Friday, 4 December 2015

People Spend More Time on Planning their Holidays than their Life!

Work is one of the most significant and time-consuming elements of many people's lives. It’s also the area where people most often feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled. The average person will spend 40 to 50 years of their life at work. That's too long to spend in the wrong job.
Don't feel trapped in your career you can take control

Continuous professional development is a key requirement for success in any field. It is vital to manage yourself and continuously raise the bar to improve both your personal and professional skills.

The majority of people describe their career as “a series of fairly random events”.  How then, do some people have really successful and fulfilling careers? The answer is, they take control by:
  • Having a clear insight into their personal goals
  • Understanding their own personal characteristics (strengths/weaknesses) and seek to grow and develop
  • Understanding what motivates them
  • Find a range of ways to show how they add value to the organisation
  • Understanding how others perceive them and actively manage these perceptions
  • Learning how to adapt their jobs and keep improving them
In order to determine your drivers and to shape your future aspirations it is important to analyse and reflect on your career to date. 
You can start this process by creating a Career Timeline: draw a horizontal line and divide this into intervals appropriate to the length of your working life e.g. 1, 3, 5, 10 years. Then note high points, above the line, low points, below it. Draw a line to join both the high and low points together to reflect your career history. Then answer these questions:
  • What trends are apparent?
  • What do you remember most about the high and low points?
  • How have the high and low points impacted on your career path i.e. the choices you have made?
  • What was the most significant point in your career?
As you journey through life you will need to proactively continue to evaluate and adjust your career plans in response to external factors – such as changes in the workplace, a change in your interests or a change in your life circumstances.

Recognising the high and low points will help you examine the choices you made and consider the thought process you went through. You cannot change the past but you can decide how you let it influence and inspire your future.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Appraisals aren't just for Bosses

As year-end approaches many organisations will be embarking on annual appraisals.  The process is often seen as little more than a tick box exercise with the same comments reported each year with little significant meaning resulting in a thankless task.  HR spend a lot of time coercing people into doing them while managers look for a variety of other priorities to delay the process, often resulting in appraisals being incomplete or rarely done.

Proactively Develop Your Career
For many managers and employees alike they hate the thought of them finding it an uncomfortable practice, undertaken for the wrong reasons and from the wrong perspective. This can result in putting the manager and the employee on opposing sides.   The employee may feel defensive or expect an unfair review.

If done right however appraisals can be an invaluable feedback tool for managers and a powerful tool for developing your career.

Utilise the appraisal process as an opportunity to raise your profile, to be formally and officially recognised.  Here are a few things you can do:

·         Well in advance ask for a copy of the appraisal form. Become familiar with it. If necessary clarify with your line manager and/or HR any sections you don’t understand.

·         Ideally you should have received confirmation of your yearly objectives.  Have the strategy or any processes changed making them no longer relevant or obsolete?

·         Without blame or being harsh on yourself, objectively and critically evaluate your own reasons for any shortfalls. If you haven’t met your targets have you had access to the right resources? Start to think about how you could go about achieving these targets in the coming year. What could you do differently?

·         Against your key objectives complete a self-assessment and determine your development needs. Assess your skills, knowledge and experience required to do your job satisfactorily and assess the same criteria to achieve above expectations.  Identify your strengths as well as any gaps. Start to think about how to proactively develop any short falls.

·         Are you ready and capable of taking on more responsibility? Are you ready to step up? What else could you do in the coming year to add more value to your organisation?

The appraisal process is not an exclusive tool for managers to assess performance, be proactive and manage your career by taking ownership of your appraisal, thereby ensuring it is meaningful and worthwhile.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Core Beliefs of Highly Successful People

As you progress in your career the world of business can at times be ruthless, and even the most successful of individuals will at some point fail. With possible difficulties lying around every corner, what is it then that sets highly successful people apart from the rest of the flock? Undoubtedly, it is their self-belief and resilience to overcome even the worst of situations

Making mistakes is not the important part – it's the getting up, dusting yourself off and moving on that counts. Many great historical figures have commented on failure and success and the intimate relationships between the two; Winston Churchill famously said 'success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm', and it's an attitude reminiscent of this that has pushed renowned business figures like Deborah Meaden and Richard Branson.

Deborah Meaden experienced failure early on, after setting up a glass and ceramics export agency that ultimately failed after 18 months. Deborah said: 'I consider it a failure to slog on with a business that is going to die sooner rather than later. And that's a skill I've had from my very, very early days. A lot of people are blinded. They think, “I can't give this up. I'd feel like a failure.”'

Richard Branson has also experienced a multitude of failed ventures throughout the years, but champions his team's resilience to push through as the basis for his success. He credits recognising mistakes and recovering as essential skills for any successful entrepreneur, saying 'over the years, my team and I have not let mistakes, failures or mishaps get us down. Instead, even when a venture had failed, we try to look for opportunities, to see whether we can capitalise on another gap in the market'.

Branson raises an excellent point, and one that is key to the growth of highly successful people; if you do experience failure, take a step back and see how you can turn the experience into something fruitful and productive. Whether it's just recognising where you went wrong and how to remedy this in the future, or using the situation as a base to progress in another direction, maximising on your mistakes will go a long way to you becoming highly successful in your chosen career.


Monday, 28 September 2015

Hundreds of Applications and No Interview? Here’s How To Get A Job

Submitted hundreds of applications and had no success? Been told ‘thanks, but no thanks’ one too many times? Whatever it is, something in your job application process may need to change. Here are some top tips on how to maximise your opportunity and increase your chances of securing an interview.

Utilise Social Media
Don’t shy away from social media – embrace the digital age and utilise its potential. If you don’t already have one, set up a professional LinkedIn account, and if you do have one, take some time to bolster your details with case studies and examples of your work.  Ask respected colleagues for genuine recommendations and make sure you return the compliment. Without stalking people seek out good connections within your desired industry and don’t be too shy to say hello. Join groups within your targeted sector and join in the discussions and start creating dialogues. Proactively post comments on interesting articles. Find companies you’re interested in and Follow them. LinkedIn is made for making connections, so get linking.

Create a Professional Blog
Think blogging is just for budding journalists or the fashion savvy? Think again. A good professional blog can showcase not only your interests within your industry’s arena, but also your knowledge through detailed case studies of what you’ve already achieved. The content posted on your blog can also be pushed out via LinkedIn, offering ample opportunity for leaders in your sector to interact and be impressed.

Find a Good Recruitment Company
Take the time to seek out a good recruitment company that will serve your best interests, and not just routinely process you with faceless online forms and automated emails. Find a company that excels within your industry to make the most of their existing contacts. Be sure the recruitment company you choose is putting as much effort into finding you a job as you are.

Target Specific Managers
Out-dated and generic – ‘To Whom It May Concern’ may be killing your application before it has even begun. Take the time to identify the specific manager who you’d be working under and address them directly in a personalised and tailored covering letter. Do some research into their on-going work and generate a current conversation – something they’d be interested in following up on.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Myth or Reality: Can you really find the perfect work-life balance?

With most people coming to the end of their much deserved summer holiday break, you may find you’re either in the camp of returning to work feeling fully refreshed or dreading the thought and telling yourself things need to change.  

If you’re in the latter camp, you’ll be trying to figure out how to stop working long hours, weekends or reading emails late at night. You’ll be wanting to work out how to create more time to take up exercise, or to eat healthier and spend time with your partner and family. Perhaps you just want to take time for you in an effort to reduce stress. The way you deal with your situation will either exacerbate things or help you achieve a good work-life balance.

One of the quickest things you can do to move towards a better balance is learning how to say no. You may believe you have no choice, but if you really think about it, you do.  It’s not about flatly refusing, but instead saying no in a more empowered way. Here are some options:

  • -          Negotiate deadlines
  • -          Delegate more
  • -          Leave the office 1 day a week at 530pm
  • -          Work from home

What’s stopping you? If you answer honestly, this is the real contributing factor to your state of work-life balance.   If we don’t proactively manage ourselves, that’s when our work-life balance gets out of kilter and stress can become chronic.  Human energy is the most critical resource we have. Energy diminishes both with over use and also under use. Energy expenditure must be balanced with intermittent energy renewal.
Some new workplace practices are increasingly being utilised to proactively manage stress and improve work life balance.  Some of these include:

  • -          Taking recovery breaks every 90-120 minutes
  • -          Increase your capability to think clearly and rehydrate the brain - reduce caffeine and increase water intake
  • -          Eat slow-release energy food
  • -          Limit meetings to 30 minutes

Four things I’d like to ask:
1. What could you do to maximise your energy?
2. What are your barriers?
3. What are 3 options to overcome these?
4. What will you choose to do differently?

By enacting just one new step over 30 days, you’ll develop a new habit that will benefit your working career. Before you know it be on the path to less stress and better work-life balance.


Monday, 24 August 2015

How To Achieve Maximum Engagement and Increase Motivation

I often find leaders despair about how to get more from their teams. In frustration they cite "we provide great incentives such as bonuses, flexitime, extra holidays and it seemingly has little impact…" A global study by Gallup (2013) found that only 13% of employees are engaged in their job, meaning that they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organisations every day.

Full engagement is critical to growth and maximising performance. A further study found businesses with the highest engagement scores averaged 18% higher productivity than those with the lowest engagement scores.

Some of the key points that impact engagement include the boss, the individuals themselves, other people and team dynamics, organisation strategy, culture of the organisation and communication. This last point is interesting considering that in a recent survey published by Harvard Business Review (2015), 91% of employees said communication issues are seriously demotivating. Some of the other top issues being cited included:

-        Not recognising employee achievement
-        Not giving clear direction
-        Not making time to meet
-        Not offering constructive feedback
-        Not knowing employees names

How do we get the best out of ourselves and our employees?

The big question organisations want to know is how to achieve maximum engagement and increase motivation.  At a fundamental level people want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’  Career aspects such as financial security, working in a great team, career opportunities, being challenged, flexibility and being able to see how their job makes a difference are all key to maximising engagement.

Leaders and managers should of course expect high performance and contribution from employees. However, full engagement occurs with an alignment of maximum job satisfaction and job contribution. Here are some factors to think about to influence engagement and motivation:

1.     What impact does our leadership style have on how employees feel? Does it hinder or enable best performance?
2.     Wellbeing - how do staff feel about pressure and the balance between work and home life?
3.     Personal growth: to what extent do staff feel they are stretched and challenged by their job?
4.     My manager: how do staff feel towards their immediate boss?
5.     My company: how do people feel about the company they work for?
6.     My team: how do the staff feel about their immediate colleagues?
7.     Fair deal: how happy is the workforce with their pay and benefits?

Whether you’re the boss or employee, what can you do to put engagement and motivation on the company wide agenda? Get this right and get superstar performance from all your employees.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Taming the Email Beast

Today most of us are displaying symptoms of being time starved. Feeling constantly tired, groaning at the thought of another meeting, and particularly groaning at our in-box which is the biggest time thief of all.
Today we’ve forgotten how emails revolutionised communication. Enabling faster responses and better services for our customers. Time is money so anything that can be done faster, more efficiently has to be a good thing. Initially it felt great to keep on top of emails in the evenings, weekends, holidays, making us feel in control.
20 years on and herein lies the paradox emails are now the beast to tame.  Bosses, peers, teams, customers, everyone expect immediate responses and if not chase with another email.

Email Overwhelm

Research indicates businesses lose US$650 billion p.a. due to unnecessary emails, with the average worker costing their employer an annual US$10,000 because of distractions such as emailing.  Constantly dipping in and out of emails increases distractions, reduces the ability to concentrate rendering a worker less effective. From a neuro-scientific view our brains aren’t wired to multi task, we perform better if focusing on 1 thing at a time.
Other detrimental effects include the inability to build rapport with our work colleagues; no one makes the time to talk with each other unless chasing an email!
Emails have created an addictive way of behaving – stressing out “in case I miss something” and so it calls for a radical change. Some organisations are doing just that and banning internal email.  What can you do at an individual level?
  • Try an email detox for 1 day of the week. Auto respond with you’re having an email detox and please call on number...
  • Raise the bar on the detox – do it for a week.
  • Set up a permanent auto responder that says you will only reply to external emails
If these leave you feeling cold turkey start with simple boundaries:
  • No emails between 10am – 4pm. Pay a forfeit if you break this rule to the company’s chosen charity.
  • When you’re at home switch off the mobile.
  • Set up a self-help group “12 steps email addiction recovery programme”
By taking control of emails you’ll gain extra time, it will directly reduce stress and increase how much you achieve each day and with that, increased job satisfaction.


Friday, 8 May 2015

Being Authentic - Managing Your Reputation

Be Authentic and Stand Out from the Crowd
Being authentic starts with being self-aware and knowing what motivates you and clarity of your values. Think about people you know who are successful in their career, whether they have progressed up the career ladder or not. What are their personal attributes? What is their motivation? What drives them? 

Motivation is the most important determining factor of satisfaction, success and longevity in any career. Where there is strong motivation there is almost limitless energy, commitment and drive to succeed. 

Research has indicated the following categories of key career motivators:

  • Material rewards: possessions and wealth 
  • Power/Influence: a position of influence, to control people and resources 
  • Search for Meaning: satisfying moral, emotional or spiritual values through work 
  • Expertise: high level of accomplishment and skill in a specialised field 
  • Creativity: innovating as an entrepreneur or artistically 
  • Affiliation: rewarding relationships with others at work 
  • Security: a secure and predictable future within work 
  • Status: recognition, admiration and respect 

The other key factor to authenticity is living by our values. Values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. The principles you live by and should determine your priorities. How would you answer these questions?

  • How would others describe your best qualities? 
  • What are the principles you live by? 
  • What is important to you in your life? 
  • When have you been most fulfilled and satisfied? 
  • How congruent is your life with your values? Do you leave your values at home when you go to work? 

Being authentic is when you and your career are aligned both with your values and motivation. You’ll find life is usually good – you're satisfied and content. But when these don't align that's when things feel wrong you’ll find the underlying commitment will not be there and a feeling of no or low motivation. Although you may sometimes need to work in situations where you can’t totally be yourself, it’s hard to keep this up long term.

Successful people feel that their work is a vocation, not basing their decision only on work that is well-paid. They are authentic, with no compromise to their values and drivers. Managing your reputation and career is not a one-time decision but a series of decisions made over your lifetime. Make a commitment today and make your decisions with authenticity.


Monday, 23 March 2015

Managing Your Reputation - Making it Real

The long days of winter are over and it’s time for a personal spring renewal! If you completed the exercise last month you should now have some clarity of your strengths and a realistic perception of how others see you.  The next steps in building a positive reputation are to follow these 3 steps:
Career Planning
Career Planning

1. Clarify: if you haven’t completed this it is critical and is the first step in managing your reputation. You must be clear and know your strengths—from your perspective and the perspective of others who know you well.
But what about your weaknesses? What if you don’t believe you have any strengths? I prefer to call these development gaps.   If you’re not entirely sure of your strengths, ask for feedback from people who know you well and whose opinion you respect. You want honest feedback no platitudes allowed!

2. Capitalise: Find opportunities that require and will showcase your strengths. Put yourself forward for opportunities that leverage your strengths and build your visibility. And it’s exactly the same approach to develop any gaps. It’s by taking action and working on areas we’re not so good at that we can gain experience, knowledge and skills – turning weaknesses into strengths.

3. Communicate: Share your strengths effectively in person, on paper, and online. Incorporate your strengths into your elevator pitch, CV and online profiles. However no bragging allowed, no one likes a show-off with no substance! Keep it real and objective. Highlight your achievements and results. Communicate with passion showing what you enjoy.

These 3 steps are easy to remember and will ensure you have a good game plan to maximise your reputation as part of your day-to-day activities or with potential employers.

In today's extremely competitive environment don’t underestimate how increasingly important it is to create a career brand. It’s your reputation. It’s about bringing who you are to what you do and how you do it. It’s about making your mark by being yourself—your best self. It's what you're known for and how people experience you.

Delivering your brand clearly and consistently will create a memorable experience in the minds of those you interact with and can open doors to new opportunities.
So what would you like to be known for?

Next month we’ll take a look at how to keep it real with integrity.  


Monday, 23 February 2015

Manage Your Reputation 

This month I’d like to reflect on work recently completed with the millennial generation.  A burning question they often ask is how to have a successful career?  
Career Success

My question in return is, what do you want to be known for, what results do you want?

The starting point is about who you are and what reputation do you want. What do you want people say about you when you’re not in the room?

If you were a brand how would you summarise your value or attributes? For example, think of some high profile brands such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, Green & Blacks or Apple iPhone or an Android brand of smart phone, each have strong quality attributes delivering value.

Creating your personal brand starts with understanding what your good at. Can you answer the following?
  • What are your unique strengths, skills, and attributes?
  • How do others see you or perceive you?
  • Where do I add value?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What was the most successful project you ever tackled, and what made you successful?
  • When faced with an overwhelming obstacle, what’s your “go to” skill to overcome it?
  • What are the strength’s that others acknowledge in you?

Drill even further to identify themes and key strength’s you want to put centre stage!
  • What strengths and skills come up over and over again?
  • Which skills do you enjoy using as often as possible, regardless of the task?

It's also important to understand and be aware of what skills are missing. What skills would you like to build but have not yet had the opportunity to practice and develop?

Summarise these questions with five strengths. For example, you might use words like “creative,” “relationship-builder” or “I make the complex simple.”

If you had a strapline what would it say to capture “Brand-me”?

To manage your reputation you need to be proactive and take control. Raise your profile within your organisation and consider the messages you wish to portray. 
Demonstrate and communicate your value and proactively managing people’s perception.


Friday, 6 February 2015

The Neuroscience of Communication

I’m often intrigued why we naturally click with some people and be on the same page and yet with others we just don’t see eye to eye and may as well be on planet Mars. Achieving effective and good communication can be frustrating and at times incredibly challenging.  I have seen many misunderstandings give rise to an environment that is conflict-ridden, aggressive or even passive-aggressive behaviours resulting in breakdown of relationships which if not addressed can damage morale and overall team performance.

New understandings in neuroscience indicate our thinking and behaviours are a combination of both our genetic wiring and learnt from our environment – both nurture and nature. This when applied to personality psychometric profiling is providing more accurate information to help us understand the differences and the dynamics at play in how we communicate and how we are perceived by others, both good and bad.

Left brain thinkers prefer to work with evidence and logic and will therefore make decisions based on fact and process.  They always think they’re right, after all their thinking is based on the evidence and data to hand. In contrast compare this to right brain thinkers who prefer intuition and making decisions on how they feel in the moment, on instinct or just on the concept of a great idea.  You can probably start to see why misunderstandings arise.

Then add into the mix behavioural preferences such as ‘Expressiveness’ where some people prefer to reflect before action, think internally and will appear quiet. Compare this to the opposite end of this spectrum where the behaviour will be gregarious, talkative, extravert, thinking out loud.  The quieter people wish the noisy ones would just zip it, and the gregarious types being uncomfortable with silence are frustrated with the quiet ones, wrongly, judging they have nothing to say!

How then do we go about working within a team that is able to debate and respectfully criticise ideas in a taking into account individual needs and deliver on team and organisational goals?

Instead of blaming the boss or other team members or even customers we should stop and ask, is the way I communicate and my behaviours part of the problem?

We need to be self-aware of our own communication preferences and understand the impact this has of how we’re perceived both positive and negative; to become adaptable and change our style of communicating and not automatically default to our preferences.