Day 33: Work/Work Balance

Today was the final day of 5 days workshop delivery and tomorrow I head off to India to work with a new client on developing an internal brand and culture strategy connected to 5-star service delivery. That is quite a mouthful and as I write this I realise that I must take some time and just refocus and relax my brain. It has been running on high voltage for the past week and now it seems to have just reverted to robot mode and repeat what it knows. During this workshop, we discussed the habitual mindset and how this can alter one’s perception of change. This week has shown me the importance of time to allow the brain to shut off and recharge as this ‘always on’ not only impacts health it also dulls forward thinking and creativity. I am sure it is much like how Buster felt the one time I saw him chase his tail. He did try for about 5 spins and then realised it was not for him. His active brain saw no sense in it and off he went in search of something to sniff or eat – got to love a beagle. I appreciate that some people find solitude in sameness and in routine and that is what makes us all unique in our own way. However, if I was to speak on my behalf and for others with dyslexia or with ways of thinking that need more autonomy and scope of creativity and change, it is important that we look at employees more as individuals. To be healthy we need to feed the body with the correct level of nutrients and hence the mind is equal in finding the right balance of workload. Over the next few months, I plan to monitor this more with myself between my need for sameness, creativity, exercise, social and me time. What I have truly recognised is just how out of balance I am in these 5 zones. It is like I live in excess in 1 or 2  of them till I drain the bucket and then I move to another and with excess, I drain the other. In order for my creative brain to find the nutrient that it needs to be happy and healthy, I must start to balance the filling and draining of these 5 areas with more conscious and forward-thinking strategy.

Mantra: Be kind to your creative brain


Day 9: The Difference a Day Brings

Having read back yesterday’s blog it seemed that I had got everything sorted and I was on a motivational and positive trajectory however today I seemed less happy and less motivated due to several challenging issues with work and a few personal ones to boot. I guess this is what we call real-life. Over the years I have done my fair share of detoxes whether that be a juice detox, a three-day detox, a five-day detox, as far as the 10-day detox and each time, in the end, I felt some benefit however the journey to that final day took many twists and turns. Each of these focuses on the body and clearing out the build-up of toxins such as alcohol and processed foods. This is a great parallel to any toxins be it food or people. Like this week I am focusing on cleansing and today it really extended far beyond just cleaning the office and making a work environment clean. It became evident that we must also consider our personal cleansing and that’s the cleansing of the stressors and the things that take us away from being the best version of ourselves. I think I am beginning to recognise through the challenge just how much pressure I put on myself to perform and also how much pressure I internalise as I am not very open to seeking the support of others when it comes to showing vulnerability. However, if I am to achieve a higher degree of wellness in my mind, body AND spirit it is very important that I focus just as much on my mind as I do my body simply because they are very interrelated. Today I began to look at many of my own internal feelings, behaviour patterns and the amount of stress that I internalise and with an external smile to let the world see that I am okay. When really behind-the-scenes the constant juggling of pressure seems to be greatly impacting my health and also my performance. Delving a little deeper into my body and spirit it is a labyrinth of crisscrossing connections and more so than I ever thought at the beginning of this project. The interconnection between these three areas is incredibly interwoven. The conclusion that I draw from this is that any organisation looking to increase employee wellness by developing an internal program must recognise the importance of this and to understand the vastness of the subject. As people, we are all different and it is crucial to engage the employee population to find out what wellbeing means to them and how they can be best supported on their own journey. There are so many facets to consider and a cookie cutter approach to employee wellbeing is not the answer. I don’t think there is a bowl of fruit or a ping/pong table big enough to quick fix me at the moment. All jokes aside, I never appreciated the depth of this subject as I, like many leaders, have only been looking at it from the surface.

Mantra: Breath and Relax, one step at a time

Day 7: Cleaning or Cleansing

In my follow up on my commitment to myself to take back more control over the things that I have the power to do I headed to the office to give it a good de-clutter and clean. It is so important that we consider the physical environment that we work in and the impact that this can have on mind-set and wellbeing. It is great to have an office dog but Buster can sure leave his mark if not maintained regularly. Also, I seem to collect lots of random paper and “I will get to that” piles scattered around all holding various forms of energy. Some pointless, some stressful, some important, some personal, some client focussed, some research, some forgotten about, but all holding my unconscious attention and linked to my energy. So in this one step forward I gave it a deep cleansing and purge and out went the old and the negative. So after four hours and several bags of now forgotten paper and “why do I have this” stuff I sat back and just was… I could seriously feel the difference and the room felt bigger and brighter – if that is possible. It is important if we are going to introduce new and exciting possibilities into our world then we need to clear away the old ‘stuff’ that no longer serves a purpose. Whether this is in the physical realm or in the poor habitual habits that we have formed over time as they all negatively impact on our wellness and mental health. However, it too goes beyond these and into the relationships that we surround ourselves with. When I am working with clients I often talk about the law of attraction in that when we are feeling low we attract and surround ourselves with like-minded people. However we have the same power when we take charge of the positive or more pure energy. You would think that throwing out a pile of old paper would be easier than ending or closing down a toxic relationship. However, when I played the mind video back of the office cleaning I found myself in constant dialogue coming up with all the reason to keep stuff even though I knew it would really not be missed as it served little purpose. Whether it be in stuff, habits or people it is hard to let go of the familiar even when they have a negative consequence to our wellness and mental health. That is why this is a journey and we need to seek the support of others and in their objectivity sits the perspective that we might have lost sight of. So if you plan to clean out your closet – it is best to do it with a trusted friend who says what they mean.

Mantra: The Energy we give is the Energy we receive

Day 6: Time Out or Time On

Today was a chance to just drop out and enjoy some downtime. However, I must say that after the week of better diet and more exercise it was evident today that I had more motivation to get up and out. Being completely honest, over the past several months I have used Saturdays as a hideaway day and shut off from the world. If binging on Netflix was an Olympic sport I was working towards the gold medal at record speed. Now that I am looking at my own wellness through a more conscious lens I can clearly see the link between my mindset, perspective and my energy. This is something that leaders and organisations need to consider when introducing a culture of wellness as it is not just one thing but a combination of factors that once all brought together will start to show early signs of a shift. We can have various ideas of what wellness and mental health means within the workplace however the common thread that must be considered is that it does need to be reviewed in the context of the environment and a more open and transparent dialogue started. I can openly say that many of the stresses of 2018 changed my perspective and as a result, my health suffered – however that is because I allowed it to happen. I cannot control everything in my work world but I forgot that I did have more conscious choices within my power. I also had the support of more people around me – I just need to reach out and say – I am not OK! It took the purpose of the Balance project to start my shift and take the small steps toward taking back more control and just in that I gained more power. So today was spent Buster walking on the common and meeting a friend for a pint and lots of laughs in a dog-friendly pub. Remember this is all about balance and yes a pint is Ok!

MantraLive and Laugh

Day 5: Masking and Faking Resilience

Today was one of the busiest days I have had in ages and it hit me out of nowhere. The day started with one call and then another and so on with each one taking longer than expected and each one putting me a little more behind schedule. However, it did highlight to me just how much my energy can turn on a dime as my low energy over the last few days was replaced with that of a more manic and frantic one. This was like a pendulum swinging from one direction to the other and after a full day like this, it can leave one very exhausted. Without question, it is the complete opposite of being balanced and is one of the areas that I personally wish to explore over this 50-day challenge. A very close friend of mine often reminds me that I need to find more balance in my energy in which I totally agree. I do find that mindfulness and meditation have gone some way to assist me in doing this better, as this has helped me slow the swing from depression to overtly positive and manic. This is something that I have had to deal with for many years and therefore can fully appreciate others that also have this impacting on their daily mental wellness. I see leaders from across all businesses running them self from meeting to meeting and have to begin to question the impact this has not only on their own well being but that of their productivity and ability to truly lead their team forward. It is very much easier to put on a mask and fake resilience but after a while, this does take its toll on our wellbeing and ability to successfully manage our ways through busy days or periods like this. I know that this is very early days in this challenge and this first week for me is very much about looking at my mind, body and spirit and how I am currently managing these areas and I have to say that I am slowly uncovering lots of core areas that I need to focus on and change.

Mantra: Mindful minute stop, relax, take a breath

Bridge Talks: Scott Northcutt on Employee Engagement

On 2nd June, Scott Northcutt, Senior VP of HR at Bacardi Limited joined BridgeTalks to present “Inside the Brand DNA of Employee Engagement”. Scott has over 20 years’ experience in HR, with previous positions held at Walmart and DHL. He joined BridgeTalks to give insight into Bacardi’s successful people strategy.

To give some background, Bacardi is the largest privately-held spirits company in the world. It began as a family-run business in 1862 and to this day has survived fire, earthquake, prohibition, civil war and exile from Cuba. Throughout all this, people have been the key to Bacardi’s success, with family values close to its heart. With 8,000 employees in 160 markets; Bacardi now incorporates brands such as Martini, Grey Goose, and St Germain to name a few.

Guests were welcomed with Mojitos, Martinis and St Germain cocktails at registration and finished off their drinks to be ushered into the Courthouse Hotel’s private cinema. Dale Smith, Director of Creation at Bridge Training & Events began the BridgeTalk with his introduction. He spoke on brand and storytelling, and how for employees to really engage with an organisation, they need to be part of the story. Reflecting on Bacardi’s history, he explained to delegates that stories stretch out from the past into the future, and that success needs to be celebrated.

“A really great brand story in the now is like being a great futurologist and a great historian,” said Dale.

Scott then kicked off his talk by setting the questions for the evening: What is engagement, how do you know if you’ve got it, what can you do to get it and how do you keep it?

After introducing himself and the company, Scott introduced the “Virtuous Cycle of Sustainable Success” whereby enablement and engagement are self-sustaining. Scott went on to talk about Values-Based Performance. Here he drew some formulaic conclusions:

P + V = Y

If a person performs and has our Values, that is who we want and should build around.

P – V = N

The person performs but does not have the Values or fit for the Company. Then they need to leave the organisation.

V – P = ?

The person has the Values but is not currently performing. It is the responsibility of the organisation to check for job fit, see if the person is aware of the issue, offer coaching and training. These options should be explored before deciding what to do, but the person ultimately needs to perform.

Scott then gave delegates a taste of Bacardi’s recipe for success; how they achieve engagement.

He explained, “There are no silver bullets, it’s more a cocktail of different ingredients that satisfy the “taste profile” of your employees.”

Making Bacardi the place to be is one Scott’s directives as VP of HR. There have been many programmes implemented to support this, and Scott touched on a few; such as Living Legends, Talent Exchange, Step Up, Rising Stars and Winning at Bacardi.

In summary, Scott’s top 10 tips for engaged employees are:

  1. 1. Communication : Consistent, transparent and authentic
  2. 2. Values Based Performance
  3. 3. Ability to Make a Difference
  4. 4. Visible & Approachable leadership
  5. 5. Development Including Career & Succession Planning
  6. 6. Recognition – as an Accelerator
  7. 7. Make Tough Calls
  8. 8. Social Responsibility
  9. 9. Break down Barriers – Speed Decision Making
  10. 10. Have Fun

Finally, after a Q & A session, St Germain Brand Ambassador Camille gave delegates the opportunity to learn how to make one of the three cocktails they tasted at registration. This was a big hit at the networking reception with guests enjoying candid chat with Scott while sipping on martinis, mojitos and St Germain cocktails.

Bridge Talks: Hamish Pringle on Brand & Culture

On Tuesday, 14 April Hamish Pringle joined the BridgeTalk community at the Courthouse Hotel in Soho to present ‘Engaging Employees with Brand and Culture’.

To begin his talk, Hamish tackled the question: Why engage employees? He explained that with more points of contact available through social media and contact centres, these days more employees are at the front line of an organisation, and therefore employees are directly related to a leading factor in retaining loyal customers.

Exploring the relationship between brand and culture, Hamish defined brands as not being rigid; each person builds his or her own experience and perception around a brand. As such, a brand exists uniquely differently to each person and so is owned by people as an intangible promise in the customer’s mind.

“Very often employees are absolutely crucial in achieving that. They are crucial in conveying that promise and then in keeping it,” said Hamish.

Hamish used the example of Tesco’s ‘Every Little Helps’ campaign as a best practice brand promise. In the early days, all business decisions in Tesco were taken with the frame; ‘does this help the customer?’ However, as time went by, this promise was broken and 53% of its market cap was lost in a short period of time. Now, Tesco’s new Chief Executive, Dave Lewis (formerly of Unilever) is in search of Tesco’s DNA, to find what made it successful.
“We know what it is, it’s ‘Every Little Helps’. And unfortunately I suspect that they are going to come up with something else, which won’t be as good, and they will lose that enormous brand heritage they’ve invested millions and millions of pounds in, which all their employees, all their staff all understand deeply,” said Hamish.

Next, Hamish talked about culture; ‘the way we do things around here’. He said, at the heart of culture is brand story, and culture depends upon brands having a coherent, well-articulated story. A great story can orient all employees together, unifying them to one direction.

“The single most important thing [a leader] have to do, is they have to have a great story, and they have to tell it brilliantly, and they have to never tire of telling it. And if they are a walking, talking brand ambassador, and culture generator, that’s the most powerful thing that a company can have,” said Hamish.

It is by creating a self-confident organisation, which is confident in itself and in which its employees are self-confident, that an organisation can find success. Hamish stated that a brand promise needs to be crystalized in its mission, vision and values; and this needs to be embedded and lived within the organisation. Leadership needs to communicate the brand story to employees and internal and external values need to be aligned; which means recruiting on attitudes and values as well as skills in order for employees to fit into the culture of the organisation. Staff should be fluent in the brand story; good advertising can create a language helps engage employees. It is also important that defined powers of decision-making are given to brand ambassadors in order to make discretionary decisions in the customer’s favour. Doing all this creates a self-confident organisation, where brand and culture are brought together most successfully.

“If employees are given the information as to what counts as good service in their particular market, for their particular business, their particular brand; and if they understand why the expectations are less than 100% and where the areas of weakness are; and if they’re empowered to address those areas of weakness, and if they just simply know about them, I think there’s a much greater chance that they will then deliver and manage people’s expectations and over-deliver against good service. So that’s how you get a great customer experience. That’s how you get the customer delight that we keep hearing about,” Hamish said.

In summary, Hamish put it simply:
Why engage employees?
It makes for a better, more successful and profitable business.
What is a brand?
A promise that has to be created, conveyed and kept. What is a culture? A natural fit between the staff and the brand story, living in a narrative that is completely engrossing.
What is a self-confident organisation?
One where staff are aligned, and able to ad-lib, express themselves around the narrative that has been delivered by the leadership.

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