Nov 27
Show Up and Be Present: Just Say No to Multi-Tasking

mutlitasking.jpg

Author: Georgina Barrick

How often have you found yourself reading emails, while doing homework with your children?
Or, taking important business calls while driving to your next meeting – and looking up to discover that you’re driving in the wrong direction? Perhaps, like me, you switch between tasks while waiting for something to download on your laptop.

The truth is that we’ve all done it. 
When I was younger, like a true Generation X’er, I prided myself on being a ‘Multitasking Master’. 
X’ers were really sold on the belief that performing more than one task simultaneously was key to optimising productivity and efficiency. 
This belief was reinforced when Microsoft launched Windows in the mid-80’s. Suddenly, you could open multiple windows on screen – all dedicated to different tasks – and work on (and switch between) them all seamlessly. Multitasking had become mainstream.
Today, with the help of science, I’ve come to realise that there really is no such thing as multitasking – and (like carbs and sugar) my brain and I are better off without it.

Why does Multitasking have a Bad Rap?

Multitasking really means that we’re ‘switch-tasking’.
Because our brain can’t process similar functions (like reading a book and listening to music lyrics) simultaneously, it unconsciously switches between tasks, rather than trying to work on more than one task at a time. And, when we switch from one task to another, the transition between tasks takes time as our brain needs to shift attention. While this might feel seamless, each switch takes tenths of a second, which adds up when you’re switching back and forth frequently. Studies have shown that multitasking takes as much as 40% more time than focusing on one task only – which is why it’s inefficient, ineffective and impacts productivity.

Multitasking means more mistakes…
Because the brain never really focuses on any one task, multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions, make more errors, remember fewer details and take longer to complete tasks than those who work only on a single task at a time.
Most of us generally shift attention every 3 minutes. But, as it takes 15 to 18 minutes of concentrated work to enter what’s called a ‘flow state’ (the state of deep consciousness where we work at optimal levels), we’re unlikely to ever enter ‘flow’ – and perform better.

Multitasking affects brain health…
Evidence has shown that chronic multitasking can impair cognitive function, affect short term memory and increase anxiety.
A 2009 Stanford study into the effect on cognitive function found that multitaskers struggle to filter out irrelevant information, have greater difficulty switching between tasks and are less mentally organised. Even when chronic multitaskers focused only on one task, their brains were less efficient.
And, because switching rapidly between tasks spreads our attention thinly, tasks aren’t given the attention they deserve (or need) in order to be properly bedded down in memory, with the effect becoming more noticeable as we age.
Interrupted work increases anxiety levels. Researchers at UCI found that the heart rates of workers with access to email were consistently higher than those without email access. For me, this is as good reason as any to switch off email and social media alerts!

Multitasking inhibits creativity…
Forcing our brains to process multiple tasks in rapid succession rewires the brain, inhibiting creativity. When we spread our attention across too many tasks at once, we use up the brain’s working memory, leaving no space for truly creative ideas and concepts.  
Also, as overload makes us more anxious, we start to rely on the more primitive ‘fight or flight’ area of the brain, instead of using the frontal lobe, which controls creativity and critical thinking.
This all makes us more likely to follow (rather than challenge) conventional thinking. 

Multitasking stands in the way of making connections with others…
Jumping from task to task means that we never really spend enough time building deep connections with others. When we read the news, while talking to our children or respond to emails in meeting, we’re never truly in the moment. Our colleagues, families and friends sense this, which impacts our connection to them. Truly connecting with others is a source of deep human fulfilment – which no task can give.

Just Say No
Having realised the impact that multitasking has on my brain, health and life, I now try to focus on two simple rules that help me to ‘just say no’.

Prioritise only one thing each day.
Each day, try to focus on only one task at a time, for a length of time. This helps to avoid switch-tasking and opens up the possibility of entering a flow state. If you can’t set aside a whole day per task, try to set aside blocks of time (an hour or more is ideal) to work only on one thing. 
Schedule (limited) time in your day for admin tasks – like answering emails – and switch off email and social media alerts. Try to limit unnecessary meetings.
For me, understanding that I don’t need to respond to everything has been life altering.

Do creative tasks in the early morning.
If you need to write a report, design a strategy or conduct an annual goal setting session, set aside time first thing in the morning, when you’re fresh and rested (and before your mind gets cluttered), to get creative tasks done.

Multitasking is the art of doing twice as much as you should, half as well as you could. 
Go forth and focus (on one thing at a time!)

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.


Oct 31
Stress: Is It All Too Much?

hurry, stressAuthor: Georgina Barrick

'Don't stress over what you can't control'. 'Keep Calm and …'

We've all heard the trite memes. I even seen t-shirts emblazoned with 'If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough'. While these sayings are meant to motivate, it's difficult to live the sentiments when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Rather than encouraging and giving us hope, these memes can paralyse us, as we try to rationalise how we're really feeling against what we believe is expected of us.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. Against the backdrop of gender-based violence, crime and an economy that is simply failing to thrive; many South Africans are struggling with anxiety, depression and stress.

Speaking to colleagues and friends, it seems that many around us are overloaded and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life. Some have to balance the needs of elderly parents, alongside managing a young family. Others cope with ill health – our own or those closest to us. South Africa's declining economic growth – the latest petrol price hike being just one consequence – affects us all.

As leaders, we have the added stress of always needing to push the envelope. In corporate companies, meeting shareholder expectations means that each year has to be better than the last.

And, while we sign up for this race when we take on a leadership role, it's a challenge to constantly be reaching, chasing and improving.

But, is stress necessarily a bad thing? We know that it's essential for survival.

The body's natural defence against danger – the 'fight or flight' mechanism – releases cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This prepares our bodies to respond to dangerous situations by slowing normal bodily functions (like digestion) and increasing heart rate, heightening muscle preparedness and raising alertness.

However, when the 'fight or flight' mechanism is triggered too often, too easily or if there are too many stressors at one time, our physical, mental and emotional health suffers.

Too much stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, issues with sleep and can put us at a greater risk of developing cancer. Emotionally, it makes us more prone to angry outbursts, at greater risk of developing drug or alcohol problems, impacts appetite (either by making us eat more or less) and affects our relationships.

Undoubtedly, too much stress is debilitating and should be avoided.

In the right and appropriate dosage, stress can be a motivator.

If managed properly, it can make us more resilient. South Africans, who have long lived in a constant state of uncertainty around our political and economic future, have become used to stress and, rather than hindering us, it has propelled us forward, to a certain extent.

The secret is to find a balance - as my 85 year old mother always says 'everything in moderation'.

Today, we're all more focused on our heath and on being mindful and more present in our lives. Most of us try to achieve work/ life balance and know, as I explored in last month's blog, that sleep is key.  But, how do we guard against these concepts becoming like wallpaper – there, but not seen? How do we manage our stress so that it helps, and doesn't hurt, us?

Learn to accept where you are right now.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a great fan of Oprah's SuperSoul Sundays and listen to her podcasts whenever I can. Recently, I heard her speak to spiritual teacher, Eckhardt Tolle, about how to live a stress-free life. Tolle's message – that stress is about wanting something to be the way it isn't – really resonated with me. Too often, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we immediately jump into worst-case scenarios, using negative mind talk. 

Instead, he believes that, when we find ourselves in a stressful situation, we should accept it – look at the situation without labelling it and understand (and accept) that this is what our life looks like for now. He calls this accepting the 'is-ness' of life.

Tolle also believes that even negative situations can have a positive outcome.

When Arianna Huffington collapsed in her office from lack of sleep and used the experience to turn her life around, she found the positive in the negative. When things don't look good at first glance, acceptance can turn a negative situation around. If we can learn to 'lean away' from the noise that our minds make, we're more able to relax and go with the moment – or to accept the moment as though we had chosen it for ourselves and let it bring on a new consciousness.

Until we accept our current state and stop fighting it, we remain 'stuck in the mud'. Or, rather, what we resist, persists.

 

Stop 'multi-tasking'…

Often, we take on too much and then 'multitask' to get it all delivered.

We've all done this – checking mail, while meeting with colleagues, or taking important business calls while driving. I call it the 'myth of multi-tasking' because the truth is that none of the activities we're engaged in is getting our full attention – and none are being executed with excellence. 

One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is to focus, as much as possible, on doing only one thing at a time. Pick one thing to work on, remove all distractions and focus on it until it's done.

You'll find it liberating – I certainly did.

Simplify your schedule…

Overscheduling is a major source of stress.

We're all constantly on the run – to the next meeting, event or situation. Try to schedule only a few essential commitments (or those that are beneficial to you or feed your soul) into each day and learn to say 'no' to the rest. If meetings aren't essential, decline the meeting invite. Schedule time for fun and relaxation.

In time, you'll get over your FOMO.

Exercise…

Do something that gets you moving every day.

It's doesn't have to be formal – walk your dog, dance with your children – as long as it happens.

Get moving – it helps.

Be early – always…

Constantly being late is very stressful. Try to be realistic about how long it really takes to get ready, commute, prepare or run errands so that you can space out your meetings to give you more time.

 

If you're able to manage your stress so that it becomes a positive force, you'll understand – as Bill Phillips said that 'stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle'.

Go forth and conquer (your stress).

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Oct 02
Sleep – Our Salvation If We’re Going to Live to 200?

Author: Georgina Barrick

I'm a great fan of Oprah Winfrey's 'Super Soul Sundays' and listen to her podcasts avidly while on my 40 minute work commute. I particularly loved her interview with Arianna Huffington – who, after building a successful business on the back of 18 hour days, has seen the light and is now the global champion for sleep and rest.

She is so passionate about sleep that she's made it one of her keystone habits and is encouraging others to do the same. Recently, Arianna wrote an open letter to Elon Musk (whose very public melt downs – and 24 hour days – are becoming almost painful to watch), pointing out that he's 'demonstrating a wildly outdated, anti-scientific and horribly inefficient way of using human energy' and that his behaviour is like 'trying to launch us into our clean energy future… with a coal-fired steam engine' because of a lack of sleep.

Despite being a good sleeper from birth, I have experienced disrupted sleep in times of stress and know how debilitating, and self-perpetuating, the lack of consistent, quality sleep can be. Just ask any new mother or MBA student.

Matthew Walker, renowned Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Berkley (and author of 'Why We Need Sleep') is clear that quality sleep is vital to health, cellular anti-aging, well-being and success. Consistently getting too little sleep decreases productivity, affects memory (sleep 'cleans' the brain by pruning unnecessary memory connections, allowing us to commit new experiences to memory), makes us more accident-prone and can even affect our earning potential.

Too little sleep also severely affects our health. Well-rested people take fewer sick days, are able to control their weight more effectively and have better quality cellular regeneration.

In his book, Walker explains how a lack of sleep leads to increased development of a toxic protein in the brain, called beta amyloid, which has been associated with Alzheimer's. During deep sleep, the brain 'washes' away this protein. If you are not getting enough sleep, beta amyloid builds up, increasing the risk of dementia later in life.

He also describes the physical effects of sleep deprivation (which he classifies as 5-6 hours or less of sleep per night). Men can experience decreased levels of testosterone, showing levels equivalent to men 10 years older, reducing virility and wellness.

Other studies have shown that just one night of sleep deprivation reduces critical anti-cancer fighting cells (called natural killer cells) by 70%. The link between sleep and cancer is so strong that the World Health Organisation has classified any form of night-time shift work (where sleep patterns are disrupted) as a probable carcinogen.

For leaders, sleep also allows us to make better decisions, to remain more intuitive and aligned with our decisions and to react more quickly, with a slower fuse. Exhaustion can affect our EQ, CQ and IQ.

If you're a sleep-deprived leader, your vibrational energy drops – which is palpable to the people around you. Ask anyone who is currently being led by a low-energy leader.

It's not about being 'energetic'. Our 'vibration' is a fancy way of describing our overall state of being. Everything in the universe is made up of energy vibrating at different frequencies. Even things that look solid have vibrational energy fields at the quantum level, including you. The higher the frequency of your energy or vibration, the lighter you feel physically, mentally and emotionally – and the more you experience greater personal power, clarity, peace, love and joy.

All of this can be affected by a lack of sleep and exhaustion. As Huffington admits, some of the biggest mistakes she's made in life were when she was exhausted and over-reactive. In this state, she missed opportunities and red flags.

It seems like restorative sleep is the new black (#RSITNB) – and is less about getting 8 - 9 hours of sleep, and more about getting the rest that our bodies need to regenerate and function at an optimal level. During deep sleep, blood pressure and heart rate drops, allowing a 'reboot' of the cardiovascular system. Less than 6 hours of sleep per night increases your risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke by 200%.

Walker's studies have shown that humans can function for approximately 16 hours of wakefulness before we see a significant decline in brain function. After 19 to 20 hours of wakefulness, our mental capacity is so impaired that we function like someone who is legally drunk. To recover, we need at least 8 hours of sleep to return to normal function.

While restorative functions occur during all stages of sleep, deep sleep and REM are the 2 stages during which our bodies and minds undergo the most renewal.

For me, it's about getting sustained quality sleep (+6 hours) over quantity – and about getting 'natural', rather than drug-induced, sleep.

So, how do we go about getting more sleep?

As research suggests, we should all aim to get at least 6 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night.

The first step is to prioritise sleep – or, as Huffington does, make it a keystone habit.

If you're currently sleeping 4 to 5 hours per night, try to increase this to 6 to 7 hours, as a start.

Planning is an important part of getting restorative sleep.

As far as possible, plan to leave your office at a reasonable hour. It can be difficult to do this as last-minute 'emergencies' often keep us chained to our desks. A good first step is to recognise what really constitutes an 'emergency'.

Also, as leaders, it's important that we encourage our staff to prioritise and value rest – and create a culture where it's okay for our staff to leave the office at a reasonable hour, without feeling guilty or like they're slacking off.

Electronic devices are the enemy of sleep.

Because they emit 'blue light', which boosts attention and raises energy levels, device screens stimulate our brains and make us more wakeful.

Huffington suggests that you make a time to 'escort your devices out of your bedroom', making it a completely device-free zone. This removes the temptation to check your mail if you wake up during the night - or, as she says, disconnect from technology to reconnect with yourself.

Keeping a notebook next to your bed where you can jot down things that you might not remember in the morning, frees your mind up to stop thinking and can make you less anxious.

Sleep 'hygiene' is important.

Set a cool room temperature. If you wear pyjamas, wear sleep-friendly clothing. Try not to drink caffeine after 2pm.

Use light stretching, deep breathing or meditation to help your mind and body transition into sleep.

Nap. The benefits of a 'power nap' (20 minutes or less) are well-known. Harpo Studios, The Huffington Post, Google and many other successful companies have nap rooms in the workplace #justsaying. Try to build nap times into the 'low points' in your day.

As leaders, Huffington believes that we need to realise that we're paying people for their judgement and not for their stamina. To focus on what really matters and, to be fully present, we need to celebrate and prioritise rest. If what actuaries are predicting is true and we do start living into our 200's, our future success depends on it.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

 

 


Aug 24
Making Mistakes – How Important is Psychological Safety?

Author: Georgina Barrick

As employees and members of society, we sometimes remain silent when we know that we should speak up.

We see a project, process or person veering towards disaster and know that we should intervene, share our ideas or contribute in some way – yet we stay silent.
Perhaps this is because we fear the consequences or repercussions that might follow if we do speak.  
Perhaps we are concerned that our ideas won’t be taken seriously, without criticism. That speaking up – and getting it wrong – might be held against us. 
Perhaps we know that if we speak up, we’ll be forced to become involved in finding a solution, so staying silent seems to be the path of least resistance.
Whatever the reason, silence often occurs (particularly in the workplace) when speaking up is most necessary.

Research shows that we hold back on contributing when it does not feel safe to do so.
When we feel that the benefits of silence outweigh the benefits of speaking up – or, as Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson believes, when we don’t feel ‘psychologically safe’.
Edmondson defines psychological safety as the ‘belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes’. 
We feel psychologically safe when our team or environment supports risk taking and is a place where we can show ourselves without fear of negative consequence for our self-image, status or career. More simply, where we feel comfortable being – and expressing – ourselves.

Building psychological safety in your team or environment has many benefits.
Feeling safe means that we’re more likely to take risks that lead to market breakthroughs, innovate, implement diverse ideas and drive performance. We’re also more likely to be creative.
If we’re encouraged to express ourselves without fear of failure or retribution, we’re more likely to have a shared purpose and identity and remain open to learning. 
All of this may lead to higher levels of engagement and longer tenure.

As leaders, how can we build psychological safety in our teams?
Edmondson says that it’s as simple as focusing on 3 key areas…

Frame work correctly.
Be clear that you don’t have all of the answers and will need help from the team to solve problems or get work completed along the way. 
Set work up as a learning – and not an execution – problem so that the team is clear that there are areas of uncertainty that require input from everyone.
Or, as Edmondson says, we need everyone’s head in the game.

Acknowledge your own fallibility. 
We all make mistakes. As leaders, acknowledging our mistakes creates a climate of openness, where mistakes are allowed. Encourage the team to speak up by saying straightforward things like ‘I may miss something and need your input’.

Model curiosity.
Questions encourage a learning mind-set – and make speaking up necessary.
As leaders, we need to ask questions – and listen to the answers.

Other ways to build psychological safety include:

Always speak human to human.
Sometimes, we lose sight of the fact that we’re all human – with universal needs like respect, competence, status and autonomy. A simple way to get this right – and to encourage communication – is to remember that we’re all ‘Just Like Me’ – people with beliefs, hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities ‘just like me’.

Create team rules.
And confront unreasonable behaviour early.

Be accessible.
Autonomy is important - but your team still needs to know that you’re always available to answer questions, provide guidance and help – no matter how trivial. Be the safety net – if they need one.

Finally, model accountability. 
Excellence isn’t achieved purely through psychological safety.
Psychological safety is about letting up on the brakes. Without accountability – or your foot on the gas – everyone is in a comfort zone, where no-one excels.
As leaders, we need to have – and expect – accountability for excellence to blossom.

Focus on creating an environment where your people feel safe making mistakes – and are accountable – and I’ll show you an environment where excellence is possible.

‘Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned.’

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Aug 01
Perennials: The Ageless 'Generation'

Author: Georgina Barrick

Generational theory is always evolving.

This makes things very interesting for a Generation X leader, trying to successfully blend multiple generations in the workplace and in life. If you've been following me, you'll know that I've shared my thoughts on balancing the power and pitfalls of Generation X, Millennials and Centennials in a series of recent pieces.

It appears that there' is now a – not so new – kid on the block.

Recently, I've been introduced to the power of the Perennial.

Coined by US Internet entrepreneur, Gina Pell, Perennials are 'ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages' who share an inclusive, enduring mindset, but not (always) an age.

Defined instead by their shared interests, behaviour and values, they live in the present, stay curious and are plugged into the world, technology and trends.

Perennials are 'passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative and global-minded risk takers' who have friends of all ages, mentor others and know how to hustle.

This immediately resonated with me as I personally don't always feel like I quite fit all of the attributes of a typical Gen X'er.

For them, age isn't limiting.

Pell believes that 'Generation Segregation', where we define people by age and generation, rather than mindset, separates us and creates tension across decades. It also puts the spotlight onto one generation to the exclusion of others, limiting opportunity. Perennials buck the trend to transcend the bounds of age.

I'm excited already.

And, marketers are taking note.

Forward thinking companies – like Amazon and Netflix – target consumers using behavioural data, rather than relying on generational stereotypes. By tracking actual online behaviour - like your browsing history and buying habits – they're able to offer you more targeted, appropriate products.behaviour - like your browsing history and buying habits – they're able to offer you more targeted, appropriate products.

In South Africa, Pick n Pay, Dischem and Woolworths (to name but a few) use information gathered from their card reward schemes to offer targeted discounts on the products that you buy most often.

This shift away from traditional marketing, which uses demographics, towards psychographics, which relies on data gathered on the personality, attitudes, interests, values and aspirations of the customer, creates a more personal experience. 

Because Perennials are a very new addition to generational theory, I believe that more research needs to be done before we can accurately predict how they're likely to influence our leadership approach. However, I think that we can expect that Perennials will change how we lead – and may already be doing so.

Expect to build a culture of continuous learning. Driven by curiosity and the need to stay relevant, 'ever-blooming' Perennials are likely to focus on ongoing development of their skills, abilities and knowledge – and are likely to expect employers to help them keep up.

Expect to create 'tailored' working environments, with flexible working arrangements.

Work from home, compressed hours, job sharing and contracting are likely to become increasingly popular ways to improve productivity and ensure long-term wellbeing.

Expect help with your mentoring programmes. An inclusive mindset, collaborative nature, friends of all ages and a love of mentoring make Perennials ideal mentors in the workplace.

Mark Twain said that 'age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter'. Perennials truly are the ageless and I am excited to consider myself as a part of this.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Jun 20
Be Extraordinary

Author: Georgina Barrick 

Every so often in life, if you are paying attention, you may meet a truly extraordinary person.
These people are rare and, I suspect, if you’re not alive to the possibility, their magnificence may pass you by. Often, they aren’t the loudest or most flamboyant in the room, or the most obvious. 
Mostly, they’re incredibly hard working, humble and selfless people who just vibrate on a different frequency.
Meeting someone extraordinary can be quite unsettling. Being faced with someone who is living their full potential – with no excuses – calls into question your own life, efforts and the excuses you make for not doing more, being more or being better. Professor Carol – Ann Benn is one of these people to me.

I have started to question what separates the ordinary from the extra-ordinary. What drives someone to operate at a level so far beyond their peers that they are immediately set apart, driven forward faster than those around them. More simply, what creates sustained high performance in some of us, but not in others? And, if we can gain insight into what drives the individual, can we use this understanding to drive ourselves and our teams to high performance?

In trying to understand this, one of the interesting books about performance that I’ve come across is ‘High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way’, written by acclaimed coach and speaker, Brendan Burchard. In it, he shares the 6 habits that his research suggests lead to sustained high performance – and happiness. 
Some of these habits may be common sense, but together they create a roadmap to high performance. And, alongside increased consciousness and awareness, they create a vibrational level that moves us from ‘just getting by’ to a state of flow. I’d like to share them with you…

Seek Clarity
High performers constantly seek clarity – about their goals, direction, strategy and intention.
And, while they might not always get the clarity they’re seeking, asking keeps them focused on what is important and helps them to sift out distractions.
Similarly, high performance teams focus on ensuring that members clearly understand interdependencies, have clearly defined roles, support the decision-making process and are committed to shared goals.
A suggestion that really resonated with me is to start each workplace interaction by asking: ‘What is our intention?’, ‘What really matters?’ and ‘What do we need to achieve?’

Generate Energy
In reality, while most of us are exhausted by mid-afternoon, having lost energy throughout the day scrambling to keep up with changing meetings, tasks and events, high performers aren’t.
Instead, they use the time between tasks or meetings – called transitions – to give themselves a short, psychological break. Some get up from their desks, others meditate or spend time in quiet reflection, but all use the time to recharge and shift focus from one activity to another so that they’re primed to perform again.
Burchard’s suggestion that we plan our days in 45 to 60 minutes chunks, with breaks in between, seems within reach for us all.
Energised team environments emphasise team development, continuous learning and motivation. 

Raise Necessity
For high performers, succeeding isn’t about passion, preference or need.
Performing with excellence is as necessary to them as breathing.
And, raising this necessity is personal. It’s all about having someone to perform excellently for – family, team or peers – and reminding yourself of this reason constantly to focus your intention and mental ability towards the right goal.
For high performance teams, necessity is created by focus on a collective mission and purpose – where members can see beyond individual workload and goals towards the team’s higher purpose.

Increase Productivity
High performers increase outputs that matter – or, simply, they focus unwaveringly on what they have identified as the main event, without being distracted.
They’re also more productive because they have the subconscious ability to think and plan ahead.
Burchard’s research shows that high performers see five steps ahead at all times, identifying the major moves that they’ll need to make to achieve their goal, what to avoid and what skills they’ll need to develop to complete each move.  
One of the ways that high performance teams achieve increased productivity is through clear and constant feedback. Knowing how they’re tracking – and where they’re going wrong – helps teams to take action to correct inefficiencies quickly.

Develop Influence
High performers are influential – by influencing how others think and challenging them to grow.
If you’re lucky, you have an admired mentor who subtly shapes how you think by questioning your approach – ‘What do you think about this? Have you thought about approaching it in this way?’ and, who, in doing so, pushes you to think unconventionally and creatively – and be your best.
If you do, you’re likely to have a high performance mentor.

In high performance teams, creating an environment where members feel secure enough to constructively criticise and challenge processes – the status quo – builds influence.
 
Demonstrate Courage
When confronting risk, hardship, judgement or fear, high performers show courage in many ways.
Firstly, they speak up for themselves – and others – sharing truth that makes them vulnerable.
They also ‘honour the struggle’ – appreciating that true success take blood, sweat and tears and that working through the tough times is a necessary part of the process. They expect hardship to come with achievement, believing it be character-building. South Africans call this ‘vasbyt’.   
Finally, high performers demonstrate courage because they’ve identified someone to fight for – a family member, friend or peer – and their determination to fight through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to work hard for this person.

Focusing on these habits and constantly challenging yourself in a non-judgmental, but honest and conscious way, can shift old patterns and move you into a more authentic state of being. Like all things that are really worth it, this takes practice and discipline, but is a challenge that can have amazing results.
 
Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.


May 24
The Gender Pay Gap: Time for Change

Author: Georgina Barrick

Ricky Gervais joked about it while hosting the Golden Globes.
The BBC’s John Humphrys caused an outcry when comments he made to a producer about it were leaked.
Northern Ireland has reversed theirs, while Iceland is making big strides towards doing the same.
Syria and Pakistan have not…

I’m talking about the gender pay gap.
#Fact: Men earn more, on average, than women. 
In 2017, global average earnings for women were $12 000, compared to $21 000 for men.
This gap is evident across region, industry and age.
Education makes little difference. Neither, seemingly at this point, does legislation.
And, while the issue has been on the global agenda for decades – America’s Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963 – little real progress has been made.
According to the World Economic Forum, at this rate, it will take 217 years before women universally earn the same as men.¹

These facts have really shocked me. It’s 2018, for goodness sake. 
Either I’m horribly naive or have been fortunate to headhunt for clients, and work for companies, where salaries are related to the complexity of the role, rather than the gender of the employee filling it. I was equally shocked to hear how much more than Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe was paid for commentating at Wimbledon and that Claire Foy, who portrayed the bona fide leading role of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown (which I loved, by the way ), was paid less than Matt Smith, who played the supporting role of Prince Philip.

Locally, despite supportive legislation and better tertiary education attainment, South African women are more likely to be unemployed or work informally or part-time. We’re are also more likely to work longer hours for less and do more unpaid work than men. 
All of this has contributed to South Africa’s ranking in the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report dropping from 79 in 2006 to 89 in 2017. The IPSOS 2017 Pulse of the People Report supports these findings - South African women earn 27% less than their male counterparts. 

My blood boils. 
While we’ve made many encouraging moves in the right direction (think ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ legislation in many countries and America’s 10 April ‘Equal Pay’ day), myths that reinforce unequal pay persist. 
Like, the idea that women don’t need to earn as much as men because we work for ‘pin money’ – when 49.4% of all American households with children under 18 have a breadwinner mother who contributes at least 40% to household income.
Or, that we earn less because we don’t negotiate salary – when the reality is that, even when we do (and 12% of women have, compared to 51.5% of men), we may, in fact, be penalised for asking, while men are rewarded.
And, perhaps most pervasive, that women choose to be paid less – or choose lower-paying jobs – because we trade salary for flexibility. When the truth is that, rather than choice, women have constraints on choice – like the need to balance raising children with a career as, globally, women typically shoulder 75% of childcare responsibility.
Or, the historical myth that biological differences keep women out of higher-paying jobs – the ‘men have superior mathematical ability’ argument.
Together, these endemic myths impact the gender pay gap and prevent women from participating fully economically.

As 21st Century leaders, role models and mentors – both men and women – what can we do to effect positive change on pay?

Promote transparency.
Research shows that publishing pay raises earnings – and improves employee engagement. 
In some countries, legislation is pushing transparency. The UK has enacted law that makes gender pay gap reporting mandatory, while the Scandinavian countries publish everyone’s income tax returns annually. 
The result – Sweden has only a 6% average pay gap between men and women doing the same job. 
In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows employees to discuss employment conditions with co-workers – a provision designed to bypass the secretive approach to pay that contributes to the gender pay gap.

Don’t rely on previous salary when making job offers.
Using previous salary as a base discriminates against women who have taken time out of the workplace to raise children, been working part-time or in low-paying employment.
Rather, like Google, offer what the job is worth.

Value negotiation.
Salary negotiation goes wrong for women more often than men.
One possible solution to this problem is to coach women in the art of negotiation. 
Another is to raise awareness around the issue with your management team and encourage them to advocate for women during negotiations.
Yet another solution is to ban salary negotiation entirely. Rather, set pay ranges for each of your roles and make non-negotiable offers to candidates.

Create ‘family-friendly’ workplaces.
Many highly-skilled women leave the workplace when they start a family – which is a loss for all.
Family-friendly policies – like childcare assistance, extended leave and proper flexibility – that support working mothers make it easier for them to stay in work. 

I’m exceptionally fortunate to work for a listed company, where everyone is rewarded fairly for their efforts and salaries relate to the role at hand. This means that, irrespective of gender or race, we have a package range for each role and compensate our staff based on their knowledge, skills and experience.  Looking at the facts, I can see that this isn’t the case for all.

The time is now. Let’s stand together against all forms of inequality and discrimination. 
I know that I’m ready.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Apr 19
People First: The Way Forward


Author: Georgina Barrick

 

In 2018, HR's newest buzz phrase is 'People First'.

This means that how we see, manage and communicate with our employees is evolving.

We're moving from a more traditional HR view, where process drives efficiency, effectiveness and value (think Jack Welch's infamous annual 'rank and cull') towards a world where people come first.

Today, we regard our employees more as 'whole human beings and understand the complexities, opportunities and abilities that come to work with them every day'¹, leading us towards an understanding that their well-being, success and growth are top priority.

As leaders, we're realising that it's people, and not only process, that create value and efficiency.

This may seem almost counter-intuitive in a world were robots are replacing humans in so many jobs, but one of the key drivers of this evolution is technology.

In one of my recent articles, I talked about the impact of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Together with social media, HR analytics (aka People or Talent analytics) and human management tools, technology is driving instant access to information not available through traditional channels. This data allows HR to track employee sentiment, satisfaction and success – which, in turn, makes it possible to strategically innovate, make decisions, personalise the employee experience and create brand ambassadors out of our current and former employees.

Or, put 'People First'.

Another key driver of this evolution is rising awareness.

The greater social conscience of our younger generations, together with social media, is driving transparency – think #MeToo, #equalpayday and Wikileaks.

As leaders, we understand that our actions and culture are no longer contained within the walls of our companies, but instead are visible for all – satisfied or disgruntled – to see.

The knowledge that our treatment of people can easily become public (remember Vicki Momberg) and can impact our bottom line, is a contributing factor in this greater awareness.

As I've alluded to already, the third drive is generational.

In 2008, we had 2 to 3 generations in the workplace. Today, we have 5 working together (a first!) presenting HR with both unique challenges and opportunities.

Technology can help HR to uncover generational differences and focus on inclusivity for all, through communication.

'People First' is impacting how we do business in interesting ways…

Employee engagement is making way for employee experience or journey.

For some time, we've been concerned with measuring engagement – or how emotionally committed our employees are to us, our companies and goals.

We've also been outwardly focussed on strategies that drive 'customer experience' – but have finally evolved sufficiently to include employee experience in our arsenal.

Technology now helps us to show commitment to our employees, by driving the delivery of more personalised 'consumer-like' experiences. This extends to supporting employees on their career journeys, either internally or externally.

Tailored, flexible work solutions are gaining traction.

In the US, remote work increased 16% between 2008 and 2012, facilitated by technologies like Skype and Google Apps for Work. The resulting cost savings on office space and perks have been bolstered by the fact the flex has become a sought-after perk itself. And, one of the biggest benefactors of this shift are companies themselves who would otherwise lose workers – particularly women who may leave the workforce to take care of children.

Office perks are becoming more individualised and relevant.

From personalised wellness programmes to tailored concierge services, companies are using people analytics to personalise perks.

Good examples include Bitco's 'token system', where employees receive tokens for demonstrating knowledge sharing, communication and integrity and MultiChoice's MLife concierge service and rewards programme, aimed at supporting employee's like a 24/7 personal assistant.

Coaching is on the rise – at all levels.

Once prevalent only at executive levels, coaches now help staff across the business to understand what they really want from careers and how to unlock value.

Technology now allows coaching to be delivered on virtual platforms, which together with the increasing specialisation of coaches, makes the concept more accessible to all.

'People First' seems to be ushering in a kinder, more effective and productive way of managing human resources. As David Sikhosana, author of 'Time Value of Money', said 'Always put people first, for without them, there is no organisation'.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Mar 20
Avoiding Groupthink: Check Your Ego at the Door

Author: Georgina Barrick

 

In one of my previous pieces 'Improving Hiring Success – Let Go of First Impressions', I spoke about the temptation to hire in your own image and likeness. It's a natural tendency – we like people who are similar to ourselves and who share our views and beliefs. With this kind of thinking, cohesion is prized, teambuilding is geared towards strengthening friendships, everyone (mostly) agrees and, in 'good' teams, conflict isn't encouraged.

Building a team of 'clones', with very similar backgrounds and thinking, can work – often very successfully. But there's a potential downside – groupthink.

Groupthink occurs when everyone thinks the same way. No-one challenges perceptions and there's no space for alternative ideas. If someone has a different view, they're swept along with the consensus and feel like they can't speak up or need to censor themselves to avoid conflict. This may lead to poor or badly made decisions, as ideas are simply embraced without debate and without really challenging the basis for making them.

So, while cohesion may initially boost team performance, being homogenous eventually hurts success – and the bottom line.
Over the last 20 or more years, the rise in prominence of EQ, and more recently CQ, means that we've come to understand that ego has no place in picking a great team. Getting the balance right between differing personalities is far more important – and successful in the long term.

Today, when I'm looking to expand my team, I focus on the following:

Make team diversity a priority.

Self-awareness – understanding your own strengths and weaknesses – is an important part of having the confidence to bring in different skill sets - and even people smarter than yourself.

Look for different personalities. To set up a truly balanced team, you need a blend of personality types including the results-orientated organiser, the relationship-focused diplomat, the conscientious process/ rule follower, innovative and disruptive thinkers and pragmatists.

To stimulate debate, seek out contrarians, critical thinkers and the naturally curious.

If you want to improve team effectiveness, surround yourself with dissimilar people who will help you to see all sides of issues and will enter into valuable, robust debate which, ultimately, will improve the decision-making process

Increase awareness.

Preventing groupthink starts with being able to identify the behaviour.

Make sure that your team knows what it is, how it occurs and what to do if they think it's setting in. There are also a number of thinking methods that teams can apply to ensure that an issue is examined from all appropriate sides.  An old, but still very useful, method is the De Bono 6 Hat thinking method

Encourage debate.

Many Gen X leaders have been socialised to avoid conflict. 'Respect your elders' teaches us that it's disrespectful or impolite to openly disagree or criticise. But, while dissent can be uncomfortable, it should be prized in team environments.

Create a culture where team members are encouraged to voice opinions, critically analyse problems and share feedback. To encourage debate, it's a good idea to assign a 'devil's advocate' to argue against the grain and to avoid criticising anyone who suggests an alternative perspective.   

However, don't let disagreements get too heated or fester. Dissent needs to be healthy.

Give everyone a voice.

Sometimes, quieter team members can get lost in the noise.

To overcome this, set up a suggestion box for anonymous suggestions or try 'brainwriting' where, rather than shouting out ideas, participants write their ideas down and pass the sheet to the next person, who adds their own ideas, leading to a group discussion.

Bring in outsiders.

Whether it's a subject matter expert or different team, get an outsider to review the situation and decisions made.

Document the decision.

Once the team has debated a problem and reached a solution, it's important to document the process. Try to include a detailed analysis of the situation, all possible solutions considered, a comprehensive breakdown of the recommended solution (and why it was chosen) and a project plan, covering how to implement the solution.

Selecting a team for high-performance companies is about carefully identifying the sum of its parts. If you hire in own image, you'll miss out on competencies that you need to be a truly high-performance team. Bring in people who know more than you do in other areas – and get out of the way so that they can excel.

Paul Gibbons once said 'That which a team does not want to discuss, it most needs to discuss.'

Written by Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Georgina Barrick.

Feb 21
Wellness is a State of Being - Navigating 2018

2018 has started at warp speed.

Or, so it seems to me. And, speaking to colleagues and friends, I’m not alone.

 

So much has happened in the first few weeks of the year, bringing a renewed sense of hope, optimism and positivity, coupled with an overwhelming sense that we have an enormous amount of work to do.

In South Africa, new leadership is champing at the bit, we finally have a new President, corruption is under serious scrutiny and the mood amongst our clients is definitely more buoyant. For the first time since 2015, the Rand has broken the R12/$ barrier. Cape Town is bracing for Day Zero and counting the potential human and business cost of being the first major city to switch off the taps, while thousands of litres of water are arriving by truck, sent by well-meaning Joburgers who want to assist animal shelters and the like.

Personally, January seems to have passed in a blur. Despite my best intentions to consciously remain focused on my crucial purpose, my packed diary often left little space or time for focus, reflection and personal development.

If, as business leaders, we’re feeling this way, our teams most certainly are too.

The question is how best to help them – and ourselves.

 

One of the avenues that has gained so much traction is corporate wellness.

For some, ‘corporate wellness’ may conjure up images of weight management programmes, SmokeEnders and emailers about managing stress. However, corporate wellness has shifted from monitoring physical health towards a more holistic, proactively preventative approach, with the intent of increasing employee engagement, reducing absenteeism and boosting creativity and focus. Going forward, I believe that we’re likely to see the rise of more sophisticated and meaningful Wellness Programmes that really make a difference by focusing on key areas like sleep, mindfulness and mental health.

 

In the 1980’s, sleep deprivation was considered a badge of honour.

Margaret Thatcher famously got by on only 4 hours of sleep a night, stating ‘sleep is for wimps’. Today, the Rand Corporation estimates that sleep deprivation costs US employers roughly $411 billion per annum – and everyone from Oprah to Arianna Huffington is espousing the benefits of at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep improves cognitive functioning, productivity and creativity, protects the body from disease and helps keep your weight down.

I believe we’ll see business leaders tackling sleep deprivation with sleep awareness education, sleep challenges and work time naps. We may even see some providing sleep rooms or pods. Flexible hours also allow employees to better manage rest, particularly in an always-on, 24/7 world

 

Mindfulness is another concept that can make a big impact.

Buddhify is a mindfulness app that offers guided meditation, with surprising results. It helps users to sleep better and helps them to find their ‘happy place’ during times of intense stress. All of which is excellent, given that studies show that people who practice meditation have stronger focus, stay calmer under stress and have better memory - just ask Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Finding ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my professional environment is one of my key challenges in 2018.

 

Mental health issues are often stigmatised – and, as a result, hidden.

However, in South Africa, loss of productivity due to mental illness is estimated to be R17 billion per year, with R15 billion attributed to ‘presenteeism’, where workers are on the job, but not fully functioning because they’re ill.

Wellness programmes can make a difference to mental health by offering mental health days, therapy benefits and a focus on self-care.

 

Many of these programmes have also become more personalised.

Today, nobody expects a ‘one size fits all’ model. AI and big data have made it possible to use collected data to design personalised experiences, which cater to individual needs, set specific challenges and offer unique incentives.

 

However you choose to navigate 2018, whether by simply focusing on the growing trend towards ‘grounding’ (the simplest way to be grounded is to go outside and place your bare feet or hands on the earth or immerse yourself in a body of conductive water, like the sea or a mineral-rich lake) or incorporating  formal wellness interventions into your life, it’s clear that to be able to stay healthy and excel in a high performance world, we need to be finely tuned and firing on all cylinders.

 

‘Health is a state of mind. Wellness is a state of being’

Good luck!

 

Written by Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Georgina Barrick.

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