The Sisyphus Trap

‘In Greek mythology was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.’

‘In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation’

Sometimes as individuals and leaders we fall into this trap, we tried to change things and it didn’t work, this caused us to be fearful so we resolved not to let that happen again and took the safe route. We make compromises with our values, we start saying things like ‘another day another dollar’ (or equivalent currency), ‘I wish I had a job that I enjoyed’

I wish means: wouldn’t it be nice if … If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else. Always wishing life was different. (just like Sisphus) Paul Arden

In fact our brain is hardwired to seek stability and not change as it takes more energy to build new synapsis that are required to retain new information and ways of doing things. Don’t believe me, then think back to when you had to study some new process or qualification, did you feel tired?

To start avoiding the Sisyphus Trap you need to consider

Values & Beliefs Attitude Behaviour

Your values and beliefs influence your attitude and these manifests in your behaviour to yourself and others. When you compromise these too much your attitude will become less positive and this will affect your behaviour.

So step 1 is for you to identify your values e.g. honesty, being creative, team player, recognition, autonomy etc.

Then look at how many you have given up in your current work / home environment. Then plan how you can start to overcome barriers to being ‘valued’ in your life and work. Start with small steps e.g. talking with your boss about other opportunities to be more creative or greater autonomy. When you start planning solutions on how to create links from what you do to your values, you will notice your attitude and behaviour will start to change.

If you are a leader and you notice that your teams attitude, behaviour and motivation is not where it should be then it maybe down to their values being overly compromised. Find out their individual values and help them to see links to what they do. I have run a values exercise with leadership teams many times and it is amazing what sharing values in a safe environment can do.

Summary to escape the Sisyphus Trap

  1. Re-identify your values
  2. Make a plan to connect your values to what you do and take action
  3. Bring meaning and purpose back into what you do in your life through your values
  4. Recognise and appreciate that people’s values are different
  5. Be tenacious and recognise the successes you make

Please use the comment box if you have any questions or have experience of this happening in your working world.

If you would like to talk to me about coaching or team development please contact me at mcdougallmartin@aol.com

It’s Better to Regret What You Have Done Than What You Haven’t

I wanted to leave you with this great Ted video

Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions

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Adding a personal touch to stakeholder management

The key to influencing someone is to understand yourself first. When starting out on my professional career I occasionally would be frustrated with people that I worked with who had a different way of working from me and I am sure that they would equally get frustrated with my chatty, upbeat outlook and desire to get things done.

E.g. when engaging with many senior executives they would have a surprised look on their face when I would use ritual cliche when first meeting them rather than getting down to business. My friendly emails would get one word replies… fine, good. My thought process would be ‘have I done something to annoy them?’. This was down to my interpretation of the ‘facts’ with my ‘personality lenses on’. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the Bolton & Bolton model below and later MBTI step 1 & step 2 that I realised that it probably wasn’t personal and I need to flex my style to communicate with them more effectively.

I am not one for putting people in boxes or labelling and everyone has elements of each of the personality types, we just prefer to use the characteristics of some of the boxes more often; so guessing isnt always going to accurate, however it is a very useful guide.

Quick tips

Driver: Be clear, concise and to the point. Information should be fact related. Make sure you listen to them. Bring solutions not problems

Expressive: Allow time for ritual cliche, be positive and forward thinking. Allow them time to talk.

Amiable: Let them know that they are valued and you care about the people aspect of business decisions. Allow time for them to reflect

Analytical: Concentrate on facts, decision making process, track history. Allow time for reflection.

This subject is far to wide ranging for a blog post, feel free to leave comments or contact me if you would like me to run a session with your team using this framework or MBTI step 1 / step 2

Follow me and I will send you a free questionaire to identify your style

A great ted video below

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

A Vision of work / life balance

So it’s Friday as I write this and this has prompted me to post about work / life balance.

Are you saying ‘thank god it’s Friday’?

‘I would love to have a great weekend; however I have so much work to do’

‘I am totally stressed and shattered’

This weekend I would ask you to think about what you would like your life to be like in regards to work / life balance and formulate a vision statement for this. It should be no longer than 15 words.

This may seem very formal, however most successful companies use vision statements to motivate people and allow it to create strategy and planning. If you want to change anything in life you need to have a strategy and a plan

e.g. ‘My life is about family, friends and allowing me time to enjoy life more’

From this you can formulate strategies to help you achieve this vision

  1. Spend more quality time with my family
  2. Ensure that I stay in contact with friends
  3. Allow time for me

Make the planning part simple to start with; look at small changes.

A tool to help you is Start Stop & Continue

Write down all the things that you want to start doing, stop doing and how to continue doing the things that feels write in your life.

Be warned the bit inside you that doesn’t like change will start saying things like

  • I don’t have time for this
  • It will affect my work
  • I will have time to do this when I retire or kids leave home

As Nigel Marsh says in the attached TED video, success should not be based on who has the most money when they die.

Nobody can make these changes except you

Hope you enjoy the TED video, if you have any anecdotes or things that have helped you with work life balance please comment.

Hope you have a great weekend

Listen your way to success

You are probably thinking that I have lost my marbles with the title of this post, however stay with me.

We put so much emphasis on clever pitches, presentations and influencing people (all important) in meetings or waxing lyrical to our partners and family about our day that we tend not to consider our listening skills.

Are we truly listening or are we just waiting for our chance to put across our point of view that matches our agenda / objective, maybe even satisfying our ego?

Test yourself; do you do any of these in

Important meetings

  • Think about the amount of work you have already on your desk
  • Think about the previous meeting that didn’t go so well
  • Check your blackberry etc.?
  • Concentrate solely on what you want or your ideas
  • On telephone conferences put yourself on mute and work your way through emails
  • Take copious amounts of notes

At home

  • Talk about your day in front of the telly, computer or whilst doing something else

If you have mentally ticked yes to any of these then you may not be ‘living in the moment’ and truly listening and have the potential to miss important chances to communicate or influence someone in the most effective way. You may be treating symptoms not the root cause and so they are less likely to see the merits in your solution. Switch off any ‘interference’ that can affect your listening.

‘I have so much work and so many meetings that I need to multi-task’ is a common objection to this, however this is more about saying yes rather than no which I will cover in future post.

Listening effectively will help time management as you will not have to cover the same ground again; you have closed the sale or articulated your point or feelings in a persuasive way.

Stephen covey said ‘seek to understand before being understood’ – 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. https://www.stephencovey.com/ (his new 8th habit is great too)

He talks about listening with your ears, eyes and heart

5 levels of listening

5. Empathetic – as active however, you are putting yourself in their shoes, noting body language, tone, pace and volume of speech

4. Active – Verbal and non-verbal nods, asking pertinent questions, recapping offering relevant insights or challenges

3. Selective – Hearing what you want to hear

2. Pretending – Nodding dog syndrome

1. Ignoring – off in your own wee world – lights are on but nobody is home

Ok so sometimes I am in the zones of 1 – 3 (clothes shopping springs to mind!) I am not perfect. It does take hard work and effort to listen well

If you have an important meeting then you need to be in zone 5 as sometimes… what is not being said is as important as what is.

Ever heard someone say ‘I dont need solutions or help I just want someone to listen’

So my challenge is to practice empathetic listening at least once a day and record how you get on. You might want to start with family members or friends, remove any distractions TV etc. sit down and ask them about their day and stay in zone 5!

Feel free to post results in the comments box. Hope you are having a great week

Positivity – the number 1 free development solution

Well, it’s Monday morning as I write this, and the old cliche got me to thinking about positivity.

How does attitude affect us in the workplace and not just on Mondays?

Are any of the following phrases familiar?

  • Nothing changes here
  • I sick of the way I am treated
  • No one listens to my idea’s
  • No one motivates me
  • I hate my job but I have to pay the bills
  • Same S*** different day

Feel free to add in the comment boxes any you regularly hear…please keep it U rated!

Have you ever worked with people that even though you’re just back from an amazing holiday and feel energised and positive to be back, they manage to make you feel like it was a distant memory by 10am?

I think everybody at some point has fallen into this trap.

A few potential solutions are straightforward, however, at first not easy

  • Science says opposites attract, so when faced with a negative situation, look for the positive no matter how hard. Don’t ignore the negative, use it to get the root cause of the matter so you can find a solution
  • Our ‘inner critic’ will always find ways for not doing something, as it wants to reduce the risk to ourselves. To realise our goals or dreams we always have to take risks. Ask yourself ‘What is the worst that can happen?’
  • Every day on your way home from work, remind yourself of the positives of the day. You would probably never dream of giving someone totally negative feedback so why do that to yourself.
  • Catch yourself when you are moaning about work. Stop. Think about what the impact is on you and those around you. How you can change things and/or ask for help?
  • Actively build a support network e.g. mentor, subject matter experts, people with experience inside and outside your field of business, family & friends
  • Apart from material rewards at work e.g. pay, holidays, company car, what motivates you? Are these motivations being met in your current role and if not, what can you do to change this?
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Everyday day do something to take your life forward

If your are still unconvinced

or

Have a look at the 11 benefits of being positive ihttp://www.jongordon.com/blog/2009/01/18/11-benefits-of-being-positive/

Finally, who do you prefer to be around at work and in your personal life… positive or negative people?

If you have any suggestions or questions around personal / team development drop it into the comment box and I will look to include it in future blogs. I hope you have an amazing week.