People without leverage work for those with leverage
Robert Kiyosaki

Posts Tagged ‘career ownership’

Creating Career Opportunity

August 17th, 2020

In talking with many professionals about their career, I often hear them reflecting and saying ‘I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time’. For many, this right time and right place afforded them rapid career progression, opened the door to key networks and positioned them for next steps in their career journey. Invariably they were exciting and challenging times that were rich in reward and stimulation. Confidence, clarity and choice seemed to abound.

 

What happens though when it’s time to consider your next career step and this ‘luck’ doesn’t seem to be quite so apparent? Or when you need to transition as a result of market or organisational changes? How do you take proactive action –especially in today’s highly volatile environment – to leverage your career background, knowledge, skills and networks?

 

Too often these changing career scenarios and market conditions can leave individuals feeling irrelevant, trapped and without choice or control. If we aren’t careful these feelings can all too easily lead to moments of paralysis, where because we don’t know what to do, we do nothing. Learning how to not only identify the right opportunities but also transfer your knowledge and skills to match the new business or market requirements is critical.

 

As George Bradt notes in his Forbes article Creating Leverage When None Seems To Exist we all run into roadblocks however it is our ability to adapt, adjust and create leverage in times when there doesn’t appear to be any. The key word here is ‘create’ and not just merely identify. As he notes this comes down to attitude about roadblocks and the need to ask am I simply accepting them as the status quo or am I looking for ways around them?

 

Like many things, creating leverage in our career requires planning and time. One of the most dangerous things we can do is to not take consistent action whilst we are in a role and business that we enjoy. Leaving it until we want to embark upon change or worse still when it is forced upon sees us trying to create leverage in a time that is often highly emotive, stressful and time pressured.

 

As part of creating leverage in your own career, I would encourage you to take action with the following 6 factors in mind:

 

  1. Identify what you stand for: Today we are increasingly being asked to know what it is that we stand for in our careers. It is essentially your over arching career mission – what do you hope to impact, who and how. Is it tied to an industry, a key challenge, leading through core business cycles; innovation, empowerment or other?

 

  1. Define your core expertise: Clarity on exactly what your core strengths, knowledge and leadership styles are, is essential in identifying and attracting the next opportunity.

 

  1. Understand how you are regarded: Knowing how others perceive and regard you and your expertise is essential if you are to know what you can leverage or conversely need to overcome.

 

  1. Educate yourself on the market: In order to understand what is transferable you need to know how what the market /business wants and needs. Failing to do so limits your opportunities to tailor your story and create interest and demand in your background.

 

  1. Hone your positioning: All too often people fail to succinctly articulate their knowledge, capabilities and ambitions are. It is essential to gain clarity on each of these areas if you are to engage in meaningful conversations and explorations of an opportunity.

 

  1. Connect & reconnect: As noted by Adam Grant, Wharton Business leader and author of Give and Take success has become increasingly dependent on the interactions we have with others rather than on the individual drivers of success such as commitment, hard work and passion. To support our success we need to understand who and how to connect and reconnect with if we are to gain an accurate insight into what opportunities exist and how we can align ourselves to them.

 

Creating leverage requires a whole lot more than ‘luck’. As the Roman philosopher Seneca notes ‘luck is the moment when preparation meets opportunity’. With this in mind the big question to ask yourself is what are you doing to prepare for that next meaningful opportunity?

 

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Acknowledgement Factor

June 16th, 2020

‘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.

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.

As most of us continue to embark upon new ways of working and actively seek out new ways to solve problems without any blueprint (and all the while doing it in isolated environments), acknowledging the efforts, failures and triumphs has never been more important. Like any form of communication, finding ways to do this with purpose and authenticity is paramount. Disingenuous feedback and acknowledgement can often yield more damage than none.

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 commencement of meetings, the incidental tasks that others just naturally assume responsibility for, your regular client conversations or standard supplier communications.

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!

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.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Does Curiosity Really Kill The Cat?

March 8th, 2020

“I have no special talents. I am just passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

The age-old adage, “curiosity killed the cat” seems to suggest that inquisitiveness is a dangerous thing; that it leads us down a path of danger, that it is fraught with hurdles and is an unnecessary use of time.

Curiosity, however, is an essential ingredient to great leadership and all too often, we fall into a pattern of accepting things at face value, perhaps because sometimes it seems easier or more convenient to continue as we do, particularly when nothing in particular may need fixing.

Science fiction author C. J. Cherryh famously said, “ignorance killed the cat; curiosity was framed!” Her statement could not be more accurate. A lack of awareness can mean we begin to accept things as they are and can quickly become stuck in our ways of working and doing business. Momentum is stalled and the ideas and innovation that can help to drive businesses stagnate.

So, it should come as no surprise that truly great leaders are also curious leaders.

They seem to be in possession of an extraordinary curiosity for exploring ‘the new’; for learning and discovery; for the possibility of what could be and not merely what is. They are motivated by the desire to improve and better their own lives, careers and the organisations that they lead. They are not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

Being curious does not mean being distracted. In our hyper-connected world it is a challenge not to become overwhelmed and distracted with the world of information that is available at your fingertips. The ability to effectively channel your curiosity to the things that matter is what defines a ‘healthy curiosity’ and sets the truly successful people apart.

So why is curiosity important? Many articles highlight the value it brings, including helping us to overcome our fears, to building a greater sense of self-awareness and an ongoing cycle of learning. In thinking with curiosity, doing so also acts as a great source of influence, inspiration and motivation and leads to greater agility, innovation and creativity.  Additionally, it helps us to maintain and gain clarity, relevance and purpose in what we do.

Curiosity showcases your personal brilliance: Asking why or how helps us clarify situations and issues. It encourages us to adopt a proactive solution-oriented style of thinking rather than a reactive problematic view of the world.

With that in mind, how can we actively build curiosity in our own lives each day? What follows are five key actions you can take to help cultivate a greater sense of curiosity.

Commit to an open mind: Not only do we need to commit to learning and embracing the new, but also to unlearning and relearning. Our ability to change our view on the way that things have always been done and embrace new ways can be a continual challenge, however a curious mindset will actively support the embracing not only of new ideas but also new ways to approach things.

Ask questions – lots of them: Your outcomes and direction are greatly determined by the quality of the questions you ask yourself and those around you. Seeking understanding and not merely responses will help create and open up new opportunities, solutions and pathways.

Don’t accept the status quo: Challenge the norm – ask why? How many times have we heard the response ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it’ or ‘that’s just the way we do things around here’ only to discover that the blind acceptance of the status quo is what is holding us back from achieving great things. Creating a safe environment that encourages exploration of the ‘why’ is a key part of developing critical thinking and action-oriented outcomes.

Adopt a healthy regard for learning: Successful individuals and great leaders are never satisfied with what they know. They advocate the need for lifelong learning and recognise that learning does not stop with the acquisition of a certain role or title. Seeing learning as fun and a source of motivation and knowledge will make you naturally want to dig deeper.

Collaborate: None of us have all the answers. Seeking out new relationships and engaging with those around you will ensure that the ‘ideas bank’ remains a rich resource to tap into. Not only does it make what we do more rewarding, but it also provides you with fresh thinking and different perspectives.

We all need to encourage and celebrate curiosity. We need it for both our own careers and the businesses that we lead. We need to see our organisations filled with people who know how to ask questions and who are experienced in finding answers and creating solutions; people who aren’t’ afraid to fall or fail for they know that they have the ability and confidence to stand and continue seeking out the best possible path forward. People who don’t want to settle for ‘what is’ but want to explore the ‘what if’ moments both for themselves and the organisations they work for.

Seeking out the world of possibility and not just accepting the world of ‘what is’ brings so many rich rewards and much fulfillment. Can you think of a recent situation in which your curiosity made a difference, or made a positive impact on your work?

 

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 Bounce Back Factor

February 19th, 2019

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.’ – Lyndon B. Johnson

We’ve all experienced times where we feel we’ve blown it. It might be choosing the wrong hire or job, a failure to act, a slip of the tongue, an emotional outburst, or just a dumb decision when you think you should have known better. The reality is we all make mistakes, but they don’t have to signal irreversible damage or the end of our career. It is how we react and what we choose to do after that sickening moment we realise our error that determines just how big it turns out to be.

Understanding how we view these mistakes and failures is critical to if and how high we bounce back.  When societies, businesses and individuals choose to view failure as experience rather than losing they are setting themselves on a course that is rich in new learning, networks and opportunities. They provide themselves and others with the confidence, clarity and energy to move forward and not remain stuck where they are.

Still the memory of our mistakes can sting for a while and recovering from them is neither inconsequential nor unimportant. If it was we would continue to make them with little regard for the consequences they held in both our immediate and long-term futures.

The reality is over the course of our lives and careers we will make mistakes. If we don’t, we are either playing it way too safe or not playing at all. Our bosses, peers and team members will also make mistakes. Again, how we choose to react will play a part in how big they become. As Alexander Pope wrote nearly three centuries ago ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’. Whether it be forgiving ourselves or those around us, we need to ensure that we are focused on the future and not in the messiness of the mistake.

Developing an inner strength and resiliency to move forward is critical. Without it we further compromise our position and opportunity for future success for those associated with our actions and ourselves. Martin Seligman, an American Psychologist who is well regarded for his work on positive psychology and resilience found that people who recover from setbacks and failure often view it as a temporary, localised and changeable event. Conversely those who struggle to move beyond their mistakes and failure learn to accept their scenarios as something they have no control over and consequently develop a ‘learned helplessness’.

Resiliency brings security. In a world that is characterised by constant change and uncertainty our ability to feel comfortable and move with the changing times, recover from setbacks and navigate the unknown is a critical skill for both personal and professional success. Our lives and careers today require us to be nimble, responsive and adaptable in both the good and not so good times. Anticipating risk, limiting fallout and the ability to ‘bounce back’ are essential skills for today’s leaders. Without it we not only risk our own career but also the performance and abilities of our teams by failing to see the opportunities that lie in front of us.

So how do we learn to think and act constructively rather than react in an emotionally destructive manner following a period of failure?

  1. Own It: To move beyond our mistakes we firstly need to own them by admitting to ourselves that it is our error. Denying responsibility holds us back, creates defensiveness and tends to protract the pain and period of time needed to resolve the issue. It also helps us avoid the blame trap.
  2. Acknowledge It: Whilst our first reaction is to want to hide away there will no doubt be some people who will need to know and who are impacted by your mistakes. Acknowledging our mistakes with honesty, integrity and transparency is also a powerful leadership example to set for those around us.
  3. Manage Your Emotions: Don’t sit on them or in them! Supressing them or dwelling on them prohibits any positive forward thinking or movement. Not only does it hold you back, it also drags you back.
  4. Mitigate The Risk: Invariably there are three immediate courses of action to choose from: Undo, Redo or Make Do. Understanding what your options are will help you to focus on what the next best course of action is to take.
  5. Understand Why: To learn from our mistakes we need to understand how and why they have occurred. It will help us to spot the early signs of reoccurrence, what actions we can take to avoid it and if possible what can be done to eliminate it.
  6. Repair It: Where possible we need to take the necessary actions to repair the damage that has arisen from our mistakes – with projects, with brands and with relationships.
  7. Forgive Yourself: More often than not we are our own harshest critics as our failings leave us feeling overwhelmingly disappointed, vulnerable and ashamed. We need to remind ourselves that ‘we did wrong, not we are wrong’. Continuing to berate ourselves keeps us reliving the moment and stops us from moving forward and learning from our mistakes.
  8. Fail Forward: Learning how to acknowledge, recover and learn from them allows us to grow as individuals and leaders. It helps us build and maintain the skills and relevance required for all that we do in life and in our careers.

Jazz great Miles Davis once said ‘When you hit the wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad’. When we as individuals and leaders know how to play those next notes and manage our responses to mistakes and failure, we can in turn support the mistakes and failures of those we lead. When we do this we are building and empowering a strong, bright and resilient future for both ourselves and the teams and businesses we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

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