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Learning From Unicorns: How TikTok Supports Super-Fast Growth

Welcome to the latest in our blog series focusing on firms and individuals who have trail-blazed their fields to create super-fast growth in dynamic and diverse workplaces. This week we focus on TikTok London and talk to Jemma Cowan, Senior HR Business Partner Europe.  Against the backdrop of the extraordinary times we’re all living through, it’s also been a pretty extraordinary year for TikTok.  Europe has embraced the app and today more than 100m people across the region are active on TikTok every month. It’s a home for positive, creative expression and joyful entertainment that’s authentic, relatable, and truly diverse.

 

Talking with Tiktok

Hi Jemma. Tell us a little more about the team at TikTok London?

Jemma: TikTok is unique and a disruptor in the tech space – I often say we are builders and architects. Within a startup environment, it’s a fast-paced, ambitious, dynamic and people are genuinely at the heart of everything we do.

It’s difficult to describe TikTok London, without describing the other great locations where we operate – we are a truly global company and we are proud of the environment that we have created. It’s incredible to be part of a much broader landscape, perhaps geographically spread but without a doubt all with the same goals and moving in the direction as one team.

TikTok has grown massively in London, with many people joining while working from home due to the pandemic. How do you foster a sense of community and team for these new arrivals?

Jemma: We aim to build community with our people from day one – we truly are a family. It’s true that we have continued to welcome talent to our teams and it’s clear that Covid has presented challenges. We are incredibly humble and equally proud that, within this ever-changing and unpredictable environment, we have remained agile, acted swiftly and most importantly created space to listen to our people. As HR professionals we are strategic commercial partners to the business; our role is to help connect the dots, provide solutions and help to support change. In the transition from working in the office to working from home, we asked questions, listened to the feedback we heard and created initiatives that spoke to the needs of our people.

Has this feedback process made a difference to TikTok’s way of working?

Jemma: There’s no doubt that this new way of working has bought a shift in mindset and approach to how we work – at our core we are a start-up and we hire ‘intrepreneurs’ (staff who are supported to take risks and build opportunities as entrepreneurs do, but within a corporate setting) and that brings an energy where we are all open to creating innovative solutions and doing things differently.

We are driven and passionate about thinking outside of the box and creating innovative solutions, often at pace. Within the space of hours we re-positioned our onboarding process to be fully remote and with as little impact for our new joiners as possible. We want to ensure that the great talent that we bring into the business remain excited about joining the team and that they feel part of the family early on. We take huge pride in the onboarding experience and the employee experience drives our focus – it’s important to create an environment where people can truly show up as their authentic selves and really enjoy what they do.

What has been the biggest challenge and the greatest win over the last six months to creating and maintaining a team culture?

Jemma: TikTok has a genuinely inclusive culture – in my view the greatest win are the teams that we have built. The challenge or at least, the opportunity is in ensuring that we continue to support the sense of community whilst working remotely.                          

We have invested in a number of initiatives in this area – we’ve seen a positive impact in creating content with PUSH to ensure our teams have tools and support during this period. I’m passionate about developing the tools and resources to help others to create long lasting, impactful strategies to support their mental health. I am super grateful for the opportunity to partner with PUSH on wellbeing initiatives, as I believe it’s truly important to create a space where we can be at our happiest, healthiest and most productive. Mental health is just as important as physical health – sometimes a conversation, a smile and taking time to be there to listen can make the world of difference.

From your experience, what advice would you give to other organisations so that they can aspire to achieve the same?

Jemma: We are fortunate to have created a platform which brings creativity and joy to so many and which allows our users to be creative and express themselves in an authentic way. Our internal culture is truly a reflection of the platform, in that we nurture an environment where we encourage our people to be themselves.

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The advice I would share is that while we are living in a time of global uncertainty, one thing that is certain is that what we do and the way in which we do it has already transformed. As HR professionals and leaders, we’ll need to continue to create innovative ways of working while staying connected. The future will be nothing like we’ve seen in the past and many organisations are supporting the growing needs of multiple generations. So listen to the varying needs of your teams and focus on how best to create an environment where they will continually thrive.

How do you keep the human aspect in an organisation while growing at such a fast rate?

Jemma: What was clear for me at the outset is how key our values are within the organisation, all of which focus on the ‘how’. As a high performing team we deliver results. How we go about this is key for us and plays an integral role in how we operate. At TikTok we focus on the softer skills which at the core are fundamental to our success as a global and highly matrixed team, so team-work and relationships are key.

What is your favourite initiative that has been implemented in at Tiktok since January?

Jemma: Our events team organised an amazing virtual festival which our teams thoroughly enjoyed. As we are working from home it gave the opportunity for us all to connect socially and enjoy music, food and entertainment together from home. 

Over summer, we also gave our employees a Wellbeing day off to spend time to recharge, reflect and focus on themselves. We value our employees and as a commitment to wellbeing we have an ongoing programme to support while we work from home and beyond.

Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional

AS we emerge from the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, dazed by the levels of destruction the virus has wreaked on our health, wellbeing and working practices, the question on many lips is ‘What now?’ A second wave seems inevitable, if it isn’t here already and, having faced the most momentous upheaval in society since the Second World War, we can only wonder at what might be in store for us in the coming months.

The changes to our workplaces brought about by Covid-19 are unprecedented. Many commentators say businesses and employees have, in the space of a few weeks, been catapulted five, ten, even twenty years into the future. With varying degrees of success we have adapted to homeworking, and running our organisations remotely. The daily commute, the lunch hour, the sleepy mid-afternoon team meeting and the trudge homewards all seem relics of a bygone era. Yet less than a year ago this was the norm for millions of us.

[mkd_blockquote text=”Almost 40 per cent of the UK workforce continues to work remotely and among IT and professional workers, this is as high as 75 per cent.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

It seems that fewer of us are creeping back to those commutes than expected. According to a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics, almost 40 per cent of the UK workforce continues to work remotely and among IT and professional workers, this is as high as 75 per cent. Despite Government pleas to get back on the office-bound bus, few are heeding the call. 

‘COVID-Positives’

Why? Many cite continuing fears over Covid, which is a valid enough reason. Others, however, point to the fact that we have adapted astonishingly quickly to the new norm and, having done so, are reluctant (to say the least) to return to the past. Many firms, particularly those in the tech sector and the City, are embracing the dynamism of rapid change and reporting what we might term ‘Covid-positives’ – less complicated operating models, greater flexibility, the hiring of new talent and staff more than happy to be working remotely.

However, this isn’t necessarily the whole story.

At first, there was a novelty in being allowed to evacuate the office and work from home indefinitely. Now, though, the novelty has definitely worn off and employees working remotely are reporting the relentlessness and sameness of their new working situation affecting their mental health. Even so, they may also be reluctant to return to work full-time, tacitly acknowledging that the world of the workplace has changed, probably for ever.

The economy is suffering badly, yes, and we may well have more Covid-related shocks to come. But as they say, ‘a rising tide floats your boat’ and this autumn appears to have a distinct sense of change in the air; that of a future in which we can all benefit from a more flexible approach to working practices. The trick is how to maintain this positivity around a more decentralised working environment.

Work-Life Brilliance in a Human Enviornment

At PUSH, our core values revolve around effective communication and what we describe as ‘work-life brilliance’ in a human environment. Today, we see an unprecedented opportunity to put these values into practice across many sectors, creating happier, healthier and more productive businesses and individuals. At the heart of such dynamic change is resilience  – the process of reacting well to fast-changing circumstances. We believe that resilience needs to be innate; a holistic, intuitive reaction to every new situation. As we say, resilience is a muscle, not a plan. 

Below are some thinking points that may help streamline companies and their employees towards an exciting, energetic and highly entrepreneurial future:

 

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  • Clarity. What is your business really about? What are your core values now, and how do you see these changing and adapting to a faster, more remote reality? Understand your culture, strip away layers and ask yourself what really matters – to you, your employees and your customers.
  • Leadership. Where does your power lie now you’re working remotely? Can you guide a team of homeworkers into a challenging, dynamic future using all your charisma and skill, but without appearing like ‘Big Brother’? Can you create the bridge between remoteness and human connection? Leaders with high degrees of conscious thought and empathic behaviour will be the winners in this new reality – now is the time to work on these attributes.
  • Small is beautiful. Increasingly, the days when acres of space were occupied by large teams are over. Small, nimble and well-connected teams of flexible people are right on-trend now. What can you do to increase your team’s fleet-footedness and smarter decision-making while ensuring inclusivity and cohesion?
  • Engagement and communication. Are you hearing what your staff are telling you about their new working lives? Make conscious efforts to talk to your team regularly and understand their needs. We’ve all been through huge upheaval – show empathy and support for those struggling to adapt, and encourage those demonstrating flexibility and dynamism. Consider investing in training for new skills, behaviours and beliefs which match the potential for growth.
  • Self-awareness. Ask yourself what you really want from the new work environment and give staff a chance to do likewise. Some may want to come back to the office, others won’t. Some might desire a mixture of remote and office working. This is the time to think creatively about solutions, acknowledging that a return to ‘the old’ won’t work. We are in a brand new and challenging landscape, so work with this opportunity to tailor expectations and offer flexibility.

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[mkd_blockquote text=”You can only create value for your clients if you really understand them” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Business coach Dom Monkhouse says that an emphasis on customer-centricity and a positive growth mindset are also essential in this new environment.

“If you know your core customer and you’re serving them effectively, you are in a good position to be able to pivot,” he says. “Your customer hasn’t changed but perhaps their thinking has, but if you’re aware of that you can pivot according to changing needs.  I think it’s also important that the CEO has a growth mindset. This is fundamental. You can only create value for your clients if you really understand them, and if you do that you can charge more and therefore run a more profitable business that allows you to be successful.”

Amid the wreckage of Covid-19, the shoots of a new, more dynamic and highly-focused business climate are beginning to show, and those firms nurturing this growth are already seeing success. The tightrope walk across the chasm between old and new is perilous but thrilling. There may be more tightropes ahead but as a highly-successful leader said in the middle of the last truly global crisis: 

This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. (Winston Churchill, 1942)

 

Sharing our stories at work

Nancy is CEO at Duarte Inc, a 115 person design firm based in Mountain View California that works with some of the world’s biggest companies. And like most teams right now, Duartians – for that’s what they call themselves at Duarte – are working from home. On a chat recently Nancy told me, “You pop in late to a meeting and everyone is telling a story – of what happened that day or the week before. It makes you bond, it makes you strong. If we didn’t have that storytelling culture, I don’t know how we’d be so knit together like we are right now.”

Sharing stories at work is key to building cultures that support loyalty and growth. And a story-sharing culture starts with team members telling something of themselves during video calls like those at Duarte and, of course, in the thousands of other companies around the world now using online tools to get connected.  

It’s the person that matters.

Sceptics might question why it’s important to share personal stories with co-workers – what do they have to do with what goes on in the 9–5 of an organisation? But sharing personal stories is a fast-track to a better understanding of each other, and that reinforces a sense of trust as well as building respect. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”“The more open you can be with your team, the more that you’ll get that back”” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Sally Croft joined Ericsson during lockdown, so she’s had to get to know her team without having yet met a single one of them in person. Sally implemented her own story-sharing ritual by hosting a virtual ‘fika’ session, a Swedish ritual where teams get together for coffee and cake in order to get to know everybody. In these sessions, chat about business is strictly off-limits. “The more open you can be with your team, the more that you’ll get that back,” Sally told me recently. “Sharing our stories on what really matters has been a great way of onboarding – I’ve got to know my team members more quickly than I may have otherwise.” 

We’re sociable animals after all. Few of us will sit with friends sharing mathematical formulas. We share stories because they have the power to connect us. Scientist Paul J Zak has conducted research which shows that stories generate oxytocin, the chemical associated with empathy. Stories create an emotional engagement between us.

Over the last few months our work lives have undergone a seismic shift. Our personal and professional lives are more meshed together than ever. We all have a window into each other’s homes, glimpsing kitchens, dining rooms, pets, flatmates and children as we join in our company’s video calls. It’s more relevant than ever to start sharing those personal stories so our connections get a deeper insight into who we are. 

There is a thirst for hearing about what’s going on, and also what’s going well. We need stories to garner our shared experiences and connect emotionally with others.

Sharing something about yourself in a work context adds colour to your conversations and connections, brings your roles and responsibilities to life and builds engagement. It makes the world of work more human. When that personal side is absent, we’re missing a huge opportunity to engage on a deep level with others. 

There are no crystal balls to give us clarity about how our organisations will look in 2021. We don’t yet know the shape of the new world of work. But one thing is certain: storytelling is an important vehicle for leaders and their teams. If you’re looking to replicate the success of leaders like Sally and Nancy, cut a slice of their cake and start by establishing some rituals.

Ian Sanders is a storyteller and creative consultant. He has toured his Power of Story keynote to audiences ranging from The European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg to Amway’s European awayday in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. He’s run in-house storytelling sessions for clients including Black Sun plc, Equifax, Tektronix and Thomas Cook Money. For the BBC Ian designed and delivered a popular 18 month series of workshops for journalists from around the world.

Team Polarity. The burnt out and the furloughed – How the workforce experience has never been more polarised and what every HR leader needs to think about

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected our working lives more than most people can compute. For example, take the word ‘Furlough’….hands up anyone who knew what this word meant prior to March 2020………no takers? Hardly a surprise, but isn’t it amazing how quickly the term passed into common usage in just a few short weeks?

At the time of writing the Government’s furlough scheme has been extended to October, but companies lucky enough to have survived this first stage of the pandemic are otherwise still in the grip of uncertainty. 

As CEOs reshape their teams into lean machines, the fortunate are furloughed, the less fortunate are untimely relieved of their roles and the survivors are working doubly hard, over-compensating for the lost input of their peers, whilst desperately holding onto their seats and coping with cuts to pay.

Organisations that have had to let some of their best people go, need support for those who have lost their jobs, a listening ear to those who are furloughed, and a helping hand to those who are trying to keep the plates spinning. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”There is a huge need to support organisations that are managing tensions between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Companies are essentially work families, as dysfunctional as their biological counterparts, but with similar needs for individual recognition, healthy competition, support and even love. When employees are made redundant, they have to be honoured, supported and communicated with. 

Likewise, those ‘left behind’ will want to reach out and make sure their friends are coping, and support them however they can. Furloughed staff returning to the office will need to be kept updated with company developments so they can hit the ground running on their return. Those working, need free channels of communication to senior management to alleviate their anxiety and avoid burnout.

 

In short, a pandemic recovery programme involves all levels of the organisation, including people who will never return to the workplace. The only way to allow the wounds to heal is to allow everyone in your company to have a voice. Here are five tips for enabling this process:

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  1. Clear communication. Uncertainty can lead to great stress and anxiety, especially with a recession looming. Check-in regularly with your staff – furloughed, non-furlough and those being made redundant – and ask about their concerns. Keep them up to date with the doings of the workplace.  If you have to deliver bad news, do it with clarity and empathy.
  2. Encourage participation. Furloughed staff may not be able to work, technically speaking, but they can still play a big part in the day-to-day life of the business. Making sure you include furloughed and homeworking staff in meetings, brainstorms and other get-togethers will alleviate stress, uncertainty and anxiety. Make them feel ‘a part’ rather than ‘apart’. Trust your teams to manage their work/life balance while working at home.
  3. Focus on staff development. Furlough can be an excellent time to discuss with ‘resting’ staff the ways they may be able to improve their own performance, and that of the business. They may be keen to offer fresh perspectives and be open to the learning of new skills. This time of taking stock can be a highly creative one, so utilise talent.
  4. Emphasise wellbeing. During a period of great uncertainty, this is vital. Understanding and engaging with the health and well-being of all employees, furloughed or not, is showing responsibility. The months and even years to come could see an epidemic of burnout as employees are asked to do more with less, requiring greater resilience, up-to-date skills and energy. Offer professional support and training where necessary and encourage colleague-to-colleague chat groups or platforms which provide a safe space for conversations around good physical and mental health. Let people talk. They will need to express their anxiety, confusion and grief at losing peers.
  5. Keep up-to-date with Government advice. People on furlough will have a lot of questions, especially as this period comes to a closure. Make sure you’re 100 per cent on top of the latest position and are able to offer clear, informative and – above all – correct advice.

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Being on furlough or working from home is no picnic. We know that work-related stress can lead to burnout; also becoming clear is the fact the stress and burnout are still prevalent when the employee is NOT at work. Redundancy is a huge cause for stress and needs to be managed with the maximum of care and consideration. The dramatic effect of this pandemic will create versions of post-traumatic trauma that nobody could have predicted. Bearing all this in mind, it is now vital that companies act with kindness, understanding and empathy, seeking professional help if necessary to work through unprecedented times.

At PUSH, we take pride in thinking outside the box for our clients and our shared mission to improve the wellbeing of their employees. If you’d like to speak with us about developing an initiative to reduce the stress levels of your team, get in touch – we’d love to work with you.

How teams can be more resilient and effective post-Covid 19

If evidence were needed that the ‘new normal’ is here to stay, it has appeared in the last few weeks as the long, strange and often uneasy slide back to work has begun. 

For those returning to offices and other business premises, the physical signs of dramatic change are all too real. Facemasks on public transport, blocked-off streets, still-shuttered shops and – perhaps most tellingly – the socially-distanced requirements in workplaces, ending the easy informality and freedom of the pre-COVID years.

And that’s for those who still have a workplace to go to. For many of us, the spare room has become our new commute, with little signs of this situation changing for months, if ever. Some have adjusted quickly to the changed circumstances; others are still struggling to cope with the uncertainty, the new technology and loss of real-time camaraderie that once existed between teams.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. The roads are quieter, the skies clearer. Remote working has many advantages, as the self-employed already know, and restrictions are easing, albeit slowly.

But for teams and managers, the challenges ahead are huge, and seemingly in a constant state of flux. What seems to be emerging is a re-emphasis on people, not corporate concerns, as the clearest way forward for companies large and small. As Hubert Joly says in the Harvard Business Review:

“Given the magnitude of the shock and the challenges that this crisis represents, companies must consider the full breadth of their employees’ needs as people. Safety is essential, of course, but it’s also important to address higher-level needs such as the want for truth, stability, authentic connections, self-esteem, growth, and meaning in the context of the crisis.”

At PUSH, we believe the future of an organisation’s DNA should focus on three key areas:

  • Purpose – hone and define your organisation’s key aims for this new reality
  • Potential – explore areas for growth and development that may not have been visible pre-pandemic
  • Perspective – don’t panic! If your organisation was strong before Covid-19, with imagination and effort it can be this way again.

We see two phases at work here: the re-opening phase (which is already beginning) and the post-COVID period. For the first to flow harmoniously into the second, we advise companies to consider five critical actions to bridge both periods. These are:

  • Reflect: Business leaders and managers to reflect on what has happened during lockdown, what has worked and what has been missed. Perspectives from all levels and areas of the business are vital.
  • Recommit: reinforcement of business-wide commitment to wellbeing and purpose, addressing physical, psychological, and financial concerns at the workplace and at homes.
  • Re-engage: Unique opportunities have now been created to redeploy workforces. Some may return to a worksite, others may work from home, or within a hybrid model. Leaders should provide clear direction on new assignments and priorities. 
  • Rethink: The rapid shift to remote work should be harnessed to engender a more resilient workforce, shifting away from rigid routine and structure. 
  • Reboot: HR and team managers should focus energy and creativity into nurturing key skills gaps, via training and workshop opportunities, to be ready for the post-COVID landscape.

Central to this is the overriding need for empathy, understanding and clear communication. Empathy for those individuals whose needs are myriad and perhaps complex, understanding that not everyone operates at the same capability when it comes to rapid adaptation and clear communication that establishes trust in an honest, open and truthful way.

Finally, every one of us has had a unique experience of this crisis and there is a need to share those experiences and stories, not only as individuals but in terms of our working lives and how Covid-19 has shaped them, possibly forever. This should include the ability to talk to professionals about how individuals are feeling – some of us may have found the resilience we need during this period; others may have post-lockdown symptoms akin to PTSD. But by hearing these stories and acknowledging their truths, we as businesses can begin to build for a new world that may seem unfamiliar and scary, but is also packed full of possibilities. Will we look back on 2020 as a year of disaster, or of opportunity? Understanding what we’ve all been through and how we can harness this creatively is a huge challenge for businesses and employees, but it is one that cannot be ignored as we step tentatively into post-COVID 19.

PUSH State of The Nation: A View on Personal Development

A global crisis such as Covid-19 can be very unsettling to people at a core level, rocking the confidence they have in themselves, their communities, and the government. The pandemic has shaken the normally stable ground that we stand on, taking our world from the safe and secure place we know to a constantly changing, unfamiliar and unpredictable one.

This loss of safety can cause a huge range of emotions to come up, such as worry, fear, and frustration, testing people’s resilience and pushing many to re-evaluate their life choices. 

We know from our conversations that many people are looking at the last few months and wishing they had done things differently. Kicking themselves for not picking up a new job, routine or money-saving scheme before lockdown started. And, since it started, so many people have had good intentions of learning a new skill or picking up a hobby during lockdown. However, the reality it seems, has been a bit different. When restrictions and lockdowns were first put in place, countries shut down quickly and our worlds changed overnight. Now, as the weeks progress and we’ve gotten used to this ‘new normal’, it’s becoming more difficult for people to stay motivated and productive.

But very rarely do we have the opportunity to properly reset, or take time to really consider what we want to be like now and in the future. As hard as lockdown has been, it has given us the unique opportunity to take a breath and think, without the noise and distractions of daily life. Taking that time to do a self audit is extremely valuable for growth and development. Helping pinpoint what matters most to you (your values) and where you want to go in your life (your purpose), in order to thrive.

PUSH Coach Shereen Hoban, personal development coach and facilitator, spoke about the importance of goal setting if we’re keen to create change in our lives.

“When goal setting, it’s helpful to think about your plans in a tangible way. What are you working for? What result is going to make you feel happy, fulfilled or exhilarated? Once you’ve identified your goal – one that’s personal to you, team it with some serious visualisation. Imagine yourself achieving this thing. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”Three in five (58%) people said they are finding it harder to stay positive about the future, and 56% are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day. ” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

This exercise, widely used by sports-people, can have a truly powerful effect on your mindset, enabling you to work in a more focused way so you can go forward to succeed. Knowing what you want and what you’re working towards means you’re one massive step closer to getting it. If your goal is to simply rest, regroup and spend quality time with your family right now, then just be intentional with it. Enjoy this time and don’t feel guilty for doing what’s right for you.”

Our mindset has a huge impact on our motivation and is key in the success or failure of a task, project or goal. Research suggests that having a growth mindset can help us overcome challenges, due to the belief that skills and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. However, as the lockdown continues, it’s becoming harder to stay positive about the future for many. In the UK, three in five (58%) people said they are finding it harder to stay positive about the future, and 56% are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

American Psychologist Carol Dweck is an expert on growth mindset. In her book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Mindset’, she spoke on different mindsets, commenting “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.” In challenging times it is especially important to try and have a growth mindset, which will help foster creativity and build resilience.

But let’s be honest, most people aren’t going to get up every morning at 5am to do a home workout, before cooking a healthy breakfast and starting work at 9am – and that’s without kids in the mix. And it’s ok to spend time watching TV or scrolling on your phone, allowing yourself to just do nothing. However, it is also important to use this time to try new activities and self-care strategies. 

Starting to build a habit or process around these new activities is almost as important, if not more so, than the actual outcome of the activity. Focusing on small things that we can control, while building healthy habits, can have a transformative effect on mental health. This learning gives individuals something that is fully in their control, unlike the current socio-economic climate. 

Brad Stulberg, author of the book ‘Peak Performance’  and expert on personal and professional development, has developed an equation for achieving growth in any area of your life. Over his years of working as a consultant and business coach, he realised that the key drivers for growth are Stress and Rest. 

We know that stress is most commonly talked about in a negative light. However, Professor Kelly McGonigal explained in her book ‘The Upside of Stress’, that stress can actually be good for us to a certain extent. It is only when that stress becomes too much for too long, that it starts to have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. 

As humans, we need to feel a certain amount of stress in order to challenge ourselves to do better or learn new things. But we also need to take the time to rest our bodies or minds to allow ourselves to recharge. Brad’s equation for growth is simple, highlighting the importance of both being challenged and resting in order to do our best. 

So, maybe now is the time to use this ‘stress’ as the opportunity to grow, allowing ourselves the time and space to try new things, or focus on areas you may have neglected. This could also be a time to create new routines and structures around your work, school or personal life. To figure out the best way of working for you, and how to top up that resilience bank so you don’t end up overstretched or burnt out. 

Most of all though, it’s important to not become your own worst critic. Beating yourself up over not learning a new language, or doing that workout isn’t helpful and can even be detrimental to your mental health. During this time we should be celebrating even the small wins we have, building that positive growth mindset bit by bit. Because, afterall, the most important outcome is our individual happiness and that should be the focus of every single one of us.

 

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

PUSH State of the Nation: A View on Financial Health

With widespread lockdowns still in place, the economy is getting hit hard around the world. We know that money can be a huge point of worry on a good day for many people. But with the rising uncertainty around jobs and money, more and more people are finding themselves anxious about the future of their finances. 

If you’re finding yourself anxious or worried right now, know that you’re not alone. According to the Money and Pensions Service, an estimated 11.5 million people in the UK have less than £100 in cash savings. That is a huge number of people in the same situation, scrambling to arrange their budgets to prepare for what the future might hold. However, those hit the hardest financially are those who are self-employed or can’t work due to illness, industries that are reducing hours and laying off staff, and those who are close to retirement. Individuals in these areas will continue to feel the pinch as we continue to social distance, and may face even more challenges as the weeks/months progress. 

[mkd_blockquote text=”In the UK one in five—21%—of people have been furloughed.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”75″]

Research company Ipsos Mori have been polling people around the world since early March, allowing us a longitudinal look at our changing financial behaviours throughout quarantine. They found that in the UK one in five (21%) of people have been furloughed, and 17% have had their take-home pay reduced. In an effort to keep costs low and save for the future, almost two-thirds of Britons have been spending less money overall, and 46% have already accessed their savings. Leaving many of those who have had pay reductions or have been furloughed finding themselves increasingly more worried that their jobs will not be there after all this is over.

Research shows that money can often be a real trigger for people, with financial struggles especially having a huge impact on mental health. When someone is struggling with poor mental health it can make it even harder to manage money, causing worry and having a knock-on effect on their mental health. It’s a vicious cycle that can be incredibly difficult to get out of. However, understanding your patterns around money can be incredibly beneficial in helping you manage your finances, and any anxieties around it better.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found in 2019 that people with money problems have slower recovery rates for common mental health conditions. Those suffering from depression and financial problems are 4.2 times more likely to still have depression 18 months later, compared with those without financial issues. On top of that, people with financial challenges were 3 times more likely to think about suicide over the past year. Even during regular economic times, more than 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while financially struggling. 

Many employees who have not been directly impacted by furloughs or pay cuts are also questioning whether their income is safe and if the company is going to survive.  So it is up to our managers to take these worries seriously, carving out time to discuss financial wellbeing with their teams. Managers and leaders should initiate honest conversations with their employees, giving them the time and space to bring up any concerns or challenges they may be facing. 

These conversations allow for an open conversation, where management can answer any questions that are coming up and provide clear accurate information. However, it is important to be clear beforehand on what is and isn’t open to share. This is also an opportunity to direct team members to further information or resources they can use if they are worried about financial protection, budgeting options, or just want some peace of mind and security during an incredibly uncertain time.

Lorraine McFall, our PUSH money expert shared some insights with us around money mindsets and financial worry. 

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“Culturally as a nation we have not been good at talking about money.  Hopefully, one of the positives to come out of this dreadful situation is that so many of us have had the financial rug pulled from under our feet, by something which is completely outside our control, we won’t have the same feelings of shame or fear of judgement about reaching out for help or talking about our money worries. That has got to be a good thing for employers and employees as before COVID-19, 77% of employees admitted that money worries have affected their performance at work leading to sickness, absence and poor performance.

Despite so many people worrying about money or, at the very least, being aware that they need to do something, very few actually take action.  As long as the bills are being paid and the bailiffs are not at the door, it’s often easier to leave things as they are and accept the disempowering notion that money is something that happens to us, rather than be the driver of our financial choices. “

In the PUSH Money Matters workshops, Lorraine encourages participants to work not only on their day to day management skills but also on setting their financial goals and becoming aware of their money mindset.  If people can consistently take action in all 3 of these areas then they will achieve financial wellbeing which essentially means “Giving people a greater sense of confidence and control over their money through good times and bad.”

She also shared three immediate steps you can do today to start you on that process of taking ownership of your financial future are:

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  1. Open up a new bank account and keep all direct debits and regular payments coming from one account and transfer your spending money into a separate account.  Use the new bank account for all your day to day spending and you will have visibility over how much money you actually have that is available for spending.  Consequently you will be able to avoid that  constant mental calculation of “is there enough”, every time you hand your card over and avoid those feelings of scarcity.  Yes, there might not be as much as you would like in your account each month but the fear can often be worse than the reality and actually knowing your numbers and taking away the fear will give you the confidence to take the next step on your financial journey.
  2. Write down 2 or 3 immediate short term financial goals and a very specific plan about all the steps you need to take to achieve the goals.  This will be the first step of your financial plan.  The very act of implementing this will help you see the benefit of setting specific goals and give you the confidence to think bigger and for the longer term.
  3. Watch the language that you use about money.  If every time you think about your finances, you constantly think “I’m rubbish with money”, you are setting yourself up for failure. The first time things get tough, you already have your get out of jail card ready, “Well I knew that happened, ’cause I’m rubbish with money…..”.  The first step to working on your money mindset is becoming aware of the language you use and stop using it.  If it’s hard to break the habit then put the expression in the past tense, “ I USED to be rubbish with money, I am now learning to take control.”

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During this time, it is incredibly important to pay attention to the financial wellbeing of our friends, family and colleagues. We know things are going to be tough for a while, and money can be such a personal subject for many people. But in a time when your typical reaction would be to pull back, we need to be brave. We need to be open to having these conversations, and provide a non-judgemental and safe space to share how we’re feeling. 

 

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

PUSH State of The Nation: A View on Leadership

For many people, with each passing day, the future is becoming more and more uncertain. And as the world wide lockdown continues, companies are dealing with unimaginable challenges which could impact their future success (or failure).

The impact of Covid-19 will be felt far and wide, from the senior executives at Fortune 500 companies, new grads just starting their careers, to health care and essential workers – everyone will be affected in some way, big or small.

Now more than ever, leaders need to step up. Not just for themselves and the future of their business, but for their teams and the individuals within them. We know that many leaders are woefully unequipped to deal with even normal work challenges.

[mkd_blockquote text=”77% of organisations felt that they are currently experiencing a gap in leadership skills.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”70″]

In 2019, the Human Resource Professionals Association reported that 63% of millennials felt their leadership skills are not being developed, and 77% of organisations felt that they are currently experiencing a gap in leadership skills. Within our corporate audits we have seen a similar theme, with the majority of managers and leaders we spoke to commenting that they have received little to no training on how to best manage their teams. 

So how can we expect leaders to step up when they don’t have the necessary skills or behaviors in place? It is critical for business leaders to be there for their teams, helping them stay informed, giving them the space to be heard, and keeping them motivated and engaged.

During this time especially, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we need to be upskilling managers and leaders, or it could have much larger implications on the overall business and team motivation. Afterall, their role is not to own their teams, leading with fear and aggression, but to guide their teams in the right direction using trust and clear communication to show them the way. 

Arjen Boin, a Political scientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands and co-author of ‘The Politics of Crisis Management’, has spent many years studying how leaders responded to previous emergencies. He found that one of the most important determinants of followers’ trust, was down to the leader’s messaging around the crisis. 

He writes: “Effective crisis leadership cannot be brought about by simply doing the ‘right thing’ on the ground, Instead, the leaders need to craft a good narrative that helps clarify the problem and unite the population if they are to attain the “permissive consensus” that is essential to be able to make decisions and formulate policies”

Over the past few weeks, Gallup has been running weekly comparative surveys to gauge how people’s feelings and beliefs are changing as Covid-19 runs its course. They found that Organisations are becoming more clear in their internal communications, with 52% for respondents saying their employer has communicated a clear plan of action, up 15% from mid march.  The percentage of full-time employees who strongly agree that their manager is keeping them informed on internal matters has also increased from 47% to 54%.

This shows that many company leaders are realising that if they want to survive they need to improve communication. However many organisations are lagging behind, with roughly half of respondents saying that their company hasn’t communicated a clear plan or kept them informed, so there is still work to be done.

Managers and supervisors need to be setting clear expectations, adjusting goals, helping everyone feel connected, creating accountability, and recognising those who are doing great work. In a time of uncertainty, it is imperative that leaders keep their teams anchored to the company’s purpose and values. This is the time to come back to those values to inspire your employees and show them what the future can still look like.

Gallup’s most recent leadership research found that there are 4 key things individuals need from their leaders – trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Leaders must build trust with their teams and show compassion, focussing on protecting their employees wellbeing and leading with purpose throughout this period and beyond. 

A great example of leadership during a crisis can be found within one of the largest hotel chains in the world. In March, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson sent a video to the entire Marriott team that was genuine, emotional, and honest – demonstrating to his team how much the company cares about their wellbeing and peace of mind. Sorenson shared a clear, concise message that showed the optimism they have for the future, while also informing them on what is being done to face any and all challenges that arise. 

PUSH Leadership Coach Tamson Amara spoke about the struggles leaders are facing, on our regular webinar, Conversations with Cate; 

[mkd_blockquote text=”A skillful leader is able to be honest about their own experience and communicate this to the team.” title_tag=”h2″ width=”70″]

“Even leaders have disappointments, setbacks and frustrations to process.  A skillful leader is able to be honest about their own experience and communicate this to the team. For instance, asking the team to bear with them if they are feeling overwhelmed and need space to assess and respond with clarity and direction.  A concept that supports this process – especially in times of uncertainty – is ‘holding’.  

‘Holding’ focuses teams on what is controllable NOW! It directs focus and effort.  Communicating this position may involve re-purposing. For instance, if the purpose of a sales team is to generate revenue, in times of uncertainty holding could mean switching focus from pushing new campaigns to building up the quality of relationships with clients.  Simple, clear messages to support this process go a long way in settling the team and allowing leaders space to respond with longer term strategy,”

So the question is, how can you support your team better throughout this time? How do you lead with trust, compassion, stability and hope?

John Quelch, the Leonard M. Miller University Chair Professor and Vice Provost for Executive Education and Dean of the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami, shared leadership principles to help managers survive this time. 

  1. Stay Calm – everyone will be looking to you as a leader to project a sense of calm amongst the uncertainty.
  2. Be Confident – you need to project the confidence that you will be able to see this through successfully. 
  3. Communicate – in this ‘fake news’ world, it is imperative that you communicate relentlessly to avoid rumors from developing. However a sense of order is also needed to allow for rapid, clear communication as decisions are made.
  4. Collaborate – you aren’t going to know all the answers, and it’s important to call on all of your resources. Engaging employees in this way will also discourage a rumour mill. 
  5. Create a Community – it is more important than ever to create a friendly and helpful environment where the team feels supported and cared for.
  6. Be Compassionate – in a time of crisis this is vital for leaders, be understanding about how it is affecting your team individually, especially when everyone has their own anxieties and stressors coming up.

Crucially, now is the time to upskill your leaders to help them be more conscious, supportive and human. PUSH’s inaugural e-learning programme does exactly that. It has been designed to help leaders and even more junior team members develop better behaviours. This will get everyone working at their best. We call the programme ‘Becoming Superhuman’ as it considers all of the core skills and behaviours needed as a great leader, both of self and others. 

If this situation has taught us one thing, it’s that success and peak performance go beyond just sheer hard work. Sometimes it’s the softer skills which make the greatest difference to hard measures. So, now is the time to do something different. Now is the time to step up. To be a great and truly conscious leader, and start operating in new and innovative ways so that our businesses and people not only survive but thrive.

Helpful Resources

Up to date Info on Corona

christmas-tree

5 mindset shifts to combat festive stress at work

Since the start of December, conversations in the office and socially have turned to the busy run up before the holidays. These few weeks seem to catch us off guard every year. There’s a strange combination of enjoying the festivities and pressure to have it all figured out. If we aren’t grunting about endless shopping lists, personal admin, deadlines and Christmas songs, we’re enjoying mulled wine, mince pies and decorating trees.

The less enjoyable aspect of the season is mounting deadlines and increased workload. The final push to the finish line before a new year begins. Pile on top of that performance reviews, year-end reporting and 2020 planning. It’s a lot to cram in and we’ll be wishing for more December working days in no time.  

 

Whilst we might not be able to change our circumstances or alter timelines, we can change how we think about stress to help us cope better. Let’s take a look at 5 ways to think differently and combat the stressful festive season.

 

  1.     You don’t have to do it all

When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol which reduces our critical thinking capacity and instead of being able to problem solve, our heart rate rises, and we begin to panic. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so get great at saying no, prioritising and putting your health first.

 

  1.     December is like any other month

There’s an invisible mental gap between December and January – like the new year is at the end of a long road. The reality is, January is just around the corner. Take December down a peg and take the pressure off. There’s no denying that expectations are present (forgive the pun) but remembering that we aren’t about to enter the twilight zone can provide some relief.

 

  1.     There are more things to talk and think about

You are what you speak. Next time someone asks you about your Christmas plans, who’s coming round on the big day or how many gifts you’ve bought, know that you can politely move on to other topics. The latest season of The Crown, a hot new restaurant or the Man Booker prize winners are all viable small talk – just don’t bring up politics.

 

  1.     Bring the cheer

Every person in the office has an opportunity each day to influence the mood of the team. Be open, communicate, but know when not to share. Stress is contagious and must be dealt with like you would any other illness. In private and with the right treatment. Looking after ourselves is a priority and one not to be taken lightly.

 

  1.     Show your appreciation

You know what they say, it’s the season of goodwill. Shifting your lens in the workplace to one of appreciation can lift your spirits and remind you of the great bits. A simple cup of tea, ‘good morning’ or smile can have positive effects on our own mood as well as someone else’s. We are all in the same boat after all!

 

Helping companies and the people within them enjoy work more and stress less is what we do. Want more? Take a look at our Workshops for a winning mindset in 2020. We will also be sharing more tips over on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to launch our 12 days of PUSHness. Join us to prepare for an amazing end to the year and super start to the next one!

Creating positive interactions as a leader – Leadership series

Take a moment to consider what qualities you notice in yourself when you communicate at your best. Are you: Calm? Concise? Clear? What about a good listener? 

I’m Tamson. I am an Insight Coach, Speaker and Trainer for PUSH, specialising in psychological skills and leadership. In the second of this Leadership Blog Series, I share how a simple coaching techniques used daily can get the best out of your team and your colleagues.

 

Have you read the first Leadership series blog: How to lead with direction and purpose?

 

What are your leadership qualities?

In my work with team leaders, directors and CEOs, I ask them about their leadership qualities. I am always happy to hear of great communication skills, though listening is rarely mentioned. Yet it is the most important skill for successfully interacting with your team and your colleagues.

 

Think about a time that required you to phone a call centre. Remember how the customer service representative read through their script and kept asking you irrelevant questions, forcing their process on you? How frustrated did you feel when they would not listen to your problem or take the time to understand what you needed?

 

In the book, The Chimp Paradox, Professor Steve Peters labels the emotionally reactive part of the mind our ‘inner chimp’, and the executive, thinking part as the ‘human’. That call centre exchange triggered your chimp. We talk about ‘the chimp being on the move’ when we are upset, disappointed or confused. We think emotively, jump to conclusions, and fixate on what we perceive to be the problem. We lose focus, we make mistakes and our interactions with others suffer. Effective leaders work to settle the chimp in others and wake up the more performant human.

 

Truly listening

Our chimps core need is to be heard, acknowledged, and – at best – reassured. In the absence of such a response, it will actively keep the problem alive until someone finally listens. Once it achieves this, it relaxes and allows the ‘human’ back into the driving seat.

 

We can see this process in MRI scans. Chimp behaviour correlates with high blood flow to the emotional core of our brain, the amygdala. Being heard and acknowledged redirects the blood to the prefrontal cortex, associated with higher human functioning. Receiving advice and practical suggestions to a problem while the chimp is actively on the move does not help. Feeling heard is what causes this shift in blood flow. Only then can a different perspective emerge and the problem moved on.

 

You might not feel you have time to truly listen if you are yourself feeling overwhelmed with your own to-do list or problems. It can be tempting to redirect them, shut them down, or avoid them. This is a literal waste of time, as your colleague’s chimp will continue looking for someone who can listen.  Plus, if you are their line manager, you probably are the right person for them to be asking for support.

 

Allowing your colleague 2-3 minutes to exercise whatever is bothering them – actively, and not with half an eye on your laptop – shows them that you are listening. That is all they need for their chimp to feel acknowledged and for their blood to flow back to the prefrontal cortex where you want it.

 

To really nail this process, paraphrase back what your colleague shared, and actively confirm that you have heard them. This will de-escalate even a very stressed chimp. Try:

  • “Can I just check that I have understood the problem…” (and paraphrase)
  • “What I have heard is…” (and paraphrase)

 

Reassure your colleague’s chimp that you empathise, whatever the issue. “That sounds tough/difficult” will melt the chimp right in front of your eyes.

 

This may sound simple. However, only the human properly listens. Chimps do not; they have their fingers in their ears!  So to listen effectively you must also manage your own chimp. First, you need to notice when your own chimp is on the move. Top tip: if you cannot effectively paraphrase, you are likely in your chimp.  

 

Hitting the pause button

Next, hit the pause button! Whatever you were thinking or feeling, do not invest further in it. Do not say anything for a moment. You need to actively redirect yourself back into your own human. You can do this effectively if you deliberately focus on what you are hearing and ‘drop into listening mode’. You can respond out loud again when you can hear yourself paraphrasing your colleague effectively in your own mind. In the meantime, maintain an attentive body language as best you can.

 

A catch is that our chimp can become actively overwhelmed by listening if we perceive that we are just being given more problems (to add to our ongoing to-do list) which our team members ought to be resolving.

 

This is where further coaching skills come in. Differentiating between directing or facilitating your team is a great skill to empower team members to develop confidence and skill in their work. Knowing when and how to switch between the two can be an invaluable skill and will make the difference to a colleague’s chimps being onboard – allowing their human to get on with their best work.

 

PUSH help create leaders who are living, breathing examples of excellence. Who are confident and capable, who listen and value their team members and allow them the opportunity to grow and develop beyond what they thought they were capable of. To find out more, please get in touch.

 

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