The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Confidence’ Category

I’m not a runner. I don’t enjoy running. I never run for pleasure, only out of sheer necessity to catch the train when I am late leaving work.

Except, somewhere in the midst of training for the moonwalk, I became attracted to the idea of maintaining and improving my new-found fitness and I started to think the previously unthinkable, that I could perhaps learn to love running. And during May, whilst I was extending my training walks to 16, 18, 20 miles and starting to understand the power of saying yes, I agreed to run a half marathon with some fantastic work colleagues in October in aid of Tommy’s.

I am struggling to convey the enormity of the challenge to me at that point – I knew that I couldn’t run even half a mile without stopping and I wasn’t willing to risk my already strained muscles by starting to train for running before I had completed the moonwalk and rested properly. So it wasn’t until the end of June that I started to do my first short runs and could put my determination and blind faith to any sort of test. It’s not easy learning to run, but I had at least developed some good stamina and was able to run for five minutes and walk for one minute over three miles during my first foray into running.

I’ve been going out for a run three times a week and I’m starting to reap the benefits – tomorrow I will be running 25 minutes without stopping, walking for a minute and then running a further 25 minutes. If I stick to my training plan (which I will!) in another week I will be running for 45 minutes, walking for 1 minute and running for a further 20 minutes. My body is in training and my mind is too…I know I can do this now and I’m starting to enjoy it. I love the fact that I am doing something that I thought I couldn’t, pushing against my own perceived limits and that I have this huge and daunting challenge to aim for.

It turns out, as ever, that the only real limitations are in my own head.

I am becoming a runner. I enjoy running and I will keep running for pleasure and necessity. If I can do it, so can you!

I do have a sponsorship page, but I know many of you have already sponsored me for the moonwalk, for which I am already hugely grateful. I’d love to hear any great fundraising ideas that you may have and will keep you posted with how I get on 🙂

The last few weekends have involved a lot of bike riding…or more accurately a lot of learning to ride a bike. Over the last three weekends, my 6-year-old daughters have mastered riding their bikes without stabilizers and then upgrading from their small 14″ wheel bikes to a much bigger, heavier 20″ wheel frame. The former is certainly a life skill, the latter necessary because of how much taller they have become…yet once we arrived back home with the new bikes, I was concerned we were moving too fast and pushing them to do something they were not yet ready for or capable of doing.

It’s no exaggeration to say I could hardly bear to watch Mr C teaching them and quickly realised I was most help to the challenge by leaving him and the eager pupils to it. And of course, they managed it…a few wobbles, a few falls, plenty of determination and remarkably few tears. At the end of the first day of trying on the bigger bikes, I showed them the considerable difference in size between their previous bikes and their new ones, and already at that time they were amazed at how little the old bikes were and how strange it felt to sit on them. They had no wish to go back to the familiar old bikes…far from it, even though they hadn’t yet got the hang of riding the new ones to the same level of competence.

So, I’ve learned and been reminded of a few things myself this weekend: that people have as many different ways of teaching skills as we do of learning them and that mine are not always the most successful; that taking risks doesn’t always have to be as scary as we sometimes think it is; that determination and enthusiasm are often the most powerful qualities in learning new skills and that other people’s fear of potential negative consequences can easily be misplaced, however well-intended. Sometimes a cautious consideration of the learning strategy is aprropriate…at other times, the most effective way to get there, is just to have someone give you a huge push and trust you will get there!

Somehow I don’t think it will be too long before my kids appreciate the saying “it’s like riding a bike…” 😉

What have you learned lately? I’d love to know.

 

 

I haven’t blogged in a little while. I haven’t blogged with anything approaching unconscious competence for even longer. I have had an unofficial blogging pause.

When I first started blogging, I felt that I had really found my voice, a rediscovered pleasure in articulating thoughts creatively in writing, a renewed confidence in performing my role and a sense of belonging in the wider HR community.

It’s tricky to put my finger on what has changed lately. A hugely enjoyable stint of guest posts during Advent inadvertently led to me temporarily losing the blogging habit and becoming fatigued with the daily discipline. A couple of posts published that I knew were below my best knocked my confidence a little. And perhaps more than anything else, a start to the year that felt as professionally tough as the one that had just ended.

But, wallowing is as overrated as it is ridiculous, so I’m back – refreshed and ready to write more frequently again. 

A pause to any activity is helpful in considering whether to continue, how you want to shape your contribution, what you value and miss about it. For me, blogging has always been one of the best ways I know of expressing my opinions, reflecting on my own development, values and priorities…and I do firmly believe that when I am regularly blogging I am better at my job, more self-aware, more creative and more energised.

So, that’s me, back in the blogging saddle, meatier posts to follow. Feels good already :).

P.S. Of course it’s half-full!

 
Today’s blog post is rather a treat, not least because the lovely Emma (@onatrainagain) is an experienced, talented writer who is currently taking time out from her own very fabulous blog. It has been my pleasure to meet Emma in person during 2011 and she is huge fun to interact with, both online and via Twitter.  I have certainly benefited from at least one of her breakthroughs this year!
 
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Thanks very much to Alison for asking me to write a guest blog for her themed advent calendar this year. I have been known to have my own blog but due to work and study commitments, this is currently gathering dust while I focus my attention elsewhere. I’m sure normal service will resume again next summer, but until then, I shall make the most of being given the opportunity to pen guest blogs whenever I am privileged enough to be asked.

I try very much not to get fixated on the end of one year and the start of another. After years of having resolutions and failing most of them, I have quickly learnt that a fear of failure leads me to avoid them in the first place. This is an obstacle in some ways but in others it actually provides me with the focus that I need in order to work out what I want to achieve and how I will do it. Because it’s not a New Year whim, I find that I am more likely to be successful. I avoid making changes on 1 January because I don’t ‘get’ the concept of it but I can easily see why it might be a good driver for others. All it does for me is bring back the cringe worthy moments as a child singing Auld Lang Syne with my drunk relatives (yes, that really was as bad as it sounds).

Because I am studying at the moment, during the past 18 months I have very much focused on my own personal development. This has been quite difficult at times because I felt like I’d lost my mo-jo. The only issue for me was that getting my mo-jo back wasn’t as simple as when Dr Evil stole Austin Powers’ and it being later retrieved from a test tube.

During the course of the year I have had two major breakthroughs and although they may seem quite trivial to some, they are actually massive achievements for little old me.

First up is my overwhelming fear of networking. For years I have avoided any networking like the plague. This is for a number of reasons but top of my list was that I thought people wouldn’t like me, plain and simple. My line manager has spent a lot of time trying to convince me that when you turn up at networking events, people will rarely turn their back on you and/or deliberately not talk to you. It’s irrational when I think back to earlier this year when I was brave enough to grace the Connecting HR unconference with my presence. I still remember how I felt now. The nerves didn’t hit me until I was on the train there, at which point I felt so unwell that I thought of just getting the next train home. However, the attendees couldn’t have made me feel more welcome and although it hasn’t completely cured my daftness, I won’t be quite so reluctant next time to attend such an event.

Secondly, I have addressed a deep-seated internal habit of trying to be perfect – constantly. When I say that out loud, I wonder how on earth I didn’t send myself into an early grave just trying to keep it up. After a mini melt-down in the spring, I took some time to reflect and realised that by expecting perfect, I would never achieve it. I don’t think perfect exists and before now I have not been able to work that one out. Okay, I am a bit slow but at least I finally got there. For now, I am trying to be more content with being ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Sad but true, though I’m sure I’m not alone.

So, whilst these things may not be huge, or you may take them for granted, I have made two very big changes in my life. For that I am grateful as now I feel like I’ve taken some large steps towards meeting some of my personal goals.

On a final note, I would like to wish you all a wonderful time over the festive period. I have lots of university work to get through and won’t be partying, so please raise a glass for me and keep your fingers crossed that in May I pass this year and FINALLY I will be fully CIPD qualified. That’ll be another goal to cross off my very long list :).

Playground

My children are coming to the end of their first year in Reception and have learnt a huge amount since they started school…their reading, writing and general knowledge have come on in leaps and bounds. More than anything though, I see them starting to manage relationships with other children, learning how to navigate friendships, deal with conflict and resolve disagreements.

One of my daughters has been periodically troubled with the relationship with her “best friend” and things came to a bit of a head last week, when the friend would not let her play all day. Not unusual at this age (particularly with girls!) all fixable and resolvable.  But after talking it through with my 5-year-old, I was struck that many of these skills she is learning now, are precisely the ones that adults also need in the workplace, or any other environment where you can’t always choose who shares your space.

Here’s what we covered…with some of my follow-up thoughts

  • Actions speak louder than words

Listen to people’s actions as well as their words: if someone says they are your best friend, expect them to behave like it. As an adult, if someone’s behaviour doesn’t correlate to their espoused values then there is a trust issue and you will inevitably question their authenticity. Remember the flip-side too that others will judge you in the same way and always be consistent and deliver on what you say

  • Sometimes people don’t change

Sometimes we can change our behaviour; at other times it is so ingrained that we can’t. Change has to come from the individual and unless they want to change and are committed to doing so, things will stay the same. Find a way to get on with each-other and have a reasonable working relationship, but assume that they won’t change the things that annoy you. It’s not your job to make them change

  • Have lots of friends, not just one

Placing all of your eggs in one basket is never a good idea, either as a 5-year-old in the playground or as an adult who has a close working relationship with only one colleague. Try and branch out, ‘play’ with other people and be open to ideas, opportunities and challenges from all sorts of different people. Be inclusive of all friends or colleagues, so that you can share the learning and develop further

  • Remember what you have control over

Other people can only influence you as much as you let them. Don’t ever do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you know you shouldn’t. If you don’t want to do it, say no, explain why and if they still insist then walk away and find someone else to play with

  • Resolve your differences

Agree to disagree, find a way to rub along together and still be friends even if it’s no longer “best friends’. 7 years is a long time to be in a class with someone with whom you have irrevocably fallen out…people can remain colleagues for even longer! Much as I wanted to step in and ‘protect’ my daughter, I also realised that she had to deal with her friend herself and that they, between them, had to find a way to resolve the situation. Whilst mediation can help some workplace disputes, the individuals still need to be wiling to sit down and engage with each other and find a way to continue working together…better to learn these skills early

  • The ripple effect

A relationship turned sour never only affects the two people involved…there is always a ripple effect out to other friends, colleagues, families… The Mum of said friend is equally keen to make sure our daughters play nicely and we have had a couple of fairly lengthy chats with each other, trying to do all we can to ensure that they are both happy and contented. It’s hard work! But undoubtedly more simple in this situation than colleagues who refuse to work together and have a negative effect on those around them who stubbornly refuse to accept that their behaviour has a wider sphere of influence.

In my daughter’s case, peace has been restored…for now at least ;). For me, I’m going to be thinking about the relationships I have at work and elsewhere and making sure I practice what I preach!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Today’s post was going to be all about the Unconference.  And there definitely will be a post about that soon, once I have reflected a little more on it.

Today though, something else happened which really made me think.

I am very lucky in that I don’t feel guilty about being a working mum. I don’t judge anyone for their working arrangements, as life is more than tough enough already balancing home, work, life and children. It struck me today though how precarious the guilt-free state is and how it can quite easily be wobbled by very minor things.

Until my children went to school, I worked three days a week.  Once they had completed their first term and my role at work increased, I started doing four days during term-time, in effect when they are at school.  From a purely selfish point of view it would be easier for me to have four full days at work and one day completely off, but I like the fact that my extra hours don’t really affect my children and that they don’t notice I am now working more. They would most certainly mind if I started doing four full days, so the current arrangement works well and enables me to balance both, albeit that I have to do a quick switch from one ‘mode’ to the other when I dash out to pick them up at home time.

Two things have come up today that have shaken my belief in my convenient working pattern and my guilt-free balancing act. Firstly the fact that due to the various bank holidays, I dropped my children off this morning for the first time in over a week and because of the Easter holidays, its only the second time in about a month. Many of the mums who don’t work were delighted to see me, but also made it clear that we hadn’t seen each other  for ages, because I hadn’t been around. Ouch – that was a pang of guilt you just heard, however illogical I know it to be.

The second thing that is testing my lack of working mums’ guilt is a school trip that has come up: one of my daughters is going on Monday next week, the other on Friday and they are after quite a lot of parent helpers. I have previously helped (pre-Christmas) in my Friday daughter’s class, so if I went with either of them, it ought to be on the Monday.  But I am working then, so I have said as it currently stands that I can’t help.  And I feel bad.

None of this matters much at the end of the day. I’ll assuage the temporary pang of guilt by asking at the end of today whether the Monday trip has sufficient parent helpers: if they don’t then I’ll take the day off and do my bit. But it has reminded me that all working mums and perhaps all working parents who have the main duty of childcare are very prone to an attack of working parent guilt, usually when we least expect it. 

Flexible working, balancing home, work, life and kids is not easy. I’d love to hear about your experiences and how and whether you keep those pangs of guilt at bay, or if you just learn to live with them ;).

Do you know what you are meant to be doing in your role and how you should be doing it? I don’t. Increasingly frequently, I have been faced with situations that are not only completely new to me, but also to all of the other very senior people I work with. These are most certainly interesting times!

To give you some context: over the last two months I have liquidated a business in the Far East, dealt with a number of whistle-blowing claims in various global territories, drafted employment contracts for a joint venture in China and investigated alleged data theft. And honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t dealt with any of those things individually before, let alone concurrently.

What I have learnt…and am learning!…is this –

  • You don’t have to know everything, or to have done it before, you just need to find someone who does know the information that you need to guide you through the logical steps. This person may not be internal, in fact in most of the above scenarios it has been a specialist employment lawyer, often based in the country involved
  • Dealing with new challenges is interesting and intellectually stimulating. Whilst my role is currently much harder and more unpredictable than I had imagined, I am coping and thriving amid the temporary chaos
  • Doing new things is great for professional confidence
  • Panicking never helped anyone 😉
  • Asking for help is fine…it is also often really sensible.
  • Sabrina Baker wrote a great blog recently about needing the mountain for personal growth, which really resonated with the tough challenges that are taking place in my workplace at the moment
  • Understand and play to your strengths, but watch out for your weaknesses. One of my strengths is the ability to operate fluidly and laterally in a complex, fast-paced environment. The time I really need to watch out for is when it all calms down and I will need to switch to implementing robust processes and procedures.
  • Building relationships internally and externally is absolutely key
  • Make complex things simple, not ever more complicated than they need to be
  • Enjoy feeling temporarily indispensable to the business…but never forget that you aren’t!

Do you know what you’re doing? What challenges are you dealing with at the moment? I’d love to know!

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Pink gingham pyjamas

I had a very strange, very different experience on Saturday night. A couple of months ago, friends of ours had invited us to a get-together at their house, but the twist was that it was to be a pyjama party and everyone had to come wearing their bedclothes. I hadn’t been to a pyjama party since I was about 10 and can honestly say I was horrified at the thought….in fact I have spent the last few weeks dreading it, feeling hugely grumpy and irritated about it, convinced that it was the most ridiculous and inappropriate idea ever. And Saturday was the night in question, when I had to finally leave my denial and grumpiness behind and make the best of it.

The obvious question is why I would choose to go and put myself through it, if I was that uncomfortable with the concept. Mr C was keen and felt we ought to support our friends doing something a little left-field (they are usually very straight!); I didn’t want to be a party pooper and short of inventing an excuse and telling outright fibs, there was really no good reason not to go.

And do you know what? I actually had a lot of fun. I laughed more than I have done for ages and the evening flew by. In my preoccupation with being outside of my comfort zone and my perception of how ridiculous the idea was, I had forgotten some key, vital facts. Like the fact that the group of friends that the party consisted of have known each other for most of our adult lives, and the men have been friends for even longer than that, through school, scouts or apprenticeships. Like the fact that they are one of the most reliable sets of friends I have and that everyone without fail followed instructions and came dressed for bed (even though we all secretly suspected that we were the only ones who were going to and it was all a practical joke). And like the fact that unbeknown to me…and I hadn’t checked with any of them directly…most of the other women felt weird and self-conscious about it in the lead up to it too. We all laughed – at times hysterically! – at how funny the whole thing was, at each other and at ourselves….against all odds and expectations, it was a great evening.

So, at a time when work-wise I feel busier than I have done for a long time, and many of the things that I am dealing with are completely new and way out of my comfort zone, I’m going to try and take back some lessons from the PJ party –

  • New experiences can be good – it is worth trying before being too cynical
  • I may feel out on a limb, but the chances are that other people around me do too
  • Utilising my support network can only help
  • Comfort zones are there to be stretched…my Mum always used to remind me as a teenager of what Joan of Arc apparently replied when asked as to whether she had been fearful on the battlefield. “J’ai eu peur avant” – I was scared beforehand
  • Doing something that I’m scared of feels good!

I still maintain that PJ parties are meant for children and not grown-ups….and feel I should point out that it wasn’t THAT sort of party…but I’m also happy to admit that I learnt an awful lot more than I thought I would!

Learning experiences in unusual settings? How do you deal with the discomfort of stretching your comfort zone? Feel free to share 😉

Walking back home from school this morning I chatted to one of my friends, who was worried that her 5 year old boy was losing a bit of confidence and not thriving at school. She was reassured when we talked it over, but it reminded me of how precious a gift self-confidence is, both in children as they develop their sense of self and belonging, but also in adults and in the workplace.

For an HR Professional, confidence is hugely valuable.  Being able to give advice, deal with disputes, determine policy, manage difficult conversations and set direction for the team and for the business all require confidence, self awareness and self-belief. I don’t mean confidence in the sense of arrogance or even being very gregarious and outgoing; rather, the quiet assurance that you are doing a good job, advising the correct course of action and making a valuable contribution to the business. Confidence breeds confidence; when you are assured in your approach, others feel comfortable in their dealings with you.

When your own confidence is lost, it can be painful. TinyBeanHR wrote a heartfelt blog over the weekend about how she felt things had gone wrong in her workplace and how unconfident she felt as a result. I don’t believe for one minute that she is alone in her moments of self-doubt – we all have experiences in our professional or personal lives that can severely dent our self-belief and inner assurance. 

Confidence is precious and yet taken for granted most of the time. It is only when we lose it, albeit temporarily, that we truly appreciate it and think with horror of how difficult life would be to negotiate without it.


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