Archive for the ‘Business Stress’ Category

How can Professional Life Coaching help You?

I am often asked the above question, “How can Coaching help You”

Well, Coaching allows you to set realistic goals / objectives that you want to really achieve in life.

How much time, effort or money would you be prepared to commit to, to change your life for the better?

Before you answer the last question, you need to understand the benefits you will get by achieving a goal / objective.

The easy way to imagine / visualise the benefits you will gain, lets draw a circle and call it the Wheel of Life and divide the circle into eight segments / areas or as many segments / areas as you want.

Next name each and every segment of the Wheel of Life with an aspect of your life, i.e:-

1) Health, 2) Wealth, 3)Work, 4) Social Life, 5) Interests / Hobbies, 6) Personal Development, 7) Friends, 8) Family Life.

Now I want you to rate each segment / area of your life with a number between one and ten, one being the lowest score (Least Happiest) and ten being the highest score (Happiest).

Once you have done this exercise, you will now have a visual chart that clearly shows how you rate various areas of your life.

If you score eight or above, it shows you that you are pretty happy with those areas of your life.

Next you need to look at the scores under eight and put them in order of priority, i.e which areas you need to change first that will make the biggest impact on changing your life for the better?

So lets give you an example, lets say I am overweight, what would be the benefits of reducing my weight?

Answer – Feel good /healthier, Eat healthier food, Healthier life style (more active, walking, sports etc,), Save money (on food, clothes etc.) etc.etc.etc.

Now by doing the above, what impact would being healthier have on the rest of your segments / areas of your life.?

When you are selecting which segment / area of your life to work on first, take a moment to reflect on which area would have the best impact that will benefit you and your life most.?

Once you have completed a segment / area of your life and are benefiting from it. You can then move on to the next segment / area which needs improving and so on until you have achieve the scores on all of your segments / areas of your life.

It is not rocket science, but by having a Life Coach who will work with you helping you to set realistic goals / objectives along the way. Plus they will be able to assist you overcome any barriers / obstacles which may get in your way.

Remember without a Life Coach, you may achieve certain improvements on your own, but how many times have you tried and not been successful to date?

With a Professional Life Coach, you will be able to achieve success in every segment or area of your life.

So how valuable is it to be able to completely change your life for the better and all you need is a Professional Life Coach.

I hope this article goes a long way to demonstrate, “How can Professional Life Coaching help You”?

 

 

 

Situational Leadership

FAMOUS MODELS

Situational Leadership

This is a term that can be applied generically to a style of leadership, but that also refers to a recognised, and useful, leadership model.  In simple terms, a situational leader is one who can adopt different leadership styles depending on the situation.  Most of us do this anyway in our dealings with other people: we try not to get angry with a nervous colleague on their first day, we chase up tasks with some people more than others because we know they’ll forget otherwise.

But Ken Blanchard, the management guru best known for the “One Minute Manager” series, and Paul Hersey created a model for Situational Leadership in the late 1960′s that allows you to analyse the needs of the situation you’re dealing with, and then adopt the most appropriate leadership style.  It’s proved popular with managers over the years because it passes the two basic tests of such models: it’s simple to understand, and it works in most environments for most people.  The model doesn’t just apply to people in leadership or management positions: we all lead others at work and at home.

 

LEADERSHIP BEHAVIOUR

Blanchard and Hersey characterised leadership style in terms of the amount of direction and of support that the leader gives to his or her followers, and so created a simple grid:

Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the ‘follower’, and supervise them closely.  Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.

Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower.  Decisions remain the leader’s prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.

Supporting  Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower.  The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.

Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower.  The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.

Effective leaders are versatile in being able to move around the grid according to the situation, so there is no one right style.  However, we tend to have a preferred style, and in applying Situational Leadership you need to know which one that is for you.

DEVELOPMENT LEVEL

Clearly the right leadership style will depend very much on the person being led – the follower – and Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level of the follower.  They said that the leader’s style should be driven by the Competence and Commitment of the follower, and came up with four levels:

D4

High Competence
High Commitment

Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well.  May even be more skilled than the leader.
D3

High Competence
Variable Commitment

Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly
D2

Some Competence
Low Commitment

May have some relevant skills, but won’t be able to do the job without help.  The task or the situation may be new to them.
D1

Low Competence
Low Commitment

Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and / or motivation to tackle it.

Development Levels are also situational.  I might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in my job, but would still drop into Level D1 when faced, say, with a task requiring skills I don’t possess.  For example, lots of managers are D4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to D1 or D2 when dealing with a sensitive employee issue.

 

SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP

You can see where this is going.  Blanchard and Hersey said that the Leadership Style (S1 – S4) of the leader must correspond to the Development level (D1 – D4) of the follower – and it’s the leader who adapts.

For example, a new person joins your team and you’re asked to help them through the first few days.  You sit them in front of a PC, show them a pile of invoices that need to be processed today, and push off to a meeting.  They’re at level D1, and you’ve adopted S4.  Everyone loses because the new person feels helpless and demotivated, and you don’t get the invoices processed.

On the other hand, you’re handing over to an experienced colleague before you leave for a holiday.  You’ve listed all the tasks that need to be done, and a set of instructions on how to carry out each one.  They’re at level D4, and you’ve adopted S1.  The work will probably get done, but not the way you expected, and your colleague despises you for treating him like an idiot.

But swap the situations and things get better.  Leave detailed instructions and a checklist for the new person, and they’ll thank you for it.  Give your colleague a quick chat and a few notes before you go on holiday, and everything will be fine.

By adopting the right style to suit the follower’s development level, work gets done, relationships are built up, and most importantly, the follower’s development level will rise to D4, to everyone’s benefit.

 

To make Situational Leadership work, you need to go through a training programme, where you’ll learn about how to operate effectively in all the Leadership Styles, and how to determine the Development Level of others.  And the Blanchard organisation would be happy to tell all about their training programmes worldwide.

 

 

You can also get the basics from Ken Blanchard’s “Leadership and the One Minute Manager.”

 

 

Diagnose What is Stopping You ?

What is a diagnosis ?

It is a process to identify what is stopping someone from achieving something that they want to do, but are struggling to do so.

If you follow the process listed below, you can start to work out what obsticales / barriers are getting in the way of someone achieving their goals etc.

Hou to Carry out your Diagnosis

 1.       Gain a general sense of the issues

 Asking open questions and actively listening in order to get the coachee to open up about the current situation.

 Example questions –

  •  What is it you’re trying to achieve?
  • What is your goal?
  • What is the ultimate intention of achieving that goal?
  • How long have you had this goal?
  • How important is this goal to you?
  • What have you tried previously?
  • What was the result of this?
  • Tell me about a time when you achieved something that you thought you couldn’t.
  • What did you do that made you successful in this?

 2          Home in on particular incidents

Link and build your questions based on the responses given in order to get more information and find the root cause

 Example questions :-

  • Tell me more about…….
  • Give me an example of that.
  • What happened when……?
  • What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about times when you have been successful in this area, what was happening?
  • What do you see as being the implications of…..?

 3          Identify what’s stopping a better performance

Example questions :-

  • What stops you from…..?
  • What would need to happen for you to be able to……?
  • When you tried that in the past, what was missing?
  • What else would you need in order to succeed?
  • Pose the Suppose – Ifx was not an issue, would there be anything else stopping you?

Choose the right type of question to help the coachee to identify what barriers they are facing and what is stopping them from getting what they want

 4          Work out and agree if/how coaching can help them

  • I will get you to agree some action plans, are you happy to carry these out?

Check for their commitment to coaching and explain the guidelines of how the coaching relationship will work.

 Once you have done your diagnosis, if you determine it’s –

 Knowledge

 Discuss how they can obtain this knowledge

Aptitude

This means the coachee is not really cut out for the role

You can’t put in what god left out!!

 Attitude or Skills

 This is where you coach, you can now go on to use the GROW model and this will help you get the best results from your coaching session.

 From what you have learned today and from past experience, write down:

 1.    Your main strength’s when doing your diagnosis?

2.    The one area you still need to develop?

3. How you will address this development area?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do People Bully?

The world is going crazy, just take a look at the news. On a daily basis there is death and destruction going on in so many countries around the world and why I ask myself.

Well there are many reasons one could put on the table to discuss, but in simple terms man has lost the art to communicate effectively without the need for violence. You would think that during the million years man has been on this planet, man would have worked out that communication is a far better way to get on with our fellow man. After all we have gone from grunting to a very well developed dialog which has even been adapted into hundreds of different languages around the world.

Plus look at what man has invented or developed which enables everyone to have an easier live, just take a look at technology etc.etc.

We lose out big style when we are unable to control our emotions, because depending on the emotion we can really do harm to others. You have heard the saying “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Well I have got news for you, words do hurt just ask anyone on the receiving end, they may not cause physical injury but they can cause long lasting psychological effects and pain.

It is important to look at what causes someone to want to bully or correction makes them bully rather want to?

I currently write articles under the name of “Coaching Four Success” as a freelance trainer helping to deliver workshops and training programs about bullying and how to proactively put a stop to bullying by looking at what is the sauce behind someone becoming a bully.

Because in reality “Happy People Don’t Bully” that is not to say all unhappy people always bully, because they don’t. The reasons why someone turns to being a bully are many fold, I could write a book on them i.e. Neglect, Lack of Role Model, Physical Violence, Jealousy,Divorce, Extravert, Introvert,loss of parent, Being Different, lack of Confidence, Shy, Learning Difficulties, Disabled, etc.etc.

Plus you can see bullying going on in Schools,Colleagues, Universities, Work, in fact whilst I am writing this blog there is a film on the TV called Shattered Silence which is about sexting. Another area of bullying which has arisen from the use of Mobile Phones & PC’s, which is also carried out via online (Internet).

Now think about this for a moment, take bullying out of playground and into the work place, well then you are looking at how it can ruin someone’s career etc.

So now lets take bullying in the world of politics and certain world leaders, now you can see on a daily basis how bullying plus having a position of power at your fingertips can and often does lead to mass destruction or wars.

We all have a responsibility to put a stop to bullying, remember there is a reason which lies behind someone becoming a bully, so lets Empower Targets / Victims of Bullying to be able to seek help, rather than fearing by speaking out they will get further bullying. Plus there is another positive from identifying who the bullies really are and that is to help them to deal with the underlying issue / cause.

Find out more about how to stop all types of bullying including cyber, online (internet), talk to me direct msbiginelli@gmail.com. 

 

 

April 28, 2013 by purecollaboration

I have been thinking long and hard about the future of Pure Collaboration, having trial’ed various events for five events from July to Nov in 2012, to see whether it was a venture that firstly had merit and secondly that there was a need for within the Business Sector?

Well the events were a success and due to the positive feedback recieved from members and visitors, on how they found the events interesting on several levels. Firstly it was a business club with a difference, they enjoyed the sponsor spots, plus the informative educational spots that provided valuable information which helped businesses to think about how they can look to build relationships with and for the disabled market.

So I have taken time out since Dec 2012 to reflect on the options available for me to launch a fully operational business club for abled and disabled to meet, share ideas and exchange ways that will benefit their own businesses and the local community as well.

The club will be for the benefit of Businesses, Universities, Colleges, Charites, Local Authorities and for the Local Community to take part.

One key factor I am looking for, is for local businesses to take an active part, become fully involved in the promoting, day to day running etc and in return for their effort , they will get recognition for being a business that is active within the local community and has demonstrated by your commitment.

I am not looking for free cash injections (but I wouldn’t be rejected any), more importantly it is about gaining additional expertise from established businesses who have the knowhow plus the contacts to help fellow businesses to grow and develop. In return they will have the knowledge of become part of something that is special & currently there is nothing like it out there in the market place.

The Clue is in the name “Pure Collaboration” by giviing and supporting others you will get a return on your investment (witch is based on effort) without any real financial cost to you or your business.

So if you want to be part of a new venture that is being put together to provide, development, education, sales skills, marketing knowhow, confidence building etc.etc.etc.

Plus you will gain from the expertise from every club member as well their support in build your business via support, knowledge & contacts.

Finally I am keen for all Colleges, Universities, Local Authoriites, Charities, Existing Businesses, New Businesses, New Start Up Businesses and supporting everyone within the community that wants to change their existing life and support others to do the same.

If you can see my vision, like the sound of what I am saying and feel you want to be part of this journey, then contact me at msbiginelli@gmail.com or martin.biginelli@yahoo.com. or contact me direct via 07710163790.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, but I hope more importantly that it prompts you to respond in a positive way and get on board with this venture.

Many Thanks & Best Wishes

Martin

Make Use of Your Believe’s

Sorry for the long absence, simple reason is that life got in the way of creative writing.

But I am back and I will be writing as usual from the heart, plus from the knowledge I have either gained or experienced along the way.

Well I sat there thinking tonight, what should I write about, well one of my own believe’s is that the no 13 is my lucky number. What do I attribute this to, simply from childhood to date, it has always been a very fortunite number and has on a regular basis rewarded me in lots of different situatations.

So you can imagine, as we entered the year 2013, my thoughts naturally changed and were raised to a very high positive position. So much so I begain telling everyone in my circle of friends and business colleagues, what a good year this is going to be.

Which I was often challenged to explain how I knew it was going to be good for me? And on what basis was I qualifying this statement.  I simply stated that it is my own belief, based on my own life experiences since my childhood, that for me it is a number that has always come up as a positive experience.where others had stated the number 13 was an unlucky number.

Well let me confirm what has happened to me so far this year :-

Bearing in mind it is only March (3 Months).

Family :-

Firstly my two son’s confirmed they were expecting a child, followed by my nice confirming she was expecting her first child and then my nephew was also expecting his first child. Plus I have a family wedding in April, both my sons & partners have been able to build their own skills sets to enhance their development, which has enabled them to all to secure new positions and enhance their life styles.

Work :-

I am developing my business  to the next level by collaborating with other businesses and I have also signed up to continue my learning and development on a regular basis to add additional skills,qualifications etc. to enhance the support and services I can offer my clients.

I also tested a new style of business club on the open market from July to Dec last year, now that the test has proved to be so positive, I have decided to launch the business club on a full time basis.

The club name for those interested in finding out more and even joining it are :- Pure Collaboration Business Club,  Web Site Link is, www.purecollaboration.wordpresss.com or email purecollaborationgroup@gmail.com & Twitter A/C is Twittter.com/PCollaboration

Personal :-

I have put plans together to relocate my home to one that is designed for my life ahead.

So you can see what I mean, by I already had very positive believes since my childhood, which have allowed me to remain positive and I intend to put these positive vibes into good use.

To sum up, if you have a believe that you really do have valuable evidence to back them up, then your memories are to be followed and let them lead you to a positive end.

My thoughts are based on my expereiences throughout my life to date, but you can see why I am feel so positive and you know what happens when you feel positive you achieve results against sometimes all the odds.  So I have nine more months to go in 2013.

Wow I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store…. :-)))

 

 

Life as a Team Manager / Leader

My perceptions prior to taking the role:-

My initial feeling was one of Oh Sh…..ger why me?

Then when I had time to think in real time, I realised I had mixed feelings about the why’s and wherefores of undertaking this challenge. This produced various reactions in my emotions. Some were positive and some were negative.

My first real thought was with reference to how difficult will it be and how am I going tackle this project?

What resources do I need and what am I going to bring to the role?

I was informed from various sources that I would be facing a real challenge and that I had my work cut out as they were deemed to be a no hope case and that I would be spending my time in 121′s all day long!!!!

I spent the weekend prior to taking over the team, planning and thinking about what lay ahead and how I was going to maximise this opportunity. Once the dust had settled, I actually became quite excited, plus privileged to have the chance to work with the team and implement my skills into the role.

I thought about the best way to interact with individual team members, to make sure I was firm but fare, whilst being able to make changes and improve performance. Also I reviewed the type of difficult situations that may arise and how to address them. Problem solving could well be the key to moving things forward, whilst developing and motivating individuals at the same time. This compared in reality:-

Well the next three months certainly challenged me and made me rethink particular aspects of my perceptions.

I have a very different outlook towards the role now, than I had prior to doing this project. I have to acknowledge the role in the current climate is very challenging.

And it is difficult, no matter how well prepared you are or what skills you have, to handle and complete every task that is required of a manager.

In order to achieve the desired results on time every time, a manager has to have excellent organisational skills as well as good time management abilities. They also need numerous other attributes / skills, such as communication, influencing, approachability, diagnostic, goal setting, feedback, coaching, and etc.etc.

Especially when there are so many potential obstacles and distractions, which are out of your control and may have an impact on the way, you work or get in your way – big style.

The best laid plans and all that?  Well as they say, it is easy to judge from the outside.

Now that I have experienced being a team manager, I feel that it has given me a better understanding of the trials and tribulations that affect every manager and I have now taken appropriate steps to reflect this within my own coaching sessions with fellow team managers.

Now that I have worked from inside a call centre, rather then as a national coach working on the outside, looking in. I am very surprised at the lack of ability to manage, develop and motivate staff to the degree that sees individuals achieve the desired performance levels for them and the business.

Where fire fighting and quick wins seem to be the order of the day, rather than identifying the underlying problems and creating long term fixes. There is a need to examine previous and present practices and then to breakdown the elements in a way, that allows you to objectively decide, what is best for the business. Then you can produce true brand values that everyone understands, wants and strives to achieve.

I keep asking myself the same old questions, which I have done now for nearly nine years. Why aren’t people and resources looking at the bigger picture?

The focus of attention should be to reduce costs, reduce attrition rates, increase profits, increase customer client base.

Work is becoming an uphill struggle rather than a place that is challenging, exciting, and gives you the opportunity to have plenty of fun; this would create an environment that everyone could benefit from. 

What were the major challenges:-?

Attitude – Overcoming suspicion from agents, i.e. who am I, why am I here, what is he up to and etc.etc. Changing/challenging/reviewing current beliefs & values i.e. can’t sell, won’t sell, don’t know how to sell.

Skills – Identifying existing skill sets / current capabilities and what level these are it.

Knowledge – Know the current level of understanding and ability with regards to sales, processes, systems, products and PRP targets.

Aptitude – Is anyone struggling and unable to cope, if so identify why and check to see if they are in the right job?

Review Neurological Levels:-

Identity – Who

Beliefs & Values – Why

Capabilities – How

Behaviours – What

Environment – Time or Place

Further Challenges:-

Key issues and objectives:-

  • Overcome barriers – Remove the pressure element / focus on what is best for agents and customers – Results will follow.
  • Change mind sets – remove the winger (Mood Hoover) from the current climate
  • Change assumptions / perceptions.
  • Make sure I do what I say and mean what I say (in other words lead by example).
  • I need to demonstrate I am doing the right thing.
  • Spend time with agents – let them know I care and have their interests as my focus.
  • Focus on quality.
  • Improve performance on all KPI’s.
  • Goal setting – get everyone setting goals for themselves.
  • Have fun – create the right atmosphere.
  • Agents to take responsibility for their performance and actions.
  • Set actions / coaching plans for each agent.
  • Focus on sales through excellent customer service –
  • Do the right thing for your customer.

 Other issues:-

  • Team performance
  • Qdos/setting up accounts/leaving – closing accounts
  • Time keeping
  • Sickness
  • Return to work
  • Occupational Health
  • Hub / Resources
  • Fare
  • Incentives
  • Own development?
  • Support/backup
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • MI data/reports
  • DPR’s
  • Team meetings
  • 121’s
  • Agent records/files
  • QA’s
  • Complaint handling
  • Training/arrangements
  • Recognition/incentive/rewards
  • Co operation

KPI’s

AHT – Reduce call times without impacting on customer service.

PARTICIPATION – Get sign on from all agents.

CONVERSION RATES – Gain commitment from agents.

SALES IMPROVEMENT  Focus on what is best for customers.

Achievements –

  • Achieved best ever team performance.
  • Provided proof that time spent with agents produces increased performance.
  • Built relationships with all departments and personnel.
  • Earnt respect from agents.
  • Improved relationship with agents.
  • Improved individual performances.
  • Sign on from agents.
  • Resolved ongoing problems / issues A.S.A.P.
  • Provided ideas for incentives and how to drive them.
  • Gained insight into how managers work and interact (CCM – DPR’s etc.etc.)

I changed the display boards to reduce the amount of information on them, because to much detail reduces the impact it was meant to have.

I showed the key KPI’s that everyone needed to achieve and when anyone hit any key targets they were identified as success player and were highlighted by luminous cards with smiley faces on. This also had the desired effect of showing who was doing the right thing for their customers, them and the business.

It was fun colourful and allowed everyone the opportunity to focus on what was needed as well as knowing how they were doing.  Without having to wade through too much detail that may confuse or look like to much trouble and effort to achieve.

Sharon  Improved performance with her AHT, Sales and Conversion targets. I have managed to gain her an opportunity to take up a P3 position from May / June.

Jackie – Improved her AHT, promoting ratio and actual sales performance. I have invested time with her to address performance and issues affecting her work and well being. She has applied for a more suitable position – and has had an interview for a position on the HUB team. Currently off work on long term sick.

Su – Changed her mind set and she is producing sales on a small but regular basis. I now have her respect (She as dropped her guard and has opened up to me). Although at any given opportunity she would revert to type and then wants to fight system again.

Tommy – Changed his mind set which has resulted in him being proactive with regards to promoting to customers whilst reducing his AHT at the same time. This has had the added impact of increased sales.

Taqueer – He has been a real challenge, and I need to spend additional time with him to direct his focus towards setting goals for each and every day and monitor the outcomes. His buzz word is I am trying?

He has just attended a sales training course, which has confirmed and identified what he needs to do when dealing with customers.

With the sales training and support from me, Taqueer has turned the corner and his performance has improved with increased sales which as impacted on the other KPI’s. In a positive way.

Paul - He is a new comer to the team, and has only been with the team for approx seven weeks. We have been focusing on his AHT to build good habits, before moving onto any other targets. He is consistently smashing his AHT target and we are working on introducing sales into his call structure. Which has resulted in Paul setting himself goals, around sales targets? He is gradually working towards his agreed goals / targets.

Heather – Again she has potential to achieve results, has no problem with regards to sales. I am working on her attitude and looking for a sustained and consistent approach in performance. I have started coaching around perception and how this is impacting on her and her future plans to progress further within British Gas.

Heather has shown improvements in her performance and has even sold care products i.e. KAC for the first time, after stating previously that she could not sell KAC as she did not believe in the product and thought was a load of K……

She also helps to drive up team performance by setting challenges amongst her team mates. i.e. her against them to see who is the best at achieving results.

The key is to keep Heather focused at all times, if she is allowed to get board, she stops performing purely because she needs to be kept stimulated at all times.

Lorraine – This has been an on going challenge, to change her attitude relating to sales and the pressure received from management. She has increased her sales performance and for the first time has been earning money through her QDOS (£33). Her AHT has been reducing and she is now hitting her AHT target on a more regular basis. The aim now is to achieve consistency, because her performance fluctuates daily and there are highs and lows in the same week.

Naveed - Again I have been working on her attitude towards management, she is a very competent agent who has produced results in the past and lacks the motivation to strive towards producing results now, due to pressure from previous managers. Since working with Naveed, she has actively been one of the best performers on the team and has responded well to my style of management.

She has just undergone SAP training and is having problems adapting to change?

Sajid – Attitude has been the main focus, I have invested time with Saj, because he is a person who needs to have trust and respect for his managers before he delivers results. He has increased his sales performance and is also cross selling whilst keeping his AHT to an acceptable level. His participation and conversion rates have also improved due to this.

Mohammed – I have had to work on his attitude and resulting behaviors. He likes to focus on himself and not listen to others. Which gives him a label of a difficult individual and gets a negative response from other managers? I have managed to review his perceptions in relation to his role and confirm what I will deliver as a manager and what I expect from him.  This has resulted in an all round improvement in his performance and he has started to sell on a regular basis and is also cross selling. Without having any significant impact on his AHT. Where he struggled to achieve any targets and was only focusing on his AHT when I arrived. He now hits participation on a regular basis, improved his conversion rates as well as sales.

There have been many issues during the three months which have impacted on me as an individual as well as the team. I have enjoyed working with everyone in the team and have identified what is important to each individual and what makes them tick.

Working reduced hours / time due to travel commitments between Cardiff and Manchester on a weekly basis. I was unable to cover the full role and had to leave certain areas for others to oversee and manage.

The only problem with the last point was that invariably due to various reasons, i.e. staff shortages, holidays, training etc.etc.this did not happen.

A lot of the good work I had undertaken during the days I was available, went to waste and I had to continually rebuild and re affirm and allay any fears or concerns each individual had as well the team collectively.

Also a lot of details regarding performance management, sickness reviews, back to work interviews, informal and formal stages, fare, recording and updating files etc.  Were new to me and I had to have a crash course and self teach myself.

Another issue which plagued me through out the whole process was gaining access to systems and obtaining the correct permission and passwords to used them as well.

And whilst all this was happening, I was in the process from changing computer systems from NT to XP. And if that was not enough, my log / sign on’s changed from Cardiff to Manchester Talbot road, adding further confusion.

What would help in the blue sky scenario:-?

Start at 10am have a 2 hour lunch and finish at 2pm, be able to watch Sky sports and Sky movies whilst helping yourself to the tea trolley.

Or the next best thing would to have:-

Have regular DPR’s, ideally daily.

Have regular Team Meetings again ideally weekly/fortnightly

Have regular 121 times with every agent again on a weekly/fortnightly basis.

Set up a quality team/department.

Set up a sales complaints team/department.

This would enable me to provide the sufficient levels of time to manage develop and motivate all my agents.

The benefits to the business:-

  • Improved skill sets
  • Motivated staff
  • High achievers
  • Business growth
  • Improved profit
  • Reduced leakage
  • Reduced attrition
  • Improved performance
  • Customer retention
  • Multiple products
  • Improved employee engagement scores (fun and enjoyable place to work)
  • Better (more informed staff) qualified staff
  • Reduced complaints

My feelings after having carried out the role:-

If I am honest I am relived to have returned to my role of coaching

(Purely because I love coaching and it’s what I’m trained to do and I feel it’s what I do best) although I will miss working with my team.

I built a good relationship in a relatively short time with my agents and on the limited time I was able to provide any coaching or feedback, I managed to make certain changes in attitudes and performances and improved the overall KPI’s during my time with them.

They are currently working towards double figures every day, rather than single scores. In fact the team managed to produce their highest ever sales performance on three separate occasions, also producing their best ever conversion rates i.e. 5.67%.

I enjoyed the team spirit and comradeship between me and my team, because that is what they became my team. The team has since grown in size and is now up to sixteen members.

What / if anything that I would change as a result of the experience:-

1) Sales Complaint Handling

Each site should set up a team to centralise the whole process. Being under one roof is the best way to monitor the whole process from start to finish. This will also maintain consistency throughout, from recording details, monitoring each stage of the process, listening to calls, giving feedback and the final outcome of any complaint.

This will avoid time that is taken up to investigate, track details of dates, times etc, request archive tapes / calls, completing SID (several times), providing feedback and any possible support or training that may be required, along with any possible disciplinaries.

An additional benefit would be to free up more valuable time to provide support, training, coaching and feedback to help develop and motivate staff, which in the long term would reduce attrition and increase the feel good factor.

2) QA’s

Should be carried out by specialists (i.e. a QA team) dedicated to quality and quality issues, they would be able to give consistency and impartial advice along with guidance. The added benefit would be to free up time for TM’s to use and invest in valuable time with their agents, helping to drive motivation as well as providing development opportunities for all agents.

This would reduce the stress levels, possible errors, improve customer experience, aid development, help with motivation, improve moral for all agents and TM’s.

This will allow additional quality time to be spent between managers and agents. Something that is not happening currently due to various other issues i.e. contingency, meetings etc.etc.

3) DPR’s / Briefings

This is a must if the business is to remain on track with informed and motivated staff, the down side when they don’t happen is incorrect information or latest information not reaching the customer on time when needed. Which can and will lead to possible cancellation of products and services?

Think of the message this gives to people, (me in particular) at times I felt frustrated and disillusioned and I new the reasons why they weren’t happening.

It is a false economy that has long term implications and little benefits to the customer or the business.

4) Team Meetings / Training / Performance

Same points and reasons as DPR’s

5) Regular 121’s

Same points and reasons as DPR’s

6) Same Support for TM’s

The support TM’s receive from their line managers

(i.e. coaching, feedback development, etc) is virtually none existent…

7) Reduced volumes / amounts of MI

(i.e. produce one definitive simple KPI report) that tells it as it is and not takes valuable time and effort to work out what needs to happen next. Currently using two forms of APS + Tammi + Matrix + + + +

The biggest impact on me during my time as a TM, was the amount of time lost through unproductive work along with time consuming work that has distracted the quality time that I needed to run my team.

If this had been my own business my priority would have been to develop and motivate my agents to maximise potential and help to build good quality agents.

Who provide our customers with the knowledge and skills they should expect from a market leader.

The benefits to me would be happy people all round, greater profits and sustained business growth. Thus avoiding quick wins and catch up situations every year trying to maintain and replace lost business, not to mention the huge cost for replacement staff and additional training costs.

That’s it folks

My perceptions prior to taking the role:-

My initial feeling was one of Oh Sh…..ger why me?

Then when I had time to think in real time, I realised I had mixed feelings about the why’s and wherefores of undertaking this challenge. This produced various reactions in my emotions. Some were positive and some were negative.

My first real thought was with reference to how difficult will it be and how am I going tackle this project?

What resources do I need and what am I going to bring to the role?

I was informed from various sources that I would be facing a real challenge and that I had my work cut out as they were deemed to be a no hope case and that I would be spending my time peping and poping all day long!!!!

I spent the weekend prior to taking over the team, planning and thinking about what lay ahead and how I was going to maximise this opportunity. Once the dust had settled, I actually became quite excited, plus privileged to have the chance to work with the team and implement my skills into the role.

I thought about the best way to interact with individual team members, to make sure I was firm but fare, whilst being able to make changes and improve performance.

Also I reviewed the type of difficult situations that may arise and how to address them. Problem solving could well be the key to moving things forward, whilst developing and motivating individuals at the same time.

How this compared in reality:-

Well the next three months certainly challenged me and made me rethink particular aspects of my perceptions.

I have a very different outlook towards the role now, than I had prior to doing this project. I have to acknowledge the role in the current climate is very challenging.

And it is difficult, no matter how well prepared you are or what skills you have, to handle and complete every task that is required of a manager.

In order to achieve the desired results on time every time, a manager has to have excellent organisational skills as well as good time management abilities. They also need numerous other attributes / skills, such as communication, influencing, approachability, diagnostic, goal setting, feedback, coaching, and etc.etc.

Especially when there are so many potential obstacles and distractions, which are out of your control and may have an impact on the way, you work or get in your way – big style.

The best laid plans and all that?  Well as they say, it is easy to judge from the outside.

Now that I have experienced being a team manager, I feel that it has given me a better understanding of the trials and tribulations that affect every manager and I have now taken appropriate steps to reflect this within my own coaching sessions with fellow team managers.

Now that I have worked from inside a call centre, rather then as a national coach working on the outside, looking in. I am very surprised at the lack of ability to manage, develop and motivate staff to the degree that sees individuals achieve the desired performance levels for them and the business.

Where fire fighting and quick wins seem to be the order of the day, rather than identifying the underlying problems and creating long term fixes. There is a need to examine previous and present practices and then to breakdown the elements in a way, that allows you to objectively decide, what is best for the business. Then you can produce true brand values that everyone understands, wants and strives to achieve.

I keep asking myself the same old questions, which I have done now for nearly nine years. Why aren’t people and resources looking at the bigger picture?

The focus of attention should be to reduce costs, reduce attrition rates, increase profits, increase customer client base.

Work is becoming an uphill struggle rather than a place that is challenging, exciting, and gives you the opportunity to have plenty of fun; this would create an environment that everyone could benefit from.

What were the major challenges:-?

Attitude – Overcoming suspicion from agents, i.e. who am I, why am I here, what is he up to and etc.etc. Changing/challenging/reviewing current beliefs & values i.e. can’t sell, won’t sell, don’t know how to sell.

Skills – Identifying existing skill sets / current capabilities and what level these are it.

Knowledge – Know the current level of understanding and ability with regards to sales, processes, systems, products and PRP targets.

Aptitude – Is anyone struggling and unable to cope, if so identify why and check to see if they are in the right job?

Review Neurological Levels:-

Identity – Who

Beliefs & Values – Why

Capabilities – How

Behaviours – What

Environment – Time or Place

Further Challenges:-

Key issues and objectives:-

  • Overcome barriers – Remove the pressure element / focus on what is best for agents and customers – Results will follow.
  • Change mind sets – remove the winger (Mood Hoover) from the current climate
  • Change assumptions / perceptions.
  • Make sure I do what I say and mean what I say (in other words lead by example).
  • I need to demonstrate I am doing the right thing.
  • Spend time with agents – let them know I care and have their interests as my focus.
  • Focus on quality.
  • Improve performance on all KPI’s.
  • Goal setting – get everyone setting goals for themselves.
  • Have fun – create the right atmosphere.
  • Agents to take responsibility for their performance and actions.
  • Set actions / coaching plans for each agent.
  • Focus on sales through excellent customer service –
  • Do the right thing for your customer.

Other issues:-

  • Team performance
  • Qdos/setting up accounts/leaving – closing accounts
  • Time keeping
  • Sickness
  • Return to work
  • Occupational Health
  • Hub / Resources
  • Fare
  • Incentives
  • Own development?
  • Support/backup
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • MI data/reports
  • DPR’s
  • Team meetings
  • 121’s
  • Agent records/files
  • QA’s
  • Complaint handling
  • Training/arrangements
  • Recognition/incentive/rewards
  • Co operation

KPI’s.

AHT – Reduce call times without impacting on customer service.

PARTICIPATION – Get sign on from all agents.

CONVERSION RATES – Gain commitment from agents.

SALES IMPROVEMENT  Focus on what is best for customers.

Achievements –

  • Achieved best ever team performance.
  • Provided proof that time spent with agents produces increased performance.
  • Built relationships with all departments and personnel.
  • Earnt respect from agents.
  • Improved relationship with agents.
  • Improved individual performances.
  • Sign on from agents.
  • Resolved ongoing problems / issues A.S.A.P.
  • Provided ideas for incentives and how to drive them.
  • Gained insight into how managers work and interact (CCM – DPR’s etc.etc.)

I changed the display boards to reduce the amount of information on them, because to much detail reduces the impact it was meant to have.

I showed the key KPI’s that everyone needed to achieve and when anyone hit any key targets they were identified as success player and were highlighted by luminous cards with smiley faces on. This also had the desired effect of showing who was doing the right thing for their customers, them and the business.

It was fun colourful and allowed everyone the opportunity to focus on what was needed as well as knowing how they were doing.  Without having to wade through too much detail that may confuse or look like to much trouble and effort to achieve.

Sharon  Improved performance with her AHT, Sales and Conversion targets. I have managed to gain her an opportunity to take up a P3 position from May / June.

Jackie – Improved her AHT, promoting ratio and actual sales performance. I have invested time with her to address performance and issues affecting her work and well being. She has applied for a more suitable position – and has had an interview for a position on the HUB team. Currently off work on long term sick.

Su – Changed her mind set and she is producing sales on a small but regular basis. I now have her respect (She as dropped her guard and has opened up to me). Although at any given opportunity she would revert to type and then wants to fight system again.

Tommy – Changed his mind set which has resulted in him being proactive with regards to promoting to customers whilst reducing his AHT at the same time. This has had the added impact of increased sales.

Taqueer – He has been a real challenge, and I need to spend additional time with him to direct his focus towards setting goals for each and every day and monitor the outcomes. His buzz word is I am trying?

He has just attended a sales training course, which has confirmed and identified what he needs to do when dealing with customers.

With the sales training and support from me, Taqueer has turned the corner and his performance has improved with increased sales which as impacted on the other KPI’s. In a positive way.

Paul - He is a new comer to the team, and has only been with the team for approx seven weeks. We have been focusing on his AHT to build good habits, before moving onto any other targets. He is consistently smashing his AHT target and we are working on introducing sales into his call structure. Which has resulted in Paul setting himself goals, around sales targets? He is gradually working towards his agreed goals / targets.

Heather – Again she has potential to achieve results, has no problem with regards to sales. I am working on her attitude and looking for a sustained and consistent approach in performance. I have started coaching around perception and how this is impacting on her and her future plans to progress further within British Gas.

Heather has shown improvements in her performance and has even sold care products i.e. KAC for the first time, after stating previously that she could not sell KAC as she did not believe in the product and thought was a load of K……

She also helps to drive up team performance by setting challenges amongst her team mates. i.e. her against them to see who is the best at achieving results.

The key is to keep Heather focused at all times, if she is allowed to get board, she stops performing purely because she needs to be kept stimulated at all times.

Lorraine – This has been an on going challenge, to change her attitude relating to sales and the pressure received from management. She has increased her sales performance and for the first time has been earning money through her QDOS (£33). Her AHT has been reducing and she is now hitting her AHT target on a more regular basis. The aim now is to achieve consistency, because her performance fluctuates daily and there are highs and lows in the same week.

Naveed - Again I have been working on her attitude towards management, she is a very competent agent who has produced results in the past and lacks the motivation to strive towards producing results now, due to pressure from previous managers. Since working with Naveed, she has actively been one of the best performers on the team and has responded well to my style of management.

She has just undergone SAP training and is having problems adapting to change?

Sajid – Attitude has been the main focus, I have invested time with Saj, because he is a person who needs to have trust and respect for his managers before he delivers results. He has increased his sales performance and is also cross selling whilst keeping his AHT to an acceptable level. His participation and conversion rates have also improved due to this.

Mohammed – I have had to work on his attitude and resulting behaviors. He likes to focus on himself and not listen to others. Which gives him a label of a difficult individual and gets a negative response from other managers? I have managed to review his perceptions in relation to his role and confirm what I will deliver as a manager and what I expect from him.  This has resulted in an all round improvement in his performance and he has started to sell on a regular basis and is also cross selling. Without having any significant impact on his AHT. Where he struggled to achieve any targets and was only focusing on his AHT when I arrived. He now hits participation on a regular basis, improved his conversion rates as well as sales.

There have been many issues during the three months which have impacted on me as an individual as well as the team. I have enjoyed working with everyone in the team and have identified what is important to each individual and what makes them tick.

Working reduced hours / time due to travel commitments between Cardiff and Manchester on a weekly basis. I was unable to cover the full role and had to leave certain areas for others to oversee and manage.

The only problem with the last point was that invariably due to various reasons, i.e. staff shortages, holidays, training etc.etc.this did not happen.

A lot of the good work I had undertaken during the days I was available, went to waste and I had to continually rebuild and re affirm and allay any fears or concerns each individual had as well the team collectively.

Also a lot of details regarding performance management, sickness reviews, back to work interviews, informal and formal stages, fare, recording and updating files etc.  Were new to me and I had to have a crash course and self teach myself.

Another issue which plagued me through out the whole process was gaining access to systems and obtaining the correct permission and passwords to used them as well.

And whilst all this was happening, I was in the process from changing computer systems from NT to XP. And if that was not enough, my log / sign on’s changed from Cardiff to Manchester Talbot road, adding further confusion.

What would help in the blue sky scenario:-?

Start at 10am have a 2 hour lunch and finish at 2pm, be able to watch Sky sports and Sky movies whilst helping yourself to the tea trolley.

Or the next best thing would to have:-

Have regular DPR’s, ideally daily.

Have regular Team Meetings again ideally weekly/fortnightly

Have regular 121 times with every agent again on a weekly/fortnightly basis.

Set up a quality team/department.

Set up a sales complaints team/department.

This would enable me to provide the sufficient levels of time to manage develop and motivate all my agents.

The benefits to the business:-

  • Improved skill sets
  • Motivated staff
  • High achievers
  • Business growth
  • Improved profit
  • Reduced leakage
  • Reduced attrition
  • Improved performance
  • Customer retention
  • Multiple products
  • Improved employee engagement scores (fun and enjoyable place to work)
  • Better (more informed staff) qualified staff
  • Reduced complaints

My feelings after having carried out the role:-

If I am honest I am relived to have returned to my role of coaching

(Purely because I love coaching and it’s what I’m trained to do and I feel it’s what I do best) although I will miss working with my team.

I built a good relationship in a relatively short time with my agents and on the limited time I was able to provide any coaching or feedback, I managed to make certain changes in attitudes and performances and improved the overall KPI’s during my time with them.

They are currently working towards double figures every day, rather than single scores. In fact the team managed to produce their highest ever sales performance on three separate occasions, also producing their best ever conversion rates i.e. 5.67%.

I enjoyed the team spirit and comradeship between me and my team, because that is what they became my team. The team has since grown in size and is now up to sixteen members.

What / if anything that I would change as a result of the experience:-

1) Sales Complaint Handling

Each site should set up a team to centralise the whole process. Being under one roof is the best way to monitor the whole process from start to finish. This will also maintain consistency throughout, from recording details, monitoring each stage of the process, listening to calls, giving feedback and the final outcome of any complaint.

This will avoid time that is taken up to investigate, track details of dates, times etc, request archive tapes / calls, completing SID (several times), providing feedback and any possible support or training that may be required, along with any possible disciplinaries.

An additional benefit would be to free up more valuable time to provide support, training, coaching and feedback to help develop and motivate staff, which in the long term would reduce attrition and increase the feel good factor.

2) QA’s

Should be carried out by specialists (i.e. a QA team) dedicated to quality and quality issues, they would be able to give consistency and impartial advice along with guidance. The added benefit would be to free up time for TM’s to use and invest in valuable time with their agents, helping to drive motivation as well as providing development opportunities for all agents.

This would reduce the stress levels, possible errors, improve customer experience, aid development, help with motivation, improve moral for all agents and TM’s.

This will allow additional quality time to be spent between managers and agents. Something that is not happening currently due to various other issues i.e. contingency, meetings etc.etc.

3) DPR’s / Briefings

This is a must if the business is to remain on track with informed and motivated staff, the down side when they don’t happen is incorrect information or latest information not reaching the customer on time when needed. Which can and will lead to possible cancellation of products and services?

Think of the message this gives to people, (me in particular) at times I felt frustrated and disillusioned and I new the reasons why they weren’t happening.

It is a false economy that has long term implications and little benefits to the customer or the business.

4) Team Meetings / Training / Performance

Same points and reasons as DPR’s

5) Regular 121’s

Same points and reasons as DPR’s

6) Same Support for TM’s

The support TM’s receive from their line managers

(i.e. coaching, feedback development, etc) is virtually none existent…

7) Reduced volumes / amounts of MI

(i.e. produce one definitive simple KPI report) that tells it as it is and not takes valuable time and effort to work out what needs to happen next. Currently using two forms of APS + Tammi + Matrix + + + +

The biggest impact on me during my time as a TM, was the amount of time lost through unproductive work along with time consuming work that has distracted the quality time that I needed to run my team.

If this had been my own business my priority would have been to develop and motivate my agents to maximise potential and help to build good quality agents.

Who provide our customers with the knowledge and skills they should expect from a market leader.

The benefits to me would be happy people all round, greater profits and sustained business growth. Thus avoiding quick wins and catch up situations every year trying to maintain and replace lost business, not to mention the huge cost for replacement staff and additional training costs.

That’s it folks

“G R O W”

The GROW Coaching Model

The G is for – Goal Setting, which has  6 stages :-

1) Previous actions

2) Agree goal or goals required

3) Evidence Procedure- what does it Look Like, Sound Like or Feel Like. (Imagine what its like)

4) Maintaining positive bye products (keep doing what you are already do well)

5) Checking the ecology (is the goal worthwhile) i.e. worth the effort etc to achieve?

6) Checking / understanding (commitment to goal)

The R is Reality Check :-

1) Current situation

2) Is the goal stretching (developing) enough ?

2) Is the gap between actual performance / desired performance challenging enough?

3) Check whether person has been coached this way before ?

O is for Options :-

1) Explore different options available ?

2) What are the Pros & Cons of each option?

3) Facilitate choice (Do not direct)

4) Check commitment (using encouragement via internal / external fliter)

5) Run options session (using options / procedures fliter)

W is for What next :-

1) Recap / whats been achieved

2) Agree action points (SMART)

3) Agree next session & goal

Thank coachee for effort & showing your belief in their ability to succeed

Big Picture / Big Society

What do I mean by the above title?

There have been lots of articles and discussions over the last twelve months or so, about looking at the bigger picture and where we fit within it. This progressed into people and politicians talking about how the Big Society, which is made up of individuals, fitted into the Big Picture?

The reason behind all these thoughts and discussions, is quite simple really, because we all play a part in both. And we fit in on so many different levels as well, i.e. as a person what we bring to the world?

Then as a brother, sister, son, daughter, mother, father, etc. etc. then you have the impacts and consequences (causes & effects we provide) whilst we are on this planet. When you look at the interactions we all undertake throughout our lives along with causes & effects they all have, you can see a massive chain reaction which takes place, purely based on an individual action which also  has a ripple effect far beyond what we had intended originally.

So politicians at long last have started to wake up and realise their own causes & effects which take place, every time they implement any changes, the subsequent outcomes directly impacts on the business world, families right down the an individual level.

What they have also recognised during this realisation is that everyone has to be involved in the Big Society, from top to bottom. If sections of the Big Society are left out, whether by accident or deliberate, there is always a negative outcome which impacts on society and in turn a bit like a dominos effect carries on long after the initial change.

That is why it is so important for everyone to have the opportunity to be able to play a part within society and to feel valued . We are only here once (as far as we know) so lets all play a part in changing things for the better, remember the Big Society is only part of the Big Picture, .i.e. environment, animals, plants, the world etc. etc.

A fully active and interactive society generates positivity which in turn aids everyone to be part of society and help to shape the Big Picture, so that everyone benefits from  the Big Society taking a responsibility for not just the humans but for the greater benefit of the World / Planet.

 

 

 

 

Stress,Deal With It, Before It Deals With You!

People most at risk from stress (Further information which I have researched and thought you would enjoy from businessballs.com)

In one US study as many as 40% of workers described their jobs as very stressful. While not a scientific gauge and not measuring serious stress health problems, this gives some indication as to how prevalent work-related stress is. As regards official health records, in the UK, the nursing and teaching occupations are most affected by work-related stress, with 2% of workers at any one time suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety. (The figure for teachers rises to 4% when including physical conditions relating to stress.) Care workers, managers and professionals are the next highest affected occupations, with over 1% suffering from serious work-related stress at any one time. UK HSE work-related stress statistics suggest that work-related stress affects men and women in equal numbers, and that people in the 45-retirement age suffer more than younger people. More socially-based USA research suggests that the following American social groups are more prone to stress (this therefore not limited to work-related stress): young adults, women, working mothers, less educated people, divorced or widowed people, the unemployed, isolated people, people without health insurance, city dwellers. Combined with the factors affecting stress susceptibility (detailed below), it’s not difficult to see that virtually no-one is immune from stress. An American poll found that 89% of respondents had experienced serious stress at some point in their lives. The threat from stress is perceived so strongly in Japan that the Japanese even have a word for sudden death due to overwork, ‘karoushi’.

work-related stress trends

Data is sparse and confused (stress statistics are also complicated by metal health reporting in the UK), but the statistics do indicate certain growth. In the UK HSE statistics indicate a doubling of reported clinical cases between 1990 and 1999. Working days lost per annum appear to have been about 6.5 million in the mid-1990′s, but rose to over 13 million by 2001. Greater awareness of the stress ailment in reporting no doubt accounts for some of this variance, but one thing’s for sure: the number of people suffering from work-related stress isn’t reducing.

costs of stress

UK HSE statistics suggest stress-related costs to UK employers in the region of £700m every year. The cost of stress to society is estimated at £7bn pa. (These figures were respectively £350m and £3.7bn in 1995/6 when total days lost were half present levels.)

stress causes

Stress is caused by various factors – not all of which are work-related of course, (which incidentally doesn’t reduce the employer’s obligation to protect against the causes of stress at work). Causes of stress – known as stressors – are in two categories: external stressors and internal stressors.

external stressors – physical conditions such as heat or cold, stressful psychological environments such as working conditions and abusive relationships, eg., bullying.

internal stressors – physical ailments such as infection or inflammation, or psychological problems such as worrying about something.

From the above, it is easy to see that work can be a source of both external and internal stressors.

Stressors are also described as either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):

Short-term ‘acute’ stress is the reaction to immediate threat, also known as the fight or flight response. This is when the primitive part of the brain and certain chemicals within the brain cause a reaction to potentially harmful stressors or warnings (just as if preparing the body to run away or defend itself), such as noise, over-crowding, danger, bullying or harassment, or even an imagined or recalled threatening experience. When the threat subsides the body returns to normal, which is called the ‘relaxation response’. (NB The relaxation response among people varies; ie., people recover from acute stress at different rates.)
Long-term ‘chronic’ stressors are those pressures which are ongoing and continuous, when the urge to fight or flight has been suppressed. Examples of chronic stressors include: ongoing pressurised work, ongoing relationship problems, isolation, and persistent financial worries.
The working environment can generate both acute and chronic stressors, but is more likely to be a source of chronic stressors.

Stress effects on health and performance

Stress is proven beyond doubt to make people ill, and evidence is increasing as to number of ailments and diseases caused by stress. Stress is now known to contribute to heart disease; it causes hypertension and high blood pressure, and impairs the immune system. Stress is also linked to strokes, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcers, diabetes, muscle and joint pain, miscarriage during pregnancy, allergies, alopecia and even premature tooth loss.

Various US studies have demonstrated that removing stress improves specific aspects of health: stress management was shown to be capable of reducing the risk of heart attack by up to 75% in people with heart disease; stress management techniques, along with methods for coping with anger, contributed to a reduction of high blood pressure, and; for chronic tension headache sufferers it was found that stress management techniques increased the effectiveness of prescribed drugs, and after six months actually equalled the effectiveness of anti-depressants. The clear implication for these ailments is that stress makes them worse.

Stress significantly reduces brain functions such as memory, concentration, and learning, all of which are central to effective performance at work. Certain tests have shown up to 50% loss of performance in cognitive tests performed by stress sufferers. Some health effects caused by stress are reversible and the body and mind reverts to normal when the stress is relieved. Other health effects caused by stress are so serious that they are irreversible, and at worse are terminal.

Stress is said by some to be a good thing, for themselves or others, that it promotes excitement and positive feelings. If these are the effects then it’s not stress as defined here. It’s the excitement and stimulus derived (by one who wants these feelings and can handle them) from working hard in a controlled and manageable way towards an achievable and realistic aim, which for sure can be very exciting, but it ain’t stress. Stress is bad for people and organisations, it’s a threat and a health risk, and it needs to be recognised and dealt with, not dismissed as something good, or welcomed as a badge of machismo – you might as well stick pins in your eyes.

Causes of stress at work

These are typical causes of stress at work:

bullying or harassment, by anyone, not necessarily a person’s manager
feeling powerless and uninvolved in determining one’s own responsibilities
continuous unreasonable performance demands
lack of effective communication and conflict resolution
lack of job security
long working hours
excessive time away from home and family
office politics and conflict among staff
a feeling that one’s reward reward is not commensurate with one’s responsibility
working hours, responsibilities and pressures disrupting life-balance (diet, exercise, sleep and rest, play, family-time, etc)
factors influencing the effects of stress and stress susceptibility

A person’s susceptibility to stress can be affected by any or all of these factors, which means that everyone has a different tolerance to stressors. And in respect of certain of these factors, stress susceptibility is not fixed, so each person’s stress tolerance level changes over time:

childhood experience (abuse can increase stress susceptibility)
personality (certain personalities are more stress-prone than others)
genetics (particularly inherited ‘relaxation response’, connected with serotonin levels, the brain’s ‘well-being chemical’)
immunity abnormality (as might cause certain diseases such as arthritis and eczema, which weaken stress resilience)
lifestyle (principally poor diet and lack of exercise)
duration and intensity of stressors (obviously…)

signs of stress – stress test

At a clinical level, stress in individuals can be be assessed scientifically by measuring the levels of two hormones produced by the adrenal glands: cortisol and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), but managers do not have ready access to these methods. Managers must therefore rely on other signs. Some of these are not exclusively due to stress, nor are they certain proof of stress, but they are indicators to prompt investigation as to whether stress is present. You can use this list of ten key stress indicators as a simple initial stress test: tick the factors applicable. How did I do?

sleep difficulties
loss of appetite
poor concentration or poor memory retention
performance dip
uncharacteristic errors or missed deadlines
anger or tantrums
violent or anti-social behaviour
emotional outbursts
alcohol or drug abuse
nervous habits
methods of personal stress management and stress relief

If you are suffering from work-related stress and it’s beginning to affect, or already affecting your health, stop to think: why are you taking this risk with your body and mind? Life’s short enough as it is; illness is all around us; why make matters worse? Commit to change before one day change is forced upon you.

If you recognise signs of stress in a staff member, especially if you are that person’s manager, don’t ignore it – do something about it. It is your duty to do so. If you do not feel capable of dealing with the situation, do not ignore it; you must refer it to someone who can deal with it. You must also look for signs of non-work-related stressors or factors that increase susceptibility to stress, because these will make a person more vulnerable to work-related stressors. These rules apply to yourself as well….

Stress relief methods are many and various. There is no single remedy that applies to every person suffering from stress, and most solutions involve a combination of remedies. Successful stress management frequently relies on reducing stress susceptibility and removing the stressors, and often factors will be both contributing to susceptibility and a direct cause. Here are some simple pointers for reducing stress susceptibility and stress itself, for yourself or to help others:

stress relief pointers

think really seriously about and talk with others, to identify the causes of the stress and take steps to remove, reduce them or remove yourself (the stressed person) from the situation that causes the stress.
Understand the type(s) of stressors affecting you (or the stressed person), and the contributors to the stress susceptibility – knowing what you’re dealing with is essential to developing the stress management approach.
improve diet – group B vitamins and magnesium are important, but potentially so are all the other vitamins and minerals: a balanced healthy diet is essential. Assess the current diet and identify where improvements should be made and commit to those improvements.
reduce toxin intake – obviously tobacco, alcohol especially – they might seem to provide temporary relief but they are working against the balance of the body and contributing to stress susceptibility, and therefore increasing stress itself.
take more exercise – generally, and at times when feeling very stressed – exercise burns up adrenaline and produces helpful chemicals and positive feelings.
stressed people must try to be detached, step back, look from the outside at the issues that cause the stress.
don’t try to control things that are uncontrollable – instead adjust response, adapt.
share worries – talk to someone else – off-load, loneliness is a big ally of stress, so sharing the burden is essential.
increase self-awareness of personal moods and feelings – anticipate and take steps to avoid stress build-up before it becomes more serious.
explore and use relaxation methods – they do work if given a chance – yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, massage, a breath of fresh air, anything that works and can be done in the particular situation.
seek out modern computer aids – including free downloads and desktop add-ons – for averting stresses specifically caused by sitting for long uninterrupted periods at a computer screen work-station, for example related to breathing, posture, seating, eye-strain, and RSI (repetitive strain injury).
Note also that managing stress does not cure medical problems. Relieving stress can alleviate and speed recovery from certain illnesses, particularly those caused by stress, (which depending on circumstances can disappear when the stress is relieved); i.e., relieving stress is not a substitute for conventional treatments of illness, disease and injury.

Importantly, if the stress is causing serious health effects the sufferer must consult a doctor. Do not imagine that things will improve by soldiering on, or hoping that the sufferer will somehow become more resilient; things can and probably will get worse.

For less serious forms of stress, simply identify the cause(s) of stress, then to commit/agree to removing the cause(s). If appropriate this may involve removing the person from the situation that is causing the stress. Counselling may be necessary to identify the cause(s), particularly if the sufferer has any tendency to deny or ignore the stress problem.

Acceptance, cognisance and commitment on the part of the stressed person are essential. No-one can begin to manage their stress if they are still feeling acutely stressed – they’ll still be in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This is why a manager accused of causing stress though bullying or harassment must never be expected to resolve the problem. The situation must be handled by someone who will not perpetuate the stressful influence.

Removing the stressor(s) or the person from the stressful situation is only part of the solution; look also at the factors which affect stress susceptibility: where possible try to improve the factors that could be contributing to stress vulnerability. This particularly and frequently involves diet and exercise.

The two simplest ways to reduce stress susceptibility, and in many situations alleviate stress itself (although not removing the direct causes of stress itself) are available to everyone, cost nothing, and are guaranteed to produce virtually immediate improvements. They are diet and exercise.

 

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