Do we really need annual plans for work?

As the end of the year draws closer, all the attention at work seems to be shifting to next year. What will the priorities be? What programs will we be executing?

Of course, annual planning is a necessary part of business. You need to know what budgets and resources you will need for the following year, what needs to be in place to support requirements. But it’s plaguing my mind, waking me up at night, it sometimes feels like I am putting together a puzzle without all the pieces.

Back in my marketing days, the planning process was a rigorous affair. Templates to be completed, research reports to be reviewed and planning session after planning session. Communications as a function seems to be a little more laid back, there is a sense that our role is more “reactive” than proactive, so the ability to be able to predict or manage what may be happening seems to be met with somewhat cynical eyebrow raises.

Which has made me reflect on the whole planning process.

In our fast paced, dynamic and digital world, where things are disrupted regularly…is the annual plan becoming obsolete? We are being encouraged to utilise Agile work practices, clear goals with short sprints with iterations…so how can we predict what the outcomes will be?

I’ve also been reading a lot recently about the demise of the annual performance review. Certainly in own company our old annual rating system has been shifted to something less annually focused, goals that are more flexible, quarterly feedback.

Perhaps we need to take the same approach with our planning cycles? Less focus on having a documented signed sealed and delivered annual plan?

That said, there is something really cathartic about taking time out of the daily rat race to do an annual plan. To ask yourself, what has worked this year, what has not? And what can we improve on next year?  To analyse the data, to look outside your bubble to what is happening in the industry around you, what is working for other people?

I don’t agree that communications cannot be planned. We absolutely should know what our priorities are and have a vision for where we are heading. If we don’t have these things in place, how do we know we are steering the ship in the right direction?

So, maybe it is less about the process and more about the output? Taking the time out at the end of the year to reflect on our programs is absolutely necessary. This allows us to then paint the vision and set our intentions moving forward.

However, we don’t need to have every execution, every tactic laid out for 12mths, but we do need to have a sense of where we are going.

In fact, the output should be as simple as possible.

Remember the trend that has been going the last couple of years to set a one word intention for the year instead of a New Years Resolution (because, you know, no one ever actually keeps their resolutions).

Maybe the same thing applies here, you want to end up with a few simple intentions for the year that you can stick up on your desk and refer to throughout the year. Not a lengthy document that sits in the drawer and needs dusting off, same time next year.

This also allows room for the actual specific programs and goals to shift a little. To evolve as you execute, dare I say…iterate… while your overall intention stays intact, is still a guiding light.

So after all the analysis and reviews of the last few weeks…if I DID have to set a one word intention for the focus of our work next year, what would it be? Maybe…SOCIAL (side note: my personal word is GROWTH…not that I follow these silly fads)

If you could sum up your work intention for 2018? What would it be?

signature

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Advertisements

Just wait while I eat my playdough spaghetti

My current role requires me to work across global teams,  which means that sometimes I am on teleconferences at odd hours of the day (or video conference…which is so much more pressure because then I have to brush my hair instead of sitting in my pyjama’s with a cup of tea like I normally do).

Whilst clearly this is not always ideal because the lines between my personal time and work time sometimes get blurry.  Overall,  I love the way it forces our teams into a much more flexible culture and teaming environment…

Firstly…because we are on different time zones and in different offices…the whole concept of “being in the office” is less important.   Who knows if people are sitting at their desk all day or where they are working?   At first this seems like a  weird kind of freedom…what if someone in the team is just slacking off and going to the movies?  How do you know if everyone is working as hard as you are?    So…the only option is to focus on outcomes.  What work needs to be done? …Is the work getting done?  Well…then people are working.  And if they choose to go to movies in the middle of the day, I guess they can…as long as they get the work done that they need to.   Which sets a totally different vibe of trust and responsibility across the team.

Secondly…work/life integration becomes second nature.   When I first started joining some of these teleconferences,  it felt a little awkward and distracting when you could hear dogs barking or traffic in the background.   Since people are dialing in from all over the place, at all sorts of times,  there are lots of none typical noises that you hear.

So…. on a call this morning,  I had a huge smile on my face when I could hear a little girl singing in the background…and no one even blinked an eye (well..actually…maybe they did, because I couldn’t see them…but no one said anything…so I’m going just go with the presumption that they were all cool with it!).   And when our Senior Executive stopped mid-update to say “just hold on a moment I have to eat my play dough spaghetti”,  I realised how lovely it is when we accept that work and life sometimes overlap…it feels like a more “human” place to work.

Workplaces are changing….is yours?

signature

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

 

Say it with confidence…

P1020664

One of my best friends admits that sometimes she tells us facts which she isn’t 100% sure are true (you know who you are!!), but she says if you  “say it with confidence” most of the time people will automatically believe you.

I…on the other hand…do not have this skill.  Instead, I tend to preface everything thing I say with “I am not really sure but…”,  “I’m probably not right, but”  or “Shoot me down if I’m wrong…”.    I like to think this makes me a very open minded and honest person…after all, I want to be humble,  accepting of other people’s opinions/ideas and authentic about who I am.  I know I have a terrible memory,  so there is actually a high likelihood I might be wrong…

Which is all well and good but, quite frankly,  at work I’ve noticed this can get me into a lot of trouble.   I’ve noticed how other people always seem to be crystal clear about their thoughts and ideas.  I wonder why I’m doubting myself when everyone else seems so sure.    And then it suddenly occurred to me that maybe,  all they are doing is simply “saying it with confidence”…so I believe them.

The thing is,   why open yourself up unnecessarily to people questioning your ideas and opinions?   In my case,  usually the things I am talking about are things (at work at least,  outside of work..hmm..lets just say you wouldn’t want me on your Trivia team) I have researched heavily,  or have gained knowledge from my experience.  I have thought it through and come up with a strategy or thought.   So…I don’t need to preface what I am saying with all the question marks,  infact,  it is doing me damage.

I think I do it because deep down, I have a fear of failure, a fear of looking silly, a fear that maybe I’m a crazy imposter and soon everyone will figure out that I ain’t really got what it takes.   But actually all I am doing,  is making other people doubt my opinion.  Making them question my decisions…after all,  why wouldn’t they when it appears I am questioning them myself!?

So…this week I am going to practice saying it with confidence.  If I’m 95% sure,  I need to back myself.  And if someone else thinks differently, or challenges me on my direction, that’s OK…I can explain my decision making if I need to and I still reserve the right to be open minded and change my decision if I get new information.

Of course, you can’t really use this strategy if you really don’t know what your talking about.   My friend…gets away with slightly faking her facts sometimes,  mostly because usually, she is pretty spot on.  So if she thinks something is true (even if she can’t actually remember whether it is correct or not),  she backs herself that it is probably right.

Confidence…I’m going to fake it till I make it.

signature

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

 

 

 

I am successful BECAUSE I work part-time…not DESPITE it

parttimeAs the end of the year draws near, I’ve been reflecting on my work and pondering whether I should be considering increasing my working hours back to full time next year.  I’m really excited and inspired by all the work I am doing and I would love the opportunity to step up to some more leadership challenges,  to take that next step on the Executive ladder.   And I can’t do that and work part time…can I?

When I think about my full time colleagues,  it seems like perhaps they are more committed to work.  Because they are available Mon-Fri,  doesn’t that make them better candidates for leadership and clearly they can achieve more than me simply because they have more hours to get work done?

When I started to gather together my achievements recently for my annual performance review,  I was pretty proud of some of the things that I have been able to achieve this year.  Despite working part time, I have still delivered some amazing achievements and been able to move the business forward.

But wait a minute,  working part time has allowed me to more effectively juggle all the priorities I have and ensure I’m spending my time doing things that are important to me.  And this commitment, has actually made me uber productive. I know I only have a finite time, so I have become a master of wading through the work to find the big hitters, the things that really matter.   I’ve successfully managed to attend 95% of the critical meetings at work,  but I’ve also been there when my daughter got her merit certificate, I’ve been the driver on the walking School bus twice a week and I’ve carved out time to start doing more writing.

Usually, by the time my “day off” comes around, I’m starting to feel a little wound up and stressed about work,  those work deadlines feel daunting and ominous.   But then I take some time out,  focus on some of the other priorities in my life,  like spending time with the kids,  exercising and writing my blog.  These things inspire and excite me,  so then when I am back at work on Thurs,  I have re-energised, and I have a healthier perspective.  I know that work is important but it’s not everything, which ironically, makes me better at it…because it is easier to keep a calm and clear mind ( I know I know…there are many days which are nowhere near calm,  but just imagine what I would be like if that was my whole world, I would be going bananas)

When I stop and think about it.  My success at work is not DESPITE me being part time,  my success at work is BECAUSE I work part time.  By feeling more in control of where I spend my time and energy,  I’m BETTER and far more productive at work and I have managed to achieve great things.

So now I want to prove to the world (or maybe just myself!) that you can work part time, and be a successful leader in the corporate world.   To break the notion that the ideal worker is someone who works 9-5 Mon- Fri and maybe a couple of weekends and evenings every now and again.   That the ideal worker is 100% committed to work as their top priority above all else.    Maybe at some point in my future,  my priorities will shift and working more hours at my paid job will be the right thing to do.  But right now,  the balance is right,  and just because I have made that choice, doesn’t mean I don’t want to excel or go forward…so watch out work…here I come (except on Wednesdays…ha ha)

claire2

Managing different communication styles…

I’ve learnt through my experiences at work,  that it is important to be tuned into how the people you work with absorb information…especially your Manager, or people you need to build trust with.   You see,  everyone has their own communication preference, and everyone absorbs information different ways.   There are lots of different official theories about this topic, but I’m not very good at remembering the theory…. here’s my take on it based on experiences in the office…

Some people LOVE detail

As I’ve said before,  I’m a short and sweet kinda girl.  Give me a text book or a thick wod of instructions and I’ll be asleep before page 2, just give me the key messages in bullet points PLEASE.  But not everyone I work with has been like this.  I worked with someone once who needed every minute detail to be explained before they committed.   For me, it was like watching paint dry,  such a slow and laborious process.  But I knew I needed to hang in there, I provided every inch of detail that I could and eventually they were on the journey with me.   If i had just steamed ahead in my usual style,  I would have lost them and maybe not achieved all the outcomes I needed.

Some people LOVE visuals

Infact, I’m a bit of a visual person myself, but sometimes even I forget that.  This week I’ve been trying to explain to my boss how my project is progressing.  Despite the fact that I have written down some key points and I can verbally explain exactly what is going on…i get a sense that he’s not with me.   Uh Oh.   So as a last ditch attempt, I decide to try and do a chart…how can I convert my thinking into one simple chart.  It took a few stabs but I finally got something that vaguely resembled what I was trying to explain and BANG!  instantly he got it.   Phew.   Now I am looking at the chart and suddenly it all seems clearer to me too.   Amazing what a simple translation can do.  Same concept, different communication style.

Some people LOVE need it in context

Remember at school in maths,  when they gave you word examples instead of just the numerics  e.g  2+2=4  or Someone has two apples and buys another two, how many apples do they have now?   I actually was way better at the numerical questions,  but others are the opposite.  In this case, you need examples,  talk about your concept using analogies and examples.   This will help the concept to “click” in their minds.

If you keep your eyes peeled at the office, you’ll notice there are lots more variations.  I like to play little games with myself sometimes,  trying to work out what style each of my co-workers has or someone new that I have met.   Whilst it may not seem that important, I’ve come to realise that this can be one of the most critical things that helps you succeed.  If you are willing to change your preferred style, to fit into someone elses,  they are far more likely to support your work and what you are trying to achieve.

Go on…have a play with it today..

 

 

My personal cheerleader…

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’ve talked before about some of the bad managers I have had during my career… like Teflon,  or the manager who threatened to throw her laptop at me (and I haven’t even written about “the aggressor” yet).  But mostly, I have had the pleasure of working under some pretty amazing, influential and inspiring managers.

I believe Managers are the single biggest influence in your workplace.  Doesn’t matter where you work or what you do,  the person you work for has the power to truly engage you in what you do,  or make you walk away from an awesome project.   And it is not easy.  When I was a Manager,  I suddenly realised how hard the job is (I spent so many years thinking “I’m going to be such a good boss, just give me the reigns and I’ll run this joint”), then you realise just how different every employee is, the bureaucracy that Managers often have to deal with and how many ridiculous curve balls Managers are thrown on a daily basis.  And in the social age… the manager role is becoming even more complex, as businesses become more open and collaborative.

So what has bubbled to the top in my experience?

My personal favourite leaders are calm and collected (to counter my sometimes passionate rollercoaster riding),  they listen way more than they speak (they need to, with me on their team!),  they empower and trust me (let me loose with an objective and the freedom to achieve it) and most of all,  they make me feel like I’m amazeballs.

That last point is often the most important for me.  That regular reassurance that I’m on the right track.  The constructive suggestions to support my momentum.  The faith that I can do it,  even when I don’t believe that I can.  The willingness to overlook some of my weaknesses because they can see my strengths.    Like your own personal cheerleader.

And it can’t all be about work.  A great Manager knows when to ask how things are going outside of work,  is tuned into your tone on a bad day and gives you the support and space when you need it.   This has happened to me recently and I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, and the commitment I gave back to work in return was ten fold.

Just like everything in life,  it doesn’t always happen this way.  And, as I’ve said before,  working under some bad Managers gave me skills I may never have learnt if I hadn’t been forced into it sometimes.   So I try to see it as a win:win situation,  bad manager = great, what can I learn from this experience, what new skills can I develop from turning this challenge into an opportunity?..and when a great Manager comes along,  I take every opportunity to learn from them, grow and hopefully progress.

If you’re a Manager,  are you helping your team to thrive the hard way or the easy way today?

Being fair doesn’t mean being equal

freephotosbank
freephotosbank

I was watching an interview on TV today about women working from home instead of in the office once they have had children (revolutionary topic!?!?).

It reminded me how fortunate I am working for a company which has provided a flexible working environment which has changed from working full time in the office, to full time at home and pretty much every combo of them both in between throughout my career. Whilst I have been afforded this luxury, I know that not every workplace can be this flexible and on the flip side, there are some employees who exploit the flexibility provided to them. Making it a very tricky subject.

In the interview today they also talked about how other workers often look unfavorably upon women with children being given flexibility that they don’t feel like they are afforded.  Like the non-smoker who curses the smokers who get extra breaks, there are always those who will strike out with “..that’s not fair”.  Infact, I remember watching some of my colleagues coming into work at 9.30am and leaving bang on 5pm while I slaved away into the evening,  thinking “i’m never going to be one of those people”.

There is a great sign up at my kids school is says “Being fair doesn’t mean being equal.  It means everyone is getting what they need to succeed“.   I love this statement and annoy my kids with it all the time now.  Because it is so true.

As a Manager,  you need to work with everyone in your team individually.  To understand what is important to them, what do they need to lift them up higher and make them fabulous?   And what one person needs, is not what everyone needs.  And those needs can change dramatically throughout someone’s career.  Great Managers execute on this for their team because they know they will reap the rewards ten fold.

Now I am that person who sometimes comes in at 9.30am and leaves by 5pm.  I work from home a lot and walk the dog in my lunch break.   And I am 100 times more productive than I ever was when I was sitting at my desk for long hours wasting time judging my co-workers.

We need to stop comparing ourselves with others.  It’s not whether you have children or don’t. whether your a woman or a man. If the person in the seat next to you (or working from their office at home), isn’t getting the same as you,  that’s OK…infact, that’s just how it should be.