Archive for September, 2017

Is Your Career On Autopilot?

September 25th, 2017

‘Your life is your story. Write well, edit often’

– Susan Statham


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. We could quite simply step out and zone out.

Whilst most of us can travel on all to 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 all too often it is 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. All too often 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. Whilst 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.

Whilst 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 all too 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 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 whilst you own your career.

So before you find yourself in situations that see you sending out a mayday call or reaching for the emergency flares, I would encourage you to consider the following 6 steps 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 sense of ‘status quo’. It dulls our senses and ability to spot the opportunities and obstacles that lay before us.

Focus on honing your strengths: All too 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 maximise our productivity, efficiency and levels of fulfilment 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: All too often we 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.

Build purposeful networks: Invest in purposeful 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.

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.

Margot BLACK Signature

Maintaining Career Relevance

September 19th, 2017

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”
Mohammed Ali

Over the last decade we have seen an unprecedented number of businesses pay the price of failing to remain relevant. Industries have been shaken up by creative disruption like never before; there is an increasing global competition for talent; a move towards flatter structures and the traditional concept of job security has almost entirely disappeared.

Failing to adapt is costly. The stories behind organisations such as Kodak, Dell and Blockbuster should serve as a timely reminder on the importance of relevance. Just as these businesses paid the ultimate price of losing not only market position but also their place in it, we too can face the same situation with our own careers if we fail to remain relevant with our own knowledge and skills and our teams, organization and industry.

With the majority of professionals working harder and smarter, as well as being more broadly skilled than at any other point in their professions it would be fair to assume that we are more strongly positioned to manage our careers than ever before. However with ever-increasing volatility on nearly all fronts – politically economically and in business – and technology advances occurring almost daily, individuals can face enormous challenges to remain relevant to the world around them. But these challenges can also provide enormous opportunity if we learn how to navigate them.

In their book The Start Up of You, Hoffman & Casnocha suggest that if we are to build long-term career success, individuals need to consider themselves as entrepreneurs and their careers as a start up business. As they note, ‘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.”

It takes effort and energy to be relevant. Effort to invest in and apply the knowledge and skills required to do the job; and energy to connect and engage with others – to ask the right questions to find out what their thinking, understand their needs and offer meaningful support. As leaders, not only do we need to ensure that we remain relevant with our own careers but we need to support others do so as well. We need to genuinely connect with the needs of our people and help them align their careers with the ambitions of the organisation and industry they operate in.

So how do we best equip ourselves for career success and build relevance in what we do today and for the future? I would encourage you to consider the following six points:

Be ready for change: Change is here to stay! According to the Future Works Skills 2020 Report nearly one third of the workforce will be employed on a casual basis. Global connectivity, ‘smart machines’ – which will see a higher degree of automation in some roles and the complete redundancy of others – and new media are just some of the drivers that are reshaping the way think about work, what constitutes it and the skills we will require to be productive contributors to the future.

Understand your value: Understand what you need to ensure that you can act and react with nimbleness and agility. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who uses my work and what they need most?
  • What business outcomes drive my work?
  • What is the cost of my work?
  • What impacts the way I do my work and how has that recently changed?
  • What are the opportunities to grow and scale what I do?
  • How can I better help others in their role?

Become the expert: Invest in honing your knowledge and skills. Investigate key industry trends and challenges; recent business success stories and know who the key influencers and thought leaders are and why. Individuals who manage their own learning and development in partnership with their organisation are much more attractive to future employers and strongly positioned to remain in control of their own career and future opportunities.

Build a strategic network: Evaluate the strength of your current network and understand what support they offer Have you got the right people to support where you want to go or are you surrounded by people who are distracting you from your path. Invest in strengthening your professional support through the building of relevant alliances and ensuring that there is a diverse mix.

Challenge yourself: For many of us some of our richest experiences and greatest achievements have come from stepping outside our comfort zone. Pushing the boundaries and taking ‘intelligent risks’ brings new knowledge, new networks, new opportunities and lessons that sustain us well after the experience has ended. It also invariably generates energy and engagement in what we do.

Engage: Clarity comes through engagement. We need to take action to drive our career forward and engage through those around us so that we understand what ideas, projects and businesses are being discussed, celebrated and challenged.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot BLACK Signature

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