Articles Tagged with

business wellbeing

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Walking the talk

This week I’m back on the Scottish island of Iona. I came here last year for a retreat feeling very burnt out like many others. It restored my soul and a sense of perspective.

When I look back over the last year, I’m aware that we now have an even greater focus on wellbeing together with our partners Cesar Gamio and George Anderson. I’ve written a White Paper on the wellbeing needs of senior executives and we’ve designed some programmes for them which involve both retreats and coaching.

I’m a great believer in eating my own dog food and having my own retreat is so important to be able to do what we do. It is a privilege and an honour to work with people so dedicated to their personal growth and to see the transformation in them and their lives. The changes seem to encompass so many areas:

  • Family – rebuilding and investing in relationships with partners and children
  • Business – building self-belief, valuing himself and his contribution so that he can ask for the fees he deserves
  • Discovering new abilities – who knew she had artistic talents?
  • Finding a network of people that have your back and will encourage you to keep growing.

It’s made me think about how I’ve invested in my own wellbeing this year and what has made a difference as I’m not going to Iona burnt out. A bit tired but not burnt out.

  • Setting aside time for a weekly meditation
  • Putting routines in place, having set times for writing and generating content
  • Keeping my mornings, when I have most energy, for important things and work which requires greater concentration. I keep afternoons for calls and meetings when I need the interaction with others to reenergise me
  • Planning my week every Friday so that I hit the ground running on Monday, not faffing around trying to work out what I’m meant to be doing
  • And finally, not a difficult one for me, exercise – cycling, swimming, walking and Pilates.

Iona is a very spiritual place which is one of the things I love about it. Spirituality matters to me as it does to a lot of us, but we don’t seem to feel comfortable talking about it, perhaps because of the fear that it will spill over into religion which can be so contentious. For me, it’s about the connection with something much bigger than myself, as well as what makes my life meaningful and significant.

What works for you in managing your time, energy and contribution?

Blog

Your Wellbeing or Personal Indulgence?​

This is a big topic at the moment. It attracts so much attention and creates so many headlines that it would almost seem to be a global obsession. It may have got to the point that people switch off when they hear the word even though the need has not disappeared.  Tech companies seem able to sell any number of apps and gadgets to measure every aspect of physiological function, but for many people, does it go beyond measurement and the possible creation of even more anxiety caused by the results?

I know it’s important but that doesn’t mean I find it any easier to give it the right priority in my life. My toes curl slightly at the term ‘self-care’. If our wellbeing were a business, would we invest in it? If not, why not? Here’s the business case for the investment:

  • Protecting the company’s investment. Sports franchisees that pay top dollar for star athletes require them to exercise, eat better and take care of their overall wellness during the season. The same should be true for C-level employees as companies pay more for those roles, particularly the top job. Considering that the Economic Policy Institute estimates that average CEO pay is 271 times the nearly $58,000 annual average pay of the typical American worker, it could be said that the C-Suite should be held to a higher personal maintenance standard.
  • Supposing you depart suddenly as a result of ill health. Costs can mount quickly without an obvious internal replacement. The typical seven-figure severance package and six-figure retainer for an executive search firm are just the beginning. Board members might have to fly in on short notice for an emergency meeting. A small army of professionals — all of whom charge by the hour — begins to mobilise: communications consultants and employment lawyers, movers and relocation experts. The longer the clock ticks, the higher the figure on the meter. And those are just the hard, easily quantifiable impacts. They pale in comparison to the less visible costs. Turmoil and uncertainty at the top filter quickly down through the organisation, slamming the brakes on growth initiatives, hindering the closing of vital deals, and causing some valued employees to start looking for new positions elsewhere.
  • What is more difficult to quantify but a reality nonetheless is the cost of lack of efficiency, delayed decisions, and bad decisions as a result of ill-health, burnout or being generally sub-par.

What’s your level of investment in your wellbeing? Can you afford NOT to invest in wellbeing?

Blog

What’s your state of wellbeing?

With most of us having had a break over Easter, it’s a good time to switch off but also have some time to reflect on our state of wellbeing.

There is no shortage of evidence to demonstrate that people at a senior level have been more adversely affected by the changes and working conditions brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic. Much as we might all have desired a return to ‘normal’, it would appear that working patterns have undergone a permanent shift with many workers continuing to prefer to work from home – another adjustment to make.

These pressures may have affected you in a number of ways. You may be

  • Thinking of leaving the workplace altogether
  • Seeking a new position
  • Finding that you are part of the epidemic of stress and burnout.

If you’re in this position, you have probably recognised the need to support employees who have been similarly, but not as badly affected by these conditions and put in place wellness initiatives in your companies. But what about you and your wellbeing needs? Many senior people don’t recognise this as a need for themselves and would rather adopt either a stoical approach or deny that there’s a problem.

This carries huge risks as the effects of your ill health can be far-reaching. Senior executives have huge responsibilities, hence the stress, and the implications for being sub-par on business effectiveness, decision making, and leadership are also great: a strong business case for their investing in your health and wellbeing. It will also have a beneficial effect on the rest of the company, your leading by example.

Why don’t you think about investing some time in yourself and the rest of your life by coming on one of our retreats? Giving yourself time to think about your direction, purpose and state of wellbeing could pay dividends for you, the family and the business.

Our next 5-day retreat starts on the 13th – 16th of June. We are having drinks in London on 27th April at 5pm at the Eight Club for people who’d like to find out more. For those who can’t make that date, we are having a Zoom call at 5pm on 3rd May. Please get in touch if you’d like to participate in either of those events.

Blog

Is your senior management team in danger from “The Great Resignation”?

The ‘Great Resignation’ seems to be everywhere. I can’t open a newsletter in my inbox without reading about it. I’m not surprised. The effects of the pandemic are going to be with us for a long time and they are hard to identify and pin down. Generally, there is a sense of people being unsettled and the current war in Ukraine and economic pressures aren’t helping. While all the COVID regulations have been lifted, COVID is still very much with us, to an even greater extent if anything and it doesn’t seem as though there will ever be a point when we can wave goodbye to it.

In the management team retreats I’ve been leading I’ve found that many members of senior teams have been adversely affected. It’s happened slowly and unnoticeably to the point where burnout and languishing are ‘normal’ ways of being. Senior management teams have become quite dislocated and disconnected from each other, operating at a transactional level rather than in an effective engaged, committed way. Now, because of hybrid working and people retreating from offices again, there hasn’t really been the opportunity to recover and reset ways of working.

At a recent team retreat, I gave people the opportunity to say how they were really, rather than the conventional ‘fine’ – because retreats offer a combination of reflection and discussion both at a personal and at a business level. They valued being able to be honest which paved the way for further openness about issues that needed to be addressed for example how to increase productivity. Retreats are a great opportunity for the team to spot the gaps, see what’s not working and start to sort it out there and then, an opportunity to go below the surface and work out what the real issues are.

What has also emerged is the extent to which company cultures have been damaged. The opportunity to invest in a couple of days away to stand aside and reflect allows teams to identify aspects of the culture which have enabled them to perform at their best, that were there previously and may now have been lost.  Many people are realising that cultures will need to be rebuilt. Retreats offer a rare and valuable opportunity for senior management teams to reconnect in order to do this.

What teams find difficult but also very valuable is being able to slow down and reflect. Our retreats offer time and space in an environment which promotes relaxation, being able to connect with others. We heavily discourage any looking at emails or business phone calls and while it’s hard to switch off initially, gradually people are grateful for being able to go off-grid for a few hours. One of our recent retreat participants put it: https://youtu.be/NBYTP9XWnVY

What’s the state of your senior management team? Drifting into a Great Resignation?

Blog

What to think? What to feel?

We’re living in momentous times. I noticed that the invasion of Ukraine evoked feelings very similar to the announcement of the first lockdown or the results of the Brexit referendum. It feels like something fundamental has changed. My first reaction was that of shock, that something like war in Ukraine could actually happen and on our doorstep. I then felt very confused about what else I felt and whether there was something I should feel.

Scrolling through Twitter showed a variety of reactions from predictions of World War 3 breaking out and others pleading with them to dial down the temperature for the sake of their anxiety. I could identify with that. I was talking to a Ukrainian and felt so helpless when all I could offer is emotional support.

For me, it has highlighted the difficulty of accessing and acknowledging our feelings. Personally, on the one hand, it’s been a great week with a business opportunity that could make a huge difference to our business, but on the other hand, I have almost felt guilty about how happy that has made me feel with everything else going on.

Acknowledging and articulating our feelings is an important way of looking after ourselves simply because it makes us listen to ourselves and if we wait long enough, to hear our deepest anxieties and longings. The psychologist Susan David has some excellent advice about dealing with our feelings and I highly recommend her TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage

She makes the point that being emotionally agile as opposed to emotionally rigid, as well as aware and accurate with our feelings enables us to take the right action, action which is supported by our values. For many of us, core values act as the anchor in our lives, and we need to remind ourselves what really matters to us.

I’ve been introduced to a mindfulness exercise that I find helpful in grounding myself and getting in touch with my feelings. It involves going outside, looking around and asking the following questions:

What do I see? (look for four things)

What do I hear? (listen for three things)

What do I feel? (Find two feelings)

What do I see? (look for three things)

What do I hear? (listen for two things)

What do I feel? (Find one feeling)

What are your feelings leading you to do?

Please get in touch if this has sparked something or you’d like to find out more about Next Chapter Retreats.

Blog

What is Wellness?

Wellness is a word that’s on everyone’s lips and everyone’s mind these days, but what is it really? Why do we seem so obsessed with it? Why is it that tech companies seem able to sell us any number of apps and gadgets to measure every aspect of our physiological function? Is it the sense we have when everything is going well, as well as when we’re physically healthy? Can we have a sense of wellness when times are tough?

At its most basic and as defined by the WHO it is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The Global Wellness Institute adds three more dimensions, emotional, spiritual, including purpose, and environmental and those make sense too.

Most of us have heard of the psychologist Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. For anyone who needs a reminder, it’s a triangle with our basic physiological needs at the bottom, then safety needs, love and belonging next, and then self-esteem. The last two are the Californian sounding ‘self-actualisation’ which is to do with our growth needs, wanting to achieve our full potential as human beings, doing the best that we’re capable of doing. Later Maslow added transcendence, what brings the individual “peak experiences” in which they transcend their own personal concerns and see from a higher perspective. These experiences often bring strong positive emotions like joy, peace, and a well-developed sense of awareness 

I suspect this is where our interest in wellness comes in. Most of us have our basic needs met, though it’s not a case that they don’t bother us anymore.

Interestingly, much of the advice on wellness seems to focus on those basic needs, healthy food, exercise, sleep and they challenge us too. But there’s something more that keeps us looking, keeps us searching for that something that is going to unlock our best selves.

Bearing in mind that a lot of the time, life is tough one way or another, especially at the moment, how do we cultivate that sense of wellness or wellbeing? How do we concentrate on the upper levels of wellbeing? This requires us to embrace being proactive in pursuing wellness, preventative action, maintenance, taking individual responsibility and ultimately, thriving. For me, when I’ve got the basics in place, peace of mind is a large part, knowing that I can meet the challenges that come my way.

How do you pursue wellness and is it working? What are you missing? If what you need is some preventative action, a reset on your wellness, or starting to focus on your needs for growth, one of our retreats might be exactly what you need.

Blog

Looking back

I find it very easy to be constantly looking to the future and either being excited about the possibilities or anxious about how much still needs to be done. What I don’t do nearly enough is look back and reflect on all that’s gone well and been successful. We all need to do that after the last two years that have been tough on us all one way or another.

We’ve seen so many certainties swept away, whether of being able to plan holidays, seeing people who’re important to us, pressures on our families, our businesses either tanking or flying and now not knowing what on earth to do about our staff who seem to have developed minds of their own during lockdown!

When I look back, I’m amused at the confidence and optimism with which we started a business running retreats a few months before a pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, I blithely proclaimed on LinkedIn that I wanted to live boldly and courageously and to have adventures, big and small. Be careful what you wish for, you’re probably thinking.

Perhaps I was more prescient than I knew. It was an adventure all right, a big one. I remember being inspired by something I saw on social media encouraging us to come out of lockdown better than we went in. Well, that was the first lockdown – if only we knew there would be a second and a third or more, depending what part of the country you live in. The enthusiasm for Joe Wicks wore off and we probably just got fatter!

I certainly needed courage. Like so many other businesses we tried to pivot (that much-overused word of 2020!) online, but how do you replicate a fabulous hotel, time, space, relaxation, switching off on a webinar with the kids running in and out in the background and the cat walking over the keyboard? We realised it was a non-starter.

However, there was plenty we could do. Build our brand, community, marketing assets and team, which all paid off once we could start in-person retreats. Now we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labours – people are coming to us wanting to partner with us, interview us on their podcasts and even an approach from someone in the US wanting us to run a retreat for them – before Christmas! Yes, I think I can and should feel proud.

But before you get into all the busyness and froth of Christmas and gearing up for 2022, what about you? How are you feeling about it all and where has it left you? What are you grateful for? What have been the successes? How about a little celebration, or at the least, a modest patting yourself on the back?

Blog

Progress made in front of our very eyes…

As I’ve mentioned many times getting back in front of people has been very significant for me and I know it’s where I operate best.

That alone has motivated me to start our quarterly round tables where we aim to get like-minded business leaders around the table to discuss, debate and connect on matters close to their heart. Our first one on the 1st of December is already over-subscribed and I’m delighted.

Another big moment recently has been to see the progress made by our June retreat attendees. June was the first of our in-person retreats in 2021 and the first 3 days of our 5-day retreat, with the final 2 days concluding in September. We’ve been having regular catch-up sessions with the cohort since, and our November get-together was truly inspirational.

Each individual has made significant progress in their own personal and business wellbeing and it really was, and is, a wonder to witness.

It makes what we do so worthwhile to see physical progress made as a result of our work.

One individual has described being trapped in a narrow and dark corridor for many years and since June has seen the world slowly becoming bigger, brighter and full of opportunity. They took us on a physical journey of experiencing the narrow corridor through to enjoying the freedom of the outdoors without boundaries or barriers and being full of light.

Another has become very at peace with her outlook on her future and pending retirement, seeing the next five years as an opportunity to make her final mark and legacy on the thousands of people and businesses she’s touched with her nurturing, leadership and strategic input. She really is making hearts beat faster through her infectious character and sheer desire for inclusivity. And more important than anything she now believes and witnesses the impact she has.

Two other, intensely hard-working individuals now realise that taking time out for themselves, being kinder to themselves, not feeling guilty and not constantly beating themselves up, makes for much more rounded, at peace and effective individuals.

They are all-round calmer but every bit as ambitious and driven, just with refocused energy and productivity.

It’s progress like this that makes us tick. We continue with our pursuit of impacting ambitious and driven leaders to find the best version of themselves.

Those individuals will certainly not die with their best music left unplayed.

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