Tag Archives: performance at work

Do you know how to say no?

Do You Know How to Say No?

Stop, Look, Listen – And Say No!

Is time slipping away for you? Hardly believe we’re 5 weeks away from Christmas and the holiday season? Yes I know – where did 2015 go?

If that sounds like you, perhaps the following can help.

Traffic lights

Project management systems will often apply a ‘traffic light’ approach to seeing whether things are on track or not. I think it offers a useful tool to help us prevent overwhelm and consciously choose how we spend our time and energy, helping us to say ‘no’!

RED – STOP! 

How is what you are about to do (or thinking of doing) really going to serve you? Be aware if you are committing yourself to actions that are linked to feelings of guilt or inadequacy. We don’t need to keep up with ‘The Jones Family’. The children honestly don’t care about homemade cakes!

AMBER – Pause, Reflect

What do I really need to do right now? (remembering that doing nothing is always an option). Listen to your heart. Give yourself time to reflect. We can’t make good decisions when we’re frazzled. Go for a walk, run, have a bath, switch off the phone. Just ‘be’. Breathe.

GREEN – Go, Consciously

Being aware of your focus, of the reality behind your decisions, move forwards with action that is in tune with the ‘real’ you.

We seriously don’t have to do everything we think we have to. 80% of our results come from 20% of our action – the key is to understand what are those productive 20%. Applying a traffic light system to your reactions just might help.

 

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Centre Yourself for Calm & Balance

shutterstock_140239432Are you always in your head, thinking things through, planning for the next thing, worrying how that recent conversation / meeting / decision / piece of work went?

How often do you really tune in to how your body is feeling instead?

When we bring our attention to our bodies we help ourselves break free from the tyranny of constantly thinking.

If we are constantly thinking and not ‘being’, we can easily become unbalanced and this shows up in our reactions and emotions. Having access to quick and simple tools that calm and balance us is vitally important to our health and well-being. In our fast paced and ever-changing world, proactively managing our state throughout the day is very beneficial to our health and well-being, our energy levels, mood and ultimately performance. Tuning into our body is an easy, accessible and fun way of doing this.

Centring is a form of state management that works with the fight/flight/freeze response to optimise how we are. One simple technique is called ‘ABC’ and is taken from a field of bodywork called ‘embodiment’. Embodiment is the way we are. It is how we feel, relate and do. Our bodies reflect the set of habits that we call ourselves. This technique comes from the great work of embodiment  and I’m grateful to Mark Walsh for sharing this with me at a recent training event.

ABC – Simple Centring Technique

A – Aware

Become aware of yourself, your body. Be mindful of the present moment, using the 5 senses (touch, feel, sight, smell, hear) , especially feeling the body, ground (chair or feet) and your breath.

B – Balance

Place your feet firmly on the floor, make sure your weight is distributed evenly, not skewed to one side. Check this balance in your posture and attention. Have an expansive feeling extending up and out from your chest, your heart.

C – Core

Relax your mouth and stomach, breathe deeply into your body. Notice your breath moving your belly in and out. Breath deeply for a few breaths and enjoy the calm focus.

Practicing this technique outside of any challenging situations helps you get used to how your body feels and responses as you quickly move through the sequence. When a stressful or challenging situation occurs, you should be more able to slip into using ABC ‘in’ the moment. Notice how it slows down your ‘flight/fight/freeze’ response.

When you run through and practice this technique, ask yourself:

What personal insights come up?

How might you use this technique in your life?

Choose2Flourish

Are you always in your head, thinking things through, planning for the next thing, worrying how that recent conversation / meeting / decision / piece of work went? How often do you really tune in to how your body is feeling instead? When we bring our attention to our bodies we help ourselves break free [...]

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Written Down or Visualise – Which Way to Goal Success?

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We all know that having and achieving goals is an important aspect of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. It gives us confidence and motivation. It allows us to recognise accomplishments in our lives, something many of us can find hard to do. For many people, just giving ourselves permission to have goals can be a barrier. For others, trying to realise their dreams and ambitions brings them face to face to enemy number one, fear – of failure, of being judged, of being too successful – the list is endless.

Successful goal achievement is the one of the fundamental benefits of working with a coach. We help you identify not just any old goal but powerful, inspiring goals that are congruent to who you really are and what’s truly important to you. We enable you to work out where it is you want to go by getting your vision crystal clear and using that to work for you as a powerful motivator for action.

Once we’re proficient with setting congruent goals, the next important step is understanding how we should be using them to greatest effect.

For many, it’s writing them down that is the essential part. Whilst the popularly quoted study about Harvard students is a myth, a study undertaken at Dominican University does support the belief that those who write them down and create some accountability towards achieving them (either by sharing with a friend or coach), will be much more successful in accomplishing them.

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Many others put tremendous store in visualising goals, seeing the mental preparation in our minds eye as being a key part of attracting that into our field (think Law of Attraction). It’s also seen as a vital means of training our subconscious to align our decisions and actions with what it is we want to do. Visualisation, without doubt, is a very powerful tool that many highly successful Olympic athletes, speakers and business people use. But can you rely on visualisation alone?

One research study reported by Amy Brann in her acclaimed book ‘Make Your Brain Work‘, examined the improvements in finger muscle tone in groups of people who actually did the finger exercising compared to those who just visualised it happening. Amazingly enough, the later group of ‘visualizers’ saw a 22% increase in muscle tone over the study period compared to a 20% increase in muscle tone of those who actually did the exercising…

From seeing the success in the clients I work with, and from personal experience, I’d say if you were to combine the two techniques, you’re going to be flying – and getting real results.

Choose2Flourish Ltd

We all know that having and achieving goals is an important aspect of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. It gives us confidence and motivation. It allows us to recognise accomplishments in our lives, something many of us can find hard to do. For many people, just giving ourselves permission to have goals can be a barrier. For [...]

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BS8 4BQ Bristol

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Powerful executive, career and confidence coaching services for purpose-led professionals

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Are You Being Heard in Work?

You’re in a meeting and you get a great idea. You speak up and share your thoughts but it kind of gets passed over. Later on in the same meeting, a colleague pipes up with your suggestion but this time is does get heard and action is taken to implement your idea.

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If this does happen to you, chances are you are female and it’s likely that the colleague, who gets heard with your idea, is a man. He may or may not claim the idea to be his own and you may or may not remind the group that it was your idea in the first place. Whatever the follow up scenario, you’re likely to be left feeling unheard and wondering why you’re so ineffective in getting your ideas picked up. You may think it’s okay, at least the action is being taken, but in the long term, you run the risk of your value and contribution not being recognised or rewarded.

So what is going on here? Well what’s going on is the effect of the differences in men and women’s linguistic style.

Men and Women’s Linguistic Style

Linguistic style is your characteristic speaking pattern. It’s how direct or conversational you are, your rate of speech and length of pausing; it’s your tone of voice, your loudness. According to Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, Washington and author of 15 books, linguistic style is a set of culturally learned signals that communicate what we mean and how we interpret other people and evaluate one another. Women it seems, learn a different linguistic style from men, which places them at a disadvantage as it can make them seem less confident and self- assured that they really are.

Sheryl Sandberg’s current ‘ban bossy’ campaign touches on these differences between men and women. In childhood, girls focus on building rapport through conversations, they learn how to ‘save face’ for others and for many, they learn not to be too self-promoting as they believe they won’t be liked for it. In contrast, boys learn about asserting their status, about pushing for ‘top dog’ and ensuring they’re always in a ‘one up’ position. Even if you don’t agree this should be the case, think back on how assertive, self-promoting women have made you feel in the past and ask yourself, would you judge them differently if that linguistic style had come from a man?

So for a man, claiming “I do this’ is second nature; Women are far more likely to avoid using ‘I’ and go for a collaborative ‘we’ instead.  Asking questions may be very helpful in building consensus and for many women, is a natural managerial style but for many, especially men, this can be perceived as putting themselves in a ‘one down’ situation and to be avoided at all costs. Say goes for saying sorry. Fortunately the growth in awareness and application of emotional intelligence in managerial and leadership development has helped us see how collaborative and coaching styles have so much more to offer to teams and individuals than old style, dictatorial approaches, but childhood socialisation has a long-lived impact.

Taking Turns to Speak

Another aspect of linguistic style concerns how long a pause we leave or need after someone has stopped talking and we take our turn to speak. Gender differences have a real bearing here, along with culture, where you live and so on. For some, the pause is hardly discernible and they’re straight in, offering their thoughts. For others, the pause needs to be longer, they need to consider what was just said and they’re checking that the speaker has, indeed, finished. You can imagine what happens when, in a group of fast talkers who jump in before someone has really finished, you have someone who needs a longer pause before they feel ready to contribute. They never see the window they need to speak and so don’t or are unable. Women have a tendency to fall into this category of needing longer pauses, so you can see how that could be perceived as a lack of confidence and self-assurance in a situation when everyone else is cutting in.

Being Stroppy

Being a Welsh comprehensive educated girl, when I went up to Oxford University to start my Geography degree, one of the biggest shocks I had in my tutorials was the ‘jumping in’ of my all-male (mainly privately educated) peers. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways and when I did, I was often interrupted and cut short. I found it very upsetting and remember feeling angry and powerless about how to change the situation. I did learn to be more assertive and adjusted my own pacing to match that around me, but it wasn’t my natural style. How this did me some discredit I learned much later when attending the retirement lunch for one of my old tutors. “Ah yes Rhian, I remember you. You were always so stroppy”.  I obviously didn’t get the balance right between being authentic and flexing my style at that stage in my life!

So What To Do?

Nancy Klein in her book ‘A Time to Think’ calls for organisations to adopt principles that promote a proper ‘thinking environment’.  Her ten components to doing that recognise the importance of listening to each other, of asking incisive questions that help people ‘speak and think’.  Creating the right environment where all individuals can be encouraged to contribute is key, with awareness that team meetings tend to bring out the best in men, but not necessarily women.

As women, we should allow ourselves to use “I’ rather than ‘we’ on more occasions. Being aware of the linguistic culture of our organisations and teams may also help work out why we’re not being heard. Cultivating a flexible style of communication to reflect the preferences of who you are speaking with can be very useful.  Facilitating and encouraging better listening is beneficial for both men and women.

You don’t need to shout, push in or get ‘stroppy’ to be heard. The impression and impact we create is not just about the words we use – it’s our tone of voice and our body language. Research has shown that 55% of our impact on others comes from our body language, the ‘dance’, 38% from our tone of voice, ‘the music’ and only 7% from our words. Develop insights on the impact you are having through self-reflection and ask for feedback from a trusted source. Being heard is a question of appreciating your ‘words, music and dance’ and how to get them working for you.

Focus on your strengths – It will make you happier and more effective

WHY ARE WE BAD AT BEING GOOD? 

When did you last tell yourself this?

When did you last tell yourself this?

What makes it so hard for us to acknowledge what we are good at?

Why is it that at the end of the day, we remember the stuff we didn’t do so well whilst experiencing amnesia over the great things we actually achieved?

Apparently it’s all to do with our evolutionary make-up. Focusing on where we need to improve helped us to evolve as a species, prevented us from being eaten and enabled us to adapt to the many challenges that were faced.

Today, an awareness of our strengths can be hugely beneficial. On an individual level, how we were parented has a considerable influence on how easily we can tune into what we are good at. Regardless of our ‘starting point’, the good news is that we can all learn to cultivate more awareness of our strengths, and use that information to ‘float our boat’ and navigate it through turbulent times, at work or at home.

HOW DOES KNOWING YOUR STRENGTHS MATTER?

It matters for several, important reasons.

  1. If you know and consciously use aspects of yourself you are good at, you’ll feel more positive and that in itself brings about huge benefits. For example, this includes being able to think more expansively and more creatively, as explored by Barbara Fredrickson in her ‘broaden and build theory of positive emotions’ (Positivity, 2009). This now well accepted theory states that positivity opens our minds, making us more receptive and more creative, whilst enabling us to build new skills, new knowledge, new ways of being.
      Going back to our ancestry, Fredrickson states “positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future”  (2009). Working from our strengths, designing ways in which we can use more of them, more often, can be a highly successful way of bringing in more positive emotions into our daily lives.
  2. Knowing what our strengths are gives us a way of dealing with challenges. When you work from a place of strength, you are far more likely to be successful. As you accomplish more, you build more and more evidence of your abilities. Success breeds success, so applying your strengths to help you tackle difficult situations or conversations, for example, helps you build the self-belief and self-confidence to do more. It’s a virtuous circle, which when consciously acknowledged can be very powerful.
      Recently a coaching client of mine was having difficulty seeing their strengths, and keeping an evidence log in the form of a ‘what went well and why’ exercise made all the difference in building that awareness and insight.
  3. Knowing what your strengths are can also help you be aware of your ‘shadow’ side. This is the opposite, unhelpful aspect of having that strength. For example, ‘a love of excellence’ has a shadow of being a perfectionist; ‘optimism, zest and energy for life’ (one of mine) can also lead you to overcommitting and needing to take a few reality checks. Transactional Analysis (a theory of communication) frames someone’s character traits you may find annoying as a ‘strength overdone’. Developing insights to where you (and others) are perhaps overdoing some strengths can lead to better relationships, at work, at home, with friends, family and colleagues.
  4. Acting from our strengths makes it easier for us to go into ‘flow’ at work and find what we do more satisfying (Johnstone, 2013).  ‘Flow’ has been the subject of considerable research in the field of positive psychology. One leading researcher, Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi states that flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (Flow, 1991). Researchers Clifton and Harter who reviewed work across this field concluded that workers who “have the opportunity to do what they do best every day” show less staff turnover, better customer loyalty and higher productivity (2003).

In Part 2, we examine how to identify your strengths and use them creatively across your daily life.

References:

Clifton, D. & Harter, J. K. (2003). Investing in strengths. In K. S., Cameron, J.E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn, (Eds), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 111-121). San Francisco, CA: Berrett- Koehler

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002), Flow: The Psychology of Happiness: The Classic Work on How To Achieve Happiness. Rider

Fredrickson, B. (2009), Positivity: Groundbreaking Research to Release Your Inner Optimist and Thrive. Oneworld Publications

Johnstone, C. (2013), Positive Psychology for Coaches and Health Professionals, online course materials, FindYourPower.com