, , Self-Awareness, Mindfulness and Decision-Making

Ask yourself: “am I particularly efficient…or am I effective in what I do and the decisions that I make?”

CoachStation: Employees, Strengths, Diversity and Relationships

Self-reflection, taking into account many factors is important to continue to produce improvement and awareness about what is going well and what you would like to change about who you are and what you do. In my most recent role as a national leader within a global organisation I had many responsibilities and tasks assigned to my role. I was also in the fortunate position to have a degree of flexibility and freedom in my direction and subsequently, that of my team.
Last year there was a leadership change within my team, which had its pros and cons. However, I did find that I had less opportunity to genuinely contribute my ideas and felt significantly less valued and comfortable in my role as a result. My point is not to judge the leadership decisions, more of how this made me react internally and the choices I made during this period.

I found great value in self-reflection (in some cases my unconscious thoughts influenced my conscious choices) and specifically spent time focusing on how efficient and effective I was being.

Were the changes impacting my team? Had my demeanor changed? Was I still as effective and efficient in my role as a leader as in the past?

Questions such as this at face value may have been instigated from self-doubt, however I found power in being able to analyse my routines, creativeness and methods of working. As someone who has focused quite a deal of time on this topic having coached and supported many leaders in similar situations, I knew this could be the make or break for my tenure, depending on the outcomes of my decisions. The journey I went on and related learning may be of value to you.
So, what did I do?  I researched the specific contexts of effectiveness, efficiency and related themes. Not so that I could define the words for the sake of it, more so as I wanted to ensure I was not assuming too much, which could skew my choices.

efficiency – The ratio of the output to the input of any system. Skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort; “she did the work with great efficiency”. Economy – the efficient use of resources; “economy of effort”; inefficiency – unskillfulness resulting from a lack of efficiency (1)

Was my focus on the right things – the ability to avoid wasting time and effort? Stripping back on the many tasks and focusing on the core few reaped the rewards for me that I know would add most benefit, no matter the situation.This required a level of focus and self-awareness that I had not used before. I also had to ‘let go’ or at least flex many existing thoughts and beliefs.

We often become set in our ways, accept the norms and standards that have been established for months or even years.This is very prominent in work cultures and leadership.

A willingness to firstly see these inefficient processes and desire to drive change are two different behaviours, but both are required. Knowing something and doing something are not the same thing. I knew it was imperative at that time to be as effective as possible in my decision-making and actions.

effective -a. Having an intended or expected effect. b. Producing a strong impression or response. Effectiveness relates to getting the right things done. (1)

The decisions revolved around all aspects of my life, not just work. Choices that impacted my wife, three daughters, work team, myself, friendship group and future direction were all balanced in my decision-making. I found that taking a step back and analysing my current situation allowed me to improve my future situation, as well as provide greater comfort in the moment.
It was efficient thinking – organised, less random and controlled thinking that provided the platform to make the next choice. I was not wasting time and effort at work or at home on those things that mattered less. Without going through this process my mind was jumbled, confused and I had much less ability to think clearly and take action forward. At best I was static – at worst, going backwards. A focus on efficiency allowed me to target, challenge myself on specific needs and take forward steps.

In many ways I am teaching myself to live more in the moment and practice a new concept for me – Mindfulness.

Being mindful and the related concepts has become more prominent in recent years. Mindfulness has links to psychology, Buddhism, meditation  and other spiritual themes but is popular now because it has a place in our modern, busy world.

Essentially mindfulness is: bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis,or involves paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. (2)

Being more present or in the moment allows us to make choices that somehow seem more appropriate and relevant. This framework of thinking then allowed me to more easily work towards analysing effectiveness, again measured in all aspects of my life. I needed to understand whether there was an intended or expected effect and whether I was prepared for action. The answer: No, not in all things, but I can say that the clarity and direction gave me pause for thought and my choices and decisions did change as a result.
It is now only as I reflect on this period earlier in the year do I realise the benefit of ‘breaking down’ thought processes into a structured arrangement led to the right decisions, often only proven in time.
Post-script: after 25 years of working for many large national and global organisations I left work earlier this year to focus full-time on my external consultancy, training and coaching business. I had been developing the brand and strategy for the 18 months prior. However the thought-process and my focus on what is most effective and efficient for me to be spending my time on, allowed me to leave a legacy with my previous employer and team whilst making the choice to work full-time on CoachStation. It is going very well and I have rarely been happier and more confident for our future!

References
(1) thefreedictionary.com
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_%28psychology%29

Teleworking, Remote Management, Virtual Leadership – no matter how it is described, the need to provide leadership outside of the traditional work environment is becoming more prevalent each year.

CoachStation: Leadership and Remote Management

Teleworking and the associated challenges and benefits of leading a team who may not be located in the same site, is becoming more prominent in business as a result of technology, recognised cost-savings and employee attitudes. There are many potential benefits, however it adds significantly to the requirement for leaders to be even more effective in how they operate and to continue to develop new skills within the modern work environment.

Leading remotely can add to the challenge of building a team with the structural reality of many modern businesses and organisations requiring distributed or virtual teams. Technology, globalisation, organisational expectations and culture, management and leadership styles, along with many other factors must be taken into account. The leader in today’s environment should be able to strategise and connect, developing and connecting with their team in a meaningful, engaged and results-oriented manner.

In a recent article titled Out Of Office, the predominance of teleworking was highlighted as a key national trend and growth strategy for many organisations and the Federal Government.

Among its (the Australian Federal Government) eight digital economy goals for 2020 is the aim of doubling the number of staff who have a teleworking arrangement with their employee (from about 6 percent now), so more employers and employees can reap the social, economic and environmental benefits of remote working. Ahead of Australia’s first National Telework week in November, here are some telework tips:

  • 26 percent of professionals believe it is a right to work remotely: whether they can work anywhere, anytime, with any device, is a precondition of joining a company.
  • 52 percent of Australians would sacrifice additional salary to work where they are most productive and happy.
  • Teleworking drives different organisational behaviour – one of trust, but also tighter managerial processes and stronger leadership engagement because your workforce is distributed rather than onsite.
  • People still need company culture, so they will usually telework one or two days a week. There’s no real optimum, it depends on what your business needs.
  • Teleworking can lead to a reduction of perhaps one desk in three. It can be done quickly and inexpensively. (1)

If this expected growth comes to fruition, the skills and abilities of leaders will need to not only keep up with the plan, but remain ahead of the growth, as remote management has such specific and unique requirements. I spent several years in national leadership roles managing teams based interstate, which provided many challenges. When I review my own development timeline however, I recognise that those years spent in virtual leadership were some of the most important as they have shaped the leader I am today. I see communication and the tools applied by my team members to provide regular updates as two of the most important forums for success.

Developing systems for your team to be able to communicate their progress, update regularly and have a ‘virtual open-door’ to find a method of contact, as required, go some way to making remote work, work. The fact that the employee saves time and cost with less travel time can be offset by the challenge of working in the home. Technology, Occupational Health issues and physical attributes all need to be considered, but ultimately teleworking is about productivity, flexibility and meeting both business and personal needs.

I believe that the growth of teleworking and associated leadership impacts is so great I created a development program for leaders specifically designed to enhance remote leadership skills.

The program contains a mix of training and coaching to reinforce the key areas that are important to develop in order to effectively manage a team of remotely. Key focus areas include the ability to:

  • Understand and apply management and leadership theories, practical skills and competencies to effectively lead a remote team.
  • Recognise where the needs and situations differ between local and remote employees.
  • Understand how to relate and connect with a team member who you do not physically see every day.
  • Use technology and tools to the best advantage to minimise the impact of leading remotely and maximise the key principles of remote leadership.
  • Apply learned techniques, skill and abilities in areas such as communication, building trust, accountability, structure, measuring effectiveness and employee development.

One of the key challenges for remote workers is the lack of social interaction that would normally occur when employees are located together. This is a very real factor however some employees have stated that this can be a benefit also, where the time that is spent with their broader team-mates tends towards more focused and specific interactions, with fewer opportunities for time wastage. Clearly a remote team member has to be trusted and the critical nature of communication is enhanced in this environment. In fact, many leadership skills become heightened, or at least the need does, when managing a virtual team.

Virtual teams have added value over face to face teams in many ways. We can tap into resources that otherwise would not be accessible. Working remotely allows organisations to better access talent, knowledge and local expertise all around the world and give round the clock service to customers: synchronising people, time and opportunity.

In addition, virtual teamwork saves costs since the need to travel decreases. The argument of sustainability – reducing the carbon footprint – also becomes more and more important for any organisation. (2)

An organisation that decides to increase its teleworking presence should also ensure that its leadership model and ongoing employee / leadership development factors in the special requirements of leading a remote team. If it doesn’t, then you may find the challenge greater than the reward!

As far as I am concerned all of us should be measured by our performance, not the number of hours we spend at work. Productivity and effectiveness are the key measurements that outline the business case, however there are a series of personal factors at play also. Telework may be a suitable alternative for you or your team but it is an individual decision. It does take additional effort, specific skills, new systems and strong communication, but remote work can add value. It is not for everyone and there are limits to numbers within an organisation that are able to work remotely, but it may be for you.

On a personal note, since taking on my business, CoachStation, in a full-time capacity earlier this year I have found it a relatively constant challenge with my three daughters who now find Daddy at home more often – I think they believe I am on a permanent holiday! I have enjoyed the flexibility and opportunities presented, but recognise that is it an ongoing effort to blend work and home life.

In fact, this is one of the greatest ‘wins’ in my mind, where I have the opportunity to work during times that suit my family and I the best. That may be in the evening or very early mornings, but the flexibility and freedom is something I genuinely cherish. The 9-5 workday is a thing of the past however I am quite strict in setting a number of hours to work each day. The difference is that I love what I am doing so much, it no longer feels like work.

What are your experiences with remote management or telework? Do you plan to take on more teleworking employees in the future? Has teleworking and/or remote management been a benefit or hindrance in your organisation?

 

(1) Out Of Office: AFR BOSS Magazine; teleworkaustralia.net.au

(2) Can Remote Leadership Skills Be Learnt:

Are you efficient and effective in all that you do?

I’m not, however a recent experience has taught me more about myself and the importance of these two attributes .

Self-reflection, taking into account the many factors that influence us all is important for growth. Taking time to reflect provides a platform for improvement and awareness about what is going well and what you would like to change about who you are and what you do. In my most recent role as a senior leader within a global organisation I had many responsibilities and tasks assigned to my position. I was also in the fortunate situation where, for most of my tenure, I had a high degree of flexibility and freedom in my direction and subsequently, that of my team.

Last year there was a leadership change within my team, which had its pros and cons. I had been through leadership change many times before. However, in this instance I did find there was less opportunity to genuinely contribute my ideas and I felt significantly less valued and comfortable in my role as a result. My point is not to judge the leadership decisions or styles, more of how this made me react internally and the choices I made during this period.

I found great value in self-reflection and specifically spent time focusing on how efficient and effective I was being. Were the changes impacting my team? Had my demeanour changed?

Was I still as effective and efficient in my leadership as I had been?

Questions such as this at face value may have been instigated from self-doubt, however I found power in being able to analyse my routines, creativeness and methods of working. As someone who has focused quite a deal of time on this topic, I knew this could be the make or break for my tenure, depending on the outcomes of my decisions.

So, what did I do?  I researched the specific contexts of effectiveness and efficiency. Not so that I could define the two words for the sake of it, more so as I wanted to ensure I was not assuming too much, influencing my choices – I used key words from the definitions to provide direction.

efficiency – the ratio of the output to the input of any system. Skilfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort; “she did the work with great efficiency”. (1)

Was my focus on the right things – the ability to avoid wasting time and effort. Stripping back on the many tasks and focusing on the core few reaps many rewards, no matter the situation. This led me to think about my own journey and that of others I have worked closely enough with to have observed certain behaviours. My observations include:

  • We often become set in our ways, accept the norms and standards that have been established for months or even years.
  • A willingness to firstly see these inefficient processes and desire to drive change are two different behaviours / choices, but are both important (For those who are interested, have a look at the ADKAR model).
  • Knowing something and doing something are not the same thing.
  • Don’t implement a solution unless it has a benefit that can be defined and actions that can be taken.
  • Associated with the above, prioritising tasks and decisions is key to moving forward – as is often stated, urgent tasks are not necessarily important.
  • It is better to fully impact one or two key pieces of work in a sustained and meaningful way than half-complete several tasks – there is nothing transformational about incomplete work and it is quite damaging to your team and personal brand.

In my situation, the decisions I made revolved around all aspects of my life, not just work. Choices that impacted my family, work team, myself, friendship group and future direction were all balanced in my decision-making. I found that taking a step back and analysing my current situation allowed me to improve my future situation as it has turned out, as well as provide greater comfort in the moment. It was organised, less random and controlled thinking that provided the base to make the next choice. I was not wasting time and effort at work or at home on those things that mattered less.

At best I was static – at worst, going backwards. Prior to going through this process my mind was jumbled, confused and I had much less ability to think clearly and take action to progress. Self-reflection and a focus on efficiency allowed me to target thought and action, challenge myself on specific needs and take forward steps.

effective – Having an intended or expected effect. Power to be effective; the quality of being able to bring about an effect. Prepared for use or action, especially in warfare. (1)

This framework of thinking then allowed me to more easily work towards analysing my effectiveness, again measured in all aspects of my life. Was there an intended or expected effect and was I prepared for action. Not in all things, but I can say that the clarity and direction gave me pause for thought and my choices and decisions did change as a result. One of my core values is to make a difference and I had identified that I was being less effective in my roles as a consequence of many factors. Identifying this, acknowledging what it meant, making decisions and taking action has allowed me to do more of what I love, because I was clearer what these things were and what they mean to me.

It is now only as I reflect on this period from earlier in the year that I realise the benefit of ‘breaking down’ my thinking into a structured process, leading to clarity in decisions and direction, which has and will be proven in time.

Have you had a similar experience? How do you rate the importance of being effective and efficient? Is one more important to you than the other?

Post-script: after 25 years of working for many large national and global organisations I left work 7 weeks ago to focus full-time on my external consultancy, training and coaching business. I had been developing the brand and strategy for the 20 months prior. However, the focus on what is most effective and efficient for me to be spending my time on, allowed me to leave a legacy with my previous employer and team whilst making the choice to work full-time on CoachStation. I should mention that this would have been so much more difficult to transition if it wasn’t for the full and constant support of my wife, Julie – an engaged and loved partner does make all the difference! CoachStation is going very well and I have rarely been happier and more confident for the future.

As always, I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading this blog and sharing in my story.

(1) thefreedictionary.com