Our long term intentions to actively fight systemic racism

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:

  • Use the Roar! Together community as a place to openly and supportively discuss ideas and educate ourselves. Practically, this looks like a monthly book club where we read and discuss literate from the Black community.
  • I commit to dedicating my time to mentoring 2 young Black people and will continue to do this ongoing.
  • I commit to educating myself on how to become an inclusive coach and create safe, supportive spaces. (I am starting here).
  • I have dedicated my career, money, energy and resources to getting more women speaking on stages, though I have never taken committed and conscious action to make sure that is representative of all women and not just my predominaterly white network. I am really noting how I missed that, how I didn’t see it, how I was blind to that. Going forwards I will take additional steps to combat this. Practically this looks like contacting Black communities and actively inviting participation and ensuring free places are given to those communities.
  • In my ongoing personal and professional development, I commit to buying from Black coaches, trainers and mentors to both financially support these communities but also continue to learn from others with different perspectives and experiences.
  • I commit to trying, putting my ego aside and humility first and to never let this awareness fade away again and to begin a life long journey of becoming an anti-racism advocate.

I am open to any and all thoughts, comments and suggestions.

Thank you

Kirsty x

Webinar: How to motivate your team

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.

Reconnect to your mojo recording

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

 

RECONNECT WITH YOUR MOJO!

Webinar: Reconnect with your mojo

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.

Empowering teams for maximum creativity

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.

Carnegie Dartlet Considered Creativity: How to Supercharge Your Ideas to Drive Better Results and Stay Ahead from Kirsty Hulse

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.

Step 1: Accept that productivity isn’t always billable

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.

Creativity isn’t always directly billable, we just have to take that hit.

Step 2: Create novel external stimuli

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.

In order to create teams who have brilliant ideas, we have to give them space for new environments which foster new ideas.

Step 3: Don’t default to brainstorms

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.

Step 4: Make notes of all ideas, all the time

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.

We need to reconsider what we have always presumed to be “the done thing” when it comes to creativity.

“Internal Politics” is our biggest workplace struggle

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.

What do employees want?

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.

More autonomy

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.”

Less stress

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”

Focus and clarity

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.”

Feeling heard

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.”

Flexible working

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.

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A mindset based approach to productivity that changed my life.

I have always struggled with productivity. I have energy, enthusiasm, ambition and an unrelenting desire to just sit in my pants silently eating crumpets. I am excellent at fighting fires, being reactive, being busy and quick. I was less good at quiet, calm, productive focus. I became so accustomed, through working in and running agencies, to feeling always a little stretched in terms of my to do list that I lost the ability to dedicate time and concentration to less immediate but albeit still essential areas like research, strategy and planning.

I have worked with dozens of businesses now in my capacity as a trainer and I know this tendency is not unique to me. We focus on the most angry clients, the most interesting campaigns or the most profitable projects, leaving essential elements like testing, planning and true creativity with little or none of our energy.

I think the way we manage our to do lists and define our focus is a problematic. We tend to prioritise in accordance with some externally defined criteria of importance and complete tasks in that order. I believe, rather than prioritising tasks in accordance with importance, we should prioritise them in accordance with mindset. Stay with me…for example, on my to do list in the past may have been tasks such as ‘pay invoices, read research on X, have a sales call etc’. However, all of these tasks require me to be in a fundamentally different headspace. I have to feel differently if I am trying to energetically sell on the phone or contemplatively learn something new.

Conflicting mindsets require grinding cognitive shifts that, in my subjective experience at least, create stress, inconsistency and a lack of reliable focus.

After spending years having to psychologically balance the need to be magnanimous at conferences, compelling on social media, reflective in meetings, empathetic with my team, detailed with my accountant I burnt out, exhausted and confused as to what exactly my day should look like for all of the varying requirements we face as individuals in businesses.

We miss out on opportunities by thinking that tasks are just tasks, rather than actions we complete that require us to feel specific things at specific times. Whether that’s focus for bug fixing or energy for team building, these tasks require mindsets.

Then it occurred to me to actively structure my work life around the different mindsets that are best suited to different tasks and it has transformed my way of working, positively impacting the quality of my work, my productivity, clarity and happiness. I began experimenting with grouping my tasks in this way and and I have three key mindsets.

1. Grow

This is very much an outward mindset. It’s where I focus on growing my business and revenue, through talks, marketing, networking and flogging shit on Instagram. This is more akin to a hustle (eurgh sorry) mindset. I have to feel energised, I have to feel enthused, I have to feel powerful, I have to feel resilient. To feel these big, energy intensive emotions, I have to have a certain routine to get me there. We all have the steps we take when we need to feel a little hyped. These routines tend to be quite personal, vulnerable and maybe a little bit embarrassing and perhaps involve power squatting in front of a mirror to Beyonce. Perhaps.

The problem being, is that I would have days where I would get myself in that mindset, then find my primary task of the day is to quietly tick off some invoice payments and write a blog post. That would feel jarring, a poor use of my energy and ultimately a little weird because I don’t think Beyonce uses Xero.

The grow mindset is the one I use for workshops, meetings, pitches and conferences. In this mindset I am a force, a powerhouse of a woman. Though I learnt after spending a summer persistently navigating through the world with a constant tight chest and dull sense of panic, that I cannot maintain that level of energy forever and that this mindset does not serve me in all areas of my work. This was a big lesson because I think the mistake businesses owners often mistake is the evangalisation of this mindset, rather than seeing it as an essential part of a bigger whole.

Develop

This is an inward looking mindset. It is idea generation, research, testing, reading. For me, this is reading dense recent research from organisational neuroscience to develop the training or writing my book. For a marketer, this may be testing some variables on some sites, reading industry whitepapers, taking some time alone to generate new ideas for clients. It is a slower, softer, creative pace, in which we are directing our energy inward, rather than outward. It is sitting quietly and seeing what new shit presents itself. As those of us who experience the phenomena of our best ideas happening in the shower, when walking the dog or just as we fall asleep, this quiet, reflective mindset is where those elusive brilliant ideas often present themselves.

We cannot be creative when we are in a grow mindset. It’s just not how our brains work. (If you’re interested more in our brains and creativity I spoke about it here).

This mindset, likewise, requires a different routine. A slow coffee, a morning walk, pen and paper instead of relentlessly beeping robot screens and the quiet reflection of Joni Mitchell, for example.

Manage

This for me, is also known as the “I have to do some shit I hate today day”. It is admin, finance, spreadsheets, the small bitty tasks that will, unless given dedicated space, remain clinging stubbornly to the bottom of our to do lists for eternity. I have my Manage days on Friday mornings, safe in the knowledge it will soon all be over. I listen to interesting podcasts by means of distraction and schedule calls with friends. I have, for the first time in my professional career, processes, an updated P&L that I actively engage with, robust financial targets and an understanding of like, business money babies aka investments. I achieved this not through scheduling it on my to do because this shit doesn’t work, but creating the appropriate mindset to make me marginally more enthused and motivated to do it. For me this is often spending the morning reading business literature and putting myself in the shoes of someone who can confidently and happily talk about EBITDA and actually knows what FTSE stands for and not simply that it sounds like an adorable little sock.

Whatever your job is, there are applications for you to start thinking about the different mindset you have to be in to deliver your best work. Perhaps you might consider scheduling all client calls on Mondays and Tuesdays and walk to work, head held high listening to Jay Z. Writing your company blog posts or thinking about new solutions on Wednesday where you slowly indulge in a coffee from your favourite coffee shop and stop to notice the sound of the leaves crunching under your feet and filling in your timesheets on a Friday morning listening to a comedy podcast and scraping your nails on the wall. (I hate timesheets FYI).

Someone asked me in a confidence workshop once whether I still felt self doubt and my answer was a resounding fuck yes. We are not always one thing. Sometimes I am soft, sensitive, calm and quiet and other times I am a raging lady bull ready to smash through the red flag of the patriarchy (?). Sometimes I am open and engaging, sometimes I am reflective and distant.

If we begin to work with our shifting moods rather than against them, I truly believe that’s where we can maximise our productivity, lower our stress levels, gain clarity and focus and feel better about our work and ourselves day to day.

If you need some help getting started, my DMs are always open. (I will reply on a Grow day which are Mondays and Tuesdays lol).

To be better leaders, we have to stop telling people what to do

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking at Turing Fest on the topic of Avoiding Feedback Failure.

One of the areas I covered focused around specifically that:

Telling people what to do, will only work if it already fits with our existing wiring. – David Rock

Our brains are a network of unimaginable complexity, trillions of constantly changing neurons creates an almost infinite way of encoding information. Our wiring is so complex, research shows, our brains are as unique to us as our fingerprints. 

With an almost infinite way to process and store information and entirely unique hardwiring driving our automatic preconceptions, biases and reactions, it is no wonder that things we are told and advice we are given, may not quite make sense to us.

Whilst it is good as individuals to actively seek out advice, as leaders, it is not always the best strategy for us to give it.

For many of professions, performance in the workplace is no longer a simple linear  process of input and output, without one process checklist way of hitting a goal. There are often multiple solutions to the same problem and our requirement of employees is often one of finding any solution to a range of problems. According to a World Economic Forum report, the skills that will be most valuable in 2020 are; complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and coordinating with others. These are not skills that are best nurtured through being told what to do. We can not tell someone how to think critically or solve problems, that defeats the object.

What is more effective, for us as leaders, is to help our team define the solution that makes the most sense to them.

In order to do this, we need to get better at guiding people to identify their own solutions to their own problems, and we do this, not by saying “In this situation I would do x” but by saying “What ways do you think you have to solve the problem?”. 

Learning to ask effective questions takes skill, practice and experience, though I have collated a list of questions that can bring about incredibly powerful results for you to try. You can find them here.

[su_button url=”http://roar.test/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Effective-Feedback-Questions.pdf” target=”blank” background=”#41d50e”]EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS[/su_button]

Let us know what you think!

RESEARCH: How men can be better allies to women

Over the course of my career, I have interacted with dozens, if not hundreds, of well-intentioned individuals who struggle to navigate the nuances of what it means to be a “good ally” in the workplace. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be a universally accepted answer to the question how can men* best professionally support women*.

In a world where over half (54%) of women actively feel as though their gender has negatively affected their career progression and  31% of men have experienced a female co-worker being treated unfairly because of their gender, this question is as pertinent today as it was half a century ago. 

About a month ago, I noticed a spate of sexism happening in the tech industry and the social response to this varied hugely from person to person. Some people called out the behaviour, intentionally outing and shaming the perpetrators. Others defended the perpetrators as it being old mistakes, stipulating it best to focus on positive change. Others shrugged and said it happens. Some women felt as though we were being spoken on behalf of, others felt supported, some men were outraged, others felt attacked. 

The main thing that stuck out to me was that

Those contributing in the conversation were, for the most part, well meaning, but it was a mess, and the differences in discourse were making it messier. 

We began to research the topic of what it meant to be a good ally for both woman and men, in practical terms. In other words, we tried to define evidence based guidance we can collectively draw upon, when navigating the often complex and nuanced challenge of gender parity in the workplace. 

We surveyed over 600 male and female respondents from all over the world, in a range of careers and levels of seniority to define:

  1. Current perceptions of gender inequality in the workplace
  2. Current beliefs on how to be better allies

The full research and findings can be read in this report

Read The Report

For businesses and individuals looking for further support on navigating equal teams, and championing influential allies within their businesses, get in touch for more information on our Allies Training Workshops, or sign up here.

Findings Summary

  • There is a disparity between women who feel as though their gender negatively affects their career and men’s perceptions on inequality. 54% of female
    respondents believe that their gender has negatively affected their career progression. 65% of of male respondents believe that their female co-workers are treated equally in the workplace.
  • In support of this, over half (51%) of female respondents report a general sense of wanting to “be believed” when they discuss or report inequality.
  • Several male and female respondents reported that the “open sharing of salary information” would help gender parity.
  • Wanting progression to be primarily “merit based” is cited as important for both men and women.
  • Having an “awareness of bias” and inherent differences is reported as being an important route to gender parity by both men and women.
  • Some female respondents think direct action, for sexist behaviour to be “called out”, is a positive route to gender equality. Others respond preferring to “handle it ourselves”.
  • Based on this, the recommendation for male coworkers is to ask female coworkers how best they can support the individual, based on her preferences.
  • Nearly all (92%) of female respondents report wanting an open dialogue, where issues can be addressed together, discussed on a case by case basis.

*We recognise that this positions gender as binary, which is reductive. For those who do not identify with this definition of gender, you can find support and information on the topic in the resources section of the report.