What matters to you?

Here is another blog I wrote for work. I have written about self-care before but I thought I would share this more widely. Times are difficult at the moment, it is really important to pay attention to ourselves on a daily basis, to make sure we don’t get lost in all that is going on.

Winter is with us, last weekend saw the start of meteorological winter. It is dark more than it is light, the wind is biting cold, everyone is coughing and sneezing, everyone seems to be in a rush to sort Christmas, and work is hard. Working in the NHS is always hard, but it always feels harder this time of year. 

So if you consider my previous blog about how our performance is variable even though we are all trying our best. Then it is not too much of a leap to assume that during this time of year quite a number of us will not be performing at our best.

It is dark when we go to work, it is dark when we go home, we are full of cold, we are worried about Christmas and we have the pressure of an increased workload. So it is important to pay attention to ourselves and each other, to ensure we able to perform effectively to continue to deliver the excellent care we do. 

The first thing we must do is pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis, and are we doing those things. This does not mean adding extra stuff into your day. But recognising what you already do that makes you happy, for instance I walk my dog everyday twice a day, that time with my dog makes me happy, I talk to my mum on the phone everyday. Remember there are things that you do at work that make you happy, that might be talking to relatives, providing cares to a patient, or completing a piece of work that really makes a difference. Take a few minutes each day at the end of the day before you go to sleep and do a little inventory of all the moments in your day that made you happy, no matter how small, or how silly they may seem, after all you are the only one who needs to know what made you happy today. Notice how that makes you feel. Normally we go to bed and ruminate over what was not good (which you will also do, it is after all our default position), just spend a few moments consciously taking stock of joy. If you do this everyday it will give you more balance, and allows the light sit along side the dark, giving them equal billing in your mind.

In the morning when you wake up, and maybe feel less than enthusiastic about coming to work, spend few moments whilst getting ready just connecting yourself back up with why you do what you do. What caused you to dedicate your life to caring for people? When I ask this question, I ask it of all of you that work in the NHS, because no matter how far removed you feel from patients, everything you do makes a difference to our patients.

What matters to you?

What core value do you use everyday, that gets you to work?

What values do you have, that when you live up to them fill you with joy? 

What values do you hold than when you witness them not being lived up to, by yourself or others make you sad?

Work is a large part of our lives, it is vital that we do a job that is in line with what we value (what matters). So knowing what matters to you and how that motivates you to do the job that you helps you dig deep when work is hard and everything feels like it is against you. 

Let people know what matters to you, and ask your colleagues what matters to them. Sharing your values strengthens them, and strengthens the connection within the team. As mentioned in my previous blog it is important that we are able to support each other and hold each other to account, and this is much easier when there are strong connections within a team.

When we start looking after ourselves we become much better at caring for others

Are you doing your best?

I wrote this blog today for my work page. It is so important though, that I decided to share it on here too. We have to start being generous towards ourselves and each other.

Do you try hard when you come to work everyday? Some days you know that you will be better at your job than over days. But everyday you are doing the best you can do that day. We all have full complicated lives that impact on our days. We get ill, our relatives get ill, so do our friends and colleagues, sometimes these illnesses are serious. We have bills to pay some of them expected others unexpected. We have relationships that are wonderful and fulfilling and difficult and diminishing, sometimes all in the same day. Good things and bad things come in and out of our lives on a constant basis, these all have an impact on our performance. Many of us love our jobs, some are indifferent to our jobs and some of us hate our jobs. This has an impact on our performance. This does not mean that we are not doing are best. It means that our performance is variable, it means we are human, infuriating, frustrating, incredible, brilliant, maddening, fantastic lovable human beings.

If we are all these things, if our lives are that full, then so are the people we work with, and the people in other teams that help us provide the care to our patients. Then so are our managers and their managers, and the managers in the Department of Health and the politicians and ministers that make our laws and set our budgets.

If this is the case, which I am pretty certain it is, then we are all doing our best, with the capacity we have that day. Some days that capacity is not as big as it might need to be. Some days we might need support and encouragement to make our best better. Some days we might need to support others to be better, because they are diminished for whatever reason that day. Sometimes people are trying their best but will never be able to do better because they do not enjoy what they do. Is it better to help them find joy in what they do and do better or condemn them for being lazy or rubbish. That joy might be understanding the value in their job or doing a different job.

Instead of making do with variable performance, we must try to address that variability by understanding and recognising the cause and through support and challenge help each other improve our performance.

It is vital that we offer support without judgement for our colleagues that are struggling without judgement and more importantly ask and accept support without judging ourselves when we are struggling.

Showing empathy and compassion to each other has a direct impact on our performance.

It is not just nice to do, it is vital to the success of your business.

If you want to know more email me on matt@mattycoach71

The importance of empathy in leadership

Yesterday I was reading an old article in Havard Business Review by Daniel Goleman on the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. According to the article EI is more important than IQ and and technical skill, when it comes to the success of leaders. Goleman draws on research conducted on various companies and suggests there are 5 elements to emotional intelligence at work: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skill, and empathy.

All 5 elements are vitally important and create an important edge to leadership. I would suggest though that most leaders spend a lot of time working on 4 elements and gloss over one.

Yes, you guessed it empathy. Empathy is often overlooked in my opinion for 3 reasons. It is often confused for with other activities such as sympathy or pity, secondly for most people it does not come naturally and is difficult to achieve. Thirdly empathy is perceived as weakness and has no place in leadership. Many people believe that showing empathy means that nobody is held to account for their actions, or lack of actions, this is far from the truth when empathy is performed well.

Empathy assumes that the person in front of you has the capacity and will to work through their issues without you trying to solve it for them or judging them. Empathy is standing with someone, seeking to understand what is happening with them, without interfering and trying to create a solution for them.

When you listen and seek to understand what is happening you are in a better position to support them by holding them to account for their own solution, by asking them what their solution is and when they are going to start and finish. Empathy also creates the space where you can ask how you or others can support them to solve their problems.

Empathy creates trust and understanding between you as the leader and the people that work with you. Empathy creates a safe space where people can be vulnerable, and creative without fear of judgement. Empathy is a neutral position that sits with the person and will often help them find clarity.

It is really hard to do, as it can feel like a very passive activity where very little is said by the person showing empathy, it can often feel like you are doing very little. On many an occasion I have been thanked by someone for being so helpful and supportive, and I have thought to myself…”well I didn’t really do much….” That is the point really when you are being empathetic you sit with them, listening with fascination, and staying out of judgement, and confirming with them the emotion they are feeling. Being listened to when things are not going well is very powerful. Being able to articulate what is happening gives people the space to make sense of what is happening and find a solution to their issue, if there is one or reconcile their feelings about it if there isn’t one.

Showing empathy to people who work with you, shows them not only that you care about them, but that you believe in their capacity to do the job, it shows you have faith in them. Empathy is ultimately empowering for people, it encourages creativity. People feel secure if they work in an environment that is rich with empathy.

Showing empathy on a regular basis is a game changer, if you struggle with it, then start to rectify this, and start practicing empathy. The best thing is if you get it a bit wrong it is OK, you just try again, and the more you do it the better you will become.

If where you work has coaching, or leadership courses or programmes, make the most of them. If they don’t and you want to understand more about how you can show empathy on a regular basis, then get in touch.

Empathy is not just nice to have, it will make a real difference to your leadership and business/organisation.