Achieving success without the stress

Tim Kiy, marketing director of Corporate Barclaycard, explains how he used
the Superworking course to reach peak performance while retaining a work-life
balance

Superworking
Superworking designed and delivered by: Suzanne Rix Development
Developed for the UK by: The Springboard Consultancy, Holwell, East Down,
Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 4NZ
Tel: 01271 850828
E-mail: office@springboardconsultancy.com
Weblink: www.cspringboardconsultancy.com

On test  In whatever industry,
in whatever walk of life, you can’t help observing that the tension today between
the pressures of the working environment and the need to sustain a balanced
life away from the workplace is a central dilemma for many people.

My personal impression of the Superworking course is set against 20 years of
working with Barclays. During that period I’ve seen an ever-increasing workload
and, by climbing the corporate ladder, a wider and wider brief.

The office environment has become tougher for most of us in the past decade
– not just at Barclays – with increasing pressures to achieve more in less
time. For example, e-mail has accelerated communication in a beneficial way,
but has also resulted in a relentless deluge of extra work that has to be
fitted into the working day. It is difficult sometimes not to start feeling
overwhelmed by it.

I became interested in Superworking initially through previous involvement
in the bank’s equality and diversity work.

Along with a number of other senior executives in the Barclays Group, I’m
keen to see it progress across all fronts – gender, race and so on. Similarly,
we want to provide a good working environment for our staff and work-life
balance is key to that.

Apart from recognising what individuals can contribute to the organisation,
we need to encourage staff to develop other aspects of their lives too. So when
the opportunity to attend the Superworking course arose, I wanted to make my
own assessment for the bank.

It was brave of Barclays to trial a technique that previously had been
proven only in Australia, and not in the UK where we have now pioneered it with
the Springboard Consultancy. The consultancy’s chief executive Jenny Daisley
advised the bank of the reputation that Superworking had been building in
Australia among various organisations, in both the private and public sectors.
Created by management consultant and behavioural scientist Suzanne Rix, the
course is about work-life issues and a whole lot more.

Having looked at a range of techniques that can help the individual with
handling work flow such as time management, and at the full spectrum of
training opportunities available, Superworking seems to offer something unique
that brings together a number of different life strands in a holistic solution.

Utopian ideal

It is not just about doing more in the time available, it offers the chance
to do the right things in the right way. We were all chasing the utopian ideal
– and if it lived up to its promise this course looked as though it
mightprovide real benefit in enhancing my performance and increasing my
stress-hardiness.

Superworking, in headline terms, exceeded my expectations. I have attended
various courses and undertaken distance learning, and what I’d previously found
is that, as good as some of them were, their inherent weakness was invariably
that when you got back to the normal office environment, you quickly forget.

Superworking is run as four one-day workshops, spread over a month, which
gives you enough momentum to absorb new techniques and maintain them. The
opportunity to go back into the same peer group and refresh the learning is
effective.

Highlights were the practical benefits that Rix made available – with almost
instant payback. Some of the exercises demonstrate a measurable increase in
performance and efficiency. The principles can be taken straight back into the
workplace and there’s a good deal of practical application in addition to the
theory.

A good example would be some of the relaxation techniques she teaches,
resulting in high energy levels. I’ve certainly been able to get through still
higher workloads since attending, and others on the course who’d suffered from
insomnia for years were suddenly able to enjoy a full night’s sleep. A great
deal depends on how open-minded the individual is at the outset.

What Rix does is to blend a series of different types of stimuli and
learning. It’s the first time I’ve been on a course that has brought together
so many different aspects of life.

Superworking doesn’t rely on any one source of thinking. Rix calls upon the
results of the latest international research. She supports practical advice
with well-grounded theory from experts in their field and the mix appeals to
the heart as well as the head.

As she says: "Whether in the international stadium or in the boardroom,
it is not marks in an MBA that give top achievers the winning edge. It is that
elusive quality that communicates with influence, inspires a sense of
direction, produces the most innovative solution, predicts future scenarios and
is able to sustain mental agility in all conditions. It is the ability to use
the mind and creative skills most effectively.

"We’re pushing the boundaries of our abilities. To do this, we need to
use the latest technology and research to hone the skills we have," she
says .

"Just as athletes train in mind and body techniques, the mental athlete
needs mind and body training for the workplace.

"Within the human mind, the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex
essentially operate as two separate brains: the left for step-by-step
processing, calculations and language, the right for problem solving,
decision-making and interpretation. It is the right brain that sees the
overview, draws on non-verbal input and processes multi-factor information
simultaneously to generate new ideas or solutions to complex problems.

"During sustained concentration and learning, the type of brain activity
is not the same as during moments when creative ideas are generated," said
Rix. "Most of us leave it to chance that the brain will work in the way we
hope it will when the need arises.

"Consider those moments when you have a flash of insight or genius,
when you were functioning at your peak. Moments such as when the great idea
emerged, or the speech went brilliantly, or the negotiations were successful
beyond your dreams. In sports psychology it is called ‘flow’ or ‘the zone’ –
and that’s what is regularly achievable in the work environment as well as in
everyday life. Superworking focuses on developing that ability."

Most of us invariably adopt left-brain thinking for problem-solving at work.
But how much more powerful that becomes if the right side of the brain can also
be engaged on the same issues, through relaxation which lowers stress levels
and heart-rate. The result can be a ‘Eureka’ moment that is unlikely to be
achieved by conventional thinking. This may all sound ethereal and unreal until
it’s proven to produce marked improvement in measured performance across a
range of numeric workshop tests. You have to experience it to understand how it
all comes together – but it does.

Implementation

Healthy living is also part of the overall mix. One of the things I
determined to do during the course was to get back into good physical shape. I
resolved to run a marathon for the first time this year, for instance.

Implementing the course learning back in the real world of the office
environment means tackling the embarrassment factor. For instance, a core
element is the adoption of ‘brain breaks’ during the day – which isn’t
something you can do during a boardroom meeting or in an open-plan office. It helped
that it was a Barclays course – we brought in a number of people from different
parts of the organisation, so we had common cause and common issues. We’ve all
shared in trying to make it work back in the office. It was useful to be able
to talk with colleagues about any problems of implementation that had arisen
during the previous week.

Devoting time to relaxing during the day can, in fact, repay far greater
benefits in terms of higher and more creative output. It’s more effective than
working perpetually flat out – but you do need the trust of your colleagues to
enable you to follow it through. I can see the advantage in a group of people
from the same area attending at the same time.

Verdict
Technique helps to sustain capacity

Superworking does just what it says on the tin – achieving peak performance
without stress.

In the period since I’ve done the course, my workload has increased markedly
while one of my line managers has been on maternity leave. I’ve been covering
her role as well as my own.

I know the workload I’m getting through at the moment is something I would
not have been able to sustain previously. It’s thanks to the Superworking
techniques I’ve taken on board that I’ve been able to respond so positively to
a period at work that’s been even more challenging than usual.

I’ll be able to start addressing my own goals for work-life balance when my
line manager returns to the office – and I’m looking forward to that.

Value for money * * * * *

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Key: * = Disappointing * * * * * = Excellent

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