Posts Tagged ‘clarity’

Is Your Career On Autopilot?

January 19th, 2020

“Your life is your story. Write well, edit often” – Susan Statham

As we return to work at the beginning of a new year, it’s never too long before we switch back into our usual high output gear after the break. However, all too often, we accelerate into our usual workflows without taking the opportunity to think more consciously and carefully about how we want to architect our lives and careers for the year ahead and beyond. Our momentum is halted, and our career trajectories can easily stagnate.

Zoning out is easy to do when your career is on autopilot. 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.

While most of us can travel on 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 it is often 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. 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. While 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.

While 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 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 support our forward momentum, 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 while you own your career.

Before you find yourself in situations that see you calling out Mayday or sending off the emergency flares, I would encourage you to consider the following six actions 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 danger of ‘status quo’. It dulls our senses and ability to spot the opportunities and obstacles that lay before us. By changing up our everyday routine we are more likely to accurately recognise, assess and act on the current state of play in a more informed and timely manner.

Understand your strengths and weaknesses: Gaining an accurate view of what our strengths and weaknesses allow us to focus on what we do best, identify ways to collaborate with those whose knowledge and skills complement ours and stay out of what we don’t do well.

Focus on honing your strengths: 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 maximize our productivity, efficiency and levels of fulfillment 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: We also often 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, which in turn sees you well-positioned for your future preferred opportunities.

Build purposeful networks: Invest in the right 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.

As you develop your awareness and switch off from ‘auto pilot’ mode, an effective way to turn your attention inward to your career history, desired trajectory, is the document that articulates this; your resume.

As your resume tells your professional story and highlights both your capability and your potential, it is naturally imperative to constantly refine and update it. Revisiting it on a regular basis can also help you to identify gaps, strengths and weaknesses that may also give you an insight into your future ambitions and what needs to change in order to achieve them. You can do this by following my Resume Checklist, which I have developed to help guide you through this process.

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.

The Power of Knowledge and Action

September 4th, 2019

“Knowledge is not power … it is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end.”  (Napoleon Hill) 

When we have momentum, we feel as though anything is possible and we can confidently take on new challenges. Other times, momentum can seem elusive and a struggle to develop.

It’s often hard to describe and yet it is nearly always our secret magic weapon to achieving success. At its best, momentum helps us remain focused, clear minded and forward thinking rather than stagnating.

One of the key roadblocks to momentum, for leaders in particular, often manifests in being caught up with the tactical execution of work, rather than focusing on the strategic and organisational management work that is needed to drive growth and leverage opportunities as and when they arise.

Businesses and their leaders know what they need to do but find themselves unable to do it because they don’t have people in the right place, or people with the right capabilities, which results in stalled momentum time and again.

The key to breaking out of this cycle is turning this knowledge – of what needs to be done – into action, which is often easier said than done.

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.

Whether it’s 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.

So how can we build a culture of action within our businesses?

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.

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.

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 enemies 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.
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.

Do you feel your business is effectively turning knowledge into action? What opportunities would you be able to tap into, if less time was spent in execution?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

When Less is More

December 4th, 2018

“You can’t be your best self if your life is cluttered with the non-essential” – Greg McKeown

Busy.

It’s a word that is used every day by almost all of us. For many of us, our lives seem to not only be busy but getting busier with every waking minute and week that passes by…. especially at this time of the year!

It’s all too easy however to find ourselves caught in a sea of ‘busyness quicksand’ that leaves us both unproductive and stuck. Stuck with unforgiving diaries that see us stretched too thin. Stuck feeling like our time is constantly being hijacked by everyone else’s schedule. Stuck with problematic team members. Stuck in unfulfilling careers and doing things that simply aren’t us.

When you feel ‘stuck’ you are more often than not, running flat out, burning lots of energy and going nowhere fast. Finding yourself on the hamster wheel is exhausting, unfulfilling and unsustainable. The tricky thing is that by the time you realise you are on it; you are already spinning so fast that jumping off seems impossible and downright dangerous. The key to jumping off the wheel is recognising that it is nothing more than a routine – a routine that you firstly created and one you can absolutely change.

Greg McKewon, author of the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, makes a powerful case for achieving more by doing less. In his book he talks to the need to firstly understand and then adopt the discipline – and it is a discipline – of discerning what is absolutely essential and then eliminating what is not. In doing so you not only ensure that you are focused on making the greatest possible contribution to what is truly important for you, but you also take back the control for your own choices about where you invest your precious resources time and energy resources.

For many of us when we decide to simplify things, we approach it like we do when we de-clutter our wardrobe. We firstly wait until it is at bursting point when we can’t fit anything else in; or when everything is so worn out we ‘retire’ items to the bin. We then set about filling it back up with similar things that are just shinier and newer rather than thinking about what it is that we actually need.

As McKeown notes, mastering the art of Essentialism is two fold. Firstly it is a mindset, followed by some key actions (which he refers to as Exploring, Eliminating and Executing). The attached model is a great demonstration of the way people with Non-Essentialist versus Essentialist attitudes think and act – and what they ultimately get.

It is not just a matter of sitting down and taking a bunch of the non-essential things off the list or out of the diary. Equally important is determining what the essentials are and prioritising them in the calendar.

None of us want to get to the end of our lives wishing that we had been brave enough to take the leap – what ever that leap may be – to live the best version of ourselves. In McKeown’s words, avoiding this sad end ‘requires not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately and strategically eliminating the non-essentials which means not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well’.

So a few suggestions for adopting the Keeping It Simple approach:

  • Understand you hold the power of choice
  • Conduct an audit on what is truly essential for you, your career or business and your life
  • Master the art of saying No
  • Own your space (diary) – both personally and professionally
  • Check in weekly: Is this the right routine? Does it need tweaking?
  • Diarise your own quarterly review

Whatever you have on your plate at the moment, got there because you said yes to it. What we keep on our plate and how we manage it is up to us.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Avoiding the Energy Crisis

November 21st, 2018

“Your energy is a valuable resource, distribute it wisely.” – Jay Samit

None of us are surprised to hear that when your energy levels are low, your work suffers. In fact most things suffer. Motivation wanes, productivity falls and efficiencies slow. Equally, failing to channel your energies in the right direction can also be just as problematic – distractions and frustrations abound with lots of energy expended for very little result.

As a consequence we often find ourselves facing mounting pressures and increasing demands – to which many of us typically respond 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 just simply ‘get through it’ we start to question our capability, purpose and impact. And, so begins a vicious cycle that if we aren’t careful can have severe ramifications for our health, career and relationships.

The problem with simply working longer hours is that you can still run out of them because there are only a fixed number in each day, week or year. Unlike time, energy though is a renewable resource that can be topped up when we know how. Knowing what depletes our energy and what refuels it is the key to developing healthy, sustainable work habits and supporting ongoing success.

As we race towards the end of the year, I would encourage you to think about how you manage and distribute your energy reserves. In doing so, you will not only enhance your opportunity to engage in meaningful work, you will maximise your efficiency.

Take a moment to consider where you sit on the above graph. Regardless of which quadrant you sit in, you need to understand why you are in that position.

If you are fortunate enough to sit in the ‘Fulfilled’ quadrant, you need to be clear about why you feel that way, what has helped you get there and what you need in order to stay there.

Conversely if you find yourself in one of the other three quadrants you need to determine why and what actionable steps you can immediately take to help you maximise both energy and productivity. Taking the time to critically reflect on the position you find yourself in opens up the pathway to higher level learning, deeper engagement and provides the platform for informed and confident decision making. It is also a critical exercise if you are to create a career and business you love.

Start by asking yourself these five simple questions:

What do I do and why? Nothing is more empowering than feeling aligned to your core purpose, talents and capabilities. The reality is that when you are inspired by what you do you are more actively engaged in your work and your business and you produce better results. Your purpose becomes your generator.

What daily habits fuel my energy? Of equal importance, is the ability to recognise those everyday habits that generate or rob us of our energy. Am I looking after myself physically, mentally and emotionally? Have I created healthy sustainable habits that will last beyond January and support optimal health in all areas of my life?

Am I bored or stuck in a rut? There is no doubt that routine kills energy. We all have things that we need to do but understanding how we can shake things up is important. Pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone more often than not also brings new knowledge, new networks, new opportunities and lessons that light a spark and fuels a passion for what we do.

Do I understand how my role and my skills add value to the business? We all like to know that our contribution is valued and how it impacts the overall success of our team and business. Initiating a conversation to understand what your value is or ways to increase it demonstrates a strong sense of accountability and desire to play an active role in both your own direction and that of the business you work for.

What relationships do I need to dedicate time and energy to? Too often one of our major blockers or causes of angst is between our key stakeholders and / or team members. Taking the time to understand individual work and communication styles is a critical part of not only developing our influencing and leadership skills but also to ensuring timely and effective outcomes.

As leaders, we face never ending pressures to do ‘more with less’ – less resources, less money and less people. Even with these ongoing pressures, most of us recognise the need to invest in our own and our employee’s knowledge and skillsets. However we also need to consider how we build and sustain capacity for ourselves and our people. Healthy behaviours and productive practices start with us.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

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

What Are You Pinning Your Career To?

March 27th, 2017

Most of us will recall many a childhood party that involved a game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’. Blindfolded and invariably spun around numerous times to disorient, we walked aimlessly towards a board with a picture of a donkey, firmly holding the missing tail and hoping to get lucky as we aimed to pin it to the right end of said animal. Many of us considered ourselves lucky if we even managed to connect the tail to any part of the donkey let alone the right end! Generally speaking there was lots of ensuing laughter at how ridiculously misplaced our judgment actually was.

Interestingly I meet many people who seem to have adopted a ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ approach to their career. Progressing through their careers blindfolded, directionless and hoping that their knowledge and skills are ‘pinned’ to the right job or manager inside their organization. Often they too find themselves disoriented and making poor decisions due to a lack of career planning or clarity about what they want.

Whilst we all know that rich and rewarding careers don’t just happen, too often career planning is something that is relegated to the ‘too hard’, ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I don’t know what to do’ baskets. Why? Because it is hard; and it does require time and action to figure out what you do want. It requires us to reflect, get curious about what is possible and challenge ourselves on what actions and directions to take. The risk though of not planning is finding yourself stuck or overlooked for new opportunities when they do arise. With no plan, how can we be ready to position ourselves for the right opportunities when they are presented?

Creating lasting relevant careers that offer genuine challenge and fulfillment requires you to ‘dig your well’ long before you are thirsty. As leadership expert John Maxwell explains, ‘if you are preparing today, chances are you will not be repairing tomorrow’. Preparation as he notes, doesn’t just begin with what you do, it begins with what you believe. If you believe that your success tomorrow depends on what you do today, then you will treat today differently.

As leaders we need to do this not only for ourselves but also with the people that we lead. Failing to understand what our people want, can and will do sees us risking retention of key performers, engagement and ultimately productivity. How can we ensure that we have the right people, in the right place at the right time if individuals don’t know what they want and leaders don’t know how to help them work it out?

Creating career choice and confidence requires us to build knowledge in three key areas: Clarity, Demand and Transferability. These three elements should form the basis of your career plan and be underpinned by strong networks that allow you to understand how you are regarded and to position yourself effectively.

  1. Build clarity: Around what you can do (Skills, Knowledge, Experience); what you want to do (Values, Career Anchors) and where you think you best fit (Personality, People, Culture).
  2. Build demand: Become the expert in what it is that you do and the way in which you do it. Learn how to position yourself as the expert and give people and organisations a reason to want to engage with you.
  3. Build Transferability: Identify where your skills and capabilities also apply. Remain relevant to the future of your business, your industry, and your networks and become nimble enough to adapt and leverage with the inevitable changes ahead.

It is always worth remembering that the organisation owns the role, whilst you own your career. As such the more that you invest in owning it, the greater agility, relevance and confidence you will have in growing a purposeful career.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot

Margot BLACK Signature

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