09 August 2016

19 Mondays till Christmas

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Last Friday I spent many hours trying to come up with a blog post. I started approximately 4 of them. None of them were anything more than a bunch of references to TV shows and Pokémon Go. I was scrapping the bottom of the barrel, burnt out and not in the zone.

As the working year heads into the home stretch before the Christmas/New Year break it can be expected that we’ll start to get a bit worn thin. The majority of the year has already passed in a blur, and the ‘little grey cells’ tend to be a bit haphazard in their ability to fire coherently.

It was for that reason a company I worked at many years ago, used to require staff to take at least 1 week of annual leave in either July or August. A mid-year break that allowed staff to breath, sleep and rest before the sprint to the end of the year.

Late last week in the office, the Operations team started discussing possible Christmas Party ideas. At first I was a bit surprised. Then I realised after this week there are only 19 more working Mondays before Christmas 2016. It was then I agreed that we should be having the Christmas Party discussion after all.

Kick-starting your enthusiasm for the day to day; when your mind is already planning Summer getaways, time with family and friends or just an interrupted couple of weeks bingeing on Netflix can be difficult. Combine that with current cold weather, shorter periods of sunlight and the general winter blues and it can seem downright impossible.

However, there are several sure-fire ways to reinvigorate the enthusiasm and energy of both yourself and your team.

Find a challenge:

Set a fun team challenge. Way back in the Year 2000 the team I was working with were set the task of coming up with a high energy way to achieve our KPI’s. After all the ideas where in place, the winning idea was a board game, based on daily KPI achievements. The game “The Hunt for the Pirates Treasure,” was handmade and there was a small treasure chest filled with stuff from the $2 dollar shop. The team argued and laughed and did our best, with the first person to complete the “hunt” winning a paid day off, which didn’t come out of their annual leave entitlements.

I don’t remember who won, it most likely wasn’t me, but I do remember how everyone in the team raised themselves to the challenge, and the team I was a member won the overall “most improved” during the period. Setting a team challenge, or a companywide one is a great way to bring some life into a tired office, but make sure everyone can be involved. If the KPI’s you’re aiming at don’t impact everyone, you’ll end up with a team of people watching from the sidelines while the others duke it out in an effort for the prize.

Team Outing:

It’s easy to lose track of the year. Particularly when they fly past as quickly as 2016 is. Take a bit of the miscellaneous budget and organise a team outing. It doesn’t need to be a trip to the pub. Google is your friend when it comes to organising an afternoon off work to celebrate the success your team has produced throughout the year. One of the best outings I’ve ever had as a “team-building” exercise was last year’s Christmas Party, where we were split into teams and set off on a pirate themed excursion though Sydney’s The Rocks. We didn’t find any treasure but we did do a bunch of crazy tasks including singing (complete with bottom wiggling dance) What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor outside a crowded pub filled with absolute strangers.

Acknowledge the Teams Efforts:

Not everything requires a financial outlay. Taking a moment to thank the team for their work and efforts goes a long way towards staff engagement. When the team feels unappreciated it’s hard to keep them involved at the best of times. With the mid-year slump well and truly upon us, it’s easy for a general sense of disengagement to fester into a case of all out ‘why do I even bother? A quick thank you, a few minutes walking the floor in the morning to greet the teams as they start their day takes very little effort and pays high dividends.

Introduce new thoughts:

While there are a thousand ways to reinvigorate your team, all your best intentions are destined for failure if you don’t reengage yourself first. Take time out on the commute home to read something at least mildly inspirational. There are so many fantastic books on business, engagement and leadership out there you could probably read one a week for an entire year and come across at least one new concept to employ with your team from each one. If you’re looking for some reading inspiration, feel free to check out 7 Bookson Management and Self Discovery to Take on your Christmas Vacation, I wrote last November. 

Be the change you want to see:

If leaders don’t lead by example, they may as well not bother. If we try to reinspire out teams, while wandering the office in a daze and bemoaning exhaustion levels, how hard it was to get up in the morning, and the countdown to Christmas we are ensuring our team is totally deflated by October, making the final push to December a marathon of gargantuan proportions. Lead by example.

Make sure to stay positive, stay engaged and stay motivated.

Even if this means secretly imagining the cocktails and surf you’re going to be enjoying on your holidays, make a commitment to stay positive. The quickest way to do make yourself feel more positive is to smile.

While it sounds like a cliché it’s a tip I picked up in my first career, working in call centres. Smiling when I was on the phone made me feel more upbeat, it also made me sound more positive. Now, I’m not suggesting you walk around all day with an idiotic grin on your face, but when you feel your energy slumping take a quick second to stand up, stretch and smile the biggest smile you’ve ever done.

It’s impossible to feel flat when you’re doing your best impression of The Joker.  

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

Mike’s most recently published story, Seeds of Eden, is featured in the Sproutlings Anthology released in March 2016. Mike is also editing the Anthology – Community: Tales of the LGBTI scheduled for release in June 2017.

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