Archive for September, 2014

The Culture Piece

September 30th, 2014

“Imagine a world where what you say synchs up, not sinks down.” 

– Stan Slap

Last weekend was ‘footy’ grand final weekend here in Melbourne and whilst this may carry more meaning for some, you would have to be living under a rock to not recognise that a major event was occurring in our midst and the influence it held on the city itself.

With corporate and social events locked away on calendars months in advance; players parades that bring much of the city to a halt; passionate football fans proudly running around in all of their teams colours; almost empty shopping centres and traffic free roads during game time; and a media dominance to rival any major world event you could be forgiven that the world did almost stop spinning on it’s axis for a few hours.

Whilst Melbourne is widely regarded for it’s proud sporting culture, I didn’t realise just how much of an impact this one single event had on the city until I moved here nearly nine years ago. Even if you aren’t a fan of the game, you are invariably gathered together with friends at a b-b-q or pub for the social atmosphere; or you are taking advantage of no crowds in your favourite city spots. It really is a cultural part of the fabric of this great city.

Watching and listening to the build up and banter unfold in work places, coffee shops and various social circles, it was hard to not be caught up in the anticipation and excitement of the day. As one very excited friend put it (his team was in the grand final and ultimately triumphed on the day) you can’t live in Melbourne and not be a part of something that is ‘just what we do and who we are’!

Whilst he was referring to the lifestyle of the city of we live in, it got me thinking about the ‘lifestyle’ of our workplace… or more specifically the culture of the places that we work. What is it about some business cultures that seem to harness and capture the skills, talents and energies of their people and then infectiously impact their customers and clients?

Culture, which is generally referred to as ‘the way we do things around here’, is often attributed to being a key determinant of success. But in many ways I agree with Scott Adams, American creator of the Dilbert comic strip who sees strong corporate cultures as a by-product of success:

Company culture is another area that I think the experts get backwards. The common belief is that you need a good company culture to create success. But isn’t it more likely that companies with awesome employees get both a good culture and success at the same time? A good corporate culture is a byproduct of doing everything right; it’s not the cause of success as much as the outcome. Success improves culture more than a good culture can cause success.

So what are the components of doing ‘everything right’ and how do they translate into our businesses?

I believe that there are 8 key elements that organisations with strong cultures seek to embed within their day to day operations:

  • Clear Mission, Goals, Roles & Responsibilities

Where are we going, how do we get there and what is my contribution to the journey?

Strong cultures are able to impart a clear understanding not only of their purpose but they are able to help employees understand the link between their role and the accomplishment of these goals.

  • Empowering Leadership

Strong leadership is more than just delegating and managing employees. To develop truly effective workplaces, employees must feel empowered to take advantage of a variety of resources, collaborate with peers, investigate opportunities and own their own performance. 

  • Embrace Learning & Continuous Improvement

The desire to continuously deliver efficient, innovative and relevant products and services is a challenge for all businesses in today’s ever-changing environment. To deliver on this commitment, organisations need to encourage curiosity, learning and up-skilling and commit to a mindset of continuous improvement throughout all business channels.

  • Transparent Communication

Transparency matters because it helps people engage in what it is that they do and with the workplace. Meaningful and relevant dialogue between colleagues, managers and leaders is critical to ensuring progress is being made and contributions are valued. 

  • Unity

As the saying goes – ‘We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided’. Organisations and teams that are united in focus and action, maximise efficiencies and outcomes through collaborative actions.

  • Productive

Healthy workplace cultures create far more than just a ‘feel-good’ factor. Employees are happier, more engaged, motivated and ultimately work harder and are far more productive.

  • Trust

This can be a harder practice for some more than others, however it is a critical part of building successful teams and businesses. Individuals who are trusted and empowered to deliver on their responsibilities are invariably more productive, efficient and innovative with their solutions and outcomes.

  • Celebrate & Acknowledge Success

Success builds success. Stopping to celebrate and acknowledge great work, outcomes and key contributors is essential in building employee loyalty and long term engagement. Encouraging the expression of gratitude and appreciation from all levels within an organisation is a powerful propellant for future success.

We all influence the culture of our workplace, regardless of the position we hold within them. We all ‘run onto the field’ when we turn up to work each day and when we all play our position we can create successful and amazing places to work.

I would love to hear more about your thoughts on the critical elements of workplace culture.

Margot – The Career Diplomat[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you would like to know more about how to engage your teams and grow your workplace culture, please contact Margot directly on or +61 3 9866 3842.[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”88″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” link=”″]

The Career Chat

September 23rd, 2014

Career Chat blog image

Many of us have become only too familiar with the frightening workforce engagement statistics that suggest only 18% of the Australian workforce is actively engaged and this lack of productivity costs Australian businesses $42 billion p.a. (Source: RED)

Organisations are spending bucket-loads of dollars on measuring their employee engagement scores and countless hours on developing strategies for increasing it.

But for all of our spend and efforts it seems that the simple art of the Career Chat is being lost in our work places today. What do our employees want to do with their careers and how does that align with the business objectives and direction? What are my career ambitions and where are the opportunities for me to make a valuable contribution to my role and organisation?

Whilst most of us appreciate the need for open communication and the associated benefits of having regular career conversations, there still exists an enormous reluctance – and often for understandable reasons – for managers to embark upon having them. Misunderstandings, confused expectations, individual sensitivities, lack of trust and uncertainty about business directions all form a part of this reluctance. But are these reasons enough to prevent the conversation from happening at all?

The reality is that if business leaders and line managers don’t acknowledge or understand the career aspirations of their people, the following scenarios tend to emerge:

Individuals who are in the wrong place at the wrong time will under-perform

High performing employees who are looking for fresh challenges will begin to coast along

Outstanding employees who are often deemed to be critical to future success, will leave in search of other opportunities

All scenarios are problematic and unfortunately are often not addressed in a timely or appropriate manner because our business leaders and managers simply don’t know how to have the ‘career chat’ in a genuine and authentic manner.

This issue is not only tricky for organisations but also for the individual business leader / manager, for when they fail to have these conversations they actually risk their own performance impact and the value of their own career currency.

Regardless of what it is that we do, we all like to know that we are adding value and contributing to both our own and our organisation’s success. Whilst performance reviews tend to highlight this contribution and value retrospectively, career conversations focus on future contributions and help employees and organisations align this contribution for mutual success.

The sense of progressing in our working lives is essential – it motivates and inspires us. For some professionals it is moving up the career ladder as quickly as possible, while for others it is the desire to experience new things and diversify skill sets. As business leaders it is imperative that we know this about the people we lead; and as individuals it is critical that you are able to convey what your ambitions are and feel comfortable in communicating this with your manager in order to develop and shape your career.

So what are the keys to conducting successful Career Conversations?

  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

Preparation as they say is the key to success.

As an individual, understanding your own career ambitions and how your current performance is regarded within the organisation is essential. Preparing thoughts and ideas on how your contribution could be elevated also demonstrates a proactive approach to managing your own career.

As a manager or leader, a clear understanding of the businesses needs, your employee’s current performance and any development opportunities that may exist within the role and organization is necessary if you are to provide accurate and honest feedback about the employee’s career ambitions.

  • Communication

Establishing honest, open and transparent communication between managers and employees is often one of the greatest challenges individuals and organizations face.

Given that trust and transparency are built over time and through active collaboration and positive interactions only reinforces the need for regular conversations.

Freedom to explore options free of judgment and with honest constructive feedback will help employees set realistic career goals and drive career ownership.

  • Accountability

In order to ensure that the conversation doesn’t remain just that, it is important to conclude any meeting with a clear plan that has mutually agreed actions, timelines and milestones.

This will also ensure that all follow up dialogue is relevant and action orientated. Furthermore, it demonstrates the importance and value placed on defining and supporting career ambitions and progression.

  • Follow Up

Regular conversations are crucial to ensuring your own or your employee’s plan is moving forward. As well as offering opportunities to provide or gather support, they consolidate purpose and strengthen relationships. It is also worth remembering that informal conversations can add enormous value.

Creating an environment where employees feel confident to have these conversations will ultimately determine their validity and success. Breaking down the communication barriers and encouraging greater discussion about career direction in a trusted environment not only encourages career ownership but also promotes an engaged and productive workforce.

I would love to hear of your experiences with participating in or managing these conversations and any other top tips you can offer.

What Is The Value Of Your Career Currency …. Today?

September 16th, 2014

Career Currency 4 blog
What Is The Value Of Your Career Currency….Today?

Watching the Australian dollar bounce around on the financial market this week has provided lots of media commentary about market volatility, changing global pressures, key influences and currency trends.

It ‘s also provided me with a lot of thinking around the importance of establishing a stable Career Currency.

Although we as individuals cannot control the value of our nations’ currency, we  can establish influence and control over the value of our own Career Currency – regardless of what it is that we do.

A quick Google search on the term ‘Career Currency’ would lead you to believe that it is defined by the value you bring to a potential new employer.

But what about the value you hold right now, with your current  employer?

The reality is your currency holds real value today, in the job you hold right now and it bears a strong influence on the future opportunities that lie ahead – be it internally with your current employer or externally with a new one.

Establishing a genuine level of awareness and ownership over you Career Currency affords you immediate opportunities for development and leverage.

Most importantly it allows you to remain in, or if need be, to recover a sense of control over your own career situation.

So what actually is Career Currency?

Quite simply it is the professional value an employee represents to their employer – be it a prospective or current employer.

Given that our currency can rise and fall just like any other, we need to firstly understand what the key attributes of Career Currency are.

I believe that there are four key attributes to Career Currency:

  • Performance  Ability, Output, Motivation, Consistency, Ambition, Attitude
  • Potential  Past and Future Learning, Growth, Ambition, Desire
  • Relationship  Internal relationships (including peers, reports and management), Endeavour, Influence, Collaboration
  • Personality  Communication, EQ, Resilience, Endeavour, Behaviour

Your ability to accurately assess the strength of these four currency attributes not only provides you with an insight into the professional value you offer an employer but most importantly it provides the foundation for a practical and informed career strategy.

In order to truly maximise both your value and your opportunity, you need to ensure you are developing strength in each of the four areas.

For most of us it is probably not too difficult to recall colleagues who were able to develop strengths in several areas but not all…. That person who was technically brilliant but problematic to work with due to their inability to engage collaboratively; or that ‘top person’ but whose performance let them and others down.

Failing to develop all four areas is like sitting on a three-legged chair – you are out of balance; you feel difficult and uncomfortable and the risk of falling is high. Without balance, both our currency and our opportunity is subject to volatility and instability as it is often only valued in certain scenarios or for short periods of time.

When I reflect upon the highly successful colleagues and inspirational leaders I have worked with throughout my career, there is a common trait that they each shared: self awareness.

They took time to reflect on situations, examined their actions and the impact on those around them; they sought feedback and strived to develop outcomes that offered lasting value to the organisation they worked for. In doing so, they not only offered their employer lasting value, but they created opportunities for themselves often way beyond their original plan and developed great personal advocates in their peers and clients.

Typically an accurate self-awareness of Career Currency will allow you to make highly informed career decisions. Ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Where are you at and why?
  • What the most pressing considerations for you in your role right now?
  • What can be done to enact immediate attention?
  • How do I maximise my current career options?
  • What are the longer term implications or possible outcomes?

Loss of direction, purpose and motivation dramatically affects each attribute of our Career Currency. and presents some of the greatest dangers in your career. At a time when organisations are more focused than ever on efficiency and cost management, establishing a firm appreciation of your value and career situation has never been so important.

In doing so you are ensuring you understand the opportunities that may exist to enhance your future career prospects. knowing then how to align your personal efforts with your key business objectives will ensure you are maintaining and growing the value of your career currency.

‘P’ is for Plan

September 9th, 2014

Time to Plan - blog size

A goal without a plan is just a wish

– Antoine de Saint- Exupéry

It is no secret that changing careers can be one of the most stressful things you can undertake, so the ability to not only convince others of your chosen path but also yourself is critical to your success.

In my experience as a career coach, the ability to clearly define and articulate your career plan has a two fold benefit.

Firstly it allows you to convey a genuine and compelling story to those in your professional and personal network.

More importantly though it also helps you validate to yourself the new direction you are taking.

A well constructed plan will help you navigate the uncertainty of the employment market.

One of the most confronting things that you will face in periods of transition is the lack of control over the outcomes and their timings. Should I really be planning that next holiday? Can I afford to take a break from looking at the market next month? What other industries should I be considering? How do I approach them? When will I next be working?

These simple decisions can very quickly become big decisions and often leave us with a feeling of paralysis … the rabbit in headlights scenario where we are not sure of what to do next. Being able to ‘see through the fog’ and take action is critical for retaining a sense of balance, a healthy perspective and a strong sense of self-confidence.

Regardless of whether you are transitioning to a new role internally making the shift to a new company; changing careers or launching into your own business; whether the decision to change has been chosen by you or imposed upon you, I believe that there are 8 key points that each warrant careful consideration and planning:

  • Create a plan that starts with you

What do I want? Sounds like a fairly straightforward question and yet it is one that so many people find difficult.

Understanding and aligning your core values, skills and ambitions is essential as they become your guiding compass for considering and pursuing new opportunities.

It is only when you can identify and articulate what they are, that you are able to demonstrate the potential value that you can bring to a new employer.

  • Gather the facts….become informed

It’s one thing to understand what you want to do; it’s another thing to know what the market will allow you to do.

Knowing your own local industry and market is important to helping you understand the unique complexities and timelines for your transition journey. What are the current trends emerging? What is the industry outlook in the next 2, 5, 10 years? What is the average time that it takes for someone at my level to successfully transition?

As with all effective plans, the starting point needs to be a clear and accurate measure of what the landscape looks like in order to move forward.

  • Build your fitness

Building core strength, stamina and endurance are critical elements to any fitness plan. Most of us appreciate the need to build physical fitness but equally as important is the need to build technical, emotional, AND financial fitness if we are to embark upon the journey with confidence and last the distance. Ask yourself:

What technical skills do I need to improve or develop to position myself more competitively within the market place?

What emotional support frameworks do I need to build to support myself through this process?

Can my financial resources support the time and variances that may be required to execute the desired career change?

  • Face the fear

As with any change, it is normal to expect that at some point the self-doubt and fear will creep in. Understanding this, we can be prepared for when it appears. One of the most effective ways for overcoming our doubts is to remain engaged in the process – connecting with our networks, remaining up to date and informed on our industry, exploring new areas where our skills can be easily transferred.

  • Protect your relationships

It is important to not underestimate the value of the opportunity and the relationships you hold today. Delivering on your responsibilities and maintaining healthy relationships during a period of transition or departure is critical to managing your professional reputation.

  • Connect…network authentically

No one can do it alone. Our networks are pivotal to our career success and critical during times of transition. The very mention of the word ‘networking’ though often strikes fear into the heart of many, as they are worried about being perceived as disingenuous and fake.

With current statistics suggesting that up to 75% of opportunities come through your networks or extended networks, a clear and robust plan for engagement is required.

Different networks require different approaches. Knowing how to initiate contact, engage and follow up with each one with a sincere sense of purpose is the key to successful networking and career success.

  • Don’t peak too early

It’s one thing to decide that you are ready for a career change it is another to start engaging with the market and your networks.

If you start initiating conversations and meetings without a clear understanding of what you want to do and the value that you can bring to a potential employer, you are at risk of being perceived as ambiguous, indecisive and at worst irrelevant.

Before you initiate career conversations you need to ensure that you have a clear idea of what it is that you want and how you can offer value.

  • Call time-out

It’s difficult to make a career change without a significant investment of time, effort and commitment. It can be intense, it can be arduous and if you aren’t careful it can completely consume your thinking. In order to keep balance and perspective it is important to take time out, re-energise and connect with family and friends.Give yourself permission to focus on other areas in your life and see the bigger picture of where work fits within it all.


For most of us it’s not the the change itself that is daunting but the transition process. With change an inevitable part of life and the business landscape today, we all need to be ready to embark upon a new career direction at any point.

What building blocks are your working on today and what do you consider to be the most valuable transition tools to include in your career plan?  I would love to hear some of your thoughts below.

Margot – The Career Diplomat[vcex_divider][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you are currently embarking upon a career transition, why not sign up to our blog today and download our free transition checklist to help you prepare for the journey ahead.

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