Get career ready!

During a recent three-way conversation with my client, John’s manager said that John had the potential to become the CFO of a PLC in the future. During our next coaching session, I asked John how he intended to achieve that goal and when he wished to achieve it. His answer did not surprise me. He has a young family, and his life is terribly busy, so currently, he needs flexibility and work/life balance. So, I asked him what his life may look like in five years’ time, and he agreed that he would probably be a lot less busy. But what action is he taking now to set him up for success later?

Besides discussing his fears and assumptions that a bigger role would take him away from his family and his commitments, we also discussed how putting his career ‘on hold’ may not be beneficial to him when he is ready for that next big move. A few actions that he took away from our discussion were:

  1. Find a job description of a role that he would like to have in 3-5 years.
  2. Map the job description to the one that he has now, i.e., what would he need to learn to be taken into consideration for that aspirational CFO’s role?
  3. Find mentors, courses, or programmes to fill any learning gaps and plan what he will learn and when he will complete it.
  4. Create a personal development plan to hold himself accountable.

If you put your career on hold because you are busy at home, you may not be ready for that dream role when your life allows you to apply for it. Get career ready!

11 Tips To Manage Anxiety As We Return To Normal

On 24th March 2020, a number of restrictions, like we had never experienced before in the U.K., were enforced on us. Need I remind you, that we were queuing to be allowed into supermarkets where certain products were rationed, ‘non-essential’ shops and venues were closed, and the amount of time spent out of our homes, whilst wearing surgical masks, was monitored. This was a life that we quickly became accustomed to, albeit that many of us did not accept it. Wearing masks, keeping our distance, and working from home became our new normal.

Many restrictions in the UK and across Europe have been lifted, and many of us are already enjoying time with family and friends, the ability to travel and getting out and about more freely.

For many others, however, this ‘return to what we once knew as normality’ has brought with it only anxiety and dread. Many people are scared. They are scared of; returning to the office, travelling on overcrowded public transport, visiting busy hairdressers and supermarkets and that people have ditched mask wearing for open gestures of affection. People are scared of what they can, and of what they can’t see.

It took us many months to find a rhythm during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and it may take some people many, many more months to return to their old ways. The pandemic has been hard and even positive change can lead to anxiety, as it takes time to readjust to things we have not done for a while. Feelings of anxiety are likely to pass with time as we get used to the “new normal” but it’s important to do what we can to take care of our mental health.

A recognised NHS therapy website, Every mind matters, offers the following 11 tips to manage feelings of anxiety and make it easier to adjust:

1. Go at your own pace

2. Do not avoid things entirely

3. Get your information from the right sources

4. Discuss any changes with others

5. Make time to relax

6. Challenge unhelpful thoughts

7. Tell someone how you feel

8. Plan social occasions

9. Find routine where you can

10. Write down your thoughts

11. Focus on the present

You may not be feeling anxious yourself, but I would encourage you to #BeKind, to empathise and be patient with others who may be experiencing life quite differently than you are.

How do people make you feel?

Are there individuals that drain you of energy? You may feel exhausted after interacting with them. Certain people may make you feel extremely uncomfortable, and you may not understand why. Whilst your feelings and interpersonal relationships should not be confused with intuition, what is your sixth sense or gut feeling telling you about a situation?

As a coach, I have the benefit of choosing not to coach someone based on a lack of ‘rapport’. If I believe I cannot feel positive towards someone, there may be little that I can do for them, and it is probably best for them, and for me, that coaching does not commence. In situations like these, I also learn a lot about myself. Is it because they remind of someone, who I have experienced negatively? In cases like these, I may be transferring my own past negative energy to this new situation. We must be careful not to ‘muddy the water’ and confuse emotions with our feelings and intuition. https://counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/difference-feelings-emotions/

So, what role does intuition play in business?

The Munich Business school reports that ‘intuition plays a great part in today’s world of business,’ with some going as far to say that managers rely entirely on concrete facts, such as Excel data, for example, whereas leaders are willing to decide intuitively in certain situations − even if this can entail a risk. https://www.munich-business-school.de/insights/en/2017/intuition-business-decisions/

The likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey can’t all be wrong:

“I’ve trusted the still, small voice of intuition my entire life. And, the only time I’ve made mistakes is when I didn’t listen.” Oprah Winfrey.

“I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics.” Richard Branson

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly, want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs

Personally, I follow my intuition, but I am risk-averse, so for big decisions, I tend to back up my hunches with facts and figures. My intuition, however, hasn’t let me down yet.

Next time you’re in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, or excited, perhaps you should slow yourself down, reflect on what’s happening and dare make an intuitive judgement.

Did I do my best today?

We are measured on what we get done but how hard is it to succeed when other people, agendas and strategies get in your way?

Success is not linear. It’s erratic and may have periods of no progress. If you’re measuring your success by the things you get done, you may become disheartened and give up, when you’re not achieving your goals.

This photo reminded me of a tool, used by Marshall Goldsmith. On a scale of 10, did I do my best today to achieve …’fill in your goal here’.

In 2018, I used this simple tool to keep coachees on track to achieve their goals during a 3-month experiment, to find out how quickly people can change, given the speed at which companies need to change. 70.5% achieved their goals. Their success was a blend of:

Understanding where and how they were spending their time.

We only have 24 hours every day. Next time something ‘more important’ is about to take the place of an activity you’ve planned, you may want to rank how important the new task is compared to what you are willing to trade it for.

Having confidence in their own ability

Some days we’re just not at our best. Life gets in our way or we may be consumed by self-doubt. Mindset matters and recalling a time that you were extremely successful and how this made you feel can help boost your confidence. Mindset matters.

Being guided by someone

Whether it’s a family member, friend, manager or coach, find people who can guide and mentor you, challenge your assumptions, and offer you the tools necessary to succeed, hold you accountable and keep you on track of your goals.

The knowledge gained on their journey, was just as important as the result.

Some days even though you’ve done your best to achieve your goals, you will still feel like you’ve achieved nothing. Be aware when your desire to be excellent gets in the way of learning to be better.

‘Next time you want to beat yourself up for not doing something, be kind to yourself and ask, ‘Did I do my best today to do it’. It may be more helpful to measure how much you have tried, rather that how well you got done.

Does a picture paint the right thousand words?

  • The company my husband worked for stopped paying salaries for 9-months.
  • It went into administration leaving him without a job.
  • We had to move from our rented home.

This has been the story of many individuals over the past year and still continues to cause many individuals and families distress.

If anything, this pandemic has taught me a thing or two about resiliency. It has also highlighted just how lucky I am.

  • We have a home in France that we could move to.
  • I have a job, I love, which paid our expenses and Corndel showed enormous compassion and support throughout.
  • My husband was offered a new role recently.
  • We are moving back to the U.K.

For many that don’t ‘know us’, it sounded quite glamorous; fleeing covid-rife London to live the ‘high life’ in France. In their eyes, ‘we were living the dream’.

But, why do we quickly jump to conclusions, assuming how ‘good’ people have it; envying their ‘fabulous’ lifestyles and becoming empathetically numb, due to our preconceived notions of what they have, that we don’t?

Be curious, ask people how they are doing and how they ‘really’ are, because a picture doesn’t necessarily paint a thousand words.

PS. We are grateful and we are rich in more ways than money will ever be able to buy.

Discovering who you should be

Whilst visiting a local market, 30 years ago, I bought the cabinet pictured. I fell in love with the green and gold blocks and its age. I was however less enamoured by the top of the cabinet which, at the time, was a block of brilliant, white wood.

I had been practicing decorative painting techniques for a few years, so I bought some red paint, books of gold leaf, gold size (glue for sticking gold leaf) and some acid to age the shiny gold, on completion. The result may not be technically perfect but, I love it all the same and this once, mediocre, market find, is now one of my treasured pieces of furniture.

Today, this cabinet acts as a reminder that we are all works in progress. Experiences from our childhood and our careers may have left us with a few rough edges or we may be ‘bleached white’; unable to show the world who we really are.

What stands in your way of showing your whole self at work? What serves you well about your behaviour? What behaviours are standing in your way of your next promotion?

Reflect, get to know yourself, be brave and make changes that will help you show up every day as your (im)perfect, beautiful, authentic, colourful self.

Menopause and career

A lack of sleep can make anyone irritable, but add headaches, mood swings, self-doubt and hot flushes to the mix, and it can start to have an affect on your decision-making and your career.

I started the menopause in my early forties and before I was 50 and I had made some decisions I doubt I would have made had I not been peri-menopause.

Menopausal symptoms are seldom topics that women wish to discuss with their managers (male or female) for fear of being seen as old, difficult, or over the hill and possibly being disregarded for key roles. Ignoring symptoms however, don’t keep them at bay.

For those of you in management roles, you may wish to hold on to valuable female employees by understanding the topic. The CIPD have produced some excellent material: https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/menopause-guide-for-people-managers_tcm18-55548.pdf.

And for those of you experiencing menopause, talk to your GP, read advice online and dare to discuss it! https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-natural-menopause-tips

What got you here, won’t get you there!

There’s a reason why we say ‘old habits die hard’; we don’t really want to change…..Well we do, but our brain doesn’t!

Change is uncomfortable and it slows down your brain’s response rate, and since your brain is built for speed, it will resist any form of change.

My analogy to describe change is that your natural responses (neurones) are like sports cars, travelling at 200 miles an hour on an empty 10-lane highway in your brain. Any change, is like seeing a deer, jump onto the highway in front of your beautiful car. You need to brake and avoid crashing into the deer, and take your sports car off the highway, onto rough terrain, which is bumpy and very uncomfortable.

Each time you recognise yourself falling into old habits or response patterns, you will see that deer on the highway and you will need to slow down and veer off-road. The bumpy, grassy, path eventually does become smoother, the more you drive on it, but it will never be as smooth as driving on the highway.

Without change, you stay stuck in old patterns and you will get the same result, but how willing are you to embrace change.

Learn to slow down and reflect, so that you can understand where your natural responses take you. Ask yourself ‘what happened’ in a situation and ‘what you could have done differently’? Get in touch with your feelings. How did the situation make you feel? Does a specific person ‘bring out the worst in you’?

You may find it really interesting to understand where your ‘programmed responses’ stem from and how you can take a more emotionally intelligent stance to your next encounter.

Good luck and let me know if I can support you!

Your strengths are not what you think they are!

Throughout your life, you may have been fooled to believe that your strengths are what you are good at and your weaknesses are what you are bad at. 

But, that’s not entirely true!

I’m sure, that if you were to list your strengths right now, that there would be a number of activities on that list that you don’t even enjoy doing. If you’re good at something, that’s performance; it’s not a strength, and as such you are the least qualified to identify your strengths, because you’re not the best judge of your own performance.

So let’s look at this slightly differently. 

Think of yourself as a Superhero. Your strengths are activities that strengthen you, and your weaknesses are activities that weaken you, much like kryptonite. If you define a strength as an activity that strengthens you, then the person most qualified to identify your strengths is you.

Those tasks that you put off and don’t like doing – those are your weaknesses – even if you are GOOD at doing them.

I challenge you to keep a log this coming week. On one side of your log, write LOVED it and the other side write LOATHED it. Each time you look forward to carrying out an activity and it gives you pleasure and energy, log it under LOVED it; these are tasks that strengthen you. Every time you procrastinate about a task, delegate it to someone else or feel exhausted when you’ve done it, log this under LOATHED it; these are tasks that weaken you.

You may find yourself becoming more aware of what your true strengths are, and you can start really enjoying what you do and adding lots more value at work!

Slowing down to speed up

I learned late in my career that working long hours did not equate to the importance of my job and the success of my career. 

I learned to ask ‘how urgent’ someone’s request was, and that asking to push out a deadline was not detrimental to my career. In fact, deadlines were often quite negotiable, and I could deliver higher quality work with less stress and, as I had more time to think, I could also be more creative. 

So often I had delivered within the period of time that constituted ‘urgent’ for me, only to receive an ‘out of office message’ from the person I was delivering to. I had never asked when the actual deadline was. 

In fact, being too available made my colleagues believe that I couldn’t be that busy, as I always had time to deliver within short timelines. My colleagues began to disrespect my time and workload because they had no idea as to what I was working on and if it had a much higher priority than what they were asking me to do.

But why change? My rational brain was telling me that everything I had done to date, had brought me the success I had. I had been rewarded for my ‘bad behaviour’ with ‘well done, congratulations and thank you’ when I succeeded, or delivered a good piece of work. And, it felt fabulous!

As my career continued, I became well known for my quick turnarounds, quality work, and more and more people asked me to get involved in projects. I was busy, was making a name for myself, made promotion and I felt very successful. I had arrived!

Like many of my clients, you too may be telling yourself that your long hours are necessary, so as to hold on to your job. But how is your behaviour serving you?

Many of our behaviours are habits. We tell ourselves ‘lies’ like, ‘if I don’t get the work done now, I will be fired from my job’. We are actually worrying about future events, that may not ever happen. But, the habits that got you where you are today are not the ones that will bring you success in future.

I have challenged a number of my very busy clients to slow down, to challenge ‘urgent and hard’ deadlines, and to put themselves first, both mentally and physically. It’s been a few months and none of them have noticed any detrimental effects; instead, they report feeling less stressed and more in control as they are challenging their own beliefs and assumptions about how they work and use their time. By putting their own oxygen mask on first, they are achieving so much more.

Reflection is a brilliant way to become aware of what drives you, what and who triggers you and what your standard responses and ‘bad habits’ may be. Gibbs reflective learning cycle (Graham Gibbs, 1988) can help you on your way to self-awareness and eventually self-care. The complete model and instructions of how to use it are below.

DESCRIPTION: Provide a factual description of the situation. Do not draw any conclusions at this stage. Focus on the information that is relevant. Use questions such as: What happened? How did it happen? Where? When? Who else was there? Did someone react? How did they react? Why were you there? What did you do? What happened at the end? This builds up the background and a better understanding of the situation.

FEELINGS: Describe any emotion that you felt during the situation. Use questions such as:  ‘What did you feel before the situation? What did you feel during the situation? And, after it was all over? What do you feel about the incident now?

EVALUATION: Objectively evaluate the situation. What went well? What did not? What were the negatives and the positives of the situation? How did you and the others contribute to it (positively or negatively).

ANALYSIS: Think about what might have hindered or helped the situation.

CONCLUSION: Consider what you learned from the situation. What else could you have done in that situation? What skills will help you cope with it better next time? How differently would you react if you faced a similar situation in future? If the outcomes were negative, how could you do things differently next time? If the outcomes were positive, how could you replicate what you did?

ACTION PLAN: In this part of the cycle, you are putting together a plan of action i.e. how to effectively improve the situation next time. Is there any training, skill, or habit that you need to learn or unlearn, to equip you with handling the situation better if it occurs again? Work out the areas that need work and action them.