Posts Tagged ‘career’

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?

 

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.

Leading With Intent

February 5th, 2019

“What I really love about ‘Intentional Living’ is that it causes you to start. It doesn’t allow good intentions to stay as merely intentions. It says you’ve got to turn those into good actions.” – John C Maxwell

Most of us have been guilty of allowing ourselves to think dreamily about the future – moments spent fantasizing or talking about ‘the day’ when we buy the dream house; take that overseas holiday; finally get to work on something that we love or be in a position to really influence and add value to others. Or maybe we’ve heard it uttered in the corridors by others ‘Some day I will earn enough to do X’ or ‘Some day I will step out and do X’.

The reality is though things don’t just happen just because you think it. You don’t magically find yourself standing at the departure lounge waiting to board the flight for that once in a lifetime family holiday without saving or planning; or find yourself working on exciting, innovative projects just because you turned up at the office. Success comes to those who are intentional. Regardless of whether you are starting your ideal role, changing career direction or simply buying your dream car, it has come about because there has been a purposeful decision made coupled with action (often lots of it) taken to see it become a reality.

As leaders, it is imperative that we are leading intentionally and not just talking about what we intend to do. That means leading firstly ourselves with purpose, clarity and confidence and then leading our people – and not just the outcomes. Failing to do so not only sees us risking disengagement, misalignment, conflict and productivity but also sees our own leadership credibility called into question. Nobody wants to work with or for somebody who is only full of great intentions, instead they want to work with and for people who know how to turn intent into action and in a way that has meaning to them.

Creating value and impact for individuals is a key ingredient of intentional leadership. To do this we need to engage meaningfully, create opportunity, support learning and growth and reward and acknowledge individual contributions. We need to also do this in amongst the myriad of our other core responsibilities. However unless we carve out dedicated time to do this our role as a leader will remain nothing more than a great intention. AND people can and will see through it!

As the well renowned leadership expert John Maxwell notes, you know when you are leading intentionally and on the road to success because it’s all uphill. That doesn’t mean the road is always fraught with obstacles or difficulties but rather it is one that requires consistent, deliberate and disciplined behaviours and choices. There’s no coasting to success. You can’t just hang around at the office for days or weeks on end and think ‘something good might happen to me today on this road to success’. If you wait around you coast and when you coast you go down hill never up.

So what are the habits and traits of leading with intent? I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the following 6 characteristics and how you might seek to embody them in your role as a leader

Intentional Leaders:

  1. Assume responsibility for who they are and where they are: Ultimately we are all responsible for the path we are on and where we are along that path. Leaders who assume personal accountability are much more likely to achieve success, unite teams or enact change if required.
  2. Are clear about their leadership purpose: They recognise what their core value is and know that it is more than a checklist of tasks to do today, next week or this financial year.
  3. Care about their people: They know what high impact looks and sounds like for the individuals on their team. They care enough to offer challenge, opportunity, growth and recognition; and will challenge behaviours and values that compromise the integrity of their team and what they are aiming to achieve.
  4. Challenge the status quo: Chase what could be and not merely what is. Fresh opportunity, increased productivity, relevance and fulfillment do not come from simply standing still or doing what we have always done but rather from seeking new and improved ways of doing things.
  5. Build trust: For leaders, trust is two fold. You need to be able to engender it and you need to be able to give it. Without both, success is almost always compromised.
  6. Celebrate the milestone achievements: Whilst leading with intention requires us to look over the horizon, it also means recognizing success along the way. Recognising that success is a series of building blocks is critical if we are to maintain purpose and momentum for what we do.

Living and leading intentionally doesn’t mean that we always have to be pushing, striving or seeking out the next big thing. Let’s face it; we would be exhausted if we did those things 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Sometimes taking time out to re-energise and re-engage needs to be an intentional act. What we do need to do is get crystal clear on what we want and why and to then start closing the gap between intent and action. It means being realistic about how we do it and what offers the most impact. To do this we need to know that our actions (and reactions) not only matter but also are what will be remembered.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Turning Knowledge Into Action

October 10th, 2018

“The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing” – John Maxwell

These days we seem to know a lot. Not only is there an extraordinary amount of up to date relevant information available on almost any topic we can think of, our access to it has never been easier. Books, blogs, podcasts, training programs, knowledge management systems and devices are everywhere and yet one of the biggest questions for both businesses and individuals alike is ‘Why can’t we get anything done?’

For many of us we simply seem to be drowning in a sea of good intentions. Whether its 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.

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. This means tackling the hard work, rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. As leaders, this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything but you have to actively engage and play your part. Failing to do so sees us risk both business and career success.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, authors of the book The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action argue that one of the main barriers to turning knowledge into action is the tendency to equate talking about something with actually doing something. As they note, all too often talk is valued because the quantity and ‘quality’ of it can be easily assessed immediately where as the ability to get things done requires a greater timeframe. The risk therefore is that our impressions of others are based on sounding smart rather than on how they perform.

No doubt many of us have borne witness to this in our own workplaces – Individuals who are able to speak the talk but not walk the walk. The long-term damage is enormous and does nothing than more than erode trust, confidence, engagement and action. The bottom line is no results or benefits are ever achieved or enjoyed simply by talking about something – or by just making a decision to do something. It still needs to be followed with effort to implement.

So how do we build a culture of action for our businesses, teams and ourselves?

Understand the why before the how: As managers and leaders all too often we want to quickly learn the ‘how’ – what do I need to I immediately do/adopt rather than understanding the ‘why’ in terms of drivers and goals. The real danger is when we expect our teams to also adopt this framework of thinking as it can easily create an overly dependent culture that is devoid of learning, independent thinking and ownership.

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.

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 paralysers 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.

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.

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.

The real challenge for us is to make knowing and doing the same thing. It is only when we do that we will drive a culture of action for ourselves and the businesses that we lead. As we head into the last quarter of the year I would encourage you to think what it is that you want and need to do to close the year out successfully.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Building Career Relevance

September 26th, 2018

‘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.

The Keys Of Consistency

March 26th, 2018

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently” – Tony Robbins

We all know that true success does not occur overnight. Behind it sits volumes of effort, belief and action demonstrated consistently over time. Invariably it has meant navigating a sometimes bumpy road that may have seen us fall a couple of times and demanded we get back up, dust ourselves off and go again. Underpinning much of our success though is the sum of the small daily, weekly, monthly decisions and actions we have adopted.

Whether it has been a commitment to up-skill to maintain relevance; time taken to create and foster purposeful professional networks; or the building of habits that push us out of our comfort zone and extend our learning; the consistency of our actions (or lack there of) has played a major role in where we find ourselves today.

In a time where our ability to navigate change and demonstrate true career resiliency, never have these ‘little things’ counted for so much. These small actions over time compound positively or negatively much like they do in a bank account. Lots of small proactive decisions add up in a positive way like regular savings into a bank account; where as complacency and bad decisions are like small debits eating away at your value over time.

In talking with business leaders I often hear that it is not the big things that keep them awake at night but the little things. Why? Because they know that over time these little ‘things’ have the power to become the big things by eroding efficiencies, outcomes and relationships. It is exactly the same with our careers – if we aren’t careful, failure to action the ‘little’ things will prevent us from reaching our potential and desired levels of success.

Nothing is more frustrating than inconsistency. No doubt many of us are able to recall colleagues and team members who have severely limited their opportunities due to an inability to consistently perform or behave. Where one week they seem to be producing record results and the next they are eroding any progress, momentum or value originally created. Or where they are technically brilliant at what they do but cause so much disruption amongst their team that the overall results are compromised because no one wants to work with them or you going forward.

Whilst the idea of consistency is fairly simple the ability to execute it is often not. More often than not it is due to one of the following three things:

  • Impatience – We want the results NOW! (Think of all those diet and exercise regimes that we have all invariably embarked upon!)
  • Belief – If we don’t believe in what we are doing the only thing that we are most likely to be consistent in is avoidance.
  • Value – Failure to see the benefits of the amount of effort invested.

Consistency is definitely achievable for us all but it does take practice, focus and discipline. Understanding what it is that you do and why is critical but so to is understanding how consistency creates high value and longevity in your career. I would encourage you to take a moment to consider the following career benefits:

  • Consistency establishes belief: The thoughts and actions that we take on a daily and/or regular basis do shape our own self-belief and the belief that others have in us. Not only is it a powerful force for motivating and building trust in others but it also serves as a powerful model for the standards we rise and fall to.
  • Consistency creates relevance: Your customers, clients, organisations and team members are all looking to you as a reliable and informed source of information and service. To remain informed we need to be relevant. What are the latest developments in your industries, your areas of expertise or your regions? Is your level of knowledge and it’s applicability empowering or depowering you and what you do?
  • Consistency allows for measurement: To build meaningful and successful steps of progression we need to understand what it is that is actually working – or not working. What are the results of your consistent efforts, actions and strategies – good or bad? Our ability to measure, assess and realign are crucial skills in our ever-changing world.
  • Consistency creates accountability: Accountability is a critical requirement in high performance and values aligned cultures. Being consistently accountable – in the good and the bad times – is what will set you apart as the consummate professional.
  • Consistency builds stability: Not only does it build stability but it also builds sustainability. When people know what you stand for and where they stand with you, it provides the framework for them to perform at their optimal level.
  • Consistency establishes your reputation: Your track record is your reputation. Building that track record on one that is defined by consistent performance, respectful behaviours and high value relationships is fundamental to both your current and future success.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot

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