Have you noticed recently that more people are taking more time off than usual? Is Fred down at accounts not getting back to you as normal? Is Mary, who never gets sick, taking sick leave? Are people stepping on each other’s toes more than they have in the past? Are tasks that you thought would be finished by now still open?
Around this time of year in Australia, the performance of staff often deteriorates.
Why this time of year? Well, it's halfway between the big end-of-year holidays (and after the end of the tax year). In Australia and New Zealand that’s around July. In other countries, for instance, the US, it's more likely to be in January and February again halfway between the big breaks. It’s also coldest and darkest.
Regardless of the exact month, this is when fatigue sets in, tempers start to fray, and ‘minor’ issues become ‘major'. Many managers are wondering about how they can help their staff to be more resilient. First though – it would be good to know what the problem is; what is testing your resilience and that of your staff? There are usually three underlying causes, too much change, an overwhelming workload, and/or a setback or adversity. I describe more about this in my blog 3 Causes of Workplace Stress & How To Turn Them Into Performance.
On top of that, there are usually a bunch of other causes that I’ll collectively describe as ‘friction'. Friction refers to systems and processes that don’t work properly. The filing systems we can’t find anything in, the complicated processes for gaining approvals, the lengthy delays in hearing back about decisions, the endless meetings that chew up an enormous amount of time and achieve very little.
Early in the year, people put up with these and have workarounds, but by the middle of the year – and with not a holiday in sight – patience goes short, things don’t work properly and performance suffers.
It’s also a great opportunity to fix some of these. (If you have had the chance to attend my resilience programme, you will know that ‘Adversity’ refers to learning from things that go wrong). So as you walk around the office and notice moments of stress – dig in, and find out what the stress is. It is likely to identify a point of ‘friction’. For example:
- Decisions taking too long to be made? How can you streamline them?
o Can you develop a set of decision-making rules? (We help teams do this)
o Can you devolve responsibility?
- Friction between two colleagues?
o What is at the root of it?
o How can you clarify accountability and ‘turf ‘?
- Annoying policy from head office?
o Seek to have it changed.
o Accept it and move on.
- Too many emails in your inbox?
o Develop a ‘zero' email inbox policy
o Learn to better deal with the sheer volume of emails (we teach this skill)
- Have an important task you haven’t been able to get to for months?
o Schedule some time for it this week
- What else is causing ‘friction ‘? Fix it.
The greatest benefit of having conflict, people taking too much leave and/or a downturn in performance – is that it gives you the opportunity to identify points of friction and remove them. As we say here at Resilience Works – it’s an opportunity to “bounce back better”.
Cris has helped many organisations to build their resilience, identify and rectify points of friction, and, work smarter (including how to deal with email overwhelm). Get in touch if you’d like you, or your team to be super high performers. Contact Cris at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on +61 438 545 607.