Monthly archives "August 2014"

Two Cool Confidence Boosting Habits

Confidence 3A great way to get ahead at work is to cultivate a confidant attitude, right?

Right.

But how do you do that? Especially if you feel like more of a wallflower than a sunflower type?

Well, here are a couple of habits confident people cultivate – try them out and see whether they make a difference for you. (And remember, even if they don’t quite work, you made the effort, you will have tried something new, and that in itself pushes your confidence levels up – it’s win win!).

  1. Focus on your goal.  The only real super-power confident people are blessed with is the power of a positive vision.  Confident people are just as aware as everyone else of the chances and pitfalls of failure.  They acknowledge that and then go for what they want anyway.  They focus on what it will feel like, what it will be like, what it will look like when they achieve what they set out to accomplish.  So give it a go.  Work on just one goal.  Write it out, picture what it will be like and then every day remind yourself of that goal.
  2. Keep it simple.  Sounds…erm..simple,doesn’t it.  And it is.  Nothing new here, but something a lot of us overlook.  Once you have your goal, don’t get distracted!  Focus, focus and then focus a bit more.  Work out your plan to get where you want to be, break it down into manageable chunks and then start ticking things off the list.  Take a little action every day, remind yourself every day of what you want and go for it.  Don’t let other peoples drama’s get in the way, and learn to tune out your own negative thoughts and over-analysing of the how/when/what if.  Just keep your eyes on the target, and take it one step at a time.  That’s it.  No big secret.  Simple.  But effective.

When I first decided I wanted to move from accounting to writing, people didn’t really get it, and not everyone was encouraging.  I heard lots of stories of how many millions of people had tried and failed.  And it’s true, millions have tried and failed.  But how would I know if I was one of them if I didn’t try.  What if I didn’t fail?  What if I made it?  And that’s the difference.  In my vision, I ALWAYS make it, I always get to where I want to be.  Once I’ve decided what I want to do, I just break that vision down.  So I planned what I wanted to write, I broke it down a bit more, then every day I did a little bit.  After work, at the weekends, whenever I got a chance.  And lo and behold, after plugging away doing a little bit every day, for a lot of days, Coping with the Horroffice was born!

So see how you get on with these little tips for big confidence boosts and once you’ve got them mastered, head back over here for a couple more to add to your arsenal.

It’s all about attitude

Attitude vs aptitude“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” – Zig Ziglar.

Here’s my take on this interesting little idea.

When I first became an auditor I wasn’t particularly keen on auditing (is anyone, ever?).  I did the job, hit my deadlines and went home.  To get my accountancy qualification I needed three years of experience signed off by the business.  So that’s what I was doing – ticking the boxes to get to the three year mark.  I had convinced myself I didn’t want to stay in auditing, so what was the point in getting excited and involved?

I got on well but I never really got ahead.  I wasn’t seen as one of the ‘stars’ of the department.   I knew I had the capability, I just didn’t have the enthusiasm.  And I learnt the problem with this when it came to promotion and pay rise time.  The ‘stars’ had been working hard at shining all year.  It didn’t necessarily matter that I might be doing a better job – they were shiny, eager, worked hard and got the kudos for that.  And actually, I think that’s fair enough.  I chose an easier life.

A couple of years in though, I suddenly had a bit of a change of heart.  I was really enjoying the work I was doing, I liked the company I was working for, and I wanted a little bit of the limelight.  So I started volunteering for extra stuff, like interviewing graduates or doing a little bit of presenting.  And the more I did, the more I enjoyed and the more I shone.  And the more I shone the more I got noticed, until I was approached to take on a more senior role.  Which, at the time, was exactly what I wanted.

I’d always had the ability to do the job and do it well, but when I turned up the volume on the positive attitude, everything started coming my way a little bit faster and more easily.

It makes sense really – when I’m looking at my employees its the ones who are keen to take on more, eager to learn and willing to do more than they need to that stand out for me too.

Attitude makes  a huge difference to the altitude of your career, and your life in general. So grab your big girl/big boy pants, turn the volume up on your enthusiasm and see what happens!

 

Milkgate

MilkgateToday was a historic day in the office.  Today was the day Milkgate, which has been gently bubbling over in the background, simmering and occasionally steaming but never really cooling down, finally boiled over.

To give you some context, there are lots of little departments dotted around the manufacturing site I’m currently contracting at.  Each little department has its own little fridge(and I mean little – there’s enough room for half a sandwich and a pint of milk..ahem).  And on top of the fridge are the basics for getting through the day – industrial strength coffee, tea and sugar, plus accoutrements.  Although accoutrements sounds a big grand when I’m actually just referring to a packet of plastic stirrers and a very dodgy looking teaspoon on a tray that has probably been here since before the industrial revolution.

We get allocated one carton of milk, which just about sees us through the day.  It gets delivered in the morning before we get in, so we’re ready for the day.  Now occasionally, other departments, whom also get their carton of milk, are a little more heavy handed with their supplies, and they come and pinch ours.  Not to worry, we usually have enough to go around.  But there’s been more and more ‘borrowing’ and so far we’ve not seen any return of said borrowed stuff.

And today, when we got back from our lunch, and were ready for a nice strong afternoon tea to kick the second half of the day into gear, what did we see?

Nothing.

No milk, no tea and no sugar.  Our levels had been low, to be fair, but we definitely had enough for one round.  And not only that, our precious chocolate hobnobs (which we’d donated ourselves for the greater good of the team) had been hobnobbed too!

OUTRAGEOUS!

An incensed colleague went out to investigate, and came back even more enraged, as no-one dared admit to being the milk/Hobnob thief.  Plans were made to add a padlock to the fridge, or to have a fridge monitor on duty at all times.  We were on high alert.  We were tea deprived.  We could put up with terrible hours, poor processes, shoddy IT systems, but to deprive us of our tea and coffee?  No way!

There was no other option left – we alerted management at the highest level (our General Manager, who luckily happened to occasionally share our office space, and had enjoyed the generosity of the occasional Hobnob or Kitkat with us), listened attentively.  Finally, after a good two hours of stewing (us obviously, definitely not the tea) and a excellent effort to remain serious in the face of such absurdity from the GM, there was news.

An email had been issued at the highest level, to all departments – there would be no more borrowing of milk between departments – it was now strictly forbidden.

The next morning a big packet of chocolate hobnobs were waiting for us, along with TWO cartons of milk – Milkgate was officially over.

Coping with the Horroffice

I’m excited and a little bit nervous today.  Why?  Because in today’s post I’m going to give you a little peek at Coping with the Horroffice.  I’m still working on draft number whatever, but it’s slowly taking shape and I can’t wait to share the whole thing with you soon.  In the meantime, here’s a little excerpt from chapter 1…enjoy!

 

“Set goals, control your future – A good way to avoid getting sucked into other people’s bullshit is to have a clear picture of why you’re where you are, doing what you’re doing, and what that’s going to lead to.  It’s a bit like this. Imagine your life is a car.  Setting goals and following through on them is like you taking the steering wheel, setting the GPS, deciding on your destination.  It stops other people hijacking your car to get them to their destination instead (you might offer them a lift if it’s on the way, but that’s your call, not theirs!)”

Coping with the Horroffice - Cover

Three ways to beat the Bank Holiday Blues

bank holiday bluesIf you’re anything like me the lovely long bank holiday weekend that you’ve been looking forward to for ages is now almost done and dusted, and has flown by way too quickly.

Not only are we saying goodbye to the last three day weekend for the year, but we’re getting ready to say hello to darker evenings and colder weather.  No wonder we’ve got the bank holiday blues!  There’s something very ‘back to school’ about it all, but without the excitement of new stationery and school bags.

So how do we cheer ourselves up, get out of this funk and ditch the bank holiday blues?  What can we do to help us feel better and cope more easily?

Here are my three tips – all tried and tested by yours truly – to help you banish the bank holiday blues:

  1. Indulge yourself.  Hopefully you’ve had an awesome weekend and indulged aplenty already but this is slightly different.  I want you to plan to indulge yourself on Tuesday night.  Make sure you plan this out over the weekend, and buy in whatever you need, and clear your diary for Tuesday night.  It could be anything from buying yourself a bar of your favourite expensive chocolate, opening a good bottle of wine or just having a lovely long soak with the radio on.  Whatever it is that makes you melt a bit and go ‘aaahhhhh loverly’ is good.
  2. Hug it better.  Find someone or something – partner, friend, parent, sibling, cat, dog, whoever is willing and able, and give them a lovely long hug.  Why?  A hug that lasts for twenty measly seconds or longer is actually proven to make you feel better – it lowers your cortisol and stress hormone levels, and increases the levels of feel good hormones like oxytocin.  And why stop at twenty seconds – get yourself snuggled up on the sofa for a lusciously long hugging session and enjoy!
  3. Breathe it out.  You’ll hear me refer to this one a LOT.  Because it’s awesome, free,  easy and you can do it any time and anywhere you need a bit of a boost.  Just focus on your breath for a couple of minutes.  Take a slow breath in, notice it travel through your body, notice the way it pauses just for a moment, and then notice it travel all the way back through your body and out.  As you focus on this, you’ll give yourself a whole host of benefits, including feeling calmer and happier about pretty much anything.

I personally will be doing a little of each – why be stingy when they all sound and feel so good!  So tonight I’ll be hugging the pooch and enjoying some deep breathing, and I’ve planned a little bit of wine ‘o’clock, plus more Simba sofa cuddles and deep breathing tomorrow evening.  By the time that’s all done it’ll be Wednesday and I’ll be back in the flow of the week!

Let me know how you get on. x

Dress Down Friday

dress down fridayIt’s Friday – hooray!  If you’re anything like me you’re counting it down in hours and minutes.  I don’t even have anything particularly special planned for tonight, but it’s the idea of being released from the shackles of the Horroffice, not just for a few hours, but a whole weekend, that has me grinning like a raccoon riding a roller coaster.

Before I get to clocking off time though, I have the dilemma of what to wear for ‘dress down Friday’.  And it really is a dilemma.  I can’t wear my ‘at home with the pooch’ clothes, because then my colleagues at the Horroffice might think my ne’er do well twin, Heena the Hobo, has taken my place.  When you own a fur ball that moults all year round, your idea of dress down goes from nice-ish jeans and a smart but cool top to clothes that come with a pre-attached layer of golden fur and am occasional smear of slobber – not really the right look for the office, even on an oh-so casual dress down Friday.  But I also don’t want to be the dork that turns up in ‘normal’ smart work clothes when everyone else is in their slouchy tops and sneakers.  And the added dimension to this dilemma is the fact that I lose a precious three inches in height on most dress down days, as I swap my heels for my cool and comfy Vans.  This may not seem like much to you, but I barely hit 5ft in heels.  In Vans I’m practically a munchkin.  Ideally, my dress down clothes should also be ‘magically make me look taller’ clothes.  Easy peasy, right? Wrong.  None of my clothes seem to fit the delicate balance that is dress down Friday.

Clearly this is a shopping emergency, and has the potential to ruin the fabulousness of feelgood Friday.

Finally, having hammered my bank balance and the shops,  I have reluctantly added a third section to my wardrobe – in addition to my work clothes and my weekend clothes (which include smart and slobby sub-sets of course!), I now have ‘fur-free-dress-down-Friday-specially-for-work-keep-away-from-the-dog-at-all-cost’ clothes.

The joys of being a pet owner eh!  Have a fabulous Friday my lovelies. 🙂

 

 

Best Managers Ever – Part 3

Best managerI couldn’t round off my top three of best managers ever without including Manager 3 – my first ever manager when I was a lowly audit junior.

Why do I still remember and love her so much?  Because she was the first manager I had worked with, and still only one of a very small handful of managers who I have ever seen to actually  stand up and fight for their team.

We all know what it’s like in the office – no matter how democratic and open your office is, a little bit of office politics will creep in there anyway.  It’s human nature, unavoidable and sucks if you’re at the dodgy end of it.  Most managers will acknowledge it with a wry smile and a ‘what can you do?’ shrug, then move on.  Not Manager 3 though.

Here’s what happened – there was a little team of us who, although not out of favour, were definitely out of sight of the bigwigs that make the decisions that affect us minions.  There were other minions though, bright and shiny and in perfect sight of the bigwigs at decision making time.  The bigwigs made a decision which felt completely unfair to us hard-working but invisible minions.  I’d seen this before and resigned myself to living with an unfair situation.  I was still better of than the majority of people out there and it was a blip not a mountain.  But Manager 3 was having none of it.  She strode in and shook the bigwigs by their (figurative) collars.  She argued her case and ours.  She pointed out the unfair comparisons, and unacceptable decision.  She was amazing – like a Greek goddess, all righteous wrath and fury.  It was an amazing sight to behold (from a safe distance).  And everyone knows you don’t argue with a goddess on a mission.  You humbly apologise and lay down offerings to appease her.

I don’t have her guts.  But I will never forget the lesson she taught me – never, ever accept a situation that you know is wrong, and always fight for what’s right!  Thank you Manager 3 – you are a legend.

Best Managers Ever – Part 2

Yesterday I started my top three in terms of managers that have inspired me to become the best manager I can be, and I spoke about a manager who showed me how to take time to explain yourself to get buy-in from employees.

Today I want to share with you Manager 2 – someone I worked with for only a year, whilst covering a maternity leave.  And to be fair, by the time I came across this particular manager, I was already almost twenty years into my career (ouch – has it really been that long!) so I’d seen a lot of different managers, all with their own particular mix of quirks.

Manager 2 kind of crept into my list gradually, but that’s one of the reasons I want to share the experienceBest manager with you.  So if you come across someone like this, you give them the time to demonstrate how good they are.

When I first started at the contract, I heard very quickly through the office grapevine that my new manager was ‘into meetings’.  And sure enough, once I’d had all the introductions and training, I started getting regular meeting invites.  Weekly catch-up meetings, finance team meetings, project meetings…you get the idea.  And I have to admit, when I was up to my neck in reviews, making time for yet another meeting was more than a little annoying.

But here’s the thing – there wasn’t a single meeting he held that didn’t give me something useful to work on or feed back to my team.  And I realised that he wasn’t holding meetings just for the sake of holding meetings, looking busy or to validate his role, which I admit was my initial impression.  He was making sure we had time to catch up, so he could share knowledge with me, that I then needed to share with my team.  He was forcing me to make time to take note of what I’d achieved, what I needed to work on, what I needed to share with my team or what I needed to think about.

So thank you Manager 2 – for showing me that sometimes it takes time to see the benefits of something (and for the hats – you always wore such interesting hats!).

Best Managers Ever – Part 1

Best managerI can’t remember who I was talking to but we got on to the subject of managers – the good, the bad and the downright awful.  It got me thinking about managers I’ve worked with over the years and what’s been good or bad about them.  So this week, I thought I’d share my top 3 best managers with you.  Next week we might delve into the bottom three…

One of the best managers I’ve ever worked with was just after I’d become an audit assistant manager myself, and I was working in a project role in Canary Wharf for a few months.

What made her so good?  What I remember most about her is that she was really patient with me and spent loads of time explaining things, both in terms of what I needed to do but also the context behind it.  That made such a huge difference – knowing why you’re doing something as well as how you need to do it.

She was also really generous with her knowledge and expertise, and genuinely enthusiastic about her subject matter (which until then I hadn’t thought was all that exciting).  She’d built up a huge amount of connections that went with her dizzying array of experience, and she was happy to share all of this with all her colleagues, no matter how junior or senior they were.

To give you an example, one of my jobs was to answer technical queries that came in via email.  Some of them I already knew the answer to but there was one that was a bit of a conundrum.  I did some research but I still couldn’t find a definitive answer.  And I didn’t want to go back with something that was incorrect.  So, although I could see she was completely swamped, I asked her.   She found some time later that same day to help me, we went through the detail together and she didn’t make me feel silly for asking but intelligent for raising something interesting with her.

I don’t think I’m as patient as she was, but I do always make time to explain why I’m asking for a piece of work, or explain how I’d like something done and why – you never know when someone, with that knowledge, will be able to help you streamline a process or task even more.

Have you had a manager that’s inspired you?  I’d love to hear about it.

Plan for happy holidays

HolidaysIt’s that time of year when everyone is either on holiday, just back from holiday or planning to go on holiday.  Cue lots of pics of the sun shining through palm trees, or a tanned hand holding a delightfully garish cocktail, against a backdrop of beach.  Lovely!

But did you know that most of your happiness actually comes from the planning and anticipation of holidays, and that after the holiday itself it falls back fairly quickly?  Nope, neither did I, until I came across some interesting research from the Netherlands which looked at how holidays affect our happiness.

What they found was that the largest increase in our happiness comes from the initial planning and anticipation of holidays.  The study showed that this effect lasted almost two months.  Once you get back from your holiday though, this happiness level drops right back down to the same level as someone who hasn’t been away.

So how does this help you increase your happiness?  Well, you could try to split your holiday time up a bit.  So instead of taking a couple of holidays lasting two weeks each, you could break it up a bit more.  Take a week or ten days at a time instead.  That way you’re getting at least one extra holiday per year, which gives you another two months of increased happiness levels as you plan and ponder your extra break.

Happy holidays!

(and here’s the link to the original research paper, if you’re interested – http://www.springerlink.com/content/233331654742r175/ )