Are you exhausted?

No wonder we’re exhausted. Our working lives have been catapulted into chaos.  Many of us have experienced furlough, restructures or redundancy (or all three).

We’ve had to adapt quickly to working remotely. Most charities have been forced to cut back and adapt their products and services while the need for services has increased. We’ve had to change quickly without preparation and without knowing how long for or what might happen next.

Uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. None of us ever have absolute certainty over what tomorrow will bring. And as the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change quickly and unpredictably.

The challenge for all of us is that human beings are wired to seek certainty. When we’re faced with uncertainty our brain believes our safety is threatened.  This triggers us into a fight, flight or freeze response. When we’re in a fight, flight or freeze state our ability to make decisions, collaborate and solve problems is impaired. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. In an uncertain world, our need for certainty fuels worry and anxiety and makes the management of uncertainty a constant in our lives.

And it’s exhausting managing worry and anxiety, especially over a long period of time. And when we’re depleted it has a knock on effect on our resilience and our confidence.

So if you’re feeling exhausted, worn out and that you’ve not got much left in your reserves then you’re not alone. And you’re forgiven if your confidence has taken a nosedive too.

I work with fundraising managers who are leading teams, helping them respond to constant change under the increased pressure to raise money for services that are a) changing and b) more in demand than ever before.

I believe that one of the most important factors in successfully managing any sort of change; whether you’re responding to it, for example a global pandemic or you’re creating it, for example developing new products, services and processes, is keeping your confidence high.

If you’re feeling the pressure of managing uncertainty or you’re just exhausted which is knocking your confidence I’ve recorded a quick 25-minute training webinar on keeping your confidence high at work. You can watch it here.

 

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. 

Have you had enough of pointless meetings?

We’ve all experienced pointless meetings. You arrive on time only to wait for the meeting to start 10 minutes late. There wasn’t an agenda so you’re not really sure what you’re there for. You should have asked but you were too busy attending another meeting to check. It’s not clear who’s running the meeting as the loudest person seems to get all the air space. Several people in the meeting are multi-tasking or perhaps private messaging each other about why they’re there. They’re not really present though and are preoccupied by their phones and laptops which is distracting for the people who are contributing. You don’t say much because you feel unsure of what is expected from you.  Nothing is really decided, and the meeting wraps up late. You’ve accumulated some actions that you won’t have time to complete because you’re off to another meeting that you’re already late for because this lousy meeting overran. You know you’ll have to complete your actions outside of working hours (again) because the rest of the working week is filled with more meetings.

Sound familiar?

Too many meetings and poorly organised meetings are not just a waste of your time, they can cause stress and frustration about your own work and tasks, as well as negative feelings about colleagues. They can also have a negative impact on moral, motivation and productivity across a whole organisation.

How many times have you felt in the flow with your work, and that you’re making great progress, perhaps you’re even ahead of time and then a meeting request gets put in the diary and interrupts your progress. The meeting wasn’t great, you weren’t sure why you had to be there, and it rumbled on for ages. After the meeting you feel less motivated. You’ve lost track of where you were and the momentum you had earlier is gone. You don’t feel as driven or as committed to finishing the task as you did before you attended the meeting.

Ineffective meetings are exhausting and can interrupt productivity. They can also create negative energy which can stay with employees after the meeting. Pointless meetings waste huge amounts of time, energy and money. *A survey of 6,500 people from the USA, UK, and Germany found that among the 19 million meetings that were observed, the ineffective meetings cost UK businesses an estimated £41 billion.

On the other hand, effective meetings are important. They inspire and drive people to do better. When well-managed, meetings can be an effective way to debate and discuss, collaborate and co-operate, motivate and inspire and accelerate progress.

If you’re tired of pointless meetings here’s 4 tips to help you save time and to make sure your meetings are positive and productive.

1. Be clear on the purpose of the meeting

If it’s your meeting, be really clear on what the meeting is for and make sure the people you invite know too. Set an agenda. Make sure attendees are clear on why they’re being invited and what’s expected of them. If you’re inviting them ‘for information only’ consider if their time would be better spent reading the information after the meeting rather than attending. And if you’re invited to a meeting and you’re not clear on the purpose and your role, then it’s your responsibility to ask the organiser.

You should never go to a meeting or make a telephone call without a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve.Steve Jobs

2. Only invite the people who need to be there

If you’re organising a meeting, really consider who you invite and what their role is. I’ve observed some organisations with a meeting culture which means that everyone gets invited to everything. This can be because of a lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities, and sometimes it’s caused by lack of confidence or fear of failure. Whatever the reason it’s a massive waste of time, energy and resource to invite more people than are required to a meeting.

3. Be ruthless about the meetings you attend

Research shows that managers spend at least 50% of their time in meetings and four hours a week preparing for status updates, not leaving much time to actually do the work. This has increased in the last year, according the Harvard Business School, employees have been attending more virtual meetings than in-person since we’ve been working remotely. Your time is precious, and it’s a finite resource. It’s your responsibility to use it wisely. Refer back to points 1 and 2 and if you’re unclear on your role in a meeting ask the organiser. If you are not required or there’s a more efficient way of getting the information, for example reading the meeting notes, politely ask the question about whether it’s the best use of your time to be there.

4. As a meeting participant, you have a responsibility

If you’ve ever been distracted in a meeting by the person arriving late, leaving early, getting on with their work or answering emails you’ll know how disruptive it can be. Often people attempt to get on with work because they resent being in the meeting or don’t understand why they need to be there. From now on I hope you’ll only be attending meetings that you need to be at, and you’ll understand your role. If you’re attending a meeting, as a participant, you have a responsibility to support the meeting organiser to help the meeting be successful. In addition to the basics like arriving on time and not multi-tasking, ask yourself during the meeting, ‘How can I help this meeting to work well?’ Your time and input are valuable, if you are attending a meeting make it count. Be present. Contribute.

Thank you to Hayley Watts for your expertise and inspiration for writing this blog. If you’re serious about fixing meetings get yourself a copy of Hayley’s latest book ‘How to Fix Meetings’ here.

I’m delighted that Hayley is our guest expert at the Lucidity Network next month for a live webinar. If you’d like to join us it’s easy. Sign up to the Lucidity Network here.  

*Reference https://blog.otter.ai/meeting-statistics/

Why your silence is important

When you’re in conversation do you enjoy moments of silence? Or do you find it uncomfortable and jump in to fill the space?

Silence leaves room for thinking and reflection. It can give the other person time to consider their reply. It can help to build trust, confidence and (somewhat counterintuitively) rapport. It can also be helpful for creativity and problem solving as leaving space can help us dig deeper and come up with our own creative solutions rather than rushing for the first obvious idea.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of chatting on a Lucidity Network webinar with Katie Colombus, assistant director of communications at Samaritans and author of How to Listen’ . One of our discussion points was the value of silence. Here’s my key take-aways from the webinar;

  • If, as a listener you fill the silence and jump in with solutions instead of listening and asking questions that help the person come to a solution, you are disempowering them and implying that they can’t find the solution themselves. So even when it comes from a place of wanting to help, you’re actually doing the opposite. Leaving silence is important in empowering people to find their own solutions.
  • Rather than jumping in to ‘fix’ something, leave silence. Let the person think and reflect. You might then ask some open questions (a question that can’t be answered with a yes or a no) to encourage a conversation. For example, ‘How did you feel about that?’ or ‘Tell me what you thought of that?’ or ‘What did that mean for the situation?’
  • If you find it difficult to leave silence, have a go at setting yourself silence targets. For example, at your next meeting you might set yourself the target of not filling any silences, if you’re a manager, at your next 1:1 with members of your team, set a target to only ask open questions and don’t ‘fix’ anything.
  • Start to notice when you want to jump in and do something else instead, for example, count to 5, or take several deep breaths, or my personal favourite (thank you Vanessa Longley) is to pop a Rolo in your mouth (other sweets allowed) and don’t speak until you’ve finished it.

I’d love to hear your thought and tips on listening and silence.

If you’d like to watch the reply of the ‘How to be brilliant at listening’ webinar you can watch it at the Lucidity Network.

The Lucidity Network is a membership community and is for you if you want to take charge of your own learning and development and be happy and more productive in your working life. When you join 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 30 topics in the learning vault including; listening skills, how to be productive, strategic thinking, storytelling, learning from failure, having difficult conversations and managing up. All the details on how to join are here.