Confidence in ourselves as women in business can be a real challenge. We often attempt to embrace a business persona that protects us and portrays a “powerful” image that we are untouchable, strong and ultra-independent. However, in creating and living this image we may be betraying our true selves and blocking off what we really need to feel and be to create a successful business.
A False Masculine Image in Business
Many women try to portray themselves as masculine to survive in the business world. However, this exercise can set us up for self-deceit about the fact that our dominant orientation in life is actually feminine. As women, we often look to establish love and stability in intimate relationship before we are ready to venture in to the world and establish ourselves. This is quite different for men in their masculine who try to establish themselves in the world before they are ready to give and commit in intimate relationship. This one of many differences between the feminine and masculine that impacts on women in business and can lend to role and gender confusion.
Another difference between the feminine and masculine in business is that the feminine is relationship and feeling based while the masculine is action and mentally based. This results in the feminine being focussed on the interpersonal and values the flow and ebb of emotion between people, while the masculine focusses on getting the job done.
Embracing the Feminine in Business
Embracing ourselves as “confidently feminine” AND as a real asset to business in every role is important. Rather than trying to squash a circle into a square hole, perhaps the trick is to respect and value the feminine aspects of ourselves in business as women. For example, women in their feminine energy may circle around an intention to create the outcome rather than “strive towards goal”. As women we may manage groups of staff through our concern of their wellbeing rather than focussing on what is produced. This does not mean that less is produced, rather it simply means that the management is wellbeing based rather than outcome based. Finally, we may evolve in our own businesses rather than take a linear approach. The key point is that the feminine may be different from the masculine in business, however it is no less effective or appropriate in creating successful businesses.
How have you built confidence in yourself as a woman in business?
What aspects of the feminine could be cultivated as an asset to successful business?
How Do You Reduce Stress & Burnout?
In giving your service to clients in your practice you may find your work is incredibly meaningful and rewarding as well as exhausting and sometimes draining. Wether you are an osteopath, chiropractor, kinesiologist, psychologist, counsellor, naturopath or other health provider, balance and self care are a necessary aspect of maintaining a healthy service to your clients. Besides the actual service you offer, if you are running your own practice there are also business and administration duties that may weigh you down! Stress and burnout are all too familiar in the health industry, so how we manage our well-being is vital to business success for any health practitioner.
Whatever your business circumstances, mindfulness is a fantastic practice to support balance and ease in a busy therapeutic practice. If you are like most health practitioners then you have probably at least heard of mindfulness. You may have even begun a regular mindfulness practice at home. Today’s focus however, is about prioritising the integration of mindfulness into your daily business routines in your health service.
Steps to Integrating Mindfulness into Your Health Practice
The first step to integrating mindfulness into your health practice is to recognise its benefit in the context of your health practice. Mindfulness can help refresh your mind and de-stress your body as you work with your clients or carry out administration work. While it is easy to become consumed in the business activities and duties, practicing mindfulness will enhance your service as well as lift your energy levels at work. You can become so entrenched in the ‘doing’ that the ‘being’ can be forgotten. So the practice of mindfulness is as important at work as it is outside of work.
The second point is to realise that mindfulness can be integrated into a range of tasks that you are already doing. You do not need to add another ‘thing’ to your already busy list. You can simply modify the way you are doing it. Rather than rush between booking a client, organising the bookkeeping and welcoming the next client into session… slow down and breathe. Mindfulness can be as simple as taking ten seconds to feel the air enter into your lungs, feel your rib cage expand and contract and feel the air be released. Or it could be taking thirty seconds to feel the texture of the paper underneath your finger tips, or to really take notice of the image on your business card. It does not matter what you are doing as much as creating the ‘space’ within your body and mind to feel and witness what is. The simple act of ‘witnessing’ in mindfulness has the powerful influence of calming a busy mind.
The third step is to create reminders to practice mindfulness while at work. At first it is easy to forget to practice mindfulness throughout the day and especially if you are working in a busy health service. So a simple strategy is to put prompts around you at work to remind you. For example, you may create a phone message system or blue-tack a card above your computer screen. Eventually you will not need these prompts but at first, they can really help to maintain your mindfulness practice.
So these are three simple steps to integrating mindfulness into your health service. In a nut shell:
- Recognize the benefits of mindfulness at work
- Integrate mindfulness into current activities at work
- Set up reminders to practice mindfulness in your work place
These three steps may seem incredibly simple but they are very powerful as you regularly bring mindfulness into your everyday way of being at work.
Take The First Step Today To A Mindful Health Practitioner Business…
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Feeling Drained from Work?
Find out how mindfulness could help increase your energy and make your work more enjoyable
How many times have you been at work and begun wondering why you are pushing yourself so hard? Do you arrive home from work feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Have you find yourself wasting the weekend oversleeping because you feel drained from work? If you can say “yes” to any of these questions, then the practice of mindfulness could greatly benefit you in your daily life.
Whether you own your own a business, manage a team of people or work for someone else, mindfulness is an important key to coping well at work. We often have routine duties and tasks that we have to do, even though we really don’t want to. This leads to stress. We may have to socialise with people that we would not entertain if we were not working, and we have to learn things that we may not be interested in. Even if you own a business, while there may be some latitude in what you do, the weight of responsibility of owning a business often becomes the source of stress.
Mindfulness can help you to step out of persistent worry, stress and anxiety by giving you the awareness of how to witness thoughts and emotions rather than being stuck in them. Most of time we tend to think we are our thoughts and emotions. We do not realize that we can watch them without being overpowered by them. This is what it is to ‘dis-identify’ from thoughts and emotion. As we do this, our awareness becomes clearer and more peaceful.
Perhaps one of the most empowering aspects of mindfulness is an expanded ability to make life enhancing choices. We often think we are making choices all the time, and yet we are really reacting out of childhood conditioning and psychological patterns. We then become frustrated because we go around in circles and are not able to break free of the unpleasant consequences to our reactions. The power of witnessing conditioned thoughts is amazing! We literally get to the point where we can see the pattern so clearly that we simply look at it and realise we do not need to buy into the thoughts. We simply do not believe them anymore. However, if we cannot see them in the first place, we are not really making choices at all.
So when you are working in your job or business, it is empowering to turn the mirror to yourself and watch yourself as you function at work. What are the thoughts that bombard your mind? What are the triggers at work that cause you unpleasant emotions? Where does your body tense when a stressful event occurs at work? Witnessing your reactions to work events is the first step to eventually changing them.
Take The First Step Today…
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Business Responsiveness To Staff Well-being
We have now approached the final article in this series “Psychology in Business” for 2011, and today we are going to focus on the importance of businesses’ being responsive to the wellbeing of staff members.
Over the last seven posts, we have looked at:
- Why the mental health of your business is vital to your business survival in an unpredictable economic market
- How to survive in a stressed business environment
- Why businesses need to ensure ethical practice to enhance adaptability and productivity in this market
- How to successfully manage staff cuts in business
- The importance of clearly defined staff roles in business
- Successfully introducing change in business
- And involving staff in decision making processes in business
All of these topics are essential ingredients to adaptable and successful business in this changing market. There is a great deal of noise in the business world about social media, constant technological change, changing goal posts in legal requirements, business structures and training. Unfortunately, how businesses are functioning psychologically and how they treat staff can be over looked, due to the bombardment of information, expectations and necessities.
We have already focussed on a range of specific issues and areas of ethical practice within the business management and why this is centrally important for business survival, rather than an “expensive nicety” or “optional extra”. So today we are going to look at an over view of ethical practice of staff within business.
Staff management needs to be directive for the business to run effectively. There needs to be workable structures, timelines, policies and procedures. However, there also needs to be realistic, achievable and sometimes flexible approaches to attaining effective work flow and productivity. Effective communication and appropriate staff input are two key ingredients. When we ask staff about their experience of their position in the work environment in an open and genuinely respectful way, we can learn a lot about our own business. Valuing their expertise and experience are important.
I have witnessed what happens when assumptions, miscommunication and judgement rules the workplace. And this is more likely to happen when managers, business owners and the business itself are stressed. Businesses lose opportunities to benefit from valuable staff productivity and insights. Staff members suffer and often eventually leave, maybe with law suits or Work Cover claims pending. Businesses are then left with more to deal with and new staff to train. Everyone loses!
The important message here is when external stresses such as cash flow issues, extra external demands, and economic instability impact on the business, it is essential to look at how staff are treated within your business. In other words… it is essential to look at your businesses mental health. The whole organism is made up of every person who works within the business. Everyone in the business is like an area in a brain. They all need to be functioning well for the business to function well.
It can be helpful to have a look around your business environment with open eyes every now and then. Our businesses often become like our family or our pet projects, we are too close and too habituated to them to see them clearly. Simple step back and look! Who seems to be working well, who seems most happy, who appears to be struggling, and who is most unhappy? Communicate with staff members on a one on one basis and find out how they are going. Staff will trust you as they learn their best interest is important to you, as well as the best interest of the businesses. You do not have to fix anyone’s problems, especially if their problems are located outside the business. However knowing what staff are going through and supporting them can make a big difference. By supporting them, I mean listening to them, suggesting counselling or appropriate avenues for treatment if they need it, and allowing them appropriate support, either time or financial support for treatment if appropriate to the business. Support can also be to uphold their confidentiality of what they have told you and do not partake in gossip.
Being mindful of your own stress levels as a manager or business owner is just as important. Are you sleeping well? Are you leaning too much on alcohol or other addictions? Do you feel energized or drained as soon as walk through the door of your business? When you talk about or even think about your staff, do feel resentful and critical towards them or do you feel appreciation and see what they do well? How do think of yourself as a manager or owner towards your staff? If you were to visualise a character to capture your relationship with your staff, who would it be? Are you Robin Hood or are you the sheriff of Nottingham? Are you open to constructive feedback from others about how you are going as a manager or business owner? Al these things help to enhance yours and the businesses mental health.
I would love to hear if you have been able to implement any of these ethical staff practices into your business or team that you manage. I would also love to hear about any staff member who can influence their business to adopt any of these practices. Respect and appreciation are far more powerful than control or authoritarian styles of management. To support and embrace our staff team upholds the integrity and maximises business mental health.
Involving Staff in Decision Making in Business Change
In the last article we focused on how to introduce change into businesses and organisations. One important aspect of introducing change was to appropriately involve staff form all levels of the business in decision making processing. In this article we will take a closer look at this process and open discussion on what best works, what does not work and why.
Generally speaking, when we allow people to participate in decision making in any sort of group, we encourage group ownership, positive participation and openness to receiving, embracing and promoting change. Involving staff can significantly increase the business readiness to accept even difficult changes within the business.
However, there is a fine line between creating opportunities for staff participation in decision making and appropriately guiding changes within the business that will work. So the forums for staff input need to be structured with realistic boundaries and clear about the scope of how their information will be used in the business or organisation. For example, let’s say a hypothetical business wants to increase its use of social media and internet technology into its daily functions. The initiative for that change and its desired goal has already been decided on before staff involvement. These goals are not up for negotiation! Rather, it is how these goals will best work within this business that is up for discussion and negotiation. For the purpose of this consultation, staff may be invited to participate in focus groups top brainstorm and discuss which positions in this business are best suited to take these roles and what are realistic and achievable parameters for these changes.
The focus group in this example has two purposes. Firstly, there is valuable expertise that these staff hold that can guide this
initiative successfully within the context of this particular business. Secondly, if staff have been given authentic opportunity to input into these decisions, they will be far more likely to co-operate and take these new roles and duties seriously.
What tends to not work well is when change is forced on staff in a top down approach. This is especially true if the staffare professionally trained and have ideas of their own about what works well and what does not. No body likes to be told what to do. Processes such as focus groups can embrace respect for staff as well as capitalize on staff expertise. After all, staff members do have a pretty good idea what is realistic and achievable and what are potential barriers to implementing change within their own workplace.
Another important point in this example is to be clear from the beginning of the focus group why they are participating, how their information will be used and what will be done with it after the change has been implemented. It is OK to keep this information for 10 years in the business and used to inform future changes, but it just needs to be said upfront to the staff members involved.
Finally, being accountable, transparent and real to the staff members involved to the consultations is vital for successful change to be implemented into a business or organisation. If staff open up and give management information about their experience on their positions, it is important for management to inform them how their information was used. Some organisations have run “token” focus groups that just built up member’s expectations of positive change without delivering the goals or following up to feed back to the members of those focus groups. Staff and consumer groups know when this happen and it does nothing for morale or productivity. Being “real” is important as it gives staff a clear message that they are valuable in the business they work for.
Focus groups are just one method of including staff in decision making. Other methods include surveys, one on one interviews, and adding questions into reviews or reports. However staff are asked, the same principles apply. Be up front about why they are being asked and about the scope and use of their information. Be transparent and accountable to them about how their input has influenced changes within the business. And use their information respectfully and appropriately.
Stay tuned for our last article on psychology in business when we look at responsiveness to staff well-being. After all, a business’ mental health is only as good the mental health of its staff!
Successfully Introducing Change into Business
Change is always confronting! When we are asked or forced to change we tend to face the abyss of uncertainty and can feel overwhelmed, daunted or just plain scared. In a work place, we are also surrounded by our peers and often have ownership to our professions, training and positions, so when faced with these uncomfortable feelings, staff, managers and business owners can react in ways that block or sabotage change. These reactions may be completely or at least partially unconscious, and people often do not understand why they feel or react the ways they do when confronted with change.
These are important factors to consider when a business needs to open to change in a unpredictable economic market. Currently, technology is expanding at enormous speeds, the very rules and processes of the cyber-world are fundamentally shifting, social media is becoming central to business marketing, training is constantly being updated and legal requirements are increasing. All of these factors are driving change in business and they are moving faster as time goes by. These shifts in the market and in the world in general, can even result in businesses needing to change their fundamental business structures. So how do we approach the topic of change with business owners, managers and their staff?
Organisational change is a field of research and practice that has shown us the complexities and challenges that can occur as organisations are asked to change. Some of the learnings include:
- Appropriately involve staff from all levels of the organisation in decision making about the changes
- Be transparent (i.e. open and accountable to all owners, management and staff about why the change is needed, how it will be implemented and the processes for feedback)
- Listen to the blocks or barriers to implementing the change and facilitated healthy discussion about how to over come the blocks
- Equip owners, managers and staff to become experts in the areas of those changes
- As change occurs in the business, gradually step out and hand over ownership of those changes to the owner, managers and staff.
These are a few tips for introducing change into organisations and businesses, however, there can be many challenges along the way. For example, people in business may be experiencing high levels of stress before the idea of change came into play. Therefore they may need stress reduction along side the methods of implementing change into the business. Other people may feel threatened at the idea of change and may need reassurance and honesty. Trust is vital as change is implemented. Another issue is that people may lack skills or fear gaining new skills such as information technology skills. These people may require extra assistance and reassurance as they learn new skills. Finally, there may also be power and ownership issues that emerge through a change process. These people often require open, honest conversations about what is happening and assistance to refocus on the goal for the great good of everyone, including themselves. In any of these situations the issues may escalate and therapeutic assistance for individuals or groups of people may be required.
In a nutshell, change can be embraced in business if the people who make up the business are given adequate support, training and ownership of the change process. It is often far from easy and staff may require individual counselling throughout the process. However, in today’s changing economy successfully embracing change is essential. It is far more likely that change is successful if it is consciously created rather than being forced upon the business by circumstances down the track.
For further information about change processes in business contact Vanessa 0n 0424507101
Clearly Defined Staff Roles Increase Business Mental Health
When we become stressed we often become more confused, anxious, tense and irritable. Stress also decrease memory concentration and decision making abilities. Quite literally, we lose our ability to relax and see things clearly.
It is the same for a business! An organisation that is stressed can become distorted in its perception and can neglect important decision making. In the confusion and desperation, the urge to get things done and save the business can overshadow clarity.
This is particularly the case when it comes to clearly defining staff positions and roles, and especially when there has been staff cut backs. Professional boundaries can become blurred and expectations on certain staff members can become unrealistic. Another common occurrence when a business is stressed is that it can neglect to act appropriately when it does become obvious that staff are struggling. Business owners and management are often very stressed and overwhelmed themselves and can mistakenly see stressed staff members as an inconsiderate burden on the company. Important staff issues and dysfunctional interpersonal systems then get brushed under the carpet.
Unfortunately when staff needs are ignored the business only becomes more stressed in the long term. A lack of clearly defined and realistic staff roles and duties is a major contributing factor to staff burnout. A struggling business is only going to find it more difficult to deal with staff sick leave, breakdowns, retraining new staff and accommodating dysfunctional staff dynamics. In fact, it is not unusual for staff to become “scapegoated” as unconsciously it is easier to see the problems as a “difficult staff member” than the decline of a whole business.
This is why it is vital to step back, breathe and LOOK when a business is feeling the pressure! When a business is stress is the perfect time to explore and define staff boundaries and clarify staff positions and roles. As a general rule, the clearer staff positions are defined, and the happier and healthier the staff are, the higher functioning business can be. Business owners and managers who look after their staff and who take responsibility for clearly defined staff roles, tend to cope better in a challenging and unpredictable economic market.
This is just one more action a stressed business can make to enhance its mental health. Next time we are going to look at how to introduce new systems and initiatives into an existing business that is stressed. The more effective changes can be made in a business, the more likely it will adapt to our constantly changing economic market.
How to Manage Staff Cuts and Save the Business’s Mental Health
Today we are going to look at the mental health of the business or company in regards to how the business treats its staff when staff cuts become essential! Staff cuts are often one of the first solutions to decreasing expenses in a stressed business. However, whether this is the right decision for a particular business should be looked at very carefully. There may be better ways of changing a business’s productivity than reducing staff. If there are not enough staff or the remaining staff are highly stressed because the expectations on them have significantly and unrealistically increased, then it shows!
How staff cuts are approached is vital to the effectiveness of these changes. If staff cuts are not carried out with fairness, respect and equity then the solutions is often counterproductive. While this solution may cut expenses it may also inadvertently decrease profit. If you loose the morale of the workers then they will not be working as productively and the business will begin to lose quality. Unhappy or stressed staff reflects the state of the business and customers sense this! Therefore, staff changes need to be handled carefully.
As stated last time, a business is like an organism. Its mental health is dependent on the wellbeing of the staff, its owner and the managers and the interpersonal systems within the business. A mentally healthy business is responsive to its staff needs and issues within the boundaries of the business. Likewise, effective staff change in a business needs to be done with appropriate care, respect and value for the staff if the business is to keep its integrity and edge. So when staff cuts are essential for the business’ survival, keep in mind the organic nature of the business and the real effects of those cuts on the productiveness and results of the business.
In a stressed economy there may need to be staff cuts, however the process and how staff are treated is essential to the company’s mental health. Honesty, integrity, transparency, clear communication and timing all play important roles in how these changes are carried out. Even when hard decisions need to be made, how they are carried out will increase or decrease the trust and loyalty of the remaining staff.
Today we have looked at the how important it is to approach staff cuts sensitively and appropriately. Next time we are going to look at how to manage staff and business needs with integrity to advance the business’ mental health.
How Can I Remain Balanced in a Stressed Business?
Today we are going to look at how an individual person can better cope in a business that is stressed. Next time we will look at the company itself, and what strategies can help a stressed business maintain its mental health. There are three main ingredients to maintaining mental health as an individual in a stressed business. The first is to become aware of your reaction to stress. The second is to see the effects of your reaction in the business context. Thirdly, is to find more effective solutions to the stress in the business.
As an individual person surviving in the workforce, self awareness is essential because as stress increases you are likely to fall into old defense pasterns. So it is important to know how you react to stress. This includes both what ways are your coping mechanisms are helpful and in what ways are they a barrier to your success. For example, if when you are stressed do you put your head down and work harder? If so, the benefit is that you may become more productive, however the disadvantage may be that you stop listening to others and stop looking where you are going. Another example is that you may become more directive and push others harder. The advantage to this is that you may increase control over the direction of the project or the company, but the disadvantage is that your leadership style may become a dictatorship and you may loose the morale of your workers. Another possible reaction to stress may be that you become increasingly aware of others and hypertensive to the stress around you. The advantage is that you are very aware that appropriate action to the stressful environment is required, but the disadvantage is that you may become highly anxious and find it hard to speak up. In short, recognizing your reaction to stress is the first step to addressing it.
The second step is to take a step back! Here it is important to reflect on how you can address the disadvantages of your reaction to stress. This may require counselling, yoga, meditation, exercise or similar appropriate solutions to reducing the stress itself so you can get clarity of mind. Mindfulness is a very effective way of addressing this, as it can both decrease stress and increase awareness of your reactions to the stress. Mindfulness is simply the ability to detach from the thoughts, body tension and emotions and watch them with curiosity and awareness. This type of detachment is beneficial as we can see what is actually happening within ourselves. It is important to note that this process is very different from becoming aloof or suppressing thoughts or emotions. Detaching peacefully and WATCHING mindfully is all about increasing self awareness and seeing what we might otherwise not want to see. It may also mean feeling and learning to tolerate unpleasant emotions. However the benefits in the end can be freedom from stress, anxiety and depression. So, step two is to see how your reaction to stressful circumstances increases your suffering and contributes to the negative dynamics within the business itself.
Step three is to then ask, what could I think, feel or do differently that would contribute to a better outcome in this difficult situation? For example, perhaps instead of working harder, the answer is “working smarter”. Maybe getting different ideas, approaches and learning about new business initiatives will bring about more rewarding outcomes than simply doing more of what you have been doing in the past. Another example is that it may be that a different leadership style can help staff to better cope, feel more confident in their positions and increase value and respect in the workplace. Or it maybe that speaking up in a way that helps empowers both you and the business you are working for is the answer. There are a range of different personal reactions and therefore solutions to stress. The key is to know yourself and commit to change if that is what is needed to decrease stress.
This may not be the whole answer as there are a number of things that are outside our control and are not our responsibility to change. If we aim to influence the situation positively and things do not change then perhaps the next step is to detach and come back to what you do have control over. Remaining stuck in unpleasant circumstances and believing that you are helpless to change it, can eventually lead to depression. So come back to what you can change in your own life to create a better outcome. If a stressed business cannot or will not change then perhaps looking else where can alleviate your helplessness and open up opportunities.
Ultimately, a business is only as good as its workers, and visa-verse! If you feel stressed and you are aware that the business you are working in, own or are managing is a big part of what is contributing to this stress, then seek appropriate help. If the business needed an accountant, book keeper or financial adviser, it would be a “no brainer”… access the appropriate expertise. It is the same for mental and emotional issues. In the current market, anxiety, high stress and depression is becoming more prevalent. When we look at the stress of the economic market, this is completely understandable. The trick is to access counselling earlier rather than later.
Often we belief we are more powerless than we really are in a business. Embracing your strengths and moving towards your personal potential is an asset to the business you work for. Working through old defenses and discovering new more effective ways of dealing with stress in your business, can result in you realising your potential within the business you are working in.
Have You Looked at the Mental Health of Your Business Lately?
Whether it is global, national or local I hear the same message about our economy… things are tight! In my practice as a psychologist I hear about the very real effects of our economic slump on people’s lives personally, professionally and inter-personally. As profit margins slide, people are becoming more stressed, anxious, moody and intolerant. And yet, now is the time when we need to become more co-operative, accepting and resilient if we are more likely to find a way through the current economic market trends. More than ever, we need mental clarity and emotional balance. What I tend to see is that the individual’s stress level often parallels the company’s stress. Both a person and a company can be seen as an “entity” that affects each other. Individuals in a business are only as healthy as the company is, and visa versa. Over the next few weeks we are going to start by looking at the individual in a company to see how to maintain mental balance and health in stressful environments. Then we are going to look at the company itself. We are going to explore how to keep your company mentally balanced in a challenging and rapidly changing economic landscape.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks and learn about how your staff and your business can strengthen and even succeed through this economic climate!