Devoting Resources and Supporting Parents – Living in a Neolithic Village

Chapter Two – Supporting Parents For The Future

(You can read part one here.)

The Context – Protecting Resources

Gog's house in his Neolithic Village
Gog’s house

The village needed a number of important resources to survive, including food, water and people. Without protecting these resources, such as supporting parents to have children, they would all perish.  The water source was drying up and in 20 years there would be no fresh water supply. Disaster. However, the elders knew that there was a fresh spring a few miles away. If only they could find a way of getting it.

The Answer – Devoting Resources

Gog, the person in the village most skilled at making things, had an idea for a system to carry the water to the village.  He would build a pipeline underground to protect the water from other tribes. This would take some time and effort to do and for the sake of their survival, the village would need to give up resources to Gog. The village gave it’s blessing. Crucially, no-one suggested that if took on this project, then that was his decision alone and he was on his own. After all, the village need this pipeline.

Gog decided how long it was going to take – the village agreed that he was best placed to make that decision – and he set off with precious resources; tools, food and other workers.

The work was sometimes tiring, sometimes exhilarating. There were setbacks. There were advances. Gog and his crew learnt much. Meanwhile, the village waited patiently.

The Outcome

A few years later Gog returned triumphant because the water supply had been secured for the future. Hooray! The whole village celebrated; they were happy to have their friend back and they also knew how important this work had been. They rewarded him and gave him status. He had grown in knowledge. He returned with a new outlook and perspective. All of this was helpful to the growth of the whole village. What a party they had!

Gog had his old job back but he wanted to carry on working on other engineering projects. This made sense, so again the village agreed.  In addition, in order that he could catch up on what had changed, he was given attention and support. It was a wonderful time of joy, growth and confidence.

Nobody criticized him for leaving the village for a year or two. No-one complained that the village had to give up resources so that he could do this. Everyone understood that there had been some short-term cost for a long-term investment in their future.  As a society they are going to survive. As a society they benefitted.

 

The Learning – Supporting Parents

Now compare this with how society is supporting parents today in having children and protecting the future.

Having children is not some hobby that parents indulge in.

We are all somebody’s child. Also, our employees and customers were somebody’s child. The businesses that we buy goods and services from – their employees were somebody’s child. Society needs this pipeline.

 

Management or Leadership Development?

What’s best, management or leadership development? Where should I put my energies?

Good leaders are really important. They give an organisation drive, focus, spirit and hope. But good leadership can’t make up for poor management. If the boss is terrific at cheering on the team, but incapable of dealing with an individual’s poor performance, then the whole team suffers. Or if the boss is great at inspiring followers but hopeless at communicating what actually needs to be done, then nothing gets done. An inspiring vision wont help a team that is at loggerheads.

Peter Drucker is quoted as saying

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Management is often seen as a poor relation to leadership – certainly the price tag of leadership training and coaching would suggest that. But fundamentally managers need to manage well; to do things right. The right things, yes, but in the right place, in the right way, at the right time.

And they need to be able to manage themselves; manage their time, their critical thinking, their communication and their assertiveness.

What’s the Answer for Janet Webb Consulting?

Excellence in management can have a significant impact.

So I have nailed my colours to the mast and decided to concentrate on helping managers be great managers.

Masts decorated with colourful bunting
Masts decorated with colourful bunting

How I do that I’ve written about in various places, including here.  They’ll almost certainly pick up some good leadership skills along the way; if they are concerned about managing well, then they’re half way there.

I’ve worked for really amazing managers who were shy and unassuming. And I’ve worked for poor managers who had an excess of charisma and passion. I know which I preferred and I know which environment I thrived in. It certainly wasn’t the one where we got a daily dose of guano; manure is really only good for the roses.

Taking Risks To Grow – What Can We Learn From A Hermit Crab?

I absolutely love hermit crabs; I have since childhood.  They are so intriguing and they have a lot to teach us about taking risks in order to grow.

A hermit crab not taking risks but staying put.
Herman Hermit in a compact and bijou “house.”

A Hermit Crab’s Life

Unlike other crustaceans, Hermit Crabs don’t grow their own shells when it is time to expand. Instead, they take up lodgings in a shell that has been cast off, such as a snail shell. It’s an efficient system, made more so by a procedure of co-operation and management of resources. This BBC video, narrated by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, shows how a housing chain is set up when a large “des res” becomes available.

 

All the time that the Hermit Crab remains in its shell it is safe, but it will eventually need to take a risk and move to a new house, if it is to grow.  Whilst it is moving to another shell it is vulnerable to attack. However, if it doesn’t move it will die, as the shell becomes too small for it.

What Can We learn?

Our Hermit Crab taking a risk and moving house
Herman is taking the risk and making his move.

To grow, survive and thrive, we have to face up to taking risks:

  • to try something new
  • to say no to a request when we usually say yes
  • to say yes to an opportunity when we usually say no
  • to change jobs
  • to leave a relationship
  • to challenge bad behaviour
  • to move house

All these things take a certain amount of risk as we step outside of what is familiar and safe. Taking a risk stimulates our Limbic system and we feel fear – as if we were under threat of death.  I’ve written about some of this here.

But unless we face these things, we stagnate, shrink even. Our outlook shrinks, our options shrink and our opportunities shrink. To make the most of what we have, we need to take chances and risk what we have. Sometimes we lose, but even if we lose, we gain learning.

 

So What If We Do Lose?

Mark Twain said

“Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”

When we get things wrong we learn. When we get things right we grow. But if we never try we gain nothing.

Our Hermit Crab settled into a new house
Hooray! Herman has moved in and loving his new life.

A Hermit Crab hides in its shell for safety, but sometimes it leaves that safety in order to gain something new and of value. We could learn a lot.

 

 

 

Cartoons by Janet Webb, who had a go at something new.

The Best Management Development; is it Reactive or Proactive?

There was a really interesting discussion on Twitter on the morning of Friday 5th Jan under the handle #LDInsight.*  We were discussing up skilling. One of the threads was about proactive versus reactive development and learning.  What has the most impact? It got me thinking about the management development that I am most happy delivering.

A Twitter chat that gave me the insight into the best management development.
#LDInsight Twitter chat

 

When we learn to drive we are given instruction, we have a go, we get feedback, we reflect and we try again. Instruction, practice, feedback, reflect, repeat. Eventually we are deemed competent to do it alone but the skill of being a good driver carries on being refined in the crucible of time and experience. (Of course, eventually, without care, we can become rubbish at it again!)

We learn best by being both proactive and reactive; by learning new “things”, applying them, reflecting and implementing new ways of working.

My Eureka Moment!

I was thinking about how this applied to training managers; what gives the best management development?

You can go on a course; there are plenty. There are courses for all levels, though you will find that the more senior you are, the more likely it is that the course is called Leadership Development. (And will almost certainly cost more.)

You can have a coach to help you through and refine your skill. Again, there are plenty. And again, you will pay more for a Leadership Coach and even more for an Executive Leadership Coach!  (There are various definitions of what is leadership and what is management. It does seem to me that leadership development costs more!)

And?

But how do you get both training and coaching in one place?

And then I realized that this is what I do.

In fact I would go so far as to say that this is what I am called to do. To mentor.

My Mentoring Service

To proactively give people input on:

  • how to do things differently
  • what makes our brains work the way that they do
  • how to support staff
  • how to be assertive  etc.

But also, to act as a coach. To help them:

  • reflect on what is currently happening for them
  • apply new techniques and learn from that
  • gain insight and alternative perspectives
  • develop their own coaching skills

Good managers need to be refined in the crucible – either one-2-one or, better still, with others in an Action Learning Set. For me this would be the best management development.

I genuinely think that is what I am here for.

 

* This is a weekly discussion, on Friday’s, hosted by @LnDConnect. We (and by that I mean anyone) discuss learning and development, it’s impact, it’s best practice and how to do it really well. Also organisational development, HR, life, the universe and everything. Join us?

 

 

 

 

PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

PowerPoint Tips and Tricks to help you look elegant.

 Tips

  1. Put the audience first; what do they need and what will help them?
  2. Be certain about your desired outcome before you start designing slides.
  3. Read from your notes or laptop, never from the screen. Preferably don’t use notes at all; you know your stuff.
  4. Keep the amount of information on the slide to a minimum and use high quality images rather than text if appropriate.
  5. Use one font and one background for text; keep it consistent. Make sure that your theme matches you or your organisation.
  6. Make your slides clear; use contrast and a large font (two sizes max).
  7. Use short sentences; slides are visual aids not a reading test.
  8. Limit the number of points on a slide; four is enough.
  9. Limit transitions and animations; use what is appropriate to your audience.
  10. Get to know (practice!) PowerPoint tips and tricks so that you can use them elegantly.
  11. Practice – practice being brilliant. Practice out loud and practice with others.
  12. Have a back up plan – always!
  13. Finish professionally with a flourish.

Tricks

  1. Show presenter view on your laptop;  click on Slide Show tab, then select Set Up Show. In Multiple monitors box, select monitor to display slide show on. Tick Show Presenter View and your speaker notes will display on your laptop.
  2. F5  starts your slideshow.
  3. Shift F5  starts slideshow from current slide.
  4. Full stop or b blacks out the screen.  Repeat to return to slideshow. Turning the screen off brings your audience’s attention back to you.
  5. Comma or w whites out the screen.  Repeat to return to slideshow.
  6. Number Enter takes you to that slide e.g. “5 enter” takes you to slide, which is so much more elegant than scrolling through.
  7. Right click brings up the menu.

Remember: you are not the projectionist, you are the event – the energy comes from you.

And Breathe; take care of yourself

It’s important to take good care of ourselves. If we have learned nothing else from Covid19 we have learned that. Surely. Haven’t we?

Take care by looking along the groynes covered in seaweed
Groynes covered in seaweed

Trouble is, when you are feeling under it, covered in metaphorical seaweed, you don’t necessarily have the strength.

This is not going to be a top ten list of self care hints – there are plenty of those out there. Just Google well-being top tips.

Sometimes what we need to do is just stop and breathe.

We have known for a long time that “taking the sea air” is very restorative. Brighton through to Bognor was built on wealthy Victorians and Edwardians taking care of themselves. Worthing Museum has a wonderful collection relating to just this.

However, if you are a long way away, this might help – sunrise on the 23rd November, at Rustington.

No Covid19, Brexit or Christmas. Just breathe.

 

A Good Manager Asks The Target For Feedback

How does a good manager know that they are?

Imagine you were an archer. You fire your arrow and you get feedback immediately; either you hit the target or you don’t. You can adjust your technique and get instant feedback on those adjustments. In time you become better and better as an archer.

Suppose that you can’t see the target; it would be very difficult to hit and you would have no idea of the result.  The only way you could tell how well you were doing was if someone, like a coach, told you.

Archer gets help from a good manager
A medieval archer helps a modern man to hit the target

Now suppose that they also can’t see the target – how can they give you feedback? All they could do is share with you some data about how often you fired the arrows or whether your technique looked OK or not. You might tell them how you felt; probably you would be frustrated.

Eventually the coach would stop talking about it because nothing helpful would be happening.  In turn you would stop bothering and just fire off arrows in the right direction, probably as fast as possible, to get it over and done with.

Now let’s look at managing and coaching staff. How do you know if you hit the target? You probably try various things and look for feedback through outcomes and whether the member of staff looked happy or not. You might even have a discussion with your manager about how you think it is going.

But not directly paying attention to the member of staff and getting their feedback is as hopeless as firing arrows at a board and not knowing whether they hit or not. Ask your direct reports how well you are doing if you really want to improve as a manager.

 

Of course, if you don’t care whether you are a good manager, then that is a different problem altogether.

Help Your Team Find Some Solid Ground

Many businesses are going through a period of great change where the solid ground is frankly now a bit wobbly:

  • some are thriving
  • many are having to adapt business models to provide very different services
  • and some are doing the same thing but in quite different ways

What is true for all of these scenarios is that bringing your staff along with you is vital, whether you are busy or having to start again from scratch. Good supervision of your staff is always important but particularly so during periods of uncertainty; staff need to know what you expect of them in order to feel confident. They need to know what it means to do good work and to do it well. They also need to know that you will support them and the limits within which they can work.

Standing on solid ground
In difficult times we need to stand on something solid.

Helping Staff Stand On Solid Ground

1 – Purpose. Make sure that they understand what the purpose of their job is and how vital they are to your business. Unless they truly know why they are doing what you are asking them to do, they are working blindfolded.

2 – Outcome Focused. Be specific about what the outcome is rather than focusing on the methodology or a list of tasks. Give deadlines and explain why these deadlines matter.

3 – Flexibility. Having explained what you want and by when, give staff as much flexibility as possible to do things their own way. Let them know what the boundaries are, e.g.

  • budget limits
  • house style and values
  • competitive practices
  • policies on customer service, health and safety, IT guidelines etc.

…then get out of their way!

 

4 – Give them credit. Give constructive feedback on what they are doing well. Be specific. “You are doing fine” is not helpful; no-one knows what you mean by that and therefore cannot reproduce it.

5 – Stand in their shoes. Your staff are likely to be feeling a bit distracted: juggling home life and work, worrying about family and friends, concerns about their own health, uncertainty about the future. Check how they are really doing and cut them a bit of slack. In the long run, your empathy will breed loyalty.

6 – Prepare for mistakes. Help them to learn from mistakes rather than make them fearful of ever making a mistake again. Fear shuts down effective working practice like a nasty virus! Matthew Syed’s research on learning from mistakes shows that organsiations that embrace mistakes and learn effectively from them have a super power over their competitors.

There is other help for you and your team here.

What To Do When You Are Feeling Anxious About Work

This is the second part of an e-mail that I sent to my friend who was feeling very anxious about work.  She thought she was being pushed out and abandoned. Maybe she was being paranoid, or maybe she wasn’t. The first part of the email, introducing David Rock’s SCARF model is here.

This then, is the good news; what to do about it. And it’s all about taking control.

What Do You Do About A Work Place That Feels Threatening?

1. This is SO important. The feelings are caused by hormones. They are not the reality. If you were to get drunk and feel like you could fly that would also not be real.

What you need to do is manage the hormones by a) taking any medication that you are on b) getting exercise, sleep and good nutrition c) managing the things that are triggering the hormones  d) accepting that the triggers are not helping and telling your brain

 “just shut up! I’ve got this thank you; pumping cortisol around is not helping. Brain – wind your neck in!”

2. Get really honest with yourself about a whole host of things.

SWhat is your self-worth? Writing out/updating your C.V. might be a good exercise right now. Your worth is not linked to how well you are being treated; they are separate things. What are your skills and aptitudes, what experience do you have etc.? Also, who loves you? Why do they love you? Are they stupid? No. So what is it about you that is lovable, useful, clever, needed?

CThe future is a scary place when we don’t know what it is. So sit down and write out some possible scenarios. What might happen realistically? Winning the lottery is not a plan, by the way.  What can you do to make the best of those scenarios? What can you do now to prepare? (You will notice that none of the realistic, likely scenarios include an axe murderer turning up and yet that’s what your brain is preparing you for.)

AWhat CAN you take control of? Look at all of the things you make decisions about. You’ve got this.  You are not helpless; you have skills and abilities. Take some control and you will feel better; your brain needs this. Ignore the stuff that you can’t do. What CAN you do?

RPart of the problem is that you don’t feel safe with your work colleagues. But again, they are not about to attack with an axe. Contributing to this situation is being left out of the loop as far as information goes.  So you need to be a bit demanding for some information. More of that later.

FThis situation doesn’t feel fair. But actually it might be. The problem is that you don’t know.

And another thing

…your self-perception may be part of the problem. What do you believe about yourself that is not helping?  If we believe that we are helpless, stupid, mentally unstable, incapable etc. etc. etc. then to act differently takes quite an effort, because it goes against our habitual thinking – and habits are tricky little blighters. They are like bits of software code that give us short cuts. The habit of brushing our teeth the same way each morning stops us wasting mental processing power each morning. Habits are good. But our unhelpful beliefs (unhelpful habitual thinking patterns) are not and they are also unlikely to be true.

Beautiful sunset of calmness
Plan an escape route and take control.

The Action Plan – this is about getting some balance, reality, control and options.

When you are feeling anxious about work, or anything for that matter, it helps to take control. An action plan works wonders (if only to trick our brain into chillin’)

 

  1. Write out a list of at least 10 things about yourself that you like; this will help to re-balance your self-perception. This may take a lot of effort. Do it!
  2. If you can come up with 10 easily, that’s great; write 10 more.  If you struggle to find 3, then this is at the heart of the problem; you are undermining yourself. Persist. Put the list down and come back to it later.  Anyone who knows you well could write a list about you of thirty things without even breaking into a sweat. So write the list.  This may be the most important thing you do.
  3. Update your C.V – thinking about yourself in the third person can be really helpful too.
  4. Start to look about to see what other companies you could work for; just see what is out there. It will give you a sense that there are options; that feels better than feeling trapped.
  5. Now consider those future scenarios. What might happen?  Write them down. Doing this helps your brain (specifically the limbic system) understand properly what the threat is and also assures your brain that you are in control. Having it on paper can help you park it rather than keep going over and over the “what ifs.”
  6. Now write an e-mail to your company and ask politely but assertively for information. You have a right to be kept informed.
  7. Get someone to read it. Then press send.
  8. Add more to the list.
  9. Celebrate.
  10. You’ll be full of adrenaline so go for a walk to use it up. Then relax.

If this doesn’t generate a good response, then it’s time to look for another job. Instead of feeling anxious about work, imagine that; not working there anymore!

Why Are We Feeling Anxious During Lock-down?

Waves crashing against a groyne
Change can feel turbulent, which may be why are we feeling anxious during lock-down

I was speaking to a friend over the weekend who was feeling vulnerable at work before the lock-down and is feeling anxious during lock-down now that she is furloughed and out of any normal communication channels.  The management style in her organisation is pretty aggressive (and sulky) and she’s had no communication from her manager in a month. She’s had two standard letters from HR; the last one arriving to say that she would not be going back to work in two days time as indicated in her previous letter. She feels like she is being crashed about by waves that she can’t see.

This article is based on the e-mail that I sent her; if your work place feels threatening at the moment, and you are feeling anxious, then this is for you too.

 

E-mail to a friend who is feeling anxious during lock-down and shouldn’t be.

According to various pieces of research, there are a number of factors that have an impact on how we respond to situations (for example see anything by David Rock, Amy Brann, Prof Steve Peters, Jan Hills)

David Rock’s SCARF model gives us a structure for thinking about what is happening to us during change.  We respond either with a threat response or a reward response; we either like what is happening and get positive hormones or we feel threatened and we send out fear hormones, preparing us for our imminent death! This is all influenced by our own circumstance and how we view things. Nevertheless, organisations have a responsibility to not harm their staff; mentally and physically.

Status – our sense of personal worth

Questions to askHow does this affect my status? Does this impact on my credibility? Where am I on the pecking order? How do I compare to others?

Certainty – our sense of the future

Questions to askHow well can I predict the future? Do I know what is likely to happen next? Do I have the information that will help me predict the future?

Autonomy – our sense of control over our life

Questions to ask – To what degree can I make decisions and choices? What control do I have? What input do I have over the things that affect me?

Relatedness – our sense of safety with others

Questions to ask – Am I safe with other people? How much do I trust others? How connected do I feel? Am I in or out of the “in” group?

Fairness – our sense of fairness in the system

Questions to ask – Is what’s happening fair? Am I experiencing fair connections and exchanges with others? Is the system intrinsically fair?

Looking at this and asking the questions, you can see that almost every aspect of the current situation is likely to generate a threat response in you at the moment. Each of the areas is likely to trigger stress hormones. If you were on a battle field you could use that to beat everyone up; you would be invincible.  The trouble is that you can’t! So you are left with a mental soup of hormones telling you to run or fight but you can’t use those hormones up. It is no wonder that you are struggling – anyone would! You are in a constant state of alarm which needs turning down.

But there is good news here – what to do about it.