Operational Breakdown

I recently picked up a brochure on relationship breakdown (planning to pass it to a mate who is going through some tough times) and took a moment to read it.

There was a list of  ’10 Sure Ways to Breakdown’ and I realised much of the list applies to managing people in the workplace.  So, borrowing from Shirley Cornish in Maroochydore, I offer the:

7 Sure Ways to Mismanage Your Staff

  1. Think ‘It’s my way, or no way’
  2. Blame or criticise the other
  3. Be intolerant or inflexible
  4. Behave in a hurtful manner
  5. React before you think
  6. Dismiss or oppose the others viewpoint
  7. Give up

These 7 items are pretty obvious when you read them now while your emotions and ego are in check.  Avoiding them in the heat of battle when dealing with situations or pe0ple is indicative of a strong leader. Managing others always begins with managing ourselves, this list might help you identify where to focus your improvements.

Work Life Balance – Is it Achievable?

What a load of wishful thinking.  When I was a trainee physiotherapist studying human gait and locomotion skills my tutor pointed out that walking is a process of constantly losing balance in a forward direction, and catching it again by thrusting out a leg.  Repeat and you have walking.  Repeat at speed and you have running.  Don’t repeat and you have standing still, which itself is a constant process of almost losing balance and automatically correcting to remain stable.

Such is work life balance.  A constant process of being out of balance and trying to restore equilibrium before falling over. Sometimes it is work that dominates other times it is family or leisure activities.  If we sway too far toward work or life – one or other aspect will become neglected, triggering a recovery movement which will probably be an overcompensation until we perceive the next imbalance. 

To remain perfectly balanced demands extraordinary awareness and perception of small changes acting on us.  Increased work demands, family commitments, study, relationship maintenance, recreation, leisure hobbies or sports will all act on our balance.  It is easy to be unaware of the shifts until brought to your notice by a spouse, partner, child, employer, mate or mentor that you are getting out of control.

Personally, I feel work life balance an impossible concept.  Work is part of life, a subset of life that can swell or shrink from time to time.  It can never be larger than the life that contains it.  So if life is always larger, balance is not possible. Instead, I think of the work life ratio.  The proportion of life taken up by the physical, mental and emotional demands of work that will displace the same applications to the other aspects of life.  This ratio constantly varies as the demands ebb and flow.  It varies throughout a work day, a week, a year and a career.  It varies with the cycle of child rearing, steering and cheering. And, the optimal ratio for happiness, productivity and health will differ between individuals as well as across time. Understanding this concept within relationships (work, home, friends) should allow some elasticity without breaking the links.

The trick for each of us is to be conscious of the appropriate work life ratio for us at any particular stage, and to recognise when we have departed from this optimum and in which direction we need to shift to maintain equilibrium.  And to make the correction before too much damage is done to career, family, relationships, health or sanity.

Being open to advice, counsel or at least listening to the view of others may provide us with an early warning that we may be swaying too far.  Our natural hubris or confidence in our coping abilities can shield us from the internal messages, so the external input is vital.

What is the action plan?  Give some thought to your optimal work life ratio, and how close you are at the moment to achieving it.  Think back to when you had it right and what tools you used to get and keep it there.  If you are currently outside your preferred range, are the reasons legitimate and within your influence to manage them toward equilibrium using such skills as delegation, negotiation or just saying ‘no’. Discuss the concept with important people in your life (life partner, kids, business partner, employer, coach or parent) and consider their thoughts instead of putting up your defense shields.

Diseases of Lifestyle – choosing to be sick

At a UN gathering of NGOs and Public Health Organizations a consensus ‘Statement of Concern’ has been released asking the United Nations (UN), to hold accountable those in the food and beverage industry “whose products and marketing contribute substantially to the development of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that kill 36 million people every year.” They are talking about lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, many cancers, cardiovascular disease and other diseases predisposed by consumption of alcohol, tobacco and foods high in salt, sugar and/or fat.
This is a fantastic idea but only strikes at the supply side of the market.  Until individuals are held accountable for the actual consumption of these products and prepared to foot their bills for healthcare costs and the lost social capital due to illness and death of parents, breadwinners and producers little will change.
Excessive consumption of these products, combined with an inactive lifestyle, often results in disease and associated costs of care.  The decisions made and actions taken on a daily basis by individuals exert market pressure on suppliers – we just need a critical mass of people changing the way they think, shop, consume and live to back up the Statement of Concern.
It starts with each of us.

The Real Secret….

Ever noticed when a sports person gives a conference talk they focus on motivation, goal setting, persistence and so on.  Which is OK, but they usually miss the most fundamental component of their success (or failure). The one factor on top of which all the rest is delicately balanced.  Maybe they don’t mention it because it is so obvious, but I suspect it is because they take it for granted – just like the rest of us. What is it? Here is the secret – the secret to success in business, life, sport, fun and enjoyment: stay healthy.  Don’t get sick; don’t get hurt; don’t get sad.

Obvious, but not easy.  There is a powerful world out there full of germs, bugs, stress, flu, pressure, expectations, duties and expenses just waiting to bring you down. 

If you would like a speaker bring the message of how your body drives your business and simple strategies to defend yourself against lost productivity – contact Craig Allingham. Trained in Sports Physio, Sports Science and Men’s Health, I can deliver a tailored message for your industry, group or workplace.

Health – Taking It For Granted

Once again I am reminded of how our personal productivity is determined by our energy and health status.  Just prior to boarding a long haul international flight home recently, I got an upper respiratory tract infection.  Almost forty hours of transit (complete with two delays) is not a tonic for recovery.  Once home I deteriorated further and it has taken another ten days to start to feel well again. 

During this time I tried to continue some level of productivity but both the quality and quantity were very ordinary.  Household chores, gardening duties, errands and shopping for food were all just too difficult.  Let alone any activity requiring brain power.  Sleep was poor quality and appetite was likewise.  The only plus was managing to lose about 2kg in body weight, but not a healthy strategy to achieve this.

Two take home messages for self:

  1. be more proactive in health management when my immune system is under threat due to stress (travel, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, whatever);
  2. be more reactive in terms of recovery strategies (turn off computer and emails, give permission to sleep more, don’t deplete energy reserves and accept any help and advice from those around you).

Message for all of us:

  • make sure your personal productivity goals have inbuilt contingency or reserve capacity in case of illness or some other factor. Packing you schedule with expectations and tasks will result in a cascade of complications when things don’t go so well, let alone being one of the reasons you get crook in the first place!

Now, must make a recurring diary note to self about this idea as when you are well it just seems logical that you will continue to be well – a default state we tend to take for granted until fate intervenes.

Do Patients ‘Shop’ online?

When I first contemplated a website for my physiotherapy clinic around 6 or 7 years ago, I was yet to be convinced my potential clients would locate me using an impersonal, electronic, new-fangled gadget.   Much has changed, including my opinion.  Your web page is now the most powerful window into your business for current and future clients.  Let alone referrers and potential employees!

The website for a physio practice is a combined yellow pages ad, practice brochure (indicating hours, people, services, etc), geographical locator, health information site and shop front.  Or at least it could and should be all those things if you want to maximise the value to your business.

Perhaps the most important contribution of your web presence is the contribution to your brand.  The online image should be an authentic reinforcement of the brand of your practice.  Not the logo – the brand.  Those elements of your business that leave clients with a  feeling or emotion associated with doing business with you.  Feelings like ‘professional’, ‘ethical’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘safe’, ‘approachable’, ‘fun’, ‘friendly’ and so on.  If you business brand leaves clients feeling ‘neglected’, ‘unvalued’ or ‘doubtful’ you should probably work on those problems long before investing in a website.

Another valuable contribution is the reducing the fear of ‘the unknown’ for people who have heard of you or better still been recommended to see you but who may be anxious or apprehensive about seeing a physio for the first time.  Your web site can do much to allay their fears and replacing uncertainty with useful information (how they can pay, where they can park, what to wear) and confidence in your professional brand.

So, what should a physio practice website be made up of?  How complex should it be and what role should it play in your business? This will differ from practice to practice, but I believe one element is common to all – get some professional help with design, composition and content.  Being a fabulous physio doesn’t make you a top class web designer or techie.  Trust me, I tried and failed miserably until I put my ego to the side and let a professional take the lead.  Not only with my old clinic website, but also with my current business sites (www.redsok.com for example).

Possible contributions from your web site to business success include accurate descriptions of your team and the services they offer.  A chance to sell them as experts long before the client actually comes in the door.  Creating an expectation of quality is a good start.  You might include health information pages on common problems you treat, or an online store for the products you sell (clients can pre-purchase and simply pick up, or ask you to post it to them).  What ever you decide to include here is the golden rule: do it well and do it soon.  Become the site of choice for physiotherapy in your area and show your brand to the world. 

If you have a web helper already and are happy with them – stay on board.  If not, or if you are yet to start looking, can I suggest the company that helped us completely rejig our website, online store (international workshops and products), newsletter systems and database building.  A small and agile company with extensive design and construction experience in large corporate websites as well as small boutique clients.  Located in Hobart this company served us so well here in Queensland we actually transferred our whole site hosting to them from a much bigger national company who basically took us for granted.

DataFirst IT Services is run by Tim Allingham and we are working together now to provide a more complete service for physiotherapy clients who want a web site that is an extension of their clinical expertise and professionalism.  If you want to know more, click through to DataFirst IT and check out the ‘Site Options for Physios’ tab.

It’s a Shame the Basics aren’t more Exciting

Are you the kind of person who likes to get to the exciting bits quickly?  I don’t mean fast forwarding a DVD or leaping ahead in a book to see what is coming up (or perhaps you like that too), I mean do you get bored doing the basics.  Of anything.  Whether you are learning a musical instrument, acquainting yourself with a new smart phone or building a business or career.

Most physiotherapy clients I work with as a business mentor agree that the basics are really important, and then rush to show me their latest ‘bright shiny object’ – a new piece of equipment, gadgetry or tool. Or a new technique, system or software.  Or a new person, place or whatever.  And that’s the thing: basics are important but not exciting.  Nobody seems in a great rush to boast about their new policy on personal phone use in the business, or how they check the references for potential employees, or a new procedure for handling incoming phone calls and message taking.

Not exciting, but absolutely mission critical.  The examples above may seem minor in the big scheme of things, but when they are compounded by the multiplier of frequency they can make a huge difference to your business outcome.

I am about to embark on a tour of New Zealand to present business workshops for private physiotherapy practitioners and I just know they are hungry for ‘the next big thing’: the one secret of marketing or leadership that will boost their business outcomes. Well let me tell you the one big secret I am about to tell them….FOCUS ON THE BASICS. Especially people, service and cash flow.

I recall my very first patient when I graduated as a young and enthusiasic physio in Australia.  She had recently suffered a stroke (CVA) and was wheelchair bound with a left hemiparesis.  After months of neuromuscular rehab starting on the floor mat, progressing to four point balance, then to sitting skills and finally standing from sitting she was able to learn how to walk independently.  This was the exciting part made possible by previously focusing on the basics and getting them right with repetition, coaching, practice and feedback.

The basics of business are just that: the base on which everything else is stacked – the exciting bits are the highest, most obvious and premium-priced items, but they are fragile if the basics are shaky. Not only that, but the foundations can shift or fatigue.  Regular management reviews will indicate when repairs or updating of your boring basic systems is due. Which is often more effective at boosting your business than a new ‘bright shiny object’.

Craig Allingham

How Many Hats?

My fabulous and usually tolerant wife Mary has declared ‘no more hats’.  She is referring to my proclivity to wearing, and therefore acquiring, hats. I just love hats.  I believe it is time men reclaimed the hat as a personal statement of masculine fashion.  I am talking about proper hats – trilbies, fedoras, snappy brims, wide brims, stingy brim jazz hats, even pork pie and cloth caps.  Pretty much anything except baseball type hats.

Anyway, Mary has suggested (wife speak for ‘this is really important, pay attention and no one will be harmed’) I purchase no further hats until I have another hat rack to accommodate them.  Yes, another hat rack.  I have filled the first one.  Fair enough, I thought, these hats deserve their own position and care. So no more hats unless I retire one. 

We blokes wear a lot of hats.  Not necessarily the actual hats of which I speak, but the many ‘hats’ associated with our many roles.  Husband, son, uncle, father, sports coach, employee, boss and so on.  The idea of ‘putting on a hat’ in regards of assuming a particular role to play.  The way you conduct yourself changes according to the hat you are wearing at the time.  Your Dad hat makes you a different bloke to your Sports Coach hat, or your boss hat.  Same person, different role to play.

I wonder if Mary was hinting in a cunning subliminal female way that I had too many of these other hats.  Too many roles in my life that may be diluting my effectiveness in all of them.  I have my Dad and wife hats of course, but also my professional speaking hat, my author hat, my chamber of commerce board member hat, my business coaching hat and quite a few others.  Perhaps she was suggesting (see above) that I should not take on any further roles, tasks, jobs or projects until I have cleared some space on my ‘hat rack’. 

It is very easy to add stuff to your life, to find corners of time and enthusiasm to tackle a new project or activity.  Obviously the time must come from somewhere else and your current hat collection may suffer.  Pretty good advice, really. 

So when a new opportunity to get busy, to take on a new project or activity appears or is thrust upon you – before putting on the new hat take a good hard look at the hats you already have on the rack decide if there is space on the rack.  If not, retire one hat before you put on the new one.  Then all your hats will get a chance to be worn with style and success.

Is Your Business Stable?

One of my sons, Jon, is completing a bachelor degree in circus.  True.  Swinburne University in Melbourne houses the National Institute of Circus Arts in a fabulous modern training facility.  How fabulous to be able to gain a degree in a performing art as esoteric as Circus.  

Modern circus is full of spectacular physical stunts, acts, theatre and acrobatics.  Which is exactly what young Jon (22 is apparently still young) is learning.  He has a vast repertoire of tumbles, juggles, leaps, catches (other people) and dives through hoops.  Which is what we see at his shows.  Apparently other peoples kids are also doing stuff but I can’t seem to recall them. These flashy, impressive acts are difficult because they challenge the very laws of physics and the performers constantly appear on the brink of failure.  The liklihood of falling, dropping, missing or just stuffing up is what makes the acts so watchable.  The whole business of circus is built on instability – the imminent failure that is so obvious to the audience.

Curiously, they rarely fail.  The obvious instability is underpinned by hours and hours of strength training, agility drills, stretching, skill building, rehearsals and then start again.  The preparation is the stable base that allows controlled risk taking in the name of entertainment.  But of course, the audience never sees the preparation, just the outcome.

Your business is no different from a circus.  Perhaps it even resembles one at times.  The fabulous face your business presents to the client in terms of customer service, clean facilities, quality products or services and so on is only sustainable if it is built on a stable base.  Your staff training, record keeping, inventory management, cash flow management and many other systems and procedures are the foundation on top of which your business can shine.

However, if the base has been cobbled together in a rush to get the business up and running, or maybe a good base has been undermined by staff turnover or complacency, the ‘customer facing’ aspects will be unstable. And the wobbles will be evident to your clients.  They will notice stock shortages, appointment mistakes, failures to follow up or deliver on time. And perhaps worst of all your clients will percieve you are more preoccupied with keeping the good ship afloat rather than look after the passengers. There, I think I have mixed all the metaphors I could think of.

Here is the bottom line: the basics are not the exciting bits.  The hours spent by Jon in the gym building his body and skills is the tough repetitive grind on top of which he embroiders the visible performance skills we pay to see.  Same for you – hours of unseen (and unpaid) work to build strong basics for your business to shine. Yet the whole facade of your professional expertise is anchored by sound basics and a firm base for your business and this time spent on the basics is never time wasted.

The message is obvious – if you are building a business to last, build, sell or franchise, you should spend time, money, resources and effort on getting the basics right.  Seek assistance from advisors, regulators, professional organisations and mentors to ensure your success. In fact, as part of his circus degree, Jon is studying event management, marketing, sports injury care and other business basics to prepare him for managing the back of house not just the onstage presence.

Build your business on a stable foundation and while you might not get a standing ovation like Jon, you will prosper from return business and recommendations.

Craig Allingham
Professional Development Consultant

How Passive is Passive?

Passive shouder movement is a common early rehab option for patients who have undergone recent rotator cuff repair surgery.  This treatment is to maintain joint mobility while avoiding active loading of the repaired tendon.  However recent research suggests passive may not be as passive as we thought. 

In research published by Uhl, Muir and Lawson (2010) they found that when performing passive range of motion there was still slight electrical EMG activity in the rotator cuff muscles.  They also found that the transition from passive movement to active-assisted exercises involved only ‘insignificant increases’ in EMG activity in the muscles measured. The increase in activity rose from below 10% of MVC to around 20% of MVC.  

My take on this is two-fold – firstly be very cautious with ‘passive’ range of motion exercises because there is still some active assistance being offered by the musculo-tendinous unit.  Secondly, the transition to active-assisted exercise could probably be made earlier in rehab depending on the fragility of the repair, the number of tendons repaired, the pain levels reported and the confidence of both physio and patient. 

Ref: Uhl TL, Muir TA, Lawson L. 2010. Electromyographical assessment of passive, active assistive and active shoulder rehabilitation exercises. Phys Med & Rehab Feb 2(2):132.41.