Posts Tagged ‘team’

Strategies for Support in Our Time of Uncertainty

Support and Empathy

Over the past few days we have received an influx of promotional marketing material  – one reads “Massive changes have come to the workplace.  In the past weeks, these times of uncertainty require your workforce to be flexible and resilient, and to reskill for the changes ahead.”  It went on to say; “The most successful organisations are the ones that can navigate uncertainty, tackle challenges and pull together to drive innovation.”

Well I think we can all say we are currently facing uncertainty and challenges that we have never personally imagined or experienced before.  Every day people are having to change ways of living and working.  There is a lot of fear, concern, confusion and sorrow out there about how lives are being affected and changed and the impact this pandemic is having on all of us, right round the world.  For those lucky enough to generate an income, it is hard to focus when we don’t know what the next moment will bring and we hear so much negative news.

During this time it is heartening to hear from clients, their stories of adaptation; learning about remote working set-ups; what it’s like to work along-side or opposite a partner (pets included) and what can be accomplished through on-line platforms such as Zoom, Skype etc.  Interestingly for a number of our clients, especially in Local and State Government, internal discussions are taking place around a key question; “What is an essential service?”

For Team Leaders, Supervisors, Managers and Directors discussing tougher questions such as, ‘Is our role essential and what is our purpose?’ can evoke a lot of fear for already anxious staff.  People have heightened levels of emotions related to remote working, the challenges of home schooling, what to do over the up-coming holiday period and how to care for the vulnerable, including elderly parents.  We also have a generation of people in management and supervisory positions with family members at home who are facing their first experience of a recession / major economic downturn.  It is an incredibly difficult time for everyone right now and for many, the discomfort that people now feel is similar to grief.  We feel the world has changed, and it has.  We trust this is temporary, but we don’t know how long for, it doesn’t feel that way and we realise things will be different in the future.

This is a challenging time for people leaders with emotions for everyone running high and very close to the surface.  It is important that Team Leaders, Supervisors, Managers and Directors let people constructively vent their feelings and be heard more than ever.  Displaying empathy now is critical for staff to feel they are supported, understood and truly listened to, which means listening carefully and acknowledging feelings and not judging or dismissing emotions.

So what can people leaders do or say to support and assist staff:

  • Let people constructively vent their feelings without interrupting and validate feelings.
  • Focus on single-tasking as opposed to multi-tasking.  There can be many distractions for staff whilst working remotely so when on the phone or online system the focus has to be on the other person and what they are saying. This can be a challenge when others may also be at home working, schooling and/or there are distractions in the background.  Using headphones, minimising other applications, turning off other mobile devices and “ping” notifications, shutting doors and thoughtful workspace arrangements may help here.
  • We often say take a deep breath when things are overwhelming and this is a great thing to do to calm the mind, support physical health and aid regaining focus. We would encourage you and others to BREATHE maybe use a meditation app that might work for you and/or your staff.  Ask people “What can we both do to help support you focus and to feel OK this week?” and commit to making this part of a weekly check-in.
  • Maintain team rituals. Consider what can still be done to celebrate monthly birthdays to accommodate social distancing or Friday social drinks via on-line platforms.  A number of clients are encouraging staff within teams to share a happy picture each day and/or week.  I’ve even heard of a remote team wearing the same colour top on a particular day.  The team are based in Orange, NSW.  I’m not sure the colour was orange!
  • Help people with paradigms of control. What are staff concerned about but cannot control? What can be influenced and what can be controlled?   Coach people on actions that can be controlled to build their sphere of influence.  Support people to focus on what can be achieved in the week and/or a day.  Celebrate daily completion of a will-do list as opposed to focusing on the never ending to-do list.
  • If appropriate now could be time to work on those jobs or tasks the team always means to do but doesn’t have time for. Try asking “What work or jobs have we often wanted to do, systems to improve or cheat sheets to develop but lacked the time, that we could start on now?”
  • If you decide your team may not be seen as an essential service you can focus staff on seeing how they can help others and feel useful. Try finding this out by asking “What can we do this week to make ourselves useful and supportive to the organisation and our other colleagues?”
  • This is a time for us to be kind to ourselves and others, to praise and appreciate our colleagues and our amazing front-line workers. Patience while we all work it out is important.  Recognise people and provide sincere positive feedback “I know it has been a really tough couple of weeks with the transition to this way of working.  Thanks for quickly adapting and having things up and running.” 

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength.  Please feel free to reach out to us at any time if you need assistance.  Look after yourself, your teams and your colleagues in the coming weeks and/or months.  Our thoughts are with you.  Keep safe and socially conscious – Sarah and Patricia

The following Harvard Business Review articles below have some great suggestions to help:

https://hbr.org/2020/03/are-you-leading-through-the-crisis-or-managing-the-response

https://hbr.org/2020/03/coping-with-fatigue-fear-and-panic-during-a-crisis

https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Inspirational Leadership – Dr Catherine Hamlin

hamlin-banner

 

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.

ph-presenting

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:

Likeability and Emotional Intelligence

Brains in Sync

I read a newspaper article today commenting on how employers are currently seeking and recruiting for staff who have ‘likeability’ as well as technical ability in their field.  The description of traits linked to ‘likeability’ fell very much into the domain of what Daniel Goleman labelled Emotional Intelligence in his 1994 book of the same name.  Goleman had the same conclusion as the newspaper article; organisations want employees who get on with others, have a positive approach, are good to be around and get the job done.  Good social skills, empathy for others and a level of self-awareness are important traits for developing and maintaining effective relationships in and out of work.

Recently we have been working with a couple of organisations on projects to develop staff awareness and skills in Emotional Intelligence, to build workplaces where people are engaged and where performance is high.  As part of this work we have heard many stories from employees about people at all levels who displayed a lack of emotional intelligence, resulting in lower morale and productivity for those working with them.  Some of the behaviours people disliked included:

  • Managers and staff with large mood swings so people feel like they are ‘walking on eggshells’.  “From one day to the next you never know whether to approach them or not and what kind of reception you will get, so you end up avoiding them” was one comment.
  • Shouting and aggressive behaviour.
  • Managers giving feedback in front of the other team members or in a public place.  “The manager corrected me in front of a customer and I was humiliated” said one person.  It made her not want to work with customers or the manager again.
  • People who don’t interact with others or participate in the social niceties of the office such as not saying good day or hello and acknowledging others.  Many of us have parents or guardians who would call this a lack of manners!
  • Team members who don’t do their fair share either in the work of the team or in office protocols.  “We have one person here who never washes up their cup and plates, leaves them in the office sink and expects everyone else to do it.  They get annoyed when we ask them to take their turn, so we end up not asking them and being resentful!” was one example of this.
  • People who are negative about most things.  “This person is cynical about almost everything that happens and it is depressing and tiring to be around them,” commented one team member.

On the positive side, the following examples of good use of emotional intelligence were provided: