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: 07950 914328

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 or 07950 914328.

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,

A version of this article was published in the Lean Management Journal 30 March 2017: