A-Head for Success

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7 Strategies for Dealing with Overwhelm (time to read 3m)

Overwhelm StrategiesWhether overwhelm is a constant feature of your life or something which you experience from time to time, the following can help you overcome it.

These strategies came from working with a client of mine who was so overwhelmed that he was in danger of imploding.  He was managing a team of people in the service industry and just felt bombarded by demands on his time from employees, customers, his bosses, suppliers, his email and he was a slave to his smartphone.  He had become ineffective and irritable and, not only was he suffering from insomnia but he was also eating and drinking too much.

These are the strategies which bought his life back into balance which I hope will help you too:

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The Dangers When Motivation Blurs Perspective

Denial or TruthI usually write about performance, productivity and stress-resilience.  This article will cover the thorny subject of Denial which is a cousin to each of those.

The political turmoil at the moment has been cursed with so many twists and turns, accusations, affirmations and resignations that is has been hard to keep up.  At a time of deep unrest, what has been needed is an honest and unbiased assessment of the situation so that stability and a clear way forward can be restored.

This is true in business too – and in our personal lives for that matter.  In an excellent TED Talk, Julia Galef introduced the subject of Motivated Reasoning which she labels The Soldier Mindset.  In this, an individual will be motivated to defend their ideas, or attack the ideas of opponents.  Why shouldn’t we do that?  Because in blindly doing so, we don’t get an accurate picture of reality, we so doggedly stick to our position, that may take us down a path that results in regret, failure, or even disaster.

As an example, last week The Chilcot Enquiry concluded that the Iraq invasion was illegal, resulting in many needless deaths.   Tony Blair insisted he was not at fault, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  It would seem that his motivation was to forge strong links with the US, saying “I will be with you whatever.”  And so, he was.

Professor of Criminology, David Wilson, has called him ‘deluded’ and much worse*.  Whatever your thoughts on the subject of politics, the inability to see things in their true perspective can have devastating consequences.  Denial is a coping strategy to block out the uncomfortable truth.  In the case of Blair, he downplayed his actions to make them palatable to the wider world.  I think we all have a tendency to do that, but the consequences can be detrimental.

So what is the solution?

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Enjoying More Flow – The Steel

Steel

This is the last in the series of articles which explore your personality profile to help you understand how you can enjoy more flow and less stress in your day to day life.  As this is the last article, I will also use it to serve as a summary.

What is flow?

First of all flow can be considered as that feeling where you are at your best, highly motivated, focused and productive.  Work feels like fun.  Like a top athlete, you are ‘in the zone’.

The biggest secret to having more flow

There are many ways you can be more productive.  But to have more flow, the best approach is to play to your strengths.

We can pretty much put our minds to anything we want to, but, if we are doing something which is not a natural strength to us, it takes a lot of thought and effort.  It is more stressful and you are likely to be prone to more mistakes.  Not only that, it is less likely you will enjoy it.

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Enjoying More Flow – The Tempo

Enjoying More Flow - The Tempo

Welcome to the third in the series of how to enjoy more flow in your day to day life.  What does this mean?  When you are in your flow, you are motivated, energised, you are productive and everything seems easy to you.  The key to enjoying this is to play to your strengths as much as you possibly can.

One way of understanding your strengths is to have a profile done.  Talent Dynamics is one of several that I use and it has four main types.  Today we will look at the third type – what is called The Tempo.  But it isn’t the name that’s important, it’s the characteristics.

Of course at work it is rarely possible to have a job which only plays to your strengths.  In reality, most people find that there are parts of their job that fits you so perfectly.  It is far more likely that there are elements of your job that you dread, that may take a lot of mental energy and that take you longer to do than you think it should.  But by doing a job which plays mostly to your strengths, and managing your time so your day is not affected too much by the other tasks, you will notice your productivity increases.

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Enjoying More Flow – The Blaze

flow and productivitySo far in this series, we have looked at what flow means and we have looked at the profile of the Dynamo.  Today we are going to focus on The Blaze and what they need to do to enjoy more flow in their work life.

One of the main factors in enjoying more flow is to really understand your strengths and how to play to them.  So, as you read this article, do consider whether this profile describes you and what you need to do to create more flow.  There is no ‘best’ profile as each brings its own strengths and challenges.  By becoming more aware of what you bring to each activity and how to leverage these, you can enjoy more flow, less stress and more productivity.

It does not mean that if something is not a strength for you then you are doomed to fail in that category.  It does mean you need to be uber-conscious of what you are doing, why and how, to make sure you are being as effective as possible.  It will not flow in the same way as a natural strength, but you can become competent.  So, if you don’t identify with this profile, you might want to consider how the lack of the strengths of this profile could benefit you in your working life and how you might be able to develop some of that.

So, what is a Blaze?  The strongest characteristic of the Blaze is their sociability. 

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Enjoying More Flow – The Dynamo

stress

In my last article I shared with you the general principles of flow and how to get more of it.  A big part of enjoying more flow is understanding your strengths and how to play to them.   In this article, I am going to share with you the characteristics of one particular personality type – the Dynamo – and would invite you to determine whether or not this is you.   Each type has its strengths and its challenges.  The key to flow, stress resilience and productivity is learning how to be more conscious about what you bring into each activity.  Just because something is not a particular strength, doesn’t mean you can’t do it – it just takes more thought and effort.

So, what is a Dynamo?  They are people who are highly creative, competitive, visionary and goal-driven.  They tend to be more task-focused than people-focused and are great at getting things done.  They tend to be impatient though and dislike being constrained by rules.  If you think you are a Dynamo, you are probably a great starter but need to make sure that you finish things off or have a team that will do that for you.  Otherwise you will have a lot of projects that do not have sufficient ongoing attention to have continuing benefit. 

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How to Enjoy More Flow and Less Stress

HOW TO ENJOY MORE FLOW AND LESS STRESS
What is flow?  It is that sense of being in the zone, where everything seems easy.  You feel empowered and in control.  You have more flow when you are playing to your strengths, because your strengths tend to be what you enjoy.

Having more flow is to experience more motivation, more energy and more fun in your work.  You are able to navigate challenging situations more easily because you have a foundation of inner resourcefulness to support you.

You make fewer mistakes too because your concentration improves.

This all means you are less stressed and more productive.

Like a top athlete in the zone, you are super-focused, super-motivated and you perform at your best.

So, what can you do to experience more flow?  Here are my tips to help you:

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What’s the Difference Between a Coach, a Mentor and a Consultant?

The difference between a coach and a mentor

They say that all the best people get support to get them to the top and to keep them there.  It is a sign of vision, strength, and drive to want to take your performance and productivity seriously enough to invest in yourself and your business in this way.  But how do you know what kind of support you need? 

I am often asked the difference between a coach, a mentor and a consultant.  As I use a blend of these techniques when I work with my clients, I thought I would share them with you.  Whereas there is a lot of overlap, the following is my interpretation of the differences:

What is a Coach?

Coaching assumes that you have all of the answers within you and a good coach will ask questions to elicit from you the answers you seek.  They may challenge you, uncover blind-spots and develop perspective.  You can expect to learn more about yourself and develop insights you would struggle to achieve on your own. 

A coach does not need to have more experience than you in your field of expertise as they will not provide advice.  What they will do is help you make decisions and move forwards towards a specific goal in a way which empowers you.  You may be encouraged to evaluate the options available to you prior to making a decision yourself.

Coaching tends to revolve around a particular task, goal or skill to be achieved.  Examples would be leadership skills, presentation skills, productivity.

The coach will hold you accountable and the focus is on skills development and productivity.

What is a Mentor?

A mentor, by comparison, is someone who has more experience than you in a field of expertise you wish to become more skilled at.  They will be someone to whom you will ask advice on a particular subject.

A mentor will offer more guidance and will be a sounding board for any problems.  They are a person you will turn to when things go wrong for encouragement and a listening ear.

Essentially, they will be someone you feel safe with and be able to confide in.

Mentoring is much more relationship-driven without a specific goal in mind and so tends to be long-term.  The mentor will tend to consider you in the context of your work and your personal life.

The focus is on personal development.

What is a Consultant?

A consultant has specialist expertise and will look at a problem, usually on a more systemic level.  They will do research and analysis and provide recommendations for its resolution.

The focus is on solving a specific business problem which may involve several people or departments within your organisation.

The consultant may be asked to manage the implementation of the solution for you.

The focus is on problem-solving.

In Summary

If you want to achieve a specific goal and to develop your skills, coaching is for you.  If you need support and a sounding-board and personal development, then mentoring is for you.  If you want to find the solution to a problem with an expert, then consulting is for you.  My clients like the fact that I can offer support in a way which is right for them in that moment.  Sometimes it is to offload, sometimes it is to provide an answer to a complicated problem and sometimes it is to discover skills you didn’t know you had.

If you would like to find out what would be appropriate for you, why not call me on 0845 130 08540845 130 0854 for a free telephone consultation?

© Tricia Woolfrey 2014

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A-Z of Business: X- X-Ray Vision – Know your Business Inside Out

Business performance

Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone.  Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout.  This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing.  This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success.  Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference.  Productivity, not activity.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.

Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support?  Like building a house without it’s foundations.

Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?

Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices?  This is where success leads to ruin.

So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically – making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward.  The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators.  These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:

  • Turnover
  • Profit
  • Product revenues
  • Sales growth
  • Cost of sales
  • Costs
  • Performance against budget
  • Sales conversion ratio
  • New sales by marketing method
  • ROI (see individual blog about this)
  • Revenue by customer
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee performance
  • Revenue by employee
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • Customer complaints resolved
  • There are also various KPIs for:
    • Social media
    • Site engine optimisation
    • Call centre performance

Lies and statistics

A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number.  However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward.  It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else.  This is both an art and a science.  Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.

Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:

  1. Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
  2. Regularly review performance against these
  3. Look at the relationship between them
  4. Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
  5. Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action.  Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.

Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.

If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

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

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A-Z of Business: T – Time – Achieving More in Less

Time Management

How do you relate to time?  Do you just see the future ahead of you, cluttered with actions and goals which threaten to suffocate you?  Are you in the present moment, having fun but not getting much done?  Are you stuck in the past with no idea how to develop the insight, motivation or courage to move forward?  Or are you able to see time as a continuum with the past, present and future laid out in front of you?

If it is the latter, it means you are more able to learn from life experiences, get things done in the present and plan for the future.

“Not all hours and minutes are the same length” as Roger Black says.  It can speed by when you are enjoying yourself, or slow down when you’re not.  While we all have the same 1440 minutes every day but how is it that some people get more done than others?

It is all down to your relationship with time, how clear you are about your priorities and how everything fits in together.  It is important to prioritise those things which move you towards your goals in an economical manner.  This combines both effectiveness and efficiency so that your productivity improves.

A productive person is calm, focused, disciplined, flexible, balanced, has perspective and, generally, does what they say they will do.  This increases your reputation with yourself and so your self-esteem enjoys a good boost too.

There are four main time enablers:

  1. Perspective:      Purpose, goals, priorities and values
  2. Self:                   Self insight, self-motivation and self-management
  3. Others:              Understanding and managing others
  4. Balance:            A balance between downtime and uptime

When you have a clear perspective, with an ability to understand and manage yourself (and those others on whom you depend to get things done – or to whom you should be delegating) and balance this with self-care, you are in a much better position to improve your time management.  You will also feel more resourceful, your productivity enemies slain.

Here are my top tips:

  1. Focus on just two important items each day – this frees up your mind-clutter and gives you a sense of achievement
  2. Fill in the spaces with smaller jobs
  3. Have a power-hour once a week where you do all those little things you don’t have time for but which make you feel really good when they are done.
  4. Whatever you are doing, apply your 100% attention to as you can only do one thing at once, contrary to popular belief.  In addition, the stop start involved in not doing this can increase the time needed for each task by as much as 5 times!
  5. Limit distractions – be ruthless but respectful about it
  6. Delegate well
  7. Manage your information overload – be super-ruthless on this one
  8. Procrastinate discriminately – some things should be procrastinated but a lot of people procrastinate the important in favour of the trivial
  9. Make your to do list a reality list and keep your fantasy (wish) list separate.  Work your list with passion and fervour
  10. Keep your workspace free from clutter to give yourself mindspace to think clearly and get things done

Getting things done should be a joy, not a chore, giving you a sense of empowerment, achievement and progress.  By following these simple steps (which I cover in detail as part of my Achieving More in Less Time workshop), you will find that your productivity soars.

If you could use some help overcoming your time-management demons, why not book a session?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

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

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