Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

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.

Leading With Generosity & Gratitude

December 4th, 2019

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

– Winston Churchill

In the giving spirit of the festive season, December is a particularly poignant time of year time to reflect on how we as leaders can demonstrate generosity, not only now, but all year round.

Leading with generosity goes hand in hand with generous leadership principles, and recently, David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership wrote an article that appeared in The New York Times on the positive effect of gratitude during Thanksgiving. His premise could be applied to our life and work all year round, however. While holidays such as Christmas prompt and instill a sense of gratitude he says: “Yet on the other 364 days of the year — the ones when you might feel lonely, stressed at work, tempted to dishonesty or stinginess — pausing to cultivate a sense of gratitude can make a big difference. Gratitude may not be needed on Thanksgiving, but giving thanks on other days can help ensure that in the future, you’ll have many things to be grateful for.

When we think of generosity, we often think of financial giving or involvement in charitable work. It may be exercised regularly through corporate social responsibility initiatives, and your businesses core values. However, we don’t naturally think of it in terms of business dealings or in what we do in our day-to-day jobs. Typically it is equated with what we do outside of business hours rather than what we do in them. What charities, community projects or family and friend endeavours we choose to give to financially or with our time.

Make no mistake, these endeavours are all noble and worthy acts of generosity and ones that we should seek out. However, overlooking the ways we can give generously through what we do and how we lead is not only a missed opportunity to leave our world in a better place but can be self-limiting to our own levels of fulfillment and future growth as well as to those in our teams.

Whilst true generosity is ultimately an altruistic act we more often than not receive things in return – and often abundantly. As leaders, this could transpire in the form of increased cooperation and collaboration, enjoyment in what we do, sheer goodwill and/or the fulfillment of seeing others succeed. Not to mention increased productivity and profitability.

If you were to take a moment to reflect on the colleagues and leaders who have left a positive mark on you and your career there would invariably be a common trait: Generosity of spirit. They are the people who gave freely of their time, knowledge and trust and who helped facilitate opportunities for you.

Adam Grant, author of the best selling book Give and Take looks at how and why our success today is increasingly dependent on the interactions we have with others. In essence, he flips the notion that it is successful people that tend to give generously, to the idea that it is those with a generous spirit who become successful. He believes that in a work environment there are three ways people generally operate: taking, matching or giving. Whilst takers seek to get as much as possible form others and matchers focus on trading evenly, givers are those rare people who genuinely contribute without expectation of receiving anything in return. His research shows that whilst some givers do occasionally burn out they are the group that are most likely to achieve extraordinary results regardless of what field they operate in.

Successful leaders are generous: they give freely and unreservedly and often. In reflecting upon some of the amazing leaders that I have either worked for or with there are some other common acts of generosity. They all:

  1. Give Opportunity: Opportunities to engage in meaningful challenging work and not just a list of tasks. Opportunities that extend and open up new thinking & learning, new networks and offer lasting impact.
  2. Give A Strong Sense of Belonging: They create environments that are safe and supportive, allowing us to bring our whole sense of self to the office and not just our work mask. They help you see the value in what you do and feel an intrinsic part of the team and organisation’s success.
  3. Give Guidance: Generous leaders seek to guide and not control. They offer constructive feedback rather than criticism and empower you to make decisions with strong frameworks of support.
  4. Give Space: Space to explore, create, grow, fail and make mistakes and most importantly to get back up confidently and go again.
  5. Give Information, Knowledge & Experience: Not only do generous leaders offer their insights they encourage others to do so as well. They understand that increased leverage and success comes with purposeful collaboration and open, willing minds not but holding tightly onto things.
  6. Give Credit: By recognising and appreciating the efforts of others the generous leader helps to create a sense of shared success. They understand the power of ‘We’ is much more powerful than ‘I’.
  7. Give Encouragement: Generous leaders encourage you to step out and try different things, take risks and push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of. They offer faith in you and push you to be the best you can be.
  8. Give Trust: Generous leaders understand that high performing cultures are rich in trust. Trust amongst each other, in each other’s talents, capabilities and values.
  9. Give Time and Energy: Generous leaders understand the importance of really listening and engaging. They offer their time, their total attention and interest in you, what you are doing and the outcomes you seek.
  10. Give Time Back To Themselves: The generous leader works hard to ensure that their batteries remain charged so as to enable them to give on an ongoing basis. They invest in time and energy in what reinvigorates them in mind, body and spirit.

Giving generously tends to inspire others to do the same. It also helps us create a lasting legacy for what we do, the people we work with and the businesses we have or work for. I would encourage you to explore how you can give generously through your leadership and inspire others to continue to ‘pay it forward’, not only as we race towards the end of the year but into 2020 and beyond.

Can you think of some ways you can integrate greater generosity and gratitude into your day-to-day leadership? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Key to Leadership Vitality

November 6th, 2019

“Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skilful management of energy”
– Tony Schwartz

Have you ever noticed how exceptional leaders who consistently deliver exceptional results personify the same traits? They tend to lead by example in the truest sense of this phrase. They not only seem to continue giving and delivering but they do it in a style that personifies confidence, fulfilment and passion.

With the holiday season on the very near horizon, a perfect opportunity presents itself to pause and take stock of both our own energy and vitality, and the effect – positive, negative or neutral – that it has on our teams and colleagues.

The lead up to the end of the calendar year is often one of the busiest, which means it is crucial to preserve energy, and to ensure that precious vitality isn’t swallowed up by the intensity of pre-holiday deadlines. With a new year on the horizon, maintaining your vitality and energy now is also a key step in preparing for a successful start to the new year.

We can begin this process of self-reflection by thinking of the leaders you have worked with who represent what it means to be ‘fully alive’ and brimming with vitality. How did they influence you, inspire you, or make you feel? No doubt you just felt better for being around them – more confident, capable and energetic.

These are the leaders who tend to inspire you and have a way of breathing life and vitality into both people and projects. Conversely if you have ever worked with people who are constantly tired, stressed or drained of energy and enthusiasm they invariably leave you feeling like you’ve had the life sucked right out of you. You walk out of meetings feeling deflated, directionless and unmotivated. One group radiates vitality and the other drains it.

The reality is when an organisation’s leaders and people are running on empty tanks, everything suffers. It is the loss of personal vitality that has a definable cost to the business and heavily impacts on both productivity and profitability. If we want to build and/or lead businesses rich in these things we need to start paying attention to the health and vitality of ourselves as leaders so that we can positively impact our people and our clients and customers.

Business vitality is often referred to as the degree to which an organisation is successful in the eyes of their customers, employees and shareholders. Measures of vitality will include client and employee retention, stock price, profits, revenue growth and operating costs.

Often referred to as the ‘soft measures’ things such as public trust, innovation, collaboration, employee well-being and employee engagement are also critical. More and more organisations though are realising that these so-called ‘soft measures’ are better viewed as the critical measures. For it is these critical measures that determine and drive the hard measures.

As the speed at which we do business continues to accelerate and the market volatility and rate of change remains a constant, vitality is fast becoming recognised as a ‘must have’ leadership trait. This trait become even more pronounced in times of high intensity within organisations – and at this time of year in particular. In a climate where we as leaders are constantly being asked to do ‘more with less’ ­– less resources, less money and less people – we need to ensure that we know how to effectively manage our energy levels and not fall into the all too common trap of responding 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 simply ‘get through it’ we start to question our capability, purpose and impact. And our people notice it. It can all too easily become a viscous cycle that if we aren’t careful robs us; our people; and our businesses of vitality, essence and spirit.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement, argue that managing energy and not time is the key to personal and business vitality. They detail how mobilizing our key sources of energy, balancing how we spend it with how renew it and the energy habits we create, is critical to our success. Their recommended practices below for renewing the four sources of energy with the aim of becoming more vital are well worth examining.

Leadership vitality is about developing a critical life force that builds sustainable productivity and profitability. It starts with you. As the year draws to a close, I would encourage you consider how you can preserve your energy tanks to build vitality credits and how you can also begin to renew your sense of vitality over the break. You and your business will thank you for it.

Do you feel you are generating vitality as a leader? What do you notice when you feel your most energised within your business?

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.

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