Real people and personal problems at work

When you lead and manage you are dealing with people; real people with hopes, dreams and lives outside of work.

Years ago, managers, somewhat naively expected you to drop any consideration of the personal when you walked in through the office door.

No one ever did of course, they just suppressed their feelings about what was going on outside work.  Or they tried to!  Sometimes, with uncomfortable effects!  Many of us can tales of bosses who periodically became monsters and then you found out about the rows he was having with his wife.  In those days bosses were usually male.   In that world, all kinds of things went unsaid and unacknowledged.

These days, in most organizations, it is usually accepted that there will be times when the personal will impact on the professional.

In reality, most of us do know how to keep the two in balance.  But as a leader or a manager you need to recognise that personal life does impact on work.

For example, exhausted new parents suffering from lack of sleep due to a crying infant aren’t able to be as creative as they’d like. Workers who are dealing with problems at home often find their minds wandering, and don’t do their best work. Employees who are in pain — either physical or emotional — don’t operate at peak levels.

It is up to us to do our best to keep our employees functioning at their best at work and helping them to contribute when outside circumstances press upon them.   If they are valuable to the organization it is up to us to help them through some of the personal issues that interfere with their ability to do their best work.

Here are some tips;

1. Listen
Often it’s enough just to listen to the employee with a sympathetic ear – it really does help.  It isn’t up to us to solve their personal problems but we can show we care. .

2. Refer  

Many organizations these days offer a counselling service – this is the time to encourage an employee to take up what is on offer. Reassure them about privacy – this should be a requirement for any reputable counselling provider.  If nothing is available inside, then could you help them find a service outside of the organisation that they can access for themselves?  If the problem is medical then persuade them to see their physician

3. Accommodate short-term needs and be flexible.
This is the time to be flexible.  But if you are making special arrangements think through how this will impact on others and agree with the employee how long the arrangements will be in place. Agree how you will explain them to colleagues.   Give short-term time off if it’s needed (use vacation or sick time if it’s available), consider a more flexible working week (working four long days for example) and home working,

5. Temporarily assign an employee to different work that is better suited for the employee’s current state of mind.
This sounds dramatic but it may be the answer.  For example, someone who is under a lot of pressure may not be best placed right now to manage a very intense project.  Or for an employee who travels a lot for business, you may temporarily assign the employee to a job that requires little or no travel.

6. Make it clear what are short-term arrangements.
It’s important to make it clear to the employee what are short-term and temporary special arrangements and not a substantial change to the job.  It is best to put this in writing.  Don’t make it a threat — just make clear that that you’re willing to make these changes for a while to help.  Afterwards you will expect them to go back to delivering their previous level of performance.

7. Keep in touch with the employee during the crisis.
Monitor the situation to ensure that the employee is taking steps to resolve the situation. Provide encouragement and positive reinforcement along the way.

8. When the crisis has passed make sure the focus returns to work. 

Encourage and congratulate the employee on making it through a difficult time. But provide feedback if you think there is more to do to meet the needs of the work.  Provide assistance to help the employee get back the focus they may have lost. 

We are all individuals with our own personal strengths.   Management is about achieving business results with people and that means you have to work with people in the round.  This includes accepting that the personal will sometimes have to take priority over the professional.
Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 


The Joys of Leadership – a Meditation for Monday

I have read and written so much about the challenges and difficulties of leadership.  You can spend so long thinking about how hard it is that you just lose sight of what it is really all about.

Research shows that very few of us work for money alone.  Of course money is important; I’m not going to pretend otherwise.  But most of us take more than money into account when thinking about how we are going to spend our working lives.

Being the leader can be exhilarating.  When you start a new project and bring people on board, then see them start to share your vision and work towards it.

Have you ever had the privilege of working on something big from the sketch on the back of an envelope to seeing the work complete.  And then coming back a few years later, when everyone takes what you put in place for granted!  You know how much you, and they, achieved!  They have moved on to the next challenge . But you have the quiet satisfaction of knowing it was a job well done.

Yes, I know it can be tough when it doesn’t work out like that.  Perhaps your plan didn’t work or someone else takes the glory.  Or it just got scuppered for no really good reason, at all.  Sadly that is life, and the reality of corporate life in particular.  You just have to get over it and get on with it!

At the end of the day real satisfaction comes from inside you and what you know you have done.

Oh yes, if you are good at what you do, you will get praise on the way.  If you get lots of it, and I hope you will, I hope you do the decent thing and share the praise with your team!

You will know sometimes that the praise you receive is deserved and sometimes it isn’t – you just got lucky!  Keep the modesty in your heart that allows you to know the difference!

But believe me there is no better thing to look back on in your career than bringing a vision into being and seeing others reaping the benefits.

You can remember those times next time you hit rough water.   And, of course, if you take on tasks worth completing, you will hit rough water.  If it was going to be easy, they wouldn’t need you! An easy job wasn’t what you signed up for anyway, was it, when you chose to be a leader?

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – lessons from the NHS – making sure your change is properly embedded!

The Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall
The Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve worked on a lot of business change programs.  But when I first started working on them that was not what they were called; around the NHS, we had lots of “reorganizations”!

The longest period of my career was spent with the UK Department of Health.  Not long after I started, the Government initiated a major re-organization of the NHS – the one that led to the first appearance of “Area Health Authorities”, if I remember it correctly.  Not long after the start of the program, victory was declared and the change was regarded as complete.

But, of course, it wasn’t complete – the change was not embedded; things started to go wrong!

Guess what? We had a further reorganization to put things right.  And, of course, victory was acclaimed again.  And again, things went wrong.

So, it became a repetitive cycle, as governments of different political colors learned the hard way that changing the NHS just ain’t easy!  It really doesn’t do a great deal for your political career and, hard as you try to, you can’t de-politicize it and give all the risk to someone else.  But that doesn’t stop the brave cavaliers in each government trying again, does it?

I spent too long as a Civil Servant to now indulge in Party Politics.  Enough to say, that it was watching those repeated failures that got me interested in large scale change in the first place.

What seemed rather grotesquely obvious to me (ex-nurse and, oh, too many years in the Department), was that none of these changes was allowed time to truly embed!

Politicians live within the election cycle – democracy in action.  Their Political survival requires quick results to convince voters.

Unfortunately, large and complex and very organizations (like the NHS), can’t be turned round quickly.  Behavior takes time to change and culture usually lags long behind behavior.

Most of us don’t have anything as complex as the NHS to change.

But we do need to make our own changes stick/embed (Kotter Stage Eight).  We need to make the change become part of the core of the organization!

What can you do to help this along?

Well you need to make efforts continuously to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and any new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you could end up back where you started.

What else can you do?

  • Continue to talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear. Give everyone a clear picture! But DON’T talk about the change being “over”.  If you do that, some people will just sigh a sigh of relief and revert to the previous state.
  • Include the ideals and values of the change in every new corporate event.
  • Remember those ideals and values when hiring and training new staff or making deals with new contractors.
  • Publicly recognize the achievement so far.  Make much of those who have worked so hard to get you this far!
  • Recognize and reward publicly those who truly demonstrate the change in their behavior – even if that recognition has to be quite modest in the present climate
  • Don’t throw up your hands and declare a failure just because the outcome isn’t perfect – no change is perfect – good enough is what it needs to be..
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

I would love to hear about your own experience of large scale change. As for the NHS, well it belongs to all of us in the UK and everyone of us has a view – talk about Soccer Mums!

Kotter Reading List for you;

Related articles

  • Leading Change and the virtue of patience (
  • Leading Change – dealing with fears and facing up to resistance(
  • Leading Change – get your vision into people’s minds and keep it there!(

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 or

Leading Change – excuse me while I quietly burn-out


Change teams can be intense and exhausting places to work.  If it is large and complex change, it may put huge demands on everyone.

Everyone feels stressed! 

The Team Leader needs to recognize this and manage the team so that no undue stress is put on any particular individual.

Judging this, and then getting the resources you need to prevent harm to your team, can be difficult.

But stress and burnout are different.  And in a long standing change team, you may well see symptoms of impending burnout.

You need to know what to look for and you need to act.

If having been through a period of  constant stress, someone begins to feel disillusioned, helpless, and completely worn out, they may be suffering from burnout.

If you know your team well, you will notice the difference in attitude and approach.  Suddenly that person you relied on to be enthusiastic, just isn’t anymore!

When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care, let alone do something about what is happening to you.

The unhappiness and detachment burnout causes can threaten jobs, relationships, and health.

But burnout can be helped.

If you recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout in its early stages, simple stress management strategies may be enough to solve the problem.

In the later stages of burnout, recovery may take more time and effort, but you can still regain your balance by reassessing your priorities, making time for yourself and seeking support.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life – including your home and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

As team leader watch for burnout in both your team and yourself!

  • Make sure stress gets managed and that people seek support
  • Encourage your team to take care of their physical and emotional health.
  • Encourage people to eat properly and to go for a walk at lunch time.  Working through lunch can look like macho dedication but as a long-term habit it puts people at risk!
  • Make sure things are kept in balance.

You can recognize burout and deal with it.  Make sure it doesn’t become a full scale break down.

Personal Burnout Prevention Tips   

  • Start the day with a short quiet space for relaxation or meditation before you go to work.
  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
  • Set boundarieslearn how to say “no” at work and at home – remember  “no” means you can say “yes” to the things that truly matter.
  • Take a daily break from technology.   Put away your laptop, turn off your phone and stop checking email.  Go out for a walk.
  • Nourish your creative side.  What do you really like doing?
  • Learn how to manage stress. At this link is a simple breathing technique that may help when you feel overwhelmed by stress .
  • 10 Tips for Healthy Living (
  • Burnout: What is it? Do I Have it? (
  • Burnout checklist [Eddington Pindura] (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439  

Leading Change – are we there yet?

We’ve all endured it, haven’t we!  The trip to see Granny seemed such a good idea.  But now the two kids in the back are really bored and all they want to know is – are we there yet?

Well sometimes, quite often in fact, when you are responsible for leading a change, you will hear the same refrain.  And sometimes, it will be from your Chief Executive.  Chief Executives usually like things done fast – they want their results and they want them now!  Well, of course they do. Usually that is what they get paid for!

But John Kotter, who we have been revisiting here recently, thinks that is why many change programmes fail.  They fail because the change is judged to be complete too early.

Real change, particularly whole organization change, takes a long time to complete properly.  Step Seven of Kotter’s eight stage process is about building on the changes you made with your quick wins, to make sure the whole vision is achieved.

You need to make sure that quick wins are recognised as only the beginning of what needs to be done.  This can be much easier if you have actually fleshed out your vision into a blueprint for the organization you wish to create.  Did you think through what the new business and operating models would look like?  Do you understand what information and support systems will be required? Is that blue print, that you so carefully produced, still appropriate.  In an ever changing world, does it need to be refreshed?

Even with the success you have achieved so far, you need to keep looking for improvements! Each success you achieve with your change programme provides an opportunity to build on what went right and to identify what you can improve. And you need to keep your audience, and particularly your Chief Executive, on board for the long haul with lots of good quality information.

What other things can you do now?

  • Build on the credibility you have established to win confidence in your long term solutions – make sure people see the links between what has been achieved so far and what is to come.
  • After every win, analyze what went right and what still needs improving. Be honest about the results and, if something didn’t go particularly well, show you own the problem and how you will make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Refresh your goals to make sure they build on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Learn about the idea of continuous improvement.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.
  • Refresh the team, if you need to – those good at start-up may not be who you need now.
  • While maintaining focus on the vision, re-invigorate your programme with some new projects and some new themes.

So it really is a bit like the journey to see Granny!  It helps if you have some new games, so that you can keep people engaged.  But of course at the end of the day you are still paying very close attention to the map to ensure you do get to your final destination.

I would love to hear about your experiences of change.  And if you think I can help you, please get in touch!

A Kotter Reading List for you;

Related articles

  • Leading Change and the virtue of patience (
  • Leading Change – dealing with fears and facing up to resistance(
  • Leading Change – get your vision into people’s minds and keep it there!(

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 or 

Great group – sad about the leader – mood contagion.

A Mantled Guereza, close-up, looking sad

Mood contagion is the automatic and unconscious transfer of mood between individuals.

It occurs because we tend to mimic others’ nonverbal behaviour.

Research has shown that intense moods are more likely to be transferred.  Joy or distress are more likely to be passed on than calmness or boredom.

Although mood contagion can transfer between any two or more people, leaders probably have an even greater impact on their group mood.  This is because of their importance to the organization.

If you, as a leader, can’t regulate your emotions,  members of your group might often experience stress and anxiety.  This is both in trying to cope with you as the leader and in dealing with the tasks at hand.

Leaders in a bad mood don’t need to be abusive or hostile!  Their mood needs only to be negative. Research shows that even subtle expressions of negative mood can have an impact on followers.

This raises all kinds of issues in the present economic downturn!  This is a time when we all feel miserable sometimes.  But you as a leader have to work to manage down the impact of your own feelings.

Think about those leaders who handle a crisis well. Do they manage their mood and communicate clearly while creating a safe environment for their employees? Or do they just let it all hang out and then deal with the casualties?  Who would you rather deal with and what kind of leader do you want to be?

Remember when you feel down you need to

  • Recognize that your mood will an impact on your group
  • Work to reduce that negative impact
  • Intentionally change your mood – there is a technique at this link that you can learn for this.

I would welcome your thoughts on all of this and your tips for handling your own feelings.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 or 

Leading Change and the virtue of patience

Image of the glassharmonica, invented by Benja...
The glassharmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin
 “He that can have patience can have what he will.” Benjamin Franklin courtesy of Wally Bock  (who liked the earlier version of this). 

As some will know, I’ve been working my way through Kotter’s eight steps in change leadership again recently. Step Six is to create short-term wins.

Most of the post below was written a little time ago.  It was so well received that is doesn’t make sense to change it entirely but I have added a couple of further thoughts. 

Nothing motivates and gives people confidence more than success. Give your company and your team a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your top team and staff can see. Without this, critics, negative thinkers and cynics might hurt your progress.

Big bang changes are fraught with risk and danger; so it makes sense, if you can, to break your change down into manageable modules.  This gives you the opportunity to create short-term targets.  These then build up to your overall long-term goal rather than having just one long-term event. It means you get early benefits.

You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure, particularly the early ones. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate and inspire the entire organization. Your early wins inpire confidence so that people are prepared to stay with you for the rest of the journey.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement relatively quickly and without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Choose achievements with tangible results that are easily understood and, if possible, bring benefits to many
  • Thoroughly analyze the potential pros and cons of your targets and make sure you really understand what is required. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.
  • Publicize what you have done – get out there and wave your flags

I’d welcome your thoughts on this and if you would like help in leading or managing your change, please get in touch.

A Kotter Reading List for you;

  • Leading Change – dealing with fears and facing up to resistance (
  • Leading Change – get your vision into people’s minds and keep it there! (
  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition (
  • Leading Change – deciding who leads! (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 or 

Identifying transferable skills; a core ingredient of a successful career change

Today’s guest post is from Sian Case of Nail That Job.  With a small and friendly support team, they can help you at every stage of your job search journey.

I’m a recruiter and trainer of recruiters who also supports job seekers from a wide range of industries to present themselves effectively to prospective employers.

I think that most job seekers are aware that they have transferable skills but are rarely confident about identifying or describing them clearly. This is vital when you are looking for work in new fields and have to convince a recruiter that you can achieve tasks in unfamiliar settings.

Let’s start with a definition: transferable skills are effective behaviours and application of knowledge and understanding that you have learned from all your life experiences so far. You are used to displaying them in one particular context and are perfectly capable of transferring them to new contexts.

I often recommend the STAR technique, described in Wendy’s blog on CV writing, part 2:
Situation – describe the situation/issue you were dealing with
Task – what, specifically, did you have to do?
Action- what action did you take?
Result – what was the outcome/impact for your organisation/team/customer/end user of your service?

I’ve found that a useful way to identify transferable skills is to apply the STAR format to 4 or 5 examples of achievements from life experiences, not work experiences. I’ve heard some cracking achievements described from time spent on travelling, childcare, supporting elderly/vulnerable relatives, voluntary work, organising social activities, running sports or interest societies, local community campaigning, etc.

The key learning from this exercise is to discover just how many core work skills, (e.g. prioritising, decision making, managing stress, planning and organising, influencing skills, leadership experience, team working, budgeting, etc.) you learned in a non-work context and currently use those skills daily in paid employment. It also demonstrates to a potential employer that you understand how to assess, describe and evaluate the transferable skills you have to offer and that you are still learning.  You have the capacity to build your skills further in new contexts in response to new demands.

I’d really encourage all job seekers who are looking to change direction significantly to build at least one core skill into your CV that you first practised in a non- work environment. Try it and see how it enhances the issues of flexibility and versatility on your CV.

Sian Case

Email:  Phone: 01789 740948


Leading Change – do you have a great vision?

A great vision needs to be about the future but it will fail if it is not firmly rooted in the present. You may wish to change a group but you can’t ignore its history, culture and organization.  Most of all you need to make sure there is a connection to its values.

This is where those who are new to the organization sometimes come adrift when leading and managing change.  Even if you are trying to move existing values on, you cannot totally ignore them in your vision for the future.  Somehow in your change, those in the existing organization need to feel that their present values are being honoured.

Your vision needs to have roots but it needs to be future focussed and challenging – it needs to reflect and set high standards, and high ideals.  Make your vision something that people will want to live up to.  That means it will keep chins high when you hit the difficult patches!

Your vision should inspire – you want it to raise enthusiasm and commitment. It is much more likely to do that if it touches the needs and aspirations of all those who have a stake in it.  This includes not only those inside the organization but also clients, customers, users and, if possible, your suppliers.

Make sure your vision can be understood – communicate it well.  Make it clear and unambiguous! Paint pictures when you talk about it that people can take away and imagine for themselves.  Make this a future they can see in their minds and want to be a part of.

Make your vision unique and distinctive – not to be confused with where we said we were going five years ago.  This must be special.

Above all make your vision ambitious!  Make sure that people can see that real progress will have been made when your vision is achieved.  This should be a vision that expands everyone’s horizons.

So to sum up your vision needs to be

  1. Appropriate to your history, culture and values
  2. Challenging with high standards and high ideals
  3. Inspirational
  4. Aspirational – reflecting the aspirations of all those with an interest
  5. Understandable
  6. Distinctive
  7. Ambitious

I’d love to hear you experience of working with visions – what has worked for you and what has not worked?

  • Leading Change – Your Vision in an Uncertain Future – Scenario Planning (
  • Leading Change – deciding who leads! (
  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – deciding who leads!

Challenge kart

Last week I wrote about putting a group together to lead your change – creating a guiding coalition (Kotter Stage 3).

This group needs to include both managers and leaders and they will work together as a team.  The managers will keep the process under control while the leaders will drive the change.

A group with good managers but poor leaders is likely to produce plans but have no compelling vision. It will not communicate the need for change well enough for it to become meaningful –  it will control rather than empower people.

While a group that has all leaders and no managers is unlikely to be organized enough to create the short-term wins necessary to keep others on board for the long-haul – it will not sustain a change initiative.

You need a group that can convince people that change is necessary in the short term.  Then keep them actively engaged through-out the process, so that you can achieve the long-term goal.

Has your organization has been successful in the recent past?  Then if you look hard enough, you will probably find effective change leaders and managers throughout your organization!  You just have to find them.  They don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy.

If the organization has not been successful for a long time then you have a challenge.  You will need to seek out the good, work with the less good and, if possible, make sure the organization imports some capable fresh blood and embeds and empowers the individuals quickly.  This change will require a very experienced change facilitator fully backed by the top team

To lead and manage  change, you need to bring together a group whose power comes from a variety of sources including; job title, status, expertise, political importance and, just sometimes, sheer force of personality, in other words, charisma!

How to put a group together in four (not always easy) steps:

  • Go out and find the true leaders and strong managers in your organization.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people – explain to them why you need the change..
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas  and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

I would welcome your thoughts on this and, of course,  I am very happy to answer your questions

Related articles

  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition(
  • Leading Change – knowing what a sense of urgency really means!(
  • Bewildered by the change you have to make – here is help!(

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439