Leadership

Do you spy on your child (ren)?

Huawei has been in the news lately and seems to have got into trouble because some people think they are using their technology to ‘spy’ on people.  Even though the Company totally denies this claim, it has certainly generated a lot of interesting conversations about if it’s true, or even possible!

So, thinking about the concept of  ‘spying’ - who has the right to do this?  As the boss of a Company or a team leader, do you have the right to access any information your employee has created or their correspondence?  What impact would this have on you or the employee? 

As a parent, do you have the right to read your child’s diary or their text messages?  What are the boundaries?  What are the norms and rules?  What impact would this have on your relationship with your child? Can you resist the urge to do this?

In our work with parents,  Åse and I always language this question around the ages of the children and the risks involved.  It can be very controversial but we believe mutual trust is key, so you don’t invade personal space without prior communication and consent (i.e. you don’t ‘spy’).  Rather work with your child to gain access to this communication if you feel it’s important. 

The only time this would change is if you feel there is a significant risk to your child (if they are very depressed or suicidal) and breaking this trust to gain information may in fact be a life-saving action.  There’s also the very real worry about grooming and how this develops.  Breck Bednar  is a real example of this devastating situation.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47473932 Would this concern justify you spying on your child?

It would be great to hear what you think?  What experiences you’ve had with this and what you can share?  Please comment below if you’d like to join this conversation.

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Why is listening and sharing so important?

This week is Mental Health week and I thought I’d write about the secret battles a lot of people are facing.

The stigma around mental health problems is still big even though it is getting better. A lot of people are working hard to get the message through to companies that they are part of the problem and need to become part of the solution. The more we talk, the more people dare to open up. There are some brilliant movements going on like Minds @ work and the Leaderboard, created by Rob Stephenson at Inside-out.org, which publishes names of leaders who are open about their Mental Health issues. It shows great leadership to share difficulties and real life issues as it enable others to speak up. This is what is needed; real people, real problems and no fear in sharing.

As a counsellor, I worked with many people who did not talk to anyone around them. The fear of being judged and seen as weak was too great. The relief of being able to open up was evident as was the progress of a lot of clients that finally had someone that listened. Listening is a great skill and we just don’t teach this enough.

When a person is heard, they feel understood, acknowledged, validated, significant and seen. How can we ensure that our nearest and dearest and ourselves understand this and are able to share?

How can we create trust with our children to enable talking? The emphasis on communication can’t be talked about enough. It’s the basis of every relationship we have whether at home or at work. Misunderstandings happen too easily and are not clarified often enough.

If in doubt or not clear about what someone is actually saying; ASK!!

Stop making assumptions that people ought to know and how can they not?!

Start talking and actually listen. The effort can make a huge difference!

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Women and our hormones

I’ve been thinking lately about the impact of hormones in our lives. Girls and women have to deal with this from an early age and it impacts very differently from person to person. It’s amazing to think 50% of the population will suffer at some stage to something out of their control.

I do know that men also have hormonal changes but I am pretty sure, us women have the tougher deal…

One thing is for certain though, all women experience something in our lifetime, whether it’s puberty, childbearing years or menopause. Things like period pain, masses of bleeding, PMS, exhaustion, headaches, memory blips, mood swings, acne, weight gain, weight loss (yes, that happens too…), low libido, high libido, skin changes, hair thinning, depression etc. The list is very long!!

These issues can have a massive impact on a woman’s life and everyone around her, yet it’s not something we talk about often enough. A lot of men, in particular those inexperienced with women, have no idea of the battles that go on. Even some men who have female partners are in the dark why their women turn into ‘moody cows’ at times.

I think it’s up to us women to educate the men around us and explain what to expect at times and why it happens. Sometimes we have choices and can control what happens but a lot of the time, we can’t.

The more we talk about it from an early age, to both our sons and daughters, the easier it will be for everyone. Our kids also get to see sides of us we wish they didn’t have to but yet again, talk and explain.

As always, understanding and knowledge is power and we have to help ourselves and our loved ones by taking charge of this. We can’t wait or expect others, like the school or friends, to explain to our men and children.

Also, in a work environment, this is very common. We have to talk to our co workers when needed. They can’t read our minds and understand what is going on. Having said that, please be supportive of the female staff during certain times in their lives. It’s hard enough having to cope with yourself, let alone everyone else around you.

I used to get dreadful hot flushes at any time of the day. In my work, I do 1-2-1 sessions and sometimes a flush would hit me. I’d go red and start to perspire. Not a nice look or feeling. When that happened, I had to explain that it was not about them and their story, but me and my menopause… At least they knew and I felt better for explaining.

Awareness is key. Educate, train and encourage communication. It is needed all around us so get talking!

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Perspective - an essential life skill!

My son is studying photography for GCSE and I was watching him work at the weekend and couldn’t quite believe the difference in what ‘I saw’ him photograph and what ‘he saw’ and produced through his camera. This got me thinking about perspective and how important it is with everything in life.

What lens do you use? What glasses do you wear when you look at something? Clear, tinted, shrinking, enlarging or do you see things in bi-focal? Do you swap your ‘outlook’ depending on what you’re looking at? If so, why?

When you are enmeshed in something, you cannot see the ‘wide angle’ of the situation and when you are removed it’s very hard to understand all the nuances, intricacies or emotions of the detail.

But how often are we able to digest all these angles, lenses and perspectives when we are faced with a situation or event? Where do we get the tools to navigate perspective successfully?

Perspective comes from having a personal opinion or view on something that has been moulded over time by your life experiences, values, thoughts, assumptions plus a whole lot of other factors like community, finances, environment etc.

In order to successfully develop relationships, communications and experiences for yourself it’s imperative to develop empathy and compassion for others. We often use the word ‘mindful’ of others to emphasise how important it is to both respect and acknowledge everyone’s thoughts and feelings in situations and not just your own.

On a parenting level, children will learn how to develop perspective if they grow up knowing that their thoughts, feelings and experiences are both understood, valued and respected by their parents. Make sure you constantly engage with your children and reflect their feelings back to them to let them know that they are noticed and that you are available to both help and support them.

In the workforce, you should be constantly mindful and aware of the different points of view that exist and to allow, acknowledge and respect those different perspectives. Sometimes this might mean that you need to take a break, take a breath, or take a long hard look at yourself to make sure that whatever glasses you are wearing are not tinting the situation.

Perspective is what brings diversity, inclusion and growth. Perspective allows for creativity and compromise and development. Perspective is a life skill that our children need to develop and we all need to encourage throughout our lives.

As you move through today, be mindful of what is influencing your perspective and how this differs from others.

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Envious or pleased?

I’ve been thinking of trolls on the web and bullies everywhere and wondering what causes their horrendous behaviour.

What makes someone behave in such a way towards others? What do they get out of it?

Self-esteem; Self-esteem is the way people think about themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Psychologists use the word self-esteem to describe whether someone likes them self or not. ... Someone with low self-esteem might think that they are bad at things and worthless.

Now low self-esteem comes out in many different ways and bullying and trolling is one. This temporary ‘I am better than you, see how I was able to make you feel’ gives a lift and sense of achievement in its warped way.

By trolling and bullying a person has a purpose and thinks others might think they are clever. It’s all about how others perceive them, that is what makes them feel that temporary feeling of ‘good’ about themselves. Not for long though but once they started this behaviour, it’s hard to stop even when they know it’s wrong. Then the justifications start, ‘he deserves it’, ‘she asked for it’ , ‘they are scum’ etc. Because if it’s not justified, they are the ones who are wrong…

It’s a sad way of getting acknowledgement but if a person doesn’t get it anywhere else, that will do.

There is always a reason behind a persons behaviour and this is about significance and love; the need to be seen. When someone is a bully, they need help and support, just like the victims. I don’t condone this behaviour at all but I do feel sad for someone who inflicts this on someone else as inherently, we all want to be loved and significant.

The ability to feel genuinely pleased and happy for someone else is not something that always just happens. Most of us can have twinges of envy and ‘why not me’ thoughts. However, how far we allow those thoughts to go is a different matter. This is where we have a choice and can push away the negativity and think; ‘why not them?!’ ‘My turn might just come, good for you!!’.

Gratitude and contribution are two things that will make us feel good about our lot in life. No matter how difficult something might be, there will a silver lining somewhere. We just have to find it.

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The Millennials Challenge...

You may have heard these words being bandied about:  Baby boomers (if you were born between 1944 and 1964); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979); Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and our new generation that is coming through, Generation Z (1995+).

The millennial generation is now firmly entrenched in the workforce and it’s predicted that by 2020 they will make up 35% of the global workforce with Gen Z making up 24%.  This means that by next year almost 60% of the workforce will consist of employees under the age of 40. 

Research indicates that millennials both present and face of a lot of challenges to the workforce and society.  They are a unique generation with more than 1/3 living at home with their parents with very few owning their own homes.  They are also much less likely to buy cars.

At work they prioritise work-life balance which some older generations tend to label as showing no work ethic.  Many millennials are self-employed or have additional business interests in addition to their main employment.  They tend to move jobs every 18 – 24 months and they do not have the same needs (long term stability) as their older employer/ees.  This has led to concerns over high employee turnover problems in organisations and the associated costs.

Employers today have the challenge of providing the right type of work environment for millennials as well as being able to take advantage of the strengths that millennials offer.  Statistically, they are usually good team players and good with diversity and inclusivity.  They are technology savvy and almost never ‘unplug’.  One solution that Companies offer millennials is the ability to work flexi-time or work remotely. 

Research shows that millennials prioritise constant feedback and are very goal-oriented with a strong sense of fair play.  They believe pay should be individual and not ‘role’ or ‘experience’ driven which can lead to complications with larger organisations with set tiered or banded employee categories.  Finally, millennials want to work for Companies with a social conscience and that they feel are making a difference.

So, to attract or retain millennials, it appears you need to develop an organisational culture of inclusivity, diversity, social responsibility and tolerance with a strong focus on pay and job culture!

Sounds simple right ???

Let the work and the conversations continue….

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Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!

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The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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What is Wellbeing in the Workplace?

If you work in any organisation, chances are you have come across someone who is battling with mental health or stress.  The latest statistics* show that 3 times more people are susceptible to losing their jobs because of poor mental health than physical health.  It also found that over 300 000 people leave employment each year due to long term mental health conditions.

In addition, the Government’s green paper on mental health (released May 2018) shows that 1 in 4 people in the UK will present with a mental health problem at some point.  Most common will be anxiety and depression, often triggered by a change in circumstances or a life changing event (death or divorce) but often stems from work situations.

So, what does it all mean?

In a nutshell, wellbeing or mental health refers to how we feel, how we behave and our thinking processes.  The most common trigger in a workplace is stress which often presents in physical reactions (higher blood pressure, pain, headaches etc).  Stress is how you react to a stimuli (either real or perceived) as well as the intensity of that experience (once-off or prolonged).  The important factor is what is causing the stress and how the two are related. 

The Stevenson/Farmer report reviewed the role that employers can have in supporting the individuals in their employ around wellbeing and mental health.  They set out a framework of actions known as ‘Core Standards’.  These are a set of recommendations to help employers improve the conditions in their workplaces to enable employees to both communicate about their mental health concerns, cope better and ultimately thrive.

They call on Companies to ‘take action’ and be responsible for helping to manage and prevent stress at work.  This starts with awareness and knowledge.  Not only of yourself and your stress but also of your team and colleagues.  What are the red flags?  What must you be aware of?  If you experience this yourself, or spot something, what do you do?

Family Focus UK was set up in direct response to these questions – focusing on emotional wellbeing and providing knowledge and support to adults and adolescents, working or not.  We believe that information is key and even a small step in an altered direction can have a big impact on how you and others feel.

So, if you are not sure what to do – why not start with giving us a call to do a wellbeing needs analysis of your workplace..   Or read the report below and start a conversation around this topic in your office.

 * 2017 Government commissioned review by Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) called ‘Thriving at Work’. Read the report at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf

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Perfectionism and Mental Health

Most of us will relate to the word ‘perfectionist’ and will probably have images of someone who can’t leave things undone; who sets extremely high standards for themselves and others; often appears stressed and under pressure and seems to be intolerant of those who don’t behave or perform to their high standards.

Perfectionism is one of those character traits that can be a real positive (if channeled correctly) but can also be a big contributor to stress and burnout.

So what are the characteristics of perfectionism? 

Fear of failure:  You see failure as a reflection on your abilities or your value.

All or nothing thinking: You are very black or white – right or wrong.  You have a tendency to extremes.

Defensiveness. You hate criticism and often get very defensive if you think someone is pointing out your weaknesses or (perceived) failures.

Finding faults with yourself and other:. You are often on the lookout for imperfections in yourself and others. You tend to be largely overcritical of any mistakes and feel it’s important to correct people when they make a mistake.

Inflexibility:  You have a very high standard for both yourself and other people that is a rigid line that needs to be met.  You often say words like ‘must’ ‘should’ have to’ when you speak.

Excessive need for control. You like to control other’s behaviour and thoughts as you see it as helping them from making mistakes (whether they’ve asked for help or not).

Difficulty delegating:  You will often say to yourself ‘if you want this done right – do it yourself’.  You have a tendency to micromanage others around you.

The biggest concern with perfectionism is the link between these ‘workaholic’ behaviours and the drain on your mental and physical energy.  The relentless drive to work to perfection leads to a very rigid thought process and an increase in your body’s (negative) stress response.  Perfectionists often experience anxiety over their performance as they feel unable to live up to (often) unrealistic standards.

Often, a perfectionist creates a cycle of behaviour where exacting standards (which cannot be met) leads to more effort in a strive to achieve and then perceived failure which starts the cycle again. This will affect your energy, your emotions and ultimately your relationships, home life, relaxation and your ability to work. The result is often burnout, depression or the inability to cope with your levels of stress. 

So, before your perfectionism traits start to manifest in excess stress or failed relationships.  Ask yourself some questions and do some reading about how to combat the negative effects of perfectionism and channel the positive traits.

Some websites that might be of interest:-

 https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Perfectionism.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/depression-management-techniques/201203/handling-perfectionism

https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/perfectionism-children/

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Presenteeism...what's the cost?

Have you come across this word 'presenteeism' and not been entirely sure what it means?  We all know about absenteeism, but today presenteeism is a real problem and cost to Companies.

Absenteeism –   The practice of regularly staying away from work (or school) without good reason (high levels of absenteeism caused by low job motivation).

Presenteeism – The practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety etc, often resulting in reduced productivity.  The practice of working longer hours at a job than needed, often as a result of insecurity about that job.

An article in the Sunday Times by Karen Higginbottom (Nov 2017) referred to a CIPD survey done in 2017 where 72% of organisations observed presenteeism.  They found an alarming increase in both the prevalence of presenteeism and the related cost to organisations.  Statistics are now stating that the costs of health-related presenteeism far outweighs absenteeism.

One of the reasons that we are talking about presenteeism is its link to employee wellbeing.  It is often associated with companies who have a culture of working long hours or very demanding industries.  Added to this is job insecurity; worrying about letting a team down; concerns about work records and HR performance reports.  One of the biggest concerns is that very often senior leadership or management are demonstrating these work habits making it seem to be the expected norm for all employees.  This leadership attitude of ‘I can cope with anything and work best under stress and extremely long hours’ filters down and creates unrealistic expectations in the organisation.

But there is hope.  Many organisations are now working hard to create a wellbeing strategy to develop a culture of acceptance and realism in order to combat presenteeism.  This includes allowing individuals in an organisation to feel in control and autonomous in their roles.  Giving them a chance to voice issues and concerns to their team leader and creating a more flexible and open working environment.

The goal?  To create a positive culture where hopefully presenteeism will be the unpopular choice and will be the exception rather than the norm.

So.  If any of this has resonated with you.  Time to take a look at how you work, when you work and what you are achieving.  Or maybe simply – time to talk to someone about how you are feeling at work.

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Leadership and Response

We recently listened to an interview with Geoff McDonald on CNBC  (can be viewed here: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/08/17/musk-should-take-time-out-to-focus-on-mental-health-campaigner-says.html ) talking about whether Companies should employ people who have disclosed mental health concerns.

This reminds us about the perceptions of people regarding mental health and those who have had mental health issues.  Last week our blog focused on 'leadership and resilience' and the importance of leadership modelling resilience in the workplace.  The need to prioritise mental health and wellbeing in employees sits at the feet of the leadership team, but awareness is key for every employee.

Most Companies have health and safety policies in place, but how many of these include mental health and wellbeing policies?  The interview by Geoff has reminded us that in order for employees to be productive and for workplaces to thrive, there needs to be mindful practice of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  Given the amount of time people spend at work, it is impossible to delegate 'wellbeing' care to home life. The onus has to fall on the workplace to provide input into these areas in order to create the energy and sense of purpose that each employee needs.

So how is this done? 

More and more organisations are starting to understand the real value in taking care of the 'whole' employee which includes physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  Mental Health First Aiders are being trained, leadership teams are being brought on board and networking is taking place to prioritise these issues (eg http://www.mindsatworkmovement.com/).  

It is up to each person who has a position of leadership to role model openness and acceptance of questions and concerns around mental health or emotional wellness.  To be frank and transparent when it comes to their own personal stress and wellbeing.  To not hide behind facades and stigmas but to join the world of reality that so many of us live in - that life is hard at times, stressful and unkind.  If leaders are able to voice their own challenges this shows strength as much as their ability to cope with adverse situations.

For each employee the responsibility then rests on you to say something.  To put your hand up and say 'I need some help' - just as you would if you broke your leg.   Hopefully with more talk in workplaces, plus a bit more realism from leadership it may open up a whole new range of conversations and corporate cultures that will keep the tide of talking about mental health moving forward.

 

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Leadership and resilience!

The definition of resilience in the Oxford dictionary: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

I would also add the ability to adapt to change and not give up when challenges arise.

How does this work in a leader role? To what level do we expect our leaders to be resilient?

Most of us have challenges to deal with on a regular basis whether it's work based or privately.

No matter who we are, all these situations will affect us and can then interfere with our ability to be productive at work. Even a manager or a CEO has times where days are tough for whatever reason! 

This is where resilience comes in. How long do we allow a situation to affect us and how do we spring back into action?

Awareness of the affects is a start, understanding self and the impact adversity has on us goes a long way to learn how to deal with it. I am astounded how many people do not understand their thoughts and actions when challenging situations arise. The more aware we are, the more we can avoid situations where negative behaviour affects our leadership skills.

Listening to our bodies and feelings is such a big part of then being able to handle situations in a correct and helpful way rather than compounding the situation and creating additional stress to everyone involved.

Change has an impact on everyone, the leaders as well. Working together and being inclusive by communicating and clarifying any decisions, the teams are able to support their leader and feel safe to ask questions.

The most common feeling when change happens is to feel uncertain, what will happen to me? Will I be OK? Unless the communication is clear and concise from the leaders, this will affect all involved.

SO, what does a person need to do to be an effective and resilient leader?

Here are some suggestions:

- Being the leader means being a role model. Just the same as being a role model to our children is important, so is being one at work! As a leader you will be observed. If you feel unsure at times; act as if you know what you are doing! Stay calm, focussed, communicate and be encouraging. Show trust by asking for help, delegate when needed and be available.

- When challenges arise, take control and ensure you find out what the team needs from you. This creates team spirit and belonging which we all need to get out the other side.

- There is no failure, only learning! We all make mistakes and that's OK. Recognise and move on. Yet again, just like parenting; admit/say what happened, apologise, learn from it. Showing vulnerability is a strength!

Look after your most valuable asset, your employees.

 

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

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