You have to love what you do, to give your best.

Lailah Gifty Akita - Founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation.
It's not Just about the Money: How to Improve your Work Situation

It's not Just about the Money: How to Improve your Work Situation

Posted by martin.parnell |

On July 23rd. I posted a blog entitled “When the holiday’s over, how to improve your career.” In it, I suggested taking some time to evaluate your career path and increasing your wage. 

At the end, I wrote that I would, in a future blog, write about other aspects of your working life that you might wish to improve on and ways in which to accomplish those improvements. So, here goes. 

There are many factors that can affect people’s working lives. It may be that they don’t have support from family members, they are poor time-keepers, they can’t find childcare, the transit system is unreliable. These are very personal issues and those people need to look into ways in which they can fix these problems. 

However, there are situations and circumstances that are based in the workplace that I want to address.

Some of them are factors that I have written about, in previous blogs, all of which can be accessed on my website, www.martinparnell.com  and I’m going to reference them for you to read, at your leisure: 

Firstly, if you have your own business, you may be anxious about returning from vacation, if you know that your business is failing: See March 14th. 2018  How to diagnose and cure an ailing business and July 4th. 2018 If your business isn’t growing, look for the root of the problem. 

You may have great ideas that you want to share and feel that they would gain you recognition, but you don’t know how to go about it: See March 20th. 2018  How to communicate in a way that is accessible to all. 

You may find that you are miserable at work because, for one reason or another, a close colleague has left: See April 10th. 2018   How to deal with missing your work buddy, when they leave. 

At times, you may feel overwhelmed by the task in hand: See May 23rd. 2018 How to manage a mammoth tasksee it as an elephant. You may find it difficult to accept change: See September 4th. 2018 How to accept change and embrace the positives. 

You may feel terrified of making a mistake: See November 7th. 2018 How to be positive about making a mistake. You may be unsure as to the opinion of others with regards to you work: See January 9th 2019 Why asking for feedback in the right way is of most value. 

Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you address certain issues you may face with regards to work. But, what about more practical issues? 

They may appear pretty basic and of no particular concern, to some people, but can have a large impact on others. I found this article on www.iofficecorp.com, that mentions some of these. The piece is aimed at management but, if one or more of them applies to you, I suggest you point them out to your line manager.

If you are a boss, it’s worth considering these issues and whether or not they are conditions that may be affecting your employees, written by by James McDonald on February 18, 2019, he quotes Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, who recommends focusing on improvements in employee productivity, which can have a great impact on the bottom line. One of the most effective ways to do this is by reducing or eliminating poor working conditions:  

“7 Poor Working Conditions That Hurt Employee Productivity:

1) Inadequate Space Utilization

Have you ever heard the term “set up to fail”?  If your employees are lacking the space and resources to do their best work, you are doing just that.  And it isn't just about allocating the right amount of space per person. Your employees need enough space to be able to work comfortably, but they also need the right mix of space to be productive. They need to have access to quiet spaces where they can concentrate on deep work,as well as common areas designed for collaboration. And they need an easy way to find and reserve these spaces. 


2) Ineffective Workplace Technology

Workplace technology is one of the three most important elements that make up the experience, according to author Jacob Morgan. Technology that's slow, outdated, or ineffective is frustrating to use. And over time, that frustration can erode employee satisfaction and even push employees out the door.

A survey of 12,000 employees in 12 countries found that 58 percent of employees at companies considered to be "technology laggards" had negative feelings toward their employer. 

Inefficient workplace technology also hurts productivity in a big way. Consider what happens when you're using outdated software for hosting meetings, for instance. At least a few times a week, you have to restart a conference call, log back in and get everyone back on track.

By eliminating this distraction and others, you give each employee an extra 18 minutes back each day. Multiple that by 500 employees earning an average salary of $85,000, and over the course of the year, this can add as much as $1.6 million back into your annual budget, according to an article Lister published in the January/February issue of Facility Management Journal. 

3) Poor Lighting

If there's one element employees want more than anything else in their workplace design, its access to natural light. Poor lighting contributes to eye strain, fatigue and reduced productivity. On the contrary, access to plentiful light —especially natural light — can improve productivity. 

In a survey by Future Workplace, 70 percent of employees said having access to natural light makes them more productive. Yet more than 33 percent said they felt they had inadequate access to natural light.

4) Inefficient Workplace Processes

Just as it's critical to evaluate workplace technology, it's important to take a hard look at your workplace processes and identify opportunities for improvement. Often times, management and employees will accept a process based solely on the assertion that “this is how it’s always been done.” But times change, and our customers and employees do as well.

Open up a dialogue with your team and ask the questions: “What workflow issues are slowing you down?” You’d be surprised at how much things can change with just a few simple tweaks and the automation of certain procedures.

5) A Lack of Workplace Flexibility and Balance

Times have changed a lot since the Baby Boomer generation entered the workforce. The modern workplace isn’t confined to four walls; it goes everywhere with us. In fact, gallup recently reported that 25 percent of Americans work between 45-59 hours per week, working on commutes or while waiting for dinner to be ready.

Unlike our predecessors, however, a work/life balance is critical. In Gallup's most recent State of the Workplace report, 53 percent of employees said a role that allows them to have a greater work/life balance is "very important" to them.  

In the same survey, 51 percent of respondents said they would change jobs to have flexible scheduling in their work, yet only 44 percent said their current company offers it. A similar discrepancy exists when respondents were asked about having the option to work off-site at least part time. Thirty-seven percent said they would change jobs for that flexibility, but only 24 percent said their employer offers it. 

You can help employees achieve a greater work/life balance by offering flexible arrangements whenever possible. It's also important to make sure workloads are manageable and encourage employees to use their paid time off. A well-rested workforce makes a big difference in both the quality and quantity of work. 

6) Uncomfortable Working Conditions

It's difficult to concentrate when you're shivering or constantly fanning yourself to stay cool. Similarly, issues like broken chairs, wobbly desks or clanging pipes create poor working conditions that can become big distractions. 

They keep your employees from engaging in the type of deep work that produces the best results. Over time, they can hurt morale and negatively impact the employee experience. 

The good news is that you can easily address this issue by ensuring employees have an easy way to submit service requests via a mobile app.

7) A Toxic Company Culture

Your company culture directly influences employee engagement and productivity. In fact, much of today’s workforce will choose to move on to a new job if the workplace culture doesn’t meet their expectations. 

Just like a bad attitude, a negative company culture is contagious. It lowers employee engagement and reduces productivity.”

Whatever the issue or condition is, that’s having a negative effect on how you feel about your working conditions, from dealing with a difficult colleague to having to sit all day in a chair that gives you back ache, do make an effort to address the problem.

Not only will it make you feel better about going to work every day, but you’ll feel the benefit of knowing you didn’t just put up with something that, with a little research and determination, can be fixed. 

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

 

 

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On every job you do, you've got to raise your game. My ambition is to just get better and better every job you do -- you should never stop trying to get better.

Ray Winstone - English film and television actor.
How to Embrace the Challenge and Enjoy your Promotion

How to Embrace the Challenge and Enjoy your Promotion

Posted by martin.parnell |

Congratulations! All your hard work has paid off and you’ve been given promotion at work or even joined a new company, in a better job. Once the celebrations are over, however, the prospect of the responsibilities of your new role, can be daunting.

It will certainly mean that people will assume you have a great deal of knowledge and experience. That is most likely true, but now you have to put your skills to work and convince those around you that your new position is well-deserved.

One of the most important skills to have is time management. If this is not something that comes easily to you, why not make a list of all the aspects of your new role and prioritise.

In her article Shifting Expectations: How to Adapt to New Job Responsibilities, on the 99U website, posted   Nov 29, 2011, Elizabeth Grace Saunders suggests a way to do that:

“First, write out all of the activities related to your job. Then, categorize each of them as an investment, neutral, or optimize activity:

  • Investment: Spending more time on these activities could lead to a significant increase in the benefits you receive. Example: A significant career-enhancing project that helps you grow your skill set.
  • Neutral: These activities give back as much as you put into them. Example: Billable hourly work, where you aren’t building out your portfolio or developing new skills.
  • Optimize: More time spent on these activities results in decreasing benefits. Example: Routine email or paperwork.

As you scan your completed list, you will want to:

  • Complete the “Optimize” activities as quickly as possible.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on “Neutral” activities.
  • Maximize the time you spend moving forward on “Investment” activities.
  • Re-evaluate as necessary.”

It’s also important to learn how to delegate. Make sure you understand the roles of all of your colleagues and the skills they offer, in order to take full advantage of the pool of expertise available to you. Saunders addresses this under the section More Management:

“Increases in the number of people who report to you should mean that the overall output of your team increases, if you’re delegating properly. But more management responsibility also means, of course, that you have to “let go” of some tasks.

To understand how much of your time different staff members receive from you and what you can delegate to gain back time for your creative projects, try this type of assessment:

  • Make a mind map or list of all of the different people reporting to you.
  • Detail out what each one of these people needs to receive from you such as:
    • Monthly one-on-one meetings (1 hour/month)
    • Weekly feedback on their current projects (2 hours/week)
    • Emotional support when they have a setback (varies)
  • Brainstorm all they could give back to you. The possibilities are endless. Your list might include things like:
    • Absorbing regular maintenance tasks, which could be anything from managing social media to writing blog posts to prepping files to answering customer emails, and so on. (4-8 hours/week)
    • Completing a major research or archival project. (5 days)
    • Taking over leading a committee or a regular meeting. (3 hours/month)
    • Attending a professional conference or seminar on your behalf. (1-2 days)” 

Depending on your type of work, you may find that you have to travel more or, if that hadn’t been an aspect of your previous job, it may be something else you have to adapt to. To limit the disruption of travelling for work, make sure your colleagues know when you will be away and that they are fully aware of what you expect them to do, during that time.

Allow time to prepare properly for any meetings scheduled or presentations you might have to give. Do you have all your information? Do the people you are visiting know what you may need? Are your travel plans all in place?

Also, if exercise is part of your regular routine, make sure you allow time for that on your trip. Do allow for time-zone changes and make sure people in the office and at home are aware, too. Let them know of best times to contact you and times when you will be unavailable. When you return, make sure you are quick to follow up on leads and submit any receipts.

Hopefully, your new job will be exciting, challenging and fulfilling, but if you feel it becomes overwhelming, seek help. There will be people who can support you and if there is skill that you feel needs improving or any area that you feel you are weaker, you can always ask for extra training.

For those of you who find yourselves in a managerial position, for the first time, I’ll leave you with some extra advice from guest writer Samuel Edwards, in the Under 30 network section of Forbes magazine, October 31st. 2016, in his post entitled 4 Things To Do After Landing Your First Promotion:

“When you launch your career, one of the very first goals you set for yourself is getting promoted. While it may take a few months, or even years, to get there, the day will eventually come when you’ll get notified that your hard work has paid off and that you’re moving up.

When you first get a promotion, the number one thing on your mind is how much more money you’ll make. Will it be a substantial pay raise or will you get just a small bump? Will you get a new office or will you remain in the same place? 

But as these details get fleshed out, suddenly your attention will shift to your impending responsibilities: What are your new responsibilities? Who do you report to? What does your new schedule look like? And more.

What you’ll quickly learn is that, along with a promotion, comes a huge learning curve that goes along with a move up the corporate ladder. The key is to understand what you’re getting into and handle it gracefully so that everyone around you feels like it was the right decision. Specifically, heed the following advice:

1. Proceed With Caution in Managerial Positions

If you’ve been promoted to your first managerial position, you need to resist the temptation to move fast and put your mark on everything you touch. You’re going to take on a lot of new responsibilities – many of which you won’t have experience with – so surround yourself with other managers at the company and pick their brains from time to time. Go to them for help when you’re uncertain of how to handle a situation. One thing savvy and experienced managers will tell you is that you need to slow down.

As human resources expert Donald Nickels advises in PayScale “Try not to immediately implement changes unless they’re absolutely necessary. Change is made even worse when supervisors move in and immediately begin scrambling processes that may have been in place for years.”

2. Gain Some Quick Momentum

Your first few weeks will set the tone for the rest of your time in that position. Your boss will be looking for affirmation that she or he made the right decision, while your subordinates and peers will be evaluating your performance and whether they like your leadership style.

You should begin looking for some quick and meaningful “wins” as soon as you start your new position. “When you’re having one-on-one meetings with team members and your boss, try to find out what some of their major pain points are in their day-to-day jobs,” career blogger Celine Tarrant suggests. If you can discover ways to address these points of friction, you can gain some momentum and people will begin to rally behind you.

With assuming your new role, you’ll have to balance taking action and holding back. The key is to find easy opportunities to make adjustments that will please the greatest number of people while saving bigger, more controversial decisions for later.

3. Write Down Your Goals (Immediately)

As soon as you accept your new promotion, things will start moving pretty fast. You’ll be learning new things, meeting new people, shuffling your daily routines, and dealing with problems left behind from the individual who vacated the position. That’s why it’s important that you immediately begin thinking about your goals.

Let’s say you get promoted on a Thursday afternoon and your boss tells you that you’ll be starting your new role the following Monday. On Friday, the following day, gather as much information as possible about the new position, what you’ll be responsible for, and where different matters currently stand. Then, over the weekend, start to set some short-term and long-term goals – both for yourself and for your new position. These goals will obviously change over time, but having some sort of roadmap will help you tremendously when things inevitably get hectic.

4. Respect Everyone

Depending on your personality type and the unique situation that you’re in, getting a promotion may make you feel accomplished – and it should. But it’s vital that you don’t let this self-importance go to your head. If you want to have a successful career, you’re going to need more promotions down the road. The only way to avoid burning bridges – and to keep paving new ones – is to give a little respect.

“Treating anyone like they are beneath you because you’ve gotten a promotion will hurt you in the long run, "writes career bloggers Kate Matsudaira and Kate Stull. Even when others confront you with negativity, attempt to steer things in a positive direction.”

Whether or not you encounter teething problems, as you adjust to your new position, do remember, you were appointed for a reason. Embrace the challenge and accept that you have been chosen for this role because it is felt you are the best person for the job and enjoy the work and chance to prove yourself.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Plans are nothing, planning is everything.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Prepare Well so You can Enjoy the Results

Prepare Well so You can Enjoy the Results

Posted by martin.parnell |

At 7.00am on Sunday, August 18th I was at the start line of the Edmonton Marathon. The last time I ran this race was in 2009 so this would be my 10th Anniversary. The morning was overcast with a misty drizzle and the temperature was 10C, just how I like it. I felt good.

In any race I set myself a number of goals. In this one I set three: the first was to beat the time I set 10 years ago, 4 hours and 10 minutes, the second was to come under 4 hours, and the third was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which meant finishing in under 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Now it’s great to have goals but, in reality they are meaningless unless you’ve done the planning, prepared well and put in the work to achieve them. In this case it meant following a 12 week training program, running over 600 kms and completing a variety of sessions including running hills, tempo runs (marathon pace) , intervals of speed running and long runs.

It’s often said that finishing strong is the key to any race however you can’t finish strong unless you start strong and you can’t start strong unless you’ve prepared.

Another key element is race day preparation. I was up at 5.00am and had my usual marathon breakfast of oatmeal, banana and two cups of coffee. I prepared my four bottles of a mix of water and CarboPro, a pure complex carbohydrate which I take with me on the run. I also carry electrolyte tablets. This would ensure that my nutrition intake would be 250 calories an hour. Another important lesson: never try anything new on race day. I was ready.

At 6.30 am I left the hotel and joined other runners on the way to the start. I followed my usual warm up with a 20 min run and 4 by 100m strides.

John Stanton, the Founder of the Running Room was the race announcer and after O’Canada he started the countdown: 5...4...3...2...1 and we were off. I had spotted the 3 hour and 45 minute “Pace Bunny” and decided to run just behind him. Pace Bunnies are individuals who run the marathon at a steady pace and, if you can stick with them, they will bring you in on that time.

Things went well for the first half of the race, I followed my hydration / nutrition / electrolyte regime every 30 minutes and stayed slightly at the back of the pack behind the bunny. My pace was just over 5 minutes per kilometre and the cool condition stopped me from overheating.

However, the truth of any marathon is that it only really starts in the second half of the race. At km 25 I felt a knot in my right calf. I could only hope that it didn’t turn into all-out cramp. The bunny was moving away from me and my quads were tightening up. A friend of mine, Ray Zahab, said that marathons and ultra-marathons are 90% mental and 10% in your head. It was time to dig deep. 

Before the race I had checked my emails and had a message from Zainab, the first Afghan women to have run a marathon. She had recently had a baby girl and named her Cedar, after a kind of tree that grows in Turkey, Canada and in the Himalaya. In Persian it means evergreen or eternal. 

Zainab had inspired me to go to Afghanistan, in 2016, where I ran the 2nd Marathon of Afghanistan, in support of the women and girls running for freedom and equality. Now Zainab and Cedar inspired me to push through the pain. I used the mantra “Zainab and Cedar, Zainab and Cedar” kilometre after kilometer and before I knew it I was at the 35km marker. I had taken 3 hours 4 minutes and 32 seconds, leaving 45 minutes to run 7.2 km. I had a chance. 

The kms ticked by and with 1 km to go my legs were pretty much done. I looked at my watch and it was 3 hours 39 minutes and then it hit me, I could walk in and still come in under my 3 hours 50 minutes target. I was flooded with relief, but kept on running. 

As I approached the finish line I could see the countdown clock at 3 hours 46 mins. I then looked to my right and saw my wife, Sue in the crowd, behind the barrier. I ran over, gave her a kiss and sprinted across the finish line: 3 hours 46 mins and 23 secs, made it by 3 minutes and 37 seconds. I was exhausted, but happy. 

Staggering along the finishing chute, to get my medal, my body and the mind started to shut down. Sue met me at the exit to the chute and gave me a big hug. Job done. Boston here I come. 

Whether you want to achieve a personal or business goal remember the words of Robert H. Schuller “Spectacular achievements must always be preceded by unspectacular preparation”.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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