‘Ask The Expert’ feature in the October 2019 issue of Psychologies Magazine

I was delighted to be asked by Ali Roff of Psychologies Magazine to be their guest coach for their ‘Ask The Expert’ feature in the October 2019 issue. Suzy Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Psychologies Magazine is passionate about the benefits of coaching and is a wonderful supporter of coaches like me who were trained by Barefoot Coaching, a leading and established training organisation, led by the inspirational Kim Morgan. Qualified Barefoot coaches  feature on Psychologies expert blogging platform Life Labs. Check out my profile here.

Click to download the full article here

It’s okay to ask for ask for help. It’s a strength not a weakness

Most of us are good at giving advice and support to others but we often find it difficult to show our own vulnerability and to ask for help ourselves, even though it may well be holding us back. Leading and managing a small business can be isolating and it can seem like you are very much on your own. Your responsibilities can be daunting and many people are relying on you. This can wear you down if you’re not careful.

Our culture has made us feel that going it alone is something we feel we should be able to do and as a consequence we can be fearful of appearing vulnerable. Looking at what is holding us back and finding the courage to share our fears or problems and ask for help is understandably challenging and requires courage. We are fearful of exposing our vulnerability because it makes us feel we are putting ourselves out there to be judged or perhaps seen as a lesser person.

Trying to be perfect and appearing to be managing everything to the outside world can sometimes mean that people read us wrongly and assume things about us that are not true. It can be stressful and exhausting trying to keep everything under control and appearing brave on the outside, when we are actually really scared on the inside. This isn’t being resilient. In fact it’s the complete opposite. Building our resilience will come from being open, honest and accepting of our limitations, flaws and weaknesses. If we accept the challenges and changes that we experience in our lives and use the learning we have gained from them we can bounce back, recover and go again with more confidence.

Resilient people realise that to be successful they can’t do it alone and will ask others for support, advice or encouragement.

How asking for help can benefit you?

Many of my clients have been fearful of speaking to their family, colleagues or friends about issues that concern them because they are scared of the outcomes. When clients have felt supported in the safe environment to talk about their vulnerabilities and fears it has enabled them to make great strides in their lives.  When they feel able to lower their protective shield and are brave enough to say how they really feel they are then able to ask for support, encouragement and acceptance. This is not easy to do, it takes courage, but the benefits enable them to be their authentic self and it will enable them to take risks, start new things and set new boundaries, knowing they don’t have to go it alone. Courage is contagious and maybe sharing their vulnerabilities will allow others to follow suit.

Being able to start asking for help and support will transform your life, allowing you to be open about your fears and increase your resilience knowing you are being accepted for who you are, flaws and all. Make a start by asking yourself the following questions:

Who can help me most at this time? 

What help would I benefit from? 

Where can I find the help I want?

If you find this article resonates with you and would like to find out how one to one coaching could help you contact kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584

How to prevent burnout

If you are an owner of a small business it’s very easy to overlook your own self-care or that of your employees. You are probably overwhelmed by the workload and the responsibility and before you know it burnout can creep up on you. I know because it happened to me many years ago. After listening to the ‘You and Yours’ programme on Radio 4 ‘Have you been affected by stress at work?’ it certainly gave an indication how many people are suffering the effects of stress and burnout at work and it reminded me of how as an owner of a small business, where there is no HR, it is something that is very important to be aware of.

When as a young ambitious professional in the fashion industry I suffered from burnout there was no support or understanding of what I was going through. The focus was purely on the bottom line and not on the people that worked long hours, with little or no support or resources to create the business. In fact it was very difficult to even mention as it was something that was not talked about and I was scared that I would lose my job.

The results of a recent survey of 1,078 professionals carried out by CIPD and Simply Health of over 1,078 companies in the UK that stated that almost two fifths of businesses in the UK have seen an increase in stress-related absences over the past year with managers and management style increasingly being blamed. Poor management style was blamed for 43% of stress related absence, an increase from 32% from the previous year.

This recent worrying survey surely highlights the urgent need for owners of small businesses to invest in resources that focus on the importance of creating a culture of resilience and wellbeing to reduce stress before you or a member of your workforce experiences burnout. So what actions can you take to reduce the chance of burnout and improve you and your employees wellbeing?

Make self-care a team goal

It is really important to demonstrate to your people that you take the issue of stress seriously. By making this clear by authentically raising the issue of workplace stress it will make it easier for individuals to share their worries or concerns without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. When people are under stress they often feel it is a personal failing, which it is not, so by speaking openly about stress it will encourage people to feel that you understand and will listen to them.

Lead from the front

Before you can help others you need to manage your own stress. Taking care of yourself is not an indulgent luxury, it is essential for your health and wellbeing.

Acknowledging how you feel when stressed and your emotional reactions will better place you to understand how others feel.

Take notice of the people who work for you and think seriously about how you are going to help them get what they need. Consider work practices and behaviours that could be improved. It is important to know you must act when you see someone having a difficult time and provide support. Don’t ignore it.

Call an end to the working day

People always think by working longer hours you produce more, but it’s not the case. When we are overworked we are less efficient, make mistakes and find it difficult to concentrate. Why not set a limit where emails are not sent after the working day, at weekends or when people are on holiday. This is becoming more popular as good managers realise that it is necessary to make downtime a priority and show your people that time out to rest and rejuvenate is important. It also sends out the message to your employees that you value them.

Focus on the why

A common cause of stress and burnout at work is when there is a disconnect between a person’s values and the work. As an owner of a small business you need to convey clearly the reason for the work and the objective. Being engaged with your people and with a shared sense of purpose is key to people feeling more positively about their work.

Demonstrate compassion

The world we live in is demanding and frenetic and it means many of us are feeling under pressure constantly. Compassion can make a huge difference to the working environment. By committing to actively practice kindness inwardly and outwardly you will create a psychologically calmer and safer place for everyone. Show your employees that you appreciate that the workload is great but that you can deliver by positively supporting each other to achieve the objective.

Promote positivity and optimism

When you are experiencing particularly heavy workloads or demanding deadlines make a concerted effort to be positive and optimistic. Think about your behaviour and the impact it has on your employees and be aware of how you can acknowledge, appreciate and recognise people’s efforts. Actively cultivate a feeling of support and empathy.

Creating the right organisational culture and management style that supports good mental health and promotes wellbeing of the employees is essential to ensure your business and people thrive. It is up to owners and managers to set out clearly to your employees how you will support them, your expectations and how you continue to address the need for training or support.

Make coaching resilience and wellbeing a priority and reap the rewards of investing in your people and your business.

If you would like to learn more about how you and your employees can increase their resilience and wellbeing to prevent the distressing and negative effects of stress and burnout contact kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584

*It has been highlighted by the recent results of a survey of 1,078 professionals carried out by CIPD and Simply Health of over 1,078 companies in the UK that stated that almost two fifths of businesses in the UK have seen an increase in stress-related absences over the past year with managers and management style increasingly being blamed. Poor management style was blamed for 43% of stress related absence, an increase from 32% from the previous year.

Change. Opportunity or Threat?

Change is a constant and inevitable in our lives both professionally and personally and is frequently present in things that we find stressful. We tend to fear change because it threatens our need to be in control and to feel secure.

The body responds to stress with the fight or flight response which is a primitive animalistic instinctive reaction to physical threats. This was crucial in keeping our ancestors safe many thousands of years ago when they had to respond very quickly to survive. The fight or flight response took the ‘thinking’ out of the equation so that they could react immediately to physical danger.

Now change is much less physically dangerous but far more complex, constant and the consequences can be unpredictable. However we still retain our evolutionary instinct that leads us to trigger the same fight or flight response to even the slightest possibility of change, even though there is no real threat to survival.

It means that when you feel unable to cope, be whether it a perceived or imagined threat, you react the same way as if your life was threatened, rather than thinking and using all your competencies. Responding to change with a sense of fear and anxiety can undermine your resilience.

Studies have shown that people tend to react either by seeing danger or fear in change while others can see opportunity and potential and are more resilient.

If you are aware that you tend to be fearful or resistant to change then your brain can get high jacked by strong emotions and you act without thinking. This is survival mode and it is exhausting and distressing if repeated over time. It is important to learn how to develop another way to respond to change.

If you respond by seeing opportunity in change you are acting in competency mode where you have full access to your brain and its functions that allow you to make full use of your abilities, potential and make healthy decisions.

You are more likely to approach change with more:

  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Organisation
  • Preparation
  • Optimism
  • Enthusiasm
  • Focus
  • Realism

The ability to respond with flexibility is essential quality of resilience and an important quality to develop.

How you can learn to see change as an opportunity not a threat.

The only difference between someone who allows the fight or flight response to keep triggering and the person who embraces the opportunities and possibilities of change is that the latter will interrupt the fight or flight response. This is a skill that requires awareness, commitment and practice but is well worth the effort.

Change can be challenging, but by taking time to assess the situation thoroughly can help you to gain clarity, confidence and motivation to make the most of the exciting possibilities change can also present.

Take time to consider your answers to these questions about the current and potential changes in your life:

  • What are your anxieties about the current changes in your life?
  • What could you lose from these changes?
  • What is it about these changes that you could be excited about?
  • What could you possibly gain from these changes?
  • Having considered these questions how do you feel now about the changes?
  • Write down your thoughts and reflections on your responses.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frank

Working with a coach can support you to explore how you could embrace change and maximise the opportunities change offers. If you would like time to think and plan with clarity and confidence then contact  kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584