Ask for help

Covid 19 has been a challenge for most businesses and people for a number of reasons.

Many people say it has made their business and themselves more resilient, as they have adapted to working from home and looked at other opportunities. However, this is not the case for many. Some businesses have not survived or have taken huge hits in terms of business morale and financial loss.

Some people are close to breaking point and have given up or are about to give up. There will be light at the end of the tunnel, but not everyone will get to see it.

However, there is help and support out there.

This help and support will not always make itself known. Sometimes, we need to speak up and go to others for help.

Family, for example, may be good for some personal problems, but they do not always understand your business and some of the issues you may be dealing with. For this, you may need to talk to someone else. Not always easy, I mean, what do you say?

Do not worry about that, just speak to someone. Ask for help.

As a Quality Management Consultant, I get asked all sorts of questions by some of my clients I have known for a long time. Questions I did not want to hear about relationships, money, and other struggles.

So, why me?

Well, it could have been anyone, couldn’t it?

The truth is they just wanted to talk to someone who would listen. They did not particularly want advice, although they might have wanted an opinion, or just to feel they were not alone with their problem, that someone may have gone through something similar and could understand.

Talking and listening is so easy. We do not have to have counselling or coaching qualifications. All we need is life experience, which we all have.

People are amazing; we all are. Sometimes, we just need a reminder.

As individuals, we experience so much during our lifetimes. Good and bad. There have been times when I have felt down, then I remember, I have survived much worse than this.

In business, from the time we start it up, we have to face certain struggles, and we do. In most cases, we learn from these times and get stronger.

Never think your business or personal problem is unique. It is not. There is always someone who has been there before, or, is going through it, and like you, wants or needs, someone to talk to.

A problem shared

There are organisations and charities out there, all willing to listen. You will probably need to make the first move. Let people or these charities and organisations know you are there.

Talking saves lives

The easiest thing to do, once you allow it to happen, is find someone who will listen.

I will listen.

So, will many others.

Good friends will listen; you may actually learn who your best friends are.

Your family will probably listen, and some may surprise you.

I, like hundreds of thousands of others, fell ill to Covid-19, in January 2021. I was in hospital for 12 weeks. A short time compared to some. I saw some extremely sick people. During the time when I was ill, it was a total of eight weeks before I was working again. It got me thinking. I thought about values, and what is precious, about my marriage and what my wife means to me. I thought about my family, my daughter, my grandchildren, my stepsons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and about my friends, and then my business clients, some of whom are like friends.

I now consider myself very lucky and blessed.

I received a lot of support and get-well messages, a lot of which surprised me. I was, to some extent, surprised by how people felt about me; how much I was loved.

Ok, so that might sound like a strange thing to say, but it is true.

The other fact it brought home to me is how precious life is, how we sometimes fuss over the unimportant or leave the important until another day. Men’s health, for example, in general, we are bad at speaking up, saying how we feel, or going to the doctors. We probably see it as a sign of weakness. More fool us.

How work can get in the way of living, and what we think of as essential often is not.

Some years ago. I took a course in Holistic Stress Management and received the Diploma. It was a fascinating course. I decided to study stress management, as I realised two things in the workplace and probably in life;

  1. Most stress is avoidable and unnecessary,
  2. When we look back, it often seems trivial, but it was huge at the time, I learnt the following:
  • Never assume,
  • To listen
  • To talk
  • Every person is different
  • Make yourself available
  • No one has all the answers
  • People are amazing
  • Happiness is not a place and a single emotion
  • Massage is good
  • Meditation is good
  • Walking is great
  • Laughter is fantastic
  • Learning is enlightenment
  • Love is wonderful
  • Food is necessary
  • Friendship is a powerful tonic

Not necessarily in that order!

STRESS VERSUS QUALITY MANAGEMENT

I appreciate there are always lots of posts and articles on social media about stress in the workplace. Some are good and useful information while most tell us nothing we have not heard before.

Whether we like it or not, stress is a part of modern living. It is something that we seldom have any control over. Even the most chilled people I know suffer from stress sometimes. It is perfectly natural.

Take BREXIT for example, I know two Managing Directors, who are real worriers about the potential outcome to their businesses. The worse thing being is they don’t know what to do about it. To worry about an uncertainty does not make sense and, although, they are trying hard not to let it show, it does. Therefore, as a result, their managers are worried too, and so it spreads through the ranks.

I often worry about some of the top management at some of my clients because I can see the effects of stress. I have been a management consultant for over 20 years. I can say that most cases of stress are avoidable, and when we look back are often trivial too. However, at the time they a perceived to be huge.

The connection between stress in the workplace and quality management is obvious. To obtain a high standard of quality, we need to manage performance. Stressful people can impact on performance. By removing stress, we reduce opportunities for errors.

We cannot exclude stress management from quality management.

Part of the role of a Quality Manager, in fact, all Managers, is to identify processes which are not effective or, as efficient as they could be and therefore, potentially stressful for the operator. You have a legal responsibility.

Tight deadlines, work overload and working below a person’s capabilities are just three causes of stress. Then there are other physical and human factors such as noise, workspace, light and ventilation, confrontation, discrimination, language, offensive posters and conversation. Causes that we would never even consider because we have grown up with them can be stressful for others from different cultures.

The first challenge when implementing an effective management system is to address the culture and current philosophy of the organisation. Not always an easy task.

People tend to hide stress, even to themselves. Stress can be a sign of weakness. There can be a stigma attached.

An employee failing to achieve the perceived level of quality desired may also see themselves a failing. Trying to achieve a high level of quality can be stressful.

A good question should be precisely how is the standard set? Is it too high, are we asking too much from the employee? Or is the employee doing more than necessary?

Of course, this all comes down to communication, to fully understand all needs and expectations, to be able to ask questions and receive answers.

Firstly, Quality Management is about planning and prevention. It all begins at the start. Anywhere else and we are firefighting. Firefighting is costly, stressful, and a waste of resource.

However, I know and have known Quality Managers who love firefighting and fixing problems that have occurred. They can then take the credit for right corrective actions. As often may be the case, detecting, hazards and risks early and preventing a problem from ever occurring does not always grab the attention and the brownie points.

So, this is all well and good, but what can we do to reduce stress in the workplace?

Well, firstly, we need to understand the workplace in question and its culture. To do this, we need to get to know the people.

As obvious as this sounds, I know Directors and Managers who do not know their employees or even their teams, as individuals.

Here is a list of my tips to help reduce stress (in no particular order):

  • Talk to each other;
  • Effective and commitment to leadership;
  • Share problems;
  • Mentoring and proper supervision;
  • A sense of humour;
  • Manage lead times and deadlines;
  • Maintain a safe and healthy infrastructure and working environment;
  • Ensure competence through effective instruction and training;
  • Listen;
  • Review working hours and break times;
  • Be nice;
  • Remove blame culture;
  • Encourage ownership, pride, and responsibility for actions;
  • Manage workload,
  • Encourage employees who have a desire to achieve more;
  • Review what the company needs and expects from its employees, at all levels, and if these needs and expectations are reasonable.
  • Adjust accordingly;
  • A happy workforce is a more efficient workforce
  • If you can’t change the people, change the people.

It does not matter whether you agree or not with the above statement or bullet points. The fact is that Stress and Quality Management are the same. By effectively managing one, you can reduce the other.

If you would like to discuss this further, please ring me on 07932 155 985 or 01273 510725