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I Wanted to Quit: When Supports are a Hindrance

Posted by on Oct, Wed, 2019 in Individual Purpose, Motivation | 0 comments

Oct 30 - when supports

I wanted to quit. I had exhausted all I had in me.

My knees felt like they were going to give out. How much longer could I continue to hike down this mountain? When would I make it to camp? I couldn’t see it for sure, but there were buildings in the distance? Was that it? We started to play games like let’s agree camp is around the corner until we learn otherwise – and we kept going one step at a time. I’d fallen 3 times already that day and on the 4th fall I couldn’t get up with help. I had to find a different way because my right knee could not bear my weight to get me up.

It was only day 2 of my 5-day trek to Machu Picchu, Peru.

I was appropriately outfitted – with well-fitted knapsack with a large water bladder, the winter (yes winter) sleeping bag, walking poles and hiking boots. I had my trustworthy guides, Edwin and Efe, from the trekking company. All the supports a person could want to make a successful trek. Yet, one of these “supports” was causing me great difficulty – and as I was told it would help me, I never thought to question it.

It was the walking poles! Once I realized that the walking poles distracted my focus from ensuring a good foothold and I stopped using them, I magically stopped falling. What was set up as a support for all had failed me.

How many “supports” does your organization have in place that might act as a hindrance for some team members?

For example, one organization I worked with would hold potluck lunches. However, some of the workers who were working in more remote areas could rarely, if ever, take part. While it may be a social support, it may also be a policy that was set out that to create fairness, yet when it gets implemented, it lacks equality for all. Perhaps it’s the type of supervision that you offer – while it works really well for some, are you playing to everyone’s strengths and needs?

Have you asked your team members how they are experiencing the supports that have been in place? Or during a one-on-one meeting, ask each team member what is working and what could be even better for them.

What is working? What is not working? What do we need to start to implement and what do we need to stop doing?

Taking time to reflect on the systemic supports and how they are working every few years is an opportunity to ensure that you are truly supporting your employees, vs. using a technique from another time or organization that doesn’t help your employees get their solid foothold on their work.

Simple Moments and Gratitude

Posted by on Oct, Wed, 2019 in Individual Purpose, Motivation | 0 comments

Take time to focus on gratitude (2)

Last evening I held my lovely 3-month old grand-niece as she peacefully slept in my arms. As I looked at her peaceful face, I felt gratitude and pleasure. To be snuggled by her little body and know that she felt so safe in my arms – Ah, what an incredible gift!

It’s so easy to get caught in focusing on what’s not right, what could be better and miss what’s working in our work and lives. We can often overhear conversations in coffee shops, restaurants and public spaces of people complaining about things. And we can all fall into this void.

How to Shift from Negativity to Gratitude?

  1. Recognize that you are in the negative “void”. You’ll know because your body will feel tense, your energy gets low and you are easily frustrated or annoyed.
  2. Ask, what is right about this situation? What might I gain by this experience?
  3. List 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. These might be in the current situation that you are struggling with or from some other aspect of your life.
  4. Send a note of appreciation to someone that did something for you that you really appreciate.
  5. Write a note of thanks to yourself about what you have done recently that worked well for you and others.
  6. Take a moment of gratitude at least weekly where you write down your gratitude list. You might even choose to purchase a journal to serve as your personal gratitude journal – a special place for special moments in your life and work.
  7. As you sit around the table enjoying your thanksgiving meal, offer thanks for the efforts everyone made to create this experience.

As we approach our Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada, I encourage you to explore what simple pleasures give you a sense of gratitude and pleasure – including at work. Take time to bask in the magnificence that is in your life. Savor those moments.

Labyrinths and Inner Reflection

Posted by on Sep, Wed, 2019 in Individual Purpose | 0 comments

labryrinth

Yesterday I had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth at a dear friend’s birthday party. A labyrinth is a form of walking meditation; you release on the walk-in, receive in the middle of the circle, and then return from the centre to exit.

My intention was on Abundance. As I slowly walked into the labyrinth and made my first turn, I looked down and saw a 4-leaf clover. I bent down and picked up that sucker. Later as I was talking with another friend who walked in front of me, she shared how she often searched for 4-leaf clovers and never saw it. Clearly, it was for me.

This got me thinking about “signs” that we receive that can open us up to find the right answers and realize the desired potential. Yet sometimes we are so busy with the day-to-day activities that we fail to take time to self-reflect. Other times we might be searching so intensely for the “signs” of which choice to make that we fail to notice them.

While a walking meditation, such as labyrinth walking may seem hokey to you, for me it is a time to move my focus within, listen intently to where I am in the moment, and to be aware of my thoughts and feelings.

Where do you find time to go within?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Yoga, meditation (whether guided on using a breathing practice)
  2. Exercise, walking, gardening
  3. Being in nature, near a body of water
  4. Listening to the birds or a CD of nature sounds
  5. Journaling
  6. Talking to a trusted advisor, or a good friend who is highly skilled at listening
  7. Whatever activity or inactivity that calms your mind, allows you to reflect on your inner thoughts, desires, and needs

Whichever of these work for you, make sure that you schedule them daily or regularly. I’m lucky that I live with my 4-legged companion that regularly reminds me of the need for a good walk.

Also, take time to notice symbols, inner thoughts & sensations that you are experiencing – do they in some way relate to what you need at the moment? What is their significance for you?
Taking time to notice the 4-leaf clovers or “to stop and smell the roses” allows you to reduce your stress, get in touch with your inner self so that you are more open to seeing the “signs” within you…and even some that the universe is providing to you. And, ultimately will assist you in making even better decisions.

What’s Making You Cranky?

Posted by on Sep, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

Boss scolds businessman. Conflicts at work. Pop art retro vector illustration

We’ve all had those days when we have felt like a serious firefighter dousing “flames” of crisis through the day. Running from meeting to meeting and situation to situation making decisions right, left, and centre.

Then by the time you got to your last meeting of the day, you found yourself being more abrupt and short than your norm aka cranky.

Roy F. Baumeister coined the phrase “Ego Depletion” to explain this phenomenon. He felt we all have a limited resource to self-regulate that becomes depleted throughout the day.

Basically, the various acts that are required to engage in self-regulation such as resisting the urge to say something, making trade-offs, constraining our desires, adhering to other’s rules wear down your ability to control yourself at a later time. While some of his research has been challenged, I think it’s still a worthy concept to consider.

Somedays, it’s much more subtle. For example, you’ve been restraining yourself in meetings to enable others to give their feedback when you really wanted to just challenge the discussion, or you have been dieting and resisting the temptations at the office potluck, then you find yourself making less than optimal decisions by the afternoon.

This depletion is a silent enemy. That erodes your self-control hour by hour. And because you don’t have “symptoms” like being tired from stress, it can be easy to miss that you are experiencing it. Until you’ve done something that isn’t normally you or you make a bad decision late in the day.

Marshall Goldsmith suggests that tracking your days in terms of what depletes you is a helpful exercise. What is happening on those days that you snap or engage in unhelpful behaviour?

Once you can isolate the factors that impact you then you are able to create some structure or a plan to ensure that you are less likely to become depleted.

For example, making important decisions earlier in the day is more likely to result in better decision making. If you are skipping meals, engaging in meal planning may be helpful. If you are tired and stressed by the demands of meeting client needs, schedule in a break. If you are constantly looking for documents on your desk, get in the practice of cleaning your desk off every day before leaving the office or each morning before turning on your laptop.

Take time to understand what is depleting you and how you might be able to create a system or structure that assists you to manage those aspects of your day are likely to result in less crankiness and greater success at work, and in life.

You’re Fired … Or Not?

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2019 in Communication | 0 comments

Boss threatens finger to businessman. Pop art retro vector illustration

 

I was coaching an Executive Director who was contemplating letting a staff member go, but when asked, the person had not been given the candid feedback that could enable them to make effective change. This is not fair to the individual, the team, or the organization. Let’s slow down here and look at some steps to take.

Here are some things to ask yourself before you let someone go:

1. Have you spoken to them about the details of your concerns?

If not, it’s past time to do so. Do a check-in with yourself to determine your judgments, biases, and assumptions prior to the meeting. How are you feeling? What is causing this reaction in you? Talking with a trusted advisor can be very beneficial to help you get through your preconceived notions to enable the individual space to accept the feedback. Set a time and give that feedback. You are gifting them an opportunity for growth.

2. Now that you have spoken to them in a caring and candid manner, how did they respond?

Were they open to growth and asked for more information? Or were they closed and defensive while not open to owning or even considering their role in the situation? Co-create an action plan to implement the needed changes with a timeline. Are they taking initiative to make the necessary changes, or not?

3. What have you put in place to support their behaviour change?

Do you need coaching to assist you in the process of mentoring them? Do they require coaching (internal or external) to understand the situation and make changes?

4. What has the impact on the team been?

How are others responding to their behaviour? Have the problematic behaviours undermined the trust in the team? Or is trust still sufficient that other team members will be open to accepting behaviour change?

5. In cases where the team has been impacted significantly, ask the individual own their behaviour and share their plan to make a change with the team. 

Not every detail needs to be shared, yet the person must own their behaviour. Team members may need to give space for slight setbacks. Owning the challenging behaviour and making a commitment to change is helpful for re-establishing respect and trust within the team.

If they have bullied others and their behaviour may have undermined trust to the point of no return. Everyone deserves respect and dignity within their workplace – and as an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team is treated with respect. Don’t let one person’s aggressive behaviour result in losing great team members to another organization.

6. Monitor the situation and have regular check-ins to ensure that progress is being made. 

Hold yourself responsible to continue to meet with the individual, be accountable to the action plan, and offer ongoing feedback to the individual. And hold them accountable to the plan you both made.

Contemplating dismissing a person is stressful. Ensure that you have taken the appropriate steps to give the person a real opportunity to make shifts in their behaviour. You may find that the individual grows once they’ve had the support and can become a highly productive and respected team member.

And, if they are unable to engage fully in the behaviour plan to make the needed changes, then you need to put the needs of your organization first and terminate their employment.

Personal Growth as Route to Great Client Care

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2019 in Motivation, My work | 0 comments

Inspire Cloud Concept

At a party, I asked a teacher if she was planning to take any courses this summer. The response was, “I’m at the top of my pay grid” – I was shocked!

As a professional, I pride myself on continuous learning and improving my craft through books, courses and I expect others do the same. Some professionals, like engineers, doctors, social workers, and many others, require annual continuing education credits to maintain their professional status. And coming from that history, have simply sustained the practice.

And who is responsible for this training? I think it’s a shared responsibility.

Certainly, when I was employed by non-profits, money was a concern and that limited their ability to offer as much training as they would have liked. And many organizations go to great lengths to ensure the best possible level of training they can offer their employees. I happily went to conferences and training –when costs were shared, and even when it was on my dime. And I valued every moment of the training.

What are your team members expecting?
Is it a requirement of their profession to have continuous upgrading?
Is this discussion part of an annual review process?
Do you expect employees to engage in training and development opportunities in your organization and on their own?
Are you able to cost-share by covering some of the expenses, or perhaps by giving them paid time off to attend?

Hopefully, training is not linked to the pay grid – but is linked instead to the mission of your organization and the individuals work. Let’s make it about offering the very best client service!

Here are some ideas to ensure continuous education and development of your team:

  • Create a short survey to ask your team members what they want to learn. What areas do they want to develop within themselves? Then seek resources to fill that need.
  • Hire a trainer that has expertise in those areas.
  • If your budget is really tight, you might see who in your team is knowledgeable in the desired areas and if they would be willing to do a lunch and learn.
  • You might ask one of your team members who place a high value on learning to research and present the material.
  • Consider having a book club where you read a book every month and discuss it (perhaps over a potluck lunch or have lunch provided if you have the budget for it).
  • Encourage your staff to spend 1 hour per week researching podcasts and online videos that focus on self-improvement and/or a key area in your work.
  • Look at cost-sharing opportunities – perhaps mileage, time off, or shared enrollment.
  • Have those that go out for training share what they learned – either in a presentation or at a team meeting.

I have a strong bias for the need for continuous growth and development (and a passion for the same).

How might you encourage your staff to engage in the lifelong pursuit of learning? It will truly be of benefit to their career, your organization, and your clients.

P.S. You can check out www.onpurposeconsulting.ca to see the training and coaching opportunities that I offer.

Judgmental Leadership Stunts Growth and Development

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

July 31 judgment

Lately, I’ve been finding the amount of judgment in the online world overwhelming. Comments about certain political leaders which are as critical and condemning as the leader’s original behaviour was.

Judgment creates blocked energy which invites more criticism, less compassion and diminishes opportunities for change. Judgment and the negativity that goes along with it becomes a dark shadow that prevents growth.

In the research of Rosenthal and Jacobson, teachers were falsely told that some of their students had been identified as potential high achievers and that they would excel during the school year. These students were chosen at random regardless of their previous scholastic abilities. At the end of the school year, the students who were identified as “high achievers” were more likely to make the greatest gains in the classroom.

As Bradley Busch, Psychologist writes,

No one rises to low expectations. Having high expectations of each and every student and then providing the necessary support needed to achieve that level seem key to all students achieving to their best ability.”

What happens when these judgments become a daily experience in your non-profit? Or when you judge a team member or team as incapable?

That judgment creates a bias for you that is transferred to the employee and team. The team member will experience this energy through their mirror neurons as tension and discomfort. It may also be experienced through the words that you choose to speak, your body language or your para-verbal communication (the tone, and volume of your words). Whichever way, it will impact your team member in a manner that can prevent growth and development.

For example, one client that I worked with the Senior Leadership team repeatedly said: “the employees don’t have the capacity to do the level of work that we require.” This statement was fully believed by the leadership team. And almost daily, they saw evidence of it (now of course, subconsciously they were seeking the evidence that validated their perception).

When we stopped and looked at the successes and awards that the organization had achieved, the leadership team was in awe! With their bias, they had been unable to fully acknowledge the incredible abilities that lay within their team members. Once the leadership team was able to acknowledge the strengths in the team, the results swiftly began to shift from discouragement to encouragement and success.

Take a look at how you are placing judgments on yourself and your team members. What might you not be seeing or noticing that offers the opportunity for encouragement and growth?

Remove those judgments from yourself and your team, then you can start to grow and they can develop into their potential. Then celebrate those wins!

Getting Agency Culture Right!

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Team Dynamics | 0 comments

July 17 - getting culture righ

 

When two organizations have a similar structure, funding models and approximately the same number of employees, why does one win awards for being an employer of choice and the other struggles with conflict, turnover and low employee satisfaction?

In my experience, it has to do with three factors. One is the attitude of upper management towards their staff, and the second is how much they hold their staff accountable to both their strengths and areas for growth. The final factor is clear communication throughout the agency.

Let me share some insights from, Brantwood Community Services, a winner of the Canadian Non-Profit of Choice award for 2 years running.

On the surface, things look the same as other organizations as they wait for the government announcement to know how much their funding is being cut this year. They have a mission, vision and values statement. They have staff coming to work every day.

However, when you look below the surface, you will find an incredibly supportive, respectful and highly engaged team of individuals who deliver high-quality services to their clients every day.

On their website, they sum up their Mission, Vision, and Values as “Actively supporting new possibilities for people that lead to a fulfilled life.”

Jo-Anne Flood, Executive Director ensures that this statement is central to all their actions for both clients and staff! How does she bring this is life each day?

  1. Using recognition through all levels of the organization. That means that all members of staff are engaged in recognizing one another, as well as their managers all the way to the Executive Director. Team members are active in recognizing one another for a great attitude, being supportive and welcoming and doing a stellar job!Whether it is being shared in the weekly newsletter, on social media or on a private basis, employees are celebrated for their contribution throughout the year. Efforts are made to include personal preferences in the way that recognition is shared so each individual is rewarded in a manner that suits their comfort and personality. Of course, they also set aside 2 days for a staff recognition party every summer as well! Every employee is able to attend one of the two days of food, fun, and gratitude for their role in making Brantwood a remarkable place to work!
  2. Every staff member has a face-to-face meeting with their direct supervisor on a regular, scheduled basis. The employee’s agenda is discussed first. This is an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to challenges, to acknowledge and celebrate successes and to focus on their career goals. Any concerns are addressed within these meetings. This level of accountability ensures that all employees are succeeding in their roles and supported in their ongoing professional development.
  3. Communication – A weekly newsletter, sent out personally by Jo-Anne, is a compilation of sharing latest news impacting the agency an all levels, recognizing staff members who have gone the extra mile that week, and keeping staff members informed of what’s happening in all service areas of the organization. It is emailed weekly to every staff member and is highly valued by staff as they are kept informed, even relief and part-time staff. Team members comment regularly that this communication helps them to feel connected to the organization.

This commitment to staff growth, development, mixed with support, enables their employees to rate the organization 79.6%. And unlike most employee engagement surveys, has improved over last year by 4.6%!

Let’s Keep the Ball Rolling this Summer!

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

sea, beach

It is official, summer is really here!

While we talk about spring fever, we don’t have a name for the challenges that can arise when the warm weather, beaches and outdoors call us during these summer months yet they often impact how we work.

We all know that more vacation time is taken in the summer months and that projects and deliverables still need to happen, so here are a few tips on managing those projects and keeping that ball rolling forward:

  1. Ensure that time is taken to communicate all aspects of the current deliverables with all team members as they will need to be able to pitch hit for one another throughout this season. Having an open dialogue can reduce stress and prevent frustration for both your team members and your clients.
  2. Create accountability partners or “vacation partners” within the team. Have these individuals update specific aspects of ongoing projects with potential calls/issues that may arise during their vacation time. Be sure to include a list of names of all clients, phone numbers and email addresses including the best way to reach each client.
  3. Encourage staff to add a short sentence of their upcoming vacation and who will cover for them in their email signature leading up to their time off. This will make it easier for your clients to anticipate and plan for your team member’s vacation knowing that someone else can be contacted as needed.
  4. Include their vacation partner’s name and extension in their outgoing email message. Include the ability to press # with the extension number now if your phone system allows.
  5. Have each team member forward client emails that may be of assistance should their partner be contacted during their vacation. Consider forwarding emails to the vacation partner from specific clients during the time off.

These tips can help reduce your team member’s stress level as they keep those balls in the air. And when your vacation comes up, you can focus on keeping the beach ball up in the air feeling more relaxed knowing you’ve got things covered at work.

It’s Time to Recharge

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments

cave, retreating

I’ve retreated.

Not in an avoidant way, with the realization that I need to refuel, recharge and then come back from a better place. As I write this, I have sought refuge at my cottage to recharge my spirit that has been challenged by life these past few months.

Have you ever felt like the energizer bunny, keep going and going while telling yourself you’d take my “me time” later? Well, I fell into this trap – after all, I had things to do, clients to help and work that must be done. Yet, my batteries had drained to low.

As a non-profit leader, how often do you keep pressing on without taking time out?

When you are frazzled and worn down, it gives a message to your team members to do the same. Before you know it, your agency will be tired, stressed and the ability to deliver stellar service compromised.

Where can you find refuge for your spirit?

What self-care activity have you been secretly craving for that you can indulge yourself with?

Give yourself permission to do so. If your non-profit has been swamped and working through a particularly stressful time, how might you “gift” each employee with some time to recharge?

Could you give an hour off to each person to do whatever they liked? Organize a yoga class or other self-care activity at work? What if you held a personal care challenge where you get people to share what they did that allowed them to recharge?

We all need to come first in our lives. Like in the airplane, you must first put your oxygen mask on before attempting to help others.

I challenge you to find one thing you would really enjoy and just do it because you deserve to be pampered and recharged – savour it fully. Then plan and repeat.