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Have you ever said no to a big opportunity?

Alexandria Joy - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Have you ever said no to a big opportunity?

No I don’t want that new job and pay increase.

No I don’t want to go on that secondment to the other department.

No I don’t want to make a presentation to the Board.

I said no to a big opportunity last week, one that I’ve had on my vision board since January, and it was a tough call to make.

As a workplace futurist and someone who helps organisations plan and strategise their culture and brand for the future I am constantly scanning the environment, travelling throughout Australia and around the world, visiting companies that are on the forefront of modern work practices to bring those ideas back to leaders and organisations we work with.

I spend a lot of my waking hours thinking about the future. So you can imagine how excited I was to have been invited in March to speak at the World Futures Conference in Washington this past weekend. My topic – How to make work work in the future. Awesome and so right up my alley.

I had been planning the trip for some time, I’d already bought a conference ticket, accommodation was sorted and I’d been making connections on LinkedIn with peers that would be at the conference.

And then last week, life got a bit crazy, things weren’t lining up at work or at home and I came up against some pretty deep stuff – like feeling like a fraud and off course.

So I said no to speaking at the conference. I said no to a big break. To the crème de la crème of the futurists gathering. I said no to showing up regardless.

Instead I said yes. Yes to staying home. Yes to me.

For once I was totally and utterly honest with myself. I checked in and no it wasn’t fear making me back away, in speaking is one of my favourite things to do. It was just that the pull to say yes to being true to me was stronger.

I felt bad for letting the conference organisers down, but the truth was I was on day 2, not the headline, plenary speaker, a bit of reshuffling and the conference agenda would work fine. It was more a blow to my ego than an inconvenience to anyone else. Funny how the universe has a way of delivering harsh lessons at the most inopportune times.

I’d been having some hints and intuition that a change was necessary but a total transformation? Hadn’t seen that coming – some futurist I am ha ha!

I wrote a blog last week as this all unfolded and I was sick in bed with a stomach virus purging and transitioning. Some would warn against such a potentially career limiting article, however the feedback about the raw and real honesty has been a surprise to me.  

How did I get here? When did I forget the things that I love doing the most?

I love my work, I love helping people and companies unleash their uniqueness so they can show up authentically and love their work every day. It’s bloody awesome work. But somewhere along the way I had lost my own way and forgotten to heed my own advice.

I started asking some big questions about life, my business and how I want to work and who with. Magically new clients turned up immediately, precisely the kind I like to work with as if to say – here, do more of this!

Awesome nudges. Perfect clues. Thank you universe.

Luckily the conference organisers were very understanding and agreed that I could donate my conference ticket I had already purchased to a scholarship student who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend – awesome #generosityeconomy in action.

I was so relieved once it was done and of course a little disappointed.

But as with any decision, once made, energy has began to flow in the new direction and clarity has returned. I’ve begun making changes in my business, a new website, a new podcast, a documentary, a charitable collaboration and a new theatre style event are all now in the pipeline. Some of these will be launched in the very near future, some a little further off, but already synchronicities are beginning to happen.

So it’s possible to say no to a big opportunity and still find a silver lining!

This week I’m focused on getting even clearer about how I want to live and work, where and with whom so I can put it into action.

Making the decision to say no was the hardest part, once it was done it was done and I could move on again and regain my flow.

Are you finding yourself at a crossroads unable to say yes or no and feeling stuck and frustrated? Don’t worry pushing through the resistance is just part of the process, it’s a sign that you’re on your way.

If you need help and you want to know how to get clear on the future path for your career, business or brand visit www.uqpower.com.au and check out our services and offerings.  

Our videos, articles and resources are a great way to start the forward momentum yourself – whether it’s to grow your team, increase your income or profits or create the most memorable brand in your market.

Start saying no and releasing more energy and space to say yes to you and your dreams. You know you’re unique and you’re awesome and the world needs you!

The Generosity Economy is Alive and Well

Alexandria Joy - Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I have always said if you want to change the world, you have to #startwithU.

However like me, many people express that they feel helpless or uncertain of how they could begin to take steps to change the world. They ask what could I possibly do? What could I give? How could I be of service?

It got me thinking after speaking to a friend who had returned from Nepal: in a world that is materialistically rich, yet spiritually poor, is it possible for a generosity economy to emerge and to flourish?

It’s not a new concept, in fact, historically as a race we survived on the exchange of gifts, goods and services; there was no artificial paper notes or numbers on a page assigned to give something value.

Is it possible then for us to reverse our materialistic focus and revert to operating from a place where we are rewarded for our productivity, our generosity and our service?

Rather than the old paradigm of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’, the new generosity economy creates more of a circle of goodwill where people give and share freely and where everyone benefits.

I am delighted to say that I put this question to the test and saw evidence of this new economy in spades on a recent overseas trip.

It began in San Francisco, I arrived after a long flight to be greeted in the hotel foyer by my roomie and friend chief Sista Code blogger, Melissa Histon. Mel had generously waited around for me for more than an hour so she’d be there to take me to the room and help me settle in.

After unpacking we took to the streets in search of a restaurant to eat, deciding to catch a cable car. As we waited in line, a beggar came up along the line asking everyone waiting if they had any money to spare.

Everyone looked away, ignored them or grumbled under their breath. But not Melissa, she said bright and cheerfully to him, ‘I have something for you’ and reached into her wallet and took out a five dollar note to give him.

He mumbled thanks and moved on.

Someone in the line ahead of us cursed her saying something about ‘great there’s always a sucker now we’ll all be bothered by him’. Mel didn’t respond to them but once we boarded the cable car she whispered to me, “you just never know what someone’s going through and how your kind gesture might help.” I had to agree with her.

Later that week, while in New York, we walked past a church and saw a robed man handing out food to homeless people sitting waiting on the steps of the church. His movements were slow and deliberate with an air of kindness and compassion.

I took a mental note of how this simple act of generosity appeared to not only raise the recipients’ spirits, but also mine too. I realised that just by witnessing this act of generosity my energy levels had been raised as well. I pointed out the interaction to Mel and together we smiled in joy at the simple act of loving kindness.

It seemed that everywhere I looked on the trip from then on I began witnessing and partaking in the generosity economy. Whether it be the policeman or soldier in the street I randomly asked to pose with me for a photo wearing my cape who agreed generously and played along with the fun. To meeting a group of people protesting about the lack of abortion clinics for women in the USA who we gave a donation to and who shared their stories, stickers, ideals and hopes with us openly and enthusiastically.

The next leg of our journey was sure to be yet another extension of the generosity economy as it came about through the kind generosity of an amazing business woman Emma Isaacs, CEO of Business Chicks Australia and USA.

Emma had herself experienced a trip such as this a few years prior and rather than hoarding it or wanting it to remain exclusively hers she came home asking,“how can I share this experience with other women in our business chicks community?”

And this was just the tip of the iceberg, for the following week we travelled to the British Virgin Isles in the Caribbean to attend a Leadership Gathering on Necker Island I experienced even more pure, non-judging, generous behaviour.

Everything about Sir Richard Branson’s private island was done with a sense of service and generosity. Whether it be the generous free flowing drinks, the warm smiles and welcoming hugs of his fabulous staff to the new friends we made who joined us on the trip.

Richard himself was generous with his time, his energy, his laughter, his praise and his stories. I witnessed the conservation work being done on the island from flamingos to tortoises to lemurs, his generosity went beyond man and was extended to the environment and fellow animals, not for kudos or image but from a genuine, loving place. 

Read the rest of this article about my experience and see all the photos here http://thesistacode.com/want-to-be-uplifted-join-the-generosity-economy/#comment-858 

Germanwings Crash Why Leaders Must Discuss Mental Health Issues

Alexandria Joy - Monday, April 06, 2015

In the wake of the recent tragic Germanwings crash, the working world is reminded of just how far we still have to go to identify, treat and manage employees living with mental illness and experiencing extreme stress or anxiety in the workplace, especially in high-risk, high-pressure professions.

The tragedy raises many questions for leaders and organisations today and not just should we allow pilots with a history of depression to fly passenger planes? Here are some questions you should consider as a leader:

  • Should we promote employees who have required psychiatric care?
  • Should we approach a workmate we suspect of experiencing depression or anxiety?
  • Should someone on medication for mental illness be allowed to drive vehicles or operate heavy machinery on job sites?
  • Should we permit a person with a mental illness to be promoted to a stressful job?
  • Should an employee ask a supervisor or upline RUOK?

This is a complex issue and has no simple answers. When faced with such complexity it is valuable to begin with the facts:

Fact: Smart workplaces provide support. If profitability and responsible business practices are part of your company’s vision, mental health should also be a priority. Your commitment to mental health should be communicated openly and frequently to all employees. For example as part of induction, displayed in tearooms on posters, as policies and procedures that everyone is aware of and visibly reinforced through the practices of management.

It's one thing to have a policy in place to to accommodate employees with mental health issues, but it is another to create a supportive environment where they don't feel inhibited to take advantage of them.

Fact: Healthy workplaces discuss Mental Health openly. Mental illness is a cloak and dagger affair in many organizations, mentally healthy organisations on the other hand start and continue the conversation. A good test of how supportive your organisation is is to ask yourself this question: “How safe is it in your company for an employee to let their manager know that they are on medication for depression and/or visits a therapist?”

Addressing the issue of mental illness in the workplace has to begin with an acknowledgement that it exists and needs to be discussed openly.

Fact: Healthy workplaces promote a culture of respect. Sometimes the greatest help to mentally ill employees comes not from some kind of official policy but from peers or line bosses who are willing to listen and offer genuine support. The fish rots from the head - organisational leaders and business owners need to make visible, long-term commitments to mental health in their workplaces as they are in the strongest position to positively influence the company culture.

Ensuring robust policies around bullying and harassment is also important, as well as encouraging employees to call out or report any inappropriate behaviour they witness or experience.

My heart goes out to the passengers, crew, families and all those affected by the Germanwings crash, especially the family of our two Australian passengers. The loss of life is heartbreaking and yet it may have opened a door to many employers to start having difficult, compassionate discussions about mental illness. As tragic as it has been, let us not waste this opportunity to create more awareness.

PWC research shows $2.30 is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace. Better productivity begins with a mentally healthy workplace

A positive workplace environment and good mental health go hand in hand. Let's honour those lost by beginning this conversation today.

If you are a leader in your organisation have you tackled any of these questions? How have you opened up dialogue? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of creating a healthy workplace environment then you may also like the following articles and videos:

How Balanced Leaders Create Healthy Workplaces

How Workplaces Are Making Us Sick

How Toxic Workplaces Are Killing Us

Balanced Leaders Create Healthy Cultures

Alexandria Joy - Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Most people today could share a story about someone they've worked for who was highly intelligent, highly skilled and got promoted to a position of leadership only to drive their workers around the bend and leave them running for the hills.

This common story told the world over suggests that identifying individuals with the right goods to be a great leader is not an exact science or exercise in who has the best resume. After all, evidence shows that the personal styles of the best leaders vary greatly as seen from my recent list of the 50 leaders I most want to interview.

Some leaders are quiet, conscientious and analytical, others are bold and boisterous preaching their vision and values to the biggest audience they can find. Regardless of their external personality traits however, we have found through our work at UQ Power that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they create healthy workplace cultures where their workers feel safe and valued.

In the course of the past year, my colleagues and I have focused on how leaders and managers can create the most physically, emotionally and psychologically healthy workplace cultures. Using our proprietary UQ Powerhouse Blueprint we have worked with numerous public and private organisations and examined the relationship between IQ - innovation and intellectual safety, EQ - emotional intelligence and psychological safety, BODY - cultural presence and physical safety and VISION - clarity of purpose and financial safety, especially in leaders. And we have observed how each of these four dimensions, the quadruple bottom line, shows themselves on the job.

Which is why most people today could share a story about someone they've worked for who had high IQ but low EQ and drove them around the bend. When we study organizational psychology, culture and well being we begin to see that one area connects to another, and another in such a way that it is hard to isolate one without considering the other. Organizations therefore could more appropriately be seen as a complex living organisms rather than simply as an organization.

Identifying what makes an organisation healthy is not a straightforward science as one needs to appreciate the UQ (uniqueness quotient) of each individual employee - basically every worker has different motivators and or stressors and each group or team has its own dynamic which in turn ultimately creates the organisation’s culture.

What we have found through our work is that just like any other living organism, an organisation needs to be nourished, maintained, and experience growth in order to sustain it over the longer term. It also needs some essential nutrients to ensure it maintains peak health including:

Nutrient 1 - Free Flowing Communication: Communication is always a two-way street and requires contextual listening (listening beyond words to what is being said, not said and felt). So many companies are built on top-down communication from management leaving employees feeling there is no point in saying how they feel as they have no direct channel and don't feel they'll have an impact. Effective leaders and managers are those who create an atmosphere that fosters trust and open, two-way communication. Communication can be critical especially during difficult times such as those recently experienced as a result of the economic downturn (Read this article to find out more about leading during a downturn).

Nutrient 2 - People emPOWERment: By understanding and appreciating the UQ (uniqueness) in each and every employee and leveraging their individual talents, a leader will build confidence and trust and empower individuals to self-manage. By empowering employees to be victors rather than victims, to celebrate their uniqueness rather than punishing their imperfections, by owning their responsibilities, a healthy empowered environment is created. Through an empowered workplace you will not only have the benefits of enhanced productivity but you can grow your reputation among your customers and stakeholders.

Nutrient 3 - Spreading PositivityIn The Happiness Advantage, former Harvard professor Shawn Achor argues that people who start off happy are more likely to succeed and using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how organisations can gain a competitive advantage by shifting employees to become more positive too. Similarly Professor Richard Boyatzis' Intentional Change Theory states that intense positive emotions will have a contagion effect on others. Likewise we must be conscious of the negative emotions one emits as well, Boyatzis suggesting that for every negative thought three positive thoughts are needed to counter the affect.

Nutrient 4 - Cool Collaboration: In short, teams that play together, stay together. A leader's job is to ensure everyone in the organization must work in solving problems while adapting change together. Cohesive organizations build unity toward improving and resolving issues as a team and not as isolated units. Simon Sinek frequently cites the Marine Corps for having found a way to build a culture in which men and women are willing to risk their lives, because they know others would do the same for them. It’s not brainwashing; it’s actually based on the biology of how and when people are naturally at their best. If businesses could adopt this supportive mentality, employees would be more motivated to take bigger risks, because they’d know their colleagues and company would back them up, no matter what.

The best company cultures are vibrant, healthy ones where the well being of individuals and the sustainability of the organization go hand in hand. It is ultimately a place where individuals are inspired to work, trust, and value the uniqueness in one another, while reinforcing the mission of the organization.

What interventions, improvement programs or cultural reviews have proven to work well for you and your organization?

What other nutrients do you believe support a healthy organizational culture, not listed in the list above? 

Feel free to share a comment or two about your experiences below, I'd love to know.

References
Achor, Shawn The Happiness Advantage
Adelson, S. and LaRoche, G . (n.d) The Power of Positive Emotional Attractors. Boyatzis, R. E., Soler, C. (2012). Vision, leadership and emotional intelligence transforming family business, Journal of Family Business Management.
Sinek, Simon (2014) Leaders Eat Last
Topping, Peter, (2002), Managerial Leadership. McGraw-Hill.

How Our Workplaces Are Making Us Sick

Alexandria Joy - Friday, December 26, 2014
It was during working on a campaign while I was Director at WorkCover that I had an epiphany that would stay with me into all my future work and businesses.

We ran a marketing campaign called “Homecomings” with the help of creative agency Shannon’s Way – it was all about the need for workers to come home safe from work every day to their family, friends and loved ones. The taglines for the campaign included:
“Your reason for workplace safety is not at work at all.”
“Work safe. Home safe.”


These taglines really struck a chord with our market research test audiences as well as our staff before we even launched the campaign. What really hit home for me how much we entrust the lives of our loved ones into the hands of their employers every day they go to work. The campaign footage showed a young boy waiting for his father to come home, two teenagers who barely acknowledge their dad but their dog getting excited to see him and other various 'coming home' scenes.

My powerful epiphany was how every worker in every workplace is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, brother, sister, husband or wife, partner or best friend. Here in Western society we all believe that it’s our fundamental right to work in a safe and healthy workplace and that each day we should be able to go home from work as healthy – both physically and psychologically - as we did when we left in the morning.

Which means the leaders of every company and team are trusted to act like a pseudo parent in their employees extended work family. I believe it is imperative that leaders come from a place of love and genuine care about the wellbeing of the precious lives under their care and supervision, and not just because of some legislation. Those who take up this duty and choose to serve their workers as an extended family, not hired labour or resources to be used, will create stable innovative, high performing, loyal teams over the long term. Sadly few managers and leaders take it this seriously, or have really considered the entrusted role they hold.

What we need therefore, is to build more organisations that prioritise the physical, social, emotional and psychological wellbeing of their workers so we can build happy and healthy families and communities.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to become Expander Leaders, advancing our organisations to create more leaders who in turn grow, flourish and are more likely to serve and become Expander Leaders themselves.

Sadly, during the past few years of downturn and financial crisis and economic instability, a container management style has become more prevalent and it has brought cultures of fear, isolation, blame, threats and stress. As people contract, retract and retreat, they also resort to bullying, harassment, backstabbing and competition, rather than collaboration and cooperation.

Figures from WorkCover NSW between 2000 and 2014 show a marked increase in the number of bullying and harassment workers compensation cases. In 2012/13 the majority of occupational disease claims in NSW alone were mental health diseases accounting for 2235 claims. These mental diseases included such things as clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Although “stress” itself is not a compensable condition, it is one of the many possible factors that may contribute to the contraction or aggravation o a compensable psychological condition. These mental health claims account for 34 per cent of al occupational disease claims and the total gross incurred cost was $49 million with an average cost of around $22,000 per claim. Plus the total time lost as a result of mental disease claims was 39,609 weeks with an average of 18 weeks per claim.

Anxiety/ stress disorder and anxiety/depression claims accounted for 59% of all claims. Industries where mental disease claims accounted for more than 50% of their occupational disease claims were education and training, public administration and safety, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance – all industries that should be focused on care, love and service! Occupations which accounted for these claims included protective service workers, education professionals, carers and aides, human resources and marketing professionals, health professionals and health and welfare support workers.

This data is from just one state in Australia over the period of one year only! Our workplaces are indeed making us sick and our leaders must take their responsibility to create a positive, healthy culture seriously.

What are we doing wrong?

The raw truth is that an organisations’ success is based on leadership excellence not management acumen. Many organisations give lip service to the concept of their people being their most important resource. What is needed are more Expander Leaders who truly see their people for the unique individuals they are and truly care about those entrusted to their care.

When we become the architects of our company cultures rather than passive participants, we can create workplaces where people are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer their best work every day. To create this takes a series of small, incremental changes and conscious moves, not a single pill.

I believe that when we consciously, deliberately and intentionally choose to design our workplace cultures using the principles of Expander Leadership, love and recognising the UQ (unique strengths) in every individual we unleash human potential. I invite you to join the movement and #startwithU.

If you're ready to #startwithU and want more information on how to lead during a downturn, watch my videohttp://www.uqpower.com.au/_blog/uqtv/post/four-steps-to-leading-during-a-downturn/

How Giving Chocolate Can Boost Company Culture and Profits

Alexandria Joy - Friday, November 21, 2014

Decades of research, in multiple countries around the world, has shown time and again that investing in a positive, high-trust workplace culture yields distinct, tangible business benefits. Studies show that great workplaces enjoy significantly lower turnover and better financial performance than industry peers. 

In a nutshell – positive teams means a positive workplace and positive profits. Sounds simple. The trick is making it happen. 

So what do most positive company cultures have in common? Let's call it the UQ factor (UQ = Uniqueness Quotient – recognising the unique strengths in every individual).

Our work and research has shown that positive employees work harder and are more productive than their less than chipper peers. The fact is these people choose to give their best work every day because they feel appreciated, valued and able to contribute their talents. The companies that grow these cultures recognise and deliver on the promise to value their people as their most important asset. 

It starts with the company recognizing and embracing the unique value of every individual employee and giving them an opportunity to do their best work. This means all managers must get to know their employees – their strengths and talents and take a sincere interest in understanding how they learn, grow and work best. 

Here’s three things you can give to create a more productive, positive and powerful workforce:
  1. Give feedback – people crave feedback, yet much of corporate communication is lacking in this area. When employees don't feel heard as an individual, they don't feel respected or positive about the workplace. When this happens, they begin to look for of greener pastures. Upskill your managers in how to have coaching conversations so they can start listening to, developing and leveraging the talent in their teams. Set up a quarterly or monthly meeting where the whole team can talk through their ideas and suggestions, and be sure to wave the flag when you implement an employee-suggested concept. 

  2. Give back - Most people want to work for a company they can be proud of, and this means doing well by doing good in the world. (This is especially important for Millennial workers). Your company needs to grow its capabilities in the EQ Quadrant of the UQ Powerhouse to become more socially responsible and more in touch with your local community. Get out in the local community and find ways to help, offer volunteer days off or align your company with a charity who is doing great work. 

  3. Give chocolate – Need I say more? Is there anything chocolate can't do? Rewarding and recognising staff for a job well done or for living according to your values and culture needn’t be reserved for the annual company dinner. Nothing works better than immediate, positive reinforcement so why not keep some sweet chocolate treats in the workplace for just such rewards? Workers like to snack during the day, and a quick word of thanks (or hand written note) with a special pick-me-up attached is sure to hit the spot. It’s a quick and easy way to improve mood and productivity
A great company culture can keep people productive and help you retain your best employees. If your bottom line needs a boost and you need to turn some frowns upside down then consider making giving a priority for your company culture. Using some of these outside-of-the-box methods, you can give your team a smile and give your company a productivity boost. 

Need help? Our UQ Power Pulse Check will help you find out how healthy your workplace culture is. 

What do you think? How do you improve employee happiness and productivity? Share in the comments below!

6 WAYS TO BUILD TRUST AT WORK

Alexandria Joy - Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Trust - it's a term bandied around all the time when it comes to leadership and organisational culture and with good reason. Nothing builds a solid culture better than growing a cushion of trust and nothing harms an organization more than a lack of trust in those leading it.

For such a simple, small five letter word, trust can often be challenging to develop and maintain in any organisation. But it can be done! Trust must begin from the top to be developed throughout an organization. If top management is not trusted it gives the perception that it is everyone for themselves and opens up rationale for building a culture of mistrust.

In a recent episode of UQTV titled "The Leadership Relationship" I address the issue of trust and how critical it is in creating sustainable businesses.

Here are six steps to help you develop trust in your workplace:

1. TRUTH TELL

Leaders who are trusted tell the truth even when it is easier to lie or leave out facts. There is no such thing as ‘the’ truth. There is only ‘your’ truth so practice becoming a truth teller - the more you tell your truth up front, the less cleaning up you’ll need to do. 

If there is a values statement for the organisation that includes any words about honesty, trust or integrity event more so - you need to ensure you act, speak and live those values before expecting staff to.

2. DO GOOD

When a leader does the right thing for the benefit of the whole organisation rather than their own personal agenda they are held up as examples of integrity for others to follow. This strongly reinforces an expansive culture of trust.

When a leader does what is convenient or beneficial for them and not for all it sets up a mistrustful, counter productive culture where staff feel justified to look out for themselves rather than doing what is most beneficial for the whole company. 

3. BE CONSISTENT

A sure way to grow mistrust is when managers start saying one thing to the executive or board and giving a different message to their staff. This makes staff feel like they are being manipulated, treated like children and used to make their manager look good.

Build motivation and trust by allowing staff to feel to confident that you are sharing a consistent message regardless of the audience.

4. STOP WITHOLDING

Withholding is like taking a razor blade to a company culture and all the relationships within it. Withholding is a breeding ground for catastrophising as in the absence of accurate and timely information rumors spread. Often the rumors paint a worse picture of the situation than would exist if the truth were told. 

Withholding information gives staff the message that they are not to be trusted to know the truth and therefore sets up a culture of suspicion and mistrust that rumors will only feed and fuel. 

6. CELEBRATE UNIQUENESS

One of the most common complaints we hear in workplaces is favoritism and unfair treatment. Treating everyone fairly, consistently and giving credit to those who deserve can be a challenge as we all have our own biases and personality preferences.

One of the challenges of leadership is to see beyond personal preferences and clearly see the unique value or UQ (uniqueness quotient) that each person brings to the organization. Imagine the motivation, engagement and cushion of trust you could build in your organisation by recognising and celebrating the UQ in every individual employee.

Want to build trust at work? #StartwithU

Office Christmas Party Ettiquette

Alexandria Joy - Sunday, December 15, 2013

From hitting on your boss' wife to humiliating party games and the indignity of forced merriment, office Christmas parties are a minefield when it comes to maintaining your personal brand.

Here's four office party mistakes we suggest you don't make:

1. Singing karaoke

Regardless if you have a voice like Celine Dion, never partake in singing karaoke if you are in a Western workplace. In the days of smart phones your rendition of "I'm too sexy" could end up on You Tube or Facebook well before Monday morning's Board meeting.

2. Drinking in excess

Obvious, duh, however the most common mistake made by up and comings. While many organisations offer a full bar at their party, many people take advantage and don't realise the number of drinks they've had. If you don't want to make any career limiting moves like chatting up the bosses partner or urinating in the hallway pot plant, limit yourself to 2-3 drinks all night.

3. Finger food faux pas

Picture this: sticky spicy chicken wing in one hand, wet drink hand in the other, your boss crosses the floor with the Chairman of the board in tow, to introduce you. No napkin in sight you have to choose...shove the sticky wing in your pocket, drop it into your cup or offer a kiss on the cheek to the Chairman. (Oh yeah and one other food tip - don't double dip).

4. Whining while dining

The office Christmas party is meant to be a time when everyone can celebrate the successes of the year. That means a cheerful mood. If you feel yourself or the conversation slipping into whingeing, whining or bitching territory about work, colleagues, clients or anything switch topics before the complaints gather momentum.

Stick to these basics and you should find the Christmas party provides a boost to your brand rather than seeing you slipping off the potential promotion list. And if you think we're being conservative check out this top 10 list of the most embarrassing moments. This may be enough to put you off partying for life!

Leave a comment below and tell us your most your or "your friends" most embarrassing office party misstep!

While we're on the subject of Christmas check out our UQ Power Christmas video here. Did you photobomb us in 2013?


Open Plan Office Hinders Productivity

Alexandria Joy - Monday, November 04, 2013

Open plan offices with cubicle partitions were created in the 1950s to encourage communication and boost teamwork. It’s a trend that is still in fashion, but a recent study has revealed that this type of environment attracts higher levels of staff dissatisfaction.

The Downside Of Open Plan Working Outweighs The Benefits

Working in an open plan office has its benefits, especially if you love to take regular breaks to share hilarious tales of your life from the weekend. But it’s this type of distraction that could affect staff productivity and satisfaction levels.

The study, conducted by the University of Sydney, involved analysis of 42,764 survey samples collected in 303 office buildings across the globe. Noise and lack of privacy and space were the top gripes.

Professor Richard de Dear, Head of Architectural Design Science at the University of Sydney and a co-author of the research paper, said worker satisfaction was important because it was linked to productivity.

“The productivity benefits of teams working together have been used to sell the open plan office for decades. Yet, if you do these evaluations and actually talk to occupants of open plan offices, very few people think that they are productive spaces. You need places to concentrate.”

A Better Way Of Working

New to the 21st century, savvy companies are bucking the antiquated open plan trend to create an Activity-Based Work Culture.

When the Commonwealth Bank moved its headquarters in 2011, it used the opportunity to change the way their employees worked day to day.

The Bank’s Chief Financial Officer, David Craig explained: “Activity-based working recognises there is a spectrum of work styles and demands and that each day, people will have different activities to complete requiring varying levels of concentration or collaboration.”

In an activity-based working environment, employees aren’t necessarily stuck to the same desk. It recognises that sometimes they’ll need quiet time to focus. Sometimes they’ll need access to technology and sometimes they’ll need to brainstorm or share tasks with others.

At places like the CommBank’s headquarters, there are quiet, enclosed spaces, open spaces for collaboration, and areas for formal and informal meetings. Employees choose where to set up for the day, the morning or afternoon according to what type of work they need to do.

“Activity-based working delivers the working environment and tools for staff to choose different work styles to suit their work activities. It is about empowering them and engaging,” Craig said.

You can read more about the Commonwealth Bank’s workplace environment here.

Your Environment Affects Your Psychology

Your physical environment has a huge impact on your brand, your culture, and how your business is perceived (by employees and customers alike). At an individual level, it affects how people carry out their work, how they feel, and how well they perform.

Take a look around your workplace now. Does it scream efficiency and precision? Does it encourage creativity and innovation? Does it feel fun, cosy, or friendly? Does it have dedicated spaces to cater for different activities?

Every day the UQ Power team visit organisations from a range of industries and we see a lot of desks. We can usually tell straight away what the appearance of a desk says about the desk owner and the company culture of the organisation. See for yourself here - http://www.uqpower.com.au/_blog/desk-a-day

Is office clutter affecting your mood?

Alexandria Joy - Friday, June 21, 2013

Trip hazards, dust, and cosy spots for spiders are not the only things that clutter creates in the workplace. Clutter at work, and at home, has a huge impact on your psyche. 

Cluttered workspace = cluttered mind

The chaotic assortment of waste, unused items, and important workplace tools of trade can make you feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, and resentful. More than just a mess, a cluttered workspace negatively affects worker productivity and creativity and it has been known to increase stress levels.

When the chaos reaches a certain level it’s not the mess that’s the problem, but the impact of the mess on the people living with it. Dr Olivia Wynne B Psych, PhD Psych (Science and Psychoneuroimmunology) explains research has revealed that clutter can adversely affect your mindset.“Our senses once stimulated with something familiar can trigger memories of past experiences. This includes feeling all the emotions attached to that memory,” Dr Wynne said. “If you’re office was once a neat and tidy haven, but is now a chaotic mess because your workload has increased, it’s likely you’ll always feel ‘busy’, behind and overwhelmed.”

  • Clutter makes you feel tired – a cluttered office is a physical and mental drain, hindering creativity and blocking your energy.
  • Clutter makes you feel hopeless – you’re probably too busy to file, pack up equipment, and get rid of stuff that you don’t use, and that’s why there is clutter. The problem is you’ll always feel overwhelmed and “busy” every time you step into that chaotic environment.
  • Clutter makes you feel out of control – too busy to keep a tidy workplace? A disorganised workplace reduces your productivity because it takes more time to find things or access items and equipment. When the clutter stops you from doing what you want to do, you have lost control.
  • Clutter affects your company culture – How you present (and setup) your workspace not only expresses some of your values and beliefs, but can either encourage or hinder communication and collaboration in the workplace.

On the flipside, a well organised workspace shows signs of pride and professionalism. It improves productivity and can even enhance creativity and communication.  

Not all clutter is bad however. Boost your mood by decorating your space with items you cherish such as a family photo or a trinket you bought while on holidays. Their presence, and your attachment to them, will help you to feel at home, relaxed, and inspired.

Feeling drained and uninspired? Is it time to declutter your workspace? 

What does your desk say about you?

Here at UQ Power, we visit a lot of organisations and we see a lot of desks. We can usually tell straight away what the appearance of a desk says about the desk owner and the company culture of the organisation.

In our Desk a Day Challenge we analyse the desks of our readers. We’ve seen some wide-ranging examples of office spaces – from the minimalistic look with barely a pen out of place, to the disorganised and cluttered.

We know everyone prefers to work in different ways, and that ‘having a tidy desk’ can be interpreted differently depending on your propensity for clutter. However the environment of an office is a critical factor to successfully building trust, collaboration and communication in a workplace. What does your desk say about how you and your business operates?

Send in a photo to us at UQ Power and we will analyse what is says about your company culture. 


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