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.

What can you do about the Monday night blues?

Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is allegedly the most depressing day of the year. As much as the pseudoscience has been debunked over the years, it is stubbornly sticking around, so we might as well acknowledge it.

Many of us are familiar with Sunday Syndrome, that sinking feeling as the weekend draws to a close that it will soon be Monday all over again. But what can you do if you have the Monday night blues? If the reality of being back at work was as bad as you had been fearing: what then?

Right now, I suspect more people are feeling Monday night blues than ever before. It’s January, which is never a cheery month in the UK, as it’s cold, damp, Christmas has been and gone, and the January paycheck seems an eon away. And this is January 2021. In the UK we’re in our third full lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last 10 months have been tough, and the promised hope of 2021 is slow to come. People have lost jobs, loved ones and opportunities.

The job market is hard right now, and we are expecting this to continue for some time. You may not feel able to leave a job right now, which can lead to you feeling trapped.

If you regularly have the Monday night blues, here are a few suggestions that may help. And if you are struggling, there are some links to how you can get help at the end.

Focus on the things you can change

While you may not be able to change your job right now, what changes can you make to make things more enjoyable? Talk to your manager about taking on a project or task that you would enjoy, or would give you a stretch, and a sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed it.

If you’re employed, self-employed, or out of work right now, is there a new skill you could learn that you would enjoy. Even better if it could improve your chances of a new job, or piece of work.

And focus on how you spend your day. Gary Gower wrote his guide to life in lockdown in April last year. While his suggestions can’t change a job you don’t like, he has useful tips for when life is tough. Breaking up your day so that you get away from your desk can help break thought patterns that may be contributing to how you are feeling about your situation right now.

Celebrate your wins

Every week in the Lucidity Network Facebook group we celebrate our wins for that week. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Whether you’ve secured a promotion, won a long-planned for pitch, gained some insight from a ‘failed’ project, or managed to go outside for a walk every day that week, you’re encouraged to share this with the rest of the group.

Why do we do this? Because we know that many people are pretty rubbish at celebrating their achievements: I know I am. By being asked to think about this at the end of each week, we’re prompted to reflect on what we wanted to achieve. This can gradually train our brains to have a growth mindset, and to focus on what we’ve achieved rather than hasn’t gone well.

There are many ways you can celebrate your achievements. Some people like to write three positive things in a journal at the end of each day. This year I’ve started a jar of achievements, and I’ll write down my achievements and watch the jar fill up over the year. The important thing is to start doing it, so why not join the Lucidity Community Facebook group where you’ll be prompted to each week. You never know, you might find it helps.

Do something that sparks joy

Not to get all Marie Kondo on you, but joy is important for us all. I need to point out that joy and happiness are different things. As a rule of thumb, joy is cultivated internally, and happiness tends to be impacted by external events.

Author J.D. Salinger once eloquently described the difference as: “The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.”

Because we can spend a huge proportion of our time working, we can often feel that if work isn’t going well that means life isn’t going well. Finding and doing things outside of work that spark joy and meaning in your life can help mitigate some feelings of dissatisfaction. Perhaps there’s a hobby you’ve been meaning to take up, a class you’d like to start again, or volunteer for a cause you really care about. If you’re feeling fulfilled outside of work, it’s easier to feel a level of joy that isn’t easily shaken by bad days at work.

Jo Gibney is Head of Business Development at the Association of Volunteer Managers, a membership organisation for anyone who works with volunteers, and a freelance digital community manager.

Need help?

If you are struggling right now, your GP should be able to signpost you for help, or the Mental Health Foundation has a page of resources: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/getting-help

*Coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004, after a holiday company asked him for a “scientific formula” for the January blues, Blue Monday falls on the third Monday in January every year. Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-51173730

Three tips to manage uncertainty

Uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. None of us have a job for life, a guarantee of good health, or absolute certainty over what tomorrow will bring. 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 in to 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.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans’ first priority is survival. We’re built to be able to anticipate danger, prepare for it, and fight against it. Think about our ancestors who had to be alert for anything, from predators to natural disasters, that might pose a threat to their survival.

Today, the dangers we face are different, but our brains are still wired the same.  As a consequence, we react to uncertainty with the same responses as our ancestors. When faced with uncertainty our reptilian brain takes over with a fear response and triggers us to fight, flight or freeze. This response is great for fighting a bear, or out-running a sabre tooth tiger. However, it’s less good for figuring out how to juggle working from home with schooling the kids or preparing for a job interview.

Fear and uncertainty can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless. It can drain us emotionally as we worry about everything including the economy, employment, finances, relationships and our physical and mental health.

We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living unpredictable lives.  Others find the randomness of life deeply distressing. All of us are different. All of us have a limit as to how much uncertainty we can handle.

Three tips for managing uncertainty

Structure and routine. Having a structure to your working day, for example starting and finishing work at the same time, having set tasks that you do at set times, or having team meetings and 1-2-1’s at regular times, can create a sense of predictability that can help to counteract the stress of uncertainty. I wrote about this in my blog on tips for working from home. 

Be aware of the meaning you’re making. When faced with uncertainty, research in cognitive behavioural therapy shows that people tend to overestimate the risks and negative consequences that may result from a situation, and underestimate the probability of a positive outcome. What assumptions are you making about the situation? What gaps in knowledge are you filling with negative assumptions?  Shift the meaning you’re making about the situation by challenging yourself to image the best possible scenario.

Create space to reflect. To understand your reactions to uncertainty, create space for reflection.  It can be helpful to remember that you’ve faced uncertainty before. How did you manage it in the past? (You’re here now so you did OK!) For example, allocate time with yourself every week to reflect on the week. You could keep a reflection journal or work with a coach or buddy up with a colleague.

If you’d like more help and practical tools to manage uncertainty,  join me and over 170 other members over at the Lucidity Network. More information and sign up here. 

Why the ability to solve problems is more important than having a right answer

When I was 8 years old I knew all the flags of the world. When I was 16 I knew about Pythagoras theorem and when I was 21 I knew how Nylon was made.

Whilst flags, Pythagoras and Nylon are all interesting to a degree, I’m not sure how genuinely useful any of those topics have really been in my career. I learned about them to pass exams. I crammed the information in order to regurgitate it and get as many questions right as I could. Then I forgot it all. My schools and Universities could tick a box though. If enough of us remembered enough facts it meant they got better ratings, which meant more students and more money in subsequent years.

Throughout education I remember being rewarded for getting things right. And I learned this young. At an early age I figured out that asking challenging questions, thinking differently or being a maverick didn’t make me popular with teachers, so over time I stopped.

Then when we start work we are given key performance indicators and objectives. As adults working for an organisation we are measured and judged on how we conform to a set of pre-defined objectives. These are just the grown up versions of getting rewarded for getting things right passing tests, and ticking boxes.

So it’s no wonder that so many organisations struggle to be successful at innovation. Learning to pass exams rather than learning to think for ourselves discourages innovation from an early age, and lets not underestimate the impact that our early years experiences have on our adult behaviour.

Innovation isn’t about confirming to a set of rules or learning about how things have always been done. It’s about thinking differently, responding to change and solving problems. I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn from history and the great discoveries that have gone before us, but if we are not mindful, we may end up focusing on the events of the past and miss the real lessons of the innovators experiences; of questioning the status quo, learning from the present and not giving up when others said it was impossible.

And the real life lessons that we experience are really important in a world that is changing faster than ever before and will never move so slowly again. It’s unlikely that anyone entering the workforce today will have the same job in ten years time. *One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist.

Right now we need our innovation and creativity skills more than ever before.

We’ve been forced to change radically in 2020. Many of us have already adapted to working from home or adjusted into new roles. We’ve stayed connected, and many people have been even more connected while remaining socially distanced. Parents have adapted to teach their kids (and many kids have adapted to teach their parents)!

Human beings are good at creativity, innovation and adapting, but we’re not used to having to adapt so quickly in a highly stressful situation and for a sustained period of time. The adrenalin needed to respond to a crisis exhausts us and we run out of steam. Gary Gower talks about it in his recent blog about getting past the 6-month wall.

When we’re stressed, anxious or out of steam our ability to think creatively is diminished.

When we feel stressed, it’s common to experience ‘brain fog’ – that feeling of not being able to think straight. When we’re out of steam we can lack the ability to focus or concentrate on anything properly. When we’re anxious we can make quick and ill thought through decisions or procrastinate so much that we do nothing at all.

This is because when we’re feeling stressed or anxious our basic survival instincts kick in and our bodies go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This makes it very difficult to access the creative thinking parts of our brains needed to solve problems effectively.

We are all creative and according to research, to think creatively we simply need to be in a relaxed or playful mindset. That’s why many people have their best ideas in the shower, walking the dog or in the pub. Ideas flow when we’re relaxed.

There’s no relaxation or playfulness when we’re operating in fight, flight or freeze mode. So in a crisis it can be hard to think creatively and solve problems, despite knowing that in a crisis is the time when we need these skills the most.

Being able to solve problems is a very important skill right now. That’s one of the reasons that I set up the Lucidity Network. It’s gives members training materials, connection with others to help solve problems and group coaching. Join the Lucidity Network here.

 

 

The amazing benefit of hiking on your health, happiness and productivity

A guest blog by Tim Fox.

It is easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day life and to fall into a sort of routine. We wake up, we go to our jobs, and we come home. Now and again, we’ll maybe go out and have a drink with friends or something. It is a proven fact that humans are creatures of habit, and falling into a routine is just a regular aspect of life.

But what if I told you that making a small change to your regular routine, can have a phenomenal impact on your health, happiness, and productivity? You might even be surprised to know that it’s something simple. The answer is hiking. Taking hikes, even small ones can have wondrous health benefits! Let us tell you more about it.

  1. Vitamin D

There are so many health benefits that come, just from being outdoors. Being outside means we get to soak up vitamin D, which is a necessary nutrient that we need to be healthy. When we are out in the sun, this nutrient is naturally and readily available. This is important to know because vitamin D occurs very rarely in foods. We can always take vitamins or supplements, but nothing beats soaking up that natural sunshine.

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium better, which means stronger bones and healthy bone growth. More important still, deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to various cancers and even depression. If that alone isn’t reason enough to get more sunshine, then I don’t know what is!

  1. Decompress and Relax

Another wonderful thing that hiking and nature do is it helps to decompress and relax naturally. The science behind it isn’t exact, but many scientists say that it simply has a positive, psychological, effect on us. Taking some time for the outdoors can decrease stress, boost creativity, and improve mental clarity.

Many tests have even shown that it even lowers blood pressure. Our jobs can be hectic, our lives can be busy, but disconnecting from all that now and again and enjoying nature, can be very beneficial for both our mental and physical health.

  1. Endorphins

When it comes to the outdoors, nobody can argue that hiking is one of the best activities you can do. Not only are you getting that healthy sunshine and the relaxation that comes with being outside, but you are also getting exercise too, which is also very beneficial for your health.

Exercising gives us endorphins. Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain that can give us a feeling of positivity. These endorphins can also reduce stress, help keep us healthy, and also help us to lose weight. When you combined these endorphins with nature’s natural ability also to boost mood and mind, you get the ultimate combination of both health and happiness boosters.

    4. Experiences

Hiking also has some other wonderful experiences too! Apart from being very healthy and relaxing, it can also be fun and engaging. There is so much to do on a hike. You can take pictures and capture the beauty of the outdoors, you can bird watch, or you can take in all of the lovely flora and fauna in the area. Stop and smell the roses.

This is what makes hiking one of the best activities that you can do! It keeps you healthy, boosts your mood, is fun, and the creativity boost you get will make your day easier and feel so much less stressful. You don’t even have to hike a lot. Life is busy, and we all know this. Even a short ten- or fifteen-minute hike through a park can have more health benefits for you than you realize.

  1. The Colour Green

Another interesting tidbit about hiking and nature deals with the colour green. Perhaps this colour also has something to do with nature’s phycological effect on us. An interesting study at the University of Essex concluded that being around the colour green actually made people feel lower exertion during exercise and also reported fewer mood disturbances too.

The people who exercised around different colors did not feel the same way. So perhaps there is something about the colour green that has just a little bit of magic on our psyches.

Conclusion

Even if you can only spare a couple of hours a day, you should engage in hiking outside. Hiking will provide you with peace of mind and keep you healthy. But before you go hiking don’t forget to take few essentials especially water and best hydration bladder to keep you hydrated. Based on the evidence and from those who spend time outdoors, it is a wonderful way to stay healthy, happy, and get a creative boost that you won’t find anywhere else.

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all.