Wednesday 13 December 2017

How to give feedback people listen to

When we’re at school we accept that we'll be taught things, that we will learn new skills, ideas and concepts from others and that this information will enable us to grow as individuals. Once we join the workforce however, it becomes harder to accept such teachings, advice and guidance from others. As adults, we become naturally defensive and skeptical which makes it difficult for us to take a lot of the feedback we’re given constructively.

In many ways, feedback can be as tough to deliver, as it can to receive. However, if done in a clear and constructive manner – as outlined in this blog article– it’s a great way of helping people realise their true potential.

Two-way is the best way

Nobody likes to be spoken at, so if you really want people to take on board what you have to say you’ve got to at least try and involve them. If you frame the feedback more as a conversation, giving your colleague the opportunity to discuss, question and challenge what you are saying, it will make for a much more collaborative process and one from which you could both learn something. More importantly, it will create a platform from which you can work together to create a way forward.

Prepare to take action

Feedback is not a finite, one-off action, it’s a process. Once you've shared the feedback – and made your colleagues aware of any issues and problems you’ve highlighted – you can’t leave things there. The most important part of the feedback process is what happens afterwards: the steps that you take to support your colleague through any issues identified, the plans you create and the goals you set to improve performance going forward. Use two-way discussion to go over ideas and be open to the suggestions made by your colleagues, so that you can support them however you can.

Review your plans

Make sure that any action plans you create are timely and measureable. All too often, colleagues are given feedback and then left to navigate their progress by themselves. Commit to additional feedback sessions to discuss progression so far and next steps. The way you handle the feedback process will determine how your colleagues will give and receive feedback in the future, so it’s important to get it right.

And don’t forget our three golden rules for sharing feedback – they’re guaranteed to get your message heard!

Be specific

Now’s not the time for beating around the bush. When you give feedback make sure you talk about specific behaviour and specific examples that demonstrate the point you are making.

Be timely

Strike while the iron is hot is a saying that applies when sharing feedback. It’s got to be done while the issues are still front of mind. If you have feedback to give, then just get on and give it.

Be sensitive

Pick a suitable moment to share your feedback. You’ll know when colleagues are open to discussion and times when your feedback will not have the impact you are seeking.

Thursday 23 November 2017

The importance of career planning

Most of us have a dream or ambition about what we want to achieve in our working lives. It’s often a dream we hold close, sharing with few – if any – of our colleagues for fear of appearing too ambitious or not hungry enough. However, how many of us will actually achieve what we set out to? How many of us actively manage our own career paths?

Rather than meaning that our focus is not on the job we’re currently doing, a realistic career plan is an essential component of personal and professional growth. It helps build the skills and capabilities we need in a structured way that enables us to realise our true potential.

Career plans, when created and reviewed properly, keep us motivated by setting a specific timeline for accomplishing the things we want to achieve. So how exactly do we set a meaningful career plan for ourselves?

Start with the big stuff

Where do you see yourself in five years / ten years from now? You’ve got to be clear about your destination before you can plot out your journey. Yes, it seems a long way off, but we’re talking about long term goals here – rather than incremental steps.

Be clear about what you can do already – and what you have still to learn

Once you know where you are heading, you need to conduct an honest skills assessment: what skills are you looking to develop? What gaps in your knowledge and experience do you need to fill? You need to be realistic with yourself about what you can do – and for those things where your skills are lacking, you need to develop a realistic training journey to build your capabilities. The skills you need might be achievable through your current job, or a training course. Other skills may require exposure to a different sector or job role in order to build the capabilities you need.

Decide on your career goals and desired jobs

The reality is that, while some career planning and coaching may be available within your organisation, most planning and career exploration needs to be undertaken in your own time, outside of work. Deciding on your career goals sometimes means coming to the realisation that what you really need lies outside of your current employer; similarly taking advice from your current employer may make you feel obliged to find an internal role that fits part of your career plan – yet still falls short of your big dream job. A true career plan is independent and impartial – and that means making the time outside of work to do it.

Put your career path plan in writing

A plan that isn’t written down is only an idea. Once that idea has been committed to writing, it’s a plan. Writing it down makes it real. It provides something tangible to review and measure and the legitimacy that’s needed to prioritise it in our lives. Share it with others – in full or in part - as necessary but in order to realise your goals and aspirations you need to treat your career path as a living, breathing document. There are plenty of templates freely available on the internet to help you on your way.

Finally, once you have your plan in writing – own it! No-one will ever care as much about your career as you do. The power to grow and develop your own future lies firmly in your hands. Seek support and assistance from others as you wish, but ultimately it’s all up to you.

You might also find this post about goal setting helpful:

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Why introverts miss out on leadership roles

A recent study has shown that introverts often miss out on leadership roles they are more than capable of doing, simply because they overestimate how stressful these positions will be.

In the study nearly 200 undergraduate business students were asked to complete personality tests devised by NASA. Before starting, they were asked to rate whether they would find it fun and exciting, or scary and stressful. They also rated each other for signs of emergent leadership during the task, such as influencing group decisions and leading conversations. Introverts showed less emergent leadership than extraverts and expected to experience more negative emotions and feelings during the group task.

While that makes sense, it does suggest that there is a pool of talented leaders out there who will never realise their true potential, just because of how they perceive things to be. That’s a shame, given there are many reasons why introverts actually make excellent leaders who bring out the best in their teams.

Introverts think, then act

Introverts never speak without thinking things through first. They are great at reflecting on how what they say will impact on others and be perceived. They don’t speak unless they feel they can add value to the conversation and you can be sure that their responses will be measured and considered. Yes, their meetings may be quieter than those facilitated by extroverted leaders, but they are able to cut through organisational noise to distil the important data and information.

Introverts like to dig deep

There’s nothing superficial about introverted thinking. They like to investigate and research to a level of detail that extroverts wouldn’t deem necessary. They listen and they love to ask questions – probing questions that get to the crooks of the issue. As leaders this results in a greater understanding and appreciation of what’s going on in their departments and a deeper grasp of their team members and what they are capable of.

Introverts are calm

If you’re working in a busy or stressful job, you need someone who can bring a sense of calm to the operation and the higher up the chain of command that calm is, the easier it is for it to exude across the whole team. Introverts are great in times of crisis and they won’t make a mountain out of a molehill, that’s why they make such good mentors and coaches.

Introverts like to plan

You won’t catch an introvert out through a lack of planning. Being prepared and rehearsed is one of the reasons introverts make such good leaders. They plot out scenarios in their mind before they happen so are very seldom caught out, plus their tendency to air on the side of caution means they have realistic expectations of themselves and their team members.

Let’s not forget, some of the world’s most successful leaders are self-confessed introverts, like Bill Gates and Mahatma Ghandi. So be sure to share this blog with the talented introverts you know and encourage them to achieve their true leadership potential.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Hold down a career and be a successful parent

When you’re a parent, there’s a daily struggle of juggling two jobs - not to mention then spending time wondering whether you’re doing either to the best of your abilities! If you spend too much time at work, you worry that the children will suffer; too much time at home and there's the worry that our employers will notice and that our performance will suffer. In reality, being a parent and holding down a successful career need not be conflicting roles – success at one could actually help our ability to do the other.

What our concerns usually boil down to are that of time: having the time to do either role properly. To help with time management, we’ve compiled some simple organisational tips to tackle your time management and ease your daily juggling.


One of the reasons people feel guilty about being a working parent is because they fail to draw concrete boundaries between the two roles. Admittedly this usually presents itself as an inability to switch off from work when we are home – answering work calls during home time or answering emails which can easily wait for the next working day. The easiest way to do both our jobs better is to manage the divide between the two more clearly. That means telling the kids/childminder to only call if it’s an emergency and having an effective ‘clocking off’ time to enjoy family time.

Give yourself things to look forward to at home and at work

To redress the work/life balance – and ensure that we feel valued and motivated when doing both of our roles - it helps to build some small treats into every day to keep us focussed at work and make us feel as though we’re spending our time valuably when at home. This can be as simple as building in a proper lunch break at work, when we can relax and reflect or making a commitment to read to the children at bedtime.

Create a to-do list that leaves you feeling productive and fulfilled

Achievable schedules and realistic to-do lists are a working parent’s friend. Don’t try and do so much that it becomes overwhelming. Prioritise the important things and accept that you can’t do everything at once. A to-do list that can be successfully delivered – to both family and employer – helps us feel more fulfilled, rather than stressed and guilty. It will also help us to juggle without dropping any of the balls!

Be thankful

We appreciate that being a working parent can be hard but remember why you’re doing it. Being a working parent benefits everyone – ourselves included – so let’s focus on the positives and encourage our colleagues and kids to do the same!

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Facing your fears

Most of us have fears or phobias that stop us from achieving our full potential – we’re only human, after all. However, sometimes these issues can become problematic, getting in the way of our performance at work, or our enjoyment out of work.

The great news is that many fears and phobias can be overcome, if you want it badly enough. And rather than avoid the things that make you anxious, often the best thing to do is to expose yourself to them until you become desensitised to the fear they induce.

We’re not talking about jumping right in – it’s more a case of taking tiny steps, and gradually increasing the frequency of time and duration you expose yourself to whatever it is you fear, until you can manage your emotional responses better.

Let’s give you an example: you have a fear of presenting to large groups - you're not alone - many people do. So start off small. Agree to sit on a question panel, for example, or develop the presentation materials, but ask a member of your team to present. Once you feel comfortable doing that, agree to present for a short period of time at a small gathering until your confidence grows. Now, while we can’t guarantee that you will grow to love taking the stage in front of your peers, we can say that it won’t ignite the same feelings of fear any more, which means it won’t hold you back.

We have four tried and tested tricks to help you build up your exposure and face your fears.

Picture your success

Picture yourself doing exactly what it is you fear. In fact, go one step further, picture yourself being completely at ease while doing it. The trick is this: if you think you can – truly believe you can – you will. Be prepared to take the first step forward and plan your actions out step by step. Use the power of your mind to realise your success.

Remember the time you did it!

Often we are our own worst critic and that stops us from doing things. Strengthen your belief in yourself by reflecting on the last time you successfully overcame your fear. Forget about the feelings of anxiety that preceded your success and, rather, concentrate on the feelings of joy and elation when you’d done it. Relive that feeling, dwell on how good it made you feel. 

Seek inspiration from people you look up to

We’re all fallible and many of the world’s most successful people have overcome adversity to propel them forward. If you’re feeling anxious or plagued with self-doubt, do a quick google search on some of the people you find most inspirational. See how they overcame their fears and used it as a power for good. Use the success stories of others as the fuel you need to face your own fears. 

Only positive thoughts

Positive thoughts attract success. Instead of fearing the worst, train yourself to expect the best. Don’t give your fears the time to dwell in your mind – they will sap all of your energy. Focus on solutions, plan to succeed – and you will get there.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Take a minute for World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year's focus is on mental health in the workplace.

Most people spend a large proportion of their lives at work, so it's important to ensure that you can find ways to cope with your workload and the environment you work in if you're going to have good mental health and wellbeing.

If you find your role stressful, it's worth sitting down and thinking about which tasks create stress for you. Remember that not everyone will find the same things stressful, and what one person finds motivating another may find overwhelming and stress inducing.

And stress is not really such a bad thing when it's doing it's job of protecting you from harm - it's our inbuilt response to danger and it really works - our bodies 'power up' ready to fight or run away from danger.  However, when we are exposed to stress inducing situations in the long term, stress can affect our mental and physical health, which is why keeping on top of stress is key. Stress is cumulative - in other words it's not just your job that can cause you to experience stress at work. Family problems, relationship issues, financial problems, moving house,
and illness can all add to the stress load and are more likely to result in you feeling stressed at work.

So what can you do to reduce the load and manage the stress?

Building in time for relaxation is the key to managing stress before it becomes a problem.

We've come up with some simple one minute exercises you can do at work to help stay on top of stress. The first one is below. We'll be adding more throughout today, so come back later to check for more tips.

1 Step outside for a minute 

One of the most important things you can do to support your mental health is to take a break and do a little bit (even a very little bit!) of exercise. This helps your mind switch off, even for a moment, which allows your adrenaline levels to reduce. The exercise will loosen your muscles and release some tension, and if you can face some gentle stretching this will be even more beneficial! Regular breaks and time outs can have a huge impact, giving you the ability to find perspective and feel less overwhelmed with things that are going on – reducing stress and improving your mood.

2 List the positives

Research has shown that people who keep a list, each day, of positive things that happened to them during that day find their mood improving and their general sense of well-being increasing. When things are difficult, and we feel under pressure, we can often lose perspective and forget about the good things that might be happening around us. So, take a minute to write down three positive thing that have happened in the last 24 hours – these could be an enjoyable chat with a friend, a beautiful view of the sun setting as you make your way home, reading a good book, sharing a funny moment with your child, etc. If you do this exercise daily, research would suggest you will find yourself feeling more positive and upbeat. Try it!

3 Face a fear

Anxiety is one of the biggest mental health problems faced by many people. We worry about many things, and this can reduce quality-of-life and create a burden that often feels difficult to let go of. So take a minute to tackle one fear (pick a minor one - it's only a minute after all!). Identify something you're worried about, and ask yourself the following questions:

 a) What is the actual likelihood that what I am feeling will happen in the way I think it might – does the evidence suggest this or not? Remember, most commonly we exaggerate to ourselves the awfulness and level of catastrophe that we would face if the thing we fear comes to pass! 

b) If what I fear did actually happen, how would I cope with it?  It's often really helpful to develop a clear and concrete plan as this allows you to feel more in control and also to challenge some of your assumptions that you couldn't cope. 

c) Chat to someone else – asking someone about whether they would deal with what you fear in the same way is often very helpful – it can provide perspective and give you an alternative viewpoint that you hadn't thought about.

4 Keep others in mind

People experiencing mental health difficulties often find it hard to talk about things, or even seek help. Take a minute to look around you, or to think about friends and family who may be having a hard time. Are there any people who you see or know who may have changed in recent times, perhaps seeming under pressure, more introverted, working harder, eating less (or more), drinking more alcohol, or neglecting themselves a little bit. Use your minute to think about others, and even to ask someone who may appear not themselves if they are okay. A question like that, followed by a cup of coffee and a chat, may mean your minute makes a huge amount of difference to somebody else.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Career choices that don’t clash with your personality

We spend most of our time at work – in fact it’s been estimated that we spend 12 years during our lifetime. That’s a really long time to be doing something that doesn’t suit your personality.

Happiness and well-being is not just a question of the profession you choose but, as it’s where you spend a big chunk of your waking life, it’s important you make the right choices.

Many factors come into play when it comes to job satisfaction – the role, the way we’re managed, the culture, our colleagues – and finding work that plays to our personality and ignites our interests is far more likely to keep us absorbed and feeling contented. Plus, as the lines between home and work become more blurred than they used to be, it’s even more important to make sure we're happy in our work, as all too often it spills over into our personal life too.

The benefits of feeling content at work are well documented. They include:

  • Improved health - people who are unhappy at work or under a lot of stress tend to suffer from a multitude of ailments, ranging from aches and pains to broken sleep patterns. 
  • Happier relationships – when people are feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, it can’t help but carry over into their personal lives. If you keep venting your workplace frustrations on friends and family, they’ll soon disengage, whereas happiness spreads.
  • Increased productivity – happy people achieve more. They find it easier to focus and concentrate and they like to get things done. And it’s by getting stuff done – or through feeling appreciated in the workplace – that you want to do more. It’s a positive cycle of productivity.

We’ve found a nifty little quiz that will really help you get under the skin of what it would take to make you feel happiest at work. The questions were created by a professor at Arizona State University. They’re designed to measure six personality traits, captured in the acronym RIASEC: Realistic (doers), Investigative (thinkers), Artistic (creators), Social (helpers), Enterprising (persuaders) and Conventional (organisers). The questions in the test may appear random, but answer honestly – you might be surprised at what they reveal…

Take the test >

And once you’ve taken the test, it’s time to reflect and decide upon the best career choice to suit your personality. The question is: how do you go about following your new path and making it a reality?

These three top tips should help you on your way:

1. Be patient

Nothing worth having comes easy. Having a clear path is a big step forward but remember – good things come to those who wait. Don’t be in too much of a rush to jump right into a new career path. Take your time, think things through. Do your research, then progress at a pace that feels comfortable.

2. Walk, don’t run

However unfulfilling your job may be at the moment, don’t run away and be very careful not to make any rash or drastic decisions. Work out a plan that takes you ever closer to your dream job, but not at the expense of all that you have learned and achieved so far.

3. Don’t let fear hold you back

So what if your dream career seems unachievable at the moment? We all have an amazing capacity to learn new skills so, in 99% of cases, it’s never too late to set your sights on something new. Most of the time, the only thing holding you back is your own fear. It can paralyse you and stop you from achieving your true potential. Follow steps 1 & 2 and you’ll get there when the time is right!

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Dare to delegate: maximising efficiency in the workplace

Returning to work after the summer break can be a little overwhelming and it’s easy to slip back into old habits – taking too much on and struggling to maintain the work/life balance we all crave.

For many of us, delegation is the one thing that we really struggle with. How many times have we agreed to more work than we can realistically handle? How many times do we do things ourselves, rather than spread the workload with others within our team or seeking freelance help from outside?

Doing everything ourselves might seem like the right thing to do, but the reality is that not only is it bad for business, it’s also not conducive to optimal wellbeing.

Here are our three tips to help you manage your workload and delegate effectively to maximise your effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace.

Start small and work up

For many of us, delegation marks a loss of control. We fear that other people won’t complete the task in the same way or to the same standard as we would and that makes us reluctant to let go. Delegation is a skill. And, as with most new skills, the key is to start small. To begin with, delegate only the smallest of tasks – then as your ability to let go grows, so too can the tasks you are willing to pass over to someone else.

Prioritise your workload

In order for you to successfully delegate, you need to be clear about your own workload. As work comes in, categorise it. Does it have a deadline? What is the expected outcome? Is there anyone else with the skills needed to complete the task? Anything with a less urgent deadline or a lower skill requirement, can be delegated, freeing up your time to the value-adding tasks. Keeping hold of tasks that could be easily or more quickly done by someone else doesn’t make good business sense – you should recognise your own strengths, and those of others. That’s the way to ensure efficiency at work.

Include instructions

This article from Psychology Today's blog suggests that the real reason we find it hard to delegate is not that we don’t want someone to share the burden, but that we are often dissatisfied with the results that come back to us. This can be easily overcome with the use of detailed instructions. These serve two purposes: to outline your expectations with regards to outcomes and to make it easier for you to let go of certain tasks. Even if the task is straightforward, the act of writing up instructions for whoever you delegate to, will avoid any misunderstandings in communication when handing over the task and help ensure that standards are maintained.

Still not convinced? Remember, delegation is not an indication that you are unable to manage your time effectively, it’s the opportunity for you to help others to grow, to strengthen collaboration skills and to develop trust / confidence within your team.

Delegating the tasks you haven’t had time to do could actually lead to greater creativity in the workplace – helping to identify efficiencies and finding better ways of doing things. So by delegating, you’re actually doing someone a favour!

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Avoiding a stressful September

Have you noticed how less stressed everyone is during the summer? Whether it’s the fine weather or the promise of a break away in the sun, somehow life seems easier during the summer months. Come September, however, and we soon see the stress start to escalate again…

Master our two simple exercises and help make your September as stress-free as possible.

Focus for fifteen minutes

It’s easy to get distracted in today’s busy, digital workplace. We’ve often got our fingers in many pies and we’re multitasking more than ever before. We challenge you to take a step back and focus for fifteen minutes each day. Think about what you want to actually achieve, rather than busying yourself with lots of things concurrently. Concentrate on the quality of your outputs, rather than the quantity of tasks you’re engaged with at any one time.

Yes, the rest of your day can be spent juggling, but we reckon after just a quarter of an hour spent on executing one single task on your to-do list, you will feel more positive and productive than you will the rest of the day.

This is what we want you to do during the fifteen minutes:
Remove yourself away from all distractions, switch off all competing technology and just concern yourself with the task in hand. If you start to daydream, click your fingers as a cue to bring your focus back to the task you’re doing. When your fifteen minutes is done, review your work.

Expect to feel a sense of pride from a job well done that will reduce any anxiety and stress. Realising what you can achieve in just fifteen minutes will also enable you to review your own workload – and that of your team – with a renewed clarity and focus going forward.

Connect with your colleagues

We guarantee that if you’re feeling the September stress, your work colleagues will be too. We want you to spend five to ten minutes each day connecting with someone you work with. You can use the five minutes to discuss a work-related topic or to find out more about them as individuals outside of work. What you discuss is not important, it’s the time spent together that will build the bonds you need to create a stress-free working environment going forward.

By taking the time to get to know the people we work with, we can gain a deeper appreciation of them as individuals, which leads to improved working relationships. The better we know people, the easier it is to communicate with them during times of stress and the more manageable our work issues will become as a result.

Taking time to connect with others may seem like a frivolous waste of time, but believe us, it’s five minutes well-spent. Stronger work relationships help us make more informed and grounded business decisions.

So, with September just days away – set yourself a challenge: to make it as stress free as possible.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Simplify your life beyond the summer

During the summer months there is a tendency to live more simply than we do the rest of the year. Spending more time outside, when the weather is fine and the evenings lighter, makes us feel more satisfied and able to cope with less ‘stuff’. What can we take from our summertime living habits that would help us live a simpler life all year round?

Simplifying life helps to reduce stress by creating less reliance on material things. The ability to simplify life comes from an inner sense of well-being, a satisfaction with what we have already and an appreciation of what / who we have around us.

Start as you mean to go on

To make sure your day is simpler, you must start as you mean to go on and that means creating a morning routine that impacts positively on the choices you will then make throughout the day. Mindfulness techniques or practising gratitude can create a feeling of calm that will then emanate throughout your day. Just five minutes in the morning can set you up for the whole day.

Cut complaining

Making a conscious decision to complain less can help to simplify your life too. Often, we focus on things that lie outside of our control and these can occupy our minds, creating unnecessary chaos in our thinking – this could include things such as rising cost of living. There’s nothing we can do about the economy, but we do have control over what we use. Set yourself a challenge not to complain for the next two weeks – thinking only about those issues over which you have some control. You’ll soon see how this can help create a sense of peace.

Ditch the distractions

Electrical devices are a great way of helping us to access information when we need it and are a useful organisational tool. However, have you noticed how much time you waste? Distracted by non-essential activities on these very devices. Want a simpler life? Ditch the devices. Your mind will thank you for it and you’ll feel calmer and more centred as a result. Given how much time we all spend on our gadgets, a total device ban may seem daunting. If that’s the case for you, start off small – have an hour free one week, and increase the time by the hour until your mind starts to rest.

Cut down on choices

Have you noticed that the number of choices you have at any one time is just overwhelming? Even simple decisions, like which milk to buy, are met with numerous choices, which can lead to confusion and dissatisfaction. This Huffington Post article looks at the power of limiting our choices. It considers how much simpler our lives would be if we cut down on the choices we have to make on a daily basis. Give it a try.

If this post has inspired your to start living more simply – why stop there? We look at the benefits of living a minimalist life in a previous post – it includes tips on how to declutter and learn to live with only those things we need.

Thursday 3 August 2017

Mentoring - how to be a good one and how to choose one

Years ago ‘mentoring’ was as simple as helping a new colleague feel welcome or listening to your co-worker as they let off steam about a manager or an increasing workload. Today, mentoring is regarded as a valuable and measurable tool to assist in an employee’s professional development.

Done properly, mentors provide a sounding board at critical career points, supporting and guiding on a specific career path. They help provide us with a unique perspective on the challenges we face, due to their understanding of us as individuals and – usually – an appreciation of the business or sector we work in.

A recent survey by the Accountemps recruitment company found that 86% of executives saw having a mentor as an important tool for career development. That said, only a quarter of those surveyed actually had someone they could regularly turn to for advice and guidance. 

This could be for one of two reasons:

  1. We don’t know how to find a good mentor, or
  2. There aren’t many good mentors about

Finding a good mentor isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are a number of factors that you need to consider.

People need to be clear about what they actually need in a mentor

What skills are you looking to develop? What gaps in your knowledge and experience are you looking to fill? You need to be honest with yourself about what you need from a mentor in order to find one who can support you in the right way. As we develop and grow, so too will our mentoring requirements change. Some mentors will grow with us and sometimes we will need to draw on more than one mentor to help us develop and fulfil our true potential. Set yourself a twelve month plan about what you hope to gain out of a mentor/mentee relationship and be sure to review it – with your mentor – at regular intervals during the year as you would any other development intervention.

People should consider working styles when choosing a mentor

Choosing a mentor based on the person you want to be is dangerous – you shouldn’t be looking to fundamentally change the way you are, but more to learn certain skills, such as empathy, collaboration and reflection, that will help you do your job better. By choosing a mentor with a complimentary work style you will avoid personality clashes and ensure that you get the most out of their support and guidance.

People should look for mentors who can listen as much as they talk

A successful mentoring relationship is a 360 one. Your mentor needn’t have been down the same career path that you have, nor should they just feed you the answers to the challenges you face. They are there to act as a sounding board and provide valuable insight that helps you reach your own conclusions. This can only be done if the communication is open, genuine and two-way.

So what does it take to be a great mentor?

Mentoring is a different relationship than the traditional manager / worker one and to become a great mentor you have to see the mentee as an individual, rather than a subordinate. You have to be prepared to look beneath the mentee’s work performance and develop an appreciation of their personal life to truly understand what drives the business decisions they make and shapes the way they behave at work. describes a great mentor as someone who is ‘honest and unafraid to tell you hard truths about yourself and your work’. They ‘push you to take risks and aim higher’.

More often than not, the best quality that a mentor can have is the ability to inspire. To make people aspire to be better people and to give them the confidence to believe they can achieve what they set out to do.

Great mentors get as much value out of the relationship as mentees do. Some of this value is obvious: improved relationship management skills, deeper insight into how people think and operate, as well as experience in challenging, exploring and testing alternative theories and perspectives, which they can then replicate in their own work.

If you’re looking for more information on how to get the best out of people, this TEDTalk playlist is worth a look.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Summertime productivity tips

Admit it – how much time do you spend gazing out of your window when the sun is shining, thinking about all the things you could be doing rather than work?

When the weather is nice outside, there are a million and one things we could be doing – but how do we fit it all in? We’ve pulled together some tips on maximising your productivity during the summer months so you can enjoy time at work - and at play.

The early bird

Longer days mean we can get up a little bit earlier in the summer months and it’s still light. Imagine what you could achieve in just one more hour – especially if the rest of your household is still sleeping! The extra time can be spent planning the day ahead and what you want to achieve, as well as doing all the preparation work you need to ensure your day goes smoothly.

Don’t answer

This is quite a difficult one to achieve, but we think it could have a big impact on productivity – make yourself a promise that you will not answer your phone all day. This article outlines the thinking behind the action [link:], it works on the premise that if the call is important, they’ll leave a message and you can pick up your messages when you have finished the task or activity you were doing when the phone rang. Breaking off from what you’re doing loses momentum and wastes time. Give it a try and see what you think.

Plan to be productive

Even if it’s the holidays, set some time aside on a Sunday evening to plan what you want to achieve during the week ahead. If you commit something to writing you are more likely to complete the task, while sticking to a schedule – even during the summer break – helps you keep on track and feel fulfilled. You can build in ‘down time’ too, as well as relaxation activities. If it’s on your weekly plan, you’ll do it, guaranteed!

Do not multitask

We love to multitask – it makes us feel invincible and as if we have everything under control. But think about it - do we ever spend any time thinking about what we’ve actually achieved while multi-tasking? It is an illusion that we will accomplish more if we multitask. How can we put the same focus and energy into several tasks, as we would to just one? This summer, address just one task at a time and vow to accomplish it to the highest possible standard.

Three simple tips

Productivity is sparked by times of relaxation and reflection. These three simple summertime tips will help you strike the balance between relaxation and productivity.

  1. Write things down, rather than keep them in your head – leave your brain clear for thinking and ideas.
  2. Open the windows and get some fresh air – go for a quick stroll if you can, but at the very least take a minute or five to take in the fresh air during every working day.
  3. Use waiting times – e.g. while in queues or waiting for public transport – for thinking or unwinding, rather than doing stuff, that includes responding to emails, text messages and surfing for information. 

Summer brings with it lots of distractions, but if we plan ahead and make minor modifications to our daily schedules we can remain productive.

For more practical advice to help ensure you deliver your best self at work during the summer months, read this article.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

The differences between male and female leaders

A survey of American workers suggested that more than a third of all workers would prefer a male boss, over a female. Factors, such as the gender of their current manager and the age of those surveyed, play a part in the decision, but what are the differences between male and female leaders? Is there any foundation in our preference?

Another American study found that women tended to be rated higher in achieving results, getting work done, being transparent and clear, and building rapport with others. Men scored higher in strategic planning ability, persuasion, delegation, and being more reserved in expression.

The study highlights the areas in which male and female leaderships styles differ, which would explain why people may be drawn towards stating a preference. It also suggests that the natural leadership styles of men and women are complementary. It is by creating a balance of both types of leadership, through Board-level diversity, that organisations can bring about peak performance.

Culture matters

Unsurprisingly, these differing leadership styles are more suited to the different cultures. In traditionally ‘male’ environments, such as the armed forces, male leaders – or at least their leadership style – might be favoured. While environments which employ larger numbers of women, such as education and retail, appear to favour female managers/styles.

Gender stereotypes

These gender-biased leadership skills are historical and often reinforced by stereotypes. As this article shows even after all these years, humans are surprisingly good at assessing a person’s physical formidability in terms of strength and fighting skills – tending to prefer dominant leaders when threat is greater. If women are perceived as too assertive or direct, they are often criticised; not assertive enough, they are labeled as weak leaders. The same goes that male leaders can be regarded as being weak, once they have show their nurturing and empathic sides.

Interestingly, most of the skills identified as being necessary for being a great leader – honesty, delegation, communication, confidence and positivity – are common to both male and female leaders.

Breaking free from being a stereotypical leader

We can all do our bit to break away from being the stereotypical leader we are expected to be:

  • By being conscious of your own biases about gender roles, we can first change our own thinking and behaviour, as well as that of our team members.
  • By having an appreciation of our own leadership style. This means we can purposefully learn to adapt it to fit different situations. Sometimes leaders need to be direct and firm. At other times, empathy and compassion are most needed.

Being an effective leader is about what you do, rather than what you know. Most leadership skills are learned from others, so it stands to reason that the more women leaders we have, the more they will share their skills with their teams.

Organisations are only ever successful thanks to the sum of all parts, rather than the achievements of individuals. All businesses flourish thanks to their diverse, gender balanced workforces, despite what leadership style we prefer – or display.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Encouraging male colleagues to reach out when they need extra support at work

It was back in the 1980s that The Cure sang about the fact that Boys Don’t Cry – men are conditioned from a young age not to display negative emotions. This can make it hard later in life for men to seek out the help and support they need, especially at work.

It’s a situation we’ve all been in – feeling the need to reach out for support, but not quite sure how to go about it, or how it will be viewed by colleagues, especially when we are well established in our careers and lots of other people look to us for support and guidance. However, the reluctance for male colleagues can be even more acute than for their female counterparts.

There are many reasons why this might be the case, not least the conditioning to bottle up emotions boys often face when they’re young. Male colleagues may be so out of tune with the emotional side of their make-up that they do not actually recognise that they need help. We, as colleagues, may notice changes in their behaviour and personality before they do.

The following signs are common in people who are struggling:

  • Becoming withdrawn – spending more time alone focused on their work
  • Losing interest in what’s going on around them
  • Not being as confident or outspoken as they have been previously
  • Missing deadlines or not being as productive as usual

What you can do

The mental health charity, MIND, feels here is some evidence that men are more likely to seek help if a friend or colleague encourages them to do so – especially if it’s a female partner or someone who offers advice in a professional capacity, e.g. occupational health. They theorise that the ‘interference’ of a third party helps to legitimise the issues they’re facing, which means male colleagues are more likely to then seek help.

So, the first thing we can do if we suspect a colleague may be struggling, is to let them know our concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable asking someone outright if there’s something wrong, start by showing an interest in them. Ask them for their opinions and build trust with them in the hope that they may open up to you voluntarily in the near future. At the very least, you’ll be paving the way for a more serious conversation about the support they may need later on.

Secondly, find out what support services are on offer within your organisation and share that information with your colleague. Sometimes, a well-placed flyer or telephone number could be enough to prompt your colleague into seeking the additional support they need. The thought that someone’s struggles are affecting their work – and that it has been noticed - could be enough for them to address whatever is bothering them.

For managers, or other people in a position of influence within your workplace, e.g. employee representatives, making suggestions to introduce practices that can help support the whole team not only helps the colleague you’re worried about, but also the rest of the workforce. These suggestions could include mindfulness practices, stress reduction and time management techniques; workplace counselling services; or occupational relaxation therapies, like massage and accupuncture.

If the above interventions don’t seem to help, it might be beneficial to speak to another colleague about your concerns. HR departments are trained to deal with matters that are impacting on people’s ability to do their job. You can ask to speak to someone in confidence and share your concerns.

For more information about stress reduction in the workplace, you can read our previous blog post Feel free to print it off and leave it around the office, if you think it will help others!

Friday 2 June 2017

Ways to deal with difficult personalities

Our differences are what set us apart from each other – they add a vibrancy and a dynamic to the workplace that just would not be enjoyed, were we all the same. Diversity brings challenge and discussion that enables us to produce work that is thorough and rigorous.

However, this multiplicity may mean that there are one or two personalities within our work environment that we find difficult to work with. Rather than let this cause conflict, it’s better to have a plan – and be armed with the communication skills you need to deal with even the most trying of colleagues!

This article from Psychology today outlines ten top tips for dealing with difficult people in the workplace – it’s a great place to start in identifying what personality type you are dealing with. Here’s the list:

  1. Keep your cool 
  2. 'Fly like an eagle"
  3. Shift from being reactive to proactive 
  4. Pick your battles
  5. Separate the person from the issue 
  6. Put the spotlight on them 
  7. Use appropriate humour
  8. Change from following to leading 
  9. Confront bullies
  10. Set consequence 

It’s a good starting point, but when deciding which approach will work best for you, do bear in mind that there are two types of difficult conversation that you could find yourself facing. It helps to prepare an approach for each, beforehand!

Planned conversations

Knowing that you are going to encounter a difficult conversation can be daunting, but it does give you time to prepare. Make sure you have your facts straight beforehand – plan what you want to get across and how you are going to say it. Think carefully how you will respond to questions, accusations or challenges. 

Unplanned conversations

Being ‘cornered’ on the spur of the moment can automatically put us on the defensive, which means we deal with matters emotionally, rather than rationally. Try and reflect on how you react in such circumstances before they arise and put some steps in place that will prepare you, such as mindfulness techniques or a ‘holding’ response that will help you communication rationally if you’re ever put on the spot.

Be self-aware…

With a little bit of self-awareness and a willingness to develop your own communication skills, it is possible to be able to navigate interactions with difficult people. The following qualities are invaluable when communicating with others:


We’re not talking about being bossy or bullish – assertiveness is about putting your point of view across clearly and with passion. Our assertiveness webpage gives you some tips on how to develop your own assertiveness.


Empathy is a willingness to see things from another’s’ perspective, an appreciation of how you would feel were roles reversed. Read more about the habits of empathic people >


Aiming for a win-win outcome really helps when developing relationships at work. Creating an outcome where everyone can benefit is a powerful leadership tool. Read more >

Verbal / Non-Verbal Language

How you communicate with others is about so much more than the words you use – it’s about your non-verbal cues as well. This previous blog outlines some counselling skills that will help you connect with others.

Keep calm and carry on…

Difficult conversations and interactions with others can escalate quickly. Here are some tips to help you stay calm and in the moment >

Dealing with difficult people is not something that people relish, however with planning and preparation it needn’t detract from the job you have to do – or indeed impact on your working relationships.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

What to do if you’re not happy in your job – is it too late to change your path?

It's been calculated that many of us will spend around 10 years of our lives working. This is a long time to spend doing something that doesn’t make you happy or bring you some form of satisfaction.

Changing your career path when you’re younger is a relatively straight forward process – many options lie within your grasp if you can put the time and effort in. The older you get, the more likely it is that you have commitments that make changing direction more difficult. You’re also competing with people who are younger and often cheaper!

There are many reasons why employers might favour the younger generation. And while unemployment in the over 50s is rising, there is some hope for people looking to change direction through apprenticeships.

Changing your career path as you get older may be more challenging, but it is possible. We’ve got some tips to help you in your search for a more fulfilling work-life.

Be age appropriate

Sometimes age and experience can work in your favour. There are many roles where age may be on your side, so don’t get stuck into thinking that you can only look at roles that you have always done – instead, be open to consider positions and options that you may have discounted when you were younger. Examples include sales positions and customer service, where experience and self-confidence can really help to drive performance. Think about what your age might line up with in the eyes of other people, this may spark ideas that you had not previously considered.

Be clear about what you want to get away from

Many people claim that they don’t like where they work, but unless you take the time and trouble to detail exactly what it is you don’t like, chances are you could end up in the same situation again, months or years down the line.  If you’re currently working with figures but yearn to be outside more, for example. Or, perhaps you like working with figures but don’t like the culture of the organisation you work for. If you’re not honest with yourself about what you don’t like – how will you find something that you do?

Once you know what you want, it’s time to lay the foundations that will get you there

  • Step back and get a perspective – be realistic about your skills and your talents, be clear about what you have got to offer a new employer and remember that many of your skills will be transferable, so you needn’t be chained to the same industry or organisation type, if you don’t want to be. If it helps, get someone else to look at your CV and provide honest feedback – we are often far too self-critical.
  • Let go of old thinking and behaviours – a new job is a new start and a chance to present your very best version of yourself to your new employer. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got so you must be prepared to work on yourself too!
  • Say yes – don’t be afraid to take the first step towards your end vision. If someone offers you a chance or an opportunity – take it – even if you don’t think you’re qualified. They may see something in you that you haven’t, yet!
  • Explore and scope it out – do your research. Gather all the information you can about where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
  • Outline a plan of action - some opportunities will take longer than others to realise, especially if you need to retrain. Set out specific steps and goals that will break down your journey and help keep you motivated as you take steps towards the changes you wish to make.

Allow yourself to grow

Recent research published in the International Coaching Psychology Review explored the subjective experiences of high functioning professionals who had experienced 'executive derailment' - a term given to describe ending a career due to organisational restructuring, overwhelming demands and workloads, or workplace bullying. The researchers concluded that a positive psychological and growth-oriented mindset could be helpful in enabling personal change following such an event.

Re-evaluating yourself and your skills and asking yourself honestly what skills you have, what you could do and what you would like to do can really help open your life up to fulfilling your dreams. If you need help and support identifying your goals and how to reach them, a psychological coach can help. 

Thursday 4 May 2017

Procrastination – why do we do it? – and how to stop.

It’s easy to find things to do in this digital age – the temptation to spend hours on our phones and tablets is great and we could be easily distracted away from doing other things, especially those jobs / activities we’re not really looking forward to!

New research suggests we lose more than 55 days a year through procrastinating – that’s nearly two months, every year!

What type of procrastinator are you?

The article also describes the three main types of procrastinators: those who wait until the last minute for the adrenaline rush; the people who don’t like to make decisions and so put things off until someone else jumps in and saves them from having to; and the 'avoiders’ – who over analyse what other people think of them and are overly concerned with failure (or success). By doing nothing, their accomplishments (or lack of them) can be put down to lack of effort, rather than ability.

That all sounds harmless enough and indeed suggests that procrastination comes down to our personality. However, there's a different train of thought which suggests procrastination could actually be as a result of an underlying issue or condition, such as hyperactivity, anxiety or a lack of self-confidence. Click here to read more about this.

If you find yourself predisposed to procrastination, the first thing to do is to make sure that it is not as a result of one of these underlying issues. If it is, don’t worry – you are not alone and help is at hand. There are lots of self-help resources freely available, as well as professional help should you need it.

If you’ve established that your procrastination habits are down to personality and habit however, we’ve got a couple of tips to help you get stuff done!

It only takes a minute

For many, the one minute rule is a simple - yet extremely successful - way to stop putting things off. The idea behind it is this: if the task before you can be completed in a minute – do it. If it can’t, then take that minute to schedule it for a later time.

When we say schedule, we mean write down when and where you will complete the task. If you do this, you’re far more likely to actually complete the task as we are predisposed to respond to deadlines – even self-imposed ones – more than we are to completing open ended tasks.

If your minute allows, share this schedule with someone else – a friend, a family member, a work colleague. This might mean emailing or texting someone your statement of intent (e.g. I will make sure that I get the list to you by Wednesday at 5pm…), as once you have informed someone else of your deadline, you are much more likely to complete the task within the timescales you’ve specified.

Do remember though, life is not all about getting stuff done. We are all allowed to take some ‘down time’ and if surfing on your tablet is how you choose to relax that’s a matter of personal choice. Difficulties only arise when we find ourselves procrastinating to the extent that we no longer have the desire to do anything else. That’s when it’s time to do something about it.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Workplace stress – How to manage your stress levels in a pressured job.

There’s no denying that people are feeling much more pressure in the workplace than ever have before. Headcount reductions mean that businesses often need to achieve more with fewer staff and this can increase the stress placed on workers.

A 2013 study in America  found that more than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress and more than double that number believed their employer provided inadequate support for employees to help them manage stress in the workplace. There is evidence to suggest that the figures would be similar in this country too.

This month is stress awareness month, so we’ve pulled together some tips, advice and guidance to help you manage your stress while in the workplace – or to manage your return to work after a period of stress-related illness.

When it comes to feeling stressed at work – try these three simple tips to help you regain control of your emotions, become more centered and think rationally, so that your stresses don’t get the better of you.

Don’t react – act!

When we’re under undue stress we start to make emotional decisions, rather than rational ones. If you feel that this could be an issue for you, make a conscious decision not to react to and be influenced by the stressors around you. Write things down so it’s easier to explore things rationally and definitely don’t make any rash decisions when backed into a corner. Buy some time, and move to step 2…


If you feel things are getting on top of you, don’t be afraid to take stock – and breathe! It takes only a minute or two of deep, mindful thinking to bring a clarity to your thoughts and a calmer response mechanism. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Switch off once in a while

There are so many different pulls on our time during the working day, that it takes a strong person not to feel overwhelmed. We never switch off – emails, mobile phones, multiple screens – they even follow us home. Make a conscious effort to have an hour at work each day when you are able to concentrate wholly on the tasks in hand, without the interruptions. Feeling like you’ve accomplished something during your working day is a great way of reducing stress.

Returning to work

Going back to a stressful work environment can be daunting for anyone – whether you’ve been off for a few weeks annual leave or a little longer, due to illness.

The health and safety executive are a great source of advice for people looking to return to work after a long period of absence and there is lots of support that employees can request to make their transition back to work as stress-free as possible. We’ve also pulled together some tips designed to help:

Set boundaries

The lines between work and home can easily get blurred. When you return to work it’s important that you are clear about the need to switch off. Make a deal with yourself not to check email in the evening – if that’s not as easy as it sounds, leave your phone in the car overnight or switch it off as soon as the working day is over.

Relax and recharge

Build time into each day that is just for you. Take up a new hobby, spend time doing something you enjoy, switch off completely. The more you have to look forward to outside of work, the less likely you are to spend time disecting what you’re going through at work and thus, the less stress you’ll feel under.

Share the load

Talking to people really does help you keep your workplace stresses in perspective. Very often stress is borne from a tendency to overthink scenarios and situations – we go over and over things in our minds only for them to start to feel insurmountable. By talking about what we’re experiencing and the challenges we’re facing – whether it’s to colleagues, management or even your friends and family – what we’re essentially doing is keeping things in perspective so that it’s easier for us to manage.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

The psychology of meetings – are you getting the most out of yours?

According to psychology today, up to three-quarters or more of a senior manager’s day may be taken up with meetings. There’s no denying that meetings are an integral part of many workplaces, the question is how we approach these meetings and make them a positive, productive element of our working day – rather than a waste of time and effort?

The above link gives some useful insight into the psychology of meetings and we’ve developed some simple tips to make sure you give your best in meetings to get the most out of them.

Mind over matter

Mindfulness is about training the mind to think about things differently. We are all creatures of habit and our working day is defined by a range of routines, tasks and practices. It doesn’t take much for these routines to change and this can leave us feeling unbalanced. If you feel the meetings you are asked to attend are mainly unproductive, take the initiative to ensure you’re at your best and present. Some simple mindfulness tips for meetings include writing with your non-dominant hand, sitting in a different seat than usual, or offering to chair the meeting / take the minutes, rather than be a passive participant.

Prepare to plan

Chairing or attending meetings on the hoof is a sure fire way to waste your time – and everyone else’s! If you know you have a meeting coming up, make it your business to plan well ahead and have a clear objective – what do you want to get out of the meeting? When are your expectations of others? If you have called the meeting, take the time to also plan what you want others to get out of it and the role you want them to play. How will you encourage collaboration and interaction? How will you work with others to set measureable goals? What processes can you put in place to make sure all actions are followed up on?

Essential etiquette

Do you know what a good meeting looks like? Before you begin, make sure you have an idea of how you want things to go from a logistics perspective. Try some visualisation techniques – imagine that the meeting goes well – how do people look around the table? How do you feel? There’s a good round-up in this helpful Business Insider article. It also helps to go through the ground rules of your meeting with participants before you begin, so people know exactly what is expected of them.

For more information about how to get the most out of your meetings, this article in Psychology Today looks at a special tool designed to improve the quality of meetings and increasing active participation. They identified two interesting patterns evident in the most productive meetings:

  1. People take turns in an equal way and everyone is encouraged to give their ideas.
  2. Periods of chattiness and side conversations serve to validate the ideas and build consensus. 

So, there you have it. With a bit of time and planning, you can make all your meetings matter.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Daylight savings - what will do with that extra hour of daylight?

It’s that time of year we all look forward to – the clocks go forward an hour this weekend and spring is in the air.

Studies show that the more daylight we’re exposed to, the more active we are – and the better we sleep at night. The question is what are you going to do with your extra hour of daylight? And, what difference is it going to make to your life?

We’ve compiled some suggestions to get the most out of your – longer – day, helping you to feel happier and more fulfilled.

Get off to a positive start (20 mins)

A good morning routine helps to set us up for the day, so starting the day as we mean to go on is a great way of making the most of your extra hour of daylight. Understand what works best for you in a morning then make it happen. Write out a schedule and have a plan of what you want to achieve during each day. This insight into the morning routines of successful people makes pretty inspiring reading.

Take 5 (5 mins)

Build some time into your daily routine to take in your surroundings and be thankful for the beautiful nature around us. Just five minutes is long enough to practise some mindful thinking, which will have a positive impact on the rest of your day. For more information about mindful thinking, you can read this previous blog post.

Catch some rays (10 mins)

Vitamin D is essential for human health. It increases the metabolism and the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Sunlight is what the body needs to produce Vitamin D in the skin – so plan some time into your schedule and use some of your extra hour to get a daily dose of the sunshine vitamin. To find out more about the benefits of Vitamin D, why not read this article?

Get moving (15 mins)

Try to do more of what you love outdoors. Take a walk – use local parks to get more active. The great news about exercising outside is that it’s free and the preparation time is minimal; you don’t need any equipment and you’re less likely to get bored with the routine. This study outlines the benefits of outdoor exercise on not only our physical wellbeing, but our mental health too.

It may only be an hour, but we guarantee that these extra 60 minutes will be enough to boost your mood and leave you feeling more positive and productive. So, use it wisely – take a big breath in of the fresh spring air and leave the ‘sluggishness’ of winter behind you.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Networking matters – how to leave a good impression

We often hear the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. While this is true, it does imply that once we’ve made an initial connection with someone, we’re home and dry. Yes, the foundations of good business relationships can be laid on first meeting, however keeping these connections alive through networking is an ongoing process – rather than a one-off event.

As with all relationships, business associations need to be nurtured and fed regularly if they are to flourish. The alternative is that we only connect with people when we need them for something and our work colleagues will soon get wise to this!

That aside, if we view networking as simply something we do when have a specific outcome in mind, it can become a more daunting task. Much better to embrace networking as part of our working life than think of it as a means to an end.

It’s good practice to build networking activities into your weekly work schedule, when you’re not looking to gain anything – this way you can focus on what you can do for others, rather than on what you expect from them.

We’ve developed some tips for building authentic networking connections that always leave a good impression

It’s not all about you

Make sure the focus is on others, not yourself. When building new relationships it’s easy to slip back into our comfort zone and talk about things we know most about – in many cases, that means talking about ourselves! The best way to excel at networking is to turn the tables and make sure that we always keeps others at the core of the conversation. By all means, share your views when asked, but make a real effort to include others in discussion through asking questions and bringing people in to give their perspectives too.

Listen more than you talk

We are given two ears and one mouth for a reason, and the rule of thumb when networking is to listen for twice as long as you spend talking. Relationships are about give and take, so make sure you give others the time and space to express themselves before sharing what’s on your mind. Active listening skills, such as keeping eye contact with others, and interjecting with questions or verbal cues – such as ‘mmm’ or a nod of the head, show that you are paying attention.

Stay in the room

Value the time that you spend networking with others. Be present in the conversations, turn your phone to silent and don’t look around the room, or down at your watch, unless absolutely necessary. People will very quickly pick up on your body language and your non-verbal cues, as much as they will the words that come out of your mouth.

Be a name dropper

When talking to new people make an extra special effort to use their name, to show that you’re paying attention and are making a personal connection with them. This serves two purposes: people respond better to those who address them by name, they’re more likely to remember you and it’ll make them feel good; it also means you're more likely to remember their name again in the future. There’s nothing worse than meeting up with a new contact, only to struggle with their name. If you find this a problem, this article may help.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to get the most out of your networking experiences, why not read this blog from the guardian newspaper?  It describes a three-pronged approach to networking - the ARE strategy. It stands for anchor (finding common ground), reveal (share interesting information about yourselves with others) and encourage (getting others to join in the conversation).

Remember, mutually beneficial business relationships are not built overnight. We need to put the same time and energy into nurturing our connections at work as we do those in our home-life. Put other people first and your networking efforts will soon pay dividends.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Building self esteem – in yourself and your work colleagues

Maybe following the influx of cards and chocolates earlier this week your self-esteem has already soared to a record high, but if that’s not the case, now is the time to do something about it!

Self-esteem is about feeling confident in yourself and your own abilities. In the workplace it’s easy to sometimes feel unappreciated or daunted by the tasks you need to fulfil. But it needn’t be that way.

Mind, the mental health charity, has compiled a comprehensive list of things we can do to boost our self-esteem – some of the actions we need to do for ourselves but several of them translate perfectly into the workplace.


Successfully overcoming challenges is a great way to boost your self-esteem, so don’t be afraid to set yourself stretching tasks – you can do it! And when you, do you’ll feel amazing. If you're lacking in the confidence to achieve things by yourself, why not set a challenge that involves you and your work colleagues? Knowing that you've done something well together is a great way to build confidence in your own ability, and that of your work colleagues. Team building exercises, brainstorms and away days are all great ways to improve self-esteem and build better teams.


Self-esteem is all about confidence. Confidence is built when we have the courage to assert ourselves. The work environment is a great place for feeling assertive. It is familiar to us, the people we work with know us and what we are capable of, plus we're surrounded by people who, mostly, want the same the things we do. Assertiveness is not about being aggressive or bossy, it’s the happy medium between being belligerent and passive. It’s about being clear about what you want and what you don’t want. In the workplace, assertiveness is about acknowledging the contributions that your team members make – while ensuring that your suggestions are equally recognised.

Read First Psychology's advice page on Assertiveness >


Self-esteem is given a boost when we feel we have a strong support network – this gives us the courage to try, as we know someone has our back if we don’t quite make it. If your current workplace doesn’t have the support network you need, why not create one? Supportive work environments encourage people to take ownership and responsibility, safe in the knowledge that any mistakes made are learning experiences, rather than a reflection of their abilities.


No-one likes negativity, but when your self-esteem is already low, it's easy to find the negatives when they’re not even there! However, change has to start within yourself. Negativity breeds negativity so that first step to a more positive work environment – and one in which your self-esteem can soar – is by being positive. Take time out of your working day to find – and note down – the positive things that have happened. Encourage your colleagues to do the same and aim to create a positive work environment where people are encouraged to shine. Then watch what it does to your team's self-esteem.

Building self-esteem takes time, but by making the smallest changes today you can make big strides to developing a more confident, more authentic you. And that will feel great. What’s more is that confidence is catching. Start with yourself and see how it rubs off on your colleagues.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Can the cold boost your performance at work?

The alarm goes off in a morning and – let’s be honest – in this dark, damp winter weather, what wouldn’t we do to press snooze and snuggle back down into bed, if only for a few more minutes?

But before you hit that button, remember these few key facts about why this colder weather is actually good for us and could have a positive impact on our performance at work.


Although getting to work may be a struggle during the cold winter months, once we're there, chances are we'll give our best – unlike during the summer months when we can be more easily distracted and eager to wind down for the holidays. Research in the US showed the impact that warmer weather had on complex decision making. They had two groups of workers complete a proof reading task – one group in a warm room, one group in a cool room. The group in the warm room missed significantly more mistakes than those in the room with the cooler temperature, suggesting that our minds are potentially more alert when our body temperature is lower. This is because our brain produces glucose – which we can either use to make decisions or, when we are hot, we can use it to cool our body temperature down – leaving us with less brain power to make convicting decisions.


We all know that our performance at work depends on the quality of sleep we have had the night before. And cooler temperatures have been proven to have a positive impact on sleep quality. A study by the University of Southern Australia demonstrated that people suffering from insomnia were seen to improve when they went to bed in colder temperatures. The science behind this is the fact that as our body temperature drops, it induces feelings of sleepiness. Therefore we are more likely to fall asleep in cooler environments. Not only that, but our body releases more melatonin in colder temperatures and that’s good for the skin too, not to mention the calories we burn!


Although our desire to keep active during the winter is often much lower than during the spring and summer months, there’s a lot to be said for making sure we continue with our usual non-work activities during the colder months too. When it comes to exercise, there is evidence to show that our bodies are able to train faster and for longer in cold weather, than in the heat. This is because it’s easier for our bodies to regulate temperature. Interestingly though, it works even harder when used to operating at a certain temperature. This was proved when two groups of cyclists were split to train in different environments – one cold, one hot. The cold group outperformed the hot group in the first test, however when the warm group moved back to train in a cold environment again, they were found to outperform the cold group – who’s performance remained consistent. The lesson learned here is that our bodies respond to changes in the temperature, so – in a work environment – maybe turn up the air conditioning a notch before a big team meeting in the hope of maximising the performance of your team?

Our bodies are amazing, responsive, adaptable vessels. The cold weather serves to boost our internal operating system which, when channelled properly, can have a positive impact on how we perform certain tasks. The winter months are often seen as a season to ‘endure’ and ‘tolerate’ while waiting for the spring to reappear, full of promise. Surely it would be better to see the winter for what it is – a time of possibilities and potential; the time to test yourself and strive to achieve your best.

Why not give the winter your all – and see what you get in return?

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Giving up an addiction, such as smoking – why it’s so hard and how to make it easier on yourself and your colleagues

So far, so good – we’re over two weeks into January now and you’re still sticking fast to your New Year’s resolution. Firstly, well done – whatever you’ve decided to do (or not do) during 2017, you only have another 50 weeks to go...

Breaking the two week barrier is a major milestone for any resolution and this is especially true if you have started on the road to tackling an addiction. Dealing with any addictive behaviour is not easy – it’s a daily battle – but let’s not forget how hard these first few weeks/months can be on your friends, family and work colleagues too.

We've developed six steps to successful addiction busting that won’t impact on your workplace.

Safety in numbers

It can really help to build a group of allies at work who can understand what you’re working towards and be on hand to help you through the difficult times. You’ll also find that the more people who know about your efforts, the harder it will be to fall off the wagon and go back to your addiction.

Keep busy

Very often addictive behavior stems from one of two reasons: habit and boredom. In order to keep on track, it’s really important to keep yourself busy. This is often easier to do at work than it is at home, so take advantage. Write to-do lists, take a stroll, read something, do whatever it takes to keep your mind occupied so it doesn’t slip back into old behaviours.

Secure a sponsor

Sponsors are something usually associated with alcoholics anonymous, but the concept is useful when battling with any addiction. We’re all used to having performance reviews at work, so why not think about finding someone at work to make sure you keep to your resolution? Given that if you succeed, your performance at work will also benefit, it makes sense to recruit someone to help keep you accountable for your actions at work.

Take the time to avoid your triggers

A study in 2015 on addictive behaviour found that there are certain person-specific cues that can trigger addictive cravings. These cues include things like spending time with friends who share the same addiction, places and surroundings that are linked to your addictive behaviour. It is important to understand that these triggers and cues are just as likely to be present in your work environment as they are at home.

Rearrange your routine

Chances are your addiction will have touched your professional life, as well as your private life. The cigarette break with your team colleagues if you’re a smoker, the after work celebratory drinks when you’re looking to cut out the alcohol, the business lunches with clients when you’re trying to change your relationship with food. All of these addictions require a change in your work habits if you really are going to succeed.

Think of your addiction as you would a work goal / challenge

We all face challenges every day in our working life. So your colleagues will all know what it is like to face a challenge and overcome it. Similarly, they will all appreciate what it takes to meet a goal. However, they will not appreciate the emotional investment you are making to kick your habit. Take the time to explain to your colleagues what you are trying to achieve and why it’s important to you – and the benefits it will bring to the workplace. Being upfront will help build the support you need to help you beat your addiction for good.

Remember, battling an addiction is hard work. It requires determination and dedication every single day. Think of overcoming your addiction as a new way of life, rather than a short term action, and this will help to develop the mindset you need to break your habit for good.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Why making firm positive goals and writing them down is so important for achieving them

If, for you (and indeed like many of us), the New Year equals a new start, you will no doubt have returned to work brimming with enthusiasm and keen to set goals for the twelve months ahead.

These goals may be personal or work related – most probably a combination of the two – and the purpose they serve in our lives is to give us a purpose and channel our energy in a way that moves us forwards.

Accomplishing even the smallest of goals can help us feel fulfilled and give us direction. They keep our lives on track and help us on our annual journey of self-development and growth. We’ve identified three steps that will help you make 2017 a productive one.

Step 1: decide exactly what you want to achieve

A study in 2010 - published by the American Psychological Association - found that the key to achieving your goals was to plan out exactly what you wanted to do. The study shows that it doesn’t matter how audacious your goals are, what matters is that you actually pin down what you want to achieve.

The study focussed on people who wanted to change their dental hygiene habits. It found that the people who pinpointed when and where they would floss their teeth did so, and were more successful in changing their dental hygiene habits as a result.

To help you pinpoint your goals, it may be helpful to think about how you will feel when you have achieved your goal? What will have changed in your life? What will be different? How will you know when you have succeeded? By thinking about what will have changed after your goals have been achieved you can then work backwards and identify what you need to do to get there!

Step 2: write your goals down and share them with others

Once you know where you want to get to and what you want to achieve, it’s really important to write your goals down. Research shows that when it comes to goal setting, people often fall into one of two camps – the thinkers and the list makers. Be honest, which camp do you fall into? A psychology professor from the Dominican University conducted a study to establish whether writing down your goals helped you achieve them. The results found that more than three quarters of the people who took the time to write their goals down actually achieved them, this is compared to less than half who did not.

When writing down your goals, take the time to break each one down into manageable steps, making them SMART if you can. SMART goals can relate to personal, as well as professional goals. Put simply it’s about being clear about what you want to do and setting out how you will get there. There’s a simple guide to setting SMART goals here:

Once you have written down your goals, it’s really helpful to plot out your very first step to get you off the starting block. This is often the most difficult step, so once you are comfortable with how you will start on your journey, you are more likely to continue. Think of each of your goals as a to-do list that sits right alongside your daily tasks, such as do the laundry and collect the children from school. This allows you to carve out time in your daily routine to dedicate to your goals.

Review your progress

Once you have set off on your path, remember to build time into your schedule to review your progress. This doesn’t have to be weekly, or monthly, it really depends on your goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them. What is important, once you have taken the time to articulate your goals, is not to blindly continue on a path without reviewing your progress.

Build time into your schedule to check how much headway you’re making and amend your course of action, as necessary. This is also the time to cross those goals off your list that you have already achieved and take the time to celebrate your achievements.

So, what are you waiting for? Get scribbling those goals down and make 2017 your year of improvement and advancement…