Posts Tagged ‘ownership’

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 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.

The Value Of Great Decision Making

June 13th, 2018

‘Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision’ – Peter Drucker

Great leaders make great decisions – both for themselves and the businesses they lead.

When the founder of Walmart – Sam Walton – was asked ‘How did you become so successful?’ he replied ‘I’ve made a lot of good decisions’. When asked how he learned to make good decisions, he replied ‘by making lots of bad ones’.

Learning to make good decisions takes practice. Just as we build up our strength and agility with a fitness regime we build our ability to recognise and make good decisions confidently through increased understanding and practice coupled with real clarity about what we want.

We all know that great decisions energize, enable and move us forward. They provide us not only with the fuel to go further but to do so with greater nimbleness, agility and purpose. They don’t always guarantee great outcomes but they do create opportunity and progress. Conversely we know that poor decisions inhibit, stifle and slow us down. They take simple things and make them complex, distract us, and limit our influence, capability and capacity.

In a recent talk, Marcia Blenko, head of Bain’s global organizational practice and co-author of the book Decide & Deliver highlighted 4 critical components to decision-making effectiveness: Quality, Speed, Yield and Effort. Whilst she was discussing these from an organizational perspective there is great applicability to how we build and manage our own leadership and career pathways. Take a moment to consider:

  • Quality: Have I made high quality, effective decisions that provided value
  • Speed: How timely am I in making decisions that provide my team and me personally with a competitive advantage
  • Yield: To what extent do I actually execute decisions as intended?
  • Effort: Have I applied the right amount of effort with not too much or too little angst, energy or cost?

To truly maximise performance and opportunity we need to ensure that we are operating with all four elements in our decision making process. Making poor quality but quick, well-executed decisions is not going to position us for success. However making high quality decisions in a slow, high cost manner is also going to ultimately limit our impact, success and future growth.

So how do we make our decisions count – for both the people we lead and ourselves as leaders? I would encourage you to consider the following 5 questions:

  • What do I want to achieve? Get clear about what you want both long term and short term. What do you personally want from your current role and career – all too often as leaders we spend 98% of our time designing and executing business and growth plans for others but not for ourselves.
  • Why? Understand why you want this and remember your ‘why’ is unique to you. Is it setting you up for what you really want or is it what you have been told you should do, could be good at or what is typically the next step? Aligning your purpose with what you do is critical to building long-term momentum and impact.
  • What do I need to focus on today? Is it about delivering on your current opportunity? Growing the capability and potential of your team? Or is it about investing in new learning or networks to educate you on your market, challenge thinking or heighten awareness of what is possible?
  • Who can help me get there? Identify and build your circle of influence. Conduct an audit on your network – have I got the right people to support me with where I want to go. Do I have a good mix between internal champions and external networks?
  • What are the critical milestones and timelines: All significant decisions need key measures and timelines to build momentum, energy and enthusiasm. It helps us not only stay the course but also test the decision itself and overcome roadblocks along the way.

Failing to make a decision is still a decision. AND it is one that is almost guaranteed to hurt us if not in the short term then most definitely in the long term. Why not take a moment to reflect on how your decisions have shaped your path today and what you need to prioritise for your future growth and success.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Decision Time

November 29th, 2017

‘Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision’

– Peter Drucker

Great leaders make great decisions – both for themselves and the businesses they lead.

When the founder of Walmart – Sam Walton – was asked ‘How did you become so successful?’ he replied ‘I’ve made a lot of good decisions’. When asked how he learned to make good decisions, he replied ‘by making lots of bad ones’.

Whilst this doesn’t sound all too encouraging, the reality is we will never make the right decision at the right time 100% of the time. The key is in understanding that learning to make good decisions takes practice. Just as we build up our strength and agility with a fitness regime we build our ability to recognise and make good decisions confidently through increased understanding and practice.

We all know that great decisions energize, enable and move us forward. They provide us not only with the fuel to go further but to do so with greater nimbleness, purpose and momentum.  They don’t always guarantee great outcomes but they do create opportunity and progress.  Conversely we know that poor decisions inhibit, stifle and slow us down. They take simple things and make them complex, distract us, and limit our influence, capability and capacity.

In a recent talk, Marcia Blenko, head of Bain’s global organizational practice and co-author of the book Decide & Deliver highlighted 4 critical components to decision-making effectiveness: Quality, Speed, Yield and Effort. Whilst she was discussing these from an organizational perspective there is great applicability to how we build and manage our own leadership and career pathways. Take a moment to consider:

Quality: Have I made high quality, effective decisions that provided value?

Speed: How timely am I in making decisions that provide my team and me personally with a competitive advantage?

Yield: To what extent do I actually execute decisions as intended?

Effort: Have I applied the right amount of effort with not too much or too little angst, energy or cost?

To truly maximise our performance and opportunity we need to ensure that we are operating with all four elements in our decision making process. Making poor quality but quick, well-executed decisions is not going to position us for success. However making high quality decisions in a slow, high cost manner is also going to ultimately limit our impact, success and future growth.

So how do we as individuals make these decisions count – for both the people we lead and ourselves as leaders?

As we enter a time of the year where many of us will be making some decisions about what we want from the year ahead I would encourage you to think about the following:

What do I want to achieve? Get clear about what you want both long term and short term. What do you personally want from your role and career – all too often as leaders we spend 98% of our time designing and executing business and growth plans for others but not for ourselves. Take the time to get clear about how you are using your talents, knowledge and skills to build your own career.  When you do, not only will you achieve more but also operate with a higher degree of energy and fulfillment.

Why? Understand why you want this and remember your ‘why’ is unique to you. Is it setting you up for what you really want or is it what you have been told you should do, could be good at or what is typically the next step? Aligning your purpose with what you do is critical to building long-term momentum and impact.

Define the key actions: What decisions can I make today to help me move closer towards my goal or to clear the path so that it isn’t so difficult to move down in the future? Is it about delivering on the current opportunity; growing the capability and potential of your team; or investing in new learning or networks to educate you on your market, challenge thinking or heighten awareness of what is possible?

Who can help me get there? Identify and build your circle of influence. Conduct an audit on your network – have I got the right people to support me with where I want to go. Do I have a good mix between internal champions and external networks? Identify who you should be engaging with and what the mutual exchange of value would be and then make it a priority to engage.

Identify the critical milestones and timelines: All significant decisions need key measures and timelines to build momentum, energy and enthusiasm. It helps us not only stay the course but test the decision itself and overcome roadblocks along the way. Find an accountability partner who you can share your goals and ambitions with to further support your aspirations.

Failing to make a decision is still a decision. AND it is one that is almost guaranteed to hurt us if not in the short term then most definitely in the long term. Why not use this time of the year to stop and reflect on how your decisions have effected where you are today and what you can stop, start and continue to do in 2018 to grow your personal and leadership success.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot

 

The Danger Of Disconnection

August 2nd, 2016

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“Conflict lives in people not knowing who they are – disconnected from their experience, living out of their heads, not their hearts”
– Julio De Laffitte
Recently I met a senior executive whose energy and enthusiasm for what he did seemed to seep from every pore of his being. Not in annoying ‘Pollyanna’ sort of way but in a truly genuine and understated manner that made it seem so ridiculous that we would settle for anything less. In reflecting upon his career it was apparent that he hadn’t simply skipped along a gold paved path of career dreams, but rather travelled along plenty of ‘bumpy dirt roads’ with lots of tough life lessons, disappointments and hard work. There had been redundancies, restructures, great bosses, not so great bosses and several overseas assignments that saw him encounter great highs and presented some of the greatest challenges least of all navigating the journey ‘home’ only to find people and places that didn’t always feel quite so familiar any more.

Yet it was quite obvious that he loved what he did, enjoyed the interactions that came from the people he worked with and was challenged by interesting work that offered him great learning and rewards stretching far beyond the monthly paycheck. As a highly regarded senior executive who is seen by many as being at the top of the game, I asked him what he attributed his success and sense of career fulfillment to. His answer was one word: Connection. Being connected to who he truly was, doing what he knew he was good at, in places that valued it and being connected personally and professionally with people that truly mattered to him.

Much is written about workplace disengagement and what it costs us in terms of lost productivity not to mention opportunity or fulfillment. Recent statistics suggest that as little as 20% of Australian employees are actively engaged. That leaves a whole lot of people who are either stuck in the ‘beige-ness’ of work or who actively dislike what they are doing. Whilst disengagement and disconnection are two different things they often go hand in hand and I would also argue that it is very hard to maximise engagement without a strong sense of personal connection.

When you disconnect you shut down, switch off and disengage. Disconnecting from ourselves – our ambitions, our talents, our preferred style of working and learning – and failing to acknowledge what makes us tick is both sad and dangerous. Sad because it means you fail to realize what you are truly capable of; and dangerous not only because it keeps you anchored in the past but because it is a breading ground of negative emotions such as fear, frustration and resentment.

Conversely when you are connected to what you do, you bring high degrees of determination, energy and dedication. You are able to leverage a strong sense of internal motivation, conviction and belief about the role you play and the value you deliver. When you combine this with an engaged workforce and environment around you the combination is powerful.

Whilst all managers and leaders play an integral role in building strong engaged teams, some of the responsibility also has to lie with us as individuals. I know that there are many times that I’ve worked in situations that were less than ideal, navigated challenging people and projects, but my sense of belief in what I was doing and care for how it was done, saw me remain connected and committed to delivering the outcomes agreed to. Whilst the environment and how we are led is extremely important so to is our personal connection to what we do.

In thinking about how you create a strong sense of career connection, I would encourage you to consider the following four tips:

Connection is personal: How and what you connect to in your career is highly personal. Understanding what it is that motivates, inspires and challenges you is unique to you. So to are your strengths, preferred ways of working and learning. Getting clear on the business of you is critical if you are to identify the right workplace culture you wish to connect to.

Connection is a choice: You ultimately have a choice to connect or disconnect from what it is that you do, where you do it and who you do it with. Every choice brings a series of consequences so getting clear on what they look like is important if you are to make informed decisions and manage the outcomes from a place of confidence and control.

Connection requires honesty: You can’t fake connection – you either have it or you don’t. Learning to recognize what it is that builds that strong sense of purpose and connectedness requires you to be  honest with yourself and those around you.

Connection is about accountability:  Building and maintaining connection requires you to take responsibility for it. Often it requires an investment of time, effort and money to grow your own personal development and the opportunities required to seek out the right people and environments for you.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot Andersen

If you would like to explore ways to build a stronger connection in what you do for yourself or your team, please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

Why A Sense Of Belonging Matters

July 12th, 2016

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“Invisible threads are the strongest ties”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
We are all hard wired to want to connect and belong: To people, places, what we do and ways of life. Whilst there might be times that we don’t want to connect or belong to certain groups or people, none of us actively seek out disconnection or isolation as a way of living. Why? Because ultimately we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Something that allows us to create and contribute meaning, purpose, opportunity and value.

Not belonging or knowing where we belong is a terrible feeling. It feels awkward, it hurts and can be both alienating and self limiting. Yet invariably at some point in our lives and careers we will all be faced with a crossroads of having to identify where we best belong and naturally connect in a way that allows us to fully contribute our knowledge, skills and talents. Sometimes we outgrow people, places and situations and sometimes they outgrow us. This can be tricky and hard to navigate. In our careers this often presents when we have maximized our opportunity or through redundancies, restructures and relocations.

At a time when businesses and individuals are being challenged to operate in ever changing environments and to innovate and collaborate outside of known networks, this sense of belonging has never been more important. For it is when we feel as though we belong that we feel safe in stepping outside of our comfort zone and taking on new challenges.

There is a big difference though between belonging and fitting in. Brene Brown, author and researcher describes the difference between the two as freedom. ‘Fitting in’ she notes, is our ability to assess a situation and adapt who we are – personality and behaviours – in order to feel accepted. ‘Belonging’ is about freedom – freedom from having to change in order to be accepted and valued and respected for being who you are.

In her research she asked a group of students to describe the difference and their answers were insightful:

  • Belonging is being somewhere you want to be and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be and they don’t care one way or another.
  • Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
  • I get to be me if I belong. I have to be like you to fit in.

Great leaders know the difference. They also recognize the subsequent challenge. Whilst it’s much easier to tell people they need to adapt in order to fit in with an organizational culture, they look for ways to help people bring their individual strengths and styles and look for ways to contribute to creating a diverse culture. This is not to suggest that we should create a culture of ‘anything goes’ but rather one where people have the opportunity to truly shine by owning what they do. It is about making sure that when we look for people and skill sets we make sure that we give them the freedom to bring themselves and their talents to the ‘table’.

So how do effective leaders create a sense of belonging? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 actions and how you might include them in your leadership repertoire:

Give Trust: Successful leaders understand that to gain trust you must also give it. Without both, true success cannot be achieved. They are able to know who they can trust, with what and when.

Cultivate responsibility and ownership: We all feel a stronger sense of connection and belonging to something when we know what we own and are responsible for. When we feel as though we belong to a team and organization it becomes ‘our team and organization’.

Listen: We all like to be heard. Great leaders seek feedback, listen and are highly responsive to what is appropriate and needed. Individuals understand that what they say matters and take accountability for their opinions, words and actions.

Educate on ‘the why’: We all like to understand how our work contributes to the broader picture and why it is so important. Great leaders help their people understand why what they do holds such value and how it contributes to team and organisational success.

Encourage diversity: Leaders who know how to leverage the individual strengths and capabilities of their team not only create opportunities for their people but also contribute to their overall success. Encouraging individuals to leverage not only their strengths but also their differences helps people understand how what they do matters.

Foster growth: Whilst great leaders accept their people for who they are, they also see their potential and help them grow and learn to become the best version of themselves.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot AndersenIf you would like to explore ways to leverage your career and the capability of your team, please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.

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