Blog Archives

Shower thoughts for the New Year

For many of us, we associate showering with waking up in the morning, so it’s no surprise that some of our best ideas fresh in the day are ‘shower thoughts’. I worked for a CEO who regularly called in with her shower thoughts on her commute to the office. Most were simple, practical solutions to everyday business problems, with an occasional eureka moment… Archimedes would have been proud!

Research conducted by psychologist Dr Scott Kaufman for Hansgrohe (the bathroom hardware manufacturer) in 2014 found 72% of people have creative thoughts in the shower and “14% of people have showers with the only reason being to generate new ideas”. The study concluded “the feel of the water together with the tranquillity of the shower experience and being alone helps generate new ideas and fresh thinking”.

Literally, you can forget about having creative thoughts when you’re under the pump… a full schedule, working to a deadline, competing priorities and other disruptions all require focused thinking. Routine tasks (showering, regular exercise, gardening or even ironing) however, allow your mind to wander while you’re on autopilot. Actually these activities allow your conscious mind to process ideas that your subconscious has been problem solving in the background while you were focusing on the other tasks at hand. The scientific explanation – it’s a combination of dopamine released in a relaxed state of mind. “The subconscious mind has been working extremely hard to solve the problems you face and now that you let your mind wander, it can surface and plant those ideas into your conscious mind,” explains creative thinker and social influencer Leo Widrich on his Buffer blog.

Thought leader and cultural change commentator John O. Burdett links strategic thinking and workplace culture. In his book Myth, Magic, Mindset: a template for organisational culture change, Burdett says, “Our economic future lies in having a better strategy, a far greater ability to innovate and a culture that is adaptable.” Could your organisation’s strategy benefit from some shower thoughts? What about your organisational culture… Is it healthy, does everyone in the team align with it, how could you further nurture it?

So while you’re enjoying some downtime over the holiday period, allow yourself the extra time to lay in bed, watch the sunset or sip your favourite Sav Blanc. Cast your mind to some of the strategic objectives you’ve been trying to resolve during the year. You’ll be surprised how creative thoughts will emerge and solutions will surface.

Downtime assists us tremendously with clear thinking (maybe before the Sav Blanc). Use this time to consider your business structure, your organisational culture, the approach you might take with a difficult colleague, client, or even your Board. It is also a great time to give your mind the freedom for self-reflection and reset your professional goals for the New Year.

Have a happy, safe festive season and enjoy your break. On your return, let me know if you had any shower thoughts that helped you with articulating new ideas.

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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The money or the holiday?

Welcome to the annual leave game show: The Australian Fair Work Commission has recently changed various modern awards to allow for the cashing in of annual leave under specific conditions. How would you feel if this trend extends to non-award employees in the future?

At first glance, the freedom to choose annual leave time or its monetary equivalent seems like a great win for employees. Who wouldn’t love the flexibility to select whichever option suits their personal situation? Unfortunately, there’s the potential that those who need a break most won’t take it.

Australia is recognised internationally as a hardworking nation. A global survey by online travel site Expedia, as reported by Moira Geddes for news.com.au, reveals over 50% of Australians feel vacation deprived. In an interview with Geddes, George Rubensal, Managing Director of Expedia ANZ says Australians are not taking enough holidays, with 11% of us taking no vacation at all. Even though we have the right to time off, employees feel constrained by an obligation to work, with a staggering 17% of workers saying their bosses don’t allow them to take leave!

News.com.au reports that business leaders supported changes to allow for more flexible working arrangements, but unions are concerned about annual leave becoming a commodity, rather than an entitlement. Finding that you really need the respite afforded by taking annual leave when you’ve already cashed in your leave benefits puts additional pressure on employees to negotiate with their employers and compounds the problem. The same principle applies to those calls to allow low income workers to access their superannuation.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver makes the point that employers should be encouraging a work environment where employees feel secure to take the leave they have earned. It’s also important to remember that more hours worked does not necessarily lead to greater productivity.

Here are some ways the scenario could play out:

  1. Employees perceive that they are indispensable to their job, so they don’t take leave and risk burnout in the process
  2. Employers try to achieve higher output by encouraging their employees to work rather than take leave
  3. Employees working under financial stress take the cash, even though they really need the break
  4. Employers who recognise that holidays contribute to increased productivity find it difficult to convince staff to take leave
  5. Employees spend more time at work and less time with family and friends, which also affects relationships with colleagues and business performance

In the always online, connected digital age, taking time out to allow our minds and bodies to recharge is more critical than ever. Our annual leave provisions allow us to do that.

Would you take the money or the holiday?

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Morning routines

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”

– Jim Rohn

Mornings… Some people love them, some people despise them and some people try to avoid them all together by hitting the snooze button repeatedly. What many people fail to realise is that they are a crucial platform to how the rest of the day will unfold. I have found that if I start my day off well, the remainder of the day seems to flow more effectively. We will look at this in more depth below.

Before we get into the specifics of morning routines, I often hear people say that they don’t have enough time to be disciplined in the mornings or that they are not a morning person. Keep the following in mind however – discipline is the ultimate freedom.

If you’re disciplined with your time, you have more freedom to utilise that time. If you’re disciplined with your body, you have more freedom to be adventurous and active. If you’re disciplined with your business, you have more freedom to be creative and innovative. So again, discipline is the ultimate freedom.

 The majority are contrary to this belief. They believe that being disciplined will feel too suppressive and robotic. This can be a dangerous premise to live by, and often leads to overwhelm. It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”  He knew then what we know now; high achievers are disciplined with their time, and hence their tasks.

Getting back to the importance of morning routines and why they are so crucial to the direction that the rest of your day will take. Think of your mornings as being the bow and you being the arrow. You want your mornings to aim you in the right direction at the point of release. If you leave the house stressed, the day rarely improves from there on in.

You don’t have to run 30 kilometres or meditate for two hours in the morning to set your day up for success; it may just be implementing three or four positive behaviours around waking up and the hours that follow. I often ask people to compare their normal workday to their ideal workday, from the minute they wake up until the minute they fall asleep. A compelling number on their ideal day have themselves waking up earlier, either to exercise or to be more organised.

Let me share with you the routines that I apply to the mornings. These habits have a huge impact on whether I run the day or the day runs me.

  1. Barley grass: Every morning without fail I will consume a barley grass mixed with water. This allows me to hit me daily greens intake before I have left the house. I take a multi-vitamin every morning as well.
  2. Arrive at least 30 minutes early to first appointment: I always plan my mornings around being early to my first appointment. This becomes crucially important when I travel to allow a space to recharge and mentally prepare.
  3. Exercise: When I can, I always aim to get my exercise completed in the morning. It removes the chances of procrastination and excuses later in the day.
  4. Don’t press snooze: I have always seen pressing the snooze button as a waste of time. You are neither naturally sleeping, nor are you being productive.
  5. Wholesome breakfast: Breakfast is a must for me. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that my daily performance would drop over 50% if I skipped breakfast, possibly more. Your body hasn’t eaten for over eight hours; it’s time to refuel it.

No one is genetically engineered to be a morning person or not, productive people just choose to be disciplined in the mornings because of the rewards it gives them later in the day; time, energy and productivity just to name a few.

If you are constantly having a war with your mornings and the main goal is to survive at all costs, then I strongly suggest changing some habits and developing your own productive routine.

I’d love to hear what morning routine works for you. How would you described your ideal day @work?

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When multi-tasking feels like doggy paddling…

As our lives get busier, multi-tasking becomes a necessity to cope with life’s demands. We may think that we are super human; that we can do it all with time to spare, when in reality we’re struggling to keep our heads above water.

So when does successful multi-tasking become drowning in responsibilities?

One of the earliest signs of drowning is displayed through your physical and mental health. You may begin to feel fatigued, develop a headache or become reliant on coffees to get you through the day. Physical symptoms are often overlooked – who has time for a headache when you have three deadlines to meet this week? However, humans are not superheroes, and it is important that we listen to our bodies when they are telling us something is wrong. So take a break, get some fresh air and listen to what your body needs.

Another sign of when multi-tasking becomes overwhelming is when you no longer have time for things that were once considered important. When going for runs on the weekend or having a night out with the family was once essential to your life, you now realise you haven’t done those things in months. Multi-tasking is not only applicable to your work, and work should not consume your life. Scheduling time for you to pursue your hobbies and passions outside of work is just as important as scheduling your meetings, so don’t forget to pencil them into your diary.

So how can we avoid drowning?

  • Be reasonable with your expectations. You are not superhuman; you cannot attend five different meetings at the one time.
  • Prioritise what is most important and tackle those things first.
  • Ask for help. People are more than likely going to say yes.
  • Schedule time for you.
  • Listen to your body when it tells you to take a break.

Remember, multi-tasking is all well and great if utilised correctly, just don’t go overboard.

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A healthy me means a healthy you!

Seriously, without being twee, it’s true. I admit I live a pretty healthy lifestyle: I lift weights, I eat chicken breast, love vegetables, and drink my three litres of water per day. So, when our leadership team sat down to discuss how to better look after our teams, I wasn’t there to preach. The aim wasn’t to run a boot camp and drink protein shakes every day.

How often do we feel almost at one with our desks? Working long hours we’re often tempted by quick fixes: morning coffees that seem to multiply through the day, fast food at lunch if any, afternoon sugar hits… anything we think will help to get more done. In reality, they only make things worse.

Inertia, combined with a lack of fresh air and poor eating habits, creates huge highs and lows in performance. You have probably seen it at work, affecting the mood in your office, filtering through the whole business as well. Encouraging a healthy culture across our organisations for the wellbeing of our people, is not an easy task.

Providing options allows everyone to find their comfort level.

Slade Group has committed to improve the overall wellbeing of our workforce through our Slade Wellness program, which we’ve called Healthy Me, Healthy You.

We’re providing information to allow our people to make informed decisions about their working habits and promoting a work environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle. We believe encouraging a culture of wellbeing will make Slade a better place to work, as well as enhancing our reputation as an employer of choice.

To help us on our journey, we’ve partnered with TWOSIX Wellness, a corporate wellness business who have offered some valuable insights from their past experiences with professional services firms like us. We were also joined by Chris Heddle from Melbourne Myotherapy and Remedial Massage. This week they partnered with us at the program launch, demonstrating good desk posture and stretches, breathing exercises and how to make organic coconut protein balls (which seemed to gain the most traction).

If that sounds like something you’d also like to achieve, you can model our program initiatives below. We’d love to hear about your progress.

 

Healthy Me, Healthy You
Our recipe for improving and maintaining team performance by encouraging a healthy work environment

Ingredients

  • Lots of water – drinking water reduces dehydration
  • Several portions of healthy food – try raw fruit or nuts instead of processed snack foods
  • Fresh air for good measure – go outside at least once during the day
  • 15 to 30 minutes of exercise – organise a walking group, take the stairs instead of using lifts if you can

Method
Combine ingredients with simple messages. Educate the mixture gently, don’t be too prescriptive.

Cooking
Allow ideas to bake slowly over several weeks to allow proving time. You should notice lethargy fall and concentration improving. Results will be increased productivity and happier, healthier people.

 

What wellness initiatives have you implemented in your workplace?

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Would you want to work part-time if you could?

A client recently asked me to find a Senior BDM for their boutique funds management business. Nothing unusual about that; however, my client only required someone on a part-time basis, three days per week (or equivalent). They were more than happy to provide flexible work hours to accommodate responsibility for kids or a carer’s needs, for example.

There are plenty of people who want flexibility too. Yet, working through the long list of BDM contacts that I have, I was surprised to find very few of the candidates who were ideally suited were seeking a part-time role. The most common responses to my approach were: “That sounds interesting, do you think it could lead to a full-time role for the right candidate?” or “I would love to work part-time, but I can’t afford to take a pay cut.”

From an executive point of view, part-time workers aren’t traditionally associated with highly remunerated roles. Yet, as reported in The Huffington Post last year, a growing number of executives are actively seeking the flexibility of a part-time role, while busting the myth that a top level job can only be accomplished successfully on a full-time basis. As Management Today Deputy Editor Andrew Saunders says, “there are very few jobs – no matter how senior or client-facing – which cannot be done on a part-time basis.”

Similarly, working flexibly shouldn’t be associated with a loss in productivity. Simon Allport is a Managing Partner at Ernst & Young who chose a flexible work model to spend time more time with his family. “At EY, we find offering flexibility makes for a happier, more engaged and more productive team,” he says.

Whilst part-time employment is ideal for many, economic or other realities can still make it unviable for some. In my experience contract roles are often extended beyond their initial term, and working part-time often does lead to a permanent position. Candidates who have that extra level of flexibility can use the opportunity to network within an organisation to further their aspirations.

As it turns out the successful candidate was someone within my network who I have known for many years. Her children are now school age and the part-time role was a perfect fit.

Are flexible working arrangements a perfect fit for you?

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That person who knew no boundaries

Have you encountered that person? The one who, before you even know what is happening, drags you off to a bar, takes you for lunch or you find yourself unwittingly accepting an invitation to go somewhere you don’t want to be. We’ve all had a moment with a client or a colleague which made us feel a little uncomfortable.

So what do you do to be nice without damaging the working relationship in these common situations where professional boundaries can become blurred?

As a recruiter I often find myself in funny situations. Once while catching up with friends over a long weekend we had decided to call it a night around 1.00am. As I was about to lay my head on the pillow, I got a 1.30am message on Facebook. My friends having the last word after a great night out? No, it was a ‘friend’ request from a senior manager for whom I had recruited an executive assistant some time ago. I wondered was it acceptable to say “Why are you thinking about me at this hour?” It’s fair to say he does a lot of international travel so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But honestly, an email would have been more appropriate.

Working lunches, talking business over a drink or inviting a potential customer to play sport on the weekend are nothing new. We’ve been doing that for centuries. But I’m definitely from the old school where business relationships outside of work are simply a no-go zone.

I know others who see it very differently, but for me I find it easier not to overstep the boundaries when a client engages me. I listen carefully, I ask pertinent questions and enjoy a bit of lighthearted banter. Sure, I’m interested in their family, dog or holiday plans as it’s important to know a little about a person beyond their work persona; it humanises what would otherwise be a functional business transaction.

So are there any boundaries left in business these days when so many professionals have integrated their personal and professional lives via portable electronic devices, smart phones and social media? In an ‘always on’ culture, where any event, virtual or real life, is a networking opportunity, it seems both candidates and clients love to be courted anywhere, anytime.

Then there’s the overshare. Candidates who have volunteered everything from their bowel health to the most effective methods for dealing with cheating partners, when all I really needed to know was their availability to attend an interview! Add to that a vivid description from a client as to how they have climbed the corporate ladder and reports on all manner of office politics, which have increased my knowledge of workplace culture in weird and wonderful ways.

Truly there is never a dull moment in the recruitment industry, which still begs the question… when do your professional boundaries kick in?

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Do you want to look, feel, sleep and love better? (and dare we say work smarter?)

Dr John Tickell presents five ways to achieve all of the above.

The futurists are telling us that our life expectancy has peaked and that our great-grandchildren will probably not live as long as we do. In the 20th century, life expectancy rose by about 10 years, mainly because of three things – sanitation, vaccination and antibiotics. There were also better therapies for some cancers, such as leukaemia, and organ transplants.

While life expectancy may have peaked, our health expectancy is plummeting. We are getting sicker, earlier – heart attacks (200 a day), diabetes (3000 a week) – and it’s estimated that one in three of us will get cancer. We are literally making our children vulnerable and, of course, we are role models for our children and grandchildren.

One of my three heroes in life, George Burns, did live until he was 100, and enjoyed every minute of his life, while proving that you did not need to be a fanatic.

Fanatics of any shade are boring – fanatical eaters, fanatical exercisers, religious fanatics, all-about-money fanatics… and they run out of friends fairly quickly.

If you love exploring our continent by taking to our well-maintained national highways, you’re already ahead. Enhance the experience by staying fit and healthy while travelling. On the road be flexible, explore different places and meet interesting people, all of which will broaden your mind.

The bottom line: we only get one go at this life, so feel 10 years younger. Do you want to look better, feel better, sleep better and love better?

Here are my five musts for living the good life:

1. If you take the ‘f’ out of ‘life’, you are living a LIE, and that’s the truth. My big four ‘fs’ are family, fun, friendships and faith. Put them back into your life.

2. Stay busy or die – be careful never to retire. You’re tired; why would you want to get re-tired? If you retire, what are you actually going to do? Coffee, newspaper, and then what? Golf? If you are over 65 you will never get better at golf.

3. Do the ‘one-percenters’ – they make a positive life difference: Send a thank-you note. Take three slow, deep breaths to get your blood pressure lower. Say “well done” to someone. Walk on a beach, or in a forest or park. Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in some time. Do six backward shoulder rolls to loosen up your spine. Go to a movie or read a book. Plan your next 3×3 with your partner or friend – that’s three days break, three times a year, three months in advance. Just do it. Become part of a community. The longest living and healthiest people do not live in concrete boxes stacked one on top of the other! They live in villages and communities.

4. Keep achieving. Forward-looking is the cornerstone of a long, healthy life. Look forward to things; mixing with people, especially younger people; aim at something you can do or make happen or achieve in the next three, six or 12 months.

5. Improve your ‘ACE’ skills: activity, coping and eating. Activity: move – start with a brisk 30 minute walk five times a week. That’s just two-and-a-half hours of the approximately 112 hours you are awake each week and represents just four percent of a 24 hour day. Coping: get out of the pressure cooker – often. Eating: eat more plant and less flesh foods. Eat many more low ‘HI’ foods – that’s foods low in human interference – foods and drinks that are not processed, refined, fried, and destroyed with sugar, packaging, preservatives, added salt, hormones, shelf life and use-by dates. Forget willpower and adopt won’t power: “I won’t stuff 45 of the 50 fries that have been served as part of my balanced meal into the amazing machine that is my body.

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