Tag Archives: Work–life balance

Lead Yourself – Take A Break

I have recently returned from 6 weeks leave, including a month with my family traveling in the West Coast of the United States. Apart from the obvious joy in spending time with my wife and daughters, a few other important observations reminded me of the importance of stepping away from the day-to-day roles I have.

CoachStation: My Girls in Hollywood Taking a break and removing yourself from the routines and ‘busyness’ of the modern daily grind is more important than ever. This topic is quite relevant at the moment, particularly in Australia as the school holidays are on and many of us are just returning to work after a break over the Christmas and New Year period. Making change to your lifestyle does not have to be a New Years resolution, which may not be sustained over time, but should derive from a level of self-awareness about what is working well for each of us and recognition/action around areas that could be improved. Beyond holidays, the period when returning to work from a holiday is a good time to refocus efforts on how to operate during the day whilst at work, at home and other times. This focus minimises the risk of burn-out and the expectation that holidays and extended breaks are to be the restoration ‘catch-all’ that they often need to be.

British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations’ personal benefits have been found to include: rest and recuperation from work; provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication; promotion of peace and understanding; personal and social development; visiting friends and relatives; religious pilgrimage and health; and, subjective wellbeing. The benefits of vacations extend to family relationships. An international group of researchers led by Purdue University Xinran Lehto concluded that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity. Vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond” (in sociological parlance, a “shared experience”) by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work, and so on) help to promote these positive ties. Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks. (1) The disconnection afforded from a vacation can help us relieve stress, improve mood, and see the bigger picture. The anticipation of an upcoming vacation can boost well-being for up to eight weeks prior to the trip, according to a 2010 study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life. (2)

It is not only the type of break that a vacation or extended holiday provides that has benefit. How we operate during the day has a marked effect also. One of the core goals this year is to better utilise my time and how I apply breaks each day so that there is less of a ‘need’ to look forward to or expect that my holiday time is going to perform the miracle of restoring my energy and offer a period of relaxation that re-energises me. Discovery has shown me that this is unlikely based on experience – how I manage my time and energy every day has a much more significant impact on my resilience, tolerance and patience. It does not work if I wait for this balance to occur during a holiday, so a focus on how I operate daily provides a more sustainable, effective mindset. The alternative is like a short-term sugar high…the effect is short-lived and non-sustainable.

Though breaks might seem counterproductive, they’re more important than ever in the 24/7 workplace of constant connectivity and non-stop streams of email. We’re constantly checking and updating our email, Twitter and Facebook in addition to the other work we’re doing, and frequently we forgo real breaks in favor of cyber-loafing or Facebook-updating. There’s no way to perform at your highest level without allowing time for rest. Over long periods of working, the brain uses up oxygen and glucose, its primary form of energy. (2)

My most recent holiday was outstanding for many reasons whilst it also provided an opportunity to reflect on other aspects of my life. During this period I recognised the areas that could be improved even further related to the lifestyle, holidays and choices that assist to make the difference for myself, my business and my family. Some of these may be of relevance to you:

  1. A family or group holiday provides the opportunity to reconnect with those who are most important to you. This may sound obvious but you have to spend time with others to ensure the rich relationships that have been developed over time remain strong.
  2. The inverse of point 1, it is as important to ensure you take some time for yourself. This should be part of your normal rhythm at any time and matters just as much when on holidays when you are often trying to fit in as much as possible as it does during the normal routines of everyday life.
  3. Related to point 2, the ability to ‘switch off’ and focus on the now, even when on holidays provides a level of balance. I am fascinated by the brain and its workings. We continue to learn more about how the brain works and recent research reinforces the importance of neuroplasticity and mindfulness – keeping the brain active through varied and challenging actions and focusing on the current, at its most simplistic level.
  4. Schedule social media commitments. There are many tools available that allow you to ‘pre-schedule’ your social media activities to ensure you are able to switch off but maintain a presence and consistency on social media. This is important for me as I have worked hard to develop a web presence, so the idea of taking a month off and not maintaining some contact is counter-intuitive, however by using Hootsuite as I do, I was able to maintain an overview presence during the month without taking much out of my holiday time at all.
  5. Ensure that the wonders that are provided through modern technology are used to your advantage, not disadvantage. For instance, it could be easily argued that email and mobile are as big a time-waster and hindrance as a benefit. Of course, how they are used has a major impact either way, like many things in life.
  6. The need for a full and restful sleep is an imperative. Being a light sleeper means that I have to be conscious of getting the right length and depth of sleep. This has an immediate impact on my energy levels, motivation for exercise and tolerance.
  7. The need for holidays with family; my wife and I only; and short breaks for us an individuals each provide benefits and fulfillment.

Taking holidays and breaks regularly are important. I have always been surprised by those people who accrue their leave over many years, rarely taking a break, although ironically they are often the people who most need a break in my experience. How we function day-to-day is as important as when and how often we take a holiday. These are choices that require focus and attention which has been brought to life for me in recent weeks…what do you need to work on?

(1)  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201006/the-importance-vacations-our-physical-and-mental-health

(2)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/youve-been-taking-breaks-_n_4453448.html

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Filed under Drive, Leadership, Motivation

Falling Into Leadership

An individual taking on a leadership role is often something that has ‘just happened’.

Being a genuine leader does not come from the role and title designated to you but rather from your decision-making, inclusiveness, delegation skills, ability to communicate and other, well-recognised and documented traits. Many of these traits can be learned and enhanced through proper coaching.

Does this story mean anything to you?

You started in a company at a lower level. Opportunity presented itself in the form of a chance to step-up temporarily or permanently into a role providing more money, esteem, credibility or some other perceived benefit. You jumped at it! Of course, along with all of the benefits the role also came with much higher expectation…that of others and your self.

You worked hard…things went fairly well but you didn’t really feel supported to truly excel. You wanted to be the best operator so didn’t ask many questions  – after all, asking questions shows that you were not ready for the promotion in the first place, doesn’t it? “Better to bite your tongue and work your way through the issues on your own”, is a common thought and action at this stage.Don't Step In The Leadership

Your boss didn’t spend much time developing you or even working with you day to day. This autonomy had its benefits, but also plenty of downside. You were often stressed, tried to please everyone and in so doing often pleased the few, including yourself. Longer hours and pressure meant that you regularly wanted something different but didn’t know how to achieve it or even what that difference looks like.

However, after a while further opportunity presented itself. Another step onwards and upwards. You wondered why you were being considered as you don’ t feel like you have been particularly effective in your current role, but people seem to like you and you occasionally receive some good feedback, however insincere it often seems. You know in your heart that you are not ready for more responsibility…more stress…but you wonder can I “fake it ‘til I make it at an even higher level?”

So, you take on the new role because it’s expected of you, or it offers greater prestige, salary or some other perceived benefit – you don’t want to let others down and certainly the benefits outweigh the negatives…don’t they!??

Now, you’re leading people.

You are responsible for a process and regular input into projects and other ad-hoc work requiring your expertise, skill and knowledge. You are also now not only accountable for yourself but leading, developing, coaching and inspiring others. Are you ready to lead? If not, the impact will be felt by many. Effective leadership can have a significant benefit on a team or business culture, personnel satisfaction, attrition, sickness levels and the bottom line. Ineffective leadership has exactly the opposite impact. Now, how does that pressure feel for you???

Does this scenario sound familiar? In my experience and working with many new and experienced leaders, this is a very common journey felt by many. Most of these people felt they had few opportunities to rectify their situation. Progress and genuine development will only succeed if you are willing to take some risks, source someone to assist you (a coach, mentor, role-model or some other trusted person) and challenge your own beliefs, perceptions and perspectives.Is your leadership foundation solid?

The ability to take yourself out of your comfort zone often enough to test yourself and learn, is key. Knowing when to step back into your comfort zone is also a skill linked to self-awareness and emotional intelligence. These are skills and traits that can be learned.

Regularly the difference for individuals who are experiencing these fears, self-limiting beliefs, poor feedback and other negative impacts is their willingness to seek help. There is no doubt that the most effective and respected leaders in any role or organisation are those who recognise that they are not in their role because they have all the answers. Rather they are successful because they understand their own strengths and limitations, possessing the emotional intelligence to surround themselves with a team who have various strengths and skillsets that contribute to the synergy and effectiveness of the team.

Ironically, emphasising delegation as a standard, building strong/ trusting relationships, focusing on self-development and coaching of others, amongst other elements starts to enable development and improvement. This manifests itself through better work-life balance, team members feeling more engaged through contribution and being heard, less of a feeling that the leader has to take on all the work his/herself, prioritisation and many, many other more positive influences.

The first step is the key step. Seek out someone you trust to share your situation with and move forward through understanding your choices and taking relevant action.

Steve Riddle: CoachStation


Filed under Leadership

Seeking Work-Life Balance: Myth Or Manageable

I was recently fortunate enough to be invited to participate on a panel in my workplace focusing on work-life balance – a phrase that is possibly overused and misunderstood and a term that I have read conflicting opinions on in recent months.

The panel forum consisted of a number of employees in the audience and 4 panel member’s, including myself, who each pitched out their own thoughts on the topic and then received questions from the audience. It was a very interesting exercise as I found that each of our situations was quite different. Whereas we may have been in similar roles at work, our roles and focus at home was quite varied regarding how we manage our time and the choices we make. However, there were some consistent themes that carried over between speakers.

My view is that work-life balance is an extremely important facet of my life. I have significant responsibility in my role – something I take quite seriously, particularly the support, satisfaction and growth of my team. However, nothing is more important to me than my family.

My work provides me an income, a great deal of satisfaction and has contributed to who I am, my knowledge, values and self-awareness but I always seek to balance what is required from me at work with that at home. It requires developing a  strong skillset around delegation; time management / prioritisation; recruiting and developing the right team and culture; building trust and many others attributes. I work with many managers who do not find a balance often because they struggle to understand what is most important to them.

A recent article highlights research that demonstrates that many of us are finding this balance more difficult to achieve. Key findings include:

  • The majority (78%) of those who work overtime prefer payment to time off in lieu
  • 75% of part-time workers believe work/life balance is becoming harder
  • 83% of full-time workers believe it is becoming harder
  • 24% of workers earning less than $50,000 are finding it much harder
  • 65 per cent of workers perform work tasks or answer work-related calls when they are on holiday
  • 35 per cent of employees never work on holidays or days off

Source: Work Life Balance Harder Than Ever

It requires a definitive view and focus on goals and direction, otherwise it is too easy to get ‘pulled into’ other people’s needs and wants. Often these wants seem urgent but in fact, are not critical. This is where relationships, communication and prioritisation are key.

This is a large topic that I am briefly touching on, but I would like to share my key thoughts as presented during the forum:

  • Understanding what is important to me
  • Understanding what is important to others – my family and my team
  • Surround myself with a good team – provides opportunity and ability to delegate and share workload
  • Develop my leadership skillset to be effective and efficient
  • Prioritise…Prioritise…
  • Find what you enjoy most…do more of it
  • Find what you enjoy least…remove as much of this as possible
  • Understand values and beliefs for yourself and of those closest to you
  • Communication and clarity are key
  • Work with and for your family and team…not at them
  • Take and maintain control of your choices and decision-making
  • Tell and show those most important to you that you love them…regularly!

One or more of these points may resonate with you and hopefully stimulate thought about where these attributes, actions and skills sit in your life. I would also be interested to know what you have done or work at to strike the ‘right’ balance in your life.

Steve Riddle    www.coachstation.com.au


Filed under Leadership