Time to listen

How often do you make time to listen? Like really stop and listen?

How good does it feel when you’re listened to?

When you’re given 100% undivided attention?

That’s why falling in love 😍 feels so good!

Post lockdown – process and doing

Here in the UK we’re beginning a return to work after the Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdown.

As we’re returning, our attention is understandably on process, compliance, health and safety. On the ‘doing’ of things.

Is time to listen on your radar?

To each other?
To your team?

Like really properly listening, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear?

Massively powerful

This is where understanding is developed.

It’s how people feel recognised and valued.

It creates a sense of belonging.

And it’s hard to do when it means getting off the hamster 🐹 wheel.

But it gives so many longer term benefits.

Making time to listen is one of the most powerful tools you can employ as a leader.

So why don’t we do it?

So why don’t we do it? As well as we could? As often as we should?

Do these reasons sound familiar?

  • You’re mentally too busy to stop and REALLY listen
  • You won’t like what you suspect you’re about to hear and you don’t want to open a can of worms
  • You will want to defend your position, choice and decision and you don’t want to get stuck in a conflict (more here on how to avoid this)
  • You want to be ‘right’, because you’re a competent, experienced leader, so you feel you ‘should’ know the answer and your ‘rightness’ is being questioned, which means you feel your competency is in question.
  • You don’t know how you will make it better – even if you do listen, so what’s the point?
  • You don’t want to get into a spiral of negativity (More here on dealing with negative team members).

Stop!

My profession requires listening carefully and I still forget to do it, when I’m busy, stressed, fed up of hearing the same thing.

BUT – I’ve learned to notice when I’m avoiding stopping to listen.

I take a metaphorical swivel in my chair.

I face the person in front of me.

And I give them my 100% undivided attention.

I make a conscious effort to make time to listen.

It’s a short term investment for a long term gain

I guarantee when you do make time to listen – and I mean with 100% curiosity and exquisite attention (isn’t that a lovely phrase?!) you will see so many benefits.

  • People are much more likely to find the resources to solve the problem themselves if they feel truly heard and they build long term resources to do it again – without you!
  • Team members have the opportunity to reach the same conclusion about a business decision or change if you give them the air space to think it through and then they’re fully bought in.
  • They may have a point and can show you how to do it better.

And so much more….

  • People who are listened to feel understood
  • People who feel understood feel valued – they actually release positive hormones and endorphins!
  • People who feel valued are less stressed, happier, more productive employees and team players

And all this means a better bottom line and a generally nicer place to be!

Make it part of your teams way of working.

Now, making time to listen is more important (and challenging) than ever.

Here’s a wonderful example from Lynne Humphries, a Nurse Manager at Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre about how her team recognised the need to make time to listen.

“As a clinician, the main focus was the clinical aspect of this pandemic. With a team that was up to the challenges to whatever this pandemic threw at us in making both staff and patients safe we were like Lions defending their cubs.

When I reflect on those challenges/pressures we faced as a practice team I personally feel proud.

Joint effort with both clinical & clerical staff created a safe environment implementing all guidelines.

However, their was one link which we missed. ‘Fear’

Over time as we settled into this new life of COVID, it became apparent that certain myths, frustrations, niggles were surfacing from the clerical team.

This was creating a divide between clerical & clinical staff, (which we have never experienced), as fear overrode logic and evidence.

Clinical staff were avoided like the plague creating tensions and upset.

(This is where listening came in) We stopped, made time and asked how our team were doing.

We listened to the fears, opinions.

The fears around their loved ones and fear of COVID.

What developed from listening was a daily update via email, addressing all those questions, myths etc.

Fear has subsided, working relationships are back to normal we are one team.”

A fantastic example of leaders being aware that there was something behind the behaviours they observed and they chose to make time to listen, so they could understand. And what I really like is that they then responded by implementing a new day to day practice, ensuring they continued that support.

The hamster wheel

So, as we step back onto the hamster wheel of day to day life and work.

MAKE TIME TO LISTEN

It’s so valuable, in so many important ways.

And consider:

HOW YOU CAN BUILD TIME TO LISTEN INTO DAY TO DAY WORKING PRACTICES

I help teams to find ways to listen to one another constructively and regularly. Building practices into day to day working which feel natural, whilst building resilience, capability and accountability. Contact me if you would like to take a fresh approach to listening within your team.

3 common mistakes in dealing with negative team members

Despite best intentions and efforts as leaders we often find ourselves dealing with moans, negativity and blame within teams. Find out how to avoid 3 common mistakes in dealing with negative team members.

Especially important at this time of lockdown, as we deal with the stress of people who have continued to work from home. Or the possibility of re-engaging with people who have been furloughed.

It’s possible there will be some fallout and avoiding these 3 common mistakes in dealing with negative team members, will mean they are less likely to become negative in the first place!

1. Emailing written information is not communication

If you hear yourself saying “I sent them the information so they should know what’s going on”, then you’re ticking a box, but you’re not engaging.

Providing written information is just one element of conveying a message, especially if it involves change.

For people to develop an understanding they may need to explore with discussion and questions.

To feel valued and understood, they need to feel they have been listened to.

Written information is OK, but follow it up with a phone or Zoom call (if you’re unable to meet face to face). Either one to one, or as a team.

Provide team members with a window to air their concerns and frustrations. This enables you to set out your future vision and expectations and engage them with where you’re heading, rather than where you are now. More on team engagement through communicating vision, values and organisational objectives here

2. Always focusing upon what needs to be done

Because we’re busy leaders and we’re sensitive to others being busy, we may feel it’s necessary to get to the point and ‘get on with it’. And of course there is some merit in this, too much naval gazing is unproductive.

However, do you make specific time to check in on the person?

Are you asking – particularly during these times of lockdown, how this person is experiencing working for home/not working/homeschooling/being completely alone etc. etc.

Even if your team members are furloughed, you can check in on their well-being. This will go a long, long way to encouraging positivity about the future.

Are you interested in their working relationships and helping individuals to develop strategies to resolve difficulties?

Do you recognise when someone may need help in talking through how they are going to approach a task, or conversation?

As a leader you can support your team development and avoid negativity through fear of failing, or lack of confidence, by giving them a sounding board to solve problems for themselves. Asking questions to encourage them to think it through and consider options.

When we neglect these elements, we open up the opportunity for resentment to fester and this is a common mistake in dealing with negative team members.

3. Defending yourself against their negativity

When someone is moaning, disheartened, negative and pushing the blame onto others (and this might be you), it’s helpful to get underneath what that’s about.

They may be in a position of feeling unappreciated and possibly victimised and will be saying either “why me, this is not fair,” or “if only you would listen to me and do what I say this could all be so much better.”

They will be taking up a position on the Drama Triangle of either ‘Victim’ or ‘Persecutor’ and are looking to be rescued. See more on the Drama Triangle here

You will need to shift your position. A common mistake in dealing with negative team members is to become defensive yourself, avoid this (difficult I know!) as this will reinforce your position of ‘Persecutor’ in their eyes.

Also avoid telling them it will ‘all be alright’ if that’s a promise you can’t keep – you’re being tempted into being a ‘Rescuer’.

Instead ask questions like:

  • What options do you have?
  • What actions would you like to take?
  • What is your most important objective/need and how can I help you to realise it?
  • What change are you asking for and what 2 things would create the most value and benefit for you?

Note that the above questions put the emphasis on the individual making change and taking action. You can support this, but you’re encouraging them to take ownership for the change.

And/or be clear on your expectations:

  • These are my expectations, can you meet them?
  • What support do you need to meet my expectations?
  • What actions can I support you to take to meet my expectations?

The approach of a fair leader

The truth is, there will be occasions when some people are just not ready to be where you need them to be. The fair thing to do as a leader is –

  • Provide every opportunity for those people to engage.
  • Be really clear and kind about your expectations.
  • Support them in taking the steps toward change.

In doing as much as you can to avoid these common mistakes, you will either help them to make a shift and possibly become one of your most highly engaged team members. Or, at least you will have done everything you can before they decide that perhaps working with you isn’t the place they want to be and you can part ways as amicably as possible.

Lyn Paxman, EvolveYou specialises in working with business and team leaders, developing leadership approaches which are in line with their culture and customer ethos. Lyn coaches and mentors leaders one to one as well as working with teams to increase their engagement and accountability.

How to escape the drama triangle & have better relationships

I realised that constantly trying to ‘rescue’ my 20 year old son meant I was perpetuating a bad situation. I was trapped in a Drama Triangle of my own making. In this blog I explain how to escape the drama triangle and what I did to influence a change in everyone involved in mine.

The conflict between my son and husband – his stepdad was fairly long standing.  Nothing dramatic (despite the continuous triangle of drama!), just the usual mundane stuff that wears us down and causes bursts of outrage.

Leaving stuff on top of the dishwasher, not in it (I love Michael McIntyres sketch about this here, skip to 1:07).

Putting stuff in the bin, instead of recycling.

Leaving crumbs on the kitchen worktop. 

And the continuous loop of conversation was; Husband; “why don’t you just listen and do what I ask you to do?”  Son; “I didn’t mean it, I’m not that bad, I usually do it.” 

And me?  I stood on the sidelines watching the exchange and wishing they would find a way to resolve it. 

Later I would talk to my son and husband separately to try and smooth things over.  To my son – “couldn’t you just try harder?  You are cared about, you just need to adapt.”  To my husband – “My son is trying, he just doesn’t realise how annoying he is.  He feels as though you don’t care, can’t you try harder?”

And the result was never what I’d hoped for.  They were both pushed further into their defensive corners.

So, what was going on?

We all had our positions on the (Karpman) Drama Triangle. 

There are 3 positions, but the triangle can apply to any situation with 2 or more people.  

Stuck in our positions

I was the Rescuer

My Son the Victim

And my Husband the Persecutor

So, by attempting to rescue I was reinforcing the other 2 positions! 

As my son or husband became defensive, I would shift into Persecutor myself. And I attempted to appeal to them both to ‘just do as I was asking and it would all be alright.’ 

So the vicious circle (or triangle) continued, I wondered how to escape the drama triangle and I felt stuck.

When well intentioned rescuing back fires

To every well-intentioned do gooder out there, be mindful of the unintended negative impact your rescue intervention could have!

And I see this play out a lot in teams, especially with managers, who want to be helpful to their teams.  They step in and ‘solve it’, and will be frustrated when their teams don’t take responsibility and accountability. From completing a task, to stepping in to iron things out with another team member.

Inevitably this is disempowering for the person who is unintentionally placed into the ‘Victim’ position. 

Granted, the intention was positive and the outcome achieved more quickly. But the opportunity for others to develop those skills and resilience is limited.  The resolution is usually a short-term fix, with the problem resurfacing again later.

Escaping the Drama

So, the first step for me in how to escape the drama triangle was recognising the positions we were all taking.

And the next was to take ownership of my part in the triangle and consider how I could shift.

Because each position has a positive place to shift to.

After another tense interaction happened between my son and husband during the Coronavirus Lockdown, I talked to my son separately.

I moved into Coach by asking what he would like to see change and what action he could take.  He continued to be stuck in the Victim position saying – ‘he (my husband) needs to change’ and ‘I feel as though I don’t belong in the family’ (you can imagine how heart-breaking that was to hear!

I shifted to Challenger and I made my expectations clear. (Also really important when as a leader you are creating accountability).

I suggested to my son that he had the power to change his ‘story’.  He could choose to see himself as responsible and belonging in the family. Only he could make that shift.  I made it clear that it was his choice and that no-one else could make it for him. I painted a picture – a vision of what it would be like if he made a shift.

And then I stepped away and held my breath!

I had no idea whether my son would choose to behave differently.

I’m really pleased to report that he did and during lockdown I am really happy with the way their relationship has improved.

How does this apply to a team?

I’ve recounted a very personal example as it demonstrates really well the patterns we become stuck in, and how ultimately they can change.

The Drama Triangle is everywhere when you look for it!  Including in the workplace and with teams.

I know I have played every position in the Drama Triangle in many different work situations.

The first step in how to escape the drama triangle is recognising the position you are putting yourself in.

This will enable you to observe what’s going on from a slightly detached perspective.

Then you can adjust your approach and readjust if your first attempt doesn’t work. Remember I tried ‘Coach’ and shifted to ‘Challenger’.

The benefits within a team will be:

  • Accountability is encouraged
  • Resilience is developed
  • People are engaged with a future vision, more on this here
  • Influencing skills are supported

Plus – less drama!

If you would like help with how to escape the drama triangle whether at work or home, I provide one to one coaching via Zoom, where we will talk through your situation and work out an action plan.  A one hour session is £70.  I also work with teams, raising their awareness of the games we play in the workplace, so together the team will build alternative strategies and ways of working productively

Post lockdown life and business redesign

I’ve spoken to so many people who have told me that lockdown has led them to consider a life and business redesign.

When a crisis happens it can bring into focus what’s really important to us.

Loss, whether a threat or a reality, brings into sharp relief what we really want from life.

This might lead to appreciating with renewed gratitude what you already have and galvanising your determination to keep hold of it.

Or, it might lead to you considering what you want to change. To find the courage to take that risk you wouldn’t have before, with the realisation that ‘life is too short’.

The key to any of this is avoiding a knee jerk reaction. Which can be difficult, when we’re faced with limitations, it’s very tempting to take action – any action!

Following the tips below will ensure that whatever future you want to create will be grounded in what really matters. Which means you will feel more compelled to get there and it will happen with ease.

This blog is written from the perspective of an individual, but this is just as relevant is you are a business leader. Now, is a fantastic time to reevaluate what’s important about the way the people within your business behave with each other and engage with your customers. Organisational vision and values are a tool to articulate what’s expected – maybe this has changed? Maybe this is a great opportunity to refresh and engage? With small tweaks the process below can be applied to a team – more info at the end of this blog.

Start with your feelings

In considering your life and business redesign, you really need to start with your values. Most people don’t know what they are. Or they begin with vanilla words such as ‘family’ or ‘security’. These are certainly things to be of value, but they don’t describe why you value them – the feeling that you experience when you are secure, or focusing upon your family for example.

Instead, begin by considering:

‘How do I feel when I’m absolutely at my best?’ You might say things like, energised, vital, unstoppable, tranquil, calm, in the zone, proud, on fire, smart, creative, organised, focussed.

Who do I admire and what qualities in them do I admire?’ I admire, sassy, wise, unapologetic women like the feminist Germaine Greer, or a fabulous tartan suit wearing, ultra marathon running 70 year old woman I met the other day.

‘How do I feel when work is meeting all my needs?’ For me the descriptive words I would use here are connected, flexible, varied.

‘How do I feel when my personal relationships are on top form?’ Maybe you would describe feeling supported, admired, valued.

‘How do I want to feel about my life?’ I would say ‘adventurous’, my sister would say ‘feeling comfort and warmth’.

‘What would I like to hear others saying about me?’ Examples could be kind, caring, intelligent, sexy, knowledgeable, ethical. Don’t be shy now – this list is for you, this is not the time to be modest.

Scribble down the feelings and words to describe as they come to you.

Distill your list into a Top 5

Start by clustering words which are from a similar theme.

For example; sexy, sassy, vital, glowing, energetic could be clustered and knowledgeable, important, credible, skilled could be another cluster.

Observe what kind of themes are coming out.

Get a thesaurus and start looking up the words, what other descriptors are there? Is there a word which really resonates which sums up a cluster? Or does one word from a cluster, resonate more than the others?

Hone down your list until you settle upon 5 words. These are the foundations of your life and business redesign.

Make them visible.

Write down each word on a separate piece of paper, or post it note.

Stick them on your wall, mirror, or fridge, anywhere they will be visible to you everyday.

Ruminate upon the list.

Do all these words resonate?

Adjust if necessary – this is your list, tweak it all you like.

It will begin to guide your thoughts on your life and business redesign.

Allow your future vision to emerge

Once you have settled upon your feeling descriptors you will have a good handle upon what you value in life.

The next step is to consider what conditions enable you to experience those feelings/values consistently.

Don’t force this stage, let the ideas develop. When you leave things a little more open, you leave room for alternatives to emerge, that you might not have considered otherwise.

Think of your vision for the future developing like an old Polaroid picture, rather than an instant Smartphone snapshot.

For instance, after I separated from my ex-husband and decided to move house, I considered 2 of my values – adventure and flexibility. I wanted the kids to have an outdoor space, to play and have small, safe adventures, but I didn’t want the commitment of having to look after a large garden. I thought I wanted a traditional Victorian terrace and excluded new builds. But then the purchase of a house I was buying fell through and I needed to find somewhere to live, quickly. I went to look at some new builds and they fitted my values and vision perfectly. I had a tiny, postage stamp garden, but the front door opened onto a large green, with a road looping around the outside. The outdoor space was large and safe and I didn’t need to maintain it!

Time travel to create clarity

Take yourself to the future – as if you have stepped into a Tardis and you have stepped out in 3/5/10 years time – whatever works for you. In this future you have already re-designed your life and business!

  • Experience your life in that future – as if you are actually there.
  • What do you see? Make it colour and make it a moving vision.
  • What do you feel? Sensations, emotions, how is your body moving?
  • What are you hearing? Maybe you hear people saying something, what is it? Make it clear and easily audible.
  • You may even consider what you will smell and taste.

You can get into your Tardis and travel here as often as you like, adding details as they emerge.

What steps did you take?

Now, look back to the here and now (remember, you are standing in the future):

  • How did you get here?
  • What actions did you take?
  • What mindset have you developed?
  • What were the key milestones along the way?

This is a very powerful technique and here is a lovely example here of how Benjamin Zander, who is Musical Director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra uses it.

Small Steps, Review, Celebrate, Move Again

Come back to the present time.

Identify and write down the first small steps you will take to achieve your vision for your life and business resdesign.

Give yourself and timescale for having achieved those small steps.

Remember, these are small actions – not milestones.

When you have taken those small steps. Acknowledge it! Celebrate with a little ‘whoop’ inside! Recognise that you have made progress.

One of the most frustrating things about creating change is our impatience. Once we have decided where we’re going, we often want to be there right now!

But you know it’s about the journey right?

By taking small steps and stopping to review and understand what you have done, it also gives you the opportunity to adjust course. Like with my example about moving house. Circumstances forced the course adjustment, but nevertheless, I remained open to alternative options and delivered a better result.

Building in review is essential to any kind of success, because this is how we learn and evolve.

Bon Voyage!

I wish you health (even more important than ever at these times) and happiness and most of all to enjoy your journey in articulating your values and developing your vision for your life and business redesign.

Applying to businesses and teams

Organisational values are often perceived as a marketing tool – something we put on our website, or tell our customers. The true purpose of values is to engage with your team and ensure everyone understands what’s important about the way they interact with each other, how they behave with customers and how this all leads to a consistent and powerful experience. Engaging your people is paramount to engaging your customer so they will come back time and time again and recommend you to everyone they know.

Developing a vision is often seen as the responsibility of the business/department leader. How much more powerful when the whole team contributes? The ownership of a co-created vision is 10 times that of one which has been cascaded. Which means enhanced accountability and exponential results.

A business/team engagement workshop includes elements of the team pause, with the addition of exploring and articulating values.

If you’re considering what your business and team will look like post Covid19 then talk to me about team engagement and redefining your future together.

If you’re an individual, who would like some help considering and redefining your future, then get in touch and we can arrange some one to one coaching sessions over Zoom/Skype.

Lyn Paxman, EvolveYou: lyn@evolveyou.co.uk 07950 914328

The secret to time management – it can’t be done!

Can we manage time?

There have been many books written on time management, because we have so much to pack into our days, weeks, months and time is a precious resource.

I’ve been pondering, is this because we actually need to do more, or is something else going on? Could our conditioned perceptions of time, be affecting how we experience it and therefore how we experience our lives?

In a recent paper, “Buying Time Promotes Happiness”, published in the National Academy of Sciences Journal, researchers explored ‘time scarcity’, which they described as a new form of poverty, leading to reduced well-being and happiness and increased anxiety and insomnia.

Can we create the feeling of more time, by managing it and reducing our stress? Is it a commodity to be spent, saved and not wasted and what influences the belief that we don’t have enough time?

When time runs out

Business Insider article, by Richard Lewis describes how different cultures value time in very different ways. Britain and other Northern European countries, such as Switzerland and Germany and North America typically experience time as linear – it is finite and can therefore become scarce. The past is over and the present can be divided in order to control the immediate future. Earnings and earning potential are often calculated upon the value of an hour of a persons time. If time passes without decisions being made, or actions taken the belief is time is being wasted. 

If time is going to run out, there’s a pressure to use it productively. How many times have you heard people say “let’s just get on with it”, because they feel greater value when they are ‘doing’?

Manana or many tomorrows

Not everyone in the world experiences time in the same way. Have you experienced the frustration of the ‘manana’ culture when on holiday in Spain and the laid-back timetabling in countries like Greece? According to Lewis’s analysis, it’s because the Southern Europeans have a ‘multi-active’ experience of time. Their focus is upon how they feel about what they are currently experiencing, with a focus upon relationship – time is event or personality related, rather than compartmentalised and measured. And a cyclic experience of time is more typical in Asian countries, who see time as coming around again with the same opportunities and risks. 

If our cultural conditioning about time is different, it creates different expectations and experiences. Is it therefore possible for us to change our perceptions?

Present and Future

One of my favourite films is Arrival; aliens land all over Earth and Amy Adams character, a language specialist, is appointed to translate the aliens strange circular symbols and sounds. Learning their language affects her experience of time and her future begins to merge with the present. 

Language which reflects or affects our experience of time is not as unusual. The Chinese language does not have verbs and therefore words do not have future tense. In this article , Keith Chen, a Behavioural Economist suggests that in some languages people are “slightly nudged every time (they) speak, to think about the future as something viscerally different from the present.” So, if our language doesn’t give us this nudge, is our experience of time altered?

If our experience of time is tied up with our cultural experience, then is it possible for us to challenge and change our perception of time so we can move from a scarcity mindset to abundance?

Your Feelings About Time

Ankush Jain in his book Sweet Sharing describes how his ability to manage time improved, when he noticed the feelings generated by his reaction to situations. He gives an example of reacting angrily or with frustration to emails and then spending/wasting time distracted, or moaning to a colleague. Once he noticed his feeling, he was able to manage his behaviour and as a result spent time on getting things done, instead of reacting. 

Our desire to ‘manage time’ is about the need to feel productive, it’s also about discipline and choosing our priorities, in line with what we hope for in the future. If we manage our behaviours, is it possible to make a shift to feeling and being more productive, which leads to the feeling and belief that we are managing our time more effectively?

Our experience of time, our productivity and perceptions of scarcity are all influenced by our past experiences, our culture, feelings and behaviours. Tips and techniques for managing priorities, making choices and decisions are extremely helpful, however, I think there’s a huge value in being aware of our perceptions and behaviours as managing these (rather than time itself) can be the catalyst for efficiency and focus.

Want some practical tips for increasing your focus and productivity for the week ahead? Read this blog, which explains my method for reviewing the past week, which helps me to prioritise my focus for the week ahead.

Contact me if you would like to break down your perceptions and feelings around time, so you can change your habits and behaviours. As well as learning practical tips around how to chunk your time and choose your priorities. As a result you will focus upon what’s important and become more productive.

Team engagement – 4 tips for when they need to ‘grow up’

Does your team need to ‘grow up’? It’s a conversation I regularly have with business leaders – this isn’t about average age, or maturity, it’s about teams loving what they do, but being reluctant to formalise, standardise and implement procedures, which are often needed as organisations grow and sustain. This blog shares tips on team engagement through keeping hold of the ‘good stuff’ – innovation, spontaneity, a feeling of belonging, whilst increasing accountability and ability to execute strategy.

Creating the organisation or team up to this point has been an adventure of discovery – together, and as the conversation turns to standards, processes and procedures team engagement may decrease.

My approach to increasing team engagement is to explore the question; “how can we keep the good stuff and implement what we need for growth/change?”

  • Creating mini-visions to deliver the overall vision
  • Keeping the focus on culture
  • Develop working practices around how values become actions
  • Translate organisational objectives into chunked down meaning

Creating mini-visions to deliver the overall vision

As an organisation evolves teams can become further removed from the creators of organisational vision – usually the founder or leadership team.

Team engagement, belief, motivation & emotion come from debate, questioning, interpreting & considering ‘what does this mean for me?’

Asking teams to create their team or departmental vision for the future means they start to actually imagine and buy into that future. It gives them the opportunity to ‘chunk down’ the big vision into something meaningful for them.

Asking them to consider what they will see, hear and feel in that future engages all senses and puts them into a ‘when’ it happens mindset, rather than ‘if’ it happens.  The mini-vision then becomes compelling because they begin to understand their part in delivering it and they have already started to believe that it will happen. (A team pause is a good place to start)

Keeping the focus on culture

It’s too easy to get drawn into focussing upon what can be measured and ticked off – the ‘what’ of delivering the future vision. This means the ‘how’ we do it gets less attention. 

Peter Drucker said:

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and he was spot on.

Change and growth plans often focus upon the ‘what’ and forget about defining ‘who we are when we’re delivering the strategy’. Minimise the gap between ‘what we say we will do’ and ‘what we actually do’, through facilitated discussions, as well as providing opportunities for feedback – in groups or person to person, to give every individual the opportunity to build their reflection muscles, which in turn develops understanding, which leads to engagement.  (The Creating Wow! team alignment programme develops the skills of team sharing and feedback).

Develop working practices around how values become actions

Values are often articulated as the shorthand of culture – ‘this is how we will behave’. However, unless they’re explored, they become just a poster on the wall, or words on the website. Consider:

  • How are the values reflected in day to day actions?
  • What processes and procedures contradict values and which support?
  • Do our customer journeys enable us to keep our promises?

Through exploration values are distilled into a description of behaviours. And most importantly, working practices need to evolve which support keeping organisational culture on track, for example; how we share information and make decisions, how we share learning and how we overcome challenges together.

Team engagement is in the day to day interactions and working practices.

Translate organisational objectives into chunked down meaning

Just like vision, strategy is often communicated at the ‘big picture’ level and it can be difficult for people to translate into what this means for their day to day work.

Objective setting ensures departments play their part in delivering the strategy, but often this is lost in translation. 

Objectives become a set of initiatives to deliver, rather than describing a meaningful outcome. The OKR method, described in John Doerres book, ‘Measure What Matters’, tackles this issue and it’s a method effectively used by the likes of Google. It ensures the number of departmental objectives are limited, that they are specifically aligned with strategy and avoid cross departmental conflicts.

Everyone should be clear how their objectives contribute to organisational objectives – they should be able to trace the line back up to a key organisational deliverable.

Team engagement follows because everyone understands their purpose in achieving the organisational purpose.

Growing pains minimised, disengagement reduced

When organisational teams are guided through the ‘growing up’ process it means the growing pains are minimised and disengagement is reduced. Culture is co-created by the people within a system (organisation) and by paying attention to the process of co-creation a positive result can be achieved – the good stuff is retained and more good stuff added. Teams are able to interpret chunked up info into day to day meaning, becoming empowered and most importantly accountable – taking responsibility for their actions and delivering outstanding results, enabling them to bring the ‘grown up’ to work.

Lyn specialises in helping teams to translate vision, strategy and values into day to day behaviours, working practices and objectives, meaning that what gets delivered in in line with organisational purpose. She facilitates workshops which engage teams through discussion and exploration, using a variety of methods which keep it interesting and interactive. Contact her at lyn@evolveyou.co.uk or 07950 914328. www.evolveyou.co.uk

You gotta have faith – delivering vision and values

As leaders we constantly have to create and have faith in the future we are creating. It’s about risking failure and about knowing that you are enough. I have recently discovered my own relationship with faith in the future.

I wrote this blog as part of an Advent Series for Gary Cookson at EpicHR. 

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

When I was a child, I didn’t believe in Father Christmas.  My mum thought that telling my sister and I he was real was lying.  She had her reasons for feeling this way, based in the best of intentions.

I hadn’t really thought about this until I was talking with my therapist.  We were exploring the idea that I have faith that the best outcome will happen for the people and teams I coach, my kids, family and friends. 

I believe they have the resources they need, that the journey to an outcome will teach them valuable insights and build resilience. 

Even if they fail to reach the hoped for ending, they are and will be OK. 

Believing in myself?

I realised I found it harder to have this kind of faith in myself in the context of my relationship with others. 

Making promises I wasn’t sure I could deliver upon, or commitments I may not be able to keep felt like lying. 

Because circumstances out of my control could change and as these circumstances were unknown, how could I make a commitment without knowing the whole truth?  A

nd I had been taught to believe only in reality, the known, as to do otherwise would be lying.

Trusting instead

Maybe having faith is about committing to a future vision and trusting that it will happen, even when you don’t know how you’re going to get there? 

The Oxford dictionary definition of faith is: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”

The means, not the end

A vision is a destination, but the path is unknown. 

Goals and outcomes help to set the path for achievement of the vision and are more specific, measurable and tangible. 

The danger is, we’re always reaching for the destination, instead of celebrating the achievement of goals along the way. 

I know I do this – I generate a sense of urgency for myself, which creates its’ own pressure.

Because when I am myself invested in the end – the outcome, I find it harder to trust and surrender to what will happen, I want to control it.

This need to control leads to a fear of having faith – because what if I dream too big, hope for something that isn’t delivered and I become disappointed, having to face failure? 

Better to be realistic and have control of the end, rather than place my faith in the present.

An outcome obsessed world

In an outcome obsessed world, we carefully map and plan our current steps to manipulate the future.  But doesn’t this sometimes remove the enjoyment?

Ten years ago, when I moved to Somerset, I decided to go back to art college and fulfil a teenage ambition.  I learned about mark making, creating patterns, experimenting with colour – all with the purpose of learning, improving, building skill and experience.  Not about producing a product to ‘hang on the wall’. 

Later I attended an art therapy course.  Art as an expression of innermost feelings and thoughts, without images, or words, just marks, colours, shapes.  Expressing the inexpressible.

And most recently I have completed a Foundation in Transactional Analysis and experienced therapy, as opposed to outcome-based coaching, which has been my previous experience.  At one point I said to my therapist “I don’t really understand what we’re doing here, where are we going, what is the purpose?”  She explained that she was getting to know me, and that what we needed to address would unfold.  It was about having faith, that the purpose – the end would evolve.  And it is.  A process of unfurling and discovery.  The absolute security of being listened to, understood and supported.  Which in turn enables me to reach for deeper honesty and reflection, because an outcome, an end isn’t expected.  This means conclusions happen naturally.

This process is enabling me to build faith in myself.  To understand my motivations and patterns.  Offering me the opportunity to make different choices – because I want to, not because I’m urgently striving for a specific outcome.

Choosing faith over control

And yes, I still have doubts.  I believe doubt is a partner of faith.  We hold onto it, despite doubt.

And so, I realise, having faith in the person I can be in the future isn’t lying.  It’s having doubts about the possible outcomes and endings and choosing to go in that direction anyway.

It’s not about having control.

It’s about risking failure and knowing that is enough.

It’s about having faith that I am enough.

The light always returns

And Father Christmas?  He’s a symbol integral to the winter season.  Christmas celebrations represent our faith that the light will return after the dark, at the Winter Solstice.  A celebration of abundance, rebirth and renewal – the opportunity to start again, as Winter begins to end, and we move toward Spring.

And yes – my kids, who are now 16 and above all believed in Father Christmas!

Lyn helps leaders to engage their teams with a compelling vision and to articulate the values and behaviours important to them in delivering it.  This means that strategy and culture are aligned, people feel purposeful and are more accountable.

If you’re feeling your team are ‘just not getting it’, or the organisation is evolving or growing and vision and values needs to be completely clear and overt, then contact Lyn to explore how she can facilitate engagement and change  lyn@evolveyou.co.uk or 07950 914328.

6 Reasons Why Millennials Can’t be Managed

Millennials come in for some stick and scrutiny and I believe that one of the factors that challenges us the most is that we have to change the way we lead in order to fully engage the potential of millennials. 

For most of us in leadership positions this means that we are the ones who need to change and change feels uncomfortable.

Millennials have a different set of expectations, shaped by the world in which they have grown up. Here are 6 reasons why you can’t manage a millennial and ways we need to motivate and lead them differently.

  1. They demand greater purpose in the work they do.

Recession has impacted upon their progress through life and has driven a need for greater self-reliance, the re-forming of future hopes and dreams, the re-assessment of what they expect materialistically and the demand for more personal purpose.

This drives a need to align their personal values with the values of the organisation they work for. They will see through the ‘poster on the wall’ values that many organisations pay lip service to. They know what values mean and they expect to be living them personally and professionally.

Or to seek this elsewhere through self-employment, start-ups and more flexible, fulfilling ways of working.

2. They see the bigger picture and the impact of their small actions

The millennials world is more widely connected than any baby boomers and generations Xers could ever have anticipated. How can they not be aware of the bigger picture?

They understand that their actions as employees and consumers will make a difference once linked to the actions of other employees and consumers in their global community, and they are more mindful of the impact they may have as a small part of a collective.

They are cautious of shareholders and suspicious of investors – they’re the ones who stitch up the public and help the rich get richer right? So, what is their incentive for achieving their KPIs, when ultimately the benefit of their successful delivery will be for shareholders and investors?

This means Millennials are demanding and expecting greater integrity and authenticity from the organisations and leaders they will commit to.

3. They understand that they are the change they most want to see in the world

They see a world which is in economic, social and environmental turmoil. 

In his book ‘Fast Future’ David Burstein describes Millennials approach; “They have a deep desire to make the world a better place and they understand that doing so means working within the existing system, whilst trying to challenge and change it” (paraphrased).

They see a world which needs to make a change and they understand that they are responsible for the change they most want to see in the world.

They seek people who inspire them to make these changes.

They have the ability to network with like-minded people and the desire to collaborate.

They demand leaders who understand this too.

4. They demand a compelling vision for the long term

Millennials are part of an environment where change is happening exponentially – one change leading to another and then to another.

How can you identify the steps for a plan, when you cannot anticipate what will happen next because you need to learn something new first? This means Millennials are more comfortable with ambiguity, but what drives them forward in the absence of structure is a compelling vision.

Organisations and leaders need to communicate and re-iterate a compelling vision to continually engage millennials. This vision must be purposeful and authentic.

5. They need to evolve the ability to find answers for themselves

Millennials want to be inspired and given the opportunity to contribute the best of themselves to the world (as we all do).

Exponential change and innovation means that answers and solutions are often evolving, rather than known. It’s essential that all team members evolve the ability to solve for themselves, because if they wait for leaders to provide solutions progress will be slowed.

Teams require leaders, but not the hierarchical ‘I’ve got all the answers’ kind, leaders who enable and facilitate. Leaders who provide the space and environment for Millennials to solve problems themselves. Where trust and authenticity is encouraged and they are challenged to stretch, grow and evolve, rather than being challenged to deliver and meet measures driven by shareholders and investors for their benefit alone.

6. They want feedback, not appraisal

Millennials are used to a world of immediacy. Google, Apps, on-line games – they ask a question and they have their answer within seconds. They play a game and see their result straight away.

Exams are part of their on-going assessment as schools test more frequently to feedback and address learning gaps throughout the school year.

Millennials need and demand more frequent, specific feedback, enabling them to immediately reflect, learn and adapt. Not annual appraisal against KPIs or out of date comments on past outcomes.

If we want to fully release and utilise the talent and commitment of our future workforce is it time for us to re-think the purpose of organisations? The influences on culture, such as structure and measurement and ultimately our leadership approach?

Inspiration taken from research by Howe and Strauss and Yu & Miller about workplace attitudes of millennials.

If you would like to develop your leadership team and your approach to linking purpose and vision with your objective setting and review process contact Lyn to discuss what you’re currently observing and where you would like to be: 07950 914328, Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk

Want high performance? Support peoples personal purpose – here’s how.

The trend for people to find personal purpose means more are leaving the world of employment to forge their own path. Where does this leave organisations? Are we missing out on talent, because people believe they need to seek their purpose elsewhere?

What can organisations and it’s leaders be doing to retain talent and enable individuals to feel fulfilled and ‘on purpose’? It’s about authentic leadership, self management and agile practices.

Change the System, Change the Result

We know that the culture – the system within which people work impacts upon well-being and performance. It also impacts upon our ability to ‘be’ ourselves and bring our full package to the workplace, meaning we feel more purposeful.

The old systems and ways of leading, managing and controlling prevent this:

  • Controlling via top down cascaded objectives: The people at the ‘top’ decide what’s important and cascade to everyone else in a waterfall manner. Objectives are set, often in departmental silos and the people who deliver are the ones rewarded and recognised. This results in a culture where people develop a professional ‘performing’ mask, according to Frederic Laloux in his book Re-inventing Organisations. They feel they must look the part, value rationality above emotions and appear competent, busy & successful at all times. Feelings are hidden and unexpressed, under the pressure to perform to requirements, in order to be rewarded.
  • Company values which are no more than ‘lip service’: The intention behind organisational values is to create a sense of belonging and empowerment. We know this is important to accelerated performance. However, far too many organisational values become a poster on the wall & website, nothing more than a marketing tool. Values must be kept alive and fully integrated into ‘the way we do things’ to really have meaning, otherwise they create cynicism and disappointment.

What are the alternatives?

Co-operation, Self-management and Emerging Strategies

Truly evolved organisations according to Laloux (Re-inventing Organisations ), fully embrace what it means to enable people to bring their whole selves to the workplace. They implement a system where self-managed teams enable co-operative peer relationships, without the need for hierarchy.

We live in a fast paced, constantly changing world and strategies and plans often emerge as our understanding develops, because we’re learning as we go along.

  • Flexible communication enables greater responsiveness to change as it happens.
  • Lack of rigidity means people have less to ‘hold onto’, whether status or responsibility – they are more likely to move with what’s needed.
  • Values are upheld from within the team, rather than ‘communicated’ by the organisation, meaning people feel more purposeful and involved.

Lessons From the Agile Manifesto

The way software was developed changed from the waterfall method of project management to an approach termed as ‘Agile’. Work is structured in short stints, with regular review periods built in and a manifesto which encourages relevant behaviours. There are lessons to be learned from the success of the Agile approach, which can be applied to any type of business.

From the Agile Manifesto:

We have come to value………

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software (replace with product/service/relationship) over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The agile approach begins with the team creating a vision, based upon customer needs and shorter term objectives are defined – as a team. Steps are mapped out iteratively and frequent reviews in-built, which enable learning to be understood and applied to the next few steps. The plan begins to emerge, rather than being set out in predicted steps and complicated GANTT charts.

Objectives always stay current and realistic. The whole team is behind achievement, avoiding silo thinking and dominant performances. The plan adapts to what is known at a given moment, allowing creativity and flexibility.

“When one holds onto a plan so tightly, one must keep reality at bay, or at least ‘solve for it’”. Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

Leader as Coach and Facilitator, Rather Than Decision Maker and Problem Solver

As a team experiences greater empowerment and agility is facilitated, the leader becomes a coach and facilitator, rather than decision maker and solver of problems. An observer of team dynamics and facilitator of team relationships.

Goals need to be at multiple levels ‘What’s in it for me? What’s in it for us as a team? What’s in it for my company? What’s in it for the world?’ A shared vision encompassing these varied and rich dimensions will survive the shifting winds of conflict and change, which are sure to blow as the team works together.” Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

When an issue emerges leaders ‘take it to the team’ in the belief that they are closer to the problem and will therefore develop a better answer. Understanding that when the team solves a problem this presents an opportunity for further learning and development and evolution of the team, creating greater agility. “Truly agile teams are the unending quest to be better than we are today.” (Lyssa Adkins)

“Problems represent a chance for the team to overcome, grow and become stronger together.” Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist and author.

Team Members Understand Where They Can Utilise Their Particular Strengths

At the core of self managed teams is living real values and empowerment.

There is a tipping point when an individuals self interest shifts to alignment with the behaviours that support team achievement.” Ellen Braun, accomplished agile manager (Coaching Agile Teams).

At the core of the agile approach is iterative planning, which enables continuous learning and improvement.

Both require leaders who are coaches and facilitators.

Team members are more likely to understand where they can add value and utilise their particular strengths. Enabling them to ‘be’ themselves – to be ‘on purpose’.

Strategy and culture become part of the DNA of every single employee, rather than ‘owned’ by the organisation. Better decisions are made, greater accountability is experienced, increased purpose is embedded. Talent is retained, because people want to stay when they are this fulfilled.

“People are not motivated by the company’s bottom line – they want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves”. (Joey Reiman in the Story of Purpose).

To create a culture which enables individuals to bring the best of themselves and want to stay within your organisation contact Lyn: 07950 914328, Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk

A version of this article was published in the Lean Management Journal 30 March 2017: https://the-lmj.com/2017/03/is-agile-the-best-way-to-achieve-personal-purpose/

Vulcan mind melds and ‘burstiness’ – the key to innovative thinking

‘Cognitive intimacy’ leads to collaboration, according to Lyssa Adkins in ‘Coaching Agile Teams’.  Team communication is so in flow, it’s almost Vulcan mind meld quality.   There is trust, the willingness to be vulnerable and put forward stupid ideas, which can be built upon to become great ideas.  Risks are taken, feedback is given, people say it how it is, and mutual accommodation and respect is encouraged.

In his fabulous podcast ‘WorkLife’ Adam Grant talks about how the Newsnight team and Trevor Noah are so relaxed in the company of each other that they engender ‘burstiness’. Generating ideas for new jokes and story lines creates laughter, with an acceptance of seemingly stupid ideas, along with those which appear clever and inspiring.  They are willing to be vulnerable, knowing that sometimes it’s the silliest idea that inspires the best thoughts.

Achieving burstiness and cognitive intimacy:

  • Are your team objectives driving the behaviours of collaboration, which are essential to innovation?
  • How do you encourage the sharing of ideas and learning within your team?

It’s important to ensure that individual objectives don’t sabotage team success. 

For example, objectives which encourage an individual to ‘take something and make it your own with evidence of you driving results’, will encourage work grabbing, limelight hogging and credit taking, rather than giving away ideas which enable team improvement or acknowledging the skill of others so the best result can be delivered.

Reviewing and appraising performance together will enable open discussion and the sharing of ideas and challenges. 

It will build trust and understanding and make sure that individual and team objectives are aligned.

Spending time away from the pressures of the everyday can give this way of working a tremendous boost.  A yearly team review and appraisal brings together and acknowledges the contribution and learning of everyone.   You can explore questions like these:

  • What value have we delivered this year?
  • How do we know we have made a difference?
  • Where could we have made more impact?
  • We know we have grown because……..?

Review the past years activities together as a team – milestones, challenges, failures, learning, achievements. This begins to build a shared understanding – a perspective where the sum of its parts come together, so everyone can see the bigger picture.

The opportunity to explore ‘do differently’s is opened up – identifying improvements and team objectives for the year ahead. 

Affirming the growth of the team as a whole, encouraging support as everyone works toward the same aligned purpose.  Mis-alignments in objectives are highlighted, where if one person ‘wins’ this could be at the expense of another.

Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take some time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace.

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is very important to productive conversations.  Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. If you have a specific objective she will design a bespoke day with you, facilitate a specific meeting, or use her proven process for a ‘Team Pause’ day, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision. Here is her Linked-in profile or contact her on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk