Category Archives: How To Show Up

What’s your “unfair” advantage (and do you even know about it)?

Working with career women keen to raise their visibility and influence at work, this is one of the first places I start with them. “Let’s find your unfair advantage or your Secret Sauce” I say. I start with this question.

“What is it about you or what has happened in your life that you’ve struggled with?” The reason I ask this question is that it’s often exactly these sorts of things that actually make us who we are and – if we recognise them – become an “unfair” advantage to us.

When I asked myself question, I knew what my “unfair” advantage is.

Being 6ft tall since I was 14. Growing up I was often teased and asked “what’s the weather like up there Lurch?” and “is there enough oxygen up there for you?” oh, and one of the best ones can still be “Ooooh, aren’t you tall?” – I’d often (and still do) say “oh, thank you for telling me, I hadn’t noticed!” In my teens, I used to get to parties and immediately take my shoes off saying my feet hurt. In reality, I wanted to be smaller, to blend in more.

Now I recognise being tall means I’m noticed, I’m remembered and often when growing up, was assumed to be either older or wiser (or both) than I was. My height gives me a natural presence, which, in business just as in life, helps. I had no choice; I was – and still am – 6ft and the choice was always how I deal with it – what I make it mean to me.

It could have been easy to have slouched, to have tried to hide it by wearing flat shoes all the time but actually, I really like being tall and wear high heels as and when I want to – oh, and I’m married to someone a fair bit shorter than me. So what? It’s all about your perception and how you perceive your “unfair” advantage.

I’ve asked a few other people recently, just off the cuff, what they’ve struggled with and now could be their “unfair” advantage. They’ve all been able to tell me what theirs is.

  • One friend – “Being Scottish – I’m remembered, I’m different and people like my accent”.
  • Another – “My dyslexia’s made me be so much more creative”.
  • My husband, Snowy – “My dad dying when I was so young helped me know how to look after myself and appreciate how hard my Mum worked and the value of relationships”.

Think about your “unfair” advantage. What is it that’s shaped you and how do you allow it to positively influence your life? If it doesn’t, how could it? What could you make it mean?

A great way to find out if you don’t instinctively know is to ask 3 different people who know you well. Literally ask them “what do you think is my unfair advantage” and just stop and listen to what they say.

Often they’ll all come up with the same thing, my friends all did. Others often see – and appreciate – things in us, or about us, that we don’t.

When you become clearer about this, recognising if and how you allow it to be your “secret sauce” is a BIG part of communicating who – and how – you are, everywhere, you are.

As we all know, how you put yourself across is a key part in how others connect and respond to you and what you’re noticed/known and remembered for. Instead of hiding your secret sauce, celebrate it, embrace it, own it and work it in a way which works for you. It gives you unshakeable confidence in yourself because only you really know the path you’ve walked and the lessons you’ve learned. Only. You.

Waterskiing & Your Career

Stimulate your creative flow with something a bit different

That expression “busy doing something else” is where your ideas and inspiration often comes from. It gives you the sense of being absorbed, concentrating, focused on something so other thoughts are put aside or take a back seat. It’s something to be encouraged, especially when you’re scratching your head looking for the answer to a tricky issue or ticklish situation.

Go off and do – or absorb yourself – in something else. It’s often where the answer lies for you.

Sometimes the full-on focus we give to something means we miss some of the subtleties of what’s actually really happening. I hear people saying things like “I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall” or “I can’t stop thinking about ABC” or “I can’t leave it until I’ve sorted it, I’m like a dog with a bone”. Often that’s exactly the problem. Go off. Do something else instead. Leave it.

When you give yourself permission to leave it – and I do mean give yourself permission – because it’s an active, energetic decision (rather than a sign of defeat) – by saying “OK, let’s just park this for now, I’m going to go off and do something else” this is often where the ‘aha’ moment is waiting for you. You know I’m not suggesting you toss and turn inside a question for ages and use up time and energy fretting. Of course not.

Buy yourself some time and take yourself away from the thinking, just for a while. A day. Overnight. A week. You know your deadlines but it’s the action of parking it and staying open to what comes up in your thinking whilst you’re otherwise engage I’m talking about. Let me explain.

Waterskiing. I’ve skied for years and love it – the speed, the sensation, the ‘hey I might fall off’ feeling at times (sometimes, a lot of the time).

What I realise though, is how many similarities and insights there are when you compare improving ‘something else’ with building and expanding your business or your career.

Look and see these 5 quick lessons to learn about career success from being busy waterskiing:

  1. Keep flexible and relaxed as much as you can. There are forces at work, which you can’t see, and they’ll help you. You don’t have to force it, go with where you’re being pulled. Stay loose.
  2. Expect there will be bumps in the water and the current can pull you off course but keep your eyes on the water where you’re going. Stop watching and worrying about the bumps all the time; Watch the water where you’re going instead.
  3. Let go when you have to. When you decide to – or have to – sometimes it’s best to just let go, have a face full of water for a moment and then get up again and get back on. Hanging on too tightly doesn’t do much for your style or your peace of mind and you miss the subtleties of what else is going on.
  4. Listen to the advice of your mentor/instructor. Other people can often see what you can’t when you’re in action. It might be just a simple tweak and it’s too close to the end of your nose for you to see it. Study and listen for what the experts do and then model it. Make it a style of your own and learn from someone who knows how to shortcut the bumps and has been there before.
  5. Rest up and regroup. Remember it’s about the ride too and it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Take breaks, limber up and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Ron, our ski instructor, uses a great expression, which is helpful to remember whilst you’re busy doing something else “keep your legs loose, your tush in and reeeelaaaax”.

To enjoy the creative ways your mind works when you’re busy doing something else, ask yourself these 3 quick questions to help you with your decision:

  1. What is it that most concerns me about this decision?
  2. How will I handle that and what skills will I need to bring into the mix to handle this?
  3. What lessons are there for me to use and then share with my colleagues, friends or clients, which could help the situation we’re scratching our heads with?

Interestingly, I sat for 48 hours scratching my head about something. I knew I needed to land on a decision before moving forward on plans which affect my clients, my team and my lifestyle. Using the exact steps and the waterskiing as a distraction, I stayed loose, kept my tush in and landed on my decision. More about that soon…

Tweak 2 Letters And Change Everything

Planning 2018 for how and where you are NOW

“Mind your Language” is a great piece of advice, truly mind it. Think about it. Think about the effect it has on you and then on those around you as you use it. As a self-confessed WordNerd it’s one of my passions that my clients really “get” how important the words and phrases are they choose and then use. If you already have a sense you could be more influential, more engaging and inspiring to other people, then changing and updating your ‘script’ transforms the way you connect with people.

A few years ago, I read an article by John La Valle http://www.purenlp.com/ and John is, I believe, a true word-nerd. A real wizard with the use of language and the difference it makes. He wrote an article about changing our New Year’s Resolutions and swapping them for New Year’s Evolutions.

Every year when someone asks me “so Kay, are you making any New Year’s Resolutions?” I take John’s advice and tell them “yes, but I make New Year’s Evolutions”.

Think about the word Resolution – looking in my trusty dictionary, it means “a firm decision to do or not to do something. The action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter.”

When you pull it apart, re-solution becomes a solution, redone. You know when you say it there’s a bit of resistance there. Something you should be doing as opposed to something you want to do. Something you’ve tried to do before and are trying to do again.

It’s so common to make a resolution to eat less, exercise more, spend less, save more, work less, be with family more – or sometimes the opposite! You get the idea, though.

Now, think about the word Evolution – When you think of planning and committing to New Year’s Evolutions, there’s a different feel, a different energy about them with that word. Again, from my trusty dictionary “Evolution – the gradual development of something. Current senses stem from a notion of “opening out” and “unfolding” giving a rise to a general sense of development”. Open yourself up to who you are now and what you want, now.

Now with the word Evolution (remember, we only tweaked 2 letters) there’s a more forward motion to it, more of a sense of “Ok, for where I am now and for how I’ve developed now and what I want in my life now, this is what I want for my life in 2018”.

Try putting down 5 New Year’s Evolutions for yourself and before you do, take a moment with these 5 steps to think about how you are “opening out”, “unfolding” and “developing”.

  1. Think about how your life was 2 years ago – at the beginning of 2016 – then think about what’s going on now and how things have evolved for you.
  2. What are the major changes that have happened? (pssst – there will be some major changes, I promise you. It’s one of the few things we can guarantee in life, that things change. We choose how we respond to those changes.)
  3. Next, consider what’s happening in each of these areas of your life – home / work / relationships /career / finances and ask yourself “what do I want to have more of AND less of in these areas now?”
  4. Here’s where your “New Year’s Evolutions” start to form. From where you are now, for the person you are now, for what you’re doing now.
  5. Put down the following words and then finish the sentence at least 5 times “For who I am now and what I want now, in 2018 I will….”.

So, with two letters tweaked your Resolutions have become your 2018 Evolutions. Oh, and even if you don’t think you’ve changed much, around you the landscape will have, you industry, market, colleagues will have. That changes you anyway. How have you evolved though, that’s the question?

As Oprah Winfrey says: “The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.”

 

Do you really show them what you’re made of?

Remember to know AND show your brilliance so others can reward you for it.

If you’ve ever heard yourself say any of the following, it gives us a sign you’ve forgotten some of the things that you’re really good at or you’ve forgotten some of the key pieces of your career and life journey.

If you ever think these things and then you don’t speak, you’ll know you’re undervaluing yourself or being undervalued or underselling yourself.

  • “I want to be taken more seriously”
  • “I’m often treated like a secretary rather than a director”
  • “I end up undercutting myself – I give people a price for my services or the salary I want and then I undercut myself and backtrack or apologise”

Are you able to hear one or more things you’ve either said or thought in there? I can promise you I’ve heard these phrases so many times in different formats, in different ways and places. I know just like I’m sure you do, that it’s because that person saying those things doesn’t own or express the value, the importance, the difference that their work makes. So, by definition, other people don’t appreciate it, feel how they value it or how valuable it is. How they think about it is SO key. It also tells me that they don’t recognise it for themselves. And by definition, they don’t recognise or ‘market’ their worth. Aha.

Now, in general, we don’t like to think about marketing ourselves but, let’s be honest – you do need to be offering yourself and putting yourself forward in the workplace. Showing people what you’re about. So, try this.

If you want to think about it in a marketing sense, think about a four-bedroom house an estate agent is selling and one of the bedrooms is being used as a study. If you’re going to try sell the house, you have to turn that study-style bedroom into a bedroom again because people will look at your house and value it as a three-bedroom house with a study rather than what it is that you’re truly offering which is a four-bedroom house.

They kind of know it on one level, but one of the bedrooms is a study and they’re not seeing it as a four-bedroom house. They have to see it. And an estate agent said to me, “Never underestimate how people need to be shown that fourth bedroom rather than have to imagine it or be told about it.”

It’s the same with you and me.

Never underestimate or assume people get how special and valuable what you do really is. They have to see it or experience it or have it shown to them. Clearly. Don’t assume they can see it for you. They rarely can.

Show them what you’re made of. Consider the impact of your work. Not your ‘To Do’ list.

  • Consider the impact of your work. Not your ‘To Do’ list.
  • What does what you do then go on to do?
  • How does it affect others and what they’re able to do? << that’s where your value is to be found…

You owe it to yourself. Why wouldn’t you maximise the opportunities which are so close sometimes you don’t see them? If you help others see your value, they help guide you towards the opportunities too.

My ex-colleague James saw my gifts more clearly than I did and guided me on to the path to where I am now. He asked if I’d heard of coaching back in 2005 when it was virtually unheard of here in the UK. He said I’d always been approachable, smart-thinking, curious and able to connect with people quickly. He guided me to take that first step to what I’m doing now. Pay attention to what people see for you and how they value what you naturally do. It’s often pure gold!

A moment in time AND confronting idea for you.

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To throw away what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Let them go, with gratitude. Not only you, but your things as well, will feel clear and refreshed when you are done tidying.”

This quote is from the Marie Kondo’s super-popular book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ which transformed my – and Snowy’s wardrobes and household cupboards a couple of years ago for the better.

The key question when you contemplate letting go of what you no longer need being “Does it spark joy?” – if not, let it go.

And it reminds me about letting people go too, if your relationship with them doesn’t spark joy. It’s cathartic and gives you precious time for those you do truly cherish…..

It’s easy to assume that just because you’re in touch with someone, that because you’ve been friends ‘forever’ that it has to – or should – stay that way. Well, it doesn’t.

When I left my corporate life 14 years ago I had loads of work friends. Loads. And yet, instinctively I knew I’d probably only keep in touch with, hmm, maybe 3 of them.

By in touch I mean really connected rather than “oh we must meet some time” friends (who only really have the old days to discuss with you).

In reality it’s actually only 2.

It can sound brutal to share with you this too. After 16 years of marriage, when we look at our guest list of 120 people, less than half of them would be invited if we were to do it all over again!

Some are no longer alive, some are no longer together, some have fallen off the radar and others have either let me/us go or we’ve let them go. Literally, let them go.

We’ve made tons of new friends in that time too. Friends we’d love to share that day with now. It’s not better. Just different. So are we. So are you.

It’s cathartic to tidy up, as Mari Kondo shares and I believe this is just as applicable to our social networks too. Some of your friends will be with you, and you with them, forever. You know it. Others are transient and that’s OK.

In my fifties with, as my friend Steve Cozart shared with me “more of your life behind you than in front of you” I’m fierce about who I choose to invest my precious life energy with.

I’ve learned you have:

– Friends for a reason – a difficult time, a shared interest, a lesson they have for you – you’re fond of them and yet the tides of your lives have changed. If it’s feeling an effort that’s onerous, the reason isn’t strong enough anymore

– Friends for a season – a spell which passes and your bond isn’t so strong so it fizzles, you let go or – as happened to me recently – they unceremoniously ‘fire’ you for their own reasons. They’re best let go of anyways Kay.

– Friends for life – people who you know you want to stick with, who want to stick with you and who you forgive (vs fire) if they trip up – or you do.

You don’t get time back. We must choose wisely how we invest it and with whom.

Do they deserve your precious, finite life energy? If so great. If not – you know what to do. It’s all good.

As Marie Kondo says, “when we reduce what we own and essentially ‘detox’ our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well.” As with our relationships as with our house.

 

How up close and personal are you?

At times, there’s no substitute for the ‘LIVE’ or personalised version of You

It’s easy to get lulled into this false sense of reality isn’t it? Instead of picking up the phone to speak to someone, you drop them an email or send them a message or a text. Instead of dropping someone a note, you can instant message, Skype message or send them an eCard. Instead of going to a networking event, social gathering, exhibition or event, you can show up online. All of these ways of being in touch, of showing up on the radar, are virtually instant and take very little effort. They work too, to an extent. There’s also a darker side too, a sense of disconnectedness.

What I also know to be true is this. There is nothing like being there in-person, in-the-room and pressing the flesh with other people. The energy, the sense of connectedness, the opportunity to take yourself out of your environment and put yourself in another, all adds to the mix and what comes out of that is so very different than being ‘virtual’.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to enjoy, leverage and actively revel in all the gizmos and ways of working virtually. It’s something I’ve come to love about working in this ‘small world’ way. What’s often underestimated though is how disconnected we can feel and be perceived, when we take ourselves, our personalised selves, out of the mix – often without necessarily being conscious of it.

Let me ask you a few quick questions.

  • Have you ever emailed someone who’s in the same room/office as you because you can’t face or make time to go across and speak to them?
  • Have you ever emailed someone instead of calling them as an easy ‘get out’?
  • Have you ever texted someone a Thank You note instead of either calling or writing them a personal note?
  • Do you find yourself sending an ‘Apologies’ meeting alert rather than calling the person to say you can’t attend?
  • Have you ever wished you’d met up with someone in person sooner rather than wasting time going back/forth on email?

I know, like me, some – or all – of your answers will be a ‘Yes’. I ask myself, just before sending an email or text, is this the best way to be in touch today? Clients constantly tell me that they can’t “get people to do what they want them to” or they struggle to get people to respond to them. When pressed, it’s often because they lack connection with the other person/s. That’s where the secret of ‘pressing the flesh’ or personalising can change things in an instant.

You don’t have to spend your life bouncing around the world on planes or being so busy going to meetings or writing notes you never give yourself time to implement or think. No, of course not.

Here are 5 starters for you if you decide to show up ‘personally’ more than you are.

  1. When you go to email someone, pick up the phone and call instead. Even if you leave a voicemail and send an email afterwards, you connected, you made the effort. They hear your ‘real life’ voice. It means something, to them.
  2. Instead of sending an RSVP by email – call or drop a personal, hand-written note instead. Your voice, your writing all counts more as you being ‘in person’.
  3. When you look at an invitation and think “No, too busy” – just ask yourself “How can I make it work so I can go?” so you let people see you and be with you, as you with them.
  4. When you do decide to show up in person, instead of hanging with people you know, challenge yourself to meet and greet at least 5 people you’ve never met before. You only have to be open to asking them a few questions and, off you go!
  5. When you’re with other people, be more interested in them, rather than being interested in them being interested in you. That’s where the true magic is – they magically become more interested in you anyway – aha!

Daniel Goleman who wrote the transformational – and much quoted – book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ says “When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” I believe he’s right.

A big piece of that is coming forward to make a personalised – not impersonalised – connection. Go on, I dare you.

Practice Your Pillow Talk.

Give clear, distinct messages at work (and home)

It’s so easy to lose your message, your audience, their attention, their trust by using ‘weasel’ words. By using ‘gobbledeegook’ if you will – and it’s everywhere, like an epidemic.

With the pace of information being shared, the cultures which must be crossed and included in our messages, and the turbulent times we’re navigating at the moment, the need to be as clear as possible is more vital than ever.

Think about it for a moment. When did you last say to your partner, as you were either in bed or getting ready for bed “we’re struggling to get our key performance indicators aligned so we can leverage all the strategic opportunities out there”? Well, I put it to you, in general, most partners would cross their eyes, turn over and wonder what language you’re suddenly speaking.

To use a lot of ‘corporate’ lingo, especially in times when people are concerned about what’s really going on, is a recipe for confusion, mistrust and – often – for being ignored. It’s ironic really, people tend to use this sort of language to try to sound more knowledgeable, more ‘clever’ if you will. The opposite happens though. People tune out, think about something else entirely, resent you for confusing them or making them feel ‘dumb’ – or are so busy trying to translate what’s being said they miss your point anyway.

It’s a great way to translate some of the corporate gobbledegook you come across by asking yourself “What would I say to my partner/husband/wife about this?”

What you’ll find is that you naturally choose other words, more accessible, more everyday words. Try a bit of “Pillow Talk” with your team, with your marketing, when you’re making presentations or proposals.

You’ll be heard more easily and people will trust you and thank you for it.

3 ‘Quick & Dirty’ examples for you:

  1. we’re struggling to get our key performance indicators aligned so we can leverage all the strategic opportunities out there” becomes “we’ve got to get everyone meeting their targets so we can make the best of what’s happening in the market”
  2. by the end of the next quarter the upsurge in uptake will maximise our position” becomes “with all these buyers, by the end of December we should be in a great position”
  3. so to keep optimising the market diffusion we must keep thinking outside of the box to leverage this” becomes “hey, there’s a lot activity in our market, let’s keep our minds open and meet as often as we can to make the most of it”

Sometimes, we all have to use the ‘gobbledeegook’ or the Corporate-sounding name of something or expressions being used around us. It’s a big part of being heard. I worked on a project in my own corporate career called GRIPE. Enough said for a confusing, mixed message-style name which no one really understood!

So make sure you talk about it – you know you’re valuable and have value to add – well, talk truly is valuable too. If you choose.

What you can do as well to make sure you’re understood at the same time is to use these 3 simple and subtle expressions to make sure the point gets across and translates the ‘blah’ language into your Pillow Talk:

  1. “and by that I mean….”
  2. “or in other words….”
  3. “but you could also say….”

They’re simple, savvy, subtle and they workThey save time and confusion. Always good.

Learning From Our Teachers

There’s always a lesson (and a teacher) if you look

It’s easy isn’t it, to associate being taught and having teachers to being at school? Who wants to think of themselves at school all their life and yet, in reality, we are. I know I am.

Someone once said to me “Kay, every day’s a school day” and on some level it’s true. Now whilst you might not have enjoyed your school days and so this idea would be horrifying, it’s more about the act of learning, of continuing to learn. Of being the student.

Even the most grim, tough situation teaches us so much. Even the most selfish, bitchy or plain bullying kind of person also teaches us so much. Not always easy to see but so worthwhile to do.

Think about these few quick questions for a second.

– What situation do you know you really struggled with?
– What strengths did you have to develop to handle it?
– How has it changed you?
– Who else played a key part in this situation?
– What did they teach you?

Even when I reflect on my Mum dying suddenly when I was 40, I learned so much from what happened, how I responded, who came forward to help me, who couldn’t bear to speak with me as it was too embarrassing or uncomfortable for them – to name just a few lessons.

Being so ill when I was 16 and being forever changed by the operations and chemo. Who supported my parents, how my parents behaved, how I had to ‘grow up’ by being on an adults’ ward and the myriad of lessons which unconsciously were taught to me. They’re lessons I take with me, everywhere. Still.

That’s my point. You get to choose if a situation teaches you something. You get to choose if a person and their behaviour teaches you something too. That gives you the power to always take something, however small it might feel, from a situation. Take it, and then, when you’re ready, pass it on.

As for the great situations, where things are all in flow and go your way – well there are just as many lessons in there too. Just as many teachers for you too.

I always say “You teach as you share” and if you share the lessons you’ve learned – sometimes the hardest way – you become someone else’s teacher, often remembered forever.

 

Slow Things Down and Save Time

Respond rather than react (and save precious time, money and energy)

Slow down to speed things up. Yes, I know – it’s a dichotomy (a polar opposite, a contrariety) to say you have to slow down to speed things up. Well it’s true.

So often we think we have to decide on the spot; say “yes” or “no” in the moment and know all the answers to the questions we’re asked. Well, we’re actually making things harder for ourselves and harder on ourselves if we believe that to be true. Hitting things back like a tennis ball over the net isn’t a strategy – it’s more like survival and it wears you down.

I’ve learned we think faster than we think. It’s worth saying again to remind us both – we think faster than we think. Our brain processes the question; the decision; the issue in front of us quickly.

What we do is assume that we have to always be thinking on the spot and just because we’re asked a question we have to know the answer; respond straight away or act immediately. Well, we don’t. Even if we do know the answer, we don’t have to commit ourselves straight away. We can buy ourselves time and find subtle ways to make the other person wait – even if it’s for just a few seconds.

Clients say, particularly women, one of the big struggles they have when they’re promoted or as they take on more responsibility is the feeling of fear of having to know all the answers; of “making the right decision on the spot”. Well, “hello”- firstly who does know all the answers? Secondly, who knows what the right decision is? Only time tells us that. We make decisions taking into account what’s going on at the time; the information, insight and instinct we have and then, we wait to find out how it pans out.

It’s liberating – certainly it is for me – to know that you don’t have to know all the answers and you don’t have to do everything or decide everything “now” – even if it would suit others if you did.

kay whitePeople waste so much time, money and energy – our three most precious resources – by rushing into decisions; responding to emails in “shooting from the fingertip” mode; being asked questions and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.

Clearing up or back-tracking from rushed decisions or responses just slows us down.

Here’s just 3 of the many ways to slow things down to speed things up for yourself when you’re asked a question:

  • Repeat the question. Say it back to the person in a way that sounds thoughtful (it is) so you and your brain can process it. It also has the added bonus of making sure the person asking the question is actually asking what they want. (This is a great tip for interviews by the way).

  • Ask the person asking what they think first. You can literally say “hmm, now before I tell you what I think, what do you think?” This is especially powerful for someone working or reporting to you – why not make them do the thinking first?

  • Ask another question. It sounds so elementary doesn’t it? Rather than answer what you’ve been asked; ask a few more questions about the background to the question to get clearer and, again, to buy you and your brain a few more seconds before – and if – you decide to answer. Pause.

Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it?

As a strategic, savvy businesswoman, give yourself a bit more time and space to plan your reply. You know more than you think you know and sometimes, a few extra seconds to think about it gives you the chance to really show it.

How “Out of the Office” are YOU?

How to show up and sparkle at work – even when you’re on holiday.

“It’s the dilemma that’s so common now – when you’re “Out of the Office” just how “Out” of the office are you?

With the holiday season upon us, this is a timely way to plan your exit strategy and still look after your connections.

Having collected some ‘jaw-droppingly bad’ Out-of-Office bouncebacks over the years (best one: “I’m away from the office so contact me again on my return” – No dates, no alternatives, no clue) I thought it would be useful for you to use a simple structure for your email ‘Out of Office’ bounceback.

The simple-to-follow formula of Acknowledge/Inform/Guide is the most efficient and most helpful to the recipient. It’s also the safest bet to enable you to come across to your clients, customers and colleagues as professional, helpful and thoughtful – even when you’re not there.

Depending on how you’ve decided to manage being away, I suggest doing one of the following:

Read your emails regularly whilst you’re away, twice per day for example.

Have someone read them and then sort out the ones you need to read when you return.

Read them only when you return.

1. Reading your emails regularly while you’re away

  • Acknowledge: Thanks for your message and I’m away from the office until Month, Date.

  • Inform: I’ll be reading and responding to my emails in the meantime and will do this twice per day.

  • Guide: If your message is urgent and you need immediate assistance, please email John Smith, Title, who will help you. You can email him at — or call him on 123 456 7890. Thanks again, Your Name.

2. Someone’s reading them, sorting out the ones you need to read on your return

  • Acknowledge: Thanks for your message and I’m away from the office until August X.

  • Inform: My colleague, Jim Smith, Title will be accessing my emails during my absence and will ensure any requiring urgent attention, are handled while I’m away.

  • Guide: If you want to speak to Jim Smith or call him direct while I’m away, he can be contacted at —– or you can call him on 123 456 7890

3. Read them only when you return

  • Acknowledge: Thanks for your message and I’m out-of-the-office on holiday at the moment.

  • Inform: I will return to the office again on August X and in the meantime have no access to my emails

  • Guide: If you require immediate assistance, please contact Jane Smith, Title, who will be happy to help you. You can email Jane at jane@emailaddress.com ——- or call her direct on: 123 456 7890. Thanks again, Your Name.

There’s always a balance to achieve and to weigh up how your emails impact your time away is a decision you have to make yourself. There’s always a rub!

If you decide to read them and respond to them while you’re away, I suggest you agree you’ll read them and respond to them for a certain period of time, say an hour, every day at the same time. Plans can then be made around that and you can tell people when you’ll get back to them. Managing their and your holiday companions’ expectations too is key.

Help yourself by discussing this first with everyone you’re on holiday with just makes it easy for them to understand and let you get on with it. Trying to do it between trips or sneaking on to your smart-phone between meals just becomes stressful and can antagonise your family and friends. Much easier to manage their and your clients and colleagues’ expectation.

You may, or may not agree but this quote sums up the point here:

“Time for work – yet take much holiday, for art’s and friendship’s sake”. George de Wilde

So, I hope for your own art and friendships, you take much holiday.