We are responsible for our actions and our decisions and ultimately how kind we decide to be to ourselves.
My day had a bumpy start, I was about to board a train when I remembered I had not put a pen in my bag. I did a very bad Mum run to WH Smiths at the station and managed to make the train. Felt quite smug that I had turned things around.
The desperate need for the pen was to make notes on a book on my kindle. Sat back and retrieved the kindle to find it was out of charge. Still not deterred used my iPhone to create the kindle app, but failed to remember my amazon password. I wasted most of the journey with failed attempts and the ultimate lock out message.
When I arrived at Waterloo I decided to walk to my meeting as I needed to be kind to myself, after my rather unproductive train journey. The walk in the sunshine and along the South Bank in London was great for putting me in a lovely mood for my meeting.
When something goes wrong think of a way to be kind to yourself by doing something you will enjoy.
Of course you don’t have to be kind to yourself when something goes wrong, just make it a habit everyday. Write down when you have been kind to yourself as focusing on ourselves does have restorative effect for the rest of life.
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A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology claimed there was a significant reduction in stress and anxiety when people wrote about their positive emotions.
Previous studies have shown that writing about negative emotions is also good for your mental well being getting stuff “off your chest”. However not much has been written about the positive emotions.
Writing about positive experiences for 20 minutes a day for 3 consecutive days improved people’s mood and led to fewer visits to the Doctor. Even writing as little as 2 minutes a day was a positive experience and reduced stress levels.
For the study the 20 minutes of writing covered areas where people had been moved by a good book, painting, a piece of music or just a good interaction.
There were 71 healthy participants, aged 19 to 77 and randomly allocated into two groups. The first group was asked to write about the most wonderful experiences (as described above) of their life for 20 minutes for 3 consecutive days. The other group just covered neutral topics, such as their plans for the rest of the day etc..
At the end of the study the groups answered questionnaires to measure their levels of anxiety and the group that had documented the positive emotions were in much better place than the neutral group.
Write your happy thoughts down to reduce your anxiety levels, get into a routine of reviewing the day ensuring you highlight the positive.
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In Denmark mattering is part of the school curriculum. During a weekly hour called Klassen Time, students come together to discuss problems and help one another. Danish children do this every week from age six until they leave senior school. To make the ordeal easier a different student each week brings cake. When the children present their problems they feel they are listened to and the others who provide guidance feel they are making a difference.
The children learn empathy by hearing other perspectives and reflecting on how their behaviour affects those around them. The emphasis is “how do others feel? and how do my actions make them feel?”
I am often saying the strongest leadership skill you can have is listening. People feel valued if they are given a “damn good listening to”.
People who listen then understand your situation and you feel that you matter.
Make time for those around you, whether it be at work or home and ensure that they feel that they matter. Look after yourself and also find some-one who will listen to you as remember “you matter”.
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What does “press the button” actually mean?
In classic experiments on stress, people performed tasks that required concentration, like solving puzzles, whilst being blasted at random intervals with uncomfortably loud sounds. The individuals started sweating and their heart rates and blood pressure climbed. They struggled to concentrate and made mistakes and many just gave up. Searching for a way to reduce the anxiety, researchers gave the participants an escape. If the noise became too unpleasant they could press a button and make the noise stop. The button allowed them to stay calmer and make fewer mistakes. The most surprising result was that no-one pressed the button. Knowing they could stop the noise gave them a sense of control and allowed them to endure the stress.
This story comes from the book Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. In the book they put the button into another context. Grant a lecturer sadly had a student who committed suicide and he regretted he had not spotted the signs of stress earlier. He struggled for a long time to overcome any guilt. To move forward he started every lecture by ensuring his mobile number was clearly displayed in the class, in effect this was the button.
Do you provide a button to your team, do they know that support is there. Think how you can instigate the button within your organisation. Coaching and mentoring being formalised could provide buttons. Buddy schemes for new recruits, and always ensuring your team members have a line manager who conducts regular 1:1 meetings. Larger organisations have well being help lines and by ensuring the number is displayed provides the button security.
At home we now all have our mobile numbers, however do we provide a “button’ service in other ways. How often do you sit around a table and ensure you really listen to each other? This is the best “button” you can ever provide.
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We bring our children up to believe they can have everything. In schools we now give medals for partcipating, so the shock of hard work and results in the world of work are a surprise. What has eroded confidence before we enter business…?
Many of our children are gaming and constantly interacting with social media. We know that the addictive dopamine keeps their interest and whilst they compete for results they are rarely shared. In order to feel good instead of face to face feedback they are counting the number of likes on a post. Turning to a device instead of a person, means they lack the ability to form deep meaningful relationships. The approval of their peers to grow self esteem is coming from an electronic perspective and not a human.
In order to believe in ourselves we have to be happy in real life and not on our social media platforms.
Genuine praise and recognition takes time and is not an instant when we are in the work place. The younger generation have not learnt the ability to wait for anything, everything can be obtained immediately. You don’t even have to wait for the next episode you can download the whole box set. Instant gratification rather than waiting for a reward which would give us pleasure and contentment.
Job satisfaction is arduous, you have to work hard and build new relationships, you have to have patience. We find a lot of the younger generation want to quit straightaway as they have never had to wait before.
To survive in work we need a good self image and lots of feedback to grow our self esteem. This needs to be authentic and genuine.
Corporates are not helping to create the right environment for this generation. Companies are still very number orientated and there is very little investment in helping people to build confidence. We lack good leaders taking time to guide their direct reports. We need to develop social skills by role modelling, the little innocuous comments that make all the difference. “How’s your Dad?” Through these little asides trust is formed.
Social media plays with our confidence across all generations, watching your friends and family having a lovely life on a screen rather than being with them. We are social beasts, put down the phone and go and have lunch with a colleague.
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Last night in “I’m Celebrity get me out of here” we saw the most amazing team work. They were all involved in a challenge and there was no-one who did not have a role and no-one who did not perform. Albeit very different to an office situation we can learn a lot from a group of people who come together and focus on a common goal.
The 7 hallmarks of a highly effective team give you an idea of how those random celebrities are learning to work together:-
- Shared vision – food seems to be the ultimate vision instead of focusing on winning as an individual this group seem to be motivated by enjoying decent meals together.
- Clear objectives – the trials are all about getting stars and the instructions are very clear.
- Team resources used to their best – sometimes they don’t get a choice as to who to deploy, but when they do, they think about the physicality and the enthusiasm of every member of the group.
- Open atmosphere – the camp is surrounded by cameras although in previous years we have seen whispering, the team at present seem very comfortable with sharing all their stories and some of their more intimate rituals.
- The team regularly reviews its progress – there is a lot of encouragement during a trial and a lot of commentary as to how much time you have left. They chat about their experience and review their own performance.
- The team builds on experience – the trials get more horrific but the team know which critters are worse than others and seem tougher every time from learning from the last interaction.
- The team can ride out storms – when there are no stars or a camp mate is particularly down the group rally and morale lifts them. Last night showed how they can work together with tight time constraints.
The office might not be the jungle, however how many of the hallmarks can be applied to your team. As an exercise get each team member to give a score out of 10 as to where you are currently on each of the hallmarks. Revisit the score in 90 days to see if you can come up with actions to improve the score.
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It is true that daydreaming and being bored can ignite our best thinking. I have always had my best ideas in the shower or on that walk in the sun.
Manoush Zomorodi author of “Bored and Brilliant” explains in her Ted Talk how boredom can lead to brilliance. She asks the question imagine if you never got bored. Some of your best ideas come from, folding the washing or walking to work. We enter a default mode, the brain goes from conscious to sub conscious. The brain begins to create different connections, even tapping into autobiographical planning.
Good boredom is staring out of the window when the mind can get into the default mode. Bad boredom is when you are multi tasking, checking your phone whilst staring out the window or on that beautiful walk. Everytime we look at that phone we are depleting the neurological resource we have. Even chilling out on the sofa while watching TV and checking email is still bad boredom. The purity of the chill is the good boredom.
Doing nothing is being creative, and boredom can lead to brilliance.
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