This webinar discusses some myths that commonly hold people back, a framework for confidence and some practical steps to start creating the life you want.
You can access the recording on the link below!
This webinar discusses some myths that commonly hold people back, a framework for confidence and some practical steps to start creating the life you want.
You can access the recording on the link below!
It’s webinar time! This time I want to focus on my real area expertise and that is, confidence. In this webinar I will be talking about the factors and elements that are essential for us to build confidence, during any time in our lives, and how we can use our confidence to build the life and careers we know we deserve. Register below. <3
I would not be alone in saying that the past few days, weeks and months have been some of the most collectively intense and traumatic throughout human history. And I say that with a shameful awareness that for those who are victims of systemised racism, this shit is nothing new. The bottom is falling out of our world and to quote a personal hero of mine and motivational speaker Lisa Nichols “the best time to build a new foundation is when the current one is being disrupted”.
As a business owner I recognise that I have an opportunity to make real impact. In order to do that I need to commit to long term, meaningful action. I am setting these intentions here simply to put my personal stake in the ground of saying I commit to taking practical steps for the indefinte future. To ensure that I am held accountable. I commit to consciously taking action. I commit to actively seek out opportunities to lift marganalised groups. I commit to dig deeper into myself, my biases and my blind spots. I commit to educating myself and others around me. I commit to being an active ally, now and forever, beyond what I have done before.
This is a moving feast and as we learn and lean into this work more, this will evolve, though as of today I will:
I am open to any and all thoughts, comments and suggestions.
Over the past few weeks I have ran 2 webinars on how to stay as motivated and enaged as possible during difficult, turulent and frankly demotivating times. Off the back of this I had messaged from business owners and team leaders asking for support on practical ways in which leaders and managers can motivate their teams and those around them. This webinar will support you on how to best support your and engage your team in a healthy, sustainable and positive way.
So many of us (myself included) are struggling with motivation at the moment. We are tired, exhausted and overhwhelmed. This in turn can make us feel incredibly guilty, like we’re not doing enough, not good enough or letting ourselves and others down. This then makes us more overwhelmed and less motivated and so the cycle continues. Yay human experience!
I ran this webinar with three intentions:
1. Create a sense of community, to help us understand that these are not isolated experiences
2. Inspire, uplift and motivate those watching to reconnect with their most fulfilled selves
3. Share a couple of practical frameworks you can lean on and apply on those days where you’re struggling to engage
You can access the recording below, enjoy! <3
A lack of motivation, fatigue and not feeling engaged are common, expected, rational, justified and understanable responses to having our worlds turned upside down.
For many of us this lack of motivation is making us feel guilty, worried that we are losing our “mojo”, losing our skills and forgetting how to do our jobs. Whilst feeling low energy and low mood is completely justified, so many of us want to feel motivated and inspired again. With a big bucket of compassion, this webinar is here to serve you and teach practical ways we can put a bit of pep back in our step.
There are tools and techniques we can use to lift ourselves, and each other up, ways in which you can structure your day to go with your energy and conversations you can have with yourself to reconnect with your goals, dreams and professional ambitions.
This webinar will leave you feeling uplifted, excited and with some skills to carry that through.
Clients are the fuel that keeps agencies burning and for the most part are fantastic to work with. Engaged and interested partners, treating agency suppliers fairly and with respect.
It would be an outright lie, however, to say that client/supplier collaboration is always smooth. The truth being that this dynamic is complex, difficult and riddled with recurring interpersonal issues. Understandably agencies are reluctant to be open about this (often even internally) as there’s an assumption it reflects badly on capabilities or that they don’t value their paying clients.
Some agencies foster a culture that the customer is always right, expecting employees to bend to the whims and demands of their paying clients, whilst others foster cultures where clients are idiots and collectively roll eyes at them and their silly demands in order to stay motivated. In some agencies, this can also create internal tension with sales or commercial teams leaning to the former and delivery teams the latter.
If this sounds familiar (I know it does), having worked in, founded, grown and worked alongside hundreds of agencies, difficult clients (or moments of clients being difficult) are a routine occupational reality, for all agencies, of all sizes, at any given moment. There is no big secret here. These relationships are inevitably nuanced with dozens of moving parts, priorities and stakeholders, high expectations, emotional demands, varying specialisms and communication styles, changing timelines, deadlines and pressure. For the most part, both agency and client side, we’re all just trying our best and getting caught in the crossfire.
This article however is not on how to resolve these issues (that comes later, if you are interested in hearing about it when it goes live you can subscribe below) this article is focused on you, agency worker, who tries your best every fucking day, puts your heart and soul into delivering and still nothing is quite good enough, stuck in a power dynamic that you are ultimately paid to lose. This article is for you, agency owner, who is exhausted by the psychological dance of ensuring clients are happy, whilst maintaining the wellbeing of your team, navigating capacity, profit, delivery and unclear boundaries.
There are no perfect workplaces or perfect clients, so what can you do to protect your own emotional and physical health when you find yourself feeling regularly frustrated by your micromanaging, disengaged, critical, disorganised, or just downright annoying clients?
It can often be the case that when we are trying our best and still feeling undervalued, we feel indignant. For humans a sense of being treated fairly is essential for collaboration, so it is pretty much guaranteed that anger, frustration and sadness will arise in an agency environment. Your frustration at none of your ideas being signed off, at getting constant roadblocks to success, being held accountable for things outside of your control, for not being heard or respected is entirely natural and normal. No matter how experienced we become, it would be weird if we breezed through these challenges entirely unaffected. What serves us to remember though is that stress directly negatively impacts health in a real and meaningful way, so whilst you are right to feel frustrated, it does not serve you to hold onto it. Sitting at your computer clenching your fists and mouthing profanities to the screen will impact nobodies behaviour other than your own.
To put this bluntly, it’s your heart attack. I hear you, this shit is hard, but we have to let it go. Here’s some ways to do that.
When we are feeling frustrated, empathising with someone may well be the last thing we want to do (or even think possible!) though research has shown that we can enhance our own native empathic traits and increase empathic ability in different scenarios. Being able to empathise with someone can not only potentially help them, but more importantly protects us and our health. One technique I use with companies to trigger empathy to support in managing clients is something called “I statements”. Using I statements, put yourself in your clients shoes and say aloud how you perceive that other person to be thinking and feeling.
For example, if your client is always micromanaging your work you may say something like “I feel like I have to have an understanding of everything that is going on. I am worried that mistakes will be made and I will get into trouble. I am worried I will lose touch with the work and become disconnected. I feel more comfortable in the day to day work than as a client. I am unsure how to step back and be strategic.”
Spend 5 minutes doing this exercise, really taking time to think, reflect and try to fully understand the other person’s position. This will both give you clarity around a potential resolution but more importantly helps make the micromanagement feel less about you not being trusted or good enough.
Self -distancing is a technique used within cognitive training therapies to help broaden perspectives on negative events. Self-distancing is when we “mentally step back from an experience in order to examine it as separate from the self” and research has shown that reviewing situations from this perspective can have positive benefits on mental health.
An easy way to do this is when your boss sends you a super annoying email that makes you want to scream, ask yourself the question “How will I feel about this next month?”. This lets us step back from that moment and take a helicopter view of the situation, giving us space to calmly come up with the best solution.
Feeling socially supported is shown to lower our cortisol levels. If you are not familiar with cortisol, it has a significant impact on how we handle stressors, the stressors may remain the same though if our cortisol is low we react to the same stressors more calmly than if it were high. Feeling socially supported has been shown to lower our cortisol levels. It’s important to note that we are not always looking for solutions or for a situation to be fixed. As a leader or colleague, learn to hold space for coworkers to express their frustration without immediately jumping to “OK why did this happen? What do we need to do to fix it?”.
I learned, after a spate of a few months always feeling a tight knot of worry in my stomach, that I had to get better at taking time to actively relax. For me for so long, winding down had been largely about binge drinking and binge watching and whilst there’s space for these things if they’re something you enjoy, when we work in stressful environments it hugely benefits us to schedule time to relax in a meaningful way. Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, good sleep and moderate exercise all have a significant impact on lowering our cortisol levels, both in the moment and cumulatively over time.
I began to actively schedule space in my day for these things. At first they felt like a luxury, I would think I don’t have time for this though when I realised that my happiness, effectiveness and productivity is directly related to my ability to handle stressors well, these became things I no longer have to do and became something I get to do.
Hopefully some of these help, please share thoughts, comments or suggestions! And good luck managing those really annoying clients.
[wd_hustle id=”Newsletter” type=”embedded”/]
According to the World Economic Forum, we are currently in the throws of a fourth industrial revolution that is set to fundamentally change how, where and why we work. Specialist, hard skills will become less valuable, replaced with previously considered ‘soft skills’ such as creativity, emotional intelligence, complex problem solving and coordination with others. In a world where automation, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence will transform how businesses operate and scale, in order to stay relevant and valuable we have to embrace those skills that make us uniquely human. In other words, what were previously considered soft skills, are fast becoming the hard specialisms of the future.
Creativity, perhaps the most valuable skill of the fourth industrial revolution, is still something businesses (even creative agencies themselves) squander rather than foster. Science is showing us so much about how genuine creativity, those elusive rare sparks of insight, happen and it is perhaps no surprise that the way we commonly structure businesses, run creative brainstorms and expect our employees to create, goes exactly against that new understanding.
Research suggests that the way we typically run creative teams and creative businesses makes our teams less creative.
As new ideas are new neural connections with the brain, and our busy brains are noisy, creativity is inherently a quiet pursuit. Many of us will know this anecdotally throughout our lives; our best ideas often come to us in the shower, when walking the dog or just about to fall asleep, as this is when our brains relax and the new, exciting connections can come to the fore. We seldom get our most exciting, motivating, ground breaking ideas when awkwardly sitting on a beanbag in a boardroom, no matter how many biscuits Dave from accounts brings along. Our best ideas come from quiet, contemplative reflection, or thinking about nothing at all.
This is a topic I was fortunate enough to speak on at the brilliant Carnegie Dartlet conference today, you can see the slides here which shares the research on what science now tells us about hoe creativity happens, neurologically.
Keep reading below to learn how you can start to genuinely develop a culture that will positively impact our teams ability to come up with those rare unique, ground breaking, exciting ideas.
If we want to facilitate our teams to have better ideas, we need to create a space for them to think, quietly, without pressure of distraction. I appreciate deadlines happen, clients have expectations and we can’t always walk around the park staring at the trees, business is often unavoidably fast and demanding. A way to counter this is to actively schedule nothing time. Everyone should have at least an hour in their diary a week blocked out for, very literally, staring out of the window. Is this time going to be productive? Hell yes. Is it quantifiably so? Less so.
We need to loosen our grip on people’s time and accept that “doing” is not always visible. Productivity doesn’t always have a specific output but I promise you (and I know this both from the research and the work I have done with many businesses to support this) that reducing the “noise” in people’s heads overall is the most effective thing we can do as leaders to improve our creative abilities.
According to psychologist Dr Robert Epstein, based on his 25 years of laboratory ans field research, one of the recurring factors that consistently determines creativity is a persons ability to surround themselves with novel stimuli, both in terms of their environments, experiences and learning. When we find ourselves in new situations, learning new skills, this positively impacts our creativity as, the more disparate our experiences, the easier it is for our brains to think in different ways and develop new patterns. It is hard to not walk down the same neural pathways when sitting in the same office day in, day out. Practically, what this looks like for leaders is allowing employees flexibility in terms of where they work, encourage employees to work from coffee shops, home or have meetings walking round a park.
Nearly all businesses that I have worked with use brainstorms (sitting together verbally discussing and sharing potential ideas) to generate ideas and whilst in some teams these can be effective, extensive research repeatedly shows that brainstorms are not the best way to encourage creativity.
According to the American Psychological Association “Research has consistently found working separately, to be superior to groups interacting verbally […] In over 50 studies, the evidence speaks loud and clear, individuals working separately generate many more, and more creative, ideas than groups. This difference is large and robust.”
The reason generating ideas separately rather than in groups is that when talking we are often doing just that, talking, waiting, responding to social cues rather than generating. A better alternative is to prepare ideas alone, write them down, then submit them for discussion.
If our most innovative solutions come to us when our brains are quiet, then often our brilliant ideas come to us when we don’t necessarily need them. Dr Robert Epstein suggests making a note of new thoughts and ideas regularly. I personally group these into categories of topics, so I can go back and look through them when I potentially need a new idea. Doing this at a team level can also be incredibly powerful and allows colleagues to expand on other thoughts and ideas.
Earlier this month, we asked nearly 300 people to reflect on their biggest workplace struggles of 2019, to better create workshops and content that genuinely serve people. What came out of this exercise though, was a renewed motivation to help support the huge numbers of people that are genuinely unhappy at work, for reasons that are easily managed.
Scenarios that require collaboration and navigating interpersonal relationships are some of our biggest struggles, alongside feeling motivated, valued and fulfilled.
Relationships with bosses also scored highly, though relationships with co-workers less so. Considerations around productivity, such as managing workload and handling emails, are less challenging.
We also asked people ‘If you felt completely professionally fulfilled, what would be different?’ to gauge the changes that participants wanted to see within their professional lives.
Professional autonomy and the ability manage one’s own workload was a common theme, with respondents stating
“I’d have total autonomy over how I worked my day/hours.”
“I’d like more autonomy and opportunity to manage my own work.”
“A manager that trusted my decisions and my ability to do the right thing, without always needing to check on me. I know what I am doing, I would like to be able to just get on.”
“I would be happier if I was able to use my initiative more and work independently.”
The majority of what would make respondents feel professionally fulfilled were emotional, rather than financial. (Only 8% of respondents mentioned money or salary specifically) and feeling less stressed and worried was a huge part of that.
“I’d be in a better place mentally and emotionally and it would help me in all other aspects of my life. I’d truly be working to live, not living to work which is how it feels at the moment.”
“I wouldn’t be dreading coming into work. I wouldn’t be stressed the second I open my emails.”
“I wouldn’t feel so stressed and I’d be able to focus on the parts of my job that add real value”
For many participants, a desire for professional clarity and focus was a recurring theme. Interestingly there was a correlation between this sentiment and wanting to feel valued and supported, suggesting a lack of direction or objectives, making employees feel lost and consequently uncertain of whether they were doing the right thing.
“Sit down and create more plans, structure is key!”
Clarity on what I do and my role within the business, especially how it can develop.
“A clearer understanding of what my job is and what exactly is expected of me”
“Have the time to focus on projects that will really move the needle and make a difference without distractions.”
“I’d feel motivated and have clarity in what I actually do.”
The ability to feel as though you are being heard, believed and listened to is significant in developing professional fulfilment. Interestingly, this notion featured heavily in our research on creating gender parity in the workplace. Without feeling heard, people can feel ignored, undervalued and underappreciated.
“Bosses need to believe me”
“Understanding of how to be heard when you know you’ve got a company changing idea, a good one”
“I would be able to bring forward issues and solutions”
“Have the confidence to suggest changes or discuss them without fear of being fobbed off or ignored.”
Unsurprisingly, a desire to work remotely or flexibly features regularly in professional fulfilment.
“Flexible working would be key. I work full time and I have a small child. I wish my employer would recognise that sometimes doing the standard 9-5 isn’t possible, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t still achieve as much working around that.”
“I recently took on a remote role that offers flexible working in a department I love. Previous to this I worked in an office in a role I wasn’t at all passionate about. I can already feel the difference in both my professional and working life.”
“Freedom with working hours (not feeling like I have to stay until 5, even though I’ve tied my tasks up by 4.30 for example).”
For some respondents, work is somewhere they “dread going to”, with “toxic bosses”, “sexist cultures” and “political sociopaths” and what is surprising and also pretty fucking sad from this research, is how fundamentally solvable many of these problems are. Within businesses we often group people together and cross our fingers and just hope they get along, communicate effectively and respect each other. In practice, it rarely just happens that way. Clean, productive communication rarely just happens in our relationships and friendships, so why do we expect that to be the case in business environments, when the pressure can often be so much greater? Our current workplace plasters of free breakfasts, beer fridges or team nights out are not meaningful rewards, and in the long term do little to facilitate genuinely happy teams. Nobody in this research requested more work socials, for a more fulfilling work environment. For so many of us we have moved on, we want autonomy to be creative, freedom to spend time with our family and the ability to take care of our emotional health.
Fortunately we have so many techniques at our disposable to ensure better, clearer communication, positive collaboration, inclusive, respectful, empowering leadership and conflict resolution. The reality is, however, is this takes effort and work, it seldom just happens. From the research from this study that so many of you kindly participated in over the course of the coming weeks we will be publishing indepth resources to help you create those environments that do enable true professional fulfilment, you can sign up to be emailed these below!
Please share any comments, thoughts or experiences with us.
[wd_hustle id=”Newsletter” type=”embedded”/]
Have you ever thought to yourself that you are just not confident? That you were born that way, and are consequently a slave to your genetic destiny? You were shy in school and now in adulthood and that is just the way it always has been and always will be. If so, you are not alone, of the hundreds of people I have supported in feeling more empowered in their careers, this is an incredibly common belief.
Perhaps you are introverted, have always been shy or are terrified at the thought of public speaking, perhaps you are not as loud as your friends, make less jokes, say less, contribute less in meetings, worry more about what you are about to say, hate networking, speaking on the phone or anything else that may come up for you. I have worked with thousands of people, at all stages of their careers and nearly all of them are intimidated by something, so what really is going on here?
There is a common belief that some people are just naturally confident, making the gap from petrified to pro seem to be a bridge that only some are biologically destined to cross, whilst others watch on, twiddling thumbs and avoiding eye contact.
Research to suggest that confidence is genetic is limited and a little scattered, often buried within other personality research, though there is an argument for it. Two main studies comes from geneticist and psychologist Robert Plomin and the National Institute of Health.
Twenty years ago, Plomin decided to undertake an ambitious study of 15,000 sets of twins in Britain. The subjects (who were 7 and 9) were tested academically in three subjects: math, writing, and science. Next, they were asked to rate how confident they were about their abilities in each subject. From this study of twins, Plomin theories that genetics have an impact on our confidence (as defined by our ability to do well) to as much as 25%-50%, whereas the rest is affected by environment, experiences and upbringing.
This suggests that some of us may have a genetic headstart to self belief, though we can all enter the race. It’s also interesting to point out that this study also showed that believing you will succeed, is a reliable predictor of actually doing so.
Research of 342 participants from the NHI identified a genetic marker for optimism and self esteem. It is also worth considering that the commonly considered opposite of confidence, shyness, is also considered to be around 30% genetic, though researchers and psychologists often have opposing views on this.
In a nutshell, some scientists believe that traits such as confidence, optimism and shyness may have genetic influences that play a part, along with environment and external factors.
A consideration in these studies however is that they do not account for the clearly circumstantial nature of self belief. For example, Plomin’s research came to this conclusion through asking children how likely they feel they will succeed at academic based tests. This only shows us how academically confident these children felt. As an adult, I would rate myself low at completing a test, but I would have huge confidence in my ability to read a room, accurately perceive a situation and make people laugh. Likewise, the NIH study focused on optimism, which feels like a different trait altogether to intellectual self belief.
I have spoken to perhaps a thousand people regarding what areas they feel as though they lack confidence in and there is no universal regularity. People are triggered by different things. For my subjective experience I can stand on a stage and address thousands of people and believe I will do it well. Put me in a room of 5 strangers and ask me to network with them and I will hide in the toilet. Some people feel confident presenting sitting down, others like to stand. Some people feel confident presenting in small groups, others (HELLO) prefer the anonymity of bright lights and big stages.
Another biological consideration comes from neuroscience, namely, the concept of neuroplasticity, which tells us that our brains are always evolving new connections, learning new habits, beliefs and traits based on experience. One kick ass piece of research positively increased participants’ confidence over time through stimulating brain activity.
Neuroscientists Dr. Mitsuo Kawato and Dr. Aurelio Cortese say;
“How is confidence represented in the brain? Although this is a very complex question, we used approaches drawn from artificial intelligence (AI) to find specific patterns in the brain that could reliably tell us when a participant was in a high or low confidence state. The core challenge was then to use this information in real-time, to make the occurrence of a confident state more likely to happen in the future. Surprisingly, by continuously pairing the occurrence of the highly confident state with a reward — a small amount of money — in real-time, we were able to do just that: when participants had to rate their confidence in the perceptual task at the end of the training, their were consistently more confident.”
I KNOW RIGHT.
Whilst confidence may be genetically influenced, it is also the result of our unique encoded patterns within our brains, which we can actively influence over time.
Another consideration on confidence is when I ask you “how does a confident person behave?” what comes to mind? It may be the powerful communicators with gravitas and well projected voices. It may be those who are most likely to make conversations with strangers. Those who happily share ideas in meetings or give compelling presentations.
Whilst these behaviours may be behaviours in which some confident people engage, it does not logically follow that all people who engage in these behaviours are confident and that those who do not engage in these behaviours are not.
Robust inner confidence, I have come to learn, is inherently quiet. It is a steady, calm, resolve in your abilities. It is the ability to validate yourself, rather than acquire it from others. It is an ability to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, to have faith in your abilities.
Confidence is not measured only in how loud you can shout, it is measured in how willing you are to try.
Those who wish to become more confident may do so from a desire to start public speaking, get better with clients or pitch better in meetings and these are all positive outcomes of confidence, though not the confidence itself, that warmth spreads much farther.
Confidence is unquestionably a skill, that can be learned, developed and applied over time. Whilst some may potentially have a genetic predisposition for confidence we can all develop a more robust self belief slowly, iteratively over time.
“Self-confidence is an essential quality to succeed in the world, such as in business environments, politics or many other aspects of our everyday life. Furthermore, confidence is an important aspect in mental illnesses such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease, where the condition is often further complicated by patients thinking negatively of their own capacities. Recent advances in neuroscience have highlighted the plasticity of the brain, indicating it is malleable even later in life.” – Science Daily
A couple of years ago when I began giving confidence training to women in an attempt to get more of us on stages, I perceived myself as confident. I wasn’t, not really. I was happy to stomp about on a stage, but I was worried about my ability to sustain my career, network or even to sustain meaningful relationships. Through ongoing research and discovering the true nature of confidence, from learning through others as I help them with theirs and ongoing work on myself I am starting to develop a robust sense of confidence that positively influences all aspects of my life, rather than only in my circumstantial situations. And I promise you, whatever your environmental factors or genetic makeup, you can too.