You can’t read the label from inside the jar

This week I got some wonderful feedback;

‘After one phone call with Lucy I had complete clarity on what my next career steps should be’

 And it wasn’t a mega long coaching phone call – it was under an hour!

Thing is it doesn’t matter if you’re a trained coach or not. Basically it’s a million times easier to help someone else unpick what’s keeping them stuck, or unhappy or frustrated and help them figure out what to do about it than it is to do it for yourself on your own.

We’re too close to our own problems and often emotionally attached to them which means it’s practically impossible to be objective. We can be fearful of facing up to an uncomfortable truth on our own; maybe the business idea isn’t very good, maybe you’re in the wrong role, or maybe that person isn’t considering your point of view. The fear is real and that’s why sometimes it can be easier, and feel safer to stay stuck and unhappy.

And many people do stay stuck and unhappy.

Often the root cause of a problem and therefore the solution, is something so obvious we can overlook it. We are riddled with assumptions and bias that can stop us seeing something that is blatantly obvious to other people who are less close or involved in the situation.

It’s difficult for us to ask ourselves challenging questions. Sometimes we simply don’t want to admit that we’re wrong, and we’re fearful of what changing direction might involve.

I head this expression recently, and for me it sums up why asking help from others is so helpful and important ‘You can’t read the label from inside the jar.’ 

You can’t effectively identify or solve your own problems because you’re just too close to them.

When you talk situations through with others, they bring a different perspective. They ask questions that open up new thinking patterns and opportunities. They challenge bias and assumptions. They provide space and legitimacy to focus on you, which in itself can help the questions and answers to flow.

Talking to someone else also holds us accountable and makes us more likely to take action.

I believe that everyone would benefit from having someone to help them read their label. That might be a coach, a mentor, a network or an accountability group. Different things suit different people (and different budgets).

However you read your label remember the same principle; it’s very difficult to work on your own problems on your own. Having someone who will listen, reflect, ask you questions, be candid and kind in challenging your bias and allow you time and space to respond is perhaps the most important gift you can give to yourself.

What’s right for you?

Here’s some options;

Get a coach – Coaching is usually paid for and is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on specific goals in the short term (rather than on the distant past or future). The role the coach as a facilitator of learning.

Get a mentor – Mentoring is more likely to be not paid for; the mentor often sees the relationship as giving something back as well as being part of their own learning and development. Mentoring tends to have a longer term focus and deal more with wider support regarding career and attitude like, where are you going and what do you want to be doing five years from now?

Join a mastermind group – A mastermind group is designed to help you set powerful goals and navigate through challenges using collective intelligence. Such groups usually consist of between four to eight people with a mix of skills and experience. They may meet regularly (weekly, fortnightly or monthly – whatever makes most sense to the needs of the group). They have a core remit of helping each other achieve their own success. They can be something you set up yourself, however in my experience the more powerful ones are paid for and professionally facilitated.

Join a network – A place where you can benefit from the collective help provided by the membership. This might be your sector professional body, a Facebook group or something more structured like the Lucidity Network.

None of the above options are mutually exclusive. In fact I encourage you to consider them all. Many of my coaching clients also have a mentor, and are in a mastermind group and are part of the Lucidity Network. The warning is that when you embark on any of these, you have to want to change, be open to challenge and be prepared to take action.

If you’re prepared to take action I can help you with all of the options above. If you’d like to chat about coaching, joining a mastermind group, getting a mentor or joining the Lucidity Network, book a 30 minute call here.

How to remember names – every single time!

A guest blog by William Wadsworth.

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou

You’re out making waves in the world: networking with potential clients, donors, business partners, or simply meeting new friends. Nothing makes a person feel valued like you remembering their name. But there’s one problem: just how are you supposed to remember all those names and faces!?

Could there really be a version of ‘Future You’ where you can wander around a room effortlessly soaking up new names, secure in the knowledge that you won’t forget a single one?

Where the next time you see someone, you’ll not only greet them by name confidently, but also go on to ask about their job, kids, or anything else you talked about first time round?

With the help of these four memory strategies – firmly rooted in the science of memory – that future could be yours.

How to remember names

As with anything in life, you get out what you put in, so I’ve organised the strategies into four levels, depending on how far you want to go with your ‘how to remember names’ mastery.

Start with Strategy 1 for some easily achievable ‘good’ results.

Add in the techniques from Strategy 2 (‘better’) and 3 (‘best’) to really go above average on this important career / life skill.

Or if you really want to get incredible with names – like, future-presidential-candidate incredible at names – then keep going all the way through to Strategy 4 for some next-level tactics.

Ready to get amazing with names?

Let’s dive in:

Strategy 1. ‘Good’: Make Visual Connections

A quick name-learning hack that takes almost no extra effort is to build a visual image out of someone’s name.

Good things to picture for people’s names are:

  • A mental picture that represents what their name means as a word (or could mean, if you’re being imaginative!)
  • Someone you already know with that name (either a person in your life, or a celeb)
  • Someone you know with a SIMILAR name. I find a lot of novel names I encounter can be made into a familiar name just by changing a single syllable or letter.

This is partly based on the psychological principle of chunking, where you find a way to ‘group’ lots of individual units of data into a smaller number of easier-to-remember ‘chunks’. Names can often have lots of syllables (= lots of individual units to remember = hard), so translating it into an image means you only have to remember one or two ‘things’ (your chosen mental image) rather than having to remember lots of things (the syllables).

Here are a few examples of this in action:

  • Rachel Cox? I’d imagine Rachel from friends coxing a rowing boat.
  • Max Shepherd? Easy. He’s an ENORMOUS shepherd.
  • Shakila Jones? I’m mentally mashing Tom Jones and Shakira.
  • Janet Slimings? Janet is surprisingly hard for me because I happen not to know many Janets first-hand, and there’s no obvious mental image for a ‘Janet’. So after a moment’s pause, I might think Jan = January, while ‘slimings’ makes me think of dieting. So she’d be one of those January diets. (Ugh.)

With a little practice, you can start to do this on the fly, mid-conversation… BUT that isn’t always easy. So to really get the most out of this trick, see Strategy 4, which is all about preparing in advance.

Strategy 2. ‘Better’: Test Yourself On The Name

If you ask a cognitive psychologist about the secret to learning anything, most will start by pointing you to retrieval practice.

‘Retrieval practice’ simply means testing yourself: bringing knowledge back to mind from memory. I.e. ‘practising’ the process of ‘retrieving’ information from your memory.

It’s a simple idea, but incredibly powerful.

You’ve probably heard the trick to repeat people’s names back to them after they introduce themselves to you.

This is a great idea.

Not only does it give you a chance to check your pronunciation, it also gives you a first valuable round of practice at retrieving that name from memory.

Repetition is key here, so look for subsequent opportunities to retrieve that name from memory again through the conversation (don’t force it too much!), and at the very least, as you say goodbye.

‘It’s been so lovely to meet, Janet!’.

Strategy 3. ‘Best’: Space Out Your Learning

Any retrieval practice is excellent.

But spaced retrieval practice is even better.

Because no matter how well you learn something initially, your memory fades over time. (That phenomenon even has a name to memory psychologists: the forgetting curve.)

So how do you overcome the forgetting curve and remember for good?

The answer lies in spaced learning: the science of revisiting what you’ve previously learned at different time intervals – later that day, tomorrow, a few days later.

And the best way to ‘revisit’ information at those spaced intervals is to do retrieval practice.

Hence the term ‘spaced retrieval practice’.

Spaced retrieval practice is basically the most powerful and flexible way to memorise pretty well anything – here’s a nice free guide from some cognitive psychologist friends of mine (no email needed!).

Learning to remember names is no exception.

So how do you do spaced retrieval practice for names?

As well as repeating the person’s name there and then in the conversation (Strategy 2), consider repeating it later in the day, after a time delay.

You will find this harder!

But if you can fish that name out of your memory just before you would have otherwise forgotten it – maybe that night, maybe the next day – you’ll stand a much better chance of remembering it for good.

Try grabbing a bit of scrap paper when you get home from an event, and trying to recall those new names from your memory.

You might not keep the results of your scribblings (and it might not be appropriate to – so shred it when you’re done) but the exercise of retrieving the names from memory after a time delay will work wonders for getting the new names to stick.

If there’s that one name you couldn’t quite remember, first (and don’t be tempted to skip this bit!), try your best to remember the name with a good old rummage around in your memory. Then second, go look it up, either on the attendance list or with a quick LinkedIn scan.

Try and have another go at remembering it later on to see if it’s starting to stick (if not, rinse and repeat those two steps as necessary).

If you’re really committed to learning those names, you might even repeat this whole ‘scribble-them-down-from-memory’ exercise a second time a little later in the week.

Strategy 4. ‘Genius-Level’: Study For Success

I’m a great believer that you can’t always count on being the smartest person in the room, but if it matters to you enough, you can make sure you’re the best-prepared.

And so it can be with remembering names.

If you get a heads-up on the names at an event, brush up on them beforehand.

Some conference platforms will list out all the delegates online in advance of the event, sometimes with a headshot, if you’re lucky. This is a gift: take advantage, and study up!

And if you’re wondering HOW to study – our old friend from Strategy 2 /3, spaced retrieval practice, is here to help 😊. Test yourself on the names, perhaps by making flashcards with a printout of the face on one side, and the name on the back.

But what if you don’t get access to the names in advance?

If you’re really serious about becoming AMAZING with names, you can even start studying lists of names out of context.

Your objectives are to:

  1. make sure you’re FAMILIAR with all the common first names (and surnames if you’ll need them), then
  2. have a clear image ready-and-waiting (Strategy 1) for each common name.

Use Census data for your country to check out ALL the names people might be called. For example, in the UK, for first names, here are the top names for babies born 1904-1994, 1998-2008, and 2011-2019. Be targeted in your studying: if you don’t meet children in your work, don’t bother with the 2011-2019 lists. If you need to be good with surnames too, try here.

The end goal for this is to get to a point where this instant a new name comes up, you can jump straight to your go-to mental image for that name and jump-start the name-learning process instantly.

If you’re going for this ‘genius level’ approach, to remember names then little and often is key to effective studying. Consider making a daily ritual out of studying up on your names, and make sure you’re following the right steps to get the habit to stick.

However far you choose to take it, have fun getting at least a little better at name-learning!

William Wadsworth is a memory psychologist and exam success coach, who helps students ace their exams by studying smarter not harder, whether that’s at school, university, or professional qualifications in business, finance, medicine and more. He was also our guest expert on memory at the Lucidity Network. 

Do you have a sense of purpose?

Do you have a sense of purpose? Do you wake up in the morning and feel that you’re doing what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing? That might mean in your job or career, or for some people purpose is less about work and more about family and friends. For others it might be a more spiritual purpose, a way of being or an expression, and for many it’s a combination of all these aspects of life.

Purpose is unique for everyone; what you identify as yours will be different from other people’s. What’s moreyour purpose will likely evolve throughout your life in response to the changing priorities and fluctuations of your own experiences.

For some of us, our purpose is obvious and clear. Some people always knew they wanted to be an artist/nurse/scientist/parent/chef. However, most people are still working it out, and it’s always going to be work in progress. Purpose isn’t always obvious. We may discover our true calling over time by trial and error or a happy accident. For the majority of people, in the fast pace and pressures of everyday life, it’s difficult to really stop and think about what our purpose is.

‘Finding your purpose’ is more than just a cliché, an existential crisis or a Hollywood plotline. For decades, psychologists have studied how humans desire and develop a sense of purpose over their lifetimes. Our sense of purpose appears to have evolved so that humans can accomplish big things together. It helps both individuals and the species to survive.

Our sense of purpose can be our connection to something bigger, something that will allow us to truly make a difference. It can be a tool for building confidence, making decisions, shaping goals and offering a sense of direction. There’s also research that shows having a sense of purpose can help us create meaning, which can lead to a happier life.

We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are not.  The important things give our lives meaning and happiness. So, when we’re looking for purpose, what we’re really asking is,What can I do with my time that’s important?’

If you’re reading this and are having affirming thoughts like ‘Oh yes, I know why I’m here and where I want to spend my time and energy’, then fabulous. Read no further. However if you’re feeling like you’re being swept along by life and you’d like to be driving rather than a passenger, then here are three tips to help you begin to uncover your purpose.

Why do you want to find your purpose?

It isn’t necessarily easy, and like anything that might involve change and take some time and effort, it can help to be clear on why it’s important to you. Otherwise, it’s easy to stop at the first hurdle, run out of energy and revert back to your current ways of being.

Write down why it’s important to you that you find your purpose. For example, is it that you want more from your life and career, to be happier, healthier, wake up in the morning excited for what you’re going to do that day?

What are you good at?

A good place to start in helping you to uncover your purpose is to ask yourself some questions around your strengths, your achievements and what really makes you, you. Ask yourself the following questions as honestly as you can:

  • What sets me apart?
  • What skills do I have?
  • What am I doing well?
  • What do I enjoy?

Once you’ve done this, review what you have written. What answers do you get? What passion or purpose are you leaning towards?

Ask others

Saying what we’re good at can be difficult. It can help to get some objectivity by asking others for their opinions. A quick and powerful exercise is to ask five people for five words that they immediately think of when they think of you. It can feel scary, and I guarantee the exercise will reveal some helpful insights and indicators about what you’re good at.

‘You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.’  Diana Ross

There’s three quick tips to get you started. Finding your purpose isn’t a tick box exercise; it’s an ongoing journey. Keep stopping to pause and reflect. Your thoughts will likely evolve and change. What’s important is your own awareness and focus on what you’re interested in and what makes you happy.

Inside my private membership, we also covered this topic with our invited expert Judith Sabah, a motivationalist and breakthrough coach and she explained:

  • How connecting with your purpose can change your life
  • Why finding your purpose is a journey, not a tick box exercise
  • Practical tips to discover your purpose.

The replay of this session, as well as the accompanying training kit (workbook + additional resources), can be found on the members’ site. If you’re interested in exploring ways to find your purpose, this could a great opportunity for you to try out the Lucidity Network. As soon as you join, you’ll get instant access to this one as well as over 30 training kits covering topics like managing uncertainty, overcoming procrastination and boosting your resilience and wellbeing at work. Why not give it a try!

 

Do you feel like you’re winging it?

I remember when I was first promoted from being part of a team to being a manager of a team. I spent my whole time feeling like I was winging it.

I was super pleased though. For what seemed like a long time, being a ‘manager’ was the next career move. It felt like an important step up. A career milestone.

I was proud of my new business cards. I liked having manager in my job title. I felt like I’d made real progress.

Then reality kicked in.

I had no idea what was involved in managing people. I didn’t realise how much my previous manager had protected me and my colleagues from organisational politics and pressures from other departments.

I went on a management training course.

The training was great, however it didn’t prepare me for the less obvious and perhaps more challenging aspects of being a new manager that can’t be learned in a training session. I was promoted from within a team, so I was managing some of my old colleagues (some of whom applied for the [my] managers roll and didn’t get it).  Even though everyone was great and there was no obvious hard feelings it still felt difficult to adjust to this new dynamic. Drinks after work changed – now I was expected to buy the first round and then go home so the rest of the team could bond. It was no longer OK to be the last person standing on a night out.

It can be hard to ask for help

Whether you’re promoted from within an organisation or you start a new role in a new organisation, the same anxiety can take hold. The uneasy feeling that you’re winging it, that you don’t really know what you’re doing and that if you’re not careful you’ll get found out.

It’s hard to ask for help because you’re a manager now and you’re supposed to know stuff.

Also you want to step into your role and prove that you can do it. That’s why you don’t ask your manager for help for fear or appearing incompetent, inadequate or making them think they’ve made the wrong decision in appointing you. Because doubt is creeping in and you’re secretly starting to believe that they’ve made the wrong decision.

You don’t feel safe to ask your new peer group, the other managers, for help. You’re still figuring out the order of things, who you trust and who talks to who. It’s hard to ask them for help because you feel like you want to be accepted as one of them. You want them to respect you and your experience but you feel that you haven’t earned it yet, so you can’t ask them for too much help. You don’t want to be seen as the ‘new manager’ (Even though that’s not how they see you – it’s only how you see you).

You can’t ask your team (the people you manage) for help because you feel like they look to you for answers and you should have them. Plus who knew that managing people could take up take up so much time and energy? There’s hardly any time to do anything else what with one to ones, meetings about objectives and performance, forms to fill in and organisational deadlines to meet. What about the actual work, the stuff you’re good at, the things you love?

As we climb further up the conventional career ladder we often get further away from the work we love because we’re managing other people to do it.

Back to winging it

If that’s not enough all of a sudden I had to present information at meetings, talk about budgets and people actually listened, and with that comes great responsibility. What if I got something wrong?

I just wanted to enjoy my job and be good at it. I felt that in the time I was learning to step up to be a manager that I was floundering, being a fake and that I was going to get found out. Even with excellent management training I still felt like I was lost and making it up, my confidence took a nosedive and I started to doubt myself.

Does this sound familiar?

Now I work with clients in different points in their careers, and I’ve noticed that there’s some real grey areas for organisations in the development of their people.

There’s two gaps that I see time and time again; the first is when someone steps into a management role and manages people for the first time. The second is when someone takes the step from management to leadership and becomes part of a senior management team.

When people first step into a management role they often go through a management training programme but nine times out of ten they don’t have support networks they need to put the theory into practise and continue to learn and develop. Self doubt creeps in and the great management opportunity turns into an anxious nightmare. Even when people are well networked, even when they know a lot of people, the majority are still not very good at asking their networks for help. It either feels too daunting or they don’t want to be seen as incompetent or are fearful of being found out.

More senior mangers and leaders in my experience tend to see the value in networks and have more established ones, yet still find it difficult to ask for help and utilise the networks that they’ve worked so hard to build.

Whatever stage we are in our career we all need to ask for help and to help other people. We all need a cheering squad, critical friends, people to bounce ideas round with and people around us who challenge us to be the best version of ourselves.

These are the things that traditional management training doesn’t (or perhaps can’t) cover. The subtle challenges that keep you awake at night, the learning by experience and the skills that get called ‘soft’ which are essential to master to have a happy and productive working life.

These gaps are the reasons that I run the Lucidity Network. It’s a community of people to ask for help as well as coaching and training (including those critical soft skills) to help you step up in your career and enjoy the experience. For more information go here, or book a time for an informal chat on how joining the Lucidity Network can help you progress in your working life.

If you manage a team – I’ve got x3 bits of good news for you

As a manager you wear several hats. You’re a coach and a cheerleader, a team captain and a high performing individual as well as a communications expert and a diplomat. Over the last year many of my clients who manage teams have also been a shoulder to cry on, a source of resilience and motivation and an emotional support counsellor.

That’s as well as being a teacher, chef, house renovator and dog trainer.  So if you manage a team and are feeling exhausted it’s no surprise. According to the 2021 state of the manager report, manager burnout increased 78% since the start of the pandemic.

As we emerge from lockdown, I believe we will shift back to working in offices and meeting colleagues in real life, but we’ll never return to this thing we’re calling ‘normal.’ Relationships have changed, team dynamics and culture have changed. We’re not the same people who entered lockdown a year ago.

Wellbeing is more than just a ‘nice to have.’

Workplace wellbeing has gained more importance, there’s been a shift from ‘a nice to have’ to a business priority. Many of my clients now have a wellbeing buddy system and mental health first aiders which are working well to provide support. I hope this support will be here to stay.

How we feel about our work, our colleagues and our managers is important for our wellbeing, but it’s also important for the success of the organisations that we work for.

When we feel safe to bring our whole selves to work we’re more productive, motivated and happy. That’s also when creativity flows. All these feelings are linked and flow in and out of each other. When we’re motivated we’re engaged and when we’re engaged we’re motivated. It also works the other way round. When we’re not happy or motivated we’re least engaged and less productive.

That’s why if you’re a manager, your role is so important and also potentially exhausting.

As a manager you’re responsible for driving business outcomes by ensuring your team is motivated, empowered to work on the right priorities that are aligned to their interests and strengths, and have the support required to deliver their best work.

An employee’s relationship with their direct manager has a strong influence on their ability to do their best work. You make a big impact in how your team feel in terms of opportunities to do meaningful work and to learn and how they feel about their working life. I’m not saying this about you, but in my experience people tend to leave bad managers rather than bad jobs or bad organisations.

How do managers successfully wear all the hats?

Give your team time, space and permission to learn. When times are tough learning and development budgets are often the first to get cut. Find ways to help your team learn, whether that’s’ responsibilities to work on new projects, formal training, or encouraging them to find a mentor. Help them focus on the skills they need right now.

When LinkedIn Learning recently asked learning and development specialists to identify the most important current skills, it looked like this.

  • Resilience and adaptability
  • Technology skills/digital fluency
  • Communication across remote or distributed teams
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Cross-functional collaboration

I’ve got three pieces of good news for you.

First, according to the 2021 state of the manager report, employees who see good opportunities to learn and grow are 2.9x more likely to be engaged compared to those who don’t see good opportunities to learn and grow. And when people are engaged they stay with their organisation longer. (Over 3x more likely to say they will probably be with their company in two year’s time according to the report)

Second, according to Crystal Lim Lang, author of Deep Human, ‘Learning is a form of self-care. The happiest people in the world are the ones who are the most engaged and curious’

So providing your employees with learning opportunities not only up-skills them to perform better, it motivates them to stay longer and it helps to meet their wellbeing needs.

Third, four of the five most important current skills listed are human skills, they get called ‘soft skills’ yet they’re the critical skills needed to be successful in any role. The good news is that these soft skills are all readily accessible in the Lucidity Network.

The Lucidity Network is for managers who want to do a good job of wearing all the hats for their team, help them take charge of their learning and development and support their team to be happy and more productive in their working life.

When you join the Lucidity Network you get access to practical content, including webinars and training packs, brilliant people who are experts in topics that will help you find your success. We’ve training materials on over ‘soft skills’ 30 topics in the learning vault including; listening skills, how to be productive, resilience and wellbeing, strategic thinking, storytelling, adapting and learning from failure, having difficult conversations, managing up and improving your memory.

Joining us is easy. Here’s your link. And if you’d like to help yourself and join your whole team, get in touch because there’s great discounts for group membership.

The 2021 stare of the manager report combines insights from 3.4 million employee engagement surveys primarily conducted in 2020 on the Glint Platform with LinkedIn behavioural and survey data and expert interviews to deliver data-driven recommendations. You can download your copy here.