How to reduce stress – do you own it?

I once had a friend staying with me, and she was worried about a small decision my daughter made. She later told me how stressful the visit was, because of that one thing.

Let me explain a bit more (while still respecting the privacy of both my friend and my daughter).

The one thing.

My daughter’s behaviour didn’t harm anyone.

It didn’t inconvenience anyone.

It was not made or carried out in anyone’s presence.

It didn’t impact on my friend’s ability to do anything.

It didn’t create any consequences my friend had to live with.

I was 100% unconcerned with the decision my daughter had made. It didn’t inconvenience or worry me. It was completely fine by me.

So when my friend later told me how stressful it was for her, and how it impacted on her ability to enjoy staying with us, I was blown away!

It wasn’t hers.

She didn’t own it. She CHOSE to be concerned. She CHOSE to be worried about the decision my daughter made. I was incredibly surprised that my friend didn’t have the self-awareness to realise she was feeling stressed about something that she simply didn’t own.

How do I deal?

One of my go-to responses to stress is to write a list – itemise the things on my mind (which is where stress lives, of course).

And then I categorise:

  1. what’s mine?
  2. what’s not mine?

I look at the what’s not mine category and often that’s all I need to do – acknowledge I’m carrying stress about things that aren’t mine and that I can’t influence.

That simple awareness (and the fact I’ve written it down and acknowledged it) is usually all it takes for me to let something go.

I basically roll my eyes at myself and go, well duh, that’s not mine. I cross it off the list and it’s gone.

I know.  Sometimes it’s not that easy!

If it’s not that easy to do, then I think about what meaning I’m attributing to that thing that’s not mine, and see what I can shift there.

Sometimes it’s just a shift I need to make in my thinking. Other times I might need to act so that I can cope with the things that are not mine, but that are impacting on me nevertheless.

Then I look at the what’s mine category and plan out what I can do about it and when, and what I need so I can action that.

Voila.

Stress management 101 (according to Shelly).

You’re welcome!

Sell them what they want, so you can give them what they need

OK, I need to take you on a little bit of a journey to explain what I mean here, so bear with me.

I have a background as an educator. I trained as a high school English teacher. I started teaching at universities at 21 years old.  I worked in indigenous tertiary education for 7 years.

I now train adults for a living.

Trainer. Teacher. Educator. Facilitator.

In the education sector we have strong feelings about all these words.

In the school of education, we frown on the word ‘train’ because there’s a history of seeing teaching as a vocation rather than a profession.

In indigenous education we prefer the word ‘facilitate’ because it rejects the ‘empty vessel’ pedagogy that has such close links with colonisation.

When teaching adults, we are less likely to use the word ‘teach’ for similar reasons – working with adults requires a more co-constructive, facilitative approach than a teacher-student model.

And yet.

I make good money as a corporate trainer because that is what companies are looking for. When adult participants come into a room with me they want me to teach them things. They are looking to me to have the expertise I can pass on to them.

But here’s the curveball: in a lot of ways, what I’m delivering to people when I train, teach, educate, or facilitate, is CONNECTION.

I teach people how to connect with other humans, because that is the foundation for all the other things we want to achieve.

Want to write better documents (Business Writing)? Connect with your readers.

Want to teach people better in the workplace (Train the Trainer)? Connect with your trainee.

Want to work better with other cultures (Cultural Competency)? Build a connection with those people.

You won’t hear me distil it like that in a training room.

So what does this have to do with marketing? And writing?

When we name a product or service, it’s natural to come at it from our own position:

  • What do I call this thing?
  • What is it, from my professional perspective, that I’m providing?
  • What words are acceptable in my industry?
  • What words will my peers see value and credibility in?

But that’s a mistake.

We also name our products and services based on the outcomes we know they’ll provide to people.

That’s also a mistake.

Because, ask any trainer or consultant and they’ll tell you:

What these people need is X, but they think they need Y. 

If I try to sell them X, they’re not interested.

But if I sell them Y, they’ll buy it, and that gets me in the door so that I can give them X.

If I only deliver Y they won’t be anywhere near as satisfied as if I give them X.

In a nutshell?

Ask yourself what your market is looking for.

What do they think they need?

And then label your product or service as that.

How to write a report

#SorryNotSorry but there’s no such thing as how to write a report.

A  REPORT.

Like there is one kind of report and there’s one right way to write one.

Meeehhh! Wrong. But thanks for playing.

There are endless kinds of reports

  • status reports
  • research reports
  • analysis reports
  • financial reports (hundreds of kinds)
  • investigation reports
  • incident reports
  • audit reports

See what I mean? You’re not asking the right question.

How to write a report isn’t the right question.

You need to be asking how to write THIS report.

Every single report needs to be written in a way that’s fit for its own purpose. So there’s a set of questions to ask so you can build a report that will achieve what it needs to.

  1. How’s this report going to be used?
  2. Who’s going to use it?
  3. Therefore, what sections does the report need?
  4. And lastly, what level of detail do those people need in each of those sections, so they can use the report for their purposes?

Now you’re on the right track

If you can answer those questions, you have a plan. Once you have a plan, you can write the pieces that are easiest first, and work your way from there. Lots of reports should have an executive summary (pretty much any report that’s 2 pages or longer needs one), and you can write that last.

Reports.

They can be big beasties, but they are certainly manageable. And there’s definitely NOT one right way to write a report. Please stop asking!

How to write a resignation letter

So you want to quit your job

It’s time to move on. You’ve got a better offer. Or you’re ready to tell your boss, F*ck you and the horse you rode in on.

Whatever the reason, there’s usually a legal obligation to give written notification and a period of notice.

(Check your contract. You might want legal advice. If there’s any possibility things could go badly in future, you want a written record that you met your legal obligations when you left. I’ve used a resignation letter many years later in court, and it was vital in showing the organisation had a long history of certain behaviour.)

To figure out how to write your resignation letter, you need to know what it needs to accomplish for you.

Every situation is different

To know how best to write your letter of resignation, you need to think about:

  • What does this need to accomplish for me?
  • What do I need them to know?
  • What do I want them to know?
  • What risks are involved in anything I potentially want to say?
  • What level of risk am I willing to accept?

Let’s look at some scenarios.

Scenario 1 – You’ve told them verbally, and you’re just meeting your obligation to give written notice

(This also works when you haven’t told them verbally, and you have no interest in giving them any information about why you’re leaving. It’s professional and matter of fact.)

Hi Donna

Just letting you know that I’ll be finishing work with Dream Job as of 1 February 2019.

Thanks,

Shelly

Keep it simple, short, and to the point. It’s hard for someone to read anything into it, the simpler you keep it.

Scenario 2 – You’ve loved working there, and you want them to know you’re grateful.

Hi Donna

Just letting you know that I’ll be finishing work with Dream Job as of 1 February 2019.

I’ve been offered an exciting role as a unicorn trainer at Even Dreamier Job.

It’s been great working with you – I’ll really miss the team!

Thanks for everything, 

Shelly

Scenario 3 – You want it on the record that there are reasons you’re leaving, and you hope to create change by letting them know.

Hi Donna

Just letting you know that I’ll be finishing work with Dream Job as of 1 February 2019.

Why I’m leaving

  • I’ve let you know my concerns that my values don’t align with the values of the company
  • I’ve struggled to work effectively with Carol and what I consider to be her micro-managing
  • I’ve let you know what’s happening but nothing has changed
  • For my own wellbeing, I’m moving on

My hopes for the company

  • I hope that future employees won’t be subjected to this treatment
  • I’d hope you get Carol some leadership training, or take disciplinary action to get her behaviour under control

I wish you all the best

Shelly

Scenario 4 – You just want to stand up for yourself because you deserve better, and there’s no risk to you in doing so.

Hi Donna

Just letting you know that I’ll be finishing work with Dream Job as of 1 February 2019.

Why I’m leaving

    • I’ve felt unappreciated
    • I believe I deserve to be treated with more respect
    • I won’t continue working somewhere where getting shouted at by my boss is allowed.

Shelly

Scenario 5 – You’re hurt, you’re angry, and you want to let them know.

Be careful. What will this achieve?  What risks might it cause for you? Be very purposeful. I suggest you revisit Scenarios 1, 3, and 4, and go with one of those.

Now get that sucker written. Then go be a Unicorn Trainer.

Be free!

How to be concise – strip out the fluff!

Being wordy is only good if you’re a dictionary.

If there’s one thing we know about text, it’s that messages get weaker as the word count grows.  But, flick our writer switch, and what happens?  The more concerned we are with getting our point across, the more words we use!

Doh!

We’re worried people won’t get it.  We’re worried they might miss something.  So we say the same thing over and over again, in slightly different ways, trying to cover all our bases.  All the “just in case”s.  Every eventuality.

You know what that gets us?  Really badly written legalese.

Brief = strong

The best business writing is stripped back to just what’s needed to make your points and achieve your outcomes.

So how do we strip our writing back, but still be comprehensive enough to get the job done?  Here are a few quick approaches.

Strip out fluffy, wordy phrases

It’s easy, when we’re trying to put our most professional foot forward, to take on an unnaturally wordy voice.  Because we want to be taken seriously, we try to sound a bit more formal.  Resist!

UseInstead of
toin order to
canbe able to
becauseas a consequence of
considergive consideration to

Write less formally and more conversationally

We think a conversational voice is waffly, and that’s true in one respect – we speak in very long, run-on sentences with lots of “and”s.

But if we use conversational to mean the active voice and everyday words, that will be less wordy than a traditional formal voice.

Use headings and bullets

A well-written heading speaks directly to your reader.  It engages them. The following approach forces you to think first, write second, and do that in a very focused way.

  1. Separate your thinking into key points
  2. Turn those into statement headings
  3. Then list supporting info as bullet lists beneath them

And no, before you ask, I’m not suggesting that you then flesh out each of those bullets into a paragraph.  The bullets are enough!  Use them as often as you can (but keep each list short – no more than 7 bullets).

Stay concise and outcomes focused and your business readers will love you for it!