Thursday, 22 March 2018

Overcoming adversity to achieve your goals

Life is full of ups and downs. Indeed some people say we need to experience the lows to really appreciate the highs; but what happens if we have trouble bouncing back when something bad happens?

The good news is that we have all we need within ourselves to get our lives back on track!

The recent Paralympics are a great reminder of the resilience we all have within us to overcome most of the problems that life throws our way. They show what we can achieve when we believe in ourselves and refuse to be constrained by other people’s expectations of us.

Often we feel inhibited by what other people think, or what they say about us and our abilities and -let's face it - there always seems to be somebody with a critical eye when we're lacking in confidence. However, there are ways to keep going to achieve your goals. Read our tips below.

Positive mental attitude

Positivity is key when it comes to achieving our goals. We have to believe we can do something – truly trust in ourselves and our own ability – in order for us to accomplish what we set out to. Self-doubt has no place in our psyche. Unfortunately, in times of disappointment or when faced with adversity, the self-doubt can become consuming. When this happens, it’s time to reframe your thinking and focus only on the positives.

Be prepared to try harder

All of our lives we have faced challenges. It starts as a child, at school, when we are asked to try something new or given a new topic to learn. We managed the situation then without thinking about it too deeply, but do you remember how our parents and carers helped us through at the time? By telling us to try harder. They weren’t far wrong. We get used to putting in only the minimum level of effort needed to get us through our adult life. The truth is when we’re faced with adversity we do need to dig a bit deeper.

Let go of things you can’t control

It’s common during difficult times to focus on what’s going wrong and hone in on the negative aspects of our lives, rather than look at the big picture. We lose sight of our goals and get stuck in negative thought patterns which are not helpful. We need to be become aware of the aspects of our lives that we can control and consciously free ourselves from those that we can’t. Worrying about something uses up valuable energy – and this energy should be redirected to take us closer to our goals, rather than pontificating about things we have absolutely no influence over.

Stop being your own worst enemy

Be honest, who is it that is really stopping you from achieving your goals? Chances are you have a big part to play. Self-sabotage is not unusual – it manifests in the excuses we tell ourselves to justify our situation, especially during times of stress. When we break these excuses down – really examine them – we usually find that they are ungrounded and the biggest hurdle we have to overcome to achieve our goals is ourselves. Whatever you tell yourself, often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overcoming adversity is nigh-on impossible until you stop making excuses and start to be your own champion.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Flexible working – making it work

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow (8th March) and the theme of this year’s campaign is to #PledgeforProgress. It’s about joining together in the fight for gender equality at work and supporting the continuing global movement towards gender parity.

The theme of this year’s campaign got us thinking about how much things are changing in the work place for women and how employers can better support people at work.

For a range of reasons, although often parenting related, many people choose to apply for flexible working. Flexible working can help enable people to manage the different demands in their lives. Indeed many women (and men) apply for flexible working when they have childcare needs to consider. It can be difficult to balance the needs of children or dependants with a full-time 9-5 job and this can lead to employees feeling stressed out or 'torn' between different demands on their time and attention. 

When it works well, flexible working can help employees manage their time and the expectations of their employers and this can lead to reduced stress and improved wellbeing. 

And there are multiple direct benefits for employers too. Flexible working has been shown to lead to an increase in staff morale, lower absenteeism and better staff retention rates.

If you're thinking of applying for flexible working, whatever your reasons, here are some tips to consider:

Think about your personality and your working style

Research carried out by First Psychology in 2015 on work-life balance, concluded that not all styles of working suit everyone. Some people find it helpful to be  'contactable' during their time off, while others find it stressful. Make sure you tailor your request around your working style. Don't say in your request that you're happy to check emails on your 'days off' if this stresses you out. The whole point of applying for flexible working is to help you manage your life better.

Do your research

Find out if your company already has a policy for flexible working. If they do, have a look and see what it says. There are lots of different definitions around flexible working, they include different shift patterns, cutting your hours, term-time only working and the option of working from home. Do any of your colleagues work flexibly already? Does it work well? 

Be clear about what you want

Be clear about what you want and the impact it will have on you and your employers. Think about what you want to get out of flexible working, the hours you want to work, how you want to work them, and how the impact on your employer can be minimised. Make sure you are realistic about what you can do and understand how that will affect your take-home pay and your other benefits. Once your request has been accepted it will be more difficult to make changes so think everything through carefully.

Draw up a plan

Once you know what you're asking for, develop a business plan for your employer in support of your request. Demonstrate to your employer that you have thought about the impact your request could have on the business and outline a plan to minimise this. For example, you could outline aspects of your job that could be done better at home with no other distractions around or you could identify peaks and troughs in your workload and tie these in with your working schedule. Your employer has the right to refuse your request if they have a genuine business reason for doing so, it’s up to you to state your case positively.

Bring out the benefits

As we’ve already said, there is lots of research that shows the benefits of flexible working. Build those into your request and help your employer see that approving your request will not only help you, but also foster a more positive, agile work environment for the rest of your colleagues too.

You’ll find the official guidance on applying for flexible working here. You can also find some useful additional information from ACAS here

Friday, 2 March 2018

Evaluating your self-worth

Talking up our skills to other people and shouting about our achievements is not very British! As a nation we have a tendency to be understated and reserved. However, it's important that we have a reliable appreciation of what we're capable of so that we have a fair evaluation of our self-worth.

As this article in PsychAlive outlines, the key to appreciating your self-worth lies in not comparing your journey to that of others. It talks about the difference between self-worth and self-esteem and how they’re intrinsically linked. In a work situation, having a realistic view of your own self-worth is key to getting the recognition you deserve.

We all have some sort of measuring stick that we use to determine our value. We feel good when we feel we’re measuring up, but our self-worth can plummet if we feel we’ve fallen short. There are different measures that people use to measure their self-worth at work – and they’re often very different to how we measure ourselves in our personal lives.

The people we mix with

If you’re someone who needs the validation and praise from others to feel successful, your choice of who you associate with can have a big bearing on your own self-worth. Measuring your own self-worth on the basis of other people’s opinions is a risky situation. You can’t control other people and you can’t please everyone all the time. If you base your self-worth entirely upon how others perceive you, you’ll never be able to receive enough praise or positive reinforcement to feel good about yourself.

The title we connect with

Basing your self-worth on the job you do is also a big risk. Have you noticed how some people focus on job titles? Perhaps you're one of them? But just think about it. All it takes is a health problem or unexpected shift in the job market before your self-worth takes a hit. Even a planned retirement or career break, to have a child for example, could wreak havoc on your self-worth if your identity is wholly tied to your job title.

The achievements we’re associated with

Sometimes people want to be known solely for their accomplishments. Conversely, other people can’t stop beating themselves up about the one time they failed or didn’t achieve what they set out to do. It’s normal to want to celebrate and share our accomplishments with colleagues, however, basing our entire self-worth on them is a shaky practice. You’ll need to repeat success in order to feel good about yourself – and that’s hard to maintain.

The Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES), developed by sociologist Dr. Morris Rosenberg is a measure widely used in social-science research. It uses a scale of 0-30 where a score less than 15 may indicate a problematic low self-worth. You can try a free version of it here.

Regardless of your results, the best advice would always be to measure yourself according to who you are, not what you do or your external actions. That’s the only way to ensure consistency and make sure that you stay in control. We like the tips shared in this Psychology Today article to boost self-esteem.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

How to manage your inner self-critic

It happens to us all from time to time, that little voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough and unlikely to succeed in your latest venture. For some, that inner-critic can be helpful, enabling us to really think through our choices and helping us to identify areas for development and growth. However, for some, the self-critic can become so ‘loud’ that it over shadows our self-belief and gives us a skewed perception of what we can really achieve and our true potential.

Our inner self-critic can manifest itself into all aspects of life, but can be particularly damaging at work, limiting our progress. As this Pychology Today article outlines, the self-critic is a pattern of negative thoughts that stops us from achieving our goals. The good news is that we have all we need to silence our inner self-critic within ourselves too – it just takes a bit of time and practice!

We’ve pulled together a few exercises to help you keep your self-critic at bay.

Work out what your critical voice is saying and why

Most negative thought patterns are borne out of prior experience which can usually be traced back to an early-life event. Try to focus not just what your critical inner voice is telling you but why that would be true. Remember that this thought process does not reflect reality - it is a just a thought you have internalised. Once you have broken down what your critic is saying, it will be easy to find flaws in that viewpoint which make it easier to override your critical voice. For example, when your inner critic says you can’t do something because you haven’t done it before, you can override that statement with the plans you have in place to gain the knowledge and experience you need beforehand.

Write it down

Have you ever noticed that the voice in your head is so much louder than all the other voices around? That’s what makes it most powerful. One way to counter this is by writing down what your critical voice is saying to you. "I can't get anything right” should be written as "You can't get anything right" then take a long look at these statements and think for a second about them. What would your colleagues think if they saw the statement? What would your family think? Seeing things from a different perspective will help you to see these thoughts for what they are - self-destructive falsehoods. Take a couple of minutes to counter these statements with a more realistic evaluation of yourself and your abilities.

Say it out loud

Your inner-critic is unkind and hurtful. When you hear your inner voice talking to you, spend a moment to repeat what it has said out loud. Would you speak this way to your friends and colleagues? No of course not. How would you react if one of your colleagues spoke this way to you? Let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t happen, so why do we accept this of ourselves? Saying things out loud is a great reminder of just how destructive our self-critic is and a good reminder to be kinder to ourselves.

If you do tend to be overly critical of yourself, join the club, you're definitely not alone. However, it’s important that we do what we can to address these negative thoughts and nip them in the bud, turning them into a positive dialogue that will help us grow, rather than self-fulfilling prophesies.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How to motivate yourself and others

According an article in Psychology Today the one thing that sets aside people who achieve their goals from those who don't, is having the motivation to succeed. Motivation can come from within or can be stimulated by external reward.

However, studies show that while external rewards have their place, we usually value our internal drivers more, so we’ve developed a few hacks below to help you draw on your inner motivation – but don’t forget to build in a few small external rewards to your daily routine too, to keep you focused and enable you to reach your true potential.

Keep your eye on the bigger picture

Rather than think about the task in hand, concentrate on the ways in which completing that task will take your closer to achieving your goals or realising your dreams. The secret to staying motivated is to link what you are doing back to your real value drivers. Always take the time to remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing.

Set an achievable to-do list

Nothing is more off-putting than a huge list of tasks and not enough time to complete them. By setting an achievable to-do list and managing people’s expectations about what you can do and by when, you can keep motivated enough to complete the things that need to be done. Unrealistic expectations – set by yourself, or by others – are the main reason for failure. Be kind to yourself and set yourself up for success.

Visualise what you’ll feel like when you’ve done it

You’ll feel great, right? Like a weight has been lifted and this will leave you feeling more positive and motivated than before. Visualisation is a tried and tested practice that helps us rewire our thinking. Our brain can be tricked into thinking we’ve done things which makes it easier for us to complete the tasks we been putting off. When we think about the positive feelings we’ll have when we’ve completed a task we will be more willing to actually do them. Think successful to be successful.

Just do it – in small bursts if needs be

There is nothing more motivating than being fully present and totally focused on one task at a time – and having a tight timescale in which to complete the task you’ve been set can really focus the mind. Have you ever been amazed at how much shopping you can fit in your basket when they announce the shop will close in ten minutes? Or how many emails you can get through when you have a meeting to get to shortly? Start putting a timescale against tasks for completion to keep the motivation turned up and the procrastination dialled down to a low. Don’t go over the time you have set yourself and if you haven’t finished what you set out to do, simply schedule in another session later in the day/week. See how much more productive you are.

Reward your own productivity to keep the motivation juices flowing

Having something to look forward to is a great motivator. Make a deal with yourself – if you can do what you need to accomplish in the morning you’ll take a lunchtime walk in the sunshine to clear your head; if you get through the afternoon’s tasks you’ll take a long bath and set some time aside to make a start on that new book.

There are some great articles about both internal and external motivators, like the ones below. Just remember to do whatever works best for you – not for others.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Managing groups and recognising team personalities

Being able to identify your key strengths and core skills are central to setting and achieving your goals. And as a manger, knowing exactly what your team is capable of, will make the difference between success and failure.

If you ask people where their skills lie, chances are they will be able to give you a long list of their qualifications and work-based achievements. What sets the great managers aside from average managers is their ability to see through what is written on paper and gain an appreciation of people’s soft skills too. Having an understanding of what each team member brings to the table will enable you to not only bring out the best in your people, but also achieve your collective goals.

We’ve outlined a few of the common personality types you may find in your team to help you with this – go ahead, see if you can find a match in your own talent pool and do whatever you can to play to people's strengths to get results!


These people are great for mediating conflicts and keeping everyone on track. Your leaders guide meetings and keep them on track, as well as helping to delegate tasks within the team. Leaders are often good communicators, focus on the end results and are able to motivate and bring out the best in others.

Team players

Not everyone can lead and having some real team players on your side are key to getting things done. You can tell the team players by their enthusiasm when working with others towards a common goal. They’re usually eager to help, willing to compromise and diplomatic. They might not the greatest self-starters, but once they’ve been briefed you can guarantee they’ll see tasks through to a successful conclusion.


Always probing and seeking more information, questioners are great at finding gaps or inaccuracies in plans and projects. As well as asking the questions, they are often more than happy to find their own answers or conduct the research necessary to make sure that no stone has been left unturned when it comes to planning. Questioning types within your team – if you don’t take their constant probing personally – are usually great at testing new concepts and ideas before the planning phase.


Every team need a subject expert. These are the people who know all there is to know about the specific area of the business. Not only that, if they don’t have the information they will go out of their way to find it.


Thriving on rules and regulations, planners are essential to keep the more creative members of your team on task, organising everyone so they’re set up for success. Creating order and cutting through chaos is what planners do best, so if you have a natural planner on your team, use them wisely. They’re great at improving efficiency and thinking projects through from concept to completion.

Creative thinkers

Yes, we know that sometimes creative types can drift away into their own little world of concepts and ideas, but when you can actually ground what they have in their heads, creative thinkers are the ones who excel at problem solving, delivering fresh ideas that can reinvigorate business development and build the concepts many businesses need to stand out from the crowd. Creative thinkers can be frustrating to work with but if you place them in the right team, their input usually adds real value to a business.

This article: How To Manage Personalities To Get The Most Out Of Your Teams breaks down team personalities into three different groups – have a read and find out how to propel your team’s performance from OK to outstanding…

Monday, 8 January 2018

Personal development tips for busy people

By now most people are back at work after the holidays and we all share high hopes for what lies ahead - we may even have set resolutions that will make us better people and help us live a happier, more fulfilling life. It’s also the time of year when we look at our career and identify goals that will enable us to grow. But how attainable are these goals and resolutions that we set? Is it possible to set realistic objectives – both personal and career based - that won’t get overlooked once we’re back in the thick of our busy, day-to-day routines.

We’ve found some self and personal development areas that can be built into our daily lives. Let’s make 2018 a year of personal growth and self-development – without it being a chore!

Get online

It used to be that if you wanted to learn a new skill you had to go to night school, or take time out of your day job to attend courses. Not so now. If there’s anything you want to know or learn, the internet is your friend and what’s better is that many are free or low cost. More than that, most online courses or webinars can be done at your leisure, when it suits you. Why not schedule an hour in your diary once a week to take you closer to achieving the goals you’ve set?

Explore mentoring

Becoming a mentor or working with a mentor are both great ways of developing your skills in a less-formal fashion than traditional training courses and leadership programmes. Sharing what we know with others is a great way of appreciating the skills and experience that we have and, conversely, working with a mentor is an effective way of enriching your own personal development while exploring new ways of thinking and working. And what’s more, it can all be done at a time and place that is convenient to you. You can read more about mentoring, in this blog post.

Venture into volunteering

There are so many charities out there looking for a wide range of skills and experience to help them deliver vital work with local communities. Volunteering is a great way of either sharing the skills you have within a different sector or learning something new. Either way, volunteering can help you fulfil your personal development goals for the year. Many charities have their own training courses too, some of which lead to recognised qualifications. They do often require a regular time commitment, though this could be as little as two hours a week - well worth scheduling into your calendar. Check too with your employer, as some allow you to complete volunteering assignments within work time as part of their corporate and social responsibility programmes.

Write your goals down

As with most activities and priorities, the way to bring your personal development goals to life, is to write them down. In fact, go one step further – write them down and then schedule time in your diary to work on them. Writing things down legitimises them, giving them time and reiterating their importance. It doesn’t have to eat into your day either. Read a text book during your commute to work, or during your lunch break; or listen to a webinar or tutorial before you go to bed. Make your time work for you. If it’s important to you, you'll find the time.

If you are still struggling to find the time to work on yourself this year, this article from the Guardian outlines some handy time management tips of busy people to give you some ideas.