Tag Archives: leadership

Open plan office pitfalls?!

I like open plan offices, as it encourages communication. But does it work as well as we think?

Think about average number of distractions during an average work day…..Now take that number and multiply it by 23.

That’s how many minutes of concentration you actually lose. You see, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction.

Distractions side track you for up to a half hour!

In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 23 minutes and 45 seconds. (very few of the twitter posts I read are worth that kind of investment, but perhaps I am just following the wrong people… !)

And all these distractions not only hurt effectiveness, they make us stressed, grumpy and less sharp: “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote.

Are we victims or villains?!

 

Interestingly enough, half the interruptions were self-inflicted. Working on a task and switching tabs to check Facebook, for example, is a self-inflicted interruption. As opposed to, say, a coworker walking over to discuss a project.

We are, essentially, playing tennis with our cognitive energies, volleying them back and forth at a moment’s notice. Only unlike a tennis ball, our brain takes a little time to switch directions. More like a really large ferry…!

And the problem isn’t just the time wasted. We’re sacrificing some of our best thinking: if you keep jumping between different topics and thoughts, how deep can you really get into a subject?!

Does this resonate with you? It does with me. I just don’t know what to do about it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Ice Skater Louise Walden-Edwards talks about making ‘A True Champion’…

After enjoying reading Louise’s previous guest blog post, I asked her to write for me again.  This time after a conversation about the responsibilities we assumes as leaders.  Here is what she has to say…

Who does it take to make a true champion?            

When a sprinter is the first past the finish line or a tennis player scores the winning point of game-set-match or even an ice skater receives the championship winning score, it is the athlete that receives the applause, the medals and the glory.  It is the athlete that gets the credit, the prize money and their national anthem played on the top of the podium. 

“What some may fail to appreciate is what it has actually taken or how many people have in fact contributed to the success of the winning individual(s).” 

My own competitive sporting success, over twenty years took ten ice skating coaches, seven dance teachers, two strength & conditioning coaches, three physiotherapists, one sports specific doctor, two unconditionally supportive parents, one patient sibling, a support network of numerous lifelong friends & family members, four ice skating partners, many doubters, hundreds of dedicated fans and yet more people along the way that inspired me more than I can credit. Unfortunately, in sport there simply isn’t enough time or space on the top of the rostrum for all those people to publicly share that moment of attention in a victory. 

Now my competitive sporting career is over and I move through a new phase in my life, I can intelligently rationalise the people involved in my success became part of the team for their own reasons.  Through a very cold perspective, the professionals in the team were paid to help educate and support me and some also continued on to bigger and better things, helped by the results we achieved together. 

“Loyalty is something that I value immensely myself and when the going gets tough, it can be tested.” 

When there can only be one winner and isn’t you, perhaps performance related mistakes are made or it simply isn’t your day, it is still the athlete who is the head of the team and the one to bear the brunt of the criticism and in turn the guilt. For the athlete, there is no one to hide behind or to move on to, they are the face of the operation.  It is the athlete who must carry the responsibility of the team behind them, they are the ones who must endure the physical and psychological pain of injury, lose sleep over the financial hardship of training expenses and consequently battle to hold the team together and boost collective morale when the cracks show. 

What I can now take pride in with an objective view away from my competitive world, is that the one thing that all those people had in common is and was me. I channeled that concoction of talent, the recipe for success and that refined combination of knowledge, into a world-class winning product.

I was in a sense the managing director of the “brand” that won those medals and that in itself, gives me reassurance in my own ability to move forwards and transition from an athlete into so much more in the future.  The principals that I adopted and the skills that I learnt as an athlete through my chosen network, have given me the confidence that even though I may yet have to realise where my future lies, I will make it.

“With a simple dream of success, hard work, determination and self-belief, if you have the right people around you, with the same common goal…anything is achievable.” 

The true athlete in me still full of passion, will forever be touched by each and everyone one of the people who I chose to contribute to my sporting success. I will always believe the connection I made with these people was more than just business and that we created a “family” together, as opposed to a workforce.  Perhaps an athlete with a different attitude of their own ability would feel differently, but as a little girl with a humble beginning, having the phrase drummed into her by her doting mother “don’t hurt anyone on the way up my love, as you may need them on the way back down”, I will always feel indebted to my teachers, mentors and teammates.  

“I believe that everyone in my career and successes even now, plays a part in making me who I am, even if simply to teach me valuable lesson.” 

I know I have thanked everyone profusely for their involvement in my career but my gratitude and appreciation will never feel sufficient towards the people who have helped me achieved my sporting goals.  I think that perhaps in reflection, the perception I have of this is because even though I may not see those people daily as I once did, their values and principles that they taught me are those in which I live by each and every day in all that I do. Regardless whether it be sport, in business or life, all our experiences are what make me me and for that I will forever be grateful. 

Have you ever watched a Mother?

If you haven’t read Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t , you have missed out. It is a great summary of information, and great food for thought. (See what I did there?!)

It has a telling title, that makes me think of the animal world, but in reverse. There, the leaders eat first, and the last ones to get fed are the weak, old and sick. Survival of the fittest, in it’s truest and cruelest form.

Humans are different.

We are generous, selfless and caring. We can sacrifice ourselves to save someone elses life. In essence, this is what we want from our leaders: that they care for us first, and put themselves second.

Corporate working life isn’t made for parents

It has rigid hours, it is hard to job share, and being a parent (in my case mother) with young children makes you a risky asset. But take a look at a family dinner. Who is up and down the whole time? Who makes sure mum has taken her medicine, filled the toddlers glass, cut the eldest boys food, wiped up the spill on the floor and pulled out the straw for the youngest? Who is scanning the table for what else is needed, is up to get the salt as soon as it is mentioned that it is needed, and generally isn’t sitting down until either asked to, or when everyone is eating?

Who ever it is in YOUR family, THAT’S your true leader.

 

 

 

 

 

6 things that don’t work well for pre-entrepreneurs in corporates…

I know there are a couple of people who might be frowning as they read this post, and for that I am truly sorry. It isn’t personal.

I am often asked if it was scary to take the leap to become a business owner, and I am always slightly surprised by that questions. It wasn’t scary at all. To me it is a very natural state, as I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, where problem solving was paramount to everyday life. When I think back now, corporate life was the scariest out of the two!

Corporate Misfit?

Perhaps that is why I never really felt like I fit in into corporate life — when your fundamental aim is to solve the bigger problem, the following 6 thing don’t work well at all:

  1. silos
  2. red tape
  3. multi lateral politics
  4. Staying in your lane
  5. “It’s just a job” attitude
  6. Personal positioning

Several of the above points is of course things that a lot of great leaders in the corporate world is trying to counteract. They understand fully how it holds people back, stifles innovation and slow down growth. (So those of you who are now frowning: remember, it isn’t personal!)

Is “just do it” the only solution?

Is there a scenario where we can continue to encourage more entrepreneurship in the corporate world? Or is it simply not possible, and the budding entrepreneurs out there should just take the leap and get going, because their profile will never be truly appreciated in the corporate environment anyway?

 

How Your Leadership Affect Your Company’s Culture

Every organization has a culture. For some it is intentional and for some, it just is what it is.
When I think of culture, I think of how the world sees my organization. I also think of how the people inside the enterprise treat their work and the people they engage. A formal definition of culture is this: Organizational culture is the guiding operating system by which people interact and get things done.

I have always been very aware of culture. I am sensitive to the unspoken word, and how people feel has always been very important to me.  Despite this, I have in the past found myself employed in companies I didn’t fit into at all. I didn’t like the people that much and I certainly didn’t have fun. With my own companies, I decided that I didn’t want that to happen again.

For me, culture comes from these 4 things:
1. Strong leadership
It takes work to define the culture elements and a continuous process to keep the company operating by them.
Leaders are responsible for defining the elements of culture and the work to ensure that the company is leading by the principles that shape the organization.
2. Mission
The mission is the point of the organization. Every organization has a purpose. The reason “why the organization exists.” Leaders define how to take that purpose and make it bigger. It is about the impact on the community and the world. It can never be just to make money. Mission guides the future you are creating and how you intend to contribute to it.
As an example, London Medical Education Academy’s Mission is to “Make doctors better surgeons without harming patients during training by using cadaveric tissue samples for surgical skills labs.”
3. Vision
The day-to-day experience is the vision of the company. Vision paints a picture of what the organization looks like over a set time frame. JUNE MEDICAL uses a 2-year vision as part of our culture to frame the experience for each employee.
Vision tells the story of how the organization will look as it is in service to the mission.
4. Values
The values are guiding principles of the organization. Values become the tool by which each employee does their work and interacts with the people that come in contact with the company. It tells us WHO we are and HOW we are.

For my companies the values become the guiding principles.
Values become a central part of the company’s unspoken conversations. The key point is to make sure you are using values that really matter to the company, mission and vision of the organization.

One word of warning though….: Don’t put values on the wall, unless your values are visible in your work each and every day.

Unless you are authentic in your leadership, no Mission/Vision or Value statement in the world can help you build a truly winning team.

We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika.

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We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika, all in the name of productivity.

Having spent many years in large corporate companies, massive giants with 50,000-100, 000 employees, I don’t even dare to estimate how many of my working hours were spent locked up in meetings, or my favourite part, preparing slides for meetings. Since I started my first own company, we don’t do that anymore. Ever!

So how do we make sure everyone is informed, is up to speed and delivers a stellar performance? With a few simple house rules around respect and integrity, and three key important methods:

1. We Fika – The Swedish coffee break where my employees and I (often across companies since several of the companies I own operate from the same address) have coffee and tea and eat cake. It is an informal break to the day, and it is usually spontaneous.

It doesn’t happen every day, but it is a simple way to stop and reflect on the day in a relaxed environment. It helps us talk things through and get each other’s input, it gives a relaxed place to iron out potential misunderstandings and it fosters communication, sharing, understanding and collaboration. And we get to eat cake.

2. Group brain exercises regularly. Just like any employer who promotes employee wellbeing, we encourage fitness and healthy lifestyles, but we also encourage exercising the brain. After all, that is the body part we use the most in our job. We have training sessions several times a week, and work both individually and as a group.

A great example last week was when our marketing assistant needed to work on her tone of voice to become more assertive when discussing with suppliers. We spent 20 minutes using body language, observing each other, making physical adjustments and shouting at each other to learn how the body position influences the voice. Loud shouting and then loud laughter. Good for everyone!

3. Walking meetings – going for a walk instead of sitting down to talk; These work best with only two or three people. It helps with energy levels, concentration and clarity. It is more difficult to get frustrated and angry while walking than while sitting in a chair so it can really take the edge off any challenging or sensitive topics that you may have to discuss with your team.

7 considerations for aborting mission

When you’re working on a project, it is sometimes easy to get emotionally attached. From time to time, that means that decisions are taken differently during than they would have been before the start of the project.

Usually when I ask people about their exit strategy, they think I mean how they will sell their company and retire. Not at all: I am talking about how to know when to abandon the plan.

Let me give you an example.

Marianne had been working with her Dance school for years, and she had made it a second home for her three girls who had spent pretty much every day after school in the studio. As a leak in the building made her financial situation strained, the smart move would have been to cut it lose, and to relocate to a different venue.

But, because her day to day business and personal life was entangled with emotional ties, she endured 5 really difficult years in the same location, before she finally gave up, having lost most her savings. Had she been making the same decision if this was identified as a risk and had a mitigation plan before she started? Probably not.

An exit strategy should contain the following considerations (…as a start. There will be more that are specific to your business):

Ask yourself this:

  1. TIME: How long am I willing to go before I say this isn’t working? 1 year? 3 years?
  2. MONEY: What is the maximum financial figure I can commit to putting into the business, and when do I cut my losses?
  3. OWNERSHIP: What are the areas of the business that I would be willing to give up to take in financial support (if any) if I needed to? What’s the maximum shares I am willing to sell?
  4. ILLNESS: What do I do if I or someone who depends on me get really ill? What is my contingency plan?
  5. RISKS: What are the top 10 risks in my company and current set up, and how do I mitigate that?
  6. TRADE OFFS: At what point do I decide the risks are not worth the (potential) rewards?
  7. COMMITMENTS: Are there commitments that I am not prepared to sign? Long term contracts, legal obligations, other?

The above is tremendously useful things to consider and have a plan for. Discuss them with your business partner if you have one – more often than not we have very different views on things like this, and it is good to be VERY specific. And make a plan for what happens if you disagree. Write it down. It may all change, but at least you have a starting point when things get rocky.

Also discuss this with your family. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you, and after all, he or she is one of your most important stakeholders as you embark on a new venture.

Good luck. You have taken a whole list of unknowns and turned them into something tangible. Of course there can be surprises you haven’t planned for, but you have narrowed that down tremendously.

And hopefully you will never have to use any of this!