The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
I know it will be controversial, but I don’t think the expression work/life (as if you can split work from life – surely they are part of the same thing?) is entirely accurate.
I prefer to think of it as work/social/home life split. But many people tell me that they find it difficult to switch off from work when they are at home. Does this include you? Here are some ideas that may help:
Commuting: Use this as a sort of transition time between home and work. If possible, think through what your plans are for the day, but also spend some of that time reading an absorbing book or listening to music that will set you up for the day.
Actually switch off when you are at home: If you find yourself mulling over stuff from work, make a specific change at home that will switch your brain from work-mode to home/family mode. Get a soduko or crossword puzzle, or do something physically challenging. It will get your brain engaged in something different to work.
Avoid the ‘Blackberry Always On’ syndrome: This links in with the previous tip, in that, while your phone is on, your brain is still mentally connected to work. If you really want that family dinner un-interrupted, take the plunge and put the phone away.
Have an agreed finish time at least two days per week: Agree a time with your boss and stick to it. That will keep you in control and give your family a specific time to plan things in the evening without the worry of cancellations.
Actually take time off: I know it will exasperate many of you, but research has shown that you are actually more productive on the Monday if you have actually taken the weekend off doing things YOU want to do. You know it makes sense!
Take regular breaks during the day: If you come in early and work late, having regular breaks will stop you from thinking you’re working all the time. Even 5 minutes of down time two or three times in the morning, and an extended lunch break, can convince your brain you are actually working efficiently and will avoid overload.
By identifying what you can do to create a barrier between your work and home life, you will be able to spend more focused time on doing what is important at work without it causing problems emotionally at home.
This exercise shows how difficult it is to really take notice of things we see every day. Use it with your team in your next meeting, just to see how observant they are.
Pick someone who has a lot of confidence. Make sure they are wearing a watch. Without telling them what you are going to do, ask them to place their right hand over the watch face on their wrist.
Get them to stand up and approach you, still with their hand covering their watch. When they get to you, ask them to turn their wrist over, undo the watch strap and pass it to you.
Ask them how many times they look at their watch, on average, every day. Then ask them how long they have had their watch.
If they say they look at it on average 10 times a day, and they have had it for 3 years, then they have actually looked at their watch over 1000 times. Work out the figures quickly in your head for whatever numbers they tell you.
Now, while you have the watch and they can’t see it, ask your team members some questions about it. Obviously, the more complicated the watch, the better the exercise.
Ask such questions as
– what colour is the strap?
– what words are on the face and where are they?
– how many numbers are on the watch?
– does it show the date, and if so, where?
– describe any distinguishing marks or features on it
Alternatively, you can ask them to describe their watch in detail. When they have done so, ask them questions about any details they have missed out.
After the questions, feedback how they did. Most people will get at least two or three answers wrong.
Don’t embarrass the person, but clarify the point that we all see the same things every day but can often become blasé about them because we don’t pay attention at the conscious level.
Ask the group; are there things that we do every day in the workplace because we have always done them that way without thinking? Could it be that we have become blasé about the quality of work we produce? Is there a way we could become more aware of the standards of our work, simply by becoming more observant?
Maybe if we all noticed what we can do to improve the quality of our work, we would all be able to support each other effectively.
By the way, make sure you thank the volunteer and ask everyone else there if they would have done any better if they had been the one chosen to describe their watch!
When we run trainings on Meeting Management, one of the common themes that comes up is, what’s the best way to keep the meeting on track when it strays off the agenda?
Now, for whatever reason, some meeting chairmen find it difficult to keep the meeting to the agenda without it sounding like a schoolmaster being irate with his 10-year-old kids! Learn More
We had an interesting email recently from a delegate who had attended one of our Essential Management Skills programmes and had returned to work ready to put a lot of the ideas into practice, knowing that they would boost morale and encourage participation from his team members.
Unfortunately, his boss was of the opinion that the old ways are still the best ways, and that employees should be glad these days that they still have a job. Our delegate said that he felt discouraged by the boss’s reaction, and was there something he could say or do to influence the boss to look at it from a different angle. Learn More
This can be a nightmare scenario, but it doesn’t have to be. A team member has decided that, for whatever reason, they will go to your boss instead of you for a decision or to discuss some important matter.
Now, you are bound to suffer some emotional reaction to this. It could be puzzlement; I can’t understand how or why they would do that. Or frustration; why on earth would they not approach me first? Or anger; I can’t believe they did that! Right behind my back! I’ll soon sort them out!
That’s natural. But firstly, try to work out what would cause them to go over your head and undermine your authority. Could it be they don’t think they will get a satisfactory answer from you? Or possibly they think your boss would be more likely to agree with them.
Whatever the answer, resist the temptation to immediately go to the team member and launch into some kind of tirade that will cause even more resentment.
Instead, try approaching your boss for help.
Yes, that’s right, for help.
How about something like, “Jo, can I ask for your help in maintaining authority with my staff?”
Obviously, Jo is going to say yes. You can continue with something like, “Thanks. Can I ask that, if one of my team asks you for something we haven’t discussed, could you refer them back to me for an answer? When Charlie got your approval for those extra days off, it may encourage others to come to you for decisions that they should be coming to me for”
Notice that you haven’t asked for reasons why the boss approved the request. You have simply made the point of protocol for the future, without asking your boss to justify his or her decision with Charlie.
This way, you still maintain good relations with the boss, and make them realise you still want to do your job, without your authority being undermined. If you were away when the boss made the decision, work out how you would deal with similar situations in the future. That will help you both maintain good relations and help your team to understand the level of authority that you have. And it should keep communication lines open with your team. This will help you maintain your good team management skills.
You know it will happen, if it hasn’t already! That project you are working on has suddenly been brought forward and the deadline is now imminent. How could they do it to me, you ask! They are guaranteeing a lower quality result, if they insist on that deadline!
So what can you do?