Tag Archives: work

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why are you wasting time?

We all know ‘time is money’ yet we are sometimes willing to throw away time to an extent most of us would never consider throwing away money!

Did you know, that if you spend just half an hour each day dealing with junk email, interruptions and other time-wasting activities, you are essentially throwing away over 3 weeks a year! What would you do with those 3 weeks if you could have them back? I’m guessing you wouldn’t spend them reading junk email…

Here are some reasons why you might not be getting to the important stuff that will really contribute to your success – and what you can do about it:

1. The not-so-important stuff is quicker and easier (and usually more fun).

Solution: Time for you to revisit – and use – the Urgent v Important time management matrix.

2. You are constantly interrupted.

Solution: Whose time is it anyway? There are ways to set clients’ and colleagues’ expectations about when you’re available and how quickly you’ll respond to their requests.

3. That important task is so big it’s overwhelming.

Solution: Work out how you can ‘eat the elephant’ one bite at a time. My favourite way is to just start. I set the timer on my phone for 45 minutes and do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes. Sometimes when it does, I’m so absorbed I just keep working.

4. The important things don’t seem urgent enough.

Solution: Create urgency for yourself by setting milestones and deadlines. It often works to plan to reward yourself when you’ve met the milestone. For example, you might go for a walk and get a coffee after you’ve called five clients.

5. You’re out of synch with your natural productivity cycle.

Solution: Get to know how your energy and focus levels change throughout the day and work with nature, not against it. For example, if you know your best time for concentration is early morning, do your big thinking in the first part of your working day and save routine tasks until later.

You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself.

These are just a few of the many useful skills you can learn from our latest workshop.  Please contact us for more information.

And please let me know below how you stop yourself from wasting time!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why job fit matters for business

Career guru Kate Southam, wrote on her Cube Farmer blog last week  “Whether it is a pair of shoes or a job role, wrong fit hurts”.

The wrong fit hurts employees and the companies they work for, their colleagues and their customers.  The discomfort they are feeling radiates in all directions and can have substantial negative impacts on your business.  Discomfort degenerates into real pain when you have to deal with a resignation or dismissal.

Why choose to go through the pain when there’s a much easier way?

Kate says:  …with shoes, you are more likely to know your size.  With jobs, people don’t often sit down and work out their ‘size’ before they go shopping for a new role.

We say:   Far too often, managers don’t sit down and work out what they’re really looking for before they go shopping for people to fill roles.

We see the results of this ‘mutual mystification’ around us daily with disinterested and unmotivated staff. 

The most common manifestation is in poor customer service.  Other symptoms are bullying, absenteeism and even outright sabotage.

If you’re serious about avoiding pain, this article is a good starting point.

If you need more convincing that the upfront work will be worth the effort, see this article about customer service (SMH, 28 July 2011).

And if you really don’t think you have a problem because your staff aren’t complaining, it might be time to revisit this blog post.

We would love to help you ease the discomfort.  Better still, we can show you how to avoid it.  Contact us for more information.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Research bosses should know about

According to the latest annual ‘Hunting the (Hidden) Hunters’ report from CareerOne,  longer hours, inadequate resources and a reluctance of organisations to increase salaries are factors driving workers to hand in their resignation.

82% of Australian workers considered changing jobs last year

37% of employees are actively pursuing new roles

The following comment was posted on the Herald Sun website in response to this research.

I hate my job, passionately hate it! Business owners, CEO’s, Managers, Team Leaders take note! There is no longer inspirational leaders or people in control who work hard to make the workplace one to ‘want’ to come to each day.There is noone to look up to, who has passion and drive! I drag myself out of bed to a workplace that is back in the 50’s era. Although I work in marketing, and it is a small business, I am expected to clean! I wipe over the kitchen and lunch room but it is now expected I do more because I am female! I had to fight to be allowed to have a heater on in winter, my boss doesnt like turning the aircon on too much because it costs, any little job that goes above and beyond is never acknowledge, no thankyou whatsoever, my boss whines when we are quiet and whines when we are extremely busy but does not put on extra staff. I have been accused of not showing initiative which was beyond me because my boss would not know half the research I do, or the little things I organise for the company. It is a job that is pure hell. Part time work is hard to come by so although I am looking elsewhere, it is hard! I bet there are many in the same boat!

Uncomfortable?  What if that person was working in your office?

The factors most likely to motivate an employee to change jobs this year are:

  • not being motivated by management (44%)
  • lack of new challenges (40%)
  • waiting too long for a pay rise (39%)
  • an unclear career path (37%)

People changed jobs for:

  • work closer to home
  • a better team
  • higher remuneration and benefits

With unemployment now back down to 5%, it’s essential to be proactive in attracting and retaining quality staff.  The CareerOne research also tells us what’s important to employees in specific industries.  For financial services, the following advantages need to be emphasised in your job advertisements and discussions with staff and job candidates:

  • flexible hours
  • ability to work from home
  • training and development opportunities
  • potential for pay rises

Administration and customer service staff were less motivated by career potential or higher remuneration, instead seeking flexibility, mentoring and paid overtime.

Tip: It’s one thing knowing ‘what’ needs to be done, a quite different thing to know ‘how’ to do it.  If you are motivated to make changes in your business and you’d like help with the ‘how’, please give us a call.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

December? Already? Really? Really!

It’s common at this time of year for us to wonder where the year has gone…

Perhaps you’re also wondering what you’ve actually achieved this year, especially if you didn’t start 2010 with some clear goals in mind.

As we reflect on the past year and prepare for the next, consider starting a ‘done’ list as well as your ‘to do’ list.  You’ve been working hard all year and it’s a good time for you to pause and enjoy some sense of achievement before you dive into another year.

To start you thinking about your own ‘done’  list, I’ve put together a quick sample of things my clients have achieved in the last year.  I hope it will also be a reminder to them to feel proud of their accomplishments.  (You know who you are!)

Have you done any of the following 2010?

1. Raised money for a favourite charity;

2. Successfully implemented new processes;

3. Discovered new ways to approach work and life;

4. Dealt with challenges that were holding them back;

5. Grew in understanding of themselves and their team;

6. Developed strategic and realistic plans for the future of their business;

7. Mastered regulatory compliance and prepared for future changes in their industry;

8. Recruited and retained staff who are integral to effectively running and growing their business.

What are you most proud of doing in 2010?

Why don’t you take a minute now to write down you ‘Top 3’ achievement for the year?  I’d love to know, so please share your success below.

Feeling good about 2010 now?

Great!  Next week’s article will start you thinking about how you can be in an even better position this time next year, when you’re looking back over 2011.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

It’s the time of the year for the annual Christmas party ‘do and don’t’ list.  You can find our checklist elsewhere on this blog.  We have the kind permission of leadership expert, Stephen Bell of iHR Australia, to share the following article with our readers.

While conceding that it is “tiresome” for HR to send out the regular ‘do and don’t’ statements regarding party behaviour, he says the break-up party “is actually an opportunity for managers to demonstrate their commitment to workplace culture as leaders”.

“This is about state of mind and how we as managers approach the function. Do we approach it simply as a participant or do we see it as an opportunity to increase staff engagement? An opportunity to recognise, reflect and get to know?

“This is without doubt an opportunity to understand more about patterns of team and staff interaction, morale and satisfaction. On the other hand this opens the door for you to ‘muck up’ badly; to embarrass yourself and allow the lines of communication and authority to be blurred; perhaps inflicting long-term pain on you and the organisation.”

Bell, the managing director of iHR Australia and Asia, says managers intellectually and emotionally “sign up” to leadership, “knowing that every now and again [they] risk breaking the contract”.

And he says the Christmas party provides a high-risk environment in which such a break can occur. “We can find ourselves closing up shutters for the year, forgetting that the organisation’s Christmas party is actually the springboard into the next year, and behaving loosely or without consideration for the state of our future relationships.”

He recommends that managers lower their risk and take a leadership mentality into the party.

“Why? Because it provides you with another great opportunity to demonstrate that you are an effective, open, responsible and caring manager – key attributes for building and reinforcing staff engagement.”

Bell offers seven tips for organisations and managers that want to use the Christmas party to demonstrate quality leadership:

1. Understand the guidelines and have a clear mind – leaders should understand the organisation’s expectations of them, Bell says.”Be clear about what the organisation expects in relation to behaviour at any Christmas event.” He recommends “relaxed, jovial and respectful” behaviour instead of just “fun”.

“Also understand the organisation’s position on matters such as drunkenness, cab fares, start and finish times, attendance at events following the Christmas party, and other practical information.” (Bell advises managers not to attend after-party events.) “This all helps for a clear mind so that managers can make any difficult decisions beforehand that might be required on the night.”

2. Set expectations for staff – leaders should set or communicate expectations, and deliver on them.”It’s great to have a relaxed, two-way team discussion before the event about ‘what’s OK and what’s not OK’,” Bell says. “You may well be surprised, if you ask your staff about their own expectations regarding behaviour, how naturally aligned it might be to those of the organisation.

“Furthermore, set expectations in relation to responsible drinking, (if in fact you allow it), cab charges and starting and finishing times. Have a ‘Party Rules’ memo circulated prior to the event.”

3. Turn up – leaders demonstrate interest and commitment to their employees, Bell says.”Many managers tell me they don’t turn up to the annual break-up party because they ‘don’t enjoy being in a room full of drunks’, or ‘it’s too dangerous given modern-day legal risks’. In my view no one should be that drunk at a Christmas party and leaders should understand risk but not be paralysed by it.

“Not turning up out of fear lacks courage and is an abdication of your responsibility as a leader to build a more engaging workplace.”

4. Role model behaviours – leaders should model the behaviours required by the organisation that they commit to.”The capacity and willingness to role model is a key leader attribute. At the Christmas party, the fact that you drink too much, take part in humiliating or belittling behaviours or discussions puts you and the organisation at risk.

“On the other hand if you drink moderately (if indeed you want to drink alcohol), be happy, congenial and respectful you are likely to help set a positive, responsible tone. Self control is a great leadership attribute and a lot easier said than done. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses (especially in social situations) and the triggers that might lead you to behaving in a way that might be regarded as unacceptable by your organisation. For example, if you have a tendency to enjoy drinking with a particular group of males or females with whom you’ve had a long association, ensure that you make a concerted effort to move around the room rather than restricting yourself to this particular group.”

5. Be aware – leaders have awareness of what is happening around them.”Managers need to be aware and coherent. You are ultimately responsible for the safety and welfare of the attendees. Prepare to be an individual respondent in a court case should you fail to observe and act on behaviours that are potentially litigious. For example when ‘tipsy’ Megan and Phil are making publically disparaging comments about Alan because he works ‘too slow’ or Sandra and Kent’s dancing is becoming very ‘dirty’, recognise that this may potentially lead to a harassment claim.”

5. Be prepared to act on bad behaviours and say goodnight – leaders demonstrate courage and are prepared to change the course of events when required.”You should be prepared to respectfully take people aside when you feel their behaviour is a risk to themselves or others. Don’t do it in front of the crowd. Having difficult discussions in front of a team could cause a confrontation that ruins the night or give a ‘smartie’ the opportunity they want to attempt to embarrass you in front of others.

“If people are drunk or behave badly you need to be prepared to say goodnight. Generally a friendly handshake, consoling words about having to leave early and a cab-charge will do the job. If, however, an attendee is obviously at risk to themselves or the community you may need to organise a more ‘door-to-door’ arrangement in relation to getting them home (for example, two managers driving that individual home). If an injury occurs to the individual on the way home and it is deemed that the organisation has contributed to their condition and failed to take reasonable action to ensure the employees safe return home, then the organisation is potentially liable.”

6. Implement the boundaries of the function – leaders do what they say and manage their environment to attain the outcomes they want.”Finally, implement the start and finish times and ensure those attending the party know the boundaries of the party area. You should have agreed these up front. If it’s at a venue where there are a multitude of rooms and parties remember to remind those that constantly leave the designated party area that they are contravening your ‘party rules’ and if they keep leaving your area without good reason they may not be allowed to return.”

For more information on iHR, click here.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

3 simple ways to get more done

Did you know you can be more effective, for longer periods, if you pay more attention to what you’re doing? 

(We covered the possibility of doing less to achieve more in an earlier post on multi-tasking.)

Driving a manual car recently after many years of driving automatics – and the extra concentration that required to get anywhere – started me thinking about the things we do on auto-pilot, without really being ‘present’.  At work, this can mean we repeatedly act – or react – out of habit in ways that may be counterproductive, even causing stress for ourselves in the process.

We all know we have a choice about our reactions to everyday situations, so how do we switch off the default mode and become more mindful in the everyday?

1.  Change your routine

Just as driving a manual car required me to concentrate more on what I was doing, anything you do different from your normal routine will engage your brain more in whatever it is you’re doing.  For example, you could take a different route, or mode of transport, to get to the office.  Or try out a new response when you answer the phone.

2.  Minimise distractions

It is possible to get through a day without checking your emails every 2 minutes!  (I have tried it…)  Instead, the experts recommend a set time to check your emails, twice a day, say 10am and 4pm.  By starting your day on your most important project, instead of being driven by what’s in your inbox, you’ll feel more in control of your work with a greater sense  of achievement.

As an internet addict myself, I’ve found the use of a program the shuts of internet access for a predetermined period is very effective for increasing focus!

3. Take some action

If you find yourself reacting with annoyance or frustration when confronted by certain people or situations, it’s time to do something about it!  Instead of putting off confronting the issue and causing yourself ongoing tension, focus on how much better (and more effective) you’ll feel once you don’t have to worry about it anymore. 

Of course, one solution may be for you to consciously change your reaction so that you no longer waste time on an unproductive emotion!

Please let me know if these tips – or any others – have helped you to be more effective by posting your comment below.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Wondering what your team’s thinking?

Those who attended our webinar ‘How to Make Your Good Team Great’ last week already know about our ‘Team Health Check’.  (And with our special offer to webinar participants, their requests are coming in fast!)   The Team Health Check has been designed to give you a snapshot of how things are in your team.   This is just the beginning of a process that will take your team to greater effectiveness.  You will get: 

  • An anonymous online survey for all your team (click here for a preview);
  • A written analysis of the survey results;
  • One hour debrief with me that will result in
  • An action plan for your team development.

 

 If your team could be more productive, this service is for you!   

Running a small business, communication within the team is just as important as it is within a business of hundreds of staff.  

Whilst we have many mechanisms for communicating on a regular basis, I felt it important to allow some anonymous feedback within the team, even for me. I asked Susan Rochester to co-ordinate the process to ensure that we had an impartial and confidential collation of the results.   

Susan responded quickly with a summary that allowed me to provide meaningful feedback to all of the team. Our Practice Manager was able to provide feedback for the whole team and also further understand the personalities within the team.

 This made the management process easier for myself and the whole team. Each member of the team gained insights into their own behaviours and effectiveness within the team.  The result has been a greater understanding of each other within the team.

I am looking forward to doing it again soon and expect to do so at least once per year. I recommend using Susan to assist you in your business in this way.    

Bernard FehonCFP™ | Principal Financial Planner | Tactical Solutions   

Please call Susan today to set up your survey.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why is it so hard to get lasting results from team-building activities?

Often when we think a team isn’t as productive as it could be, our first reaction is to spend some money on team-building exercises, often off-site. In my experience, your typical team-buildling challenge or social activity is great for getting out of the office and having some fun together…

What they’re not great for is creating lasting change and this is why:

  • Team building has to happen every day – in the reality of your work environment.
  • Team ‘issues’ are rarely about the team. To resolve them, you have to consider the individuals.
  • Generic team activities are unlikely to address the specific needs of your team.
  • Creating behavioural change requires insight, understanding and time.

 

What will work?

If you’re looking for a way to get your team to work more productively together, look for solutions that:

  • Start with an analysis of your team members’ perceptions of the team;
  • Are based on the realities of your workplace; and
  • Provide suggestions you can implement now for immediate – and lasting – impact.

 

What do you think?

Do you have ideas for effective and lasting team-building?  Please share your insights by adding a comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Team lessons from the last week in politics

In Australia, we have had a recent change of Prime Minister.  Since then, I’ve been reflecting on what we can learn from these events in terms of having effective teams. 

1. People want to be included in decisions that will affect them.  The mining industry is just one example.  The new PM, Julia Gillard, has recognised this, saying “I seek to work inclusively. I seek to bounce ideas around. I seek to get peoples’ views.”

2. It’s important to have a strong leader but risky to invest too heavily in believing their success will be the same as the team’s success.

3. Individual communication skills, behavioural traits and personal style are always going to be important for the collective success of the team because they will influence outsiders’ perception of the team.

4. When it’s time to make a change, acting quickly and decisively will allow you to get on with the task at hand without the distraction of uncertainty and rumours.

Perhaps you have some examples of your own?  Please share your insights by adding a comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you getting the full picture?

Sometimes we make employment decisions without access to all the facts.

When our daughter asked to start piano lessons recently, I didn’t ask to see the teacher’s qualifications before agreeing for her to learn from him.

Qualifications are important!  So why didn’t I even think to ask?  Probably because I’ve had the opportunity to observe not only his musical prowess, but also how he interacts with other students and teachers.  This gave me confidence in his ability as a teacher.

At work, you may know a person’s qualifications but you rarely have the chance for long-term observation before making staffing decisions.  Or do you?

Here are 3 ways you could get more of this important information, by tapping in to what others have observed:

1. Always reference check when hiring and make sure the check is meaningful.  You can do this by having prepared questions, probing when you sense there’s more information and asking a candidate for more referees if you’re not getting the answers you need to make your decision.  If you work in financial services, Standards Australia’s handbook ‘Reference Checking in the Financial Services Industry’ provides an essential guide.

2. If you’re looking for a new staff member, consider people you already know from your business or social networks who might be able to fill the role.  If there’s no-one suitable, ask them if they can recommend anyone.  Remember the last time you hired a painter or plumber?  Did you pick a name from the phone book or ask your friends first?

3. When reviewing staff performance, seek feedback from the employee’s colleagues, team, clients and suppliers.  They will be able to provide you with insights from a different perspective.

You’re unlikely to have the full picture yourself so why not ask for the opinions of people you trust?

With Money Management reporting today that jobs in the Australian financial services sector have jumped by more than 5 per cent since last month, we are likely to see many more staff choosing to make a move.

Under these labour market conditions, it’s critical that you have the right people in the right roles if you want them to stay.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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