Simple Steps to Less Stress This Holiday

I love Christmas and I think I love it all the more because I have a fairly laid back and relaxed attitude towards it. I have friends who plan it with military precision weeks and even months in advance. I have friends who start panicking about who to invite, what to cook, what to do, and who to visit, long beforehand and right throughout the holiday. I also know people who seem to be consistently disappointed with the reality of Christmas as opposed to how they think it “should” be.  If your approach to Christmas works for you, yippee!! If you are starting to feel tense and tetchy already, then these last minute tips may help.

If you’ve just received late cards from people you haven’t sent to….LEAVE IT. It’s too late and they’re unlikely to notice you didn’t send one to them, at this point in the proceedings.

If you are panicking that now you have wrapped the presents, there don’t seem to be enough…STOP. Don’t reach for your purse. You set a budget so stick to it.

If you are worried that Great Aunt Flo will embarrass you by ……………………(insert as appropriate) falling asleep, saying something inappropriate, getting tipsy, letting a family skeleton out of the cupboard…STEP AWAY. You can’t prevent it, and she deserves a good Christmas as much as anyone.

If you are focussing on being the “hostess with the mostest” and everything going perfectly at the family gathering…CHILL OUT. Your family are more likely to want your company than have you slaving away in the kitchen all day, especially if you are relaxed and happy rather than stressed and sweaty.

If you know from experience that Christmas is guaranteed to bring out long standing resentments and unresolved issues J…ACCEPT IT. It’s likely to happen. If it did last year it probably will this year. Do what you can to minimise the risk, prepare your own response, then LET IT GO.  The sky won’t fall in.

Finally, if you are banking on creating a perfect family experience against a picture postcard winter scene, ask yourself if you’ve created unrealistic expectations for yourself and those around you. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being a family, warts and all, and celebrating that.

And if all else fails and you find yourself hitting the sherry a little too hard and a little too early, or feeling like a martyr to the cause because you are doing all the work while everyone else eats, drinks and makes merry just remember….“This too shall pass.”

Have a pleasant and relaxing Christmas and I will see you on the other side ready for a great New Year.

Julie Kay helps you improve individual and team performance by building the strong trusting relationships you rely on for your success. If you are genuinely interested in boosting performance, productivity and profits the answer is just a click away. For more information, just click here

4 Reasons people don’t do what you need them to do

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from managers is that their direct reports are failing to deliver on expectations. They feel at a loss about why this is happening and what they can do about it. They are likely to eventually come to the conclusion that the person is either lazy, lacks commitment or just isn’t up to the job.

On closer inspection though, there are many reasons that lead to this underperformance. Here are four of them.

1) They don’t know what to do

Especially in these days of rapid change and everyone running to keep still it’s easy to overlook the basics and to jump to conclusions that we have spelt out our expectations really clearly when we may not have done so.  Think about someone you manage whose performance is not living up to your expectations. How confident are you that you have articulated really clearly and specifically what you want them to do? Rather than using vague catch all terms like, “present professionally in meetings” or “write up a comprehensive report” etc. you will need to spell out exactly what that looks like so that they can replicate it.

2) They think they are already doing it

In the absence of effective and timely feedback, people either decide they are doing fine or that you don’t care about what they are doing.  Consider if you have really taken the opportunity to give specific behavioural feedback about what they are doing that works and what they are doing or not doing that doesn’t work. A simple model to use is Action Impact Desire. What action you saw, what the impact was on you, on others, or on the project and what you Desire for the future. This can be used for motivational feedback when they have done something well that you want them to repeat and developmental feedback when you want them to do something differently.

3) They don’t understand why they have to do it

Someone once said to me that CEO should stand for Chief Explaining Officer. Right from the top, down through the business, leaders at all levels need to paint the big picture and help people see how what they are doing contributes to that big picture. You have probably heard the story about one brick layer saying he is building a wall, while the next brick layer proudly said he was building a cathedral. How are you helping your people see how what they do, contributes to cross functional performance and ultimately to the performance of the business.

4) They think they could do it differently / better

On a similar vein, maybe they aren’t doing what you want because it doesn’t make sense to them. That could be because they don’t have the bigger picture or it could be that it really doesn’t make sense. They are closer to the front line than you and the chances are they will have ideas about how things could be speeded up, made more efficient, more user or customer friendly etc. Make sure you don’t overlook their expertise. Create the forum and the climate that encourages ideas and debate. Just because you are listening doesn’t mean you have to implement all their suggestions but it does help you keep your finger on the pulse, eases the burden on you to always know best and develops and values your staff.

I don’t believe people come to work to deliberately do a poor job. They may have different drivers and motivators from you but your role as manager is to bring out the best in those you manage. So, next time you are feeling frustrated that one of your people isn’t delivering on your expectations, ask yourself what could be getting in the way and how you might be contributing to the issue.

Ditch the books and learn lots!

Looking back on my life I can pinpoint times of rapid and substantial growth and development. On a personal basis they sometimes involved life changing, and even life threatening situations. Professionally they were usually projects and/or roles that I initially didn’t want to do because they seemed too big a stretch. They were high profile and in one way or another, high risk.

One example was when I was serving in the Royal Navy and was asked to set up a residential training unit for the welfare staff of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Army. It was a totally blank sheet including:

  • A new geographical location where I didn’t have a network of support
  • No designated building
  • No budget
  • No experience as a trainer

I had 3 months to find, furnish  and resource a suitable building, and design, deliver and evaluate an 8 week residential programme, complete with volunteer guest speakers.

During that time I learnt many knew skills and discovered strengths I didn’t know I had.  Not from books; not from courses; but from experience. From taking action, reflecting and adjusting as I went along. And that is coming from a coach and trainer! Now, as a lifelong learner I am not saying more traditional forms of learning don’t work at all. What I am saying is that you can achieve deeper, quicker and more sustainable development from stretching, work-based assignments and this is often overlooked.

Although when I was first given the assignment I was scared and doubted my ability to cope with it, I am so grateful to my boss for giving me the opportunity and trusting in my ability. That kind of development opportunity is priceless.

What stretching, scary, development opportunities have you experienced that had a massive impact?

Where can you offer the same opportunities to your team members?

Julie Kay helps you improve individual and team performance by building the strong trusting relationships you rely on for your success. If you are genuinely interested in boosting performance, productivity and profits the answer is just a click away. For more information, just click here

How to deal with Moaners and Whiners

Do you spend a disproportionate amount of your time listening to team members moaning and complaining about things? And do you then spend more time trying to sort it out for them? Maybe making phone calls, sending emails, talking to other departments, or finding out more details and  information?

You may feel it’s your job as a manager to sort this. That it shows your support for your team member.  I’m afraid, most of the time, you would be wrong. If someone comes to you whining and moaning and you take responsibility for dealing with it, what have they learned? They’ve learned that they don’t need to think for themselves. That when there’s a problem they just need to tell you and leave it with you. And most importantly, they don’t need to grow and develop because you will take the load.

Even when they have a valid concern I would argue that the first thing to do as a manager is to leave responsibility with them and support them to tackle it. So, the obvious question is “how?” The answer is, “by taking a coaching approach.”

  1. Demonstrate you are listening. Notice I didn’t just say listen. The other person needs to KNOW you are listening. It might seem more time consuming but actually the interaction is likely to go on much longer if your team member doesn’t feel heard.
  2. Ask quality questions rather than providing suggestions and solutions. This will show them you are listening, help them to think things through, and keep responsibility with them.
  3. Ask them what they want. When people are caught up in complaining, feeling hard done by, and blaming other things, it’s really difficult to focus on what they want as an outcome. Shift the focus on to outcomes and break the cycle of moaning about what is happening or not happening in the moment.
  4. Ask them what their options are. People in this situation feel disempowered so you will need to ask questions that raise their awareness and encourage ownership.  This is the opportunity to repeatedly use one of my favourite coaching questions, “what else?”
  5. If you are successful in getting the person to identify what they want and what options are available to them, you can move onto what they are going to do. If not, if the person is still too caught up in the emotion or the detail of it all, arrange to meet up again, probably later that day to hear their desired outcome and options, once they’ve had time to reflect and free up their thinking.

People who habitually moan and complain suck the life out of you and the rest of the team. Is it possible that in your efforts to support them you might be perpetuating the problem?

How do you handle it?

3 Steps to Presenting with Confidence and Composure

I’m putting together a new programme to help people with their fear of making presentations.  The clients are technically savvy and have been making competent presentations and achieving their desired outcomes, so why do they need training? Well, like many people it’s taking its toll on them emotionally and psychologically because they feel nervous and uncomfortable standing up in front of a group of people. Let’s be honest we aren’t going to turn this round with a tips sheet. We form our beliefs in an instant and spend many years re-enforcing them for good or ill. That’s why the programme will over two days with time in between for experimentation, practice and reflection. However, I do have some suggestions that you can apply instantly to calm your nerves, if this topic strikes a chord with you.


When I was much younger and didn’t know any better I dreaded making presentations. I would have a running commentary going through my head saying things like “I mustn’t drop my notes” “I don’t want to make a fool of myself” “I hope I don’t blush.”  But our minds don’t handle negative messages well. We unconsciously delete the “don’t” bit and focus on the rest. Want proof?

Don’t think of a pink elephant!

I’d like to bet you immediately pictured a pink elephant didn’t you? You deleted the don’t. So in my case my mind was hearing, “drop my notes” “make a fool of myself” “blush!” To overcome this, make a note of your negative automatic thoughts and change them into more helpful ones. E.g. “my notes are organised and numbered” “the audience are supportive and want me to do well” “I am feeling calm and relaxed”

Mental rehearsal

Many coaches and trainers recommend seeing yourself delivering a perfect presentation, and if this works for you, go for it. What I find is that for some people it’s more effective to start by imagining the presentation with the things you are worried about, actually happening, and visualising yourself dealing with them calmly and confidently. For example, if you fear drying up, visualise drying up and you pausing, taking a sip of water to gather your thoughts and then continuing. If you fear losing your place or missing out a big chunk of the presentation, visualise that, and using a strategy such as having the audience turn to the person next to them and discussing a key learning for them so far, while you go through your notes and regroup.

Engage early

If you are scared at the thought of a sea of faces looking at you, plan to engage the audience early. When you get a smile, a nod of recognition, a ‘aha’, or a response to a question, it breaks the ice, helps you to relax and builds rapport. Getting even minor interaction from the start is much more energising and effective for you and for your audience.

What do you do to calm your nerves before and during presentations?

Julie Kay helps you improve individual and team performance by building the strong trusting relationships you rely on for your success. If you are genuinely interested in boosting performance, productivity and profits the answer is just a click away. For more information, just click here

Feeling stuck, scattered or overwhelmed?

  • Can you only see one option and it’s not the one you want to take?
  • Are you overwhelmed with options and unable to choose one?
  • Do you know what to do but not how to do it?
  • Do you make a start and then not maintain it?
  • Are you doing it all on your own and feeling totally worn out?
  • Are you waiting for something to change and it just isn’t?
  • Perhaps you are working flat out but deep down know you are on the wrong track?

We all experience being stuck at times. Whether it’s over big or small issues, it usually results from only seeing one possible course of action and not wanting to take it. Getting unstuck depends on you freeing up your thinking and creating more possibilities.

Here are some effective ways to re-focus and get moving in the right direction

  1. Write down your challenge as succinctly and accurately as possible
  2. Change your physical position
  3. Go for a drive
  4. Brainstorm all the possible options. Go for quantity and don’t filter out the whackier ideas
  5. Exercise
  6. Get a coach who can ask powerful and challenging questions that provoke
    you to think differently
  7. Take a break, make yourself a cup of coffee
  8. Go for a walk around the block
  9. Get out into nature
  10. Lie on your back and look up at the sky
  11. Give yourself permission to stop thinking about it right now. Make an appointment
    with yourself to re-visit it when you are feeling more resourceful
  12. Sleep on it and let your unconscious mind work on it overnight
  13. Talk it over with a trusted advisor
  14. Ask yourself “If I knew the solution, what would it be?”
  15. Have a soak in the bath
  16. Ask yourself if this is something you want to address or just think you should, must or ought to
  17. Change the language you are using to generate more excitement and commitment
  18. Build in accountability for taking actions by reporting back to someone
  19. Check your assumptions, especially when you are telling yourself you can’t do something. What if you did?

What would you add to the list?

Which of these steps work best for you?

Julie Kay helps you improve individual and team performance by building the strong trusting relationships you rely on for your success. If you are genuinely interested in boosting performance, productivity and profits the answer is just a click away. For more information, just click here