It is June – no bank holidays! Half term is almost over. Depending on their age children are either concerned about exams or looking forward to all sorts of outings and fun leading up to the end of term. There are quite a few adults looking forward to holidays as well.
After three bank holidays we are trying to get back into normal work patterns spread across a five-day week. And we might be thinking about our half year figures and how the year is going; whether our plans and targets are turning into reality.
So, what am I thinking about?
This month I have seen a few people driven to the end of their tethers. In some cases, it has been completely normal – organising a huge family party and all the detailed plans and complicated relationships to be managed. It is hard in that situation to keep your head. Everyone is making demands for decisions or information. Your subconscious keeps reminding you of all the things you might have forgotten and all the disasters that might happen on the day.
However, I am thinking more about the situations that occur at work. You are working away. There is too much work and too little time, but you are dealing with it. Then things start to go wrong. Emergencies start coming in; customers have their own crises and want you to help them through them; everyone wants a piece of you; you start making mistakes; everything is urgent and requires lots of input; the people you need to contact with aren’t around – worst still they are on holiday. You feel like you are in the middle of whirlpool, everything is against you and then to cap it all your technology goes wrong. You get more and more angry, more and more stressed, and go into freeze mode so barely productive. It is horrible.
We all recognise the situation. Everything is too much and if one more thing goes wrong you feel like you will implode. We all feel like this sometimes and we always will. The question is how you come back from it. How do you turn your world around and get it back under control?
I do not have any magic answers. I can only offer a few ideas that I have seen work. It seems to be to be encapsulated by Mike Brearley the former England cricket captain and nowadays a psychoanalyst when he says “captaining ourselves. like captaining a team, requires a willingness to allow thoughts and feelings their own space”.
So, some ideas:
- Scream! Or do something that lets it out. Acknowledge how horrible it is. Give yourself time to recognise the situation.
- Then remember that nobody died. This is just life, and you are having a bad patch. There is nothing wrong with you These things will pass.
- Pull things back into line by taking control through making a plan. However much there is to do there are priorities. Once you have identified them you will start to control your world again and deal with things.
- Who can you delegate to? Even laying off some of the small things will make a difference.
- Make a start but ensure you plan a break, so your efforts are focused.
- Only do one thing at a time to the exclusion of everything else.
- When you are calm and can think clearly work out why it happened. What are your triggers? Then you will either be able to avoid them in the future or at least see it coming and prepare yourself.
OK you say, all this is fine and I know it. The problem is when we get frenzied we forget and let the situation spiral out of control. So next time it happens take a breath, acknowledge the feelings, and allow yourself to follow the steps to take control.
However, there are two other aspects to this.
Firstly, how do you stop this condition of yours becoming contagious in your team? Panic, bad temper and frustration spread like wildfire and make everyone miserable. Worse still it takes everyone’s eye off the ball, and they start to make errors and miss deadlines. If it goes on it turns the atmosphere toxic.
As a leader it is your job to lead. You must regulate your own feelings and keep them to yourself. If they do spread what do you do? Again, we all have our methods, and it depends on our situations. The first thing is to ensure that no one is blamed for this bad phase. It is too easy to put it on to someone else: a colleague, a client, a supplier, worst of all the most unpopular member of the team. Situations just happen when there is too much work. We need to remember that.
Maybe acknowledge it – when we are under pressure and working our socks off food can be a good idea – pizzas are often the answer!
The second thing on my mind is how you spot when someone in your team is going into meltdown. If you are together in the office it can be easy. They are fractious, they bang about, their workplace gets untidy or hopefully they tell you! Hopefully, you delegate well and are approachable and they can talk to you. However, what happens if they work from home or are hybrid workers? This is where I get worried. Home workers can hide so much. We have to find ways of keeping in touch with them. We need a virtual watercooler. What is yours?
Might it be having a regular routine to check in? I mean check in not check-up. I mean genuine interest in how a project is going. It is all about monitoring in a neutral way rather than in a judgemental way. You need to spot this early, so the person does not go into a deep flat spin If the person is overloaded then take work off them. You might need to help them replan their time. In more extreme circumstances you might like to take projects off them altogether until they get control back.
One of your jobs as a leader is to know which situations trigger this frenzy of overload in your team members and either avoid it or manage it with them.
If you recognise a need to organise yourself better or to learn some good management techniques to help your team be more effective; then let’s talk about mentoring; having a supporter to help you look at the situation, unpick the challenges and craft a plan to build a more effective working method, maybe a place to bring the turmoil – then why not give me a call. We can talk about your business and what you want from it and your life. I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. I hope you will be one of them.