In another month, people world over will take time out from their hectic routines, relax, and inevitably start to contemplate where their life is going.
Right now though, many of us are starting to feel frazzled even when we don’t recognize it. Often there’s a feeling of invincibility that comes first, “Check me out, look at all these balls I’m juggling”; that’s just the adrenaline rush from the sheer amount of activity going on. When you look deeper, fog brain is the norm and you are really just trying to ‘get through’ to the holidays.
The power of time out shouldn’t be underestimated, the constant chatter that goes on in your mind, relating to your everyday routine, will calm for only a brief period. It’s time to pay attention, listen.
Right now your vantage point is too obscured by the day to day stresses and tensions that will soon get blown off over the holiday season if you make room to relax, unwind, and enjoy. You will start to feel like yourself again, things that are truly important to you start to surface from your subconscious with great clarity. When they do, take notice. That is why so many people make new year’s resolutions.
Very quickly your life can ramp right back up again and your innermost desires will appear less urgent. Those resolutions get pushed to the bottom of the list, instead, the day to day spot fires take precedence. However, what you truly want won’t be so easily pushed aside. It will keep showing up in many different ways, in every level of your wellbeing, bugging you, thwarting you, making your life more difficult, until you pay heed.
Life is quite simple, what is good for you (the real you, the one you get to meet when you’re less wound up) feels right. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not. When we are distracted by the day to day, our mind tends to play a much greater part in our decision making than is healthy for us. You start to think about all the common things you heard growing up –“no one in this family ever…”, “men only want one thing”, “money doesn’t grow on trees” and “money corrupts“ and all the things in between that affect the way you see yourself, your relationships, your health, your success, your finances, everything.
Over time you will have attracted many circumstances into your life that reaffirm all these things, because thoughts affect the way we feel and the way we act, so we inevitably – albeit not intentionally – you attract many of things you don’t want. It’s a vicious cycle until you become conscious of it. Knowing who you are underneath the layers of defense and perception that have accumulated from the moment you were born is an unfolding process.
However, there is no better time for most of us to get in behind those than when we take a break.
Last year I had finally paid attention to the voice telling me to leave the corporate roles I’d had. When redundancy was offered I took it, with no real clue as to what I was going to do instead. A year on, I’m happily learning, growing and sharing through these articles, it’s a great outlet. One day that may lead to something more, but for now I’m just enjoying the process.
In the meantime, to earn, I’m helping a worthy organisation with a cultural transformation. The dynamic is completely different from anything I’ve done before. The main difference, aside of being a consultant rather than employee, is in who I am. The inner sense of self is restored, no more feeling like a square peg in a round hole, compromising. I operate with a sense of ease and authenticity and, well, I am happy.
Our family has relocated, with lifestyle in mind, the kids are in kindergarten attached to a school that values natural development and creativity, allowing the children more freedom in the way they learn, allowing them to retain more of a sense of who they really are rather than having to remold themselves to fit into a traditional system.
Whether it’s a change in career, a more healthy lifestyle or a promise to yourself to take that long anticipated trip, life will have a way of nudging you along until you take notice. So why not take the lead from whatever arises for you this season and commit to it?
That doesn’t mean you have to force something, in fact, if you are having to force a change, you are simply creating barriers to what is coming your way naturally. Your job isn’t to figure out the details of how to make the changes in your life occur, it’s simply to pay attention.
If you are able to, and wondering whether to take a break right now, do. For those who have to work through, plan your next break, look forward to it with relish. There’s nothing that feels as good as the moments you are completely in tune with yourself and that is within reach. Think about the things you feel really proud of in your life, you’ll see there’s pattern of having achieved them from a place where things just seemed to flow.
Great things happen with people tune in and turn on, 2016 promises to be an amazing year for you if you’ll let it.
First published on LinkedIn.
Female hormones - and all their glorious effects in adulthood - rarely get discussed in workplaces. Men dare not, preferring instead to keep comments limited to jokes in down time. Women dare not, lest a crack should show in our armory and we should be thought of as 'less' somehow.
When we are at work, most of us want to remain professional and are likely to keep our masks in tact. In the throws of some hormonal fluctuation, if we do manage to keep the mask in place, often the inner dialogue is slightly less than professional. Our patience and tolerance are diminished - outwardly we might smile and nod, if you are lucky, but inwardly we are rolling our eyes, seething and thinking "how dare they..." or " I just don't have time for this crap".
At home though we tend to let the mask slip. Those around us know first hand the effects these potent chemicals have with such regularity.
Last week I found myself verbally unleashing momentary rage upon my kids for, well, being kids – making a mess, bickering, screeching at the first sign of anything blocking their flow; how dare they? Like Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk, I just flipped.
Joking aside, one day I am at peace with everything around me, not easily flustered by much at all, the next I have all the tolerance of a pea. Out of the blue there are scripts playing in my head that have been silent for a few weeks, basically blaming everyone around me for their selfishness and insensitivity. I hear myself chuntering all the same things I used to hear my mother say, getting sucked into a vortex of thoughts, stories that reaffirm my righteousness.
Then I observe with wonder and incredulity. Why did I speak to my children in such a way? “They’ll not trust me if I’m not consistent” I thought, then, “don’t blow it, you are meant to be their safe haven". The grip subsided, started to dissipate. “Goodness girls” I said, “I’m so sorry, that wasn’t nice at all huh? “ They reaffirmed and I apologised, again.
In the next moment, one of them spilt something on the floor and the mad lady was back. “How dare you?” I cried. To myself I thought “stop, just stop, that is enough”. Exhausted I decided we had to switch it up, get some fresh air and burn off some energy.
Good move. The energy I’d tuned into was so dense, it was pulling me down. Out in the sun enjoying the kids playing at the park, a modicum of tranquility returned as my energy found a different wavelength to tune to, my inner stillness. Thank goodness I practice regularly tuning into that inner stillness when I’m not so emotional; it helps me to find it when I am.
I have heard it said that – at various points in the hormonal cycles – females are susceptible to the energy of female persecution through the ages, something I thought sounded totally farfetched when I first heard it. However, given we are always creating energy, and that all energy created hangs around, in a hormonal state I obviously give off some bad vibes and attract more. Rage certainly seems to spring from nowhere.
I’m not sure that we can even blame biology for the hormonal state, because anthropological studies show that cultures vary in the way a woman’s hormones affect them. In societies where the females have been cherished, the emotional and physical state we recognize as ‘premenstrual’ or ‘menopausal’ does not exist.
This leads me to the cultural expectations that we get locked into from a young age. Women going periodically schizo (I don’t mean this distastefully, there is no better phrase to describe the constant and extreme switches in emotional state), arguments ensuing and men rolling their eyes and sanctimoniously saying “ah, it’s that time again is it?” all reinforce the energy hanging around.
Even in the workplace you can be sure everyone is thinking that when a female seems to ‘lose the plot’.
With two girls growing into this world I am sensitive to the things that they can take on that remove them yet another step from their innocence – or ‘inner sense’. For really, that natural state that children come into this world with is the natural state within all of us. It’s the one I tune into when I practice mindfulness or meditation.
If we can simply be the space in which these strong emotions arise, allowing them to be without attaching thought to them, they start to dissipate.
While I’d rather not be schizo mum, at least I am at a point where I recognize it and try to catch it now. I apologise for it if I don’t catch it in time, and I hope that I’ll get better and better at simply being the space for that energy to pass through me like a wave and dissipate, it’s as important for my own wellbeing as it is for that of my kids.
Still today I know female persecution exists, but for most of us, if we can start to let go of the hurts of the past, the bad vibes will have no place to exist anymore, they will dissipate and we can free ourselves of this taboo and move forward.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
For most CEO’s, the notion of simply scrapping your entire management structure is a little uncomfortable to say the least. But let’s look at this more closely. Is your management structure adding value, or are managers actually the cogs in a cumbersome machine that is now past its best?
"people today want to be part of something meaningful"
People today want to be part of something meaningful, feel empowered and valued for their contribution. Organisations must move past trite vision statements and values, made trite only because those who ‘do the work’ are often not involved in their creation, so the organization doesn't 'live and breathe' the words written on its collateral. Rallying to a purpose means involvement, which leads to commitment.
As discussed in my last article on why trust leads to better business outcomes, traditionally we apportion trust in organisations in the form of access to information, decision making power and financial authority. This strips many of the people ‘doing the work’ of any real power, we want those very people to take a more holistic view yet we don’t treat them as whole.
Better Brand and Bottom Line – Ditch Your Call Centre asserts that the role of a call centre is unnecessary, costly, and even harmful. But in Profit, Purpose and Personal Fulfillment Can Thrive Together - A Remarkable New Organisational Construct I discuss a wider - though similar - issue, learning from organisations who have transcended the issues faced by most by adopting more self managing constructs.
So has the role of management become another middle man that is perpetuating unnecessary costs? Having been a manager for many years myself, it’s a question I’ve pondered more and more. Initially there was an ego attachment to it, a status that goes with having ‘power’, but then came the responsibility of having to achieve outcomes through others. Quickly I understood the value of intrinsic motivation and the ability to find and ignite it.
There is certainly an art to good management, but the question is whether it's necessary. Do managers simply have to learn these skills because of what has, in essence, been taken away from those in the value chain (doing the work that lies at the heart of the company's existence)? Take away control and many lose that intrinsic motivation to succeed on their own.
In an article, published in Forbes, Jacob Morgan talks of 5 must-have qualities of the modern manager. He covers removing roadblocks from the paths of employees to help them succeed, empowering and engaging people, having a handle of what consumers are saying online, which social and collaborative technologies are making their way into the enterprise, using those collaborative technologies to lead by example, being open and transparent, embracing vulnerability and sharing information and collective intelligence.
These are great qualities, but still, I wonder where the value-add is. How many of these things would be necessary in an environment where those who plan ahead and those who 'do' worked together in self managing teams, are these not things that can be achieved by anyone with the right access, savvy and relationships?
“there would be chaos”
Those who are managers may not have faith that all the people they currently manage could self manage well. Some may even think there would be chaos. Yes it could be a bumpy ride at first, but people quickly adapt and evolve given the right support.
There has to be a huge amount of effort put into training managers that move through the various levels of managers anyway, why not invest that elsewhere, cut out the middleman?
Most people manage perfectly well outside of work, in all the other areas of their life, without someone managing them. Those you manage are after all parents, homeowners, leaders in the community, sportspeople and so on. With experts like Frederic Laloux (author of Reinventing Organizations) and Yanik Silver (author of Evolved Enterprise) around, there is plenty of support to create organisations that manage themselves in quite a different way.
"firms that follow these principles have outperformed the S&P 500 by 1000%"
The organisations of the future are those who rally to a real cause (both those who work in the organisation and their customers), encourage the whole person to show up (rather than the narrow professional slice that has become the norm) and have constructs that facilitate collaboration (internally and externally). In the book Firms of Endearment, the authors show how firms that follow these principles have outperformed the S&P 500 by 1000% over 10 years.
If you want to stick with a management structure to achieve those things, you can, though it’s probably not the most efficient use of your resources in the long term. I’m not suggesting you fire all your managers, it’s the ‘managing people’ part of the role that is largely redundant. In the case studies that Laloux cites, the organisations that have transformed to self managing structures retained all their managers but in roles that added more value.
Regardless of how to choose to evolve, evolve you must in order to thrive in today's world and in order to just to survive in the world of tomorrow.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/45393120@N07/5997001123">HA0521-031</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
While we want our people to take a holistic view, most people in organisations are not treated as ‘whole’. The very construct of the organisation is designed to strip them down to a narrow view, then we want them to be holistic in their day to day interactions. It’s not unique to our adult experience, it starts when we are young. We teach our kids to fit in, follow the rules, yet want them to think for themselves.
What utopia looks like is an organisation where those interacting with customers, or designing interactions, feel that they own a win-win outcome in that interaction and that they have enough skill and acumen to achieve it. That means that they understand the big picture, are privy to the information they need and empowered to achieve the outcome. Sure, there are skills involved in that, but it all hinges on trust.
Talking to a tenured executive this week about the problems his organisation faces in delivering a great customer experience, he cites the common scenario of major stakeholders getting complaints from customers about the lack of help they’ve had from the organisation.
He finds himself bringing together different people, who have looked at things from their constricted viewpoint, their limited span of control, and having to mediate a solution from a more holistic perspective. One that serves the customer and the organisation. Sound familiar?
While ‘the customer experience’ has become a rather trite phrase, it is the thing that makes or breaks perceptions of an organisation when people have to interact with it. It’s the proof point of any brand you want to create and a vital barometer of your leadership. Whether an organisation exists primarily to make money, or is not-for-profit, whether it lives and dies by serving the needs and desires of individuals or is custodian or gatekeeper of a greater good, is irrelevant. All organisations benefit from a good reputation.
Standing in the way will be the basic construct of your organisation, even ‘flat’ structures tend to have hierarchies with the power at the top. The power isn’t just about the level of financial authority and decision making, it’s about the level of input and access to information – important context that can make all the difference for the person dealing with a change that is intended to directly or indirectly help the customer, or simply in the day to day conversing with the customer and ‘doing their job’.
The discussion in my recent article on how Profit, Purpose and Personal Fulfillment Can Thrive Together, focused on a new approach to organizational constructs. While this can only be driven by CEO’s and those they answer to, there is room in any construct for leaders to take an approach that allows their people to operate in a more holistic way, one that better serves them and the organisation.
The issue of trust is a starting point. To trust your people to deliver win-win outcomes, aside of the skills they will need to be equipped with, you have to trust them with information, you have to listen to their input, and they have to trust you.
When people trust you, they are willing to ask for help, willing to own mistakes. To gain that trust you have to firstly be willing to be vulnerable yourself, not infallible. Sure, you want to work with people who know what they’re doing, but to never make mistakes or to know everything?
For most of us showing any sign of weakness is out of our comfort zone. Our survival instinct, the part of our brain that switches to flight or fight when we are in mortal danger, has become the modus operandi for the way we live. Although most of us tend not to live in mortal danger for most of our lives, we are constantly using our minds in a way that mimics that instinct.
Notice as you talk to people that you are generally not listening to what they are saying. Yes you may be hearing the words that come out of their mouth, but you’re usually leveraging that to think about what to say next, rather than really understanding what is being said.
Here’s the reason, while you came into the world with an innate sense of what is right and wrong for you, from the minute you are born on this earth others think they know better. Slowly but surely you start to become less of who you were born to be and more of who others think you should be. This thing called ‘ego’ forms, your mind’s perception of you are. Almost immediately we start to fight or defend in some way, outwardly or silently.
Being vulnerable with the people you want to have trust in you is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Leadership teams that can be vulnerable with each other can start to truly operate as a team and will be a lot more focused and successful as a result. But it is like wearing a very uncomfortable pair of shoes at first. As you get to know and accept your own fallibilities, so you will be able to listen to others and help them with theirs, freeing them to achieve the very things you want them to.
Trusting your people to do their job in a holistic way means treating them as whole people. Any step towards trust in your organisation, even one small step, will be one giant leap towards a better customer experience and better business outcomes.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/122099374@N07/16969244789">Dave Lewis</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
How often do you delay taking a break, getting sleep or doing something for yourself in favour of doing something that ‘needs’ to be done first? How often is your mind thinking about the next thing you need to do, something you want or need to do in the future or ruminating about something that has already happened? How often are you really ever here, in this present moment?
There’s an expression about smelling the roses that might seem trite, but even noticing the people next to you, what they are wearing, the colours in the room, the smells as you take a walk outside, just noticing, just being, can help you in so many ways if you’ll just slow down – or, at least, feel that you’re slowing down.
Just look at the amazing photo taken by Dmitry Sytnik I used for this article. If you look at the city, how does your body respond, how do you feel? If you look at the sky, how do you respond in contrast? Wouldn’t it be better to bottle the second feeling and carry that with you?
I know it seems hard, impossible even at times. This week I watched my brother-in-law contending with a family emergency, he runs a small business and had nearly 600 orders to get out. With my sister-in-law (his critical partner in this) in hospital, and 3 kids to organize, it was the kind of day that one just has to get through. He asked the older ones about pick up and drop off arrangements for their after-school activities, dealt with the younger one having a morning melt down, knew at some point my sister-in-law would need picked up, meanwhile there was the task of just getting everyone fed and out the door.
No doubt you will have some version of this story playing in your own life. Perhaps not an emergency, but everyday life can call upon you to be many people all at once. Telling you to take more time for yourself, take a break, get more sleep or smell the roses is likely to have your mind racing with all the things you need to do, all the reasons you can’t – and that’s only if you haven’t already dismissed the idea out of hand right at the outset. But if you are at a point where you’re thinking “there’s got to be more to life than this”, you are likely ready to at least listen.
“a simple moment in the midst of chaos that has changed everything”
Recently I wrote about a morning when I was trying to get my two preschool children focused enough to get out the door to their respective daytime activities, in time for me to get to an important appointment. It was a simple moment in the midst of chaos that has changed everything.
On the cusp of thinking I’d magically managed to keep the chaos contained in a fast flowing steam of activity that led to getting in the car and going, each daughter wanted something extra – unplanned – that was absolutely necessary to them (by this I mean completely unnecessary in the mind of a rational human being). It’s at this point I no longer heard the calm in my voice, instead I heard a mix of anger, pleading and frustration welling up all at once. Again, inevitably this just escalates the situation. So I felt bad, and I had a choice, do I keep sliding into those old thought patterns and just perpetuate more bad feeling, or do I nip it in the bud?
“disconnecting from any thought of time pressure, connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world”
I chose the out-of-body surrender experience, disconnecting from any thought of time pressure, connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world. My calm voice was back, I soothed the children trying to focus on how to help them feel good, and we soon got underway. Everything worked out; we were on time and fairly unscathed.
Since then I have taken that concept and found myself quite naturally applying it to almost every moment of the day. Connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world hasn’t slowed me down; it has kicked my body out of survival mode and into a much more productive one that recognizes the present moment and all that I am doing in it. The feeling of calm that goes with it has rendered my life almost unrecognizable from the one I used to lead.
Having invested time in deliberately feeling into a space where time is not pressing upon me, through regular yoga and meditation, I can now connect with the feeling of that quite easily when I remind myself to. There are moments, like getting to a meeting, or driving to pick up the kids, where I play the voice of Louis Armstrong singing in my head “we have all the time in the world..” and it kicks me into a different mode. Nothing ever falls over, the world doesn’t end, the kids are never left stranded, quite the opposite.
Here with a mission, with not a moment to waste, I walk with determination; people always joke they can recognize my footsteps striding towards the room with a sense of purpose. That hasn’t changed, this week there were some teenage kids idling through town and one cheekily mimicked me striding along. The difference though is that I’m not sure I’d even have noticed that kid a year ago. My mind would have been locked into the next meeting; my vision and hearing elsewhere, the chemical balance of my being consumed by survival hormones.
Instead, here I was fully engaging in the moment, observing and smiling at this guy who soon tired of his antics, it was fun.
Recently I overheard my 4 year old say to her younger sister “Out of the way, I need to go somewhere”, to which I heard a little voice bounce straight back with “But you already are somewhere.” A lovely reminder of staying in the present moment.
The simple fact is this, you do have all the time in the world. Time pressure is something applied by your mind. Kicking your body into survival mode just to propel your car from a junction ahead of that red car, rather than behind it, in order to ‘save’ 6 seconds, is simply not worth it. Forsaking a trip to the loo in order to hurry to a meeting, skipping lunch or eating at the desk in order to get through some emails, constantly rushing your kids through life (hurry up and get in the car, hurry up and eat that, hurry up and get out…), none of it is helpful.
In contrast, connecting with a feeling of having time, when the voice in your head is desperately trying to kick you into flight and fight mode, will keep your brain fully functioning and your being more connected to the world around you.
You will have your own way of unwinding, whatever it is you do - or have done in the past - whether it's walking the dog, meditating, swimming or golfing. Take time to notice how your body responds when you're doing these activities. Take the time to notice other times your body naturally relaxes; drink in the feeling and call upon it regularly throughout your day.
You’ll be here, present, happier, nicer to be around and more effective in everything you do.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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