Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

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 Abundance Mindset

April 3rd, 2019

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune into.” – Wayne Dyer

It is all too easy to get caught up in the world of ‘not enoughness’. In an age where we are constantly being told that we need more, should aim for more, deliver more, earn more and want more is it any wonder that not having enough, doing enough or being enough is one of our greatest social cripplers and fears.

The real danger of this scarcity mindset is the paralyzing effect it has on us. Not only can you find yourself living in the interim moment – I am here, but when I am there everything will be bigger, brighter and better – but you can also easily fall into the trap that there won’t be enough to go round unless I fight for it. And herein lies a major issue for the way we manage our careers, our teams and our businesses.

Viewing our career through a scarcity lens can sabotage both your success and your progress. Scarcity people believe that there may not be enough pie to go round or that their share will be smaller than everyone else’s. Abundance people simply believe that you can make more pie.

People with a scarcity mentality tend to see the world (including the workplace) in terms of win-lose. Whilst it often is not about being malicious it manifests in negative workplace cultures and individual outlooks. People with this mindset typically hold onto knowledge, resources, people and staff with a tight reign. They find it difficult to share recognition, power or profit. They keep things close and small because they can control or influence situations with ease. As a result teams fracture, silos form and careers are damaged.

Conversely people with an abundance mentality see the world in terms of win-win. They are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition and good fortune of other people. They go out of their way to help others and contribute to their success because in doing so they believe they can all – both individually and collectively – achieve more. People with an abundance mentality operate from a strong sense of worth and security. They typically adopt a bigger outlook on life and the world and consequently generate new opportunities and possibilities. Not only do they have the ability to unite people, they connect ideas, remover barriers and roadblocks and engender healthy workplace cultures where contribution and recognition are valued.

Stephen Covey is credited with coining the term ‘Abundance Mentality’ in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. He notes that scarcity people are always comparing and competing and believes it s a sure fire recipe for unhappiness. Abundant thinkers feel rich before they become rich – and not just monetarily but in all things of value – time, relationships, attention, experience and happiness.

Take a moment to think about some of the attitudes and behaviours around you today:

If we want to expand our possibilities and grow our opportunities we need to shift our thinking away from scarcity to abundance. In doing so we maximise our potential for success and fulfillment.

I believe that there are two critical strategies for developing an abundant mindset:

  • Know your own strengths and play to them: Your talents and strengths are unique to you and nobody can take them off you or away from you. The more clarity that you have around what they are and how to best apply them, the more you can rely on them to power your career.
  • Position yourself for recognition: This is not about endless self-promotion. Rather it is about building up your portfolio of accomplishments and positioning yourself for more opportunities and achievements. To do this successfully you need to seek feedback and input from your leaders, team and mentors both from within and outside your organization.

Scarcity separates and abundance unites. We all want to be part of a winning game where opportunities abound, successes are shared and achievements are celebrated. Cultivating the right mindset and environment for both our teams and ourselves is what will position us all for success.

By observing some of the behaviours around you, do you see more of an abundance or scarcity mindset?

Comment your observations below, 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.

The Value of Trust

January 22nd, 2019

“Position and authority will give you followers, but trust will make you a leader.” – Aubrey McGowan

No matter where we turn, trust seems to be on the decline. Barely a day goes by where we don’t hear of a broken promise, contract or principle. Trust, which is widely regarded as the glue to any relationship, appears to be at crisis levels for many individuals and organisations today. In fact, recent statistics suggest that only 47% of employees trust senior management and only 32% believe CEO’s to be a credible source of information, according to the Centre for Organisational Excellence.

This lack of trust represents a leadership crisis of monumental proportions. When we don’t believe those around us it not only sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and emotions, it actually significantly impacts our ways of thinking and behaving. So much so that it can easily become the biggest blocker to us achieving our goals.

On a more positive note, it provides you as a leader with a brilliant opportunity to stand out by building solid foundations of trust with your teams, your clients and your networks in a landscape that clearly seems to be both lacking in it and craving more of it.

Stephen Covey’s analogy of trust as a tax or a dividend is a highly powerful one: When there is a lack of trust in a relationship or organization, it is like a hidden tax that is placed on every transaction, piece of communication, decision and strategy, which brings speed down and sends costs up. By contrast, individuals and companies that operate with high levels of trust reap the benefits of a dividend that enables them to succeed by multiplying performance, productivity and capability.

Lack of trust therefore has the capacity to literally double the cost of doing business and triple the delivery timeframes; where as high trust has the capacity to not only significantly save time, money and angst but also deepen relationships, build greater collaboration, career fulfillment and success for all involved.

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, true success cannot be achieved. The most successful leaders recognise this and focus on creating it as a core objective. They make it a priority to build confidence in their:

  1. Capability – to deliver and build a solid track record of results; and
  2. Character – by acting with authenticity, integrity and clear intent;

Employees, customers and clients are simply asking the question – Can I trust you to deliver what you set out to promise and in a way that is honest and ethical?

Successful leaders understand that to gain trust you must also give it. They recognise that there is always a risk when giving trust and don’t deny the past or ignore the possibility of future results. They weigh up the risks and benefits before giving it and when they do, they ensure that they have established the right environment and frameworks to support and manage successful outcomes. They know when to step in and when to step away – and most importantly how to do it.

So how do the most successful leaders build trust?

  1. Establish purpose and commitment: from individuals and between individuals
  2. Communicate honestly and transparently: by talking straight and keeping it real!
  3. Ensure actions match words: remove ambiguity and take the guess work out of situations
  4. Deliver results: that offer lasting and meaningful value
  5. Listen and observe: Not just to those that shout the loudest but to all members of a team
  6. Demonstrate consistency: If you do what you say and say what you do, people will trust you
  7. Remove the ‘landmines’: the hidden agendas, the vagueness and doubt
  8. Clarify expectations, purpose and commitment: contributions, behaviours and attitudes
  9. Value accountability: both for themselves and the team’s that they lead
  10. Remain engaged: with individuals, objectives, processes and outcomes
  11. Acknowledge and give credit where credit is due: both individually and publicly
  12. They not only earn trust, they extend it to others.

Trust is not just a nice-to-have. It is a critical component of personal, team and organizational performance. It is a clear enabler of success and one that underpins your leadership skill set and true capability.

The logic is pretty simple: if people trust you and that trust is reciprocated, they will give you their all.

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.

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