I used to be shy….

I used to be shy.

I went to a strict all girls school in Hitchin which had it’s benefits but looking back, I think this knocked my confidence in many areas of my life. At 16 my (very strict) Dad got me a job as a Saturday girl at Woolworths as he knew one of the supervisors. I loved working there and the staff, mostly women, looked after me really well but I was painfully shy and had little confidence.

After I left school at 18 I got a job working in the civil service in the Lord Chancellor’s Department, now known as The Ministry of Justice. I hadn’t really given much thought to a career. I was greatly influenced by my family who told me that Uncle Bob had worked in the civil service and that it was a secure job with a good pension.

It was an admin job based in Hitchin County Court. I worked in all the departments, gaining knowledge and experience from how to issue a county court summons to clerking the court to managing divorce casework. I hadn’t realised how much I had learned until a new person was taken on and I was asked to train her. I was praised for my ability, something I wasn’t used to but it sprouted a little seed of confidence and for the first time in my life I began to think that I might have some potential. The Chief Clerk saw something in me and gave me encouragement to try for promotion. I was successful and this opened up some great opportunities. I also learned that praise and trust were extremely powerful motivators.

I transferred to a project management role near Holborn, managing building and maintenance projects for crown and county courts in London. I was by this time, a senior manager and as such I was put on a leadership programme that included MBTI and 360 degree feedback. This was a turning point in my life. I realised that I had a natural gift with people but learning more about personality types and behaviours was a revelation.

I embraced this new learning and applied it at every opportunity at work and home and began to see some remarkable results. I found that I was able to build rapport very quickly with people with whom I previously had not been naturally drawn to or didn’t know at all. I was able to communicate with people on a much deeper level in their preferred communication style which resulted in them going the extra mile for me, upping their commitment and loyalty.

I built and maintained strong teams and role modelled all the leadership skills that I had picked up over the years. After all that I had achieved I still doubted my ability at times, which I think is natural.

When I left the civil service to go into the education sector, out of the woodwork, colleagues sent me messages or called me to say what a massively positive impact I had had on their lives and careers. I remember one young woman in particular who told me that she would never had achieved all that she had done if it hadn’t been for my influence in her life, the support and encouragement and the special relationship she had felt. I was humbled by it.

Personality profiling has underpinned all that I have achieved and I have gone on to become an expert in personality profiling using the DiSC model which I love. I have a passion for people. I am genuinely interested in people, all people and find immense pleasure and reward when I help managers and senior managers find solutions to people problems or want to build, motivate and retain outstanding teams.

It’s all about the people.

I am no longer shy…………..but have my moments.

How to rise to the challenges of change – going back to work after Lockdown

Whilst some folk have adjusted very quickly to working from home or being furloughed during lockdown, others are only just coming to terms with this new normal when once again we are on the brink of another set of changes. We don’t know yet what those changes will be but we do know that ultimately employees need to be able to return to work to be able to keep the show on the road to enable businesses to begin to bounce back from the effects that lockdown has had.

Many will revert back to former routines with ease, maybe with some adaptations as a result of learning new ways of working from our recent experiences, while others will feel stressed, fearful and anxious. If this is how you feel, what can you do to optimise the transition for positive outcomes?

Think about it as a goal. imagine being back at work and everything is working out for you. What do you see? What does your office set up look like? What positive changes have been made to help people return safely? Who is there with you? How do you feel about seeing your work colleagues again? Where is your work station and what does it look like? What is on your desk? Spend time thoroughly playing out in your imagination a successful return to work.

If being back at work is a 10, how ready do you feel now, out of 10? What have you already done in preparation for returning? Who are you in contact with at work? What work are you still doing at home, if any? There will be things with which you are familiar, such as the nature of the work, your relationship with colleagues, the routines you have developed in getting ready for work and the commute to and from work. Think about all the positives of being back at work such as access to technology, equipment, your team and work colleagues etc.

Think about what is concerning you about returning to work and write it down. Of the list you have made, what is within your control to influence and what is outside your control? What actions need to be taken to take you 1 step closer to being ready to go back to work? Who could you speak to about them? Connect and talk to your work colleagues. What ideas can you all come up with to ease the transition to return to work safely? Talking to others and keeping channels of communication open will help you to feel included and “in it together”. Who else needs to know how you are feeling? When we get stressed or anxious, there is a temptation to withdraw so it’s incredibly important to reach out so that you can get support and reassurance.

Once you have your list of actions to take, go through the list and put a timescale to each action. Be realistic about what you know you can achieve. You may have things going on at home that might slow your progress. As you complete your list of actions, tick them off one by one to show what progress you have made. Reward yourself for getting the actions completed.

Employers have a duty of care of all employees so will be working hard to make sure that staff can return to work safely and in a timely manner. If you have any concerns, raise them. If you have ideas that will help, raise them. Be prepared to take one day at a time and readjust processes and procedures as employees and employers learn to navigate life after lockdown.

If you would like to talk through your concerns and would like help in planning for your return to work, get in touch here

How well do you appoint and retain motivated and engaged staff?

If you ask your staff if they are motivated and engaged at work, what would they say? Employee Engagement is not just about staff turning up and doing their job or even feeling a sense of job satisfaction or happiness. It’s more than that. It’s about tapping in to each employee’s emotional commitment to the organisation and the organisation’s goals. It’s about a level of emotional dedication that will result in individuals going the extra mile because they are truly aligned with the organisation’s goals, culture and core values.

Employee Engagement is at an all time low at 35%, according to the 2019 Gallup Employee Engagement survey. Achieving high Employee Engagement improves productivity, quality, business results, efficiency, customer satisfaction, business referral rate, sales and ultimately bottom line profit. 

So what can organisations do to boost Employee Engagement? It all starts with establishing a clear business strategy, goals and core values. Consulting and involving staff at every level of the organisation is essential in getting “buy in” as it demonstrates that senior leaders value their employees’ input and conveys a sense of inclusion, teamwork and a shared common goal that all employees can aspire to achieve.

Employ staff with the right motivational fit for the job role, the business goals and values, not necessarily who you “connect” with at the interview. It can be tempting to be drawn to people who are like us and this can be a pitfall when recruiting new staff. It’s important to job match the candidate to the job role and person specification (skill set). If you appoint a candidate who is ambitious and driven for the purpose of testing and implementing technical innovation you may have secured a square peg in a round hole. What you really need is someone who is motivated to protect and preserve, a devil’s advocate who will have the agility and awareness to problem solve and ultimately deliver. Making the wrong choice could seriously damage the success of the organisation.

Communicate with each employee according to their own behavioural preferences. This will help to build rapport, trust and shows the employee that they are being treated as an individual which demonstrates a level of respect and increases the employee’s likelihood of emotionally committing to the organisation and the organisation goals. Understanding and effectively communicating with each employee individually isn’t easy and requires positive intention, action, review, improvement and consistency.

So why is Employee Engagement so low?  I believe that it is largely due to organisations missing a trick in investing sufficiently in leadership and management to equip staff with the right tools to build and develop dynamic relationships with employees throughout the organisation and embed their learning to reap the results. An Employee Engagement sea change takes time, continued commitment and a sincere desire to make positive relational change throughout every level of the organisation.  A weak link will prevent success and will cause significant damage.

The largest cost and the largest asset of an organisation is the people who work there. Just imagine if organisations could increase their Employee Engagement, even by 20%. What would their bottom line look like then?

Who are you at your core?

I believe that if my personal core values are met in my work environment, I feel fulfilled, have purpose, motivation and meaning in my life. Are your core values congruent with your career choice?

Take Integrity for example.  Integrity is one of my core values.  I endeavour to live my personal and professional life with integrity.  It can be hard and challenging and sometimes I feel that I am falling short but does this mean that I am not living my life with my core values at the heart of everything I do?  There have been times when I have had to gird my loins to do what’s right over doing what’s easy.  

A while ago I was walking the dogs and observed a group of teenagers throwing stones at some swans on the river.  I felt intimidated by the number of them in the group and feared that if I challenged their behaviour, there might be reprisals.  I am averse to conflict yet I know the difference between what’s right and wrong.  I was torn.

In the end I challenged the group because I couldn’t compromise my core value.  I did get threatened and was sworn at but the group moved on and the swans were free of their tormentors.

In a work environment I have experienced similar struggles.  There were times in my previous career when I needed to give unwanted news or felt compelled to disagree with a proposed strategy that I felt was detrimental to the core business or wellbeing of the workforce.  The familiar uncomfortable feeling would make itself felt and I would find myself wrestling with the choice to speak up or remain silent.  I chose to speak up because by choosing the alternative option, although less confrontational, would have felt unacceptable to me.

I haven’t always “done the right thing” and I try not to be too hard on myself when I feel that I haven’t lived by my core values.  Occasionally I just haven’t felt strong enough for the challenge but have decided to “park” the issue to tackle at a more appropriate time, or I have evaluated my choices and decided that in the whole scheme of things, my input will not influence the outcome. Equally, I do reflect on times when I haven’t spoken up and how that has made me feel. I can tell you – not very good.

There came a time, however, when my values became more and more incongruent with those of my employer.  There had been a number of changes in the organisation and I no longer felt that I was a good fit which eventually resulted in redundancy for me (a long story for another time).  

When deciding on a career path, it’s a good idea to find a good match in relation to your core values.  How much time do you spend thinking about that?  Maybe now is a good time. If you have a great match with your employers values, tell us about it.

Here are a few core values to think about.  If you had to choose 5, what would they be?

I feel lucky that I have found a career that is congruent with my core values and it feels really satisfying.  That’s not to say that I have it all sewn up; it’s something that I am mindful of and strive to follow as part of my life long learning.

How the four main personality types cope being isolated with their families or alone

So we’re well into week 3 of restrictive measures.  Are families coping well or ready to throttle each other?  By understanding the strengths, struggles, fears and blind spots of family members can help us accept each other for who we are and take steps to support each other during this lockdown.

Do you recognise your own traits in the table below?  Do you recognise your family members too?

Meeting the needs of your family members can help you cope more easily.  You’re in this together so make the most of connecting with the ones you love.  Not forgetting your distanced friends and family either so take a look below and make a difference.

D – DominantInfluencing
Our Dominant style is fast paced, positive, charming, driven and determined.  These people like to get things done.  They have people to see and places to be!  The D personality style won’t like loss of control, having rules imposed upon them or being confined to home if they disagree with the reasoning behind the decision.  They may well bend the rules if they can justify their actions in their own minds.  The D style is fast paced, positive and driven.  Living alone, they cope well but may find prolonged isolation difficult as they prefer to be involved and have control, discipline and purpose.  They dislike being bored so need to make sure they have a long task list!Influencers love nothing more than social interaction and the more the better!  They are our happy go lucky fun loving social butterflies. isolation will make them feel sad and they may wilt with lack of social interaction and fun with friends.  They can be disorganised and dislike attention to detail.  They crave social acceptance and popularity.  I’s are generally positive, enthusiastic and fun loving.  They enjoy spending some time alone if they are absorbed in something they find interesting , avoiding detail and succeeding in their tasks quickly.  They will be the first to be connecting with you on video calls and you probably won’t get a word in edgeways!

If you are isolated in your family with a D style, they will want to have plenty to do to keep them engaged and motivated and will want to be on the go, getting jobs done, exercising and expecting others to participate too!  They want to win and are very competitive, preferring to be centre stage.  If they feel stressed by being constricted, they can be hurtful and may be perceived as aggressive. They could take out frustrations on others by being abrupt, insensitive and demandingIf you are isolated with an I style, involve them in coming up with family routines and plans.  Give them something fun to get stuck into, like creating a vegetable patch or coming up with a special dinner menu or organising an evening of games or a quiz (as long as they don’t have to compile the quiz!) If they are feeling stressed they will become emotional, dramatic and will not be shy about complaining to every family member!  Having said that, they are innately positive, sometimes unrealistically optimistic which might grate on other family members
To support the D style, either remotely or within families at home, make sure they have plenty of tasks to complete and give them some autonomy, something to be in charge of. It may be a good time to sort out or resolve tasks that have been put on the back burner.  The D style will enjoy the challenge!  Avoid being overly emotional and needy.  Be direct but respectful in your approach.  Acknowledge their successes.  If you know a D style who is living alone, keep in contact by checking in on them by phone or text.To support the I style, give them plenty of time to talk, praise them and give them recognition for things they have done well such as coping with isolation or for sticking to plans and routines and for keeping everyone’s spirits up.  They need a friendly and harmonious environment and really get a buzz when others visibly join in with their activities. If you know an I style who is living alone, frequently keep in touch and encourage them to talk about how they feel.  Let them do most of the talking and give them plenty of praise and flattery!
The Conscious style is reserved and more task focussed so is comfortable in isolation and often prefers solitude to being amongst loud emotional people.  They enjoy quiet time to think and reflect upon completing tasks correctly.  Measure twice, cut once!  They are minded to create a plan for home working or will find tasks to complete in the home and garden.  Routine is second nature to the C style.  They are low risk takers and compliant with rules.  Although not demonstrative with emotions, the C style does feel emotions but struggles to voice them.  If they are worried, they will internalise their feelings, will become pessimistic and will retreatThe S style are patient, reliable, loyal and steady who enjoy the company of others and are known for being people pleasers.  They will accept the conditions of being isolated and do enjoy their own company but do seek out the company of their few close friends and prefer to do things together.   They are great listeners and it won’t surprise you to learn that this personality type often works in the caring industries. They seek reassurance so could become hesitant, indecisive and lack confidence with prolonged isolation.  This personality style could find it difficult adapting to swift and significant change and will need support to adjust
If you are living with a C style, you can support them by giving them time to reflect, giving them specific and well defined tasks to complete.  If stressed they will slow the pace, which family members may find frustrating, but knowing this helps family members to accept it.  Acknowledge their accomplishments, contribution, particularly the quality  or accuracy of their contribution.  Being correct is everything to a C style.  They may come across as picky or overly critical but this comes from their strive for perfection.If you are living with an S style, they will be looking after you and making sure that your welfare is a priority, often above their own wellbeing. If stressed, they can become withdrawn and can be perceived as being stubborn, passive aggressive and uncommunicative.  Come up with a plan together, involving the whole family and make sure that the S style person is included.  Acknowledge their contribution with sincerity and show them that you value them.  Do not take advantage of their people pleasing personality because this will put undue stress on them and eventually they will snap and no one will want to experience that!
To support a C style either remotely or at home, consistency, quality and excellence is key.  Allow them their quiet thinking time but also involve them in family activities such as compiling a quiz, baking a favourite cake, creating art activities.  Encourage them to have a little fun too.  Although they don’t wear their hearts on their sleeve, ask them how they are coping with this new way of living and what they need to help them feel comfortable with it.  Maintain lines of communication but avoid being overly emotional and communicate by text/email too as it will give the C style time to reflect and respond in their own time.To support an S style either remotely or at home, encourage them to talk about their feelings and to ask for what they need to make this whole experience more manageable for them.  Show them appreciation and offer to take on some of their workload as they can be put upon.  The S style needs to feel safe and secure so give them reassurance and time to adjust. For an S style living alone, call them and ask them how they are doing, how they are coping and what they are doing to keep busy.  Acknowledge their progress and give them sincere appreciation.  As well as speaking to them, send them text and email messages to let them know that you re thinking about them as they will appreciate your friendship and loyalty

Maintain harmony within the home by accepting family members for who they are is so important.  We all have traits that irritate others so a little acceptance and understanding will go a long way.  Talk about how you are coping and take time to listen to each other but avoid offering solutions as most people just want to sound off and let their voice be heard.

This time in isolation as a family is a true gift to bring families together.  No one says it’s easy to co-exist 24/7 but if you are all prepared to work at it and understand the traits of your family members, it will enrich your relationship for life.

Julie Brown

Licenced DISC trainer and Professional Coach