded thousands of years ago. A modern explanation is as follows: ‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ This is how it has been described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In more recent times, the western scientific community has become supportive of mindfulness and its relationship with our overall sense of wellbeing. Mindfulness is the ability to observe your thoughts and emotions without necessarily becoming them. This links back beautifully to emotional intelligence and the skill of self-awareness. Mindfulness (just like self-awareness) helps you to observe your emotions without judgement and assume an open, curious and problem-solving approach to managing them. By slowing down and living more thoughtfully and gently we have a greater sense of calm and wellbeing.

Mindfulness is not just about meditation and breathing or relaxation. It is also not about ‘emptying your mind’. Some people mistakenly think that mindfulness or meditation is about not thinking about anything. That is not the case and Andy Puddicombe explains this well in his TED Talk, 10 Mindful Minutes, when he says, ‘It’s more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgement, but with a relaxed, focused mind’.  Being mindful means being able to truly focus on the task at hand and be present. It means letting the thoughts that wander into your mind simply pass by, observing them as distractions and not becoming caught up with them. This helps you give your attention and full focus to the job at hand and be more productive. Incorporating mindfulness into everyday life and activity will allow you to develop a healthy perspective of the way you view the world generally. This enhances our sense of happiness, mental health and levels of resilience.

While I cannot lay claim to being an expert in mindfulness, I do practice five minutes of mindful and regulated breathing each morning before I start work. Practicing regulated breathing helps improve our ability to manage stress. Slow breathing allows us to increase the variability of our heart rate to decrease stress, improve focus and build resilience. Our breathing rate affects our heart rate patterns, which affects how our brain deals with stress. And all these processes are highly interconnected. While it’s difficult to directly control your heart rate, or your brain function, you can control your breathing rate. By regularly slowing your breathing down, you can improve your heart rate variability, which will allow your brain to more effectively deal with the stressful situations you encounter. Even when I worked as an employee in an office, I would start my morning by spending time in an available meeting room, undertaking mindful breathing before going to my desk and starting my working day. After those five minutes, I always feel amazing. I feel alert, re-charged and ready to take on whatever it is I am doing that day. My head feels clear and my energy levels are great.

Often in my training programs or coaching sessions, when I suggest to people that they take five minutes out of their working day to practice a bit of mindful meditation they will tell me that they don’t have the time. You don’t have five minutes? Well actually, you do. If you have time to make a coffee, you have time for a little mindfulness meditation.

Honestly, when you make time, you create time. Don’t believe me? Try it and let me know how you get on.

What’s wrong?

What is wrong?

I don’t mean, ‘what is wrong with you?’

I mean, what is ‘wrongness’? What makes something wrong?

Think about that for a moment and describe what is ‘wrong’ without coming up with an example. See if you can articulate what makes something; a behaviour, an action, a point of view etc, wrong?

I am sure that there are some truly awful things in this world that I would whole heartedly agree with you are wrong. In this context I am asking you to consider things such as your everyday interactions with other people. Think of a work example such as; a decision made within your organisation that you feel was wrong, a conflict you are experiencing, or a colleague’s actions or behaviour that you don’t agree with. If you can’t think of a work example, think about different views and beliefs on topics such as; religion or social norms, how to treat others, vaccinating, climate change, how to raise children or euthanasia.

Think about the last time you were ‘wrong’ about something. How did you feel when you realized you were wrong? Did you feel; embarrassed, annoyed, enlightened?  Whatever you felt, you felt that after you realised you were wrong.

Not before.

Before you realised you were wrong, you were probably fairly confident that you were right.

There is a brilliant TED Talk by Kathryn Shultz, ‘On being wrong.’ She articulates so beautifully what it feels like to be wrong and the mental processes that we go through when we believe that we are right and someone else is wrong. I highly recommend it.

People will often tell me that they don’t like conflict. (I suspect most people do not particularly enjoy conflict!). Because of this, they avoid having conversations with other people about things that should be addressed. They do this because they believe that having the conversation will cause conflict. I think the potential for conflict is only there when we believe that we are right, and the other person is wrong. I believe that if more people went into conversations about issues they would like addressed, with a genuinely open and curious mind, and with a view that there could actually be another perspective here, that most conflicts would be avoided.

In my workshops when we are covering the topic of difficult conversations or conflict, I take my participants through an exercise which really demonstrates to them (many of them for the first time) that there is another perspective that they haven’t considered.

For those of you reading this article, I would like to ask you to consider two things next time you feel so absolutely sure that you are right about something.

The first is the fundamental attribution error. This is the tendency people have to overemphasis personal characteristics and ignore situational factors when judging other people’s behaviours and actions. Because of the fundamental attribution error, we are more likely to believe that others do wrong things because they are bad people. However, when we think about our behaviour or actions we focus on situational factors.

For example, if someone cuts us off while driving, or jumps the queue at the local bakery, our first thought might be “What a jerk!” instead of considering the possibility that the driver is rushing someone to the hospital or airport, or that maybe they were distracted and honestly thought they were next in line. On the flip side, when we cut someone off in traffic or jump the queue, we tend to convince ourselves that we had to do so.  We focus on situational factors, like being late to a meeting, and therefore justify our behaviour or actions.

The second consideration is to simply ask yourself the next time you are completely convinced that you are right;

‘Could I be wrong?’

Just pause in the moment and ask yourself

‘Is it possible that there may be another perspective here?’

Trust me….

In my business, I work with teams on a regular basis, to help them enhance their cohesion, performance and productivity. Usually when I meet with a team for the first time I will ask them, what they consider to be the number one dysfunction of either their team or teams in general. Every time I ask this question, I can pretty much guarantee what their response will be. In almost every scenario the reply I receive is, communication. By this they mean, a lack of communication or poor communication. This is interesting, because a lack of communication or poor communication is actually an outcome of the number one dysfunction in teams, which is a lack of trust.

Think about it for a moment. If you and I are work colleagues and we don’t trust each other, then we are unlikely to share information and ideas, collaborate and help each other out, or discuss our fears or concerns. If I don’t trust you and you question my ideas, then I am more likely to see this as you questioning my capability or competency rather than assume you have a genuine reason for your query. Trust generates confidence. A lack of trust generates suspicion. Gandhi explained, ‘the moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.’

A lack of trust causes more than just a lack of communication. It also costs money. When you think about it, a lack of trust often creates more rules, regulations, processes, administration and monitoring. By way of example, a lack of trust around the intentions of people at airports, now means we have much longer queues and a great deal more screening, with a much larger number of people being employed to manage these processes. Naturally you may suggest that this lack of trust is warranted in the airport context, and I agree, I would prefer to travel safely when flying. But think about this in the context of your own work environment. Are you spending more time filling out the paperwork than delivering the baby?  (naturally apply this analogy as appropriate within your own setting).

So, how do you know if you and your colleagues have trust? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric said, ‘You know it when you feel it.’

Think about the people that you trust. Consider how you interact with those people and how much you share with them. Now think of someone that you do not trust and reflect on how you interact with that person and what you do and do not share. Is there a difference? Of course there is. The question then becomes, is that lack of trust warranted, and can I do something about it? Particularly in the work environment, mistrust tends to come from misunderstanding.

One last question that I invite you to consider is.…Who trusts you?

Actually, you do have time….

Do you need more time? Do you want more time to do the things you really want to be doing?

Well, some tough love here: please stop telling yourself and others that you are so busy. The reality is, if you don’t have time to do something, it simply isn’t a high enough priority for you. The reality is that ‘I don’t have time’ means, ‘It’s not a priority for me.’

I remember reading somewhere that in the 1950’s a person’s status was indicated by the amount of leisure time they had. The more free time, the higher their perceived status. These days, it seems like it is the other way around. People tell themselves and others how busy they are. It is like a badge of honour. Telling themselves and others how important and needed they are. Is that really the case? When people tell me how busy they are, I don’t feel impressed, I genuinely feel quite sad because I know that more often than not, they are creating this ‘busyness’ for themselves.

Some people tell me that every minute of their working day is taken up with meetings, meaning that they only get to do their actual ‘work’ at night or on weekends. Really? Is every minute of every work day taken up with meetings that you must attend and therefore taking you away from being able to get things done? If so, then maybe you should reassess your employment, or have a good talk with your manager. And how critical is it that you actually do attend every single one of these meetings? If you answered ‘critical’, then ask yourself what would happen if you were sick one day? Or you had a major event in your life like getting married or a child of yours was getting married and you needed to travel for the event? Or how about an overseas trip that you had booked 12 months before? What would happen to those meetings then? Would the meetings be unable to go ahead? Would you never be able to get the information that you might have ‘needed’ from the meetings that you missed? Would the business/organisation be unable to cope without you?  Actually, somehow, they would go on (yes, that is sarcasm you just read 😊).

Look, I have been there myself, so I know exactly what it feels like and how convinced you can be that you are ‘so busy’. Fortunately for me, at the height of this busyness, when I felt so overwhelmed and could not see any way out of it, I read two excellent books (yes, somehow in the middle of all that ‘being busy’ I managed to find the time to read a book or two). One of those books in particular was literally life-changing in terms of managing my time. That particular book is Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy. I read that book, and literally the next day started putting many of the strategies into place and immediately found that I had more time. Immediately.

To quote the back cover of my copy of Eat that Frog!:There just isn’t enough time for everything on our “To Do” list – and there never will be. Successful people don’t try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure they get done.’

The key message I took from Eat that Frog! is based on something that Mark Twain said, that went along the lines of ‘If the first thing you do each day is eat a live frog, then you can go through the rest of your day knowing that you have dealt with the worst thing you are going to have to do that day’.

So, good news and bad news here. The bad news, that frog is the biggest, ugliest, worst job that you have on your ‘To Do’ list. It is the one that you really do not want to do. It is the one that plays on your mind all day (and each night). It is the phone call you don’t want to make, the least favourite of your work tasks (for me it was always my monthly budget update) or the person that you have to have a conversation with (and you really don’t want to).

The good news. Deal with this frog first and you will be amazed by how much time you get back. Time that is not spent using up energy thinking about the frogs that you have to deal with.

I read Eat that Frog! one weekend, and by Monday morning I had turned my ‘To Do’ list on its head. Instead of being so busy doing all the little things that I didn’t have time for the big things, I now did all the big things first and found I had plenty of time for the little things. By the way, the other book I read shortly after this was Busy by Tony Crabbe. I would highly recommend it.

If you really do feel that you are too busy to be spending your time on the things you really want to be doing, just take a moment to question your mindset around how busy you are. Are you open to hearing and accepting that you can take control of your time, your career and your life?

How do you feel?

Let’s imagine for a moment that you and I are work colleagues. We happen to be in the break room at the same time making our morning cuppa and I smile at you and say ‘Good morning! How are you?’ What would your response most likely be? Chances are, no matter how you are feeling, your response would be along the lines of ‘good’ or ‘fine’. Why is it, that we almost always answer ‘good’, even when we are not? It is such an automated response and sadly it is pretty much the expected response. Think about the following questions:

  • When asked how you are, do you consciously consider, in that moment, how and what you are actually feeling?
  • In any given moment, can you intentionally recognise and then shift your feelings if needed?

If you confidently answered yes to both questions, then feel free to stop reading this blog post!

Ok, but seriously, even if you did answer yes to both those questions, I am sure you will still gain some benefit from reading on.

Read any book, article or blog on Emotional Intelligence (EI) and they will all refer to the need for good EI to ensure success in any part of your life. There is no doubt that enhancing your EI allows you to increase confidence, build more meaningful relationships and enhance your ability to respond to challenges both in your personal lives and careers.

The foundation skill of developing emotionally intelligent behaviour is self-awareness. Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of individuals and many work teams to help them enhance their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat across a table with a client who has confidently advised me that they are very self-aware.

In my experience, most people consider themselves self-aware and yet the reality can actually be quite different. According to Dr Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0: ‘Only 36 percent of the people we’ve tested are able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen. This means that two thirds of us are typically controlled by our emotions and are not yet skilled at spotting them and using them to our benefit.’

So, what exactly is self-awareness? It is the ability to recognise, in the moment;

  • What you are feeling
  • Why you are feeling it

and most importantly have the ability answer and respond appropriately to the question;

  • Is what I am feeling helping or hindering me right now?

Enhancing self-awareness is easily done, as long as you focus on it. A great place to start is by simply practicing self-reflection regularly. Once a week, sit down with pen and paper and write all the emotions you recall feeling in the last 24 hours. The most important aspect of this exercise is to not judge the emotions you experienced. Simply ask yourself, did that emotion help or hinder me at that time?

Try this practice for a few weeks and feel free to let me know what you learn from this exercise.

Why Engage a Coach?

There are very few people (in fact none that I can think of) that succeed completely on their own. Think of anyone you consider successful, be it someone you know personally, or someone ‘famous’, like a sports star or celebrity. They have all had support from other people in one way or another to achieve what they want to achieve. I am sure you have read or watched many an interview where the subject in question was being asked about their success or achievements and they have said something along the lines of ‘I couldn’t have done it without…’

No matter how capable you may feel, you simply do not have all the answers. There is always someone who can better guide you, challenge you or simply point you in the right direction. Regardless of what your success goal is, unless perhaps your goal is to be the first human being on Mars, then someone else has already done it and achieved it. Save yourself time and frustration by learning from their mistakes and find someone who has done it before and is happy to share their valuable advice and guidance. In fact, even if your success goal is to be the first human being on Mars, there will still be someone who has spent extended time in space or who has explored harsh environments with limited resources. The point is, whatever it is you want to do, you don’t need to do it on your own.

According to the International Coaching Federation, ‘80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills.’

Having a coach will hold you accountable to your plan for achieving your success goals. A good coach will ask you for updates on your progress. A good coach will also ask you a lot of questions (rather than telling you what to do), so that you can take responsibility for either achieving your goals or being honest about what was not achieved.

If you are seeking a coach, or would like to learn more about what the process involves, either for yourself or a colleague, feel free to contact me. I am an International Coach Federation Accredited Coach, which is the one and only globally recognised coaching credential. I am also happy to recommend other Coaches if your development goals are outside my areas of specialty.

Unplugged

‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… Including you.’ Anne Lamott

With the holiday season looming this is the time of year that we should be slowing down, and yet for many of us we can be busier than ever. Christmas shopping, work dinners, projects that must be finished before the 24th…. The busier we are, the more important it is to unplug and step away from your desk/laptop/iPad/iPhone. For many people that feels counter-intuitive and they try and push through, working even harder and longer hours.

The thing is, most of us wouldn’t hesitate to take a break after an hour or so of physical exercise, and most people with a regular exercise routine know the value of having a rest day as part of their schedule. But what about mental breaks? Many people don’t consider the mental fatigue that they are experiencing in any given day or over a period of time and the impact that is having on their stress levels, performance and productivity. The fact is, the more hours you work, and particularly the more hours you work without a break, the less you will actually achieve. If you don’t believe me, there was a study undertaken by John Pencavel of Stanford University in April 2014 on The Productivity of Working Hours that confirms this.

These days technology allows us to work from anywhere at any time. Which can be great (I love working from home). The idea is that this gives us flexibility and choices around where and when we work. Unfortunately, this also has a flip-side, which means many people are connected to their work (and not necessarily to their goals) every waking moment. This means they never really switch off and take a break. Naturally this continued mode of being ‘on’ is not good for stress levels and can actually reduce productivity and leave us too mentally fatigued to focus on our goals. While many people feel that there is an expectation that they are and can be available anytime, regretfully for many of us, we have actually created this expectation all by ourselves. We just don’t realise that we did this and think it has been caused by our manager, our industry or technology. This state of being constantly available ends up creating more ‘work’ and giving us less time to take a break and truly switch off and recharge.

Are you planning on unplugging over Christmas and using that annual leave you have accrued? According to a 2015 Roy Morgan Research study, 28 percent of full-time Australian workers had more than five weeks’ annual leave accrued. Take a break people! I often have people say to me that they are too busy to take a holiday or even a short break. That genuinely makes me feel very sad. The only reason these people think they are too busy to take a holiday is because that is the story they are telling themselves. Look, how many of us work in such critical and specialised job functions or roles, where if we took a long weekend or, heaven forbid, a week’s holiday, the organisation or business would completely collapse without us? Sorry, not sorry, but if you were to get hit by a bus, the organisation would somehow manage to struggle on without you. You are replaceable. Someone else can fill in for a day or a week. And if there is really no-one else who can do your job, then some serious consideration needs to be given to either a succession planning strategy, or, if you own your own business, how you can set up systems or processes that allow you to step away for a few days.

These days I schedule a minimum of two holidays where I either leave the state or the country and at least one long weekend break a year. I run my own business and do not employee other people, so there is no-one to step in and do the work while I am away. My strategy? I plan the holidays in advance, book them in my calendar and then let all my clients know when I won’t be available. So far this has not been the slightest bit detrimental to my business and it has enabled me to live the work life balance I want for my family.

In the spirit of taking a unplugging, this will be my last blog post until early February 2018. I will be taking a break over Christmas and New Year and then taking my daughter on a holiday around the Pacific Islands in late January.

Have a wonderful Christmas. I trust you will truly enjoy spending time with your loved ones and I wish you a re-energised start to 2018.

The Unaware Leader

Last week I read and then shared via LinkedIn and Twitter, an article in the Financial Post that stated 35% of employees would give up a raise to see their leader fired. As the article went on to explain, a study of more than 35,000 leaders from over 120 countries, found there is an enormous gap between the way that leaders perceive themselves and how their direct reports perceive them.

The study, undertaken through collaboration between Harvard Business Review and Rasmus Hougaard (founder and managing partner of Potential Project), found that while 77% of leaders surveyed felt they were doing well engaging people and creating productive employees, 82% of employee said their leaders were not good in this space. This significant gap in perception, suggests a deficit of Self-Awareness.

In my work as an Emotional Intelligence (EI) Practitioner, I often talk with people about the competencies of EI and, in particular, the foundation skill of Self-Awareness. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat across the table from someone who has assured me that they are ‘very’ self-aware. Sadly, the reality is often quite different. This is not just my opinion; research by Dr Travis Bradberrry (Author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0) has found that most people are not Self-Aware most of the time.

We can all enhance our levels of Self-Awareness and become more mindful leaders, employees, partners, parents and friends. The really good news is that enhancing our Self-Awareness can be done quite easily. It is just a matter of focusing on it. As a suggestion; set yourself a reminder for three times a day over a period of four weeks, to stop and reflect in that moment, and ask yourself three questions:

  • What am I feeling?
  • Why am I feeling it?
  • Is this helping or hindering me?

If what you are feeling at that moment is helping, that’s great. If what you are feeling at that moment is either hindering you or hindering others (think of the impact your emotions are having on the people around you), then you can make a decision in that moment to shift.

As those of you who have participated in any of my programs have no doubt heard me say; ‘Awareness enables choice’.

Once we are aware of something, we then have a choice as to whether we want to do something about it. Start now by asking yourself those three questions and continue cultivating your Self-Awareness.