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Agility - the new competitive advantage in peak performance

....using micro-transitions in your day to cope with high volumes of work and stress

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< Back

By Dr Adam Fraser

As we kick off the new year the pace and ferocity of the finance industry really picks up.

Clients become more stressed and demanding and their exhaustion and frustration is pointed directly at you.

In light of this I thought it would be useful to share with you the new research we have been conducting in association with Deakin University. In particular we have been looking into how employees & managers within the banking & finance sector can use micro-transitions in their day to cope with high volumes of work and stress.

I don’t mind sharing with you that we have achieved amazing results.

Our first project looked at how each of us can use micro transitions between leaving the office and arriving home to improve the elusive work life balance.

Each of our participants saw a 41% reduction in stress in the home when they acted out the following three phases between work and home:

Reflect - Where they reflected on the day by answering three questions; What went well today? What did I achieve? How did I improve?

Rest - Did something that focused their mind on one thing and relaxed them. Eg. Suduko on the bus, reading a book on the train, listening to music in the car, something unrelated to the environment they had just left behind.

Reset - Thought about the home environment and meditated on what their intention was for the home, e.g. to spend quality time with their partner, to bond with their children.

In our most recent study we found these three phases were critical to the success of all levels of employees within the financial services industry to achieve a healthy balance between work & play.

Each of us makes many micro-transitions throughout our day; where we move between different roles, environments and tasks.

I call each of these transitions ‘spaces’; the 1st space is the role/environment/task you are currently in, the 2nd space is the role/environment/task you are about to transition into.

One minute you can be catching up on admin and then you have to solve a crisis for your client.

You may go from an interaction with a very angry, frustrated client to one with a new client you are trying to impress.

Or you may go from dealing with a micro managing supervisor to a CEO looking for input on ongoing strategies.

What you do in the Third Space, the gap between space 1 & space 2, has a huge impact on your overall performance. Where most people run into trouble is when they carry the mood and mindset from the previous space to the next one. Too often those working within this industry let a frustrating interaction derail their day.

Here is what the highest performing executives within the financial sector did in the Third Space between interactions.

Reflect

We are sense-making machines, our brain has to reflect and make sense of what we have just been through no matter how short the interaction. The key is guiding that reflection in a certain way.

  • Love the struggle - The most successful people have a love affair with struggle, the worst saw struggle as a sign of failure. They enjoyed the hard stuff as they saw this as the time they learnt.
  • Be careful of the words Always, Never and Everything

We found poor performing employees, after a bad interaction, explained it by making it both permanent and global.

They said things like; “this always happens, that client is always difficult, the systems never works, I always get rejected. My day is a disaster, business is really suffering, clients are just so demanding.”

The result is a very demotivated employee.

In contrast, high performing executives made a bad interaction or a set back temporary and specific.

They said things like “everyone has a bad meeting from time to time, that client/manager is just having a tough day.”

Rest

In this phase the high performers became conscious of their emotional state and regulated it so they shifted into a more positive emotion.

Positive emotion drives performance and is critical for all levels of the banking sector.

Reset

As they went into the next interaction or task the most effective employees shifted their mindset to focus on the client / colleague. Their thoughts were “How do I bring the most amount of value to my client, what may be their concerns, what is going on for them right now?”

When the focus shifted from themselves, to the other person, we found that they were not only calmer but also thought clearer and brought more value.