Career, how to learn, Leadership, personal, Reflective practice, Slow Thinking, Thinking differently

Sit down & chill the hell out (AKA why you should be meditating)

There’s 10,000 reasons to chill the hell out (AKA meditate), but I’m going to lead with what I see as the most topical for right now.

Relaxation.

When was the last time you actually relaxed? Not when was the last time you took a break, or got a workout in, but when did you last relax?

“Relaxation isn’t a luxury. In the world we live in, it’s a necessity. The everyday tension and stress that accompanies life in the 21st century can be debilitating to our mental and physical health. We need something deeper than an occasional treat. We need something that will get to the root of the problem.” – Yael Shy

Do you ever pause? From work, home, doom-scrolling on social media. When do you take time out to just be? 2020 was a year of big learning for me, one of the biggest being that doing the same old thing to de-stress just didn’t seem to work any longer. I’ve got a list (surprise surprise) of things that I need to do when I feel myself getting run down:

  1. Say no to more – works every time
  2. Eat better – works every time
  3. Exercise (for someone who genuinely hated PE at school this one took a long time to get on board with) – much to my disappointment at the work required, works every time
  4. Meditate…

During 2020 I got the list out. I hit everything on there every day, but the shitstorm that was last year just kept coming. On top of the list of things we all had in common, the border restrictions meant that I couldn’t get home to see my family in New Zealand while some pretty major things were happening. Honestly, it was pretty hard.

So I was doing the list.

I’ve been ‘meditating’ on and off for the past 15 years – every health professional, every popular speaker seems to espouse the same advice. Meditation is good for you. And I felt like I was doing it. I had all the apps and ticked every box, but it just didn’t really work for me. I figured it was a slow burn – “they” say that even if you feel like it’s not working, you should stick with it. So I did, to no avail.

Towards the end of 2020 though, something changed, I tried a variety of types of meditation (I know, seems obvious in retrospect) – but low and behold I’ve gotten results.The things I did differently:

  • I set up a space for meditation. This doesn’t need to be 100% dedicated, but I have an old wooden chest I bought secondhand that sits in the corner of our bedroom – it’s decorated with things that make me happy, beautiful candles and incense, a picture from my little boy. It’s a warm spot where I want to spend time – and because I see it every day, I’m being constantly reminded to take 5 minutes.
  • I prioritised myself and didn’t let ‘getting busy’ get in the way of taking some time. There are always jobs to be done – at work and around the house. But you can’t do any of that well if your energy is always depleted. Meditation is one way I can refill my energy reserves.
  • I tried different forms of meditation. That one about the cars or clouds passing me where I’m meant to observe them? That does nothing for me. I’ve been focusing on objects, sound baths, guided meditations from different meditation practitioners. Just because one form of meditation doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean others won’t.
  • I listened to podcasts/read books about meditation, the science and different approaches. I like to know why something is working – the most impactful thing I’ve learned? Meditation works differently for everybody, so if you’ve tried and failed – maybe try approaching it differently.

The best resources I’ve found:

  • Podcasts, obviously. Current favs are 10 Percent Happier (Dan Harris) and Wake me Up (Tyler Brown).
  • Apps – Insight Timer is my favorite. There’s a paid version, but the free version has a huge variety of content. This one is fabulous. Spotify is another gem, you can find beautiful soothing music or nature sounds to help you get in the zone.
  • The internet is gold here. There’s a host of resources out there, for a basic introduction on the types of meditation out there, start here https://www.headspace.com/meditation/techniques

You might have sat down & chilled out/meditated before and gotten out of practice – or it might be something you’ve never tried before. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take 10 minutes today for yourself, no matter how well, or terribly your day is going.

Reflective practice, Slow Thinking, Uncategorized

Learning from your mistakes as a manager

“Managers learn from the meaning they give to experience, not from the experience itself, and they give meaning to experience by reflecting”
Sievert & Daudelin 1999

This is a pretty powerful idea – you don’t just learn from your experiences but you learn from reflecting on those experiences. During my career I have seen some leaders make huge mistakes, reflect on them honestly with themselves, learn and grow in to even better leaders because of them.
Likewise, I’ve seen other leaders make similar mistakes, have similar outcomes but due to a lack of real reflection never learn from the experience and thus repeating it many times over.

Alan was a great up and coming manager, he was learning from an excellent people manager who was well respected in the business and eager to take on advice and apply it to his own journey as a leader. A tricky employee issue came up – Steve was a handful in the workplace and with a couple of (minor issues) some mental health issues began to surface.
Alan was eager to do the text book right thing (although maybe was a little overzealous in some discussions) – Steve didn’t take it well and it a long process was entered in to that took a lot of time and effort on the part of Alan’s manager, the business and the HR team.
Heaps of people have been in Alan’s position. Your first few years of management aren’t easy and you will always make mistakes.
Alan’s manager, being a great people manager coached Alan through the process and the aftermath – in a way that set could Alan up for real success with learning opportunities from this difficult situation.

The next point is where the great people leaders and the perpetual managers differ (and I’m sure you’ll be able to recognise people from both camps). What does Alan do next?

A.        Does he think about his role in the outcome, sort through decisions he made and see how they inter played with a mental health and performance issue in the workplace learning how he might deal with a similar issue differently in the future?

B.        Or, does he reflect and critically evaluate, no matter the mitigating factors (the performance issues and mental health concerns) that he had preferences, biases and a limited frame of reference. Does he then take time to reflect on how his responses could have differed at different stages of the process? How may these tendencies play out in other, less similar circumstances? May he learn something from his process, his behaviour that might make a difference with an entirely different situation in the future?

Alan A think’s he’s being reflective and learning from the situation – but his focus is external. What would he change being given a very similar issue in the future?

Alan B is being reflective and will really learn from the situation. His learning and subsequent behaviour change will transcend a very similar issue and will be able to be applied in many future situations.

When you learn a lesson, face a challenge or hit a wall, do you critically reflect? Or do you pay lip service to the process but never really change your behaviour?

Alan A can be called a ‘single loop learner’ – he’s looking at feedback (did something succeed or fail) to help establish what he could try next.

Alan B can be called a ‘double loop learner’ – he’s looking at feedback but he’s asking additional questions which help him get to the root cause, underlying beliefs, values  and assumptions.

If you want to encourage double loop learning in your practise try asking yourself:
Why did I try that in the first place?
What made me think that would work?
When have I experienced similar results?
What has this shown me about myself?

Slow Thinking

Genuine Space to Think Big

This past couple of months has been pretty standard of any new year – I, like many others, get all excited and motivated at the seemingly limitless prospects of a new year – the projects, the cultural change, the lofty goal of happier, more productive people.

No matter the quality of planning somehow we always have the same problem, there just aren’t enough hours in the day, week, month, year, to accomplish all that we want to.

It’s easy at this stage to step back and disengage, or step forward and attempt to drown myself in endless tasks – neither of which will ever help me achieve my goals.

Ensuring I have the time and space to do the slow thinking necessary to really make a difference – to me, my organisation, my colleagues and my stakeholders – is exactly the thing that facilitates success. But it can be the hardest thing to accomplish and unfortunately is the easiest time to ‘borrow’ from when things get hectic.

It’s for this reason that I’m so looking forward to the 2015 AHRI National Conference. Not only do I get to hear some incredible speakers (The Honourable Julia Gillard anybody?…) but I get to meet hundreds of people facing similar issues to me, find out how they’re dealing with them, learn from them – not to mention the incredible group of speakers who are guaranteed to get me thinking differently.

I’m always signing up for formal learning (uni papers are verging on an addiction) and breakfast seminars (a combo of free food, networking and learning something new?! I’m there!), I love learning socially through blogging, twitter and trying out new technology. But I’ve never found anything that replaces the incredible lineups, networking opportunities and genuine space to think big than conferences on the scale of the AHRI National Convention.

Being in the same room as the thought leaders whose theories and passion are constantly used as inspiration, their lessons learned being discussed, hearing their unique point of view and maybe having the opportunity to talk to them? Nothing beats that and it can’t be replicated through technology or via a book no matter the expertise of those telling the story.

Being exposed to, and having the opportunity to learn about issues, trends and new information in my field that I’m not across is invaluable. I don’t know what I don’t know and one of the benefits of being in an industry which recognises the importance and necessity of ongoing professional development is not lost on me. While I try to keep up with general industry changes, case studies and new research, I rarely venture past my bread and butter – generalist business partnering, learning & development and organisational development – and with these areas being so broad I know I’m constantly missing information. I’m looking forward to hearing from experts in other specialties, not just for curiosities sake, but to help me deliver better solutions to my stakeholders.

What I’m excited about most of all? Dedicating time to having more big picture conversations with people who I don’t yet know. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the issues that dominate your working week – and taking time to learn from others who are accomplishing incredible things is a pretty great way to help you do the same.

The author will be a guest of the AHRI National Convention and has been asked to write up their thoughts on the event.

This article was originally published on the Australian Institute of Human Resources (AHRI) website.