DEALING WITH LONELINESS

The month of May is the month of mental health awareness. And even though it is over, I need to ask you, “How are you doing? 

I’m doing OK. I have moments of buoyancy and then moments of flatness. I guess it’s really because I am starting to know people in my circle who have

  1. Contracted the Covid – 19 disease or 
  2. Have been lost to this disease. 

We have spent a lot of time focusing on adults. Some of us are anxious, with high stress levels. Some of us, unfortunately, have lost our jobs, and we’re not too sure what the employment scenario will look like in a few months. Some of us have had reduced incomes since 2020.  

Financially and emotionally we’re taking a hit. 

While that is relevant I am wondering what it’d be like if we spent some time looking at the effects of the pandemic on children and teenagers.

Think about when you were a teenager. Yeah, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago when you were a teenager. What was life like for you? Where did you spend your free time? I’m sure that most of us, when we were teenagers, used to hang out with our friends, go to the mall, go to the movies, pile ourselves in somebody’s parents’ car and go to some event. 

Those of you who are willing, I invite you to even go further back to when you were a child. What was school like for you? I was never a fan of school, I liked recess and I loved lunchtime and of course, after school to be with my friends for a while before I went home. 

When I think about children and teenagers in this time, I shudder.

When I was a child/ teenager I tuned into my mother’s emotions. Sometimes I would actually feel guilty when I irrationally concluded that I was the cause of her emotional pain.

I often became a container for my mother’s emotions, even though she nor I was aware that I was doing this. Looking back, I understand that this was my process as a kid.

So I’m wondering about the teenagers and the children, who like me, may be taking responsibility for their parents’ emotions.

What burdens are they carrying and how are they feeling?

We talk about parents who have to work from home while their children are attending on-line school and how challenging that is for parent. What about the children?

Adolescents and children have not been doing what they naturally should be doing at this age and stage of their development. 

Teenagers tend to get together in groups and now they can’t. Children love to hug and touch each other and now they can’t.

If you notice that the teenagers/ children in your household are acting out, or sleeping a lot, or lethargic or disinterested, or have lost interest in online school or are having flare ups, or throwing tantrums, or have regressed in development ( finger sucking or bed wetting) then view this as evidence that they are also being affected by the pandemic. 

I’m calling on all adults, who have teenagers or children in our lives to spare a moment for them and think about what they must be going through in this situation. 

Yes, they will bounce back. Yes, kids are resilient. And right now in the here and now, they may be suffering.

The invitation is for you to check in with those young people in your life, and ask them what is going on.

Give them space to talk to you, give them space to express their emotions. Encourage them to have video chats with their friends. Encourage them to reach out to their family members via video calls. You can arrange an online games night for them and their friends.  

I encourage you to spare a few moments and think about how difficult it must be for them. It’s difficult for us as adults. So imagine what it must be like for them.

This brings me to the topic on hand – loneliness.  Some of us are being adversely affected by being lonely.

There is a difference between being isolated and being lonely.

People who live or work alone, people who have to quarantine are isolated from their friends and family  This is different from people who experience perceived isolated

Perceived isolated can happen when we are in a crowd.  

I’ve been there, when I was with a group of people, not having fun. As my mind drifted I realized that I was not connected to anybody in the circle, so I left and went home. 

It could happen in a relationship, though everything looks great on the outside one partner is disconnected from the other and feels quite alone in that situation. Sometimes it happens on the job – we have no connection to any of our team members and if we didn’t work with them we would not speak to any of them

We have all been in situations where we have experienced this perceived isolation. We were disconnected, and felt part from the people in our social network.

Perceived isolation is the expression of loneliness – a state of mind in which we feel apart from other people.

Research shows that teenagers and older people, are more severely impacted by this feeling of perceived isolation, i.e. loneliness. (Hence the reason I asked you to check in on your teenagers and to keep checking on them.)

Loneliness can lead to a downward spiral. We have been isolated and therefore we get a feeling that no one wants to be around us.

Whenever I spend long periods of time by myself, guess what? I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to see anybody. The more I stay home is the more that I want to be at home. That’s because I begin to disconnect with others and I don’t want to connect. 

The paradox is that even though we don’t want to connect there is a  part of us that yearns to connect which makes us internally conflicted and confused.

Unfortunately, the first person who reaches out to connect with the lonely one gets the brunt of his/her confusion and it is an awkward interaction.

The lonely has lost the practice of connecting. The lonely has lost the practice of having the social interaction and therefore is uncomfortable.

The person who reaches out to the lonely, also leaves the interaction feeling just as uncomfortable. And guess what? That person does not was want to interact with the lonely again. What is the result? The lonely is left in his/her our loneliness.

Loneliness leads to antisocial behavior because we are out of practice of connecting with others.

There are physical effects and impacts of loneliness. For those of us who like to take a little drink in the evening, ask yourself if you are drinking more or less than you usually do or more or less frequently, than you normally do.

Those of us who may have an addiction, this is a time where past and, present addictions may flare up.

Research has shown that people who live lonely lives, are more prone to cardiovascular disease and strokes. They also are at risk of a shortened lifespan . Lonely people have increased stress levels, high levels of anxiety, and poor sleeping habits.  They may be unable to sleep or have intermittent awakenings during the night.

Loneliness can also lead to depression and in extreme cases, levels of suicide. 

More than half of adults have reported that during the pandemic there has been a negative impact on their mental health and loneliness is on the rise. 

What do we do if we’re feeling lonely whether or now we are living alone? 

We need to reach out. 

We need to practice connecting with people. 

We need to talk to each other. 

We need to make the calls. 

We need to do online games. 

We need to stay connected. 

We need to deliberately speak to the teenagers who are fading away, and to our children who have lost their voice. 

Those of us who are not lonely we need to check in with others, we need to be deliberate in speaking to them.

We all need to listen effectively. We need to listen without judgment. We need to listen in a way that allows the lonely person, the teenager, the child, to speak for 80 % of the conversation. 

We need to become containers for each other. Imagine yourself as a container and allow that child, that teenager, that lonely person to pour him/herself into you.

I want to encourage everyone to a speak to a counselor, find a therapist, find someone a friend or  someone  who you can trust and keep having conversations with them about the way that you feel. 

If you can’t speak to anyone, then in your Fortress of Solitude, you can write. Write down how you feel. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be a poem. 

I’m really concerned about myself.  I make an effort to reach out to my family, and connect with my friends on a daily basis. It’s part of my routine and I’m encouraging you to do the same.

Do not sit alone. You may live alone, you may have to isolate, you may have to self quarantine. You don’t have to enter the lonely state of mind. 

You can reach out to anyone and yes, you can reach out to me – info@maxineattong.com or on facebook or Linked in

My intention  is to fuel your leadership speak so that together we can bring real change to the systems that we live, work and play with.

5 Tips to Lead with the Use of Self

Today I am reflecting that leaders can lead using ourselves and that leading from whom we are is possible the most powerful leadership tool that we have and possibly the only one that we will ever need. 

When I think about the self, I’m thinking about the self as the physical, spiritual and emotional being. Leaders can integrate those three experiences to lead our teams effectively.

Yes, it sounds a little strange, but walk with me and hear me out. 

 I refer to myself as the CEO of this entity called Maxine Attong. Whatever I’m doing, I am first leading this entity and then leading others. 

When I think about the self, I think about two aspects of self. 1) personality and 2) self belief

My offer is not a psychological self. I will leave that for the social scientists.

‘m going to explain how these two aspects can impact upon our leadership. I’m also going to share some tips of how to engage this idea of self to effectively lead.

PERSONALITY

Personality is our way of thinking, how we are feeling and behaving. This includes our moods, our patterns of thoughts, our attitudes and behaviors.

What is your personality?
Does your personality change according to where you show up

Most of us belong to different groups, social groups, and professional groups. If we trace our interactions in those different groups and how we navigate each we will realize that we probably show up differently in each group.

We show up in professional settings differently from how we show up with our very close friend groups or how we show up with our football team. The language that we use, the emotions that we show and the attitudes that we display are different. 

A lot of my coaching clients share that they wear a mask when they get to work

They put on their professional mask and their persona changes when they walk through an office door. They leave a part of themselves somewhere on the commute to work and pick it up on their return.

  • At the workplace, the attitudes and beliefs that you display, how much of that is you? 
  • Under this veil of professionalism, what parts of you have you sacrificed?
  • What part of your genuinely true, funny, creative, highly intelligent selves are you not showing up with? 
  • What are you leading with under this mask, this personality that has been tailored for a particular environment?

What essence of you is missing? 

The invitation is for us to understand what mask we are wearing and to determine how it has impacted upon our leadership.

Consider that the strongest essence of who you are may just be missing in your leadership. The call is for us to establish

  1. What mask we are wearing?
  2. Is that mask serving us in the realm that we’re entering?
  3. What other elements of ourselves can we inject into that mask to make a difference in our leadership? 
  4. How do you lead with a mask on? 

SELF BELIEF

.This is trickier than the mask because our self belief determines how we look at the world and how we make meaning of what is happening in front of us.

For example, most of us have learned how to behave, how to treat and think of other people from whomever we’ve been listening to. The voices of the people who loved us, the people who raised us, the people we have experienced all play in our heads and heart.

Have you ever questioned if these voices are still relevant? 

Think about it. You learned a lot from your teachers, who were 10 to 30 years older than you. Now that you are in your 30s, in your 40s or your 50s are those voices still relevant? 

The way that our parents saw the world, the things that they experienced, what they told you about people who look a certain way or who behave a certain way, is any of it still relevant? 

The world has changed so much in the last 20 years. 

If our self belief is hinged upon what we learned from those voices is our self belief relevant? 

How do those self beliefs show up in our leadership in terms of how we behave and how in terms of our attitudes and most definitely in terms of the way we treat other people?

Oscar Wilde said, “Most people are other people.”

 Who are you when you show up? 

What is your personality when you show up and what is your self belief? 

A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

Consider this a story.

A woman tended her garden with beautiful flowers, every morning. One day, she became ill and was bedridden. Her son, who loved his mother dearly and knew how important her garden was to her, made a commitment to this garden until she recovered.

Each day he watered the flowers, and cleaned the leaves. 

After three months his mother recovered. 

He excitedly said, “Mom, I took care of all of your plants.”

When she saw her garden she began to cry. 

Her garden was in ruins and she and she yelled at her son. 

He in turn was confused. He said, “Mom, I took care of your garden. I cared for each and every flower and each and every leaf.”

His mother then said to him, “The life of a plant is in its roots. They are invisible. You forgot to water the roots and the result is visible in the complete devastation of my garden.”

It is easy to tend to the flowers that we bloom and or leaves. As leaders we have to pay attention to our roots. We need to examine our self-belief and our personality to ensure healthy roots,

I will share five tips on how to lead with ourselves from the root of whom we really are.

  1. Understand and know ourselves. How can  we understand other people if we don’t understand ourselves? We need to understand our virtues, our vices, our attitudes, our perceptions, what makes us tick, what makes us mad or what makes us sad. Most of us know our strengths and weaknesses and this is just the tip of the iceberg, because that is about skills and competence. We need to know whom we are deep inside. We need to be aware of what motivates us, what drives us, our limitations, what we believe about ourselves. We need to go deeper and understand our inner critic, that voice that says you’re not good enough and where this voice came from.  It is critical for us to us to know what where our self belief emanates from.
  2. Honor your story. You have a particular story that makes you unique. Tell your story in a positive way to yourself. You are not a victim because you have survived and you have thrived. Tell your story in a powerful way that makes you claim that narrative in a way that removes all shame and eliminates any suggestion that you are not good enough in this story. It doesn’t matter what was done to you, and by whom. What matters is that this is your story and you honor your story by seeing it in a really, really positive way. Yeas you can do this and tell the truth.
  3. Understand your emotions. Do you know why you’re jealous of some people? Do you know what makes you sad or do you even know what it is to feel sad when you’re feeling sad? When we understand the emotional range of whom we are we unravel a huge piece of whom we are. 
  4. Empathize with yourself – I’m still learning to have great empathy for myself. It’s very easy to project and have empathy for others and to walk in their shoes and to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as if they are coming to you with best of intentions. What would it be like to do this for yourself? What would it be to look at yourself as the little child who resides inside of all of us. What would it be like to deal with ourselves with great empathy and believe that we are operating every day from our best self?  How about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt? 
  5. Pay attention to your emotional and physical sensations  When I understood myself, my emotional range and I began to have great empathy for myself, I began to zero in on the emotions of other people . Then I realized that I am a mirror for you, just as you are a mirror for me. The physical and emotional sensations that I have when coaching an individual or facilitating a group allow me to be better and more effective coach and facilitator.

Leading with the use of myself was one of the most powerful lessons that I’ve learned over my leadership journey  

This is my lived experience and so I ask leaders to understand and accept  themselves.

What are you walking away with after reading? Which of these tips do you want to try? What has been you experience.

Drop me a comment I would love to learn your story.

  • Leaders, let us understand our flaws, our brilliance, that we are perfectly imperfect, that we make mistakes, and that we have sparks of brilliance. 

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can co-create in the systems that we live work and play within.

Our 4th annual Gestalt Leadership Caribbean Conference – Leading with Equity is on April 29 2021. This year we are discussing Leading With Equity. This is a virtual event.

Register at maxineattong.com5

Leadership Lessons from a MAGA Loss

We  know that whatever is happening in the larger system is being mirrored in the smaller system

Hence, when I talk about leadership. I’m not only speaking about a role in an organization, I also speak about what’s happening in families, communities and even your football team

Whenever there’s a lot of attention and energy around an event, I pay attention. I’ve been paying attention to the aftermath of the U.S. election results. 

The results are that Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump won 232. Biden received 51% of the votes cast, while Trump received 47%. Yet for weeks after the elections, there has been a dispute. 

I’m not a political pundit. I’m not qualified to talk about that US elections. I’m qualified to speak about how this situation shows up in three common issues in organizations.

  1. Engagement surveys
  2. Succession planning 
  3. When leaders fight.

Lesson 1: Leaders need to believe the results of Engagement Surveys.

If you’re part of an organization, then you’ve probably experienced an engagement survey. The organization issues an anonymous survey, which asks employees to rate the organization’s performance in different categories. These questions are inter alia about physical conditions of the workplace, how you feel about the leadership team, vision or goal achievement as well as if employees would recommend the organization as a place to work.

Just as Trump has not contested the election results for any state that he has won, leaders do not complain when engagement scores reflect positively on their performance.

Just as Trump has contested the election results for the states that he did not win, leaders often protest when the engagement scores are less than they expected. 

They say to me, “Maxine, are you sure people understood what was meant by that question? I think that these questions are dubious because it could be interpreted many ways.” 

When I saw Trump’s lawsuits and recount requests, I recalled those leaders who question the validity of negative results.

Now you understand why I believe that if it’s  happening in the world, it’s probably happening in our organizations. It’s being played out in a different frame, at a different level. 

Lesson 2: Leaders need to train team members for Succession Planning

The aftermath of the US Elections holds lessons for us as leaders.

Let me share a story about Alice who didn’t get promoted. Alice was a supervisor, she worked really hard, and did all the right things. Every year when she asked for a promotion, her boss would say, “We can’t promote you.”

This went on for years. Alice was really frustrated. At her next performance assessment she asked, “What is going on? Why am I not being promoted? What’s wrong?” Her leader said “ Oh no, Alice it’s not about you. There’s no-one to replace you in that supervisory position.” Alice was puzzled, “What do you mean? A lot of my team members work well.” The boss slowly shook his head, “ I agree that they are good. But guess what? We can’t promote you because you haven’t trained anyone to take your position.” 

When I think about Trump not conceding, I think about all of those leaders who are not conceding their current positions by not training team members to take their place.

What is the demographic of the leadership at your organization? What is the average age of the Board members? 

Baby boomers are fit and living longer than their predecessors. I know a number of retirees, who are still working within the same organizations that they retired from. As much as I love them, I am hard-pressed to believe that there’s nobody to replace them. 

While I understand that these seniors hold the organizational intelligence I question if the best place for them is within the rank and file of the organization. How about them being advisers? How about them training up younger people to have organizational intelligence? 

One of my peeves about rehiring retirees is that most organizations have a definitive retirement age. Why is it that 3 – 5 years before retirement no one is identified as a successor for a retiree?

Organizations often talk about succession planning and organizations are not very good at it.

Lesson 3: Leaders need to give the newly promoted the tools to succeed

About 3 weeks after the elections, the General Service Advisory of the US government handed over keys to office space to the Biden Harris team. What does that have to do with organizations? Think about it. How many people have been promoted to managerial positions without being given the adequate resources to succeed? What happens? 

I have heard leaders lament, “This guy was a star performer. But he’s just a horrible manager. I really regret promoting him.”

When the newly promoted are not giving the training , the tools, the resources that they need they are being trumped. They will fail or succeed with great personal pain.

The US political pundits have predicted that the Biden Harris team will have a bumpy start when they take office on January 20th, 2021, since the team has not yet received critical information.

This is exactly the scenario we create for our newly promoted managers/ leaders when we don’t provide them with adequate resources.

Lesson 4: When leaders fight, the organization suffers

Right after the US election, Trump tweeted” he won because the election was rigged”. In Biden’s first address as US president-elect, he vowed to “unify” the country and said it was a “time to heal”. 

When leaders fight, it’s never pretty. 

Two years ago, I worked with an Executive Team. Each was brilliant with relevant experience, highly educated and qualified, with impressive track records. Together they were abysmal.  They fought, called each other names, undermined the decisions made and served their personal agendas at the expense of the organizational goals. 

Their fight seeped through all levels of the organization as the team members squared off and took sides. Between departments there was little or no internal service. Processes remained incomplete and customers suffered.

As the infighting among the executive team continued, the organization split into silos, with each silo serving itself and not thinking about the organization. There was a lack of trust amongst employees and the organization lost credibility as the news spread.  Sales were negatively impacted and customers lost, while the executives continued the blame and shame game.

Those are the three lessons for leaders that I gleaned from the aftermath of the US elections mimicked in organizations.

What about you? What aspects of the aftermath of the US elections have you seen mirrored in organizations?.

My intention is to light your leadership spark, so that together we an bring change to the systems that we live and work within.

A Leadership Tale from Current Events

Today I am going to relate to you a tale. This is fictional tale regardless of how familiar it may feel or how much it may remind you of recent events.

We are going to look at the events that involved three men John, Arnold and Barry who all work for Trinity Tailors.  John is the HR Manager. Barry lives in as poorer area and Arnold lives in a more affluent part of the country. 

The company recently announced a new company wide dress policy, which stated that red must be worn on a Monday.  From that announcement date all staff abided with the policy, even though HR did not translate the policy into a formal procedure that stated the WHAT and HOW of the policy 

Neither Barry nor Arnold are rule followers, they both do their own thing,  They dot’t think that the company is serious because they have made many past infractions that went unnoticed  They thought What’s one more? They didn’t think that the company policy applied to them because they were low down on the totem pole and they never got  caught

One Monday, Barry wore a blue shirt to work. When the HR Manager spotted Barry he became incensed.  How dare Barry flaunt a clearly stated policy? The HR manager severely berated Barry in front of the entire company. Barry felt embarrassed since some of his colleagues laughed loudly at him and teased him long after the event.  While Barry agreed that he did the wrong thing he felt that the HR Manager could have treated with him in a more humane manner.

The company was split on the issue since most people didn’t appreciative the manner in which the HR Manager treated with Barry. Some employees thought that the HR Manager acted as a bully and could have acheived the same result without demeaning Barry.

Those who agreed with the HR Manager, said that some people need to be shamed to do the right thing.  What was certain was that persons both for and against the HR Manager actions agreed that shame was  used as a disciplinary tool.

A month passed and the policy about wearing red on a Monday still prevailed without being translated to procedure.  The staff including Barry continued to comply.

One Monday Arnold was working from home. He was hosting a Zoom call attended by a client and his work colleagues.  Midway through the call, his colleagues noticed that Arnold was wearing a purple shirt. This was brought immediately to the attention of the HR Manager, the company policy was breached.

The HR Manager took the complaint, called Arnold and had a long discussion with him. 

Staff waited to see what would happen next. They waited for Barry to be reprimanded yert nothing happened. Staff slowly accepted that nothing was going to happen. 

By Wednesday, the rumblings started at the bottom of the organization and swelled to the top.  People were disappointed, they were mad and they were uncomfortable. Why were the two same offfenses differently treated? 

Debates were being held. Did Arnold break policy? Did he not wear a purple shirt on wear red Mondays? Was the HR Manager going soft or did they just witness blatant discrimination?

As the noise grew so did the mistrust for the HR Manager.  Things got so bad that the Manager issued a statement that read as below

Dear Staff

I am aware that there is growing discontent about the policy of wearing red shirts on Mondays.  Please note that the CEO has not given HR specific instructions about how this translates into procedure. Further more Arnold was having a Zoom meeting at his private residence, albeit with clients and colleagues. Because of the great respect that I have for the privacy of one’s residence I could not impose the wear Red Monday policy. Please note that wording of the policy states that red must be worn on a Monday and purple is red and blue mixed. Regards The HR Manager

That statement caused even more havoc. Team members began to question the HR Manager’s credibility. They shouted that the Manager was not to be trusted since he used a technical loophole to explain why Arnold received no reprimand.  Some explained that the HR Manager was correct while others claimed the Manger was a trickster. Comparisons were made about the bullying of poor Barry and the defense of Arnold. Staff noted that while the HR Manager denigrated Barry he allowed Arnold to have his dignity intact.

The debate raged on as staff took sides.  They took to social media and accused the HR Manager of discrimination, unfair treatment. favoritism and having different rules for different people.

Eventually the CEO was compelled to put his voice in to the fray.  His statement was short and to the point.  He said, “Company policy is company policy and is to be applied the same across the organization”.

The HR Manager was not happy with the CEO’s statement.  He felt exposed for he knew that with every passing minute he looked less and less credible.

Once again he went on the offence.  He sent an all staff email that said that the CEO had thrown him under the bus and that he was not being supported.

The last I heard of it the CEO and the HR Manager held a meeting to trash things out.

What do you think of that story? 

The main issues for me are 

  1. Inconsistent application of policy
  2. Differential treatment of staff members
  3. Loss of trust and credibility
  4. Public airing of issues among senior staffers.

The dynamic between Barry, Arnold and the HR Manager play out in organizations many times. While this is a fictional tale we can learn a lot from this. 

We all have unconscious bias.  Our unconscious bias is at work when we prejudge persons based on our assumptions. Leaders we are asked to rise above our bias. We need to ask ourselves.

What is the evidence to support my conclusions? Whose voice am I speaking in?

Most times the voices that loudly shout our assumptions are often not our voices. Our assumptions usually reflect what we never questioned, the things that we grew up hearing or saying or the things that we learned from people whom we trust. Unless we question where these thoughts came from we may never find our own voice as leaders.  Once we understand our bias we will act differently.

Companies need to think deeply about policy and the far reaching impact of these. Policy is a broad statement that needs to be translated into procedure so that all employees understand What it means and equally important How to ensure that the policy is not breached.

Whether policy or  procedure, leaders need to apply these in similar fashion across the board. Policies and procedures need to be consistently applied. Breaches also need to be dealt with in the same manner.

If the HR Manager was consistent he would have reprimanded Barry and he would not have the issued that statement defending Arnold’s shirt. When leaders do not apply policies equally they suffer a loss of credibility and trust in their leadership is diminished 

Employees who identified with Barry, as well as those who identified with Arnold took sides on the issue. This led to overall disharmony within the ranks of the organization.  Consistent application of policy allows greater harmony amongst staff as team members believe that they are being treated the same. 

The HR Manager did not understand precedent. When he publicly shamed Barry he signaled to the rest of the organization that this was how he would deal with breaches of the Wear Red Monday policy. Granted the HR Manager may have learned after deep reflection that the way that he treated Barry was less than desirable and adjusted his approach. However, his written statement indicated that he gave Arnold a full pass. His lack of action cast serious doubts on his decision-making capabilities as well as his ability to see clearly the issues on hand.

Leaders with each action and decision we set precedent and the expectation is that we will operate similarly whenever a similar situation raises its head. We need to pause and think. What is the message that I am sending with this action? Is this fundamentally different from what I did last time? How can I do it differently while ensuring that I treat the issue the same?

Leaders need to be consistent because staff are always looking and comparing.  This calls for leaders to be transparent in the application of policies across the organization. 

The HR Manager aired his disagreement with the CEO for all to see. How can a leader who is disrespectful to his superiors expect to be respected by his subordinates?  Through his action, the HR Manager is showing persons in the organization how to treat him and how to treat other leaders. This I consider unacceptable.

The HR Manager’s behavior also aised questions about the leadership of the organization and brought the HR Manager and the CEO under scrutiny. Leaders need to provide a united front if they want to promote harmony within the organization. When leaders seem to have a united front, harmony is promoted. When leaders squabble, staff squabble.

Going forward all is not lost for the HR Manager.  The HR Manager needs to get to a place of humility and seek feedback from his peers and others whom he trusts. This is one way in which he can get another perspective on his behavior and the way that he treated with both Arnold and Barry.

One the HR Manager understands how he offended persons he can then make amends for his part in the dissent. Ideally the manager should apologize to Barry but everyone knows that this will not happen. 

The HR Manager needs to work with the other leaders to translate the policy into procudeure. Staff need to be informed of the proceudere and how breaches will be treated with. After this all leaders need to consistenly apply the plicy and deal with breaches in similar fashion.

Here ends my tale.  

Tell me what situations have you seen at play out in your organization?  How were these resolved if at all?

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website http://www.maxineattong.com and send them to me 

We are running our Women’s Program – Enhance U for women. Awaken to Your Truest Self  -reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. 

The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? 

Deep down we know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters.

How do we find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can we take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest.

If you are interested then contact me. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership Lessons from The King

Leadership is always contextual.  Hence the reason I would never advocate for one type of leadership. According to the situation we dip into our resource pool and fish out the relevant way of being for the situation.  Individually we will have some basic traits that either support  or do not support our leadership .  

Leadership is all around us hence the reason I invite you to embrace your leadership wherever you may live play or work. As I listened to the tributes that rolled in after the death of Chadwick Boseman I thought that his life story held some great lessons for us as leaders.

Today I’m sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from the life of Chadwick Boseman.

Lesson 1 – He left a legacy

The media and the acting fraternity refer to Chadwick as the King.  Beyond his role as T’challa in Black Panther, there is great detail about the choices that he made, the way that he carried himself and the way that he treated people.

The word legacy keeps coming up as discourse is held about the impact he made on diversity in Hollywood and what they may translate to for black actors.

After reading and listening I ask myself, “Maxine what is your legacy? And I stopped to think.

So leader what’s your legacy? What is the legacy that you are leaving with your family, your team or your organization. It is a big question that we need to answer. 

Lesson 2 – He reframed experiences

Chadwick refused to take roles that made him seem as less of a man.  He avoided stereotypical roles that cast people who looked like him in derogatory roles. He chose roles hat were inspirational, celebrating the lives of phenomenal men – Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Marshall Thurgood.  

Breathing fresh air into their stories, telling them with dignity and offering another perspective from what we were commonly told. He deliberately chose these stories knowing that there were young men and women who are watching and observing.

He knew as we do that our  leadership can change lives.  Through our demonstration we can inspire others. As leaders we can choose the role that we play and the impact that our leadership can have on others.

Lesson 3 – He served a higher purpose 

Chad believed in a higher power. He made decisions and was guided from that perspective.  

What guides you as a leader? What drives your decision making process? What is the higher purpose that you are serving through your leadership?

Every decision that we make every action that we take should be based on something loftier than the task at hand. For some of us it will be the organizational vision, for others it may be a personal vision for others their God.  

Whatever the reason, when we operate from a higher purpose it means that everything and everyone becomes sacred and we treat everything and everyone as such. Leadership is about divinity.

Lesson 4 – He raised the bar

Boseman’s co-stars, his producers and his directors all speak highly of his work ethic.  He raised the performance bar for every one, in every scene, in every movie. He encouraged others to bring their best game with each and every performance. 

As leaders we are called on to inspire others to raise their game. We don’t do this by bribing or cajoling or pandering, We do this through the authority and power vested to us by the organsaiton but more importantly from the person that we are.  

We can lead by example and encourage and motivate others to attain a standard higher than they thought possible.

It also means that we don’t get a day off from setting the standard.  We need to keep our ‘A’ game going and yes we will have off days but these need to be less than more.

Lesson 5 – He broke barriers 

Chadwick broke barriers and showed that beliefs can be changed.  Who knew that a movie with a black cast would gain over 1Billion US$ in sales or that a superhero movie would be nominated at the Oscars.  He took risks throughout his career even when people made fun of the fact that he played the roles of other men. 

The invitation is for each of us to take risks.  

We can dream dreams that others don’t hold for us, and achieve things that others can’t envision. We can behave in a manner that challenges old beliefs about leadership and show that these are no longer relevant.  We can go beyond what others think about people who look like us, grew up the way that we did and went to the schools that we went to by our leadership.

Lesson  6 – He showed up

The most amazing fact about Chadwick Boseman, for me, is that he was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago and showed up every day that he was required.  During that time he had physically challenging roles and he never complained and he never let his personal issues affect his job.  I know that was difficult to do.  

When I reflect on his ability to show up and perform I reflect on my bad days when I could not adequately support team members or when I would have been less than a pleasure to work with. Let us do as Chadwick, work through our personal issues in our personal spaces and don’t let these impact on the way that we treat with team members.  They don’t deserve that.

Lesson 7 – He was more than his issues

During the production of his last film Da Bloods, Peters – his co-star described himChawick as ‘Precious’. Peters explained that Boseman had a Chinese practitioner massaging his back, and a makeup artist massaging his feet, as well as having his girlfriend hold his hand, while on set. After Chad’s death, Peters was full of regret since he had prejudged Boaseman as a diva thinking that his Black Panther success had gone to his head.

This is a quick reminder for us – leaders we cannot afford to make assumptions about our team members.  We may see them acting out and not understand the why of their behavior.  It is our task to understand what is going and to work with team members from where they are to bring them along. We can only know what is going by having a conversation with them. The lazy team member may be lacking motivation, the sleepy team member may be studying.  

Let’s not make assumptions and to give team members the benefit of the doubt.

Beyond those 7 leadership leassons, reports are that he brought his passion, his humility, his creativity, his intelligence, and his drive for his craft. I think that was probably a combination of who he was as well as the deep respect that he had for the roles that he played and for his audience.  Beyond himself he understood that he was having a systemic effect on every black child on Earth and from his death some writers were lambasted for not  acknowledging that he also impacted non-black persons as well.

Humility, creativity, intelligence, passion and drive.  What a powerful combination of characteristics that will serve us well as leaders.

We can be passionate about the vision of the organizations, the work that we are doing and about the team members and their futures. It’s a good time for us to reflect on what are we passionate about.  

Maybe your leadership sucks because you are not passionate about the company that you are working in or the job that you are doing.  Only you would know.

We can be humble.  Our humility allows us to not take things personally when given feedback, allows us to admit when we are wrong and make amends.  We are expressing humility every time that we admit that we don’t know as well as when we show our vulnerability.

We also want to have a drive and energy that will bring enthusiasm to our workplaces.  As we work we can infect others with hope and optimism especially in these times. We also need to create the space for others to bring theirs.

One thing that stood out for me in all of the talks that came after his passing is that he was well supported as a fledging.  When Phylicia Rashad spotted Chad’s talent she encouraged him to study in London and Denzel Washington paid his tuition.  Can you imagine what the world would have missed if these two senior actors did not get involved with this protege?

As leaders we have an obligation to create other leaders. We need to blaze a trail and help others to run on that trail.  This can be an encouraging word, imparting knowledge, having discussions, giving advice or training.  

It is my wish that we use the life of Chadwick Boseman as a reminder that we can lead from wherever we are and bring systemic change to the places that we live and work.

What lessons are you walking away with today? What takeaways for your leadership journey have you gleaned from the life of Chadwick Boseman?  I woiuld love for you to share them.  

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

Look out for our Enhance U for women – Awaken to Your Truest Self  – Reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy.

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? Deep down you know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters. How do you find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can you take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest. If you are interested then connect me at http://www.maxineattong.com. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership is Promoting Racial Equity

The last 2 weeks have been particularly difficult for me.  I don’t know about you but whenever there is turmoil in the wider system I feel it in my body as well.

I had to make several decisions when writing. Do I write about it? Do I just press on and pretend that it’s not a problem?  In the end I decided that I have an unique opportunity to have my voice heard so I have a responsibility to share a perspective about what’s happening.

Trinidad and Tobago held its 5-year general elections a week ago.  Both the lead up to and post elections have been problematic as supporters of political parties took to social media to spew insensitive and derogatory comments that reflected long held misconceptions and false beliefs about ethnicity.

This name-calling and insulting behavior doesn’t bother me at one level., since I understand the disappointment, hurt and anxiety that is present at this time. People are free to express themselves and they are doing so on their personal pages and personal posts.

What worries me is that most users have worked or work within organizations and this behavior may have spilled over into their teams, .

What worries me more is that some of the users maybe or have been in leadership positions as supervisors, as team leaders as managers or as executives and negatively impacted the lives of team members they think of as on the other side of the political divide.

Beyond the people who made their feelings and thoughts known there are many who share the same sentiments and do not post. 

Social media misleads some of us into thinking that we are invisible and invincible, some freely type the things that they wont dare say. Some have alter egos that are fearless, opinionated and know it all, 

While it is possible that we can act differently from the way that our social media posts suggest no one can sustain a façade for an extended period, the mask often cracks, and the alter ego shows itself when we least expect.  There is truth in our social media representation of ourselves.  

We each belong to affinity groups, which means that we more or less involve ourselves with people whom share similar outlooks and perspectives.  In these relationships it feels that we are speaking to ourselves, our beliefs, our opinions and our world views are never challenged and our groups confirm our beliefs with every interaction.  

You are wondering if this is true for you. Lets do a quick exercise.  Outside of your immediate and extended family write down the names of 5 to 7 people whom you trust. For each characteristic that you share with them put a tick next to each name that bears the same characteristic as you do.  For example if I say same sex then tick all of the people who are same sex as you are on your list. 

Lets give it a try.

Tick for same background i.e. way of growing up, 

**Give a tick for Same Religion, 

**Tick for Same educational level, 

**Tick for Same sexual identity,

**Tick for Same ethnicity or race, 

**Tick for same school 

**Tick for similar geographical area

**Tick for same manner of speaking – accent, language 

Now look at the list. Do you share 3 or more characteristics with the people on your list?  Yes that’s because you share the same affinity group.  This is normal for us, the people whom we trust most are the people who have similar backgrounds and think like us and act the same way as we do.

This is not a bad thing.

It becomes a bad thing when we believe that only people from our affinity group have positive qualities and that people from other affinity groups have negative qualities,  

It only becomes dangerous when we determine that taking care of our affinity group is to be done at the expense of persons external to our affinity group or when we deliberately exclude or treat badly persons from other affinity groups. 

So what does that look like in organizations and why does it perturb me?  

In the recruitment process we may give preference to people who went to your alma mater. The interview panel may ask discriminatory questions to ensure that only people who share the same beliefs and experiences enter our organizations 

It may mean that team members believe that if they don’t look or speak a certain way that they will never be promoted or will never be a manager. 

New hires maybe readily embraced by some leaving others uneasy, the promoted may be celebrated by some leaving others fearful.

This negativity is unfair to the new hires or promoted as they are also left feeling uneasy. To ease their hurt feelings some recruits/ promoted may hurt others external to their affinity groups fostering even greater divide with their teams  Eventually everyone pretends that is has faded away while leaving a bitter tastes in mouths.  These actions builds mistrust in the workplace.  It promotes an us vs. them environment and leads to discord.  

Who can trust a leader who promotes or hires people based on his/her affinity group?

Who can trust the leaders who notice these patterns in teams and do not speak up about them?

 What is the leaders role in ensuring that there is fairness and equity?

How can we trust an organization that turns a blind eye to actions like these? 

And what do we do if the leaders are the perpetrator of these offences?

When we do not choose the best for the job then we are not serving the organization we are serving our selves. When we don’t promote on merit or have a transparent process then we set up our organizations for failure. 

I’m sure you are thinking about other actions that have been perpretarted in  your organsations.

Who gets or does not get  selected for projects, who is praised or vilified, who receives priveleges or reprimands, who feels this is the best place to work and who describes it as the worst place to work with the relevant examples.  

Leaders.  What is your role either by your silence or thorugh your actions in perpetuating these behaviours at the workplace?

How do we limit the occurrence of this phenomena?

Leaders we need to stop this behavior at the gate and do not allow this behavior to enter our organizations.  

Check out the social media profiles of potential recruits and review the profiles of people whom they follow.  We use psychometric tests to evaluate aptitude and capabilities; we need to expand these tests to determine tolerance or bias for persons external to their affinity groups.

I am not saying do not hire. I am saying increase our awareness of whom is entering our organizations and the potential impacts they may have on our organizational culture.

Ensure that the workplace has policies and procedures that speak to equality, equity and the limitation of affinity group biases and that there are stated consequneces for not adhering to these.

How may offices have a written policy and procedure around derogatory behavior whether within or external to the organsaiton? How many organsaitions have consequences for behaviours like these?  

I know that you may be thinking that my social media posts are my business. And you’re right let me ask

Did you use your company issued phone or other equipment to access social media?

Do you have your place of employment listed on your social media profile?

Do people know where you work?

If you have answered yes to any of these then you can be called to task and suffer consequences of your behavior, if your organization was serious about having zero tolerance for this behaviour.

Our policies and procuderes also empower any staff member to hold others accountable for derogatory behavior in the public domain. 

Courageous Leaders can host conversations about differences in affinity groups. These will offer team members different view points from those touted within their affinity groups.

We can start with the stories of how people grew up, the primary schools they went to, how they succeeded, what their hopes and dreams are and celebrate how well they are doing.  In doing so we need to ensure that we keep an open mind and not let persons external to our affinity group feel ashamed of where they have come from and the challenges they have faced. When these stories are shared we will realize that though our contexts may be different our issues are the same.  

Think about it gambling addicts from all walks of life attend Gamblers anonymous and share their stories.  There stories are always different since they are from different backgrounds, and take different risks. In the sharing the addicts realize that they are all the same in their addiction, their stories allow them to identify their shared humanity.. They are different and yet the same

How many of us undersatnf the words cedula and concordat, how they came to be and how these two words have impacted our history?

I’m thinking that instead of dressing up and sharing food for ethnic holidays we can use these holidays to remind people of the history of our countries. How it is that people from the 5 continents all came to be on this small islands.  We can tell the historical and factual accounts of how various groups came to this country and the contributions that they each made to this nation. 

In so doing we will begin to see value in other than our affinity groups and we can intelligently and rationally challenge some of our long held beliefs.  Over the long term we will see clearly the myths and falsehoods that we hold on to as a conduction of our affinity groups.

My personal belief is that affinity groups and differences are part of a capitalist agenda.  

The few will contain the majority by pitting them against each other.  

It is an old playbook that we continue to live without questioning, we are playing our roles in a very old script and benefitting others by the suspicion we have for anyone external to our affinity group. Understand that when the majority is set against each other so that the few can stay in control 

Our organizations are not functioning optimally and we lament that our nation has not achieved its true potential. If only everyone acted behaved and believed as the people in our affinity group did, then this would be a wonderful and magical place.  This is a naïve and simplistic viewpoint that holds limited truth.

Without the benefit of various affinity groups Trinidad and Tobago would be a myopic place, short in Vision and stunted in tits growth potential because all affinity groups are limited in their thinking.  From the viewpoint of our affinity group we only see one frame, we need the impute of other groups to capture the whole picture. When we embrace and include our rich diversity we can spawn true innovation and creativity.  

Leaders what do you want for your organizations?

How can you ensure that the diversity in your workplaces is used to propel your organization and our country forward?

How can you limit your natural urge to serve your affinity group and instead serve all?

The first step is to be aware and the second step is to always be aware of our potential to behave this way

Our responsibility to the organization is not to your affinity group. We are to provide leadership to all members of your team regardless of their affinity group

In our communities and our families how do we treat the persons who are not within our affinity groups?  What assumptions do we make about their intentions?

What are you going to do differently?
This is a big question that we surely need to consider.

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any questions or want me to speak on a particular topic then visit my website maxineattong.com and send them to me.

Leadership is Promoting Work-Life Balance

As Community spread continues the possibility of us returning to work from home with varying scales remains high.

We have spent 3 months practicing work from home and most of our teams are now ready and equipped for this reality.

As I continue to host group coaching sessions with leaders and teams, most teams are concerned with the their work life balance and ask how to maintain this as they go forward. 

As work from home becomes institutionalized, it may be difficult to actually perceive a separation  between our work and our personal lives.  Our workplaces have now encroached our lives.

We no longer have to leave home to go to the workplace and we can no longer close our doors on the workplace.  Our dining room table is now an office desk, our kettle is the work coffee station and our co workers noisy radio is replaced by the sounds of the children’s cartoon.

Those of us who have sworn never to take home work, now have work as permanent and prominently features at our homes. It seems that the balance has been tilted on the side of work since it now resides with us at home.

There are two aspects of this for me.  There is the work and the life, that we are being asked to hold in balance. I want to separate them before I rejoin them so that we can deal with either as a separate piece before bringing them back as a whole .

Lets deal with life

What was the quality of your life before the Coronavirus?

Were you happy, proud, disappointed with your life before the Coronavirus?

The stay at home and the other effects of Corona would have compounded and shown you exactly what is the quality of your life.

A lot of us live our lives with distractions, which  is not a bad thing. They may look different from person to person and they keep us going. For some of us it may be the exercise, for others liming, for some travelling.  What’s yours?

During covid we had to stay at home without distraction and face ourselves. We had to look at the man/ woman in the mirror and we got a long hard look at our reflection.  For the first time in a long time, we saw how we related to ourselves and to our families and our loved ones. Maybe we liked what we saw, maybe we didn’t. We were forced to acknowledge our way of life and not all of us wanted to keep looking.

Part of our lives is also the relationships that we share. Cabin fever is a real thing and for some of us we learned that we didn’t know and in some cases we may not like the people with whom  we lived.

We realized that with the bustle of life that we were not spending quality time with each other and we needed to relearn each other.  This may have been rewarding to some.

I saw a hilarious and horrifying tweet thread that suggested that people were horrified at their spouses workplace ego.  Some people recognized that they were living with the office bully or living with the brownnoser.  We have never seen how each other work and now we may have had to recalibrate our opinions of others based on their work behaviour

That’s a lot of reveals in a short space of time, which did not always help our life.

In response to the messiness of life very often we turn to work. It makes perfect sense.

As humans we do what brings us pleasure and for a lot of us our work is joy. Work is also predictable we more or less get what we put into the job. Life on the other hand is messy, involves other people and plans often go awry.

It’s a no brainer about where to invest our time, work gives us a more immediate and  much higher return on our time investment.

At work, we realized that there is a difference between accessible and available. Team members may be accessible and they do not need to be available at all times.

Most leaders confused the two thinking that because they knew where team members were that they could call on team members whenever they wanted. For most leaders this was a teething problem, they were new to managing teams remotely and thought this was the best way forward. over the last 3 months some leaders realized that staff were in fact being responsible and doing as they required and eased up on this behaviour.

Yes I am aware that there are some leaders who are still closely monitoring their teams.

I don’t think this is a phenomenon of working from home. I think that in those teams there was always a lack of trust and the remote working is highlighting  the situation.  These leaders either have no trust in themselves as leaders, or don’t trust that their teams will follow their lead or don’t trust their team members.

I have not heard any leader complain about the lack of productivity during the work from home and most team members have said that they have achieved more than their expected results.

Lastly leaders, What is the culture of your office around work?

Some workplaces celebrate long hours and think that people who put their personal or family life first are losers.

Some offices promote missing family events as signs of loyalty to the office not realizing that life is being destroyed.

Some team members sacrifice family time and relationships on the altars of high performance and leaders applaud these decisions as evidence of dedication.

At these workplaces long hours, weekend work and tight deadlines are considered hallmarks of success. 

Now that we have examined work and life dear reader what do you preference your work or your life? What is the reason for your preference?

A 2001 study in the UK said that work life imbalance was more likely to be reported, by those working longer hours. It was also more likely to be reported by those in managerial positions and on a higher income; by women rather than men and by those with dependent children; and by multiple-job holders.

On the positive side, those who reported that they worked in an organization with a friendly climate, where more human resource practices are in place and where they have more scope for direct participation and autonomy, reported less imbalance. 

This report gives us some tips

Lets start at the top and be deliberate about the culture that we are building around work and life. 

What do our cultures promote? We need to ensure that our workplaces do not penalize fathers for wanting to see their children being born or that women don’t lose their spots because of maternity leave.  We also need to have a culture that does not penalize people who want other things.

Leaders we need to  encourage team members to take their holidays to attend family functions and to take breaks from work.

We need to stop thinking that if I can do it they can do it as well and understand that each individual has different needs and different levels of contribution to make.

We need to be flexible.

We need to highlight the need for routines with our team members. Encourage them to plan and take scheduled breaks.  Retain the morning 10-minute coffee break, the lunch break and the bathroom breaks. Remind them that the breaks offer a good time to check in on their children. We should be monitoring for those exceptions as well.

Lunch-time can offer opportunities for socialization through lunch and learns and families can be invited in.

Leaders encourage team members to find their rhythm and point out when their routines are also not working. 

We can demonstrate what routines look like by scheduling meetings at the same time each week and having work deadlines .

We also need to ensure that team members work a certain number of hours a week. 

As community spread widens, we need to be physically distant  and we do not have to be socially distant. 

Leaders reach out to team members and and check in both with those who live alone and those who live with others.

Some clients host zoom hangouts during which team members have a coffee together and shoot the breeze.

Leaders we need to plant the seeds and remind staff that there is more to life.

This may seem like a ticklish topic since we often think that Money is the main factor to the quality of life. Before I go on let me ask. Have you ever gotten a raise and 6 months after expenses just seem to rise to match the raise? Yes that happens with most of us.

What’s the quality of life that you are allowing yourself? What are you doing that takes away from or adds to your quality of life?

This is not about how much money you have it is about the people who are around you, you doing the things that you love unapologetically and the amount of happy or sad in your life.

What makes your heart sing? When last did you do that?

Many of  us at some point in time we give up the things dearest to us in pursuit of the career and then we are left feeling that something is missing.

As I progressed in my career as an accountant I gave up my love for writing and I felt the imbalance in my lifeIt is only when I restarted writing and published my two books that I felt resonance in my t became balanced life, since I operate daily with what makes my heart sings. 

Those who have regained your heartsong you know what I mean. For the others who haven’t take some time to think about that one thing that you did that you were just happy doing and reintroduce it into your life.  A sure way to maintain some balance.

On an individual level, let’s get help in every way that we can. It could be something as simple as buying frozen dough instead of making bread or ordering groceries to pick up instead of going to the stores or getting help to clean the house.  In whatever way we can lets make our living simpler and easier.

We also need to take care of our emotional mental and physical states by being aware of how we are doing. We need to slow down and pay attention to ourselves since it is ourselves that will bring us through. 

We know that work from home is in our future.  The second wave of covid will see many team members retreat to their homes. Beyond covid some employers will  realize that there are cost savings and promote work from home as the way forward.

Work life balance suggests that we hold the two in balance on a daily basis.

I have the image of a seesaw with work on one side and life on the other. Some days the seesaw tips in favor of work and on other days it  tips on the side of life. Think of the fine balancing act to hold the two sides of the see-saw at an equal level. It feels almost impossible to do so and this is what we struggle with. There is an unseen tension in holding the two sides even, it is difficult to maintain the balance.

Let’s try another image.  Think of the sea saw and move the life and work away from their separate ends and bring them together in the middle of the see saw.

Now work and life together become the pivot on which the see saw easily swings.  Feel the release of the tension. I know it sounds too easy.

Consider that life is a continuum in which there is a feature called work. It’s not either or it is part of our life. It’s just one of the multiple realities of our life and we hold it in perspective and in context to our lives.

I would love to know how you manage your work life balance.

Drop me a line at my website www/Maxineattong.com or via linked in or ig.

My intention  is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website and send them to me

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to promote work-life balance. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gamil.com

Thank you for reading

Leadership is Helping Teams deal with Stress

We have been reeling from the resurgence of covid 19 as more people have been tested positive.  Community spread is on and  contact tracing is in play. 

This has fueled a state of uncertainty for most of us  as we are wondering what will happen A lot of questions are emerging

  • Are we going to have another lockdown?
  • Can the economy survive another lock down ?
  • Can I survive to stay at home?
  • How do I keep safe?

As  community spread widens we will become more and more uncertain.

We have all been in the public spaces and seen that there has been a relaxation on the safety protocols.  We see masks being worn below the nose, around the neck or  on the chin. It’s pretty funny except that it isn’t a laughing matter.

We were looking forward to the creation of a new normal instead we are in a period of suspended reality. 

We can use this period of suspended reality to stop and think about what transpired over the last four (4) months before we move on.

The invitation is to have a discussion with your teams so that they understand that their feelings, issues and challenges were valid and experienced by others.

I have hosted these discussions with teams and team members usually express deep gratitude and relief after those meetings.  Closure is needed so that we can move on. Today I am sharing one perspective on that and you can mimic this with your teams

For a lot of us Corona was a time of grief as we lost our footing and our way of life. There were things that we missed and missed out on because borders were closed and we stayed at home.

Most of us experienced one or all of the five stages of grief – denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance –  during that time 

Let me explain

Some of us were in Denial. At first most of us didn’t believe that covid was a severe threat. There were a lot conspiracy theories floating about and others grappled with the idea of staying at home believing that it was part of a larger plot to control our way of life. 

As  the threat became real some of us became angry. We were angry with the Government for the decisions that were made, we were annoyed that our favorite bars and restaurants were closed, vexed  that  we couldn’t exercise, and mad that our plans were thwarted.  At some point in time we asked, “Is this fair?” “Why is this happening?  “Who is to blame? “

Slowly some of us tried to  negotiate. Maybe if we stay at home, the threat will be lessened. We hoped that if we stuck to a routine did some fun things that we wouldn’t miss what we lost so much. We tried to make  juice with the sour situation

Eventually some of us became depressed.  We couldn’t deal with all the loss.  We were sad and slowly we couldn’t be bothered.  Why change clothes and not wear pajamas, why not eat what we love, why bother to exercise? We missed our way of life and some of us we withdrew even more..

Finally some of us embraced the fact that we were  going to be okay. We accepted the new routines and we decided to do things differently.  We decided to not fight and accepted the inevitable and it became much easier to deal with it

Even with acceptance we realised that we still had moments of denial, or of anger or of feeling down.  That’s because the stages of grief do not work in sequence.  Acceptance is a muscle that takes awhile to build and as we build it we are susceptible to the other stages of grief.

We have gone through a lot of change over the last 4 months and now we are being tasked to change again.

We are going to grieve again.  This time with some additional concerns and anxieties.   We don’t know if our coworkers have been playing it safe. We don’t know if they have been creeping out to Covid parties and if they have been going out without masks. 

As the case of infections rise we are wondering about the people who have to travel to work and how safe they are and by extension how safe we are.

All of this adds to what we commonly call stress. Working from home has been stressful and returning to work is now equally  stressful.  

I  have been chatting with various teams and they all share the same sentiment. We are stressed and we are burnt out. 

 Leaders I know that the stress for you is also magnified.  There are five (5) more months to complete all the actions from the Strategic plans.

How do we help our teams cope with the stress from the grief so that they can be effective?

The word stress is used to describe a lot of emotions.

We need to be clear about exactly what the emotion is and what has  triggered the emotion. The trigger could be in the present time or maybe related to  something in the past.

 Covid  created stress in the present time for some of us because we have anxieties about getting ill or losing income.

Some of us may be stressed because our movements are restricted  and that may remind us of being a teenager again when our freedom of movement was curtailed.

Once we establish the stress trigger we can link this to a feeling. What is the emotion that this stress brings? Are you sad, frustrated, angry hurt?  Name the emotion and link it to what exactly is happening. I’m really mad that I’m being told to stay at home it makes me feel like a teenager all over again and that makes be both angry and sad.

Locate the feeling in your body because each part of our body reacts differently to the emotions that we have. We often feel fear in our stomach. Sadness is often felt in our chest and anger can cause our bodies to tremble. Connecting the body’s reaction helps us to confirm the emotion and release the emotion as and when we feel it. The language is unfamiliar but trust me as we begin to make the links it begins to make sense. As it makes sense the mystery is removed and we can begin to take targeted action.

What actions can we take to deal with stress?.  I am going to give you a few .

Try this with me. If you are seated,  then uncross your legs and plant your feet firmly on the ground., stick out your chest beyond your stomach and straighten your back. Yes it immediately makes a difference

We can go deeper with the breathing as we inhale we push out our stomachs and as we exhale allow the stomach to deflate.  We can make noises as we exhale. This allows us to take in more oxygen into our bodies and that helpers release the tension.

Native people never wore shoes, because they understood that we were of the Earth and that we needed to be anchored by the earth as often as possible.  It took scientist until 2016 to discover that walking barefoot is a stress reliever. Walking barefooted reconnects us with the earth and grounds us to deal with the vagaries of the day. 

As much as possible, get out in nature and let mother Gaia heal you. A hike, a walk in the outdoors, a visit to the beach allows us to be in nature and  to connect with the earth.

We need to sleep for 5 hours or more.  For those of us who are insomniacs we need to  track our behaviour to see what contributes to our lack of sleep. I don’t drink caffeine after noon, it keeps me up.  

I know that we have a lot to do but consider once per week doing nothing. Sounds like a sin doesn’t it? We can mimic the  lifestyles of creatives. They have spurts of creativity followed by  periods of drought. It’s a natural cycle of harvest and rest, winter and spring and we can build that into our routines. When last did you rest? 

Take an absence from screens. No TV,  no whatsapp, no email and no social media for at least 4 hours a week. The longer that we can do without it the better for us.

For me the best stress reliever is my daily journal. I ask myself questions, process feelings, determine what’s really annoying me or making me sad. I make lists of the things that I need to achieve. It’s my time that I get to work out things. It’s my personal space. It’s not something that I ever read again. I do it to get rid of feelings and thoughts so that I am clear to move on with the day.

The final tip is gratitude. The world is so crazy we need to just remind ourselves that there is still good in every day. Even if there is nothing good. I am grateful that I can open my eyes and see another day and that I have a phone and maybe that I have my sisters and some friends who will take my calls.  Sometimes I’m grateful for a little, sometimes I am grateful for a lot and always grateful.

There is no end in sight of covid-19 and we have to cope with what is in front of us.

Leaders I am very aware that you have a greater burden to bear.  I invite  you leaders to have these conversations with your staff, not only for them but for you as well.

Today I met with a team for an hour. After the conversation one of the leaders cried. He said it was the first time since covid that someone actually asked him how he coped with all that happened and how he was coping with being back at work. He said that it was one of the rare occasions that he felt supported by his team.

Organisations are made up of people. We may have to be physically distant for a while longer and we do not have to be socially distance.  Let us reach out to each other and have the conversations 

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal stress. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com\, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gamil.com

Thank you for reading

Leadership is Transparency

Business Dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required of collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”

There is an indelible link between accountability and transparency.  Accountability produces transparency; transparency promotes accountability.  You cannot have one without the other.

Can a leader be accountable without being transparent? No

Can a leader be transparent without being accountable. NO.

Realistically, no leader can be 100% transparent.   Any leader who is 100% transparent will be irresponsible. Leaders must use wisdom to choose when to be open and transparent.

As leaders, we often know the strategic plays that the organization is going to make and we cannot tell staff about them. We can say the what’s of strategy we can’t say the how. We can share that we want to double income in the next year but we can’t say that we are buying a company to achieve the target. The deal will be dead in the water before the agreement is made.

There are many decisions that we cannot share so that our business remains stable and continues to thrive

As leaders we need to state when we cannot be transparent. My standard answer is, ” I am not at liberty to answer because of the need for confidentiality”.

As with all things transparency calls for leaders to hold a balance and think about what they are accountable for and to whom they are accountable.

I have worked with leaders who preference their teams’ need for transparency over the organizational need to keep matters confidential. These leaders announced decisions to their team members to build loyalty while hijacking the organization.

When one team has information that other teams cannot access, it sets up an imbalance in which the team in the know is seen as more important or receiving preferential treatment. Other leaders who are holding confidence are viewed negatively by their teams as they seem to be withholding information.

The leaders who spill the beans need to come clean. Do you tell all because of your ego? What else would be worth breaking confidence?

Leaders need to think of where their obligations lie – is it with staff or the leadership team – at any point in time. This is not about us vs them it is about recognizing the sensitivity of issues that needs to be disclosed.

The meaning of transparency does not shift, the leader has to make the call about the purpose that is being served.

Now that I have placed that caveat, we can talk about transparency in terms of providing information that will allow accountability.

I will talk about  transparency as it relates to the leader, in relation to the team that they lead and in relation to the organization.

Leadership Transparency

Leaders what is your intention for your leadership? When we are clear about what we want we can tell team members about it. Our intention shows in everything that we do or say. So instead of team members guessing what we want ,we say want we want.  This helps everyone to get aligned. The leader has put his cards on the table and everyone is aligned.

Transparency in Teams

What would it be like if we understood the agenda of each team member? It would go a long way to building transparency for your teams. This conversation will

  • Allow a common understanding amongst the team.
  • Build trust between the team members
  • Lead to understanding motives and behaviour.

When team members are clear on each other’s agenda they may step up and support each other. I have seen team members volunteer for extra duties to allow persons to spend time with family members or allow people who needed the money to work the overtime.

All team members must understand the targets, the roles and responsibilities of other team members for transparency to exist within teams. Work processes are understood and efficiency is promoted. Everyone understands how what he or she does fits in to the team’s contributions and how others contribute as well.  Team members should be aware of each others qualifications and certifications. Sometimes team members are contentious about bonuses or salaries when they have no idea of what each other is doing or has done.

Transparency in the Organization

At the organizational level I welcome the day that salaries and salary ranges are common knowledge for all roles. This will go a long way in promoting transparency and accountability.

Most organizations cannot reveal this information because leaders are aware of the disparity in earnings that are not always backed by credentials, or years of service or  performance. Until your company is comfortable with stating salary and salary ranges of all employees then you know that there is no parity and no transparency.

To be or not to be transparent is a dilemma that many leaders face.  My rules of thumb for disclosure to both internal and external are

  1. Will revealing this information remove the organization’s competitive advantage?  Answer Yes then don’t disclose
  2. Will withholding this information cast doubt and confusion or be viewed as a cover up? Answer Yes then disclose
  3. If 2 years from now a reasonable man looks back on this situation,  will he understand the reasons for non-disclosure as ethical or rational? Answer Yes, then don’t disclose

Leaders, unless it is a strategic decisions that will be revealed when the pieces fall in place we need to think about it.

Team members want to hear bad news about the organization from the organization. They do not want to read about it online or hear about it from others.  They do not want be shocked as well as they want to save face.  While leaders are deciding what to disclose, they need to think about team members and how they will feel by being blindsided by negative press. Some questions to consider during these situations are:

  • What is the impact of not telling the staff?
  • How can we build trust if we do not state what happened?
  • Who are we obliged to speak to when situations like this occur?

Sometimes the loyalty that we have for the organization and each other as leaders makes us want to draw a fence around issues and keep the situation under wraps.

We are pretending that the need for us to come clean, to internal and external stakeholders goes away it doesn’t.

So leader What are you pretending not to know?”

No one worries about transparency until something goes wrong.  To make it easier to build the transparency muscle we can practice being transparent with positive things that are happening.  It will make it easier when we have to be transparent with negative situations.

When leaders set a tone of transparency then the organizational culture becomes more open, communication becomes easier and it supports accountable behavior for both employees and leaders.

Some ways to build transparency are

  • Allow team members access to you to ask questions and understand what is going on. Yes it requires constant communication.
  • Conduct regular meetings with your team. These meetings are to follow up on work and deadlines. This way everyone knows what is going on what everyone else is responsible for.  Team members begin to appreciate each others contributions.  Give feedback on performance in these meetings – congratulate and help team members to work through challenges that come with failures.
  • In these meetings allow time for questions from the team members about what is going on in the organisation. Give information that is sanctioned. Distinguish when it your opinion vs the company’s decisions.  Be responsible and do not break confidentiality.
  • Encourage honest feedback about the company, its strategies or actions or whatever you may consider important. Online surveys can be used.
  • Have regular communication tools – newsletters, email from the CEO that will keep all team members on the loop
  • Practice stating intentions out loud, so that others on your leadership team and team members begin to understand what transparency looks like. Then do as you say. For example, My intention for giving you feedback is to reduce the errors.  This assumes that you are clear on your intentions.
  • Take the time to get to know your team members and meet with them one on one. This helps you to understand their personal agendas and promotes openness.
  • Host regular town halls to report on the company’s progress to everyone at the same time. This is best hosted by the CEO or top leader.  In this forum state challenges and opportunities with the caveat being that some things are confidential and cannot be shared. Take questions and comments from the floor.  Do not reprimand persons for asking difficult or challenging questions
  • Help persons who struggle with transparency by holding them accountable for being transparent.

Transparency builds and fosters better relationships since trust is present.

As always this is part of your leadership journey.

Becoming a more transparent leader takes time and effort. It will also take time for the benefits to spread throughout your organization.

Reader what about you? What do you need to be transparent about so that others can hold you accountable?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal with accountability/ transparency in their organizations. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on my website at maxineattong.com\, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gmail.com