Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Is Your Career On Autopilot?

January 19th, 2020

“Your life is your story. Write well, edit often” – Susan Statham

As we return to work at the beginning of a new year, it’s never too long before we switch back into our usual high output gear after the break. However, all too often, we accelerate into our usual workflows without taking the opportunity to think more consciously and carefully about how we want to architect our lives and careers for the year ahead and beyond. Our momentum is halted, and our career trajectories can easily stagnate.

Zoning out is easy to do when your career is on autopilot. How often have we travelled home at the end of the day, only to arrive with no real sense of time or conscious thought to the direction we were taking? We simply found ourselves there before we knew it because it was something that we had done a million times before. We didn’t have to put any real effort into the directions or paths we needed to take.

While most of us can travel on familiar paths in autopilot, we can’t afford to run our careers or businesses in this mode no matter how familiar or well-worn the path before us has been. Yet it is often not until a jolt out of the blue occurs – a business restructure, the resignation of a key team member or the loss of a major client – that we seem to click back into an acute awareness of the landscape around us. When this jolt happens we find that we have assumed way too much and responded way too little to the everyday events and things surrounding us.

Recently I have found myself working with several organisations navigating significant business change. For many individuals this has meant substantial changes to roles and the way they do business or at the other end of the spectrum, redundancy.

What has been interesting is the varying way in which these individuals have responded to their situations. While nearly all have found it initially difficult and confronting, some are navigating the changes with a strong sense of awareness about what the opportunity means for them and a feeling of control and ownership.  For others however the options are met with nothing short of significant loss and fear for the future.

While the autopilot mode of going through the motions may yield results in the short term it can have a significant impact in the long term on how we think, assess, make decisions and move forward with our roles as leaders and in our careers. It can easily leave us feeling disempowered and lacking control. A key danger of the business and leadership autopilot mode is assuming that the past will ensure the future. The reality is the knowledge, skills and relationships that have got us to where we are today are not necessarily going to take us to where we want to go tomorrow. What will support our forward momentum, is our ability to embrace new understandings, new solutions and new mastery. And you can’t do this without being acutely aware of what is happening around you, how you respond and acknowledging that it is you who is sitting in the driver’s seat of your career. As is so often said, businesses own the roles while you own your career.

Before you find yourself in situations that see you calling out Mayday or sending off the emergency flares, I would encourage you to consider the following six actions that you can take to flick off the autopilot switch and regain a sense of career control:

Mix up your routine: Undertaking the same routine day in and day out often heightens the danger of ‘status quo’. It dulls our senses and ability to spot the opportunities and obstacles that lay before us. By changing up our everyday routine we are more likely to accurately recognise, assess and act on the current state of play in a more informed and timely manner.

Understand your strengths and weaknesses: Gaining an accurate view of what our strengths and weaknesses allow us to focus on what we do best, identify ways to collaborate with those whose knowledge and skills complement ours and stay out of what we don’t do well.

Focus on honing your strengths: Often we spend wasted energy and time on trying to ‘fix’ our weaknesses, when what we should be doing is focusing on how to hone and elevate our strengths. It is only when we do that we will be able to maximize our productivity, efficiency and levels of fulfillment in the tasks at hand.

Identify where they are most valued: To recognise where your knowledge and skills are best regarded – both immediately and in the long-term future – requires an investment of time, energy and planning.  Build a road map that identifies where they are currently being used, how and with whom you should be engaging with to ensure that you build future currency in your career.

Invest in your own learning: We also often relegate our future learning and professional development opportunities to the organisation we work for. The danger is when business belts are tightened often the first thing that disappears is training. By taking proactive measures to invest in your own learning you will ensure that your skills, knowledge and networks remain up to date, fresh and relevant, which in turn sees you well-positioned for your future preferred opportunities.

Build purposeful networks: Invest in the right networks – both internally and externally – and dedicate time and energy to them. If necessary, conduct an audit to ensure that you have the right people to support where you want to go and you eliminate those that detract you from your path.

As you develop your awareness and switch off from ‘auto pilot’ mode, an effective way to turn your attention inward to your career history, desired trajectory, is the document that articulates this; your resume.

As your resume tells your professional story and highlights both your capability and your potential, it is naturally imperative to constantly refine and update it. Revisiting it on a regular basis can also help you to identify gaps, strengths and weaknesses that may also give you an insight into your future ambitions and what needs to change in order to achieve them. You can do this by following my Resume Checklist, which I have developed to help guide you through this process.

Switching out of auto pilot mode and back into ‘go-mode’ requires a shift in both mindset and habits. Whilst it does take an up-front investment of both energy and time the benefits are enormous and long lasting: career confidence, clarity and purpose. What can you do today to flick off the autopilot switch?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Leading With Generosity & Gratitude

December 4th, 2019

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

– Winston Churchill

In the giving spirit of the festive season, December is a particularly poignant time of year time to reflect on how we as leaders can demonstrate generosity, not only now, but all year round.

Leading with generosity goes hand in hand with generous leadership principles, and recently, David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership wrote an article that appeared in The New York Times on the positive effect of gratitude during Thanksgiving. His premise could be applied to our life and work all year round, however. While holidays such as Christmas prompt and instill a sense of gratitude he says: “Yet on the other 364 days of the year — the ones when you might feel lonely, stressed at work, tempted to dishonesty or stinginess — pausing to cultivate a sense of gratitude can make a big difference. Gratitude may not be needed on Thanksgiving, but giving thanks on other days can help ensure that in the future, you’ll have many things to be grateful for.

When we think of generosity, we often think of financial giving or involvement in charitable work. It may be exercised regularly through corporate social responsibility initiatives, and your businesses core values. However, 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 and 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 fulfillment 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 fulfillment 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 a 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’, not only as we race towards the end of the year but into 2020 and beyond.

Can you think of some ways you can integrate greater generosity and gratitude into your day-to-day leadership? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Key to Leadership Vitality

November 6th, 2019

“Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skilful management of energy”
– Tony Schwartz

Have you ever noticed how exceptional leaders who consistently deliver exceptional results personify the same traits? They tend to lead by example in the truest sense of this phrase. They not only seem to continue giving and delivering but they do it in a style that personifies confidence, fulfilment and passion.

With the holiday season on the very near horizon, a perfect opportunity presents itself to pause and take stock of both our own energy and vitality, and the effect – positive, negative or neutral – that it has on our teams and colleagues.

The lead up to the end of the calendar year is often one of the busiest, which means it is crucial to preserve energy, and to ensure that precious vitality isn’t swallowed up by the intensity of pre-holiday deadlines. With a new year on the horizon, maintaining your vitality and energy now is also a key step in preparing for a successful start to the new year.

We can begin this process of self-reflection by thinking of the leaders you have worked with who represent what it means to be ‘fully alive’ and brimming with vitality. How did they influence you, inspire you, or make you feel? No doubt you just felt better for being around them – more confident, capable and energetic.

These are the leaders who tend to inspire you and have a way of breathing life and vitality into both people and projects. Conversely if you have ever worked with people who are constantly tired, stressed or drained of energy and enthusiasm they invariably leave you feeling like you’ve had the life sucked right out of you. You walk out of meetings feeling deflated, directionless and unmotivated. One group radiates vitality and the other drains it.

The reality is when an organisation’s leaders and people are running on empty tanks, everything suffers. It is the loss of personal vitality that has a definable cost to the business and heavily impacts on both productivity and profitability. If we want to build and/or lead businesses rich in these things we need to start paying attention to the health and vitality of ourselves as leaders so that we can positively impact our people and our clients and customers.

Business vitality is often referred to as the degree to which an organisation is successful in the eyes of their customers, employees and shareholders. Measures of vitality will include client and employee retention, stock price, profits, revenue growth and operating costs.

Often referred to as the ‘soft measures’ things such as public trust, innovation, collaboration, employee well-being and employee engagement are also critical. More and more organisations though are realising that these so-called ‘soft measures’ are better viewed as the critical measures. For it is these critical measures that determine and drive the hard measures.

As the speed at which we do business continues to accelerate and the market volatility and rate of change remains a constant, vitality is fast becoming recognised as a ‘must have’ leadership trait. This trait become even more pronounced in times of high intensity within organisations – and at this time of year in particular. In a climate where we as leaders are constantly being asked to do ‘more with less’ ­– less resources, less money and less people – we need to ensure that we know how to effectively manage our energy levels and not fall into the all too common trap of responding by simply working longer hours. ‘If I just do more, work harder things will improve and I will get through it’. When we don’t simply ‘get through it’ we start to question our capability, purpose and impact. And our people notice it. It can all too easily become a viscous cycle that if we aren’t careful robs us; our people; and our businesses of vitality, essence and spirit.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement, argue that managing energy and not time is the key to personal and business vitality. They detail how mobilizing our key sources of energy, balancing how we spend it with how renew it and the energy habits we create, is critical to our success. Their recommended practices below for renewing the four sources of energy with the aim of becoming more vital are well worth examining.

Leadership vitality is about developing a critical life force that builds sustainable productivity and profitability. It starts with you. As the year draws to a close, I would encourage you consider how you can preserve your energy tanks to build vitality credits and how you can also begin to renew your sense of vitality over the break. You and your business will thank you for it.

Do you feel you are generating vitality as a leader? What do you notice when you feel your most energised within your business?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Value of Global Experience

October 7th, 2019

“Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value to others” – John Maxwell

A new report was recently released in Australia about the struggle that expats have in both navigating the employment market and in leveraging their knowledge and skill set upon their return.

Through my work in career management, and in particular global careers, there have many been calls, coffees and emails – which are growing in number since the release of this report – where people have shared their experiences of frustration, pain and exhaustion in navigating their re-entry into the local job market. Australian expats are struggling to understand how to cut through the dire statistics, that clearly shows international experience is undervalued by recruiters in Australia.

The report found that 85% of returning Australians struggle to find work and 83% of recruiters are cautious about hiring returned expats. Additionally, “A third (34%) of returned expats aren’t even landing an interview for a potential role where their skills precisely match the job requirements. A quarter of returned expats (24%) are landing multiple interviews for various roles, and yet miss out on being offered the job,” the report adds.

There is no doubt that the Australian market is tough to navigate – and in particular for those who have been out of it for some time.

It’s comparatively small, is often regarded as lagging in up to date innovative thinking and diversity and can feel very narrow and at times apathetic in it’s operating practice. Recruiters and corporate Australia appear more often that not, closed to anything that looks or sounds different to the ‘average Joe’.

Overlay the fact that the market is highly networked and our culture is underpinned by the good old tall poppy syndrome, it comes as no surprise that many people are simply overwhelmed and highly frustrated by the challenges faced.

Given that we are all essentially hardwired to want to show up and make a valued contribution, not being able to see how or where to do this – or worse still feeling rejected or undervalued – is both infuriating and demoralizing.

However, global experience is a highly valuable commodity in the Australian market, even though it is difficult for recruiters to understand, and for repatriates to articulate.

The report revealed a positive sentiment among recruiters, where more than half (57%) agree that recruiting returned Australians has a longer-term strategic benefit. The report also went further to suggest that “expats returning home are key to unlocking corporate Australia’s competitive edge.” A recent story that appeared in the Australian Financial Review also highlighted that 80% of CEOs in the country have worked overseas at some stage during their career.

Creating value – and demand for that value – in what we do is challenging when we have been living and working outside of that market for an extended period of time. Just like a financial plan our career plan requires an investment strategy – and ideally one with compounding interest. Additionally,  it also requires a marketing plan if we are to overcome or mitigate the risk of feeling ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

The need for strategic career planning has never been more essential in the returning expat’s toolkit. However, many will only address this in a reactionary manner, starting the planning process only when the need arises.

Three widely known key attributes of wealth are utility, scarcity and marketability. In thinking about our careers, these attributes are similar. Clarity, demand and transferability are three career attributes that will build value and drive your career forward.

How can we use these three attributes to demonstrate genuine career value?

  1. Build Clarity: In what you can do – your core skills, knowledge and experience; what you want to do (motivations and values) and where you think you best fit (culture and environment). Remember, if you can’t clearly articulate it, others can’t see it or refer to it with any real confidence.
  2. Build Demand: If you can’t demonstrate relevance to the current market others won’t buy it – regardless of how much you think your expertise sets you apart from others. Creating demand for what you do and how you do it requires you to nail your value proposition in a manner that engenders confidence and makes you relevant for both today and tomorrow’s market in a cost effective and competitive manner. Engaging others to help you research, understand and link your expertise to current challenges and/or opportunities will help you build your positioning with influence and give people a reason to want to engage with you.
  3. Build Transferability: Re-entering a market where you have little to no local validation can be difficult. People often like to play it safe and make decisions or appoint through trusted advisors and/or when they can see that you have a support system that will support your transition. To demonstrate your nimbleness and resilience invest in your network, your learning and the industry you are a part of or are seeking to be a part of.

Navigating international transitions are difficult, but with the right road map, support and networks around you, the path can be made easier.

Whether you’re looking for counsel on your career plan and how to translate your international skills into the local market, or connect with other globally minded individuals, I offer programs and connections designed to make your return journey an enjoyable and successful one. I also offer this as a service for organisations designed to enhance the retention, engagement and productivity of international workforces.

As always, I would love to hear from you.

The Power of Knowledge and Action

September 4th, 2019

“Knowledge is not power … it is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end.”  (Napoleon Hill) 

When we have momentum, we feel as though anything is possible and we can confidently take on new challenges. Other times, momentum can seem elusive and a struggle to develop.

It’s often hard to describe and yet it is nearly always our secret magic weapon to achieving success. At its best, momentum helps us remain focused, clear minded and forward thinking rather than stagnating.

One of the key roadblocks to momentum, for leaders in particular, often manifests in being caught up with the tactical execution of work, rather than focusing on the strategic and organisational management work that is needed to drive growth and leverage opportunities as and when they arise.

Businesses and their leaders know what they need to do but find themselves unable to do it because they don’t have people in the right place, or people with the right capabilities, which results in stalled momentum time and again.

The key to breaking out of this cycle is turning this knowledge – of what needs to be done – into action, which is often easier said than done.

The reality is knowledge is only useful if we do something with it. Whilst it is very important to develop a strategy, build intellectual capital and remain up to date and aware of new developments, we need to actually do something.

Whether it’s about implementing a new way of working, recruiting new skills for our team, getting fitter, saving more money or simply slowing down, too many businesses and individuals are finding themselves caught in the gap between knowing what they should do and doing what is actually required.

So how can we build a culture of action within our businesses?

Commit to taking action: Many of us have fallen into the pattern of researching, planning and refining our strategy as a way of telling ourselves we are busy ‘doing’ when really we are just playing safe. Essentially all we are doing is walking on a treadmill – yes we are moving but it is not actually taking us anywhere.

Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. Not only does it prohibit us from taking the first step towards action, it also creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability.

Simplify: Leaders and organisations that use simple straightforward language, concepts and structures are better at closing the knowing-doing gap. Simplicity removes ambiguity, blame and confusion. It increases productivity, efficiency and creativity. Quite simply it is the fast track to creating action.

Invest in learning: Closing the gap on knowing and doing requires an investment in training and learning be-it for our organisations or ourselves. Developing expert skill-sets, efficiency and confidence requires commercial tolerance, time and a learning based culture or outlook. Recognising that as learners we need space to explore new ideas, make mistakes and embed new knowledge is critical to maximising the ROI on the learning investment.

Face the fear: Fear is one of the greatest enemies of success and progress. To close the knowing-doing gap we need to face it – both at an individual and organisational level. To take action we need to know that there will be no punishment for taking risks, making mistakes and exploring new ideas without a guarantee of success. If we fear for our jobs, our future opportunities or even for our own self-worth we are less likely to move beyond the safe confines of what we know and have done before which ultimately prohibits any form of growth.
Measure the right things: To encourage action we need to ensure that we are measuring the right things. Pouring all of our energies and metrics into scrutinising hours worked rather than levels of customer satisfaction is not going to drive future results. We need to demonstrate and see the value in what we are measuring and how it relates to what we do our future direction and our success.

Do you feel your business is effectively turning knowledge into action? What opportunities would you be able to tap into, if less time was spent in execution?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Unlocking Organisational Productivity

August 5th, 2019

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focussed effort” – Paul J Meyer

Productivity is never an accident. As business leaders today, we are constantly challenged to increase both productivity and profitability whilst being asked to conserve resources and do ‘more with less’.

As the quote above suggests, to do this requires an unwavering commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and highly focused effort. There is however one additional area I believe we need to build an unwavering commitment to developing: Trust.

Trust, which is widely regarded as the glue to any healthy and productive relationship, appears to be on the rise in some sectors of work, placing a greater emphasis building trust between the employee-employer relationship than ever before.

According to The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust has changed profoundly in the past year. In 17 markets including Australia, the research revealed that “people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.”

The research showed that 77% of respondents in Australia trust “my employer”, which was considerably more than NGOs (56%), business (52%) and government (52%).

The correlation between greater organisational productivity was also strong, where employers that work to build trust will be rewarded; Australian employees who have trust in their employer demonstrate greater advocacy (80%), loyalty (71%), engagement (69%) and commitment (87%).

It comes as no surprise, then, that a lack of trust can not only mean a leadership crisis, but also a productivity crisis. When we don’t believe or trust those around us it not only sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and emotions, it actually significantly impacts our ways of thinking and behaving. So much so that it can all too easily become the biggest blocker to personal, team and organisational productivity.

Patrick Lencioni who is widely regarded for his work in team development and organisational performance identifies trust as the most basic requirement to building high performance. His pyramid The Five Dysfunctions of A Team defines the core problems of unproductive teams and subsequently by default the requirements for a high functioning and productive team:

 

Patrick Lancioni: The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team

Failing to build trust can affect each level of the pyramid, crippling the potential of a productive team if not established on a strong, trust-based foundation. Only people with high trust between each other will take risks, engage in healthy robust debate, seek solutions, commit to a vision, hold each other accountable and focus on delivering measurable results.

Stephen Covey’s analogy of trust as a tax or a dividend is particularly apt: When there is a lack of trust in a relationship or organisation, it is like a hidden tax that is placed on every transaction, piece of communication, decision and strategy, which brings speed down and sends costs up. By contrast, individuals and companies that operate with high levels of trust reap the benefits of a dividend that enables them to succeed by multiplying performance, productivity and capability.

Lack of trust therefore has the capacity to dramatically increase the cost of doing business and triple the delivery timeframes; where as high trust has the capacity to not only significantly save time, money and angst but also deepen relationships, build greater collaboration, career fulfillment and success for all involved.

So how do the most successful leaders build trust?

  • Establish purpose and commitment: from individuals and between individuals
  • Communicate honestly and transparently: by talking straight and keeping it real!
  • Ensure actions match words: removing ambiguity and taking the guess work out of situations
  • Deliver results: that offer lasting and meaningful value
  • Listen and observe: Not just to those that shout the loudest but to all members of a team
  • Demonstrate consistency: If you do what you say and say what you do, people will trust you
  • Remove the ‘landmines’: the hidden agendas, the vagueness and doubt
  • Clarify expectations, purpose and commitment: contributions, behaviours and attitudes
  • Value accountability: both for themselves and the team’s that they lead
  • Remain engaged: with individuals, objectives, processes and outcomes
  • Acknowledge and give credit where credit is due: both individually and publicly

For leaders, trust is two fold. There is a very real need to engender it and you need to be able to give it. Without both, productivity is almost always compromised. The most successful leaders recognise this and focus on creating it as a core objective.

Trust is not just a nice-to-have. It is a critical component of personal, team and organizational performance. It is a clear enabler of productivity and one that underpins your leadership skill set and true capability.

The logic is simple: if people trust you and that trust is reciprocated, they will give you their all. If people give you their all they are more willing to go the extra mile, more likely to perform at remarkably high levels and apply extraordinarily levels of discretionary effort. Productivity therefore becomes the natural outcome.

Do you feel your organisation’s leadership engenders trust? Where could there be opportunities to build trust within your business? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

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