5 Tips to Help You Switch Off From Work

5 Tips to Help You Switch Off From Work

By Karen Amos

I see a lot of posts on social media about people who find they can't switch off during the holidays.  Is this you?  Whether you're going away somewhere or having a break at home, the feeling that your long awaited holiday is finally here, but your mind's whirring like a machine and all you can think about is how many jobs there are to do when you get back - if not before!

As a note of reassurance here, you're not alone.  The pace of the working week can seem relentless.  For some the 'end of the (working) day' never really comes, particularly with the advent of home-working.  This means we're living in an 'Always On' state of high arousal levels and stress.

In simple terms, this means rather than your adrenaline response shutting off, allowing your stress to ebb and flow naturally, your brain has its foot on the gas pedal and keeps it there.  This response is supposed to be fleeting - just long enough for you to get yourself out of imminent danger.  In the case of workplace stress, it can remain in place.  For months sometimes.  This leaves your body and brain unable to simply flick the switch to turn off the response, even though it's not needed any more.

So what to do?  Here are a few tips to help train your brain to lift its foot off your stress gas pedal, so you can work and rest productively.

Tip #1:

See time off as an investment - Explore and clarify to yourself how you will be more productive if you take time off to rest, whether that's for an evening, a weekend or a holiday.  Set out clearly what you would gain - naming it makes all the difference, then you know what you're aiming for.

Tip #2:

Make a list of everything that needs to be done - Include everything, big or small.  This allows you to stop worrying that you’ve forgotten something and allows you to stop spinning those mental plates.  Remind yourself you can add any jobs, when they come into your head as you go along.

Tip #3:

Prioritise what needs to be done – Do a reality check and ask yourself - Is this thing possible? – is it essential? – Also ask yourself what would happen if this wasn’t completed before the end of the month, or if you were off sick?  Chances are most of these tasks will be less 'urgent' and 'important' than you feel they are right now.  Where you can, block out things into a basic timescale or planner.

Tip #4:

Switch off your media – This means no checking in on emails and social media.   Give yourself a digital detox and if you find this makes you anxious or you have such strong ingrained habits to pick up your phone, put your phone or laptop out of reach at least for a short while.

Tip #5:

Find something practical to do – If you engage in a practical activity, you're more likely to be distracted from the anxious feelings, at least for a while.  Get outdoors for some exercise.  Not only is this a great stress-buster, it will also help you to sleep.  Whether it's indoors or outdoors, book activities in that you enjoy and revel in that restorative distraction.  Why not catch up with friends and family too?  Having a laugh and talking with others is a great distraction.  Just stick to those positive people in your life and avoid the 'joy stealers'!

Hopefully, these will help you set some positive habits and ensure you have some quality time off so you're well-rested and on top of your game when you return to work.  In the meantime, here's wishing everyone a positive and productive month, no matter what you have planned!

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how our coaching and training services can help you, check out our website HERE, or call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

 


Feeling overloaded? The solution might not be less work...

Feeling overloaded? The solution might not be less work...

By Karen Amos

I’ve just had a couple of interesting sessions with clients, exploring how to create capacity within their organisation and their life in general.  Many of us know the feeling of being up to, if not over capacity and the stress, pressure and often anxiety this brings.  It’s almost a fact of modern working life - that feeling there’s just no wriggle room and that you daren’t even think about what happens if one more thing goes wrong, or there’s a bout of sickness or a resignation.

I’m a coach not a magician, so I can’t manifest time that doesn’t exist – although it wouldn’t be a bad superpower would it?  What I can do often feels a little magical though in the turn-around it brings people, but there’s no woo-woo involved – I simply help my clients find clarity.

Often when I start working with clients, particularly around any ‘Time Management’ type issues, they expect me to do the usual, ‘Prioritise your tasks… delegate…, etc., etc.’   There's very much a time and a place for these tools and I frequently use these along with other time management techniques, this usually isn’t my starting point.

The fact is that most time management issues stem from a mindset issue.  This is a kind of good news/bad news situation though.

The bad news is that this means the root of the problem lies with how you view it, so no blaming other people for your problems.  You know, the whole, 'My boss is so mean to me' routine.  A bit harder to do when you're self-employed mind.

The good news is that simply changing how we think, can completely transform our situation.

When I work with my clients, we look at what’s going on… then look at what’s REALLY going on!  That’s the key to coaching – getting right down to the root cause of the problem.  We often find this too difficult to do on our own, as we’re viewing the world through a filter of our emotions, values, experiences and expectations.  A good coach will help you work out exactly what your pressure points are and also your priority outcomes. (Hint – we often confuse activity with outcomes and these really, really are not the same thing!)

One of the questions I often ask my clients is:

What would change if you accept the fact there will always be too much to do in any given day/ week/ month/ year? 

Along with:

What would you do differently if you believed your wellbeing and happiness was just as important as everyone else’s?

By asking these types of questions, I can bring a fresh pair of eyes for my clients, helping them make decisions and create the space they need to work on the stuff that really counts.   So to paraphrase that paragon of Stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius, the difficulty is often not what's going on around us, but our response to this.

If you'd like to find out how our 1-to-1 coaching programmes can help you get 'unstuck' and move forward this year...

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or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat

 

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


Does your wellbeing strategy add to your stress?

Does your wellbeing strategy add to your stress?

By Karen Amos

Are you working in education?  Are you feeling under pressure, stressed, or that your general wellbeing just isn't that great?  You probably already know this, but I'll say it anyway - you're not alone.  BUT WAIT!  Whatever happened to the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter?  After all, it was only launched in Autumn 2021 and who doesn't love a new initiative...?

Thinking back to my time in leadership roles in the public sector, the NHS in particular, I can remember that sinking feeling when yet another ‘initiative’ landed on my desk.  Not that they were always bad (although to be fair, some were shockers), but I recall that feeling of overwhelm, wondering where and how I could find the resources and time to actually implement this, without dropping another plate.

I’m not going to tell anyone working in education that they have a tough job.  That’s like telling a sheep it’s woolly.  There’s a degree of acceptance of an education professional's lot in working life – and by this I’m meaning everyone working in education, not just teachers - and to corrupt a song, 'a teacher's lot is not a happy one'.  The fact is the statistics make grim reading.

I don’t believe there’s anything to gain in playing misery ‘top trumps’ with other jobs and sectors.  This doesn’t get anyone anywhere.  Many sectors have huge issues with stress and burnout, each with its own particular issues and education is no exception.  The fact is however, that education does rank in the top 4 most stressful occupations in the UK. ¹

So here are some numbers:

  • 72% of education professionals described themselves as being ‘stressed’ in 2021 (84% of senior leaders)2
  • Unsurprisingly, this was up from an already high 64% in June 20202
  • 70% of Education staff (80% of senior leaders) who considered leaving the profession did so due to workload2
  • 54% considered leaving due to personal mental health and wellbeing2

I believe this is the tip of the iceberg and that the issue is significantly under-reported for many reasons.  If you have time, do check out the links below for more information.  (Short pause for you to laugh derisively at the word ‘time’…)

From a leadership view, I see there are two issues with wellbeing in the workplace. 

Firstly, there’s an ethical issue.  No-one should come to work and be made ill or unhappy.  That’s my mantra.  I have personal (negative) experience in this area.  We can all have a rubbish day from time to time, but if we’re accepting this as the norm, then something’s seriously broken.

Secondly, there’s the financial issue - and let’s face it, this is often the deal-breaker.  Few would argue against the ethics of having a healthier workplace and workforce.  The difficulty lies in implementing this – either though lack of time and resources, or simply the financial pressures of balancing already stretched budgets.

NB: Whilst there’s also a legal/compliance issue with wellbeing, I’d suggest this comes from a combination of ethical and financial (i.e. costs to the state) issues.

So, if the finances are the clincher, here are a few more stats:

  • 50% of all working days lost in the UK in 2020/21 were due to work-related ill health1
  • Education is one of the top 3 most stressful sectors in the UK 1
  • Poor mental health amongst employees costs £42–45 bn in the UK each year - This includes the costs of absence/presenteeism and turnover3
  • The cost of poor mental health to the UK education sector (and public purse) is estimated to be £1.1 – 1.5 bn per year3
  • This equates to £1203 - £1585 per education employee per year3

So what to do?

Whilst there’s lots everyone can do to improve wellbeing in education, it’s obvious there is no quick fix and I’ll be writing more extensively on this in future articles.  In the meantime however, we should take note of the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter4 , where it states that there are no expectations that ‘managers [will] provide professional wellbeing support for which they have no professional training.'  In short - you can't be all things to all people.

Instead, I suggest we should take a holistic view, rather than the traditional sticking-plaster approach.  This will take time and starts with building a wellbeing culture.  To do that we need to throw away any badges of honour that go with working ridiculous, impossible hours and begin meaningful conversations with those around us.  This means we have to be prepared to hear uncomfortable truths.  Additionally, it’s now time to check our own personal story - from one that talks about ‘overworked education professionals', to one that says ‘This is not acceptable’ and ‘I deserve more’.

  1. HSE – Work related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain - 2021
  2. Education Support – Teacher Wellbeing Index - 2021
  3. Deliotte – Mental Health and Employers – Refreshing the case for investment – Jan 2020
  4. The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter

If you would like to find out more about BrightBird's online Positive & Productive Wellbeing Programme, click HERE.

Down-to-earth, straight-talking support for you and your team to manage stress, build resilience and time management skills and develop a positive mindset.  Delivered at a time and pace to suit you.

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports education leaders and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and wellbeing. 

 


Top Tips for Avoiding Boiling Frog Syndrome...

Top Tips For Avoiding Boiling Frog Syndrome

By Karen Amos

As we enter this uncertain future, there are plenty of opportunities to change things for the better.  We've opportunity to try new ways of working and build new habits.  Equally though, there are threats that we'll slip back into old ways, despite the rhetoric and good intentions. After all, change requires effort and after a tough day at work and all the demands of modern life, I don't know about you, but sometimes that extra bit of effort is just too much to ask.  (And a nice sit down with a good book is much more appealing...)

This reminds me of the Boiling Frog Syndrome...

This is a somewhat gruesome metaphor where a frog is slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. ¹ (I did warn you!)

There are several interpretations of this story, but the one that jumped out at me (See what I did there!) is the need to be aware of negative threats that arise gradually, leaving us unaware of the danger until the situation is critical and in many cases, terminal.

This led me to reflect on how this applied in real-life and here are a few thoughts and tips to avoid overcooking our frogs...

Personal Wellbeing...

It’s a strange one isn’t it?  We mostly know what is good and not so good for us regarding our wellbeing - whether that’s mental, physical or otherwise - but it’s always an effort to maintain it.  Good habits slip and before we know it, we’re stressed out, anxious or fighting the flab and trying to regain lost energy.

Stress and our mental health can be a very slippery slope.  We accept one more task, another responsibility, lose another hour’s sleep and without recognising why, we find ourselves in tears, yelling at the kids, or slumped at the laptop wondering how to get through the day.

I’m sure many of you will recognise yourself in at least one of these examples.  I train others on this stuff for a living, but it's still a constant battle to stay on track.  The problem is that the downward spiral is gradual and mostly painless – until you reach the bottom.

Here are some helpful tips and coaching questions to keep your frog healthy…

  1. Have a plan

Seems a bit obvious right?  But without a plan, you won’t know whether things are going astray until something critical happens to remind you.  With a clear plan, you can measure your progress alongside expected outcomes and take corrective action quickly.

This could be a business plan, a marketing plan, or even your own 'get-and-stay-fit' plan.

  1. Get a sounding board

Whether that’s a coach, mentor, or just a trusted friend or colleague, we all need someone who has our back and who we can check in with, but more importantly someone who will give us some honest feedback and advice.  Not only do we need these people, but we need to ensure we plan in non-negotiable time for this checking in, as remember that we don’t recognise the need as the water gets gradually hotter.  I always ensure I've people around me with whom I can have that, 'Is it me...?' conversation - in the knowledge that they may well say, 'Yes, actually Karen... this time it is just you!'

  1. Build in regular wellbeing check-ins:

Boiling frog syndrome is allowed to occur because we simply don't recognise our personal 'Red Flags' until it's too late.  We're completely enmeshed in stress and often by then, it's having a huge detrimental impact on our work, life and wellbeing.

One simple way to avoid this slippery slope is to schedule in regular check-ins with ourselves.  This could be as simple as scoring your stress levels on a scale of 1-10.  Whilst it's a completely subjective and individual approach, it gives you the opportunity to recognise when you need to start taking some remedial action before it's too late.  We discuss this much more in our Positive and Productive programme.

So to avoid boiling your frog, ask yourself these useful coaching questions on a regular basis:

    • What are my pressure points right now?
    • Is this level of pressure tolerable – if so, for how long before I need to take action?
    • Would I think my current situation was acceptable for my friend/colleague/family member?
    • What action would I be advising them to take?
    • What are my warning signs that something needs to change?
    • Is there anything I could STOP doing right now that would actually improve my situation?
    • What could I replace this activity with, that would improve my personal wellbeing and that of my business/organisation/education setting?

Remember, we need to ensure we check the ‘water temperature’ regularly.  Build this into your diary, perhaps at the start or end of every week – that way you won’t be lulled into inaction by the nice warm water…

¹ Boiling frog - Wikipedia

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.

For schools

For Business and VCSE organisations

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


Feeling Overwhelmed? Try Chunking...

Feeling Overwhelmed?  Try Chunking...

By Karen Amos

I recently returned from holiday feeling very rested.  I was raring to get stuck back into work – I’ve loads of exciting work, opportunities and projects going on right now.  The thing is I didn’t – get stuck into work I mean.  I just couldn’t find the concentration required to knuckle down to the work, with the inevitable self-recrimination that brings.  That just brought me more stress.

The thing was I couldn’t understand why.  I love my work and all the jobs I had lined up were things I enjoy (well, apart from my book-keeping, but let’s not talk about that right now!).

So what was going on?

I’ve finally realised after a few days it was good old overwhelm.  I was simply trying to hold too much in my head at once.  Now those of you that already know me will know I’m a huge fan of lists, so I don’t have to hold loads of info in my head, so why didn’t they work?  The answer was that the tasks felt too diverse – they were like confetti being scattered all over the place and I was spending way too much mental energy keeping it all swept into a pile.

So here’s when I decided to chunk my work.

Chunking is simply the art of pulling together similar pieces of work or information to allow our brain some space to actually work on things.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but here’s how it worked for me…

Step 1 – I wrote down the main functions of my business – e.g. financial, marketing, clients, etc.

Step 2 – Under each of these I listed the main things I need to achieve over the next month – e.g. follow up clients, arrange meetings with contacts, write blogs…

Step 3 – I created a ‘Drop List’ on my One Note app where I can check in with these mini ‘chunks’ and ‘drop’ any new items in there as they arise, or that I may have missed.

Step 4 – Check in at the beginning of each week to plan in time to address each of these issues.

But isn’t this just adding another layer to an already significant workload?

In fact, this is just the opposite.  Now I’ve captured everything I need to do and organised it into meaningful ‘chunks’, I have freed up brain space to actually work on the tasks.  This also gives me opportunity to schedule work into my planner, helping me to estimate how much time I’ll actually need to complete the things I’ve identified.

Along with this, as a person with strong visual preferences, I've colour coded each chunk too.  This helps my brain to separate these out.

The result?  A clear focus, less anxiety and more productivity.  Give it a try if you’re feeling that you’re just not making a dent into your tasks.

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.

For schools

For Business and VCSE organisations

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

 


Professional Fatigue – Taking steps to recovery…

Professional Fatigue – Taking steps to recovery…

By Karen Amos

‘Fatigue’ and 'Exhaustion' seem to be the word of the moment for many, with an inevitable impact on productivity and mental wellbeing.  Of course, some sectors are suffering more than others, education and health care to name but two, but there are increasing signs of strain everywhere.

Whilst there's no magic wand (I wish!), here are some tips and coaching questions to help you on the road to recovery...

Prioritise:

I’m not going to suggest you just down tools.  OK, if that’s possible with no consequence, go ahead, but for most people that just isn’t the case.  There will definitely be some activities that are ‘must do’s’ at the moment however, and some that will have lesser consequences if not done immediately.

'Where am I feeling the pressure right now?'

Ask yourself, ‘Where am I most feeling the pressure right now?’, then list all the things you can do to minimise or eliminate this, however improbable these may seem.  Talking this over with a colleague or someone else you trust can help you out of the ‘stuck-ness’.  It may, for example, feel impossible that you can hand some tasks over or re-schedule, but an outside perspective often helps bring a new reality.  Many more things are possible than we first perceive.

Another useful question to help challenge is, ‘What will happen if I don’t do this activity right now?’ and if it’s unavoidable, ‘How long can I postpone it for to give me more space and time to restore my energy levels?

Rest:

This is so obvious to be insulting right?  But, even in the best of times, most people don't get enough proper rest.  Again, it’s easier said than done, but many of us are experiencing a state of underlying anxiety and in some cases, possibly hypervigilance.  This leads us to constantly scan our horizon for threats and reassurance that all’s ok.  Signs of this include sleeplessness and constant checking in, or compulsion to check in on the latest news and social media updates.

The paradox is that the more we check and strive to stay on top of things, the more tired and less productive/more anxious we become.

Here are some ways you can give yourself permission to rest:

  • Take time off work – This is the obvious one, but many of us haven't had a 'proper' break for months now and have nothing booked in for the near future.  It seemed a bit pointless to take time off when we couldn’t really go anywhere during lockdown and for many people a 'proper holiday' means abroad.  No matter what your plans, it can help to plan some activities in beforehand though, so you feel your time has been well spent – even if that means catching up on some reading or taking a day-trip from home.   Taking time off means a complete break however – no checking in on calls, or emails.  Just a couple of days can make all the difference.  To do this consistently, engage and discuss this with your team beforehand to ensure you’re not disturbed.  Remember to plan ahead and book the time off in your diary.  It's unlikely to happen if you don't.
  • Cut out the media Give yourself a social media break. You can do this by:
    • Allocating a specific window of time you’ll check in each day
    • Blocking or unfollowing accounts that you find stressful or negative
    • Asking yourself, ‘Will reading this help me right now?’ if you’re tempted to click on something contentious that’d send your blood pressure soaring
    • Having a social media ‘holiday’. Switch off or even uninstall the apps on your phone
    • Make social media unavailable. If you find yourself getting caught in a ‘scroll hole’, put your phone out of reach. I charge my phone on the landing each night, so I don’t take it into the bedroom
  • Ration the news Things are changing fast at the moment, so it’s natural to want to be on top of developments, but again, this can feed anxiety. One way to solve this can be to set a daily check in on the news.  Choose your preferred news ‘channel’, be that on TV, the radio, or the internet and set a time each day where you’ll have a proper catch up.
  • Set manageable working hours Even in the best of times, there’s always more to do than there is time to do it in. Accepting that is the first step to taking back control.  Remember that the longer we work, the less productive we become, so long working weeks quickly become counterproductive.
    • Planning a start and finish time for your day in advance.
    • Set out what you wish to achieve that day – remembering to keep this realistic and finish as soon as you've completed your tasks.
    • Plan in what you will do when you finish work. That way you’ve something to aim for.
    • Packing away your laptop/work equipment when you’ve reached your finish time. This is particularly important when working from home.
    • Asking someone to give you a nudge when you reach your prearranged finishing time.
    • Telling work colleagues when you will/won’t be available and asking them to help you with this by not contacting you outside these times.

Looking at the tips above, try this coaching question:

 

Remember to enlist others to help you to succeed.  Your colleagues, friends and family can make great accountability buddies.  Good luck with your next steps...

For further support for you or your team, check out our training page HERE.

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

 


Investing in Staff Wellbeing - Can you afford not to?

Investing in Staff Wellbeing – Can you afford not to?

By Karen Amos

The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter is launched this autumn.  Whilst few would argue this isn’t needed in the sector, the practicalities of publicly signing up and implementing such a measure can have the paradoxical effect of actually increasing the stress of those charged with the task.

This is a fantastic opportunity to commit to positive steps to improve the working lives of all working in education.  The danger is however, that it becomes another ‘bolt-on’ to the day-to-day work.  The fact is that for any actions to be truly meaningful, the principles of this charter need to form the bedrock of your setting and define your wellbeing culture.

So what is culture?

Culture can be defined as the guiding beliefs and values evident in the way a school operates. ¹  Put simply, culture is seen in our behaviour, or ‘the way we do things around here’. ²

This is more than just having some pretty graphics of your values on the wall.  This is about observable, tangible behaviour.  For good or bad, your setting’s culture is determined by how people consistently behave.

In practical terms, this means we have to do much more than just bring cake into the staff room.  This is a nice gesture, not a wellbeing support intervention.  If you have a team who are stressed out and on the edge, you’re quite likely to make matters worse and risk being told where to shove your cake, if there are no other support mechanisms in place.

The costs of not implementing a wellbeing culture:

Of course there are clear ethical issues why staff wellbeing should be a priority.  But there is also a financial and business case for improving wellbeing too.

The latest Education Support Teacher Wellbeing Index survey showed some shocking statistics. If they don’t constitute a crisis in the education sector right now, there should certainly be some very loud alarm bells ringing.

Deliotte’s research highlights the financial impact of the problem.   The cost to the Education Sector in 2020 in the UK is £1.1 – 1.5 billion per year.   That £1.1-1.5 thousand per education staff per year.   Let’s put the ethics aside for a moment and just ask yourself what your setting could do with that money instead?  What difference would this make to the outcomes of the children or communities you work in?

There are obvious costs such as sickness absence, but also other less obvious, but equally impactful issues, such as lack of productivity and presenteeism from burnt out or disillusioned staff.  And what about the time costs of counselling unproductive, unhappy or unwell staff teams.  How much time do you and your team spend each month on these activities, when someone reaches crisis point?

Viewed this way, implementing a culture where staff wellbeing is front and centre should be seen as an investment, not a drain on resources.  In fact, Deloitte4 found a clear Return on Investment from implementing wellbeing support in the workplace, with a 10:1 ROI on training.

Also at a time where many schools are struggling to recruit the right calibre of candidates, wouldn’t it be a benefit for your setting to be seen as a ‘go to’ employer?

How to implement a wellbeing culture in a busy setting:

Whilst there is some element of ‘setting up’, a successful wellbeing culture shouldn’t add to your workload and does not have to mean a major financial investment.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Embed wellbeing in training and development – The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter states there is no expectation for managers to provide professional wellbeing support for which they have no professional training, so…
  • Consider outsourcing – See this as an investment. How much do you currently spend in staff cover or lost productivity?  Consider the business case for bringing in the experts, whether that’s training, resources, or an Employee Assistance Programme.
  • Build staff engagement – start with building great conversations in your setting. Not just between managers and their teams, but also between peers.  Recent surveys show that 57% of education staff were not confident in sharing unmanageable stress/mental health issues at work.  3  Building trust and understanding are key to positive staff engagement.

Building trust and understanding are key to positive staff engagement – which leads us to…

  • Develop a supportive leadership culture – Where people feel supported, not criticised. Using a coaching approach is a fantastic and practically cost-free strategy.  This doesn’t mean lengthy 1-to-1 sessions with people, but simply that we have meaningful conversations where leaders are curious and solution-focused.
  • Draw up a Wellbeing Strategy – this will support everyone to maintain realistic expectations and standards, including around workload. This doesn’t need to be a huge document. No-one needs another ‘War and Peace’ that never sees the light of day.  Just one page with your aims for the coming year and a couple of concrete actions constitute a strategy.  This could be as simple as having a realistic workload policy and an effective return to work interview format.
  • Develop robust HR procedures and get the right support – This way you can ensure you ‘do the right thing’ by your staff, but also ensure any responses and approaches are proportionate and aligned with your setting’s wider strategy and outcomes. This isn’t about giving in to unreasonable demands or lowering standards, but setting clear expectations and knowing what support you will and won’t give.

The ethical argument in favour of building a wellbeing culture should be obvious, but if implemented, everyone wins.  Everyone.  The children, the staff, the setting, the community… everyone.  What are your next steps?

  1. Fullan, M., (2007) The new meaning of educational change, Routledge, New York.
  2. Hawkins, P., (2021) Creating a coaching culture: Developing a coaching strategy for your organisation, Open University Press, UK.
  3. Education Support Teacher Wellbeing Index 2020
  4. Deloitte – Mental Health and Employers –  Refreshing the case for investment – 2020

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.  

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For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


What to do when positive thinking isn't enough...

What to do when positive thinking isn't enough...

By Karen Amos

I can’t think of anyone who’s not been challenged in one way or another by the pandemic over this last 9 months.  Whilst this has certainly tested many of us in the extreme, this is just one of many challenges life will send our way.

As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the frequently misunderstood philosophy of Stoicism, which is often misinterpreted as the British ‘stiff upper-lip’, ‘putting up with misfortune’ view of life.  In reality, stoicism teaches us a very practical lesson – that in life, circumstances will continue to challenge us, but it is within our gift to decide how we will respond to them.

Here’s a quote by Epicticus:

‘When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude towards it. It is not the things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance. Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor are they what they seem to be. They are what they are.’

Often coaching is seen as a bit ‘Pollyanna – all in the garden is rosy’, which is why many people (with some justification) cite ‘toxic positivity’ at the relentless ‘just think positive’ messages.  In fact coaching at it’s best is nothing of the sort.  Tony Robbins has a great approach to this.  I paraphrase:

Just relying on a positive thinking alone is like going into your garden and chanting ‘there are no weeds, there are no weeds’, when your garden’s clearly full of weeds.  You need to get in there and pull them out!

We need to accept that life is frequently challenging and bad stuff happens.  Rather than passively accepting that, drowning in self-misery, or railing against the universe, we need to roll up our sleeves and deal with it.  We need to take action that will serve us well.

Here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What’s my main challenge here?
  • Is there a small, practical action I can take that will serve me better right now?
  • What are the costs and benefits of my current approach/attitude?  What can I do differently that will move me forward and have a positive effect?

Remember, we’re all human and it’s important to acknowledge our feelings.  If something bad happens it’s perfectly natural and healthy to feel down, upset or angry.  The problem is that simply dwelling on these feelings and responses will not serve us well, or help our situation.  It’s therefore in your gift and best interests to start to coach yourself to a better way forward that will.

If you'd like support for you or your team to reduce stress and build resilience and effectiveness at work, get in touch for an informal, no-obligation chat.  Watch out for our NEW Positive & Productive Programme - launching January 2021! Contact us for more details or click HERE.

We offer one-to-one and team coaching and in-house training programmes.

Call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.ukOr visit our NEW training pages HERE 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports under-pressure business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

 


Want to Avoid Catastrophe? Mind Your Language!

Want to Avoid Catastrophe? Mind Your Language!

By Karen Amos

Well, 2020 truly is the gift that keeps on giving!  Have you ever wondered though, how some people seem to sail through things easier than others?  The reason isn’t usually due to their circumstances, but all about mindset – that is to say, the way they think about or perceive things.

The great thing about our mindset is that we can change it and by doing so, we can change our perception and in turn our experience in life.


Just a quick cautionary note here.  Some people are experiencing truly catastrophic events right now; they are suffering the loss of loved ones and failure of businesses they have invested their life savings in.  This article isn’t about negating these events – we need to be allowed to freely express our emotions at this time – but rather that our day-to-day language needs to be proportionate and also ‘helpful’ to us.


Mind your language...

The language we habitually use can significantly impact our mindset – negatively or positively.  This has never been so crucial as at a time like the one we’re living through.  There’s a phrase to describe this as coined by Albert Ellis – ‘AWFULIZING’ – where we perceive or describe a situation as being much worse than it actually is. ¹  I had such an experience in a recent coaching session with a client.

Like many people, my client is working under huge pressure due to the covid situation.  They are supporting a team who are dealing with negative changes on a daily, if not hourly basis.  What jumped out at me was the language she and the team were using.  ‘I had a meltdown,’ and ‘It’s a nightmare,’ were just a couple of examples.

Let’s just examine this for a moment.  ‘Meltdown’.  ‘Nightmare’. Really?  When we started to unpick this, it was obvious that such extreme language was actually adding to the stress and anxiety experienced by both the person saying the words and those hearing it.

Other commonly used catastrophic expressions include:

  • I’m overwhelmed…
  • It was devastating…
  • The situation is terrifying…
  • I’m exhausted…

Quite simply, our words generate an emotional response, so catastrophic language leads to heightened arousal levels whereas more ‘neutral’ or ‘positive’ language has the opposite effect.

So what to do? 

If you find yourself or others around you using awfulizing, catastrophic, or just plain exaggerated language, there are some useful coaching questions that can help:

  • Is this really a ‘disaster’ [insert chosen catastrophic phrase as desired!]?
  • Is there a more accurate way to describe this?
  • What’s really going on here?
  • What’s the evidence telling me?
  • What did I actually see, hear, experience?
  • Are there any positives here? (There are usually some things that we can take from a situation, however awful – e.g. that you were really challenged, but managed to contain the situation.)

Recognise and Replace...

Using the ‘recognise and replace’ process to build new, more helpful habits and language is an easy and effective way to reduce your stress.  You ‘recognise’ that you (or others) have used overly catastrophic or dramatic language, then ‘replace’ this with something more representative of what’s really happened.  By doing so, you increase personal resilience and empowerment and decrease stress levels – both for yourself and others.

An example might be:

“This situation is a complete nightmare!”

Becomes…

“Things are really challenging us from lots of angles at the moment.  Our resources are stretched and we need to make some tough decisions.”

The latter example leaves people feeling more in control and empowered within their situation.  Try it!

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_emotive_behavior_therapy

If you'd like support for you or your team to reduce stress and build resilience and effectiveness at work, get in touch for an informal, no-obligation chat. 

We offer one-to-one and team coaching and in-house training programmes.

Call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.ukOr visit our NEW training pages HERE 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports under-pressure business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

 


Don't be an ostrich - Dare to ask!

Don't be an ostrich - Dare to ask!

By Karen Amos

The change continues inexorably onwards, although thankfully not always at this pace.  It’s clear however, that the current challenges and uncertainties are going to be with us for a significant time to come.

There are an overwhelming amount of challenges facing managers and business owners as we leave lockdown, whether that's in business, schools, or organisations, including:

  • Bringing staff back into the workplace from home working or furlough
  • Managing geographically dispersed teams
  • Managing redundancy and re-structures
  • Managing the health and safety needs of staff and the public

Whilst home-working has introduced increased effectiveness in many areas, there are difficulties too.  If you’re used to asking a question from the person sat at the next desk for example, there’s an inevitable time lag if you’re homeworking.

Additionally, whilst there was a huge novelty factor for many at the start of homeworking, there’s now a marked division in those who want to remain working from home and those who are desperate to return to the workplace.  Failure to address this will cost many businesses enormously.

Socially distanced working and constant change also means managers have to work extra hard at employee engagement, particularly when there are tough business and strategic decisions that need to be taken.

Of course, with challenges also come opportunities.

  • For managers and business owners to review their role and what this means in relation to the team and productivity
  • To forge a new, stronger relationship with the team
  • To re-generate a more positive culture
  • To harness new ideas and ways of working to strengthen the organisation for the future

The challenge of course, is how to maximise those opportunities in the face of what are complex business and organisational landscapes.  How do you balance the need for honesty, whilst giving your teams the support they need?

The answer lies in questions.  This will be no surprise to many of you that by this, I mean taking a coaching approach.

I know from personal experience that this can be scary.  After all, we may not get the answer we would like!  I’ve certainly worked with some people in my remote past whom I would have quailed to ask for fear of opening the inevitable humongous can of worms that would follow.  With that comes the ostrich approach to management.  You know the one – asking the cheery, ‘How is everyone today? All well? Oh, good!’, whilst departing the room at a rate of knots.  But at least you asked didn’t you?

Nowadays thankfully, I know better.  Asking meaningful questions doesn't mean throwing yourself to the lions, then being left in a position where you can’t possibly deliver on the answer.  Instead this involves employee engagement in its truest sense, where everyone is supported to take appropriate responsibility for seeking solutions.

Often our first response is to jump in and ‘do the right thing’ like some managerial Tigger, who is inevitably left wondering, ‘What happened there?’  Instead, we’re talking about a more consultative approach.  Coaching isn’t about giving everyone what they ask for – the needs of the business must come first, after all, that’s why you’re all there.

 

 

 

 

Ask yourself and your team the following coaching questions to help understand what’s really needed:

  • What is and isn’t working for you right now?
  • How would you prefer things to be in an ideal world?
  • What do you need to be productive and well at work?
  • What are your main challenges right now?
  • What do you foresee your challenges to be in the short/medium and long term?

Then follow up with:

  • What would help right now?
  • What can you change in your practice or way you’re approaching things that would help?
  • What practical measures can you, the team, or the organisation put in place?
  • What support do you need, from whom and how often?
  • How can you provide support to others?
  • How will you recognise that things are not working in future?

The obvious approach is for managers to schedule dedicated one-to-one time with employees on a regular basis.  The solution for one employee, may not be right for another, but again this is something you can agree on individually.

Another way to embed a solution-focused attitude within the team is through implementing Team Coaching.  This is an extremely effective tool in times of change and uncertainty.  The team can work out the above issues, supporting each other and taking responsibility for finding and implementing the solutions. It’s also a powerful way to build accountability.

Either way, taking a coaching approach does involve an amount of courage for any business owner or manager, but the positive benefits for the team and business or organisation will be considerable and will far outweigh the costs and anxiety of being an ostrich.

If you'd like to find out more about Team Coaching, get in touch.

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.