Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Learning at Work Week

 

Learning at Work

Did you know that next week (17th through 23rd May 2021) is Learning at Work Week?

Campaign for Learning

The brainchild of the Campaign for Learning, Learning at Work Week is a chance for people to learn new stuff while at work, and for companies like Impact Factory to offer new stuff for people to learn.

We think this is a great idea.  Our brains are hungry for new experiences and it’s been proven that learning improves our minds, cognitive abilities and our well-being.

All Learning is Development

Yes, many people get ‘trained’ at work to develop the jobs they are doing and yet, too many organisations believe that non-work related learning should be done out of working hours.

 This coming week is an antidote to that attitude, where people are encouraged to take time during working hours to learn just about anything new. 

Learn One New Thing

We decided to take the challenge and plan something for every day next week with a great range of free events.

We want to encourage managers to give their team members time to take part, whether it’s one of our events or anything else that’s happening next week. 

Schedule of Learning

Here’s our schedule, with links so you can register.  Or you can give us a ring on 020 7226 1877 or email enquiries@impactfactory.com

 Come to one, come to all!  We look forward to welcoming you.

How to Avoid Zoom Fatigue 

Monday 17th May 2-3pm (BST):  How to Avoid Zoom Fatigue

 Register Here

Managing Social Anxiety in the Workplace

Tuesday 18th May 2-2.40 pm (BST):  Managing Social Anxiety in the Workplace

Register Here

Drop-in Presentation Surgery

Wednesday 19th May 11am-12pm (BST):  Drop-in Presentation Surgery

Register Here

Building Your Confidence at Work

Wednesday 19th May 2-3pm (BST):  Building Your Confidence at Work 

Register Here

A Joyful Hour of Chaos

Thursday 20th May 2-3pm (BST): A Joyful Hour of Chaos

Register Here

The Agony Aunt Hour

Friday 21st May 2-3pm (BST):  The Agony Aunt Hour 

Register Here

 

Impact Factory website:  impactfactory.com

Thursday, 1 April 2021

It's April Fool Time


Time

It’s a joke.

Time.  It’s a joke, right?

How can something be fast and slow all at once?

Time Flies

Yesterday it was December and now it’s April Fool’s Day.  Yet, at the same time, it feels as though you can count the minutes of every single day.  But then they all blend into each other.  What’s going on??

Time has become elastic in ways most of us haven’t experienced before.  How many times have you asked someone, “What day is it today?”?

Sleep patterns have also been disrupted for many people and they experience an overall sense of sluggishness, which also can make time feel agonisingly slow (“Is it the weekend yet?”).

Circadian rhythms

The brain is trying to process what is happening to us – the combination of massive change, stress, anxiety, the unknown, hope, is having a huge impact on us and our brains. One part of the brain is responsible for our Circadian rhythms (what happens to us on a daily basis), which have been disrupted pretty much across the board. 

And another part of the brain is responsible for shorter time periods, which have also been disrupted.

The New Normal

That’s why we crave something like ‘normality’, whether we call it the new normal, or a need for the old normal, the critical desire is to have regularity.  We are pattern-making creatures and part of the purpose of our creating patterns is to give the brain a break from having to consciously and continually make choices.  Patterns leave the brain free to handle more complex duties and information.

Living in a state of constant disruption puts additional pressure on our brain functions and it’s one of the reasons why our perception of time is so changeable.  Not only that, our memories are affected as well.

Fight Flight

Many of these brain functions are designed to help us deal with things in the immediate:  we all know about fight or flight.  The brain signals the sympathetic nervous system to send out a cocktail of hormones into our bloodstream so we can either get the hell out of danger or step forward to confront it.

But that’s not what’s been happening this past year – for many of us, our sympathetic nervous systems are being overloaded with signals so that we are drowning in a sea of overproduced cortisol and other hormones which all affect our perception of time.

Is there anything we can do about this?  Aside from waiting till the pandemic is over (really?) or till everyone has been vaccinated (really?), there are things you can do to mitigate the time illusion that so many of us are dealing with.

Helpful Things You Can Do 

1. Rhythm’s the Thing

This may sound like teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, but the first thing is to find a few areas in your life where you can get into some kind of rhythm.  It can be as simple as meal-time - eating your meals at the same time every day.  Going to bed at the same time every night, bathing, etc.  We all know how well children respond to routine (even if they fight it); well, it’s just as good for us adults.

2. Down Time

We all need down time in our days.  Before, it might have been coffee breaks during the day with a colleague or two, or taking time when the kids are in school to put your feet up, or going out for a walk during your lunch-hour. 

Anecdotally, I’ve heard that a lot of people are simply skipping these altogether and somehow feel obligated to sit in front of their computers all day long.  This is not healthy.  Schedule it in and put your guilt about taking time out on the back burner – you can always retrieve it later if you wish.

3. Combat Zoom Fatigue

Back-to-back Zoom meetings are nuts.  The novelty appeal is a bit tarnished, and although Zoom (and other platforms) has been a real life-saver, too much of it is definitely not a good thing. 

The first thing we all have to accept is that because it’s not the same as face-to-face, and I mean big-time, you have to adjust the way meetings are held:  they need to be shorter, include more laugher, account for distractions. 

And most of all, the need to be scheduled in such a way that you have a decent gap between each one.  Not pee-break length, but at the very least, tea-break length and then some.

4. Accept that Things Take Longer

Part of this time elasticity is that things seem to take a lot longer than they did before.  Not everything, but loads of stuff need more time to get done. 

The more you accept this is real, the fewer expectations you will pile on your shoulders, which in turn lowers your stress.

5. Phone a Friend

This piece of advice is good for lots of issues, not just time issues.  We need to talk more as never before, and taking a friend break is really good for your mental well-being. 

Try not to rush conversations or do other things at the same time.  We thrive on connections, so reaching out and being available to be reached out to helps us cope better.

Take A Break

I for one, am now going to reward myself for finishing this blog by taking a break.

I need to rest my ‘little grey cells’ and I may sit in the window watching the birds at the bird feeder, read a bit of the book I’m in the middle of, have a cool glass of water.

The point is, I’m not going to rush to the next thing on my to-do list.

It will still be there tomorrow and I will find the ‘time’ to do what I can.











Monday, 29 March 2021

Lockdown Hair Talk

Hair

Hands up anyone who has NOT had a conversation about hair these past 12 months.

Not too many I reckon.

Not only has just about everyone (including children) had a conversation about hair, they’ve probably had weekly or even daily discussions about it.

The State of Our Hair

The length of it, the colour of it; the trauma of having a loved one cut it (who fantasises about homicide with the slip of the razor).  The oohs and aahs when you haven’t seen someone on Zoom (or even in person) for a while as you each check out what state the other person’s hair is in.

Here at Impact Factory, we have a weekly catch up session and we definitely spend a chunk of time talking about hair: who’s mastered the art of cutting their own hair; who’s not going to bother getting their roots coloured post-lockdown; who may have had a bootleg cut but we’re not telling.

Why It's Important

So why am I spending so much time in this blog talking about hair?  And why is it important?

As well as hair often being a mirror of how we feel about ourselves and an overt and visible expression of ourselves, issues about hair can make us feel quite vulnerable.  And in our vulnerability during the past year, we have talked about it...a lot.  In turn, that has led us to speak about other issues that have also made us feel vulnerable.

Mental Health 

Mental health concerns and areas around well-being are being talked about as never before.  By sharing our feelings about our hair, we have also been sharing all sorts of other emotions around grief, anxiety, homeschooling, blurred work/life boundaries, being ill or the fear of getting ill.

We’ve shared our frustrations and we’ve also shared little, seemingly, inconsequential things like recipes and movies we’ve watched or box sets we’ve binged on, projects we haven’t done and green thumbs we discovered we had (or not).

Coping with Lockdown

More people are letting others know that their emotional, as well as physical life, is hard, and coping is stretching their resilience. More people are admitting that issues that were bubbling under the surface pre-pandemic, have now spilled over and need to be addressed.  

Interestingly, without our usual channels of interaction, the day-to-day chats in the office, the friends dropping in, the trips to see family many miles away (or right around the corner), many of us are sharing more of ourselves to more people, just in a completely different medium.

 Connecting

Unexpected people have become more open and want to tell you about what they are going through.  Many of us are connecting with more people and on a more profound level.

This is one consequence of the pandemic I hope remains with us, that we are willing to talk about the deeper stuff to each other, to admit our fears and worries, to ask for support and be open to accepting it.

 And in turn, I hope we will also judge less, be more willing to hear what others are going through and to offer a caring hand.

And of course, to keep talking about hair!

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

How Well Do You Interview?

Facilitation and Better Meetings Course

 Interview Skills

Oh, dear.  How people do let themselves down.

For the past two weeks, Impact Factory’s Leadership Team has been conducting interviews to fill a vacant post.

Some of the candidates have interviewed very well and those are the ones who have made the short-list.

Interview Coaching

But, oh dear, the rest.  I want to send them all to get Interview Skills coaching before they come along to meet us so they know how to present themselves more effectively.

I used to do a lot of career counselling, prepping people for job interviews, revamping CVs and helping people identify the careers that would most suit their skills and desires.

A Good Candidate

Because of that I’ve seen and worked with a lot of people over the past 30 years and know what makes a good candidate (aside from having the requisite skills).

Not only that, as a business owner (and previously head of a variety of departments with other organisations) I have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people over the years and I know what I want to see and experience when someone walks through the door.

I’ve also written about job hunting and offered loads of hints and tips over the years.  In light of this recent experience, I’m going to offer a few more to anyone out there going for a job:

Interview Tips

Be on time!

Even if you have to get there an hour early, go to a cafĂ© and have a cup of soothing, calming tea so you don’t end up rushing in sweating buckets and in a stressed-out state.

Do your research.

Read the company’s website from top to bottom.  Make notes, have an opinion, find something that you like about it and mention it.  Check out the industry so you know about any trends.

Rehearse how you’re going to present yourself.

If you aren’t inclined to get any coaching before you go job hunting, then practising ahead of time is essential.

Typical questions are:

Why are you suitable for this role?

Tell us about your relevant experience.

Why do you want to work for our company?

Why are you leaving your current job?               

How will you add value to our company?

Don’t just answer these questions in your head – say them out loud, say them to a friend or family member, say them in front of a mirror.

Make it relevant; bring it to life; give examples.  The number of times candidates just say, yes, they can do whatever it is they’ve been asked.  They don’t offer any examples or link work they’ve done in the past to the current role they’re being interviewed for.  They make we interviewers do all the work of probing and digging.  It’s your job to help bring the interview to life so that we want to know more and can visualise you working for us.  Put some energy into it!

Do you have any questions for us?  This is usually asked towards the end of the interview and is an invitation to display your thoughtfulness and interest in the organisation.  Having done the research prior to the interview you should have a good list of questions to get those on the receiving end thinking and being reflective.

Send a follow-up email.  As soon as you are near a tablet, phone, laptop, send a follow-up email thanking the company for their time and offer any more information.  Even if you have gone through an agency, they’ll be happy to forward an email – they want you to get the job, too!

We’ve finished our interviews now; we had a short-list of three and have all agreed on the final choice.  It’s possible our short-list could have been a lot longer if each of those other candidates had followed the above advice!

Check out Impact Factory’s one-to-one Interview Skills Coaching and Communication Skills Courses


Interview and Communication Skills  By Jo Ellen Grzyb

Monday, 22 March 2021

Managing in a Hybrid World

 

 The New Normal

Hybrid is definitely part of the new normal, whatever that may look like.

Working practises that were so off the radar as to be in outer outer space are now part of the plans of many organisations going forward.  This has been driven by a variety of factors.  Obviously, lockdowns have meant that the vast majority of people had to work from home and companies had to adapt to this new way of working. 

Out of that, many organisations have realised that they don’t need the same size offices they had in the past; they also realised that not everybody needs to be in the office and not only that, many employees have now discovered they are as, if not more, productive, working from home.  Plus they don’t have to struggle with a daily commute. 

The Future is Hybrid

So if hybrid is the way of the future, how do you manage it so that things work smoothly and people feel taken care of? 

The one constant, however, in study after study, is that most people do miss the interaction with their colleagues and those little moments that build a foundation of trust and good communication. 

First, let’s just step back here a minute and remind everyone that even when people were working face to face, it wasn’t always plain sailing.  Communication issues often were at the forefront of top employee complaints; squabbles between people happened and personality clashes occurred.  So it isn’t as though we’re all transitioning from Paradise to some hybrid between heaven and hell.

People Issues

If you weren’t great at handling ‘people’ issues before the pandemic, you’re most likely not going to be great handling a hybrid format either.  Rather than looking at this new development solely from the hybrid angle, we need to look at this from a ‘how do we improve communication no matter where we are’ angle. 

One final factor to point out before we look at solutions is that in many organisations teams are different.  People were furloughed or made redundant, teams have been restructured, roles redefined, new roles created.  This means that companies now have to manage getting these new teams working well together on top of everything else. 

Now let’s look at what you can do to manage in a hybrid world. 

It’s Personal 

One thing we’ve definitely noticed in a hybrid world is that there is a blurring of boundaries between work life and personal life to a far greater degree than ever before.  People seem to need to talk about what’s going on in their lives, how the pandemic is affecting them, additional challenges and difficulties.

This is a good thing.  Allow space and time for people to talk about anything from their hair to the tribulations of home schooling and, of course, if they have been directly impacted by COVID.  Sharing day to day stories is a way for people to connect and support each other. 

It Takes More Effort 

Managing people in the office and those working at home is harder, no doubt about that.  So put aside any thoughts that it will be like it was before.  You do have to pay much closer attention to how people are getting on, whether they need more, or less, support.  The dynamics of the office will be very different. 

This is all about how you manage change, rather than trying to replicate what was before.  Every single person in your organisation will be impacted by the changes that have and will be taking place.  Because it takes more effort, we always suggest getting as many people involved in your plans as possible.  The more people are involved, the more they will ‘own’ the changes and feel responsible for them.  Stuff that only comes from ‘on high’ is often either ignored or resented, especially in times of stress. 

Keep People in the Loop 

We cannot stress enough how important it is that people are kept up to date about what’s going on.  Working from home may have its benefits, but it is essential that employees don’t feel isolated and left out.  And as in the item above, it takes more effort to ensure people are kept informed and engaged with what’s happening, but you will be well-rewarded because the more informed people are, the more positive they feel about their place in the scheme of things.  This is true even when it’s bad news. 

Choose Your Medium Wisely 

There is no one right medium through which to communicate.  If you are aware that people are spending a lot of time on Zoom or Teams, then pick up the phone, rather than scheduling yet another virtual meeting. 

Or, if you’re aware that the team hasn’t met for a while, book in a Zoom. 

Finally, beware the dangers of email, as true before the hybrid world as now.  Miscommunication through email is the norm and everyone, but everyone gets misunderstood or misunderstands at some point when sending or receiving email.  We rely on it and yet it can cause more damage, hurt feelings and noses out of joint than just about anything else. 

Most of us are relatively careless when it comes to email and it’s really worth it to spend that extra bit of time crafting your emails rather than dashing them off and hoping for the best. 

Do the Silly Stuff 

We had a goat come to one of our company meetings recently.  Lola the goat.  Totally unexpected (one of the team organised it on the sly).  We’re a pretty silly bunch at the best of times, but since the pandemic, some of our team meetings have gotten rather raucous and even more silly (or we could say, they have gotten more lively and creative). 

People need the fun stuff, the giggles and laughter and nonsense.  This doesn’t mean indulging to the detriment of the serious stuff, but we know the benefit of games and quizzes and trying out new things without any consequences.  After a good laugh it’s easier to tackle the day to day piles clogging up our inboxes and to-do lists. 

Do it Regularly 

Finally, we suggest setting aside the same day and time each week for a company-wide meet up.  At Impact Factory we do it every week and though not everyone is able to come to every session, it’s in the diary and everyone knows the two Directors and CEO will be there to answer questions, give information, play, practise new stuff for the training room.  

It’s a lovely stabilising habit for all involved. 

It’s most likely that hybrid is here to stay at least for the short and medium-term and perhaps for the long term as well.

The more you see it as a positive, the better you will be able to make it work.

You might even get a goat to join the team!

Monday, 15 March 2021

Customer Service Bullying Rises During Lockdown

 


It appears we are becoming a nation of complaining bullies.

 We Britains complain a lot, and not necessarily in a productive way that takes care of we, the customers, and the people we are complaining to.

 During lockdown we’ve become a lot worse, making life hell for people on the front line of customer service.  On Radio 4’s Today Programme, 9th March 2021, it has been reported that the level of hostility from customers has increased exponentially.

 Reports of Offences Rise

The Institute of Customer Service says that the reports of offences are on the up across all interactions:  in person, on the phone and online.  A deal of it has to do with mask and social distancing compliance, with customers pushing hard against in-store regulations.

 At the same time, a lot of it also has to do with a sense of entitlement, of disregarding the feelings of others, of frayed tempers and feeling hard done by.

 What Can You Do?

If you’re interested in becoming a better customer, here are a few things you can do: 

1) Think It Through

Before you go charging down to the shop or picking up the phone or bashing out an email, think about why you like this company in the first place. Make a list (mentally or otherwise) about why you use them and some good things they've done in the past.

If it's a local council, they can't have done everything wrong. So what have they done recently that you think is a plus for your community?

Then, when you make the call or have a face-to-face encounter introduce some of these pluses right away as your lead-in. For instance, "I've always appreciated that you've let me know when there's a change in the rubbish collection, so I was really annoyed when you didn't make a pickup this Monday and I didn't know why."

Or, "I really enjoy the benefits of having your credit card, therefore, I was doubly disappointed when you changed your billing layout and didn't let me know. I always clear my account when I get the bill and this time I didn't because the new total was in a different place."

Although you may want to hang on to the full feeling of your anger or frustration, this really will help you come across as someone without an axe to grind, but with a genuine concern about the company's slippage in standards.

2) Don't shoot the messenger!

See if you can avoid accusing the person you are dealing with of being responsible for the mistake or problem. This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but if you follow step one, no matter how upset you are, it will help you get some perspective.

Again, you can add that to your opening gambit: "I know this isn't your fault and I don't mean to get upset with you, but I've always been treated efficiently by your company and so I'm really, really frustrated with what's happened."

3) Be Clear What You Want to Say

Get as clear as it's possible to be. If need be, write out what you want to say before it comes out of your mouth. Have your facts (and figures if necessary) logically laid out either on paper or in your mind so that you can take the other person through the difficulty in a coherent and sensible way.

What you don't want to be is someone who can easily be dismissed because you are incoherent, 'mad', abusive.

Don't assume the other person has all the facts themselves.

4) Get Their Name

Ask for their name if they haven't given it on the phone or they don't have a name badge. Avoid asking for it in an 'I've got your name, so watch your step' kind of way. This is so that you have a named person you are dealing with.

Give them your name, clearly and spell any difficult ones (Jo Ellen: I have an unusual first name and a near-impossible surname for most non-Polish speaking people, so I always make a joke of it and spell it really carefully. It's a great opening ice-breaker).

5) Let Them Know How You Feel

It is OK to let the person on the receiving end know just how angry/frustrated/ disappointed you are but you don't have to blast their ears off.

Indeed, our recommendation is to use 'I' statements as much as possible: "I'm very angry that I paid for express delivery and it didn’t arrive on time.” 

It won’t improve the situation by going on the attack, however satisfying it might feel.

6) Offer a Solution

If at all possible, suggest a solution, rather than hoping they'll come up with one you'll be happy with. You may have to compromise, but at least you'll get what you want on the table.

 There are many things that lockdown has created – some good, many bad.  The increasing number of customer bullies is definitely one of the bad and we all have a part to play to make it a lot better for those on the receiving end of our displeasure.

Think instead about making someone’s day by complaining with grace and empathy.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Conflict Resolution When No One Wants to Budge

Let’s face it, there are people who just rub us up the wrong way. And there are people who we rub up the wrong way. There’s an uneasiness between us, a mistrusting, and unless we are careful, it’s easy to get into seemingly intractable conflict with those who grate on us (and vice versa).

Yet even within the category of conflict triggers there’s one that I think tops the list and that’s when our view of the world is different from someone else’s.

Naturally, everyone and I mean everyone, sees the world differently from everyone else, and yet in many if not most cases our differences aren’t so great that we can’t get along.  Indeed, when the differences aren’t so obvious, we tend to focus on common ground and where we are similar. It’s how we can rub along with someone we may not fully agree with.  We’re more able and willing to resolve differences rather than fight over them.

Yet, when our world views are really different, therein lies the source of a lot of conflict.  Other people’s behaviour can not only seem puzzling, it can seem downright bizarre, confusing, incomprehensible and most importantly... WRONG!

What happens, of course, is that because my view if the world is ‘right’ and someone else’s view is ‘wrong’, and in turn, they think their view of the world is ‘right’ and mine is ‘wrong’, the chances of ever resolving our differences is pretty slim.

Changing the Status Quo

Something has to shift. Dare I use the word compromise?

The problem with a lot of conflict situations such as these is that compromise can feel like giving in, admitting you were wrong, having to eat humble pie, etc. None of these feelings are particularly pleasant and it feels easier sometimes to take an ‘uncompromising’ stance and sticking with it through thick and thin.

What if compromise wasn’t about giving in or admitting you were wrong? What if compromise was about trying to see things from the other person’s point of view even for a brief while?

I can just see some people harrumphing with their arms crossed that they don’t want to see it from another point of view because they KNOW they’re right. 

I really do know how tricky it can be to see the other person as anything but difficult when you are in the middle of a conflict with them. The great skill here is to be able to put your thoughts and feelings to one side, even for the shortest amount of time in order to try to see the world the way they do. 

Resolving Conflict

How do you see the other person as anything but difficult then?

There are two things you can focus on if you want to resolve conflict:

1) You have to want to resolve it
2) You have to dip into your empathy well

There’s no point trying to resolve conflict if you are just giving lip service to wanting to resolve it. If, however, you do want to then it means you are well on your way to finding a way to see the situation from ‘their’ point of view.

Not only that, if you genuinely want resolution then the impetus has to come from you.  Your goal is to help the other person shift from their entrenched position rather than standing your ground and waiting for them to make the first move.

If you couple that with empathy for what might be going on for the other person you are also in a much better position to build a bridge between you.

Using empathy to bridge-build means looking for something – anything – in their argument you can agree with, where you can see they have made a valid point. You don’t have to agree with everything they are saying, just one thing. It doesn’t even have to be the main crux of their argument; it’s surprising how agreeing with even the smallest thing can calm someone down and get them to a place where they can enter into a conversation with you.

Here are your four steps to building a bridge:

1) Find something to agree with
2) Agree with it
3) Zip your lip and give the other person enough space to speak
4) Avoid coming back with a counter-argument (e.g. sentences that begin with ‘but’, ‘however’, etc.) and respond with empathy, even if it’s for the strength of their feelings

If a conversation doesn’t begin to emerge, start the process over again. Agreement is a very powerful tool because it lets the other person know you have heard them. Empathy also lets the other person know you care about resolving the difficulties between you.

There are some conflicts that just don’t get resolved; what I like about this technique is that at least you know you’ll have tried something different in order to get a difference, and hopefully better results.