“Appreciate, congratulate, and support, celebrate all achievements” With Charlie Katz & Linda Sage

Appreciate, congratulate, and support, celebrate all achievements no matter how small, let all your staff know their input is essential and promote engagement, take an interest in what they are doing. As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure […]

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Appreciate, congratulate, and support, celebrate all achievements no matter how small, let all your staff know their input is essential and promote engagement, take an interest in what they are doing.

As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Sage MA, BA Ed (Hons), DTM

Decades of life inside the most notorious prisons in the UK have helped Linda learn that iron bars are not the only barriers to freedom. Good mental health is important for everyone.

Linda Sage is a seasoned criminal psychologist, speaker, trainer, author, and broadcaster with over 3 decades of hands-on experience. Linda has established clients in both the private and public sectors. Her passion and message are clear; self-care is not a luxury. Now more than ever, caring for yourself emotionally and psychologically should be a priority for everyone and leaders should ensure they set the standards for their teams.

Knowing all the information is easy, living it is different, Linda had a massive burnout in 2005, which took her over 6 years to work in psychology again and over 11 years to walk back into a prison. Her passion for supporting people to care for themselves as much as they care of others whether as a parent, leader, or care provider has offered her speaking, training opportunities in the UK, USA, Spain, Holland, UAE, and KSA. Her book Caring for the Caregiver is a proactive self-support tool.

Employers all around the world have a responsibility for the wellbeing of their staff, but until each person is engaged in the value of this, absenteeism, poor engagement and errors will continue, costing employers and their staff dearly.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I had my burnout in 2005, prior to that I had a very high pressured and stressful job in the highest category prisons in the UK, 2 elderly parents with failing health, a daughter on the Autistic Spectrum and a divorce. Like most, I still said “I am OK, I’m fine” but in all honesty, I was far from it. I lost myself, I got isolated, moody, and gained a huge amount of weight, my crutch was food. (Looking back I was fortunate, because those who turn to alcohol or drugs have a much tougher road to recovery.)

Living in denial is a great place, but it is not sustainable. My dam broke and painful reality hit, I had to care for me, for me to be able to care or all those around me. I did not get any official help and I di not have many people around me at the time, so not a lot of help. By 2011 when I felt ready to rejoin the world of psychology, I knew I had to stop others from this pain and suffering. Burnout is preventable and it is much more preferable than a cure. My passion to help others see the importance of self-care as a necessity, not a luxury took flight.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I have had such a huge learning curve, which is still developing. Like many as a professional I had always been employed, being an entrepreneur was a totally new to me and finding the entrepreneur mindset took time and effort.

When I first started out, I knew nothing about websites, keywords, Social Media, etc, so I had somebody build my 1st website, at the time I thought it was wonderful, but soon realized having a website and having a working website are two different things. I was so green, that my domain name belonged to my web designer, so when we had a disagreement, I lost my website and could do nothing about it.

Thus the birth of the 2nd website and ownership of my future URLs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I had been training, lecturing and presenting for years in academic environments, but I had never spoken in public, I got introduced to Toastmasters International and over all the years this has opened many doors to opportunities, learning from experts and friendships.

Jim Rohn was one fo the first amazing mentors who changed my outlook and Patricia Fripp with her direct and proactive support makes learning a pleasure.

I have been fortunate in my life that many people have seen potential in me, before I saw it, or believed it. Professor Richard Dunnill at the University of Kent, first set me on my psychology path, when I went to the university open day, I did not know what I wanted to study, my dad had hoped for medicine or law, but talking to the proffessor, it was like a mist cleared and I could see my career path. Although, there has been a lot of changes in direction since then, the core of self-growth has never diminished. I have always been thankful for his insights, though my father was not that impressed.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When my business started, I wanted to get the message out that burnout is preventable, self-care is not selfish.

As time has progressed from 2011 to now, the world has changed and many opportunities, equalities, and diversity have opened up, but people are still people and they still prioritize the needs of others before their own to the detriment of their emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing.

Most countries have now legislated for corporate staff care, but abuse, bullying, and emotional pressure still exists in many fields. Making people aware that they can control their lives, by controlling their mindset is essential. Leaders need to lead by example, set boundaries and standards, for others to see. Do as I say, not as I do; does not hold credence now.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Well, this year 2020 has been a monster for many people, institutions and individuals. Lock-down and isolation have caused a huge increase in anxiety in all ages, gender, and backgrounds.

I have spent a lot of time supporting individuals and managers to support their teams, taking into consideration individual needs and circumstances. Zoom, of course, has been a lifeline to many teams, but it can be a double-edged sword when so much time is dedicated to being available online.

From the outset of working virtually, we had a meeting and encouraged each member to talk about their particular situations and working environment. This way we could work out a schedule to fit around them, if two people were house-bound with children, it was impossible for them to both be working at the same time, so being flexible and encouraging personal responsibility and accountability for their workload has produced a really good level of productive engagement.

We designed a work calendar, each person puts their working times in a different color, it has been easy to see when people are available and when not, so calls and contact are restricted to their available time. With less time traveling to work or meetings, productive hours have been more consistent overall than when in an office environment. Also, because people are having contact with people in the team, they do not usually engage with, many ideas have been developed in a different way.

It has been a positive, proactive way of working and one I am seriously considering continuing for the future, it has eliminated many issues for the staff as well.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Did you ever consider giving up?

There have been struggling times of course, but I am sure my message is getting more essential, so although there have been some changes in directions, in branding, etc, I have not considered giving up, just a way to do things better.

Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges?

I have built a good supportive network around me, as I know the importance of support both personal and professional. I have also stayed open to learning new concepts, new ways of doing something, and the power of being adaptable. I also make sure the end of each day, no matter if it was great or challenging, I have 30 mins of laughter, comedy from YouTube, podcast, etc, I live alone, so turning off at the end of each day is essential for me. A good night’s sleep always proceeds a good day.

What sustains your drive?

All the amazing stories of people getting their arr haa moment and making changes. I have a wall full of thank you cards, letters, and emails, breaking through this barrier is literally one person at a time, they can then tell others, and others see the change in them. Gradually, it works.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Being the best you can be, because if you are not caring for yourself, you cannot work well, you cannot listen to others when you are feeling overwhelmed. You being calm and in control of yourself and your environment makes it easier for others to do their work. If you are tense, moody, and unapproachable, you set off a chain reaction in the others, that something is wrong and more anxiety will bread worry and insecurity.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Appreciate, congratulate, and support, celebrate all achievements no matter how small, let all your staff know their input is essential and promote engagement, take an interest in what they are doing.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Communication always works best, openly and honestly. As a leader you have built up relationships with your staff and customers, keep your word and deadlines, even if they are not positive. Always explain a real reason why the news is probably not what they want to hear. Being authentic, and not hiding things makes support from others easier to build and rely on in more difficult times.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

By keeping your pathway clear, your mission and objectives. If you cannot provide your service/product in a certain way, what other ways are available as a substitute?

In this COVID 19 time, many teams are working remotely/virtually, prior to March, not many employers were offering this possibility. Setting your objectives, does not set the how, that is flexible, necessity is the mother of invention, let you and your staff, find new ways of doing things.

IT development and use is essential and building collaborations with brands and people who you have areas/ethics in common

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Be flexible, communicate well with staff, clients, suppliers, others in your area of business

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

One is to do nothing, hope that this will pass and things get back to normal — normal is now different, so be adaptable.

Two is think you know best, new ideas are vital and can open up more possibilities that had not been considered before.

Third is your team is only as good as your weakest link, so supporting all your staff to be engaged and participate, provide internal training for all members to be able to be involved.

Fourth is look at the past for inspiration, what brands have weathered major traumatic times and gone from strength to strength, how have they done it and how does that apply to your business, then look at implementing new ideas.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Diversifying your concepts, products, services, and how you get your message and marketing out.

For me, my personal appearances on stage or training have bombed, so putting what I would do on stage or in the training room into audio and video forms, breaking them into shorter segments, produce them as new courses, groups, etc. It makes them more affordable and opens up a wider international market.

If I am training in person, I can only be in one place at one time, with virtual training, I can be in many multiples of places and anytime, with no extra work for me.

Marketing is more flexible for niche marketing, it opens up to people who could never get to a live presentation.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Step-Up — Making difficult decisions is part of your role, your teams need to see strength and ownership, even when outside factors are responsible for changes. They want to know that the organization is being steered.

At the beginning of lock down it was clear, that laying people off was going to be a reality, so making a decision where my business would be heading was essential and then looking at the skills, knowledge, and abilities of staff to decide who stays and goes. Making all the support possible available for those that had to be let go, helping with claims and information about what was available for them.

2. Establish a clear vision of your new journey — Your company vision in turbulent times may not be the same as in calmer times, but make sure all your staff know what it is, you need to include and motivate all staff to participate in changes.

I talked to my technical team in-depth at the start, to get their ideas about the virtual possibilities for what we could offer in terms of changing what we do physically into audio and visual content. They took the lead on this and the marketing staff took ideas from them of how they could adapt, this lead to the writing and graphics. I mostly listened and then turned it into the new concepts and vision that all had been involved in creating and would be part of making it happen.

3. Tell the truth — gone are the days of doing business with smoke and mirrors, at least for the majority of businesses. Long term business is built on relationships, internal or external, they need to be built and maintained. Respond honestly, quickly and completely as possible, people all around will respect you and your organization more.

I worked with several outsourcers on a regular basis, but although they have been with me for a while, my staff had to take precedence at the start of COVID 19, as time has gone on some we have been able to bring back to do some work, but I spoke to each of them openly and honestly from day one.

Communication is the key, as everyone is going through a difficult time, they then can be honest with you too.

4. Listen — really listen to your staff, clients, and providers. Fears, anxieties, and worries, you should know them all, because by knowing them, you can do your best to allay them. When somebody feels fear, that is what they are concentrating on, the what-ifs, that means they are underproductive and could easily be sharing their fears with other workers, rumors get a grip very easily and very fast, they can do a lot of damage, so eliminate them before they start.

Let people know what is going on personal in emails, newsletters, updates, I increased my monthly newsletter to a weekly update and a daily short video, this way people know I am still there working with/for them. Change fear to the excitement of what is to come, what is new.

5. Balance short term with long term — Part of what you do as leaders is looking into the future, what is needed now, next week, next month, in six months, one year, five years, etc. So make that balance, lay-offs now, keeping the business open may bring other employment opportunities in the months to come.

Model your strategy, the whys the wherefores, show in your behaviour, your actions, people will feel safer, more likely to be engaged and productive.

I accept that my availability for work is not the same as my staff, but when they are producing the work within the time frame and others can do their work in continuation, then that is great. The compliance for 9–5 does not work anymore, but when they can see the long term project goals, they have their short term goals to work to, it fits together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“For things to change, I have to change; for things to get better, I have to get better.” Jim Rohn.

It all comes down to me, whether I am working or living alone, or in a team of hundreds, that is the same for each person. If each person is responsible for themselves, imagine how much could be achieved. Personal accountability is a great key for me.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Caring for the Caregiver Book —

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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