Archive Monthly Archives: November 2018

How good are you at dealing with change at work?

How good are you at dealing with change at work?

Dealing with change at work is something we all have to face but we’re not all as accomplished at this as we like to boast on our CVs. Try my simple challenge to see how well you adapt to change, then consider how this can applied to your working life.

It has become somewhat of an interview and CV cliché to say we are great at leading, managing and dealing with change at work. Given that the only certainty in business seems to be change, it supports our careers and our businesses to have this seemingly essential skill set. 

My experiences of working with teams before, during and immediately after major changes (both positive and negative) suggest, however, that we all process change differently, and that many of us are not as good at dealing with change at work as we like to think.

A seemingly simple challenge ...

If you think you find change easy, try wearing your watch on the other wrist for a week, or putting your coffee cup the other side of your desk.  These are small and insignificant changes, I am sure you will agree. But, assuming you don’t do what most people do and resist this change, it will feel very strange at first. When want to know the time, you will look at the wrong wrist. Then, when you reach for your coffee, it won’t be where you expect – and be careful not to spill it (don’t ask how I know to issue that warning!). But gradually, as the week progresses, you will get used to the changes and they will simply become the way things are. 

As you try this little experiment, I encourage you to notice how it feels and to be very honest with yourself. What were your emotional reactions? Did you find yourself forgetting about the change or getting confused about what you should do?  How did you become used to the new reality?

How did it go?

If I were to ask a group of you to share your experiences of this experiment, there would be a huge range of reactions, all experienced at a different pace. 

The same is true as we apply this to our business worlds, which gives leaders an interesting set of challenges.

As leaders of change, project managers and people who are dealing with change at work, being really honest with yourself about how you are coping with the changes you are facing, and noticing how you feel, will provide valuable insights to help not just yourself but the people around you move through the changes productively.

I challenge you to try making one small insignificant change to your daily routine and notice how it goes, then make a note of what you learned about yourself and how you cope with change.  These lessons can then be applied to dealing with change at work.

If you are managing projects or leading a change I would also encourage you to share this challenge with your team; the discussions that follow will give you some very valuable insights that you can then use as leaders and in designing the programme.  

This is just one exercise Bekka uses when working with leaders and teams to set up their projects and change programmes for success.  If you are looking to implement lasting changes at work, or have an important project you are kicking off, book a free consultation call to discuss how Bekka’s change and project expertise can help you.

Encourage others and start an appreciation revolution in the workplace

How the story of a Pianist could start an appreciation revolution in the workplace.

A heartwarmingtale of a kind-hearted pianist has led me to call for an appreciation revolution.  Instead of leaving the morale-boosting to those in management, if everybody begins to encourage others at work, we can all be part of something amazing.

Recently I was fortunate enough to hear a story which got me thinking about how we encourage others at work. Traditionally, we tend to think of workplace encouragement as a leader’s responsibility but it’s something we all can do as we go about our day-to-day work. And, in doing so, we can change how our colleagues feel about themselves, the company and the work they are doing.

Let me share the story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...

Once upon a time, a family took their young music-loving daughter to a concert given by a world-famous pianist. When they arrived, they got chatting and their daughter wandered off.  

As the audience sat down, the family could not find their daughter anywhere but, when the curtain rose, there she was on the stage, sitting at the piano, playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with just one finger.

The audience watched with interest as the famous pianist they had come to see appeared on stage. He watched for a while but no-one was sure what would happen next. The little girl’s parents wondered if they should collect her; the stage manager appeared and asked the pianist if he should take the girl off the stage.

Everyone watched as the pianist sat next to the girl. He started to offer words of encouragement and then began playing alongside her, adding to her performance. What an amazing experience it was for that little girl – and you can imagine the love the audience had for the pianist.

The Pianist Effect

We never know for sure the impact we have when we encourage others at work, but we certainly know how it feels to be on the receiving end of the Pianist Effect. A compliment, some encouraging words, a simple act of kindness like a door being held open for us, an unexpected gift, being listened to… these all help us know we are appreciated and can totally turn our day around. 

Like me, you may even be able to trace many of your accomplishments back, at least in part, to the boost you received from some kind words freely given. As I thought more about the little girl’s story, I remembered who my pianist was. He was a wonderful manager who showed his belief in my abilities by giving me some amazing opportunities. He guided me to achieve things I never believed possible. He was challenging and demanding and always encouraging and supportive. I loved working with him and am incredibly grateful for the generosity and kindness he showed me, as well as the personal and career growth I experienced while working with him. 

He then went on to totally change the course of my career with a thank you note – a small act which was so typical of him. He thanked me for all I had taught him. My mind was blown; I thought it was him who had been teaching me. This was a final and lasting lesson from the person who had allowed me to discover the true power of coaching and had shown me I could add value through dialogue and with my thoughts and ideas.

It would be all too easy to unknowingly be that stage manager and take someone away from something they love, but I am striving to be more of a pianist and I am inviting you to join me on that journey. If one small act of encouragement can make someone’s day, imagine the effect of several! How amazing would it be if to encourage others at work became the norm?

As we strive to be a pianist, sometimes we will play alone, sometimes in an orchestra but we know that our act of encouragement will always hit the right note as we show our appreciation for those in our working world. Let’s keep a kind and encouraging tune in our hearts and minds. Let’s play our tune quietly all the time – and then really dial up the volume when we are with those who seem to be in a negative place. 

Who are you going to encourage today?  What kindness can you show? How will you show your appreciation for people at work?

We can do this!  Let's start an appreciation revolution ...

If you would like to know more about creating the Pianist Effect and making it work for yourself or your team so you become a Valued Workforce, book a free consultation call with Bekka

Should I Outsource?

Should I outsource?
How to do more work that  makes you happy.

As a small business owner, you probably feel you have to do everything yourself. But if you’re overwhelmed with time-consuming tasks you don’t enjoy, it could be time to ask yourself:  “Should I outsource?”

Sitting enjoying a coffee and catch-up with a friend and fellow business owner, I was surprised to see this normally bubbly and energetic lady physically slump in her chair as soon as we started talking about work. 

I know she loves what she does and is really good at it.  Further enquiry uncovered that she was busy being caught up in admin rather than spending time on the things her business delivers with such excellence.

Her situation resonated with me – and I wonder if it does for you, too.  We start our businesses to do more of the things we love but, paradoxically, we find ourselves consumed by the many other tasks involved in running a company.

If, for example, you are a web designer or an artisan maker, you probably started your business to spend time designing and making rather than finding new customers. As a photographer you probably intended to spend most of your time taking photos, not doing your accounts... I could go on but I suspect you get my drift!

The impact of doing those tasks which steal our happy was evident when talking to my friend, who was clearly affected both physically and emotionally. And this can damage the very core of our businesses because absolutely key to our success is the passion and energy we find when we are doing the things we love.

As small business owners, it is very tempting to think we have to do everything ourselves, but is that our only option? Could we be asking ourselves: “Should I outsource?” Is there a way to do more of what makes us happy?

The answer is yes, we do have an option which will allow us to focus on doing more of what we love. In some ways, making that happen is easy but, like many things, it may not seem that way at first.  

We can delegate and outsource. However, when discussing this with small business owners, there are three common objections I hear; three ‘buts’…

BUT... no-one else can do it as well as me

You may well not want to hear this but, unless you are a leading expert in all areas of business, this quite simply is not true.  

As the proud owner of a business you have built from nothing, it is understandable you might feel that way and, yes, there probably are some things that only you can do – but what about the rest? Why invest time in learning about tax laws, for example, when you could work with a specialist and get better results in a fraction of the time? Why slave over an administration task you find difficult when you could draw on the skills of someone who loves doing that very thing? 

BUT... they wouldn’t understand my business

This may be true when you first meet the people you are going to get to support you – but you can change that. As a bonus, in the process of explaining and discussing your business, you will almost certainly come up with new ideas and ways of doing things better. The combination of their specialist insights and your knowledge of the business can be very powerful indeed.

BUT... I can’t afford to do that 

Again, I would challenge this assumption. What happens if you flip it on its head? Can you really afford not to?  You are a valuable resource and your time is best spent on the things which add the most value to your business – whether that is your time creating or your time with clients.  

Don’t sell yourself short. If you could make £500 an hour when you are with a client, it could be worth investing in three hours of childcare to enable you to do that. Whatever your business, there are likely to be tasks which make you ask yourself: “Should I outsource?” For example, you might want to pay someone to do your social media or website updates so you can focus your energies on making your products.  If you absolutely can’t find the cash when you are starting out, how about an exchange of skills?  This works particularly well for service businesses – how about exchanging a haircut or a house clean for some bookkeeping?

So - Should you outsource?  

Swiftly moving on, while trying desperately to avoid talking about kicking those ‘buts’ in the butt (and nearly succeeding), once you have decided to outsource, you just need to decide which tasks to delegate. The key question to ask yourself here is “What is it that only I can do in my business?” 

This is time to put your ego to one side and answer honestly as these are the core things you should never trust to somebody else. Personally, I would not delegate my coaching hours, but cleaning my coaching space – with pleasure!

You may find yourself left with a long list of things which make you ask “should I outsource?” and your next challenge is to work out which ones you could outsource. My top tip is to start with the things you dread doing. These are the tasks which steal your happy the most; they drain you and take more of your time than they really should.  

Yes, you need to find the time to make the outsourcing happen and, yes, you need to make sure you find the right people to delegate to with the right and mutually beneficial arrangements in place. But the renewed focus and passion, the renewed balance, and the overall financial benefits will soon kick in.

I encourage you to look at those things that steal your happy, that keep you away from the things that only you can do and ask yourself “who could do them better?”.  

Outsourcing your least favourite tasks often involves working with a virtual team, which can change the way you work. Book a free consult call to see how Bekka’s coaching and consultancy can help Set You Up for Outsourcing success  

How to communicate effectively at work

How to communicate effectively at work and get your point across. 

Help make meetings and presentations more productive by following these tips to ensure you communicate effectively at work.

Have you ever sat through a presentation and, at the end, wondered what the point of it was and what the speaker was trying to say? I am sure I am not the only person who has sat in a meeting wondering why someone was still talking as they didn’t seem to be making a valuable contribution to the discussion.

When I reflect back on these meetings and presentations, I find myself wondering if I have had that impact on others and thinking how I can ensure that is never the case!

These kinds of meetings and presentations can be very frustrating and leave you feeling you have wasted that most precious commodity – time.

So what can you do to make sure you are not the person people just want to stop talking, that you are heard, and that your contributions to meetings and your presentations add real value? How can you communicate effectively at work?

Try answering these four questions in sequence as you get ready to deliver a focused and impactful message.

Question 1. What do you want people to do as a result of your input?

The point of all communication is for people to take action. Those actions could range from making a decision based on all the facts, changing something, agreeing to a proposal, learning something or thinking differently about it, doing something or anything in between. If you know the outcome you want from your communication, it will be much easier for your audience to understand this and, therefore, make it more likely to happen.

Question 2. What do the people you are speaking to know about this now?

In an increasingly busy world we need our communications to be immediately relevant to the people we are communicating with.  We need to know what they already understand so we can make sure our points are accessible and understandable without wasting time on something everyone already knows.  Consider questions such as ‘How much does your audience know about the subject? What is their perspective on it? What experience do they have in this area?’

Question 3: What do they need to know in order to take the necessary action? 

When we are in a meeting or giving a presentation, it can be very tempting to tell people everything we know about a subject – especially if it is something we are passionate about or which we are an expert on. However, to communicate effectively at work, finding the balance between dispensing just enough facts and sharing your complete works on the subject is critical in being impactful.

Question 4: What is the best way to sequence the information that you are going to share?

We grow up listening to stories and learning from them so now is the time to put those lessons into action. As you put your contribution or presentation together, think about your listeners’ journey from where they are now (your answer to Question 2) to the actions they need to take (your answer to Question 1). To have the highest impact, you are looking for the most direct route.

Ready to Communicate Effectively

The amount of time you spend answering each question and the rigour with which you answer before you start your communication will vary according to circumstances. Obviously in a meeting you won’t have much time, but regular use of these questions – as well as checking with yourself as meetings progress – will make a significant difference to your impact in those meetings.

Before a presentation you should have time to spend longer on the questions; this will ensure you are best prepared, help you engage your audience effectively and achieve the desired outcomes.

As you get ready for your next presentation and as you go into your next meeting, I encourage you to consider these four questions. They will help you be heard and get your point across quickly and with maximum impact. The more you practise using these questions, the quicker and more instinctive they will become; soon you really will be able to communicate effectively at work.

Being able to communicate effectively at work will help Set You Up for Success.  Book a consult call with Bekka to find out how working with a coach who specialises in building your skills while you deliver in your role can accelerate both your development and your performance.

5 Pantomime Lessons in Project Management

5 Lessons in Project Management
that Pantomime taught me 
– oh yes it did!

Pantomime divas, dames and villains may be more flamboyant than anyone you meet in your usual working life, but the challenges they present can be remarkably similar, which is how my forays into amateur dramatics taught me some key lessons in project management.  

The British pantomime tradition is something of a rite of passage for audience members, creative teams and the performers themselves. I expected many things when I agreed to direct the village panto a few years ago, but I did not expect to learn some key lessons in project management.

Act 1, Scene 1: Setting the scene

When you embark on your project/panto quest, knowing why you are doing it makes every other decision easier.  For us, panto was all about bringing the community together, fostering a love of theatre and developing people’s skills.  

Taking time to agree on that before we did anything else allowed us to speed up many decisions and ensure the way we worked together supported our goals.  For example, it led us to change the audition process from the traditional ‘contest’ to one where future cast members showed us their full performance potential, safe in the knowledge that we would find a great part for them.

Act 1, Scene 2: We’re all in this together

Panto is known for its larger-than-life characters and sometimes it feels the same is true of projects. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can think of a few workplace divas and villains! But it is not just the main players who keep the show on the road.  

It was only the second performance of the first panto I directed when I learned that one of the key lessons in project management is the importance of building a strong team beyond just the main players. One of the leading actors failed to show up on stage when they should have done, leaving three young and inexperienced cast members stranded mid-scene. It was a joy to see the whole team come together to keep the show going so the audience didn’t notice.  

It turned out that the missing cast member was looking for a prop that one of the backstage team had helpfully moved to the side of the stage so it was handy for them. Another lesson learned; even teams with the best intentions and a shared vision need to remember to communicate effectively.

Act 1, Scene 3: Coming up with a plan

When planning a pantomime, different teams come up with lots of plans. The set builder may want to design a set before you have even decided what show you’re doing; the choreographer may demand more dance rehearsal hours than there are rehearsal hours in total; the costume team may want to save time by deciding who plays which role based on the costumes that fit, and so on.

While project teams in workplaces are used to sharing the plan and working with its interdependencies, this was not a way many of our panto team had ever worked before and this director learned another key lesson in project management the hard (and stressful) way; the importance of reminding people frequently and clearly how what they do fits in with everyone else. Not to mention how changing their plan (once they had one – but that’s another story) impacted everyone else, so communication was critical.

Act 2, Scene 1: Would you believe?

A panto story is full of twists and turns – and I don’t just mean the scripted ones! Just like the risks on a project, thinking through what could go wrong and having a risk management plan for the more likely and higher impact ones is vital.  

Working with an inexperienced team showed me how important it is not to make assumptions when you’re thinking about possible risks. What was obvious to me was not always obvious to them. Asking them what they thought could go wrong was not only a great team-building exercise but allowed us to plan for every eventuality and build the team’s confidence.

I am glad we never had to implement our plan for the curtain not opening – but I must say, however, that I am very pleased we’d planned what to do if an audience member fell ill.

Act 2, Scene 2: The Finale

I loved working with our panto team and bringing the complex needs of all the different stakeholders together. Their agendas differed widely, from parents managing their children’s needs and very busy diary, to raffle ticket sellers striving to make lots of money for the village, to the cast and crew who simply wanted to put on a great show and have fun. 

A key lesson in project management was remembering how important it is to keep everyone engaged and how different things mattered to each group. Managing their different priorities certainly sharpened my negotiating skills.  

However, the final lesson came after the end of the production. The village hall committee decided they needed to make more money – and that they could do that by bringing in a professional panto team who would pay them for the use of the hall.  This decision, made without consultation and while our panto representative was on holiday, brought down our final curtain and, as well as reminding me how to disband a team with dignity, taught me a lesson in keeping project goals and business goals aligned.

​So next time you are sitting in a project meeting, remember:

  • Booing and hissing the villain isn’t recommended, however tempting it may be;
  • The hero gets the girl (their goal) and baddies all turn good in the end;
  • Behind the scenes, someone is learning some key lessons in project management!

While for now my pantomime days are behind me, the lessons I learned are still benefiting me and the projects I am involved with. Underpinning the work I do on project initiations is remembering that investing the time and effort to set things up right at the start of the project accelerates overall progress and reduces the challenges you face along the way.

If you would like Bekka to share these key lessons in project management with your team or to discuss how to implement them in your business 

Three things to do before starting a new job

Starting a new job?
3 things to do before you start 

Effectively starting a new job begins before your first day. Here are three simple things you can do to set yourself up to impress and make a great impact.

Well done, you’ve landed your dream job! You’ve celebrated your success and are getting ready to begin your new adventure, determined to be a huge success and make yourself indispensable to the business. They’ll soon be wondering how on earth they managed without you.

But mixed in with your excitement may be an element of trepidation. As the first day approaches, apprehension may begin to kick in and you may find yourself wondering how you can make your dream of success a reality.

As ever, the keys are preparation, clarity, focus and regular progress reviews. And you don’t need to wait for your first day to get going.  

Based on my experiences with those about to start new roles, here are three things you can do before you even start your new job which will help you transition into the new role successfully and have you making a positive difference quickly.

1.     What excites you about your new role?

Before starting your new job, take a moment to capture what excites you about the role, why you took the job, what it offers you and what you want to achieve.  Being clear about what is important to you in that role will help you focus on the things that are going to make the biggest difference and which matter most.

Most people will have second thoughts at some point – often a couple of months into a new role – when they wonder why on earth they left their old job and thought this one was a good idea. At that moment, being able to remind yourself why you were excited about this role will help you manage that wobble and move forward constructively.

2.     Who do you want to be in your new role?

When you are starting a new job, you have a chance to redefine who you are as a leader.  A fresh start with new people means you can magnify your leadership strengths and leave behind any traits you want to move on from.  You can become the leader you want to be. Before your first day, spend some time thinking about your values and leadership style. What has worked well for you in the past and how can you leverage that in your new role?

3.     How are you going to approach this new challenge?

We already know you want to be a success in this new role, but how will you know if you are a success? Take some time to pull together the information you already have about the organisation, the people you are going to be working for and with, and what they are hoping you will bring to the role. This will give you some strong clues about what success in this role looks like.

What else would you like to know and how much can you find out before you start? While it is important to keep an open mind, many people also find it helpful to have a framework or an approach in mind which will help them sift through everything they are learning and work out how they are going to make a positive impact quickly. What is your approach going to be?

Being clear about what excites you about your new role, who you want to be as a leader in that role and how you are going to approach the new challenge are the three things you need to do before starting a new job to position yourself to make the most of the opportunity and make a great impact.

Successful transition into a new role is a process which starts before the first day and which can take a few months. Supplementing the company induction with Executive Fast Start Coaching can make you more successful in less time.  Book a free call and let’s discuss.