Archive for May, 2016

Building Career Accountability

May 31st, 2016

“I must do something” always solves more problems than
“Something must be done” – Anon
Accountability is a funny thing. Some people crave it, some avoid it and some simply have no idea what to do with it.

Yet personal accountability is such an enormously powerful trait that can really distinguish you from your peers and the crowd you run with. The days of having a job for life are now long gone. Maintaining relevance to your employer, your network and you industry is now a critical key to future-proofing your career; and the fastest way to remain relevant is to be accountable for what it is that you do. Accountable for the tasks you are required to do and accountable for the way in which you do it.

Todd Herman offers a great definition of personal accountability that expands on the traditional one of simply being responsible, to include: ‘the preparedness to answer…. for the outcomes resulting from your choices, behaviours and actions”.

Making a commitment to own your performance, your decisions, behaviours, successes and mistakes not only sets you apart but it elevates your career value to new levels. Your performance improves, your relationships are strengthened, your reputation is elevated and you attract new opportunities. It’s a massive WIN!

When you made the decision to work for your employer, you invariably signed a formal contract that outlined all the responsibilities and tasks you committed to and what you would receive in return. You also though in effect agreed to an unwritten contract where you agreed to take personal responsibility for delivering work to the highest standard and best of your ability – and not just enough to scrape by. Turning in the bare minimum translates to mediocrity, average and non-descript. It also says to those around you that you don’t value what you do so why should they.

As individuals when you turn up to work and focus on delivering excellence to the organisation you work for, your clients and customers, your colleagues, you make yourself indispensable. When you show up and expect everyone else to prop you up, blame others when things go wrong, act entitled, you run the enormous risk of becoming redundant. It is worth remembering that it is the company that owns the job, you own your career.

As leaders our challenge is to create cultures where people want and choose to be accountable. Where they don’t need to be held accountable by others because they already hold themselves to their responsibilities and behaviours. Where they crave accountability because it’s where the good stuff happens – for both them personally and the organisation at large.

So what are the key elements of accountability?

  1. Transparency: Be as open as possible about your choices, motivations, actions and outcomes. Nothing engenders more trust and collaboration than open, honest communication.
  2. Participation: Actively engaging with those that are impacted by your choices and decisions is not only a part of being accountable but it is also a powerful demonstration of what and why you value what you do.
  3. Reflection & Deliberation: Once you have actively engaged with those who are key stakeholders, we are able to validate the pathway that we are heading in. Opening up the channels of communication to listen, reflect and re-evaluate will ensure that the choices and actions you take are relevant and impactful.
  4. Response: Rarely do we sail in a straight line. The ability to adapt how and what we do to meet the demands and requirements of our role requires is critical if we are to deliver lasting outcomes.

Taking personal accountability for your career isn’t just about ensuring you have a pay check at the end of the month or a bonus at the end of the quarter. It is about creating lasting value for both yourself and your business. It is about creating choices and pathways for transition.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


Building An Innovation Mindset

May 24th, 2016

Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have…. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led and how much you get it”

– Steve Jobs
Whilst most business leaders openly acknowledge that innovation is a critical driver of growth and the demand for it has never been so high, so constant and so ‘now’, many are still challenged by how to best lead and manage it. Coupled with the fact that many people don’t actually believe they are capable of it, leaders can face a big challenge in building innovation mindsets in their people and businesses. As a result all too often the innovation process has been relegated to business units such as marketing and research development – where all those ‘creative types’ hang out!

With studies suggesting that over 65% of today’s business leaders still lack the confidence and know how to stimulate innovative thinking in their teams and organisations we are limiting both our immediate results and our future potential. It is clear that a failure to deliver on innovation has the potential to not only hurt our business success but also our own individual career success and that of the people we lead. So how do we approach the building of innovation mindsets?

Innovation so very rarely happens as a result of one or two genius’s that work away on a spark of an idea and reappear with a roadmap for a new direction, approach or way forward. In the Wall Street Journal article, titled Together We Innovate, the authors emphasise the importance of employee collaboration in an effort to generate new ideas and ways of operating. As they state, ‘most innovations are created through networks – groups of people working in concert’.

There is no doubt that workplace culture is the linchpin. Whilst structures and processes are important they are not the key. People and culture are by far the most important drivers of innovation and therefore need to be our focus. By creating the right conditions we not only make better use of our often-untapped talent, we can also allow for dynamic innovation networks to emerge and flourish.

The advantage of building innovation networks is in the shift in emphasis from individual creativity or intelligence to the leveraging of connections and collected experience and knowledge. Networked employees typically innovate at a different level and have an ability to make their ideas ‘catch on’ more quickly. Given that new ideas spur more new ideas, networks then have the capacity to generate a cycle of innovation. They key is to ensure that there is enough diversity of thinking, knowledge and experience to ensure the cross fertilisation of ideas. When they do, leaders are then able to capture more value from their existing resources without embarking on major change initiatives.

As leaders I would encourage you to consider the following six tips that you can do to foster an environment of innovation:

  1. Create a culture of trust: Innovation requires us to step outside of the ‘everyday way’, to break down the old rules of thought and adopt new ones. It requires new levels of transparency and vulnerability and our people will only engage when they feel safe to do so.
  2. Create opportunities for everyone to contribute: Innovation requires diversity of thought. Successful leaders know that in order to obtain that diversity we need input from a variety of sources – internally and externally. It is in this diversity of contribution that new ideas and pathways are explored and at a level that could not have been found if we were to attempt it alone.
  3. Create belief in our abilities to innovate: Innovation requires curiosity of thought. It is through this exploration and the sharing of our thoughts in a safe environment that allows us to recognise how our contribution is valued.
  4. Make innovation easy to ‘do’: Consider your physical environment, how you interact, what tools you need, what supporting frameworks you need and the space that brings people together. Innovation is also a discipline so it requires us to invest in prioritising time for it.
  5. Link the process with the outcome: Innovation is not a popularity contest. It is not just a matter of the ‘winning’ idea getting up. To arrive at the ‘winning’ ideas invariably we have had to iterate many times and revisit, review, throw out or tweak and evolve many different thoughts. Individual contributions are all part of the road to the final outcome.

As leaders how we foster innovation matters. Moving it out of the domains of the one or two ‘creative types’ and into the domain of the broader business is critical. In doing so we not only unlock new opportunities for the organisation but also ourselves and the people we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


Why Strong Leaders Need Courage

May 17th, 2016

“I think I can, I think I can. I know I can”

– The Little Red Engine That Could
During a recent meeting with a client we found ourselves laughing about the need for a ‘little engine that could’ mindset: ‘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 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’.

Tapping 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 rapidly changing world. However 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 or a feeling of weakness.

When you do recognise, develop and apply the power of personal courage though the benefits can be enormous. Not only can you break down the limitations of any situation, you can realise greater job satisfaction, career advancement and experience greater confidence and personal fulfilment.

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 forces you to consider alternatives that often prove to be more relevant, timely and efficient.

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 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 upon moving we come to understand what works and what doesn’t. Momentum 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. It sometimes means being comfortable operating in shades of grey rather than a definitive black and white. However when we do, 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 organisational effectiveness.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


Developing The Habit Of Acknowledgement

May 10th, 2016


 “Those who drink the water

must remember those who dug the well”

-Chinese Proverb
Acknowledgement is one of those things that you often don’t miss until it’s not given. Be it in the acknowledgement of someone as they walk into a room, an email received, a mistake made, the contribution of others or great work delivered, failing to acknowledge can be frustrating, demotivating and at times simply rude. Most of us don’t need to think too hard or long about a situation that could have been transformed if we had simply been acknowledged.

Yet acknowledgement is something that is so easy to give. It doesn’t cost us anything, is not time consuming and the benefits yielded for both the recipient and the person making the acknowledgement can be far reaching. For most of us learning the act of acknowledgement was an integral part of our upbringing – learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, greeting others in a genuine and interested manner and showing respect to others by acknowledging them and their efforts. Unfortunately however whilst it is still taught it no longer seems to be a ‘norm’ in many of today’s organisational cultures.

With many organisations formally implementing reward and recognition programs there is no doubt that at some level, acknowledgment is valued. However this formal process should not and cannot replace the personal responsibility we have to acknowledge those around us and their contributions in our everyday actions. As leaders it is one of our greatest tools for building motivated, engaged and connected individuals and teams. Leaders with the greatest following are the ones who personally acknowledge others, appreciate their work and guide them to leverage their contributions. This act of personal acknowledgement not only helps to forge stronger relationships by building loyalty and trust with the individuals who work with us, but also helps to enable more productive and timely results.

So considering all the benefits why does the act of acknowledgement seem to be disappearing? Judy Umlas, author of The Power of Acknowledgement believes it is a new set of habits that need to be developed and cultivated for today’s way of working. All too often we fail or forget to acknowledge others, not because we are thoughtless or unkind, but simply because we can’t always see what warrants it and our more traditional ways of recognising it no longer apply. As such we no longer acknowledge it. Bob Nelson, a leading engagement expert argues that the habit of acknowledgement is simply disappearing from our culture. We have become so use to not giving or receiving it that we no longer look for ways to give it.

There is no doubt that the fast paced and often frenetic ways that we now work require us to learn to ‘see’ what is happening around us in a different way. Coupled with the impact of technology, flexible and remote work environments and the ways we communicate, the way in which we observe each other’s contribution and the way we acknowledge has certainly changed enormously. However despite all these changes we still need to be acknowledged for what we have done. We need to feel connected to what we do, who we do it with and how we offer value to the team and organisational purpose.

So how do you cultivate the habit of acknowledgement? I would encourage you to consider the following seven steps:

Commit To Looking For Opportunities:  To identify them you need to firstly commit to looking for them. Reflect on each of your team members and stakeholders and consider what they are currently working on, what they have delivered and where their high value contribution is.

Audit Your Daily Routine: Often there are numerous opportunities to acknowledge others in our every day routines. The people you walk past on your way to your desk each morning, the commencement of meetings, the incidental tasks that others just naturally assume responsibility for, your regular client and supplier conversations.

Be Genuine: As with all communication, the benefits of acknowledging of others lies in the sincerity and purpose in which it is given. Be considered with you are acknowledging and how.

Be Timely: Don’t wait! Like feedback, acknowledgement is best given as close to the result is delivered or event occurs. The timeliness reinforces the value of the contribution to the here and now and often serves as a motivator for further effort.

Don’t Delegate It: Personal acknowledgement is just that – personal! It can’t be delivered with as much impact if delivered by your assistant or colleagues. You need to take ownership of your appreciation.

Consider How: To deliver meaningful acknowledgement you need to consider both who you are delivering it too and what the most appropriate format is for that person. If they hate public acknowledgement, think of something that will hold real meaning for them. Sometimes the value of a hand written card can’t be under-estimated!

Like all habits that need developing, we need to prioritise and practice the act of acknowledging others. However when we do, the benefits are enormous, both for us as individuals and for the people who we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot Andersen

If you would like to explore ways to reinvigorate your career with confidence, clarity and purpose, please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

Why Generating Hope Matters

May 6th, 2016

Recently I was listening to a radio broadcast about the struggles many of our teachers and educators are currently facing. I was particularly interested in one head teacher’s story where she spoke about the challenges that she was navigating with her staff.


The Importance of TODAY

May 6th, 2016

How often are we torn between the memories of yesterday and the unknown of tomorrow? Whilst our abilities to look up and out, forward and back are vitally important to our success, there is a real danger in not focusing our efforts and energies on where we are at TODAY. Not only does it see us risking future opportunities but it can also leave us feeling very impatient and dissatisfied with where we are at in our careers and what knowledge, experience and expertise we currently have.


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