What Darth Vader can teach us about support?

I recently got a new SatNav and my two sons persuaded me to download the Darth Vader voice. It was a bit of a giggle being told “take the left, it is the way of the Sith” and “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

This morning I was driving on my own and found myself smiling as I took a sharp bend and Darth said “Impressive, very impressive” and as the journey progressed, “you are getting stronger.”

Now I recognise that it would be a very sad state of affairs if I were to rely on a SatNav to affirm my worth and I could definitely teach Darth a thing or two about being specific in his feedback, but it did get me thinking about how important it is to receive support and encouragement particularly when your journey is a challenging one.

Agreed destinations, clear guidance, and on-going support and encouragement are vital, and available to many of us in the form of great teachers, outstanding managers and inspirational leaders, but that isn’t always the case.

If you are a leader or manager, what are you actively and consistently doing to let your team know they are on the right track, are contributing value and supporting you in your wider goals? How confident are you that they know exactly what it is that you appreciate about them and the work they produce?

If you are an individual contributor, where do you turn to for your support?  When your manager isn’t giving you the feedback you need, who else can become your cheerleader and guide?  Look for friends, family, colleagues, other managers or coaches who can help you recognise where you add value, identify your personal and professional strengths and who can support you when the going gets tough.

You don’t have to cross to the dark side, or rely on a SatNav to feel good.

And remember managers, it’s far more energising  to hear “You are achieving your destiny” than to hear “You have reached your destination.”

Getting Unstuck

“I’m Julie Kay and I’m a recovering perfectionist,” I also know from my work as a coach that I am not alone in that. I work with many committed, hard-working people who are driven by providing the best service or the best product possible for their clients, colleagues or customers. At the same time, a large number fail to meet their own and their customers’ expectations because they miss deadlines, run out of time and deliver something of poor quality or don’t deliver at all because they don’t get past the planning stage and therefore deny their customers access to themselves and the outcomes they can potentially deliver.

The poet Rabindranth Tagore describes this beautifully:

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.”

Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Perfectionists hold themselves back, telling themselves they need more time, more skills, more information, or more certainty, before they can produce high quality results.

Not all procrastination is down to being a perfectionist though. Sometimes it is related to feeling overwhelmed, getting caught up in the detail, being fearful or just plain bored. For example, when I find myself doing the housework it’s a strong signal that I am avoiding something even more unappealing!

Whatever the reason, these suggestions may be helpful in getting you un-stuck and into action.

  • Remember that a perfect product that never materialises is doing your customers a dis-service. Find the balance between quality and timeliness.
  • When you are procrastinating, re-connect with why you are doing it. As the saying goes, “when the why is big enough the how will take care of itself.”
  • When you are feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, break it down into the smallest possible steps that you can take easily every day.
  • Celebrate your successes and make sure you acknowledge actions taken as well as outcomes.
  • Build in accountability. Find ways to hold yourself accountable, find an accountability partner that will check in with you, challenge you and be interested in your progress and results.

I would love to hear what you do to stop procrastinating and start producing the goods.

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 Essential Steps to a Clear Compelling Message

During difficult times it’s even more important that everyone in the company knows exactly where the company is headed and the reasons behind strategic decisions, in order to feel energised and motivated to contribute their best and make sure the business goals are achieved. Communication is the only vehicle that allows all employees to understand this vision and direction, which may be why my newsletter subscribers consistently place effective communication at the top of their list of priorities.

As a manager your role is to act as a conduit for information; ensuring that your team has a clear understanding of the company’s way forward and all the information that they need to be effective in their job.

When you think about any communication you need to be structured and consider:

  • What are the key messages that need to be delivered?
  • What are the best ways to deliver the messages to the individual or team?
  • How will this be achieved?
  • How will you measure the effectiveness of the communication?

Think of someone you know who is outstanding at delivering clear and compelling messages.

  • What makes their communications so effective?
  • How do they choose the medium through which to communicate?
  • What is it about their personal style that works for you?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

3 Ways to Keep Calm when you’re being bullied

  • Do you interact regularly with someone who constantly puts you down and belittles what you say?
  • What about someone who generally throws their weight around and leaves you feeling intimidated?
  • Do you get nasty personal remarks from your boss rather than constructive feedback?

Everyone makes mistakes, lashes out in the moment, and can be rude or insensitive, but when behaviour like this happens repeatedly, no matter how “grown up” you are, you can be left feeling belittled, marginalised or insignificant and you need to do something about it. There are many different approaches to dealing with bullies and this short article focuses on just one – how to keep calm using imagery. The tools are particularly useful for “in the moment” relaxation when you can’t avoid the person or the situation.

a)      Protective screen. In your mind’s eye create a screen or wall that protects you from what the other person says or does. It can be impenetrable to keep you safe or it can block the insults while letting through the useful information. It can even come with volume and brightness controls that you adjust at will. Whatever suits you best. My son, uses the same special power as the daughter in the film “The Incredibles” and, in a flash, imagines a clear, protective dome around him and sees words bouncing off it. He even makes a “boing” noise in his head to make it even more effective.

b)      Catch it, bin it, kill it. Remember the Swine Flu Advert we had here in the UK which told us to catch it, bin it, kill it? Imagine catching the comment in your outstretched hand. Holding it there and examining it. Be curious and look to see if there’s anything in what the other person is saying. Keep what might be useful learning and toss the rest in an imaginary bin.

c)      Thought switching. It’s hard to hold two conflicting thoughts in your mind at the same time.

Thought-switching is another way to bring instant calm using imagery. Keep a mental list of relaxing places, events or people in your mind that you can call on whenever you need to feel calmer. It might be a favourite or peaceful place, a fun event, a special achievement or a calming or supportive friend. Switch your unhelpful or stressful thoughts and replace them with these images. If you struggle to remember your list, then keep a photo or some other physical reminder to help your recall.

The more you practice these three tools, the easier, quicker and more effective they’ll become.

What works for you in stressful situations that you can’t avoid?

Making a Change?

I was coaching a great client of mine yesterday.  He has a master plan for his life which includes taking early retirement next year. Suddenly his work situation has changed and he is facing a year of potential misery. This has left him with a dilemma.  Does he stick with what he knows, even though it’s painful? (His comfort zone) Or does he make changes which are scary and perhaps risky? (His stretch zone)

Choosing to make changes can be scary for all kinds of reasons. My client may be afraid to apply for a new job in case he doesn’t get it. But he hasn’t got it now so what is there to be scared of? Perhaps it’s about losing credibility or feeling embarrassed because not landing another job might reflect badly on his abilities. It’s really easy to confuse failing to achieve something with being seen as a failure as a person. It might be that he would feel disloyal to his current team if he makes the changes or that they will judge him as disloyal for wanting to leave. Or it could be that he is so emotionally and psychologically drained by the situation that he hasn’t the energy to get himself unstuck.

He will only be able to make the change when he believes the positives of changing are greater than the positives of staying the same.  So taking the time to look at what is driving the change and what is blocking the change is a good first step. When the two seem to balance each other out we are left feeling ambivalent and therefore stuck. However, most people overestimate the risks of change and underestimate the risks of staying in their comfort zone. So, the next step is to challenge our assumptions around our list of drivers and blockers. This might be the time to enlist the help of a friend or trusted advisor to help with challenging those assumptions.

To sum up,

When there is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be and you can acknowledge the discomfort that this creates.

When you can list the emotional and rational drivers and blockers of the change and challenge your assumptions

When you reach the point where you see that the positives of making the change outweigh the positives of staying with the current situation

Then you are ready and willing to take the action that will move you forward, help you grow your comfort zone and build your ability to deal with future changes positively.

  • How do you make the decision to make difficult changes?
  • What helps you to “feel the fear and do it anyway?”

5 Strategies for Dealing with Conflict

There is plenty of evidence that conflict is an issue in the vast majority of workplaces, either because it’s being avoided in order to maintain artificial harmony, or because it’s being dealt with poorly. Either way it can lead to lost productivity and lost revenue. This is the main reason why you need to know how to deal effectively with conflict in order to increase performance and improve profits.

Causes of conflict

Most conflict stems from differences of some kind. Differences in information, in values and beliefs, in roles and functions, differences in perception. Other causes can include lack of trust, fear of the consequences and competitiveness, especially over scarce resources.

5 Strategies

Whatever the cause, here are 5 strategies you can adopt to deal with conflict – from “The Magic of Conflict” by Thomas F Crum.

Avoiding – This can be effective when the issue is relatively unimportant and the risks of surfacing it outweigh the benefits of resolving it.

Accommodating – Useful when the issue is far more important to others than to you. However it isn’t appropriate when your input and/or commitment is required and you can’t give it.

Forcing – Good for when quick, decisive, action is called for or you need to implement an unpopular decision – but only if commitment isn’t needed.

Compromising – Although giving everyone some of what they want isnt likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome, compromising can work when the goals are mutually exclusive

Collaborating – When time isn’t an issue, working through difficult feelings and different perspectives can lead to a much better solution and stronger commitment to that solution

  • What is your default position when dealing with conflict?
  • If you have a current conflict going on in your life, which of the 5 strategies would be most effective?