All posts by Abby Vige

Bursting The Leadership Bubble – You Have Got What It Takes

People often cultivate an air of mystique about the type of person it takes to be in a senior leadership role. Abby Vige bursts that bubble…

By Andrew Angelov/ Shutterstock

Influencing up is about taking ownership of yourself and not waiting for things to be handed to you no matter how lowly or isolated your role is. There is always a way to move forward and add value.

I have summarised the key takeaways that I deployed early on my career, they serve as valuable reminders in any role that I am in.

1.Spot things in your team that could do with streamlining or improving #efficencyprogrammes

2. Don’t overlook the basics like creating tools and templates – this can be gold #bigdata #storytelling

3. Do your time, do the churn and take each opportunity as it comes #rollyoursleevesup

4. Get organised. We are all busy, you need to get efficient with your time #productivityhacks

5. Pick a senior that you can trust and test ideas with them, they can be your biggest ambassador #squadgoals

Mystery management

People are people no matter what their job title is or how senior they are, this seems so obvious! but many of us have cultivated an air of mystique about what type of person it must take to be in such a senior role. It’s worthwhile to take a moment to put them into slow motion in order to unpack what’s actually going on.

The slowmo replay

We all recognise this scenario, the most senior person in a organisation walks through an office in close proximity. You’ve never spoken to them, never been introduced to them, you are just one of oodles of people that they manage. In many instances they will most likely know your name but your day to day jobs don’t require any personal interaction. They waft through the office almost like an apparition. The air of leadership. The manager has landed.

How it’s interpreted

When I have mentored people coming up through the ranks, I have noticed that they often hold these people in such reverence. They make bold assumptions about the life they must have lead, the number of degrees they must hold and how super duper busy they must be. It’s often stated “…there’s no way I could do that job…” And so I ask them, what makes you think this? They say “well because they have such a high level job and so much responsibility, they must have so much technical knowledge and experience, their job must be insane”. While some of this is usually true, it does the manager a disservice. Is a titanic sized shipload of technical knowledge where the value lies? Are these the most valuable things they can teach us?

Bursting the bubble

When you slow the manager down, view and accept that they are a person just like the rest of us, the reverence bubble will pop. In the demystifying the senior manager we can begin to see what really matters, and what matters is knowing how they human and what they learned in order to get to where they are.

Human hacks

These are the questions we should be asking.

  • What things have happened in your life that have given the capability to be able to do this role that you’re in?
  • What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
  • What does stress feel like to you? How does it present, what brings it on and what do you do?
  • How do you manage competing time priorities?
  • What did you try that didn’t work? What did you try that did work?

The answers to these questions lay out a path that maps the journey of experience. A degree isn’t going to teach you instincts about your business, a degree can be important but it doesn’t teach you about resilience that is crafted and learned over time. The technical expertise is not what makes most senior managers, it’s the life skills.

Behind the veil

Senior managers need to challenge themselves to pull aside the curtain and be open to people about what they’ve done in their life to build the person that is the leader before them.

From this point, people can make an accurate assessment about what type of calibre it takes to be in a certain role and whether those skill sets suit their strengths, their values and their aspirations.

Get away from the technical and focus on the human.

Voicemails Are Dead So Why Do We Use Them?

Why do we all have a voicemail system and why do people continue to leave them? Abby Vige discusses instant gratification

By Aniwhite/ Shutterstock 

When we’re stuck in the work grind and we see our phone light up with news from beyond our present moment, our spirits buoy a little! Yay! Then we drop when we realise it’s just a voicemail. It’s almost as bad as when you think have a text but it’s just spam from your telecommunications provider. Sigh.

Confession

I have to admit that I never clear voicemails, some people even state in their voicemail greeting that they do not clear them, so why do we all have a voicemail system and why do people continue to leave them?

Voicemails date back to the late seventies when a chap patented his unique “Voice Message Exchange” and sold the electronic message system to 3M. Since this master stroke of genius, we have never looked back. When voicemails were invented they made sense, there were no emails and faxes were yet to reach their peak. But do they make sense as a business or connection tool in this modern era?

A message from beyond

The reason I don’t tend to clear my voicemails, is because as soon as someone leaves one the news instantly old. Or, there is very little information that warrants the effort of clearing them all and then phoning each individual back “hey, Susan from accounts here, phone me back” why should I?

Enter the experiment phase…

After having this question kick around my head for awhile, I decided to scratch the itch of my curiosity and prove what I thought to be true. I listened to every voicemail across 2-3 days and phoned each person back, the top results were:

  • They had already emailed me the query and was surprised I was phoning them
  • The issue at hand had substantively evolved
  • They had found out the answer themselves

The motivation for them to leave the voicemail had initial merit, but in some instances, just minutes later the situation had changed. My stark conclusion was that most of the conversations were in effect, a waste of time.

Now, I don’t want to be seen as a VM hater, Procurement is a customer centric, customer service industry. But this is not the way I add value to my customers or to my organisation. Voicemails fall in to a “reactive” space for me and I’m much more of a pro-active gal. I love to be accessible to my customers, but you’ll often find me at their desks in person because face to face conversations are worth it.

What’s driving Susan?

The experiment was interesting and somewhat validating but the question remains, why do we feel the need to leave the dreaded VM in the first place? Most people assume that it’s because email as a written form, takes longer to write out verses simply phoning the person and requesting that they phone you back. It’s also generally accepted that voicemails enable us to convey emotions and urgency.

But what is really driving us is more of a simpler basic human need, the need for instant gratification. The term itself is self-explanatory but it in this context what is driving us is our self-centric view of the world. Even though we know it makes sense to write an email and include more information and leave it for when the person is available to digest it, we forgo these long-term benefits in favour of short term benefits that resolve something in our world, we feel better.

This is subject that has piqued curiosity for many years and found its roots in pop culture through the 1960’s infamous “Marshmallow experiment”. This was a major psychological study conducted by Stanford Professor Walter Mischel where children between 4 and 5 years old were given the choice of having one marshmallow to eat right away or they could wait for the researcher to come back and they would get two. The results of watching the kids wait has been the subject of many a video and even adverts.

How this plays out at work

The desire for short term gratification is often exasperated by the pressures of a work environment where the sense of needing to get things done and done quickly rules supreme. What underpins the need for instant gratification? The need for the issue to be passed on, to be received – ultimately to be heard.

We eat the marshmallow over and over, we can’t wait, we can’t help ourselves. Those of us that don’t leave voicemails most likely transfer the gratification to other media or medium. Even your neat and pretty to do list or post it note system fits the short term satisfaction bill.

The biggest insight gained from the experiments was the link proven between delaying gratification and being successful in life. Those 4 and 5 year olds from the 1960’s that waited for the second marshmallow, had higher academic scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.

What we can learn

If we train ourselves to be less reactive and to delay those hard wired gratification urges, we can increase our productivity in focused and targeted areas. Ultimately raising our value to the organisations we work for, whether that is a company or working for yourself.

Take the challenge….

  1. Don’t leave voicemails
  2. Pay attention to your inner world, before you take action, think about what is driving that action
  3. Start small and repeat that small action each day
  4. Keep visual reminders about your top priorities
  5. Keep yourself accountable

5 Productivity Hacks You Should Be Using Now

When things are really hitting the fan you don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal.


By Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

The panic is real. So many things to do, all of equal value and all due yesterday! How do you cut through the noise? Here are my proven hacks for achieving the impossible.

Mindset

The most important place to begin is your mind. Often in high pressure situations you begin to worry. You worry about the volume of tasks you need to do, the timeframes, the pressures put on you to deliver and the number of project responsibilities.

Within this context (the brow furrowing worry), the brain becomes overwhelmed. Research has proven that ability of working memory to direct attention to what’s relevant is incredibly compromised, the brain is effectively running lots of programmes at once and everything slows down. In terms of how the brain processes information, we know that the brain dedicates capacity to verbal information and some capacity to spatial information. When people are worried it is common that they talk to themselves in their head – worries tend to be verbal and therefore compete for the limited pool of capacity.

Psychologist Sian Beilock found that when students are presented with a mathematical problem presented horizontally “32 – 17 = x” it demands more of the brain’s verbal resources than when the same problem is presented vertically.

The brain processes vertical information visually and therefore accesses the spatial capacity which has less demand for its resources.

This is often why making lists can feel better!

Taking back control

Understanding how the brain works is one thing but if things are really hitting the fan then don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal! Here are my top five productivity hacks to help you take back control.

1. Eisenhower Matrix

President Eisenhower was on to something when he shared this technique of decision making and prioritisation. It is a four box quadrant that helps you organise tasks in order of urgency and importance. My on-the-ground approach is to draw up four large boxes in my notebook and head them up according to what I need e.g. Urgent / Do now, Do next, Monitor, Delegate then I simply put each task under these headings and focus on one thing at a time.

2. Find an organisational app like Trello

Once you have identified the individual tasks and organised them into an Eisenhower, it can be helpful to transfer them to an electronic platform where you can easily access and update them. I am a huge fan of Trello, it is a free “to do list” app that I use for all of my projects. Having your to do list in an electronic platform gives you the opportunity to share your to do list and collaborate with other people as well as update things when you’re on the go.

3. Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management technique that dates back to the 1980’s, it was created by Francesco Cirillo and is based on the principle of short, sharp, concentrated bursts of activity. If you’re curious, the technique is named after the Pomodoro (tomato) timer that Cirillo used when he was at university.

Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix completed and your life uploaded into Trello, take the most urgent tasks and block out your calendar accordingly. You may need to play with the time period that suits you, some people can do a full hour but I prefer no more than 30 minutes – that’s a long time concentrating on one task!

4. Technology lock down

It’s so simple to do and yet most people do not apply this last trick, shut down the emails! Close your emails and any other system that can notify or distract you.  Do not assume that you are superior to the temptation of technology and distractions. If you see an email pop up, you will be tempted to answer it. Just say no!

5. Change your environment

If possible, work away from your usual spot. Either work from home, a different desk, a café, a meeting room. It can be anywhere just as long as you can concentrate. Breaking away from your usual work spot should reinforce the objective you are trying to achieve, and most importantly it can keep you from being interrupted.

If you implement all of these tools and combine them into a new way of working, you will be sure to come out the other side winning. What are your proven hacks? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

Don’t Let Your Action Bias Take Control Of Your Career

What is this motivating force that continually drives us? The answer could be – action bias.

Recently I found myself in unfamiliar territory; I had reached the bottom of the barrel. There was no big project to immediately sink my teeth into. I had achieved the unthinkable, I had achieved the workplace equivalent of clocking Facebook, there were no more stories to load.

Like any staffer worth their salt I was able to quickly fill that barrel back up but the level of discomfort that I felt stuck with me. It boarded on anxiety. I started pondering… what is this motivating force that continually drives me? The answer could be – action bias.

Action Bias

The term Action Bias comes from a 2007 study of penalty kicks in football “an analysis of penalty kicks shows that the optimal strategy for goalkeepers is to stay in the goal’s centre. Goalkeepers, however, almost always jump right or left. This implies that a goal scored yields worse feelings for the goalkeeper following inaction (staying in the centre) than following action (jumping), leading to a bias for action.”

A large part of my driving force within the workplace can be characterised by ambition, the desire to do a good job, to achieve outcomes, to deliver and “complete” but also to keep busy. It’s the last part that made me reflect.

Is keeping busy always a good thing?

We all have colleagues in the workplace that are constantly busy, the never ending flurry of shuffling papers, or the ghost colleague that is always in meetings and seemingly only comes back to the desk to sigh. Rationally we know that being busy doesn’t correlate directly to the quality or output of a person’s work but as a society we generally buy into the belief that being busy is a good thing.

The other recognisable “busy bee” is the creative thinker, the fire type, the fast paced ideas guy or gal. The negative association with these action orientated people is that they can shoot first and ask questions later, they jump to conclusions and engage in solution mode before deep analysis has taken place. While this is most certainly not a bad thing, it can be if done 100 per cent of time.

It could be proposed that the drive and motivation behind being busy is really just a societal acceptance of action bias.

So what happens when we stop? What happens when we take time to think?

What are the alternatives to being busy?

Looking at the items in the barrel, I realised that the new additions were improvements and value add’s and the bonus is that they are now captured in my work programme amongst the demand driven projects received directly from the business. The tendency towards action bias worked for me in this instance but I don’t think it should be my default.

Being busy can be characterised with a certain type of pace; moving fast and being stressed.

But, when you break it down being busy is about working towards a goal at a consistent pace that delivers the results you require. By reframing busyness in this way you can see the fast action and stress as a symptom of the belief system – be kinder to yourself. It is important to schedule time for strategic thinking and brainstorming that extends beyond the near future.

It is important to find time to think of new projects that deliver value to the business. It is important to think beyond the scope of “work” and perhaps the most shocking of all, it can be as simple as going for a walk and getting some fresh air.  Taking time to pause and go for a stroll in the sun is perhaps the most productive thing that we can do.