Lead Through Anxiety

Fall leaf on grey rocks

You can lead through anxiety by identifying and managing it, and have a positive impact on your staff too. Change is inevitable, but it seems it’s everywhere and all at once these days. Elections are brewing, the workplace will be adapting pandemic precautions yet again, employees are hard to find or keep, not to mention the accelerating paradigm and communication shifts. Yet you have to show up and meet goals, solve problems, incorporate new practices without a hitch, setting the tone for all, and lead as if you know how to do this… or do you? 

And then you may be anxious as summer draws to a close… Are you feeling stressed at the thought of facing the last quarter of the year, with major work to complete? Or is it just the sensory change as the daylight grows shorter and the temperature shifts? If so, I’ve got news for you – you’re not alone.  

It’s hard to be inspiring and supportive if you are feeling like Atlas. One thing that can be a great leveler is to realize that most that you work with, whether your clients, co-workers or staff, may be feeling this too, to one degree or another.  My blogs on self care, creating more time, a better work-life balance and the tools to navigate the paradigm shifts going on in the workplace have been the most popular for a reason. 

How can you inspire others when you are struggling yourself? 

BECOME AWARE

You can’t work on something you can’t name. By becoming aware of and labeling what you are feeling or fearing, you can sort it out. That alone will take away half its power. Come at it with curiosity and a sense that relief can come from unmasking it.  This should be interesting to you, not shameful, or make you feel like failure. Far from it. 

You have enough on your plate so make it easy. Once you’ve identified a fear or stressor, Take the next 5 days to see if you can stay aware and pinpoint when it appears.  If you don’t have a lot of time, just check in midday and end of the day for a week and see what comes to light. 

TRACK IT 

Next, find a little time to write about it. When does it come up? Can you identify why? Note how it affects you physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. You can write it all out, or just put down simple phrases, even one word. Once you know what you’ve got going on, you can work on it. 

ACCEPT IT

Then accept that it’s there – and make it ok. How? Well, sometimes just seeing what’s going on lets half of the air out of the thing. It’s not so mysterious, bubbling down inside you, coloring your day, moods or performance…tiring you out. Ask: Is there a positive or gain on the flip side of any kind to refocus on?  And know that now that you know its face, you can think of strategies to deal with it. But you don’t have to do that alone. 

SHARE IT

Start by sharing with your support network. An outside perspective from someone who gets you and has your best interests in mind can relieve the strain you might not have even noticed you were carrying around. 

Don’t have that network?  It’s time to build one. Great options are to go to someone neutral, who is guaranteed to have your back – a professional coach like me, or a therapist. If you could have a conversation with an equal in the professional world (so they have the experience to get what’s going on), preferably in an entirely different field than yours so there are no consequences and you both feel free to give and take. 

A best friend or family member may or may not be on this particular team. Sometimes those too close to you might not have enough outside perspective. Or they may be great. Listen to your insides before you do, and make those choices wisely. 

RECHARGE

Anxiety can be managed. The efforts you make to do the above – becoming aware, accepting it and coming up with ways to act on it will empower you. But it’s also important to step away and recoup so you will have more when you step back. Doing that 2 step dance is the ticket. Think of other cultures where they work when they work, but take time to savor their meals, and take their days off to relax, and enjoy life. 

Recharging can come through small actions like a call with  a friend, or writing a note to a loved one ,. Take breaks at work. Fit humor into your life, get physical activity, ease up on alcohol and nicotine, and allow yourself enough rest (which needs to start rating as important as green tea or health shakes). Lastly, identify people who have interesting perspectives or approaches to things and find inspiration and ideas in their interviews, Ted talks, or audio books.

As an added bonus, all the work you do on yourself, will make you into a better leader benefiting your company, and your team.  You can even give these tools to your staff, by inviting your team to acknowledge the challenges they are facing in a safe way.  I’ll cover this topic in next month’s blog. 

If you are interested in having some additional support and encouragement, contact me and let’s talk!

Building Bonds Between Your Team – and You

Never underestimate how much value comes from building bonds between your team members – and between them and you. Having an engaged team makes for a much improved company atmosphere which in turn draws in more quality clients and future employees. Those who like their work stay longer and produce better results toward the organization’s goals.

A Gallup study of how employee engagement drives growth “confirmed that employee engagement continues to be an important predictor of company performance even in a tough economy.” What better reason than to start thinking about this and lay the groundwork for what would work well for your group! Here’s how: 

ASSESS YOUR TEAM:

First look at the big picture: Your group, time and budget. Try to pinpoint which individuals or departments may need to come together more, and for what reasons, which can help you choose what activities would be the best. 

Consider the group size. If you have a dozen or less people, see if the budget permits an outing or rewards as part of the team building, while leaving enough to do collaboration and communication activities. If you have a lot of people, then you can alter the choice of activity and locations accordingly. 

Then ask what your people need to work on. Better communication? More personal harmony? Conflict resolution? Problem solving? Or just plain bonding? This will all lay the groundwork for choosing events or activities (covered below). 

TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES 

With the goal of enhanced camaraderie, collaboration and communication in mind, pick activities your group will relate to and feel comfortable with. One thing is paramount: Fun should be the key ingredient! 

 

 

We can forget how important sharing joy and having people laugh together is!

 

Google to find fresh ideas so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Speaking of fun, have some of it yourself while picking what fits for your people! This article from Workamajig not only lists activities, it tells you how many people are right for each and what skills it works to build. Wrike wrote up ideas for a mostly under 40 crowd, and also has ideas to team build with remote workers, which is great! Lastly, SurfOffice has a practical list of 50 activities, categorized by small teams, larger ones, and remote workers. 

TEAM BUILDING EVENTS 

If you determine your staff just needs to be rewarded or make merry to bond, you can always pick a great place for a fun-and-food-filled outing. Maybe pair people from departments that never interact, or focus on the teams that need to work better together and pick things to do that will open everyone up. One easy outing that can be enriching for all is to take everyone to hear an inspiring talk – or invite that speaker into the company – followed by a meal for all to talk about it. It could be anything from a local hero, to a Ted Talk in your area, or the author of a book on a relevant topic.

The Zoo often has unforgettable behind the scene tours. You can get special access to a lawn jazz concert, a gallery, or a museum that offers Virtual Reality exhibits. There are cooking classes with a pro chef, indoor sky diving experiences, or giving back together by doing a community project. The list of experiences really is endless.

CONNECT YOURSELF TOO

It’s also very important for you to strengthen bonds with your group too. 

You can start with organizing the team building activities as a way to bond with your employees too. Get one or two involved in helping you pick, plan and make the arrangements. Make sure to give them kudos at the event itself for their role in co-creating it. Then, join in where you can, play along, laugh together, eat, take pics to post somewhere with praise for your great team. 

Utilize any gap time in these activities to chat one on one with as many individuals as you can to learn more about each employee. But prepare a little. Because it may not be possible to connect with each, think about who might be most important to seek out. Keep it strictly social – no business. This will create a bridge you can reach across. In the next few weeks, maximize that connection by following up with a sit down for learning their goals and how you can help them reach them. Ask what they need to feel good at work, and invite suggestions on how things could work better. Then be sure to address them. This will create trust and a sense that each employee is valued and able to contribute. 

 

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

 

DON’T FORGET SWAG 

While tee shirts might seem unoriginal, it’s actually an instant bonding tool, not to be underestimated. They have a team uniform in sports, so why not in business? You can use brand colors, vary the theme by department, or, to shake it up a little, make a polo or vintage style bowling shirt instead. If you have the budget, you might spring for each to have their name on the sleeve or the breast pocket area, in a tasteful font. Or, give something everyone will remember the time by… perhaps a positive message about teamwork framed to keep on their desk. Thermal mugs or water bottles with carabiners , with a sought after name brand like Yeti, would be a huge hit. Visit Yeti to check out customization. A tangible memento adds value and makes everyone feel special. 

Forming bonds between team members will not only make them happier as individuals, but help them work better together, and give your company a competitive edge. And for you to make similar strides with individuals will go a long way to making a good team great! 

If you’d like some assistance with figuring how you could best improve your personal bonds with your staff, let’s talk

5 Tips to Build your Leadership Skills This Summer

Do you realize you can build your leadership skills this summer by relaxing, opening your senses and having fun? And with all going on in the world, if you’ve been feeling like Atlas holding everything up at work, the winning combination may be exactly what you need. 

If you are uninspired, in a rut from the push of meeting goals and deadlines, a little burnt out, or just plain unhappy, it can definitely affect your coworkers and clients.  Whatever your situation, it’s very likely it is trickling down to your staff too. What you bring in terms of energy and attitude can shift the room. As a leader, that is a powerful opportunity to change not just your own experience at work, but for all those who work with and for you! 

All it takes is saying YES to creating a shift. For that yes to work its magic in you, here are five ways to build your leadership skills this summer (and bonus: it will make the season more enjoyable for you too).

TAKE OFF

The quickest way to gain new perspective and fresh energy is to take some time off. It is summer after all, so if you have the ability to take vacation time – do. The key is to not make it all about catching up on everything you had on your home to-do list. Though that can take a weight off your shoulders and make you feel lighter, it can also be endless, as one thing leads to more. 

My suggestion is to create the space in your life to read or look at art, discover new music, or hike someplace new, – anything that will bring expansion on another level. And with it, new ideas – preferably ones that have nothing to do with your business – will come. Last month I wrote about how creativity enhances your ability to lead.  If you can’t spare a whole week off right now, try taking 2 Fridays or Mondays off this month and use that business day for the business of developing YOU. 

TUNE IN

We use our rational brain most of the time in business. But as leadership models continue to morph from the top down style of management to putting staff needs and communication first, now would be a great time to cultivate the other resources you have inside you to apply: Your inner instincts. As a starting point, you may want to reread my posts on the Three Brains of Intelligence, especially on Heart Intelligence, which is more about the person leading than it is about that professional title, and listening to your gut, which is more nuanced than girding up and having guts… You may want to check out a few articles on the topic, or see if there are audio books you can listen to while biking or gardening.

PLAN FOR CONNECTION  

Be thinking of how you can utilize August to connect with and build your team. There are many ways to do that, so devote some solitude time in a hammock or chaise to who you feel is in need and what some of the problems may be. Sketch out a list over coffee one morning, and then come back to read here in August, because that’s what next month’s blog is about. You’ll find several solid suggestions for you to get you started.  

LOOK TO FALL 

Labor Day will come all too fast, and within mere weeks, we’ll have to pull our focus back to work and life responsibilities. It’s tough to think about when summer’s in full swing, but it’s an ideal time to get a jump on Q4. For awhile there, we were unsure what we’d be met with day by day, so it’s a relief that things are getting back to the point where you can at least do some near-term forecasting again.  

Whatever your business, almost all need some kind of longer view. I marvel at the fact that whatever you even loosely write down on paper finds its way to becoming a reality. So while sitting in your pool floatie, mowing the lawn or strolling at the golden hour, let thoughts come. And/or take one morning to create a no-interruptions hour (texts silenced, email shut down, wifi off) somewhere you can have quiet and privacy (sign on the door!) to write down what comes up. After that, you’ll find new ideas or details pop up right in the middle of waterskiing, or plucking tomato suckers! Write those down too. Or speak them into your voice memo on your phone – and use the time you set to transpose it.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW

For most businesses, things slow a little during the summer. Take advantage of that to try out some new software or research something that has needed a deep dive attention. It can be finally figuring out Spotify, or how to edit your videos, or it could be to familiarize yourself with a business tool or to actually take the tutorial for the upgrade your computer just did. Total win/win!

Whatever it is that you do, the bonus here is to not bury yourself all summer. It’s been a rough couple of years. Don’t undervalue refreshing yourself and taking space for adjusting and contemplating all that’s happened, and where it has you and your role now. Self care is akin to career care. Everyone will benefit. 

I find it exciting to help people to build their leadership skills, consciousness and access to their inner wisdom as they make decisions and carve out new paths for themselves. Please Contact Me if you’d like to work with these or want different ways to grow your leadership skills this summer!

Transition Skills in the Workplace- How Do I Lead Now?

Leadership-In-The-workplace-How-Do-I-Lead-Now

There’s a lot of talk about transition skills in the workplace. How do I lead now is a question many are asking themselves. Covid isn’t exactly over, but businesses across the US are opening up. One thing is clear: There is no return to the workplace of the past. It’s a whole new frontier. But it is also an unprecedented opportunity to create something better. 

2020 showed us how marvelously adaptable we can be. Practically overnight, life as we knew it flew up in the air… then landed piece by piece, reconfiguring a new reality and ways of doing things. While the pandemic lessened the need for certain products and services, it created demand for others. Many who found themselves needing work took what was available, learning new skills on the fly. Others re-skilled themselves while in lockdown, anticipating shifts in the workplace. Some found they could continue and even grow in their field, no longer limited by location due to the entire globe operating online. 

Similarly, being effective at refining organizational culture for a hybrid workforce is requiring leaders to evolve their mindset and use – or develop – different skills. 

HOW DO I LEAD NOW?

An umbrella term for innovative thinking, Adaptive Leadership guides leaders to work with people on problems that can’t be resolved the traditional way.  A well-known model  based on the work of Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, it creates a shift from everyone relying on you for the answers to you co-creating with teams and individuals, guiding them to come up with their own.

Engaging staff and listening with empathy is crucial to the process of navigating through transition. But what skills and methods will you need?

MAKE WELL BEING A PRIORITY

Well-being was a rising trend before Covid, but coming out of this last year’s prolonged anxiety, burnout, and grief, managing it now tops the list for a successful workplace. Forbes.com offers,“…we will need much more depth in social and emotional skills.” Here are some things you can incorporate:

  • SAFETY FIRST

Safety is a top concern in returning to work, and one of the easier problems to solve.  Discuss and survey what safety practices are most important to your staff . Find where their greatest concerns lie. From there, form safety standards and practices and immediately invest in whatever is needed — from plexiglass to disinfectant and cleaning supplies, to a mask policy. Letting them know what the new standards are will go a long way in those returning to feel protected and valued. If this isn’t done first, it will be at a price to the organization – from managing stressed out, less productive employees to losing them. 

  • MENTAL/PHYSICAL HEALTH

Due to continuing uncertainty, there are a lot of wide-ranging concerns around the return to work. Because so many really benefited from working at home, or are happy to get back to the office but in lockdown learned how valuable a work-life balance is, mental and physical health is undeniably top of mind for all. While HR is largely responsible for well being support, there is a lot you can do as a leader.

Arrange for HR come in to present about resources and opportunities for connection. 

MODEL SELF CARE

Keep reasonable hours at the office, make time during work to eat healthfully, use a standing or walking desk, take short breaks, get fresh air, put fresh flowers or photos on your desk, etc.

Inspire good boundaries, especially for those who work at home. Don’t call them before or after business hours or on weekends unless it’s an emergency, encourage them to take vacation days, and approve time for their healthcare visits.  

OPEN UP COMMUNICATION

Find new ways to keep the lines of communication open ie: scheduling one-on-one conversations in your office, creating workshops around it, and setting up a private suggestion portal. Check in regularly with remote workers to prevent them feeling out of the loop, and encourage personal check ins the first 10+ minutes of online meetings to sustain camaraderie. Start with a clear invitation for a two-way conversation, then be a receptive, active listener. Truly hearing your workforce is critical to holding on to them, for they will play a significant role in the next steps for the organization.  

  • EMPATHIZE

People have been through a LOT – but you have too!  That commonality lays groundwork for an authentic connection which can inspire trust and loyalty. Having employees help create what’s next rather than top down directives will invest them in the transition’s success and show in their best work. 

  • BE FRANK

Your team will respond better in uncertain times to what is known and unknown, even if it isn’t great news, because they sense the truth of it.  If they are informed about where things are really at, they can invent and employ far more effective solutions.  

Keep up consistent, clear communication, including expectations as they evolve. This is a very important skill to shepherd people through uncertain times which gives them what they need to be reliable and committed as things become more certain.

COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP

The key to great leadership is courage. Apply your brand of courage to the challenge of building a hybrid culture based on the well being of the workforce and the values of the company and.

Rather than ramping straight up to what was, put people first and co-create what’s next with them. This is the ticket to hang on to the most valued talent while being very attractive to the best candidates to fill new positions.  

Next month I will be covering how to manage hybrid schedules and teams. Don’t miss it!  Better yet, please sign up for my monthly newsletter to get each month’s blog, inspiration and uplifting resources straight to your inbox.