Tag Archive for: Articles by David Irvine

How To Help A Team Member Who’s Experiencing Anxiety

Recognizing when a colleague or employee is struggling with mental health challenges can be vital to making sure they get the support they need in a timely manner. Helping them to work through anxiety in a caring way is also better for productivity. Employees who feel respected and supported are more likely to thrive in their roles.

Here are a few tips to recognize and support a colleague who may be struggling. If working remotely, all the more reason to be in touch and aware of what’s going on.

  1. Accept that anxiety can be a part of a good life. There’s nothing “wrong” with you if you are experiencing anxiety. It simply means that you have lost some perspective and are trying to control an uncontrollable situation in order to feel safe. People experiencing anxiety need our support, not our judgement. When we’re anxious, we don’t need to get anxious about being anxious.
  2. Notice changes in behavior. Unusual behaviors like irritability, impatience, withdrawal, emotional outbursts, and fatigue can be indicators that a colleague is facing a challenge and needs support. Be aware that challenges like depression, grief, and trauma can accompany or present as anxiety.
  3. Start a conversation. Mental health challenges create opportunities for connection. If you notice that your co-worker’s behavior has changed, start a conversation with phrases like “How are you feeling?” “Are you doing okay?” “You don’t seem yourself these days. Do you want to talk about what’s going on?” Or “How are things going today?” These questions open the door to support your colleague in the best way possible and offer resources when appropriate. Respect that timing is a factor and stay open for a response if/when they are ready. Of course, this is contingent on your relationship before the onset of their anxiety.
  4. Create a safe space for your colleague to share their feelings with you. Remember, anxiety, like all emotions, can’t be “fixed;” only supported. Create a safe, supportive, respectful space so they will open up to you at an appropriate time. Holding the space for them without rescuing or fixing is enough. You are their friend, not their therapist. After you have listened, you can explore whatever resources they may need and ways to help access them.
  5. Negotiate expectations and agreements. Letting people off the hook when they are anxious does not help them in the long run. Having expectations is generally helpful. Self-respect comes from being needed, not being rescued, and from showing up. However, expectations may need to be lowered and renegotiated. What is non-negotiable is lowering your standards of accountability and integrity. Follow through and keep the promises you make to each other. We all feel better when we do that.

What’s The Difference Between “Value Statements” and Real “Values?”

A senior manager recently told me how her boss criticized their work to a contractor she had hired without speaking with her first. Because the values in the company included respect, open communication, and collaboration, she respectfully approached him about her feelings and a proposed plan of action going forward. He abruptly dismissed her, saying in no uncertain terms that it was his prerogative to speak with whomever he wanted, and held her comments against her thereafter.

Values are meant to guide our decisions and our actions, but we really don’t know what our values are until they are tested under pressure. Most of us are skeptical of the lofty declarations of those in leadership positions as we experience the hypocrisy of their actions.

Most organizations have “value statements,” but few have a process to turn these statements into real “values” – a process of accountability that ensures everyone is expected to live them.

Here’s a few guidelines for making your values real:

  1. Make your values aspirational, not just descriptive. Values need to inspire everyone in the organization to bring their best self to their work.
  2. Ensure that each value is accompanied by expected behaviors of every employee.
  3. Every positional leader needs a Values Conversation with every person they serve that includes:
    • What do these values mean to you?
    • What do we expect from each other?
    • How will we know that we are living the values here?
    • How can we support each other to live these values in a meaningful way?
    • What happens when we discover a gap between what we espouse and the reality of our actions?
    • How will we hold each other accountable – in a way that honours our values?

There’s an ending to my friend’s story. Through a continued series of actions incongruent with the values of the company, the executive was eventually fired. The Senior Executive Team understood that they needed to lead in alignment with what they espoused. The decision to fire this person made a significant positive impact on the culture. People started to have regain faith in their positional leaders and in the culture.

Let’s renew our workplaces with a firm resolve to know what we stand for and follow it up with a promise to turn value statements into real values. Talk is cheap but behaviour is expensive; that’s why behaviour is a credible indicator of authenticity.

If you need support with getting your value statements off the wall and into the hearts of your people, feel free to reach out and schedule a complimentary call: marg@davidirvine.com

Overcoming Overwhelm

I know first-hand what it feels like to reach a breaking point with the pressures of life. When you have so much on your plate, so much to do, so much stress that all you can to do is come home and veg in front of the television. Or when you are in a meeting and you are completely checked out, unable to focus on anything.

Here’s five strategies to counter overwhelm.

  1. Recognize it – with some appreciation. Overwhelm is a biological stress response. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. The recognition of being overwhelmed is a sign of self-awareness. Fighting it only adds to your stress. Appreciate that a conscientious, sensitive person is susceptible to being overwhelmed from time to time. Resist the natural reaction to get overwhelmed by being overwhelmed.
  2. Step back. When overcome with stress, it is important to step away from the situation to get some perspective. If you can’t step away physically, give yourself a five-minute mental break. You might need a day on a weekend to turn off your devices and take a complete break from the demands in your life.
  3. Investigate it. Resist the tendency to escape to devices, television or other vices, and instead take the time to reflect on any changes you need to make in your life. Get into nature for some relaxation. Call a trusted confidant. Do some journal writing. Sit quietly and practice listening to your inner knowing. What important values have you been neglecting? Pay particular attention to what you need to say NO to and what you need to start saying YES to.
  4. Break it down. Make a list of everything that is creating the overwhelm. Once you have written a list, separate it into three categories: (a) what needs to be done this week; (b) what needs to be done after this week; (c) things you need to say no to. Then pick the three things that need to be done today and have a “small giant” success.
  5. Plan a new structure. Start with defining what matters to you. Create space between a request and an impulse to say yes to prevent overwhelm in the future. And next time you get overwhelmed, appreciate that you are still learning.

Corporate Vision – Three Components That Are Often Missing

The purpose of a corporate vision is to unite and inspire people around a shared goal. It clarifies what is important to the organization so everyone can get their hearts into working together towards a shared higher purpose.

There are three key components to a solid corporate vision that are often missing:

1. Corporate vision needs to start with a compelling personal vision. You won’t put your heart into a corporate vision until it aligns with what matters to you personally. People have to feel that their personal sense of purpose and values are in the game. To have energy and meaning, everything at the corporate level needs to start at the personal level.

2. According to Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, a corporate vision involves discovering your organization’s core ideology (the enduring character of an organization) and a vivid description of a ten-year ideal BHAG. The core ideology includes your core values (the guiding principles by which a company navigates) and your core purpose (your organization’s fundamental reason for being). You don’t create or set core ideology – you discover it. You don’t deduce it by looking at the external environment; you understand it by looking inside. Ideology has to be authentic.

3. You have to keep your vision front and center. Keep it alive. If it gets stored on your hard drive or merely sits on the wall in your office, it will become part of the background and will die a slow death. Your corporate vision is a living entity that requires energy – energy that comes from ongoing inspiring personal visioning, conversations, and agreements. Every person in the organization needs to understand how their personal passion, vision, values, and contribution aligns with the corporate vision.

If you need support with aligning personal and corporate vision and values, discovering your core ideology, or keeping it alive in your organization, reach out and schedule a complimentary call with me: marg@davidirvine.com. I would love to hear from you.

A tough load to carry

The last few years have been difficult. People have struggled and persevered and faced tremendous challenges. Organizations and families have been divided. As leaders, we may have carried an extra burden to ensure our businesses continued to thrive and grow. It’s not easy when there’s hardship all around and you feel you have to be strong all the time.

How, as leaders, do we reconcile the need to be steadfast, confident, and strong with the reality of being human?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Be real. It takes courage to openly face your feelings and It will earn you respect. It’s also healthier for you and for the people you serve. Facing your emotions decreases your risk for developing PTSD symptoms in times of crisis and adversity.

2. Show up. Don’t put your emotions in the driver’s seat. Being emotional has nothing to do with being weak. Take a few moments to be human, then be a human that rolls up their sleeves and gets back to work. Openness and honesty about our own feelings opens the door to be there for others This is what builds a strong community.

3. Have a support system away from work. Don’t rely on your team to take care of you. That’s not their job. We all need a trusted confidant away from work to support us, provide perspective, and hold us accountable through the hard times.

Work/Life Balance: It’s About Flow, Not Balance

If you are a conscientious, accountable leader, it can be hard to find work-life balance. When you feel directly responsible for someone’s livelihood, it can feel selfish to take time for yourself. You can end up pulled in many directions – from the people who depend on you at work and the people who depend on you at home.

So how do you take care of yourself in the midst of all the demands?

Three strategies:

  1. Come up with a new goal. Work-life balance is actually an odd aspiration for a successful life. Think of learning to ride a bike. You work hard at not falling. It takes an enormous effort and energy. The goal in learning to ride a bicycle is to eventually get past balance to flow. Once you get it, it’s not about balance, it’s about enjoying the journey and getting to your destination. Instead of thinking of work-life balance, consider changing the goal to flow and integration.
  2. With the goal of integration, identify your core values – the areas in your life that require your attention. Then sit down with the people in your life who depend on you and upon whom you depend and have a conversation about key accountabilities that need to be integrated into your life. Establish clear expectations of need and availability. Delegate and negotiate for resources and allow for possible emergency escalations. Like riding a bike through difficult terrain, you have to be prepared to ride the flow imperfectly. The goal is that during the course of an upcoming year, all important areas in your life get attended to.
  3. Discover your passion. Too often, in the words of Gary Porter, “I hear people vacillating over their work/life balance, which to me just means that they have not found their passion; that which makes them come alive. Too often, those people… spend their life struggling to attain the satisfaction that working with your passion can bring. When you find your passion and go ‘all in,’ your passion consumes you and resides within your work, home and play spaces…” When you find your passion – either in your personal life or in your work life – and find a way to immerse yourself in it, life becomes fulfilling, with the rewards in the journey, not the destination.

We can’t always do only what we love. But we can always find the love in what we do.

And “work/life balance” will be irrelevant as you begin living an integrated life in the flow.