September is a time for new beginnings, for me Jaz, my 21 year old daughter, starts her Masters in Clinical Psychology, and my son Sam is looking for job. I'm back to the gym after eating too much on holiday, and sorting out the house, as it looks like a bomb has hit it after the long summer. At work I always have that 'back to school feeling'. There are 125 days until the end of the year, Christmas is suddenly looming and Q4 is fast approaching. So, I like to spend a little time focusing on my wellbeing and resilience to make sure I get through effectively, meet some of my as yet un-reached 2019 ambitions and feel mentally fit. Earlier this year I launched Let's Reset to help businesses to promote a culture of wellbeing and resilience, using creative workshops and a sprint process to create new ways of working linked to commercial effectiveness.
HOW DID I GET IT SO WRONG?
I have had 2 key moments in my career when I have realized that I fundamentally had gone the wrong way. The first was as I left my first company, the marketing intermediary that I had built and grown, that made clients constantly pitch their agencies not focus on effective partnerships. So when Peter Cowie and I founded Oystercatchers we were determined to support the industry and accelerate marketing performance with a focus on creating and improving client/agencypartnerships and models.
More recently I had my second moment. I recognized that in Oystercatchers (now part of Xeim, I sold my business to Centaur in 2016), at least 40% of the transformation programmes that we have tried to implement over the past few years, have failed. Not because the people weren’t good enough, but because we failed to address the real need to re-imagine the workplace. There is a need to reset the way businesses support people through wellbeing and improved resilience, creating new ways of working with effective commercial relevance.
My overall observation of working extensively across a variety of brands and agencies is that the workplace has, on the whole, changed very little over the past 10 years, but we fundamentally work differently. This sounds like an oxymoron, but with the increasing use of social media, the always on customer journey, the fire hose of data available, we need to be more engaged and emotionally aware of how people are feeling in our organisations, as well as fixating on the bottom line.
Since I started Let' Reset earlier this year, I have encountered all sorts of responses to the importance of changing the workplace. Many have been hugely supportive, others have made comments like; ‘We just had to suck it up, when we were young, why can’t people do that now.’ ‘The young are lazy! ‘Our key focus is revenue and profit, not human frailty.’ ‘Millennials think it’s all about bean bags and free food…’. I know that wellbeing and resilience is important, I just don't want to share my personal story.' ‘I don’t know how best to help my people reach their potential and be commercially effective at the same time’. 'This is so important, but I have no budget to allocate to my people to learn these skills.' And in there lies the challenge, because the stats show if we don't make this shift, we are heading for a business crisis and I'm not just talking about Brexit!
Balance our Game Face with authentic leadership
I believe in this new world, we as leaders need to be taught how to create environments that notice and give people the confidence to walk into the working environment and be tested in all different ways. We need to balance our ‘game face’ with real, authentic leadership that leads to much more honest conversations! Fake News like fake working environments need to change. Nancy Kline suggests in her book, More Time to Think, 'We haven't actually arrived in the room until every voice has been heard. We need to take time. We need to start by bringing our whole selves to work.'
I love this picture of me, shot by the brilliant International photographer, Rankin, he captures the strong, exuberant, beautiful, confident leader in me, but like the moon, you can only see one side of me. What makes me a successful and resilient entrepreneur is so much more; My role as a Mother now nurturing the wellbeing of 2 young adults, my 3 experiences and battles with Cancer and the resilience's I have built to survive my life’s toughest challenges. The joy of being a mentor and learning from the next generation. One of my biggest tests recently was selling my business to a Plc, Centaur Media, 3 years ago. To begin with I felt like a fish being asked to climb a tree. But through time, focus and learning, it has enabled me to broaden my capabilities and experiences in so many ways. I have learnt from being part of EXCO, running the Development Board, integrating my company into a whole new ecosystem and being part of the team that launched Xeim, the multi-brand marketing group umbrella for Centaur.... and so much more.
Big brands don't always know best
I have the privilege of working with some of the biggest and most successful brands and agencies globally. But I observe people increasingly becoming dead eyed, and weary at work. Last year one of my clients was promoted to CMO, a role that was quite a big step for her. I knew she needed help and support, but she busied herself in the stuff that she felt safe and secure doing. She was keen to meet up to look at her new ways of working, but kept moving our meetings and when we did get together she was frozen by delivering week to week numbers, rather than taking a step back to change the focus of what her team were doing. She increasingly looked exhausted, she stopped networking, as she was working later and later, and at home she didn’t have time for her family and friends. She laughed less and toughened up, her easy-going natural style was replaced by a shorter, more snappy attitude and eventually her super strength of creating great creative work and building motivated teams, was also compromised… In a tough commercial environment, her CEO felt he had supported her enough and made her redundant! So she had worked unbelievably hard, for nothing! This is an all too familiar story. I’ve thought a lot about this scenario, it happens all the time. Whilst some of the people in this position are simply not good enough, mostly it’s the people who don’t focus on the right things and the culture that creates an environment of pain rather than a place to thrive.
Only 2 in 5 employees today are working at peak performance
Research tells us that one third of days taken off work through illness in the UK are a direct result of work related stress, Only 2 in 5 employees today are working at peak performance, Wellbeing & resilience programmes can reduce employee sick leave by 25% , but most companies pay lip service to anything more than the basic minimum. We now know that people are 3 times more effective if they increase their wellbeing and resilience, but still we don't make time to listen and train our staff.
Cultural change takes time, and but everyone can do a few simple things to make their working lives more effective each and every day. Here are 5 simple steps to follow.
1. RESET your WOW
Many brands and agencies have put some wellbeing themes into their businesses, but it still doesn’t make much difference. The reason is that the ideas are not baked into our everyday work lives, they sit at the edge and are taken up by those people, who either make it priority or have the time to join in.
As a team take your standard ways of working (WOW) and look at what you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Then look at how you can prioritise and change it to be more effective. The first thing to review is the meetings;
How many of you have days with more than 5/6 meetings in a day? I used to have endless days with back to back meetings and then spend all evening catching up with emails, how can that be effective? We are all concerned that the meetings we are not in are where all the important things happen! (see LOMO tip 4). Work out which meetings only you can make a difference to and attend those. Make sure that everyone knows in the meeting who has a voice and a choice and those with just a voice. Create a culture where there is always a person in the meeting who can make a choice and focus on doing that as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Try this, take someone through your diary for your next 3 -4 working weeks. Find someone who doesn’t work directly with you and tell them what each meeting is about, then they can help you grade whether you need to be there or not, whether it should be F2F, a call, an email or scrapped altogether and how long it should last based on the value and importance of the output. Cut your 1-hour meetings to 45 mins and your 30 min meetings to 25 mins. Make sure at least one of your meetings, each day is a walking meeting, so you can get some fresh air and exercise. It will immediately free up time for you to be more effective and more focused on the right things.
Once you have done this work personally, work with your whole team to reset your group ways of working. Look at how effective your WOW is on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis and put wellbeing and resilience strategies at the heart of it. For example, agree when you will have Monk Time (see Tip 3) and how that can be effective across the team. Discuss rules for social media, (one client of ours has a basket that their home phones go into at the beginning of the day). Share how you are getting on. We have a Friday night drinks where we talk about the things we have learnt that week, share tips on how we can better work effectively together and how we have become more resilient through working in different ways. Resetting the structure of the way you work will bring a new WOW to your working life.
2. MAKE YOUR BED
The Navy SealAdmiral William H McRaven famously talked about the benefits of making your bed in the army.
'It’s a simple task, mundane at best, but to make it to perfection, there is wisdom in this simple act. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life and work matter, if you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to do the big things right and if by chance you have a rubbish day you can come home to a nice tidy bed, that you made and a made bed gives you the encouragement that tomorrow will be better!' This is my bed, I love cushions, which drives my partner crazy, but making my bed first thing, really does make a difference as I start the day having completed a task and end the day in my own cocoon.
3. CREATE MONK TIME
Do you find that your days are filled from start to finish, and that you spend all your time answering emails, sitting in meetings, rushing from one thing to another?
Have a monk mode morning at least once a week, preferably twice a week. This is based on research by Cal Newport which Bruce Daisleytalks about this in his brilliant book — The Joy of Work. It is the ability for people to focus without distraction. To give something that needs thought, or creativity an extended period of concentration, when you actually spend time thinking. Turn off your screens and messages, spend time away from the office and actually measure the effectiveness of your output. I tend to work from home, but I also quite like a local coffee shop or even a museum. My favourite is The British Museum, it a lovely open coffee area and stunning architecture to help inspire me. Talk to the rest of the team about how your and their Monk time integrates together and make sure you help each other keep Monk Time sacrosanct.
4. KEEP THE MIND BULLY AT BAY
Your mind is a bully, it can make you feel amazing or crap, so you have to practice focusing and distracting it to get it to work properly. You know the feeling when you start a new job and you think, there is no way that I’m going to be able to do all this and then a few weeks later, it’s so much easier, not just because you understand the role and the people, but because you have relaxed and got your mind around the challenge. It’s like going to the gym. When you want to lose weight, what do you do? you go to the gym, you eat different food and what happens? NOTHING, and then you do it again and what happens? nothing but if you do it again and again, you will lose weight and your body will become fitter.
Spend time working out ways for your mind not to bully you.
Meditate, or write out moments of gratitude, go to the gym, train for a triathlon, practice being mindful, go for a walk, do yoga or just breathe. BUT you have to practice and then just give yourself micro-moments throughout the day to keep your mind and body functioning effectively and keep the 'Mind Bully' at bay.
When I first had Cancer, (I’ve had it 3 times) I was told that meditation would be good for me, so I bought a book and a CD, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams(which was what you used to do 10 years ago) and I started to practice. I was literally amazing! I could focus for ages, see all the right colours, get in the zone! it was brilliant. But then I finished my chemo and radiation treatment and realised that I wasn’t great at all, it was just the drugs and I had to learn all over again. Now I meditate almost every day, sometime for just a few moments, sometimes for an hour. It is like going to the gym, if I practice every day, I can more easily use it to control my emotions when people don't do as I expect. I can then spend more time in a controlled way talking about the issues facing me and less time having the wrong kind of impact.
The irony of all exercise, both physical and mental, is that when we need it most, i.e. when we are most stressed, is when we are most likely to not make time for it. It’s the same with our mind. that’s why we all need to help our body and mind constantly focus and stop the mind bully.
5. RESET FOMO TO LOMO
There’s a lot said about the good and bad of social media. We used to joke about the amount of time we would spend on the phone, but now, increasingly we realise we all use our screens much more than is useful or healthy and it is increasingly to the detriment of our work colleagues, families and friends. We can now all see that phones and devices can stop us from working hard on crafting meaningful times in our lives.
This is fuelled by FOMO. FOMO is a compulsive desire to experience something (or be somewhere) motivated not by what you gain, but rather by the fear of what you will potentially lose. And this idea of loss is usually (almost always) imagined. What we do know is at work, social media can be hugely distracting and amazingly helpful. There is no way that I could have run the businesses that I have and been the Mum and friend that I have wanted to be if it wasn’t for email, Linked in, Google, texting, Zoom, Facebook etc. But the challenge is that our brains can simply not cope with the overload and it is very easy to use it all as a distraction. This is my one big tip. Turn off all your notifications to social media and email and make sure that you get to them in your own time not as soon as they ping up on your phone or screen.
Then plan to lean into social media, when you want to, make sure that you write something useful, have a point of view, don’t just look or like other people’s posts — practice so that when you have something important to say, you can get your point across.
AND make sure that you talk in the real world. I like to talk to someone new every day. someone new at the office, a person in the coffee shop, at my client’s offices or at the train station. Don’t just say hello, find out something about them that you didn’t know before, it may teach you something new, it could open your horizons and it might just make someone else’s day.
It's time to Reset
Just like going to the gym to get fit, none of this happens over night, but Resetting yourself on a regular basis, through some or all of these tasks will help you re-imagine your workplace and make you and your teams much more effective. There are 125 days until the end of the year, how much can you reset to achieve your 2019 ambitions and beyond?
At Let's Reset we help businesses to promote a culture of wellbeing and resilience to improve performance. Through a sprint process to create new ways of working linked to commercial effectiveness. With constant support through our online platform and helpline to help our members, when they need it most.
All the photos in this article are by the brilliant International Photographer, Rankinand are part of our book Reset, launching in November this year. In partnership with
Suki is an entrepreneur, passionate transformational business leader and cheerleader of wellbeing and resilience in the workplace. T: @sukithompson I: sukithompson I: Letsreset1 F: letsreset1 www.oystercatchers.com