A good education is so important in life and something that should be supported in the youth of today.

One of my goals for 2021 was to find a way I could support a young person by offering my time, skills and experience. Through a business connection, an opportunity presented to be part of a mentoring program for high school students with an organisation called Gettin’ Ready 4 Life Inc.

Greg Blake, co-founder of Gettin’ Ready 4 Life Inc., runs a school mentor program for year 12 VCAL classes at Braybrook College and next term Year 11 classes will also be included.  Volunteer mentors, like myself, are matched with two students and we meet once a week for 1.5 hours to discuss anything, but mostly their path for the future after school. As their mentor, I share information about my own experiences as well as provide them support and guidance for when they finish school at the end of the year.

These students have so much to offer, they just don’t know it yet. This program allows me to contribute to their life experience and mentor them in a constructive way so they can take positive steps forward into the world that awaits them.

A little bit about Gettin’ Ready 4 Life Inc.

Greg Blake has been a Youth Worker for two decades and a significant part of his career has been running school mentor programs. The program has run continuously at Braybrook College for 18 years, a testament to the difference it makes for students. Having the support of a mentor with life experience, willing to be there and support them, building a relationship each week that can’t be built with a parent or teacher, sees incremental shifts in a student with their confidence and motivation to achieve their goals.

What it means to me as a mentor

I was fortunate enough to have amazing opportunities growing up including attending a really good high school which included non-academic endeavours as well as study. Although, money was never abundant growing up, my parents always found a way to ensure that we had as many life experiences as possible as well as a great education. Given those privileges, I have a fundamental belief (a responsibility) that we should be able to support those who are less fortunate, to share those experiences and give them a helping hand. The Gettin’ Ready 4 Life Inc mentoring program gives me the opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life now and in their future. Every student has something amazing to share in this world. They may just need some help to find it.

I have really enjoyed being part of the program. Both Greg and his partner Paige do amazing work supporting these students. I love Greg’s belief that ‘we are creating the runway for young people to help them ‘take off’’. Thank you to both Greg and Paige for providing me the opportunity to be involved.

Interested in being involved?

Gettin’ Ready 4 Life Inc. need more mentors for Year 11 VCAL classes starting in Term 3 on Wednesdays, from 11:20am to around 12:45pm. These students are exiting the school system this year and need all the support they can get. If you or someone you know would love to make a difference in the life of a young person, contact Greg on 0478 484 424 or Paige at runway@gr4life.org.au.

The pandemic certainly accelerated the change for businesses to adopt more flexible work arrangements. This giant world-wide experiment has led employers to see, if managed correctly, their employees can be just as productive working remotely as in the office. Employers have also found other benefits such as improved retention, attraction of talent and employees having more of a balanced work and home life.

With flexible and remote working being part of a ‘post-covid’ normal, many workplaces are putting in place a hybrid work model which allows their people to work both remotely and in the workplace on certain days. There are a range of these models emerging and being tested, especially in the technology industry such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. However, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ model and each business needs to update their policies and choose a model that fits around their employees and customer needs.

Although there are many advantages to a hybrid work model, there can be many challenges for managing teams. For some employees, they may feel disconnected, missing opportunities to understand the full picture of what is happening in the office as Managers may (not realising it) communicate with the onsite employees more often. It can also be difficult for those working remotely to build those important social relationships with their team members.

Many of these challenges can be overcome if preparation and planning is done to understand what might be the best hybrid work model and hybrid work teams are managed effectively.

Managing hybrid teams

It is essential for leaders to prepare their teams to work productively together in a hybrid work model and be proactively finding ways for the team to build positive working relationships ensuring fairness and equality for all employees. How can you do this? Here are some tips to consider when managing a hybrid work team:

– Change/update policy and procedures to support a hybrid work model. This will help with consistency and fairness.

– Agree a set of principles for how the team want to communicate with each other. The remote workers need to feel like they are being included. This might be a series of virtual meetings set up at the same time each week. There are also plenty of good communication tools such as Slack and Microsoft teams for internal group chats.

– Make sure each team member, no matter if they are in the office or working remotely, receive the same amount of support from their Manager. Offer regular one-on-one catch ups with both remote and onsite workers.

– All team members need to be clear on when each team member is working. A good way to do this is by a shared work calendar. You may also like to establish key hours for when everyone seems to be in the office together, to allow for some face-to-face interaction.

– From the start, set expectations and a process so the team know who is doing what tasks and by when. You may like to implement a weekly team meeting at the start of each week or a frequency that suits the team.

– Find ways to bring the whole team together face-to-face to allow them time to build the social relationships with their team members. This can also help increase morale.

– Ensure performance is managed fairly and measured more by the output rather than strictly by the hours someone is working. Any rewards and other benefits need to have options for remote workers.

– Make sure remote workers have access to the technology and support they need to effectively perform their role remotely.

If you are hiring new employees, you need to adjust your onboarding program to make sure it provides a positive experience for employees onsite or working from home. For example, you may choose to have a mix of onsite and offsite training or a virtual meet and greet their first day so they can meet all team members. Information and documents such as procedures and policies may also need to be able to be accessed and shared digitally.

Culture in hybrid work models

 

Many workplaces have seen culture shifts due to new flexible working arrangements, in particular, hybrid work models. Some of these shifts have been positive and others, with the sudden shift to remote work last year, have impacted even the strongest workplace cultures.

If you are planning on making flexible working arrangements permanent, leaders will need to work on strategies to build or maintain a positive workplace culture. With the right approach, a positive culture can still thrive in a hybrid work model.

It’s important to:

– Collect and be open to receiving feedback from your employees so you can look to improve the employee experience and why someone has chosen to still work remotely.

– Be sure to have channels for open communication and ensuring all team members are up to date with latest business decisions.

– Be proactive in making sure leaders are accessible and visible and your employees feel connected and engaged with their team as well as the company purpose.

– Continue to provide individual learning and development for each of your employees and adjust these to suit the individual’s flexible working arrangements.

– Provide training to Managers on how to engage and facilitate in a hybrid work model.

– Allow for opportunities for your employees to connect socially with their team and people in other areas of the business.

Maintaining culture isn’t easy. However, putting frameworks and measures in place will keep you on track to building a positive culture now and for the future.

It’s time to accept flexible working

2020 really showed businesses the possibility of offering more flexible working arrangements, where appropriate, which previously for some businesses was never going to happen.

There are so many ways businesses can make flexible work happen and there are many benefits to it. With many now facing hybrid workforces and some employees preferring to work from home, now is the time to review remote work policies with a new approach.

Are your flexible working policies up to date? At Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting, we can help you set up new flexible working policies and strategies for effectively managing hybrid work teams. Get in touch with us today!

2020 has been a year like no other with the seriousness of the pandemic causing major shutdowns of businesses, employees being stood down, schools being closed and people unable to see loved ones for months.

One of the biggest challenges and in some cases an ‘eye opener’ for businesses was having employees all working from home. For some employees the pandemic has made them realise they can efficiently perform their role easily from home without the hassles of commuting to the office. For others, their home environments haven’t been conducive to working from home and need to return to the office as quickly as possible.

Now with the Victorian Government announcing there will be a staged return to the office, businesses have the challenging task of planning the transition of their employees back to the office.

It’s understandable you may have employees feeling nervous about potentially returning. However, others might be feeling ‘zoomed fatigued,’ missing the social interactions and building relationships with their colleagues and finding it hard to ‘switch’ off from work with it right there in their living room.

The transition needs to be well planned, a gradual process making sure to follow Government capacity and density restrictions and keeping the lines of communication open with employees. Employees will need time to adjust back as the work environment will be very different to when they left it.

Here are four key areas to consider when planning to transition your staff back to the office:

Health and safety

A comprehensive COVID safe plan needs to be in place to prevent any introduction of COVID-19. This needs to include health and safety processes to respond quickly to new outbreaks/infections, protocols to identify and track employees and their contacts if there is a confirmed or suspected case, guidelines for sanitation and physical distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE) required to be worn in the office space, and compliance of Government regulations and requirements. Office layout and maximum capacities for meeting rooms and lunch/breakout rooms will also need to be considered and comply with the Government regulations.

Businesses also need to consider how they will manage visitors to the office and have a process in place for employees returning to the office to provide a confirmation that they are well before entering.

Ways of working

To comply with capacity and density restrictions and to limit in-person interactions, businesses will need to evaluate the actual jobs to identify who needs to be in the office and who can continue to work from home. Businesses may need to consider staggered starting times or split times between remote and office shifts. It’s also important to have adequate systems in place to manage teams who have a mixture of people still working from home and at the office.

Team preferences

Alongside evaluating the actual jobs, businesses need to assess the mental health and wellbeing of individuals, their personal situation, transportation to and from the office and who is most at risk if there was a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Open and transparent communication

It’s important for leaders in the business to make sure they are consistently communicating about workplace changes and allow plenty of time for employees to be prepared to return to the office. Providing opportunities for open communication is vital so you can keep track of how employees are feeling about the changes and they know they can openly express any concerns or fears.

The approach to transitioning your employees will need to be well planned, gradual and there must be some allowance of flexibility as each employee’s circumstances will be different. Communication is the key in making sure everyone understands the health and safety measures and what is expected of them when entering the office.

 

Catie had the privilege to be invited to appear on ticker TV’s Black Belt Leader hosted by highly regarded expert in people leadership, Karen Gately from Corporate Dojo.

Black Belt Leader shares advice and stories to help leaders with challenging people management issues and takes a look into leadership skills great leaders need to positively influence others.

On the show we discussed:

What it takes to grow the leadership capabilities needed to inspire and influence people to be at their best.

What senior leaders need to do to support those they appoint to a management role to succeed.

Some of the biggest gaps in people management capabilities at the moment.

Are effective leaders born or can they be developed?

Ways senior leaders can support technical people to effectively step into a people management role.

Thank you, Karen and ticker, for having Catie on the show and also for the mention of the new Quick Start onboarding program launching soon!

Click the link below to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB_Zut9-mZQ

Catie Paterson was a special guest on Shelley Flett’s ‘The Dynamic Leader’ podcast episode #31. Shelley Flett is a well-respected leadership trainer and coach, working with leaders to build high performing and efficient teams.

Passionate about supporting the next generation of leaders, Shelley has recently written a book ‘The Dynamic Leader’ which includes a model for leaders to find their own dynamic leadership style and what her podcast is focused around.

In the episode Catie and Shelley discuss two essential skills a great leader needs; empowerment and accountability. An empowered leader must feel and have control in their role so they can empower and build confidence in others around them to achieve the desired outcome. At the same time, leaders must be accountable for what they say and follow through with action.

How do you empower your team members to grow?

Thank you to Shelley Flett for having me on the podcast. 

To listen to Catie’s episode on the ‘The Dynamic Leader’ podcast, click the link below.

https://bit.ly/3ljsHac

In June, Catie had the privilege to be invited to appear on 

ticker TV’s Black Belt Leader hosted by highly regarded expert in people leadership, Karen Gately from Corporate Dojo.  

Black Belt Leader shares advice and stories to help leaders with challenging people management issues and takes a look into leadership skills great leaders need to positively influence others.  

On the show Catie and Karen discussed: 

– What is self-awareness and why it is a critical skill of a successful leader? 

– What are the benefits of self-awareness? 

– What are the characteristics of a leader with self-awareness? 

– Why does it matter for a leader to have self-awareness?

– What happens if a leader does not exercise self-awareness and what impact does it have on the team?

– How do you develop self-awareness? 

– Simple tips for leaders to become more self-aware. 

Self-awareness is such an important skill and helps us build stronger relationships and be clearer with our decisions. 

Thank you Karen and ticker for having Catie on the show.

Click the link below to watch.

ticker full episode – to hear more about what Catie discussed on the show head to 19mins 40 seconds. https://bit.ly/36UvgZk

What a great experience to be involved in the first episode of The Better Business for Good Company TV show! 

Catie Paterson joined host, Brenda Thomson and fellow panellists, Raie Lyth and Greg Clarkson, talking all things on what businesses can do to survive and thrive post COVID-19. In this episode you will hear incredible insights from small business owners for small business owners.

Catch up on Catie’s episode now on the Better Business for Good Company website.

Thank you Brenda and The Better for Business for Good Company for having Catie on the show.

Click the link below to watch.

Here is the link to the BB4G TV full episode https://bb4g.co/bb4g-tv/

As restrictions start to ease and many businesses begin thinking about how their staff may return to the office, for some people working from home may not end when the COVID-19 pandemic does.  

Following recent conversations I’ve had with my clients, one thing that has been discussed a lot has been around productivity. Some businesses have seen significant increase in productivity when it comes to new working environments while for others technological challenges, lack of communication and routine, stress and uncertainty has led to reduction.  

It’s important to remember that during these times of uncertainty and change everyone reacts differently and not one day can be the same. For many leaders, this can mean a new way of working or even thinking a little differently to get the most out of your team on a regular basis. 

Here are three tips that might help your team to stay focused and boost productivity no matter the environment.

Focus on your long-term plans  

Over the last few months businesses and staff have been focusing on what impact situations like COVID-19 have on the short-term. When really, it’s important we shift that mindset and get people thinking about what the future looks like, where they sit and what role they will play. When employees feel a sense of purpose and feel part of a journey, they are more likely to be engaged and be in a more positive frame of mind.  

Re-connect your team  

For some teams, the dynamics might seem a little smaller or they may not have connected with each other for a long period of time. This could mean that your employees may have lost touch with each other or even what each other are working on, which can have an affect both personally and professionally.

During these times, it’s important that teams communicate on a regular basis and don’t just focus on work. People need to re-connect and start to feel part of a wider team again, no matter the size.

For example, you might want to implement a simple weekly stand up (virtual) meeting where each person talks about one thing they’re working on and one thing they did on the weekend.  

Have you set clear goals with realistic expectations? 

Over the last few months people’s expectations both from a manager’s and employees’ perspective have most likely shifted to accommodate different challenges around personal life, work life balance, home schooling etc.

As restrictions shift and kids start returning to school it’s a good opportunity to re-assess your expectations with your staff and set clear goals to help them engage and refocus their efforts, as well as understanding what you need from them.  

Just remember that not everything needs to change. Yes, you might start returning to the office soon or increasing your hours back to normal but don’t forget that during these last few months your business and your people will have adapted to new ways of working that might just be for the better.  

Embrace them and be willing to continue to change and adapt as we’re still not sure how long this pandemic will last for or whether we’re at the end. 

Leadership is an essential skill that is critical in many aspects in life, from a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or founder of a company, a project leader on a building site, an office manager, president of your local football club or on the board of your industry association.

No matter what role you are in, a good leader is one that brings about positive change, has a growth mind set to really make a difference and has the ability to inspire others to achieve the vision and goals.  

What is leadership?

Many people think of leadership as the title someone has such as the Managing Director of their company or their ‘Team leader,’ but leadership is more than just a title.

Leadership is an important interpersonal skill and the ability of someone to be able to positively influence others and direct them towards achievement of shared goals. 

A strong leader is able to engage their people to maximise their people’s potential to be better, communicate effectively, regularly solicit feedback and new ideas and have the ability to problem solve and react quickly to the changing environment.  

Leadership versus Management 

Although leadership is an important part of a manager’s role there is a significant difference between ‘leadership’ and ‘management.’ Management deals more with the administrative aspects of planning, organising, budgeting and making sure day to day tasks are being completed to achieve the business goals.

Leadership creates the vision and goals, persuades and motivates people to believe in the vision and to strive to achieve the goals. Leadership often will be involved in decisions on large scale transformations or changes such as entering a new product into a market or a merger or takeover, whereas, managers will plan and set up the business processes to enable successful transformations.

There is a difference between leadership and management but both are complementary skills and effective leaders need to be able to both lead and manage.

Core leadership skills are important when leading a team of people in an office environment.

Essential Skills for a leader in an office environment 

Strong leadership skills are valuable in today’s ever-changing environment.

Becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight and can take many years of experience, coaching and working with a mentor to hone these skills.  As we come through the other side of the pandemic, leaders are starting to plan to bring their people back to the office.

Here are some core leadership skills that are important when leading a team of people in an office environment. 

Being positive 

A positive attitude, the way you conduct and present yourself around the office will have an effect on what is expected of the team. Teams look up to the way their leaders act and conduct themselves in specific situations. A positive attitude and the ability to have a ‘laugh’ when something doesn’t quite go to plan or simple acts of acknowledging your people when you first come into the office, asking how they are or about their holiday plans can provide a happy work environment which keeps your people motivated and likely to put in the extra hours when required.  Being caring, friendly, empathetic and encouraging, can go a long way to developing a positive culture and rapport with your people.

Communication

Being able to clearly articulate what you want to achieve, from your vision, values and goals to developing positive relationships with your peers and staff and concise explanations on specific tasks, communication is one of the most important skills of a leader. Leaders are required to use all forms of nonverbal and verbal communication from speaking at large office events, public speaking, social media to one on one with peers and staff and emails. In an office environment many leaders have an ‘open door policy’ to let their staff know they are regularly available to hear any concerns and to encourage a flow of conversation between them and their staff. 

Delegate

Implementing your vision is essential for business success. Leaders who try to do this on their own will struggle and growth will be hard to come by. Being able to delegate tasks to the right people and trusting in your people to create what you visioned is a sign of an effective and strong leader.

Be honest

As a leader, demonstrating key values of open, honest and ethical behaviour no matter if you are in the office or managing a virtual team is important for building trust and respect with your people. In an office environment, people can easily pick up if someone is being dishonest through sighting of inaction and conversations. News travels fast around an office!

Safety leadership

The role of a leader is significant in creating a safe work environment and inspiring others to do so. Not only enforcing the legal obligations of safe work but having a workplace where their people are able to effectively do their work to their full potential. Leaders need to also provide a workplace free from bullying, harassment and discrimination and foster a culture of safety and innovation. 

Displaying commitment and confidence

No matter the size of the business there are always going to be good and bad days. It is a key skill for a leader to remain calm and show a level of confidence when problems arise, especially in an open office environment. If you are calm, your team will be as well, and morale will stay high.  

The benefit of being in the office is you can take some time to see and work alongside your people. Allowing them to see your commitment to your role and all the work that is being done and them understanding that what they do is an important contributor to the achievement of the overall goals, will increase their motivation and commitment to the business. This will also ‘break the ice’ and enable your people to feel that they can come to you if they have any issues or concerns. 

Be flexible

Not all decisions will go to plan and last-minute changes will happen. A skill of a leader is to be flexible, accept changes that occur and have the creative solutions to solve any problems in a timely manner. Leaders need the confidence to trust in the decisions they make as your people will look to you for guidance. Being flexible is also about being open to receiving feedback and listening to any concerns your people may have. For example, a staff member may come to you to let you know a specific issue in the office that is a concern. Your people will respect and appreciate you for taking the time to talk through the issue and your openness to making changes if required.

Leadership is a valuable skill, especially in times like these and you do not have to be in a leadership role to develop these skills. They can be learned over time through job experience, looking beyond your current role to take up more responsibility and through training and development opportunities on areas you think you need to improve on. If you have the ability to inspire people, have them invested in what you would like to achieve, have an appreciation of all the hard work your people do for you and communicate well, you will go a long way to being an exceptional leader. 

Is it possible for employees to be just as efficient at home as they can be in an office?  

As Australians continue to face unprecedented challenges due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important that leaders implement effective communication, teamwork and collaboration to achieve the best results for their business and their staff.   

Remote working comes with a variety of challenges, not only for a business but also for its staff and leaders. For many employees, these current circumstances may have presented them with a shift in the way they work, how they balance work with family now, which they may have never experienced before.

For leaders, virtual teams can present a risk of disconnection and a lack of collaboration which may have an impact on your team’s or individuals trust and employee engagement, if not implemented correctly.

Five tips for leading and managing virtual teams

How can leaders keep their virtual teams engaged during isolation? 

With careful planning and execution, as well as ongoing team communication, leaders can ensure they are continuing to inspire and lead their teams even when they’re not in the same room or physically seeing staff every day.  

Here are five key tips leaders can follow to help their teams continue to perform effectively while working remotely: 

Set clear and tangible goals 

When it comes to working remotely, there can be a certain amount of added distractions that employees might not necessarily be use to within the office. For others, it can be a perfect environment to be more productive by setting themselves a clear structure for how they are going to plan out their day and what they want to achieve during that time. By setting clear and tangible goals, this can help keep people on track and be clear on the work that you would like delivered by a certain time in the day or week.  

Boost transparency and communication across your business  

Communication and collaboration are amongst the biggest challenges’ businesses can face when it comes to remote working. For many people they are use to being able to resolve issues or ask questions from colleagues or managers face to face in an office environment. It’s important to develop an effective communication plan in which employees are encouraged to have regular conversations and share information openly. Offering tools to employees enables them to quickly and easily engage with others which will help to increase engagement and avoid disconnection or productivity.  

Build employee engagement  

When managing a remote team a hands-off approach isn’t going to be enough. It’s imperative to help manage your team’s workload and expectations by checking in with each employee and bringing together your team on a regular basis. With the amount of technology currently available using instant communication tools such as Zoom or FaceTime are great alternative to a phone call. You could start each morning with a team check-in each morning. A short, 15 minute meeting that allows everyone to share what they’re working on and what support they might need from leaders or other members of the team to deliver specific projects.  

Be consistent and supportive 

To ensure productivity, leaders must manage remote employees effectively. Being consistent with your approach and supporting employees who may feel disconnected or even isolated during circumstances such as COVID-19 can have a huge impact. Just as people would do in an office, having an open communication policy and being accessible to help employees on a regular basis can see people thrive in environments that may be unnatural to them. Employees may be looking for answers or just need to talk with someone to help them through a difficult client or roadblock they’re having on a project. Your team will look to you for guidance and leadership more than they will look to you for management during these times.  

Model best practice  

To get the best out of your colleagues, identifying an effective virtual team leader who models the best behaviours and practices for your business can make a big impact during these times. For many, this can be very unfamiliar and present challenges they’ve never had to deal with in the office. Now more than ever, is the time to have a leadership team in place that people can turn to and feel supported as they embrace this new way of working. This will help to bring the best out people and make people feel comfortable with what could be the new way of working now and into the future.  

What does the future of work look like? 

Over the last few months, we have seen a significant change to the way we work and have had to overcome significant challenges. How businesses adapt and manage teams remotely varies considerably but embracing change and developing essential skills required to manage a virtual team is becoming even more important, especially if this could be the new way of working for a lot of businesses now and into the future.