Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent
Bill Gates

Archive for September, 2016

Creating Career Agility

September 27th, 2016

We all know that we are living in rapidly changing times but this was really highlighted to me last week when hearing how knowledge is currently doubling at a rate of every 12 months with this soon to be every 12 hours. Navigating that sheer volume of new information and more importantly letting go of what has become obsolete seems like an almost unfathomable concept.

There is no doubt that planning for future business needs has therefore become more complex. Not only are we navigating unprecedented volumes of new knowledge and levels of change but also the very way in which we work is being reshaped. With new technologies emerging almost daily, how we communicate, collaborate and make decisions is significantly impacted. We have people remaining in the workforce for longer, greater diversity than ever before and now find ourselves operating and responding to a more globalized economy providing unprecedented access to new markets and talent pools.

With many roles and job titles today in danger of disappearing altogether and those of tomorrow yet to be defined, there is also a new challenge we all face in how to best manage our own careers. How do you plan out future career paths when the very nature of what we do, how we do it and where we do it is rapidly changing around us? Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha, authors of The Start Up Of You note that building long term career success requires individuals to consider themselves as entrepreneurs and their careers as a start up business.  In qualifying this they say that ‘ the skills that start-ups require are the very skills that professionals need in order to advance their careers: nimbleness, personal investment, strong networks and intelligent risk taking”.

To do this we need to embrace and develop the skill of agility. It is widely recognized that agility enhances performance in activities that require a quick change in direction whilst maintaining the core elements of balance, speed, strength and control. It leads to faster response and can easily provide significant competitor advantage. Often associated with sport, it is considered one of the main components of fitness and consequently forms an integral part of training schedules.

It makes sense then that it should form an integral part of establishing our own career fitness. Not only does it help improve current performance but it also helps ensure that any sudden change in direction – such as redundancy, promotion or career shifts – are navigated with relative ease and strength.

Given that agility is built on strength and co-ordination it is imperative that we gain clarity on what our core strengths are: what knowledge, skills and styles do we have to leverage. We then need to understand where we best fit: where we can co-ordinate our skills and knowledge with those of others. I would also encourage you to consider the following five actions for creating career agility:

‘Think global, act local’: Whilst this saying was originally used to heighten environmental awareness, it is very apt for our careers. We are working in an increasingly globalised world that is responding to change, disruption and connection at a global level. Our role is to be aware of it so we can leverage and apply it with relevance and confidence to our own careers and positions.

Remain informed: Navigating any form of change requires us to be informed of what it is. Too often we look ‘across and down rather than up and out’ and as a result our awareness outside of our immediate world is diminished and therefore limiting. It is important to be informed of relevant industry trends; interesting collaborations and market announcements.

Take considered risks: Low risk is often associated with stability. However it has been suggested that in the long term, continually opting for the low risk options leads to increased vulnerability as it reduces our resilience to deal with sudden and high level change.  ‘Playing it safe’ with your career can in fact create higher risk through an inability to cope with the volatility and rate of change which is all to common in the market place today.

Invest in learning: With the constant change happening in our workplaces and industries you can never assume that you know all there is to know about managing your career. Invest time to acquire the right intelligence and know-how that will accelerate your career. Consider what projects, opportunities and courses will build, stretch, leverage and maximise your knowledge, skills and style.

Create diverse networks: Invest in the right relationships and dedicate time and energy to them. Identify your key influencers and thought leaders, and identify a meaningful pathway of how to approach and engage with them. Build a networking plan that fosters authentic professional relationships where you can also offer valuable contributions.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Why Inspiration Matters

September 19th, 2016

In 2009 Simon Sinek gave a TED talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action that has now been viewed more than 28 million times making it the third most popular TED talk ever.  The premise of his talk was based on the fact that inspired workers make for both stronger companies and stronger economies; and when people become more inspired at work it creates a positive ripple effect on those around them.  The sheer volume of unique viewers would suggest that his message clearly resonated and that many of us are looking for inspiration in what we do and who we work for.

In a culture that often seems obsessed with measuring things, the power of inspiration is often overlooked. Yet inspiration is not only one of the most powerful intrinsic motivators, it is also a springboard for creativity, innovation and growth. Despite it’s elusive nature its influence is far reaching for individuals, teams and organisations and results in very tangible outcomes.

There are many reasons why it could be overlooked: for some, ‘being inspired’ smacks of day dreamy, passive behaviour that requires an almost divine presence before work can be commenced; whilst for others it is often confused with positivity or charisma. Whilst inspiration can result in greater positive outcomes, mindsets and behaviours it is something that is deeply based in trust and requires action to create. Unfortunately for many though their examples of leadership be-it within their political, community or business circles fail to inspire them or others to think and act differently.

Author John Maxwell writes that too often the ranks of leadership are inhabited by a host of mirages: people who look impressive from a distance but up close end up being disappointments leaving those who work for them dry and thirsty for opportunity and development. After being fooled by a few mirages, followers all too often become mistrusting and jaded.

In a world that all too often looks and sounds ‘beige’, inspirational leadership has never been more wanted and craved. It does however require today’s leader to stand out, speak up and take action often in scenarios when many others remain quiet or committed to doing things in the same old familiar ways. However when employees are genuinely inspired, their trust and confidence is not only restored (or established) but they want to do more, contribute more and be more.

So how do great leaders inspire action? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 attributes and consider how evident they are in your own leadership style:

  • Communicate the ‘Why’: When people understand ‘why’ they do what they do they are more engaged, productive, influential and innovative. Inspiring leaders know this and work to ensure that individuals are committed to understanding their personal why and the ‘why’ behind what is required from them in their role and organisation.
  • Magnify Strengths: Tom Rath & Barrie Conchie, authors of Strength Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow – conducted studies that revealed engagement increased eightfold when leaders focused on their employee’s strengths as well as their own increasing from 9% to 73%.
  • Pay Attention: To quote the old adage ‘people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care’. People who inspire know the ambitions, desires and motivations of those who work with them and how that impacts their engagement and productivity.
  • Be Available: Leaders who inspire, commit to investing time in those that they lead. This does not mean that they are available 24-7 but rather plan for ways to spend time that is purposeful, high impact and focused on developing individual contribution to support both personal and organizational success.
  • Empower Others: Inspirational leaders know who and how to trust others with what needs to be done. They provide opportunity; equip people with the right knowledge and tools; and work to remove the blockers that get in the way of success.
  • Challenge the Status Quo: Inspirational leaders are committed to creating excellence. They work hard to overcome apathy and look for new ways of thinking, doing and being that continually leverage opportunity, skillsets and mindsets.

Great leaders not only motivate, they inspire people to want to act. How are you inspiring action today?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

 

Whose Spotlight Are You Standing In?

September 14th, 2016

Last week I had the good fortune to attend a truly inspiring business forum about unleashing our potential. In amongst all of the learning there was one theme that seemed to underpin many of the speaker’s presentations – courage. Courage to not only step up to the challenge or think more creatively, but more critically to step out of the way of ourselves.

When facing big decisions, new challenges or a changed environment, the saying ‘we are our own worst enemies’ often rings true for many of us. At the heart of it is fear – fear of failure, fear of what others think, fear of not being good enough. The expectations, limitations and fears that circle in our minds so often stop us maximizing not only our current opportunity but also our true capability.

Changing career paths, relocating countries and regions, taking on a bigger or more diverse role, proposing new ways of doing business, voicing an opinion that is not shared by the consensus all requires a high degree of internal strength, conviction and courage. For many of us it means shaking off the age-old thinking that the best way to succeed is to keep your head down, fly under the radar, play it safe and don’t make too much noise.

How ironic is it that what we want from our leaders is almost the exact opposite. We want and expect our leaders to stand up and voice opinions, propose new ideas, create new environments, demonstrate progression and generate high levels of engagement. We want them to stand behind what we believe to be the right decision and not just do things right. Courage is an inherent trait amongst great leaders and it is why we admire them so much.

The good news is that courage isn’t just available for a select few but for all of us. It isn’t a skill but a decision. It is the decision and ability to move ahead in the presence of fear and not as many say in the absence of fear.  It’s a mindset and it can be learnt.

So how do we overcome our fears and learn to live and lead with greater courage? In between many useful reminders, tips and strategies last week, there were a few that stood out that I believe we should strive to embrace:

Create an environment that supports courage and learning: If we think about a child learning to walk and the environment in which they learn to do this, they are invariably in a room full of people that are encouraging every effort made. Real dangers are removed and risks to ‘step out’ are encouraged. The adults and older children are cheering every step they take, not every time they fall over. They aren’t saying ‘well you’ve fallen over three times now, we better seek some professional help’.

Surround yourself with other courageous thinkers, doers and advocates: So often when we are driving significant change or introducing new concepts, the critics appear to have the loudest voices. Knowing who your key influencers and advocates are is critical to building effective frameworks of support. Your trusted advisors will be able to offer insight, constructive feedback and advice to help you not only maintain courage but also influence.

Gain some perspective: Ask yourself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen?’ If it turns out that your idea / comment / view is rejected you will be remembered as someone who was at least prepared to offer a contribution. When we risk our own contribution for fear of not fitting in, it is often the disappointment in ourselves that remains long after the situation has ended.

Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. It creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability. It often also prevents true connections with others around us being formed.

Be assured that the fire will come – Be ready for it: You can be guaranteed that when you attempt something new, there will be challenges and hurdles to overcome. When we know that they are part of the experience, they lose their power to hurt us personally, but instead become merely a part of the problem solving process.

Connect: No one can do it alone! Confidence is infectious. When you surround yourself with other like-minded and courageous individuals it not only helps you overcome your doubts and lingering fears but also helps you impart confidence to those that you are looking to influence.

It takes courage to challenge the norm, to make a tough decision, to answer the critics, to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves, to not allow failures and disappointments deter you from your course, to be vulnerable and allow others the space to also be vulnerable. It takes courage to lead both your teams and businesses through periods of great uncertainty and remain true to your path.

Leaders who consistently demonstrate courage will stand apart from the masses and earn the trust and loyalty of those that they lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

 

Leadership Lessons From Dad

September 6th, 2016

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“He has always provided me a safe plan to land and a hard place from which to launch ”
-Chelsea Clinton
This past weekend being Fathers Day, many of us took a moment to acknowledge our Dads and reflect on their impact in our lives. Absent or present, how they love us, laugh with us, engage with us often influences our views of the world, our relationships and even on what we do in and with our careers.

For me I have been fortunate enough to have a Dad who not only cheered from the sidelines and learnt to master the art of plaits and ponytails, but also so willingly shared his own knowledge of driving business, leading teams and making critical business decisions.

So in the spirit of Fathers Day, below are a few reflections on some of those life, business and career lessons I have been fortunate enough to learn along the way courtesy of ‘good old Dad’:

  • Distance is no barrier: Growing up 12 hours west of Brisbane, distance was always a big part of our lives. Whether it was boarding school, living overseas or interstate, the distance between us as a family never defined the quality or quantity of communication and expressions of love, gratitude and support. It was endless and it was and is there at all times.

As our world becomes more globalised, the challenge for many of us as leaders is to build a connected and engaged team from afar; to break down the silos and build a truly mobile mindset and way of thinking that allows people to confidently and nimbly change directions and move with business needs.

  • Sometimes opportunities come in all shapes and sizes: When I first graduated from university my first posting as a teacher, was to a tiny rural community with fewer than 500 people. Working for the Qld Education Department meant accepting what you were given and as young single teachers that more often than not meant remote locations! Anxious and nervous, I was encouraged to dive in and make the most of it, knowing that one day these experiences would provide a solid grounding for something new.

Waiting for the ‘perfect opportunity’ or for when we are ready, can often see us missing the right building blocks that we need for the future. During those early years in my career, not only was I afforded incredible opportunities to work with much more senior responsibility, more autonomy and creativity, I forged some of the most enduring friendships and networks that are still integral to what I do today.   

  • Life is not an endurance test: When living in London and going through a sponsorship process with my organisation, I received a four year visa which to me was way beyond the commitment I was prepared to give – both to an employer and to the notion of living away for that long. I was thinking more like 12 months. Talking it through with Dad I was encouraged to grab the opportunity with both hands but to remember that life was not designed to be an endurance test and when it became one there would be no winners – both my employer and I would lose out. Ironically I stayed for seven years and not for one moment did it feel like an endurance test!

How many of us have fallen into the trap of ‘enduring’ a role or an organisation simply because we don’t know what to do next or aren’t courageous enough to forge a new path? Ultimately not only is our contribution compromised but so to is our confidence and belief in our potential.

  • Be interested and curious about the world and people around you: To live a truly fulfilling and impactful life we need to be actively participating with those around us. We need to be interested in those closest to us – in our families, our workmates and in our communities – what makes them tick, gets them excited and conversely what frustrates them. Watching my Dad participate in all of the above areas with a generosity of spirit and positive intent to add value has seen him rewarded with loyalty, respect, effort and friendship.

One of the greatest disconnects between organisations and employees today is in not knowing what either parties goals, ambitions and capabilities are. Not only is profitability and individual potential compromised but so to is the opportunity to have real influence and impact.

I am very grateful to be able to say that no matter where I have been in the world, I have always known that  ‘When my father didn’t have my hand…he had my back’. Like all good leaders, that alone has given a quiet confidence to get out there and make things happen…. Thanks Dad!

Margot Andersen

If you would like to discuss ways to build you or your team’s leadership capability, please call Margot on 0400 336 318.

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