Wednesday, 6 February 2019

How to identify your bad habits at work and sort them out

Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to find fault in others yet we seldom take the time to review our own working practices? Nobody is perfect, that’s true. It is only by recognising and acknowledging our own failings at work that we can start to do something about addressing them.

We’re not talking about the big things either – like the kind of development issues that should feature on your annual training plans for example – we’re looking at the annoying little habits that have crept into your work routines. The behaviours that are likely infuriating your co-workers and stopping you from achieving your full potential.

We take a look at some of the most common bad habits at work – and what we can do to nip them in the bud.

(Not) ready for anything
Do you pride yourself on getting through each working day by the seat of your pants? Do you consider yourself an expert at winging it in team meetings? Being unprepared is unavoidable at times – but managers and co-workers can easily see through colleagues who do not take the time to organise themselves. They don’t think you’re too busy, they take it as a sign that you don’t value what you are doing. Our top tip is to plan as much time into your diary to prepare as you will spend at the meeting itself. If you find time management an issue, there are lots of resources you can use to help you. Read these tips from Psychology Today, which  are designed for home-workers but apply equally to people who are office based.

Too late!
There’s always that one co-worker who never arrives on time! We’re all busy people – so if this is you, perhaps it’s time to think about two things: 1) the impact your tardiness has on your team mates (why are you so special that everyone must wait for you?) and 2) what is it that makes you late? This article from Psychology Today suggests that often it is through the fear of wasting time – unfortunately, the impression that constant lateness makes is the exact opposite: that you couldn’t care less about the meeting – or your job and colleagues.

 

Loose lips

It’s great to get to know your colleagues and co-workers on a social level, it really helps to develop a collaborative and constructive team environment. However, if you find your chitter chatter usually involves talking about the people that you work with, then you need to do something about it. Although fun at the time, gossiping can make you look untrustworthy, not only that it also wastes a lot of valuable time, which others can resent. Try to make all your chatter constructive and work-related, keep away from the personal stuff – that’s best left for the pub!

Dream on

Every team needs a dreamer – they’re the ones who keep others motivated by reminding us all of what is possible and the dizzy heights we can all aspire to. Daydreamers are the ideas people, they are creative and help us to solve problems. However, daydreaming can also be a sign of someone who isn’t fully committed to their job, or their employer. If you like to let your mind wonder, do it constructively – and set yourself a timer, so that your full day isn’t ‘wasted’ looking up to the stars while the everyday toil gets neglected.

These are just a few of the most common bad habits people display at work. What would you add? We’d welcome your comments!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Why it’s important to review your year’s achievements and look ahead

It’s fair to say that in today’s challenging economic climate many employees are expected to do and deliver more – often with less resources.

When you’re on a hamster wheel at work, it can be hard to carve out the time to reflect on your performance and achievements. However hard it is, self-reflection is a critical process if we are ever to do things differently – or if we have desires to stretch and grow at work.

Self-reflection is a way of assessing yourself, your ways of working and how you learn. Managers go through this process regularly with their team but it’s not often that we turn the lens around and look at our own performance. This article from HR Zone explains how – and why – the practice of self-reflection is key to identifying opportunities and to changing our habitual work practices so that we get better results.

When we talk about the process of reflection, what we’re really talking about is questioning – in a positive way – what we do and why we do it that way. It's only by doing this that we can assess whether there is a better way going forward. Of course, reflection can be done at any time in the year, but the start of the new year is a great time to set out your plans and priorities for the twelve months ahead. It’s also the time when we're most open to embracing new ways of doing things – so evaluating personal skills can really help to identify changes we might need to make.

It might be helpful to structure your questioning in the following areas:

  • Strengths – are you well organised? Do you connect well with colleagues and customers? 
  • Weaknesses – are you easily distracted? Do you take on more than you should for fear of disappointing others? Are you inflexible and reluctant to change how you work? 
  • Skills – what are your core skills currently and what skills are you looking to develop? 
  • Achievements – what have you delivered this year that are you most proud of? 
  • Happiness – what gives you joy at work? What tasks do you look forward to? 

Think also about any external factors that may have impacted your work over the year. Perhaps there were problems at home or with the children that took a lot of your attention over a certain period of time – identifying these external pressures enables us to better assess how we perform at work under stress.

Although self-reflection can seem difficult at first, there is evidence from Harvard Business School that it really does positivelyimpact on performance - so remember, practice makes perfect. You will find that it becomes easier and that the end result is not only a more productive year ahead – but also a happier and more fulfilling one too.



Thursday, 20 December 2018

Mindful last minute gifts for colleagues

It’s the season of goodwill and tradition goes that we shower our friends and loved ones with gifts to show our appreciation and affection
When we exchange gifts, it is more about the thought that goes into the giving, rather than the gift itself. This is more often true in the workplace, where it is commonplace to give token gestures rather than the larger gifts we share with friends and family.

Thoughtful giving comes from a practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a new concept. It’s a tried and tested technique that helps us gain perspective and regain control during periods of stress. It has been shown to improve wellbeing, reduce stress and make us happier.

The concept of giving and receiving gifts is closely tied to compassion, love, and gratitude. When you give someone a gift, no matter how big or small, you’re showing them that you care.  When we talk about mindful gifts, it’s about the thinking behind why we’re giving and choosing something that it truly meaningful for your colleague.

In a work situation, there are a couple of golden rules when it comes to buying gifts for your colleagues. These include not giving overly personal gifts and respecting price limits on gift exchanges. It’s also worth remembering that the gifts you choose say as much about you as they do your colleagues, so avoid anything too political or cheeky. The great news is that these boundaries lend themselves to more mindful gift giving.

In a team situation, gestures of goodwill work really well and are great for strengthening relationships. Think about what you could do that would make their working life easier, for example, covering extra shifts, making the coffee for a week or committing to finish your reports earlier.  Handwritten cards with personal messages that convey your appreciation for others are also a great way of building connections with your colleagues. There’s some fascinating research about how effective gifts are in helping us to form stronger bonds with people and boost morale. You can read more about it in this article on Psychcentral.com.   

One of the best gifts you can give your colleagues this festive season is to be kind to yourself. We are pulled in so many directions over Christmas that it takes a resilient person to not feel pressured or stressed by what they have to do. Failing to nurture yourself over the holidays means that you are not giving your best self at work – and that impacts on your co-workers. Be mindful of your own moods in the run up to Christmas – you cannot give to others if you have nothing left to give. Make a pact with yourself to be fully present at important meetings – despite the additional pressures on your time and energy – and set aside time when you can fully appreciate your co-workers, perhaps at office drinks.


Whatever you decide, remember that when it comes to gift giving – be it friends, family or coworkers – it really is the thought that counts.

Friday, 7 December 2018

How to overcome your biggest challenges

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes. It doesn’t matter who you are or what job you do, as individuals we never stop learning. However, from time to time, the challenges we face at work may seem insurmountable and serve to dent our confidence, rather than help us grow.

A life without challenges is an unrealistic expectation. But you can prepare yourself to deal with the challenges you face, so that you can embrace them as an opportunity to ‘practise’ and become better at what you do.

The run up to Christmas can be a time of immense pressure for lots of people to the point that you find yourself less able to cope with obstacles at work. Here are our tips for overcoming even the toughest of encounters and coming out the other side a stronger, more rounded employee.

Positivity matters

If you find yourself under pressure at work, it’s important to surround yourself with positivity. Rather than spend time with coworkers who are eager to share their own tales of woe, make a conscious effort to be with those colleagues who bring out your passion and drive. Negativity breeds so make sure the relationships you keep at work share the same positive vision that you do. You sometimes need to be with people who believe in your abilities so that you can believe in yourself!

Focus on the big picture

When dealing with challenges, it’s easy to get bogged down in the detail and lose sight of your end goals. When you start to feel discouraged it’s important to take a step back and focus on the big picture for a moment. Remember why this challenge you are facing is important – how will it help to lead onto other things? Does it take you closer to your end goal? Sometimes it helps to write down your goals and put them somewhere where you can see them. When you have to deal with something you find hard – look to your goals for inspiration and energy.

Break it down

Have you noticed how sometimes when we work on something tricky, it builds up in our minds – often without good cause. Human nature means that often we will put off the tasks we don’t like, in favour of quick wins but usually this has the unfortunate knock-on effect that we then are working on our most challenging projects under self-inflicted time pressures too! If you find yourself facing a challenging task or activity, the key to success is to break it down into smaller elements. Then systematically work through each element in turn. Be persistent. Be methodical, and before you realise it, you’ll find yourself half way up the mountain.

Picture your success

You need to picture yourself overcoming your challenge in order to make it happen. Visualisation is a tried and tested technique for helping to rewire our thought processes. When we think about positive outcomes, we are more likely to overcome our challenges. Use the power of your mind to picture how you will look and feel once you have accomplished what you have set out to achieve. This positivity really helps to motivate your spirit and drive you to succeed. Visualisation is a means of control in any situation that may leave you feeling unsure, vulnerable or inadequate. You can read more about the practice in this article from Psychology Today.


Monday, 3 December 2018

How to be kind to colleagues who really don’t deserve it

When we’re at work, we’re expected to get along with our co-workers. Collaboration, team work, partnerships are all key to achieving great results at work, however we don’t often get to choose who we work with.

Thankfully, most co-workers and colleagues are united in a shared aim – to do their best and reach their full potential. Sometimes, though, there will be a need to work with people who we don’t naturally gel with. We need to engage, and work productively, with colleagues we don’t actually get along with.

A nicer, more positive office environment can be influenced by each of us, so we’ve developed some tips to help you be kind to those colleagues who sometimes don’t deserve it. It’s not just for the good of your employer, but also for your own mental wellbeing.

Watch not only what you say – but what you do too!

Very often our own body language can give away our inner feelings. Most disagreements in a work environment will not be as blatant as a verbal argument or a physical fight, but rather will present as negative body language – such as noticeable eye rolls or simply blanking people. In the main, people are very intuitive, so be extra vigilant that your own body language and non-verbal gestures do not convey your distain for your colleagues. If you exude positivity to all co-workers, they are more likely to follow suit.

Nip issues in the bud – don’t let things fester

Often the breakdown of work relationships comes about as an accumulation of smaller issues that simply haven’t been successfully resolved. If you find that you’re having issues with a co-worker or colleague the first step is to talk about it as it happens, don’t let the issue morph to become bigger and more significant than it needs to be. A single issue can be inconsequential in itself but unresolved tension will really be felt by the rest of your team and this will definitely impact on your ability to not only do your job well, but to enjoy the time you spend at work.

Set a good example – don’t let the behavior of others influence yours

There will be times when the only way to deal with a difficult colleague is to face them, full on. Be careful though. Communicating with others when we’re in a heightened state ourselves has the potential to develop into an emotional – rather than a rational - exchange. As a rule of thumb, when dealing with a difficult colleague, you should always pretend that your children – or your boss - are watching. This simple technique will help you to keep your emotions under control and make sure that the exchange remains constructive.

Give credit where it’s due – don’t let bad experiences taint your views

Positivity breeds positivity, so even if your colleagues are not being particularly friendly or forthcoming towards you, it shouldn’t stop you from treating them as you would your other colleagues. That means complimenting them for a job well done, acknowledging their achievements and giving credit where it’s due. Treat people as you wish to be treated yourself and don’t let the negative ways of others impact on your own working practices. Lead by example, always. Who knows, maybe your positivity may just rub off on others.


If you’re struggling to reach out the hand of kindness to one of your colleagues, remember, that you're kindness will benefit your wellbeing as well as theirs. This article from the British Psychological Society is a good reminder of the personal benefits that kindness can bring our way.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Spotting the tell tale signs of stress and taking action

In an ever-changing economy with increasing reliance on technology, there is an expectation that we can do more with less resources. The situations and pressures that we find ourselves under at work can easily cause stress, when not addressed.

The truth is, that as stress becomes normal within our working lives we may not even notice when we are suffering – though it will undoubtedly alter our behaviour with colleagues. Sometimes it will be up to others to point it out to us. Colleagues may comment that we are more irritable than usual or that we appear less tolerant or decisive than we would normally be.

Rather than be defensive, when this happens to you, take it as a wakeup call and an opportunity to take a look within and see if what people are saying is true. When it comes to being under stress we can be the last to realise, so understanding how stress can present itself can help you manage your own stress levels and take preventative action before it becomes an issue.

Too much sleep

In the early stages of stress, you may find yourself being more tired than usual and have a general lack of energy. Your need to rest will be greater than usual, but even after sleep you won’t feel rested. Stress can make you feel physically and emotionally drained.

Too little sleep

Ironically, often when you feel like you need sleep the most, sleep will escape you. When we are under stress, our minds work overtime and this continues when our heads hit the pillow. Minor stress may result in a couple of restless nights, however, sometimes the lack of sleep can actually add to the stress we are under.

Forgetfulness

Colleagues may notice you are ‘off your game’ or that you are lacking the drive and focus you usually have. Mild forgetfulness is an early sign of stress, as is an inability to make decisions. At the time when you need to be productive, you could find that your stress makes it harder to accomplish half of what you need to, causing work to pile up and deadlines to be missed.

Increased illness

When the stress really takes hold – and your mind refuses to accept that you are putting yourself under more pressure than usual – your body may take over. You may find that when you’re under stress you become more susceptible to infections and colds and other minor ailments. This is your body's way of making you get the rest you need.


These are just a few of the subtle signs that you’re under stress. There are more. But once you’ve recognised that you’re suffering, the question is: what can you do about it? This article from Psychology Today contains some useful and inspirational strategies to help you find the strength within to manage your stress levels:


And here are some of our suggestions:

Take a break

Once you've identified what is causing your stress, make a conscious decision to separate yourself from it for a short time. Gaining some distance from the issues that are bothering you mentally, can help to put things in perspective. Sometimes your stressors may be difficult to get away from – such as debt, or a major work deadline – if this is the case, even 15 minutes spent doing something you love will really help to focus your mind and make things easier to manage.

Get moving

The benefits that exercise has on your body is well documented, but more than that, keeping active is just as good for your mental health as it is for your physical health. We’re not talking about hitting the gym – though that may help – even a short walk can have an immediate calming effect on your mental wellbeing.

Be mindful

Meditation and mindfulness help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, and develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practising mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can make a difference.


For more information about stress in the workplace check out our Guide to Stress.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

How to speak so that people will listen

Have you noticed how some people can command the room when they speak, while others find it hard to grab – and keep – people's attention? We take a look at why this might be – and how to stop it happening to us!

Only talk when you have something to say

Have you noticed that children will ‘switch off’ from adults when they talk for too long? The same is true of our co-workers and colleagues. Often the people who are the most talkative are the ones that are listened to the least – it is hard for people to distinguish between the chitter-chatter and the words that add value to a work situation so they just switch off. If you are more mindful over your words at work, people will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Listen very carefully

We have two ears and only one mouth and there are many that believe we should listen twice as much as we talk. We don’t just mean not talking here though, it’s about actively listening to what our co-workers have got to say and using their ideas and insight to make us better at our own job. Listening is about processing what others have to say and only responding or adding to the conversation where you can definitely add value. People have to trust that you listen to them before they will actively listen to what you have to say.

Choose your time and place wisely

Speaking to people is not just about the words that you use, it’s about when and where you choose to impart your knowledge too. So, 4pm on a Friday in a crowded lobby is not going to command the same level of attention as 10am on a Monday in the training room, when everyone is motivated and ready to tackle the week ahead. When you have something important to share with others, make sure you are not competing for their attention.

Summarise and follow up

If you don’t feel confident in speaking and are often unsure that your audience will have taken in what you wanted to get across, always end your conversation or presentation by summarising your most important points, even if this means you’re repeating yourself. It’s also fine to follow up with people after the event too. Putting the important points in writing should not be seen as a reflection on your speaking ability, more a helpful reminder of your most salient points.



Public speaking or indeed addressing colleagues in a formal business setting is something that few of us relish. The good news is that these skills can be learn't – and until you have mastered the art of speaking with confidence, there are a few tricks you can employ that will enable you to ‘fake it until you make it’!


Here are our practical tips for how to speak with more presence so that people will sit up and listen:

Relax

As much as you can anyway. Do a few gentle stretches, touch your toes, walk up and down the stairs a few time. The more relaxed your body is, the more relaxed your voice will be when you’re speaking. Take a deep breath and let your body settle. Speak from your belly and direct your voice from your chest. When your voice is lower it sounds strong and convincing – people trust what you are telling them.

Slow down

When we are talking to groups of people or delivering presentations it’s important to take our time. When we’re nervous, the tendency is to rush through the event to make it end quicker – unfortunately this just means that we don’t articulate properly and this can make it more difficult for people to hear and understand what we are saying. Rather than rush through, slow down. Think of it this way – the more people who understand what you have told them, the less questions you will have at the end!


If you’ve got ten minutes free, why not watch this inspiring TED talk about the art of powerful speaking

https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_how_to_speak_so_that_people_want_to_listen