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 

 

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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.

 

Use Your Natural Strengths More

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The next technique to learn is to ask yourself what strengths do I naturally have that I can use to solve any problem or challenge that comes my way and move towards a solution orientation? Do you know your natural strengths?

You may have received some 360-degree feedback over the years in various forms formally or informally so this is a good source of information especially in identifying what other people think you are good at.

To add to any existing feedback in your possession and to give a fresh perspective there is a very useful free resource online that could be help, go to  www.viacharacter.org and click on the survey tab where you go and take a free test that identifies your top natural strengths. The report looks at strengths very differently and has more of a value internal perspective. When I did the test my top one is “love of learning” and this is so true and linked to my top motivational factor.

Either use the test above to identify what you naturally do well or use your own self-awareness to ask “how can I use my natural strengths to solve this problem?”

If I use myself as an example I am a resource investigator (I found this out using Belbin team types diagnostic tool many years ago in my corporate career). What this means is I can normally find someone to help either myself or anyone else and I don’t mind asking people to help share their expertise. When faced with a tricky problem I can’t solve myself I would pull on this skill to look at my existing network to access expertise or experience of similar problems to help me explore possible options for the problem in front of me.

It might be worth listing down a summary list of “ What I am naturally good at and love to do” so that when faced with a challenging situation you can look at this list and it might spark off an action or approach that will help you move forwards and because it is capitalizing on natural strength then the action wont feel too hard it will come to you easily.

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both Businesses and Private Clients, 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

 

 

Continued Personal Development

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As part of most professional qualifications or to secure and maintain membership of a professional body we are required to source, attend and document Continuous Professional Development (CPD). I first encountered this requirement when I became a qualified management account many years ago and I now have a similar requirement with my International Coaching Federation (ICF) accreditation.

Depending on your personality you will either have put a plan in place to evidence all the CPD requirements by the required date well in advance or if you are more of a last minute person the reminder of this CPD renewal will suddenly arrive in your inbox and there will be a mild sense of panic resulting in this going on the mental to do list.

Every time such professional requirements appear on my horizon I have mixed emotions. The first initial one is “oh no how on earth am I going to find time to do this” quickly followed by a second thought of “this could be really onerous and boring” and a third one of “this is going to cost a lot of money”. As I am a naturally structured plan in advance person I haven’t got the additional pressure of having to find something last minute that I can complete or attend to get the right number of hours under my belt to submit.

As I approach this requirement now I am very lucky in the fact that a fellow coach had done a lot of research (during a spell of enforced illness) and researched the most cost effective, time efficient and interesting programmes available on the market. This has proved invaluable to me as all I had to do was look at the recommended course and verify I could commit the time, money and that it would be of value to both myself individually and my client base.

So, a few months ago I committed and enrolled on a Positive Psychology Coaching Programme run out of the USA. It is my first complete experience of a worldwide distance learning course which involves webinars, peer coaching via Skype or telephone and written work. This whole way of learning was the first benefit for me as my immediate reaction was that I prefer face to face work however to date this multimedia and distance approach is working just fine.

Regarding financial commitment yes, it is a lot however if I choose to be aligned to the most highly recognised Coaching federation this is non-negotiable, and the investment must be made. As always, the time slots required I have managed to integrate into my already busy diary, I have mad at least one new great connection to add to my network and the subject matter I am already using in my work.

So, for anyone reading this who is required to do similar CPD work, have you got this sorted yet? If not, it may be a good idea to plan out what you intend to do meet your specific professional requirements and commit. In addition find activities that met the requirements but are also of personal interest and benefit for personal and professional growth.

 

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both business and private clients. More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com or in her book Own It available from Amazon  http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

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