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We've all had that feeling, your heart starts to pound, your muscles tense, your hands clench and you suck in a deep breath all the while playing some mantra in your head 'it will be ok', 'just one more day till the weekend', 'two more hours and I can go home'... While we all have slightly different strategies, we all experience stress in remarkably similar ways. 

What most people don't know about stress, is that we actually need it. Short bursts of stress strengthen your immune system and prevent against such diseases as Alzheimer’s, in that it keeps your brain cells working at peak capacities. It has also been shown that patients who experience moderate levels of stress recover faster after surgery than patients experiencing higher or lower levels of stress. Think about sports, competitions, even deadlines, often moderate stress can push us to do our best work. 

Sustained stress, on the other hand, is dangerous and it's a growing epidemic in workplaces. Previous generations have had clearer boundaries between home and work life, but with technology allowing us to be continuously connected with both home and work, many people are struggling with the constant bombardment of 'to dos'. 

Top performers however, tend to share and demonstrate behaviours that allows them to cope and even strive in stressful environments. So if you are feeling overwhelmed by work and home, try practicing a few of these simple techniques.

Practice positive states

Whether it's reflecting on gratitude or awe, meditation or just looking on the brighter side of life, actively practicing and visualising positive states reduces cortisol levels and leads to improved mood, energy and physical wellbeing. Even if you don't feel up to it, your emotions can be affected by your facial expressions. E.g. just are your emotions influence your facial expressions, your facial expressions influence your emotions. So smile and be happy! 

Know when to stop

This is definitely a weakness of mine, for that I have to thank my husband, who knows when it’s time to get me somewhere that’s WIFI free. Everyone needs down time, for some this is a week away once or twice a year, for others it's a 20 minute lunchbreak with your emails turned off or a Sunday afternoon where the phones gets left at home. No matter how it works for you, regular breaks provide a much needed recharge. 

Surround yourself with variety

No man (or woman) is an island, everyone needs help from time to time and the most successful people understand that a team which is diverse will provide the best base from which to learn, grow and succeed. So when you are building a team, look for people who complement but don't mirror your style and strengths. The most successful and innovate teams, groups and companies are full of health debate, discussion and diversity. If you only surround yourself with yourself, you will max out creative capacity pretty quickly.

Don't take yourself too seriously

This is something we are particularly prone too when we start to feel stressed and overwhelmed. How many people can relate to this situation, you are on a deadline, you have a huge workload in front of you and someone makes an offhanded comment, 'it's not the end of the world though is it?' and some pithy retort runs through your head. "Yes it is!" In these moments when we take ourselves too seriously, it can be easy to feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. When we take ourselves less seriously, we’re able to see the humour in situations, find the silver lining when things don’t go the way we want them to, take stock, find perspective and navigate through the ups and downs of life a bit easier. So find ways to poke fun at yourself (even if it's just in your own head) and have a laugh. Laughter is great for shifting our mindset and has positive physical effects on an even stronger scale than a smile, relaxing our muscles, boosting our immune systems, releasing endorphins and decreasing stress hormones, and increasing blood flow to the heart.

Get out!

You literally have to live under a rock today not to be aware of the benefits of getting outdoors and exercising and there are hundreds of ways to do that without impacting on your workplace productivity, in fact, trying just one of these suggestions I can almost guarantee will increase your productivity and have a positive benefit on your health. Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn CEO) has walking one on ones with his staff to get out and about, may people utilise their mobile phones to have mobile meetings (walk and talk anyone?), take an actual lunch break (midday yoga sess?), even go out for a morning Pokémon Go hunt! Whatever works for you, get outside in the fresh air and get moving. You will be rewarded for your efforts. 

So that's it, five simple tricks for dealing with stress. If you do feel like it's still all too much for you, talk to someone. There are a huge amount of services and programs out there designed to help where no one has to know or you can reach out to family and friends (they are called that for a reason, they love you and want to help). We all understand and experience stress, but there are things that can be done and ways you can help yourself. So take control of your stress today! 

I remember watching my parents as a child, working together, running a company and living together and thinking “my parents are insane”. Well, to some extent I was right, it’s hard enough to find a partner in business or a husband/wife that you know you will go the distance with, let alone finding both in one person and for the vast majority it doesn’t work. But in many ways business partnerships are just as hard as marriage and they require just as much work. I’ve watched and experienced multiple partnerships come and go, and it’s fascinating when you see business partners that just make it work. Building and running companies is tough work and often lonely, even when you are surrounded by people. The most successful entrepreneurs rarely reach the top alone, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Walt Disney had his brother Roy. Be it Warner Brothers, Ben & Jerry, Twitter, Microsoft or MacDonalds, business has proven it’s a lot easier to build a great company when you have a great partner(s).

 

So what makes these partnerships successful when so many others fail? Here’s three ways to identify a strong business, leadership or partnership.

 

Like the basis of any good relationship, whether it’s between manager and employee, business and client, a leadership team or business partners, trust is core to everything else. Without trust nothing else can happen. As such, business partnerships generally need a history. Trust is rarely given freely or established immediately, it’s built over time, through honest and authentic conversations and backed up by actions. So if you are considering a partnership or building a leadership team, this has to be step one, if you feel that you need to censor yourself in front of your partner or leadership team, then you need to think again. Trust is key to honest communication. So invest before you invest so to speak. Do you trust that person to make a the right call without you there? Do you trust them financially? Having awkward conversations in the beginning can save massive pain further down the track.

 

Most businesses and people fail to effectively communicate their why, their purpose. Alternatively, the most successful companies why’s are clear, whether it’s Apples' mission to Think Different, Virgins' culture of fun, or Tony Robbins belief in giving and living for something bigger than yourself, the most successful entrepreneurs can clearly communicate their why and it resonates with their staff and customers. Every organisation needs a clear why and often there’s the why guy (or girl), the person that inspires and unifies the organisation to feel good the emotive right side of the brain or the limbic which helps staff to ‘just get it’. But most organisations, leaderships and partnerships need more than a why to get their message to the mass, they need a how. The how guy (or girl), is the one that rallies the staff to get things done. You’ll know the how guy because he’s the one that ‘likes to build things’, the one that creates the buzz and feels best when the dotted line is signed, the deal is done and the bridge is built, this is so that he can move onto the next challenge.

Whys need the hows to keep their feet on the ground and the books balanced, the hows need the whys to provide a compass, to keep them moving in the right direction and on the straight and narrow. The Hows of the world can be successful without a why, but will only find real fulfilment when the right why comes along.

 

Great partnerships and leadership teams complement, not copy, each other, the diversity in skills and opinions paired with the trust to openly communicate thoughts and feelings and a united belief of why you do what you do is an unstoppable formula for success. An army of yes men may send a loud message, but it won't be as effective as group or pair of individuals collaborating together to achieve a shared belief. Accepting that everyone has different strengths and knowing when to let your partner take the lead or when to take a back seat is crucial to finding a healthy balance. While there is usually an alpha, or a front man (and not necessarily the one and same), accepting your limitations and your partners' strengths is often the most difficult challenges for some in finding the right partner, especially when it means admitting there are times when you may be wrong, but as Ghandi would say "It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." So when your manager, co-leader or partner does err, give them a break and remember to err is human.

Like I said in the beginning, leadership can be lonely, partnerships can be hard, but great things are never easy and if you can find a great partner or team to work with. Appreciate them and what you have, if not, keep moving forward and look to the future for your next Mr or Mrs Business Right.

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