Please ignore that last post!

I pressed publish instead of saving to draft!

You can hopefully see that blurb evolve into something sensible over the next week or so when I publish something for a local solicitor’s firm. 

Happy Sunday!! 

An Inspiration

Today I attended the funeral of a wonderful lady, Anita Bates.  In the face of Anita leaving this world so young, I’m writing this in the hope that something can shift in your world to create just a little more inspiration.  As she would have done if still here.

She, as the vicar said, is one of few people in the world who are not only held in high regard but who are also loved.  That was shown by the numbers of people spilling out of the ceremony room, and into the entrance hall which was also ready to burst people back out onto the path outside.

As a leader, Anita fundamentally cared. About her team, her customers, and most of all her family. This shone through in her beautiful smile, it showed up in her positivity, in her desire and ability to help others achieve great things. This doesn’t mean she was soft – when you know someone’s on your side it’s much easier to hear challenge because it comes with warmth, to see developmental feedback as the genuine desire to help you achieve more than you realise you can for yourself. All of this care was balanced with high standards for the customer experience – and which meant a successful business.

I saw this balance in bucket loads when we first worked together, many years ago, on a complex disability case. A lady needed love and care, and we also needed to do the right thing for the customers. Throughout Anita was calm, fair, supportive and, in spite of the challenges she faced, she was tenacious and dedicated to finding the right solution for everyone. This was just her. It came naturally. Something so many have to work hard to develop.

She was an inspirational leader. And somehow all of that, as amazing as it was, feels superficial given her strength of committment to her immediate and extended family. Her work always came second to them.

This great poem was shared at the ceremony. 

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on her casket from beginning to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth and now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash,

What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; Are there things you would like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what is true and real

and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more

and love the people in our lives like we have never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,

Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash…

Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?



Anita’s ‘dash’ was incredible and inspiring.  If I can have half the impact she had on those around her I’ll be pleased.

[The Dash by Linda Ellis]

Is the answer just equal pay?

First, some context and disclaimer stuff: I’m a working mum, I’m definitely not an employment law expert so apologies to anyone reading this who is.  If you’re reading my blog for the first time, this isn’t my normal kind of content and you can read the other stuff I write here.  For the purposes of this post I’m sticking with the stereotypical perspective of women as the main carers of kids, and who want to work part time to fulfil both roles.

Rainbow+Gold

I was reading this from People Management the other day and it got me thinking.

I’m always wary of sticky-plaster, ‘tell’, enforcement solutions to problems: expecting businesses to report their pay gap and shaming them to reduce the it feels like that to me.

Of course I believe it’s a good thing to shine a light on the cultural inequality that exists and I also believe that if it was so simple and easy to fix then we’d be doing it by now.

Definitely underlying this is the fact that women remain the primary carers of kids (although we are seeing some changes here), and this, mixed with some fundamental mindset challenges from employers, give us a gender pay gap.  Let me explain more about the mindset stuff –

1. The belief that part time employees are less committed. I’ve been that part time employed mum, and 110% committed to my job. Of course there are part time people who aren’t committed. And there are full time people who aren’t committed too.

2. The belief that part time people can’t be as effective at work because they have to leave ‘on time’ (how dare they!) to get the kids.  Trust me, when it’s necessary to get your work done in fewer hours it really does focus the mind on your biggest priorities! And it helps you to be creative about how you get things done.  Incidentally this ‘enforced’ break* from work also brings you back fresher rather than slogging on even when your brain has shut down and left the building.

* Note – kids aren’t so much a break but at least they’re an alternative work environment where you can expend emotional and physical energy rather than cognitive.

3. The belief that part time people can’t take on extra projects and go the extra mile. Now this belief is probably true, although often because employers try to pretend they’re offering part time when really it’s 5 days’ work being done in 4.  This means these women are less likely to get the highest performance ratings and therefore won’t get the highest salary increases or bonus payments – and the pay gap starts to emerge.

Then there’s working mums’ career mobility – or lack of.

It’s well-known that to progress your career and salary faster, you move jobs – and ideally company – every 5 years-ish. Each time getting a chunkier increase than the normal annual rises or performance-related increases.

As a part time employee and mum (or any other carer) this isn’t so easy. Part time jobs are hard to come by, you need to consider the distance from the childcare provider, and whether the new employer will understand your need to go home when said child has vomited all over the nursery, and in fact you might not even have the headspace to consider a career move given everything else you’re juggling. This isn’t even just true for part time employees.  I know lots of mums who are full time and who also stay where they are because they’ve already proven themselves and are therefore able to have that give and take relationship with their employer.  So this is great that they have this relationship – and it’s also a big factor in limiting their pay progression options as they can’t so easily helicopter in to another business and demand the higher external candidate premium.

So by not being able to move jobs like a full-timer, career and salary-increase options for carers (and therefore mostly women) become more limited – not impossible but more limited.

Which, combined with the “I can’t physically do the ‘above and beyond’ work to get the extra pay rise” shows up in the gaps we see in pay.  (Plus the illegal gaps that are there due to downright bad practice under Equal Pay.)

So here there’s a belief from the women rather than the employer (albeit fed from the reality many face from employers)

4. I can’t move job, there’s no part time, it’s not convenient for nursery, they might not understand my other commitments.

Given all this, just telling businesses to pay women the same isn’t right.  And in fact, why should they?   If I compare it to my situation now, I’m still less mobile than a full-timer non-carer is.  That’s the choice for me and my family, and I don’t expect my clients to pay me more to make up that difference in income.  So why should it be different in an employed situation?

The reality from a business perspective is that if you’re at work more and you’re more flexible to do more stuff, and you can chase new jobs more often, you get rewarded for it.

This reward for your endeavours is based on a strong foundation of trust and reliability of those people to deliver.  Anyone (like mothers) who can’t provide that reliability will drive fear into the hearts of managers who ‘just need to deliver the results’.  These managers are operating in a fear-driven environment where their own job is on the line if they don’t hit the numbers.  Why on earth would they choose to hire a part-time mum?

So really, when we get right down to it, if this conversation is going to shift, the whole premise of how we do business is what really needs to change!   Because we need to remove the fear.

And for most businesses that means we need a big enough groundswell of evidence that looking after the whole of your employee is good for business, that having people who can balance all of their life is good for business, that happy employees (part time, full time, any time) are better for business than employees who are chained to their desk to prove they can ‘deliver the results’.

Once we have this, anyone can work flexibly without fearing for their career – or their pay.

What do you think?

This is me…………… www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

Executive Coaching and Leadership Development

WFS Tree

Ignore Poor Performance at your Peril!

How often have you seen or heard this?

They’re just no good at their job, I keep having to pick up the slack?  I haven’t got time to do my own work because they’re incapable of doing their’s.  If only they could sort it out we’d all be better off.  I don’t even know why they’re still here – they don’t contribute anything.

Back in April and May it was #FeedbackCarnival time where the culmination of many brains showed just how challenging giving honest feedback can be and some ideas for how we can start to change that.  Ian Pettigrew built on this with a great model for where helpful feedback sits – the top right of this 3-by-2 – where what you’re saying to the person is true, and it’s said with a positive intent to help the individual, as well as and the team or organisation around them.

Trouble is, that’s not generally what’s happening.  What I see is people pointing the finger at ‘those people over there’ – They’re the problem. If it wasn’t for them we’d all be ok.

head-in-hand -kg

This feels to us like the best (easiest) option because it avoids us having to look at ourselves as a potential contributor to the problem – and therefore a potential solution.  Looking at ourselves can be uncomfortable.  And, if we don’t feel safe and supported to do that, we’ll just avoid it.

But not only are we pointing to those people over there and saying they’re the problem,  we’re even giving them financial rewards (or positive feedback) that they’re doing the job we need them to do.  You can read about it in here, a piece shared by a fellow colleague who also cares about great leadership, Kay Buckby.  My reaction to it was (a very eloquent) “Bonkers!”.

So when people aren’t performing in their jobs.

We point the finger of blame at them for all the ills of the world.

And we reward them for it, to make sure we draw an even thicker veil over the whole unsightly problem.

If doing the same things and expecting different results is a sign of madness then I’m not quite sure how to articulate this as anything other than Bonkers!!

Not surprisingly, underlying all of this, a seam of frustration bubbles away within the team, within the manager – and most importantly – within the customers on the receiving end of the poor service.  The customers just won’t stick around.  They’ll vote with their feet.  The manager and team might eventually take evasive action from this person (if the person doesn’t leave first) but, to begin with, their stress responses will be triggered.

This stress response narrows their perspective on the situation and drops their cognitive abilities, reducing the possible solutions they can see for solving it.  It reduces their feelings of emotional generosity towards ‘that person’.  It causes them to look for evidence to back up their belief that they’re useless.  And, given that our thoughts and feelings show up in how we behave, their stress and frustration will leak out through their body language, their words and their actions.

One paradoxical result of this is that, despite their poor performance, the manager doesn’t feel they can do without this person – better the devil you know, what if we get someone else and they’re worse, how would we cope with a vacancy if we can’t find a replacement?

All of these are fear-driven responses (and stress is triggered again).

So, what’s the alternative?…….

…….A world of high emotional intelligence*.

I believe in a world where people are treated and behave like adults.  Adults who can make informed choices and who can take responsibility for their own situation.

I also believe we all want to do a great job, but sometimes things get in the way of that which means our performance can dip.  And if those things have been in the way for a long time it can be hard for us to remember what it was like to come to work and feel good about it.  This means that, as adults, we still need support, guidance and feedback from others to keep us on-track.  And we still appreciate a reward (verbal acknowledgement is often enough) for when things are going well.

In this world when a leader has someone in their team who’s under-performing, the first thing they do is ask what’s going on, then they listen and they ask questions. Partly to inform themselves of the situation, and also to let the person vent about what’s going on. They aren’t afraid of this venting. They know that emotions are the things that motivate us to make changes in life, and when they’re swirling inside us they can’t take us in any productive direction. The simple act of verbalising what’s going on straightens these emotions out and gives us a clearer sense of which way to go.

From this listening and asking, the result is often that the individual will spot a way forward for themselves. If not, the leader will have learnt enough about the situation to offer advice, guidance or training that will actually be helpful and relevant. Or they may be able to offer relevant feedback based on what they’re seeing of this person and in the wider team context.

All of these things help the person become unstuck and their performance improves.

And even if it doesn’t improve, the leader can look themselves in the mirror with the belief that they did what they could to help, and that perhaps this just isn’t the right job, or right business for them. Which means a parting of company on good terms, with dignity and respect – and without the need to pay out bonuses to hide a problem!  All of which maintains great relationships with the rest of the team, and their trust in you – which means they’ll also feel safe to share what’s going on for them.  Creating a virtuous circle!

And I know what you’re thinking.

When could I ever get the time to have these conversations?

Well, they don’t actually take that long. If we’re given the space to think and speak with someone who really cares and who really listens, our brain can be pretty effective at getting to the crux of what’s going on.

And remember, in having these conversations – maybe weekly – we get into good habits of processing what’s going on for us, and they mean the team’s performance will never get to the place of you compensating for the stuff they let drop, which automatically gives you back a load of time.

And if you really believe that your team are the key to your collective success then you’ll prioritise these conversations over anything else.

*You can find out more about the difference emotional intelligence makes to a business here.

Photo credit – http://redsarmy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kg-head-in-hand.jpg

This is me…………… www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

Executive Coaching and Leadership Development

WFS Tree