Archive for September, 2015

Pride: Sin or Virtue?

September 29th, 2015

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“Every job is a self portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence ”

– Jessica Guidobono
 Recently a friend and I found ourselves deep in conversation about some of the things she had been observing in her workplace. Whilst discussing some of her observations about individuals who worked with and for her she made the comment that it was clearly evident who took pride in what they did versus who didn’t. When talking about it further we were discussing how it seemed to be one of those ‘one percenters’ or distinguishing factors that set people apart. Regardless of what it was that they were doing, their sense of pride was apparent – evident in things such as presentation, commitment and communication in a genuine and warm manner.

It got me thinking about the concept of pride and whether or not it is something more than just ‘one of the seven deadly sins’ or a negative emotion as so many regard it to be. Taking pride in who we are, what we do and how we show up and engage every day can’t always be considered a bad thing can it?

There is no doubt that pride can in fact take a negative angle with damaging and limiting consequences both personally and professionally. Often closely aligned with arrogance and superiority, pride is not only potentially damaging to ourselves but also our businesses, customers, clients and the people we lead.

Most of us have been in situations where our pride has got the better of us or we have borne witness to it in others. Not speaking up or taking action for fear of sounding ill informed, being wrong or simply being judged. Not taking on new opportunities because they seem to be ‘beneath us’ or because we couldn’t bear the thought of not succeeding or exceeding. Seeing people refuse to admit to mistakes or acknowledge it with those around them. In each of these scenarios, pride is absolutely limiting potential, undermining self-confidence and leading us down a path of no reward. In short, this form of pride can sabotage our careers and us.

However when pride is not associated with fear or being superior to others but instead in who we are, what we do or what we are a part of, it can drive performance, influence, happiness and self-confidence. When pride stems from a place of feeling good about who we are, we are less likely to be associated with the negative behaviours and attitudes mentioned previously. We are likely to be more inclusive, more tolerant and focused on opening up the world of possibility rather than shutting it down.

Researchers have long debated whether or not pride is good or bad. Ultimately they agree there are two very divergent outcomes. On one hand pride in one’s self, successes and relationships promotes future positive behaviours and achievements whilst on the other hand it can very easily lead to a sense of narcissism, relationship conflict and hostility. One thing they do agree on is that pride occurs in response to internal beliefs and drivers. Tracy & Robbins noted in their article ‘The Nature of Pride’ that we are always operating on a sliding scale of pride and shame. Whilst this may seem extreme their observations led them to conclude that our everyday lives are ‘frequently infused with a sense of mastery and achievement or conversely frustration and failure and we react to these events with self-conscious emotions’.

I am sure if that if we were to stop and consider some of the workplaces we have operated in, we have seen evidence of both outcomes of pride – either in our self or in those around us. Whether it has been in the quality of work produced, the quality of engagement or in the way situations are approached. Learning to embrace the positive aspects of pride – without overconfidence – can and does influence our success.

I would encourage you to take a moment to consider how pride is shaping your career? You can start by asking yourself these 6 quick questions:

Are you proud of:

  1. Who you are and what your natural talents are?
  2. What you do?
  3. Your contribution and the difference that you are making?
  4. Who you work for and with?
  5. How you show up each day and present yourself?
  6. How you operate and in your professional reputation?

Taking pride in who we are, what we do and how we show up each day is critical if we are to maximise our opportunities and personal success and fulfillment. Ultimately pride is a bit like a superpower and it is up to us how we choose to use it: for the power of good or evil.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

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Margot – The Career DiplomatIf you would like to explore ways to build confidence, clarity and choice in your career please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

The Driving Force Of Connection

September 22nd, 2015

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“Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed ”

– Seth Godin
We are all driven to belong and feel connected. Be-it with family and friends, colleagues and the organisations we work for, sporting buddies or members of our local community, we all crave connection. Why? Because ultimately we want to be a part of something that opens up or broadens our world beyond ourselves and helps us create purpose. Essentially connection helps to create meaning, opportunity and value.

Not belonging or knowing where we belong is a terrible feeling. It feels awkward, it hurts and it is alienating. It feels like wearing a scratchy old jumper that niggles away at us for the entire time we have it on. Yet invariably at some point in our careers we will all be faced with a crossroads of having to identify where we best belong and naturally connect in a way that allows us to fully contribute our talents. Sometimes this can occur due to forced situations such as redundancy or relocation and other times we simply feel that we have outgrown our current opportunity or organization.

Recently I returned from London where I found myself talking extensively with expats who have started to explore the idea of returning ‘home’. Many of these individuals have spent ten to fifteen plus years building an impressive career in their chosen fields highlighted not only by a long list of signature achievements but often rapid rises in career progression and into key leadership and C-Suite roles. Invariably they were also highly engaging, inspiring and driven individuals whose key desire was and is to make a meaningful contribution for both themselves and the business they work for.

So what was stopping them from boarding the next plane home? In a nutshell it was fear of disconnection (both socially and professionally). Finding people and organisations that they could meaningfully connect and engage with that would allow them to showcase and value their prior knowledge and leverage their experience.

Connection and belonging is widely recognised as being one of our basic survival needs. Abraham Maslow whose well known work in the area of human motivation positions it as our third most fundamental need in his hierarchy of needs. William Glasser, another renowned American psychologist noted that we are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun. To overlook our need for connection and belonging is not only detrimental to our personal lives but also our careers.

Seth Godin who is widely credited with coining the term ‘The Connection Economy’ describes how we are entering a new era that rewards value created by building relationships and fostering connections rather than assets and ‘stuff’ which was previously valued in the industrial era. Rather than simply valuing ‘more, better, faster’ the connection economy builds on who you know, what you know and how you influence outcomes through your connections. It recognises that ‘more, faster & better’ can really only be achieved through collaboration and facilitation with those around us.

It is often quoted that up to 80% us of will secure our next career opportunity through our connections or networks. Whilst often harder to quantify many of us will attribute our key achievements to the ability to leverage known connections (both internally and externally) to achieving the outcomes and level of success that we do.

Learning how to build, maintain and leverage diverse and authentic connections though is one of the key challenges that face many professionals today. Connections that challenge our thinking; open the door to innovation and help create an agility and nimbleness to navigate the world we live in. Connections that help us future-proof our careers.

So what actions can we take to create meaningful connections that offer a mutual exchange of value and help us succeed both today and in the future? Seth Godin outlines four key pillars that underpin the connection economy.

  1. Co-ordination: you need to create a plan to meet with people who can offer value, insights, knowledge and experience. This means firstly identifying who they are, creating a purposeful reason to engage and then actioning it by making time in the diary.
  2. Trust: Identify and engage with people you can trust with your ‘story’. People whose interest and goal is to see you succeed.
  3. Permission: You need to give people permission to engage and share their insights, opinions and knowledge.
  4. Exchange of Ideas: True connection is always underpinned by the sharing of problems, ideas and solutions. This builds on the notion that we are smarter and more successful together rather than alone.

Learning how to initiate connection and not just respond to it is what will set us apart. Connection not just with our internal stakeholders but with our industry peers and leaders, the movers and the shakers and across our broader community. I would strongly encourage you to take some time to consider how you might be able to build the quality of your connections and explore ways that you can mutually contribute to each others success.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot AndersenIf you would like to explore ways to build confidence, clarity and choice in your career please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

Is The Art Of Conversation Being Lost?

September 16th, 2015

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“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place ”

-George Bernard Shaw
Many of us have become only too familiar with the frightening workforce engagement statistics that suggest only 18% of the Australian workforce is actively engaged and this lack of productivity costs Australian businesses $42 billion p.a. (Source: RED)

Organisations are spending bucket-loads of dollars on measuring their employee engagement scores and countless hours on developing strategies for increasing it.

But for all of the dollars spent and efforts made it seems that the simple art of Career Conversations is being lost in our work places today. What do our employees want to do with their careers and how does that align with the business objectives and direction? What are my career ambitions and where are the opportunities for me to make a valuable contribution to my role and organisation?

Whilst most of us appreciate the need for open communication and the associated benefits of having regular career conversations, there still exists an enormous reluctance – and often for understandable reasons – for managers to embark upon having them. Misunderstandings, confused expectations, individual sensitivities, lack of trust and uncertainty about business directions all form a part of this reluctance. But are these reasons enough to prevent the conversation from happening at all?

The reality is that if business leaders and line managers don’t acknowledge or understand the career aspirations of their people, the following scenarios tend to emerge:

  • Individuals who are in the wrong place at the wrong time will under-perform
  • High performing employees who are looking for fresh challenges will begin to coast along
  • Outstanding employees who are often deemed to be critical to future success, will leave in search of other opportunities

All scenarios are problematic and unfortunately are often not addressed in a timely or appropriate manner because our business leaders and managers simply don’t know how to have the ‘career chat’ in a genuine and authentic manner.

This issue is not only tricky for organisations but also for the individual business leader / manager, for when they fail to have these conversations they actually risk their own performance impact and the value of their own career currency.

Regardless of what it is that we do, we all like to know that we are adding value and contributing to both our own and our organisation’s success. Whilst performance reviews tend to highlight this contribution and value retrospectively, Career Conversations focus on future contributions and help employees and organisations align this contribution for mutual success.

We all like to feel we are making progress – it motivates and inspires us. For some professionals it is moving up the career ladder as quickly as possible, while for others it is the desire to experience new things and diversify skill sets. As business leaders it is imperative that we know this about the people we lead; and as individuals it is critical that you are able to convey what your ambitions are and feel comfortable in communicating this with your manager in order to develop and shape your career.

So what are the keys to conducting successful Career Conversations?

Preparation: Preparation as they say is the key to success. In order to maximize the time and opportunity it is critical that both managers and employees are well prepared for these conversations.

As an individual, understanding your own career ambitions and how your current performance is regarded within the organization is essential. Preparing thoughts and ideas on how your contribution could be elevated also demonstrates a proactive approach to managing your own career.

As a manager or leader, a clear understanding of the businesses needs, your employee’s current performance and any development opportunities that may exist within the role and organization is necessary if you are to provide accurate and honest feedback about the employee’s career ambitions.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the timing and environment for these conversations to ensure that the opportunity is maximized.

Communication: Establishing honest, open and transparent communication between managers and employees is often one of the greatest challenges individuals and organizations face.

Given that trust and transparency are built over time and through active collaboration and positive interactions only reinforces the need for regular conversations.

Freedom to explore options free of judgment and with honest constructive feedback will help employees set realistic career goals and drive career ownership.

Accountability: In order to ensure that the conversation doesn’t remain just that, it is important to conclude any meeting with a clear plan that has mutually agreed actions, timelines and milestones. This will also ensure that all follow up dialogue is relevant and action orientated and further demonstrates the importance and value placed on defining and supporting career ambitions and progression.

Follow Up: Regular conversations are crucial to ensuring your own or your employee’s plan is moving forward. As well as offering opportunities to provide or gather support, they also consolidate purpose and strengthen relationships. It is also worth remembering that informal conversations can also add enormous value.

Creating an environment where employees feel confident to have these conversations will ultimately determine their validity and success. Breaking down the communication barriers and encouraging greater discussion about career direction in a trusted environment not only encourages career ownership but also promotes an engaged and productive workforce.

I would love to hear of your experiences with participating in or managing these conversations and any other top tips you can offer.

Margot AndersenIf you would like to explore ways to build confidence, clarity and choice in your career please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

One Year On

September 3rd, 2015

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“Progress lies not in enhancing what is,
but in advancing towards what will be”

– Khalil Gibran
[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”]This time a year ago I published my first blog both here as The Career Diplomat and for the first time ever. I do have to be honest with you though, I started blogging because people gave me a long list of reasons why I should – it will improve the SEO on your website, it will profile you and build your brand with personality and credibility, it will help you find your business and brand angle. It was not because I had an overwhelming desire to write and it certainly wasn’t because I thought people would be interested in what I had to say.

In many ways the lessons learned have ultimately been about making progress. Slow and steady progress that form solid foundations and provide a platform for moving forward. It has also meant remaining focused and disciplined. There were many times I quite simply didn’t feel like writing, didn’t think I had too much to say or I found myself coming up with a list of excuses as to why everything else was more important. However I was always amazed at how each week the messages seemed to resonate with someone. Some weeks it has resonated with more and sometimes with less. The impact has never the less been felt and most appreciatively communicated.

Sometimes the key to making progress is simply recognizing the need to start and taking that very first step. When you start your journey you don’t always know where it is going to lead you but you hope for the best and you stick with it day in and day out – or in my case of blogging, week in and week out. It’s not always easy but you keep moving forward, believing that what you do adds value.

There are many parallels in the lessons I have learnt over the past year with how we approach our careers. One of the biggest has been learning to overcome the fear of being ‘out there loud and proud’ and in a sense needing to get past myself. It has meant taking risks, finding my voice, being brave and learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

When reflecting on the first year of life of The Career Diplomat there have been other lessons learned, all of which I believe so very aptly apply to the way in which we manage our careers:

  • Consistent effort yields results: We all love the idea of an overnight success story but the reality is they simply don’t exist. No lasting results or careers have been built on a once off idea or achievement. They have taken consistent effort in planning, doing and evaluating.There are not shortcuts with our careers and the effort does not stop when we graduate. We need to be consistently investing in what it is that we do and the way we do it.
  • Trust the process: Sometimes we just need to trust the process especially when it has provided obvious and tangible success for others around us. Often this will mean putting aside our own beliefs and taking that first initial step to test it out. It is always easier to tweak things on route rather than trying to come up with the ideal model (which is often nothing more than an idea with no proven benefits) before starting.
  • Don’t underestimate or devalue your prior experiences: For many of us, what we do today is very different to what we trained for or what our first job was. Most of us though would recognize the strong foundations that our initial experiences gave us and how they have shaped the direction our careers have taken. Whilst I may no longer be standing in front of a classroom full of children as a teacher, many of the skills I learned strongly underpin what I do and are based on educating and equipping our future and current business leaders.
  • Finding your voice is empowering: Just as success has a way of building success, confidence builds confidence. Learning how to communicate not just down to our immediate team but also up and out into our broader world both internally within out organisations and externally within our industry and business community is critical to future proofing our career success.
  • Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. It creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits our worth.It often also prevents true connections with others around us being formed. Openness and     honesty about our own journey and lessons learned allows for a greater level of authenticity   and engagement with those around us.
  • Overcome your fear of what others think: All too often we stand in the way of our success through fear. We keep ourselves small, keep our head down and aim to fly under the radar. In doing so though we limit our ability to influence, establish credibility and our personal growth.This is not to suggest that we should completely disregard the view of others or how we are perceived. Rather we need to stand firm in our beliefs, the confidence in our knowledge and skills and find the right way to communicate with those around us to positively influence up and out.
  • Build connection: Establishing real and meaningful connection with those around you, be-it your team, your peers, business leaders and industry colleagues is essential to our success. Building authentic connection opens up the channels of knowledge, opportunity, engagement and influence that is all too often much further and wider than ever anticipated.

The Career Diplomat has largely been a success due to you the reader and the support and engagement offered to date and for this I say thank you!

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot AndersenIf you would like to explore ways to build confidence, clarity and choice in your career please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

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