Tag: uncertainty

Now is the time to reduce stress and increase employee engagement

The clocks have gone back, it’s dark earlier, and the weather is so miserable. On top of these predictable things, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air regarding a possible second lockdown and will it be deal or no deal with the EU? Many of us are worried about the future, and some are getting anxious about what it’ll mean for jobs and careers. Given October is Mental Health Awareness month, now is a good time for these matters to be on the forefront of ALL our minds.

Many people who have been working from home for months experience ‘isolation’, leading to some stress and sense of anxiety. This is a good time to act as a really good employer and to refocus on employee engagement. Afterall when engagement goes down, commitment wanes, innovation drops and inevitably profits stall. Downward spirals are dangerous for business health just as it is for mental health.

In June I posted an article about Mindfulness and Stress reduction, and I have found the article acts as a conversation starter when speaking with business people about mindfulness.

If I hadn’t had a daily practise of mindfulness for over 15 years, I could write these articles with integrity. I feel blessed in that I have learned to overcome anxiety and stress. I have never been gripped by depression, despite being made redundant many times, even though of course these events caused a lot of insecurity, anxiety and stress! For many people, even if they are still employed, what’s happening out there in society and the economy at the moment is probably worse than a normal redundancy (if there is such a thing) because of the heightened sense of uncertainty.

All this means is that now is a good time for employers to show true leadership and refocus on keeping their people engaged, working to take away any unfounded fears they have and helping them to cope with stress more effectively. My life’s motto is ‘if I fall down 7 times, I get up 8’, based on a Japanese proverb. But it isn’t necessarily for everyone as most people need a helping hand to get through difficult times.

I enjoy teaching meditation in companies. It nurtures self-awareness, which is a vital step towards being a more effective employee and a better leader. I help transform organisational cultures by embracing mindfulness in the workplace and looking after each other. I coach leaders to be more emotionally intelligent, and communicate better with their staff.

The Mindful Leader published an article about how stressful work can be. Of course there can be many unexpected and unpleasant things at work as well as what goes on at home and outside work. In these Covid plagued times these two domains are less and less separated. The transition from work to home has become more fluid for some or non-existent for others.

Viktor Frankl, the well-known holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, highlighted that there is a gap between stimulus and how we respond and as a result we have choices and so we can learn to decide how we respond to unpleasant stimuli. The greater our awareness if this, achievable through the practise of mindfulness, the more we can ‘manage’ your way out of stressful situations. This ‘gap’ is what George Mumford, author of The Mindful Athlete, calls being ‘in the zone’ and what others might call the eye of the hurricane or the quiet place in the storm.

I recently finished a 6 months programme with a company where confidence improved with the employees that attended my mindfulness at work course. Stress and anxiety were reduced, and we worked on loads of things that helped the team get through the crisis. Please check out the case study on my website.

As a mindfulness trainer for organisations and coach for individuals I can teach techniques that combat mental health issues. I work with individuals to change mindsets and see the world from a more helpful point of view, enabling them to get unstuck or lead better.

Contact me today for a free consultation on how I can help you to balance your employees’ wellbeing and teach your leaders the right skills to navigate these uncertain times. Or feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Ballueder Thinks (10) – October Update

I am finishing this post as I unwind for the night. A busy day ‘in the office’, lots of zoom calls…but a good day, as most days are at the moment.

When I started writing this post, it was a week after my marathon. My columns here become more of a diary which I publish on an irregular basis. I hope you continue to enjoy them. Please reach out to me and let me know, so I can use your feedback to improve.

That in itself is an important point, if you don’t seek feedback, you never improve. I guess that’s why my coaching clients come to me, they want to be coached from an ‘outside-in’ perspective, someone giving them feedback and suggesting how to better themselves. It’s great to be able to do that, as I really enjoy doing it too. Reach out to me for a free consultation on how I could help you to achieve more in life.

In terms of my running, I recovered from my injury from the marathon and I am slowly going back to training again. For now, I decided I will take it easy for a month, focusing on weight loss, muscle gain and maintaining my fitness level. This means a split half marathon on Mondays, and a further 10K later in the week. That’s plenty to maintain the level for now. I never felt so fit before. Interesting enough, I noticed that I cannot cope with alcohol that well anymore. Even the ‘normal’ amount gives me a slight hungover the next day. Whether that is down to the theory that muscles which are well trained soak up any fluid in order to hydrate, and therefore cause havoc with alcohol, or if it is age, I do not know 🙄 So my beloved wine needs to be a weekend thing for me to continue to perform at my peak during the week. That is a good problem to have IMO.

What keeps me up at night is productivity and performance. You might think that’s a bit geeky but I have two interesting projects which both need high performance from me, for the little hours I have. The balance when working as a consultant. I hopefully add a couple more projects by the time I finished this post, and also add more coaching clients. As a matter of fact I added a voluntary role in the mindfulness space to the portfolio; more info and announcements next time, when things are officially formalised.

I also got approached for full time roles recently and have engaged in a few conversations. However, I am still not sure. But never say never. There is loads going on, and I shared 10 open positions on LinkedIn the other day that randomly appeared in my newsfeed. To be honest, I am very curious how I split my time in the months to come. All I can say is that I truly enjoy what I am doing and the people I am working with.

Things are moving, and are in constant change. Change is good. My podcasts are well received and I enjoy interviewing guests from a variety of topics. Watch the space for some really interesting, mind opening conversations I recorded.

That leads me to another topic. As a family we have been putting our thinking hats on too. From whiteboard sessions around the kitchen table to discussions how we want to live, and what is important to us. As some ideas and plans are shattered, other opportunities are opening up. Again, I am not sure how it all pans out in the months to come, but I am sure we will be fine. As a family we grow stronger, the boys are getting older and things are happening. And that is the most important thing. It showed massively when the youngest had to quarantine due to a Covid case in his school bubble recently. I am sure we see more of that to come, and I am worried about a second lock down tbh. Sometimes I fear the virus will never go away, so we just have to accept it and live with it.

Anyway, given the circumstances,

I am happy.
I am grateful.
And I am immensely positive.

I couldn’t wish for anything else atm. We have always been ambitious and positive thinking. This means we are ready to take on whichever challenge life throws at us, and I am confident we master it. And the boys are growing up with that attitude and learning from us to become more resilient.

This all goes in line with a lot of patience, resilience, and communication with a 9 and 11 year old, who of course see life from a different angle than ourselves. Life is challenging to be explained to some, and making decisions is what we have to do as parents and carers, and we hope we make the right ones. You cannot always please everyone which means, sometimes things just have to be done.

There is of course a negative side effect to what I do: I am working too much. I just love to. Whilst I am contracted by days/hours/projects, I often end up clocking a lot more hours and neglect the family or myself. The other week I realised I hadn’t left the house for 3 days! I made up for it with a session in the pub, and that felt really good! Just the other day I coached someone on work life balance, and how to separate life and work when working from home; from physical distancing to breaking up the day, carving time out for lunch, school runs etc. Don’t forget, we are all in it together, and a small change can go a long way. It’s like the discussion around wearing face masks. They don’t protect yourself, but protect others. And for that reason, unless you are selfish, just wear one. A small price to pay if you ask me.

Whilst we didn’t go out for a few days, we got some life admin done. It’s nice to feel to be on top of things, cuddling up with the boys, spending proper family time together. The fire was on, nice food was cooked and you are creating that home family atmosphere. Isn’t that brilliant? As mentioned above, we are still learning to become the ‘perfect family’ (define that how you want), but open communication and support for each other is key. How do we stop daddy from shouting? How can I trust you more? How can I get you to listen more?

It’s a bit like a board meeting. The application of leadership and management to small independent family organisations 🙂 I can see a book coming soon. As a matter of fact, a discussion last week sparked my interest to write a book called ‘what I learned now and would pass on to my younger self if he was listening’. But it’s true, I remember a friend of mine doing a whiteboard session with his parents a few years ago. It works, and visualisation and communication are key to any team you are working with.

Since I last published a post, there have been a few things happening. I got a new veggie cook book by Jamie Oliver which I love; I ordered the new iPhone (2 years upgrade cycle) and it will arrive soon. It is crazy to think how far technology has come, when I compare that with my first HTC smart phone running on Windows back in 2006. The connectivity or even the camera compared to my first digital camera at university. I am a bit technology geek, and I cannot wait for the machine to arrive. The pictures are soon available in RAW format, not that it means much to me, but this will be a breakthrough for professional photographers. In line with that, we are consuming more, and I got myself convinced to add Netflix to the mix. So between Apple TV, Prime and Netflix, we now have 3 subscription services. I am monitoring this closely, as I don’t really like to pay for many. We also pay a subscription for FreeTV which I happily get rid of. However, that’s just a hidden tax really.

Now, on the weekend of the 17th, I heard the sad news that my old manager and mentor, Andy, passed away. He was fighting cancer since 2016 when he collapsed in the office. I will re-publish a podcast I recorded with him at the end of 2019, in memory and in warning, somewhat, that we cannot escape death. Andy had cancer, an evil one, and we openly talked about it. He made peace with himself, and was ready to go – as ready as one can be. He leaves a lot of friends, a fantastic family and a legacy of a life behind. He influenced my life over the years, and those many others. It sometimes feels as if the good guys go to early. One just doesn’t know how much time is left on the clock. You must make the most of it. Life can be cut short.

On that note, if you knew Andy, please contribute to his chosen charity Garden House Hospice, mentioning his name. I will miss you and our chats.

No matter how many people die, it isn’t getting easier. The closer you are to them, the more memories you shared, the more it affects you. This year I lost two loved ones already. Many people died of Covid of course. It’s not the year to sit and wait. It’s those experiences that make us more determined, to spend more time with our family, to make more things happen, to work harder, yet make every moment count with your loved ones.

Andy and I shared a ton of memories, attending events across Europe, where we spend long days and nights, having lots of fun. We shared good and bad moments, and he will be truly missed. I loved working with him, and loved taking advice from him. Rest in peace.

I think this is a good time to end this column.
Covid, Brexit, life in general – there is so much uncertainty. As I am learning to embrace fear more and more, it doesn’t make it easier. I sometimes think I need a year off, maybe 2021, to reflect and do what I want to do. Lottery win my way please 😉

Give your loved ones a hug tonight. Reflect on what you have, and be grateful. Life can change in a heartbeat, so cherish the precious moments.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world!
Volker

Living in a new world – Days at home (23)

Another day. Wowsers was I busy yesterday. The boys are still off school, so they enjoy the downtime and the slack of playing lots of computer games. That’s ok too. And today – so far so good. Got some stuff done, including finishing an online course on Project Management. Hurray.

What am I busy with?

I am launching an online course for personal development based on my first productivity book I published in 2013, and re-published in 2017. It’s called #BeBetter and aligns your values to your purpose and success in life. I hope to be able to help hundreds of people to become better in what they do, improving their productivity and life along the way. So watch this space!

Then, I am still contracting until end of next week. With few days left, I am at least trying to get on top of things, do a proper hand-over and make sure the work I have done so far, can be carried on after I leave. So if you know of anyone needing a safe pair of hands, please let me know. I’d love to take on another contract, but also consider a full-time position in the industry, or a new industry. Why not, let’s get more experience and some change.

Anyway, let’s talk lock-down. We have been lucky and secured a delivery slot most weeks. We got plenty of food, plan another BBQ later, and enjoy long country walks. We watch Lord of the Rings, enjoy a game of Trivial Pursuit and wine deliveries get to us too. I get some reading done, and even managed journalling a lot over the weekend. Life is good, given the circumstances of course.

What are we afraid of?

Probably what everyone is afraid of:
– When does it end?
– Can we get it again?
– Will we get immunity?
– Will we see our loved ones again soon?
– Will we live in lock-down until this time next year?

… It’s uncertainty. It’s not fear, but maybe fear of a change in society, riots, unrest etc. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to it, and the virus will mutate and not attack humans anymore. Yet, will there be another virus coming soon?

Anyway, maybe enough for the day 😉

What does the new normal look like? That’s another question we are trying to answer.

Sunday Column (461)

No train on Monday. This week was half term, and I damn well enjoyed myself. Sorry, but I really did. Let’s start with last weekend, when on Sunday we went off to Bracknell to the UK’s longest water slide. A bit of shopping first, and then we headed to the pool, which turned out to be a bit disappointing and the slides a bit dangerous with both boys falling off the rafts inside the slides. Nevertheless, the swimming was fun, lots of water plays and two tired boys at night. That night I managed to sleep close to 10 hours myself and prior to that we had a great steak and chips evening in the Beef Eater adjacent to our Premier Inn. What a way to start a short vacation, and despite previous experience, the Premier Inn was really nice. And unlimited chips too (so much about my diet 🙂 ).

On Monday and Tuesday we were in Legoland. I so desperately wanted to stay in the hotel, that we decided to do that over half term and we chose an adventure room. It was fun, a great themed hotel room, a riddle to open the safe for a toy, and two days of rides and food. What not to enjoy? The possibility to spend time with my two boys and the wife was great. I haven’t had that for a long time and feel like I have been away too much travelling recently. But that is going to stop for a few weeks I suppose, that’s what I think anyway. So time to make up for it and even go down a roller coaster ride. Really? Yup, I did, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. And if I am not mistaken, it was the first time I ever went on a roller coaster. I know…I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to fairground rides. The Ninjago ride/game was great, despite the 90 minute queuing time and the laser ride in the pyramids was fun as well. Probably my two most favourite rides. Yes, Legoland is a great place to be, but after two days, I was done with it. I had enough to be honest. I was “lego-d” out. The most fascinating bit was probably the Star Wars exhibition.

The last day of my half term we went to London to get the boys new German passports. With Brexit lurking and the world being a not so safe place, you never know which passport will be best in the future. So off we went and also spend a sunny day on the Southbank. A boat ride, a relaxed swing on the exhibition in the Tate Modern and lots of tube and train journeys. Just what the boys enjoyed. We skipped the Emperial War Museum and saved it for a rainy day. Yes, another successful day, and three tired out boys in the family 🙂 Time to go back to work, so I did exactly that on Thursday. Not without having a huge pizza and some wine on Wednesday. Back to the diet as of tomorrow, right?!

At time of writing I am still looking back at the experience. What a fun packed week, and when leaving the house on Friday morning after my run, the boys and the wife were still asleep, catching up on the much needed sleep and dealing with the experience of the week. What fun we had! Even a few days away can make such a difference and on the back of it we ignited the Lego fun again. My wife organised a new shelf to organise the Lego and I got myself the BMW R1200 Lego Technic motorbike to build for the weekend. The boys and I put it together on Saturday and on the way I explained them how engines work, mechanics works and what traction for wheels is like. Time to get my hobby car, the Jaguar. Maybe next spring depending on the situation moving forward. We shall see.

As they say, life happens when you are busy making other plans.

And as I read the papers, the noise around a no Brexit deal is getting louder. There is a chance for Brexit, maybe even later than 2019, and there is a chance for a no Brexit deal or even a no Brexit. Two options to not go ahead, or really one to go ahead without a deal and one without a Brexit if that makes sense. I believe that slowly this country comes around and realises the implications a Brexit might have, and that already a lot of banks moved to Europe in order to avoid the uncertainty.

Uncertainty, whether one is out of a job, looking for the next step, waiting to hear about some results, or living in a country to exit a union, is never a good situation. It is, as it says, uncertainty. A situation where one doesn’t know what happens and naturally humans seek security and certainty. Yes, we also need uncertainty, and the 6 human needs clearly show it, but mostly in a controlled fashion in forms of adventure or entrepreneurship. We don’t want to live with constant uncertainty, at least most people don’t. In other words, living in a country with an uncertain future and having an uncertain future, is a combination that doesn’t make life easier. Should one stay or should one go, carry on or do something new? With every uncertainty comes opportunity and as my boss used to say, change is good. Life is good too, did you notice that? Where focus goes, energy flows.

I watched a video recently where, in an experiment, people were put on a line and everyone who had to never worry about money, always had food, always could go to school, never had to worry about a roof over their head etc. took a step forward for each of those priviliges. Priviliges they cannot even pat themselves on the back for. Having a warm home, enough food and the ability to learn gives my children a head start. I am glad I can provide that and hope that in the future I can do even more. Because they are my first priority in life, and nothing should ever change that.

So before I go on about uncertainty and priviliges, I look at the upcoming sun, with a mind like water, and trust that the universe will help me to get where I am supposed to be in the future.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

Brexit again

I have been thinking about the Brexit again. Not only are we nearing parity with the Euro, we are wiping off money by delivering uncertainty to the markets.

My favourite topic, Brexit, got a new twist last week. Yet it was quickly withdrawn, the argument that every company should list their foreign workers. Blimey, this sounds to me like an outing of some kind. Discussing it with my Irish mate today, it feels like a counting of people with a different twist. Are we going to wear a certain sticker to identify us as non British? What is going on in this country I so felt settled in until the 23rd of June this year?

I am worried, admittedly, not that I cannot stay in this country, but what my chosen home country portraits to the outside world. Whilst I enjoy living here, what is Britain going to be like in a few years time? Nothing is forever, yet what if our plans to retire here won’t work out? Just as we finish the house, could we consider re-locating again, in 2019? Germany, New Zealand, America, Singapore?? I don’t know. There is a lot, if long term, uncertainty out there.

The six human needs have uncertainty as a need, but for me, I prefer certainty over uncertainty. I like my roots, my house, my home, and a regular routine. Doesn’t mean I am not flexible and cannot do my running at 4 am so I am not affected by the Southern train strike. Whilst I try to better myself in my job and my career and being a better dad on a daily, weekly, continuous basis, for my home and life, I like it to just stay the same and never change. Maybe that is an illusion.

That isn’t just me. A lot of people, I might even argue the majority of people are like that. A home, a castle and a place for the kids to grow up. A quality service of trains to and from work. A quality of life. Nothing else. Yes, the odd uncertainty if the exchanged Bose headphone will work better or if there is a problem with my phone. Is wireless bluetooth technology not good enough yet or is London full of interferences. But those uncertainties are fun in a way, geeky and solvable.

My cousin is going to visit from Singapore soon. She lived abroad a lot of her life time, e.g. away from Germany, yet she is happy and young, no kids, not as many roots and dependencies as us. But would re-locating kids mean un-rooting them? Surely not. But as my dad said, it is far too early to think about all that, as we got 2 years to brexit.

By that time, so I think, we will have no EU left. Then it doesn’t matter who threw the first stone. It doesn’t matter which side you are on, and where you live. Or does it? Guess time will tell, but only the uncertainty is certain I suppose. I love Britain, I chose to stay in this multicultural environment and form my life and career here. At the forefront of digital marketing, and I am hopeful, yet not certain, this will continue to be like that for a while.

Fingers crossed and let’s hope we get confidence back in the values Britain stands for: democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect/tolerance.

God bless the Queen!