Author Archives: Sharon

Federer and the performance benefits of working part-time

The professional tennis circuit is a punishing arena for men’s and women’s bodies.  To aim for #1 requires a level of commitment and a volume of matches that seem beyond the capacity of the human body to sustain.  Hence, our heroes regularly need injury time off, or even worse, limp off the court without finishing their matches – leaving the public without the contest we have paid good money watch.

The rule of sport, and most working lives, seems to be “play full-on for as long – or as short – as you can, then retire”.

Roger Federer understands the cost of full-time commitment to the game. In mid-2016 he took a six-month recovery break and looked to be facing the end of his career. But in 2017, he staged an amazing resurgence, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, among others.  Instead of returning to full-time tennis, he cherry-picked the games that he would play and we heard him use the term “part-time” at both Wimbledon 2017 and at this year’s Hopman Cup win. In the Hopman Cup interview he explained: “I’ve played almost 1500 times so you have to be careful now. It’s nice, I work part time now. I work in the morning, I’m off in the afternoon or I do it the other way around. It’s good being a dad, good being a husband, good being a tennis player. I have the best of all worlds, it’s great.”

Many senior business people face a similar dilemma, working too hard and not participating in their children’s development, until a disease or illness knocks them down. Then they re-evaluate and have to decide whether to persevere or retire. They often don’t have the choices that Federer – a self-employed professional – has the advantage of making.  Federer can choose which competitions he enters.  The only thing he may have to give up is the ambition to be number one again, if he is not playing as many competitions as his compatriots.

Federer is a great example to reinforce that “part-time” doesn’t mean “poor quality” or “poor commitment”.  In fact, many part timers work harder than their colleagues and yet they are distrusted.

Given the paucity of good quality part-time jobs, it’s time to start having more conversations to remind our leaders that having happy and high-performing part-timers can be a better option than requiring senior employees to remain full-time and frazzled?

Girl Code – women soaring together

Book review of Girl Code, by Cara Alwill Leyba.
This wasn’t the book I was expecting – there are a couple of books with the same title about girl coders. This is more about the secret of girls’ clubs. What it does very well is highlight the benefits of being part of a network.  One example is Chooks South Australia – a network that aims to address the gender differentials in investment in start ups and social enterprises (Search for ‘Chooks SA’ on Facebook).

The main chapters of the Girl Code book tease out what is a bit different about women in business and how we can support and encourage each other, especially when dealing with the ‘confidence cringe’ that many women have. The format is short interviews with successful American women and their philosophies and lessons.

In summary:
What women need more of:
Connection and Contribution. We all love to be needed so we each succeed when we help others succeed.
Plus, the Confidence to be who we are. It’s actually harder covering up our quirkiness in order to fit in. Groups can be a safe space to test and confirm that we are okay just as we are.

What women need less of:
Insecurity.  No one who is great now, was great when they started.
Excuses. too old, too young, too much this, not enough that.  Do what you can now.  It’s only discomfort, you won’t die if they say no, so get on with it.
Cattiness and envy.  We can have what others are having, we just have to work hard and consistently for it.
Fear.  We fear that we won’t be able to cope but we can, we are women!

My new take on the Helen Ready Anthem:

We are women, watch us soar, in a flock that’s too big to ignore!

Living my Sustainability Values

It’s time for another house move and as I sort through 10 years of belongings, I realise that I’ve kept a lot of stuff that I don’t want, purely because I couldn’t find somewhere or someone to pass it on to and I cannot bear to put it into landfill.
I’ve had little success with the usual channels – St Vinnies etc. Even the Buy, Sell, Swap sites aren’t getting any success.
I can either give up, or I can put more effort in, to find sites or groups who do want the things that I think still have some value.
What sites and groups have you found useful?

SSI – Showcasing how community sector partnerships can work

A corporate colleague once commented that he was surprised how competitive the not-for-profit sector was. “You guys are even more cut-throat than the retail sector – you treat everyone as your competition for the fundraising dollar.”
And he was right. But organisations such as United Way and Settlement Services International (SSI), under the leadership of Violet Roumeliotis, are showing the sector how collaboration and partnership can really work.
Next week, if you haven’t got a Melbourne Cup event to get to, head over to Bankstown Auditorium to hear about the NSW Settlement Partnership – 23 organisations working proactively together to provide community settlement services.

To find out details and RSVP through Eventbrite – Click here.

What to do when your ‘best’ is hijacked by your emotions

Watching Marin Cilic succumb to emotional upset in the 2017 Wimbledon Final was excruciating.  Few people want to see an athlete embarrassed on a world stage. But it gives a stark example of the impact that our emotions can have on our performance.

Cilic’s inability to manage his frustration meant that he was unable to play his best game.  As he got more upset, his game deteriorated. His emotional outburst and the spiralling down of his game led to a relatively quick end to his Wimbledon bid.

In comparison, Federer, who wasn’t playing his best game either, composed himself at the end of each point and doggedly played the best he was able to – and won the prize.

There are a number of mindfulness tools that can help us compose ourselves when upsetting things happen.  My top three are:

  1. Breathe deeply: Learn to shift your focus away from the upset and onto your breathing. Here’s a variation on the old saying of take a deep breathe and count to 10:  Take a deep breath in for a count of four and then a deeper breath out for a count of six.  Repeat.  Repeat again.  After 60 seconds the body will start to settle.
  2. Distract yourself with something you like. There is a reason why cat videos are so popular – they  are a great emotional distraction.  Have a video or songs on standby to help you ‘change the channel’.  Smile!
  3. Move.  Emotions are connected to body posture, so get up and move if you can. Jiggle your arms and legs if you are clenching in frustration. Stomp up or down stairs if you need to release anger.  Find a piece of greenery and walk towards it. Open your arms palms upward, or put your hands on your hips to give you ‘attitude’.

The hard part is remembering these tools and techniques when you need them, so the key is learning and practicing the techniques before you need them.

Some suggestions: Find a physical class, a YouTube video or a mobile app. Put a reminder in your calendar to practice at least weekly.  Make it fun. Buddy-up if you can.

What’s your ‘go to’ emotion switcher?

 

 

 

I’m familiar with gratitude diaries, giving thanks for my blessings and many other versions of this concept …and … Chade-Meng Tan has just put the icing on the cake, so to speak, in his new book Joy on Demand.

As he describes it: in every day there are tiny moments of joy. Here are just a few of mine: a pinky-orange sunrise, the feel of the sun on my back, the aroma of coffee, the feel of a warm hand in mine, the satisfaction of helping someone, the way my body moves to a well-loved tune, an internet story about people doing good in the world, the athleticism of Roger Federer, Continue reading

The value of the little actions

What we call our nature, our personality, is a whole series of habits of thinking and feeling. For example habits of initiating, reacting or responding to others.

For many of us, our thoughts may be easy to shift but the behavioural aspect may take longer to shift. For others the opposite is true.

You CAN change your personality but there’s a vulnerable phase going from something that you know – the habit of being yourself – through this phase of not knowing, to a more stable new you.  And it is a similar journey for organisations wanting to change their culture.

It’s hard to hold someone’s hand through the phase of wanting but not knowing if it will work.  There are certain people who can’t handle the ‘agony’ of wanting something really badly and fearing they may not get it, so they resolve the tension by talking themselves out of wanting it.  They learn to argue for their limitations. To argue for the negatives. To assume it won’t work.  Then it is sensible not to want.

But it’s just a habit.

Want we want to learn is how to honour that habit and acknowledge that is going to take a while to change the ‘habit’.  But if everyday I practice being a bit more hopeful, I move from having a belief that I can change, a conceptual understanding to a very embodied knowing that I have changed in the past and can change again now, or in the future.

we move from ‘I hope it’s true’, through little actions to ‘I know it’s true’.

Is it accompanied by a felt sense in the body when I am thinking that thought?

Sometimes when well acknowledged, it will reveal more about it’s fear and show you what it’s protecting you from.

Questions that keep me up at night:
What are the business practices that encourage enterprises to grow?
How/can we breakdown bureaucracies – where the people exist to serve the system / their manager, not the customer?
Is more growth always better?

In today’s webinar at the Starting Good Virtual Summit, Kari Enge, founder of Rank&File Magazine told us a salutary tale about how a focus on dollars and efficiency can kill a people-focused culture in less than six months. To avoid this, she says it’s crucial at an early stage for entrepreneurs, especially social entrepreneurs, “to decide their leadership philosophy … and imagine their perfect culture”.

So who is already doing this well?

We have good role models in a number of tech enterprises. Google used its data analytics power in Project Aristotle to find out what makes a successful team and concludes that psychological safety as well as purposeful work, are two of the five success factors keys. The CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy Inc. says his mission is to “emancipate the heart of the engineers…which is to serve others. He thinks that there is a limit to the size of a business if it wants to bring joy to its customers.  And home-grown enterprises such as Atlassian, tell us that healthy teams embrace continuous improvement. They also say the dirty secret is that team work is ‘very’ hard and tools are not the ‘fix-it’. They contribute their team playbook to the world, because they know it will be ‘very’ hard to emulate, especially for competitors who have an ‘efficiency and dollars must prevail’ philosophy.

We need even more examples of those who are doing good for customers as well as for employees and especially those in the social sphere.

Whom do you admire? What are they doing differently from the ‘norm’? Where can we find them and highlight the good practices they have developed?