Posts Tagged ‘priorities’

2020 Round Up with Sarah Barlow – Director of Marana Consulting Group

 

Sarah Barlow 2020

What have been the main issues organisations have had to manage in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Most organisations were able to adapt to the challenges exceptionally well.  This was, in the most part, attributed to collaborative leadership and a willingness from staff to learn and adapt quickly.  In the early days of the pandemic, we received some calls from clients, checking in and we were a sounding board for some.  Hearing how they were facing the challenges was inspiring especially in regional areas of NSW, where clients were in the midst of dealing with the aftermath of bushfires and floods.

Leading up to COVID-19, some State Government clients were moving towards flexible ways of working in agile shared spaces and were negotiating the hurdles that this change presented.  COVID-19 created some sense of urgency facilitating a faster transition.  A positive outcome for organisations and their staff.

We work with organisations who have staff predominantly working in the front-line interacting with customers.  At an organisational level, clients were having to navigate the government guidelines which were changing regularly.  Staff were then having to quickly adapt their interactions to ensure both physical and psychological safety, whilst also having to enforce regulations, deal with non-compliance issues and manage customer expectations.

Whilst everyone was digging deep, the challenges were more evident around October.  People Leaders were expressing their concerns that they and their staff were exhausted.  Then in December, with the second wave, lockdown and restrictions, people had to cancel much needed holiday breaks.  This has presented some challenges in early 2021.  Some staff are still very fatigued and are finding it hard to “switch-off” in a constant “switched-on” culture.

What advice do you have in terms of skills needed by employees to thrive in the current work environment?

Policy and process development will be important for organisations to develop comprehensive strategies to define what flexible and or agile working tangibly looks like.  Clear policies and guidelines on the options available to staff are essential.  It is important that People Leaders collaborate and facilitate how to make flexible working conditions support the needs of the team and the individual.  It will also be important for staff to be clear about performance expectations and what over servicing / working might look like to support staff well-being.

This is especially important for some organisations, where I’ve seen that if flexible working is not available, then high calibre staff and job candidates will move to other organisations where flexible working conditions are available.  Research suggests that we will not return to pre COVID-19 working conditions and the flexibility of working from home in some form is here to stay.  For this to work, it is important for leaders to have strong facilitation skills, demonstrate emotional intelligence competencies and embrace coaching as a leadership and communication style.  Adopting a truly collaborative style in place of an old school hierarchy command and control approach is essential and it is vital for this to be role modelled at all levels of an organisation especially at the director and executive levels.

Well-being and mental health continue to be areas of importance in 2021.  Employees working from home have to confront the lack of practical boundary between work and personal time.  Most work/life balance survival tactics come back to the basics and People Leaders will be required to actively take responsibility, be empathetic, support accountability and check in with staff well-being as an integral part of their role.  Some senior leaders have commented to me about “returning to normal” in the context of productivity.  COVID-19 has been a catalyst in helping some people realise that the pace they were operating at pre COVID-19 was unsustainable.  It is going to be important for people to be permitted to establish boundaries and find time for both work and family and friends.  People are pulling back from just what is profitable and focusing on what is worthwhile.

As Director of a small business, what did you do in 2020?

On a personal level and as a director of the business in 2020, I was very mindful of focusing on my physical and mental well-being.  I ensured that I got into nature, exercised, walked, reached out to my support network and gave myself the headspace to be able to work  through the challenges ahead.

It was important to be patient and process what was going on and what direction Marana needed to take to best assist our clients.  Having the headspace to think strategically was important and if I needed this, I thought that some of our clients may value this too.  Our first step was to reach out to all our clients, to let them know that we were there for them when they needed us.  Many clients also appreciated the space while they navigated the challenges ahead.

I also used the time as an opportunity to work on my own development.  I participated in some courses that had been in “Quadrant 2 (Important and Not-Urgent)” for a while.  I spent a lot of time reading, researching, developing Live Online content and joining international forums (at all hours of the evening) to collaborate with the learning and development community and find out how global organisations were moving forward in a COVID-19 world. It has been great to be able to share this information with leaders and participants in Australian organisations as they navigate this new world.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

My biggest passion outside of work is skiing – particularly in Japan.  It’s been heart-breaking not to be able to ski this year.  I promised myself that I would not look at the snow report and I failed!  Travel restrictions have encouraged me to continue to explore NSW and over the last year I have enjoyed everything to do with getting outdoors whether it be hiking in the Blue Mountains, swimming down on the South Coast, panning for gold at Trunkey Creek and exploring our beautiful regional towns.

I also love cooking and most recently I have enjoyed experimenting with food over fire.  I’m partial to an open flame and my Instagram feed is dominated by food enthusiasts!  At the end of a busy week, my ideal night is spent with friends enjoying a good meal and a glass of Pinot Noir.

Tell us something about yourself that we may not know?

I’m an avid Landline-ABC watcher. On a Sunday, you might find me glued to this show.  Sometimes, living in the city, we can feel removed from what is happening in regional Australia which is why I love Landline.  I grew up in the countryside and I enjoy hearing about what is happening in regional Australia especially related to agriculture and primary industries.  I think it appeals to my inner country ‘Akubra’ wearing self!

 

Inspirational Leadership – Dr Catherine Hamlin

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Last November Patricia travelled to Ethiopia with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia as part of a major fundraising campaign.  She saw firsthand what has been achieved through the dedication and leadership of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her husband Dr Reg Hamlin.

The Hamlin’s life and work is one of the truly inspiring stories of the modern age.  In 1959 as Australian obstetricians and gynaecologists, Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin travelled to Ethiopia at the behest of the then Royal Family to set up a college for midwifery training.

In the early years of their stay, they noticed the wretched plight of obstetric fistula sufferers, a terrible childbirth injury almost unheard of in the first world, who at that time were treated as incurable cases.  No -one anywhere in the world was doing anything to treat this catastrophic, life altering condition.  These seemingly incurable patients so touched their hearts that they resolved to do something to help.  Together they perfected the modern technique for obstetric fistula surgery.  They negotiated with governments, survived through very difficult times politically in Ethiopia, raised funds to set up a number of hospitals, clinics and a midwifery school and have trained people to run the enterprise.

Catherine herself has been recognised for her amazing work. She is a Companion of the Order of Australia, a national living treasure of Australia and a two time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Reg Hamlin passed away nearly 20 years ago, and Catherine now in her 90s, continues to inspire a team of surgeons and her loyal Ethiopian staff, some of whom have been with her since 1959.

To date their team has treated more than 40,000 women and radically changed their lives for the better.

Travelling around all the facilities in some fare flung corners of the country, it was interesting to ponder on what made them such effective leaders and change agents.  A number of characteristics were clear:

  1. They were passionate about the cause. Catherine, now 92, says she wants to see obstetric fistula eradicated, if not in her lifetime then in in ours.  They dreamed big and with this clear vision they could enthuse others and set plans in place to achieve them.
  2. They developed the skills necessary to achieve their goal. It took them a few years to research, study, develop and refine the skills required.  They became the leading experts in this field and then set about training as many others as they could.  They recognise they made mistakes but learned form them and never gave up.
  3. They were able to recognise talent in people and took the time to develop and nurture people. One of their major successes was training a cured patient to become one of the leading fistula surgeons in the world, a wonderful woman called Mamitu.  They have ensured their work continues by developing a well trained staff and recruiting effectively.
  4. Humility and kindness is a large part of Dr Catherine’s charm. She downplays the praise she receives from many quarters and deflects it onto her team.  Those who work with her directly adore her and quite literally will do anything for her.
  5. They never gave up, persistence being a key part of their success. When there was political turmoil in Ethiopia they stayed and found a diplomatic way through it.  Key skills for any good leader.
  6. One more endearing characteristic is that they didn’t seek personal gain. As specialised doctors they could have had the choice of roles in any prestigious hospital.  Instead they chose to work with some of the most marginalised women in the world.  This has been a role model for the doctors they have trained and employed and many said it was Dr Catherine’s example that inspired them.  One of their surgeons commented that he had high paying work offers from all over the world but he could not take them as it would be letting Dr Hamlin down.

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Patricia often presents on behalf of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.  Her trip was both educational and inspirational on so many levels.  To find out more about these amazing Australians go to www.hamlin.org.au

 

Project Management – Using the 3 C’s

Project Management

The number of projects and the amount of time spent managing projects is increasing in business worldwide to provide focus and flexibility. Some organisations have marshalled most of their resources into multidisciplinary project teams. Projects are often critical components of the performing organisation’s business strategy, so strong skills in project management are important employee attributes.

  • Why do organisations need project management?
  • How can good project management skills help you?
  • Do you want to tackle projects with confidence?

People are faced with a range of projects throughout their life. In organisations in the current fast paced business world it is critical that results are delivered on time, within budget and to the right quality. Increasingly managers and staff are involved in managing projects even though they may not be called project managers. By applying the skills of project management in your personal and professional life you can maximise performance and ensure the best results every time. Project management enables you to focus on priorities, monitor progress and performance, overcome difficulties and problems and adapt to change. In fact nowadays projects are the vehicle for driving change in many organisations.

Key aspects of running projects effectively include:

  • having a clear scope of work with a defined start and end
  • developing a realistic project plan with a clear method for meeting the project objectives
  • acquiring and managing project resources effectively including people, time, money, equipment and supplies
  • developing a high performing project team
  • effectively engaging and communicating with all project stakeholders
  • minimising the risks of conducting the project
  • ensuring quality is defined and achieved.

Nowadays projects are undertaken at all levels of the organisation. They may involve a single person or many thousands. They may be completed quickly or take years to complete. Projects may involve a single unit of one organisation or may cross organisational boundaries. Some examples of projects include: