Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The 12 Ways To GUARANTEE Stress This Christmas

Hope you like this Slideshare. It contains 12 proven strategies to guarantee stress this Christmas (along with stress prevention hints just in case...)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

HR has left the building. Who’s going to help me now?

This week, I attended a stimulating conference at the Work Foundation (@WorkFoundation), organised with Prospect (@ProspectUnion) called:
 "The contemporary role of HR: custodian of organisational conscience, deliverer of financial targets or strategic business leader?"
I have particular angle on this question as a business psychologist who focuses on stress. I speak to thousands of managers every year about stress and have done since the late 90s. This blog has been informed by that experience.

I’ve seen stress levels rising, especially since the last recession. Managers are at the sharp end, having to manage stressed employees and deal with their own stress. Frankly, they're struggling. And a day of training [though excellent!] won't solve all the problems.

Stress cases are demanding and complex. There are significant business and legal risks if managers get it wrong.

Managers are under pressure and need support.

But where do they go for help? Until a few years ago, HR was the go-to destination for 'Human' issues that managers faced. Now, especially in the public sector, HR has been largely outsourced. Support, if available, often comes via a call centre run by a large HR consultancy.

I find this outsourcing of management support deeply troubling.

Based upon the many conversations I've had with managers about this, the quality of such support can be poor. What managers need is someone who is actually there, someone who understands: them, the organisation and the daily situations they are facing.

What kind of bizarre business world have we entered where we don't 'get' the value of supporting managers internally? The return on investment is obvious. Consider just one stress case where a manager is supported at the right time in the right way. Prompt action is taken to reduce the risk of stress for an employee and a long-term stress-related absence is prevented. Not to mention the additional savings accrued related to recruitment, retraining and business continuity. And that's just one stress case!

I hear a lot about HR being ‘strategic and sitting at the top table’. I also hear HR buzzwords, which fuel cynicism and break down trust with managers. HR is increasingly seen as ‘ruthless’, an instrument of corporate power and yes a ‘deliverer of financial targets’. Managers no longer see HR as being ‘on their side’. The psychological contract has been broken.

Of course, this might not be a true reflection and it might not be entirely fair either. But my experience suggests that these negative perceptions of HR are widely held in line management populations.

How did this happen? What happened to the 'Human' in Human Resources? I know personally many HR professionals. I know they care. That's why they went into HR. They're people-people.

Why then didn't more HR leaders fight, tooth and nail, to make the Human case about the need to be there to support managers? Why didn't the HR profession’s leadership kick up the biggest possible stink about outsourcing?

If they had, I'm sure they would have found powerful allies inside and outside their organisations. They would also have gained credibility and influence with line managers and been seen rightly as ‘custodian of organisational conscience’. Instead, they appear to have wholly embraced outsourcing as the way to go, and it’s since been adopted on a massive scale.

It seems the caring, Human, side of HR is ‘down’ (though hopefully not ‘out’). 'Resources' has won the day, at least in the eye of many line managers.

At what cost?

photo credit: net_efekt via photopin cc

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why stress is now more difficult for managers to manage

Currently, I'm overhauling some templates I developed several years ago to help managers assess and manage the risks posed by stress. I'll be publishing these updated resources in the next few weeks. I'll also be making some changes to training courses to take account of these developments.

The templates will include forms and tools that managers can use and accompanying guidance notes. These resources will hopefully make things clearer about what managers should do when they have a concern about a member of their team becoming vulnerable to stress problems.

On the face of it, it should be a relatively straightforward task. I've been in this business for 20 years, so you'd think I'd just need to tweak things a bit. I wish it was as simple as that. A number of fundamental issues have complicated things and I'm grappling with these as I work on the templates.

I'd like to highlight a couple of them here.

Firstly, there's the work v non-work stress issue. It's argued that in terms of management responsibility and legal obligations to conduct risk assessments, non-work stress is not the manager's responsibility. Managers should, the argument goes, focus their efforts on work-related stress only.
Here in the UK, the known risk factors for work-related stress are set out in something called the Management Standards along with guidance for organizations on the process they should follow to manage these risks.
In real life though, this rigid, work-stress-only approach to managing stress risks doesn't work, and certainly not at the level of the line manager. Why? Because life is messy. Bad stuff happens in people's personal lives which makes them more vulnerable to stress problems or even overwhelms them. I've seen non-work stress increase markedly in recent years (and discussed some of the trends that's led to this in a previous blog post). This stress almost inevitably has an impact at work, for example on work performance. Therefore, managers cannot and should not ignore non-work stress.

Then there is the issue of support for managers, which has also become more complex and difficult in the last 10 to 15 years. It used to be the case that there were clear support structures inside organizations that managers could turn to for advice around 'welfare matters'. There was Personnel of course, although this more recently morphed into Human Resources with perhaps a 'harder', more business-oriented focus. Many organizations also had welfare officers or counsellors on site. And for many managers, Occupational Health was still available where they worked. The internal support professionals involved often knew the managers personally. They also knew the employees who worked for them. And they were familiar with the contexts, the environments in which people worked.

Some lucky managers still have access to these valuable support structures internally but the majority do not. HR, if it still exists in some form, has largely been outsourced, and HR support is often provided via a call centre or even online only. The reality is that we now live in the age of predominantly external support structures like HR Consultancies, Employee Assistance Programmes and Occupational Health Providers.

Managers are much more on their own than they were, and they know it too. They're largely left to get on with it, including dealing with 'stress' issues. Some have the skills and competencies for this task, but many do not. Some aren't coping and are themselves experiencing high stress levels as a result.

It's great to see some organizations having a complete re-think about outsourcing, bringing support back in-house. But the trend is still, overwhelmingly, to outsource, especially in the public sector. Support has been seen as a 'cost' that can be cut, and not a 'core activity'. That's how it is just now and I accept it. But I hope the percentage of organizations who 'get' the return-on-investment argument will increase, particularly around support for managers.

In the meantime, I'll get back to the task in hand, trying to produce some meaningful stress risk assessment tools and resources that take account of these challenges. I hope they will help and make a difference to today's managers.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

There's always something you can do about stress (3): Change the meaning

Overall, I'm not a great believer in relaxation techniques as a 'real-life' approach to stress management. Life gets difficult, pressurized, especially at work, and bad stuff happens. It's not as if you can say: "Stop there a moment while I do some diaphragmatic breathing".

That's why I'm a great believer in prevention and if-then planning, two stress management strategies I discussed in previous posts that can really work well.

A third approach I like and one I frequently use myself is more 'cognitive' in nature and involves re-interpreting or changing the meaning you attach to what happens. This approach is particularly effective if you tend to be pessimistic in outlook.

Let's look at what could on the face of it appear to a trivial example of bad stuff happening.

You send someone an email and they don't respond. In fact after three weeks, they still haven't responded.

Yes, this might seem 'trivial' but your interpretation of this event, the meaning you attach it, has the potential of ruining your day, week or even year...

"He never responds...It's always the same with him...He's totally incompetent...Why do I bother sending emails, the whole thing is pointless...Email is just a waste of time anyway...It's me, he can't stand me, he never could...He's doing this deliberately to wind me up... Maybe I came across as rude, I wish I'd never sent the thing... He'll never talk to me now, let alone do business with me...This organization stinks...This job is hopeless, it always was...I was stupid to think I could make it here...I'm just useless...Who'd want to hire me..."

There are some characteristically negative explanatory styles here such as: permanence (always, never), pervasiveness (generalizing, all, everything), personalizng (blaming, it's me, my fault), and 'catastrophizing' (it's a complete disaster).

You think these things and you end up feeling bad, maybe very bad. You feel stressed, upset, worried, disappointed. Negative emotions like anger, frustration, bitterness well up. You might start blaming yourself and feel depressed.

But why do you end up feeling so awful? You can't simply blame the bad stuff. (As they say, 'shit happens'.) Rather, it might be how you interpreted the bad stuff that led to you feeling so bad.

So what can you do? CBT argues that what you have to do is challenge the negative interpretations and meanings you come up with when bad stuff happens. There are four basic strategies.

Firstly, you can challenge yourself on the evidence. It is really true they never respond? A quick look back through emails should suffice. 'Evidence' is a good word to have at the back of your mind for quick challenges. It forces you to be more objective, to see things as they really are rather than jump to negative conclusions or make assumptions.

Secondly, you can see if there are alternative explanations. Maybe our non-responder's been ill or on holiday, or maybe he's moved department. Or perhaps the email's got delayed by some tech glitch. Maybe one of those alternative explanations might also be more likely?

Thirdly, you can look fully at the implications of your negative interpretation. So, he hasn't responded and maybe he never will. Maybe there is some truth in your negative assumptions. Assuming there is, what then? What should you do now..? This strategy is really about dragging what's lurking in the shadows out into the open and looking it square in the face. If you do that, things can become clearer, less scary. Also, if  you do this you tend to automatically go into a more constructive, if-then planning mode... OK so the culture here really does stink and the job is hopeless with no prospects - what should you do now...? "I'll create a new CV and update my LinkedIn profile...I'll make some decisions and start giving myself some options!" When you do face up to your fears in this way and start planning, you feel less stuck, more empowered. You start to feel more in control again. A lot better.

The fourth and final strategy is to ask yourself whether the way you're currently interpreting things is ultimately useful to you or not. If not it might literally be time for a re-think.

These four cognitive strategies (evidence, alternatives implications, usefulness) work and work well. I grew up surrounded by pessimism and it has definitely rubbed off on me to an extent. I therefore have to challenge my own negative thinking regularly. The kind of situations where I find this approach particularly helpful are ones where things can go wrong and where you have little control, such as business travel and on the golf course!

There are a couple of qualifications I definitely need to cover though.

Firstly, some bad stuff is not in any way trivial, like losing a child or your partner becoming seriously ill. Such life events can be highly stressful, traumatic even. They're very difficult for anyone to cope with and can take a lot of time to adjust to. I don't want to give the impression that 'challenging negative interpretations' is the best approach to dealing with really bad stuff. There isn't one way. Time helps. So does support, including professional support if needed.

From experience with really bad stuff, I'd say the biggest risk is becoming isolated. So talk to people (don't worry alone). See friends. Do stuff, especially outside in natural environments. Being active mentally and physically definitely helps. Being alone with your thoughts for too long often doesn't.

Secondly, I don't want to give the impression that pessimism is always bad. In some circumstances, seeing the negative scenario and then worrying about it is highly appropriate and adaptive. It might lead to you taking prompt remedial action that saves a lot of stress later on. A good example is money worries, where a negative interpretation could motivate you to act decisively 'now' so that the worst case scenario can never occur. It doesn't mean you shouldn't challenge negative thinking, but sometimes a negative interpretation is entirely valid in the circumstances.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Is happiness about managing your expectations?

Me and my friend, Karl - DEFINITELY happy - could it be the ale?

I've seen various formulae for happiness over the years, some more evidence-based than others. Today another one was presented and I'll get to that in a wee while.

One I regularly speak about featured in Martin Seligman's book, Authentic Happiness. Published a dozen years ago now, it reflected happiness research at that time. The formula was:

H = S + C + V

.. where H is Happiness, S is Set range, C is Circumstances and; V represents factors under our Voluntary Control.

Seligman discribed V as the most important issue in Positive Psychology because these were things influencing our happiness that we could genuinely do something about. Of course, perceived control is a huge issue in stress management and resilience.

Focus your attention and effort on what you can control and you'll be less stressed and more resilient. It's good stress management advice.

A bit of background on the other two factors though because they're important. The S (Set range) aspect comes from evidence suggesting we all have a 'set range' for happiness. We're all on what's been described as an 'hedonic treadmill'.

When something good or bad happens (and it can be very good or very bad), over time our happiness reverts back to where it generally is. So, we're thinking about buying a new car. The anticipation brings us pleasure. And when we buy it, we're really happy and showing it off to our friends and learning about all its gizmos that we'll never use and driving for the sake of it. And we may even go through a spell of actually washing it! But sadly and quite quickly our new car happiness fades. Soon enough it's just a car like any other car and meantime our insurance has gone up...

No surprise too that our circumstances (C) should influence happiness and this is where the lines between psychology, philosophy and economics can become blurred. There are some big factors or 'circumstances' linked to happiness like money, marriage, age, health and religion. There's some fascinating research related to each of these circumstances. Recently governments too have become more engaged in this area of research, realizing that it isn't simply about people's wealth (which arguably is in decline now anyway) but more about promoting 'wellbeing'. What we can probably say is that your circumstances will influence happiness and wellbeing in some important ways (especially if they are, or have been, very bad).

Back though to today's happiness formula, from a recently published paper. This formula is mainly about momentary happiness, how you feel 'now' and what influences that. For what it's worth, here's the formula...

No, I couldn't work it out either, but that doesn't matter.

This research, using a gambling game methodology to test their model, predicted that happiness at a specific time is related to / predicted by certain rewards (CR), expected values / expectations (EV), and the difference between experienced and predicted rewards (RPE).

Here's the gist - our expectations are more important to our current happiness than many of us realize. How happy we are at a moment in time has less to do with how things are going at that time than whether they are going better (or worse) than expected.

So the implications (my interpretation) on the face of it could be: "If you want to be happier you have to manage your expectations."

I can hear the pessimists (me included) shouting that they were right all along. Expect the worst, then anything else is a bonus! (Certainly, that works for me on the golf course.) But it's clear from this research that things aren't as straightforward as that. For example, before the outcome (of the gamble), people with more positive expectations are happier.

And in real life, with it's much longer-term outcomes, marriage for example, you just don't know what the outcome is going to be do you? Therefore, the model predicts that it's probably better for your happiness 'now' to have higher expectations about the 'outcome' of your marriage.

This is very interesting and suggests two very different ways of thinking about 'how to be happy' depending on whether you're thinking about shorter-term, day-to-day, living or longer-term, important, life outcomes.

Marriage is a bit heavy. So back to golf...


 I'm standing on the 6th tee with a 30 mile-an-hour. left-to-right cross wind. Trouble (large shrubbery) on the left. Thick, impenetrable rough (known locally as 'bundi') on the right. No point whatsoever in thinking I'm going to hit this to the middle of the green because when it leaks to the right into said bundi, I'm going to be very disappointed and may indeed say bad words. Better to have no expectations and accept this is a difficult shot on a terrible day. If by some miracle it subsequently lands on the green (positive outcome!), expectations are surpassed by a large margin - happiness ensues.


Thinking about my overall golf game (a.k.a marriage)... In this situation, better to have optimism (hope, faith?) that my game can indeed improve and it's worth therefore putting in the effort to improve swing, eliminate catastrophic slice etc. This positive expectation makes me happier.

And indeed I am thinking.. why on earth I am sitting here blogging when I could be out there on this sunny, Scottish Summer's day, hitting the perfect shot to the 6th and holing the putt for a birdie (oops, getting ahead of myself again; unhappiness and disappointment is round the corner - better get back to work!)

Short-term realism, long-term hope - a possible recipe for a happier life?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Stress: let's call it what it is!

Let's call it what it is. Stress. Not resilience. Not wellbeing. Stress.

I hear on a regular basis, that "Stress doesn't exist"... Or... "We don't use the word in this organization, we prefer to call it resilience"... Or... "It comes under our positive wellbeing policy"... Or some other corporate-speak like that. Apparently, talking about (or offering services related to) stress management is not the thing to do any more. It's become unfashionable, it's too negative.

Mostly this view seems to be held by people in HR or 'Organizational Development'. This is not to say that all HR or OD people share this outlook. Far from it. It's just that this 'corporate wellbeing world view' is more prevalent in this group.

In my opinion, where this view prevails, it can totally undermine the credibility of HR, leading to suspicion, cynicism and a lack of trust amongst the workforce. It just doesn't reflect the reality of people's experience at work. The rest of us KNOW stress levels are higher now than they've been. And this is overwhelmingly borne out by the evidence.

I've come across similar views from service providers. The received marketing wisdom (with which I profoundly disagree) is that we need to call it wellbeing because clients are looking for a more, positive 'holistic' approach and therefore (the argument goes) we should be framing our offering in a more positive light. If we call it stress, they won't buy our services. Again this appears to be because service providers are working predominantly with, or through, HR/OD.

I haven't found this to be the case at all. I've never been busier. Maybe it's because I work a lot with Occupational Health and Health & Safety professionals and they have a different focus and remit. I don't work solely with HR/OD (although I find that many HR folk are still very concerned about stress).

With my business hat on too, my experience strongly indicates that stress remains a hot topic, and with good reason. It's bad and has got much worse, especially since the last recession. And it's costing organizations a fortune. (I've included a great resource related to the costs of stress towards the end of this blog post.). Maybe you could sum up my business take on this as...

Big problem + Huge Cost + Available Solutions = Obvious Marketing Opportunity???

Why have stress levels increased so much? I think some of the reasons are work-related and some aren't.

Organizations are doing more with less and people are working harder and longer than ever. And this trend has accelerated since the credit crunch in 2008. In previous recessions, we saw big increases in unemployment as organizations cut costs by shedding staff. The last recession was different. Having found how expensive it was previously first to lose, then recruit and retrain skilled staff, organizations opted this time to retain staff but make efficiencies and cuts in other areas. As a result, employees are now under more pressure with less control and fewer resources.

And it's not simply what's happened at work. A whole series of trends have increased stress levels. I'm going to explore some of these in future blog posts, but here are some headings:
  • The polarized and frankly bizarre property market where in some parts of the country people can't afford to live anywhere near where they work, while in others prices have collapsed meaning people are stuck in negative equity and cannot move.
  • Partly related to the above, the increased pressure in middle age from the trends towards adult children never leaving combined with increased caring responsibilities for elderly parents, known endearingly as the 'sandwich generation'.
  • Again related to the above, increased commuting pressures with longer commutes on overcrowded, excessively expensive trains.
  • The rapidly ageing working population combined with the collapse in the value of pensions. We're having to work longer at an age when we inevitably experience more chronic illness.
  • The huge and growing proportion of us that has very little or no pension provision in any case (and many of us are very concerned about this!).
  • The high inflation that has affected basics and essentials, like food, electricity and gas, meaning that those with low or middle incomes have become disproportionately poorer in recent years. Increased financial stress in other words.
  • Reduced physical activity leading to 'vastly' increased levels of obesity and associated chronic illness, especially diabetes
  • An increasing lack of social support at work and at home and more isolation, leading to high levels of loneliness and depression.
  • Increases in the use of technology, especially smartphones and tablets, meaning that we are always available (and our own bad habits in this regard - sleeping with them, always checking them - make this worse).
  • Reductions in the quantity and quality of sleep, related to many of the factors above.
  • Huge increases in stress-related illness (which is not an accident), including mental illness and physical illness, one notable example being the increase in autoimmune diseases due to chronic inflammation.
  • Increases in self-medication (stress management using alcohol), fuelled by heavily discounted supermarket booze. Alcohol, unlike food and electricity, has never been cheaper in real terms. So we're drinking much more, usually at home. It's an 'invisible problem' with major health effects.
  • Increasingly flexible working patterns with more lone and remote working. Our working environments are also becoming more 'lean', with more open-plan and more hot-desking.
  • Less secure employment, more short- and part-time contracts and more zero-hours contracts. More pressure to work longer, to be seen to be there, even if we're feeling bad. 'Presenteeism' in other words.
These trends are well-researched and understood, Just google any of them as I did and you'll find a mountain of research evidence and reports. I'll highlight some of these in future posts.

There are other stress-increasing trends, but I hope I've made my point.

I'll finish this blog post with one great resource. It's a report called: Calculating the cost of work-related stress and psychosocial risks. In my view, it should be essential reading. It comes from the European Agency for safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and highlights both what the costs of stress are (not just in Europle, but also in the USA, Australia and Canada) and how such costs can easily be calculated.

You can download the report from the costs of stress page on my website, where you'll also find some additional tools and resources related to the organizational costs and the benefits of taking action. As the report says in its conlusion: "Studies indicate that there is a strong ‘business case’ for preventing stress and psychosocial risks at work".

So you can call it what you like. I'll call it stress because that's what it is.

Monday, 23 June 2014

There's always something you can do about stress (2) If-then Planning

In an earlier post I talked about the best thing you can do with stress and that's prevent it. Most of us are pretty awful at dealing with stress. Prevention is definitely the way to go!

If you get stressed it's already too late. That unconscious, automatic response has already kicked in; stress hormones are flooding your body and the emotional brain has been aroused. You're in full, reactive mode. It's very difficult if not impossible to make good (calm, rational) decisions in such circumstances. More stress usually follows. ( why you should never send an email whey you're annoyed!)
In this post, I'll talk about a strategy that isn't completely based around prevention but does still look ahead.

It's called if-then planning and it's highly effective. The posh psychology term for this is forming what's called an 'implementation intention'.

If-then plans always have the same (written-down) format...

IF [Scenario/Situation] THEN [Plan]!

What you need to think about and identify first is a scenario or situation that causes you stress. This could be a work-based or personal situation that crops up now and again that you're concerned about. It may well be the kind of situation you dread. Looking ahead, it could also be that nightmare situation or worst-case scenario that's keeping you awake at night.

Whatever it is, you need to write it down. Be as clear as possible what the situation is. What's happening? Who is involved? How is it affecting you? If you can easily picture it in your mind, all the better as that will help as you'll see later,

Secondly, you need to come up with and write down a plan. This is what you'll do to prevent or reduce stress if and when that situation occurs. This could include practical steps like who you'll contact to get support and making sure you have access to the resources you need. It could also include psychological steps like what you (and your team) will do to remain calm or avoid panic in the situation.

Once you've done these two things you can put them into your written if-then plan. The scenario goes after the IF, the plan goes after the THEN (apologies for stating the obvious). You finish it off with an exclamation mark (!), which seems to make the whole approach more powerful. An exclamation is definite, an indication of commitment - "yes, I'll do this!"

That's not the end of the story though. If you really want to make it effective, you need to mentally rehearse the plan. Think it through, play it through in your mind. See yourself in the situation, dealing with things, calmly and rationally, without getting panicky. If you use this at work in a team situation, make sure you also talk it through with them.

Why does if-then planning help with stress? A couple of big reasons. Firstly it reduces anxiety. The fact you've come up with a plan stops you worrying or ruminating about the situation as much. "Yes, it might happen, but I know what I'm going to do when it does". Call it mental de-cluttering if you like.

Secondly, thinking through and planning what you're going to do boosts your sense of control. You may not be happy about the situation and it may still cause some stress. But simply knowing there's something you can (and will) do helps massively.

There's always something you do. OK maybe not about the situation, but certainly about how you respond.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

New Stress Management LinkedIn Group launched

Today I've launched a 'new' LinkedIn group, the Stress Management Business Group. It's aimed at people with a business interested in stress or related topics.

The group was previously a closed group and had a narrower focus around stress management competencies. I hope people will join and use the group to share tools, information and resources.

Friday, 25 April 2014

There's always something you can do about stress (1) Stress Prevention

The most depressing thought or assumption you can have is: "Nothing I can do will make any difference". It's often associated with a lack of a sense of control and a feeling of hopelessness.

But with stress management, there's always something you can do (certainly if you include thinking in doing). There are three broad kinds of approach you could try and in this post I'll focus on number 1, prevention.

Before I get onto that though, there's a kind of pre- (stress management) stage that's often missed.

You need first to be clear exactly what it is that's causing the stress (and when it occurs). I recommend writing this down in some structured way. (I've developed a tool for this called the Pressurised Situation Profiling Tool.)  This writing it down is helpful in itself. It clarifies what you're dealing with. Dealing with what you can see is always less stressful than the vague dread of what's lurking in the shadows.

Once you're clear about what's causing the stress, the first thing to try or think about is prevention. This is about being proactive and dealing with what's causing the stress, the 'source', directly. This source might for example be a stressful situation at work.

I've found over the years, especially with work-related stress, that much more can be done around prevention than first appears to be the case. It does require however that you take some time for this and it usually involves talking face-to-face with colleagues to explore issues and generate solutions (team meetings and one-to-ones are great for this). That's because most work scenarios are inter-dependent. The level of your stress may well be partly dependent on what other people do and when they do it, and vice versa. Often then, some planning and communication 'now' can save a lot of grief and stress later on.

I want to be crystal clear about this. To prevent stress, you have to stop what you're doing, think, plan and communicate. If you're always reacting to things, it's far more likely that you'll become stressed! And because of the lack of control, the stress is also far more likely to affect your health.

I've found a preventive approach works particularly well with teams. Given the chance, teams will come up with genuinely innovative and pragmatic solutions to what seem, at first glance, to be intractable problems. Teams of people doing a job are the internal experts on what happens in their area. They quickly therefore get to the nub of the problem and identify solutions that often cost nothing to implement.

If you're a leader or manager, this requires that you acknowledge the specialist expertise within your teams. You're in the perfect position to facilitate discussions and actively engage your teams in generating solutions to prevent stress. I've found the return-on-investment (or savings) from this type of  team working to be enormous!

PS 1: Don't forget to implement any action plans and solutions generated (it's no good just talking about it) and make sure you take a bit of time later on to evaluate and review what you've done.

PS 2: One thing you need to be careful about if you're facilitating discussions is not to allow them to get too bogged down around the problems. Yes, you do need to identify what they are and when they occur, and it's also helpful to prioritize them in order of importance (which issues are having the greatest impact on people?). But you need fairly quickly to get onto discussing solutions and developing plans. This makes sure the focus is mainly positive, on 'what we can do' rather than descending into a moaning shop. It's worth considering therefore whether it could help to have someone with independent expertise facilitate such discussions.

How to prevent computer changeover stress

It's been a while since I blogged. The main reason has been a complete changeover of the computer systems (hardware and software) in my home office.

My computers were ancient but still running, which is a tribute to Bob Jones, the computer expert who built them for me. One of my computers must have been at least 12, which in computer years is nearing the time you get a telegram from the Queen! They also ran on windows XP, which is of course no longer being supported by Microsoft.

I am not a techy person, but running a business from home forces you to go through a tech learning curve and I've long since done upgrades and pretty much everything else tech-related myself. I don't get too stressed normally, but a total changeover definitely had the potential to cause a lot of angst. It included: a installing a new hub, installing 2 new Windows 7 desktop computers with (windows 8 would have caused way too much stress!), a new monitor, a new printer (because the new computers wouldn't speak to the old printer), and a new HD webcam.

This list misses out networking the computers and my laptop, and all the software installations and renewals you have to do. Also, there's the work before and after making sure you can access all your old files and folders. I imagine the XP issue means many people must be going through the same trials. It must be a bonanza time for computer services people! (But you don't need them.)

Mostly the changeover went very smoothly, but there were odd times when the stress levels increased and my language became a touch more.. well I'm sure you can imagine. Based on this experience, I have the following (stress management) tips if you're thinking about changing your computer systems...

Don't assume you can't do it. Negative assumptions like "I'll never be able to do this" need to be challenged. You definitely can do it and you don't have to be a nerd. There is almost certainly a YouTube video for everything you need to do and I've done my best to give you some step-by-step advice below. It just takes a bit of time and most computer stuff is easy these days. It's more a matter of plug and play than anything involving coding or programming. Also, doing stuff yourself breeds confidence, that "I can do it" attitude known in psychology as self-efficacy. Not only that, it gives you a sense of control, which reduces stress and promotes resilience.

Preparation is everything. You need to think through exactly what you'll need to do before the actual changeover. For example, you'll need to organize all your files and put them somewhere where you can easily access them after the changeover. I used two approaches for this. Firstly, I made sure all my files were organized and saved in dropbox. I've used dropbox for a few years after being tipped off about by an academic colleague. It's a virtual ('cloud') home for all your files and free to use unless you store lots of larger files like videos. Even then it's very cheap. Secondly, I saved all my files, including those in dropbox to an external hard drive. Well you can't be too careful with your own stuff can you?!

Give yourself plenty of time and plan the changeover. My advice is to plan it for a quiet time, especially if you're in business (Easter was great for this). Make lists of what you think you'll need to do and get everything ready. You'll need to let people know that you're not available and that people might not be able to get hold of you by email for a while. I allowed a few days to do everything and make sure all was working as it should. And that's what it took.

A key part of this is thinking through your software requirements. One thing I did was look at my old computers and made a list of the software I really needed (and used a lot) to install on the new computers. Once you've done that you can use a web service like to search for the latest versions of your preferred progams (.exe or setup files) and download these to a folder on an external drive. You'll need these when you're setting up your new computer.

To save financial stress, think very carefully whether you need expensive software like Microsoft Office. These days there are almost always free, open source alternatives like LibreOffice, that will happily work with Office files and cost you nothing at all. I find 'open source' programs are often much better anyway and they don't have the incredibly annoying quirks that for instance Word has in abundance. (Open source programs are free programs developed by a worldwide community of programmers - yes, believe it, nerds doing good and not hacking your computer. There's an open source program for most things you're ever likely to do, including more advanced stuff like graphic design and making/editing audios.)

Think about the hardware you'll need and do your research. To prevent stress, I recommend going for a higher spec desktop PC than you think you need right now (e.g. a faster chip, more RAM). I bought two Zoostorm computers with Windows 7 installed that I'm very impressed with. This will future-proof your systems. It's a very good idea to make sure all your computers have the same operating system, like Windows 7, as it makes it much easier to network them (for example, get them talking to each other and sharing a printer).

If you do a lot of computer work, go for a higher spec monitor too. It's worth it and your eyes will thank you. I bought a BenQ 24 inch HD monitor, which cost a bit more than a standard monitor. It's excellent in every way (to get best results, you'll also need to buy separately a DVI-D cable).  It's a good idea to keep your old monitor so you can use it with your old computer if you need to. Overall, I've found you're better off spending a bit more on hardware and less (or nothing) on software. Allow plenty of time for deliveries, so you can have everything ready.

It's worth checking that you have the latest hub for your broadband service. If you don't, you may experience ongoing connection problems and much lower broadband speeds than are possible for your area. Your internet service provider may well provide a new hub free of charge. Don't expect them to to tell you though! You need to check yourself and phone them up. Likewise, don't be surprised if you're paying more than you should - so when you phone your broadband provider about your hub, check too that you're on the right tariff.

Keep a note of any usernames and passwords you'll need. Put them all into one document, save it on dropbox (or an external drive). Also, I'd recommend printing a few hard copies of this document and put them in places where you know you can find it if you need it.

When it comes the day of the changeover, think about what you need to do in what order and don't rush any of it. Make a last check that you have everything saved that you need (files, programs etc) and make sure you are absolutely sure where you've stored things. Make sure too that you won't be disturbed, unless of course it's being brought the occasional cup of tea and biscuits! What I did first was to change the hub and made sure that worked before I changed the computers over. If you're not changing your hub, this isn't an issue obviously.

Do the changeover one computer at a time, making sure first that you have all the hardware and cables you need close by before you start. Disconnect all the cables from the back of your old computer keeping a note of where everything went. You could also take a picture with a digital camera if you feel you need to. Bear in mind that you might need to access your old computer again so set aside any cables you might need for setting up your old computer somewhere else.

Make sure you've got plenty of light. A bright sunny day is best to do the fiddly stuff and a little torch is handy too in case you find yourself grovelling around under desks (as I did!). Connect everything up including the monitor to the computer, switch on and keep everything crossed. Take your time with the installation, following the instructions on the screen.

Once the computer is up and running, install the programs you need on your new computer. What I did was copy the exe (setup) files across to my new desktop (screen) from a folder I had already set up on an external hard drive. Then all you have to do is double-click each the setup files to put the programs onto your new computer.

Hopefully all will work first time, but don't beat yourself up if it doesn't. Take breaks and make sure you have enough food and drinks. The temptation is to keep trying to sort things if something isn't working right. You can easily end up getting tired and emotional! Taking a break and coming back to it afresh is almost always a good idea. It gives your brain a chance to 'incubate' problems and it's amazing how often you can come up with a solution.

If you have more than one computer to change, repeat what you've already done for the next computer. It should go smoothly this time as you'll have learned lessons from the first changeover.

Then you might need to think about getting the new computers to speak to each other. For me, that was two desktops and a laptop. The easiest way is through wireless networking and setting up a 'Homegroup'. (Bear in mind that for desktop PCs you might need to purchase wireless adaptors - your laptop is likely to have one built in.) Windows 7 makes this very easy if all the computers use Windows 7.

First, you need to make sure all your computers are on. Next, you need to click on the Windows Start button in the bottom left corner of your screen. The 'Start' window appears. Then click on 'Computer' on the right hand side of the 'Start' window. Then click on 'Homegroup' and follow the instructions to add that computer to your Homegroup. You can do the same for your other computers. Windows help is genuinely easy to follow if you need it. Once this is done, you'll 'see' your other computers (as long as they're on) via your Homegroup link from the Start window.

Setting up a Homegroup means you can access 'libraries' (the equivalent of My Documents on Windows XP) on your other computers. But the major benefit I've found is that you can connect one printer to your main computer and have other computers access that printer (because they belong to the same Homegroup). That saves a lot of hassle.

It's almost inevitable that you'll come across the odd problem you didn't envisage. Expect the unexpected. Because of the pace of change and development, old peripherals like printers may not work with your new computers. (Mainly this is because you can't get up-to-date drivers that work). So you might need a new printer even though you're old one is still working fine. Also, it's worth updating old wireless adapters. Fortunately, new hardware like this is cheap so it's worth updating.

We're planning to keep our old computers for the foreseeable future in case there's something we need to access, like old Outlook Express emails and folders. So my advice is to keep your old computers and hardware and, if you've space, set them up so you can access them when you need them. You can always connect your old printer to your old computer to still get some use out of it!

Finally, once everything is set up and working as it should (actually, way better and faster than before), give yourself a bloody good pat on the back. You did it!!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Reflections on friendship

Friendship isn't much talked about as a stress management technique, but it's hugely important, and much more so than many people realise. I'm sure that's true for both sexes but perhaps especially for men, who otherwise can't (or won't) access the social support they need.

I read a great book a few years back called Aging Well (for British readers, those sensible Americans have removed the 'e' from 'ageing' rightly deeming it unnecessary). Its by a doctor called George Vaillant, who sets out the surprising evidence from longitudinal research about what predicts (and does not predict) healthy ageing.

There's one thing that's always stuck with me from that book and it was surprising. The two factors that best predicted wellbeing (in the full, holistic sense of wellbeing) into very old age were time spent with friends and membership of organisations. If you don't want to be a grumpy, embittered old man, keeping up with your friends and communal, meaningful activities appear to be essential.

Friendship, real friendship, and I don't mean acquaintanceship, is remarkably resilient. It's amazing how a single phone call after years without contact it can rekindle a close friendship. But you/they have to make that call. Facebook, email or text is not the same (in my experience they can potentially harm friendships). I've known friendship overcome sometime big setbacks, hurt and false assumptions, including the ones that I've wrongly made. Friendships that I thought were dead were in fact alive and kicking.

It's partly what you can talk about with friends, which is anything. And the nature of those conversations is different. You can laugh openly with friends about the comedy and tragedy that is your life. What a relief it is to be able to do that!

You also tend to do stuff and play stuff with friends. It gets you out more. Drinking is social rather than solitary. You can help and support friends, which makes you feel good.

Yes, friendship is sometimes a pain in the rear end. Friends can sometimes piss you off (and you them!). It takes work and is an investment, and you know the disclaimer about investments, right? But the pain and hassle is definitely worth it.

Call a friend today that you haven't been in touch with for a while. Don't email or text, just pick up the phone and call. You'll be glad you did and so will they.

(Sometimes the old technologies work best.)

Friday, 28 February 2014

Are smart phones smart?

Just about everyone I know has a smart phone and no doubt they are fantastic gadgets. And if you're reading this blog on yours, thank you very much for taking the time to check me out!

My phone, I think, just about counts as a smart phone, but it's basic pay-as-you-go and I only use it for essential calls and texts. I don't access emails or the web on my phone, preferring to use a laptop or tablet.

I see many people every day, with their head down at that characteristic angle, looking at the screen, often while walking along outdoors, or on the train, or at work, or even during a training session. (BTW, please don't do that, the trainer may feel you're not exactly engaged!)

Therein lies my problem with smart phones. It's an attention issue. Head down in a smart phone, you're going to miss an awful lot of what's going on. And much of that is exactly what makes you feel good... like taking in a lovely day and the interesting cloud formations, sharing a smile, checking out the architecture, watching other people and their interactions, or the nature around you (for me that is a deep pleasure, something I savour).

It's also potentially a stress issue. It's reactive and not mindful. You're always available. And there's that tendency with social media to compare your life unfavourably with others'. And to check out the news, which isn't usually a barrel of laughs either.

Too much smart phone time is not smart. It's good sometimes to pay attention to what's going on, now.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Santa doesn't have an irrational fear of flying

Phobias. Many people have these irrational fears. The two which have affected me most over the years are fear of flying and fear of heights.

Fear of flying has been the one that's had the most impact on my life, causing stress and anxiety. Or perhaps terror was a more appropriate word for what I felt in the early days! It's the fear I have absolutely had to deal with because most of my clients are 500 miles away. So I fly a lot.

If you experience such fears, I'll bet that you, like me, will have been on the receiving end of all sorts of 'helpful' advice... Alan, the pilots just wouldn't fly if it was unsafe.... Don't you realise it's statistically by far the safest form of travel...? Of course, this advice though well-meant is useless, because these are logical, rational explanations and phobia is an irrational fear.

I found that I had to develop my own strategies that worked for me.

One of the worst things is turbulence, that air bumpiness which you can't control. For flying phobics this is frankly terrifying.

This first effective strategy I developed was my counting backwards technique.

Firstly, I close my eyes and sit right back in the seat. Then, I consciously and deliberately slow down my breathing. And this is the most important part; I count backwards slowly from 500. I found the counting backwards to be particularly helpful. It takes more of your attention and concentration to count backwards, so helps distract your thoughts. Also, having a high starting number means you never get even close to zero before the bumpiness passes. I found that reassuring. It gave me a better sense of control. Once I had used this several times, I found I could calm myself down more quickly. In the early days, I used this strategy a lot, for take-off, landing and any bumpy parts in between. Now, I only use this occasionally, but I still find it's helpful.

The second main strategy I developed was my Santa in his sleigh technique.

This is a very different kind of strategy, but I've found it to work very well. Here, when I know it is going to be really bad (e.g. in stormy weather), I pretend I am Santa, taking to his sleigh to deliver presents. I figure Santa wouldn't be the slightest bit perturbed by a bit of uppy and downy air and may indeed revel in it (in a HO, HO, HO kind of way). I kind of take on Santa's persona and characteristics and thereby can ride it out. Although 'I' might get freaked by the storminess, it's all in a day's work for 'Santa'. Besides, my beard is nearly white these days anyway.

Psychology-wise this second approach is a bit like something called Personal Construct Theory pioneered by George Kelly. You adopt a persona which has the characteristics and behaviours you want to embody.

I hope maybe there's something in either of these approaches you can adapt to work for you if you have similar fears. Don't let it put you off trying other approaches or seeking professional help. But there's something deeply satisfying and worthwhile about developing your own strategies. It's that control thing, that self-efficacy, the sense of confidence you get when you know can deal with the stuff that has previously caused you huge stress and anxiety.

One thing I should add. If you fear flying, flying a lot does help. In my case, I had to because my business depended on it. But I'm glad I did. It forced me to face my fears and develop strategies.

I mentioned my other irrational fear was heights. Nowadays, to help me deal with heights I imagine I'm in up a plane!

Floppy shoe disaster - the CBT approach

Shoes. What could possibly go wrong...?

Last week, whilst walking very briskly across Bristol to catch a train to go and deliver another day's training, something didn't feel right.

I looked down and could see most of my socked left foot. Now call me insightful but I realised that something must have gone very wrong in the shoe department. It had. The sole had almost completely parted company from the upper and was hanging on only at the very toe-end and heel-end. The rest was a gaping hole. The right shoe was starting to split too. Great.

Pingoo-like, I flopped along to the station, and later flopped along the mile or so at the other end. In the rain.With increasingly wet feet. The wet feet didn't bother me. Hey, I play golf in the Scottish Winter. You can't let a little discomfort bother you!

But I was definitely perturbed about the prospect of my shoes not lasting out the day, and more to the point by what my client and trainees would think... Look at this guy... Can he not afford a decent pair of shoes?... Imagine turning up to deliver training looking like that... Maybe he is having some major personal problems and has stopped noticing his shoddy appearance... Who hired this guy?... He certainly doesn't create the right impression....

This proved to be excessively pessimistic.

The reality? Nobody seemed to notice. The detailed explanation I had prepared for the dilapidated state of my footwear was not required. The training went well. People seemed pleased and were not put off by seeing more of my feet than anticipated.

Later, I Pingoo'd back through Bristol and out to the airport. Security did not think I was a shoe bomber and allowed me to board the plane to Edinburgh.

The shoes just about hung on and I finally made it home. When my wife picked me up from the train at Stirling, she kindly brought me another pair of shoes. (Wives are good.) My shoe nightmare was over.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Embracing the pleasures of public transport

Recently, I scrapped my old VW Passat diesel. A sad day after more than 10 years of mostly happy and reliable ownership, and it's still strange that it isn't sitting there outside the house. I'd been putting it off (procrastination again), but it was the only sensible thing to do. I just wasn't using the car and the cost of getting into a saleable state didn't add up.

When I first started in business, I drove everywhere, sometimes the length of the country for business meetings and to deliver training. My wife confided recently that she used to fear the knock on the door from the Police. Over the years though, I've driven less and less, and now am a full convert to public transport.

Today's business trip is a typical example. Later today, I will get a lift to Stirling Bus Station to get bus to about a mile and a half from Edinburgh Airport's terminal. From there I'll walk in to the terminal. There I'll check in and wait (you have to accept the waiting, there's a lot of that with public transport), then board a plane to Bristol. From Bristol Airport, which isn't very near Bristol, I will get another bus to Bristol Bus Station, which is next door to my hotel. Once I have checked in I'll walk to the nearest Wetherspoons (a pub chain and the traveller's friend), have a pint and something to eat, then walk back and go to bed.

Tomorrow morning, I'll walk from my hotel to Bristol Temple Meads Station and get a train to near where I am delivering training, then walk the rest of the way. At the end of the day, I'll get a train back to Bristol, walk back across Bristol to my hotel, stopping off at Wetherspoons again. Then I will pick up my case, and get a bus back to the Airport. Then a lot more waiting, which may involve a snooze in one of the big black massage chairs that nobody uses. Then I'll board a flight back to Edinburgh Airport, which isn't very near Edinburgh. From there, I'll get a bus to [Edinburgh] Haymarket Station, then wait for a train to get me back to Stirling, where I'll be picked up and taken home, getting back around midnight.

And that's it for this trip: 4 bus journeys, 4 train journeys, 2 flights, quite a lot of walking and 2 short car journeys either end.

Has my stress reduced by embracing public transport? You might be surprised at this, but it has, absolutely. Once you get your head round it, and accept the waiting, it's way better than driving.

One huge issue is the fatigue - it's a bad and dangerous mix with driving. Doing what I do is demanding. Driving home afterwards when you're knackered and the weather's bad isn't just stressful, it's madness. It's better to relinquish control and accept being driven or flown.

But there are other important benefits of public transport, including:
  • All the waiting gives you opportunities to think, plan and develop stuff (I try to avoid work-work and use travelling for strategic stuff and creative work, it's much more pleasurable)
  • You can connect with people and get into interesting conversations
  • You can people-watch and listen
  • You can rest and even sleep, given enough space and comfort (which is worth paying the extra for)
  • Especially on trains, you can pay attention to where you are, what's going on and watch the world go by - if you're interested in geography or the natural world this can be a pleasure indeed
  • You can read for pleasure or learning or both
  • You'll be more physically active and will certainly walk much more - this will help keep the weight down (if you like food as much as I do this is literally a big benefit!)
I've found that if you can accept the waiting and delays and give up control, it's possible to embrace and even love public transport.

I was sad to see my old car go. But, truth be told, I don't miss it.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Control and stress: do you have a case of 'the Yips'?

This is a tragic account of a stress-related condition, the Yips, that affects golfers (and some other sports where you hit a still ball). But bear with me, there's a stress management lesson here for all of us.

You may not be a golfer, but I can assure you golf is a difficult sport to master. It's physically difficult to master the skills, which often have to be produced under duress (like bad Scottish weather!). Psychologically it's even more demanding. You never completely master it, truth be told.

But the part of golf that causes the most problems is the part that should be the easiest; putting. You've probably tried putting even if you've never set foot on a golf course. How hard can it be? You're on a perfectly manicured green and all you have to do is hit a ball into a hole from a few feet. If you give a putter to a kid, they look at the putt, look at the hole, line it up and knock it into the hole. Easy. Sickeningly, annoyingly easy.

As golfers get older and stronger, they get better and more consistent at hitting longer shots. At the same time though they often get worse at putting. Sometimes much worse. They can develop the Yips.

It typically happens with short putts, sometimes very short putts; the ones we feel we should get into the hole (long putts are usually unaffected because we don't assume we should hole them all). Instead of smoothly, naturally, stroking the ball into the hole, the stroke becomes an ugly, twitchy jab. The ball dives off, to the left or right, and sometimes way past the hole. Those afflicted get very stressed on the golf course and have nightmares about putting off it. It can ruin the pleasure of playing.

Some personalities are more prone, but the basic problem is one of expectation (and associated anxiety and stress) and control. The more we feel we should hole the putt, the worse it gets. Of course, the shorter the putt, the more we feel should hole it.

We pile pressure on ourselves to hole the putt (the outcome). We can become obsessed with that outcome.

I must hole it, surely. I mean, how can I possibly miss it from there??. (But we fear we will miss it, increasing the anxiety.) I'm going to miss it and lose a shot. Such a stupid shot to lose, and so costly. How could I be so stupid? And I'll look like an idiot and let people down. Inevitably, psychological stress increases, increasing physical tension. And extreme tension and smoothly putting a ball into a hole don't mix. Hence the twitchy, jabby stroke... the Yips.

The best golf book I ever read was a book about putting called "Putting Out Of Your Mind" by Sports Psychologist, Bob Rotella. It had very little to say about the physical aspects but a lot to say about the psychology of putting. One of Bob's tips stood out: you gain control by giving up control. It seems strange, contradictory even, but it's perhaps the best single piece of stress management advice I've ever come across, weather or not you're having problems on the greens!

With putting, there are so many things that influence the whether or not the ball actually goes into the hole; the slope, the grain of the green, the way the hole is cut that day, a gust of cross-wind. Ultimately, we can't control the outcome. All we can do is to control ourselves and try to hit a good putt in the right direction. Lining the putt up and a good, smooth putting stroke will help. Mental relaxation and a good mental routine will help. More effort generally won't.

The less we worry about the outcome, the less tense we will be, and the more likely we are to hole the putt.

Control is a huge issue in stress management and resilience generally, maybe the biggest. A sense of control over what happens in your life, known as an internal locus of control, is definitely worth striving for. It will make you more resilient and better able to cope with adversity when it comes along.

But where does that sense of control come from? Not it transpires from trying to control outcomes, because often we can't control them - it's better to accept them. It comes more from focussing on the process; what we think and do. It's well worth investing time in improving our skills, behaviours and our attitudes.

Remember, the most stressed people in the world ever are control freaks.

Rules and the problem of naked joggers

I'm not and have never been a great one for 'following the rules'. The label for this in 'non-conformist'.

Some rules are good, even for non-conformists like me. Laws for instance. They are (mainly) good rules, worked out, tried and tested, over a long period of time (so-called Common Law). Some social rules or norms, like wearing your clothes in public make sense too. Though why anyone would want take off any layers in the British climate beats me (it's not just the cold, it's the midges).
I was delivering training near Bristol recently when a delegate said she saw some naked joggers (male) while she was on her way to work. It turned out many others had seen them too. Now I like my personal freedoms but is naked jogging ever OK? I don't think so. It was cold and I'm sure there wasn't much to see(!) but that's not the point. And if they caused a fatal accident, wouldn't that be manslaughter?
But there are also those unwritten rules related to other people's expectations of us that can cause problems. The word which comes to mind is 'should'. Should-rules are psychologically dangerous, potentially leading to unhappiness, anxiety and stress. Examples include: "We should go to my in-laws this Christmas because we went to my parents' last year" and "I should master PowerPoint transitions so I can deliver the sales presentation in the slick way my boss does".

A good thing is to think about and develop your own set of rules to live and work by. Simple stuff like:

Treat all people well
Live within your means
Don't try to control everything
Present in the way that suits you
Travel light
Take opportunities to connect
Pay attention to what's going on now
See your friends regularly

What would your rules be?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Just Start...

I have proved that I can procrastinate with the best of them. I was going to start this blog in early January and here we are in February, well past Valentines Day...

In my mind I've come up with several excuses for not starting, none of which are really legitimate. The real reason? I know to make a blog a success (which for me would be to have people interested in what I've got to say, get a following, and maybe even have people do something as a result) takes a lot of work. Ongoing commitment over the longer term is required.

I have a good feeling for the size of the task. It was the same with running events. To get results, you have to run a lot of them in a lot of different locations, and events are very hard work. Especially when you are the organizer and the main entertainment.

If you want to get anywhere, or build anything worthwhile, or make a change, you have to start.

So, here we are, the first blog post. I've started. Finally.

Just start. (Then keep going. And see what happens.)