IDGAF List. 

Recently I read ‘The life changing magic of not giving a f*ck’ by Sarah Knight. 

It recommends making a list of things that you don’t, erm give a f*ck about. Hence making you focus, stop doing these things or worrying about these things, and do something more interesting or pleasurable instead.

So I thought I would give it a go. And in no particular order, here it is. 

Hanging baskets.

Petrol prices.

LinkedIn.

The Kardashians.

The 5:2 diet. And the blood type diet. And the paleo diet. Etc.

PowerPoint.

Burpees.

Tennis.

Whether email should be banned or not.

Green tea.

Cleaning my house.

Ironing.

Dress codes / employee handbooks / getting people to sign HR policies [insert other organisational BS to suit]

Football generally.

Leeds United specifically. 

Data analytics.

Disruption.

Holocracy.

Mindfulness.

The term ‘human capital management’ and anyone that uses it unless they do with extreme irony.

Conspiracy theories.

Skiing

My Dad’s political opinions. 

The new Top Gear and whether it is any good or not.

Garden Centres.

Soap operas.

Larry Shippers.

Opera.

People who complain about HR.

People who complain about their jobs / company / salary and do nothing about it.

Avocados.

Phone calls. Tweet me for goodness sake. What is it, 1994?

Who is going to be the next James Bond. Unless it’s like, Harry Styles. Obvs.

Podcasts.

Being beach body ready.

Justin Bieber.

Lists on the internet. 5 things that [insert as applicable].

Anyone who thinks that Twitter is about people sharing what they had for breakfast.

What anyone thinks about how much I weigh.

What anyone thinks about my tattoos.

What anyone thinks about how much I go to the gym.

Pensions.

Whether anyone agrees with this list or not.

  

Ahhhhh…… That feels better. 

4am

It’s 4am.

An unfamiliar city. A lonely, identikit hotel room.

All around is still and dark.

Wondering if I am the only one awake.

Looking out of the window, the city sleeps, even if I don’t.

Feeling disconnected and far from home.

But of course I’m not disconnected at all. Literally.  An internet connection is all that I need.

And there they are. My friends, my tribe. My cheerleading squad.  In my timeline.  Via DM.  On that inspirational Slack channel.

The geography and the time zone don’t matter.  Everyone and everything that I need is just a tweet or a gif away.

And I’m loving social media just a little bit more today.

YOLO

I’ve had a couple of YOLO conversations lately.  Both virtual and IRL.

It might be an annoying acronym, but it is a familiar script for me.

It is my default position when I apply for a fitness event. That along with my favourite coaching question ‘what is the worst thing that than can happen?

There’s a reason for this. For much of my childhood my mother was ill with a condition that remained stubbornly undiagnosed.  Years and years of doctors and consultations and hospitals and treatments – of the traditional and distinctly alternative kind.  Five long miserable years.  And then, diagnosis, treatment, recovery.

And a new mind-set.

You only come this way once. My mother said this almost every day.  Often as a precursor to opening a bottle of wine or buying some expensive shoes if I am honest.  It imprinted upon me.

Cliché it may be. But true all the same.  All we really have is this moment.  Tomorrow is another day, but it is by no means guaranteed.  Too many recent events have taught us so.

On Saturday, I am taking part in an endurance event that, in truth, I’m not fit enough for. I’ll be one of the weakest and slowest in the field.  It involves water, something that I am frightened of.  Plenty of reasons to stay at home. But that direction leads to a life that is less than it really could be.

Live, laugh, love. Take risks.  Do all of the things that you always wanted to. Don’t wait.  Carpe that diem. Just do it.

Because, you know…. YOLO.

The imposter within

Lately, I’ve found myself talking often to folk about imposter syndrome.  I’ve been feeling it too. Don’t we all, from time to time?

If you are new to the term, then it’s all about the fear of being exposed. Of being thought a fraud. Of not deserving to be where you are.  It is the ‘what I am doing here, they are going to find me out any minute now’ brain tape.  One that often plays when we need it the least.

It is debilitating. Confidence zapping.

If you follow my fitness blog, you will know that I have been studying to become a personal trainer. Never before have I felt imposter syndrome so keenly.

Imagine this. There are ten people on the course including me.  Everyone else there is in the industry.  Has a long history of fitness.  They have done the event and got the t-shirt, and in a couple of cases were actually wearing it.

There were the two female body builders. The girl who had just left the army.  The woman who was an established fell runner.  A gymnast.  A Pilates teacher.  And me.  I’m the least fit person in the room.  Even at a size 10, I’m the biggest woman there by some distance.  We start the first day with a detailed discussion about advanced weight techniques.  And the tape starts to play.  What exactly am I doing in this room, with these people?  In a minute it will be my turn in the circle to answer a question and then everyone will know that I don’t belong here. 

It didn’t get any better. Our afternoon topic? Learning how to take body fat measurements.  On each other.  The old school way, with measuring tools.  Which involved stripping down to your sports bra and taking hold of each other’s fat.  If there is one thing guaranteed to kill your confidence it is standing next to a girl who has12% body fat whilst other people practice poking at yours.

And on and on the tape played.

An urge to run. Somewhere, anywhere.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have talked to many people who find imposter syndrome crippling.  Because it gets in the way.  Because when I told someone this story they were surprised to find that I felt this way too.

From what I have read about imposter syndrome, many of those who suffer from it don’t realise that it’s not just them.  That it is a thing, not just their confidence and secret fears.

You don’t know when imposter syndrome is going to show up. I can stand in front of a room of several hundred people and talk about HR.  I can write a book and a blog and put my thoughts out into the world for anyone to see.  But in another context, in another place, I had to ride the wave of panic.  I had to persuade myself that I was okay. That I wasn’t suddenly going to get found out or exposed or kicked out or have an epic fail.

We can talk about leaning in or showing up with presence. We can talk about faking it till we make it.

But these are not always easy things to do. Not for everyone.

I’m just for recognising about it and talking about it.  As leaders, we can share when we have felt it and let others know that it isn’t all that unusual and it isn’t just them.  By recognising imposter syndrome for what it is, we can start to control it.

We can tell the imposter within that this time, we are not listening.

Stating the obvious?

But perhaps because the obvious still needs stating.

I’m at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership Conference listening to Sir Cary Cooper talking about wellbeing at work.  This is what he had to say:

 We have a problem with mental health and stress absence in the UK. Employees regularly go to work when they are sick – presenteeism is a major problem. 

A quality of life survey undertaken since 1997 showing people feel that their volume and pressure of work is increasing. 

Long hours culture. 75% of people work more than their contracted hours every week – excluding what we do on our smart phones. We work the longest hours in Europe. But long means ill. Long means family impact. 

Only 35% of employees are both healthy and present. What a miserable statistic. 

Excessive emailing – sometimes out of hours (whatever that means anymore). Some companies are banning it. Blocking it when you are on holiday. Limiting who you can cc.

Many managers don’t have the right social and interpersonal skills for this stuff. The most important relationship at work is the one with your boss. Bad managers should come with a health warning.  Bullying and aggressive management is a real problem. 

The pressure to be always on through technology adds to the unhealthy mix. 

My thoughts are these…

Don’t we know this stuff? Isn’t it obvious?  That working long hours makes us less productive.  That stress is bad for our health.  That mental health is a problem for many people in our organisations. That bad managers are deadly. 

It shouldn’t need research.  It shouldn’t need stating.  But yet it does.  But  yet there are cultures in which this stuff is hard wired.  Where sitting at your desk equals work.  Where emailing late at night is acceptable and where talking about mental health is not.  Where presenteeism is work like a badge of honour. Where crappy management is all too real. 

We know this stuff.  It isn’t a knowledge gap but a to-do gap in most organisations.  This is a culture thing, a line manager capability thing. And until we address that, really tackle it and call it out, we will keep on having the same old conference conversations.

Over to this thing about the pressure of emails, the pressure of technology.  I believe it’s a personal thing. For some, or more accurately perhaps I should say, for me, this doesn’t really present a problem.  Call it FOMO, call it habit, call it sad (I know some people do) but being in touch is just part of who I am.  Yes, I grab my phone the minute my alarm goes off in the morning.  More accurately, my phone is my alarm. And yes, I’m checking my notifications.  Over my breakfast I check all of my social media feeds.  Well, apart from LinkedIn of course.  Ain’t no one got time for that. I reply to messages, drop into a chat channel with some of my social media besties. No stress, no pressure.

I work for a global business.  While I am asleep my colleagues are working and emailing.  Once again, no stress or pressure felt. 

It is both personal and contextual. We rail against email, but someone commented to me recently that the thing they dislike most of all is a phone call, because it demands immediate attention rather that the email which can be responded to later. Demonising email is just focusing on symptoms not causes. 

Back to Cary… He asked the HR folk in the room: do people look forward to coming to work everyday? Or do they look for leaves on the line? 

Something to think about perhaps, at your place. 

 
Please forgive any typos this is a live blog!

 

 

How to help your employees decide how to vote

In a word, don’t. Just don’t.

Yesterday, a reader of my blog sent me a letter. She works for a SME in the UK, and the CEO has written to all employees in order to ‘help them understand’ the key issues around the forthcoming European referendum.

Only, it wasn’t so much a helpful guide as a list of reasons why he thought they should vote ‘leave’. His method of ‘help’ was to regurgitate much of the leave campaign rhetoric.  Including some of the slightly dubious stuff.  Essentially it was his opinion; what he thinks might be best for his business and sent to all his employees.

Here’s the thing. If someone wants to better understand the issues before deciding how to vote then there are plenty of ways that they can go about it.  Watch a debate, read widely – from both sides of the argument.  But voting the way your boss thinks you should is no way to make a decision. You might as well just read The Sun and be done with it.

As employers we have many responsibilities. Attempting to influence people in how to vote isn’t one of them.

How to rock your people event

I often get involved in events. Sometimes as a speaker, sometimes through my day job, and sometimes as part of my volunteer role for the CIPD.  It probably isn’t a surprise to anyone that I love a good conference or event. Last week I managed three HR events. They are a great opportunity to share information, to engage, to meet people and to learn. What happens at HR conferences often finds its way into my work in one or another. 

So, prompted by a conversation on Twitter, I thought I’d share a few things I have learned along the way about events, hoping they might be useful to others. 

  1. Like with all good people stuff, start with why. What is the point of your event? What messages do you want to send? What do you want people to know or to feel at the end? Start with the end in mind and keep it there at all times when designing your content. It will keep you on track.
  2. Recognise that some people don’t like events and conferences. It isn’t their thing. Maybe because they are disengaged with their job or company. Maybe just because they find them difficult. I’ve been at several conferences where a delegate has been having a snark fest on Twitter. For those who find events difficult, make it easy for them to play some part (see next point). But at the same time recognise that your event is for the majority – focus on them first, and a little less on those attendees that you couldn’t engage even if One Direction turned up (maybe just me that one).
  3. Think carefully about any of that team building malarkey. For every person who thinks it would be super awesome to learn how to do the Haka or play drums in a circle of truth, there is another (including me tbh) that would rather run away as fast as possible in the opposite direction. If you take people too far out of their comfort zone then they are just going to check out one way or another. 
  4. Don’t make it all about you, all about a broadcast. I’ve been to too many events which are just corporate messaging and information sharing and ‘can you read this slide from the back?’  Frankly, you could stick this sort of stuff in an email / video / blog etc. An event needs to include dialogue.
  5. Put yourself in the place of the delegate and look critically at your content. Would it interest you? Would it inspire you? Or would it send you to sleep with your eyes open? Design your event with the delegate in mind, not yourself.
  6. Stick to your timings. Don’t pack so much in that you run over. Make sure your speakers don’t run over too. I’ve been known to stand up and tell someone their time is up and ask them to stop talking. It is rude to your delegates not to stick to what you have promised. If you put an Agenda out there, make sure it happens as stated.
  7. Build in learning. If you are spending time and money getting people in a room for a work conference, make sure that there is something in it for them to take away. Help them learn something new along the way.
  8. Build in fun. In particular, see next point. Fun at work is not against company policy.
  9. Build in agenda-less time. Open space. Thinking time. You don’t need to manage every moment, and some of the best insights and thinking often come from outside the structures. 
  10. PowerPoint. Less is most definitely more. As noted above, if all your speakers are going to do is read off a slide then you might as well just send it to people via email instead.
  11. Don’t forget the hygiene stuff. The right food and venue won’t make a bad event good. But they can certainly take a good event to a great one. Have decent food, plenty of water, natural light, good temperature. Make sure the venue is easy to find and provide directions and information about public transport. Have plenty of breaks.
  12. Don’t make it just about the day. A good event should have an effective build up and should then live on. There should be stuff before and stuff after. Tell people what to expect in advance. Share outputs, share photos, send updates, write blogs, encourage reflection and action. Ask others to do the same. Start an open discussion. Be open to feedback. Take the message out wider than the delegates.
  13. Include cupcakes, always.

Of course there is one last point. One that you might have come to expect from me.  Make your event social.  For the internal events, this is an opportunity to use your enterprise social network.  Externally, get the content out there. Blog. Tweet. Instagram.  Periscope. Increase your reach.  Involve the back channel. Provide a resource for others. Share your stuff. Make that hashtag rock.

And….. Don’t forget to enjoy it!