Stop – and Recalibrate Yourself

Stop and Recalibrate Yourself, August 2016
We live in such a fast-paced world where technology allows us to work day and night – my boss told me off gently earlier this week for sending him an email at 8.30pm. To which I replied equally as nicely – “and you answered it at 10.30pm!”
In my defence I was sitting on the sofa in my pyjama’s with my iPad – was I really working?  I certainly didn’t think of it as working.
Either way, pushing myself will not increase my life-span but may just decrease it?  A wise man said the other week to myself and others “You need to stop and recalibrate you!” He could not have spoken a truer word. It made me stop and think about what I could do differently with my 7-days.
Do you remember when the shopping malls were only open late one night a week, and closed all weekend? When you managed to get your shopping done after work, and your bills paid by posting a cheque? There was no fibre broadband, smart phones or iPads.
In our home Saturday’s were often filled with household chores; clean sheets on beds, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, mowing lawns and cleaning cars and those activities after an early morning football game with the our eldest son.
Sunday was reserved for ‘family time’ – perhaps a trip to the beach, or lunch with extended family. It was a day where no chores were done, where teenagers were encouraged to hang out with the whole family, and where busy working Mum’s and Dad’s could do something for themselves without feeling guilty for ‘doing nothing’.
I have fond memories of ‘topping and tailing’ with my oldest son, on his bed, in the sun, both of us with our noses in a book!
Back in 1840 Samuel Duncan Parnell, a carpenter in NZ, refused to work for more than eight hours a day when building a shop for a merchant. He was successful in negotiating this working condition – and New Zealand now has the reputation of being the first country in the world to have adopted the eight-hour working day.
It was reported that Parnell said “There are twenty-four hours per day given to us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which men to do what little things they want for themselves”.
Granted this is a little sexist but you get the point!
We travel 1-2 hours to work (if you live in Auckland that is ‘normal’) work 8-10 hour days, and then drive home the 1-2 hours travel time – for most working parents; there is dinner to cook, sports practice to get kids too, homework to check, washing to do and bills to pay!
When do we stop and recalibrate – or breathe in?
I love the idea of working 6-days and taking the 7th day as a day of rest – or recalibration. Whatever days of the week you work, you can fit in a day for you.
Call it what you like, it is so important to stop and breathe in so you can go again. We won’t survive this life if we don’t.
Here are my Four Fundamentals to help you ‘breathe in’.
1. Design personal replenishment
I had a wonderful opportunity some years ago to have some Life Coaching. I hunted out the material this weekend and read through what I had committed too. It made interesting reading for me and I realised how far I have strayed from that ‘Extreme Self-Care’ that is necessary to keep myself alive;  in body, mind and spirit.
Part of the exercise was to draw a circle and section out your life into the important areas for you – The balanced Whole Life. Here is a pic of that piece of paper and my thoughts at the time.
Take Time for Your Life.png
The writing is small so this is what it says:
Relationships – children, friends, parents, lover, work colleagues, spouse
Spiritual well-being – inner security, sense of peace & centeredness
Emotional & Physical Health – exercise, eating regular meals, quiet time, solitude
Contributions to others – being of service & support to those in need, be that with knowledge or time
Work – my life is not my work?
Fun & Leisure – interestingly I had not made any comments on this section.

I wrote down the key things for me and what I was going to commit to doing or I had already working for me:

Relationships – I spend time with people who make me laugh, and I have relationships with people who stimulate me intellectually
Environment – I listen to my favourite music, and my home neat, & well-organised
Body, Mind & Spirit – I exercise regularly, and eat healthier. I set aside regular time for solitude & silence and find a safe & healthy outlet for my emotional wellbeing

Work – I have a mentor who guide and encourages me, I always take a lunch break, and I have colleagues who inspire and respect me. My ideas and talents are welcome at work.
Some of these things have changed for me, but many are the same.
Listening to my favourite music still feels me with joy, singing out loud makes me feel happy. I have new hobbies now; photography, baking, and cooking…and of course my blog – these things ‘replenish’ me.

Get a piece of paper out and write down what makes you feel good – it is a good exercise.

What the recharges you? Part of your life begins to die if you don’t look after it. Some of us feel guilty if we don’t stop and do something that replenish our soul. We all need to discover what replenishes us and then just do it.

2. Designate a day – pre-plan the day by setting it aside to do what you want for you.
prioritise the day  – the key is to empower the important over the urgent. I work Monday to Friday currently and have resorted back to the familiar – housework on a Saturday and my day on a Sunday!
Choose to spend the day on things that bring you joy – and make decisions for this day on what you want instead of what others want from you.
3. Disengage from work
It was not that long ago that there was no mobile phones, or email…and work survived! Turn that phone off !
4. Develop healthy relationships
Build friendships – talk to people, have conversations. It is imperative to have depth of relationship for you to make it all the way through life.
I hope that you get something out of reading this today – when I heard the words myself a few weeks ago, they really spoke to me. I felt compelled to share what really is a number of life lessons that I had learnt and forgotten.
I took my own advice this afternoon and went for a brisk walk – the dogs were delighted, and I was rewarded with a  beautiful sunset captured through my phone lens above!
Happy recalibrating xx
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Discretionary Effort: going the extra mile at work!

I was pondering this topic while observing my new team working.  It’s an interesting concept and one that I need to explore further as I begin the somewhat daunting task of pulling a group of people together, and forming a self-managing, & high performing team.

To give you all a brief overview I am now into week 6 of my new role, leading a team of 15 individuals – aged between 21 and 52. I am the 3rd ‘Head of Department’ in 12 months, and started where my team sit just 6 months ago.

Now I did start from the bottom (so to speak) and some might say have risen to the top of the pile quite quickly – however I did have experience in managing corporate bank branches, and when the outgoing Head departed before lunch one Monday morning, I was asked if I was ready to step back into a management role?

The advantage of having done the ‘base’ role and been relatively successful at it, (enough so that I was promoted into a slightly more senior role after a few months), is that I have an understanding of not only the tasks within the role, but the ‘pain points’ for the team  members.

For instance, that perception of not being appreciated by the wider business;  one of the first team meetings I ran a ‘Traffic Light’ discussion around “with the client at the centre ” what could we/should we ‘Stop’, ‘Start’ & ‘Continue’.  It was an interesting exercise for me to hear what the team was feeling and to start my understanding of ‘their big picture’.

Stop

Traffic Light

Traffic Light – Stop, Continue & Start

  1. Coming in early and staying late to get the job done
  2. Splitting the whole team for team meetings
  3. Being statistics driven

Continue

  1. Training sessions
  2. Reviewing our client calls & giving us feedback
  3. Engaging with the client & understanding what they need
  4. Being supportive of each other

Start

  1. Giving team more credit – we are the backbone of the business
  2. Task rotation
  3. More communication between department teams

These are a few of the ideas that the team came up with that are amongst a whole lot of takeaways for me as the new Head of Department, and certainly more than enough feedback to filter, take onboard and look at what I can realistically impact in the short-term.

But back to my first thoughts on this concept of discretionary effort. What does this actually  mean?

And did I get some clues from this Traffic Light session of how to get this happening?

It is the level of effort people choose to exert in service to their colleagues or clients at work – or not! Employees are paid for the fundamental tasks that he or she has been hired to do – the discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to above and beyond the basic requirements of the job.

This month is known as the busiest period of the financial year for the business I am in – it is the time in which we communicate with every client, either by email or by post. Communication that creates a lot of inbound calls and emails full of questions, requests and more questions!

With volumes so high, the pressure has been on. Some of the team have responded by offering to work a bit later, or come in a bit earlier. I have noticed a couple taking a shorter lunch breaks, and another asking if there was anything else she could do to help out the team.  Some individuals have just got on with the basic tasks, have become less communicative, taken days off ‘sick’ and been generally disengaged.

I read that you can’t pay people enough to remember to go the extra mile but you can produce a work environment in which your employees will choose to go above and beyond themselves.

I wonder how much the age of an employee plays a role with this subject of discretionary effort? – without going into the depths of research right now, it is known that the three generations of X, Y and Boomers are fundamentally different in how they approach the workplace. (Best not get me started on this subject – 3 children all raised in the same house, 10 years apart in age, all with very different work ethics and expectations of what work ‘should’ be like!)

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Opportunity: a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something – a chance for employment or promotion.

Back in January I wrote a blog I named: An Update – Job Hunting.  I want to fill you in on what’s been happening since I secured that job, and actually it is part of the reason I have not been ‘blogging’ so much recently.

Six months ago I secured a role after a tough period of job hunting  – and to be fair – it was a role that I accepted with not enough enthusiasm but with plenty of gratitude. It wasn’t my dream job to be honest it was a starting point.

I found the work interesting initially, however it wasn’t too long before it became repetitive. I persevered and thought if I could just push through until the end of the year I’d look for another job then.  About 3 months after starting an email came around asking if there was anyone interested in an opportunity to step into another role. I immediately put my hand up and began a 4-week trial to test my ability to do this new role.

I tackled this new challenge in the same way as before – I put my head down, and quickly learnt what was expected and set about delivering it. I was offered the role on a permanent basis and after starting in early December I was promoted on the 1st April.

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Dream job? No but opportunity knocked & I answered!


The Extra Income Project – My journey from massive debt to financial freedom.

My journey from massive debt to financial freedom – I started following this man’s blog after reading the first post. What a story – I’m excited for his journey out of the financial mess his family situation created…check it out. It is really worth the read.

Source: The Extra Income Project – My journey from massive debt to financial freedom.

 

 


Last month I secured a new job! But not without the challenge of dealing with those recruitment ‘specialists’. As I described in my first commentary job hunting is hard enough without the lack of any response whatsoever. And those impersonal automated declines are just annoying. You do start to feel a little down and it is difficult to keep going with a positive spin on the whole process.

However, I persevered and with a little tweeking of that cover letter I actually got in front of a recruitment specialist. Or thats what I thought did the trick! What followed was an interesting turn of events…let me tell you more.

Quite by accident I actually applied for the same job twice, and to seperate recruitment companies. Within 1/2 an hour of sending my re-worked masterpiece of a cover letter and CV, my mobile phone rang, and after chatting an appointment was made to meet the following day. 

I duly met a young man in the Auckland CBD, who was engaging and interested in what I had been doing and what I was looking for moving forward. He sent my CV to the hiring company and I interviewed the following week. During this time I received not one but two automated email responses from the other recruitment company. You know the ones: ‘your application has been received and sent to the appropriate consultant who will be in touch”. They arrived in my in-box at 4.18am? I thought it odd.

Anyway along to the interviews which progressed well – both of them! And I was offered a role. 

The day after accepting the role I received an email from the other recruitment company saying the job had been withdrawn! I was slightly amused, but upon reflection decided to call the company and speak to the ‘specialist’.

I learnt that the so-called recruitment specialist had not even read my well-crafted cover letter which had described how I could make a difference to this company with my skills and experience – she had skimmed my CV and made a decision based on the that alone that I was over-qualified? After talking together she admitted she had made an assumption and got it wrong. She thanked me for calling her – I felt better for doing it – a small victory for all those people out there that had been treated poorly – perhaps she would be more attentive moving forward?

Ironically, after starting in my new job, I discovered that my new boss was only appointed two or so months previously. And guess what, I had applied of that role too! And never heard from that same recruitment company. Another missed opportunity? 

So , what is the moral to the story you may be thinking?

  1. Do, craft your cover letter, keep it simple, and to the point.
  2. Do, talk about your skills that will add value to the company in your cover letter
  3. Keep you CV comprehensive – they seemed to prefer this to my one-pager?
  4. And after you apply online, call those recruitment specialists, leave messages, and when they don’t respond call them again. If you believe that job is right for you and you are right for that company, persevere!

Happy job hunting xx

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The Lunchroom at the new job!

 

 

 

 

An Update – Job Hunting.


Job Hunting – the frustration of the response or should I say “no-response”!

As of today I have applied for 35 jobs in the last 2 months. All of these roles have required as per the job advertisement, a cover letter and resume to be attached which I have carefully crafted to illustrate my skills and experience. On average it has probably taken 45-60 minutes per application. Well you want to get it right!

How many of these companies do you think have taken any time to reply? 10! with the exception of one company, have replied by email; computer generated with the obligatory words of insincere thanks for taking the time to apply.

I have reminded myself that there are many people applying for a few jobs, and it is time consuming responding to every applicant. I have also reminded myself of the many times when the shoe was on the other foot and it was me doing the recruiting. I have pondered on my own process and the truth is I have worked for big companies who have HR consultants making the ‘first cut’. This would have meant that computer generated letters were automatically sent out to those candidates the HR consultant thought were not suitable. These were people whose resume’s never got to me. I’m feeling those candidates pain right now!

As a manager hiring new staff you want to get it right, and get the best person for the job. And its jolly time consuming reading a pile of cover letters and CV’s. So after the ‘first cut’ I confess to selecting candidates to interview whose CV’s stood out for being colourful with interesting visual affects, and not always full of mind-blowing content! The bottom line is that until you sit down with someone you can’t possibly make a decision on whether or not they will be a good fit for the role, and or the business. Certainly not by reading a cover letter!

My question is how do I get that opportunity to sit down and truly engage a business if I can’t get my cover letter/resume combo across the line?

My husband sent me an article from Forbes.com by Liz Ryan. She says that “Cover letters Are Dead–Send A Pain Letter, Instead”. Liz’s words resonated with me when she talked about sending a cover letter with a resume into the ‘faceless Black Hole recruiting pit”!  I smiled when I thought of the past two months of my job-hunting life. Whats that quote? “Truer words were never spoken”?

So what is this ‘Pain Letter’ and where do I get one I wondered? Apparently a ‘Pain Letter’ is a new-millennium alternative to a cover letter.

According to Liz Ryan, researching the employer is step one. (Although that would step one once you have decided who you want to work for!)  Read about the business and figure out what sort of issues you think the organisation is dealing with. Figure Out The Pain You Solve. We all solve some kind of pain Liz says. I am skilled at managing poor performers – for many people this is a task they like to avoid and managers need done. Is this THE Pain I solve? I have other skills that could be ‘Pain’ points. I will put my head into this…but for now lets move on…

When you send a ‘Pain Letter’, you send it directly to your hiring manager. Now this makes sense to me on so many levels…another hint is to start your letter with something about them in a professional light , i.e., perhaps they won an award or the company did. This should interest them enough to read the rest of your letter.

Follow this with your ‘Pain Solution’ – for me it might be “It’s so important to manage the performance of your sales team – especially those not doing so well. When I worked at ABC I was able to increase sales staff performance while keeping the engagement levels high”

Okay, now to close the ‘Pain Letter’. Keep it short and snappy …KISS (Keep it simple silly) comes to mind.  An example for me could be “If underperformance of sales people is on your mind, I would love to chat with you at your convenience. Kind regards, “.

As I am finding out the hard way, it is a brave new working world out there, and we all have to be flexible enough to move with the times! 9a8e3f19c1512cd681906b4d863719fe

With no evidence that Albert actually said this quote! it’s still a good one 🙂 And I for one am  going to give the ‘Pain Letter’ a go. I will let you know how it goes.

Sharon