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:

1. Prioritise

Not everything is important or urgent. I taught him to distinguish between the ‘noise’ of demands so that he was able to deal with the urgent and important first, and leave the non-urgent, not-important last.  For more information on this technique, see the time management section of An A-Z of Business.

2. Leave it 

Some things are so not urgent or important that not doing anything about them will not have a negative impact. I taught him to ask himself “What are the consequences of leaving this, today, tomorrow, next week?”  He learned that he could safely ignore some things which came as a huge relief.  A ringing phone is an example of something which can be left.  If it is really important, the person will leave a message.  But he had, like Pavlov’s dogs, simply reacted to every ring of the phone, which meant he was often multi-tasking like the proverbial plate spinner but with much less aplomb.

3. Delegate

Because he had become very reactive he had allowed his staff to delegate upwards to him which meant that the buck stopped very much with him. I taught him how to delegate:  what to delegate, to whom and when.  This meant that he freed up a lot of time, his staff were able to take more responsibility, took more initiative (they learned that he wasn’t always going to take up the slack), and their skills were improving.  Most of them liked the fact that they were trusted in this way.

4. Reschedule

His desire to fulfil on commitments (to be admired most of the time) meant that if priorities shifted, he was under enormous pressure. He learned to reschedule tasks or meetings where other priorities came up which were more pressing.  He also learned to build contingencies into his day so he wasn’t so engulfed with commitments.

5. Saying No

He learned that saying ‘no’ did not make him a bad boss, a bad employee or a bad person. He was not the do-er of all things.  It was OK to say ‘no’ sometimes and it was not a rejection of the other person.  I taught him how to say ‘no’ without saying ‘no’ too.  For example “I would be happy to help you with that.  My time is committed at the moment and I will be free next Wednesday for an hour.”  This was saying ‘no’ to now, not the favour.

6. Setting realistic expectations

When you are racing from one emergency to another, it is easy to fall in with other people’s emergencies when they are not your own. It is also easy to provide timelines based on hope, a fair wind, and no mind to the realities of life.  This creates unnecessary pressure and is a setup for disappointment.  I taught him how to always build in contingencies to any commitments which meant that when curve balls came his way, he could navigate them with greater ease.

7. Smartphone management

It is all too easy to become a slave to your smartphone and for my client, the strategy which worked was to have times during the day where he was switched off. This enabled him to focus on what was going on and not have to react to every ping, ding and ring.  The relief was immense.  He also stopped using it as his alarm clock and left the phone downstairs when at home.

These are the main strategies which worked with this particular client.  The result?  Less stress, greater productivity, a more empowered workforce and bosses who didn’t take him for granted.  He started enjoying work again too.  I hope they work just as effectively for you.

If you would like help in your specific circumstances to manage time, stress and people, do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  Everyone’s situation is different and sometimes working through challenges with an impartial expert can be the difference which makes the difference.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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A-Z of Business: L – Leadership-v-Management: Are You a Manager or a Leader?

How do you know if you are a manager or a leader? 

There are few job titles with the word “leader” in them.  Manager or Director (depending on your level of seniority) seem to be the titles of choice - Customer Services Manager, Finance Director, Marketing Manager, Human Resources Director, etc.  Yet, the title is not an indication.  Being a manager is as important as leadership.  However, without leadership, you are missing a crucial element in business success – winning people’s hearts and minds.

Management can be thought of as being the ‘nuts and bolts’ of your role, with duties such as:

  • Planning
  • Allocating resources
  • Organising and co-ordinating
  • Controlling and directing
  • Measuring and evaluating
  • Solving problems
  • Short term thinking for managers, medium-term thinking for directors
  • Managing systems and procedures
  • Maintaining
  • Concerned with the “when” and “how”

All of these are absolutely essential and create a framework, structure and systems to achieve results which are monitored and course-corrected on a regular basis.

A leader, by contrast will be more of a visionary and will motivate and inspire people to follow.  Their focus will be on the long-term and they will be concerned with:

  • Establishing a vision
  • Inspiring co-operation and trust
  • Developing ideas and people
  • Concerned with the “what” and “why”

Creating a vision will usually require change and a good leader will inspire the team to be motivated for that change which might otherwise be met with resistance.  A leader paints a picture that people want to be part of and want to help make happen.

Managers deal with “shoulds” (the realms of necessity) while leaders deal with “coulds” (the realms of possibility).

Of course, leadership and management are not mutually exclusive.  There is a lot of overlap between the two.  A good leader will need good management qualities.  A good manager will require good leadership qualities.  If you tend to be a good leader but are not good at the planning, implementation and problem solving, it’s essential to have a very good, reliable and loyal team to do this for you.  If you are a good manager without the leadership qualities, you will need a good leader managing you to help you pass on the vision to your team.  Both skills can be learned and, with both skills, you will be a rounded professional contributing fully to the success of your team and your business.

And, to close, off, the wonderful Stephen Covey said “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”  You have to have your vision right, otherwise you are managing the wrong things.

If you would like to have greater insight into your leadership and management skills, book a psychometric profile session.  This helps overcome blind spots and highlights development opportunities for you.  Call 0845 130 0854 to find out more.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

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

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A-Z of Business: K – Knowledge – Your Competitive Edge?

It is estimated that 15% of success is from your technical skills whereas 85% is through gaining trust and respect.  So, what has knowledge to do with this?  Plenty, as it happens.  Knowledge covers the whole spectrum.  Good technical skills are, of course, important.  But not if the knowledge is out of date.  Technology is changing all the time – as are trends - and it is essential to keep abreast of what’s going on in your market place and in your profession.

Solicitors and doctors go through years of training in their profession before they are able to practice.  Yet, how much training have you had to run your own department, or your own business?  How much knowledge have you acquired to help you be successful?  Whether you are running a department or a business of your own, the knowledge you need to be effective is extremely broad and most people simply muddle through.  In the meantime, what happens to the trust and respect essential to 85% of your success?

The following table helps you to understand some of the fundamentals for trust and respect and the kind of knowledge you need for them:

TRUST AND RESPECT KNOW-HOW
Good people and rapport skills Influencing and leadership
Doing what you say you will do Planning and organising
Doing an excellent job Technical and delegation
Managing complaints effectively Problem solving and conflict management
Meeting your obligations Business acumen and resource management
Emotional intelligence Understanding of people and yourself and how to manage yourself and your relationships in times of stress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business knowledge – such as sales, marketing, finance, operations -  is important whether you run your own business or manage a department as you need to see how everything fits together.  These will help you to exploit strengths, minimise weaknesses, seize opportunities and handle threats from a point of strength.

So, how can you increase your knowledge?  Through coaching, training, reflective learning and study.  Often, you don’t know what you don’t know (in the case of business, ignorance is not bliss) and it is helpful to have someone there who can help you see your blind-spot. Having your own coach and mentor is an excellent step to take to help you stay on top of your game.  For more information call 0845 130 0854 for a no obligation chat.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

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

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A-Z of Business: E – Employees: The Ten Fundamentals for Motivated and Productive Staff

Employees can make or break your business.  Finding the right ones, putting them in the right roles and keeping them motivated can feel like a full time job in itself.  Making poor hiring decisions and mismanaging your employees is alarmingly expensive, and can influence the morale of the rest of your team, as well as having a detrimental impact on your business and your time.  Here are my ten fundamentals to get you started:

  1. When hiring, be clear about the skills, knowledge, attitudes and motivations you want from the individual.  If they don’t have the right attitude, no matter how skilful a leader you are, keeping them focussed, productive and positive will be a drain on your energy, your team and your business.
  2. Being clear about what motivates an individual helps you match them to your vacancy.  An extrovert will not thrive in an isolated role; a big thinker will make expensive errors in a job requiring lots of detail work.  Their motivation will drop quicker than you can say “job satisfaction”.
  3. An effective interview process ensures that you treat every applicant equally, you leave no stone unturned and that you are making a balanced business decision, rather than reacting to their charm at interview.  Charm over substance is never a good hiring strategy.  In addition, many hiring decisions are based on urgent need - consequences are not considered until they are experienced in glorious and painful high definition.
  4. Make sure you involve the right people in your interview process.  Having input and feedback from people who will be working with the new recruit is invaluable – not just to have a second opinion, but also to make sure they buy into the hiring decision.
  5. A comprehensive induction process will make sure your new hire gets up to speed and feels part of the company as quickly as possible.  Things to consider are:  computer, phone and desk (yes, some people forget to plan these for new recruits!); meeting work colleagues, other departments, learning about the company, it’s products, values, processes and procedures, what to do and where to go if there are any problems.
  6. Make sure your new recruit is pre-announced to the rest of the team so they are expecting them and can extend a warm welcome.  I have seen new-hires feel shunned because their team-members were not expecting them and didn’t understand the reason for them joining.
  7. Have regular 1:1s to discuss progress, plans and projects.  It is also a good time to discuss any concerns they have and, do please make sure you take action promised – it can be very demoralising otherwise.  1:1s, well run, are hugely motivational and can be a great way of increasing confidence, productivity and motivation.
  8. Delegate well.  To do this, you need to understand the skillset and motivation levels of each individual member of your team.  Some people need a lot of support and direction, others will require more autonomy.  Delegation is not about abdication, nor does it involve micro-management.  It’s about giving them what they need to perform well.  This is a complex and important area that could benefit from a several blogs in its own right.
  9. Know when to take remedial action.  A disciplinary – formal or otherwise - is about improvement.  Inaction can make a bad problem worse as the employee believes that poor performance is acceptable.  Worse, fellow-employees may also see that this is the new standard they can relax into.  Worse still, if you decide to dismiss someone after a period of inaction, it may be difficult to prove your case in a tribunal.  Dealing with problems as they arise is essential.
  10. Develop your individuals.  You need to develop them in the right way, in the right things.  You can develop them through training, coaching, increased responsibility, new projects, and secondments.

Hiring and managing employees is highly rewarding when done well.  It is, however, a minefield.  If you are even slightly concerned, or are not getting the results you want, do seek support.  With the right structures and skills in place, you can experience the rewards on several levels:  a better relationship with your staff, an empowered and motivated workforce, happier customers, greater profit and a reputation as being an employer of choice.

To your success.

Tricia Woolfrey

PS For help with hiring the right people and effective people management and development call 0845 130 0854.  This is not something you want to leave to chance.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

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

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