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Sync: e-bulletin aug 2010


Summer, summer time

Taking time for oneself is a non-negotiable "must" to maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit. It's impossible to run a car engine on all cylinders 24/7, 365. The human body, mind and spirit are no different. (Peter Vaida)

a photo of someone on a laptop sitting on a beach under a palm tree

For many of us, although we aim to slow down and rest in the summer months, circumstances sometimes mean we end up working harder than ever, just to keep still.

This month we are taking advantage of the summer to have a break from our case studies and articles – instead we are just sending out this bulletin. Normal service will be resumed in September! So what have we got for you this month?

We’re focusing on you – we believe that leadership starts from leading oneself and that’s the focus for this month. How can we lead ourselves better, and how can we create and hold our own boundaries more strongly?

Before, we get started though, did you read last week a startling statistic in the newspapers? It said that the ‘holiday feel good feeling’ can disappear within 2 days of being back at work and according to the UK-based Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), four out of 10 leaders within organisations return to work more anxious than they were before their break. And that’s not all. The ILM's survey of 2,500 leaders also found that a third work while on annual leave (a surprisingly low figure, if other research is anything to go by), with eight out of 10 of these frequently responding to emails, almost half answering phone calls and one in 10 actually going into the office.

So why do we do this to ourselves? People in the survey suggested that the ease of remote working was partly to blame (with two-thirds of people admitting they check their smartphone or PDA device at least once a day while away). So what can we do to make that holiday feeling last longer?

  • plan your return – plan in a few days at home once you get back if you are lucky enough to be getting away. Ease yourself in gradually.
  • start planning your next break as soon as you return from this one. It gives you something to work for and to look forward to.
  • call a friend at work before you come back. While thinking about work when you are on a holiday isn't much fun, getting the low-down on what's happened while you were gone can stave off any potential surprises.
  • and finally, bring something back from your holiday and keep it on your desk. It can help ease stress and bring back pleasant memories when work starts getting to you.

Do no harm

It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. (Moliere, 17th century French dramatist)

a book called kill as few patients as possible

Do you know doctors take an oath to first, do no harm? How about leaders taking a similar one? This great idea isn’t mine, I stumbled upon it whilst surfing the net looking for material on leading oneself.

In order to do no harm, the article I read suggested that it was most important that one should take care of one's own faults first before correcting the faults of others – you could say Leader, lead thyself.

Leadership usually entails letting others have responsibility – whilst ensuring they are also accountable. It's not just about delegating, you also have to support and nurture those you have delegated to. This might mean ensuring you pass the tasks over clearly and that you keep communicating and following up. After all you too have a role, providing feedback on their performance. During the process you might need to coach those whose performance is not up to par and take any necessary corrective action. But a leader cannot expect to hold others accountable successfully if they are not holding themselves accountable first. 

Being accountable isn’t just a ‘work’ thing, it's personal. It's about everything we do across the whole of our lives, not just our working lives. And we often ‘slip’ – just get things wrong, usually not deliberately.

The article I read states:

Some slips are due to personality preferences, others just from the sheer amount of work and stress that leaders often experience. The reasons are multiple and really not important. It's the behaviours that are important. They are all examples of behaviours you would not condone in others when you set out to hold them accountable. And as we all know, when there is a disparity between what you tell others to do and what you do yourself, people will believe your actions and not your words. The fallout of this scenario is an erosion of trust, one of the high prices we pay for lack of self-accountability.

Taking responsibility

There is a person with whom you spend more time than any other, a person who has more influence over you, and more ability to interfere with or to support your growth than anyone else. This ever-present companion is your own self.

two hands held upwards - on one wrist is tattooed knowledge is power on the other the words with power comes responsibility

So how can we become more mindful, more thoughtful, more self-accountable? How about taking the following steps:

  • Find out how others view you - go through a formal assessment process to find out how others in your team would rate you. If you don’t work for an organisation, pick 3 or 4 people you work with often and have an honest conversation with them about how they see you in relation to work
  • At the end of each day, when you clear your desk before you head home, take a few short minutes to mentally go over your day. Are you proud? Could you have done better?
  • Decide to hold yourself accountable for developing other leaders. By mentoring others you strengthen your own leadership skills and can model being accountable
  • When something goes wrong, look to yourself first – don’t just ask "whose fault is it?" Instead ask "what can we learn from this?" or "what can I do to improve this situation?" Move away from the blame game and take ownership of issues. 

  • Keep your promises – to others and to yourself. Are your day-to-day action aligned with your values, your standards, your philosophy of leading? What are your boundaries? Do you take measures to protect them?

At the end of the article there is a great quote from Deborah Lee: Self-accountability is who you are when no one is looking.

Self-accountability means staying true to ourselves despite difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when we are tempted to bend a few rules simply to get things done quickly.

Taking responsibility ourselves also stops us from being a victim and thinking that everything is ‘done unto us’. This means it frees up our precious creative energy – rather than moaning or feeling sorry for ourselves we can move forward and learn so that we get things done that really matter to us. Most of all it means understanding the consequences of our decisions and choices. Remember, everything we do and everything we don’t do has an impact for which we are accountable.

To read the full article

Giving yourself a break

I feel like I'm always rushing, always stressed, and still don't have enough time for the things in life that are most important to me. What can I do? (most common question to agony columns)

a person surrounded by piles of paperwork

If we are focusing on how as individuals we should take responsibility for what we do, we also need to focus on how we, as individuals, can take more responsibility for ourselves too. Part of that is being able to deal with stress and protect ourselves.

So what do we need to know? Here are some handy hints:

It’s ok to say no Many people end up overscheduling themselves because they feel uncomfortable saying "no" when people ask things of them. This may be because they don't want to admit to themselves that they can't "do it all," or perhaps because they don't want to disappoint others. Unfortunately, they ultimately disappoint themselves by not having enough time to do what's important to them.

Be clear on your priorities Others become overscheduled because they add activities to their schedules for the wrong reasons, and end up spending their days doing things that don't reflect their values and priorities. Then they find themselves struggling to fit in what's important to them. They miss out on necessities like adequate sleep and other healthy habits.

Map it out Where does the time go? Often people underestimate how long things will take. How many times have you found yourself adding new activities to your schedule when you don't really know how you'll find the time to do them? The key to success is to never agree to new activities until you've found a way to pencil them in, overestimating the amount of time you think it will take to complete them.

Manage money wisely It's become increasingly common for people to work more than they'd like because finances demand it. Many people are working longer hours and even more than one job. To get out from under debt and financial woes, you need a plan that involves spending less, saving, paying off debt, and possibly earning more (not by working more but by getting paid what you're worth).

Stay organised and not just at work. Most people don't realise how much time and money are sucked up (not to mention stress created) by living in an environment where things are difficult to find and relaxation is a challenge. Sort out your home and it can really help.

To thine own self be true Knowing yourself well can also help you to avoid getting overwhelmed. How? For one thing, by knowing your limitations, you avoid taking on too much. For example, if you know you're not the best manager of people, you can avoid putting yourself in a position where you'll be asked to do management-type tasks, saving yourself stress and the extra time and energy it would take to learn to do this better. Also, if you constantly put yourself in a position of taking on more than you can handle, take an honest look inward to help you figure out what's behind this. That way, you can stop.

To read more about where these tips are from

And finally...

REST: A state of quiet or repose; a cessation from motion or labour; tranquility; as, rest from mental exertion; rest of body or mind.

a boat on the water with blue skies

Hope everyone was or is able to have some rest this summer - in whatever form that may take.

Look after yourselves,

Jo Verrent

Project Manager, Sync

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