Juggling Priorities

We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed. The inbox is flooded with unread messages, the calendar is full, and the to-do list looks unmanageable. It is important to gain the ability to manage your time between short-, medium-, and long-term tasks and projects. By exploring how to spend time on the right things we begin to see the importance of setting a personal agenda to get your focus back on track.

This post will introduce two tools for developing time and project management skills that have proved very effective in my work with clients. The first is the Third Habit outlined in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which details the importance of prioritising tasks.

Managing priorities

In Habit 3, Covey encourages leaders to ‘Put First Things First’. Here he refers to the Four Quadrants of Time Management, by which all tasks are classified in terms of both urgency and importance. Tasks in Quadrant I might entail important deadlines and crises, those in Quadrant II tasks contributing to long-term development. Quadrant III refers to small and potentially distracting deadlines, whilst Quadrant IV’s distractions are frivolous and often pertain to procrastination.

The process of working with these quadrants entails first identifying the levels of urgency and importance in certain tasks, and in this way becoming more reflective on your working patterns. Covey advises us to spend more time in Quadrant II, with tasks and projects that are important but not urgent. These tasks are about planning, prevention, and improvement. By focusing attention on them we begin to prevent crisis situations from unfolding and maintain a healthy balance between productive work and understanding our limits.

To do this, Covey argues, we must reassess the time we spend on Quadrants III and IV, which should respectively be delegated to others and eliminated entirely.

Visualising the plan

To assess how much time, we spend in each Quadrant, however, we must first identify the levels of importance and urgency in our routine tasks/medium term projects/long-term goals. Here I introduce a second tool which comes from the fifth chapter of my book, The Evergreen Executive.

As an idea generating tool for you to design and generate your own Plan On A Page take a look at this downloadable template https://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com/downloads/Strategic_Plan_On_A_Page.pdf

By creating a plan on the page, it becomes easier to see what your priorities are and where your time should be spent. It can also be used to communicate and assign ownership to other members of your team

Taking charge

We all work collaboratively in many ways, and it is important to recognise the impact that relational work has on our time management. Leaders often feel themselves getting pulled in different directions by many people. They are often juggling multiple projects and are relied on heavily by different teams. By refocusing attention towards your individual agenda, it becomes easier to identify important tasks and prioritise these. Time management works hand in hand with personal management, and by regaining agency you can achieve efficiency in your work practice.

Reframing Imposter Syndrome

One phrase that has come up in many of my coaching conversations over the past few months is “I think I am suffering from Imposter Syndrome”. This has been mentioned by leaders who are looking for new roles, individuals who have been in their existing role for some time, and people who are new into their current position.

One of the main barriers to leaders reaching their full potential is not a lack of skills and experience, but instead a perceived lack emanating from low self-confidence. In a 1970s study on the impact of this work-centred around self-doubt, it was coined ‘Imposter Syndrome’. From here on this phenomenon has been understood as a limitation by which skilled workers doubt their competence and believe they are not talented enough to belong in their position. In 2014 study of 116 executives, 60% stated that imposter syndrome had an impact on their leadership.

When understood in this way, as a disadvantage, imposter syndrome can have huge consequences on peoples’ attitudes towards and behaviours at work. Some might overwork and refuse to ask for help to meet impossibly high standards, with the aim of combatting imposter syndrome by gaining proficiency in the workplace. This response often leads to burnout which can have hugely detrimental effects on wellbeing. Others lean into the insecurity and begin to avoid feedback and opportunities for promotion, believing that they don’t deserve to be given any merit.

First step to moving forward – open up communication

To tackle this exhausting feeling, opening up communication around imposter syndrome will allow the insecurity to be humanised and understood as a necessary and universal part of professional progression. Self-doubt can lead to rich and valuable reflection but should be balanced with positive reinforcement regarding what you have already accomplished and using this to move forwards and build self-belief. Changing the focus from the feeling of Imposter Syndrome as being a limiting factor, look at the evidence of what you are good at and can bring to your role and move towards a reframing of your situation as a natural phase of personal growth which you can easily move through.

A huge barrier to overcoming imposter syndrome is the feeling that you don’t belong in comparison to others. Breaking the silence on these thoughts, therefore, can help you understand how widespread they are. But this can only start with you, and openly acknowledging these feelings will give colleagues the opportunity to do the same. Imposter syndrome has been found as one of the top fears for executives, so there’s no chance that you’re feeling them alone. Take the first step by talking to a trusted peer, line manager or external coach/mentor and move forwards from here.

If you need any further help please reach out using sandra@sandrawebbercoaching.com for an initial free consultation.

Sandra works as an executive coach for a multitude of businesses and private clients. She has over 30 years of experience to draw from in her work and has a particualar focus on creating high performing leaders.

Flexible Working in Practice

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When 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris 4 hour work week book  came out I wrongly concluded from the title that it was going to be about working in such a smart way you only had to ever work for four hours a week. I must admit before reading it I did think even for a mega organised person like myself getting my work week down to four hours and still being able to find my lifestyle as I chose did seem to be a big stretch goal.

When I eventually read the book however it wasn’t exactly how I had interpreted it from the title and Tim was suggesting a more creative approach to flexible working that had instant appeal. It was more about designing your work life so that you were able to take extended periods of time away from work so that in a whole year it averaged out at a four hour work week.

 So I read Tim’s book a few years ago now however the concept he suggested must have resonated in the background. I also listened to a few podcasts and read about other people who had decided to take time away from their work and travel in order to re energise themselves especially if they had been in the work place for many years and had never had more than the annual leave off for holidays.

 It suddenly dawned on me that I had never taken more than 2 weeks away from the workplace and indeed the last two week break I took was over twenty years ago. In recent years especially when initially starting the business the most holiday time I had taken was 10 days, opting normally for 3 breaks a year of about a week plus a couple of long weekends. It wasn’t until I sat back and reflected on this that I realised the short breaks that had become my norm. On the surface this wasn’t causing me a problem I enjoyed the pattern however starting with Tim’s book the seed of an idea began to sprout about taking a period of extended time away from the normal working week pattern.

 As many of my friends began to embark on early retirement patterns and travel or take the gap years they didn’t do back in the day I began to consider a less extreme option and some what of a halfway house solution to test some of the concepts in Tim’s book. This idea formulated into a plan to work based abroad for 4-8 weeks a year initially. In my work as a coach I have helped many entrepreneurs create businesses working remotely from many countries it was about time I actually role modelled this myself and at the time of writing I am halfway through the first month totally based in Palma Mallorca and guess what it is working fine thanks largely to technology.

  

Sandra works as a coach for business and private clients. She is also the author of Own It regain control and live life on your terms available here  Own It book link Amazon 

 

Flexible Working Mindset

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As I was lucky enough to work for a very forward thinking multinational American based organisation in my early career I have always been a fan of flexible working. Even back in the 1980’s and 1990’s working for this company my performance was always measured on the results I achieved not the hours I spent in the office.

When I started a family, I was one of the first senior leaders to return to my role on a part time basis and another couple of my then colleagues were part of a pilot plan to prove a senior leadership role in the Marketing Function could be successfully be carried out on a job share basis (which they did prove!) Flexible working in many forms were supported and actively encouraged as a way of keeping high performers working for the organisation as their personal circumstances changed and recruiting replacements would have been time consuming and expensive.

Since leaving this organisation and having had the privilege of working with many more across a huge variety of industries also supporting SME’s and startups I still work with the ethos of encouraging leaders to do whatever they can to consider individual requests for flexible working/ part time contracts if a few things are carefully considered by both parties.

Firstly, the individual must have clearly defined role, specific areas of responsibility and a plan needs to be in place to cover the times when the individual is not available for work as per the agreed schedule. This is where job sharing can be of great benefit providing the necessary co-cover for each other. If job sharing isn’t an option, then there may be a developmental opportunity for another member of the same organisation to learn skills and provide cover. This ensures continuity of role especially important in client facing roles.

The second thing to consider is that the role needs to be manageable from both a business and a personal perspective using the flexible or reduced hours model. With increased technology this makes life a lot easier with remote access and cloud-based applications the norm now. There wasn’t this luxury back in those early years however we still made it work.

The mindset should however still be the same all these years on – if someone requests a flexible or reduced hour schedule and they have already proven they can do the job well it should simply be “what can we do to make this work from both a business case and a personal standpoint”

 

Sandra works as a coach for both businesses and private clients primarily based in Bristol UK however throughout the year also works in London and Palma Mallorca. More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com.

 

What Is The Next Baby Step To Take?

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Whether it’s a goal you have set yourself, a challenge the team has in front of them, a problem you need to solve, or you are trying to help someone else move forwards the ability to move forwards towards the desired state is something that is required. The less time we spend paralysed or procrastinating the better when it comes to continually achieving high performance both professionally and personally.

Another habit we can develop is to identify how far we are away from our desired result and use a timeline technique to ascertain how big the gap is. Let’s imagine your ideal outcome or the place where you would feel happy with a situation is 10/10. Ask the question where are you now? on the scale from 1-10  with 10 being the perfect result or outcome you are working towards e.g. if you scored yourself 5 then you are halfway along to being in the place you want to be or accomplishing the goal you have set yourself.

Then ask yourself the question – what have I done to get myself this far e.g. off level 0. What do I need to do more of to move myself up the scale? Normally we have made some progress, rarely are you starting for level zero.

The next baby step to take is to imagine where the next level up would be i.e. if you are currently rating yourself as a 5 on the scale what action would you need to take to get yourself to a 6. By taking this approach we are trying to break down a big challenge or goal into baby steps of action or bite sized chunks (chunking is a commonly used NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming methodology)

When you have identified what you need to do to take you to the next level upwards and more towards your destination then ask yourself whether you need anyone’s expertise or assistance to get there? Whether it’s simply being disciplined to set aside time to work on the action, whether there is any element of fear of failure or loosing face standing in your way. What is stopping you take that next action step and what do you need to remove that barrier.

This process then needs to be circled around again to achieve the next level up on the scale. Simply having this diagrammatically drawn in your daily notebook could help remind you of what action you need to take to take small baby step action steps to reach your ultimate destination.

What action could you take today or within a week to move you up one or two levels?

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both businesses and private clients. For more information look at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com or read through her book Own It available from Amazon  http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

Turn Problems into New Outcomes

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How good are you at taking a situation and switching from a problem focus to a solution focus?

Whether it be in private or professional life we can often be faced with unplanned events or situations that we didn’t anticipate and have the potential of derailing us. How quickly  you are able to pick yourself up and reposition both your thoughts, feelings and actions from a problem orientation to a problem-solving stance is a skill high performers work on continuosly. Having some tools and techniques to handle these situations are useful ones to have.

One way of training ourselves to move towards a solution is by thinking firstly towards what is the desired outcome we want. If the outcome isn’t obvious then the first habit to learn is to look wide at all the possibilities alternative outcomes so simply get a blank bit of paper, a white board or flip chart and ask the following questions.

What would good look like?

  • What would it feel like?
  • What would people be saying?
  • What do all the different stakeholders want?
  • What we be proud of?
  • How can we make this the best in class?

Try and get other people involved as well for tricky problems to get diversity of thought as sometimes we can be too close both emotionally and technically to the problems we are trying to solve. So that’s the first technique to learn, questioning with curiosity to explore new outcomes that you can work towards from the problem you are currently encountering. Just by reframing the situation in this way you can change the energy levels of those involved from low energy despair to higher and possibility.

Acknowledge the problem but move on quickly towards a new outcome.

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both businesses and private clients, more information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com . She is also the author of Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon click this link

 

 

Manager, Mentor, Coach

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The importance of having either a mentor or coach (ideally both) has always been apparent to me from the early part of my career. When I was qualifying as an accountant in my twenties I was lucky to be working for some great role models who encouraged personal development and growth both from a technical and interpersonal standpoint.

I have a clear distinction in my mind between a persons line manager, a mentor and a coach however for others sometimes the lines can get blurred. If you can create strong relationships with all three of these people at any one time different things can be gained from each. At the same time you will feel both challenged and supported if you surround yourself with the right people in all of these roles.

As well as having all three of these people in your life if you can get the opportunity to act in all of these three roles to aid the development of others this is also very rewarding work and allows you to experience what I think are the differences between the roles. Let’s take each in turn and I will explain how I have experienced them

Line Manager – the most obvious in that organisationally this is who you report too if employed, if self employed this won’t be in place and makes the other two roles below even more important to avoid working in a void. A good line manager will ensure you have complete clarity about that is required from your role, give you feedback on whether you are heading in the right direction performance wise while in addition set you stretching objectives and devise a meaningful development plan.

Mentor – this is someone who has walked the path you want to take and has learnt from experience and willing to share how these experiences may help you follow a similar path. They should be inspiring and enjoy helping you proceed in your journey in your way but with the benefit of learnings they may be able to pass on. This relationship normally is in place for a relatively short time until you have discussed their journey. A mentoring relationship can last for about a year however if there is a big gap between where the mentor is and where you are now the relationship may last longer and move into a more infrequent checkin over a longer period of time.

Coach – this is someone you meet with again over a set period of time anything from 3 months to 9 months typically. The coaching sessions act as safe spaces for you to get clear on your goals (work and non work), explore options for action, any barriers you may be struggling to overcome and any patterns of behaviour or thinking that are either working for you or against you. A coach will use established tools and techniques that include powerful questions to unlock the answers that are already inside you. A qualified coach does not need specialist knowledge about what you want to work on or technical expert subject matter.

My recommendation would be to have at least two of these people in your life and to at least get the opportunity to act as a mentor for others in either a professional or personal area.

 

Sandra works as a coach and trainer for both business and private clients. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

The First 90 Days Concept and Practice

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Recently I have been working with a couple of people that have taken on new roles either from internal promotion or moving to a different company. We have been talking about how important it is to have a plan for the initial few months of the role. For many reasons adopting this methodology is helpful: to create a powerful professional first impression, it helps prioritise your time so that you learn as much as you can as quick as you can and you start building relationships with all the key stakeholders.

So what might this 90 day plan look like ? Take a look at a book entitled The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins for some more detailed material.

It should be a very personally created plan that is tailored to suit both you individually and the needs that success in the role require both short and long term.

As Steven Covey states in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “ begin with the end in mind” even when planning for the first 90 day transition period. A few questions that might help you here are :

  1. If you imagine the new role in two years time what do you want to have achieved?
  2. What legacy do you want to leave?
  3. How can you add value to the role?
  4. What type of person do you want to be described as by your team/colleagues?
  5. Describe you short/medium/long term vision for role
  6. What do your stakeholders want from you
  7. How can you take the role to the next level

The next element of the plan is to assess the current resources that are available to you both people and otherwise? How well do you understand the different personalities and motivations of the individuals that are critical to your success? If the answers are difficult in this section the first 90 days might include an action to build this knowledge and assess the resources available.

The final element is what actions are required to close the gap and what are the quick wins that can be accomplished in the first 90 day’s. In addition for the longer term action items, when they are broken down into chunks which are the chunks that can be realistically set down as goals to achieve in this 90 day period and which what chunks need to be assigned to the 180 day plus part of the strategic plan

The final step is to pull all the elements of the 90 day plan above into an easy to update one page top level summary that you can carry around with you as a working reminder and communication tool for the next 90 day’s,

 

Sandra works as a coach with both business and private clients. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com 

Going It Alone

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Linking back to a previous blog post on scary goals and being brave one area that frequently comes up in my career coaching work is when an individual is trying to decide whether to leave paid employment and enter into the world of self employment.

I remember when I made this move leaving a very well paid corporate job in 2000 I walked out of the office door for the very first time “unemployed “ thinking what I have just done is either very brave or very stupid. There wasn’t a plan on what I was actually going to do I just knew that the job I had been in was making me miserable and had been doing this for about eighteen months. I had got to the point where I dreaded going back to work after a holiday and I had always vowed if that happened to make some changes.

Within the first couple of weeks had I heard a few of bits advice from mentors who had a similar path and were a few years down the line at that point. The advice I gained in these early weeks I still pass onto others as I believe them to be very true in my experience

  • It takes 3-4 years to get used to being self employed and if you last this long without returning to a regular salaried job them you are likely to be successful and also become fairly unemployable as you get used to the freedom of being your own boss and the feast and famine nature of this path.
  • It’s all about who you know and who you surround yourself by. There will be many doubts in these early years and pragmatic encouragement from authentic inspirational people who want to help you succeed is a critical success factor.

I certainly underestimated the length of time it takes to

  • Refine what you want to specialise in
  • To work out the correct pricing model
  • To set up the operational infrastructure working out what you want to do yourself and what you want to pay others to do for you
  • Work out the elevator pitch when people ask the classic “ what do you do?”
  • Polish off an authentic sales and engagement process
  • Develop a support network to encourage you when the going gets tough but also challenge you when something needs to be discontinued and you don’t see it yourself.

What you get in return however after persisting through these initial years is immense personal growth along with a sense of achievement and freedom along with the by product of meeting some great new people on route.

 

Sandra works as a coach with both businesses and private clients. She is also author of the book Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon click here http://bit.ly/1JhAkst

 

Persistence & Accountability

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So how are you doing with all those good intentions, resolutions, goals or new habits that you decided to commit to at the beginning of the year?

If I look at myself then I would say I am doing better with some than others, there are certain actions that are proving more difficult to embed as habits than others. When I work with both business and private clients keeping the momentum going over a long period of time and working out how to embed certain behaviours or habits that the individual wants to work on is by far the hardest part of the change process.

So let’s take a work example to illustrate a couple of things that can help embed new ways of improving or creating new actions moving forwards:

 A leader I have been working with for several months was struggling to commit her time to holding regular Team Meetings and hold monthly 1-1,s with her direct reports. She had had various attempts at putting the meetings in the diary and had also managed to keep the momentum going with a few meetings but it never lasted more than a couple of months. She began to think it didn’t matter as she sat quite close to the people they all chatted every day and they were having the occasional meeting. Deep down however she knew that the regular pattern she had originally set out to achieve hadn’t been embedded to become routine practice plus the fact that these two activities in my view (as her coach) were key to maintaining individuals motivation, aiding consistent communication and managing performance issues. It took a couple of events to refocus the leaders attention back to the important “why” did she want to work on improving this area in the first place. The two events were a high performing member of the team handed in her notice as she felt she wasn’t been challenged or developed enough in the role plus in the end of year appraisal feedback the Team commented that they often didn’t know what was going on in other areas of the business. When we discussed both of theses events at a coaching discussion it was clear that if the regular 1-1’s had been happening with everyone and team meetings were a given part of daily operations then these two events might not have occurred.

 So this illustration shows there has to be a solid reason behind why you want to embed new behaviours or change the way you do things.

 Ask yourself the question for anything you intended to do at the beginning of 2018 what was your “why” was it strong enough? Is it still there?

 Also who are you accountable ? It really helps if you share what you would like to work on with someone else and ask them to be your accountability buddy until the new habit or action becomes embedded in your routine.

Sandra works as a coach to both businesses and private clients – more information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com. She has also written a book called Own It which can be found on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl