• Thursday, December 01st, 2016

Fear of Taking Annual Leave

Who would have thought that Australians would feel so guilty taking annual leave? The Princess Cruises National Relaxation Survey discovered that almost two thirds of workers are actually scared of taking time off.

A big part of this is ‘letting the team down,’ with a quarter of workers saying it’s more stressful to ask for a holiday than a payrise. But equally, people are worried about negative consequences, like coming back to find they have been replaced, or having their ‘fill in’ discover flaws in their work. The bad news is that with no break from the stress of work, our brains may actually start to shrink. This leads to many potential problems and can only be reversed with some relaxing time away from a stressful environment.

Even moderate levels of work stress, over a long time, affect our ability to think and perform at our best and can actually start to make some areas of our brain deteriorate. Fortunately, rest helps the brain ‘grow back’ to normal function. How much rest do we need? Coincidentally, it takes four weeks for some brain regions to grow back to normal size. If you haven’t taken four weeks holiday in a while, now could be a good time to start.

In a study of medical students who crammed for three weeks before final exams, it was shown that their cortex (the part of the brain that learns, controls behaviour and helps us to think critically) actually began to shrink. A smaller cortex means less ability to do all the things that make you valuable in work and life and help you achieve your goals.

The student’s brains eventually returned to normal size, but only after four weeks of rest. While some long weekends and a few short breaks here and there help us to recharge in the short term, our long-term brain health and our ability to perform requires us to have some longer breaks as well.

Here are some tips for making this more effective:

1)    Get away

If possible, get away. Away from work and away from home. This makes sure that there is no feeling of ‘oh, I really should be doing x’ around the home or home office

2)    Turn off the office

Set up your auto-responder and divert your phone. You might still see your email on your smart phone, but if you’ve set up an auto-reply, then you set the expectation for people that you won’t be getting replying until you are back from holidays.

3)    Spend time slowing down

Don’t go flat out every day on your holiday. Trying to cram things into your holiday can sometimes be as stressful as cramming them into your work day. Make sure you take time every day to stop and slow down. Maybe a long walk on the beach, or an hour reading a book – anything that takes your mind of anything to do with stress.

• Thursday, November 24th, 2016


How are those 2016 goals working out for you? I’ve got some news for you, but most people don’t want to hear it.

There are only three reasons that you fail to make progress towards your goals. Yes – it’s that simple. But people are going to deny it.

The first two reasons are the most important – and the ones that people don’t want to face. The third reason is really just a caveat. So let’s scrap the third reason.

There are only two reasons you fail to progress towards your goals.
In. Anything.

a) You’re not doing the work, or
b) You’re doing the wrong work

That’s it. Nothing else is stopping you. Whether you want to get a promotion, make more sales, qualify for your bonus or lose ten kilos. If it’s not happening for you, it’s because of one of those things.

So here’s what you need to do. And I KNOW this sounds really simple, but I am really frustrated with a bunch of people I’ve been working with, so I’m going to spell it out.

First – find out what the ‘right work’ is. Because if you want to make more sales, but you’re only making three sales calls a week, then getting buried in admin – it’s probably not going to happen. Or if you want a brilliant team, but you aren’t doing one-on-ones with your staff at least once a month – it’s probably not going to happen.

So, find out what the BEST people in your world are doing. Whether that’s sales, or losing weight, or leadership, or whatever. And then do it even better than them.

Secondly. Commit and work relentlessly on making it happen. You can’t make those 10 sales calls every other week – it has to be every week. Don’t make excuses why you can’t get out the door and exercise, because you’re too busy – just make it happen. Don’t cancel those one-on-ones with your staff because you have too many emails to answer. Prioritise it and Get. It. Done.

And don’t lie to yourself and other people that you’re doing it, when you’re actually NOT.

What’s the third reason? The third reason is that your goals are out of your control. But this rant assumes that you set controllable, smart goals anyway. So forget it.

• Tuesday, November 08th, 2016

Many leaders don’t invest much time and effort in setting and upholding standards. Instead, we focus on results. And fair enough – results are what we are measured on.

But what many leaders forget, until it’s too late, is that standards and behaviours precede results. And if we don’t reinforce the right behaviours, both culture and performance gets off track pretty quickly.

Consider some recent research in how standards are contagious

In a university experiment, researchers found that when colleagues kept their work environment tidy, only about 18% of people littered the environment.

But then the researchers decided to plant a mole who had no regard whatsoever for the cleanliness of their workspace? They left trash lying around, dirty coffee cups littered their desk, and they were generally messy all day every day.

What do you think happened?

Once the students observed someone engaging in this messy behaviour, it triggered a more than 40% increase in the number of people that were messy as well.

Just one person had a massive influence on the behaviours of other people in the team.

You see, staff tend to be drawn to the behaviour they are surrounded by.

They look around and they think “Well, if Fred can do that, I guess it’s ok for me to do that too’’

If those standards are high, that’s great. But if the standards are low – then watch out.

Think about these two simple things that you can do:

Firstly, define your Team Brand

Simply ask your team “What do we want to stand for?” and then highlight the behaviours that exemplify this in your team. Even better – get your team to set these standards and behaviour so they become part of the solution see this quick video on ownership

Second, be relentless about rewarding people for displaying the behaviours, and holding people accountable when they do things that detract from your team brand. Most people fail to do this and then wonder why they aren’t seeing the behaviours they like from their team.

I’ll say it again: standards and behaviours precede results.

If you tolerate low standards in everything from performance to the way people treat each other, then you are setting your team up for poor results.

• Wednesday, November 02nd, 2016


(Don’t waste time reading! Watch the video instead! Click here

How is stress affecting your home life?

80% of kids say that they notice that their parents bring work stress home.
If you check in with work after hours, or on your days off, your kids are 200% more likely to say you come home in a bad mood.
And Maybe more importantly, you are also 20% more likely to have stressed our kids.

And let’s face it – pretty much everyone is checking in with work, outside of work hours.

With more to do than ever before we are more stressed than ever before as well.
And yet most of us are like the proverbial frog in the saucepan – this constant feeling of pressure has become the norm. We almost don’t notice it. But clearly others do. In the survey results above, I am pretty certain you could replace ‘kids’ with ‘friends’, or ‘spouse’ and you’d end up with exactly the same results.

So here are two things you can do to leave stress at the office

1) Plan Tomorrow

Before you leave the office, write down the critical things you need to do tomorrow. For some reason, when we allocate time to do something in the future, our bodies and brains treat those things like they’re already taken care of. Actually plan your day out and work out where you’re going to do those things that are bugging you.

2) Do something to disconnect on the way home

Try to forget work on the trip home. No work phone calls or problem solving – try to switch off by listening to some music or reading a book. Make this your signal to leave work at work. This also allows us to transition from your work persona to your home persona.

Stress is a pervasive element in the 21st Century workplace. But by managing stress well, we can use it to get more done and help us perform well, instead of letting it negatively us and those around us.

• Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Helicopter Managers

We all know the helicopter parent. That person who hovers over their child. Making sure that everything is ok. Often removing any obstacles in their way. This parenting style is highlighted by a need to make sure that your child is ok – that there’s nothing going wrong – and, in many cases, removing any difficult obstacles that stand in their way. At the most extreme – helicopter parents will even go so far as to do many things for the child. Some people might even say they do too much.

But this isn’t about parenting. I am wondering this:

Is there such a thing as a helicopter manager? The answer is yes. You might even be one.

In every single leadership workshop I facilitate, when asked what behaviours leaders would like to change in their staff, they come back with one particular thing:

“I want my people to think for themselves. I want them to stop coming to me with problems and asking me for the solution.”

Someone brings this up. Every. Single. Time.

This leads to a discussion on what drives behaviour in people and the reality is that, at it’s most basic level, we do things because they are either easy, or because we get a reward.

So we dig a bit deeper and our conversation invariably goes like this…

Me: So – what do you do when they come to you with these problems

Participant: I give them the solution. I have to – by this time there is not time and it would take too long to work through it with them.

Ok – so let’s look at this in the context of people doing things because they are easy, or because they get a reward.

1)    This is so easy it’s crazy. If I’m your staff member, and I’ve got a problem, I can either a) spend a heap of time thinking about it, or b) ask you and you’ll tell me the answer.

Which one do I pick? The first option of course! This is a no brainer.

2)    Let’s look at the rewards -

a)    I didn’t have to do something hard (that is, think for myself)

b)    I can’t get in trouble if the answer is wrong (because it was your decision)

c)    My job is finished.


This happens all the time.

Managers solve people’s problems for them.

They take back work that they originally delegated.

They accept poor quality work and then fix it themselves.

And when we do this, we ‘make it all better’ for our staff. And then we wonder why they can’t think for themselves.

• Wednesday, August 24th, 2016


Discomfort. It says something – but most people misunderstand what it’s saying. There is no adaptation without discomfort – or to put it another way – we don’t change for the better when we insist on remaining comfortable.

What Does Discomfort Say?
To most people, discomfort says “Stop what you’re doing! This is hard!”

But for people who are dedicated to finding a way to improve, discomfort says “Ok – this is hard now, but if you keep at it, it will become easy.”

Super Compensation
There is a really basic principle of physical adaptation – usually applied to exercise and working out. It’s called super-compensation, and all it means is this:

When you put your body under training stress, say you do heavier squats at the gym or run 5km as hard as you can, you cause some breakdown in the muscle tissues and you stress the central nervous system. Now, because we are very adaptable creatures, when my body repairs itself, it doesn’t just repair itself to the state it was before, it over-compensates by making itself stronger – building stronger muscles in neural connections.

The same is true for anything we engage in. So when we are uncomfortable, it’s out body’s signal to adapt and get better.

Becoming Uncomfortable
There are some obvious ways to increase ‘discomfort’ given the example above:

You can run longer, faster, add hill repeats if you want to become a better runner.

Or you can lift heavier weights if you want to get bigger and stronger.

Now think about the things you want to improve from a productivity standpoint or a leadership point of view. If you want to be more present, then don’t check your phone for one hour at a time If you want to be more productive then set deadlines every day that stretch you a little. If you want to give more control to your staff, then pick one thing to delegate every single day.

The main thing is it has to stretch you – even a little bit. If you do the same thing every day you stop adapting. But if you create even mild discomfort, you will start to make some progress.