Archive for August, 2017

Creating Career Choice

August 30th, 2017

“You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.” 

It is said that the average working person makes approximately 15 decisions before 9am. For some of us the first decision can be something as minor as how many times can I hit the snooze button before getting up! Every day though we face thousands of decisions. Some are relatively small such as what will I wear; whilst others are much more significant. Some have short-term effects and others more long term effects. However, regardless of what our decisions are – action or no action – there is no escaping the fact that we all live with the consequences of our choices.

Creating career choice is one of the greatest challenges we all face – especially as we progress through the ranks of experience and seniority. Given the fast moving and ever changing nature of the world today, we as individuals and leaders need to have a passion for personal growth and development. Having a solid road map for that growth and development is essential if we are to continually expand both our capabilities and our degree of choice.

No doubt each of us will have a friend or colleague who always seems to be surrounded by several career choices that are the perfect fit for them. What is it about those people that somehow catches the eye of others; or when they put their hand up for a change there seems to be not one but several choices for them to consider? I believe it is due to several factors:

  1. Clarity about what they want
  2. Confidence in pursuing their ambitions
  3. Relevance to their organisation and market place

As readers of this blog you will know that I believe that the three keys to creating career success are clarity, confidence and choice.

Omitting or disregarding the factor of choice is like electing to sit on a two-legged stool. Whilst you can balance for a while, in time it becomes unstable and down right dangerous. Unstable and dangerous because you are at risk of losing control over your own career pathway and your level of fulfillment.

Take a moment to reflect on a time in your career when you have felt as though you were left with no choice but to adopt a certain decision, accept a certain job or follow a certain path. Invariably you will have felt caged in, disempowered and frustrated. Conversely when you feel as though you have had a choice on how to act or where to invest time, money or effort, you will have felt empowered, confident and in control.

With stagnation – and not failure – being the real risk to our career, we need to ensure that we are investing our time and efforts in building personal capability and relevance to the organisations we work for and the markets we work in. Failing to do so will see our career choices dramatically diminished.

So what actions can you take to create career choice?

  1. Evaluate: Get clear about what you want! This requires you to fully understand your own skills, behaviours, motivations and preferences.

If you are to create genuine growth and or change in your career you also need to evaluate what steps are required to elevate your capability, career currency and relevance to either your current employer or the market place. What can you do to build and leverage your experience and showcase it?

Without this degree of clarity you risk not identifying the choices before you.

  1. Prepare: Once you have clarity about what you want, you can prepare a strategy or road map for getting there.

For some, understanding that the best thing they can do right now is excel in the opportunity they currently have will provide renewed focus and energy for their role at hand. Additionally it will allow them to implement a long-term strategy of career leverage with confidence and purpose.

For those who are actively exploring the market, preparing a personal business and marketing plan will be critical to their effectiveness in engaging with potential organisations and people of influence.

  1. Act: Engage: with your team, your business, your market and your network. Listen to what you hear from both sought and unsought sources. Validate what you hear. Does it apply and if so, how?

 Understanding that we need to continually act, adapt and in many cases unlearn and relearn is what will build and sustain relevance to our business and market.

Life is full of choices and there is a natural give and take in every resulting decision. Even choosing not to act is still a choice. To make wise, well-informed and educated choices you must weigh up the risks against the potential rewards.

When it comes to career decisions rarely will they ever be black and white, all good or all bad, completely right or completely wrong. They are multi dimensional and require you to look at the opportunity(s) with your own unique lens that is reflective of your own personal ambitions.

Understanding though that our long-term growth and success is the result of conscious choices and deliberate effort is critical if we are to create real momentum and fulfillment. Learning how to recognise and create choice is what will set us apart.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


Margot BLACK Signature


Leading With Generosity

August 21st, 2017

All too often when we think of generosity we think of financial giving or involvement in charitable work. We don’t naturally think of it in terms of business dealings or in what we do in our day-to-day jobs. Typically it is equated with what we do outside of business hours rather than what we do in them. What charities, community projects or family & friend endeavours we choose to give to financially or with our time.

Make no mistake these endeavours are all noble and worthy acts of generosity and ones that we should seek out. However overlooking the ways we can give generously through what we do and how we lead is not only a missed opportunity to leave our world in a better place but can be self limiting to our own levels of fulfilment and future growth as well as to those in our teams.

Whilst true generosity is ultimately an altruistic act we more often than not receive things in return – and often abundantly. As leaders this could transpire in the form of increased cooperation and collaboration, enjoyment in what we do, sheer goodwill and/or the fulfilment of seeing others succeed. Not to mention increased productivity and profitability.

If you were to take a moment to reflect on the colleagues and leaders who have left a positive mark on you and your career there would invariably be a common trait: Generosity of spirit. They are the people who gave freely of their time, knowledge and trust and who helped facilitate opportunities for you.

Adam Grant, author of the best selling book Give and Take looks at how and why our success today is increasingly dependent on the interactions we have with others. In essence he flips the notion that it is successful people that tend to give generously, to the idea that it is those with a generous spirit who become successful. He believes that in a work environment there are three ways people generally operate: taking, matching or giving. Whilst takers seek to get as much as possible form others and matchers focus on trading evenly, givers are those rare people who genuinely contribute without expectation of receiving anything in return. His research shows that whilst some givers do occasionally burn out they are the group that are most likely to achieve extraordinary results regardless of what field they operate in.

Successful leaders are generous: they give freely and unreservedly and often. In reflecting upon some of the amazing leaders that I have either worked for or with there are some other common acts of generosity. They all:

1. Give Opportunity: Opportunities to engage in meaningful challenging work and not just a list of tasks. Opportunities that extend and open up new thinking & learning, new networks and offer lasting impact.

2. Give A Strong Sense of Belonging: They create environments that are safe and supportive, allowing us to bring our whole sense of self to the office and not just our work mask. They help you see the value in what you do and feel an intrinsic part of the team and organisation’s success.

3. Give Guidance: Generous leaders seek to guide and not control. They offer constructive feedback rather than criticism and empower you to make decisions with strong frameworks of support.

4. Give Space: Space to explore, create, grow, fail and make mistakes and most importantly to get back up confidently and go again.

5. Give Information, Knowledge & Experience: Not only do generous leaders offer their insights they encourage others to do so as well. They understand that increased leverage and success comes with purposeful collaboration and open, willing minds not but holding tightly onto things. 

6. Give Credit: By recognising and appreciating the efforts of others the generous leader helps to create as sense of shared success. They understand the power of ‘We’ is much more powerful than ‘I’.

7. Give Encouragement: Generous leaders encourage you to step out and try different things, take risks and push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of. They offer faith in you and push you to be the best you can be.

8. Give Trust: Generous leaders understand that high performing cultures are rich in trust. Trust amongst each other, in each other’s talents, capabilities and values.

9. Give Time and Energy: Generous leaders understand the importance of really listening and engaging. They offer their time, their total attention and interest in you, what you are doing and the outcomes you seek.

10. Give Time Back To Themselves: The generous leader works hard to ensure that their batteries remain charged so as to enable them to give on an ongoing basis. They invest in time and energy in what reinvigorates them in mind, body and spirit.

Giving generously tends to inspire others to do the same. It also helps us create a lasting legacy for what we do, the people we work with and the businesses we have or work for. I would encourage you to explore how you can give generously through your leadership and inspire others to continue to ‘pay it forward’.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot Andersen

How Are You ‘Keeping It Real’?

August 8th, 2017

“Airports have seen more authentic kisses than wedding halls. The walls of hospitals have heard more prayers than the walls of churches.”

– Author Unknown

Given that we spend up to 70% of our waking time engaged in work related activities – week after week and year after year – it makes sense that we strive to seek out environments that allow us to show up and put our best foot forward. By that I mean really show up … as ’us’ and in our true colours.

Ask anyone about their experience in a great workplace, they will invariably describe an environment where leaders and colleagues had a knack for ‘keeping it real’. They refer to and describe real conversations and real connection and as a result talk about being trusted to just get on with things and deliver in a way that allowed them to apply the very best of their knowledge and skills.

If you were to ask managers and leaders about what great work environments look like, they will talk about times where they and their teams were delivering to key objectives and achieving success; their team members worked strongly together and where each individual gave it their all.

This doesn’t for one minute imply that everything is or was always rosy or that they had the perfect systems and processes; or the most ideal customers or clients. Invariably many of these things are not obvious or in place. What it does imply though is that people were allowed to be themselves, navigate the landscape in a way that allowed them to apply new approaches, solutions and strategies; fail if necessary and get up dust themselves off and go again; contribute from their place of strength; work collaboratively and enjoy success. It allowed them to quite simply be themselves.

We have all been caught in cycles where we are simply going through the motions. Occasions such as where we attend training simply because we should; attend sales meetings or networking events where conversations are held but no connection is formed; undertaken performance reviews that never address future career growth or opportunities and really are nothing more than a tick and flick exercise to satisfy a compliance measure. In many of these scenarios we show up in body but not spirit. And for that, businesses and individuals are all poorer for it.

So what is it about some workplaces that allow or in fact demand the ‘real you’ to show up, engage and operate? Allow your team to really banter, disagree, strategise, fail and succeed?

In a word it is Freedom: Freedom to think; freedom to do and freedom to speak.

Whilst it is important to note that with freedom comes responsibility, it is also worth noting that 99% of people when they see it in genuine action would rather rise to the standard than fall underneath it.

For many employees though, finding themselves in environments where this trust is genuinely given is new territory. This is largely due to the way our workplaces have evolved. Whilst pursuing greater productivity, efficiency and compliance we have faced the movement of standardization. We have sought to remove any variations in processes and behaviours and in doing so have lost the value that individual contribution can bring.

As a result, many people now don a work persona and a life persona and never the twain shall meet. Asking people to suddenly show up as themselves requires vulnerability, trust and courage. It also requires respect, encouragement and patience.  It may also mean that when these honest, transparent and bold conversations are had, there will be a period of discovery for many individuals and businesses where it will become apparent that there is a misalignment between employee and employer. Most individuals and organisations will however recognise the importance of coming to this realization in an open manner where transitions – be it internal or external – can be managed with dignity and respect.

To build authenticity in the workplace we need to build awareness of the value it brings and capability for individuals to own it. Below are 7 tips that you may wish to consider in creating authentic environments:

  • Align Values: To embrace individual contribution and styles we need to be anchored in our values. Failing to ‘get the fit right’ is costly on all levels and for all involved.
  • Be the role model: Live it, walk it, breathe it – seek feedback; tell the truth; share knowledge and skills. In doing so, you will provide the platform and expectation for others to follow.
  • Protect the space: Guard honesty and transparency with your life – encourage freedom to think, do and speak
  • Embrace difference: Difference in styles, outlooks, and skills and create opportunities to showcase their need and value.
  • Throw away the cookie cutter: In the words of Tony Robbins ‘If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always had’. For growth, innovation and competitive advantage to occur we need to continually seek out new ways of doing things whilst remaining relevant to our cause.
  • Don’t indulge or promote the game players: When we continue to give airtime to the, the ‘game-players’ and ‘self-players’ we chip away at the good work done by the greater team and devalue authenticity.
  • Get ready to learn: According to the saying it is pretty hard to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’ but what happens when the old tricks no longer apply? Learning how to manage and lead in a period of rapid change and innovation requires new thinking, conversations and approaches.

When we create truly authentic environments we all reap the rewards. Businesses and individuals achieve greater success, higher levels of collaboration and invariably discover new opportunities that continue the cycle of engagement, purpose and growth.

Each of us deserves to work in environments where individual style, strengths and skills are valued, sort after and encouraged. Where when ‘the rubber hits the road’, the environment demands that we step up and play our roles authentically and values and rewards us for doing so.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


Margot BLACK Signature


When Opportunity Knocks

August 1st, 2017

‘What I do know is that if one wants to get a boat ride, one must be near the river’

-Anchee Min, Becoming Madame Mao

We all love that feeling of being ‘in the right place at the right time’, especially when it comes to career opportunities. Invariably though as we get older and assume more senior positions these so called lucky moments seem to become less frequent.

With recent economic and market challenges, it is no secret that many organisations have ‘bunkered down’ and adopted a more conservative approach to recruitment and internal hiring. Furthermore with only a few businesses being really adept at succession planning and career development our ability to spot the next move can also be less obvious. Overlay that with a loss of direction, passion or energy for what it is that we do and suddenly our ability to not only spot opportunities but also to execute them becomes significantly compromised.

But is it a matter of not being opportunity focussed that is underpinning where we are today? Have we forgotten what opportunity looks like or sounds like?

All too often when we think of opportunity we think of something BIG, shiny, new and exciting! But this is not always the case. Spotting opportunities requires us to see gaps and come up with solutions. They come in different shapes, forms, colours and sizes. Sometimes they are a bit insignificant and dirty. No doubt if we all took a moment to think of our current role or team there would be numerous gaps relating to efficiencies, capability, or experiences that whilst not big items in their own right, with the right solution could have big impacts. Of course you also need to be able to act on those solutions but you can’t do that if you haven’t spotted them in the first place.

Heidi Grant Halvorson and Tory Higgins, authors of the book Focus, suggest that we need to be promotion focused to get ahead. In doing so you view your career as being about the potential for advancement, achievement and rewards. Put simply you think about what you might gain if you are successful and you do everything possible to avoid missing out. Alternatively if you approach your career focused on minimising loss, avoiding too much risk or danger and keeping things moving along smoothly you have what they call a prevention focus. Typically you put your head down, keep quiet and keep yourself small.

Whilst being prevention focused can be good for some things it doesn’t naturally open the doors to growth, change and confidence to take chances the way promotion focus does. In short it doesn’t naturally enable you to identify opportunities, which is the doorway to our future success.

Spotting opportunities that position us for growth is no quick activity. It’s the result of considered effort to get clear about what we want and the potential it offers us and then doing everything possible to avoid being overlooked or missing out.  AND it means finding the courage and confidence to pursue options that invariably require us opening up to new ways of thinking, doing and acting.

I would encourage you to consider the following seven tips to strengthen your focus for spotting opportunities and how they might be best applied to your career:

  • Get clear about what you want and why: What do you want in five, ten, fifteen years from here? What will it bring to your career and life? To do this you need to design a road map that reflects a full understanding of your own skills, behaviours, motivations and preferences.
  • Make it known: Start telling people. All too often our leaders and/ or networks want to help us achieve our goals but they can’t do this if they don’t know what they are. Learn how to position yourself with your leaders and key influencers in the business; and your personal and professional networks. Learning how to do this with confidence, clarity and conviction is essential if they are to help you spot the opportunities right for you.
  • Understand how you are regarded: An accurate assessment of how you are regarded in your current workplace or market can help you with the opportunity spotting process. It can also assist you understand what you need to do to leverage or overcome known perceptions.
  • Seek candid feedback: Ask others how they perceive your success, what areas they naturally see it aligned to, what markets, companies and roles. Often these fresh insights can spark a new idea or thought that you had not yet previously considered.
  • Build a network of trusted confidantes: Creating a circle of influence with people who can champion our efforts, offer business and market insights and who really know us can also help spot relevant and timely opportunities on our behalf.
  • Deliver on the one you’ve got! Maximising your current opportunity can have an enormous impact on new and or emerging options. People are attracted to success and if you have delivered on your role and opportunity, people talk, want to engage, want to refer and be associated with you and your efforts.

Success is no coincidence. It is a deliberate determination to step out of the ordinary and commit to growth. To do this we need to master the art of spotting the opportunities that are right for us.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


Margot Andersen


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