Sunday, May 29, 2011

How to ask for balance

Pacific Brands CEO, Sue Morphet, said last week that women will break the glass ceiling when Australian corporate culture dictates that everyone goes home for dinner.

A lot of my clients say they feel trapped in the long hours of their work culture. I've heard the same lament from doctors, lawyers, musicians, historians and a romance novelist. (What is so urgent about history, I wonder...)

People sometimes feel powerless to change things, and we often find that's not the case.

If you're interested in changing a pattern that has you regularly missing dinner at home, arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss how to change this (The model below is reproduced from the Results Through People training course).

Take to the meeting:

• your (reasonable) idea of how long an average working day/week would be for you.
• a record of your working hours over three pay periods
• a list of the work tasks currently on your plate

Seek agreement on:
• the reasonable length of an average working day/week for you
• the priority order of your current tasks

In the meeting, acknowledge these things:
• There will be times when important work priorities will mean that you work longer than the 'average week'
• Those occasions should be the exception, not the rule
• You will meet regularly to review priorities and working hours

If you're a manager, consider having a conversation like this with each of your staff, and watch their commitment levels soar.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Lesson of Princess Beatrice's Hat

Described as a giant pretzel, a set of antlers or a freakish Teletubbies accessory - Princess Beatrice's choice of wedding millinery was either daringly fashion-forward or disastrous.

Either way, the hat became a laughing stock and inspired its own Facebook Group ('Princess Beatrice's ridiculous royal wedding hat' which, at the time of writing had attracted 143,016 followers).

How does a Princess respond to worldwide hat condemnation?

Toss the hat on the Royal scrap heap? Get into the spirit and put the hat up for auction on eBay to raise money for UNICEF UK and Children in Crisis?

Beatrice chose the latter option and included the cheery message: 'I've been amazed at the attention the hat has attracted... I hope whoever wins the auction has as much fun with the hat as I have.'

The hat went for $123,390 this morning.

Start today

When things go wrong, or don't work out as well as we'd hoped, it's easy to give up. Sometimes, though, something can be salvaged, changed or turned into Plan B.

Next time you find yourself in a situation resembling 'Beatrice's Hat', before you ditch the idea entirely, see if there's some way that you can take the idea in an entirely new direction.

You never know where your recycled idea might lead.

Change your perspective in 27 seconds

The Guardian newspaper once ran a very effective television advertisement about differing points of view. Have a look at it here.

At first glance, we think the 'skin head' guy has robbed someone. Then, the camera pans the other way and we see him chasing a well-dressed man with a brief case. Perhaps the businessman is the baddie?

The camera pans out again and we notice that scaffolding above the pair is about to collapse. It turns out that the skin head is pushing the businessman out of harm's way.

Who knew we could be wrong so many times in only 27 seconds?

Start today

We all know that taking a different perspective can be a healthy way to view a problem. Have you ever had something go wrong, only to re-hash it in your mind, while the distressing emotions stayed with you?

One technique to create some distance between yourself and the memory of a difficult situation is to view it in a 'disassociated' way. In other words, if you must mull over that bad conversation that you had with your boss - do it from the perspective of a third person.

When we're truly 'associated' in a memory, we're re-living it as if looking at it through our own eyes. We're hearing it as we heard things on the day. We're feeling our emotions. It seems very 'real'.

Taking a step back - 'disassociating' yourself - can give you a different, less emotional perspective.

When to 'disassociate':

•Thinking about unpleasant or difficult memories

•Preparing to go into a challenging conversation

•Walking into a job interview or presentation when you want to calm your nerves

When to 'associate':

•Thinking about pleasant memories

•Trying to imagine and understand another person's perspective ('get into their shoes')

•Recalling times when you felt confident, at ease, relaxed, strong, loved etc. (And when you're doing this, really ramp up those memories - add in colour and vibrance, movement, smell, taste, sound and emotion. Then turn it all up!)