It’s mid January, which means many resolutions have already been forgotten or neglected. The push for a ‘new year, new you’ was all around us early this month encouraging fresh starts, new perspectives and affirmative action. Let’s look at some practical, tangible ways to make 2019 a great year. No pressure to make it the best year, but there are steps you can take to make it memorable and positive.
“A dream come true”
This is how I often answer friends and family when asked how my new job is going. To understand why, I should first introduce myself. I was born and raised in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, a privilege often not understood by most until after leaving. I grew up in a home way out in Tuwanek, away from all life and civilization, or at least my adolescent mind thought so. All I wanted to do when I finished school was to pack up and not look back. After moving away with years of learning and growing, the magic of busier people and crowded places began to wear off. I felt a yearning to return to the place I once couldn’t wait to leave, and I was able to re-explore the home I had so taken for granted. Since rejoining this amazing community, I have come to appreciate the benefits and beauty that comes with being a part of it.
It was in a time of reflection during my studies that I discovered my passion for Human Resources. I was beginning to feel unsatisfied with the program I was enrolled in, and I began to seek out alternatives. I wanted to devote myself to something where I could help others and make a positive impact on those around me. There was no shortage of great schools and programs, but I wanted to find something that would give me the tools to make a difference. Eventually I found an institution that was full of amazing people that helped shaped who I am, and their positivity and enthusiasm are still with me today.
I didn’t believe it was possible to find a place to work that combined my passion for Human Resources with the values and qualities held by a smaller community. It wasn’t until I discovered Praxis, or should I say they discovered me, when I realized that my dream could become reality. The more I found out about the organization, people, and opportunity the more I realized this was my dream job. My first month has flown by, and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead of us. I encourage anyone to pursue their passions and never settle for less, dreams do come true.
Some of us here at Praxis Group have a love-hate relationship with resolutions. On one hand we find the pressure of literally turning the calendar page into a new year overwhelming. Christina jokingly calls this time of year the “season of obligation” with all the ‘have to do’s’ around the holidays and setting resolutions for the New Year feels like another obligation. On the other hand, most of us adore planning and plotting and thinking about the future and how to make it better for our business, our team, our families and ourselves, which means that setting resolutions comes quite naturally.
2019 is going to bring some big changes in our office with the addition of at least one new team member and two others heading off to have babies &/or go to school. For Drew and Christina this is an opportunity refine our Human Resource offerings, get crystal clear on who Praxis is (besides awesome!) and set some strong intentions for the year ahead. In a nutshell our business is focusing on bring Respect to Workplaces across our province and beyond and to upping our Recruitment offering to support our Coastal clients in better more flexible ways and to take on more recruitment in areas outside of the GVRD – look out Vancouver Island and the Okanagan here we come!
Here are the resolutions from the rest of our team, let’s start with Christina:
In years past, my resolutions mostly centred on getting more sleep, getting more greens or getting outside with the dogs and kids more regularly, but this year my focus continues to be on finding healthy ways to ride the wave of work and home commitments and responsibilities. The hard part is that I love my work and I love my kids and I have often felt that by choosing one I’m saying no to the other – which is a stinky feeling when I tell my kids I have to work again. So my resolution this year is to stick to the defined and clear parameters around work and work time and work demands. What I commit to in 2019 is staying focused on the HR work we do at Praxis, saying no to those things that do not feed my business or my soul and saying no to work on the weekends. By saying no to those things, I know I’m saying yes to more time with myself and with my family.
New Years resolutions are normally something that I avoid like the plague. Afterall, the year is dead like a doornail and every dog has had their day. However, I will take the opportunity to think outside the box, grab the tiger by the tail to come up with a resolution that will force me to take the bull by the horns. Sure, off the top of my head I can think of millions of ideas. I could join a gym and be fit as a fiddle, but that idea is as old as the hills. I could go that extra mile and give 110% to keep up with the Joneses but, that pace would take every fibre of my being. At the end of the day, when looking at my life from a 30,000-foot view, my resolution for 2019 is crystal clear……
This year, we’re writing a blog, so I’m opening myself up to publicly announce a NY resolution which in turn will organically make me accountable, right? I love goals, but rarely hold NY resolutions to the same standard. So, I suppose my final resolution is to be accountable to these ones!
1. Being punctual. This is a sign of respect and is a helpful resolution for my own mental wellbeing. That said, I am punctual and “on time”; however, I’m not early and if you were a fly on my wall, getting places on time is not very graceful. In the interest of “SMART” goals, I will:
Be 15 minutes earlier than “on time.”
Measure this weekly and know I have achieved this once it has become habitual.
Keep it attainable by committing to the one act. For example, not adding to this goal by committing to saying no more often. This adds a level of complexity that will derail this goal.
Give myself a break when this isn’t realistic, I have two young girls and we’re about to welcome our third, life happens; favourite socks get lost, or “actually mum I do have to go pee” is a thing.
Give myself enough time to achieve this goal. Start the process of getting out the door earlier, anticipate needs and be prepared to best of my ability.
“You can’t recycle wasted time” – anonymous
2. This quote leads me to my next resolution, reduce & reuse more! As an avid recycler, I am finding myself still overwhelmed with recycling and the volume of production. Examples, I will continue to use less paper at work, reuse containers for kids snacks, second hand clothing, and to overall minimize my families intake. In the interest of not getting too granular, I will leave it at that. REDUCE REUSE Recycle!
My 2019 is going to bring some serious life changes! Sometime in January, my partner and I will be welcoming our first child, a baby girl. In June, we are planning on getting married. I am excited to see how Praxis grows while I am away, and how completely different it will be when I return. Through all these changes, my resolution is to remain in the moment and try to enjoy all of it – even the messy bits. Unlike Drew, things don’t seem crystal clear currently, but that’s okay too. Let’s go 2019; I’m ready for you!
2018 was a year of great personal growth for me, full of challenges and adventures that have ultimately led me to where I am now. Having recently joined the Praxis team at the turn of the year, I have been given an amazing opportunity to continue growing and learning from those around me. My resolution for 2019 is to focus on my professional growth, and to constantly seek out opportunities that expand my knowledge and experience.
Happy New Year & Bring on 2019!
Traditionally in North American culture, December is ‘the holiday season’ and a time to celebrate with family, friends and colleagues, give gifts and eat and drink more than usual. While this sounds enjoyable it can bring a lot of stress with it. Financial pressures, family or work obligations and the demand on time can amount to a lot of anxiety all while regular requirements of life and work remain demanding priorities.
Lindsay Roberts, Director of HR Services at Praxis Performance Group understands the holidays can be a challenging time for some and shares tips on how individuals as well as employers, can look after themselves and their colleagues during this highly charged festive season.
“First off, it’s important that employers consider that not all employees are comfortable with the concepts surrounding Christmas and not everyone does well around the holiday season,” explains Roberts. “The number one thing around the holidays is to take care of yourself and your family and decide what you can handle, financially and within your comfort zone. Also important is to really try and see the positives of the season, even if it’s not your favourite. If all it is, is a few paid days off work then take that as a win and try not to focus on the things that get you down.”
When it comes to food or clothing collections and giving, it’s wise for employers to make this process anonymous. This allows employees to donate at their own discretion and not feel judged or pressure to contribute or compete with other colleagues.
Focusing on the spirit of the season rather than the material giving can be a positive way to alleviate stress for employees. Activities like ‘Secret Santa’ or ‘Kris Kringle’ where employees exchange gifts can be uncomfortable and may result in employees taking unnecessary sick days to avoid such events. By focusing on the season as a time to get together socially and relax a little in the workplace rather than gift giving may inspire employees to be more involved. Roberts encourages employers to be generous with staff during the holidays if that’s the time of year they feel most comfortable doing so. She encourages transparency around extra time off or reduced expectations so employees can plan personal events and activities accordingly.
Another tip from Roberts is to acknowledge other celebrations during the year. “Ask employees to share their holidays and traditions; maybe an anonymous ideas board and asking how the office can support the celebration in a way that represents the team.”
Christmas parties can be the source of much excitement for some employees. Often this excitement translates into too much ‘fun’ at the party followed by regret the following day. Roberts encourages employees to enjoy holiday parties but recommends avoiding the ‘work party hangover’ at all costs.
“The company holiday party is not an excuse to get drunk with colleagues. Treat a Christmas party like work. It’s a time to hear about people’s hobbies and get to know your colleagues on a personal level but it’s not a time to do things you wouldn’t do while at work,” explains Roberts. “Employees should look after themselves and employers should set transparent expectations. Depending on company culture, an employer could remind employees they have to come into the office the next day. Be lighthearted but clear. From there, it is up to the employee to treat it as a work function and behave accordingly.”
While employers should be sensitive to staff’s emotional wellbeing around the holidays it’s not just this time of year that can be stressful. It’s a good reminder to be sensitive to employees throughout the year. Roberts recommends offering an open door policy to support employees to share if any time of year is difficult whether it’s the holidays or a personal date of significance.
“It’s about being true to yourself, not overspending and not putting yourself in a place where you wake up in January with regret,” says Roberts. “Staying true to who you are might mean not participating in any of the celebrating but also not giving yourself a hard time for that. It’s not only about December 25th. Let’s focus on making the last 31 days count. How can you capitalize on making sure you did the best for yourself in 2018? As an employer that’s giving and listening and as an employee that’s making sure that you’re doing what’s good for your soul and body.”
Sharing ideas encourages us to develop connections, motivate progress and hear the thoughts of new people and networks. These are just some of the reasons it’s important for our staff at Praxis Performance Group to get out in the community and participate in events across various sectors.
Praxis Group has good reason to celebrate. Business has been run for the last four years from Christina and Drew’s home office, but on Thursday November 8th they open their new office to those who helped them get there. “We’re so looking forward to sharing our incredible new space and hosting those who love us and have supported us,” says Christina Stewart, President of Client Affairs at Praxis Group.
Here’s a scenario for you:
Taylor starts a new job and as part of orientation is tasked with meeting 1 on 1 with all members of the team to get to know them better. One meeting is with a peer of Taylor’s supervisor, Pat, and in that meeting Taylor is told to “watch out for Pat’s mood swings” and is advised to not speak to Pat until at least 10 am after Pat has had at least two cups of coffee. Similar sentiments are repeated to Taylor by other members of the team – some are Pat’s subordinates, some Pat’s peers and one is even Pat’s superior who told Taylor that working for a tough boss was an opportunity to learn how to navigate difficult people.
Clearly Pat has some issues. Unfortunately, so does Taylor now.
While these team members were trying to be helpful with Taylor, what would have actually helped would be for them not to tolerate Pat’s unacceptable behaviour – Especially Pat’s boss but also the peers. The trouble is we often don’t know what to say or how to stop such bad behaviour – especially once it becomes familiar. At some point in time Pat behaved badly and no one said a word, so Pat got away with it, and since it worked once, Pat did it again and again until those around Pat were just used to the rudeness and disrespect and found ways to work around it.
The impact of this kind of toxicity in a workplace is well known. Those on the receiving end of bullying and disrespect experience poor concentration, lower levels of job satisfaction, mental illness, physical illness and shattered self-esteem and self-worth. Organizations experience high turnover, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and commitment, damaged reputation, difficulty in recruitment and very possibly significant legal costs. Even those bystanders feel the stress, anxiety, helplessness and fear from uncivil behaviours like Pat’s and they have higher turnover and increased absenteeism too.
Those in leadership and in other positions of power in an organization have an obligation to protect employees from people like Pat. You get the behaviour that you tolerate and you also have to pay the price for that behaviour. Finding the words to stop Pat isn’t easy, it takes some serious courage, but e good news is that it is pretty simple. You can try responding to a disrespectful comment (to yourself but especially when it’s directed at someone else) with something like: “Pat, that sounded a little harsh, is that what you intended?” or “Hmmmm, I’m not I sure I would have phrased that in that way.” Or “Pat, can we take this offline?” And then in private ask Pat what was intended by the comment.
Try practicing what you might say in advance of the next time a ‘Pat’ in your life is snarky or mean. If you have some phrases or lines ready to go in your head you’ll be much less likely to freeze or take flight – which only confirms to your ‘Pat’ that the behaviour is tolerable. And as we all know, it isn’t!
I often present Human Resource workshops to business leaders. In it, I explain why building a respectful workplace is essential to a business, and although everyone certainly agrees, I’m usually asked why it matters so much in the recruitment process. The people applying are just applicants or candidates – they aren’t even employees yet. Why does it matter how you treat someone who isn’t an employee? Why care so much? Why not expend your energy on those that have already made the cut?
When I get asked these questions, I wonder to myself: is there a magic line in the sand when people suddenly become more worthy of an employer’s respect?
They are always people. Human beings who want to work for you. People who are asking to spend day after day pushing, slogging, creating, crafting and producing for you. I think they are always deserving of respect.
What does it say about an employer who doesn’t bother to thank applicants for applying? It’s more than a nice touch when an applicant gets a response from a company after submitting a resume; at minimum, it confirms the resume was received and at most it indicates that the applicants is more than just a number.
Furthermore, what about companies that don’t bother to tell a candidate who has been interviewed that they didn’t get the job? These folks took the time to pick out and press nice clothing, prepare and research your company, think of answers to questions you might ask, travel (maybe even take time off of current work or arrange childcare) and in some way fit the interview into their lives, and after all that, they go through a stressful interview with you. They sit in the hot seat and try to be likeable but not too friendly, knowledgeable but not boastful, and share all the relevant details but not talk too much. Please pick up the phone to tell them they didn’t get the job. It’s uncomfortable and may not feel very kind, but it actually is.
Another opportunity to show respect to person through the recruitment process is to NOT have them go through all the interview stuff I listed above if you know they aren’t right. Sometimes employers are on the fence about an applicant’s resume and in that case, go ahead and interview. I’m referring to the situation where you feel you probably should interview someone for some reason other than their qualifications: maybe they are a friend of an employee or a family member of a colleague, or maybe they seemed really nice so you want to give them a shot at an interview – but in all those cases you know you won’t be hiring them, so don’t do it. You aren’t giving them a shot, it leads them on, wastes their time and really wastes yours too.
Your brand and reputation as an employer is a direct correlation to how you treat employees. Start your reputation as a respectful employer from the very beginning of the employee’s relationship. A few courtesies go a long way in setting yourself up as a respectful employer of choice.
On October 17 recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada. What does that mean for employers?
It means a few things – but perhaps the most important point is regardless of how you may personally feel about cannabis it’s coming, so as an employer you will have to adapt.
The Conference Board of Canada undertook a survey of employers in the spring of 2018 and discovered that 52% of employers are either concerned or very concerned about how legalizing cannabis impacts the workplace. A few of those employer concerns are:
· Impairment, defining impairment and testing for impairment
· Storing or having marijuana at work
· Potential Costs to the organization
· Problematic drug use or dependence
· Creating or refining policy to include the use – medicinally and recreationally – of marijuana
· Marijuana at work sanctioned social events
· Creating education and prevention programs
· Productivity and performance
Since 1923 recreational use of marijuana had been illegal in Canada, however a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2001 made medical uses for cannabis legal. The government still has work to do on regulating age limits, taxation, marketing, distribution, impairment levels and a number of other aspects for both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Same goes for employers – there are some decisions to be made and some policy to be set regarding how you treat both the medicinal cannabis legislation and now the recreational within your own work environment. Amending existing policies might be a reasonable option for some employers, but for others, developing or implementing new policies specifically addressing recreational cannabis use may be necessary.
For many employers—particularly those that mainly employ office workers or workers who are not responsible for operating machinery— when it comes to the legalization of recreational cannabis, the initial step involves either making changes to an existent Alcohol & Drug policy or creating one that takes cannabis use into account. Just as is the case with alcohol, the legalization of cannabis doesn’t remove your right as employer to regulate the consumption, possession, and trafficking of cannabis at work. In cases where an organization has prohibited alcohol use while on the job, it can be very simple to tweak this policy to include cannabis, once it becomes legal.
Over the coming months decisions are being made by our governments, federal and provincial, which should help guide employer decisions for example on testing and determining impairment, however, now is the time to reflect on what your specific issues might be in your work environment and ensuring that you have determined and communicated policy to your employees.
Stay Tuned – I’m certain that there will be more to come on this 'burning' topic before October 17!
Over the month of July, we are celebrating all of the fantastic things that the Sunshine Coast has to offer. By using #coastersdo throughout our social media channels, we will recognize all the amazing activities, events and places here on the Sunshine Coast. Having spent most of my life here, I was the logical person to kick things off.
I begrudgingly came back to Gibsons five and a half years ago. I say “begrudgingly” because I had grown to really enjoy life in the Lower Mainland. I had a career, family, lots of entertainment choices and could even find a delicious meal out at 9 pm. That life ended after our youngest was getting close to her first birthday. Faced with a huge childcare cost, we packed up and headed back home where family and friends were ready to support us in any way possible. Looking back at things now, it is hard to imagine my life being anywhere else but here. Not only is the Sunshine Coast a wonderful place to raise a family but having friends, family and a welcoming community has made our transition back so much easier.
What has been a surprise and one of the best parts of being back here, has been the opportunity to see my kids exploring the same places that I did when I was their age. Most notably, exploring the various beaches that we have access to in Gibsons. After all #coastersdo the beach, right? From my house I have a handful of different beaches within walking distance. Each beach offers something a little different, to which my kids picked up immediately. They love climbing rocks and exploring tide pools, so Pebbles and Secret Beach are of interest to them. However, last week I took them to my favourite beach as a kid, Georgia Beach. As a kid, we always called it Musgrove’s Beach, not sure why. Wasn’t until I was an adult and saw the official sign that I got with the program and started calling it Georgia Beach. The beach is very small and tucked away and full of enough rocks that will keep an aspiring Nolan Ryan busy for hours. To most, I am sure there is nothing special about that beach. For me however, there is a swath of childhood memories gathered from the hours spent there week day summer evenings, after my dad got finished from his shift at the pulp mill. We bonded as a family there, skipping rocks and taking turns riding on logs aimlessly floating through the water. Now my kids do the same things at this unassuming beach. We get to hang out and have fun in the same place I did ages ago, like time standing still.
I urge you to interact with us on social media, using the #coastersdo tag and tell us about your favourite place, activity or what makes living here so unique. We would love to hear from you.
This month we're going to post a few things about Canada, About Labour in Canada and most specifically why it's great to be Canadian. We're also going to go a little narrower and talk about why we love the Sunshine Coast, BC - for work, play & life. Stay tuned for our #coastersdo hashtag! To kick us off here's why I think it’s great to be an employee in Canada.
Happy Canada Day! I’m proud to be a Canadian Employer – I’m hoping that by showing the difference between Canadian work practices and laws and work practices and laws just south of our border I’ll be able to express why I think it’s great to be an employee in Canada. I’m not trying to slag on the US (they get a lot of that these days…) but rather show Canadian employees why they have it pretty good.
· First of all – employees in Canada work fewer hours. We work 36 to 40 and Americans clock in about 47!
· Next, we have strict laws enforcing breaks, such as 30 minutes during five hours of work, and ensuring employees get at least 24 hours off in a row each week, and also making sure there are at least eight hours in between each shift. American work culture has a reputation that taking a break is for the weak spirited, whereas in Canada the laws are there to promote healthy workers.
· Third, vacation. Law dictates that we offer paid vacation of two weeks from the get go, and often more progressive employers are generous with much more. American companies aren’t required to do so. Anecdotally I’m told that some employers offer paid vacation, but the law is the law and American employees aren’t protected by it in the way we are in Canada.
· Lastly, the biggest difference I see is paid parental leave. In Canada not only are there hefty laws protecting parents from discrimination around pregnancy and parental leave we’re also entitled to paid leave. PAID leave… And not just 12 weeks. 18 months! There is law in the US that provides some employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave (UNPAID!), but not everyone is entitled to even that!
The law is on the side of the employee in Canada, and even as an employer I’m grateful for that as employees should be protected. I still see lots of work to do for Canadian employers related to creating stronger more positive cultures free from Bullying and Harassment, and certainly diversity and inclusion can be amped up, but we’re seeing more and more practices and laws around those areas too. It won't be long until we're ahead of the pack on those laws too!
Go Canada Go
Creating meaningful partnerships is my passion; it motivates me to continuously push my boundaries. When you make a connection with someone, your worldview has expanded. Suddenly, what you thought you knew has been challenged. That is the shift, the moment where everything tips on the axis; it’s the part of relationship building I love the most.
Recently, I joined Praxis Group as their Director of Partnerships after a few years of getting to know the founders, Christina and Drew. I met Christina back in September of 2014 when she hired me for a position at a local financial institution. Immediately, I felt a connection with her. She was kind, accessible and generous with her time; she challenged my assumptions about Human Resources.
Fast track to around a year ago, I was working in a job supporting people with barriers to employment and Christina and her husband, Drew, were already underway running their own business. We reconnected at a local job fair and I was blown away with their mission and values as an organization. In that moment, I knew I needed to be involved in some capacity, I just didn’t know how.
Over the next series of months, Christina and I cultivated a relationship based in friendship and collaboration. We helped each other with whatever we could in our respective roles. Eventually, we started having more intentional conversations around me joining Praxis, and a few months later, I was reading over my Letter of Offer.
By the time I began my first day, it had been 4 years since I first met Christina. Our relationship took time to cultivate a deep level of trust with mutual respect and understanding. This method is how I approach all relationship building in both my personal and professional life. I take the time to listen -- to connect--and find commonalities. Thus, it’s fitting my new title is the Director of Partnerships, because making connections is an innate skill. I get excited at the prospect of learning something new from the people around me, whether I’ve just met them, or we’ve known each other for years.
Transitioning into my new role, I look forward to cultivating deep roots in community and corporate partnerships. I will approach each partnership with patience and understanding, much like the relationship between Christina and myself. Each relationship is unique, and it demands time and effort to create something special. After all, anything worth having is worth waiting for.
In our last post, Christina discussed the importance of urgency in business to drive performance and create an atmosphere of achievement. Tools such as defined goals, timelines, and success measures keep us accountable and help fuel a sense of accomplishment.
Urgency is important, but if left unchecked we become the proverbial chicken running around without a head.
Enter the pause.
Not a stop, not a rewind, not a fast-forward. A pause. Why? Because it connects us to the present. Urgency can motivate us toward the end goal but the pause keeps us grounded in the moment. When we are present, we are better communicators because we are aware of what is actually happening. Not what just happened, not what we think will happen, but what IS happening. Awareness is pressing the pause button; it brings us to the here and now. Mindfulness is giving the pause time and space so we can use our conscious brain to make decisions, communicate clearly, and act wisely.
When we are on auto play, our unconscious mind is in control. And when our unconscious mind is taking control of our actions and behaviour, whether it's writing a report, analyzing data, or speaking with a customer/coworker/supervisor/employee/etc we risk missing important information and making mistakes.
To make real, authentic, and impactful decisions we need our conscious mind in full force.
Our conscious mind is aware of its environment and the thoughts and emotions it triggers. When we pause and take a moment to be mindful of that environment, we can start to understand the difference between a thought and an emotion. We can dissect and break down the situation in order to communicate clearly, make a decision, or analyze the information.
In a world of immediacy and urgency, taking a pause can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Many people dislike silence and see a pause as a void to fill or even as a weakness of the other person. However, the reality is by taking a pause before responding we are practicing active listening and we aren't defaulting to the first thing that pops into our mind.
So what does a pause look like? In its simplest form, it's connecting with your breath. There is nothing more present than your breath. It's literally bringing awareness to a function of your unconscious mind so that you bring it to your consciousness. From there, you can employ a breathing technique or simply follow your natural breath to connect with the present moment.
The ultimate pause practice is meditation. The mind is a muscle, and just like other muscles, it can be developed, shaped, and strengthened. But it can also become weak, can atrophy, and rely on the other, bigger muscles (e.g. the unconscious mind) to take control which will ultimately create a great unbalance.
Approaches like taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or going for a walk are good places to start. But they need to be done mindfully and it takes practice in order for them to work. Taking a mindful walk doesn't mean walking while going over the conversation again and again in your mind trying to figure it out. It means feeling the ground beneath your feet, the wind on your cheeks, the smells in the air. It's about connecting with the act of walking and being fully present for that walk. You're telling your mind to be present with what you're doing so that when you're finished with your pause, you have brought your attention and awareness to the present to allow your conscious mind to flourish.
Try practicing mindfulness first in the little every day things like washing the dishes, flossing, walking the dog, or making coffee. Pay attention to how your senses react: the smell of the coffee, the warmth of the dish water. Notice the feelings evoked: the happiness of your pup, the satisfaction of taking care of your dental health. Once you become comfortable being mindful in the simple, every day you can bring that practice to other more difficult situations like decision making and communication.
There are a few buzz words out there these days that employers are using to describe ideal employees. Words like Resilient and Engaged and Agile come to mind; however, there is another one that we’ve heard a few times in just the past week that I thought could use some dissection and discussion.
Employers want employees that can step it up when they need to and who understand when that is.
We work with a mid-size marketing firm; when this firm started out as a teeny tiny venture their distinct difference was responsiveness. They could out-maneuver and out-flank their larger competitors and get the deals done. They could respond quickly and move fast. It was about hustle. This also became their competitive advantage – as a result, they grew. But, there seems to be an inverse relationship between this company’s size and the sense of urgency embedded in the culture. Now the work is ticking along and certainly getting done but that high energy buzz that used to be in the office has dwindled down to a steady hum.
More often than not, small companies have a sense of urgency. Why? Their very survival is at stake. If they don’t move quickly, they get squashed by larger, more established competitors. In today’s market, no one can afford to drift along with the status quo. Once a company passes a certain threshold it seems that urgency dissipates. This isn’t about work ethic or getting the job done, it’s about that fire that moves the team.
Think of it this way: many of us have a background in hospitality or retail. In that environment when you have line up of customers, what do you do? Keep the same place or do you step it up? You step it up! We may not have a line up in our professional offices, manufacturing firms, town halls or other workplaces but we do have a client that is waiting in line for the best service.
Hence employers want to find ways to create a sense of urgency. An atmosphere of urgency will create an atmosphere of achievement. It’s tragically un-hip to procrastinate. A deadline and strong sense of urgency generates energy towards getting results. In short, they drive people to perform.
Activate, Accelerate & Deadlines
Activate: Urgency requires we activate quickly: make a decision; get off the dime, pick up the phone, write the report, book the meeting, and finish the project. As someone very smart once said: “It’s easier to steer a moving object” If you’ve made the wrong decision, you can adjust. But if you wait too long, you miss the opportunity entirely.
Speed can still be our competitive advantage in larger organizations.
Accelerate: Urgency requires more than activation. You have to start quickly but you also have to keep things moving. There quite a few forces that will conspire to slow you down; approvals, budgets, client feedback and the list goes on. Any employee has to identify these obstacles and remove them in order to keep things moving forward to closure.
Deadlines: In an ideal world, behaviour doesn’t depend on deadlines.
Behaviour should depend on values, and one of the values of all high performing people is a sense of urgency. Deadlines represent commitment, deadlines enforce accountability, and deadlines create a sense of urgency. A clearly understood deadline that is shared, agreed upon and committed to is the silver bullet of proactive behaviour.
What specifically can you do to create more urgency?
- Walk faster – show some hustle
- Respond faster to emails and voicemails. Don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s excuse for not getting their work done.
- Get to the point quickly. Clean, clear and concise communication is key.
- Be quick to change your tactics. If something isn’t moving you toward your desired outcome do something else – rewrite the email, evaluate your work. Pivot.
- It’s easy to see a lack of urgency in others, but can you see it in yourself? How can your own mindset help you in creating your sense of urgency?
Why You Need a Sense of Urgency:
None of us can afford to delay our goals or responsibilities. Deadlines create a sense of urgency that help us get things done. Next Monday when you’re looking at your calendar or referring to your to-do list, factor in urgency, it will make a difference.
“School’s Cancelled due to Snow” These are probably the five best words that a kid can hear. But for me, it used to be quite the opposite. These five words used to send me scrambling. Those five plus the dreaded six words: “Mom, I’m too sick for school” and my worst three ever: “Professional Development Day.”
But then I started Praxis. I started my business to be able to build the flexibility into my life that eliminated trying to find some kind of work/life balance. Since I was in charge, I could schedule, cancel, assign and take on the work I wanted on my own terms. Sure there are still client meetings, trips to Nanaimo and late night report writing but I’m the one fitting them in on my own terms. I like get up early and get a jump on the day when the house is dark and quiet. Then by 3:00 when the kids are out of school, I’m done with work and able to focus on them.
But wait – I’m in the business of HR and building strong, functioning teams, right? So why does this only exist for me as an owner of a small business? Well, I don’t think it should. Take our Praxis workplace: None of our employees has a schedule. How about that! No schedule. They have work that needs to get done and parameters on how to do the work and deadlines for completion just like anywhere else, but how and when they get to it is up to them. This isn’t about providing flexibility to employees with a family either - none of my employees have school aged kids and some don’t have any. It’s about life outside of work and filling it up with the things that will be enjoyed. The 20/30/40 hours that someone is working is only a small portion of each week.
I work with my clients to ensure that their people – their absolute greatest asset – are engaged and connected to each other and to the organization and its purpose. That’s my job and when I’m able to ensure that my family is tended to I have more freedom of mind to tend to my business and my clients and my own team - quadruple win. Just imagine what it would be like if all of us – owners, leaders, and individual contributors had the same opportunity? When I look ahead to the future of work and workers, I see organizations that focus on the results and not the hours that an employee puts in.
Snow days shouldn’t just be fun for kids.
Lean in. Look inward. Take the lead. Take the second step. We hear these adages frequently in our lives but how often do we have a tool that can help us do so? Yes, we have coaches, mentors, friends, counsellors, leaders, and the list goes on of people who will encourage us to take the leap and go beyond the first step. But tools to help us with that? Tools that will give us actual insight to our decision making, thought process, attitudes, and behaviours? Tools that help us understand ourselves so we can improve our communication, decision making, change and conflict management?
Enter MBTI - the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Throughout my career, I've done numerous "personality tests". The problem was, I never remembered "what" I was. I've always fallen somewhere in the middle on most of those types of tests, whether it's learning styles or personality. So, when I joined Praxis under the guidance of two MBTI certified professionals, I was intrigued. I knew there had to be something more than what I had previously been exposed to.
So. Much. More.
The missing key to my previous experiences was the Second Step. This is where we really dig in to all the facets that shape our personalities.
When I sat down to take the simple 20-minute online test, I sometimes found it hard to choose between only two options. I also felt like I was contradicting myself with some of my answers. A couple examples:
I like flexibility and adapting to each day, but I also like setting a plan and having some routine activities.
Sometimes I dive right in to tasks, other times I make lists and set timelines.
So how was this system of forced choice going to dig in to that grey area of my life? What little did I know. Oh, what little did I know!
MBTI Step I is the big picture, it's the either or of the 4 main dichotomies and preferences that shape our personalities. Yes, there's a scale, but at the end of it, we're left with 4 letters to define our personalities. We prefer either:
Introversion or Extroversion (I or E)
· How we give our attention and energy to the world
· Es focus outward and get energy through interacting with people and/or doing things
· Is focus inward and get energy through reflecting and time alone
Sensing or Intuition (S or N)
· How we bring in information and the type of information that we trust
· Ss notice and trust facts, details, and present realities
· Ns attend to and trust interrelationships, theories, and future possibilities
Thinking or Feeling (T or F)
· The way we make decisions
· Ts make decisions using logical analysis to achieve objectivity
· Fs make decisions using person-centred values to achieve harmony
Judging or Perceiving (J or P)
· Our attitude to the external world and how we orient ourselves to it
· Js are organized, orderly, and tend to make decisions quickly
· Ps are flexible, adaptable, and keep options open as long as possible
The key word here is prefer. Neither is better than the other, one isn't right and the other wrong, they're just different ways of perceiving and doing. We can do both, but not with equal comfort. We can do both, but not at the same time. Like writing, we have a dominant and non-dominant hand. We default to use one, but we can use the other. And the more we practice using the other, the more comfortable it becomes.
So what am I? Well, I'm an INFP. I am most definitely an INFP. I know this because not only did a fancy and fascinating 17-page report say so, but because after taking that simple online test, I sat in a room with other business leaders facilitated by Christina and Drew, to dig in and truly understand the differences between the dichotomies and do a self-assessment before seeing the results of the report. In both cases, it was pretty clear that I'm an INP, but the F was a little more challenging to determine.
And this is where we loop back to Step II. The Facets. Within those 8 letters, each has 5 facets and each facet is a theme. For example, ways to connect with others has two poles: initiating a receiving. This is where it gets complex, but not complicated. Because this is also where light is shed on the fact that I am indeed, smack dab in the middle of methodical (plan specific tasks, subtasks, and organized) and emergent (plunge in, let strategies emerge, and adaptable). The system of forced choice did it! It dug in to the grey areas of my life and highlighted that I can be both and that I am somewhere in between and that it's ok!
If you've ever questioned or criticized personality tests, I challenge you to dig deeper and take the second step lead by a trained facilitator. And while the interpretive report may take a bit of naval gazing, it will give you insight to yourself and your team that will improve communication and enhance understanding.
It also helps you embrace and understand things like the pressure prompted buzz us Ps love. Because yes, while I've been contemplating and writing this post in my mind for almost two weeks now, it wasn't until the (self-imposed) timeline of publishing it today, that I actually sat down to put fingers to keyboard.
About a year ago I wrote about how uncomfortable it was to be unplanned as a ‘planner’ by nature. (Read about it here: http://www.praxisgroup.ca/blogs/2017/3/19/the-uncomfortable-organic-planner Seriously read it, it’s quite good.) I wrote about how much I love to plan and how much I tell people and clients and even my kids that they should plan and they should write out their plans and tell other people about them too. Only trouble is that I spent 2017 flying by the seat of my pants with not a plan in sight other than getting the business deliverables out with perfection, on time and on budget. At home my only goal was to ensure that I kept my kids alive. No joke – with three kids under 10 that’s not an easy feat!
The good news is that we all survived 2017! Yay! And we even added more people to our list of people to keep alive (no, not kids, employees!) The great news is that having employees really means that you absolutely must plan! This unplanned planner is over the moon excited about this week. This week is the week of planning for me.
Tonight I spent it at an event called “Kick Start 2018 with Visualization and Digital Vision Boards” where I began the process of making a digital vision board. Oddly, as a planner I’ve never been too keen on doing vision boards. I did it once and it was a fun activity to do with a friend but I didn’t get much value in it. I was obviously doing it wrong because I haven’t even finished my board yet and I’m already feeling clearer about my purpose this year.
Tomorrow we strategize! I could burst I’m so thrilled to be sitting down with my whole team and planning out 2018! Well, first we’re going to answer these big questions and then we’re going to go granular and set up the plan to get there:
- Name 3 things you are passionate about (no restrictions or connection to Praxis)
- What businesses do you admire? What about their business operations or philosophy do you find attractive?
- What do you want to be doing with Praxis this year? 3 years from now?
- What does success look like?
- Bring 3 areas for personal growth
Then on Thursday I’m going to an event hosted by Lean In Canada called “Strategies to Move Ahead” where we’re going to learn strategies to determine our SMART personal and professional goals for 2018. There’s so much planning going on that I may explode with wicked good ideas and insights and direction and focus!
Watch out 2018, here we come!
My favourite part of the Christmas season is the brightness it brings to the darkest days of the year. I love the holly, jolly spirit and the merry and bright atmosphere. I love the house all sparkly and shiny; decorated with lights, candles, and memories of Christmases Past and loved ones near and far. For me, it is a shiny and bright celebration of the last days of the year; a time of reflection, love, hope, peace, and joy.
For many others, it is a time of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common" and are the basis of the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa.
Over seven days from December 26th to January 1st, Kwanzaa spreads a universal message and celebration of community, family, and culture. Created in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga, the holiday was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African roots and heritage; however, people from all backgrounds are welcomed to join in the celebration.
Today is the fourth day of Kwanzaa which celebrates Ujamaa: cooperative economics. The themes of unity, family, and equality encourage people to work together to prosper and thrive by creating and maintaining their own resources. Sounds pretty good to me.
No matter your background, the seven principles of Kwanzaa hold value and hope for a life well lived and shared with others.
To those who celebrate, Heri za Kwanzaa to you. To those who are just learning about Kwanzaa, here is a quick overview of the seven principles:
The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.
Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah) To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.