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Oh no… not more training

Paul Hutchings, founder of fox&cat, discusses ways to help your team manage pressure in a more human, pressure-centric and engaging way

'Oh no… not more training?' A reaction you feel when you ‘just want to get on with the job’?

Sometimes, training in a specific niche can help you learn to do a particular task or job extremely well. But what if you work in a fast-evolving environment like comms where skills are old before they’ve really ever been new? What is the best way to train your team and encourage them to grow?

In comms the number of platforms or channels we use is constantly growing and the way they operate keeps changing too. There are challenges with onboarding niche specialists and freelancers, and we know that leaving teams to fend for themselves damages the culture of that team (for more about this see our previous article).

Here we’ll look at the challenge and our very human reaction to it. Then I’ll show you an effective way to train your team while reducing unhelpful types of pressure

The challenge of keeping up with change

With so much to think about when it comes to comms, how do you keep up?  There are several options: you could update your skills to meet the goal, change your goal so it’s more achievable, or sit and let the pressure mount up.

Which do you do?

Then think, “why?” Perhaps you’re avoiding a job you don’t want to do or are afraid to admit you don’t know something. Maybe it’s just too big a task to get your head round and you start wondering, “Am I a fraud?”

You’re only human...

Our very human reaction to the challenge

Let’s take a step back in time – around 12,000 years. As humans we’ve always reacted to stress in one of four ways:

  • Fight – we stick it out and confront the sabre-toothed tiger with the skills and tools we have (grrr… you nasty beast, take that!)
  • Flight – we scarper to protect our flesh from the eight-inch teeth in a 350 kg fluffy suit (eek! I’m out of here)
  • Freeze – our bodies (and voices) stop so we can’t do anything (please… just go away…)
  • Fawn – we comply with the threat and accept our fate (surely you don’t want to eat me really…?)

While things have moved on since then, unfortunately our coping strategies haven’t. Think of a time you felt under pressure at work – perhaps it looked more like this:

  • Fight – you got visually angry (red faced, slanted eyebrows) or argued back: “Why don’t you just do it yourself?”
  • Flight – you avoided the chaser email or did a U-turn at the sight of your boss by the water cooler
  • Freeze – you were on the receiving end of someone in fight mode and couldn’t think how to respond
  • Fawn – you simply agreed with your boss to make the situation go away: Nod, agree, “I’ll deal with that one later”

Liz Peters, author of Own It!, who delivers embodiment and improv training for fox&cat, comments:

“We’re still driven by our animal survival instincts. We cannot train these instincts out; they are an essential part of us and will be for a long while yet. What we can do is learn to manage them more effectively. To be more in touch with what they feel like, notice when they are arising and therefore shift how we might respond to perceived threats differently.”

Effective training from fox&cat

At fox&cat we believe that a variety of skills under one umbrella will help you and your team better manage pressure. There’s no specialism training because this only works while you’re focussed on one specific job or task.

Instead, we provide life skills that help you take the pressure off, and provide the space you need to think things through and solve your own problems effectively for the long term. Everyone’s affected differently by pressure, so we always consider your values, your situation and your team.

Just imagine…

You see your boss and rather than get angry, do a U-turn, freeze, or cower to their whim, you see the situation for what it is. You accept it, commit to doing something about it and you see it through. You can be like the wise cat in the fable who chose her one successful solution.

However you decide to deal with pressure, please think through the following points, and if you need a hand – you know where we are!

  • Do you and your team know how to identify pressure?
  • Where does pressure and stress live in your body? How does it manifest itself in your company culture or in a specific team?
  • Will the training you’re planning help your team make the right decisions under pressure?
  • Does it provide skills that are needed by your team in this present moment (i.e. are they still current needs)?
  • Are the skills you plan to train your team on future-proof and agile? Are they general enough to apply to other situations?
  • Will they enable your team to be responsive under pressure? And importantly are they engaging?

The right training reduces pressure

So is specialism training the right approach? We believe not. (Not as a mainstream option anyway.)

In the constantly evolving comms world, it’s only ever a short-term fix, while a broader approach will provide life skills that work in many situations.

I believe that your goal should be to take the strain off your team while enabling them to make the right decisions when under pressure. This will improve their productivity and satisfaction, and you’ll have a happier, healthier and more profitable workforce.

To do this effectively, you’ll need to consider how and when you train your team, and what you train your team on. And these decisions are best made with clear insights based on your current business goals, team ability and client expectations.

Training will have the biggest impact when it is created to match your leadership style and toned towards the current culture (or company wellbeing) of your business.

It can feel like a complicated task but we are always here to help, if you need it. There’s more information on our website, but whatever you decide, please don’t do nothing and end up like the fox.

Fox&cat works with brave, forward-thinking agencies who accept that things aren’t perfect and never will be. With those who want to make positive and lasting change. And with those who aren’t afraid to tackle pressure as a holistic issue. If that’s you do get in touch.

19th April 2021



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