Archive for October, 2014

Tick Tock

October 28th, 2014

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

– Benjamin Franklin

There are very few things in life that are constant but time is one of those few things.

Regardless of how hard you work, how wealthy you are, whether you live in the northern hemisphere or the southern, whether you are 10 years of age or 110, the fact remains, there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Granted, some days may seem longer than others, but the reality is no amount of effort can provide you with additional time.

You can’t buy it, rent it, borrow it, store it or renew it.

All you can do is spend it.

And herein lies the question: Are you spending your time wisely?

In a time when most of us are being asked to do more with less – less money, less resources and less time – it is the people who are able to use their time productively that are reaping the rewards. Rewards both personally and professionally.

What is it though about some people that make them so productive? Note I said productive – there is big difference between simply getting something done and being productive. In an age where ‘being busy’ is the norm, how do we ensure that we are getting the most out of the 24 hours in the day, the 7 days in the week that we all have?

I believe that there are several attributes that productive people embody in their daily life:

  • Value time as a resource: You need to value what do you do as if it were a precious resource you are about to allocate or invest into. Just as we need to determine the return on staffing resources or financial and IT systems, we need to do the same with our time. Ask yourself the same questions as if you were about to allocate other resources:

– What will I obtain in return? Is it worth it?

– Does it fulfil my needs and the business needs?

– What type of environment does this resource / investment require to maximise a return?

– What do I need to prioritise to ensure that this resource / investment achieves the strongest outcome.

– How do I best protect it?

  • Know your direction and purpose: People often complain about lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem (Zig Ziglar).

Without clear objectives your attention and subsequently your actions are spent focused on whatever seems important only in that moment. Your time ends up being spent on things that are often low priority and fail to add value to you, your role or the business that you work for. Establishing clear goals, frameworks and timeframes supports your success.

  • Know your influencers and stakeholders: Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by people who are not on track!
  • Blend efficiency and effectiveness: Efficiency is doing the job right whilst effectiveness refers to doing the right job. Strong leaders know how to blend the two approaches. You understand all that is required, prioritise the most important tasks and complete them in the best possible way.

When you can do this consistently, your work will be more productive and the rewards far greater.

  • Influence what you can and let go of what you can’t: Understand what the demands are, the constraints are and what choices we have. What do we ‘have’ to do versus what are the limits to what we can do? What choices do we have in how the work is delivered and, where when and by whom?

As leaders you need to see the opportunities for action, know how to manage the boundaries and make choices that maximise the effectiveness given the varying constraints and demands of the job.

  • Know yourself – what makes you work? Time is also a very personal resource. You are the only one who can spend your time.

Understanding our own uniqueness and the intricacies of what makes us work as individuals is critical to our success. Remove or minimize the things that take your eye off the ball, cause you to procrastinate or sideline you. Instead focus on creating environments and habits that make you work – it can be as simple as walking to work, a morning coffee or starting the day reading the paper.

  • Get off that hamster wheel! When you feel ‘stuck’ you are more often than not, running flat out, burning lots of energy and going nowhere fast. Finding yourself on the hamster wheel is exhausting, unfulfilling and unsustainable. The tricky thing is that by the time you realise you are on it, you are already spinning so fast that jumping off seems impossible and downright dangerous.

The key to jumping off the wheel is recognising that it is nothing more than a routine – a routine that you firstly created and one you can absolutely change.

  • Collaborate: Productive leaders know that they cannot do it alone. Whist they have a very clear understanding of the value of their own contribution, they also know how to effectively harness the talent around them, draw upon individual strengths and encourage collaboration to achieve the desired outcomes.

Understanding that you have the ultimate control over how you invest your time is critical to your success. Your fulfilment and productivity levels are greatly enhanced when you feel in control of what you do, value what you do and can see how the contribution you offer adds to your business or workplace.

How do you ensure that you are making the most of your time? I would love to hear your thoughts.

How Comfortable Is Too Comfortable?

October 21st, 2014

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The greatest danger to our future is apathy
– Jane Goodall
Comfort … Let’s face it, most of us enjoy some degree of comfort in our lives. Life just seems easier, simpler and less complicated with a little bit of comfort in the mix.

BUT can we be too comfortable?

Absolutely we can![vcex_spacing size=”20px”]

For many of us some of our richest experiences and greatest achievements have come from stepping outside of our comfort zone. Pushing the boundaries of our circle of comfort more often than not brings new knowledge, new networks, new opportunities and lessons that sustain us well after the experience has ended. It also invariably lights a spark and fuels a passion for what we do.

In talking with many business leaders the greatest challenge they face is managing and facing an attitude of indifference…. indifference about careers, indifference about business and indifference about opportunities. It’s this lack of ownership that is dangerous.

It’s not so much a case of loving or hating your role. If you hate your job, quitting would be easy. What’s more common is the lull in between – the comfortable zone. It’s the going through the motion feeling; the response of ‘fine’ when someone asks you how your day was; or the shrug of the shoulders followed by ‘what’s the point?’.

The most dangerous path is the apathetic path and often the all too easy one to follow.

By definition, apathy is a lack of feeling, interest or concern. It is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as excitement, motivation and/or passion.

YIKES! Sound the alarm bells… Sounds like death is imminent!

As Jane Goodall says, it is the greatest danger to our future. Dangerous to both our personal future and that of the business’s that we lead.

We’ve all had moments of apathy about our work but if we aren’t mindful of it, it can easily become a perpetuating cycle that we can get caught in. The key to not ending up in the cycle or to breaking it is firstly recognising that you are in it and knowing that there is an alternative way of operating.[vcex_spacing size=”20px”]What is the apathy cycle?

  • You become indifferent about what you do, your impact and contribution and you start operating at a lower level.
  • You mentally shut down.
  • The people around you lower their expectations of both your capability and you personally.
  • You become discouraged by the negative nature of the cycle and easily slip between indifference and outright resentment.
  • Your performance levels really slide greatly impacting your career currency, reputation and future career opportunities.
  • Cycle begins again, only this time rather than being indifferent, you actively dislike your role.

Apathy is like a disease and when it starts to grow it infects all who come in to contact. It transfers from one person to the next and if we aren’t careful across teams, spreading like wildfire.

Thankfully though for every force there is a counter-force. For every negative there is a positive.

Just as apathy can easily be a perpetuating cycle, so too can a passionate cycle.

What is the passionate cycle?

  • You are inspired and actively engaged in your work and produce better results.
  • These results become the driving force to grow, learn and raise your level of contribution.
  • Your professional reputation and career currency is elevated.
  • Your network grows because people want to work with inspired and positive people; and your results attract interest in what you do and how you do it.
  • Your confidence is elevated allowing you to continue to bring more of yourself to both the role and the business you lead.
  • Cycle begins again, only this time you are more passionate about your role, your value and the possibilities of greater success.

The apathy cycle drains and the passionate cycle builds.

We all have the power to break the cycle of apathy. Finding yourself in a situation that sucks your passion and zest for what you do is exhausting and debilitating. Creating and placing yourself in situations that inject fresh energy and passion though is ultimately within your control.

The choice is ours.

Margot – The Career Diplomat[vcex_divider][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you find yourself ‘leading from the rut’ and would like to discuss ways to overcome apathy in your workplace, 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=”″]

Take Courage

October 15th, 2014

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I think I can, I think I can… I know I can! 

– The Little Engine That Could

During a recent meeting with a client we found ourselves laughing about the need for a ‘little engine that could’ mindset. Telling ourselves that ‘Yes I think can, I think I can.… I know I can’, despite the apparent obstacles that lay in the way.

Most of us will recall the much loved childhood story that I am referring to about the train filled with toys for children that breaks down before reaching them. After asking several trains passing by for help over the hill and being derided for doing so, a little blue engine agrees to help. Even though she is small, the blue engine digs deep within herself to find the energy and capability to bring the train carrying the toys to the children on the other side of the hill.We’ve all faced times where we have felt like the train loaded to the hilt with expectations and responsibilities, facing an uphill journey only to find ourselves without the resources to get over the hill. It might be that you are embarking upon a major project, looking to change jobs, streamline systems or managing difficult situations.

It’s normally in these times when there is little opportunity and limited support that the obstacles seem larger than life. It’s in these times that courage is required. Courage to think about alternative solutions, take a risk and step out. Courage to simply say ‘I can’ and not, ‘I can’t’ or ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘what if it doesn’t work’?

Tapping into into your personal courage takes some grit, but when you do, you can overcome uncertainty, intimidation, apathy and doubt. It also helps you move from situations where you find yourself ‘stuck’ to a world of expanded opportunities.

Courage is crucial in our world today. But somehow it always seems easier to recognise, encourage and applaud it in others. Stepping out and applying it in our own lives often requires a great deal of risk and vulnerability, which for some invokes sheer terror and more often than not is regarded as weakness.

BUT (and this is a big but!) when you do recognise, develop and apply the power of personal courage the benefits can be enormous. Not only do you break down the limitations of any situation, you can realize greater job satisfaction, career advancement and experience greater confidence and personal fulfillment.

To support the development of a courageous mindset, I believe that there are six key steps to consider:

  • Be clear on your direction /path

In order to bravely step out and ‘get over that hill’ you need to know that it is where you want and/or need to go. Confidence in your direction will be a solid anchor that supports your decisions.

  • Adopt a solution-oriented mindset

Barriers will always be there whether you look for them or not. Adopting a solution-oriented mindset not only allows you to focus on where you are going but to do so in a more timely and efficient manner.

  • Ask for help

No one can do it alone. Harnessing the energy and talents of others will not only lighten the load but also bring fresh new approaches, ideas and ways to overcome obstacles.

  •  Surround yourself with ‘Can Do People’  

Don’t let the ‘nay-sayers’ derail you! Collaborating with people who also bring a ‘can do attitude’ will see you achieve your desired results and destination faster and with less stress and angst.

  • Focus on one step at a time

Whist it is critical to know your end destination, it is just as important to know what the incremental goal posts are and ensure that they are achieved with quality and purpose. Acknowledging and celebrating these milestones will also build momentum and drive further forward action.

  • Start moving

‘Clarity comes through engagement not thought’ (Marie Forleo). Often we don’t have all the answers at the beginning of the journey but by actively engaging in the process we come to understand what works and what doesn’t. Momentum also builds momentum but it does require a start.

To shift thinking and find solutions in both our businesses and careers we need to embrace courage on a daily basis. When we do so, it provides us with the power, knowledge and strength to take a lead role in solving workplace issues and enhancing both our personal performance and organizational effectiveness.

I for one plan on finishing the journey saying ‘I thought I could, I thought I could’ and not ‘I wish I did, I wish I did’!

Do you have any other tips for adopting a courageous mindset in your workplace? Please share below …

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 overcoming obstacles and gaining clarity in your workplace, 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=””]

Health is Wealth

October 6th, 2014

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“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” 

– Fred Rogers

[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”]Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work. The environment that we therefore choose to invest these waking hours is critical not only as a source of income, but also our mental health and well being.

Too often we tend to really only focus on the value of our health when we no longer have it. As a result our ‘she’ll be right, mate’ attitude is costing us dearly both as individuals and as business leaders.

This week marks Mental Health Week, providing us with the ideal opportunity to look at how we acknowledge and manage the impact of mental illness in our role and businesses today. With one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness every year it is a very real issue for all employers to navigate.

There is no debate that mental illness is a complex issue. The best definition of mental illness I have read is ‘the interaction between individuals, their coping and resilience skills and their jobs’. Whilst the workplace is only one facet of the issue, it is a critical one.  Adding to this complexity is the variance in between an individuals coping skills – where one person may be able to work in a stressful situation without becoming unwell but others will.

Depression and anxiety are the leading cause of long-term sickness absence in workplaces today. Adding to this is the associated issue of ‘presenteeism’ where employees remain in the workforce despite their condition causing a significant reduction in performance and productivity.

Overlay the additional pressures of changing business landscapes; high staff turnover; the growing demands of needing to ‘do more with less’; the general pressures of modern work and life; and the need for creating healthy workplace environments has never been more evident.

It is estimated that the cost of mental health to the Australian workforce is over $12 billion every year, which includes a staggering $200 million worth of workers compensation claims (source: Black Dog Institute 2014).

Not only is this dollar cost alarming but so to is the human cost. Creating healthy living and workplace habits that also focus on prevention is critical for us both as employees and employers. The benefits and costs are enormous both financially and culturally:

  • Healthy team morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Strong corporate culture & brand
  • Increased individual well being
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Decreased staff turnover and overhead costs
  • Greater innovation and contribution
  • Skill retention


  • Absenteeism
  • Grievances & Litigation
  • Accidents
  • Errors of Judgement
  • Conflict & Frustration
  • Customer Service Issues
  • Impaired thinking & Decision Making
  • Resistance to Change

[vcex_spacing size=”10px”]Healthy workplaces consist of collaborative and co-operative teams. They provide a sense of connection by helping to create meaning and purpose and a strong sense of achievement and identity.

So how do we induce good workplace health and not just correct it?

  1. Educate

Creating or changing the culture of a workplace to be fairer to people facing a mental illness starts with education. Education for all employees on how to manage, support and seek help for their own well being or that of a staff member.

  1. Discuss

We need to teach managers and team members to simply ask ‘are you okay’ and equip them with the knowledge and skills to deal with the response in an appropriate and confidential manner. In doing so it encourages both parties to reach out and take action.

  1. Demonstrated Leadership

A commitment to employee health and safety needs to be reflected in words and actions. Whilst strong policies and procedures are critical, unless the message is ‘walked and talked’ the ability to create a healthy workplace is impeded.

  1. Right Job Fit

Ensuring that we have the right people in the right job at the right time is the key challenge for organisations today. Promoting and appointing individuals to positions that are not an appropriate fit on skill set or leadership style is not only stressful for the employee but also their extended team and client or customer base.

  1. Understand Employee Strengths

Tom Rath’s book Strengths Based Leadership finds that employees who use their top five strengths on a daily basis are 600% more likely to be engaged at work and are 300% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

  1. Provide Practical and Confidential Resources

The vast majority of employees are reluctant or unwilling to discuss their condition with workmates. There is therefore a clear need for employees to access anonymous and confidential resources and information. This could be in the form Employee Assist Programs (EAP’s) or access to online information via an organisation’s intranet and online resources.

No person or single team can do it alone. Addressing mental health issues requires honesty, courage, understanding and dedicated time and resources, at both an individual and organisational level if we are to bring about long-term change.

Do you work in a mentally healthy workplace? What actions have you or your organisation taken to create this environment and how has it been embraced?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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 creating healthy workplace frameworks or minimising stress in your role, 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=”_blank” alignment=”none” link=”″]

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