A-Head for Success

T 0345 130 0854

Why is Feedback so Stressful?

It is Ken Blanchard who said that feedback is the breakfast of champions.  But it always seems so stressful.  Whether you’re giving it or receiving it, few people are comfortable around it.  It has got to the point where organisations are questioning the validity of appraisals and one company, GE, are calling feedback Insights so people feel less antsy about it.  Why?

Continue reading
Continue reading...

The Problem with Black and White Thinking (2 minutes to read)

Black and white thinkingBlack and white thinking (also known as all or nothing thinking) can be really useful when you need a quick decision which has an absolute answer:  something is right or wrong, good or bad.  A decimal point in the wrong place can have a huge impact, even though the mistake itself is small.  “I nearly got it right” won’t hack it with the bank manager.  Someone coming at you with a knife?  Bad, and a clear signal to cut and run – no time to wonder at their intentions.  So, black and white thinking can be helpful.

But not often.  What it doesn’t allow for are the shades of grey in between.  It polarises thinking and is often a factor in depression, anxiety and stress.

I was coaching a client who had a problem with one of her team who had started to undermine her in meetings.  Her response?  To put her in her place.  The result?  A battle of wills in front of the team which neither resolved anything nor placed either in a good light.

We looked at why she took this stance and she said that she was either being honest or pathetic.  Being ‘pathetic’ as she called it was no solution.  But her honesty was such that it simply inflamed the situation.  So, we looked at all the shades of grey and came up with the following hierarchy of possible responses to her situation starting with a more accurate reflection of her actual response:

  1. Brutally honest
  2. Blunt
  3. Honest
  4. Diplomatic
  5. Economical with the truth
  6. Weak
  7. Pathetic

People rarely behave negatively for no reason at all.  Those reasons might be personal (it is hard to separate home problems from work), or they may be down to frustrations at work.  Either way, a brutally honest approach will be as effective as a pathetic one in many cases.  However, it may be something to build up to.

So we worked on why the employee might have been behaving the way she was (she was under pressure at home and at work and concerned about doing her job well as she realised she was making mistakes).  This needed a diplomatic response which honoured her work ethic but explored the reasons for the change.  This set the tone for a more collaborative way of dealing with her frustrations and performance.

In summary, if you feel you tend to polarise between black and white thinking, ask yourself what impact this is having on the quality of your decisions, your stress levels and your relationships.  Then ask yourself what are other ways of looking at the same situation.  This gives you flexibility of response and potentially, much better outcomes.

If you would like to receive 1:1 coaching on getting your thinking working for you rather than against you, why not call for an initial chat to see if I can help you?  I can be reached on 0845 130 0854.


Continue reading...

Emotional Intelligence – Your Secret Weapon

Emotional IntelligenceI was interviewed for a leadership program on the subject of emotional intelligence this week.  I call it your secret weapon because it is said to account for 80% of your success.  You might be surprised to learn that intellect, though important too, actually only accounts for 20%.  It is your ability to handle yourself which is what makes the biggest difference and this is what emotional intelligence is about.  And the good news is that it helps you in your work and in your personal life too.

The downside of it is that you need to have it to know whether you have it!

There are four main elements to emotional intelligence (or EQ as it is also known):

1.  Self-awareness

This is about really knowing yourself - your strengths and your weaknesses too.  For a lot of people their blind spot is what holds them back so self-awareness is really important.

2.  Self-management

Self-management has a number of components, the most important of which is self-control.  Not in a controlling way (which implies a lack of flexibility), but rather that you are in charge of your responses.   This is what I like to call 'response-ability'.  It implies flexibility and choice - an awareness of options and an ability to see the bigger picture about which is the right option in the context you find yourself in.  It isn't about denial, or suppression but about always being at choice and to motivate yourself through times of challenge and when the initial shine of an idea has worn off.

3.  Social awareness

The most important component of social awareness is empathy - the ability to understand how someone feels.  It is not to be confused with sympathy, though often is.  Some research was conducted in the US with physicians.  Those who lacked empathy got sued more often than anyone else.  Empathy can get you very far, and the lack of it can impede your success, as well as affect your relationships.

4.  Social skills

The final, though no less important skill of EQ, is the ability to build relationships, to influence, to inspire, to deal with conflict.  All (and more) come under the umbrella of social skills.  And they require the other three to function well.

To understand the degree to which you are emotionally intelligent is really difficult on your own.  As I mentioned, you need to have a high degree of EQ to know if you have it.  It is easier to know your strengths and weaknesses if you have a profile done.  This takes off the blinkers, removes the blind spots and helps you understand yourself in more depth so you know what skills you can leverage, and where you need to improve.

EQ is a fascinating and complex area.

If you are a woman in a leadership position, you may want to sign up to "Unlock Your Leadership Potential Summit" hosted by a colleague of mine, Jill Furby at Limitless Women Leaders.  Alternatively, I will have the recording available for my clients so you won't miss out.  Keep posted and I will let you know as soon as it becomes available.

In the next article, I will talk about how to deal with overwhelm - a leading cause of stress.  Stay tuned!

To your success.



PS  Want to know how I can take your performance to the next level?  Contact me at tricia@triciawoolfrey.com to arrange a no-obligation chat.

Continue reading...

Influence and Manipulation – What’s the Difference?

How to InfluenceWhen they first start to work with me, some of my clients don’t like the idea of learning how to influence because they see it as the same as manipulation.  But there is a significant difference.  One that sets the influencer apart, builds trust and is a significant factor in helping you achieve your goals in life and in your business.

What is Influencing?

Influencing is the ability to have people buy into you, your idea, your business.  It can smooth relationships so that they are more collaborative and harmonious, even in times of challenge.  It requires the ability to understand the motivations of the other person, their hopes and fears, as well their objectives.  This knowledge, through skilful influencing can help you achieve your own objectives with greater ease.

What is Manipulation?

Continue reading
Continue reading...

Which Stress Personality Are You?

Stress is a very personal thing.  What might be stressful to one person, can be motivational and energising to another and comforting to yet someone else.

Yes, stress is very subjective.  However, most people would agree that stress concerns how we perceive the demands which we face in life.  If we don’t feel up to the challenges, or aren’t motivated by them, they will be stressful and draining.  In the short-term this can affect performance and teamwork.  In the long-term it can affect health and profit.

An opposite of stress is flow – when you are energised, work seems easy, you are able to give fully of yourself and time goes quickly.  You are in your flow when you do something you like and which comes naturally to you.  How you can enjoy more flow will depend on your profile – a subject which we will be addressing in this article.  Another opposite of stress is boredom.  And in many ways, this is simply another form of stress.  So the first thing to do to overcome stress and enjoy more flow is to understand yourself better so that there is less boredom, less tension and more playing to your strengths.

I use a variety of psychometric tools and one of them is called Talent Dynamics.  This is a simple tool which helps you to understand yourself more fully so that you experience less stress and more flow.

It suggests four main profiles.  I will share the main characteristics of each, as well as how each will experience stress and, at the same time, how each causes stress to others.  I will finish with a few pointers on how to deal with that particular profile. It is a longer article than usual, so get yourself a coffee and enjoy.  Even if you don’t identify with a particular profile, it provides insights into people who might be causing you stress, so it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to read it.

Which stress personality are youTHE DYNAMO

Let’s start with the Dynamo.  The Dynamo is someone who is interested in the ‘what’ of life.  Task focused, they tend to be creative, competitive, bold and target driven.  They tend to be great at creative problem-solving and are usually intuitive.

What stresses the Dynamo?

As the Dynamo doesn’t like detail, anyone giving them chapter and verse on a project will likely notice a significant drop in their interest fairly quickly.  Because they are target-driven, they will feel stressed by people who have a more relaxed attitude to commitments, or who spend a lot of time chatting when they ‘should be working’.  Because they are task-focused they don’t always appreciate that, sometimes, focusing on the relationship ahead of the task might actually get the task done more efficiently.  They will also get stressed by monotony and need variety to keep their levels of motivation optimal.

How does the Dynamo cause stress to others?

Dynamos tend to think fast, talk fast and act fast.  They can be impatient with people who can’t keep up or take too long to express themselves.  For a detail-oriented person the Dynamo is a challenge because they will only want to deal with the big picture.  The detail person doesn’t really understand the big picture until the stepping stones and context are given, something that the Dynamo has little patience for.  Easily distracted, they can create confusion or frustration for those who are more structured and reflective.

Another way that the Dynamo causes stress is to have lots of ideas that people struggle to keep up with.  The more projects people work on the less productive they are but the Dynamo just loves coming up with new ideas so they can be oblivious to the strain these projects place on everyone else.

Finally, another way that the Dynamo can cause stress is in their communication style.  They tend to be to the point which others may find blunt and could cause them to see the Dynamo as unapproachable.  So colleagues of the Dynamo may prefer to keep their thoughts and concerns to themselves rather than highlight problems early on, especially if they tend to be the kind of person who uses wordy descriptions and focuses on the problem instead of the solution.

How to deal with the Dynamo?

Never give too much detail or you will lose the Dynamo.  Keep to the point.  Let them know what is new and exciting about your idea.  They respect straight talking, so if you think that their ambitions are not achievable it is important to speak in positive terms, offering solutions or options instead of blocks.  The Dynamo needs a roadmap to achieve their results to help make sure that their creations bear fruit.  To keep from being distracted on too many projects, keep them focused on the big picture.

Which stress personality are you?THE BLAZE

The Blaze is very people-focussed in contrast to the Dynamo who is more task-focused.  They are interested in the ‘who’. They are very sociable, extrovert and relationships really matter to them.  However, they can appear disorganised to the other profiles.  They, like the Dynamo, enjoy variety.

What stresses the Blaze?

Trying to get the Blaze to focus on tasks at the expense of people will be very stressful because relationships are so important to them.  They will interpret a smile as a sign of rapport so talking to them without smiling will put them on edge and cause them to assume that you don’t like them or are unhappy with their work.  Like the Dynamo, they will not be good with too much detail.    They will dislike being rushed because they see nurturing a relationship as the most important factor.  They love telling stories and interrupting them mid-story is only likely to have them start the story again.

How does the Blaze cause stress to others?

Because the Blaze is so sociable, they will not be very good at keeping to time and can be easily distracted.  Targets may be missed because they will be focused on relationships rather than getting things done.  They will also tend to be expansive in their communication which can be frustrating to others.  They easily feel rejected so keeping rapport with them will be very important for ongoing results and relationship management.

How to deal with the Blaze?

Always respect your relationship with the Blaze – short-circuiting this to get the job done will actually work against you.  However, if you nurture the relationship with just a little small-talk and smile while telling them that you need a deadline met, you are more likely to keep them onside.  This will be even more effective if you emphasise the impact to other people of any delay.  They will need short term goals and friendly meetings to make sure they are on track.  Remember that the Blaze wants to please and less haste will deliver better results.  Keep them focused with regular meetings and smaller goals.

Which stress personlality are you?THE TEMPO

The Tempo is very much about the here and now and are team-oriented individuals.  They are interested in the ‘when’ and ‘where’.  They tend to be grounded, calm and caring and are good at implementing.  In this way they make a great foil for the Dynamo who are better at creating ideas than implementing them.

What stresses the Tempo?

The Tempo likes to know what’s what so change can be stressful to them, especially if they don’t know why or how it will take place.  They like to take their time with things so being rushed will not bring out the best in them.  If the team is stressed, the Tempo will be stressed too because they like to ensure that everyone is happy.  To implement well they need to have a system or clear instructions to follow - they are not good at winging it.  They are very concerned about getting things right so may take longer to make sure that they are doing the right thing and doing it well.

How does the Tempo cause stress to others?

Tempos are less good with the big picture and often require direction so they know they are doing the right thing.  Because of this, a boss who leaves people to it will be frustrated at the lack of progress a Tempo is likely to achieve in that kind of environment.  Their calmness can be seen as lack of drive and their tendency to caution can be seen as a block when really it’s about making sure no mistakes are made and that problems are avoided.

How to deal with the Tempo?

Good communication and teamwork are key for the Tempo.  They will be motivated to do things which benefit the team and to be able to do things at their own pace.  If necessary, break things down so they do not appear overwhelming.  Give them clear timelines and repeatable processes as well as background information so they understand the context of what they are doing.

Which stress personality are you?THE STEEL

Steel really enjoy facts and figures and the feeling of getting everything to balance.  The Steel is interested in the ‘how’.  They are good with detail and can spot errors very easily.  They like systems, are well organised and disciplined and tend to be quite introverted and, as such, tend to be less comfortable in social situations than other profiles.

What stresses the Steel?

Steel will not enjoy an unstructured environment where change happens without apparent planning.   They will tend to be frustrated in an environment which is very social at the expense of getting things done and may be uncomfortable in social situations.   They tend to be risk-averse so playing things by ear will be very stressful to them.

How does the Steel cause stress to others?

Other people may find the Steel too concerned with detail and structure.  Their tendency to see things as black and white can be challenging to others who notice the grey in between.  Steel are less comfortable around uncertainty and change which can be frustrating for fast-moving change programs.  They may be seen as blocking to the more target-focused Dynamo and there are often conflicts between these opposing styles unless they learn to accommodate each other.

How to deal with the Steel?

Give the Steel as much structure as possible.  Communicate effectively but succinctly, making sure there are no surprises and that you give them the detail they need to feel confident about doing a good job.  High level strategy will go over their heads unless it is backed up with a structured plan of how to achieve it.

This is a simple outline of four of the main characters (and there are numerous subtypes) but, of course, people are more complex than this.  Really understanding yourself and others, playing to your strengths, working out how to work to others’ strengths can make a huge difference in achieving productivity, positive relationships and in keeping your stress levels as low as possible in a chaotic world.

A balanced business needs a range of skills to create, implement, problem-solve and maintain.  So each profile needs to learn to work with the others, appreciate their positive qualities and contributions and to ensure that they work with other styles in a productive way.

If you want to learn how to become more stress resilient, give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  You'll be glad you did.

Continue reading...

A-Z of Business: W: Weaknesses – You are only as strong as your weakest link

WeaknessWe are all made up of strengths and weaknesses, undiscovered potential and blind spots.  Your best strategy for success is to exploit your strengths, uncover hidden skills (we all have them), open your eyes to your blind spots (we all have those too) and start working on these – and your weaknesses – to make sure they do not become your derailers.

Your biggest enemy in addressing any limitations is denial.  If you want to have success, your best friend is your willingness to be open to discovering weaknesses and to work on them.

As the title of this article suggests – you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Doing whatever it takes to mitigate against these is good insurance for the future and it will give you a sense of progress and achievement too.  It may mean working on yourself (it’s much easier with the support of a good coach) or hiring in talent to make up for any shortfall.  All the best teams, according to the principles of Belbin Team Roles require a variety of attributes to achieve success.

Belbin has nine team roles from Shaper (takes the business forward, creating strategy) to Completer Finisher (who puts the strategy into action).  One cannot exist fruitfully without the others, otherwise the team is out of balance.  Whether you are working on your own or with a team, the same principle applies.

In the 5 Pillars of Success, I look at the dimensions which help to make you successful:

1.    Clarity
Do you have a clarity of purpose, of mission and of values?  Do you have a clear strategy with clear steps to take you there?  Can you see clearly enough to prioritise well and delegate effectively to your team or brief your suppliers effectively?

2.    Skills
Do you have the skills you need to make you successful?  InfluencingTime management?  Leadership?  Delegating?  Presenting?  Emotional intelligence?  Business skills?  Conflict management?  What skill do you wish you had more of?  What skill do you overplay so that it becomes a problem?  Perfectionism?  Drive?  It’s just as important to see when a strength becomes a weakness as it is to recognise your blind spots.

3.    Mindset
Are you positive, motivated and solution oriented?  Do you possess the personality factors for success?  Have you been on my Personality for Success seminar yet?  This gives you a great self-assessment tool, or you can book yourself a psychometric profile.

4.    Stress Resilience
Are you calm and resourceful under pressure?  Do you respond thoughtfully to situations rather than react impulsively, building up more problems for yourself down the line?  Do you allow the small things to become big things?  Do you take the stresses at work home with you and the stress at home to work with you?

5.    Energy
Do you have too much work at the end of your energy?  Does your lifestyle or pace impact your health?  Do you have adrenal energy or core energy?  It is only core energy which is sustainable but few people have this.  Are you firing on all cylinders?  If you aren’t, nor is your business.

And what weaknesses are there in your business?  Do you have the skills, processes and systems in place to run the business effectively and profitably?  Do you have a good quality team, performing well and working well together?  Are you able to acquire and retain customers who pay well and are happy with your service or product?  And are you able to meet your financial targets and obligations?

Remember that no one person can know it all, do it all and be it all.  Perfection is not a human condition but it is a destination, one you can travel on your journey of self-development and business improvement.

What one area could you improve which would have the biggest impact for you?  If you focus on one thing at a time then you will not risk dropping any of the many balls you are juggling and it is easier to integrate the change.

Why not book an assessment to see where you can best focus your efforts to create the best value?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to discuss your options.


© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey - click HERE to find out about the author.

Continue reading...

A-Z of Business: EQ – The Difference Which Makes the Difference

EQIn this A-Z of Business series, we have reached the letter Q.  Now, I could have talked about quotas, quoting or questions if I was being a purist.  But, if I look at the balance of what’s been written and what’s missing, I think that EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is far more important.  Anything which omits this key area of business success is lacking.  So I decided to break my own rule and hope that’s OK with you?

In case you haven’t come across this before you may be wondering why it’s called EQ when it refers to Emotional Intelligence (EI)?  The Q refers to “quotient” which is the amount of a specific quality or characteristic, in this case, emotional intelligence.  But, what does it mean?  It is the capacity for self-insight, for understanding and managing your emotions and having empathy for others’.  In this way you can better manage your relationships and your stress levels.

It is such an important skill that it is thought to be more important than IQ in helping to get you promoted, in creating sales and in building collaborative effort.  Research suggests that it accounts for around 90% of managerial success as opposed to IQ which only accounts for 20%.  Not that IQ is not important.  Of course, it is.  But you need both.  The ability to put your knowledge, your expertise, your skills into effect in the most  constructive way possible is said to be the difference which creates the successful business person whether you work for yourself of for an organisation.

So, ask yourself:

  • How well do you respond to setbacks?
  • How well do you understand people’s different motivations and behaviours?
  • Do you have a balanced view of your own strengths and weaknesses?
  • To what extent are you able to control your responses in situations which challenge you?
  • Are you good at building collaborative relationships?
  • Could you be described as someone who is level-headed, positive and flexible?
  • Do you inspire trust?
  • Do you manage conflict well (rather than avoid it)?
  • Are you self-motivated?
  • How good are you at bouncing back when things go wrong?

You can learn more HERE on our website.

Emotional intelligence is one of those concepts where you need a lot of it to know you have it.  So if your EQ isn’t as high as you think it is, it will almost certainly be inhibiting your progress.  To be sure what your level of EQ is, why not book an assessment?  It’s well worth it and can put you on track for success like nothing else.  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey - click HERE to find out about the author.

Continue reading...